Defense Against the Dark Arts

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Aldrovandi's Basilisk
Aldrovandi's Basilisk
All hail the king of the snakes! Basilisks—from the Greek basiliskos, for "little king," are depicted in many early modern natural histories and were said to be the kings of the serpents (Dark Arts students will recognize them for their diadem-shaped crests). J.K. Rowling preserves many details of the accounts from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sources about this terrifying snake, including his birth from a chicken's egg hatched under a toad, and a gaze that could kill. Susceptible to wizard control by some Parselmouths, only Tom Riddle proved snake-charmer enough to ever challenge one.
Hernández's Dragon Skeleton
Hernández's Dragon Skeleton
Spanish physician Francisco Hernández published the first natural history of Mexico in 1651, and in it reproduces this desiccated dragon, said to have belonged to Cardinal Barbarini. Barbarini's specimen impressed the members of the early Italian Society of the Lynx, and a live rendering can be found in Ulisse Aldrovandi. Daydreaming Defense Against the Dark Arts students will be the first to notice that a dragon skeleton hangs from the ceiling of their classroom. As Gilderoy Lockhart drones on, imagine you're off hunting in Romania with Charlie Weasley.  
Lykosthenes' Phoenix with Flames
Lykosthenes' Phoenix with Flames
One of the earliest descriptions of the mythical phoenix dates to Herodotus, who described a bird with red-and-gold plumage that appears in Heliopolis once every 500 years. This woodcut is from the Alsatian chronicler of curiosities and humanist Konrad Lykosthenes. Worried this distressed rara avis will go the way of kindling? Not a chance! Not only is the Order rooting for him, but, as Dumbledore's patronus, we're pretty sure he's on the rise, especially on Burning Day.
Pomet's Stag
Pomet's Stag
Expecto Patronum! The French apothecary Pierre Pomet writes that the very bones of deer could "revive the Spirits expel Melancholy, and help the Palpitation of the Heart." All three Potters—Harry, father James, and mother Lily have the fleet-footed deer patronus in common (James is also a stag, while Lily is a doe). No wonder the appearance of Harry's agile animal spirit and guardian steadied him during his face-offs with the most evil wizard of all time.