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Polyjuice Potion

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Nineteen years later SPOILER WARNING! This page contains information from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk!

“Ooh, you look much tastier than Crabbe and Goyle, Harry. ...Oh, you now what I mean—Goyle’s potion looked like bogies.”
-- Hermione about to drink Polyjuice Potion to turn into Harry (DH4)

Polyjuice Potion

Effect: Transforms a person to look exactly like someone else. One dose lasts for one hour, but doses can be renewed, apparently indefinitely.

Ingredients

  • lacewing flies stewed 21 days
  • leeches
  • powdered bicorn horn
  • knotgrass
  • fluxweed picked at full moon
  • shredded boomslang skin
  • a bit of who one wants to turn into: toenail clippings, dandruff, etc. (CS10, CS11, Pm)

Preparation

  • The instructions for making this potion are found in the book Moste Potente Potions (CS9).
  • Takes a month to brew because the lacewing flies have to be stewed for 21 days, and fluxweed can only be picked during the full moon (CS9).
  • Before the last ingredient is added - the bit of the person being transformed into - the potion looks like thick dark mud and bubbles sluggishly (CS12), (HBP9)
  • When the last ingredient is added, the potion froths a great deal and changes colour, but the resulting colour varies depending on the person supplying the last ingredient (CS12)

References from the canon

  • Isn't supposed to be used for transforming humans into animals (CS12); if misused for that purpose, results in an incomplete transformation requiring skilled medical treatment to undo (CS13)
  • Polyjuice has a "slight overpowering fishy residue" and the transformation is painful (CC1.16).
  • Polyjuice Potion can be used for cross-gender transformations. Crouch Jr. used Polyjuice Potion to impersonate his mother in order to escape from Azkaban, while she used it to impersonate him (GF35). Crabbe and Goyle appear to have used it periodically during their sixth year to pass themselves off as much younger, smaller girls in order to be less conspicuous (HBP21).
  • Crouch Jr. used Polyjuice Potion to impersonate Moody, so it can account for missing limbs and scars as well as age differences (GF35)
  • Crouch Jr.  had broken into Snape's office to steal Polyjuice ingredients, but Snape accused Harry, who had stolen the same ingredients in third year along with Hermione and Ron. (GF27)
  • Harry's O.W.L. written exam included a question about Polyjuice Potion. Harry felt that he'd very well with that question, since he'd taken the potion himself a couple of years before (OP31).
  • Judging from the Ministry of Magic leaflets on the subject, there appears to be no physical way of telling the drinker of Polyjuice Potion from the original. The only security measure recommended against Polyjuice Potion is to work out a prearranged method of verifying someone's identity, such as a password or a question that only the real person should be able to answer, but this system can of course be defeated by a sufficiently thorough and clever impersonator (HBP3).
  • Polyjuice was used by six of Harry's friends in order to become identical decoys as Harry left Privet Drive and flew to the Burrow during the Battle of the Seven Potters. It was actually Snape's plan, but he planted the idea with Mundungus Fletcher in order to make sure the Order of the Phoenix would do it. (DH4, DH33)

Commentary

Etymology

"poly" Gr. many + juice

Notes

J.K. Rowling's comments on ingredient choices for Polyjuice Potion (Pm)

Lacewing flies (the first part of the name suggested an intertwining or binding together of two identities); leeches (to suck the essence out of one and into the other); horn of a Bicorn (the idea of duality); knotgrass (another hint of being tied to another person); fluxweed (the mutability of the body as it changed into another) and Boomslang skin (a shedded outer body and a new inner).

In Cursed Child, Scorpius Malfoy, who has traveled with a group to Godric's Hollow of 1981, thinks Bathilda Bagshot would have all the ingredients for Polyjuice in her basement so that Harry could transform into Voldemort. He does not take into consideration the long brewing time needed - a month, according to Hermione - so unless Bathilda had some stewed lacewing flies ready and waiting, it was not possible. Polyjuice was ruled out anyway since they did not have a "bit" of Voldemort to use in the potion, and thus Harry was transformed into Voldemort by group transfiguration (CC4.10).

Pensieve (Comments)

  • Meñique

    I wonder how the polyjuice potion ‘decides’ on the exact look of the person we are impersonating – e.g. it is supposed to copy the hair style (so that we look exactly the same), however in the goblet of fire Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody’s hair was mutilated (as it was used in big quantity by Mr Kupor jr to add to the potion during the whole year) and still the impostor looked ‘normal’ with the hair of the ‘original’ Mordon.
    (I hope I make myself clear, sorry for the English, I’m not native…)

    • Excellent point! My thought is that this is another example of how magic doesn’t work like science, with direct cause and effect. The intention of the person makes a difference. Barty Crouch Jr. intended to look like normal Moody, so when he used the potion, that’s what he looked like.

    • I always imagined (though I have no evidence to back this up, it was just my bit of imagination), something like a “starter” like is used for making Sourdough bread. When you make Sourdough bread, you keep back a portion of the previous batch as a starter for the next batch. You make your bread dough, take out 90% of the dough to make into loaves, and keep back 10% to keep safe. Then the next time you make more dough, you add to this starter, in this way certain attributes of the dough stays consistent from batch to batch.

      To this end, I’ve always imagined Crouch would just add the ingredients for the new batch of Polyjuice potion to the remainder of the old batch, making one continuous batch of Polyjuice potion, in hopes that it will help keep a consistent result to the batch’s contents.

      • Now I’m imagining Snape having a cauldron of Polyjuice starter for the Order sitting on his kitchen counter next to the sourdough starter. LOL.

Tags: brown disguises fake hair lies Mad-Eye Remembrall magical concealment spying transformation