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I know this is a bit of a silly question, but I have to ask it as a scientist: How far does this spell (and others I guess) penetrate objects?

Clearly it goes through clothes, from the books, but I also remember Harry leaping behind tombstones in the graveyard when Voldemort and co. were trying to kill him, and they apparently didn't go through those. At a further extreme, it probably can't just go through walls and kill people.

So what are its limits? Do you just have to see the person or something? Or is it kind of like a gun?

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  • From memory, it doesn't penetrate objects at all. Impact between the spell and an inanimate object will result in some amount of damage (usually pretty severe) to the object in question. You could probably blast a hole through a wall with Avada Kedavra, then kill the person through said hole, assuming they hadn't run after the initial blast. Apr 14, 2014 at 15:27
  • @AnthonyGrist, well it clearly penetrates clothing, but are you saying death from that is from the impact you're talking about? Apr 14, 2014 at 15:30
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    I'm ignoring clothing. Any death caused by Avada Kedavra is considered to be caused by the spell itself, not any interactions it has with your clothing. However, every other instance (that I remember) in the books where Avada Kedavra has made contact with an inanimate object (wall, statue, gravestone, etc) it hasn't penetrated, but rather obliterated, the object. Apr 14, 2014 at 15:42
  • @Simon Probably badly, assuming we're talking about a medieval suit of armour. I'd expect a suit of armour not containing a person to do something akin to exploding when hit with Avada Kedavra. The "best" case I can imagine is that the spell itself doesn't kill you, but the exploding suit of armour does. I wonder if there are any mentions of suits of armour being hit by AK during the Battle of Hogwarts at the end of book seven... Apr 15, 2014 at 9:41

4 Answers 4

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I think the spell is designed to be an effective destroyer. It's just a book, so we can't be too scientific. But that much is evident, that anything that Avada Kedavra hits, it destroys. Like a table bursting into flame, Fawkes turning into ash, or stone tablets getting shattered.

I'm guessing magic also involves programming; roughly like -

function AvadaKedavra() {


    if(subject.isLifeless()) destroy();

    else if(subject.isSpectral()) petrify();

    else suckOutLife();

}

(The above example is intended as a joke, but it's clearly possible to invent spells, as indicated in Half-Blood Prince.)

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  • Nice program! Creative! Aug 6, 2017 at 15:17
  • Please write what language you used when writing programming answers. :p
    – Jack
    Aug 7, 2017 at 12:33
  • Well, let's call it magicScript(since it looks like JS) :P
    – cst1992
    Aug 7, 2017 at 13:03
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I have no canonical information, but I'd argue that it has to do with the general theme in most works of magic (and for that matter, many superhero comics) where clothes are considered to be a part of you, some sort of a law of familiarity where you consider your clothing to essentially be your outer skin and thus magical attacks to it will move to you.

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For the time being, assume that each spell/curse/hex gave off some kind of energy. Like an energy pulse. Cloth is not a physical barrier. E.g. - wearing clothes will not save you from a lightning strike or an electrostatic discharge(Except if your clothes are made of metal fiber in which case you'll be fine.. I think). But a lightning can't hit you if you are inside a car, or inside your home.
Similarly, I feel that curses/spells/hexes can be blocked using physical media. Harry was also protected by the Golden statues at the end of Order of the Phoenix.

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    It seems like spells only affect organic material. In regards to wizarding clothing, it all seems to be made of common fabrics (wool and cotton mostly) which wouldn't violate the organic material caveat. I'm wondering if wizard armor is a thing (not as in the enchanted suits of armor in Hogwarts)
    – Monty129
    Apr 16, 2014 at 10:32
  • I feel protego is the wizarding armor.
    – Stark07
    Apr 16, 2014 at 10:50
  • I think that as a general rule, a spell similar to Avada Kedavra cannot act on more than one thing at once. It doesn't have a target - rather it's like a missile. If something gets in the way of the spell, the spell destroys it. That is what happened with the Statues.
    – cst1992
    Aug 7, 2017 at 6:23
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It could also depend on the spell caster. For example, if one intends to use one of the Unforgivable Curses, the caster must have the intention of hurting the victim, and the skill of the caster should be great enough (it takes practice to cast a spell, especially like that one). In The Order of the Phoenix, Harry casted the Cruciatus Curse at Bellatrix Lestrange but he didn't mean it, and so the spell was weaker than otherwise.

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    You seem to be saying that the depth of penetration is dependent on the skill of the caster? Is this correct?
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 7, 2017 at 12:28

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