The question "What makes those three curses unforgivable?" got me wondering if there is anything else that the wizarding world has made unforgivable. For example, are there unforgivable potions?

To restate the title, are the unforgivable curses the only things that are unforgivable?

  • 12
    I will never forgive you for this question. Jan 18, 2012 at 19:02
  • It seems okay to brew up a batch of Liquid Death in potions class... But AK is unforgivable?
    – TGnat
    Jan 18, 2012 at 19:07
  • @TGnat: The Draught of Living Death doesn't kill - it puts you into a very deep sleep, from which waking is difficult to the extreme.
    – Jeff
    Jan 18, 2012 at 19:13
  • @Jeff Thanks for the clarification...
    – TGnat
    Jan 18, 2012 at 19:15
  • @TGnat there is also a counter potion for it. harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Wiggenweld_Potion Jan 18, 2012 at 19:21

3 Answers 3


As far as I know only the three Unforgivables are classified as such. Deadly or love-inducing potions (Voldemort's Horcrux potion; Amortentia), painful spells (Sectumsempra), or mind-altering spells (Obliviate), I think, can be used alongside the Unforgivables, but they aren't classified as such.

If you want to get metaphorical, though, here's an Unforgivable to ponder:

Broken images were racing each other through his mind: Sirius falling through the Veil; Dumbledore suspended, broken, in mid-air; a flash of green light and his mother’s voice, begging for mercy. . .

Parents,’ said Harry, ‘shouldn’t leave their kids unless – unless they’ve got to.

Deathly Hallows - Page 177 - British Hardcover

  • While I agree that's generally unforgivable, I must point out that dead-beat parentism isn't generally a spell :-P
    – Jeff
    Jan 18, 2012 at 20:06
  • @Jeff -- True! However, I do think potions could be a factor! There are often illicit and potentially abusable potions involved in dead-beat parenting, such as the Draught of Living Death, Amortentia, Felix Felicis, and Dreamless Sleep. . . they're just called by different names in the Muggle world (not to mention they certainly don't teach you how to brew them in the Muggle schools ;) ) Jan 18, 2012 at 22:17

"Unforgivable" in the Harry Potter world means life imprisonment in Azkaban prison. A few people have been "forgiven" of unforgivable curses, such as Igor Karkaroff, who served some time at Azkaban before naming names and being released.

Most of the potions have short-term effects or can be reversed. Felix Felicis is banned in organized competitions but probably wouldn't get you sentenced to prision. More likely you would be kicked out of the sport and probably fined.

The same is true of hexes and charms. They have counter charms and ways to cure or remove hexes.

While there is certainly behavior that will get you convicted and sentenced to Azkaban prison (whether through spells, potions, or other activities), these three curses are the only ones that basically guarantee a life sentence. That is why they are called "unforgivable."

  • There are ways to counter the effects of the mind control spell, though. It's still Unforgivable, so it can't be just 'can't be countered' that defines it.
    – Jeff
    Jan 18, 2012 at 20:57
  • Was Karkaroff actually convicted of using Unforgivable curses? I don't have my copy of GoF handy at the moment, but I don't recall him being accused of anything more specific than being a Death Eater.
    – Joe White
    Jan 19, 2012 at 13:15
  • I believe it is safe to assume that Death Eaters are guilty of using the unforgivable curses. Jan 19, 2012 at 17:55
  • @Jeff it's less 'able to be countered' more permanent effect. If a counterable hex or charm could land you in St Mungos for life, cause you to murder, or leave you scarred they they two would be unforgivable.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Sep 6, 2012 at 18:42
  • @JackBNimble I don't know. I got the impression Severus really hadn't until he had to at Dumbledore's request. It's certainly suggested that he hadn't but how true or not I guess is anyone's guess (except perhaps Rowling's).
    – Pryftan
    Oct 5, 2017 at 1:46

Those three curses are unforgivable, at least in part, because there is no use for them other than to cause pain, enforce compliance, or kill.

Every other spell and potion mentioned has at least one use which is beneficial and/or benevolent.

For example, the Draught of Living Death mentioned in the comments is used to put the drinker into a deep magical sleep.

Assuming there is a readily available antidote, this would be an AMAZING tool for people in the medical profession - a potent anesthetic with limited side effects. A deep magical sleep would also help keep people from moving about and aggravating injuries, subdue prisoners safely, and give some relief to people who suffer chronic nightmares.

I'm certain there are similar uses for every other 'questionable' magic. And when such magic is used to ill purposes the law punishes them. The 'Unforgivable' curses are simply 'unforgivable', not 'the only uses of magic punished by law'.

  • What is the practical application of Sectumsempra other than pain? Jan 18, 2012 at 21:14
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    Sectum Sempra was a spell created by Snape - it never entered general use. If it had, it likely would have been Unforgivable.
    – Jeff
    Jan 18, 2012 at 21:17
  • In theory the Imperius curse could be used to save someone from something they did not see (for example, stepping in front of a car or train) where it would take too long to call out a warning, them to process the warning and locate the danger, and then for them to react to it.
    – Xantec
    Jan 19, 2012 at 14:43
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    @Xantec: I somehow doubt it - all of the Unforgivable curses are advanced, complex magic. The full body bind, shield, floating, or any number of other, smaller spells would be just as effective WITHOUT shattering someone's will. It'd be like letting people use rocket-propelled grenades to hunt deer.
    – Jeff
    Jan 19, 2012 at 15:09
  • 4
    RPG Deer Hunting; at least the meat would already be tender.
    – Xantec
    Jan 19, 2012 at 15:13

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