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How could Draco Malfoy conjure a snake in the duelling club in the second year?

From what I remember conjuring something was taught during the fifth or sixth year. I have a hard time believing that Draco learned the spell just from Snape's whisper at the stage of the duelling club.

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A transfiguration spell doesn't "conjure" anything. Also, Draco was mentioned to have been one of, if not, the best duellist of their age. It's not a stretch that he practised and learned extra-curricular spells. – Mooz Jan 17 at 21:00
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@Mooz "Draco was mentioned to have been one of, if not, the best duellist of their age." By himself, no? (At least in CoS, maybe he's mentioned as being a good duelist elsewhere) I'm not sure Malfoy is a credible source on his own abilities as a duelist. – Anthony Grist Jan 18 at 9:59
    
@Mooz Conjuring spell is a part of Transfiguration Classes.... – prakhar londhe Jan 23 at 16:12

I'm afraid the book implies just that - he learned it from Snape's whisper. I agree that it sounds a wee bit implausible... but that's what JKR's implying in CoS Chapter 11: "The Duelling Club":

Snape moved closer to Malfoy, bent down and whispered something in his ear. Malfoy smirked, too. Harry looked nervously up at Lockhart and said, 'Professor, could you show me that blocking thing again?'

...

'Three – two – one – go! Lockhart shouted.

Malfoy raised his wand quickly and bellowed, 'Serpensortia!'

The end of his wand exploded. Harry watched, aghast, as a long black snake shot out of it, fell heavily onto the floor between them and raised itself, ready to strike. There were screams as the crowd backed swiftly away, clearing the floor.

'Don't move, Potter,' said Snape lazily, clearly enjoying the sight of Harry standing motionless, eye to eye with the angry snake. 'I'll get rid of it...'

Note that:

  • Clearly, Snape said something to Draco that they both thought would be funny.

  • Malfoy didn't seem to put a lot of skill into the spell. There is no wand movement described (raised wand only) or subtle inflections here (just a bellow).

  • In addition, Snape does NOT react with any surprise, just amusement. If Draco performed a dangerous spell taught to him at home, it would have been more likely that Snape would be less sanguine and more surprised.

Please note that Wonderbook:Book of Spells lists it as among the 2 easiest conjuring spells. An obvious retcon, but since JKR helped with it, it's canon.

I also checked all the known JKR interviews on accio-quote and nothing related to that spell (including "snake" word search) exists to clarify.

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Could it be possible that Snape had taught the spell privately to Draco some time previously? Snape could merely have whispered a reminder, something along the lines of "Remember that spell I taught you? Try that one." That would make a bit more sense than Snape merely muttering an incantation to Draco and Draco immediately succeeding at it. – BolteAltamont Jan 17 at 21:38
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@BolteAltamont - snape-in-character in Books 1/2? Yes. Snape for real, Dumbledore's spy who says "None that I could save" in response to Dumbledore's "How many people have we seen die"? NO, HELL NO! – DVK-in-exile Jan 17 at 21:48
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Fair enough. I always found the relationship between Snape and Malfoy -- well, the Malfoys in general -- a rather interestingly complex one. – BolteAltamont Jan 18 at 1:47
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Or, Malfoy may have learned the spell from his father over the summer, and Snape may know about that because he stays in contact with the Malfoys in order to know what the deatheaters are up to. – Sumyrda Jan 18 at 6:08
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God point! I´ve always assumed that Snape thaugt Draco that spell when he whispered something in his ear. But I´m supose you're right he could just as well have already known the spell, since it is as you point out one of the easiest one (something I completly forgot when I posted my question). – Lillan Jan 18 at 7:37

We are lead to believe from the text that either Draco already knew how to cast this spell, or that this spell was simple enough that a second year student could perform it fairly easily.

Snape moved closer to Malfoy, bent down, and whispered some- thing in his ear. Malfoy smirked, too.


But Lockhart wasn’t listening.

“Three — two — one — go!” he shouted.

Malfoy raised his wand quickly and bellowed, “Serpensortia!

The end of his wand exploded. Harry watched, aghast, as a long

black snake shot out of it, fell heavily onto the floor between them,

and raised itself, ready to strike.


“Don’t move, Potter,” said Snape lazily, clearly enjoying the sight

of Harry standing motionless, eye to eye with the angry snake. “I’ll

get rid of it. . . .”

As we can see Draco didn't appear to have to learn any wand movements, and just had to yell the curse for the snake to appear.

We do know conjuring spells are not all, very advanced, the spell to summon water for one, as well as the Spell Hermione uses to summon her blue fire, which she had perfected in her first year.

From earlier in the same year we see ron is able to summon/conjure up slugs.

A loud bang echoed around the stadium and a jet of green light shot out of the wrong end of Ron’s wand, hitting him in the stom- ach and sending him reeling backward onto the grass.


Ron opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. Instead he gave an almighty belch and several slugs dribbled out of his mouth onto his lap.


“I don’t think there’s anything to do except wait for it to stop,”

said Hermione anxiously, watching Ron bend over the basin.

“That’s a difficult curse to work at the best of times, but with a bro- ken wand —”

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Good point on the other simple conjurations. If Hermione can conjure a blue flame, it doesn't seem out of line for Draco to conjure a snake. – varradami Jan 17 at 23:13
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I don't think Snape was necessarily suggesting this particular curse, he was probably just being snarky. "Doesn't look like Potter was paying attention, Malfoy, isn't that a shame?" Malfoy probably already knew the spell. – Harry Johnston Jan 18 at 0:06
    
Tanks for pointing out the other easy conjuring spell, I completely forgot about those. – Lillan Jan 18 at 7:38
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Ron is also quite capable of conjuring slugs in the second year - with a messup because of his broken wand, but still... – Matthew Walton Jan 18 at 11:00
    
Hermione probably how to cast spells before they were learned in class. – Elliot A. Jan 18 at 13:43

A snake is one of the easiest types of creatures to conjure.

However, for reasons that are still not fully understood (research continues in the Dept. of Mysteries in the Ministry of Magic) two categories of creature are much easier to create from nothing than any other: birds and snakes.
Wonderbook: Book of Spells, Bird-Conjuring Charm

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