In the sixth Harry Potter movie Draco put a singing bird into the Vanishing Cabinet. The bird arrives alive to Borgin and Burke's because we can hear it singing, but it came back dead. Why did this happen?

In the previous scene when the bird was sent it showed us Draco holding a feather. I could understand if the bird had arrived dead at the shop, due to some kind of incompleteness or another problem, but why while coming back?

Draco looking at a feather

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    It happened because the Hogwart's Vanishing Cabinet was still malfunctioning. (Presumably, the part of the magic that does the Vanishing was simpler and easier to repair than the part that does the rematerialization.) Note that this scene is movie-only. Apr 21, 2018 at 23:58
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    It could also be a simple visual effect. Remembering at the other end are Death-eaters who are only shown entering the shop earlier. As such, this scene reminds viewers who is on the other side and what they stand for--without being ham-fisted (you could say its a form of visual litotes).
    – wcullen
    Apr 22, 2018 at 2:53
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    I would also assume that (assuming they're both broken) the one in B&B's can be repaired by experienced and qualified dark wizards whereas the one in Hogwarts needs to be operated on by a child. It's reasonable to assume that the other one was fixed first, hence why it seems to work "better".
    – Valorum
    Apr 22, 2018 at 6:26

3 Answers 3


The Vanishing Cabinet wasn't ready to transport living things yet.

The earlier scene, where Draco sends an apple to Borgin & Burke's and back, demonstrates that the Vanishing Cabinet can transport objects back and forth. The screenplay states that the missing chunk was the result of someone in B&B biting into the apple, presumably to confirm that they'd received it:

He closes the cabinet again. Waits. Longer this time. Finally, he opens it. Removes the apple. Rotates it. Someone has taken a BITE out of it.

It would appear that transporting living beings is somewhat more difficult. The script doesn't explicitly state why the bird died:

He looks briefly lost again, then blinks, turns back to the cabinet, slowly reaches out and opens it. The bird is there.


The script also doesn't say whether the bird actually makes it to Borgin & Burke's alive, and it's been a while since I watched Half-Blood Prince, but I'll take your word for it on the singing. This would indicate that living beings can pass from Hogwarts to B&B, but not vice versa, and therefore, Draco still has some repairs to make on the Cabinet before the plan can be put into action.

  • Thanks for the answer and the screenplay!! I'll take your word for it on the singing XD Believe me, I wrote the question while watching the movie!
    – alseether
    Apr 23, 2018 at 11:46

The Vanishing Cabinet had not been fully mended.

In the books, Fred and George shoved Montague into the Cabinet in Order of the phoenix. According to his account after he Apparated out, he was stuck in some sort of limbo. He couldn't fully be transported from Hogwarts to Borgin and Burke's, nor could he come back to Hogwarts fully. But he could hear snatches of conversation from both sides. This was what gave Malfoy the idea to use the Cabinet to bring the Death Eaters into Hogwarts.

We know from a scene in the movies that the Cabinet was broken (since the movies didn't mention the Montague incident). Malfoy put an apple into the Cabinet, which transported the apple to Borgin and Burke's, and back. When the apple came back, however, there was a sizable chunk cut out of it. And since then, Malfoy has presumably been trying his best to fix the Cabinet.

The next scene shows Malfoy placing a bird into the Cabinet. This is after he had been trying to fix it for some time, and wanted to test it out. And it seemed to work in one direction. The bird was transported safely to Borgin and Burke's, which is why it was still singing.

However, the Cabinet wasn't fully fixed yet. So when the bird was transported back, most likely, another sizable chunk was cut out of it (that wasn't explicitly shown) and it died. This meant that it would be safe for someone to transport from Hogwarts out to Borgin and Burke's, but not safe for someone to come in. This meant Malfoy still had some work to do.

The scene was meant to show that while Malfoy hadn't completed his job yet, he still had made some progress, where the trip from Hogwarts to B&B was safe after he partially mended the Cabinet. But the trip back to Hogwarts wasn't safe yet.

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    @F1Krazy's answer proofs you wrong about what happened to the apple Apr 23, 2018 at 8:51

From the Script/Movie context and his reaction; The prior Scene with the eaten Apple was confirmation transportation was working. At least in my eyes.

First Bird Scene; I think the dead Bird was a sign you can't leave until your tasks are done, you'll die if you try. It could've been a Spell at point B) that killed it. It seemed rather instant but keep in mind this all could've been a result of poor editing and left intentionally vague. The Birds Status could've also been a sign used between Parties.

Later Bird Scene; A living Bird is seen leaving the Cabinet in a Scene with Harry, AFTER Draco left.

Another test Bird? Then it shouldn't have been left inside, it should've flown out already. Same Bird recovering from the earlier Spell and it was a message? Possibly but a Death Eater shouldn't care about harming it. Unless it's a Rating issue or a creative choice to pretend it's unharmed. A Bird test from B) to A) and back to B)? Then it shouldn't be there at Hogwarts still, it needs to be a Bird sent from point A) given the two prior Scenes. If the intent is testing only, you'd never know it was safe unless it came back to it's starting point.

Getting messy isn't it?

Draco's reaction; Could've been him upset at the imagine of Death and the hand he'll have in it but I doubt that. The reaction he gave didn't really fit with it still needing fixed either. Being afraid for himself seems the most likely in my opinion.

I know there's more observations than answers here but sometimes Movies don't convey a clear intent or give a legitimate reason for every thing they do. I figured I'd give my thoughts and the reasons for them.

I need to reread the Books but the Movies should stand alone without needing it. I feel like H.P HBP is one of the Movies that could've done a better job on that.


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