Welcome to Transfiguration!
Lesson 5) Matchstick to Needle
Professor Mitchell was walking from desk to desk as the students filed in, setting something down on each one. “Good day, everyone! Come in quickly and sit down so we can get started! Today you will be performing your first transformation. Does everyone remember what a transformation is? No? Well, that’s okay! We’ll do a little bit of a review before diving in!”
This will be your first transformation! I hope that you’re all excited; it’s quite a monumental occasion. I know some of you may be getting tired of all the lecture since we are already halfway through the year, but I promise you that you will be doing practical work today! At the end of the class, I will hand out your midterm examination. This will cover all lesson content so far, including today’s, so please be sure to look back at your notes before taking the exam!
Last week we described how transformations work on a molecular level, with the atoms moving and rearranging within the target object to become the item we desire, and the general tools that we need to properly cast the spells. Today we will be discussing the Matchstick to Needle Transformation, and I will be showing you in a little more detail the process by which we determine what exactly needs to change during the transformation. Let us start by discussing each object in question. We will break down their purposes and then go into a description based on each of the five senses.
Matchsticks, or matches, are small objects used to light a fire. They are normally constructed of wood, but can also be made from pressed paper. The tip is made of a combination of chemicals that will combust when friction is applied and cause the match head to ignite . There are two types of matches: ones that have to be struck upon a specific surface to ignite (known as safety matches) and those that will ignite upon any surface as long as enough friction is applied.
The ones you have in front of you now are safety matches, as these are the most common you will come across. These are made of pressed paper rather than wood and are very light in weight, at only a few grams. They were torn from the book so that you each have one. I do have a set of spares if you end up needing another one in today’s class, so don’t fret if something happens to your match. Please try to keep it safe, though.
Now let us get into the sensual observations. There are two types of observations we will be discussing: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative observations are based on amount. They will involve numbers of some sort, such as you each have one match on your desk. The length of this match would be a quantitative observation. Qualitative observations are ones based on what you can obtain through your senses alone. These are the things you can describe without measurements, such as the match tip is red or it has a skinny shape.
There are five senses that we can use to gain qualitative information. They are sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. It is important that we make observations about everything before we try to transform it. You cannot begin to try to change something without understanding it first, so we must always take the time to truly look and get to know it.
The matchstick is about 1.25 inches long and 0.1 inches wide. It has a light colored appearance with a very slight brownish tint. The tip is bright red and the body is rectangular in shape, with the tip more of a rounded bulb. One end is slightly ragged from where it was torn from the book.
What sound does the match make when being dropped onto the desk? It’s a soft sound, most likely due to the light weight of the match.
Please do not put this in your mouth! The chemicals in the tip of a match can be toxic, so we will not be appraising this sense personally today. I can tell you, however, that if you were to taste the match, it would taste a bit like vinegar and salt.
Both the wood and the tip have a rather earthy smell. The wood may smell ever so slightly sweet to some, whereas the tip is a little more smoky.
The match is slightly rough to the touch. This is because the pressed paper is not a completely smooth surface and the chemicals in the tip do not form a smooth compound. This is intentional, as the rougher the surface, the more friction it creates and the easier it is to combust.
Let us now discuss the needle! Needles are made from a variety of materials ranging all the way from metals to plastic or bone. They have many purposes, but are almost always used to pull some type of fabric through something else. The one I am passing around the classroom now is a sewing needle. As you can see, it is made of metal and is extremely slender. Now, while you can do this with many different types of needles, this is the one that we will be working with today.
The purpose of this specific needle is in hand sewing. This includes things as simple as sewing buttons back onto clothes or things more complex such as taking up a skirt and creating a new hemline. The needle is composed of three parts. The head, which has the eye of the needle, is the part that you thread (a process in which you take your string and put it through the eye so that it is forced through the fabric with the needle). Then there is the body of the needle which is the long, thin part that leads down to the third part, the point. This is the part that is actually used to go through the fabric. It is also the part that is dangerous if one is not paying attention, as it can easily be pushed through flesh. Please do not try poking your neighbor with the needle as you pass it! Anyone who does so will lose five house points for student endangerment. I mean it!
Now that we understand the purpose of the needle, let us start looking at its features. We'll go through it using the same senses we did last time.
The needle is very thin and rounded, with a point at one end and the eye at the other. It is silver in color and the same length as the match.
When dropped on the table, the needle makes a much clearer sound than the match did. It is louder and sharper in quality as well.
This item will not harm you to taste it, but if you feel the need to do so, please let me disinfect it between students and do not stick the point in your mouth! The needle has a very metallic taste to it.
Along with the taste, the needle has a metallic smell. From these two senses you should be able to infer that this particular needle is made of metal, had I not told you previously.
The needle point is extremely sharp and the entire needle is cold to the touch. It is very hard and feels like metal.
Now, these are just basic observations. I encourage you to all to make your own additional observations as the needle comes around to you! You are always welcome to (safely) further explore anything we discuss in this class to help expand your understanding.
Now, let us talk about the transformation itself! First, everyone pull out your wands; You're going to need those for the remainder of the class. I want you all to take a good look at the match. We'll go over the spell in a moment, but first I want you to visualize the match changing. See it become silver, the end narrowing to a point, and the head becoming the eye of the needle.
Some of you may be asking why the tip of the match is becoming the eye. This is due to the fact that the tip and eye both have more mass to them, and thus it is more of an equivalence than trying to make the head of the matchstick become the tip of the needle.
Can you all see that in your minds? Yes? Good! Now that you can picture the transformation happening, it's time to actually get started! We will discuss only the wand movements and the incantations in this class. Everything that was covered last lesson on concentration and willpower still applies, though this transformation requires a minimal amount of each. The transformation specifications are given on the board.
There are a few things that can potentially go wrong with this transformation. One possibility is that nothing happens. If this is so, please do not get frustrated. This is your first transformation and it is understandably going to be difficult. I have every faith that with practice you will be able to get it down. For those who are able to elicit some kind of transformation, you may find that the tip does not form a complete point, that the eye of the needle is solid rather than hollow to allow for the passage of thread, or that the needle does not become silver and rather remains the same paper material. Any of these are common and to be expected with your first transformation. If you get it stuck with this in between state, please call me over to reset it back to your matchstick so that you can try again. It is possible that some of you will not have any of these problems and will manage the transformation, but that would be a very impressive feat. Practice makes perfect and anyone is capable of doing this assignment as long as they work towards it!
Conmutocus was originally performed with a candle wick, rather than a match, but was adapted later as matches became more popular. It is unknown who invented this spell as it seemed to pop up in many places around the world spontaneously in the 15th century. Many believe it was seamstress Delfina Crimp, the witch who was also credited with inventing the Severing Charm, which you will learn in your Charms classes. The story goes that she was at a wedding when the bride accidentally tore her dress on a branch. Stuck for time and with limited supplies at her disposal, Delfina managed to transfigure a candle wick into a needle and fix the dress with a little bit of thread that she had in her purse. Though this story is the one most often told, there is no evidence to suggest that this was the first use of the spell.
Use and Teaching
Today this transformation is used mostly by tailors, though many find it a nice spell to have handy around the house as well for the occasional wardrobe mishap. It is the easiest transfiguration spell known at this point in time, making it the perfect one to introduce students to the art of transfiguration. It allows you to start practicing visualizing various aspects of an object changing and morphing into another without requiring too much concentration or willpower.
I hope you all enjoyed your first transformation! Again, if you were unsuccessful, that is okay, but please make sure to practice a little bit before taking your midterm examination. Class dismissed!