At least some content in this article is derived from information featured in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
- "Almost any inanimate object can be turned into a Portkey. Once bewitched, the object will transport anyone who grasps it to a pre-arranged destination."
A Portkey is an object enchanted to instantly bring anyone touching it to a specific location. Most of the time, a Portkey is an everyday object that would not draw the attention of a Muggle. Travelling by Portkey is said to feel like having a hook "somewhere behind the navel" pulling the traveller to their location.
The sensation of travelling by Portkey is universally agreed to be uncomfortable, if not downright unpleasant, and can lead to nausea, giddiness, and worse.
Usage and properties
Wizards who cannot Apparate (dematerialise and reappear at will), who wish to travel by daylight (meaning that broomsticks, Thestrals, flying cars and dragons are inappropriate), or whose destination has no fireplace (rendering Floo powder useless) will have to resort to the use of a Portkey.
Almost any inanimate object can be turned into a Portkey. The incantation used to turn an object into a Portkey is Portus'. Once bewitched, the object will transport anyone who grasps it to a pre-arranged destination. A Portkey may also be enchanted to transport the grasper (or graspers) only at a given time. In this way, the arrivals and departures of great numbers of witches and wizards can be staggered, enabling such events such as the Quidditch World Cup to take place with few security breaches.
When secrecy is paramount, and mass movement is planned, the chosen Portkey will be a nondescript object secreted in an out-of-the-way place, so that it will be taken for a piece of unimportant debris by Muggle passers-by. Accidents have occurred, however; two Muggle dog-walkers found themselves accidentally transported to a Celestina Warbeck concert in 2003, because their dogs had run off with an old trainer on Clapham Common (leaving an anguished crowd of witches and wizards to look frantically for their Portkey on a stretch of empty grass, hopefully seizing old crisp packets and cigarette ends). One of the Muggle dog-walkers was even invited on stage by Celestina to perform a duet of A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love. While the Memory Charm placed upon him by a harried Ministry official seemed to take at the time, he has since written a popular Muggle song that bears an uncanny resemblance to Celestina's worldwide hit (Ms. Warbeck is not amused).
Before the creation of the Hogwarts Express, Portkeys were used as a means of transportation to not draw the attention of Muggles. Eventually another method was sought, because the majority of students would either not find the item that was their Portkey or not arrive in time to take the Portkey. Many students were 'Portkey-sick' and the Hospital Wing was filled with students for the first few days of term, while they got over their nausea and distress.
The sensation of travelling by Portkey is universally agreed to be uncomfortable, if not downright unpleasant, and can lead to nausea, giddiness and worse. Healers recommend that the elderly, pregnant and infirm avoid using Portkeys. The suggestion of arranging Portkeys for the transportation of annoying relatives has saved many a wizarding family Christmas.
Types of Portkeys
Some Portkeys are preset to travel to their destinations at a specific time. Examples include the Portkeys that transported wizards to the Quidditch World Cup in 1994, and the ones that transported members of the Order of the Phoenix from the different Order safehouses to the Burrow, after the Battle of the Seven Potters in 1997. Other Portkeys are triggered immediately by a person's touch; examples include the Triwizard Cup, which transported Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory to Little Hangleton, and the broken statue head that sent Harry Potter back to Hogwarts after the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. It is unknown how one affects the difference between the two types of Portkeys.
Both types of Portkey travel to the destination along with their users. With touch-activated Portkeys, touching it again might transport the users back to their original location, as was the case with the Triwizard Cup. Time-activated ones can be handled before and after their assigned moment of use without effect.
According to Remus Lupin, the creation of unauthorised Portkeys incurs some sort of punishment, and Cornelius Fudge was quite angry when Albus Dumbledore created one in front of him without permission.
French porter, meaning "to carry", and English "key", in the sense of a secret of trick.
Behind the scenes
- According to W.O.M.B.A.T., in order for portkeys to be arranged between countries, the consent of both Nations's Ministries of Magic may be required.
- Also on W.O.M.B.A.T., it is possible that releasing a Portkey before arriving at one's destination may result in serious injury or death.
- It is unknown why the Death Eaters used the Vanishing Cabinet when they could have created a portkey to Hogwarts unless there is a specific spell that stops portkeys, however Albus Dumbledore made one from the Ministry so this is also a contradiction. However, it may be possible that only the Headmaster or Headmistress of the time can make a Portkey in and out of Hogwarts, especially as such has been established to be the case with Apparition. Of course, as the Ministry had finally accepted the fact that Voldemort has finally returned, and increased security at Hogwarts, preventing Portkeys from functioning within the school may had been one of the new defensive measures.
- On Pottermore, series author J. K. Rowling jokes that she has a real Portkey: the key to the city for La Porte, Indiana, which was given to her by MuggleNet founder Emerson Spartz.
- In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Harry grabbed the cup again in the graveyard, he was transported to the edge or entrance to the maze. However, Harry should not have returned there, since the cup is supposed to transport the user back to where they started from. The cup should have taken Harry back to the centre of the maze.
While unauthorised Portkeys are banned, it is not clear to what extent the British Ministry of Magic can detect their creation of usage.
- In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Bartemius Crouch Junior turned the Triwizard Cup into a Portkey to the Little Hangleton graveyard without detection. However, this may have been due to the fact that the cup was meant to be a Portkey anyway, to transport the first person who touched it (and thus the winner of the Triwizard Tournament) out of the Triwizard Maze in the final task. It is possible the ministry simply did not look askance, at the Portus Charm being cast twice, or perhaps were simply too distracted to notice.
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Order of the Phoenix decides, each time, against using Portkeys to transport Harry Potter from 4 Privet Drive to a place of safety.
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Remus Lupin explains: "[I]t’s more than our life’s worth to set up an unauthorised Portkey." This suggests the ministry either is notified when Portkeys are created, or else will know about them when an underage wizard one due to the Trace. The latter case would create an exception to the the way the Trace typically operates, which is limited to only detecting magic performed around the underage wizard and the use of already-enchanted objects.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (play) (Mentioned only)
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
- Quidditch Through the Ages (real) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- Wonderbook: Book of Potions
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite