Definition: An Animagus is a witch or wizard who can transform at will into an animal.
Notable Animagi: Minerva McGonagall, Rita Skeeter, James Potter, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Remus Lupin shared that it took his fellow Marauders – James, Sirius and Peter – until their fifth year at Hogwarts to finally become Animagi and keep him company in his werewolf form. But how did they manage it? And why did it take them so long to learn how to transform into animals?
Here’s a witch or wizard’s step-by-step guide to Animagus transformation, but we’re warning you – it makes for some grizzly reading.
…in Transfiguration and Potions at least. Becoming an Animagus requires a witch or wizard to be skilled in both these areas in order to stand a chance of achieving such a complex transformation.
…for an entire month – from full moon to full moon to be precise. Yes, we’re serious. If you swallow the leaf or remove it from your mouth at any point, you have to start the whole thing again (no-one likes to see that happen). You then have to find a ‘small crystal phial that receives the pure rays of the moon’, put your saliva-filled leaf inside, and add one of your own hairs.
…for a full seven days. And if that wasn’t hard enough, you then have to add the chrysalis of a Death’s-head Hawk Moth to the crystal phial as well. Then put ‘this mixture in a quiet, dark place’ and leave it alone until the next electrical storm. And really leave it alone – don’t even look at it. Don’t even think about looking at it.
…every sunrise and sundown and speak the following incantation: ‘Amato Animo Animato Animagus’. If you keep repeating your incantation, ‘there will come a time when, with the touch of the wand-tip to the chest, a second heartbeat may be sensed.’ Don’t change anything! Keep going. Keep waiting for that storm!
…you’ve hidden your crystal phial. At last! If you’ve done everything right then you will ‘discover a mouthful of blood-red potion inside it.’ Then move somewhere where you aren’t going to alarm anyone or place yourself in physical danger during your transformation. An Animagus transformation party is definitely a bad idea.
…the incantation ‘Amato Animo Animato Animagus’ and drink the potion. You will then feel fiery pain – lucky you – and an intense double heartbeat.
…in your mind. The instructions then warn: ‘You must show no fear/ It is too late now, to escape the change you have willed’. Yikes!
…and hide it somewhere safe, so you can find it post-transformation. To return to human form, visualise your human self as clearly as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t change back immediately, ‘with practice, you will be able to slip in and out of your animal form at will, simply by visualising the creature’. Once you’re an advanced Animagus, you should be able to transform without your wand.
When the process of becoming an Animagus goes wrong, it often goes seriously wrong. We’re talking horrible half-human, half-animal mutations here, with no known cure.
The first transformation is usually ‘uncomfortable and frightening. Clothing and items such as glasses or jewellery meld to the skin and become one with fur, scales or spikes.’
When you first transform, try to avoid panicking otherwise the animal mind ‘may gain the ascendancy’ and you could do something stupid or dangerous.
‘Generally, wizards prefer to have their clothes Transfigure with them, to escape the embarrassment of reappearing naked’.
Don’t forget to log your personal details and Animagus appearance on the Animagus Registry. Failure to do this might land you in Azkaban prison.