In Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, when Mr. Weasley and Mr. Diggory are leading a group to the Quidditch World Cup, Mr. Weasly explains:

I believe there’s a handy wood they’re using as the Apparition point. For those who don’t want to Apparate, or can’t, we use Portkeys. They’re objects that are used to transport wizards from one spot to another at a prearranged time. You can do large groups at a time if you need to.

However, this happens at the end of Chapter 31, The Third Task:

“On three, right?” said Harry. “One — two — three —”

He and Cedric both grasped a handle.

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 color, Cedric at his side.

So, how come the Triwizard Cup didn't transport the holder at a prearranged time, but at the first touch?

The canonical answer might be "you just put a charm so it will transport the first holder instantaneously", but if it was so easy/simple, many wizards would have done it to get to the World Cup before they were supposed to (or after! if they didn't want to wait for so many days...).

3 Answers 3


According the Harry Potter Wiki, there are two types of portkeys:

  1. Touch-activated portkeys
  2. Time-activated portkeys.

Presumably, the portkey used during the World-cup was time-activated, analogous to public transport in the Muggle world!

As for the portkey that got Harry and Cedric to Little Hangleton, It was definitely touch-activated. Also, it was said that the first person to touch the Triwizard Cup would go to Little Hangleton and hence, Moody/Crouch Jr. made sure that Harry would be the first one to touch the Cup!

  • 4
    I'm satisfied with the answer, even though this explanation contradicts Mr. Weasley, whom I respect very much. However, if the cup was time-activated, then I'm left with yet another question: why would it transport a person back to Hogwarts at a second touch?
    – Janoma
    Feb 23, 2012 at 1:25
  • Well, is it a one-way trip touch-activated portkey or multiple way trip? Here, what happens if while running from Voldemort, Harry yells Accio Cup, it arrives in his hand and he doesn't get transported? And, what happens if, well he got transported back, then at Hogwarts Cornelius Fudge picked up the cup and got transported to Voldemort instead? That would have saved a lot of time isn't it? May 24, 2012 at 10:07
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    @Janoma - the Wiki isnt't really canon unless cited (which this one isn't) Mar 13, 2014 at 17:54

There are different portkey designs (Dumbledore used a portkey that was touch-activated as well, when he created one to escape the Ministry goons in OotP). Presumably, touch-activated ones are harder to create, but that's not fully supported by canon (just that only Dumbledore and Voldemort created them that I recall).

The World Cup portkeys functioned as as mass transpotation, and thus didn't need to be touch activated. Like a real bus - gotta get there on time

  • Also, in the case of World Cup transportation you would not want anybody to be able to use them but only those who where privy to the precise time. I don't think one should be harder to create than the other, they just work better in different scenarios.
    – Raphael
    Feb 19, 2012 at 15:55
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    If the World Cup portkeys were touch activated, it would be very hard indeed for several people using a single portkey! Feb 19, 2012 at 17:01
  • I tend to agree, but I thought that Dumbledore could have created the portkey to transport Harry one or two minutes after it was created, so he would have time to tell Harry some last set of instructions.
    – Janoma
    Feb 19, 2012 at 17:04
  • Did Dumbledore create a portkey to escape the ministry goons in OotP? I thought it was Fawkes that got him out of there?
    – AlasdairCM
    Feb 20, 2012 at 13:02
  • @AlasdairCM - I distinctly remember him creating a portkey. I'm a lot less sure of when he did it. Feb 20, 2012 at 13:38

J.K. Rowling seems to suggest that it is down to the Wizard/Witch who enchants the inanimate object to decide how the Portkey should operate. This means that they can choose whether they wanted it to be a time activated Portkey or an instantaneous Portkey.

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 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.
Pottermore - Writing by J.K. Rowling: Portkeys

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