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TL;DR: Why did Quirrell have to maintain eye contact with Harry when he tried to jinx Harry during the Quiddtch match? Are there other spells, jinxes, or curses that require eye contact?

In Philosopher's Stone, Harry, Ron, and Hermione believe that Professor Snape was jinxing Harry's broom during the Gryffindor/Slytherin Quidditch match:

The afternoon’s events certainly seemed to have changed [Hermione's] mind about Snape.

‘I know a jinx when I see one, Hagrid, I’ve read all about them! You’ve got to keep eye contact, and Snape wasn’t blinking at all, I saw him!’

Philosopher's Stone - page 131 - Bloomsbury - chapter eleven, Quidditch

It is actually Professor Quirrell who jinxed Harry's broom during the Quidditch match; Quirrell says he would have succeeded at harming or killing Harry if Hermione hadn't set fire to Snape's robes, causing Quirrell to lose eye contact with Harry

‘But Snape tried to kill me!’

‘No, no, no. I tried to kill you. Your friend Miss Granger accidentally knocked me over as she rushed to set fire to Snape at that Quidditch match. She broke my eye contact with you. Another few seconds and I’d have got you off that broom. I’d have managed it before then if Snape hadn’t been muttering a countercurse, trying to save you.’

Philosopher's Stone - page 209 - Bloomsbury - chapter seventeen, The Man With Two Faces - Harry Potter and Professor Quirrell

Q: Why did Quirrell have to maintain eye contact with Harry when he tried to jinx Harry during the Quiddtch match? Are there other spells, jinxes, or curses that require eye contact?

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Wild guessing, but I'd suggest it's the matter of aiming again: this is wandless magic, even in the book, isn't it? With no wand to direct the spell, eye contact is needed to channel the jinx onto a specific target (I'd speculate). –  Mac Cooper May 11 at 14:18
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@MacCooper -- Oh, definitely it's wandless magic, which is why I found it interesting. I also wondered how Quirrell managed to have any eye contact at all with Harry, what with Harry's broom thrashing about so violently. There's no mention of Harry catching either Quirrell or Snape's eye during the match at any time. :) –  Slytherincess May 11 at 14:48
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I figured "eye contact" meant Quirell / Snape had to be LOOKING at Harry, not eye to eye -- I'd be more impressed with that than the actual magic of the jinx. Indeed, if I were to ask this is would ask how he kept eye contact (assuming that it does mean eye to eye, not eye on body) rather than the workings of spells. In a world of ghosts and magic I can gloss over the details of spell mechanics, but I cannot let slide how eye contact can be kept: surely Harry would spend most of his time looking, not at the stands, but down at the pitch :) –  Mac Cooper May 11 at 14:55
    
@MacCooper -- Hmm, I have to say that's a really good point. I could change the question up, but DVK has already answered under the current version (and I see a second answer just popped up). I agree with you, I do, but I don't think I can change the question now. However, I can ask it separately, so I'll do that. :) –  Slytherincess May 11 at 15:23
    
@Slytherincess - Yes, in both the book and the film there's no possible way he's maintaining eye contact with Harry. The bigger question is why the broom is still bucking after Hermione knocked Quirrell over –  Richard May 11 at 15:26

3 Answers 3

First, while not required, it's "essential" for Legilimency.

'The Dark Lord is at a considerable distance and the walls and grounds of Hogwarts are guarded by many ancient spells and charms to ensure the bodily and mental safety of those who dwell within them,' said Snape. 'Time and space matter in magic, Potter. Eye contact is often essential to Legilimency.' (Order of the Phoenix).

Second, clearly, Basilisk stare - whatever magic that is - requires mutual eye contact.

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Great catch on Legilimency, although, if I were to be picky, I might say that Legilimency often not always requires eye contact. But I think it's a legitimate claim, so +1 :) The Basilisk ... I'm less convinced on the Basilisk because I think the Basilisk's ability to kill just by mutual eye contact is a natural one, just as some snakes, spiders, insects, and toads have deadly venom because they are born that way. I'm not convinced that the Basilisk's ability to kill meets JKR's definitions of either a jinx, a spell, or a curse. I'd have to use the Way Back Machine, though, to check. –  Slytherincess May 11 at 15:00

There's two questions here. I'll do my best to answer both;

  • Quirrell needs to maintain eye contact with the broom (not with Harry) because it's essential for that particular jinx to work. Hermione rightly surmises that breaking his eye contact will result in the jinx being disrupted;

From Philosopher's stone;

I know a jinx when I see one, Hagrid, I’ve read all about them! You’ve got to keep eye contact, and Snape wasn’t blinking at all, I saw him!

He then confirms this;

No, no, no. I tried to kill you. Your friend Miss Granger accidentally knocked me over as she rushed to set fire to Snape at that Quidditch match. She broke my eye contact with you. Another few seconds and I’d have got you off that broom. I’d have managed it before then if Snape hadn’t been muttering a counter-curse, trying to save you.

Other jinxes (notably impedimenta) can be fired and left to hit their targets.


In relation to the second part of your question,

Only one other spell is specifically stated to require eye contact (Legilimency) and it's later made clear that this isn't actually essential, merely desirable.

Snape’s dark eyes bored into Harry’s. Remembering what Snape had said about eye contact being crucial to Legilimency, Harry blinked and looked away.

Eye contact is essential to create a bond with certain magical animals (Hippogriffs and Phoenixes) although it's by no means clear whether this is a "spell". SImilarly, the basilisk causes pertrification through eye contact but again, this isn't a spell per se.

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Well, the first half of your answer is a direct copy of the question itself -- I already know all those quotes; I used them to compose the question! :) It would be great if you could provide canon references for Impedimenta (meaning canon confirms it's a jinx and not a spell or curse), and the requirement of eye contact for Phoenixes and Griffins to bond. I didn't check Phoenixes, but FBAWTFT doesn't say this about Griffins. (FWIW, and YMMV, I don't consider the HP wikia to be a reliable source of information. Just an FYI -- I don't know if you use the wikia or not.) –  Slytherincess May 12 at 4:00
    
I see that you changed Griffin to Hippogriff (I wrote the above comment before you did), so never mind that request. I would like to know where in the books it says that Impedimenta can just be fired off and left to hit its target? Highlighting that eye contact is required for Legilimency, when in fact it's considered preferable, skirts being misleading; however, I'm glad you did mention the latter in your answer. –  Slytherincess May 12 at 4:20
    
@Slytherincess - Harry uses it while "diving for cover" or somesuch. –  Richard May 12 at 6:06
    
@Slytherincess - The problem with the first part of the question is that you've already answered it. He needs to maintain eye contact because that's a key component of whatever jinx he's using. –  Richard May 12 at 7:35
    
"or somesuch"? I see you're really invested ;) I did not answer my own question in the question itself -- I asked why is eye contact necessary. I see that Hermione/Quirrell say it is necessary, but neither says why, and I'm not looking for an inference per se, but rather something from canon that explains why. If an explanation is in the books, I don't recall where. Hence the question. You haven't told me why it's a key component for that particular jinx. I mean, for example, is it an alternate to Avada Kedavra? Quirrell maintains he would have killed Harry with eye contact. Make sense? :) –  Slytherincess May 12 at 17:02

I would think eye contact is not absolutely necessary for that jinx to work, but that it helps the wizard to focus. Many times in fictional books about magic, tools like wands and words are there to help focus the magic-user, to block out distractions. For example, in the Inheritance trilogy, Brom explains to Eragon in one of the books that the magic in that verse doesn't require words, and that dragons and other creatures barely even use them, but humans' minds wander, and saying the spell out loud helps keep the mind focused. Wands are similar, except they channel actions from hand to target, rather than mind to target. Maybe eye contact is a third tool.

With that out of the way, any complicated jinx, especially one that requires repeating its words over and over again like this one, requires a lot of concentration, and any distraction would require the caster to start the spell all over again. In this case, Quirrell had to focus on Harry and in wavering for even a second, like he did, Harry would find his balance and Quirrell would have to start from square one. Maintaining eye contact would help block out distractions, and this jinx is not cast with a wand, so Quirrell doesn't have the benefit of his channeling rod (his wand), which makes it even harder to block out distractions. Hermione says "You've got to keep eye contact" for the spell to work, but maybe that is just in practice, while in theory maybe, if you're really good at focusing, you could do the spell without looking at the target at all, or just keep him/her in your peripheral vision every once in awhile.

I think one last element may be in play, as well. I'm not sure, but I'm making a wild guess. Perhaps once this jinx has been done once on a target, it doesn't work as well the second time for some reason. It didn't seem to in this case; Harry seemed to be OK afterwards, and even though Quirrell started chanting again, Harry didn't get thrown off-balance again. Perhaps the target learns how to keep his/her balance. Maybe he/she even learns better balance in general by having his/her balance thrown off so badly; did anyone notice him gaining ninja-cat tight-rope-walking abilities later on at Hogwarts?

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