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"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."
— Description of a portkey and its use[src]

A Portkey was a magical object enchanted to instantly bring anyone touching it to a specific location.[2][1] In most cases, a Portkey was an everyday object that would not draw the attention of a Muggle.[2] Travelling by Portkey was said to feel like having a hook "somewhere behind the navel" pulling the traveller to their location.[2]

The sensation of travelling by Portkey was universally agreed to be uncomfortable, if not downright unpleasant, and could lead to nausea, giddiness, or worse.[1]

Usage and properties

Harry Potter: "What sort of objects are Portkeys?"
Arthur Weasley: "Well, they can be anything. Unobstrusive things, obviously, so Muggles don't go picking them up and playing with them... stuff they'll just think is litter..."
Arthur Weasley explaining the conspicuous nature of Portkeys to Harry Potter[src]

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.[1]

The trio and others landing after being transported from Ottery St Catchpole to 1994 Quidditch World Cup

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.[1]

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).[1]

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.[3]

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.[1]

Types of Portkeys

"Instantly, Harry felt a jerk somewhere behind his navel. His feet had left the ground. He could not unclench the hand holding the Triwizard Cup; it was pulling him onward in a howl of wind and swirling colour, Cedric at his side. Harry felt his feet slam into the ground; his injured leg gave way, and he fell forward; his hand let go of the Triwizard Cup at last."
— The Triwizard Cup transporting Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory to Little Hangleton[src]

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,[2] 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.[4]

Harry Potter using the Triwizard Cup Portkey to escape from Lord Voldemort

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,[5][6] and the broken statue head that sent Harry Potter back to Hogwarts after the Battle of the Department of Mysteries.[7] 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.[8] Time-activated ones could be handled before and after their assigned moment of use without effect. However, they could also be enchanted to re-activate again after a short amount to time, to return to their previous location for re-use by others.[9]

Unauthorised Portkeys

According to Remus Lupin, the creation of unauthorised Portkeys would incur some sort of punishment,[10] and Cornelius Fudge was furious when Albus Dumbledore created one in front of him without permission.[7]

Known Portkeys

Date Portkey User(s) Starting point Destination Creator
1357[11] Broom[11] Unidentified Quidditch referee[11] Quidditch pitch[11] Sahara Desert[11] Unidentified Quidditch fan[11]
16th century An old boot produced by the Book of Potions[12] A Hogwarts student[12] Potions Classroom[12] Enchanted garden[12] Zygmunt Budge[12]
Late Summer 1899 Unknown Gellert Grindelwald[13] Godric's Hollow[13] Central Europe Bathilda Bagshot[13]
September, 1927 A bucket[9]
Portkey Dartmoor.gif
Dartmoor[9] Paris[9] Unknown, possibly unidentified Portkey tout
June, 1989 Vault portrait[14]
Portkey to Portrait Vault.gif
Training Grounds[14] Portrait Vault[14] Unknown
June, 1989 Vault portrait
HMY5CH31BackToSchool.gif
  • Jacob's sibling
  • William Weasley
  • Ben Copper
  • Merula Snyde
  • Penny Haywood/Charles Weasley (unknown)
Portrait Vault[14] Great Hall[15] Unknown
1990–1991 school year A sock[16] Tim North America Great Britain Unknown
1990–1991 school year A hand mirror[17]
Portkey transportation HM739.png
Jacob's sibling[17] Forest Grove[17] Shrieking Shack[17] Unknown
25 August, 1994 An old boot[2] Stoatshead Hill, Ottery St Catchpole Dartmoor,

Quidditch World Cup Campsite

Unknown, presumably the Ministry of Magic
An old newspaper[18] Unknown Unknown
A punctured football[18]

An empty drink can[18]

An old rubber tire[18] Dartmoor, Quidditch World Cup Campsite Stoatshead Hill, Ottery St Catchpole
24 June, 1995 Triwizard Cup

The cup being activated

Quidditch pitch, Hogwarts[5] Graveyard, Little Hangleton[6] Barty Crouch Jnr[19]
Graveyard, Little Hangleton[8] Quidditch pitch, Hogwarts[19] Unknown
Late December, 1995 A blackened kettle[20] Headmaster's office, Hogwarts[20] 12 Grimmauld Place[20] Albus Dumbledore
18 June, 1996 The head of a golden statue[7] Harry Potter[7] Ministry of Magic, London[7] Headmaster's office, Hogwarts[7]
27 July, 1997 A small, silver-backed hairbrush[4] The Tonks' house The Burrow, Ottery St Catchpole Unknown member of the Order of the Phoenix
A rusty oil can[4] None (intended for Ronald Weasley and Nymphadora Tonks) Muriel's
An ancient trainer[4] None (intended for Arthur Weasley and Fred Weasley) Unknown house of a member of the Order of the Phoenix
Unknown
A bent coat hanger[4] Kingsley's residence (possibly)

Etymology

French porter, meaning "to carry", and English "key", in the sense of a secret of trick.[1]

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 have 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.[19] 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.

Detection

While unauthorised Portkeys are banned, it is not clear to what extent the British Ministry of Magic can detect their creation of usage.

Portkeys in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

See here.

Appearances

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Portkeys" at Wizarding World
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 6 (The Portkey)
  3. Writing by J. K. Rowling: "The Hogwarts Express" at Wizarding World
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 5 (Fallen Warrior)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 31 (The Third Task)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 32 (Flesh, Blood and Bone)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 36 (The Only One He Ever Feared)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 34 (Priori Incantatem)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay
  10. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 3 (The Advance Guard)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Quidditch Through the Ages, Chapter 6 (Changes in Quidditch since the Fourteenth Century)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Wonderbook: Book of Potions
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 18 (The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore)
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 14.9 Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 5, Chapter 30 (Into the Vault)
  15. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 5, Chapter 31 (After the Vault)
  16. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 7, Chapter 9 (A Beast of a Division)
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 7, Chapter 39 (The Aftermath)
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 7 (Bagman and Crouch)
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 35 (Veritaserum)
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 22 (St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries)
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