The magical world that Harry Potter series is set in has many spells that are memorable and prominent. The most memorable of them for me was the Patronus Charm, and the Disarming Spell that becomes the signature spell for Harry Potter. Then there’s the spell to open locks (Alohomora) and to make objects fly (Accio) and levitate (Wingardium leviosa). There are lots of jinxes and counter jinxes, like Tarantalegra, which is the jinx to make the person’s feet dance uncontrollably, or Locomortor Mortis, which locks freezes the legs of the person it is directed at. However, there are three curses which are said to be unforgivable, the usage of which lands the person in Azkaban, the wizarding prison.
These are first mentioned to us in the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when the new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher Alastor Moody not only tells the fourth year students about them, but also puts the class through one of the three curses, in order to see how strong they are at shaking the curses off.
The first one is the Imperius Curse. The curse incantation, Imperio, is used to control the victim and make him/her do whatever is commanded without questioning. In the book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Ron Weasley reveals the curse and how it had caused his father some trouble at the Ministry. The fourth year students witness how Moody (or Barty Crouch Jr. in disguise) makes a spider do his bidding. The students, unaware of the circumstances, laugh. Moody also reveals that many did Voldemort’s bidding only under the power of the Imperius Curse. It is possible to throw off the curse if the victim is vigilant and tries to rebel it. Harry throws it off when Moody puts him and the rest of the class under its spell. The Death Eaters used it to control Pius Thicknesse and also make the Muggles levitate and torture them for entertainment. If incorrectly or powerfully performed, the spell addles the brains of the victim, causing damage that can be permanent.
The second one is the Cruciatus Curse. The curse incantation, Crucio, is used to torture the victim, causing intense, excruciating pain. Neville Longbottom reveals the curse, much to everyone’s surprise, as Neville usually provides answers only in Herbology. We are given an idea of how deeply the curse affects Neville when he turns white as chalk seeing Moody use the curse on a spider in the Defence Against The Dark Arts class. The spell doesn’t cause physical damage, but its intensity can be such that the mind, even the strongest one, cannot handle it. It is the reason why Neville is affected that much, as his parents lost their minds when they were tortured using the curse by the Lestranges.
The last one, and the most dangerous one, is the Killing Curse. The curse incantation, Avada Kedavra, quite simply kills the victim. Through the series, the most known user of this curse is The Dark Lord, who kills quite often. We are told that he killed many of the initial Order of the Phoenix, including Harry’s parents. It is Voldemort’s signature spell. The curse has no way to be stopped and has no counter-curse. But it can be stopped by solid objects, even if only a temporary solution. The curse rebounded when it was attempted to kill Harry, and almost killed Voldemort instead.
Each of these curses needs to be meant to be effective. If the spell caster doesn’t have a strong will to cause damage to his victim, then the damage is temporary or minimal.
But, I wonder which of the three the ultimate unforgivable curse is? Would it be crueler to kill the victim at once? Or to torture the victim so much that they lose their mind for good, and push them live a life without knowing what they are doing, who their loved ones are? Or to hold a person under your control and make them to do your will instead of theirs? Each of these curses are reminiscent to situations in life as well, if you look at them closely. For my money, I feel the Cruciatus Curse is the most unforgivable of the three, for the reason that Neville, who was as young as Harry, never felt the love of his parents either, but had to see them going through the after effects of the Cruciatus Curse. In this way, the curse affected not only the victim, but victimized their family too, for perpetuity.
(© 25th April 2016)