In this question, it was asked, why did Hermione whisper Levicorpus, instead of using it non-verbally. This is in the scene in The Deathly Hallows, where the trio are in the Lestrange Vault, trying to steal Helga Hufflepuff's cup. Harry couldn't reach the cup, so Hermione used the Levicorpus spell.

However, as shown when Harry first used that spell on Ron, and when James used it on Snape, that this particular spell lifts up the target by his ankle. Which would obviously cause the target to swing completely upside down if he is standing up. That's why James used it to embarrass Snape. Of course, then you'd have the difficulties of being upside down.

In the Lestrange Vault, Griphook warned the trio that Geminio and Flagrante curses had been added to everything, so the treasures would burn and multiply if touched. Ron demonstrated this by touching a cup. So subsequently, everyone avoided touching anything as far as possible. Now, Hermione knew that the effect of Levicorpus is to hoist the target up by his ankle, and at the same time, swinging him upside down. As shown in the book, Harry actually did hit something after being yanked up.

So out of all the spells, why did she use Levicorpus, and risk Harry hitting more things? She certainly could have used another spell, like Wingardium Leviosa. After all, she had mastered the spell before anyone else in their class. And it would definitely have given her more control of where Harry would move, so he wouldn't have hit anything. Why use Levicorpus and not Wingardium Leviosa?

  • 7
    My feeling is that she'd probably watched Mission Impossible at the weekend and was channeling the Tom Cruise scene where he dangles by a wire over the laser grid.
    – Valorum
    May 11, 2016 at 6:58
  • 3
    I must say, having no particular background with HP, the sentence "This is in the scene in The Deathly Hallows, where the trio are in the Lestrange Vault, trying to steal Helga Hufflepuff's cup." Is hilarious.
    – Broklynite
    May 11, 2016 at 9:22
  • 5
    Minor point of correction: It's "LeviosAAAAWH".
    – Liesmith
    May 11, 2016 at 12:55

1 Answer 1


Wingardium Leviosa can't be cast on humans

Most levitation spells do not work on humans, as evidenced by the fact that wizards generally need a broom to fly, and Wingardium Leviosa is the best example of this. Wingardium Leviosa would undoubtedly have been the first spell she thought of, but it would not have worked.

As documented in Wonderbook: Book of Spells, which J.K. Rowling had input on:

In response to the catcalls, Hobart tried to move in midair, and started performing vigorous swimming movements, which produced no effect. Mistakingly believing that his clothes were making him heavier and impeding his movement, Hobart stripped thus making him fall ten feet onto the ground below, as it were the clothes that were holding him up in the air — they had been charmed by the Levitation Charm, not Hobart himself. He fell completely naked on the ground, breaking sixteen bones, and went on the receive a fine for "outrageous silliness" from the Chief Warlock.

That's why Levicorpus was more than simply a clever jinx: because unlike most levitation spells, it actually worked on humans. It may not have been sufficient to permit true flight, but it was still a step up.

Both Leviosa and Mobilicorpus may not have sufficient lifting power

As the Book of Spells also says:

The Levitation Charm appears to be an improvement on both the Levioso and Locomotor spells and/or the Hover Charm, being able to lift objects high in to the air but also allowing one to magically move them through it as well. It also conveniently defies gravity by lifting objects heavier than a normal person would otherwise be able to carry, as seen when Ron used this on a troll's club, something a first year Hogwarts student would otherwise never be able to do without magic.

Despite its strengths, however, the Levitation Charm has one fatal flaw: it does not work on human beings. Though a human can be levitated using this charm, it is actually their clothing that is being affected. The charm is apparently not strong enough to allow a human to do anything more that float a few feet off the air using this method, and therefore does not allow the true flight afforded to most other objects.

Note that various levitation spells are mentioned here as being deficient in granting true flight.

Though this does not mention Mobilicorpus specifically, we can infer that Mobilicorpus probably cannot lift the subject high enough:

He muttered, “Mobilicorpus.” As though invisible strings were tied to Snape’s wrists, neck, and knees, he was pulled into a stand ing position, head still lolling unpleasantly, like a grotesque pup- pet. He hung a few inches above the ground, his limp feet dangling. Lupin picked up the Invisibility Cloak and tucked it safely into his pocket.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

It seems likely that the same explanation may apply to Wingardium Leviosa.

“If I can just poke the sword through a handle—but how am I going to get up there?”

The shelf on which the cup reposed was out of reach for any of them, even Ron, who was tallest.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

If the vault had a high ceiling, it is quite possible that it was over 20 feet, and thus that, even if cast on Harry's clothing, the Levitation Charm would not have been sufficient.

It is also possible, from the wording of Wonderbook, that while objects can be moved horizontally by the Levitation Charm, humans cannot be (easily), even when the spell is cast on their clothes. That would certainly be a plausible explanation for what why Hobart couldn't move.

As a side note, one must wonder whether Voldemort truly taught Snape to fly, as he apparently was already making steps in developing a flight spell for humans while he was still in school.

  • 1
    Leviosa still seems like a better choice, though: even if it is just his clothes, floating a few feet above the ground is exactly what Harry needs at this point. The limitations would actually work in their favour in these exact circumstances. (Also, is “Levioso” in the second quote a typo?) May 11, 2016 at 7:34
  • 1
    Well, about the suggestion that Wingardium Leviosa can only be used to lift objects (with or without humans in them) a few feet, there is something to refute that... At the beginning of Deathly Hallows, when Hagrid is bringing Harry to the Tonks' house using his giant motorbike, the sidecar that Harry was in broke apart and started falling, but Harry was able to use Wingardium Leviosa on it, and keep himself flying up and forward, eventhough they were really high up. So if necessary, Hermione could have done that to Harry's clothes...
    – ASH-Aisyah
    May 11, 2016 at 13:27
  • 1
    @ASH-Aisyah - Yes, it would have worked on Harry's clothes. That's actually addressed in the answer. I suspect the vault was too high for that to work very well though (i.e. it could only levitate him say 10 feet, and maybe the ceiling was too far away for that to work).
    – Adamant
    May 11, 2016 at 13:28
  • 1
    "The charm is apparently not strong enough to allow a human to do anything more that float a few feet off the air". How high is the air though? Sep 6, 2017 at 20:22
  • 1
    @DCOPTimDowd - Several kilometers, according to Google.
    – Adamant
    Sep 6, 2017 at 20:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.