Metamorphosis: Transfiguration For Beginners

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Partial Transformations

Chapter 12

When performing a Transfiguration, it is not always the case that the Transformation results in a complete change where the entire body or item has been molecularly rearranged. Sometimes there are cases in which it is beneficent for the subject to only partially Transform an object so as to achieve a certain purpose. In other cases, it happens that the performer of the Transfigurative magic is interrupted or distracted, or perhaps that the magic is not powerful enough; this may cause the spell to end without being fully completed, leaving only a portion of the subject Transformed.  This chapter will cover the basics of achieving a partial Transformation and also the steps that should be taken should a Transformation accidentally be left incomplete.

Achieving a Partial Transformation

Partial Transformation takes varying degrees of training and expertise to master, depending on the subject of the magic. It is more common that partial Transformation spells are initially taught using inanimate objects and then move to the Transformation of living organisms; not until an advanced level, usually in their N.E.W.T. year, will a student will be taught partial Transformation methods involving humans. Such magic is usually covered as part of Human Transfiguration.

Partial Transformation of Subjects

In partial Transformation, like with any other Transfiguration, a student must first know and be aware of the spell that they must use for a particular Transformation. Having practised thoroughly the pronunciation of the incantation, the main objective in performing the spell itself is to be precise and accurate when aiming the spell. One must have complete and utter concentration, not only on their pronunciation of the spell but on their intended target, and to be specific, the part of their target they wish to partially Transform.  If their focus is not properly directed, then the result of the magic may be less powerful than intended, or may backfire.

Partially Transforming a human and giving it properties of an inanimate object can be quite dangerous if not performed correctly. If one MUST perform a Transfiguration which turns human material into something with no life force, it is best that the material that the human part is to be Transformed into is as similar to a flesh, cartilage and bone density as possible. An example of this is the partial Transfiguration of a human into an armchair, using the cushioning in place of skin and flesh, and the frame in place of bone.

It is also a good idea to follow certain guidelines when partially Transforming a human into another living creature. Since Kennilworthy Whisp (author of “Quidditch Through The Ages”) stated that Transforming one’s self into a bat was one of the few ways for wizards to fly unaided, but noted that it would be pointless as bats lack the memory required to remember where one wanted to fly in the first place, many have attempted to find a compromise. Unfortunately for those who dream of owning wings, there is a size ratio problem with this sort of magic. When partially Transforming themselves into winged creatures such as bats or birds, people often forget that those creatures are a great deal smaller than they themselves are, and frequently end up expectantly leaping off of chairs only to find themselves supported by wings ten times too small to even get them one story above the ground.

Partial Transformations have long been used as joke spells to pull on unsuspecting victims, or those who have been too slow to defend themselves with a Shield Charm. One example is the jinx Tentaclifors, which Transfigures the head of the target into a large, writhing tentacle, often to the great amusement of bystanders.

Self-Induced Partial Transformation

When performing a partial Transformation on oneself, it is important to remember to retain the correct pronunciation and precision necessary, just as when performing the spell on others, yet one must also focus their energy as well as their mind. It is much more complicated to perform a spell on oneself, as the execution of the wand movements are often going to be impeded by having to point the wand in the opposite direction one usually points. Another counteractive factor of performing a spell on oneself is that amateurs at doing so will usually be a great deal more nervous at risking their own bodies. Therefore, one must undergo a sort of internal meditation in which the focus of energy is directed towards the area of their body they wish to change. This sort of process is not required for whole Transformations, as it is only necessary to assist in the precision of one’s spell casting and to help prevent the spell from spreading outwardly to unwanted body sections. Most students will begin with simple, lesser risk alterations such as changing their hair colour on one half of their hair only. If one progresses to the stage where they are Transfiguring themselves partly into creatures or objects that cannot hold/operate wands, they should have a friend or acquaintance on hand who can Untransfigure them when necessary. The same is true of attempting any spell with risk involved. One unfortunate elderly wizard attempted to give himself the fangs of a bear in order to better chew his steak. Alas, he did not account for the fact that he needed to also change his jaw structure in order to accommodate such sizeable teeth, and his jawbone broke in several places, causing him to faint and not get medical help until the following morning.

It is argued that partial Human Transformation can, for the caster, often be more beneficial than whole Transformations in some cases, particularly where animals are concerned. In the 1995 Triwizard Tournament, competitor Viktor Krum Transfigured his head into that of a shark. Between Triwizard enthusiasts, it has often been debated if the partial Transformation was intentional or not. The general opinion was that regardless of the intention, the outcome was the best one possible for a spell of that kind. As mentioned previously, unlike Animagi, complete Transformation into animals involve gaining the mental state and intelligence of that particular animal. Had the Transformation of Krum been completed, he may have endangered the creatures inhabiting the challenge area (the famous Black Lake of Hogwarts) or his fellow competitors and participants. The minimalised spread of the Transformation enabled his brain to function as it normally would so that he could compete in the tournament with complete and rational control over his actions and breathe underwater as intended by the spell. Ergo, it is always best to use the intended purpose of your Transfiguration to weigh up the pros and cons of both partial and whole Transfigurations. Undoubtedly, with any cause requiring a fully functional human thought process, partial Transfiguration is the superior choice.

It is worth noting that Metamorphmagi are somewhat of an exception to the general method of precision and focus. While they can use concentration to help produce their Transformations, they often require much less concentration than the average wizard, as their magic is performed largely through whim and desire. This is due to their status of being born with an inherent ability to Transform from birth; this is not a common birth trait and, as such, they are extreme rarities. They also do not require wands to perform Transfigurative magic. Not all of a Metamorphmagi’s partial Transformations are intentional; for example, hair or eye hues have been known to change without warning according to the emotion the person is feeling at the time.

Spell-casting Gone Wrong: Interrupted Spells

It can be the case for even the most practised witches and wizards that they might sometimes have a spell or two go wrong. A caster may be interrupted or distracted during their incantation, or they may simply not have powerful enough magic. Occasionally, a broken wand may be at fault, too. Whichever the case, many a Transfiguration has been halted in the middle of its process due to such misfortunes.

There are, of course, methods you can take to rectify the situation. If you still have the ability to use your wand (either because you are not the victim of the spell or because your Transformation does not include your wand arm), simply consult your spell books for the Untransfiguration spell which is relevant to your situation and perform the incantation, taking note to still use the same mental focus. This is, of course, only a solution if you can correctly perform the spell. If not, other actions must be taken.

The next, most obvious step is to seek out the help of the nearest witch or wizard with the ability to fix your Transfiguration. This could be a friend, relative or spouse. In a school environment, this would of course be a teacher who specialises in Transfiguration; however, some teachers have abilities outside of their chosen post and can also be consulted. If you are not at school and your nearest and dearest are deemed daft when it comes to Transfiguration, checking in to see a magical nurse or doctor is also an option. Your nearest magical hospital should have an emergency ward which will be equipped to deal with any magical mistakes that result in physical abnormalities. If you have lost your ability to write and talk to communicate the spell you want undone, it is best to bring along your wand, even if you cannot use it as you normally would. While in some cases the item or organism you have been partially Transformed into is instantly recognisable, in other cases it may be difficult to distinguish, and it may be necessary for the staff to perform Priori Incantatem, which will reveal the last spell you used.

If, in the worst case scenario, you are trapped semi-Transformed, unable to use your wand, far from home, without knowing when your spell will wear off, you are in more than a bit of a pickle. The only option at this point is to hide your disfigurement from all Muggle eyes and proceed with haste towards the nearest magical community, wherever that may be. You should be able to receive help there. If there is no available help within a decent distance, then on your own head be it for practising risky magic so far from civilisation. Wizard communities are established for the protection of all magical folk. Let us never forget the tale of Nauticus Autem, who set sail at sea and Transfigured himself into a gull to catch fish when his supplies ran out, only to have sun stroke cause his spell to malfunction and trap him as a hybrid that could neither fly nor steer his ship, nor even cast a spell. After seventy days, he washed up on land, emaciated and very lucky to be alive. To this day, not a word has been heard from him except the occasional disgruntled caw.

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