This is a short question. In the movie Goblet of Fire, Sirius says to Harry, "No one stops being a Death Eater!" when speaking to Harry about the dangers surrounding the Triwizard Tournament.

Is this book canon? Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater? Is this explicitly stated in canon?

I'm looking for a canon-based answer: the books, J.K. Rowling interviews, Pottermore, the Lexicon, etc. I'm not looking for a movie-based answer, and please no HP Wikia citations. Subjective answers in the spirit of canon are great!

  • 1
    Hehe, you ask “Is this book canon” but then allow interviews in the disclaimer.
    – b_jonas
    Apr 16, 2015 at 7:01
  • 1
    @b_jonas Doesn't get more canon than from the mouth of the creator of the world herself.
    – Firebat
    Apr 16, 2015 at 8:16
  • 3
    For clarification, are you asking if it is not possible to stop being a Death Eater, like a spell is cast that ensures the truth of the statement?
    – Firebat
    Apr 16, 2015 at 8:44
  • 2
    What exactly would you say constitutes stopping being a Death Eater? It's not like there's a Death Eater contract you have to sign and then if it's annulled, you're no longer a death eater. Several people have stopped working for Voldemort as his aides (Snape, Karkaroff, Regulus Black, etc.)—but they all presumably still had the Mark (if Regulus ever rose high enough to get one, that is), so in some sense they'd probably still count. Apr 16, 2015 at 23:16
  • 2
    @Slytherincess I'm just confused as to what you are looking for in an answer? As JanusBahsJacquet's says, there isn't a contract to sign, no "legal" Death Eater status. You've given Regulus as an example of an ex-Death Eater, I'll cite Snape as another, so the answer is trivially "no". Short of removing free will (via Imperio or whatever), how could someone be forced to remain a Death Eater if they change their mind? I just can't think of any circumstances that could make the answer to this "yes" without it being metaphorical. But I don't think "No - free will" is the answer you want :P
    – DavidS
    Apr 20, 2015 at 9:15

5 Answers 5


Yes. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix chapter 6, Sirius talks about his brother Regulus (emphasis mine):

“Stupid idiot . . . he joined the Death Eaters.” [...] "He was murdered by Voldemort. Or on Voldemort’s orders, more likely, I doubt Regulus was ever important enough to be killed by Voldemort in person. From what I found out after he died, he got in so far, then panicked about what he was being asked to do and tried to back out. Well, you don’t just hand in your resignation to Voldemort. It’s a lifetime of service or death.”


Yes. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire chapter 33, the Dark Lord says

‘And here we have six missing Death Eaters … three dead in my service. One, too cowardly to return … he will pay. One, who I believe has left me for ever … he will be killed, of course … and one, who remains my most faithful servant, and who has already re-entered my service.’

Before this, the Dark Lord also lectures Peter Pettigrew and Lucius Malfoy about their loyalty to him.

‘[…] I expect more faithful service in future.’

Half-Blood Prince chapter 27 gives further evidence, when Professor Dumbledore chats with Draco Malfoy.

‘I haven't got any options!’ said Malfoy, and he was suddenly as white as Dumbledore. ‘I've got to do it! He'll kill me! He'll kill my whole family!’

‘I appreciate the difficulty of your position,’ said Dumbledore. ‘Why else do you think I have not confronted you before now? Because I knew that you would have been murdered if Lord Voldemort realised I suspected you.’

‘[…] I can help you, Draco.’

‘No, you can't,’ said Malfoy, his wand shaking very badly indees. ‘Nobody can. He told me to do it or he'll kill me. I've got no choice.’

Deathly Hallows chapter 33 has one more evidence: Professor Snape says Karkaroff ‘fears retribution; you know how much help he gave the Ministry after the Dark Lord fell.’


There is also a counter canon.

I cannot quote the book at the moment but there was a scene in Dumbledore's pensive when Karkaroff was in hearing and he named Snape as a Deatheater.

Dumbledore stood up and said something along the lines that Snape stopped being a Deatheater at great personal cost before Voldemort fell and is no more of a Deatheater than Dumbledore.


First of all, book canon very explicitly disagrees with that statement - in that very same scene in that same conversation, in a statement by the same character (Sirius):

"So. . . so Voldemort could have found out about the tournament?" said Harry. "Is that what you mean? You think Karkaroff might be here on his orders?"

"I don't know," said Sirius slowly, "I just don't know...Karkaroff doesn't strike me as the type who'd go back to Voldemort unless he knew Voldemort was powerful enough to protect him. But whoever put your name in that goblet did it for a reason, and I can't help thinking the tournament would be a very good way to attack you and make it hook like an accident."

The bolded part clearly shows that Sirius said that Karkaroff would have to "go back" to Voldemort, implying he wasn't a Death Eater anymore. And moreover, even more important, that he "wouldn't go back" unless a certain condition happened - meaning that he has a choice not to go back.

Second of all, "Death Eater" is a fairly vague term, with a couple of possible exact meanings.

One of the meanings that the the film quote could have used was "people who follow Voldemort".

"Death Eaters?" said Harry. "What are Death Eaters?"
"It's what You-Know-Who's supporters called themselves," said Bill. "I think we saw what's left of them tonight - the ones who managed to keep themselves out of Azkaban, anyway."
(src: GoF, Chapter 8).

Under that meaning, clearly: Karkaroff was no longer a Death Eater since he ratted out other DEs to MoM (meaning he wasn't following V. in deed) as well as swore that he wasn't a DE anymore publicly (... in word). He wasn't following in any sense.

Third, another possible way I interpret what Sirius's line meant in the film was more of "once you're evil enough to join DEs, you aren't going to stop being that evil no matter what you say about yourself" - like Malfoy.

If that's the case, again, that interpretation of the meaning is contradicted by book canon, since - unknown to Sirius - both Sirius's brother RAB, and Severus Snape, both stopped being evil internally and meaningfully "stopped" being Death Eaters.

Another possible interpretation is that Voldemort has some way of making former Death Eaters obey his will, even if they wish not to. "You can check out, but you can never leave". Possibly but not necessarily via the Dark Mark, or some sort of unbreakable curse equivalent.

This is not addressed by the book canon, since anyone who "Stopped" being Death Eater was either accepted back in with Voldemort convinced that they never stopped (Snape, Malfoy, McNair); or was killed for the "stopping" immediately (Karkaroff, RAB).

But this lack of examples makes me lean towards the fact that there was no way to "bring a stopped Death Eater back to the fold".


It's possible to stop being a death-eater

Draco was a Death-Eater. He bears the Dark Mark (probably) and at one point even planned to murder Dumbledore.

By the end of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child he seems to have, largely, made his peace with Harry, Hermione and Ron and is certainly no longer in league with Voldemort, given that he was instrumental in

reversing the timeline changes (made by his idiot son) that would have resulted in Voldemort winning the Battle of Hogwarts, killing Harry in the process and that would have left Draco a powerful and feared man, in charge of the Ministry of Magic's "Office of the Head of Magical Law Enforcement"

  • 1
    it is also possible Lucius had a similar change of heart.
    – NKCampbell
    Aug 2, 2016 at 1:46
  • But Voldemort was dead at that point, so this is an invalid example
    – ava
    May 24, 2021 at 13:47
  • @ava - Technically no. Due to time travel shenanigans, his son was operating during a time period when Voldemort was alive and well.
    – Valorum
    May 24, 2021 at 15:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.