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Drink of Despair

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Drink of Despair
Drink of Despair
Potion information

Induces fear, delirium, intense stomach pain and extreme thirst in the drinker

  • Emerald green in colour
  • Glows phosphorescently

Lord Voldemort (quite possibly)

Harry: "You think the Horcrux is in there, sir?"
Dumbledore: "Oh yes. But how to reach it? This potion cannot be penetrated by hand, Vanished, parted, scooped up, or siphoned away, nor can it be Transfigured, Charmed, or otherwise made to change its nature. I can only conclude this potion is supposed to be drunk."
— Harry and Dumbledore discuss the potion guarding a Horcrux[src]

The Drink of Despair[1], or Emerald Potion, is a mysterious potion which induces fear, delirium, and extreme thirst. The drink cannot be penetrated by hand, vanished, parted, scooped up, siphoned away, Transfigured, Charmed, or made to change its nature in any way. It can only be drained away by drinking. In spite of all this, the potion can be magically refilled by a skilled spellcaster.

Lord Voldemort used this potion to protect Salazar Slytherin's Locket (one of his Horcruxes) within the Crystal Cave. This would provide a powerful defence, as one person cannot drink the entire content without collapsing from the terrible effects, and would require a second person to force feed the potion, which Voldemort considered impossible due to the enchanted boat is designed to carry only one adult Wizard (though Voldemort did not consider underage wizards or magical creatures such as house elves, presumably because he underestimated them).


After he had turned Slytherin's locket into a Horcrux, Lord Voldemort decided to use an isolated cave as an ultra-secure hiding place.  The criticial part of this security was a special potion that was apparently his own creation. This potion was placed in a stone basin in the middle of the subterranean lake, and the locket was then immersed in the potion. In order to test the effectiveness of the defences placed around the locket, Voldemort asked his Death Eaters to let him use a house elf. One of them, Regulus Black, volunteered, and ordered his house-elf, Kreacher, to obey Voldemort's instructions and when finished to come back to 12 Grimmauld Place.

Voldemort tested all of the defences, including the potion. As Voldemort had hoped, the potion incapacitated Kreacher, who he left behind to die. Voldemort, however, did not realize that his secutiry measures would not prevent a house-elf from disapperating. This was due to his failure to understand that house-elfs might have powers that wizards did not.  This failure allowed Kreacher to return home and to report the secret of the cave to Regulus Black.

Regulus Black drinks the potion

Regulus was infuriated by Voldemort's treatment of Kreacher, and decided to sabatoge Voldemort's quest for immortality. He had worked out, from various subtle hints, that Voldemort had created a Horcrux, something that deeply frightened Regulus.  He did not tell anyone about this - not even Kreacher - in order to help ensure the safety of his family. He asked Kreacher to take him to the cave, and then drank the potion himself, allowing Kreacher to swap the Horcrux for another locket.  Regulus had ordered Kreacher to leave him in the cave, destroy the locket, and to never tell his family what had happened. Kreacher was not able to destroy the locket, despite many attempts, and the original locket remained at 12 Grimmauld Place until it was stolen by Mundungus Fletcher.

Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter's attempt on the locket

Albus Dumbledore had realized that Tom Riddle had likely created several Horcrux, and began a quest to find where they were hidden.  One story he investigated was from Tom Riddle's days in his orphange, where he had terrified two of his fellow orphans during a visit to the coast.  As part of this investigation, he discovered an area that had been altered by powerful magic. On the 30th of June, 1997, Dumbledore and Harry set off to the cave to obtain the Horcrux. After penetrating the outer defences, Harry and Dumbledore arrived at the island and discovered that the Horcrux was immersed in a glowing, green, potion.   After determining that the potion could only be removed if it was drunk, Dumbledore conjured a goblet and began to drink the potion.

Dumbledore started drinking, and it took three cups of the potion before he was noticeably effected. The first symptom of the potion was pain.  Then, much like a dementor, it apparently made the drinker relive his worst memories.  Finally, it caused intense thirst.  Since any water that was conjured would immediately disappear, this would cause the individual to drink from the lake, which in turn would wake the inferi.  Since inferi - like all dark creatures - fear fire, light, and heat, Harry and Dumbledore were able to escape after Dumbledore was able to conjur a lasso of fire.


The Drink of Despair has an emerald green colour to it, and glows phosphorescently. As such, a green glow can be seen from the basin on the island in the middle of the lake from the far end of the cave. Even though Dumbledore said he could not change its nature in any way, Lord Voldemort turned the potion "crystal clear" to check the locket, possibly because he alone knew how to alter the potion's characteristics, or because he only wanted to check on it rather than remove it from the basin.

Effects of the potion

Emerald green potion

The basin and the Crystal goblet where the potion is held.

"Kreacher drank, and as he drank, he saw terrible things... Kreacher's insides burned... Kreacher cried for Master Regulus to save him, he cried for his Mistress Black, but the Dark Lord only laughed... He made Kreacher drink all the potion... He dropped a locket into the empty basin... He filled it with more potion..."
—Kreacher describing when Voldemort forced him to test the potion's defences.[src]

While its effects are not completely known, the potion would seem to cause the drinker intense pain, extreme thirst and cause them to experience terrible things, most likely their worst memories and fears.

Kreacher said (see quote above) that he saw 'terrible things' and that his 'insides burned'.

Albus Dumbledore's screams of "kill me" could either indicate a resurfacing of the memory of his sister's death (as in, "kill me instead") or a request to be delivered from the intense physical pain he was experiencing, or both. It also causes the drinker to become extremely thirsty and for any conjured water to vanish before reaching their mouths. This causes them to crawl to the water's edge in the Crystal Cave and drink from the lake, activating the masses of inferi to rise out of the water and drag them down to drown; Dumbledore noted that this fearsome combination made it a powerful defence for the horcrux.

In 1998, while telling Aberforth Dumbledore about what happened when his brother drank the potion, Harry mentions that he believed that Dumbledore was reliving the 3-way duel that broke out amongst them and Grindelwald that resulted in their sister, Ariana's death. This was something that Dumbledore felt guilty about for the whole of his life after the event. While it was likely that this was what Dumbledore was seeing this duel and his sister's death, he did not mention out loud either event while he was drinking the potion.

Behind the scenes

  • In the movie, the Drink of Despair is a murky black colour. It is emerald green in the books, however.
  • Also, in the book version, Dumbledore conjured a crystal cup out of thin air to drink the potion, while in the movie version, there was a seashell-shaped cup placed on top of the basin (originally a crystal cup in the script).
  • The potion is unnamed in the books, films, and video games. It's name deviantes the track from the film's soundtrack which plays over the scene of Dumbledore consuming the potion.
  • Dumbledore's theory that the potion would not kill its drinker, but stop him in some way from reaching the Horcrux and possibly notify Voldemort (so that he could torture and interrogate the drinker) proved wrong; There was no alarm system as Voldemort was not notified when Regulus and Kreacher or when Albus Dumbledore and Harry entered the cave. The potion was also not immediately fatal, but was designed to make the drinker go to the lake and be drowned by the Inferi or die of thirst. It is unknown whether Dumbledore genuinely believed what he told Harry, or whether that was to persuade Harry to help him drink the potion.
  • Both human drinkers - Albus Dumbledore and Regulus Black were the only two people who independently discovered that Voldemort had created Horcruxes. (Harry, Ron and Hermione were told.) For Regulus Black, this was the first (and only) attempt at finding one of Voldemort's Horcrux, while Dumbledore had already found and destroyed the ring horcrux and was already dying from the ring's curse when he drank the potion. They were the only two drinkers who willingly drank the potion, knowing that they had to do so in order to obtain the Horcrux.
  • Both Albus Dumbledore and Regulus Black died shortly after drinking the potion (and knew that they were going to): Regulus Black presumably believed that he couldn't continue opposing Lord Voldemort and live, whereas Dumbledore only had a few months to live (due to being cursed by putting on the ring) and had ordered Severus Snape to give him a painless death. Regulus ordered Kreacher to leave him to die after he had drunk the potion and was taken by the Inferi while drinking from the lake to quench his thirst, while Dumbledore was killed by Severus Snape on Dumbledore's orders.
  • The torture inflicted by the potion may have contributed to Kreacher's bitter personality (along with Regulus's and Walburga's deaths, being unable to tell his family about Regulus's death, living alone with the Locket Horcrux and Walburga's portrait and Sirius Black's cruel treatment of him) and his unhealthy appearance (possibly along with age).
  • In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7, the potion is kept in a water-cooler rather than a basin.


Notes and references

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