The Burrow: Moving Magic

by Robbie Fischer

There are many advantages to driving a broomstick as your primary vehicle. For instance, it can slip through narrow gaps in traffic. Heck, it can fly right over the top of traffic! Plus, it accelerates, corners, and responds to variations in the terrain like no off-road vehicle known to Mugglekind. But you have to admit, the broom has its drawbacks too.

The most obvious drawback of driving a broomstick is the lack of support for the back, neck, and legs. Face it, folks, those things have gotta be uncomfortable, especially on long trips. Cushioning charms are OK, but having to lean forward and clutch a wooden rod must do unspeakable things to the neck, shoulders, and wrists. Plus, there’s no wind screen, no heater for cold or damp weather, no headlights for dark nights or foggy mornings, and by crickets, no cupholder!

Besides all that, as wizarding forms of transportation go, broomsticks are among the most problematic in terms of staying out of sight of the Muggle population. So clearly, broomsticks are not going to be used for the daily commute, much less for that long family trip every summer. For purposes other than athletic competition, wizards must rely on other methods, such as portkeys, floo powder, and apparition.

But what kind of vehicle does a wizard use when he has to move houses? I had plenty of time to ponder this recently, while I was moving from Arizona to Missouri–or rather, not moving, but waiting while the van line made up its mind how to react when not one, but two of its vans broke down under me. Do wizards have moving vans? How do they get all their cauldrons, twelve-handed grandfather clocks, boggart-infested wardrobes, and talking mirrors from the old house to the new one?

Brooms would be out of the question. They have no storage space.

Apparition would take ages. You would keep having to go back and forth. Mind you, I’ve made that kind of move–once, when I only had to move about a block and a half away, I managed most of it in a succession of trips with a two-wheeled cart–but it has to be exhausting, doesn’t it? And for anything farther away, it wouldn’t be worth the added effort.

Portkeys present the same problem as apparition, only with the added problem that you have one more thing to hold on to for each trip back and forth.

And as for floo powder…well, if you have to keep your elbows tucked in when you’re not carrying anything, what are you supposed to do with the sofa?

I don’t even want to contemplate the Knight Bus.

And please, please, don’t ask your owl to carry it all!

I’m sure there are other possibilities, though. For example, you can bewitch a Muggle vehicle to have more space on the inside than would seem possible from the outside. Both Arthur Weasley and Mundungus Fletcher seem to have mastered this charm, though they haven’t used it to the extent of moving a whole household. Perhaps a vehicle with a rear-opening door, large enough to stuff a piano through–like the “Scooby Doo” mystery machine–could be charmed to enclose an interior space equivalent to a 26-foot moving van. As this would make for more vehicle than most wizards or witches would need, it’s a small step from this to running a van rental outfit that serves the wizarding community. With suburban sprawl encroaching on so many of the places where wizards and witches can practice their arts in privacy, now would be a great time to invest in such a business!

And it wouldn’t need to be much of an investment. The used car lots of the world are overflowing with second- and third-hand vans, whose styling, smell, and rust-to-paint ratio put them in much greater supply than demand. A little creative magic can have them cleaned up and rolling (or flying, or submarining, etc.) in no time. Add some interior modifications, hire wizards who specialize in summoning and levitation, and chuck in a lot of protective pads to keep fussy customers from fretting about their china, and you’re in business! Plus, you won’t have to spend much on real estate to garage your fleet of vehicles. By extending the same space-modification spells, you can park a hundred vans in a two-car garage, and spare enough room for auxiliary equipment.

No longer would you need to lug around a ton of straps to hold things in place. You’re a wizard! Conjure them out of thin air! And forget about appliance carts and furniture dolleys. Who needs them? You have magic! And what if mechanical problems should occur? What if, like Arthur’s Ford Anglia, your mechanical-magical hybrid vehicle turned temperamental? Well, if that happens, you need expect no more long delays while you wait for roadside assistance to show up. Simply drop a pinch of floo powder into the cigarette lighter, shout your location, and an expert in smoothing out engineering wrinkles will apparate to you in moments.

I would be mystified if someone in the wizarding world hadn’t figured this out already. The possibilities are enormous. With this technology, the Weird Sisters’ tour bus can be telescoped into an S.U.V. All the equipment for the Ballycastle Bats can be crammed into the trunk of a three-door mini. And if ever the Hogwarts student body should decide to have a picnic at Stonehenge, they will all be able to fit on one bus (the better to sing “999 Bottles of Butterbeer” in harmony).

On the other hand, you would have to watch out for those shady characters who run the Hogwarts Express. Surely, to stay in business, they have to make more than six trips a year. Maybe they can manage it so that the tracks always lead right up to the door of where your trainload of belongings belong.

Shrinking spells on your belongings could spare you the expense of renting a bigger-on-the-inside van, but what if your silver service came undone? How would you ever find the little spoons and things?

Or, maybe the trick is to spread out a big, magically-reinforced circus tent, lay everything you own on it, tie it up in a bundle, and hire a phoenix for the day. Then tie the bundle to the phoenix’s tail and whoops! Up it goes! But then of course, the whole visibility-to-muggles problem returns to play.

No, I think your best approach is to pack everything up, full size, in a regular-sized van that has an enormous cargo area. And I would guess that whoever owns a fleet of those vans will have all the galleons he wants.