Now it is time to begin practically applying the skills we have been learning throughout this term. Our remaining lessons together before you take you O.W.L. examinations, if you will refer to your syllabus, will be creatures that primarily engage offensive tactics to defeat and also require offensive tactics to overcome. For each of these creatures, we will look at how they attack and what tactics they utilize, then move forward to discuss how we can protect ourselves from them. Some will have new spells that can be taught, but others will simply be the application of previously learned spells. In all cases, I will expect you to be applying your knowledge of Combination Spellcasting to determine the best combinations to use in order to overcome these creatures. To start, we will be exploring creatures that, to some extent, each of you should be familiar with: Acromantula.
Acromantula - Basic Facts and Figures
I would hope each of you is familiar with an arachnid, more commonly known as a spider. Acromantulas are very similar creatures, but with some critical differences. The first, and most noticeable, difference is their size. While spiders are only a few inches tall at most, with anomalous exceptions, Acromantulas are much larger and can measure at around fifteen feet. They also are naturally more aggressive; it is the nature of an Acromantula to attack humans, though in rare cases they may allow a human to live if a bond is formed.
Acromantulas originally come from Borneo, which is an island - part of the Malay Archipelago - off the coast of Southeast Asia. However, as time has passed, they have made their way around the world, despite their status as a Class A Non-Tradeable Good. The reason for this classification is the danger it possess, yet some collectors, or animal enthusiasts, will bring them off the island for their own personal studies. We even have a colony of Acromantula out in the Forbidden Forest, though I suggest avoiding them; since the death of their father, Aragog, they have become extremely aggressive and will attack a human on sight. Fortunately, the Acromantula favor dense jungles, such as the Forbidden Forest, compared to flatlands, so you usually will be safe once you have left the forested area.
Another way in which Acromantulas differ from arachnids is their intelligence. Despite their classification as a Beast, Acromantulas have intelligence that is nearly equal to that of a human. They are also capable of replicating human speech: the more often they hear a language, the more they will learn it, the same way anyone else learns a language. Though the creature is intelligent, it still resorts to its instincts and is completely untrainable. If you find yourself among a colony of them, you had best prepare to fight your way out, as I will teach you later and you will consider for your homework.
Why Are They Dangerous?
As I’m sure you may have gleaned from the introduction to Acromantulas, there are several ways in which these creatures are highly dangerous and, rightly, have been rated XXXXX by the Ministry of Magic. The first is their pincers. On a normal spider, the pincers act as one of the delivery methods of the spider’s venom; they are quite sharp with the intended effect of being capable of piercing the skin, or other exterior material, of the creature that they are attacking. Normal sized spiders will not be able to do more than leave puncture holes and, if poisonous, inject their poison into your system. Acromantulas, which are much larger have the ability to remove limbs if they manage to bite you.
The second way in which Acromantulas are dangerous is a trait that is, among arachnids, exclusive to the Acromantulas: its naturally predatory and aggressive nature towards humans. Arachnids, like all animals, have natural instincts that cause them to act in specific ways: they will weave webs which are used to trap flies and other flying insects, which are devoured by the Acromantula; they prefer uninhabited places; and they will defend themselves at any cost. However, most spiders will not defend themselves against a human because they are not able to. In the vast majority of cases, humans who are aware of a spider will kill it swiftly by squishing it. This is not possible with the Acromantula. In fact, it is more likely that you will be squashed by this giant arachnid, if it is not chasing you or, in a worst case scenario, has already eaten you.
Finally, we come to the silent killer. When bitten by an Acromantula, and some varieties of regular spiders, such as the black widow, their poison will be injected into your veins, which can cause a variety of effects that we will discuss below. This is the most dangerous of the three types of offensive tactics that an Acromantula can employ, because it is the most difficult to defend yourself against. You can dodge the pincers and you can avoid their territory to prevent them from becoming aggressive towards you, but you cannot actively avoid being poisoned unless you remain far away from the Acromantula. Once the poison is in your veins, you will need to take the Antidote to Uncommon Poisons in order to counteract the deathly effects of Acromantula Venom. You’ll likely learn more about the Antidote to Uncommon Poisons as you continue your studies in potions, either here in the castle or beyond, so we won’t go into detail here, but we can discuss what exactly the potion counteracts. How does spider venom work to be such a dangerous killer?
Despite their small sizes, many spiders have extremely dangerous venom that courses through their bodies. These venoms are extremely complex and consist of many components that can range from seemingly harmless (such as salts) to high weight proteins such as enzymes. Below, there is a helpful chart that outlines some of the different potential components in spider venom.
At their core, spider venoms are broken up into three primary categories: low molecular weight compounds, peptides, and proteins. These three components are found in varying amounts within typical spider venom. We shall quickly cover each of these and then discuss how this is applicable to the Acromantula.
First, we have the low molecular weight compounds. These are usually found in smaller doses within the spider’s system. Some of the most common compounds found in this category are amines, carbohydrates, and salts. When a spider bites you and their venom consists of a higher proportion of these lower molecular weight compounds, the bite will usually be harmless and will only be at risk for the standard bite infection risks that we discussed earlier in your academic career. The salts are of great interest to those who study spider venom, because it is currently unclear exactly what the purpose is that they serve in the spider’s system. The current hypothesis is that the chemical composition of the salts allows for accelerated spreading of the venom in smaller nervous systems, such as the nervous systems of house flies. The chemical that is known for paralyzing the victim can also be found within these low molecular weight compounds.
Second, we look at peptides. These are where, in most cases, you will find the largest chemical composition when analyzing spider venom. While there are still many studies being conducted, the current research has shown that there are around 1000 or more different chemicals that have been identified as a peptide in spider venom. In order to qualify as a peptide, the chemical must consist of two or more amino acids that are linked together. Exposure to any of these peptides will cause high levels of discomfort within the system. The primary purpose that these serve is to begin the digestive process before the victim has even been eaten. However, these are less dangerous than the proteins, which we will discuss momentarily. They are less dangerous because, in terms of the nervous system of the victim, the peptides are more targeted. They tend to attack the ion channels of a cell, which makes the cell more susceptible to external harmful sources.
The third and final component of spider venom is the proteins, which are also known as high molecular weight proteins. These are extremely rare in spider venom and typically are only found in the most poisonous of spiders, such as the previously mentioned black widow spider. These tend to target more critical aspects of the nervous system, such as the nerve terminals, which can be much more harmful to humans. However, due to the size and concentration of the average spider, and the low amount of high molecular weight proteins that are found in spider venom, it is rare for bites from even the most poisonous spiders to be fatal. In larger concentrations, or on smaller nervous systems, these components will do much more digestive damage to the victim, making them more susceptible to the inner digestive processes of the spider.
But how does this relate to the Acromantula? Acromantula venom naturally contains a much higher concentrations of the peptides and high molecular weight proteins. If an Acromantula bites you, assuming the bite itself does not kill you, the venom that courses through your veins most likely will. Unless you can immediately be treated by an Antidote to Uncommon Poisons, the probability of survival is low. Therefore, it is imperative that you avoid being bitten at all costs, though I hope that you are never faced with a situation where you encounter a fully grown Acromantula. The venom of an adult is far more concentrated, and therefore far more dangerous, than the venom of a young Acromantula.
How to Defend Yourself Against Them
Now, despite the danger that these creatures pose, there are several fairly simple ways that can be utilized to defend yourself against them. Many of the spells that have been learned over the course of your educational career - such as the Bludgeoning Hex, the Stunning Spell, and the Immobilization Charm - can be used to make an Acromantula stop in its tracks. The Immobilization Charm can even be quite effective against multiple Acromantula if you are capable of applying an adequate amount of willpower to the spell, a feat which I do not expect most of you to be able to accomplish for several years beyond your graduation, assuming you continue to train your skills. Acromantulas appear to have a magical resistance that makes spells less potent, unless the spell manages to hit the underside of their stomach.
However, in some cases you are faced with fewer Acromantula or will need a spell that can repel them without needing to apply as much willpower. In those cases, the Spider Repelling Spell can be quite beneficial to you. As it does not require a stronger application of willpower, you will be able to cast it more frequently without putting yourself at risk for magical exhaustion. You also will find that you are able to cast it faster, because there is not as much preparation required in order to cast it; even the wand movement is simple in comparison to other spells we have learned.
This spell does come with its disadvantages, though. It is not possible to target multiple Acromantula with this spell. You will have to cast it on each individual creature, which can be inefficient if you are surrounded by them. It also will not permanently repel, or get rid of, the Acromantula. It will only temporarily blast them way and weaken them so that they will not follow. After a short time, usually a minute or two, the Acromantula will be back at full strength and will continue its assault on you. It is important that, after using this spell, you either cast other spells that are more efficient or you escape the situation.
Spell: The Spider Repelling Spell
Incantation: Arania Exumai (ah-RAHN-ee-ah EGGS-oo-may)
Wand Movement: An upward flick followed by a flick to the right.
Willpower: Low to Moderate
I hope I need not remind you, but you should not extend an encounter with an Acromantula longer than necessary. The longer you fight them, the more at risk you are of becoming poisoned. You should, as always, do your best to flee the situation. Next class, we will be looking at a creature that has an interesting backstory and, globally, has much uncertainty surrounding it. I hope you all are prepared. Before you leave, you have a quiz to finish and, for homework, a Combination Journal response to write. For those wishing to continue their practice for the O.W.L., there is an extra credit analytical essay for you to complete. Until next class.
Chav kawm ntawv lawb tawm mus.
Note: Acromantula image was found through a Google Images search. The spider venom image comes from http://www.compoundchem.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/The-Chemistry-of-Spider-Venom.png