Lesson 1) Negation Charms
Welcome back students! I hope you’re all as excited as I am to begin Year Four of Charms. As many of you are probably aware by now, you have standardized exams administered by the Ministry of Magic coming up at the end of next year. Those exams, called the Ordinary Wizarding Levels, cover large swaths of content. Believe it or not, despite being three years into the curriculum, we’re only one third of the way through the material we need to cover.
All students should therefore expect this year and next to be far more challenging than previous years have been. The workload and content you are responsible for will increase. Not every small detail will be on exams and in essays, but you should still include in your notes what is important, appears persistently, or is particularly surprising about various spells and concepts. That being said, you will be expected to know how to cast every spell and clearly explain each concept taught this year.
A broad overview of the year is as follows, subject to modifications:
Lessons One to Five: Counter-Charms (Negation, Inverse, Partial-Inverse, Counter-Effective, and Preventive Charms)
Lessons Six to Nine: Elemental Charms (Liquid, Gas, Solid, and Energy Charms)
To top it all off, we will have the final exam! As ever I can be reached via owl post. A list of my PAs can be found here should you ever need assistance and I am unavailable!
Introduction to Counter-Charms
A counter-charm (also called “counter,” for short) is a charm that prevents, cancels, or undoes another charm, in part or entirely. Charms Master Victoria Heap, a professor at Hogwarts in the early twentieth century (and whom you will learn more about in later lessons), describes the premise of counter-charms with this simple adage: “Every charm has its opposite.” Her statement forms the basis of Heap’s Theories of Counter-Charming, a set of rules and classifications that help us understand charms and their counters. The first half of our year will focus almost exclusively on her theories, touching occasionally upon the work of other wizards and witches.
You have already learned some counter-charming throughout your studies at Hogwarts. In your very first lesson of Charms, for example, you encountered the Wand-Lighting and Wand-Extinguishing Charms – the former lights up the tip of your wand, while the latter puts it out. In the language of counter-charming, the Wand-Extinguishing Charm “negates” the Wand-Lighting Charm. Another example of counter-charming is the Hardening Charm you learned in Year Two that undoes the Softening Charm you learned in Year One (and vice versa). Notice in both cases that the magical effect of the original charm is stopped.
We will begin our studies this year by examining the five categories of counter-charms that Victoria Heap defined. In any case where two charms have any kind of inverse relationship, these categories help us understand and classify the nature of their relationship. There are certain pairs of counter-charms that cannot be confined to any category in particular, usually because they fit into multiple categories or don’t fit particularly well into any category. We’ll address those spell pairs more in later lessons; for now, you need only know that they exist. That being said, the following categories apply to most cases we’ll encounter this year, so it would serve you well to know them.
Without further ado, Heap’s Five Categories:
- Negation Charms: Charms that exist solely to cancel one or more other charms (e.g. Wand-Extinguishing Charm cancels the Wand-Lighting Charm and does nothing else).
- Inverse Charms: Charms with opposite effects that completely undo one another (e.g. Softening Charm completely undoes the Hardening Charm and vice versa).
- Partial-Inverse Charm: Charms with opposite effects where one only partially undoes the other (e.g. Banishing Charm only partially undoes Summoning Charm – you will learn about these spells later this year).
- Counter-Effective Charms: Charms with distinct effects where one can undo the other partially or completely (e.g. the Sticking Charm can glue an object to the floor, thus countering any Levitation Charm that might be performed).
- Preventive Charms: Charms that prevent others from working as intended, partially or completely.
It is important to remember that, except in the case of negation charms, Heap’s categories apply to pairs of spells, not individual spells. For example, the Sticking Charm isn’t inherently a (preventive) counter-effective charm; rather, the Sticking Charm can stick an object to something else, thereby making the object more difficult to Levitate. If the Sticking Charm were taken in conjunction with the Unlocking Charm, the two would function instead as partial-inverse charms. Thus, the categories describe the relationship between charms rather than any charm in particular.
Another noteworthy fact: a spell can have more than one counter-charm. Both the Concealer Charm and the Effect-Cancelling Charm are counter-charms to the Tattoo Charm, for example, as both will negate or undo its effects. Such redundancy is quite common in the realm of counter-charming, though we won’t encounter many duplicates in this course.
We will be studying one category of counter-charms per lesson, from now to your midterm, and touching upon other aspects of counter-charming as we go.
The first, rarest, and most specific form of counter-charm exists solely to cancel another charm (i.e. end the charm's flow of magic). The counter-charm has no other effects and cannot be used in any circumstances other than to negate a charm already cast. It is therefore called a negation charm (or “negation” for short). All known negation charms have been around for hundreds of years, though they were called “canceling charms” before Heap’s categorization, since they canceled spells already cast. “Canceling charm” is an uncommon name at present, used only by a small minority of purists who reject Heap’s Theories.
Negation charms are especially rare for several reasons. For one, there is a limited selection of charms that could potentially have negations. Only charms that continuously use or store magical energy can be negated. This limitation stems from the fact that it is impossible to draw energy into a wand from any source other than your body’s natural store of magic, so the energy expenditure has no "opposite." Since there exists no charm to suck light back into a wand, for example, we settle instead for a charm that cancels the Wand-Lighting Charm. Spells like the Color Change Charm that do not feed off continuous energy cannot be negated, because once the spell is cast, cutting off the energy flow (the purpose of negation charms) has no effect.
Moreover, some spells continuously emit energy from the wand, but with an object of focus that merely helps guide the spell rather than determining what target is affected. Examples include the Warming Charm, which creates a cone of heat from the wand directed toward a target but not bound to it, and the Fire-Making Charm when cast as a stream of fire, which is initially focused on a target but is thereafter untethered to it. Compare this to the Levitation Charm, which affects only the object of focus for the duration of the spell. These special charms do not have negation charms, since any charm cast on the target object wouldn't affect the energy coming out of the wand. "Negating" this special spell type requires the caster to cease concentrating or drop their wand.
The task of finding negation charms is made more difficult by the fact that we cannot look for them until we have the original spell. Casting a negation charm will have no effect unless the original spell is active. It is entirely possible that experimental magicians have stumbled across negation charms several times but did not realize that they had cast a functional spell. Until and unless we find a way to detect negation charms, this second limitation is a significant barrier to their discovery.
Finally, even after we find a new spell, looking for its negation can be dangerous. A recently discovered charm that sets the tip of your wand aflame, for example, still lacks a counter-charm. Witches and wizards who try finding one instead often find their wands burned entirely to ashes when they are unable to put out the fire (and it is for this reason, among others, that we did not teach the spell during our Year One lesson on the Fire-Making Charm). Heap’s Theories tell us that even this new charm can be negated since “every charm has its opposite,” but experimental magicians around the world have been unsuccessful as of yet.
It is important to remember that many spells requiring negation can be canceled simply by releasing your wand, the important exception being spells like the Softening Charm that store their energy in the object itself. While it may not stop all the effects of the spell (as in the case of a burning wand that must be extinguished by other means), it will prevent the wand from releasing any new energy. For all the spells you will learn today, if you are unable to properly cast the negation charm and wish to cancel the charm, dropping your wand is a safe alternative.
Whistling Wand Charm
Incantation: Edo Sonum (EH-doh SO-num)
Wand Movement: Single clockwise loop.
Willpower: Low; determines the pitch of the resulting sound.
The Whistling Wand Charm is a rarely-used precursor to modern musical charms. It allows the caster to emit sound from the tip of his or her wand at around 60 decibels (the volume of human speech), though both volume and timbre can differ between uses. When casting this spell, you should aim for just enough willpower to emit a sound like a soft Quidditch referee’s whistle. Too much willpower will earn you an irritating high-pitched noise, while too little will yield a barely-audible lower rumble.
Be considerate of others when practicing this spell, as practice in a crowded room or in the library will surely irritate everyone else and perhaps even earn you a detention. You’ve been warned!
Silent Wand Charm
Incantation: Pax (PAHKS)
Wand Movement: Swift (fast) flick.
The Silent Wand Charm is an easily-cast charm that quickly negates the Whistling Wand Charm. It serves no other purpose.
Previous Incantation Charm
Incantation: Prior Incantato (PRI-or in-can-TAH-toh)
Wand Movement: Hold tip of wand to tip of targeted wand.
Willpower: Low; determines clarity of the resulting spell image.
The Previous Incantation Charm, unlike other negatable charms, is targeted at another’s wand. It creates an image in the air symbolic of the most recent spell cast by the target wand (a phenomenon called "priori incantatem"). The spell continuously draws its magical energy from the wielder of the target wand, though some initial willpower and magical energy is still required on the part of the caster.
Since some of the energy comes from the target, the spell only works when cast on a wand held by a wizard or other creature capable of using a wand (such as a house elf), though the caster can hold both wands at once if needed. Dropping the target wand or casting the appropriate negation charm will cause the image to fade.
Incantation: Deletrius (de-LEE-tree-us)
Wand Movement: Hold tip of wand to spell image.
The Eradication Charm disintegrates the spell image created by the Previous Incantation Charm. Some scholars have argued that it is not a true negation charm as it could be used to disintegrate other objects (thus the apparently ill-fitting name), but the charm has not worked on any other object to date and hence is still classified as a negation charm.
Weather Normalization Charm
Incantation: Meteolojinx recanto (mee-tee-OH-loh-jeenks | ree-KAN-toh)
Wand Movement: Point wand toward target.
Willpower: Moderate to high; depends on the charm(s) to be countered.
Concentration: Moderate; Target magical weather effect.
The Weather Normalization Charm cancels the effects of most weather charms. As a more precise charm than the Effect-Canceling Charm, it is frequently more effective at handling the chaotic nature of weather charms (some of which we will learn later this year). When casting this spell, willpower must be varied depending on which charms are causing the inclement weather and how powerfully they were cast. The wand movement is a simple point toward the target as if you're pushing out the bad weather with air from the tip of your wand.
This spell was recently added to the Fourth Year curriculum, since it is relatively easy to cast and can help students remedy simple weather pranks that so often abound in our halls. Students wishing to practice this charm should have no trouble finding times to use it, but we've set up the Practice Hall with some weather charms nevertheless. Don't forget your umbrellas!
Other Negation Charms
In addition to the four charms taught today, you have already learned the Wand-Lighting and Wand-Extinguishing Charms, as well as the Effect-Canceling Charm. It is worth noting that the Effect-Canceling Charm serves as a general counter-charm to many spells, not to any one in particular. Since the the spell requires a target, though, it won't work on untargeted charms like the Whistling Wand Charm. It also won't work on charms that continuously emit non-magical energy from the wand (such as the Warming Charm), since the energy reaching the target is non-magical and thus there are no magical effects on the target that can be canceled.
Some have argued that because the Effect-Canceling Charm and the Weather Normalization Charm have the ability to cancel several charms, they aren't true negation charms. However, their only purpose is to negate other spells and hence fall under the negation category, which Heap later modified to include multiple-negation charms.
Your only assignment today is to complete a worksheet based on the lesson. While it isn't designed specifically to test material from previous years, there may be some questions on the worksheet where review of past notes may help.
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