In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets we see that Nearly Headless Nick is petrified (for lack of better description) at one point by the basilisk:

It was Nearly Headless Nick, no longer pearly-white and transparent, but black and smokey, floating immobile and horizontal, six inches off the floor.

-Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter Eleven (The Dueling Club).

I don't recall any mention of Nick recovering in CoS but he does make many appearances in the later books in the series, therefore we know that he does recover. Since he was a ghost he couldn't consume the mandrake potion directly.

Is there any indication of what is done to bring Nick back to his typical ghostly state?

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    Shouldn't it bother you more how an immaterial ghost became petrified in the first place? :) Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 3:38
  • 2
    There is no satisfactory answer to this question as far as I know, meaning from the horse's mouth: JKR. The books don't address it (I see the Deathday Party as being immaterial to Nick's petrification.). Perhaps they doused him in the Mandrake juice, sprinkling it on him like a priest would use holy water. It would be absorbed differently. Nick has to be composed of some kind of material or else he would be invisible, just a lost spirit (kind of like Voldemort in PS*/*SS). There must be something tangible about Nick for the Mandrake juice to actually touch, and therefore heal. </theory> :) Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 4:00
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    A tongue in cheek answer: as in galactanet.com/comic/view.php?strip=20 , you'd have to use the juice from the ghost of a dead Mandrake to revive Nick.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 12:49
  • @b_jonas - That makes better sense! And then you'd have to spritz Nick like you were misting a plant in order for him to absorb any of the ghostly, rotten Mandrake juice. After all, I do believe DD says the mandrake juice was "given out" by Madam Pomfrey. He never said it was actually consumed by the victims. ;) Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 13:59
  • See also scifi.stackexchange.com/q/14870/4918 How Did Voldemort Drink the Regenerative Potion Without a Body?
    – b_jonas
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 7:05

5 Answers 5


We notice after Nearly Headless Nick is petrified that:

McGonagall conjured a large fan out of thin air, which she gave to Ernie with instructions to waft Nearly Headless Nick up the stairs. This Ernie did, fanning Nick along like a silent black hovercraft.

- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 12: The Duelling Club

This indicates that anything gaseous (in this case, the fanned air) can affect ghosts physically, unlike solids and liquids which simply go through ghosts. So, I think the most likely way the Mandrake potion was administered to Nick was probably by some boiling or vapourizing process, where the vapours were then fanned into his ghost form. Of course, this is not canon (I doubt a canon answer exists yet), but just my extrapolation from the above.

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    Good answer! Shame there's no official verdict on this one. I love Harry Potter, but JK's attention to detail isn't exactly Tolkienistic, I guess.
    – Lou
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 12:05
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    So they administered the mandrake draft using a humidifier? lol
    – RedCaio
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 19:24
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    @RedCaio Yes. Clearly the spell used was humidify
    – Dason
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 15:32
  • Liquid can affect ghosts physically, according to the W.O.M.B.A.T tests (see the questions on the Lexicon and the answer key).
    – Lewis
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 17:31

We see what ghosts consider "eating" in The Chamber of Secrets,during the deathday party for Nearly Headless Nick. The ghosts pass through a table of rotten food and state that they can almost taste it.

Since that is how they "eat" they most likely just passed the potion through him in order for it to unpetrify him. Possibly they modified the potion to make it more "potent" or "rotten" to offset his ghostly "digestive" system.

  • I thought of that scene too but they don't actually digest anything. My speculation seems to be similar to yours in that they somehow get the potion to work for him... I'm just wondering if there is a better explanation for this out there.
    – Dason
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 3:27
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    Well we probably can assume that the potion doesn't need to be digested, as even the petrified persons wouldn't have working digestive systems (assuming that being petrified freezes all body functions, we do know it ceases breathing). So if the potion is processed immediately (vs. Being digested by the body which wouldn't likely be possible by a petrified person) then the same thing should happen with contact with a ghost.
    – NominSim
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 3:33

I believe Madam Pomfrey just had to sprinkle a lot of Mandrake juice around Nick's mouth. Most of that juice would be wasted, but a little would reach and revive him.

There's a precedent showing this should work, but it's not in the Harry Potter universe, but in Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. This has a plot where Charlie's grandparents were turned to babies by age-reducing magic. Willy Wonka uses a juice called the Wonka-Vite to turn the two babies to correct age (this medicine might be similar to the Ageing Potion the Weasley twins use in Goblet chapter 16). One grandparent, however, got reduced to negative age, which made him become a sort of unsolid wraith. Wonka pours lots of Wonka-Vite in his general direction, which works well except he cannot control the exact dosage that way.


We hear that, when Nick's petrified, they are able to waft his ghost along with a fan. This - and the wafting through rotten food - means ghosts are still susceptible to earthly things. I reckon they would do something like spray the potion into his mouth or turn it into vapour. There must have been some way for him to absorb it. Use your inagination - it's magic.


I think that it was more or less stated in the books that when a ghost would past trough a live body, it would grow cold. So I suppose that ghost can more or less extract something from humans such as warmth. It might be the same for the mandrake juice : perhaps they had to dunk him in a basin of the remedy and slowly let him absorbs little by little? Or maybe the dead mandrakes a turned into ghosts too and the others would have to make use of their potions making knowledge.

  • This answer would be improved you you edited it to add the quote you are referring to.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 1:10

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