hal

Halrloprillalar

You can call me Hal.

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Challenges & transfiguration.
harry
prillalar

Current challenges:
Harry Potter Flashficathon - January 27
Master and the Wolf -- Remus/Snape fest - January 31
Woobies of Destiny - Harry/Neville fest - April 15

sophia_helix is soliciting interest for a Femslash Ficathon which I plan to do if it goes forward. I'm just a girl who can't say no. :)

I don't seem to have any LotR or Stargate challenges going. Are there any? I've only just gone back on "mail" on my LotR lists, so I'm a little out of the loop there. Also, I don't think I'm really in the LotR loop on LJ either. I went to the LotR BNF deathmatch thingy and looked at a bunch of the BNF LJs and it seemed to be actually Lotrips, which is not my bag. Hmm.

 

As the latest in my long list of questions about magic in Harry Potter, I present:

How the hell does transfiguration work?

I was talking with kestrelsan about my Remus/Snape story, trying to work out what Remus is doing with himself at the time I've set the story, and I got wondering about wizard wealth. Why is Remus poor? Why can't he just use magic to get what he needs?

It seems that there must be some limits on transfiguration, but the books don't really seem to support that. Sure, it's hard to do, but once mastered, seems to have a permanent effect.

In PS, Hagrid tries to transfigure Dudley into a pig. He fails, but Dudley has a pig's tail that has to be surgically removed. In GoF, Cedric transfigures a rock into a dog.

Do you need to learn a specific spell for each kind of transfiguration? It seems unlikely, since why would they teach students to transfigure teapots to tortoises, then?

Do you expend a lot of energy in the transfiguration? Does it take more calories to transfigure a stone into a bun than the bun has in it? The students complain about the difficulty of the spells, but they don't seem to be all that physically taxed by them.

(That would be an interesting wizard slimming programme -- transfigure all your food yourself so that you lose weight even though you're eating.)

There must be a limiting factor. But I just can't see what it is, given what we know so far.


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I've asked double_helix if I can pimp the ficathon, I konw a few people who would be interesting in writing femeslash (me included) - and for the food wizarding diet - YES PLEASE....thinks of transfiguring amaretti!


*hugs*
e.a.

Yeah, I think that's one of those things JKR has really failed to think through properly. The way she seems to have set it up, there's really no reason why people like Remus or the Weasleys can't just transfigure their shabby old stuff into shiny new stuff, or just change some rocks into whatever they need.

I could fanwank some of it away. Like, maybe wizard manufacturers put anti-transfiguration spells on the things they make and sell. They'd kind of have to, otherwise no one would ever buy new clothes or furniture or anything, and everyone would go out of business. And I've theorized, like you, that transfiguring an object into food actually burns up more calories than the food you end up with. But it still doesn't explain why Remus can't transfigure a pile of dirt into a nice set of robes for himself.

The only think I can come up with is that it's not permanent. Maybe Dudley's tail would've gone away on its own if the Dursleys had waited long enough. And maybe the duration of the effect is unpredictable, so if you go out in your nice transfigured robes, you might find yourself in the middle of Diagon Alley wearing nothing but a pile of dirt.

Of course, that raises the question of what, exactly, Transfiguration is good for. It's treated like an important subject at Hogwarts, but if you can only change things temporarily, then it's only of limited use outside of school.

The only think I can come up with is that it's not permanent. Maybe Dudley's tail would've gone away on its own if the Dursleys had waited long enough.

Or, that it would have been temporary on a wizard...

And maybe the duration of the effect is unpredictable,

Or, that the duration of transformation is what takes up the energy. Changing a tortoise into a teapot for the duration of the class is relatively low energy consumption; changing it permanently would be very taxing. No evidence of this, that I'm aware of, but it seems like a fair guess, and would explain why the Weasleys have hand-me-downs; the work of making a day-long change would be significant enough to be prohibitive as a frequent practice.

Another thought is that perhaps consuming something transfigured is a Bad Idea. That would explain why we have to have a Potions class, which would make little sense if you could just haul out your wand and change water to wine, or more to the point, to Polyjuice, or Wolfsbane, or Veritaserum. That would tend to lend credence to the notion that the house elves really do make the food, rather than just conjuring it out of whole cloth. And would also explain why hunger is ever an issue.

It would still be important, then. It would have utility in all sorts of conveniences, but not necessities. Need a blanket for a few hours, for a picnic? No problem. Need one for overnight because you're really, really cold? Okay, as long as you have the energy to generate the duration of the spell, and you might choose to expend the energy even at substantial cost if the alternative were freezing to death...

??

Another thought is that perhaps consuming something transfigured is a Bad Idea.

If the effect is temporary, I can certainly see why it would be a very bad idea, indeed. That nice piece of chocolate cake you've just eaten might turn back into a rock while you're half-way through digesting it.

That would explain why we have to have a Potions class, which would make little sense if you could just haul out your wand and change water to wine, or more to the point, to Polyjuice, or Wolfsbane, or Veritaserum.

I'm not sure that would be possible anyway, regardless of duration. I don't think we've ever seen an example of a non-magical item transfigured into a magical item. I would guess that you couldn't transform a chair into, say, a foe-glass. You'd have to transform it into an ordinary mirror, then put the foe-glass charm on it yourself. If you tried changing water into Wolfsbane, I suspect you'd end up with something that looks and smells and tastes like Wolfsbane, but doesn't actually do any good for the werewolf who drinks it.

But if you changed water into wine, would you get drunk from it? :-)

A cool discussion, really. It's funny how many things Rowling has handwaved just to make "nifty", and yet fanfiction writers work so hard to keep their magic logical.

But if you changed water into wine, would you get drunk from it?

Well, the intoxicating properties of alcohol are chemical rather than magical, so I would guess that yes, you could get drunk from transfigured booze.

Though it would be really cool if you could transfigure one kind of food or drink into another, while retaining the properties of the original. There's a diet aid for you: transfigure your nice, healthy salad into a bowl of chocolate mousse, but still get the salad calories and nutrition.

Since overweight wizards do exist, I presume that trick doesn't work. :-)

Well, or that, oh, Umbridge just really sucks at transfiguration... ;)

*imagines a world in which chocolate mousse can be good for one*
*determines there is no need to retreat into reality*
*thinks about chocolate mousse while working on next chapter of Parselsmut*

...

*determines there is too a good reason, as melting self with images of soft silky chocolatey goo and pretty hissing boys engaging in hot lewd acts is unconducive to typing*

Hee.

Or, that the duration of transformation is what takes up the energy. Changing a tortoise into a teapot for the duration of the class is relatively low energy consumption; changing it permanently would be very taxing.

Oh, I like this. It fits in quite well with what we've got so far.

I wonder how that works with Animagus transformations, though. Is that a branch of transfiguration? Because we've seen that someone can live in that changed for for years.

If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that the nature of the animagus transformation is such that the animal's metabolic processes mantain the transformation. There might even be physiological differences between an animagus and an actual animal. I'm guessing that what is so difficult about the animagus transformation is not becoming an animal, but becoming an animal that can hold its shape without a prohibitive expenditure of energy.

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