The Polyjuice Potion

chapter twelve of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry checks in with the Sorting Hat, meets Fawkes, and briefly chats with Dumbledore; then, after Christmas dinner, Harry and Ron take Polyjuice Potion and find out Malfoy isn’t the heir of Slytherin. Hermione also takes Polyjuice, but is accidentally transformed into a partial cat.

by Keith James

The office door opened. Dumbledore came in, looking very somber. “Professor,” Harry gasped. “Your bird – I couldn’t do anything – he just caught fire -”


by Laura Freeman

“It’s a shame you had to see him on a Burning Day…. He’s really very handsome most of the time, wonderful red and gold plumage.”


Percy Weasley, by Felicia Cano

“I,” said Percy, drawing himself up, “am a prefect. Nothing’s about to attack me.”


The Polyjuice Potion, by Keith James

Harry and Ron waited with bated breath: Malfoy was surely seconds away from telling them it was him – but then – “I wish I knew who it is,” said Malfoy petulantly. “I could help them.”


Little Lord, by Elspethelf

“And Father won’t tell me anything about the last time the Chamber was opened either….”


The Cat, by gerre

Hermione let her robes fall and Ron backed into the sink.

(by gerre)


Hermione-Cat, by Bhanesidhe

“M-Millicent Bulstrode must have a cat! And the p-potion isn’t supposed to be used for animal transformations!”


about the chapter


It’s amazing to me how something about the Heir of Slytherin has induced almost a mania within Hermione, to the point where she’s willing to break dozens of rules in the process of solving the problem. Perhaps it’s because she takes such pride in being the best in her class, and Malfoy and the Heir seem determined to knock her down to a lower status, or simply a deeply ingrained sense of justice (or likely a combination of these and many other emotions). But it’s interesting to watch her transform into this fiery, passionate person, and it’s really the first glimpse we get into who she is deep inside.

The Wizarding World

Polyjuice Potion (like the Invisibility Cloak, or Animagi) is one of those things that makes me wonder how anyone ever manages to keep any order at all in the Wizarding World. Sure, it’s hard to brew – but no matter how gifted of a witch Hermione might be, the fact remains that she’s able to manage the potion when she’s twelve. Surely there are hundreds, if not thousands, of former N.E.W.T. Potions students around the country who could do the same thing? It’s pretty amazing, when you think about how easy it is for a witch or wizard to really wreak a lot of havoc. No wonder the Ministry seems to employ half the wizarding population of Britain; that’s what’s needed to find ways of keeping everyone in check!

Something to Remember

So the Malfoys have a secret chamber under their drawing room floor. It’s a room that’s good for more than just hiding Dark items, and we’ll see it come up again at some point.

The Final Word

(When asked, “If you got the chance to make a Polyjuice Potion, who would you be and why? And what would you do in the hour time limit?”)
“I’d like to be Tony Blair for an hour. I’d call a press conference and announce all the policies I’d like to implement!”
–J.K. Rowling, March 2004

31 Responses to “The Polyjuice Potion”

  1. As to the comment abotu keeping order – I’m amazed at how incompetent the Ministry is. Look at Gringotts – they weren’t fooled by Polyjuice or anything like that, and even with all the resources at their command AND a goblin with them, the Trio barely made it out. Would it really be asking too much to install such a fountain in the Ministry and other high-security places? Again, the Ministry seems way too confident in its impenetrability.

  2. Hagrid is very fervent in his attempt to defend Harry from the suspicion of having opened the Chamber. This is not only because they are friends. We’ll learn why later in the book.

    Don’t you just love George and Fred? “Make way for the heir of Slytherin, seriously evil wizard coming through…” They are the best!

  3. Sorry, I forgot to mention this in my comment above. When I listened to this chapter it kind of reminded me of the way the trio handles things in book 7. I don’t want to say more here, but maybe some of you have felt the same.

  4. Regarding the polyjuice potion, don’t forget it wears off after an hour, you must have a part of someone you are changing into, and is difficult to make – it probably uses hard to get and/or expensive ingredients. Plus, it is not something potions class would teach until 6th year. A lot of students do not take potions after O.W.L.’s, since you need to have an O for Snape’s N.E.W.T. class and an E for Slughorn’s. The book was in the restricted section – not the most easily accessible, even for advanced students. No wonder Madame Pince looked suspicious Hermione wanted the book.
    The wizarding world is at peace, so I am not surprised if few wizards bother with it, especially if you can alter (even if you can’t duplicate someone else exactly) your appearance with transfiguration?

  5. In regards to keeping order in the wizarding world…I’m inclined to believe that a lot of it is based on trust. The wizard population in Britain is pretty small (I think someone said something about 10-15 thousand?) so there’s a strong sense of community. But then Voldemort came and stirred things up, and suddenly you didn’t know who you could trust.That’s why Gringotts is so secure compared to the Ministry: goblins don’t trust anyone, but wizards trust each other (well, before Voldemort anyway).

  6. I wonder , given how hard it is to brew Polyjuice Potion, how on earth Barty Crouch Jr. was able to continually drink it for a year! How much of this stuff did he bring witrh him? A vat? I mean you do need to drink it every hour, right? And it takes a month to brew….

  7. Hermione is passionate about justice which is a great trait in an oveeracheiver like herself. I think it shows that although she is the best in her class that does not stop her from wanting others to acheive just as much as she has. This is so unlike most people, espcially Syltherins, in so many ways it’s no wonder she gets obsessed with stopping his heir.

  8. grrreg,
    Book 4 says outright how Barty Jr was able to keep making it. He stole the ingredients from Snape and held Mad Eye Moody captive and took his hair for the potion. He nearly got caught on several occasions stealing ingredients from Snape.

  9. Kim, it’s never occurred to me to make the link between what happened to Hagrid, and his strong defence of Harry. It seems so obvious now it’s been pointed out! I’ll read that bit with more interest in the future.

  10. On Hermione, I believe one reason she is so bent on stoping Slytherin’s heir is because she is a muggle-born and this is an attack on muggle-borns directly. This is the first book where prejudice against muggle-borns is introduced. Hermione’s passion shows how much she cares about equality. It also shows her bravery in not shrinking away from a horrifing prospect of being harmed or killed just because of who she is.

  11. It’s interesting that Hedwig delivers Harry’s Christmas note from the Dursleys. Do you think Aunt Petunia & Uncle Vernon sent it with her directly, or did she pick it up somewhere at a Muggle post-sorting facility? How would it be addressed?

    I also love how close Ron & Harry (disguised as Crabbe & Goyle) come to catching Percy in a romantic rendevous with Penelope Clearwater. We learn a bit later that Miss Clearwater is the Ravenclaw girl who was emerging from the entrance to the dungeons as the boys head off to find the Slytherin common room, and moments later they find Percy emerging from a side room. So Percy does have a bit of a wild streak…

  12. on their way to the slythern commmon room malfoy forgets the password to their common room before remembering apparently that its pureblood neville’s not the only one who forgets passwords btw im not surprised thats their password

  13. RE seekerbillpotter: I think Malfoy is just being an arrogant little punk there. I always read that line from him with sarcasm.

  14. I thought electrical equipment didn’t work in Hogwarts ie:Harry removing his watch disguised as Goyle

  15. I love the transformation we’re starting to see in Hermione. Up until now it was easy to have just a little bit of annoyance and dislike for her, but you really start to see a different side of here here, and it’s fantastic.

    RE: The Wizarding World – I would have to assume that the recipe for a polyjuice potion is not something easily obtained. I mean, without Lockhart, the trio would not have been able to check the book out from the library. Granted, instructors and such could do so at their will, but I feel like it’s no something that many would have access to. I would also be forced to believe that many in the wizarding world (as in the muggle world) are lazy and wouldn’t want to put forth all the time/effort/money for supplies that would be necessary to brew such a complicated potion.

    RE: The Final Word – Love it!

    @Andrea, good point about Percy and Penelope, I hadn’t made that connection ;)

  16. @ david kenny
    i did not notice it either. JKR mentions it again in GR second task
    @ rilian
    i wonder if barty crouch used the potion for almost an year, how much quantity of potion ingredients does snape keep seeing that in book 5 Jo says that harry saw SMALL bottles in which disgusting things haary couldn’t name were in snapes office

  17. As it’s so close to Christmas, I’ve been reading the Christmas chapters in each of the books.
    This made me laugh: After Hermione explains the Polyjuice plan to the boys for Christmas night, Ron turns to Harry and says, “Have you ever heard of a plan where so many things could go wrong?”
    It’s almost like a foreshadowing of two other plans towards the end of the series.

  18. My BIG question is, and I’m very surprised that no one has raised it before is how on earth did Hermione stay in the hospital wing for that long WITHOUT ANYONE asking any questions as to WHY she is a cat. Obviously she’s broken school rules but HOW can she get out of that one!?.
    (sorry if I overused caps it’s been a burning question for many years)

  19. What I find interesting about this chapter – and it’s been a while since I’ve read book 2 – but is that there isn’t more of an investigation as to why Hermione was using a polyjuice potion… I mean, when she went to see Madame Pomfrey…. was she not questioned as to why she was a cat, and why she was using a polyjuise potion, and how she got hold of a polyjuice potion??

  20. Kloe, I remember having a discussion somewhere about this topic (it’s been a long time, so forgive me for not remembering where), where we basically decided that it’s in Madame Pomfrey’s interest not to ask too many questions, or to get students in trouble for whatever caused their ailments, because it’s so important that they continue to go to her when things go wrong. If she reports Hermione, then next time the kids may be scared to go to the hospital wing – and that’s far more dangerous in the long run. Does that make sense?

  21. i think it’s funny that while ron and harry are heading back to the bathroom while they are in the process of returning to themselves,they leave crabbe and goyle’s shoes outside the closet door. really? after all they go through with these bullies, they actually give them back their shoes? i would have chucked them out a window or put spell on them to clamp down on their ankles when they put them back on.
    btw, i never paid attention as to why hagrid defends harry so adamantly. but it totally makes sense. and rowling has a great way to slide things in, like how hagrid is carrying a dead rooster but no one seems to ask him why its dead.

  22. Just stumbled upon this site and love it. I’ve been resisting the urge to comment but your discussions are too compelling to resist!

    In regard to the polyjuice potion, isn’t it against the law to use it? I think the reason the wizarding world doesn’t have to worry about everyone running around disguising their identity during a peaceful time is the same reason muggles don’t worry about people building pipe bombs in their homes all the time. It requires some skill and materials that are attainable but since it might harm others and its against the law not everyone does it.

    Also, this isn’t the first case where we’ve seen a student having to go to Madam Pomfrey from breaking serious school rules and not getting in trouble. Ron didn’t get in trouble for his dragon bite either. Like muggle doctors I feel like she’s taken the hippocratic oath and she’ll respect the privacy of her patients.

    Finally, I love Hermione’s development in this book. It’s the perfect argument against many who say Harry Potter Characters are one dimensional. =]

  23. I never even thought of that Josie. It makes absolute sense. I just assumed since it was such advanced magic something would have been said.

  24. I agree with all of the reasons said here why Hermione has gone so rebel in this book. Everything Josie said, as well as Nell’s opinion, which I had never thought of before. I’d like to add on a little bit and say I think a part of it is also Hermione’s desire to clear Harry’s name. He IS one of her best friends, and we’ll see later in the books just how far she’ll go to stay loyal and defend those she cares about. And she might actually be trying to make sure for herself that Harry isn’t the one doing evil things at Hogwarts. I’m sure she knows he would never do anything knowingly, but it has come up a couple more times that Harry might be doing evil things without his knowledge. So I think she’s not only trying to clear his name with the rest of the school, but also just make sure it isn’t him for her own knowledge.

    I also agree that Polyjuice Potion is probably just too difficult to make and so unknown within the magical community that the Ministry doesn’t worry about it too much. I think we see it so much in the books because we kind of have an insider knowledge of the magical world the likes of which no ordinary wizard and witch would know of. Most witches and wizards that go through Hogwarts never learn of such things as the different hidden passageways, not only within Hogwarts, but going out of it as well (the one to Honeydukes and then the one underneath the Whomping Willow), that being said, just WHY the Whomping Willow is there in the first place (as well as the Shrieking Shack’s true purpose), or the Room of Requirement, or where Dumbledore’s office is, or where the Chamber of Secrets is hidden. It just goes to show, that while we walk alongside Harry in the series, we learn much more than any ordinary student does. I think the Polyjuice Potion is one of those things. Only high-level Potions students learn of it and how to make it because of what career they’re going for, and I think it’s safe to assume most, if not all, adult witches and wizards in Great Britain have gone through Hogwarts. The Order of the Phoenix knows of it and how to make it because of the fact that most are aurors or ex-aurors, or are just well-learned enough to be in-the-know. Anyway, I’m rambling. My point is, the Polyjuice Potion is rare and difficult enough to make, to the point that the Ministry doesn’t worry about too many people using it, especially on a regular basis, to create too much havoc.

    One other thing I’d like to point out: When Fred and George are joking around about everyone thinking Harry is the Heir of Slytherin, one of their lines is: “Yeah. he’s off to the Chamber of Secrets for a cup of tea with his FANGED SERVANT.” I found this rather odd. Is this just a simple slight on the fact that Harry is a Parselmouth? That seems likely. It just seems strange to me that they’d be so close to exactly what Tom Riddle was/is doing: using a fanged monster servant to petrify/kill Muggle-born students at Hogwarts. It almost makes you wonder if they know more than they’re letting on… almost =P

  25. Hello Josie. Your site is brilliant. I’ve been re-reading all seven books with your chapter by chapter analysis.
    Could you tell me when is it that we find out more about the secret chamber below the drawing room in malfoy’s manor? I can’t seem to remember.
    I also wonder if Ron or Harry ever told Arthur Weasley about the room, and if they did, how come the Ministry never went to check.

  26. We find out that Goyle’s potion turned “the khaki colour of a bogey” whilst Crabbe’s turned a “dark, murky brown”. We later find out the colour of Harry’s but I wonder what colour the others’ would be. Any ideas?

  27. @Casey… you are soo right and it blew my mind. That and the fact that it makes so much *sense*. Harry *never* entered the wizarding world as a normal student, and Ron and Hermione -by default- are swept into the same category. Wow.

  28. Giorgia Meghnagi, the chamber under the drawing room floor came up again in Book 7. It is where the dungeons are; so to speak, it is where Ollivander and Luna were held captive.

  29. I’m surprrised nobody’s asked this yet! What the heck was in the box Malfoy found in the common room???

  30. I have always thought that the reason Hermione went rebellious is because she was a muggle born and she didn’t want to bee atacked just because of her blood status and felt she had to do something even if she broke some of the school rules(sorry for my spelling and grammar).

  31. @David Kenny – Watches aren’t necessarily electrical equipment. If Harry had a more old-fashioned, hands on a dial, clockwork watch instead of a fancy digital watch, it would work just fine at Hogwarts.

    @Marina – I’m pretty sure the box you’re thinking of only exists in the movie version of CoS, which, as we all know, is far from canon. :) But since this is happening on Christmas night, I would just assume it was someone’s unopened gift.

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