In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Chapter 26: Gringotts, when:

Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Griphook are trying to get Helga Hufflepuff's cup from Bellatrix's vault.

We see that:

[Hermione] raised her wand, pointed it at Harry and whispered, 'Levicorpus.'

However in book 6, when Harry discovers Levicorpus in the margins of the Half-Blood Prince's copy of Advanced Potion Making, it is written as:

Levicorpus (nvbl)

Where "nvbl" means "non-verbal." Harry proceeds to try out the spell on Ron nonverbally, and it works just fine. In every other instance of its use (e.g. James on Snape in book 5, Harry attempting to use it on Snape in book 6) it is also used non-verbally. It seems to be implied that the spell is meant by its inventor only to be used like this; otherwise, why would he have bothered to note "non-verbal" when pretty much any spell (including the Half-Blood Prince's own Sectumpsempra) can be used silently anyway?

So then why does Hermione (who happens to pick up non-verbal spells incredibly quickly in book 6, and is better at them than either of Harry or Ron) of all people use Levicorpus verbally by whispering it? Is there any particular reason for it? Is it even technically supposed to work verbally? If so, why did the Half-Blood Prince explicitly note it as non-verbal?

  • I think I got an idea, but I forgot exactly what scene was that. Can you remind me why did Hermione lift Harry?
    – Saturn
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 22:31
  • @Omega Harry couldn't reach Hufflepuff's cup, so Hermione lifted him so that he could take it.
    – commando
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 22:32
  • Ahh... Then nevermind, my idea won't work. Lol. Thank you for reminding me though. Great question btw.
    – Saturn
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 22:33
  • 3
    Regardless of the verbal/non-verbal debate, I am wondering why she had to "whisper" and not just say it loudly...weren't they at this point already crashing through multiplying treasures from the vault? Haven't they given up attempts at stealth at this point?
    – NominSim
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 1:47

6 Answers 6


First, obviously levicorpus is not non-verbal-restricted (Hermione did it).

Also, some spells can be more effective if used non-verbally. To prove this, we got the following quote:

For example, the unnamed curse that critically injured Hermione Granger during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries might have been fatal had Antonin Dolohov not been silenced when he used it, according to Hogwarts nurse Poppy Pomfrey

HP Wikia

This justifies why would Snape write "nvbl" next to the spell's name: he was confirming that it is much more effective to use it non-verbally, thus, whenever he's going to use it in the future, he'll make sure to use it non-verbally, despite it being possible to use it verbally (but would, most likely, going to be less-effective).

Thus, Hermione whispering it is now possible.

Now then, the question remains: why would she use it verbally anyway? Well, this depends on did Hermione know that it would be less effective to use verbally?

  • If she knew:
    • Then she used it verbally to purposefully make it less effective. A less effective levicorpus implies, very probably, less speed. Clearly, less speed would be better for the situation, because Hermione wouldn't want to "hurt" Harry with the speed - she just wanted to help him by lifting him in a more comfortable manner.
  • If she didn't know:
    • Then she probably used the spell verbally to "not take Harry by surprise". He just told Hermione he needed to get up - he probably didn't expect to have her casting a spell on him, specially not levicorpus. Thus, saying it verbally gives harry a split-second of time to get ready for the hit.

Proof of "split second reaction time"

Your adversary has no warning about what kind of magic you are about to perform, which gives you a split-second advantage.

Hermione Granger

So if this split-second is valuable enough to be even mentioned, then it certainly is valuable enough for Harry to react accordingly to the spell when Hermione used it on him.

Now then, given how skilled Hermione was with non-verbal spells, it is likely that she knew about such side-effect, thus, the answer to your question: Hermione used it to lift Harry in a more comfortable manner (instead of brutally lifting him like levicorpus normally seems to do).

  • 34
    BTW, I disagree with your conclusion if the Dolohov thing, sorry. The fact that Hermione was alive was proof that the unnamed curse would have been MORE effective if it was made verbally. Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 4:21
  • 1
    +1 | "he was confirming that it is much more effective to use it non-verbally," should qualify what counts as more effective. More powerful or more surprising?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 7:17
  • 26
    The Dolohov thing doesn't make sense to me either. How do you turn "Would have killed you if he could speak" into "Was more effective because he did not speak"? Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 16:33
  • 1
    @yamikuronue if you hear it you can block it; see Harry's attempts to use it against Snape and Draco. Perhaps as well, if Dolohov could speak he'd have picked a separate curse?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 21:27
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    @Pureferret I should point out that Harry's attempt to use levicorpus against Snape was nonverbal. He was halfway through the thought, but Snape was an incredible Legilimens and blocked him before he could finish it.
    – commando
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 23:31

I don't have canon support, but I have a very simple theory.

Levicorpus is NOT a "nonverbal only spell".

But it IS a spell that seemingly was invented for combat/dueling purposes, as many of Snape's seemed to be.

As such, as a combat spell, you WANT to use it non-verbally, for obvious reasons (to surprise the opponent and not let them prepare or counteract or shield in t ime).

OTOH, as we all know, spells always work better (or not worse) when said aloud (non-verbal use requires more effort and harder concentration), and therefore Hermione, in the vault, had no need to resort to nonverbalization. (matter of fact, it was better to be verbal so as to NOT surprise Harry).


Because of their situation

They are:

Breaking into the second most secure location in the wizarding world, to steal a horcrux of the most powerful dark wizard of their time, which could be guarded by any number of unknown enchantments.

Basically they're under a lot of pressure. As Snape described in HBP,

"Not all wizards can [cast non-verbal spells], of course; it is a question of concentration and mind power which some" — his gaze lingered maliciously upon Harry once more — "lack."

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, chapter 9

Hermione would prefer to avoid something that requires extra concentration in a situation like this, so she defaults to using verbal spells. As for why she whispered it instead of speaking it normally, it can be harder for many people to get words out at a normal volume when they're in stressful situations.

  • 1
    I've upvoted even though I normally wouldn't due to the lack of canonical sources. We like canon excerpts. You can probably read most of many fantasy books just from canon excerpts on this site, please try and include some!
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 17:20
  • 1
    I'm working on finding that specific excerpt right now...
    – Ben Sutton
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 17:21
  • 2
    @Edlothidad - there you go! Thanks for the vote.
    – Ben Sutton
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 17:29
  • 2
    I understand. And thank you for the feedback. It's hard to tell sometimes when a quote should be included vs just alluded to, e.g, Hagrid's claim in book 1 that Gringotts is the 2nd most secure place in the wizarding world behind Hogwarts. Is it ok that I just mentioned that claim, instead of quoting it directly?
    – Ben Sutton
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 19:56
  • 2
    Good question =) Obviously takes a bit of judgement, I would say reference the key points in your answer unless the facts are very widely known. So you'd wanna add a quote if the question was: Was Gringotts actually a good place to hide a Horcrux. A: Hagrid says it's the 2nd most secure place. Quote.
    – Au101
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 20:08

I'm fairly sure that Levicorpus has been used even prior to that.

Levicorpus appears in the film of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix during one of the D.A. meetings, used on Nigel Wolpert - nearly a year before any of the DA leaders should have known about it.
~HP Wikia

I also recall it being used when James hangs Snape upside down in a flashback; that was Levicorpus.

It is unclear when the jinx was invented, since its "vogue" appears to have extended at least as early as the end of his fifth year with James Potter using it, but Snape notes it in his N.E.W.T.-level Potions textbook.
~HP Wikia

I would imagine then that assuming that Snape invented the spell may be erroneous; he may have only worked out how to use it silently, as no one else seems proficient enough to do so.

Or he may have invented it, and the verbal version became part of the curriculum (Thus James using that in him, and Harry Sectumsempra must have brought back bad memories).

Either way there is no reason that a verbal and non-verbal version couldn't exist, and of the two the verbal version would be the easiest to perform, especially for a young, less experienced wizard.

  • 6
    Lupin used mobilicorpus on Snape's unconscious body, not levicorpus.
    – Saturn
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 0:16
  • 3
    Wikia is wrong. I'm SHOCKED! SHOCKED, I tell you! Harry read that spell in HBP's book and the spell wasn't used in the books prior to that. Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 3:36
  • 2
    Calm yourself @dvk it's in the movies.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 6:17
  • 5
    @Pureferret - they have a Levicorpus movie? Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 12:29

My guess is that Hermione used the Verbal form of the spell in order for Harry to be prepared for the spell. Even if Snape made the spell both of the forms are still possible and it can still be the most powerful in non-verbal form


I think the most logical conclusion is that JK Rowling simply made a mistake. It is clearly a non-verbal only spell.

Sorry to burst that bubble

  • 4
    Sounds more like a comment than an answer. Unless you can elaborate?
    – Möoz
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 21:09

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