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In the seven books, flying is an ability we only see from Voldemort and Snape. Why is that so? and How do they do that?

Moreover, why couldn't anyone in the Order of Phoenix fly?

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    I don't think JKR indicated that only Snape and Voldy could fly. They were simply the only ones shown to do this. – apoorv020 May 1 '11 at 10:49
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    Apparating is to flying as driving a car is to driving a Boeing 747. – zzzzBov Nov 22 '11 at 20:42
  • See also the other question scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/10289 Why Can Objects Fly and People (other than Dark Wizards) Can't? – b_jonas Jul 3 '14 at 11:28
  • Didn't all the Death Eaters fly into the castle and start fighting the Order in DH? – Tom Doyle Aug 12 '14 at 13:04
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    HPMOR addressed this in a logical fashion; Voldy isn't using Broomless flight -- he's got broomsticks strapped to his arms and legs with a harness, under his clothes. (Later, he simply cast the broomstick enchantments on his own bones.) Even assuming a less tech-savy approach, I always assumed they were enchanting something they wore, possibly several somethings. (One for reduced/zero weight, another for some form of thrust. Or, I believe Snape turns his cloak into Bat Wings at one point; added to a weight reduction charmed item, they could work.) – K-H-W Aug 15 '16 at 1:37
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Because, in the wizard world, flying is mostly a leisurely activity. When you can apparate, you do not need to fly. Broomsticks are good enough for that. Simply put, flying consumes too much time.

The Floo Network or the Knight Bus are a few other means of transport. Much slower than apparition, but significantly faster than flying.

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    You mean almost all the wizards have flying abilities? – ykombinator May 4 '11 at 13:56
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    No, it would probably be one of the harder skills to acquire. – Ryan May 4 '11 at 17:22
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    I'm not going to vote this down but I definitely don't think this is the right answer. In HBP when the Order discovers Voldemort can fly, they are shocked. It's not like "why is he flying, that's such a mundane activity" it's more "how the hell did he learn how to fly?" – Michael Brown Jun 25 '13 at 14:31
  • @MikeBrown: Sure, it is a harder skill to acquire, but still leisurely. Voldemort probably acquired it to show-off. My point is, your average witch or wizard won't bother learning to fly. – Swanand Jun 26 '13 at 15:17
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    This answer is totally wrong. Flying isn't a leisurely activity, it's impossible for most wizards and witches – childcat15 Jun 11 '15 at 23:44
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Quidditch Through The Ages states on its first page that no wizarding spell has been invented that allows a wizard or witch to fly unaided.

It seems likely, therefore, that the spell must be a new one, dating to some time during the series. We know from HBP that Snape was an inventor of spells, he must have figured out a way to do it. Voldemort likely imitated him. It could have been the reverse (Snape learning from Voldemort), but likely one learned from the other. So, that seems ultimately to be the answer.

Most likely, the other answers about it not really being required contributed to the fact that the spell hadn't been invented, and thus that no one from the Order really cared to try it out.

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  • +1 I always had the impression that the ability was unique to the two of them. I will try to find a reference tonight... – Windle Jun 14 '12 at 19:51
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    Very good answer, but it was implied that Snape learned from Voldemort and not the other way around. "No, he's not dead," said McGonagall bitterly. "Unlike Dumbledore, he was still carrying a wand... and he seems to have learned a few tricks from his master." (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter Thirty - The Sacking of Severus Snape) scifi.stackexchange.com/a/46100/21267 – Möoz Apr 14 '14 at 21:58
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    @Mooz The answered is still valid for the larger part. That Snape did invent spells is relevant because it shows it can be done (and isn't even particularly hard - Snape was still I'm Hogwarts when he invented the spells he wrote in his Potions book). – 11684 May 25 '14 at 19:59
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In the books it's implied that flying without any magical instrument or creature is a feat that takes a lot of skill to acquire, more so than Apparition (which is difficult and dangerous enough that many wizards don't bother). Voldemort would have considered it a point of pride to be able to fly "without broom or thestral".

In the movie, certain movements described as Apparition in the book became less instantaneous, while others were pretty accurate. The difference is almost always for dramatic effect; the Death Eaters fly around in plumes of black smoke, while the Order members fly around in white veils of light. The very same effect is used for Voldemort and Snape in the instances they were said to simply fly, batlike, in the books. So, in general, it becomes an easier feat in the movies because it looks cooler for magical fights to be fought in the air.

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    Apparition is perhaps difficult and dangerous, but it seems that every of-age wizard/witch in the school wants to learn it, and once they get licensed they do it all the time, even for very short trips (like apparating upstairs/downstairs). It's always bothered me that a skill comparable driving a car (difficult, dangerous, requires a license) that is extremely useful, would be used so little in the story. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Nov 4 '11 at 18:31
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    In the books it's explained in more detail why Apparition is used less than you might think. First, there are charms that can prevent Apparition; Hogwarts is so enchanted, and the Ministry also gets this protection in books 5 and 7. Second, even for experienced wizards, Splinching is still a real possibility. Lastly, Apparition is difficult, on a different level than brooms, which by itself is enough to deter most of the Hogwarts kids' interest in it. Really, only the Weasley twins have the unnatural (in the eyes of even their own mother) urge to, in her words, "Apparate every few feet". – KeithS Nov 30 '11 at 16:38
  • Sure, there are charms which can prevent apparition, and splinching is a danger. But so is getting into a car accident, or dying in a plane crash. And cars can't go everywhere that bikes can go. Etc. I can accept the author littering the landscape with anti-apparition charms but it seems like only the three heroes in the 7th book really make use of Apparition the way I'd expect all wizards to do it. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Nov 30 '11 at 19:02
  • Dumbledore also apparently Apparates most of the time that he needs to travel (though in the first book, before Rowling had thought of Apparition, Dumbledore was on a broom traveling to London), and apparently the Weasleys can also do it (but as they have been traveling with family they more often use more "conventional" means such as brooms or the Ford Anglia). In most of the novels, at least one character who must travel with "the grown-ups" is too young, and therefore to keep the group together they choose some slower method, often brooms as Harry in particular has a proclivity for them. – KeithS Nov 30 '11 at 19:55
  • Outside of the school-age kids needing to travel, Apparition seems to be rather common; for example, when the Ministry isn't on lockdown, Ministry workers can Apparate to work and back. Arthur does this as his usual commute from the first time we meet him in Book 2, and wizards are seen Apparating in and out of the World Cup venue in Book 4 and the Ministry in Book 5. – KeithS Nov 30 '11 at 19:58
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One simple reason is that like cross-continent apparition, it's dangerous. What happens if you sneeze in mid-air? Nooooooooo! Splat!! No more Voldy, no more war.

Another can be that it's not actually required. If you want to go somewhere, use Floo or Apparate.

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    Flooing was watched by the Ministry. – Mateen Ulhaq May 8 '11 at 22:06
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I believe Voldemort created a way to do it, probably through the use of dark magic, remember he said he pushed magic to its limits... If anyone would have found a way to, it would have been him. Remember he spent years out of the public eye in remote places performing experiments and magical transformations that Dumbledore theorized altered and deformed his appearance, along with his Horcruxes.

Once Voldy learned and mastered it He probably taught it to his closest lieutenants like Snape and Bellatrix Lestrange. Bellatrix claimed to have learnt Dark Magic directly from Voldy himself... However people like Bellatrix who tended to get distracted easily might not have chosen to use flight; she didn't need to, Apparition or floo worked for her. Snape HAD to use it to escape Hogwarts since there were anti-Apparition charms on the place and he had no other means of escaping during his sacking. As far as I know, he was not an Animagus like Pettigrew or McGonagall, so he couldn't change into a small animal and run away.

Flying seems like a spell that one would mainly use to intimidate or terrify an enemy through your foreboding presence in the sky more so than being the most practical means of getting from one place to the other. Good witches and wizards would never intend to use their presence in the air to intimidate or terrify others, therefore Dumbledore, McGonagall and the others would have little to no use for such a spell.

Voldemort of course used it during the Battle of the Seven Potters, to Apparate you have to have a clear destination in mind, such as Hermione Apparating herself, Ron, and Harry to a forest where she used to go camping with her parents since their Grimmauld Place hideout had been compromised. You can't Apparate to a random place in the sky, and as independent as Voldemort was he would definitely not wish to rely on objects like broomsticks which could be destroyed or compromised by various means. Plus flying would prove Voldy was an extremely powerful wizard, unlike any other, as no one was able to figure out how to do it without the aid of an object, until him.

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J.K. Rowling revealed during a twitter exchange that "broomless flight is very risky".

Q: So would that work the same for brooms? Would more advanced wizards/witches not need a broom to fly?

JKR: Exactly. Wands and brooms (and flying cars) are tools that channel magic. The most gifted can dispense with them.

Q: Are there many wizards/witches at Hogwarts who can do magic and fly without wands or brooms?

JKR: No, there's a cultural tradition of using wands and broomless flight is (as you might imagine) very risky!

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  • I've taken the liberty of editing out all the twitter name hashtag crap that comes up when you copy/paste twitter conversations. – Valorum Jul 31 '16 at 12:10
  • @Valorum - I had intentionally put that in to show it was a Twitter conversation (simply copy/pasting would have included timestamps), but whatever. – ibid Jul 31 '16 at 17:12
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    You can always roll it back. Honestly I think this is a vast improvement. Let's be honest, the username of the questioners is about as unimportant as it gets. – Valorum Jul 31 '16 at 17:14
  • @Valorum - Yeah it probably is. – ibid Jul 31 '16 at 17:15
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It would seem that unaided flight is something that powerful wizards and witches can achieve through practice and the exercise of strong magics.

It would also seem that Voldemort and Snape aren't the only ones who can do it.

(warning - Cursed Child spoilers)

SCORPIUS: Does it matter? Which way do you think?

DELPHI rises up after them. She’s flying, and without a broom.

...

ALBUS (astonished): You’re not — even on a broom.

DELPHI: Brooms — such unwieldy, unnecessary objects. Three minutes gone. We have two minutes left. And you will do what you’re told.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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    You might want to add a spoiler tag about Delphi's identity, since that could play some role in explaining how she learned or why she could do it, rather than it being a well-known skill that any witch or wizard could pick up if they wanted. – Hypnosifl Aug 14 '16 at 23:33
  • @Hypnosifl - Better now? – Valorum Aug 14 '16 at 23:38
  • Sorry, I was unclear--I didn't mean adding a tag to your quote, I meant adding a new sentence or paragraph in spoilers which revealed who exactly Delphi is, since that seems like it might be relevant to why she was one of the very few who are known to have had this ability. – Hypnosifl Aug 14 '16 at 23:56
  • @Hypnosifl - I've linked to her wiki page. That should be sufficient for the curious. – Valorum Aug 15 '16 at 0:01
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In DH McGonagall said that only Voldemort and Snape learned to fly without any broom, which is a rare hard skill, so I guess it requires being not only particularly powerful as a wizard, but also attitude. Dumbledore was as powerful as Voldemort and Snape as a wizard, they are probably the most powerful ones in the series, but each one has got their own attitudes...Dumbledore just didn't have this attitude. In fact, given that Daumbledore was interested in power and in the the Dark Arts when he was young, I don't think it's just something he never wanted to try...probably he tried, but he didn't have this specific inclination. it's like occlumancy..Volemort was known as the most powerful legilimens and still Snape fooled him with his Occlumancy skills because Occlumancy and Potions are his main inclinations.

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Attempts to fly unaided have been made by wizards since ancient times. Unaided flight of a human being, however, was long considered a magical impossibility.

Sometime prior to 1997, Tom Riddle succeeded where other wizards had failed and managed true flight. He first publicly showed off this ablity during the Battle of the Seven Potters, using the spell to great effect and almost managing to defeat Harry Potter if not for an odd reaction with their wands. He also taught this spell to Severus Snape, who used it to safely escape from Hogwarts shortly before the Battle of Hogwarts. With the deaths of Snape and Voldemort, knowledge on how to perform this spell may have been lost forever.

So Voldemort is the only wizard to have figured out how to fly, and he only taught Snape. All this from the Harry Potter wiki: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Unsupported_flight

I don't have the book, but I also remember after the battle of the 7 Potters, when they get back to the Burrow Harry and Ron are freaking out together about how Voldemort can fly. It's clearly not a common thing.

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    The HP wiki is generally an unreliable source of information. If you can find the sources, that would be helpful. – Mithical Jun 11 '15 at 23:55

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