If someone is put under an Imperius Curse, are they unaware for the duration - essentially unconscious while their body is under another's control? Or can they possibly remain conscious, able to experience what is happening, but unable to do anything whatsoever about it - a passenger in their own body?


Barty Crouch Jr, who has a lot of experience in both ends of the Imperius curse, tells us that its victims can be aware of their situation, although normally they are not:

‘But your father escaped,’ said Dumbledore.

‘Yes. After a while he began to fight the Imperius curse just as I had done. There were periods where he knew what was happening. My master decided it was no longer safe for my father to leave the house. He forced him to send letters to the Ministry instead. (…)’

(Goblet of Fire, chapter Veritaserum)

Harry, who is particularly talented at fighting off the curse, remains aware of his surroundings, but only barely:

It was the most wonderful feeling. Harry felt a floating sensation as every thought and worry in his head was wiped gently away, leaving nothing but a vague, untraceable happiness. He stood there feeling immensely relaxed, only dimly aware of everyone watching him.

And then he heard Mad-Eye Moody’s voice, echoing in some distant chamber of his empty brain: Jump onto the desk … jump onto the desk …

(…) suddenly Harry felt the empty, echoing feeling in his head disappear. He remembered exactly what was happening, and the pain in his knees seemed to double.

(Goblet of Fire, chapter Beauxbatons and Durmstrang)

So it is possible, but not what usually happens when someone is under the Imperius curse.

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    And Harry also resists Voldemort using it in the end. And Barty Crouch Jr. praises Harry for successfully fighting it in class when he was casting it on everyone. I don't have any quotes but iirc Harry says 'I WON'T!' in response to a question (or demand) by Voldemort. – Pryftan Nov 30 '17 at 1:13
  • @Pryftan: Yes, but I don’t think that is particularly relevant to this question (unless someone were to doubt my “Harry is particularly talented at fighting off the curse” statement). – chirlu Nov 30 '17 at 5:48
  • Nope. I was just saying that he was THAT good at it! – Pryftan Dec 1 '17 at 2:14

Yes - but awareness seems a sign of resisting the Imperius Curse.

From the evidence we have, it seems like someone under the Imperius Curse who isn’t able to resist is largely unaware of their actions. In all the situations we see someone described as becoming aware of their actions under the Imperius Curse, they’re beginning to resist it.

Both Barty Crouch Jr. and Barty Crouch Sr. start getting flashes of awareness when they start to resist the Imperius Curse after being under it for a long time. Barty Crouch Jr. describes one of the periods he becomes aware while resisting his father’s Imperius Curse as waking from a deep sleep, and then goes on to say he “found himself” out in public at the Quidditch World Cup, implying he might not have been aware of how he got there.

“But Winky didn’t know that I was growing stronger. I was starting to fight my father’s Imperius Curse. There were times when I was almost myself again. There were brief periods when I seemed outside his control. It happened, there, in the Top Box. It was like waking from a deep sleep. I found myself out in public, in the middle of the match, and I saw a wand sticking out of a boy’s pocket in front of me. I had not been allowed a wand since before Azkaban. I stole it. Winky didn’t know. Winky is frightened of heights. She had her face hidden.”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 35 (Veritaserum)

Harry is dimly aware of what’s happening the first time it’s used on him, but even that time, he’s trying to resist it, and partially succeeded in doing so. Harry’s experience therefore cannot be considered a typical experience of being controlled by the Imperius Curse, since he’s resisting it,

“He had both jumped and tried to prevent himself from jumping – the result was that he’d smashed headlong into the desk, knocking it over, and, by the feeling in his legs, fractured both his kneecaps.

‘Now, that’s more like it!’ growled Moody’s voice, and suddenly Harry felt the empty, echoing feeling in his head disappear. He remembered exactly what was happening, and the pain in his knees seemed to double.

‘Look at that, you lot … Potter fought! He fought it, and he damn near beat it! We’ll try that again, Potter, and the rest of you, pay attention – watch his eyes, that’s where you see it – very good, Potter, very good indeed! They’ll have trouble controlling you!”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 14 (The Unforgivable Curses)

From what we see, it seems like awareness goes hand in hand with beginning to fight off the effects of the Imperius Curse, which somewhat implies that an Imperius Curse at its most effective leaving the victim with just a relaxed feeling, unaware of their actions. This would be logical, as if the victim knows they’re being controlled (especially if they’re aware they’re being made to do things they wouldn’t under their own free will) they’d be more motivated to fight against its effects.

We never have described or see inside the mind of someone who’s completely controlled under the Imperius Curse (not able to fight it at all), so we can’t say for sure that they’re entirely unaware. However, since awareness is seen to coincide with fighting off the Imperius Curse, it stands to reason that the more controlled the victim is, the more unaware they are.

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    Interesting. I don't think that was mentioned in the movies. – DCOPTimDowd Nov 29 '17 at 20:14
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    what are these movies you mention @DCOPTimDowd? ;) – NKCampbell Nov 29 '17 at 20:14
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    Beg your pardon, Mistress Bell. ;) – DCOPTimDowd Nov 29 '17 at 20:16
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    And he even resists Voldemort's use of the spell on him at the graveyard. – Pryftan Nov 30 '17 at 1:14
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    @Pryftan Yes, exactly! :) That’s why Harry’s experiences with the Imperius Curse can’t be considered typical. – Arya Nov 30 '17 at 2:18

I read the other answers and want to give examples from the movies

When moody shows the effects of Unforgivable curses on spiders, he brings one of the spiders near a water bottle to drown it. The spider is very afraid of the water and knows what is going to happen to itself, moves it's legs in panic to avoid the undeniable future. I think this part is also present in the books.

Second example is in Gringotts. When the trio go for Bellatrix's safe, Harry uses Imperius on one of the goblins at Gringotts. The face of the goblin suddenly becomes relaxed, and has no idea what is going on while under the effect of the curse. After the curse is broken, the goblin is very surprised to find himself near a dragon. But Harry is not a experienced Imperio caster and as others stated awareness only visible in terms of resistance and probably goblins do not have enough magical power to resist an Imperius curse.

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    No. It's because of the Thief's downfall which washes away all enchantments. He then puts it back on the goblin (in the film Ron does it). He also (in the book) casts it on Travers, a human and Death Eater (who iirc places it on Pius Thicknese [unsure on spelling] with great difficulty). And that he succeeds in too. And fwiw I'm not the one who down voted. – Pryftan Nov 30 '17 at 1:16
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    Don't quite agree about the spider - I think spiders are generally not fans of being manhandled, and non-water spiders prefer not to be in water - but the Gringotts example is also one I was thinking of. But it could be that the goblin was still present there in the sense that characters in Being John Malkovich or Get Out are present in their bodies. There but unable to control anything at all, including facial expressions. In such a situation the goblin could probably still look relaxed. – Misha R Nov 30 '17 at 2:51
  • The spider example as you describe it is absolutely not in the book. The spider on which the Killing Curse is to be demonstrated tries to flee; the one for Imperius, however, moves exactly as commanded. Moody only says he could make it kill itself, when some of the children laugh. – chirlu Nov 30 '17 at 5:55
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    @Pryftan To what are you saying "no"? What I believe atayenel is pointing out was that the goblin was unaware of what was happening until the effect was washed away. – JLRishe Dec 1 '17 at 9:36
  • @JLRishe I got the impression that atayenel was saying that the reason the curse was lifted on the goblin was because Harry was inexperienced when it was because of the Thief's downfall. And although Harry (iirc) wasn't sure he was successful with it on Travers it seems he was. So although these are the first times he casts it he certainly did well enough! It seems that none of his victims knew it in the slightest that they were under the curse and that includes Travers, a human Death Eater. Until the Thief's downfall, that is (but Travers wasn't there at the time because Harry sent him away)! – Pryftan Dec 2 '17 at 17:29

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