Spoiler alert!!

In Chapter 36 of Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore makes a portkey to send Harry back to Hogwarts just after the duel with Lord V.

"I Shall explain everything," repeated Dumbledore, "when Harry is back at school."

He walked away from the pool to the place where the golden wizard's head lay on the floor. He pointed his wand at it and muttered, "Portus." The head glowed blue and trembled noisily against the wooden floor for a few seconds, then became still once more.

"Now you see here, Dumbledore!" said Fudge, as Dumbledore picked up the head and walked back to Harry carrying it.

Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 36 - Page 818 (scholastic 2003)

What amazes me is that Dumbledore then picks it up and isn't carried back to Hogwarts himself. Then, Harry is transported back to Hogwars immediately upon touching the statue head - no delay whatsoever.

We do know objects can be charmed to distinguish between the skin of one person and another (such as the golden snitch and wands for that matter) In the case of wands we don't really know how the wand distinguishes its master from other witches and wizards, but we know it does. In the case of the snitch however, it is touch sensitive and is created to distinguish which seeker caught it first. This of course, works after the seeker has actually touched it once in the first place. I simply site these as examples of magical objects being able to tell one person from another.

Can a portkey be made to be used by a single, specific person so that even if others touch it, it will not act as a portkey?

  • 1
    Lord V? The fifth lord?
    – Atsby
    Apr 1, 2015 at 0:17
  • Almost every spell in HP has a counter-spell. It is entirely likely that a knowledgeable wizard can pick up an active portkey without being transported by it, provided of course that he or she is aware it is a portkey. Apr 1, 2015 at 0:53
  • Being Dumbledore hath its privileges.
    – davidbak
    Mar 21, 2016 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


It was probably time-sensitive rather than touch-sensitive.

We've seen Portkeys that are activated by the first person who touches them, but we've also seen Portkeys that activate at a certain time and work on anyone touching them at that moment (the Portkey to the Quidditch World Cup in Goblet of Fire).

It's likely that Dumbledore made a time-sensitive Portkey with a short "fuse," so he could hand it to Harry before it activated. This might be a little risky, but Dumbledore seems like the kind of guy who is confident enough in his abilities to not be worried about getting the timing wrong.

We could also speculate that he did, indeed, know how to make a person-specific Portkey, but I don't know of any further evidence to support the idea. Inventing entirely new subsets of magic to explain something that could be explained with spells we already know about seems unnecessary. Several of JKR's plots hinge on our knowing how Portkeys work, and casually throwing out other kinds of Portkey mechanics for no reason doesn't seem like her style.

Of course, the whole thing could just be a goof that her editor didn't catch.

  • 1
    I don't know, that seems fairly risky. If it had activated a moment too soon, Dumbledore would have been transported away leaving Harry there to answer questions. Dec 5, 2013 at 4:09
  • 2
    @ratchetfreak Fanfics aren't canon, so they aren't relevant. I don't think there's any canon evidence that Portkeys with external triggers actually exist in the Potterverse. Dec 5, 2013 at 12:51
  • 3
    @balancedmama Perhaps equally logical, but not equally likely. Dumbledore managed to orchestrate the events of Deathly Hallows before his death, his being able to time a Portkey correctly doesn't seem like much of a stretch. Dec 5, 2013 at 12:58
  • 3
    Is it possible that Portus ignores the wizard/witch casting the spell right after it is cast? A sorta protection measure so that the castor doesn't get ported the moment the enchantment takes hold? I know there is no canon reference for this.. But could be..
    – Stark07
    Apr 30, 2014 at 4:55
  • 1
    @Stark07 In the world of magic visualisation plays an important part of spell casting. My own assumption here is that Dumbledore visualised the parameters of the spell as he verbalised 'Portus'. If we accept this idea then Harry would have been the target of the portkey and no one else.
    – Ian Lewis
    Nov 4, 2015 at 13:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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