In Transfiguration, students learn to vanish animals; snails, mice, and kittens. In the seventh book, the entrance to Ravenclaw tower asks where Vanished objects go. McGonagall replies they go into nonbeing, or everything.

“Where do Vanished objects go?”

“Into nonbeing, which is to say, everything.” replied Professor McGonagall.

“Nicely phrased,” replied the eagle door knocker, and the door swung open.

Deathly Hallows - page 501 - Bloomsbury - chapter 30, The Sacking of Severus Snape

Assuming McGonagall is correct and "objects" refers to anything vanished, living or not, wouldn't causing a living thing to go into "nonbeing" be tantamount to killing it? Obviously what happens after death is unknown, but vanished things would lose their being and probably their consciousness.

However, after the class tries to vanish mice, a "wriggling mouse tail" is all that is left of one mouse. Vanishing something is different than making it invisible, but this implies the mouse is still somehow controlling its tail, consciously or involuntarily. This doesn't seem to make any sense if the rest of the mouse has gone into nonbeing.

But all in all, wouldn't taking away something's very being, especially something as sophisticated as a cat (and more powerful wizards could probably vanish even more sophisticated animals, maybe even humans), be considered taking its life away? Is this not considered equal to killing? Would it not be regulated at least?


As you should know, much "teleportation" is regulated - students must first undergo a series of tests before they're legally allowed to apparate. As for the "vanishing" of the animals, think of them as on par to an animal you would dissect in science class. The animals were killed for this singular purpose, but there is very little remorse felt for them.

That doesn't speak to transfiguration specifically, but I'm sure the Ministry of Magic would have had some regulations in place. One of the major drawbacks, for me, of the Harry Potter series is that they don't go into more detail about the more mundane facets of society.

On a more philosophical note, McGonagall is right and vanishing isn't necessarily dying. The mere act of "being" is more a child of perspective than absolute truth. To me, you might "be" because I can see you, touch you, or smell you. Whether or not you are or are not there is irrelevant, for you "are" to me.

To phrase it in another sense, just because the mouse isn't there doesn't mean it isn't somewhere. Because we are unsure of where it is, it's logical to say that it has gone into "nonbeing" from our perspective, yet at the same time we can say it's in everything for it has the possibility of being anything/anywhere.

There seems to be some sort of conservation laws being taken advantage of through the art of Transfiguration as seen by Ron's half-rat, half-cup creation. Just because we don't usually think of an inanimate object, such as a chalice, as having a consciousness doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't have one. Because we are unsure of where/when the creatures went, or what happens when they morph, there's no telling whether or not it would have retained its consciousness or had it removed/improved.

To speak to an earlier point, I'm certain that the Ministry would have regulations in place to stop malicious/ignorant use of the magic. Even if the transformations didn't kill your target, they would at least leave them incapacitated for a time (chairs can't do much to hurt you). What could be more satisfying than knowing your worst enemy sits in your living room for the rest your days and, in turn, your guests sit on him?

  1. Vanishing does not necessarily kill someone. At the very least, if you take at face value that this is the same concept as one used in "Vanishing Cabinets" (which, aside from using identical name, isn't really established in canon). Vanishing cabinets are more like scifi teleporters. They do vanish you from point A, but reappear you eventually in point B. Like Montague, or Death Eaters that Draco brought to Hogwarts at the end of HPB.

  2. In general, killing is regulated, even if the killing method isn't Avada. For example, it'd be illegal to kill a wizard by poison, or by hitting him over the head with a cauldron.

  • I wasn't wondering whether killing was regulated, but rather if the vanishment of living things was regulated if it might be pretty much the same as killing. Also, vanishing objects seems very different than the vanishing cabinets because rather than going through a portal from point A to point B, they go "into everything." I doubt the spell placed on the cabinets is the same spell they use to vanish the animals. I just assumed all they really had in common was the name. – forgivemymoccasins Jun 26 '14 at 1:34
  • @forgivemymoccasins - JKR never specified afaik – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 26 '14 at 4:05

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.