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"One of the three Unforgivable Curses, it allows the caster to control another’s actions."
— Description of the curse[src]

The Imperius Curse (Imperio) was a tool of the Dark Arts, and was one of the three Unforgivable Curses.[1] When cast successfully, the curse placed the victim completely under the caster's control, making the victim unquestionably obedient to the caster. A person under the curse was said to be Imperiused.[1]

Notably, a person with exceptional strength of will could resist it. The fact that this curse could be directly defended against, made it unique amongst the Unforgivable Curses.[3] It is broken upon the death of the caster.


"It was the most wonderful feeling. Harry felt a floating sensation as every thought and worry in his head was wiped gently away, leaving nothing but a vague, untraceable happiness. He stood there feeling immensely relaxed, only dimly aware of everyone watching him."
Harry Potter while under the Imperius Curse[src]
Viktor Krum7

Viktor Krum under the influence of the curse

Unlike the Cruciatus Curse, being subjected to the Imperius Curse — when adequately cast — was not an unpleasant experience, in fact, quite the opposite; the victim of an Imperius Curse was placed in a calm, trance-like state in which all feeling of responsibility and anxiety was banished, similar to hypnosis. However, when Harry was Imperiused, he believed that his curse may not have been very strong, thus the sensation from casting a more powerful Imperius Curse may be more intense than the known account.[3]

An adequately Imperiused being was placed under the caster's total control and was directed to do anything and everything the caster wished them to do: including crimes such as murder, political corruption, embezzlement, and even committing suicide (as explained by Barty Crouch Jnr, disguised as Alastor Moody and teaching the Unforgivable Curses to a group of fourth-year students at Hogwarts that included Harry Potter, where he explained "I could make it jump out of the window, drown itself, throw itself down one of your throats").[1] Although, aside from being unquestionably obedient to the caster, the victim appeared to act and function as they normally would.

Most people under the curse were nevertheless completely under the caster's command, and could not resist it at the very least, performing many feats that they would normally be unable or unwilling to do. Also, whilst under the caster's control, the curse appeared to endow the victim with whatever skills that are required in order to complete the task at hand, such as increased physical strength, expanded knowledge, or granting them the ability to cast spells far above their level. For example, when Imperiused, Neville Longbottom was able to perform a series of "quite astonishing gymnastics" under the curse that he would not normally be capable of.[3]


Bogrod's (in front) blankness after being Imperiused by Harry Potter

It was possible for someone who had already been Imperiused to place others under the curse as well, which would allow it to spread. It is presumed that this would place the person under the control of the original caster. For example, Madam Rosmerta, who had been Imperiused by Draco Malfoy sometime during the 1996–1997 school year, was able to place Katie Bell under the Imperius Curse in an attempt to deliver a cursed necklace to Albus Dumbledore.[4] It is also possible that Corban Yaxley Imperiused Pius Thicknesse to place other high-ranking members of the Ministry of Magic under the curse in order to facilitate the overthrow of Rufus Scrimgeour.[5]

When a correctly cast Imperius Curse was terminated — for whatever reason — the victims became themselves again, as happened after the final defeat of Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters in the Battle of Hogwarts, when all of the people across the country who had been Imperiused by him or his supporters were released from the spell.[6] Also, any pain that the curse had negated by the pleasant sensation would return, along with any other pain that the victim had suffered for the duration of the curse.[7]

Although it was possible to use the curse on Secret Keepers to control them, it was impossible to use it to make them divulge the secret, as it must have been done on the Keeper's free will.[8]


Pius Thicknesse was Imperiused for several weeks before anyone noticed

The usage of the Imperius Curse on a person could be suspected or detected, as a Ministry pamphlet did note that one possible sign of an Imperiused person was acting in a manner inconsistent with their usual personality.[9]


If the Imperius Curse was performed poorly, then the victim would have their mind addled, an example being Muggle Junior Minister Herbert Chorley. It seemed the damage was long-lasting, as Chorley was sent to St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries to recuperate and spent the rest of his life believing he was a duck.[10] This was likely due to the fact that powerful, Dark magic might leave irreversible biological damage, such as when George Weasley had his ear cursed off permanently. Presumably, this is one of the reasons why the spell was outlawed.


"The Imperius curse can be fought, and I'll be teaching you how, but it takes real strength of character, and not everyone's got it. Better avoid being hit with it..."
— Barty Crouch Jnr to a fourth year Defence Against the Dark Arts class[src]

Resisting the Imperius Curse was possible, but required great strength of will and character.[3][11] The fact that it could be resisted made it unique amongst the three Unforgivable Curses, as it was the only curse that had a direct manner of defence. Harry Potter,[3] Barty Crouch Snr, and Barty Crouch Jnr each learned to resist the curse after being subjected to its effects,[12] although the latter two took quite a long time before building the said resistance. It would also appear that in the event that the victim succumbed completely to the control of the caster, unsuccessful attempts at throwing off the curse could have adverse effects on their physical and mental well-being.

Barty Snr was able to resist the curse when it was placed on him by Lord Voldemort himself, but Crouch was ultimately unable to fully break free from its hold over him and became delirious as a result.[13][12] Professor Jakub Gorski put up a valiant fight against the Imperius Curse put on him by the Dark wizard Bly, after he was made to attack his own students. Gorski ended up fainting from the strain of resisting it.[14] According to Severus Snape, resisting the Imperius Curse was similar to Occlumency. Both required a great amount of willpower, though it is unknown if Occlumency would actually work against the curse.[11]


Middle Ages[]

"The Cruciatus, Imperius, and Avada Kedavra Curses were not made unforgivable until 1717, with the strictest penalties attached to their use."
Albus Dumbledore's notes in The Tales of Beedle the Bard[src]

The Imperius Curse was invented during the early Middle Ages.[15]

After the Wizards' Council was reformed into the Ministry of Magic, tighter restrictions were placed on the use of certain kinds of magic. The Imperius Curse was deemed by the Ministry to be Dark magic, and, along with the Cruciatus and Killing Curses, were declared "unforgivable" in 1717.[15] 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 another's Imperius Curse; this was known to be a loophole that many Dark wizards and witches abused and lied about while they were facing trial and awaiting their sentence to prison time, particularly after the First Wizarding War.[1]

Multiple Secret Keepers in the past were subjected to the Imperius and Cruciatus Curses in an attempt to divulge the secrets they kept, but to no avail, as the Keeper had to reveal their secret willingly and voluntarily.[8]

First Wizarding War[]

"Years back, there were a lot of witches and wizards being controlled by the Imperius Curse. Some job for the Ministry, trying to sort out who was being forced to act, and who was acting of their own free will."
— Barty Crouch Jnr on the Imperius Curse's controversy[src]
B4C30M1 Wizengamot trial Pensieve memory

Death Eaters facing the Council of Magical Law for their use of the Unforgivable Curses

During the First Wizarding War, when Bartemius Crouch Senior 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.[16] This was repealed once the war was over, as it was no longer necessary.

It was also at that time that many Death Eaters, such as Lucius Malfoy, Corban Yaxley, Walden Macnair, Avery, Crabbe, Nott and Goyle claimed that they had served under Lord Voldemort only because of the Imperius Curse. While their claims were accepted, the Ministry assigned personnel to attempt to determine who was truly under the curse and who was lying just to escape punishment. However, they were not perfect in proving deception. Malfoy, Macnair, and several others still eluded justice under the cover of this lie.[17]

Lucius Malfoy was another such Dark wizard who avoided imprisonment in Azkaban after Voldemort's first defeat in 1981 by claiming that he had been under the Imperius Curse.[18] The Ministry was also flawed in several other ways when it came to detecting true Death Eaters; while a person’s pure-blooded heritage could be used as evidence to determine whether they were a Death Eater or not, this was nevertheless extremely difficult to prove, allowing many alleged "victims" to continue to escape prosecution, despite lingering suspicions.[1]

Between the wars[]

"Moody began to beckon students forward in turn and put the Imperius Curse upon them. Harry watched as, one by one, his classmates did the most extraordinary things under its influence. Dean Thomas hopped three times around the room, singing the national anthem. Lavender Brown imitated a squirrel. Neville performed a series of quite astonishing gymnastics he would certainly not have been capable of in his normal state."
Barty Crouch Jnr (disguised as Alastor Moody) casting the Imperius Curse on fourth years[src]
DADA Unforgivable Curses

1994 Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson on the Unforgivable Curses

During the first half of the 1994–1995 school year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Barty Crouch Jnr, disguised as Alastor Moody, demonstrated these three curses to his fourth-year classes on spiders,[1] despite the Ministry's disapproval.[19] Later, he claimed that he had permission to perform the Imperius Curse on students in order to teach them how to resist it,[3] though this might also have only been an excuse just to get back into practice with it.

While Barty Crouch did not use the curse to make the students do anything they would vehemently object to, most of the students under the curse were nevertheless completely under Crouch's command, and could not resist at the very least, performing physical feats that they would normally be unable to do; Harry Potter was the only one who managed to resist the curse and eventually shake it off after several attempts, due to his exceptional strength of willpower.[3]

In 1995, Harry and the Order of the Phoenix considered the possibility that the Death Eaters may have placed an Imperius Curse on then-Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, but Albus Dumbledore suggested otherwise, which was of little comfort to them.[20]

Second Wizarding War[]

"He must speak to the bereaved, clasp their hands, witness their tears, receive their thanks, hear the news now creeping in from every quarter as the morning drew on; that the Imperiused up and down the country had come back to themselves..."
— The end of the Second Wizarding War and the Imperiused being freed[src]

During the 1996–1997 school year at Hogwarts, Professor Snape had his sixth year Defence Against the Dark Arts class write an essay on resisting the Imperius Curse, and thought they were so poorly written that he had to "endure" them.[21]

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 pleased.[22] In fact, they were practised in Hogwarts as part of the curriculum in the Dark Arts class under the cruel tutelage of Professor Amycus Carrow. After Voldemort's death and the revolutionising of the Ministry under Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt, the three curses were once again forbidden, and many people under the Imperius Curse's influence felt like they were coming out of trances.[6]

Fallen Ministry

Pius Thicknesse, placed under the Imperius Curse in July 1997

Death Eaters made use of the curse in both the First and Second Wizarding Wars to force many innocent people to do their bidding. For example, Lucius Malfoy used the Imperius Curse to force Broderick Bode and Sturgis Podmore to try to steal a prophecy from the Department of Mysteries in 1996,[23] and Corban Yaxley placed the Imperius Curse on Pius Thicknesse (albeit with difficulty and great effort) as part of the plan to take over the Ministry of Magic in 1997.[5]

As the curse was legalised in 1998, even normally law-abiding citizens were permitted to use them during such time. Harry Potter used the curse three times on two different individuals in order for the Trio to break into Gringotts Wizarding Bank undetected.[24] Minerva McGonagall used it to force Amycus Carrow to bind himself and his sister.[25] After Voldemort was defeated and killed by Harry Potter, the victims throughout the country who had been Imperiused by the Death Eaters started to come back to themselves.[6]

Known uses[]

"Harry acted without thinking: Pointing his wand at Travers, he muttered, "Imperio!" once more."
— Harry using the curse on the Death Eater Travers[src]
Caster(s) Victim Date Notes
Sebastian Sallow Unidentified goblin 1890s The goblin was going to kill Sebastian's sister, Anne Sallow, but Sebastian interceded by performing the Imperius Curse and forcing the goblin to commit suicide.[26]
Corvus Lestrange Laurena Kama 1896
Laurena Kama being abducted and Yusuf trying to stop her
Laurena was cursed by Corvus Lestrange IV, who forced her to leave her husband Mustafa Kama and son Yusuf Kama, to marry him and to bear his own child, Leta Lestrange.[27]
Mulciber Many victims First Wizarding War Mulciber was said to have placed many people under this curse during the First Wizarding War in order to perform tasks for the Death Eaters.[28]
Unknown Dark wizard or witch Rowan Khanna 1988–1989 school year Was placed under this curse by an unknown caster, causing them to suddenly snap out of their normal character and threaten their friends with death, before being incapacitated by Ben Copper with the Knockback Jinx. They were sent to the Hospital Wing to recover after this nasty incident.[29]
Elspeth MacGillony Nifflers 14 February 1993 Used on Nifflers for practice.[30]
Various Hogwarts students including Colby Frey, Fischer Frey, Daniel Page, Robyn Thistlethwaite and Cassandra Vole 2010–2011 school year Forced them to enter the Great Lake to find a magical crown for her.[14]
Barty Crouch Snr Barty Crouch Jnr Before 1994 To keep him under house arrest.[12]
Barty Crouch Jnr Alastor Moody 1994–1995 school year Imperiused to maintain containment and to reveal the habits of Alastor Moody in order to impersonate him.[12]
A spider Used to demonstrate the Imperius Curse to his class while he was posing as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.
Harry Potter Harry successfully resisted the curse after several attempts, and the only one in his Defence Against the Dark Arts class to do so.[3]
Neville Longbottom Neville did "a series of quite astonishing gymnastics".[3]
Dean Thomas Dean hopped around the room singing the national anthem.[3]
Lavender Brown Lavender imitated a squirrel.[3]
Viktor Krum 24 June 1995 During the Triwizard Tournament, Third Task.[12] Viktor was forced to attack Cedric Diggory with the Cruciatus Curse.[31]
Lord Voldemort Harry Potter Used this curse on Harry Potter in the Little Hangleton graveyard in order to force him to bow to him when Harry refused to observe the formalities of the duel. Voldemort then attempted to use it on him again to force him to answer his question, however Harry Potter managed to successfully resist the curse the second time.[7]
Lucius Malfoy Sturgis Podmore 1995 Forced to attempt to steal a prophecy from the Department of Mysteries.[23]
Broderick Bode
An unknown Death Eater Herbert Chorley 1996 Victim of a poorly-performed Imperius Curse, spent the rest of his life in St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries believing he was a duck.[10]
Draco Malfoy Madam Rosmerta 1996–1997 school year Forced to assist in the smuggling of a cursed necklace and poisoned mead into Hogwarts, as well as to give notice on Dumbledore's departure.[4]
Madam Rosmerta Katie Bell 12 October, 1996 Forced to assist in the smuggling of a cursed necklace into Hogwarts in a plot to kill Albus Dumbledore.[32][4]
Unknown, likely a Death Eater Unidentified nine-year old boy 1997 According to the Daily Prophet, this nine-year old boy had tried to murder his grandparents, most likely under the influence of the Imperius Curse.[21]
Corban Yaxley Pius Thicknesse Summer 19971998 Forced to act as puppet Minister for Magic at the behest of Voldemort. Noted by Yaxley that the curse was placed "with difficulty and after great effort," as Thicknesse resisted.[5]
An unknown Death Eater Stan Shunpike 19961998 Forced to serve the Death Eaters, fought in the Battle of the Seven Potters.[33][34]
Harry Potter Bogrod 1 May 1998 Forced to allow Hermione Granger (disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange) into the Lestrange Vault at Gringotts in 1998.[24]
To replace the curse that the Thief's Downfall washed away.[24]
Travers Forced to act as an accomplice in the aforementioned bank heist.[24]
Minerva McGonagall Amycus Carrow As a means to confine him in the Ravenclaw Common Room in 1998.[25]
Bly Jakub Gorski 2009–2010 school year Forced to help him steal what was thought to be an extra powerful wand, and to smuggle the Dark wizard into the school under the guise of his lemur assistant at Hogwarts (as he was an Animagus).[14]


This curse takes its name from Spanish Imperio ('Empire' in English), which in turn comes from the Latin Imperium, which means "power" or "authority", or Impero, which means "to rule".

This is also the root of imperative, which is the form of a verb that acts as a command: this is certainly what the Imperius Curse achieves.

Behind the scenes[]

  • It is uncertain what the effect would be of Imperiusing somebody who was already under somebody else's Imperius Curse. If it is possible to do so, it may be that the second Imperius would counteract or undo the first Imperius - but it may also be that it would cause great mental harm to the victim, since their brain would be receiving two different, and potentially contradictory, sets of orders.
  • Of the three Unforgivable Curses, the Imperius Curse is used by Voldemort the least (he uses the Killing Curse almost exclusively and tortures dozens with the Cruciatus Curse, mainly because he wants people to fear him). Though hundreds of people are described as having come back to themselves after Voldemort's death, it is unlikely that he personally cast it on all of them. He is recorded as only having used it twice, on Barty Crouch Snr and Harry Potter. He showed a talent for manipulating others in his youth without using this curse, however.
  • The lack of difficulty experienced by Harry Potter in placing the goblins under the curse could indicate a lack of need for any evil intentions (which are required for the other two Unforgivable Curses), as making people feel wonderful is not evil in itself.
  • In chapter 19 of year five of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, it is possible that Patricia Rakepick used this curse on Rowan Khanna at Hogwarts, as she is revealed to be a Dark witch and 'R' member in chapter 30.
Draco has spider on his face

An amblypygi instead of spider in the film adaptation

Draco with spider pop vinyl

Draco Malfoy with an Imperiused spider on his face, as a POP! Vinyl

  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
    • The Imperius Curse appears to give the victim's eyes a milky, glazed appearance which is not mentioned in the books and would decrease the curse's effectiveness, since it would be easily detectable. However, it's possible that this is a sign of a poorly or hastily performed curse, or one where the victim is actively resisting.
    • When Barty Crouch Jnr (disguised as Alastor Moody), puts the Imperius Curse on the spider, he directs its movements with his wand, including having it float and hover in midair, as if the Levitation Charm was put on it. It's quite possible that he did put a non-verbal Levitation charm on it.
    • The three spiders used were replaced with one single scorpion, known as an Amblypygi. He also enlarges it to allow the students to witness the spells easily.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the Imperius Curse appears to be a mist that the victim smells and gets under the caster's bidding. It also appears to leave the victim in a slightly intoxicated, elated state.
  • This spell does not appear to be illegal in the handheld versions of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7, as Severus Snape teaches it to Harry in place of the Occlumency lessons from the book, film and game; furthermore also in the place of Focus, taught by Snape in the PC and console versions of the said game.
  • The Imperius Curse was originally planned to appear in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. It would have been cast with an orange light (rather than the yellow light used when the spell appeared in Years 5-7) and occupied the slot in the spell wheel used for pets by non-Dark wizards. In the final game, the Killing Curse is placed in that slot for Dark wizards instead.[36]
  • In Hogwarts Legacy, the wand movement for the Imperius Curse is up, left, up diagonally to the right, then straight down (similar to the shape of the number 4). The spell also appears to be greenish in colour, instead of invisible like in the books.
  • It is never fully explained how involved one needs to be to control another person's actions, as people are shown to be under the control of someone who is nowhere near them.


The Harry Potter Wiki has 12 images related to Imperius Curse.

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 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 14 (The Unforgivable Curses)
  2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film) - Chapter 7 (Mad Eye Moody)
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 15 (Beauxbatons and Durmstrang)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27 (The Lightning-Struck Tower)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 1 (The Dark Lord Ascending)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 34 (Priori Incantatem)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Secret Keeper" at Wizarding World
  9. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 3 (Will and Won't)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 1 (The Other Minister)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 24 (Occlumency)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 35 (Veritaserum)
  13. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 28 (The Madness of Mr Crouch)
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Harry Potter: Magic Awakened
  15. 15.0 15.1 The Tales of Beedle the Bard, "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump"
  16. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 27 (Padfoot Returns)
  17. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33 (The Death Eaters)
  18. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 3 (The Burrow)
  19. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 12 (Professor Umbridge)
  20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 9 (The Woes of Mrs Weasley)
  21. 21.0 21.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 21 (The Unknowable Room)
  22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 11 (The Bribe)
  23. 23.0 23.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 26 (Seen and Unforeseen)
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 26 (Gringotts)
  25. 25.0 25.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 30 (The Sacking of Severus Snape)
  26. Hogwarts Legacy
  27. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay, Scene 101
  28. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 30 (The Pensieve)
  29. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 5, Chapter 19 (The Unforgivable Curses)
  30. Harry Potter: Magic Awakened (see this image)
  31. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 31 (The Third Task)
  32. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 12 (Silver and Opals)
  33. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 4 (The Seven Potters)
  34. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 5 (Fallen Warrior)
  35. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (film) (see this image)
  36. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (Windows) on The Cutting Room Floor
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