Lesson 5) Dark Creatures, Part Two
Today we will be talking about a personal favorite topic of mine. While I enjoy discussing all facets of the Dark Arts and how to defend against them, there is something about this topic that I find truly fascinating. Perhaps it is how, historically, dragons have been seen as both friend and foe, or the way that countering these creatures requires you to think on your toes. Whatever the case may be, I have always found myself drawn to these creatures and hope, by the end of this lesson, that I can bestow a little of the awe I feel on you all as well. For today, there be dragons.
Dragons: A Brief Introduction
Marvelous creatures, dragons. They are also marvelously deadly if you don’t stay vigilant Throughout history, dragons have been both revered and feared; they have also become symbols of various concepts, including evil. However, we are not here to discuss how dragons are viewed. We are here to discuss what they are and how we can defend ourselves against them. I’ll leave the leg work of proper care of dragons, for those of you who might be interested in becoming dragon keepers, to your Care of Magical Creatures class.
Some of the most common distinguishing features of a dragon are their massive wings, their serpentine appearance, and their ability to breathe fire. Each breed of dragon has a unique range within which they can attack using their fire, so it is important to know what each of these ranges are if you have any plans to work with dragons in your future. Though there is no “average” height or length for all breeds of dragons, you are unlikely to find a full grown dragon that is less than three or four times your size; they have the full ability to crush on you and not even notice that they stepped on something. Their claws are razor sharp and can slice through a human like ripping through paper.
Their wings make them masters of the air, as well as potential terrors of those who live on Earth. Once you have angered a dragon, it is extremely hard to escape its wrath. Though they are large and bulky, do not be deceived. They have excellent maneuverability in the air; this, of course, depends on the size of the dragon, but even the larger dragons have surprising maneuverability. If you have never seen a dragon in flight, it is truly a sight to behold, assuming you aren’t trying to flee from it. If, for some reason, they are unable to catch you in flight (a very unlikely scenario), they will most likely catch you in their flames.
Characteristics of a Dragon
While we have covered some of the more obvious characteristics of a dragon - the flying, the fire breathing, and the talons - there are two specific characteristics that we need to discuss that are directly relevant to our course of study. These are their magical resistance and their ability to overcome other creatures’ magical resistance. Some people speculate that it is the dragon’s scales that make them magically resistant, but this is not entirely true. Its scales certainly do help, as it provides an extra layer of protection between the creature and the spell. That said, many witches and wizards can cast spells at a dragon’s scales that will, collectively, affect the dragon, so it is not in its scales where its magical resistance lies. Like trolls, a dragon’s magical resistance has become part of its DNA; after a lifetime of exposure to it, dragons have become resistant to all but the most powerful of magic.
The amount of people required to overcome a dragon’s magical resistance is entirely dependent on the breed of dragon and the willpower of the casters involved. To be safe, it is best to bring a team of six or more when it is necessary to face a dragon, though my personal suggestion is to not face a dragon at all. This number ensures that you will have enough collective willpower to not only overcome the will of a dragon, which far exceeds what most humans are able to even remotely approach, but also to penetrate its magical resistance and force the spell to work. Accounting for both of these factors, it takes an extreme amount of willpower, which is why I recommend such a large team. Too few and you risk not having enough collective willpower to overcome the dragon and be able to walk away from the encounter without suffering from magical exhaustion.
The second characteristic of dragons that we need to discuss is how their fire can penetrate resistance, and I don’t mean purely natural resistance, either. I mean any kind of resistance. Even fireproof clothing or clothing with enchantments on them are liable to fall under extended exposure to dragon fire. The natural heat of a dragon’s flame, combined with their unique ability to control the heat of the flames they breathe, creates a point of no return where even the best magical resistance to fire succumbs or breaks.
This means that you cannot count on potions and spells to save you. The Shielding Charm can work, but a dragon can breathe fire longer than a human can hold the Shielding Charm. The Fire Protection Potion only protects individuals from flames up to a certain heat, and dragons can breathe fire way hotter than the natural limit; if you are hit directly by a dragon’s fire, even after having ingested a Fire Protection Potion, you will be burnt to a crisp. However, you should still take this potion if you intend to engage with a dragon. It may not protect you from a direct hit, but it will lessen the impact from indirect heat exposure. Therefore, taking this potion before an encounter may be the difference between you surviving and you being overcome by the heat of the flames (assuming you’re smart and manage to not be directly hit). You can also wear fireproof clothing to lessen the impact of dragon flames on your body - you will still get nasty third degree burns, but that is better than being incinerated. If you purchase fireproof clothing, make sure that what you buy is officially licensed and not from a shady alley.
I should also add that there is strength in numbers. Multiple magical individuals performing a concurrent combination of spells can increase the effectiveness of all active spells in the combination. This makes it possible for spells such as the Shielding Charm to stand under prolonged exposure to dragon fire. For the rare sporting event where a dragon would be involved (such as the Triwizard Tournament that was last hosted here at Hogwarts in 1994), spectators could be protected by a team of trained specialists who are simultaneously casting a series of spells that protect them from the heat of a dragon’s flame and any flames that are sent in the direction of the audience.
Knowing all of this, dragons are rated as highly dangerous creatures and can be kept in reserves around the world, both for the safety of untrained magical individuals and to protect the ISoS from being broken by revealing living, breathing dragons to Muggles. However, this has not prevented Muggles from knowing more about dragons than they should.
Why Do Muggles Know So Much About Dragons?
Now, as you may have noticed, a lot of the information that Muggles have about dragons is not entirely incorrect. While dragons are vicious and bloodthirsty, and thus need a ‘quest’ to be stopped (but not slain, if possible), dragons can also be extremely beneficial: their heartstrings are used as cores in wands, their blood has 12 different uses (which Professor Anne will talk about in greater detail), and dragon dung can be used as fertilizer. All of this, combined, creates the understanding that we see Muggles have of dragons - creatures that can be ‘evil’ or ‘benevolent,’ depending on their mood.
Prior to 1689, when the ISoS was signed and enacted, this made perfect sense, since the Muggle and magical worlds were more connected than they are today. In today’s world, though, Muggles who encounter a real dragon are obliviated and have their memories modified to help them change their dragon sighting into something that they understand. Despite these precautions, Muggles still know more about dragons than some officials in various ministries around the world would like. Why is this? There are many theories about why this may be, and nothing has been proven with any certainty, but I would like to present you with a theory that I personally believe to be the most plausible.
For those of you familiar with trauma, you know that it drastically changes the way your brain works; for those who are not familiar… it is extremely hard to describe. Imagine closing your eyes and seeing something horrible, in every perfect detail. You remember how everything around you smelled, you remember every tiny detail of how the horrific thing looked, and can distinctly hear how it sounded. This is, oftentimes, what happens to an individual who experiences a severely traumatic incident (though their minds will also often work to repress the traumatic memories, which creates a scientific grey area for psychologists who try to better understand trauma). What psychologists can agree on is that the brain of someone who experiences trauma is definitely changed in a significant way. These individuals often are diagnosed with a disorder called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can experience symptoms such as flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, changes in memory, and changes in concentration.
Some of these changes are likely caused because an event is so traumatic that a person can never fully forget it. My speculation is that the Muggles know as much as they do about dragons, even today, because of the searing impact of a dragon encounter on their minds. Using what we know about trauma, it would make sense that a Muggle experiencing these terrifying creatures would be forever impacted - it’s rare that magical people forget their first, or any, experience with a dragon. Therefore a non-magical person who encounters a “living myth” would certainly never forget it, and would pass those stories down. It may get warped and misunderstood, but it would certainly be passed down and retold for generations.
Defending Against a Dragon
Some of you may have futures working with dragons, so it is important that you know of the two spells you can use most effectively against them. The first spell you should already be well aware of: The Stunning Spell. The Stunning Spell, while less effective against the magically resistant dragon, is capable of knocking out a fully grown, adult dragon if enough of them are cast at the same time. I emphasize that it will take a well-executed concurrent combination, enacted by a minimum of four to six people, in order to take down even the smallest adult dragon; with younger dragons, you can likely get away with fewer.
The second spell is one that you probably have not heard of before, or if you have, you’ve heard it under different terms. The Sleeping Trance Charm is a spell that will put the target into a magically induced trance that, with enough applied willpower, will put the target to sleep. This spell is slightly special from the others that we have learned this term because the concentration and willpower components are both dependent on the creature you are casting it on. I know this goes against a lot of what we’ve been teaching you, but let me explain. For the concentration component, you need to concentrate on the creature you want to put to sleep, and picture it in your mind clearly until the spell has been successfully cast and affected the target. If you are targeting a Streeler, for example, then the spell will require both lower concentration and willpower, because Streelers are not fast moving or complicated creatures, and do not require a lot of willpower to overcome because they have no strong will of their own (they have some, but not nearly to the level of humans). The willpower component, as hinted at, is also dependent on the creature because you have to overcome its ability to stay awake. For a Streeler, this is fairly simple; for a dragon, it is much less simple. Therefore, a Streeler would require a low amount of willpower while a dragon would require a ridiculously high amount of willpower.
The wand movement is, in theory, a simple wand movement: you move your wand in a back and forth half circle. Imagine that the tip of your wand is moving like a pendulum, or a watch that someone uses to hypnotize another person. That is the type of motion you are going for. What makes it more difficult is that you have to keep the motion visible to the target at all times. This can make the spell much more difficult, because it is very unlikely that you will be able to have more than one person casting the spell at a time, unless you happen to be fighting a creature like a three-headed dog or a runespoor. Against a creature like that, you could have multiple people casting at the creature and all be equally effective. The incantation for the Sleeping Trance Charm is “Dormitus.”
As I indicated before, you should never face a dragon without having taken the Flame Protection Potion, since it will protect you from the heat of the flames indirectly, even if it won’t be able to save you from a direct hit. Without the ability to withstand the indirect impact of a dragon’s flame, you won’t be able to do anything else that would allow you to survive an encounter against a dragon. Perhaps that is a task for any of you who might be aspiring potioneers: develop the potion that fully protects against a dragon’s flame.
Below, I have attached the spell block for the Sleeping Trance Charm
Spell: The Sleeping Trance Charm
Incantation: Dormitus (dor-ME-toos)
Wand Movement: A back and forth semi-circle
Concentration: Dependent on the complexity of the target
Willpower: Dependent on the complexity of the creature
By now I would hope that you all are competent enough to handle some common sense procedures, but I also watched each of you in practice during your O.W.L. examination, so I will explain the common sense aspects of defending yourself against a dragon. The spell provided here, the Sleeping Trance Charm, is one of the many spells that will not harm the creature but will allow you to escape an encounter hopefully unscathed. This spell is particularly effective if used in combination with the Wand-Lighting Charm. Dragons have a natural attraction to shiny objects - very much like many of you in this room - so the use of the Wand-Lighting Charm will catch its attention while the Sleeping Trance Charm will put it to sleep, assuming you have utilized enough willpower. However, that is not always the case. Dragons are extremely intelligent creatures and can often tell when they are being distracted; this can make them more aggressive.
Once a dragon becomes agitated, the Sleeping Trance Charm has a much lower probability of success. You will then have to resort to different means. One of those means may well be the Stunning Spell that was previously mentioned in the lesson. The Stunning Spell, when used with enough power, is one of the few spells that will be able to affect a dragon, despite the dragon’s magical resistance. Researchers are still trying to understand this phenomenon, but it does allow for more ethical treatment of dragons. Previously, it was believed that the Stunning Spell was only effective if you target specific vulnerable targets on a dragon, such as its eyes. As you can imagine, this was a nightmare for the Ministry to handle.
However, the Stunning Spell is not necessarily the only means of handling a dragon you have at your disposal. If I am not mistaken, you should all have learned some basic elemental manipulation in your Charms course at some point. Instead of targeting the dragon, you could always target the landscape around it. Creating a cage of earth - providing that you leave it some space for fresh air to get in - can be just as effective as taking on the dragon itself. I say this, though I hope that over your time in this course, you will have learned that your ingenuity and creativity are your greatest strengths. You should consider all other options before resorting to these tactics, and you should only do so after receiving proper training. You do not want to cause unintended side effects that do more damage than good.
The final attack to defend against is its bite. While durable clothing and dragonhide gloves can protect you against the physical aspect of a dragon bite, there is still potential that the creature could puncture it. For some of the more venomous dragons, such as the Norwegian Ridgeback and the Peruvian Vipertooth, this means that you will be injected with its venom (obviously). If the dragon is an infant, or still young, it may simply cause your hand to swell. You will still want to take an Antidote to Uncommon Poisons and seek medical help from a professional healer as soon as you can, but a bite from a young dragon is most likely not going to be lethal. A bite from an adult dragon, on the other hand, is a much bigger problem. At that moment, urgency is required and speed is of the essence; once an adult dragon’s venom enters your system, you will need medical assistance almost immediately. Death will not be immediate, but time will not be on your side. The Antidote to Uncommon Poisons has been proven to help slow the spread of an adult dragons’ venom, but it is not guaranteed to work unless accompanied by an approved treatment plan that only a healer can provide.
And, with that, we come to the conclusion of our discussion about dragons. I will admit, there is a lot more to say. Dragons are some of the most heavily-researched creatures in our world, and between the use of dragon parts as a form of defense, as well as how we defend against them, we could fill another lesson or two especially with regard to historical reports of dragons as guardians. However, that will have to be a discussion for another time.
For now, you have two assignments to complete. The first is a N.E.W.T. practice assignment that requires you to access your creativity, ingenuity, and the full arsenal of spells you have acquired over your years in this course. The second assignment asks you to recapture an escaped dragon. Good luck.