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I looked around and I don't think any other questions explore this specific issue, but a lot of stories use transformation magic and I find it confusing. In this situation specifically I'm referring to, say, a human, who can turn into a cat (like Professor McGonagall) as an example, which is a creature that is of a smaller mass than adult humans. I suppose you could look at this kind of transformation like you look at the TARDIS (bigger on the inside), but what about if, for example, a human transformed into a dragon? In this case, the dragon is much larger than the human, so where does the mass come from? You could just say "magic" but I guess I'm looking for a more solid explanation, even if it doesn't scientifically make total sense - it is fantasy.

And one more thing that stumps me is where do their clothes go? Professor McGonagall's robes disappear with her body when she transforms into a cat. In some stories I know that when a person transforms, they lose their clothes or rip them. However, I'm not fond of the idea that every time my character transforms into a dragon, their clothes are destroyed and when its time to switch back they're suddenly naked. Maybe an enchantment, or is there a better way to explain it?

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  • $\begingroup$ Your second paragraph is already answered with its own post. Don’t ask multiple questions in one. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Feb 8 '17 at 0:40
  • $\begingroup$ Why do only clothes stay in an animal transformation? has some useful information in it. $\endgroup$ – Anketam Feb 8 '17 at 0:42
  • $\begingroup$ While not an exact duplicate, worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/65066/… is very relevant. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 8 '17 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ It may be worth waiting longer before selecting an answer - it's only been ten or twenty minutes, and great answers may continue popping up for the next few hours or even days. You can always re-accept the one you've chosen if you still like it the best, but please consider others :) $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 8 '17 at 1:18
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Pull in mass from an extra dimensional source to bulk up

Your clothes are doomed. Sorry no good way to save them unless you take them off before you transform. Just remember though transforming back into a naked person can provide some comedy relief.

Pull in surrounding matter to fuel the transformation

They absorb their clothes and all their equipment into the transformation (along with any additional mass from the surrounding environment). Once the transformation is over everything reverts back to its original form, and thus all the clothes are saved.

Body swapping with other form

Their transformed form is already prebuilt and is safely tucked away in an alternate dimension and they are more swapping out bodies rather than transforming. This also works for shrinking as much as it does growing.

When they swap out bodies all of their equipment and clothing gets swapped out with their original form. So when they swap back they get all of their stuff back too.

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  • $\begingroup$ Related : Animorphs $\endgroup$ – Vylix May 28 '17 at 0:04
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Some text has been cut or adapted from my other answers to similar questions.
All of this is pseudoscientific because magic isn't scientific.

Viruses, gene repression, and density tricks

Viruses have been observed stealing some animals' genes, and we know they can put genes back into humans. Once your fictional virus evolves to be large enough to hold a whole genome, it can steal from the creatures needed for a morph, then put their genes back into humans. The genes will be repressed so the people don't die from tumors or disfiguration, and life will go on.

Your characters can have a mechanism that expresses those genes to respond to trauma or emotion, just as gene expression changes can occur in everyday life. A little practice could control this ability.

When the time comes to morph, their cells can rapidly metabolize their human tissue - that is, they consume themselves for energy in order to get transformation mass. This will not be fast, but no scientific or even pseudoscientific method will be fast. If it helps, cell death is easy to trigger, and dormant stem cells exist for the purpose of tissue building and repair. Existing organs can be repurposed or built upon, helping the change pass quickly.

If mass needs to be lost, it can be broken down for energy or compressed to fill a smaller space. If mass needs to be gained, previously compressed areas of tissue can be decompressed, or they can have a lower density.

Alternatively, instead of a complete change, the character could have a unique morphology**. They would have a subdermal "morph" layer. Their skin and clothes would tear, rather violently, off of their body, revealing the form underneath; then that layer would tear off hours later, revealing another humanoid layer. This is not practical or comfortable, but it's fast, and it may work for some creatures.

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Quantum mechanics

This is very much like Anketam's "dimension" idea. Entangled particles could link the tissues between the morphs, and quantum tunneling could explain how things move. Superposition is also relevant for the morph process.

But instead of pulling from another dimension with magic, you use real physics (in an albeit unrealistic situation) to swap out for another body somewhere else.

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