Metamorphosis: Transfiguration For Beginners
There has long been a preoccupation with size in both the wizarding world and in the Muggle world.
It is no surprise that, in both worlds, huge structures were built as representations of power, majesty, and authority – nor is it surprising that in both worlds, small trinkets such as jewels, music boxes, and miniature pets have been objects of great curiousity and fascination.
It is unsurprising, therefore, that size should be important in the wizarding world when it comes to the execution of magic. It is both something that can be manipulated and something that can be seen as a limitation to one’s abilities. Size, whether large or small, has a role to play – and that is precisely where this chapter comes in.
Shrinking and Expanding
Shrinking and expanding in Transfiguration is distinctly different from shrinking and expanding in Charms, though it is less popular as a form of magic in the former. In Transfiguration, spells are usually intended to alter more radically than a change in size; however the practise still occurs for those who are not quite as handy with the more flourishing wand movements in charms. Whilst Charms has the engorgement charm, Engorgio, and the shrinking charm, Reducio, the magic used in Charms is used to change what an object does, causing the object to do that of its own accord. In Transfiguration, it is entirely up to the witch or wizard to do the job! Truth be told, the process is a difficult one indeed.
In order to shrink or expand in Transfiguration there is a certain degree of Conjuration and Vanishment involved – but on the most precise level imaginable. What is to be brought into existence are not just ‘things’, but the molecules, that prior to the spell did not exist, which will make the intended subject bigger. What is to be vanished are molecules the subject already possesses, if one wishes to shrink something. Surprisingly, this sort of Conjuration/Vanishment is simpler than when it involves whole objects and can thus be taught to younger students. Please also take note that, if you intend to undo the shrinking, you should have a good idea from where the vanished molecules will be retrieved. It is hard to explain to your Muggle neighbour that you lost their cat, but then found an identical cat half the size which still responds – suspiciously in the same miaow as their old cat – to “Mr. Tibblekins.”
Naturally, Conjuring and Vanishing molecules requires concentration. Before you can perform any shrinking or expanding spells, you must know and understand where they are adding or removing molecules. If they are to add a great deal of size to a creature’s leg, for example, you must also know to add to its bone so that it can still support the weight of the flesh. If a creature is growing twice its size, it will need twice as much fur. If an object is shrinking to half its size it will need half the amount of paint. This is where Transfigurative spells can come in handy where Charms fail – even under the Engorgio spell, some subjects have been known to burst from over-engorging. The principles of size change through Transfiguration are easy enough to understand once they have been thoroughly absorbed on a theoretical level. It does not require a mathematical genius, gauging what needs to be removed by sight alone can get the job done efficiently, and can often be quicker. But, that isn’t to say that there are not wizards who get out the measuring tape every time they wish to change something’s size.
A magician who can understand these principles can have quite a lucrative career: recently the popularity of miniature animals as pets has exploded, and while many witches and wizards have the ability to miniaturise whichever creature they choose, some have taking to exploiting the Muggle demand. Miniature ponies were the first to be sold en masse – many wizards today have taken up the sale of magically shrunken animals to blissfully ignorant Muggles who believe them to have been specially bred. Luckily for those salesmen, the offspring of the aforementioned animals are in proportion to the size of the parents.
These same principles are also important in transforming spells, the reason for which will be explained in the limits section below.
Size is particularly important when it comes to deciding on the features which you are wishing to transfigure.
For instance, in Cross-Species Switches or Trans-Species Transformations, transfiguring physical properties from one creature to a creature of a different breed or species, size can be key to the success of the spell. One cannot simply decide on a whim that it would be amusing to have a hamster with the ears of an elephant. Biology may allow for such a connection, but the size of the hamster does not. The ears of such a large creature would require much more blood flow than the hamster possesses; hence you will find if you perform such a spell, the blood will drain from the hamster and it will, inevitably, perish from such a staggering biological shift. It is, however, safer to give larger creatures the features of small ones.
It is generally due this that, unless you are performing a full transformation, changing something into something else, organisms undergoing partial transfigurations in order to combine with other organisms must be combining with something of a similar size, otherwise medical difficulties can emerge. Too-small legs have made creatures incapable of walking, eyes too big for the skull have popped from their sockets, creatures intended to fly with the wings of other creatures have come crashing to the ground, destroying the features of both creatures. Examples like this show that the true genius in practising magic lies in foreseeing the circumstances of spells.
It is in full transformations where the molecular principles applied in the prior section can be useful. In early studies of Transfiguration, it is common for a student to complete whole transformations on objects of a similar size; one example being the ever popular beginner’s task of turning a match into a needle. This is because the two objects have a similar total count of molecules, and hardly any concentration is needed to make the transformation complete. It is the same with any whole transformation – a slightly more advanced spell is turning a hedgehog into a pincushion, which makes use of the preexisting similarities between a hedgehog’s spiny covering and sharp pins. It is not until later in the study of Transfiguration that a disparity between size can be overcome in the execution of spells; by then the student should have at least a basic grasp on molecular placement, addition, and subtraction.
Naturally, it is an easier task to create inanimat molecules than it is to create animate ones, or at least a safer one – as we generally assume that furniture does not scream out in pain, so initial transformations with a disparity in size are usually done with inanimate objects
CASE STUDY: Turning chairs into tables Here, we shall attempt to provide an education into how to turn one object, the one on which you are currently sitting, into another, the one on which your heads are doubtlessly resting in hope of sleep.
You should be in a standing position by your chairs, unless your laziness is such that you require a separate chair whilst your previous one is otherwise engaged. Chairs will usually come to a height of about three feet. This is a simple transition to begin with due to the very similar nature of chairs and tables – both are generally made from wood, and both are used in conjunction with one another. Make sure that, in this initial exercise, the table you create from the chair is of the same wood – there’s no use trying to be overly ambitious and making a rosewood table from a mahogany chair, as it will just make this beginner’s spell unnecessarily difficult for you. The molecules for this task do not need to be made denser or softened to accommodate for differing types of wood or material as such instruction will occur in later chapters of this book, and you may show off your aspirations there.
Deduce, depending on the size of the table you wish to create, how much larger the chair will need to grow. The legs will need to be thickened, as will the seat, which should ideally become the tabletop. If you are smart, you will transfer the molecules of the unneeded back of the chair into the legs and tabletop region of your table so that fewer molecules need be wasted. This can be done through sheer focus and picturing the path you wish the molecules to follow to their new home as part of the new object. Using this method ensures as little Conjuration as possible occurs with this particular spell, as it is new territory for many. There will, some of you may lament, most likely be a need to include new molecular material that the chairs alone do not contain. If you feel as though you cannot produce a full-sized table, perhaps initially craft a bed-side table instead, though, keep in mind if you have difficulty with size changes during spells, it cannot be overcome through sheer avoidance. To conjure new molecules one must put all concentration into drawing forth the new matter. There is no summoning spell for them except sheer willpower. Dedication and confidence generally provide a helping hand.
The incantation for this spell is “ligneapedibussuggestum”. Always practise the incantation first prior to actually performing the spell – and put down your wand for this, as you don’t want to mistakenly turn your nearest classmate into your nightstand, though it is more likely that you will botch the spell, and they will merely wander around with peg legs until the spell is rectified.
When ready, point your wand at your chair and utter the incantation with distinct determination – on the last word, flick your wand softly upwards by no more than a couple of centimetres. It has often been thought that directing the wand upwards helps encourage the chair to grow taller as it becomes a table.
If you have practised this spell and completed it successfully, then congratulations are in order. However this was only your first test of size change – and when you wish to change both size and state at a more advanced level, it is best not to let your success in this spell make you cocky for the next one.