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Harry Potter: "What happens if you break it?"
Ron Weasley: "You die."
— Discussion of the Vow and its consequences[src]

An Unbreakable Vow is a magical spell of unknown incantation, in which one witch or wizard makes an oath to another. If either of the two break their terms, they die.

Casting and effects

"A thin tongue of brilliant flame issued from the wand and wound its way around their hands like a red-hot wire."
—The light of the spell after the first clause[src]
NarcissaMalfoy PM B6C2M1 NarcissaSnapeBellatrixUnbreakableVow Moment

The Unbreakable Vow being cast

The Vow is cast by having two parties kneeling or standing opposite each other and clasping each others right hands. A third party must hold their wand, standing quite close to the pair holding hands, and place the tip of their wand onto the linked hands, as Bonder. Then, the first will ask a certain number of vows of the other, with the second accepting those terms; it is unknown what happens if he or she declines. Each time a term is accepted a thin stream of fire will be emitted from the Bonder's wand, weaving around the hands of the pair taking the vows.

Upon the vow being made, if the one who accepts the term breaks it, then they die.

The spell itself appears to be fairly advanced, as it appears that it is not very used often (and not just for obvious reasons) and only in strict matters of confidence.

Known uses

Pre-1901

Sometime prior to 1901, Yusuf Kama made an Unbreakable Vow with his father where he promised to track down and kill the son of Corvus Lestrange in retaliation for taking Yusuf's mother away from them. This Vow, however, turned out to be null and void, as the child he thought was his intended victim turned out to be someone else entirely, and the person whom he had sworn to kill was already long dead.

1980s

"Fred and George tried to get me to make one when I was about five. I nearly did too, I was holding hands with Fred and everything when Dad found us."
—Ron Weasley's brother's attempt to make a Vow[src]

In either 1985 or 1986, Fred and George Weasley attempted to convince their then five-year-old brother Ron to make an Unbreakable Vow with them. They were in fact poised to do so, with their wands out, holding hands and ready to cast the spell when their father discovered them. It was described as the only time he was as angry as his wife, and it is said that he did something which left Fred's left buttock never the same again; however, luckily their brother Ron was left unhurt, although he remembered the incident at least eleven years later.

1996

Narcissa Malfoy: "Will you, Severus, watch over my son, Draco, as he attempts to fulfil the Dark Lord's wishes?"
Severus Snape: "I will."
Narcissa Malfoy: "And will you, to the best of your ability, protect him from harm?"
Severus Snape: "I will."
Narcissa Malfoy: "And should it prove necessary... if it seems Draco will fail... will you carry out the deed that the Dark Lord has ordered Draco to perform?"
Severus Snape: "I will."
— Severus and Narcissa's vow[src]
Unbreakable vow

Bellatrix sealing the Unbreakable Vow between Narcissa and Snape

In the summer of 1996, Severus Snape made an Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa Malfoy, the wife of Lucius Malfoy. Their Bonder was Bellatrix Lestrange, Narcissa's sister and a Death Eater. He promised to protect Draco Malfoy from harm and guide him whilst he attempted to perform the task the Dark Lord had asked him to do: to kill Albus Dumbledore.

Snape was actually a triple agent working for Dumbledore, who requested Snape to kill him anyway to spare him of a painful and humiliating death. When Draco could not bring it in his heart to kill Dumbledore despite having the opportunity with the latter cornered and wandless, Snape fulfilled the vow with Narcissa to kill Dumbledore himself, simultaneously fulfilling his promise to Dumbledore of a mercy kill, sparing Draco of having to do so under duress.

See also

Behind the scenes

  • It is unknown if this spell has an incantation; although the Bonder has to hold their wand to the participants' hands, it would seem at first as though the vows themselves may have been the incantation. However, it is also possible it was merely cast non-verbally.
  • In the sixth film, the three rings of fire appear all at once, rather than appearing individually whenever a term is accepted. Whether or not more rings would appear if there were more terms to the vow remains unknown. They also leave a mark on the skin once they disappear.
  • Several fans of the series have proposed to their significant others by cutting out pages of the book down to the chapter titled "The Unbreakable Vow", hiding an engagement ring inside the cutout, and giving it to them.
  • J. K. Rowling jokingly made a "unbreakable vow" with Twitter user @maruaders that she would retweet one of his posts for her one thousandth tweet. She ended up upholding this vow.[1]

Appearances

Notes and references