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"You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you'll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no...anything. There's no chance at all of recovery. You'll just — exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone forever... lost."
Remus Lupin on the Dementor's Kiss[src]
Sirius Black's soul

The soul being extracted through the mouth from a Dementor's kiss

The Dementor's Kiss was the act of a Dementor sucking out a person's soul. It was sometimes used as a sentence for criminals by the British Ministry of Magic, and was considered a fate worse than death.[1] Before Lord Voldemort was in control of the Ministry, the Dementor's Kiss was ordinarily used against those who escaped from Azkaban.[1][2] When Kingsley Shacklebolt became Minister for Magic after the end of the Second Wizarding War in 1998, Dementors were no longer used by the Ministry of Magic.


Dementor's mouth

A Dementor's open mouth

When the Dementor's Kiss was performed, the Dementor would pull back its hood, clamp its jaw around the victim's mouth, and consume their soul. The Dementor's Kiss was generally considered to be a punishment worse than death. Victims were left in what Muggles would call a 'Persistent Vegetative State': empty shells that were still alive but irretrievably 'gone'. It was impossible to return as a ghost, for the Kiss consumed the soul, and the soul of a person was required in order to become a ghost.[1] It is unknown what would happen to souls once a Dementor "ingested" them.


"But a pair of strong, clammy hands suddenly attached themselves around Harry’s neck. They were forcing his face upward... He could feel its breath... It was going to get rid of him first... He could feel its putrid breath... His mother was screaming in his ears... She was going to be the last thing he ever heard —"
— Harry Potter nearly being kissed by a Dementor[src]

The Dementor's Kiss was occasionally imposed as a sentence for criminals by the British Ministry of Magic; as the reformed Ministry stopped employing Dementors as guards of Azkaban after the Second Wizarding War, the Dementor's Kiss was no longer used as a criminal sentence either.[1]

Sirius Black was fated for such a sentence if he was caught after he escaped from Azkaban.[1] Barty Crouch Junior also suffered this when his escape was discovered.[2] These are the only known examples of this punishment being legally meted out prior to Voldemort's takeover of the Ministry. This fact and the fact that even very serious criminals (such as Bellatrix Lestrange) were not sentenced to it, suggest that it may have been reserved for the crime of escaping from Azkaban.

Lake surrounded by Dementors

Dementors attempting to Kiss Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Sirius Black

The Dementors attempted to Kiss Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Sirius Black after cornering them by the Black Lake in 1994.[3] However, the Dementors were driven away by a Patronus that had been cast by Harry's future self after he and Hermione used a Time-Turner to try to rescue Sirius. After his capture, Sirius was sentenced to be Kissed, but Harry and Hermione helped him to escape once again with Buckbeak's assistance.[4]

The Kiss was performed on Barty Crouch Jnr after it was discovered that he had disguised himself as Alastor Moody to deliver Harry Potter to Lord Voldemort and had killed his father in 1995. However, as the Kiss was administered before an official confession could be documented, Cornelius Fudge refused to believe that Voldemort had actually returned.[2]

Dementors Kiss OOTP

A Dementor trying to kiss Harry Potter

During the summer holiday, Harry and his cousin Dudley Dursley were attacked by two Dementors in Magnolia Crescent in Little Whinging, secretly sent by Dolores Umbridge to 'silence' Harry of his opposition to the Ministry's stance of denial on Voldemort's return. Were it not for Harry's quick response, both he and Dudley would have received the Kiss.[5]

When Voldemort was in control of the Ministry in late 1997 and early 1998 and Muggle-borns were being persecuted, those detained by the Muggle-Born Registration Commission were threatened with the Kiss if they resisted. Dementors nearly kissed Mary Cattermole during one trial, but Harry Potter repelled them, and he and Hermione Granger freed her and the other Muggle-borns being held prisoner, helping them to escape.[6]

In an alternate timeline in the year 2020, Dementors attacked Scorpius Malfoy, whilst Hermione Granger and Severus Snape helped Scorpius escape. Snape, Ron and Hermione were kissed by Dementors and lost their souls.[7]

Known victims[]

"Harry felt a chill in his stomach, as Professor McGonagall struggled to find words to describe what had happened. He did not need her to finish her sentence. He knew what the Dementor must have done. It had administered its fatal Kiss to Barty Crouch. It had sucked his soul out through his mouth. He was worse than dead."
— Barty Crouch Junior suffers the kiss[src]

Narrow escapes[]

Behind the scenes[]

  • A Dementor attempting a kiss on Sirius is witnessed in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in which his soul is being sucked out his mouth in the form of a small, glowing, white dot, but the Dementors are fought off by Harry's Patronus before they can finish this. They never needed to clamp their jaws over his mouth.
    • Sirius is not breathing while his soul is outside him; he only starts breathing again when his soul is returned. Hermione still describes this as 'much worse' than killing him; but later says, when revisiting the scene, that he and Harry will die before Harry fights the Dementors off with a Patronus, and her earlier statement could refer to the soul being trapped or destroyed after the kiss.
  • During the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Harry and Sirius are being attacked by the lake, two Dementors can be seen performing the Kiss on Harry together, causing his soul to be divided by two while they fed. This implies that more than one Dementor can feed on a person's soul at a time.
  • It's not exactly clear what would have happened if a Dementor had succeeded in kissing Harry Potter, because Harry had a fragment of Voldemort's soul in his body in addition to his own. It is possible that the Dementor would have ingested both Harry's soul and also the fragment of Voldemort's soul. It is also not clear whether Voldemort's Horcrux would have been destroyed by that or not, because in order to destroy a Horcrux, its physical container must be destroyed, and the physical body was not harmed by the Dementor's Kiss.
  • This may be one of the things that Dumbledore claimed was 'worse than death'. Given that the soul is a person's self, the loss of that person's soul would make them cease to be. The individual's soul could also possibly be trapped inside the Dementor.
  • In the film adaptations, whenever a Dementor is sucking happiness or the soul out of their victim, there is a distortion in the victim's face and the air near him or her.
  • The only two people in the books to ever witness a Dementor's Kiss were Minerva McGonagall and Cornelius Fudge, when the Dementor kissed Crouch.
  • In the video game adaptations of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the soul takes on a pearly white, ghostly image resembling its owner and can be sucked from the body when the Dementor is within range rather than actual physical contact.
  • It is never explained what happens to the soul after one is kissed. It is theorised that the soul is either completely obliterated or that it is imprisoned in the Dementor. The latter would mean that the person who got kissed is literally trapped inside the Dementor's body while the victim is still alive, which is likely why some call it a fate worse than death (assuming a Dementor's interior is as bad as their appearance). The Dementor's interior may be some kind of 'dimension' in which the soul remains in torment, unable to pass on and earn their comfort of death. If that is the case, it is unknown if the souls are able to interact with the others that are trapped in the same Dementor.
    • Further supporting this, none of the Dementors perform the Kiss on Muggles in 1997-1998. None of the Muggle news reporting a large amount of Muggles mysteriously afflicted with a permanent vegetative state. When Harry Potter visits a Dementor-infested Muggle town to acquire their food supplies, he doesn't discover a large mass of soulless Muggle bodies littering the town.
    • Some suggest that Dementors may die if 'starved' of happiness for extended periods of time (one possible interpretation of Rowling's claim that 'their numbers can be controlled'). If that is indeed the case, and the above theory on the soul being trapped in the Dementor is correct, it is possible that the trapped soul may return to its original body, or if the body is dead, then be freed and move on.


Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 12 (The Patronus)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 36 (The Parting of the Ways)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 20 (The Dementor's Kiss)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 21 (Hermione's Secret)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 1 (Dudley Demented)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 13 (The Muggle-Born Registration Commission)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Harry Potter and the Cursed Child