- "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 was a magical object enchanted to instantly bring anyone touching it to a specific location. In most cases, a Portkey was an everyday object that would not draw the attention of a Muggle. Travelling by Portkey was said to feel like having a hook "somewhere behind the navel" pulling the traveller to their location.
The sensation of travelling by Portkey was universally agreed to be uncomfortable, if not downright unpleasant, and could lead to nausea, giddiness, and worse.
Usage and properties
Wizards who could not Apparate (dematerialise and reappear at will), who wished to travel by daylight (meaning that broomsticks, Thestrals, flying cars and dragons would be inappropriate), or whose destination had no fireplace (rendering Floo powder useless) would have to resort to the use of a Portkey.
Almost any inanimate object could be turned into a Portkey. The incantation used to turn an object into a Portkey was Portus. Once bewitched, the object would transport anyone who grasped it to a pre-arranged destination. A Portkey could also be enchanted to transport the grasper(s) only at a given time. In this way, the arrivals and departures of great numbers of witches and wizards could be staggered, enabling such events such as the Quidditch World Cup to take place with few security breaches.
When secrecy was paramount, and mass movement was planned, the chosen Portkey would be a nondescript object secreted in an out-of-the-way place, so that it would be taken for a piece of unimportant debris by Muggle passers-by. Accidents were still known to occur, 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 later wrote a popular Muggle song that bore an uncanny resemblance to Celestina's worldwide hit (Ms Warbeck was 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 was universally agreed to be uncomfortable, if not downright unpleasant, and could lead to nausea, giddiness and worse. Healers recommended that the elderly, pregnant and infirm avoided using Portkeys. The suggestion of arranging Portkeys for the transportation of annoying relatives saved many a wizarding family Christmas.
Types of Portkeys
Some Portkeys were preset to travel to their destinations at a specific time. Examples included 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 safe houses to the Burrow, after the Battle of the Seven Potters in 1997. Other Portkeys were triggered immediately by a person's touch; examples included 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 affected the difference between the two types of Portkey.
Both types of Portkey travelled to the destination along with their users. With touch-activated Portkeys, touching it again could transport the users back to their original location, as was the case with the Triwizard Cup. Time-activated ones could be handled before and after their assigned moment of use without effect.
According to Remus Lupin, the creation of unauthorised Portkeys would incur 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. 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. As portkeys can usually be used once only, it can be concluded that the cup was a portkey to begin with, even before Bartemius Crouch Jnr meddled with it. It appears that objects can be modified by multiple Portus charms.
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 - The Original Screenplay
- 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
- Wizarding World
- Wonderbook: Book of Potions
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 6 (The Portkey)
- Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Portkeys" at Wizarding World
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 5 (Fallen Warrior)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 31 (The Third Task)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 32 (Flesh, Blood and Bone)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 36 (The Only One He Ever Feared)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 3 (The Advance Guard)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 5, Chapter 30 (Into the Vault)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 35 (Veritaserum)