Can Polyjuice Potion change someone who is "dead" into someone else, or does it only work on living wizards and witches?


We know from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that dead people stay in their transfigured form as Barty Crouch's mother died and was buried as him:

“My mother died a short while afterward in Azkaban. She was careful to drink Polyjuice Potion until the end. She was buried under my name and bearing my appearance. Everyone believed her to be me.”

*Harry Potter and the Goblet of fire, Chapter 35 - The Madness of Mr. Crouch

But we also know, that one needs to drink the Polyjuice Potion for it to start working. I have no idea how you would make a dead person drink the potion. That's why I don't think it's possible to change a dead persons' look via Polyjuice potion.

EDIT: to answer the additional questions from the comments: what makes medicine (or alcohol) effective after drinking it? It becomes active by being digested or absorbed. I don‘t think that this process still works in a dead body. And I personally imagine the effect of a potion that has to be drunken to be the same: no digestive activity, no effect. So just magically put the potion into ones stomache should not make any difference...

  • 1
    This quote always made me wonder if a person who died while under the effects of Polyjuice Potion got stuck that way. Odinarily it wears off in an hour or so; even with magic, that's a very short time in which to examine the body for cause of death, file the proper paperwork, arrange whatever funeral they're entitled to, transport the body to the place of burial, and actually bury them. Nov 13 '18 at 15:15
  • 2
    Maybe she was buried within the hour?
    – Alex
    Nov 13 '18 at 15:16
  • 1
    One may try force-feeding the dead body with the potion.
    – Ruslan
    Nov 13 '18 at 15:20
  • 5
    Maybe you need working metabolism for potion to change appearance and wear off. For alive person it will be disposed out of body with a hour. But if it's was consumed by alive person which then died, potion may stay in the body.
    – user28434
    Nov 13 '18 at 15:52
  • It is possible she was buried very quickly. They believed her to be Barty Crouch Jr. A criminal in Azkaban. Surely prisoners there die regularly. It would depend on what they do with dead criminals. Do they actually afford them proper burials and release them to family? Or do they just dump em somewhere. shrug Nov 13 '18 at 17:29

No, because dead people can’t drink the potion.

Every time someone uses Polyjuice Potion to transform into another person, they have to actually drink the potion. It only starts transforming them after they swallow it.

“Pinching his nose, Harry drank the Potion down in two large gulps. It tasted like overcooked cabbage.

Immediately, his insides started writhing as though he’d just swallowed live snakes – doubled up, he wondered whether he was going to be sick – then a burning sensation spread rapidly from his stomach to the very ends of his fingers and toes.”
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 12 (The Polyjuice Potion)

Since dead people can’t swallow, and there’s no indication that it’ll work if it just makes contact with the person, but they don’t actually drink it, it’s very likely Polyjuice Potion won’t have any effect on someone who’s already dead before the attempt to give them the potion.

In addition, it seems likely they need to be alive to transform.

Even if the Polyjuice Potion was shoved down the dead person’s throat, it still almost surely won’t work. It also seems like the person using Polyjuice Potion needs to be alive to transform. Barty Crouch Jr.’s mother had been using it to transform herself into him, but when she died, she didn’t turn back to herself - she stayed as Barty Crouch Jr. even though the potion should have worn off.

“My mother died a short while afterwards in Azkaban. She was careful to drink Polyjuice Potion until the end. She was buried under my name, and bearing my appearance. Everyone believed her to be me.”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 35 (Veritaserum)

Though the Dementors themselves are blind, Sirius saw Barty Crouch Jr. being buried from inside Azkaban, and saw the corpse as him, not his mother.

“Crouch never came for his son’s body. The Dementors buried him outside the fortress, I watched them do it.”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 35 (Padfoot Returns)

Since Barty Crouch Jr.’s mother didn’t transform back after using Polyjuice Potion and then dying before it wore off, it seems likely that Polyjuice Potion won’t work to transform a dead person.

  • 3
    What's the difference between swallowing the potion and having it poured down your throat? Nov 13 '18 at 16:46
  • @AnthonyGrist There’s no real difference, at least I don’t think - my point was more it has to be taken internally. However, it’s unlikely that pouring it down their throat won’t work either, as it seems a person has to be living to transform using Polyjuice.
    – Obsidia
    Nov 13 '18 at 17:45
  • 5
    @AnthonyGrist - A functioning metabolism to digest and spread the potion's effects?
    – RDFozz
    Nov 13 '18 at 17:46
  • 2
    Ma "Barty" was seen dead by Sirius as the Dementors took her away to bury her outside the fortress. The removal could have easily been within an hour of her last consumption of Polyjuice. Since the Dementors can't see, and burial of a prisoner was likely not a spectator sport, we really don't know if she transformed back after Sirius' last sighting of her. We have no account of anyone else within the prison seeing her, so there's no conclusive evidence either way that she stayed transformed.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 13 '18 at 18:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.