I feel very much as though there is something J. K. Rowling isn't telling us about magic, even within the context of her books. This usually bugs me when reading about the classes the kids take, but in HP6 one particular thing struck me regarding the Prince's Potions book.
There are spells written in the margins that the Prince apparently composed himself, as evidenced by the crossings-out and rewritings. That, of course, raises the question of how one actually goes about creating a new spell. Given that (almost?) all the spells in these books are only one or two words long, it seems unlikely that simply arranging the correct sequence of letters is all there is to it. If that were the case, it would be more like discovering new spells than creating them, which doesn't seem right. Are there a finite number of spells in the world? How did they originally get associated with their particular words? It just doesn't work.
Occasionally in Charms class, we hear of a particular wand movement that accompanies a given spell, which adds a bit more dimension to it, but the movement does not seem to be very important for spells in general, beyond simply aiming them. Wands are tools for focusing the will/concentration/etc. to create the magic, and I would be inclined to see words as the same way, especially considering all the talk of nonverbal spells in this latest book. Advanced wizards with sufficient concentration power don't need to actually speak their spells. So I'm a bit disappointed that even Dumbledore is rendered helpless when he loses his wand. I think he has more power in him than that.
Now something I did like from HP6 was the scene in the cave leading to the Horcrux. For example:
"Yes, this is the place," said Dumbledore.I think there's something really important being hinted at here. Dumbledore's magic is qualitatively different from Harry's, and from most of the magic we get to see in these books. Magic is something he is, not just something he does. He feels it and senses it and interacts with it directly.
"How can you tell?" Harry spoke in a whisper.
"It has known magic," said Dumbledore simply.
Twice Dumbledore walked right around the cave, touching as much of the rough rock as he could, occasionally pausing, running his fingers backward and forward over a particular spot, until finally he stopped, his hand pressed flat against the wall.
"Here," he said. "We go on through here. The entrance is concealed."
Harry did not ask how Dumbledore knew. He had never seen a wizard work things out like this, simply by looking and touching; but Harry had long since learned that bangs and smoke were more often the marks of ineptitude than expertise.
And so I'm kind of worried about Harry. Most of what he's getting in school are magic words, and potion ingredients, and instructions to focus on the three D's while spinning in place. There's no discussion of what the magic actually is, or how one internalizes it in the same way (even if not to the same degree) as Dumbledore or, presumably, other accomplished wizards. I would think that after six years of school they would have gotten more advanced than they have. Harry's got to face Voldemort next year, and Chosen One or not, I'm not sure he's been given the magical skills to do it.
And, of course, aside from being concerned for Harry, I just want to know all this for myself.