Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Magic/Flying

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Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Magic
Flying lessons
Type Class
Features
First Appearance Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone


Overview[edit]

The subject of flying using brooms is taught by Madam Hooch to the first-years at Hogwarts.

Extended Description[edit]

Beginner warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Flying is done using brooms; we are led to believe that it is not possible for a wizard to fly without a broom or some other charmed device (e.g. a flying carpet, though those are currently not allowed in England) or animal (e.g. a Thestral).

One of the rules at Hogwarts is that first-years aren't allowed to posess brooms. This rule was bent for Harry, though: in his first-ever flying lesson, Professor McGonagall sees that he is a natural flier. As a result, Harry was recruited to the Gryffindor Quidditch Team, as Seeker, and was given a Nimbus 2000.

Once his natural ability has been discovered, there is little that Madam Hooch can teach him, and the main part of his flying instruction, we believe, is taken over by Oliver Wood, the captain of the Quidditch team, as part of ongoing Quidditch practice. We are not told about any further flying lessons with Madam Hooch; but we must assume that lessons continue for the other students.

Analysis[edit]

We will note that Harry Potter and the Phiosopher's Stone does not mention anything about flying classes after the first. It is a safe assumption that further instruction in flying is provided by Oliver Wood and the other members of the Quidditch team as part of practice, and so we have indicated that in the article above. There remains, however, this block in Harry's daily schedule marked "flying classes", and this being school, likely Harry will be expected to attend. It is our suspicion that Madam Hooch may have assigned him duties as an assistant instructor, however there is nothing in the book to suggest this.

Among Muggles, the ability to fly is often seen as one of the most cherished uses of magic. Flying carpets, flying broomsticks, flying animals, and (lately) flying cars have been a mainstay in imaginative fiction for centuries. This series being centered on magic, it would be unusual indeed if flying were not a part of the story. And in fact, we hear of or experience all of these: Harry, of course, has his broomsticks, but also rides on a Hippogriff and a thestral, drives and rides in Mr. Weasley's flying Ford Anglia, and rides in Sirius' flying motorcycle; and we hear that there is an import ban on flying carpets.

Teachers at Hogwarts actually instruct students on two of these, though one of them may be somewhat informal. Madam Hooch, as mentioned, instructs the first year classes in the use of brooms, and Hagrid has Harry riding the Hippogriff Buckbeak. The latter, we believe, may be less formal; Hagrid seems to be straying from the approved curriculum towards areas he finds more interesting.

There is also Hagrid's off-hand remark in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: asked how he had reached the island, he simply replies "Flew." In the morning, he uses the boat to return to shore, so he can't have used the flying motorcycle, and brooms, we later are told, cannot hold his weight; and we are led to believe that the flying charm cannot be applied to a wizard, so we have to assume that Hagrid somehow found a flying animal, such as a Thestral, large enough to carry him. Of course, the simpler explanation is that this is simply an author's mistake, in the light of the later storyline. (It is generally apparent that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, though introducing the setting in many ways, is in others something of a misfit within the story cycle that starts in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.)

We do note that in the final book, Voldemort is seen to be flying without equipment of any sort, and later in that book, Snape is seen to have the same ability. Comments made at the time suggest that this is a charm that Voldemort has created, and taught to Snape. We can, in this case, rule out jealousy as a reason for the spell's exclusivity, or Snape wouldn't have got to know it either; hence, it is apparently magic of the most difficult kind, such as even Bellatrix Lestrange cannot master. Bellatrix, a strong witch, almost certainly would have copied Voldemort's personal trick if only for the fact that it was Voldemort's personal trick.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

  1. We are led to believe that flying is only possible with the use of an object (broom, Sirius' flying motorcycle, Mr. Weasley's flying Ford Anglia), or with the assistance of a flying creature (Thestral, Hippogriff, Dragon). How is it that Voldemort, and later Snape, seem to be capable of unassisted flight in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?
  2. We can assume that Harry went on to participate in flying lessons after receiving his Nimbus 2000, if only because the schedule tells him to do so. Would he be able to use his broom there, because it was his, or would he - for these lessons only - have to rely on a school broom, so as not to create envy within class?
  3. We only see two Dark wizards fly without use of enchanted objects (notwithstanding one of them's hidden loyalty); but it does not hurt any outstanders. Is such flying, then, a Dark Art?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

As a small aside, we will note that if Harry was, in fact, required to attend flying lessons despite being so far ahead of everyone else, it is possible that Madam Hooch would have assigned him a more supervisory task, assisting her in teaching. This would have exacerbated the already dangerous friction between Harry and Draco Malfoy, of course. But it also might have provided the very first hint that Harry would be able to teach. something he did four years later, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, with Dumbledore's Army. Given that plot line, it is a little uncertain as to why Harry's being a teaching assistant to Madam Hooch was not touched on in the first book; even as much as one sentence would have provided useful context for the later instructional effort.