7

After taking a lot of complicated notes, they were each given a match and started trying to turn it into a needle. By the end of the lesson, only Hermione Granger had made any difference to her match; Professor McGonagall showed the class how it had gone all silver and pointy -Philosopher's Stone

In this instance, Hermione successfully transforms a match into a needle.

“I know that, Harry, but if she wakes up and the locket’s gone – I need to duplicate it – Geminio! There… That should fool her….” -Deathly Hallows

And here, Slytherin's Locket is duplicated by Hermione.

Are these transfigurations permanent, or do they unravel with time?

  • 1
    I don't think that second example counts as transfiguration at all, as there's no change to the original object. Geminio seems more likely to be taught in Charms than Transfiguration. – Anthony Grist Apr 27 '18 at 15:05
  • 1
    FWIW the answer appears to be Books: yes, films no. – TheLethalCarrot Apr 27 '18 at 15:09
  • 2
    @Simpleton - A locket is not food. – JohnP Apr 27 '18 at 15:28
  • 2
    @JohnP Not a duplicate, since neither talks about transfiguration, just spells in general having the possibility of being permanent. – Dave Johnson Apr 27 '18 at 15:52
  • 1
    @DaveJohnson - Good point. Retracted. – JohnP Apr 27 '18 at 17:03
6

We know at the very least that it can be permanent. Barty Crouch Jr. transfigured his father's corpse into a bone and buried it to hide the body. If this were only temporary, then he could have disposed of it in any number of better, more permanent ways. We also know that Peter was able to stay in rat form for years, so at the very least it can be maintained indefinitely.

In the films only there's the case of Lily's fish untransfiguring upon her death, but I can't find any examples of similar effects in the books. If you count polyjuice as transfiguration, that might be the best example of a temporary transfiguration.

  • When someone, I believe Ron, transforms a pack of flamingos, they had to cancel the exam until the flamingos were out. They didn’t wait until they were transformed back to what they were. That is similar to Lily’s fish. – atayenel Apr 28 '18 at 10:16
5

Transfiguration preserves somehow the identity of the object. Otherwise it would not be possible to turn it back into its original shape (without necessarily knowing it), which we know is generally possible - though it may be difficult and require potent enchantments such as the Thief's Downfall. I think it's a reasonable limitation, since "magic always leaves traces". So in that sense at least, transfiguration is not truly permanent.

Now if the question is to know whether the spell can spontaneously fade off, after a while, or when the caster dies, or simply forgets about it… It actually may depend on the wizard's skills, their will, on the situation, on the kind of transfiguration. There is no evidence that a single rule applies. I can imagine the question still being debated from time to time in Transfiguration Today, evoking some unprecedented record of a Muggle who spent 47 years in a public garden as a birch tree until a pruning campaign got him suddenly back to normal…

3

In the films Professor Slughorn owns a fish named Francis that was once a lily petal and was transfigured into the fish by Lily. Francis disappeared when Lily died implying that transfiguration is not permanent in the movie world.

Slughorn: It was a student who gave me Francis. One spring afternoon I discovered a bowl upon my desk with a few inches of clear water. There was a flower petal floating upon the surface. As I watched, the petal sank, but just before it touched bottom... it transformed. Into a wee fish. It was beautiful magic, wondrous to behold. The petal had come from a lily. Your mother. The day I came downstairs, the day I found the bowl empty... was the day she...
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

2

We also know that Mad Eye Moody transfigured Draco Malfoy into a ferret, but was 'turned back' into a human by Professor McGonagall. I can't remember the specific quote from The Goblet of Fire, but McGonagall says something along the lines of 'We do not use transfiguration as a punishment'. This implies that transfiguration was used, and was reversible.

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