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"Voldemort raised his wand, and before Harry could do anything to defend himself, before he could even move, he had been hit again by the Cruciatus curse. The pain was so intense, so all-consuming, that he no longer knew where he was... white-hot knives were piercing every inch of his skin, his head was surely going to burst with pain; he was screaming more loudly than he'd ever screamed in his life — "
Harry Potter under the effects of the curse[src]

The Cruciatus Curse (Crucio), also known as the Torture Curse,[2] is a tool of the Dark Arts and one of the three Unforgivable Curses. It is one of the most powerful and sinister spells known to Wizardkind. When cast successfully the curse inflicts intense, excruciating pain on the victim. The penalty for use of this curse on another human being is a life sentence in Azkaban, unless the caster did so under the influence of the Imperius Curse.[1]

Considering that the curse does not physically harm the victim, it is possible that it only stimulates pain receptors. The two most well-known victims of this curse are former Aurors Alice and Frank Longbottom: the Longbottoms were tortured into insanity with it by Death Eaters Bellatrix, Rodolphus, Rabastan Lestrange, and Barty Crouch Jr.

History

Middle Ages

"The Cruciatus, Imperius and Avada Kedavra Curses were not made unforgivable until 1717."
Albus Dumbledore[src]
The Cruciatus Curse was invented during the early Middle Ages, by dark witches or wizards. The curse was created for torture purposes but has also been used effectively in duels. According to Barty Crouch Jr, the curse was once very popular.

After the Wizards' Council was reformed into the Ministry of Magic tighter restrictions were placed on the use of certain kinds of magic. The Cruciatus Curse was deemed by the Ministry to be dark magic, and, along with the Imperius and Killing curses, were declared "unforgivable" in 1717. The use of any of these three curses on a fellow human being would result in a life sentence in Azkaban (unless there was sufficient evidence that the caster did so under the influence of the Imperius Curse or for other defensible reasons)

Many Secret Keepers in the past have been subjected to the Cruciatus and Imperius Curses in an attempt to learn the secrets they keep, but to no avail as the Keeper must reveal it willingly.[3]

First Wizarding War

During the First Wizarding War, when Barty Crouch Snr was in charge of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, he fought violence with violence and legalised the three Unforgivable Curses for Aurors against the Death Eaters in order to win the war. This was immediately repealed once the war was over, as it was no longer necessary.

B4C30M1 Wizengamot trial Pensieve memory

Rodolphus Lestrange, Bellatrix Lestrange, Rabastan Lestrange, and Barty Crouch Jr, tried before the Council of Magical Law

Shortly after Voldemort's defeat, four Death Eaters — three Lestranges: Bellatrix, Rodolphus and Rabastan; along with Barty Crouch Jr — captured Auror Frank Longbottom and his wife Alice and tortured the two with the Cruciatus Curse for information on Voldemort's whereabouts. The repeated and prolonged usage of the curse caused the couple to become insane, the four to be captured and tried in front of the Council of Magical Law. All of them were found guilty and sentenced to life in Azkaban. This act was considered to be the most atrocious and infamous in modern history.

Between the wars

"The Cruciatus Curse might loosen your tongue."
—Dolores threatening Harry Potter with the curse[src]
Despite the repeal of the curse's legal usage, in the 1994-1995 school year, Barty Crouch Jr, under the disguise of Alastor Moody, showed these three curses to his fourth year classes on spiders despite the Ministry's disapproval. However, since the use of the curse was illegal only on a fellow human being, the demonstration of the curses on the spider may have been within legal boundaries.
UmbridgeCrucio

Umbridge poised to perform the Cruciatus Curse on Harry Potter in 1996

Dolores Umbridge, in a last-ditch efforts to draw information from Harry Potter, almost used the curse on him, certain in the belief that she would not be called upon to answer for it due to the only witnesses to the act being Harry and his closest friends (and the present Slytherin students would not support Harry in any way, Draco Malfoy was even looking eagerly to see it occur), and that she would be able to avoid punishment for the curse due to the political climate either way. However, she was dissuaded from using the curse by Hermione Granger, who gave Umbridge a false story in order to save Harry.

When Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange killed Harry's godfather Sirius Black, Harry chased down Bellatrix and performed the curse on her out of rage. However, it was performed unsuccessfully as Harry was doing it with "righteous anger" and couldn't muster the will to actually cause her harm.

Second Wizarding War

"Tell me the truth or, I swear, I shall run you through with this knife! What else did you take, what else? ANSWER ME! CRUCIO!"
—Overheard parts of Bellatrix's interrogation of Hermione Granger[src]
In 1997 Draco Malfoy, in a fit of rage and recklessness, attempted it on an eavesdropping Harry and later in the same year, Harry attempted to use it on Severus Snape during the Battle of the Astronomy Tower but was prevented from uttering the whole incantation due to Snape's use of Legilimency.

When Lord Voldemort took over the Ministry, the three curses were once again legalised: this time every wizard and witch had the right to use them as they please. In fact, they were practised in Hogwarts as part of the curriculum of Dark Arts class under the tutelage of Professor Amycus Carrow: students were required to practise the Cruciatus Curse on other students who earned detention, and the Carrow siblings used it to punish students as they see fit.

Harry-potter-deathly-hallows1-movie-screencaps.com-14694

Bellatrix brutally torturing Hermione Granger after subjecting her to the Cruciatus Curse

Hermione Granger had this curse used on her by Bellatrix Lestrange during her interrogation at Malfoy Manor in March of 1998. Harry Potter managed to successfully use it on Amycus Carrow without legal consequences as well as a result of this legalisation. After Voldemort's death and the revolutionising of the Ministry under new Minister for Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt, the three curses were once again forbidden and their original penalties restored.

Harry Potter had a vision of Lord Voldemort ordering Draco Malfoy to use the curse on Thorfinn Rowle after he and Antonin Dolohov failed to capture Harry at Tottenham Court Road. Although he saw nothing of Dolohov's punishment, Narcissa Malfoy later mentioned "what he did to Rowle and Dolohov" when she was afraid to contact Voldemort.[4]

Nature

"It was pain beyond anything Harry had ever experienced; his very bones were on fire; his head was surely splitting along his scar... he wanted it to end... to black out... to die."
—Description of the pain one feels while under the Curse[src]
Harry being tortured

Harry Potter while under the effects of the curse

The pain caused by the Cruciatus Curse is described by Harry Potter as being worse than "one thousand white-hot knives, boring into the skin" and beyond what most people will ever experience.[1] The sensation of the curse is so intense that the person under the effects wishes for unconsciousness and even death, as a means of escaping the searing pain.

This pain can cause permanent mental injury if exposed to for prolonged time, as in the case of the aforementioned Longbottoms, who spent the rest of their lives in St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries because of the trauma the curse caused.[5] This incident was considered very heinous, even worse than death. Presumably, such permanent effects are not uncommon if the victim is exposed to a particularly intense curse for a long period of time.

B5C23M1 Christmas at St Mungo's

Frank and Alice Longbottom are permanent residents in the Janus Thickey Ward for spell damage

As Memory Charms can be broken through torture, the Cruciatus Curse is capable of such a feat, though it requires a certain level of exposure in time and intensity to break through it. Bertha Jorkins suffered such a trial, and the end results was that both her body and mind was damaged beyond repair.[1]

Although it is possible to use the curse on Secret Keepers to inflict pain on them, it is impossible to use it to force the secret out of them, as it must be done on the Keeper's free will.[3]

If the curse hits an inanimate object, it may cause it to shatter instead.[6]

Performance

"You need to mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain — to enjoy it — righteous anger won’t hurt me for long — I’ll show you how it is done, shall I?"
—Bellatrix Lestrange's instructions on how to use an Unforgivable Curse[src]
Crucio1

Harry Potter attempting the Cruciatus Curse, using "righteous anger"

To successfully perform this curse, merely uttering the incantation is not enough; the wizard or witch must possess a deep desire to cause the victim pain and to take pleasure in their suffering. For example, despite being furious with Bellatrix Lestrange for her murder of his godfather in 1996, Harry Potter was only able to cause her a brief moment of pain with the Cruciatus Curse because he used it in "righteous anger," though he was still able to knock her off of her feet with it.[5]

Harry performed it more effectively in 1998 on Amycus Carrow, who spat in Minerva McGonagall's face. Amycus was thrown into the air and knocked unconscious.[6] This suggests that although Harry's curse was intense, he still lacked the fundamental sadism to inflict prolonged, excruciating pain with it. On the other hand, due to Bellatrix being a witch with profound sadistic intents and an utter lack of conscience, she was able to cast the curse with an almost daunting potency, and seemingly had an affinity to it. In such cases, it becomes evident that the curse's potency and results vary from caster to caster and its effects are expected to be rendered relatively ineffective when used by either those who are inexperienced or timid.

Defence

Once cast, there is no spell that can defend against the Cruciatus Curse.[7] However, there are still evasive options available against it. The spell can be dodged by hiding behind a solid object, and a particularly strong-willed wizard can merely resist the pain until the spell is lifted, as Harry Potter refused to plea to Voldemort when being tortured by this curse and Hermione Granger managed to lie to Bellatrix Lestrange through the curse (though, as noted above, prolonged exposure can cause permanent mental damage). Another option is to interrupt the caster before they can finish speaking the incantation, as Severus Snape did to great effect against Harry Potter in 1997 by using Legilimency to anticipate the spells he would use. Furthermore, like with the Killing Curse, it can also be intercepted with a few other powerful fast spells.

Should the caster be using the Elder Wand, or actually any wand, without winning its allegiance, to cast the curse onto its true master, the wand will refuse to inflict any pain onto its master. However, there will still be a certain level of impact that can send the body flying.[8]

The most powerful Shield Charms are, in combination with several other protective enchantments, capable of preventing the curse.

Although the main purpose of the Cruciatus Curse is to torture, it cannot be used to break through the defences set by the Fidelius Charm, as the secret must be revealed willingly and voluntarily.[3] Also, if the victim does not possess the desired information (such as Alice and Frank Longbottom), then usage of the curse serves little to no purpose in information gathering.

Applications

As its title of an 'unforgivable curse' suggests, the Cruciatus Curse has only very limited practical uses.

Besides its basic use to sadistically inflicting pain, the curse is most popularly applied as a method of punishment and a method of interrogation. The advent of truth serums rendered the Cruciatus curse as obsolete and a generally impractical method for this specific purpose. However, should truth serums be not available, the interrogator may opt to use the torture curse instead. Compared with the use of truth serums, the Cruciatus curse is much less efficient, as the person being interrogated has a high risk of falsely confessing in order to relieve their suffering under the spell, regardless whether they actually hold the information the interrogator wishes to seek and extract.

Known uses

"Harry shouted, “ Crucio! ” The Death Eater was lifted off his feet. He writhed through the air like a drowning man, thrashing and howling in pain, and then, with a crunch and a shattering of glass, he smashed into the front of a bookcase and crumpled, insensible, to the floor."
—Harry Potter's use of the curse before the Battle of Hogwarts[src]

Successful use

Caster(s) Victim(s) Date Notes
Gellert Grindelwald

[6]

Aberforth Dumbledore 1899 Retaliation for criticising his plans.
Bartemius Crouch, Jr Frank and Alice Longbottom

[1]

1981 Used to gain information about Lord Voldemort's whereabouts. Tortured into insanity. Permanent residents at St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.
Rabastan Lestrange
Rodolphus Lestrange
Bellatrix Lestrange
Bellatrix Lestrange Neville Longbottom

[5]

18 June, 1996 Battle of the Department of Mysteries presumably to injure/kill/ insult Neville to join his parents' fate.
Hermione Granger

[6]

March, 1998 Torture tactic concerning the Sword of Gryffindor.
Patricia Rakepick A Dark Wizard 1988/1989 To demonstrate Jacob's sibling the curse's effects in the Knockturn Alley.[9]
Merula Snyde 1989 To acomplish The Cabal's orders of killing one of Jacob's sibling's friends before the end of the year; however, she was stopped by Jacob' sibling and other students before she accomplished the task.
Lord Voldemort Bertha Jorkins

[1]

Summer 1994 To break the memory charm cast on her by Barty Crouch Snr so as to gain information about the Triwizard Tournament and the Quidditch World Cup; Bertha was damaged beyond repair as a result.
Harry Potter

[1]

24 June, 1995 Little Hangleton graveyard, twice during a duel.
Gaspar Avery

[1]

24 June, 1995 Punishment also following false information concerning his prophecy.
Peter Pettigrew

[1]

Late May 1995 As punishment for allowing Barty Crouch Snr to escape.
Garrick Ollivander

[6]

27 July, 1997 To give information about Voldemort's wand, and the effects Harry's wand had on Lucius Malfoy's.
Bartemius Crouch Jr A spider[1] 5 September, 1994 Demonstrated the curse's effects during Defence Against the Dark Arts class, while impersonating Alastor Moody.
Viktor Krum Cedric Diggory

[1]

24 June, 1995 During the Triwizard Tournament, Third Task, while under the Imperius Curse by Barty Crouch Jr disguised as Alastor Moody.
Death Eaters Rufus Scrimgeour

[6]

1 August, 1997 To try to obtain information about Harry Potter
Ted Tonks

[6]

Andromeda Tonks

[6]

Draco Malfoy Thorfinn Rowle

[6]

Under Voldemort's orders, as punishment for letting Harry Potter escape from Tottenham Court Road.
Antonin Dolohov

[6]

Alecto Carrow Michael Corner

[6]

1997/1998 Punishment for freeing a first-year student from detention.
Amycus Carrow
Carrows, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle Neville Longbottom

[6]

Punishment for disobedience.
Seamus Finnigan

[6]

D.A. members[6]
Hogwarts students
Harry Potter Amycus Carrow

[6]

1 May, 1998 Used it to torture after he spat in McGonagall's face, completely incapacitating him.
Delphini Scorpius Malfoy 2020 Delphini used this spell three times on Scorpius in 2020, in an attempt to make him do what she wanted.[10][11]

Attempted use

Caster(s) Victim(s) Date Notes
Dolores Umbridge Harry Potter 18 June, 1996 Headmistress Dolores Umbridge attempted to use the curse against Harry as an interrogation tactic, but Hermione Granger interrupted her incantation.[5]
Bellatrix Lestrange After failing to successfully curse Bellatrix with the Cruciatus curse out of righteous anger for murdering Sirius Black, she then decided to teach Harry a lesson of actually meaning to cause harm by her attempting the same curse on him, only for him to dodge it.
Draco Malfoy Early May, 1997 Draco attempted the curse when Harry stumbled upon him in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, but was interrupted when Harry attacked him with Sectumsempra.
Attempted curse
Vincent Crabbe 2 May, 1998 During a skirmish in the Room of Requirement. Harry dodged the curse, and its force hit a stone bust of a warlock instead.[6]
Lord Voldemort 2 May, 1998 During the Battle of Hogwarts, Voldemort used the Cruciatus Curse on what he believed to be Harry Potter's dead body as a way of dishonouring it and to show he had won. Harry felt no pain because the wand Voldemort used, the Elder Wand, refused to harm its true master. However, Harry's body was tossed around by the force of the spell.[6]
Harry Potter Bellatrix Lestrange 18 June, 1996 As mentioned above, Harry attempted to use this curse against Bellatrix after she murdered his godfather, Sirius Black. Though the curse gave her a brief moment of terrible pain, it did not cause the excruciating, drawn-out pain it is meant to give (though it did also knock her off her feet).[5]
Severus Snape 30 June, 1997 Following Professor Snape killing Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Harry pursued him and tried to curse him, but Snape blocked it, citing Harry's inferior skills in Occlumency. All Harry had managed to get out was the first syllable of the incantation.[12]
Amycus Carrow Ginny Weasley 30 June, 1997 During the Battle of the Astronomy Tower; through the assistance of Felix Felicis, Ginny dodged multiple attempts.[12]
Death Eaters Various 1997-1998 Many people were on the run with Snatchers and Death Eaters chasing them, Harry, Ron, and Hermione broke into Gringotts Wizarding Bank and were chased by guards, a great battle took place at Hogwarts Castle.
Snatchers 1997-1998
Gringotts Bank guards

[13]

1997-1998

Possible use

Caster(s) Victim(s) Date Notes
Carrows Harry Potter 30 June, 1997 As Harry Potter chased Severus Snape away from Hogwarts at the end of the Battle of the Astronomy Tower, he was hit from behind by a curse cast by one of the Carrow siblings, which caused him sharp pain. Although no incantation was heard, he fell to the ground, screaming, and momentarily lost track of what was going on. These harmful effects, along with the fact that the Carrows had been trying to curse him all the way down from the Astronomy Tower, makes it likely that he was harmed with the Cruciatus Curse.[14]
Death Eaters Luna Lovegood 1997-1998 Since Luna was held prisoner at Malfoy Manor for months, it is possible she was also tortured with it.
Selwyn Xenophilius Lovegood 30 December, 1997 When Harry, Ron and Hermione visited Xenophilius at his home in order to know the legend of the Deathly Hallows, Xenophilius alerted Death Eaters about Harry's presence. Selwyn, suspicious that the wizard had been lying, beat up Lovegood and tortured him.[15]
Lord Voldemort Malfoys and Bellatrix Lestrange March, 1998 After Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the other prisoners escaped from Malfoy Manor, Harry had a vision of Voldemort punishing Bellatrix and the Malfoys, but whether he used the Cruciatus Curse was not mentioned.[16]

Media

Etymology

Crucio means 'I torture'. Cruciatus takes its name from the Latin word for "pain" or "torture," the root of which can be seen in other words such as "excruciating" and "crucifixion."

Behind the scenes

  • When Harry Potter attempts to cast this spell on Bellatrix Lestrange, a ball of red light is fired from the tip of his wand, most likely because his spell was cast with "righteous anger", not outright sadism, cruelty or pure malice. The spell still had enough force to knock Lestrange off her feet.
  • In the console versions of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game), the cutscene where Umbridge is taken into the Forbidden Forest, she uses this curse instead of the Incarcerous Spell on a Centaur, and it looks like a flash of green light that strikes the Centaur. However, in the scene where Harry chases Bellatrix through the Ministry, he casts it and it looks like the Disarming Charm (which was a yellowish-white in colour) and it blasted her off her feet.[17]
  • Severus Snape once asserted Harry Potter had neither the nerves nor the skill to perform Unforgivable Curses.[12] However, less than a year later, Harry succeeded in cursing Amycus Carrow. — This move was met with criticism by some fans, who felt that Harry had sunk to the same level as his enemies in using it in such a manner. J.K. Rowling countered such criticism by asserting that "Harry is not, and never has been, a saint", and that he has flaws of character like everybody else.[18]
  • In the the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, instead of using three spiders to demonstrate the Unforgivable Curses, Barty Crouch Jr uses one Amblypygi.[2]
  • Also in the film adaption of Goblet of Fire, when Voldemort casts the curse on Harry Potter, a sound resembling electricity or lightning can be heard in the background. It is possible that one of the feelings of pain caused by the curse could be similar to that of electrocution.[2]
  • In the original script of the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter said "Cruciatus" while battling Severus Snape in Hogwarts grounds instead of using the real incantation which is "Crucio".
  • In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, only Dark Wizards, including Peter Pettigrew, Lord Voldemort, and Barty Crouch Jr can use Dark Magic, which consists of the Killing Curse (Peter Pettigrew is the only LEGO Dark Wizard who can't use Avada Kedavra) and the Cruciatus Curse. Whenever a Dark Wizard uses the Levitation Charm on a person, it instead changes to the Cruciatus Curse. When this is used, the pink light of the Levitation Charm is missing when targeting a person, but replaced by a blood red. the victim hovers several feet off the ground, and purple lights emit from their joints. After a few seconds, they die.[19]
  • In Harry Potter for Kinect Voldemort can use this spell against Harry in the final battle during Voldemort's Last Stand as they engage in a normal duel.
  • As the Cruciatus Curse leaves no visible mark on the body of the victim, it is reasonable to assume that the curse, rather than inflicting pain through injury, instead somehow magically triggers a stimulus in the pain centre of the brain of the victim. The fact that the minds of Frank and Alice Longbottom 'cracked' after enduring it a long time and they were rendered insane, support this theory.
  • In an early draft of the fifth film, Professor Umbridge actually uses the Cruciatus Curse on Harry Potter, rather than making as if to do so before being cut off by Hermione Granger.

Appearances

Notes and references

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Secret Keeper" at Wizarding World
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  7. Wizards' Ordinary Magic and Basic Aptitude Test, Grade 3, Question 14. This fact is confirmed as true when corroborated with evidence from Wonderbook: Book of Spells.
  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
  9. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 5, Chapter 19 (The Unforgivable Curses)
  10. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Act Three, Scene Nineteen
  11. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Act Three, Scene Twenty
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game)
  14. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 28 (Flight of the Prince)
  15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 21 (The Tale of the Three Brothers)
  16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 24 (The Wandmaker)
  17. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
  18. Bloomsbury Live Chat with J.K. Rowling
  19. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4


Defence Against the Dark Arts (D.A.D.A.)
Subjectsdada
D.A.D.A. at Hogwarts
Classroom 3C · Temporary Classroom · Hogwarts Turris Magnus · Teacher's Office · Storeroom · Staircase · Lesson Cup · Race Cup · Dumbledore's Army
Professors
Arsenius Jigger · Albus Dumbledore · Galatea Merrythought · Patricia Rakepick · Quirinus Quirrell · Gilderoy Lockhart · Remus Lupin · Bartemius Crouch Junior (as Alastor Moody) · Dolores Umbridge · Severus Snape · Amycus Carrow (as Dark Arts teacher)
Textbooks
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection · Break with a Banshee · Gadding with Ghouls · Holidays with Hags · Travels with Trolls · Voyages with Vampires · Wanderings with Werewolves · Year with the Yeti · The Essential Defence Against the Dark Arts · Defensive Magical Theory · Dark Arts Defence: Basics for Beginners · Confronting the Faceless · Magical Drafts and Potions
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Creatures studied at Hogwarts under D.A.D.A.
Banshee · Boggart · Cornish Pixie · Dementor · Erkling · Ghost · Ghoul · Grindylow · Gytrash · Hag · Hinkypunk · Iguana · Imp · Inferius · Kappa · Nocturnal beasts · Red Cap · Snake · Troll · Vampire · Vampire bat · Werewolf · Yeti · Zombie
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