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In the Harry Potter universe, one limitation of magic is the ability to generate food from nothing, being one of the five exceptions to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration. There are notably special cases noted at the Harry Potter Wikia page, mainly:

It should be noted that while food cannot be outright created from nothing, it can be multiplied if one already has some food to multiply, it can be enlarged or the food can be summoned if one knows the approximate location and is fairly sure the food will still be there. It should also be noted that while food cannot be conjured, consumable liquids such as sauces and potable water can be.

Also, it seems that if one has significant capabilities as a healer, all flesh wounds that aren't the result of a curse or jinx, can be repaired via incantations and no additional tonics, potions, ointments, etc.

Assuming we aren't concerned with diseases resulting from cannibalism, such as kuru, is there anything, beyond a lack of pain tolerance, that would stop a wizard from just periodically lopping off his leg, healing it back; and cooking, cloning, and deliciously seasoning (due to free ability to summon a nice white wine sauce) one's own lower leg? Maybe transfigure some of it into a nice chianti and fava beans.

Or maybe, if a pair of wizards worked in coordination, ripped out the other's liver, kind of like Prometheus's being eaten daily in Greek mythology? Sounds like a viable way to have infinite food and water. Kind of like the fish and bread story in Christian mythology (feeding tons of people with a single fish and loaf of bread), but a bit more gory. Organ meat should provide enough vitamins and calories to cover most nutritional requirements.

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    Disturbing post, but I wouldn't downvote it because of that. Why not just multiply ordinary food and avoid all the pain, fuss and bother? If your suggestion is viable in-universe, I could only imagine it being used in emergency circumstances—or by very strange wizards. – rosesunhill Mar 11 '16 at 23:06
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    @rosesunhill Let's assume it's like in the books where the trio is out of food and on the run. I always wondered why they couldn't just transfigure moss into cheese, and duplicate it. – Cloud Mar 11 '16 at 23:07
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    I don't think you can get kuru from eating your own flesh. – Paul Mar 12 '16 at 1:05
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    @Dogbert The Wiki is unreliable... the sauce part is referring to when Mrs. Weasley was making dinner. She probably had the sauce stored somewhere else and was just summoning it. That is the more accepted explanation anyway, considering making water has its own spell. – Skooba Mar 12 '16 at 13:10
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    @Dogbert Your reference to HP sauce is quite disturbing in the context of this question ... ;-) – Rand al'Thor Mar 12 '16 at 13:14
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Wizards can't grow lost body parts with (normal) magic. Only dark wizards like Voldemort can do that like in the case of Scabbers during his comeback.

“And now Wormtail was whimpering. He pulled a long, thin, shining silver dagger from inside his cloak. His voice broke into petrified sobs.

      “Flesh - of the servant - w-willingly given - you will - revive - your master.”

      He stretched his right hand out in front of him - the hand with the missing finger. He gripped the dagger very tightly in his left hand and swung it upward.”

-Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, Chapter-32

Voldemort might have promised him to give back his hand after he returns,

“My Lord…” he choked, “my Lord…you promised…you did promise…”

      “Hold out your arm,” said Voldemort lazily.

      “Oh Master…thank you, Master…”

      He extended the bleeding stump, but Voldemort laughed again.

      “The other arm, Wormtail.”

      “Master, please…please…”

-Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, Chapter-33

Even though you have a new hand, it will not be under your control completely. Scabbers was killed by his own hand when he hesitated to attack Harry.

“You’re going to kill me?” Harry choked, attempting to prise off the metal fingers. “After I saved your life? You owe me, Wormtail!”

The silver fingers slackened. Harry had not expected it: He wrenched himself free, astonished, keeping his hand over Wormtail’s mouth. He saw the ratlike man’s small watery eyes widen with fear and surprise: He seemed just as shocked as Harry at what his hand had done, at the tiny, merciful impulse it had betrayed, and he continued to struggle more powerfully, as though to undo that moment of weakness.

“And we’ll have that,” whispered Ron, tugging Wormtail’s wand from his other hand.

Wandless, helpless, Pettigrew’s pupils dilated in terror. His eyes had slid from Harry’s face to something else. His own silver fingers were moving inexorably toward his own throat.

-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,Chapter-23

  • After reviewing a separate question related to this, it seems this strategy won't work. Thanks! – Cloud Mar 11 '16 at 23:38
  • I did not come across that answer,thanks. The first one to pass my mind when I read your question was Scabbers, but the answer there contains many more – axelonet Mar 11 '16 at 23:46
  • Additionally, there's much less painful schemes wizards could do to get food. For example, they could transfigure garbage into useful things, and trade that to muggles in exchange for food. – Kai Mar 12 '16 at 1:58
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    I think "wizards can't grow lost body parts" is too broad, even if it's true they can't grow back lopped off limbs without dark magic. I think Skele-Gro counts as regrowing body parts--Lockhart accidentally caused the bones to disappear from Harry Potter's arm entirely, and Harry had to take this potion to grow them back. – Hypnosifl Mar 12 '16 at 2:13
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    In Wormtail's case it was a silver hand, so it hardly counts as being regrown, by dark magic or otherwise. – Anthony Grist Mar 15 '16 at 9:10
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Let's first establish one thing:

Gamp's law is not necessarily violated

Unfortunately, canon is very unclear on what can or cannot be conjured, or indeed when something is being conjured, as opposed to transformed or enlarged. Hermione does state explicitly what the rules for "food" are:

"It’s impossible to make good food out of nothing! You can Summon it if you know where it is, you can transform it, you can increase the quantity if you’ve already got some..."

It's unclear what exactly "food" is here. It must include at least anything that people in Britain normally eat, or it would hardly be a law. There are several conjuration spells that give rise to possible contradictions, but they in turn have possible justifications.

  1. Aguamenti can produce water, presumably drinkable, since Harry tried to produce some for Dumbledore. Thus water may not be food for the purposes of Gamp's laws. However, you "can Summon food if you know where it is." Who is to say that Aguamenti does not simply Summon water from some stationary freshwater source. Or, if this is perhaps implausible, there is always a significant quantity of water present in the air, in the form of vapor. This of course is quite contrary to the situation with beefsteak. It is possible that this charm merely duplicates existing water molecules.

  2. Molly Weasley appears to have produced sauce from her wand. However, it seems most probable that she was either Summoning it or had simply stored it there. In fact, with its explicit reference to both food conjuration and Molly Weasley, this is probably precisely the situation Hermione's quote was meant to explain.

  3. Spells like Avis can produce birds, which are by default edible. However, it is entirely probable that these constructs differ fundamentally from real birds (otherwise magic could produce not just food, but life).

None of these situations, then, present fundamental challenges to Gamp's Laws. Potterwiki insists that sauce can be conjured, but it is notoriously inaccurate. The original text does not necessarily support this interpretation.

Similarly, healing spells do not necessarily conjure anything.

  1. Ron's splinched arm had to be regrown the long way.

  2. When Severus Snape healed Draco Malfoy of injuries sustained from Sectumsempra, it is not at all clear that he was conjuring back Malfoy's blood. On the contrary, he seemed simply to be clotting his blood and joining his skin back together:

    The flow of blood seemed to ease; Snape wiped the residue from Malfoy’s face and repeated his spell. Now the wounds seemed to be knitting.

  3. Pettigrew's arm was not regenerated by Voldemort; Voldemort had to give him an entirely artifical replacement.

The one big problem, of course, is Skele-Gro. This potion seems to grow back all the bones in Harry's arm over the course of a night, without drawing on his own mineral reserves (which would in any case be insufficient. I see two possibilities. The first, of course, is that bones are insufficiently nutritious to wizards for Gamp's law to apply. This seems unlikely, since bones contain not only minerals, as might be found in any conjured inorganic object, but amino acids such as proline and glycine.

Far more likely, however, is that the a small amount of bone is formed from the components of the Skele-Gro itself, which is then magically increased in quantity. This would not violate Gamp's law, regardless of how much bone was produced.

So conjuring flesh out of nothing would not work. But you might be able to increase the quantity of flesh you already had.

So why did the Trio not multiply chicken meat (or something)

  • Just because bone can be multiplied, does not mean that flesh can, or that Hermione knows how. She may not even know how to replicate bone. Gamp's laws are not the only limitations to magic. Besides, do they really want to eat nothing but bone broth? Could they survive on that?

  • Replication may not be infinite. It may well be that magically replicated food can only be increased so much, and loses some fidelity with each increase. After replicating one chicken multiple times, you might end up with a Dementor or something.

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    The last sentence is awesome. – A. Darwin Mar 12 '16 at 10:00
  • JKR has said that conjured things just don't last. So, presumably, if you cast Avis and then ate the birds, you would get nothing from it. Or, you might get something at first, then be left empty. Like eating certain fast foods really. – ThruGog Mar 13 '16 at 14:18
  • @A.Darwin Agreed. First time I've seen someone consider "data loss" with each reproduction. – Cloud Mar 18 '16 at 19:48

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