How many times have you been stuck in traffic, or on the subway, and wished you could Apparate? Or use the Mending Charm to repair your busted TV set? Yeah, us too. But magic is no toy, and any number of terrible things can happen to amateur wizards who treat it like one. In anticipation of next month’s fast-approaching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, we combed the first six Harry Potter movies looking for magical mishaps, and created this guide to ten of the most unpleasant disasters that can befall the unwary witch or wizard. What did we miss?
We’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: Proper pronunciation is the key to successful spell-casting. When traveling by Floo Powder, lazy articulation can land you in the wrong fireplace entirely, which can be both painful and embarrassing.
There are worse things that can happen when a young wizard botches a spell — but this can be pretty embarrassing. Ron’s attempt to impress Harry and Hermoine by turning his pet rat yellow in Sorcerer’s Stone backfired when absolutely nothing happened. (See also: Harry has trouble getting his wand to light in Prisoner of Azkaban; Hermione is frustrated while trying to discipline her broomstick in Sorcerer’s Stone.)
As long as love potions exist, horny teenagers will try to sneak them into each others’ food. Just try not to drink one intended for someone else. Poor Ron intercepted (i.e., stole) a box of potion-filled chocolates meant for Harry and wound up in love with Romilda Vane. Maybe he had it coming to him. (See also: Harry and Cho Chang in Order of the Phoenix, and Ron and Lavender Brown, Ron and Hermione, and Harry and Ginny in Half-Blood Prince.)
Sure, things break all the time — but when magic is involved, the consequences can be especially dire. Check regularly to make sure your flying car is in good working order, or risk crashing into a vicious tree like the Whomping Willow, like Harry and Ron did in Chamber of Secrets. That Ford Anglia was clearly unfit to fly long distances, which a simple inspection would have revealed.
It’s important for young wizards to keep their tempers in check, even if someone maligns their dead parents. In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry’s rage inadvertently causes his aunt Marge to inflate and float away into the Surrey sky. (See also: Neville has an ill-fated first flying lesson in Sorcerer’s Stone; Fred and George, too young to get past the Age Line, are sent flying away in Goblet of Fire.)
“Eye of rabbit, harp-string hum, turn this water into rum,” says Seamus Finnigan, seconds before scorching his eyebrows off in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Cast a spell carelessly, or mix a potion in improper proportion, and don’t be surprised if things get fiery. If you insist on doing dangerous magic unsupervised, at least try to have a fire extinguisher on hand. (See also: Seamus causes more explosions while attempting Levitation Charm and making a Living Dead potion explode in Half-Blood Prince.)
They say matter can neither be created nor destroyed — unless you’re an inept wizard like former Hogwarts Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Gilderoy Lockhart, whose attempt in Chamber of Secrets to fix Harry Potter’s broken humerus results in the temporary disappearance of all of Harry’s arm bones. (See also: Harry accidentally makes the glass disappear on the snake enclosure at the zoo in Sorcerer’s Stone; the sudden appearance of the Knight Bus in Prisoner of Azkaban)
Always double-check check your recipes. An otherwise perfect Polyjuice potion that substitutes animal fur for human hair can leave you cat-faced. (See also: Moody punishes Draco by turning him into a ferret in Order of the Phoenix.)
A painful way to fail, splinching happens when one Apparates (or teleports) and accidentally leaves part of his body in its former location. In November’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron splinches twice, leaving behind part of his eyebrow and his upper arm. Ouch.
If ever there were a spell you don’t want to backfire, it’s this one. If you’re going to attempt a Slug-Vomiting Charm, be sure your wand is in good working order, or be prepared to belch gastropods while your intended victim laughs.