I've noticed some confusion over portkeys and their use. On this site, in particular, Why was the Triwizard Cup used as the portkey?. The question Barring legal issues, why aren't portkeys used more often? clearly identifies ministry regulations as one of the major factors in deterring use of portkeys and logistics as another deterrent for mass transportation. But how does the ministry enforce its regulations.

We know Dumbledore can circumvent this rule and makes unauthorized portkeys on multiple occasions: After Arthur's Attack, and to help Harry in leaving the Ministry in OoP after the duel with Lord V to name two.

As far as we are aware, Dumbledore is the only wizard to break this rule in the books, (I believe) and although he does so easily (and apparently receives no more consequence than Fudge's admonishment. The only possible exception to this is the creation of the portkeys after the seven potters to return everyone to the Burrow. There is some question as to whether those were unauthorized or not. If they were not authorized, then Dumbledore is not the only one to circumvent Ministry regulations and their enforcement.

"Now see here Dumbledore!" said Fudge, as Dumbledore walked over and picked up the golden head "you haven't got authorization for that portkey! You can't do things like that in front of the Minister of Magic!"

Order of the Phoenix Chapter 36 (pg. 818 in the Scholastic edition from 2003)

As usual, Dumbledore makes things look pretty easy, but there is another example in Order to prove breaking this rule is no easy task.

"How're we getting - wherever we're going?" Harry asked.

"Brooms," said Lupin. "Only way. You're too young to Apparate, they'll be watching the Floo Network, and it's more than our life's worth to set up an unauthorized Portkey."

Order of the Phoenix, The Advance Guard, Pate 52 (Scholastic:2003)

In the example above, there were a number of highly capable wizards present, Lupin, Moody, Shacklebolt, . . .

Is there any information in Book Canon I am missing, interviews with Rowling herself, on Pottermore or other sorces (that use citations - wikia doesn't work for me) that would help clear up what kinds of protections were placed to prevent the use of unauthorized portkeys and whether this applied only in England or everywhere?

  • 1
    I don't think we can assume any Portkeys other than those that appear in canon were created. By Deathly Hallows, Voldeemort et al had a pretty strong monitoring system over transportation in place; I err on the side of it being too dangerous, as Remus said, to create Portkeys at will. Maybe Barring legal issues, why aren't Portkeys used more often? might have some additional info that might help answer your question -- there's a link to some info on Portkeys from Pottermore too. Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 0:19
  • @Slytherincess I understand the legal restrictions in place, but what was it that deterred witches and wizards from doing exactly what Dumbledore does - create them anyway? Magically, how does the Ministry "catch" those persons who might attempt unauthorized portkeys? Is there any info on that? Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 1:56
  • “Dumbledore is the only wizard to break this rule in the books” – what about Barty Crouch Jr/Moody in Goblet of Fire with the Triwizard Cup?
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 21:58
  • @alexwlchan He didn't make an unauthorized key. The cup was already made into a portkey to take the winner from the center of the maze to the grandstands/start of the maze. The cup was an authorized portkey as the ministry absolutely knew about it. All Barty Jr. did was add an extra transport to the graveyard. I'm sure it was also a feat to do under Dumbledore's nose and alter the cup like that, but it is far from creating an unauthorized port-key. And even for the alteration he DID make, he suffered the Dementor's kiss - not exactly what I would call, "getting away with it." Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 22:29
  • @balancedmama: Fair enough. I’d forgotten that it was meant to sent you to the start of the maze. Although I think when they decided to give him the Dementor’s kiss, the crime of creating an unauthorised Portkey was fairly low on the list. ;)
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 23:28

1 Answer 1


A logical answer could be inferred from the way ministry of magic detects magic that is performed by underage wizards. The ministry of magic puts a trace on all wizards that are under the age of 17 to detect if they use magic where they are not supposed to. If they do then the ministry is immediately notified with the place and also the spell that was used along with the person that used it. The same method of a trace can be used by the ministry to determine if any unauthorised portkey was made. The spell to make a portkey would by default add a trace to the portkey that is being made(this could be very beneficial to track if anything went wrong while using the portkey). Now once the portkey is used the ministry is notified about the usage through the trace. If the trace is authentic (i.e. a record of that trace exists in the ministry) then no action needed otherwise the trace can immediately notify the ministry as to the identity of the person that used the spell to set up the portkey and also the place where it was being used. Therefore unauthorised portkeys could be tracked and proper punishment can be served.

As to Dumbledore using unauthorised ones. There are two possible explanations:

Dumbledore being the supreme wizard that he is knows a way around the trace possibly because he help set it (Order of the Phoenix - Harry's trail - Dumbledore reminds Fudge that he helped write a few underage laws) or it just might be the might of the Elder Wand which obeys the will of the master when it is asked to create a portkey that is not authorised.

The other explanation of this is that the Trace does not work inside Hogwarts. After Arthur's attack the portkey created by Dumbledore was in Hogwarts and hence might have skipped the trace. The second time Dumbledore creates the portkey was in front of the minister himself and therefore he might have thought that even if it is unauthorised he would have the minister himself as a witness to support his need to create a portkey.

  • 2
    Yeah, there is the trace, but that only tells the Ministry where magic was done by a minor, not who did it. IE, several minor wizards in a room, trace goes off, ministry can't tell which wizard did it. Dumbledore tells Harry in Half Blood Prince that the ministry relies on parents to enforce the law.
    – MAW74656
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 17:53

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.