When Colin Creevey gets petrified in The Chamber Of Secrets, Harry sees Dumbledore and McGonagall bringing him in the hospital wing.

He describes them as if they were carrying a statue.

Why would Dumbledore and McGonagall, pretty old (and thus physically weak) but pretty skilled wizards, resort to the inconvenience of carrying things like petrified people by hand instead of using magic to lift them?

Using magic would seem both safer for the carrier and for the carried.

  • 36
    Note that the classic answer "because magic" doesn't really work in that case ;)
    – Fatalize
    Mar 6, 2017 at 14:43
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    To avoid triggering any nasty, magic related traps/effects. Given that they don't know what caused the damage, potentially anything could make it worse, but using muggle methods seem less likely to be a risk
    – Flooks
    Mar 6, 2017 at 16:11
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    It also shows a level of compassion. Despite him being petrified, and potentially dangerous, they're holding Colin because he's a child who has been hurt. This sends a powerful message to the heir of Slytherin that Hogwarts will look after those who may get hurt, even at a risk to their own lives.
    – Longshanks
    Mar 6, 2017 at 16:35
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    Perhaps it was a sign of care and respect, why would they have treated him like a piece of luggage?
    – Möoz
    Mar 6, 2017 at 20:47
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    I think the answer is the compassion side of things! I'm sure they don't levitate babies just to save their arms!
    – ThruGog
    Mar 6, 2017 at 22:46

6 Answers 6


Because there was no need to. We might guess that the attack occured very close to the hospital wing, since McGonagall and Dumbledore quickly thought that Colin wanted to visit Harry:

"Another attack," said Dumbledore. "Minerva found him on the stairs."

"There was a bunch of grapes next to him," said Professor McGonagall. "We think he was trying to sneak up here to visit Potter."

What is more, they might have not had their wands with them. Dumbledore claims he was on the way to the kitchen for something to drink, he didn't need a wand for that:

"Yes," said Professor McGonagall. "But I shudder to think... If Albus hadn't been on the way downstairs for hot chocolate - who knows what might have--"

Finally, some pure speculation. Maybe Dumbledore insisted on not using magic for the traces not to be erased. We learn in the Half Blood Prince that every use of magic leaves some trail.

Dumbledore was standing in the middle of the cave, his wand held high as he turned slowly on the spot, examining the walls and ceiling.

"Yes, this is the place," said Dumbledore.

"How can you tell?" Harry spoke in a whisper.

"It has known magic," said Dumbledore simply.

It is possible that Dumbledore wanted to return to the stairway that night and further investigate the place, looking for some clues.

  • 15
    Dumbledore probably had his wand with him. Otherwise, McGonagall's statement doesn't make as much sense (questionable how much could Dumbledore do without his wand?) Mar 6, 2017 at 17:07
  • 14
    If I was a wizard, I'd carry my wand everywhere. I'd probably get a holster grafted to my arm. Mar 6, 2017 at 23:59
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    Follow up question — Why would Dumbledore resort to the inconvenience of walking all the way down to the kitchen to get hot chocolate, instead of the million magic ways he could have gotten it? :) Mar 7, 2017 at 14:19
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    @anotherdave: For example, in order to have a pleasant chat with the house elfs.
    – chirlu
    Mar 7, 2017 at 15:54
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    @fredsbend There we only learn about the traces magic leaves in wands, not the traces in enchanted objects.
    – 11684
    Mar 7, 2017 at 22:12

Dumbledore might be old, but he certainly isn't physically infirm. Someone capable of swimming a hundred yards in "icy water" would certainly have the strength to lift and carry a small boy several tens of feet.

‘Then take off your Invisibility Cloak – there is no need for it now – and let us take the plunge.’

And with the sudden agility of a much younger man, Dumbledore slid from the boulder, landed in the sea and began to swim, with a perfect breaststroke, towards the dark slit in the rock face, his lit wand held in his teeth. Harry pulled off his Cloak, stuffed it into his pocket and followed.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  • 5
    While this adequately counters one of the OP's reasons why Dumbledore would not carry Colin Creevey, it does not explain why the choice was made to carry him rather than levitate him. In other words, it explains why the two possibilities, carry/not carry, are not as unequal as the OP has suggested, but does not explain why carrying was the better choice, or even propose just that the method chosen was a spur-of-the-moment decision that happened to go one way, despite other, possibly better, solutions.
    – Makyen
    Mar 6, 2017 at 17:36
  • @Makyen - Invalidating the question is a perfectly sound way of answering :-)
    – Valorum
    Mar 6, 2017 at 17:37
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    @Valorum - Yes, invalidating the question is a valid way to answer, but this does not invalidate the question. It invalidates one assumption leading to the reason the question was asked, but it does not invalidate the actual question of why carry instead of levitate. Specifically, "Why would Dumbledore and McGonagall carry Colin Creevey with their arms?"
    – Makyen
    Mar 6, 2017 at 17:53
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    @wizzwizz4 - It's already in TBear's answer below.
    – Valorum
    Mar 6, 2017 at 20:14
  • 2

First of all, we know that human levitation is possible and known. In The Prizoner of Azkaban, we see Sirius Black use Mobilicorpus on Snape's unconcious body to levitate it away from the Shrieking Shack, bumping his head intentionally along the way. It is safe to assume that between Dumbledore and McGonagall, one of them should have known the spell, though we (the audience) had never seen it at that point in the series.

Getting back into the tunnel was difficult. Lupin, Pettigrew and Ron had to turn sideways to manage it; Lupin still had Pettigrew covered with his wand. Harry could see them edging awkwardly along the tunnel in single file. Crookshanks was still in the lead. Harry went right after Sirius, who was still making Snape drift along ahead of them; he kept bumping his lolling head on the low ceiling. Harry had the impression Sirius was making no effort to prevent this.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Second, the source and nature of Colin's curse was unknown, and so they would have likely sought to err on the side of caution. Any magic performed on him could have caused further damage to him, or to the caster. Since the Hospital Wing was so close, they would have wanted to get Colin into Madame Pomfrey's expert hands as soon as they could without exacerbating the situation.

My third thought is a bit more speculative, but keeping their wands free (not being used on a continuous spell) means that they would have been able to defend themselves against whatever attacked Colin. This argument is a bit more difficult to defend as their hands would have been occupied, but wand in hand while carrying the boy would have still afforded them the ability to cast a shield charm. Casting Mobilicorpus could have made their reactions a tad slower.

Lastly, in situations of high stress, many wizards resort to muggle practices. Harry Potter and George Weasley get in a fist fight (muggle dueling) with Draco Malfoy after a quidditch match when Draco insulted both of their families. It is possible that the situation with Colin Creevey was dire enough that thought of spell casting was forgotten in the need to rush him to Hospital Wing.

  • 3
    This is mostly speculation, but I think it makes the most sense in universe. You don't know what magic hit him, maybe casting another spell on him will cause him to explode or something, like a booby trap. Mar 6, 2017 at 21:36
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    "We (the audience) had never seen it", because JKR hadn't thought of it. The reason Colin wasn't levitated is because the author didn't think through that detail (and so many others). Mar 6, 2017 at 23:41
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    @Brock JKR did have a bit of a learning curve, and there are some inconsistencies in HP, but our job here isn't to come crashing through the 4th wall and make comments about the author's weaknesses. Constructive comments make connections within the story as it stands and speculate about unwritten parts as if the story were true. Your comment is not helpful in this context.
    – BlackThorn
    Mar 6, 2017 at 23:46
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    No, our job is to answer the question. The correct answer to this question is that the author didn't think of it. You can try to retcon some in-universe excuse later, but Occam's razor and plain common sense (and the author's own track record and admissions) put the lie to such malarkey. Mar 7, 2017 at 0:11
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    Dude, it's fantasy. Obviously you are correct, but that is not the answer OP or anyone else is looking for. Go ahead and post it as an answer and you will quickly come to the same conclusion.
    – BlackThorn
    Mar 7, 2017 at 0:15

Compassion and respect

Expanding on my earlier comment, and to draw from other answers, we can all agree that Dumbledore and McGonagal are arguably two of the most magically gifted wizards at Hogwarts. Both fully capable of performing magic that would render having to lift a child a simple task.

However, they are also teachers.

They have a responsibility for the safety and health of the students, and would be expected to care for one who is ill, injured of unhappy.

Yes, they could have levitated Colin, but IMO if they knew he was safe to hold, then they absolutely would have carried him because of their duty of care as his teacher and responsible guardian.

  • 1
    @TheDarkLord Yeah - I accept that's open to debate. But I'm sure (will try and find quotes) that McG has expressed a caring nature towards her students. We know Dumbledore can apparate wherever he wants due to the benefits of being headmaster. And anti-apparation can be applied to sections of the castle. So, if it's a matter of time and they wanted to get there quicker, they could have done.
    – Longshanks
    Mar 7, 2017 at 11:27
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    Dumbledore being able to Apparate in the castle is only movie-canon (and so, to my mind, not canon at all...), not book-canon. As Demosthenes says, though, they were probably not too far away anyway since Colin was on his way to see Harry. Mar 7, 2017 at 11:34
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    Probably. That's what SSF:SE is there for. :P Mar 7, 2017 at 11:47
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    A variant of this ("respect") was my initial reaction as well. While all the answers have merit, this is my favorite and, given their personalities, the most likely in-universe answer. I'd give it +2, if I could.
    – Deacon
    Mar 7, 2017 at 12:49
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    @DougR. Respect - you're right, and I've added that into my answer.
    – Longshanks
    Mar 7, 2017 at 13:15

In addition to the available excellent answers, there are two more points I would like raised:

First, it's a matter of respect for someone affected by an unknown (at the time) effect who may not come back from it. We know that to a degree doing things "the muggle way" is used as such, as when the Weasleys do their chores that could easily be solved with magic.

Valorum in the comments has another excellent example of this: "Harry refuses to use magic to dig Dobby's grave", which in particular is at quite analogous to the scene in question.

Secondly, as the magical effect is in fact unknown there is no telling how it will interact with other magic. This treatment is a precaution more than anything else.

  • 1
    You might want to mention that Harry refuses to use magic to dig Dobby's grave
    – Valorum
    Mar 8, 2017 at 12:20

Could I just point out that it's probably a bit of a surprise to anyone if they find anyone unconscious (or petrified) on a normal evening. Not everyone is always 100% logical. I mean, if I found an unconscious person in a warehouse I probably wouldn't think "I'll load him onto that handcart over there". Especially if, as everyone else points out, he was probably very close to the infirmary already.

  • 4
    Dumbledore doesn't strike me as the sort to get flustered at finding a (seemingly) dead body in a stairwell. Let's face it, it's apparently a rare year that at least a few of his charges aren't brutally murdered.
    – Valorum
    Mar 7, 2017 at 21:50

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