Some content in this article is derived from information featured in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and, as such, spoilers will be present.
- "There was a flash of blinding green light and a rushing sound, as though a vast, invisible something was soaring through the air — instantaneously the spider rolled over onto its back, unmarked, but unmistakably dead"
- —Description of the Killing Curse[src]
The Killing Curse (Avada Kedavra) 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 on a living person or creature the curse causes instantaneous and painless death, without any signs of violence on the body.
The only known counter-spell is sacrificial protection, which uses the power of love. However, one may dodge the green bolt, block it with a physical barrier, or by the use of Priori Incantatem. The Killing Curse is an 'unblockable' curse, thus shield charms won't defend against it. An explosion or green fire may result if the spell hits something other than a living target.
The Killing Curse was invented during the early Middle Ages by Dark witches or wizards. The curse was created primarily as a means of quickly and efficiently slaying one's opponent in a duel. It can be assumed that this was a popular and frequently used curse in duelling.
Along with the Cruciatus and Imperius curses, the Killing Curse is known as one of the most terrible and sinister curses in the wizarding world. After the Wizards' Council was reformed into the Ministry of Magic tighter restrictions were placed on the use of certain kinds of magic. The Killing Curse was deemed by the Ministry to be Dark magic and along with the Cruciatus and Imperius curses, were declared "unforgivable" in 1717, with the Killing Curse considered to be the most deadly of the three. Use of any Unforgivable curse on a human would carry the punishment of a life sentence in Azkaban.
However, the First Wizarding War, when Barty Crouch Snr was in charge of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, he fought violence with violence, legalising the three Unforgivable Curses for Aurors against the Death Eaters in order to win the war. This was repealed once the war was over, as it was no longer necessary, though, in the 1994-1995 school year, Barty Crouch Jr (under the disguise of Alastor Moody) demonstrated these three curses to his fourth year classes on spiders. The Ministry did not approve of this because "Professor Moody" was showing these curses to those who did not truly need to see it (i.e., a class of 14-15-year-olds).
One of the most infamous events involving this curse happened on Hallowe'en in 1981, when Voldemort murdered James and Lily Potter while they attempted to protect infant Harry. He cast the Killing Curse on Harry as well, but it backfired destroying Voldemort's body. This event led to Voldemort's first downfall, the end of the First Wizarding War, and Harry's fate being sealed as the "Boy Who lived". Also the Killing Curse was known throughout most of the wizarding world to be Voldemort's signature spell. This became common knowledge most likely during the first war, due to his frequent and indiscriminate usage of it; he certainly massacred enough to create an army of Inferi.
Lord Voldemort used the curse excessively throughout the Second Wizarding War. He used it to murder famous wand maker Mykew Gregorovitch and notorious Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, while searching abroad for the Elder Wand. When he learned of Harry Potter's successful Gringotts break-in and retrieval of Hufflepuff's Cup he murdered several goblins in a fit of rage. On 2 May during the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry willingly let Voldemort hit him with the Killing Curse, in order to be rid of the piece of Voldemort's soul he harboured at the time.
When 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. After Voldemort's death and the reform of the Ministry under Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt, the three curses were once again forbidden.
It should be noted that despite the curse being illegal, references have been made to Aurors using deadly force against opponents, though whether this means they were authorised to use the Killing Curse specifically is unclear. Despite the circumstances, it is unknown whether the Killing Curse was used by anyone but Voldemort and his Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts. It is also known that use of this curse may go unpunished if there is sufficient evidence that the caster did so under the influence of the Imperius Curse.
The Avada Kedavra curse is recognisable by the flash of green light and the rushing noise emitted from the caster's wand. When the curse hits a living, organic target it invariably kills them without injury. The mechanism by which it kills is unknown. However, when the curse struck Voldemort and succeeded in causing his biological death, he described the curse as having ripped his soul from his body. When the curse hits an inanimate target the effect varies: it can produce small fires, small greenish explosions, or explosions of such intensity that can blow up an entire story of a cottage. It is known by most wizards as Lord Voldemort's signature spell. It is possible to intercept the curse with other spells, but this is extremely difficult as it requires the energy jets of the two spells to collide. As the energy jets of virtually all spells are very small and fast, this has only ever been recorded as occurring by accident.
However, certain objects, such as the centaur statue of the Fountain of Magical Brethren, managed to block the curse without any visible damage to itself. It should be noted that curse did not terminate the animation of (i.e. "kill") the statue, however, the statue was only animated by magic and so presumably had no real life in him for the curse to take away.
The curse requires great skill in order to be performed correctly. In 1994, Barty Crouch, Jr, disguised as Alastor Moody, claimed that, if all of the students before him were to get out their wands and perform it on him at one time, he would likely be completely unaffected. However, as his loyalties were with Lord Voldemort, it is unknown to what extent his words were accurate. However, in 1997 Severus Snape also stated that to cast Unforgivable Curses you need nerve and ability. It is possible to cast the curse nonverbally, as Bellatrix killed a fox without incantation. However, the lack of the incantation may have been for suspense. Whether this is true or not in Bellatrix's case is unknown. However, during his duel with Dumbledore, Voldemort used this spell several times without an incantation. Intense concentration is likely required to cast the Killing Curse, which is probably why Death Eaters don't use it as their primary offensive spell (although Thorfinn Rowle did launch the curse repeatedly all over the place during the Battle of the Astronomy Tower).
The Killing Curse, in addition to requiring the caster to be a skilled wizard, also requires a genuine willingness and at times desire to commit murder. One of the main reasons why Lord Voldemort demonstrated such an affinity for the curse was his complete and utter lack of remorse or value for the lives of fellow humans, Muggle or otherwise. For example, Draco Malfoy, despite possessing many undesirable personality traits, found himself ultimately unable to kill Albus Dumbledore because he did not hate him enough to actually do the deed. Voldemort, on the other hand, had no such restraint and murdered scores of people without remorse in his pursuit of power and immortality; he was fully prepared to murder one-year old Harry Potter upon deducing him as a potential threat and, had he succeeded, was implied to have been intending to use this most heinous act (the murder of an innocent child) to create his final Horcrux.
The Killing Curse is described as a jet or flash of blinding green light that "illuminates every corner of the room" followed by a rushing sound, which causes the victim instant death. Victims of the Killing Curse are identified by the fact that they simply appear to have dropped dead for no biological reason. Indeed, victims seem "perfectly healthy" apart from the fact that they are dead. This lack of visible injuries is one that had confused Muggles throughout the years of its use, requiring many Ministry of Magic officials to modify memories. Wizarding authorities, however, could tell at once of the curse's usage due to its somewhat unique nature.
Presumably, the Killing Curse does not inflict any pain on its target, since it causes instantaneous death. However, Harry Potter, awaking after a Killing Curse cast by Lord Voldemort hit him, describes the sensation as an "iron-clad punch", though this may have been caused by the destruction of the fragment of Lord Voldemort's soul contained within his body. However, when he was initially struck by the curse, it caused him no sensation at all. When Voldemort was struck by his own rebounding Killing Curse when he attempted to kill Harry Potter the first time, he described the sensation of his soul being ripped from his body as being "pain beyond pain". However, given the uniquely mutilated state of his soul at the time, it seems likely that his reaction was atypical.
The Killing Curse can be dodged or physically blocked by an object, such as the statues Dumbledore animated to protect Harry Potter during his duel with Voldemort after the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. The Killing Curse is known to be unblockable, as once it strikes the living victim, it almost always results in immediate death. There is "no counter-curse" since it is not possible to revive the dead. However there are some exceptions:
The most effective method of surviving the Killing Curse is through Sacrificial protection. The willing sacrifice of one's life for another, a manifestation of love, which is the most potent defence against the "unblockable" Killing Curse. Love is a powerful and mysterious branch of magic. It gives those who experience it the ability to do very great things. Harry Potter was saved by his mother, Lily Potter when she lovingly sacrificed herself for him. Lily refused to stop shielding him from Lord Voldemort, despite having been given the choice to live. Harry became the only known survivor of Avada Kedavra with no ill effects, aside from attaining a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.
Another defence employed against the Killing Curse is the creation of at least one Horcrux. The creation of Horcruxes is a preventive measure, created by a wizard long before he faces an actual Killing Curse attack. However, this is less effective than Sacrificial protection, since it only allows a little more than the soul of the target to live, while the target's body still dies. If one has Horcruxes, they will not be dead, but they will barely be alive and will be reduced, as Voldemort was when the Killing Curse backfired with his attempt to murder Harry in 1981: to living off another, drinking Unicorn blood, using the Philosopher's Stone (before it was destroyed), and creating a rudimentary body from Unicorn Blood and Nagini's venom.
Voldemort's Horcruxes tethered his soul to life. The Curse drove his mangled soul from his body and split his unstable soul, leaving him to roam only as a shadowy spirit, unable to move on to death but is a less-than-alive life form. If possible, one can make a Regeneration potion to came back to life, but it requires the bone of the father, the flesh of the servant, and the blood of an enemy. Because Voldemort required a servant to perform the rites of his rebirth, he was forced to spend thirteen years in hiding as he had no one who would come to his aid for such time.
Upon the destruction of all his Horcruxes, Voldemort had no more defence against death, and was finally killed by his own deflected Killing Curse.
Intercepting the Curse
- "Harry responded with further Stunning Spells: Red and green collided in midair in a shower of multicoloured sparks..."
- —Harry Potter's stunners blocking the Killing Curse[src]
The Priori Incantatem effect is when two wands that share the same cores are put into battle against each other. One wand will then force the other wand to repeat its previously-cast spells. Because of this, an Avada Kedavra Curse can be blocked if a wand that shares the killer's wand's core fires a spell at it: both spells will connect and thus the wizard has been spared by the Killing Curse.
Priori Incantatem occurred in the duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort in the graveyard during Harry's fourth year. Voldemort cast the Killing Curse and Harry cast the Disarming Charm, and because their wands had twin cores, Priori Incantantem occurred; Harry was not killed and was able to hold Voldemort off to give him time to escape.
Phoenixes are semi-protected from the Killing Curse, due to them being immortal. In 1996, Fawkes swallowed one intended for Albus Dumbledore, causing him to burst into flame and die instantly. However, he then was reborn from his ashes.
The spell can be directly countered using a Stunning Spell, in which case red and green jets of light will meet and create multi-coloured sparks. Since neither spell is able to reach its intended target, neither will have any effect, as the jets of light basically explode on each other. However, this is particularly tricky, as it requires both jets of light to collide with one another. It is unknown whether this is limited to the Stunning Spell or if it is possible to reflect the Curse with other spells, although during Harry and Voldemort's final duel a similar thing happened when Harry's Disarming Charm collided with Voldemort's Killing Curse, although the Elder Wand's allegiance to Harry must be taken into consideration in this particular situation.
If another target is placed between the caster and the targeted individual, then the new target will take the hit of the Killing Curse, which may simply result in an object being destroyed or damaged in an explosion of green flames. One can also avoid the effects simply by dodging or if the caster has poor aim, as with many attacking curses of this type, the spell must be directly targeted at the intended victim.
Known practitioners and victims
- "He saw the mouth move and a flash of green light, and everything was gone."
- —Harry Potter being hit with the curse[src]
|Hermione Granger||Antonin Dolohov||18 June, 1996|
|Harry Potter||Lord Voldemort|
|27 July, 1997|
|Rubeus Hagrid||masked Death Eater|
|Order of the Phoenix||Death Eaters|
|Hermione Granger||Vincent Crabbe||2 May, 1998|
|Ginny Weasley||Bellatrix Lestrange|
|Albus Potter||Delphini||31 October, 1981|
Avada Kedavra is based on the Aramaic אַבַדָא כְּדַברָא, avada kedavra, meaning "let the thing be destroyed". J. K. Rowling confirmed this during an audience interview at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 15 April, 2004, where she had this to say about the spell's etymology: "Does anyone know where avada kedavra came from? It is an ancient spell in Aramaic, and it is the original of abracadabra, which means 'let the thing be destroyed.' Originally, it was used to cure illness and the 'thing' was the illness, but I decided to make it the 'thing' as in the person standing in front of me. I take a lot of liberties with things like that. I twist them round and make them mine."
"Kedavra" also sounds very similar to the English word cadaver, which means "corpse," and derives from the Latin cadere, "to fall."
Behind the scenes
- In the movies the curse has been seen as a jet, a flash, or a burst of green or turquoise light.
- The biological reasons for the victim's death have never been fully explained. In any case, it is something that does not affect the health of the victims, as Muggle autopsy show that there is no change aside from outright death. It may simply be that the Curse just causes every organ in the body to instantaneously "shut down".
- In PC version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Quirrell frequently shoots Harry with a green mist-like spell that may be Avada Kedavra though it doesn't kill instantly. Harry deflects the "Avada Kedavra" spells back to Voldemort later with the Mirror of Erised, eventually killing him.
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Lucius Malfoy says "Avada-" at Harry Potter after he unwillingly frees Dobby. Dobby knocks Lucius backwards with magic to protect Harry, and he does not finish the incantation. The part of the incantation shown was not represented in the subtitles.
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Bellatrix Lestrange is shown using the Killing Curse to murder Sirius Black in a scene slightly different from that of the novel, in which Sirius was pushed through the Veil by an unidentified curse cast by Bellatrix. The effect of the curse is also not shown to be instantaneous in the film. Instead, it hit his arm or shoulder, stinging him and causing him to show signs of weakness as he fell into the Veil.
- In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin intended to kill Peter Pettigrew for his betrayal of James and Lily Potter. It is unknown how they wanted to do it, possibly by the use of this curse. If it would have been used, Peter would have died the same way as his former friends.
- Out of the three, the Killing Curse is the only Unforgivable Curse that Harry did not use.
- After Harry Potter survived a second killing curse, he described it as having left a bruise that felt like an "iron-clad punch."
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Barty Crouch Jr uses not three spiders but an arachnid of a separate species, an Amblypygi.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, After being warned by Kingsley's Patronus and the Death Eaters arrive, an unidentified Death Eater appears and immediately attacks an unidentified Auror with what appears to be a Killing Curse, which causes the Auror to be blasted off his feet and into the wedding cake.
- In the Harry Potter LEGO game, Frank Bryce is replaced by a milkman. However, his death by this curse cannot be considered canon as no echo of him appeared during the Duel in Little Hangleton.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Voldemort kills Pius Thicknesse with the Killing Curse after the latter interrupts the former's thoughts. It is unknown if Pius survived the Battle of Hogwarts in the book, but it is certain that Voldemort did not kill him.
- While the curse is noted to be unblockable, there are many exceptions listed: the seventh book shows jets of red and green light colliding and shooting off into multi-coloured sparks, much like fireworks, while the films show it being blocked with a Shield Charm.
- This is not the only spell that can prove fatal; Fiendfyre, Sectumsempra, Confringo, Diffindo or even Stupefy in exceptional circumstances. Antonin Dolohov used an unnamed curse that could also prove fatal. However, this is the only known spell whose sole and primary application is death.
- In the video game of the first part film adaption of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Cadmus Peverell uses the Killing Curse to commit suicide.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Ron Weasley casts a green spell in an attempt to kill Voldemort's snake Nagini (one of his Horcruxes). Though if this was indeed the Killing Curse that Ron used against Nagini she would have been destroyed as Horcruxes can be destroyed by being hit with a Killing Curse. This is proven when Harry surrenders to Voldemort and he is hit with the curse, while Harry was "killed", Voldemort simultaneously destroyed the Horcrux that resided in Harry's body. However, it may be that Ron did attempt the curse, but simply lacked the power and will to actually make it effective, based on prior observations that the person casting the Unforgiveables must really want to achieve their intended purpose. It is also possible that the Fragment of Voldemort's soul that was in Harry was only destroyed by the Killing Curse as Harry was an accidental Horcrux, and as such he lacked the additional enchantments that gave the other Horcruxes their invulnerability.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the Killing Curse rebounds on Voldemort during his duel with Harry by the green light of the curse emitting through the crack in the Elder Wand, causing Voldemort's hand to turn black and spread, leading to his death.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the rebounding Killing Curse affects Voldemort by causing him to disintegrate into ashes instead of leaving his physical body dead.
- The curse's incantation was Voldemort's last words in life in the novel.
- Worth noticing is the similarity between the hand movements for the Curse and the shape of Harry's scar; both resemble lightning bolts. It may explain why the scar bore that specific shape instead of just a straight line or anything else.
- This is the only one of the three unforgivable curses without a Latin incantation.
- Prior to being introduced to this curse in his fourth year class, Harry had always pondered how his parents were exactly killed by Voldemort. The revelation was rather unpleasant for him.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First appearance) (Appears in flashback(s))
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film) (Appears in flashback(s))
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game) (Possibly)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film) (Avada only)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (First identified as Killing Curse)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (play)
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- Harry Potter for Kinect
- Harry Potter: Spells
- Pottermore (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- ↑ The Tales of Beedle the Bard (real)
- ↑ The Tales of Beedle the Bard
- ↑ Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them- 2017 edition
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 36 (The Only One He Ever Feared)
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film) and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17 (Bathilda's Secret)
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- ↑ Edinburgh Book Festival interview
- ↑ "Abracadabra" on Wiktionary
- ↑ "Cadaver" on The Online Etymology Dictionary"