At least some content in this article is derived from information featured in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (film). As such, spoilers will be present within the article.
A Metamorphmagus (pl. Metamorphmagi) is a witch or wizard with the ability to change their physical appearance at will, rather than requiring Polyjuice Potion or a spell like the rest of the wizarding population. They are also extremely rare.
Difference between Animagi and Metamorphmagi
- "Metamorphmagi are born, not made."
- —Tonks explaining to Harry about Metamorphmagi[src]
Unlike Animagi, Metamorphmagi can take a wide variety of forms, changing sex and age, potentially looking like anyone at all, or even just changing a part of their appearance, such as the colour of their hair or shape of their noses. Animagi also transform at will, but only into one animal form which is determined by their inner traits. It is never revealed if Metamorphmagi can take the full form of an animal, and Tonks simply describes the ability as being able to change her "appearance".
Also, a Metamorphmagus is born, not made; it is not a skill that can be learned. There also seems to be a degree of heritability, as both Nymphadora Tonks and her son, Teddy Lupin, were Metamorphmagi, although both of Tonks' parents, Andromeda and Ted, were not. The ability presents very early in life, as Teddy Lupin's hair changed colour when he was a newborn infant, as did his mother's.
Using Metamorphic abilities
It is unknown whether Metamorphmagi receive any training in developing their innate skill, or if they learn through trial and error. Given their rarity, it is unlikely that much training is available. However, Tonks has shown that she only needs to concentrate a little to change her appearance, so it may be simply a matter of the Metamorphmagi wanting to change. While it has been debated whether Animagi transformations and Disapparition require a wand, it seems Metamorphmagi do not need theirs to utilise their abilities. Tonks has claimed that other wizards need a wand or potions to transform, meaning Metamorphmagi such as herself are not restricted as such.
It is unknown if Metamorphmagi must register with the Ministry of Magic like Animagi must, as Metamorphmagi did not choose to become what they are, while Animagi did. Although unlike Animagi, Metamorphmagi do not possess any distinct markings that come with their transformation, so it would be far more difficult to keep track of them for any signs of ability abuse.
Like many other types of magic, a Metamorphmagus' abilities are affected by their emotional state. The person's appearance at any moment will often reflect the emotion the person is feeling at the time. Strong emotions, such as shock or sadness, can affect their abilities to the point of having trouble using them at all. For example, Nymphadora Tonks had difficulty using her abilities following Sirius Black's death, when she was depressed over her feelings for Remus Lupin.
Metamorphic abilities can be very helpful when it comes to disguises. For example, Nymphadora Tonks was able to put her abilities to use in performing espionage for the Order of the Phoenix. She also got full marks in Concealment and Disguise of her Auror training, implying that this ability can be used for official examinations and competitions.
Behind the scenes
- In latin, the female form of Magus is Maga. However, female Metamorphmagi are never refered to as "Metamorphmaga" or "Metamorphmagae", which would be the female plural, in canon.
In Greek, "meta" means "change," "morph" means "shape," and "magus" (in latin) means "magic or wizard." Hence, a wizard that can change shape, and the term "Metamorphosis" is the term to describe an animal changing into another animal such as how a caterpillar changes into a butterfly.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Mentioned only)
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (film) (Mentioned on a magazine cover)
- Pottermore (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault