Spoilers to follow, obviously.

In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we learn that

Percival Graves is actually Gellert Grindelwald in disguise.

My assumption is that this character stole the identity of the person they are pretending to be, presumably by killing them and taking their place. I believe it would take more time than the character had (as they were busy doing other things) to construct an entirely new persona and rise to such a prominent position, and there's indication that the two characters had met in the past.

However, at the end of the film, we see

Newt removes the Graves disguise, revealing him to be Grindelwald

using the Revelio charm.

So, my question is, what method did the character use to disguise themselves?

The obvious answer would be Polyjuice Potion, but:

  • We never, to my recall, see this character take any drinks during the movie. Given the previous books/movies, this seems like an odd choice to make by the filmmakers if it was indeed suppose to be Polyjuice, which has to be taken every hour.

  • The character is unmasked using the Revelio charm. In Goblet of Fire, after Crouch Jr-as-Moody is knocked out, Dumbledore and Harry wait around as "minutes pass" for the potion to wear off. If such a thing could be undone instantly by the Revelio charm, why wouldn't Dumbledore have done it?

  • This would likely require keeping the real character (if there is one) alive a la Moody, and preparing constant batches of Polyjuice potion, which seems difficult and time consuming.

However, if there's another way, say, a spell, and that's what's use in Fantastic Beasts--why have we never seen it before?

  • I recall seven instances of people using Polyjuice potion in the books: Hermione and co in CoS, Crouch Jr. in GoF, Crouch Jr./Mrs. Crouch in the Gof backstory, the Seven Potters in DH, Harry at the wedding in DH, and the Trio breaking into the MoM/Gringotts in DH. (Please correct me if I've missed any.) Any of these people could have benefited from a quick spell rather than a nasty tasting potion.

  • I would consider the above especially for Mrs. Crouch and Crouch Jr. as Moody, who had to keep up this for months. What if someone walked in on them as they slept?

So, if a such spell exists, why not use it in the above cases?

Here are some things I've thought of and rejected:

  1. It's really difficult magic, and only the extremely powerful FBaWtFT character could do it.

    I would buy this for Hermione at age 12 and maybe the dying Mrs. Crouch, but not for the rest. Crouch Sr., Crouch Jr., the Order, and Hermione at 18 are all extremely powerful themselves.

  2. It's really rare magic, and people haven't heard of it.

    Then why did the characters know that the Revelio charm would do anything? If I suspected someone was in disguise in the HP world, I would wait for Polyjuice potion to wear off, rather than attempting a spell I didn't think would work. Also, Hermione spent a LOT of time researching in CoS, I'm sure she would have discovered this.

  3. It requires killing the person you're disguising yourself as.

    Possible, but given lack of evidence I'm not going to buy it unless I'm given this more explicitly.

  4. The "real" character in Fantastic Beasts isn't dead: they were never real in the first place, so the bounds of the spell are different.

    Given Graves' position in MACUSA, it seems unlikely Grindelwald could be doing his terrorizing in Europe at the same time as leading the Aurors in America, or that he could rise from nothing to that position in the time since his disappearance.

  5. "Revelio" is such an easy spell that the main HP characters didn't want to risk discovery by it.

    The character in FB wasn't scared--and just taking away someone's ability to drink liquids for an hour is pretty easy too.

  6. This spell can only change "surface features," a la a glamour. More complicated transformations need the Polyjuice Potion.

    This would make sense for Crouch Jr. pretending to be Moody, as he'd have to lose an eye and a leg. However, I don't think it stands for several of the other HP cases.

  7. The character in FBaWtFT is a Metamorphagus or otherwise has innate powers that most wizards and witches couldn't use.

    Again, I'd need more proof or indication in order to accept this; there's no basis.

If I've misstated or assumed anything, let me know!

So, given all the above: how was the character in Fantastic Beasts disguised?

  • 7
    He used magic..
    – ibid
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 20:47
  • 6
    You forgot 8. Yet another plot hole left by JK Rowling.
    – Fatalize
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 7:55
  • 1
    The movies are nonsense.
    – ibid
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 21:58
  • 2
    See also movies.stackexchange.com/q/63626/9391 "How can a witch/wizard disguise themselves, excluding Polyjuice Potion?" which also asks about this particular character.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 11:34
  • 2
    Additionaly, I really don't see how you can reject your point number 1 like that : Yes Crouch Sr, the Order etc are really good wizards, but we're talking about Grindelwald, at the top of his form... The only characters we see at his level are Dumbledore and Voldemort. The Order and the Crouches are more or less auror level, the same aurors G defeated for many years without even trying... And Hermione at 18 ? She was good, but she's not even close to the second most powerful dark wizard of all time...
    – Cartolin
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 7:40

6 Answers 6


Through an advanced spell

J.K. Rowling answered this question in the FAQ of her new website.

Why did ‘revelio’ undo the effects of Polyjuice Potion? It didn’t. Grindelwald’s Transfiguration surpasses that of most wizards, so he used a spell, not a potion, to take on the appearance of Percival Graves.
J.K. Rowling's new website - FAQ

Obsolete answer below:

Note that according to producer David Heyman, Grindelwald had used polyjuice to disguise himself as Graves.

SnitchSeeker: Is there a real Graves? what happened to him?
David Heyman: That's a very good questions. I've been wondering ... I'm amazed more people haven't picked up on that. Yes, there was a real Graves. Yes, someone used some polyjuice potion and took their place. I don't know where they are at the story's end, But yes, there was a real Graves. We didn't film him. We didn't film the polyjuice. We just dived into the story midway through.
SnitchSeeker: Will we see Graves in the future?
David Heyman: I doubt it.
SnitchSeeker: It is similar to what happened with Crouch and Moody in the fourth book.
David Heyman: Yes.
SnitchSeeker: I guess Colin Farrell won't be back in the sequel.
David Heyman: There's no plans to bring Colin back for the sequel.

  • 1
    @Adamant: There are numerous examples in the non-magical world of highly-placed double agents -- see Robert Hanssen, Oleg Penkovsky, and Kim Philby. It's not unreasonable to assume that the most senior wizards and witches in MACUSA would be trusted or at least "above" suspicion. Who would suspect a senior Auror to be an imposter? (Remembering, of course, that this is years before the Moody debacle.)
    – tonysdg
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 5:24
  • 1
    @Adamant - IIRC Newt didn't wave his hand, he slowly rotated it.
    – ibid
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 7:02
  • 1
    While I don't agree with David Heyman's answer (in the context of having a world that makes sense...) this is undoubtedly the answer to my question. Nice find, and accepted!
    – Kitkat
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 21:18
  • 3
    Ha, take that, David Heyman! (Although I still think it was a tremendous find by yourself). Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 0:51
  • 4
    J.K. Rowling > David Heyman. +1
    – Adamant
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 6:36

Despite the outstanding find by ibid, I'm going to go out on a limb and disagree with David Heyman. Whilst he may be part of the film-making team, as a producer he didn't have a hand in the screenplay and so, for my money, isn't an authoritative source on the HP universe. JKR wrote the Fantastic Beasts screenplay alone so unless she backs him up I personally will reserve judgement on the use of Polyjuice Potion.

Whether Polyjuice was or wasn't used in this instance I think is unclear. But I think the question raises some good points, which in turn suggests to me that Polyjuice Potion probably wasn't used. At least, I think there's another possible option.

Namely, I think he used magical self-transformation.

That's number 6 on the list.

We see Hermione use this kind of transformation on two occasions in the original books.

He saw Hermione point her wand, not towards the outside, but into his face; there was a bang, a burst of white light, and he buckled in agony, unable to see. He could feel his face swelling rapidly under his hands, as heavy footfalls surrounded him.
His face was huge, shiny and pink, every feature distorted by Hermione's jinx. His black hair reached his shoulders and there was a dark shadow around his jaw. Had he not known that it was he who stood there, he would have wondered who was wearing his glasses.
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23, Malfoy Manor)

"OK, Ron, come here so I can do you..."
"Right, but remember, I don't like the beard too long-"
"Oh, for heaven's sake, this isn't about looking handsome-"
"It's not that, it gets in the way! But I liked my nose a bit shorter, try and do it the way you did last time."
Hermione sighed and set to work, muttering under her breath as she transformed various aspects of Ron's appearance. He was to be given a completely fake identity, and they were trusting to the malevolent aura cast by Bellatrix to protect him.
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 26, Gringotts)

Presumably this sort of 'surface level' transformation is fairly easy to do in the mirror, especially for a talented wizard like big G. All he would've needed to do was find a senior member of the Auror team (like Graves) that was roughly the same build and height, subdue him and take his wand and clothes.

This form of magic is obviously susceptible to the Revelio charm, which is a downside compared to Polyjuice. A witch or wizard using it would need to play their part well in order to make sure someone doesn't grow suspicious and use Revelio on you. However, it doesn't seem to be necessary to keep casting the spell repeatedly to keep up the illusion, as is the case with Polyjuice. For that reason, it is probably a better option than Polyjuice Potion for long-term transformation (although obviously Crouch Junior decided against it). Conversely, Polyjuice Potion is used more regularly in canon because it is more thorough than self-transformation (you can change genders, height etc. as well) and more suited to short-term use (such as Harry and Ron becoming Crabbe and Goyle).

I think the point about Revelio and Polyjuice Potion in the question is a good one. It makes sense to say that Dumbledore didn't use Revelio on Crouch Junior because it doesn't work on Polyjuice Potion. Therefore, he had to wait for it to wear off. That's enough for me to rule out the use of Polyjuice Potion in Fantastic Beasts.

Therefore, it makes sense that the surface-level transformation used by Hermione in The Deathly Hallows was also used in Fantastic Beasts.

  • Ahem - scifi.stackexchange.com/a/145958/20774
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 18:26
  • 3
    @Valorum It is a good find. I just don't think David Heyman statements count as canon. :) Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 18:56
  • This is exactly what I was thinking, Hermione only tries to give Ron a made up new identity, but his remark on the nose shows that you can control the transformation and how you'll look. There's no reason you couldn't transfigure your features to look like someone else's, especially for someone as talented as G !
    – Cartolin
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 9:11
  • I don't think your first example is "transformation" per se. The narrator refers to it as a jinx. Harry is able to passably explain it as a sting, and Lucius says that it looks like a Stinging Jinx.
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 4:00

I assume we have to accept that it was Polyjuice Potion, if the Producer says so. So my guess is that it wasn't as strong as the potions we know from later attempts in Harry's days. Perhaps they invented a stronger recipe, learning from the history here. As for comparing a 17 years old Hermione to Gellert Grindelwald, I am sorry but she was smart but not powerful. She was witty and learnt her text books, but she was far from Gellert Grindelwald at the time we meet him in FBawtft. I am glad they didn't show him drinking anything because then we'd known all along that he was someone in disguise and would have been more on guard with Grave's character from the beginning. So my theory is: it is Polyjuice Potion but an early recipe which was later improved, probably learning from Grindelwald's example. Maybe it was even him personally, who improved it after being discovered so easily.


Polyjuice Potion isn't the only thing to change appearance. In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Hermione was able to transfigure Harry into Voldemort with a spell. Although the change was temporary, they weren't sure about it (they were horrified by assuming that Harry would permanently stuck in Voldemort's appearance).

Grindelwald should be able to use the same spell the better way or other spells can exist.


To put it simply, Percival Graves probably never existed, and it's easier to obliviate and charm someone into thinking you're someone they have always seen. I could see the dark wizard Grindelwald having used simple spells to ensure he was hidden from notice.

However, if he did use the Polyjuice Potion, the spell to reveal something's true nature may have worked. The thing to remember, also, is that potions can be prepared in multiple different ways, just like shampoo or soap. So this Polyjuice Potion would have been weaker or something.

  • 5
    "potions can be prepared in multiple different ways, just like shampoo or soap" why is that? In fact I think I remember in one of Prof Snape's classes, if the potion wasn't made exactly it would have instead become a poison
    – user13267
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 10:35
  • 1
    @user13267 I imagine that polyjuice shampoo has a different recipe than polyjuice potion, though they have similar effects.
    – David K
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 13:30
  • @david what's polyjuice shampoo?
    – user13267
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 14:09
  • @user13267 I took "potions can be prepared in multiple different ways, just like shampoo or soap" to mean that a potion doesn't have to be drinkable, and could be prepared as, say, a shampoo or a soap. On second reading though it does make more sense to mean that shampoos and soaps can be prepared in multiple ways, and so potions can also be prepared in multiple ways.
    – David K
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 14:24
  • 1
    This answer seems like speculation. Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 4:45

It's confirmed that it was Polyjuice Potion only. Gellert was not only a powerful wizard, but also a decent, accomplished potioneer.

Its indeed believable that he put some of his own tricks in that. Modified it some way. Otherwise he couldn't have been under Graves' guise for so long. My own thought is that... since he changed it in some way, it probably got weakened in its area of protection. While a general Polyjuice Potion would have been stronger in protecting the host, Gellert's everlasting/longlasting potion wasn't.

Or maybe it was a general Polyjuice Potion. We've seen in Goblet of Fire, Bartemius Crouch Junior drinking it now and then. If it was shown in FBAWTFT as well, that Graves was drinking something, it would be boring and predictable. Keep in mind that, that happened in like 1920(sorry if I can't recall it correctly). Magic was different then. Perhaps some potioneer invented a more powerful Polyjuice Potion later, which Revelio Charm didn't work on, by adding few other ingredients or something. :p

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