For most wizards – and let’s face it, Muggles too – magic is considered a gift that few would trade willingly. After all, who would give up the ability to make the dishes do themselves? Or to teleport anywhere you want? Or to make bats come out of your arch-nemesis’s nose? No one. But even magic has its dark side, and not all magical abilities are fun and games. Here, for example, are a few abilities witches and wizards would probably part with if they could...
The power to talk to snakes doesn’t seem too inconvenient on paper, but due to its history, it became a skill with negative connotations in the wizarding world.
For Parseltongue seemed to have originated with Salazar Slytherin (and might explain why the Hogwarts house emblem is a snake), before being passed down to many of his descendants, such as the Gaunts and then Tom Riddle. However, the power was not strictly kept in that family; Harry ended up picking up the unconventional language when Lord Voldemort accidentally transferred some of his powers to him during the ill-fated attack at Godric’s Hollow. And, as he soon learnt by his fellow students’ horror, Salazar’s dreadful reputation meant the power had become forever associated with Dark magic – essentially making Harry a pariah when he exhibited the ability in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
And as fun as it might be to have a chat with a boa constrictor at the zoo, is it really worth everyone thinking that you’re the heir of Salazar Slytherin’s pure-blood legacy?
Lycanthropy, the condition that transforms human victims into werewolves, is never seen as a useful ability, like being an Animagus. After all, as we’ve seen in the case of Remus Lupin, the affliction causes a werewolf to lose sight of themselves, and become murderous and vicious while transformed.
Unless you’re someone like Fenrir Greyback, this could never possibly be construed as a good thing. On top of that, the ‘furry little problem’ is treated with severe prejudice and stigma within the wizarding community, as is made obvious when Remus Lupin has to resign his Hogwarts teaching job in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, after the students’ families find out about his condition.
Life is hard and cruel for a victim of lycanthropy.
Having the ability to see the future may sound like a pretty useful power, but it is weighted by many responsibilities.
In the case of part-time Seer Professor Trelawney, predicting that Harry Potter (or Neville Longbottom) would be the cause of Lord Voldemort’s downfall created a chain of events trying to stop said prophecy, with Voldemort murdering Harry’s parents in the process. Had Voldemort not known about the prophecy, maybe James and Lily would’ve died later anyway, but thanks to Trelawney’s premonition, Harry ended up an orphan from an incredibly early age. Although not Trelawney’s fault, her prediction nonetheless created a domino effect. And despite her fascination in the art of Divination, she has even admitted herself, ‘Seers have always been feared, always been persecuted… it is – alas – our fate.’
Basically, being a Seer sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.
Although many of us would love to have a bit of Legilimency, the power to see into people’s minds, we must consider the implications of such a magic. The skill, which is usually learned rather than acquired (Queenie Goldstein was said to have a ‘natural talent’, however), sounds incredibly useful, but hearing another’s thoughts will inevitably lead to some unwelcome knowledge.
Snape was given the difficult task of teaching Harry how to use Occlumency to block out Lord Voldemort, himself a highly skilled Legilimens, leading to several heated confrontations. As Snape explained to Harry in one of his grandiose speeches, ‘the mind is a complex and many-layered thing’, and penetrating one takes a great amount of energy and concentration.
Queenie was often reprimanded for looking into people’s heads without permission, even if she couldn’t help it. Also, we imagine it’s hard to form a legitimate relationship with someone with this power. Surely a significant other would always be wondering if you were taking a sneaky peek into their mind… How could they ever keep your birthday present secret?
In the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film, Credence Barebone was forced to hold in his magic due to the societal prejudices against wizardry at the time. However, as we learned, suppressing your powers can cause a different kind of magic: a Dark energy called an Obscurus. The force is caused by an ‘internalised hatred of one’s own magic’ and can cause death and destruction wherever it goes.
Due to the intense nature of this condition, most Obscurials usually die before their tenth birthday – except for poor Credence, who appeared to become consumed by his. We don’t know much about Obscurials yet, but we worry how much more deadly this unwanted power can really become. One thing’s for certain, however: it’s not fun.