Spells
Dark Magic Spells

Cruciatus Curse

Explore
Characters Locations Magic Canon Events Things Creatures Essays
The Harry Potter Canon

"Never used an Unforgivable Curse before, have you, boy? ... 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 ..."
-- Bellatrix Lestrange after enduring Harry's Cruciatus Curse (OP36)

Cruciatus Curse

One of the “Unforgivable Curses,” this spell causes the victim to suffer almost intolerable pain. Some victims of prolonged use of this curse have been driven insane. A victim of this curse is said to have been Cruciated.

References from the canon

  • Demonstrated by the fake Moody to the fourth-year Defence Against the Dark Arts class (GF14).
  • Used by Voldemort's followers during his years of power, both on wizards and Muggles (GF14).
  • Crouch authorized its use by Aurors against suspects during the first war against Voldemort (GF27).
  • The Longbottoms (see) were victims of the Cruciatus Curse and were driven insane by it (GF30, OP9, OP23)
  • When Neville heard the golden egg's song, he was afraid that the second task would involve Harry facing this spell (GF21).
  • Krum was forced to use this on Cedric during the third task (GF31)
  • Voldemort used it on Wormtail (GF29), Avery (GF33 and probably OP26), and Harry (GF34)
  • During the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, Bellatrix realized that Neville was the child of the Longbottoms, whom she had tortured. She took fiendish pleasure in using the Cruciatus Curse on the Longbottoms' son.
  • Later, Harry tried to use the Cruciatus Curse on Bellatrix Lestrange, but it didn't do much. She taunted him that he had to mean it or it wouldn't work (OP36).
  • When speculating about what the weapon might be that was the focus of the attention of the Order of the Phoenix and of the Death Eaters, Harry assured everyone that Voldemort didn't need any new weapon to cause pain, since the Cruciatus Curse worked just fine, thank you very much (OP6)
  • Not named, but magical torture was being used (DH9).
  • Bellatrix used this on Hermione at Malfoy Manor (DH23).
  • Amycus Carrow attempted to use this on Ginny while duelling with her. Harry later tried but failed to use it on Snape (HBP28).
  • When Amycus Carrow taught Defence Against the Dark Arts (which under him turned into just the Dark Arts) the students were supposed to practice the Cruciatus Curse on fellow students who had earned detentions (DH29).
  • Amycus Carrow wanted to Cruciate the Ravenclaws until they told him who had attacked Alecto; shortly afterwards, Harry cast the Cruciatus Curse on him for spitting in Professor McGonagall's face (DH30).
  • After Harry sacrificed himself in the Forest, none of Voldemort's spells worked, including the Cruciatus Curse.

    "I’ve done what my mother did. They’re protected from you. Haven’t you noticed how none of the spells you put on them are binding? You can’t torture them. You can’t touch them" (DH36).

Cruciatus Curse
Magic Type Curses
Dark Magic
Incantation Crucio
Pronunciation KROO-see-AH-tus, KROO-see-oh
Associated terms Cruciated

Commentary

Etymology

"crucio" L. torment (v.), "cruciatus" L. torture (n.)

Notes

The Ethics of the Cruciatus Curse:

Some of Harry's darkest moments in the books happen when he attempts the Cruciatus Curse, first on Bellatrix Lestrange, then on Severus Snape and Amycus Carrow. While it's easy to say that each of the Death Eaters "deserved" the pain of the Crucio spell, it's a pity that Harry had lowered himself to the level of Voldemort in momentary anger. When Harry is 15 and has just seen his godfather Sirius Black pass through the Veil to his death, it is understandable that Harry would retaliate on the evil Bellatrix, but he certainly did not enjoy it (OP36). After watching in shocked anguish as Snape performed the Killing Curse on Dumbledore, Harry chased him and down and tried to Crucio him twice, but was blocked as Snape shouted, "No Unforgivable Curses from you, Potter!" (HBP28)

If only the author had taken Snape's advice. Instead, a year later it is rather jarring that Harry "enjoyed" torturing Amycus Carrow after the Death Eater spit in the face of Professor McGonagall.

Harry pulled the Cloak off himself, raised his wand, and said, “You shouldn’t have done that.”
As Amycus spun around, 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 (DH30).

Ironically, Minerva calls Harry's actions "gallant," though many readers found the act disturbing and questioned the author's judgment in letting the hero sink so low, especially when his own friends had just been tortured. While Harry's earlier episodes of anger had been righteous though less effective, in this case he just seemed out of control, using Carrow as a scapegoat for everything else that was happening to him.

J.K. Rowling explained her choice this way:

"Harry is not, and never has been, a saint. Like Snape, he is flawed and mortal. Harry's faults are primarily anger and occasional arrogance. On this occasion, he is very angry and acts accordingly. He is also in an extreme situation, and attempting to defend somebody very good against a violent and murderous opponent" (BLC).

The problem with the Harry/Snape analogy in this case is that Snape never performed the Cruciatus Curse on anyone in the canon, and indeed stopped the other Death Eaters from torturing Harry as he fled the Astronomy Tower. No saint, true, but he had long since given up any enjoyment from watching others in pain, a lesson Harry still had not learned. One can only hope that Harry never had to perform the Cruciatus Curse again and finally took Snape's advice to avoid all the Unforgivables.

Pensieve (Comments)

Tags: Bellatrix Remembrall ethics insanity Neville Remembrall pain torture