I can buy why Ministry officials were all too eager to buy into Sirius' guilt and stick him into Azkaban.

But were Lupin and Dumbledore so quick? If I were them, I'd have first thing insisted on questioning Sirius under Veritaserum potion.


5 Answers 5


Here's what J.K. Rowling says about Veritaserum:

"Veritaserum works best upon the unsuspecting, the vulnerable and those insufficiently skilled (in one way or another) to protect themselves against it. Barty Crouch had been attacked before the potion was given to him and was still very groggy, otherwise he could have employed a range of measures against the Potion - he might have sealed his own throat and faked a declaration of innocence, transformed the Potion into something else before it touched his lips, or employed Occlumency against its effects. In other words, just like every other kind of magic within the books, Veritaserum is not infallible. As some wizards can prevent themselves being affected, and others cannot, it is an unfair and unreliable tool to use at a trial."

"Sirius might have volunteered to take the potion had he been given the chance, but he was never offered it. Mr. Crouch senior, power mad and increasingly unjust in the way he was treating suspects, threw him into Azkaban on the (admittedly rather convincing) testimony of many eyewitnesses. The sad fact is that even if Sirius had told the truth under the influence of the Potion, Mr. Crouch could still have insisted that he was using trickery to render himself immune to it."


Wayback Machine - JKRowling.com (Original J.K. Rowling site): Veritaserum plays a big part in finding out the truth from Mad-Eye Moody in book four. Why then is it not used for example in the trials mentioned in the same book? It would be much easier in solving problems like whether Sirius Black was guilty or not?

Harry Potter Wikia - Veritaserum (If I must ... )

J.K. Rowling - The Leaky Cauldron Wiki - Veritaserum (This link is frequently down)

COSforums.com: Can you use Legilimency/Veritaserum to get the secret out of a secret keeper? (Scroll down to Owlgirl's post)

  • But this addresses Mr Crouch, not Dumbledore or Lupin. There's not a shred of evidence I could find that shows THEY had any inclination to doubt Sirius's guilt either, which is what bothers me. Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 0:40
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    Because Dumbledore and Lupin thought Sirius was guilty at the time. (Dumbledore) 'A street full of eye-witnesses swore they saw Sirius murder Pettigrew. I myself gave evidence to the Ministry that Sirius had been the Potters’ Secret Keeper.’ Sirius didn't act like an innocent man. (Hermione) ‘But you believe us.’ ‘Yes, I do,’ said Dumbledore quietly. ‘But I have no power to make other men see the truth, or to overrule the Minister for Magic ...’ PoA - page 287 - Hermione's Secret (CONTINUED) Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 1:48
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    (Lupin)‘You’re wrong,’ said Lupin. ‘I haven’t been Sirius’ friend for twelve years, but I am now ... let me explain ...’ (page 253) ‘Everyone thought Sirius killed Peter,’ said Lupin, nodding. ‘I believed it myself – until I saw the map tonight.' (257) 'And so I convinced myself that Sirius was getting into the school using Dark Arts he learnt from Voldemort, that being an Animagus had nothing to do with it ...' (pg 261) ‘Not at all, Padfoot, old friend,’ said Lupin, who was now rolling up his sleeves. ‘And will you, in turn, forgive me for believing you were the spy?’ PoA chapters 18-19. :) Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 2:11
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    @aSlytherin - why not put this further exposition/clarification In your answer? Commented Feb 2, 2013 at 0:01
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    @balancedmama -- Well, mainly because it's discussion as an offshoot of the original question. So it would be fun exposition, but the actual answer to the question is already in the answer. DVK then went on to ask a follow up question, which played out in the comments. I didn't want to risk the actual answer being lost in a sea of exposition. :) Commented Feb 2, 2013 at 19:11

From the Harry Potter Wikia on Veritaserum (bolding mine):

Despite being the most powerful truth serum in existence, it can still be resisted through different methods, including the taking of its antidote and Occlumency.[2]

For the same reasons Muggles use polygraph tests, Veritaserum is no more reliable than its Muggle counterpart. Since some wizards and witches can resist its effects while others cannot, Veritaserum is "unfair and unreliable to use at a trial" and cannot be used as definite proof of guilt or innocence.

Another weakness is that the victim only states what they believe to be true, so the victim's sanity and perception of reality also factors in during interrogations. This is the main reason why Barty Crouch Jr.'s testimony was not credible, as he was clearly insane.[3]


  • Source [2] is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Source [3] is a (broken) link to a Veritaserum FAQ page on Rowling's website.

Additionally, I think I remember something about the legality (middle paragraph) coming up in the 4th book, Goblet of Fire.

  • It's a good answer, but I am afraid doesn't address the point. Yes, it would have been the 100% answer had Dumbledore TRIED Veritaserum but Crouch would have thrown out the testimony as evidence. Or at least even refused the procedure in the first place. But what bothers me is that there's no indication Dumbledore even considered trying Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 0:41
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    @DVK Basically, Veritaserum proves nothing, is what those quotes are saying... Whether or not it could be used in the trial, Black could still have overcome its effects and lied to Dumbledore and Lupin, had he been guilty.
    – Izkata
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 13:08

The real issue is why Sirius didn't get A TRIAL. Dumbledore could have gotten him a trial- whether they believed Sirius or not is another matter. But part pf the reason Sirius resents Dumbledore in OotP is probably because he wasn't given a trial. He still may have been imprisoned, but Dumbledore is meant to be the pinnacle of the good guys and at least treat people fairly.

So WHY was Sirius never put on trial? Probably lots of reasons:

  1. Plot convenience/need to break out of prison
  2. If free he would have demanded access to Harry- Dumbledore wanted Harry to suffer with Petunia so he could be strong
  3. Sirius is a Black, it's not an illogical assumption that he was a deatheater
  4. Fifth year prank- Lupin and Dumbledore, when asked, would not be able to deny that Sirius was capable of some harmful shit. 14/15 is close enough to wizard adulthood, only 6/7 years behind them and in grief and confusion and combined with the family name it's not a big leap
  5. Dumbledore is manipulative and didn't fight as Sirius wasn't useful to him
  6. Voldemort's body is there, the deatheaters are now harmless, years of war and fear and dying are over, people want to get married again, have children again, live again. Sirius is thought to be secret keeper and Peter is thought to be dead. There are deatheaters to deal with, people to mourn and the whole thing might be tragic but it's SIMPLE and LOGICAL and really the easiest option. So no one pushes for a trial. Dumbledore waits for Harry to turn eleven.
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    Welcome to the site! Thanks for your post. However, your post doesn't seem to answer the question being asked. Please see the tour and the help center for more info. :)
    – RedCaio
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 21:19
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    Agreed, this doesn't seem to answer the specific question of why Veritaserum wasn't used. You might want to repost this answer here instead.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 22:29

They could have also asked for pensieve memories. While I'm not sure how you would alter a pensieve memory it stands to reason that you would most likely need a wand to do so, and the aurors that captured Sirius took his wand and snapped it.

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    But as we know from Slughorn, memories can be falsified. And he’s been on the run for a year, and skulking through Hogwarts. Any assumptions about what equipment he may or may not have are probably moot.
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 8:27

There may not have been any reason to

There doesn't seem to be any evidence that Sirius ever denied the charges against him. In Prisoner of Azkaban Cornelius Fudge described how they found Sirius (my emphasis):

A crater in the middle of the street, so deep it had cracked the sewer below. Bodies everywhere. Muggles screaming. And Black standing there laughing, with what was left of Pettigrew in front of him... a heap of bloodstained robes and a few — a few fragments —"

So Sirius was caught laughing at the scene of the murder. We are never told that he proclaimed his innocence, even though this surely would have been a significant detail, particularly once he escaped. Everyone seemed to assume that Sirius broke out of prison to kill Harry and/or find Voldemort, but no one ever suggested that he broke out because he claimed to be innocent.

Furthermore, Fudge describes a conversation that he had with Sirius in Azkaban, and specifically noted that Sirius seemed normal mentally. Yet Sirius did not ever argue that he was innocent and ask for a (re)trial.

In fact, it almost seems like Sirius did consider himself guilty. Twice during the conversation with Harry in the Shrieking Shack at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban he basically admits guilt (my emphases):

"You killed my parents," said Harry, his voice shaking slihtly, but his wand hand quite steady.

Black stared up at him out of those sunken eyes.

"I don't deny it," he said very quietly. "But if you knew the whole story —"

"Harry... I as good as killed them," he croaked. "I persuaded Lily and James to change to Peter at the last moment, persuaded them to use him as Secret-Keeper instead of me.... I'm to blame, I know it.... The night they died, I'd arranged to check on Peter, make sure he was still safe, but when I arrived at his hiding place, he'd gone. Yet there was no sign of a struggle. It didn't feel right. I was scared. I set out for your parents' house straightaway. And when I saw their house, destroyed, and their bodies... I realized what Peter must've done... what I'd done...."

If even twelve years later, and after breaking out of prison, he was still considering himself (partly) guilty, it is all the more likely that he considered himself guilty at the time of the crime and while in prison.

Thus, we may have a situation where there was plenty of evidence against a person, and he did not even profess his own innocence. Importantly, there is a parallel situation elsewhere in the series, which sheds light on what happens in such a situation. In Half-Blood Prince, discussing the conviction of Morfin Gaunt for the murder of the Riddles (which he had not committed), Dumbledore says (my emphasis):

"So the Ministry called upon Morfin. They did not need to question him, to use Veritaserum or Legilimency. He admitted to the murder on the spot, giving details only the murderer could know. He was proud, he said, to have killed the Muggles, had been awaiting his chance all these years. He handed over his wand which was proved at once to have been used to kill the Riddles. And he permitted himself to be led off to Azkaban without a fight.

We see here that in a case where there is sufficient evidence against someone and the accused acknowledges their guilt, Veritaserum is considered unnecessary. Therefore, we can suggest that this is the same reason why Dumbledore never suggested using Veritaserum on Sirius — there was sufficient evidence against him, and he did not even deny anything.

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