- "Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope and happiness out of the air around them."
- — Description of Dementors
A Dementor (pl. Dementors) was a Dark apparition that fed on human happiness and caused them to feel sadness and despair when in their presence. Through using a Dementor's Kiss, they consumed a person's soul until they were in a vegetative state like an empty shell, and their victim would not survive for long.
Dementors used to be employed in Azkaban to guard prisoners by the Ministry of Magic. It was an effort to control the Dementors by providing a good food source. Support for their use varied, and they eventually joined Voldemort in the Second Wizarding War. They would not be employed by the government again when the war ended.
The Patronus Charm was a known form of defence from Dementors, and chocolate would help survivors feel better if they survived the Dementor's Kiss.
- "Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you."
- — what Dementors do.
Dementors were cloaked in a black fabric and had a hood hiding their face. Their skin looked decayed and gray and peeled. Their faces had decayed grey skin stretched blankly over empty eye sockets, and a gaping and shapeless hole which sucked air and souls. People didn't know what was under their hood, because they will lower their hood when giving a Dementor's Kiss and very few people lived if that happened.
- "It is not in the nature of a Dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you."
- — Professor Dumbledore's warning.
Dementors fed on happy memories by sucking happiness out. They force you to hear and feel a bad memory instead. If you’ve had a good life and a bad memory couldn't be found, you were instead shown your true colours. They couldn't sense an obsession. Being around them for a long time slowly induced craziness and people would find it difficult to even think of a cheerful thought, but Dementors were less keen on those who go insane because they could no longer sense them in the same way, being that they simply had less to feed on.
Dementors have no concept of pleading or excuses, and would feed on anyone in their presence and who gave them any meaning to harm them. They could drain their victim for good if they wanted, by shutting their jaws down upon their victim and completing sucking out their soul by using a Dementor's Kiss, for which they lower their hood. Being blind, they sense for complex emotions, good or bad but could sense happiness better. They had a long, slow and rattling breath.
If a prisoner in Azkaban was to be let go, the Dementors wouldn't want that to happen even if they were innocent. Hagrid described how he continuously thought about upsetting things in Azkaban, until he couldn't remember who he was and began to lose a will to live. Being free of Dementors again was like being "born again".
In their presence, the environment became very dark and ice cold and you would suddenly feel a sadness so intense, you had a feeling you would never be happy again. You would feel an intense cold that went deeper and deeper into your skin and towards your heart. If you were the focus of a Dementor, it would take control of you and force you to hear a bad memory in your life. The cold went into your ears and made you feel like you were being dragged down into ice-cold depths. Your eyes will get foggy.
You would start to hear a roaring sound, which would get louder and louder, and your eyes go to the back of your head. You would become rigid and begin twitching, falling in the process. You eventually pass out. Any survivors would would feel weak and shivery like they had a bad bout of flu, but chocolate could help. If you get a Dementor's Kiss, and you not saved in time through a Patronus Charm, your soul would be completely sucked out your body until you were in a vegetative state like an empty shell. There wouldn't be any way to bring you back.
They were rarely fooled by tricks or disguises: an Invisibility Cloak was helpless, but an Animagi could fool them because they don't appear to have complex human emotions when in the form of an animal. It appears Dementors do have an ability to communicate because Cornelius Fudge told Harry he was told by an Azkaban guard about Black's escape, and Remus Lupin told a Dementor searching for Black that he wasn't in a train compartment like it should have understood.
- "If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself – soulless and evil. You'll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."
- — the Dementor's Kiss
A Dementor's Kiss began when one shut their jaws round you and began sucking your soul. They had strong hands which they wrapped around your neck to pull your face upwards. They continued until your soul was completely gone. You were abandoned in a permanent vegetative state, an empty shell which had no thoughts and feelings. A Dementor's Kiss couldn't be undone. You and your soul would be gone forever, but you could keep living if your brain and heart were working.
The Patronus Charm was capable of fending off Dementors if you could think of single, powerful happy memory.
Control by the Ministry
Azkaban was a wizarding prison established by the Ministry of Magic, who chose Dementors to be their guards. Dementors gained a fearful reputation, and people would shiver when talking about them even though they had confidence in their ability to find and guard criminals.
Dementors were fed and kept control of by using prisoners for their food supply. Support for the Dementors varied because even though people thought they served a purpose and would be better controlled in their employ, other witches and wizards thought they were too fickle and could change their loyalty if promised better feeding grounds by a Dark witch or wizard. Dementors had a high success rate in containing prisoners, and didn't have a breakout until the late 20th century.
Searching for Sirius Black
In the summer of 1993, Sirius Black fooled Dementors by escaping Azkaban in Animagus form. Dementors were sent to hunt for him and Cornelius Fudge had complete confidence in their ability to find Black successfully. Dementors would then be sent to patrol Hogwarts School in case Sirius attempted to kill Harry Potter. The Dementors patrolled by guarding every single entrance until they found him. They further patrolled Hogsmeade every night at sundown.
Unfortunately for Harry, whenever he was near a Dementor, they would feed on him. In September, they searched the Hogwarts Express and looked in Harry's compartment, and immediately began feeding on him and he fainted hearing Lily Potter's voice when she died. Remus Lupin woke up and used a Patronus Charm to help Harry. Lupin later taught a lesson about Boggarts and Harry's took the shape of a Dementor.
In October, Black got past Dementors again and sneaked into Hogwarts School. A search was conducted but Professor Dumbledore wouldn't let Dementors help because he would have had to let them into the school. He eventually told Dementors he had searched the whole school and Black was gone.
Because they weren't given permission to search school grounds and their feeding source diminished, they began to get hungry. They saw crowds cheering at a Quidditch game of Gryffindor against Hufflepuff and headed to it. It became very cold, silent and windy. They had their faces pointed at Harry and fed until he fainted again, and he again heard the voice of Lily confronting Voldemort when she was killed. Professor Dumbledore was very angry because Dementors should never have gotten on the grounds, and he drove them away using a Patronus Charm.
In early 1994, Professor Lupin began teaching Harry Anti-Dementor lessons every Thursday evening. He found a Boggart so it would transform into Harry's fear, a Dementor. He began learning how to use the Patronus Charm. He was unsuccessful at first and fainted again. He passed out hearing James Potter's voice. He improved and was soon blocking their voices like he was hearing it through a radio instead. Four lessons in, he could produce an indistinct Patronus.
In February, they were given permission to use a Dementor's Kiss if they found Black. Later, Draco, Crabbe, Goyle and Flint posed like Dementors in long, black hooded cloaks to spook Harry and he successfully used a Patronus Charm to subdue their group.
In June, Black caught Peter Pettigrew and Harry decided they should take Peter to the Dementors, but he escaped. In an ensuing panic to control Lupin, who had turned into a werewolf, he and Black ended up getting found and hounded by at least a hundred Dementors. They sucked their souls until a time-travelling Harry and Hermione used a powerful Patronus Charm and the Dementors flew away. They were later sent for to take Black's soul using Kiss, but he had escaped again.
Because they had used a Kiss on Harry when they hadn't been given permission to do so, Fudge was shocked they had acted out of control and decided they couldn't be used to guard Hogwarts. They were taken back to Azkaban that night, but a few were used to continue searching elsewhere.
Second Wizarding War
Before the summer of 1994, Dementors were fooled a second time when Barty Crouch Snr. and a dying Mrs Crouch helped Barty Crouch Jnr. escape Azkaban using Polyjuice Potion. In June 1995, Barty was finally found having helped Voldemort get a new body, and he was given a Dementor's Kiss. He became an empty shell and he eventually died. Fudge wouldn't accept he was back, and persuaded many people to agree. Due to Fudge's incompetence, he neglected a growing danger of Dementors.
Dolores Umbridge sent two Dementors to Little Whinging to subdue Harry, and attacked Harry and a Muggle, Dudley Dursley. Harry saved them both using a Patronus Charm, and Dudley became a changed person because he had saw who he truly was - a bully. Squib, Arabella Figg had also felt the affect of the Dementors, but neither she or Dudley could actually see them.
Arabella went to court in defence of Harry for having using underaged magic, and supported Harry's story that Dementors had gone rogue. Fudge used the fact that she could not see Dementors to claim that Harry had invented the story. He was determined that the Dementors would never act on anyone's orders besides the Ministry of Magic. Fudge had no idea that Umbridge had in fact done that.
In the summer of 1996, the Dementors of Azkaban went missing. Voldemort had persuaded the Dementors to join the Death Eater cause by promising better chances to feed than Azkaban. They let Dementors feed on their victims. A fog was found in their wake at an abandoned Azkaban. The Ministry of Magic was put to shame over their disappearance and attempted to explain it away.
When Voldemort took over the Ministry in the summer of 1997, Umbridge made the Dementors guards of the Muggle-borns brought in for a trial determining that they had "taken" their magic from "proper" witches and wizards. She protected the judges from the Dementors above them with the Patronus Charm. Harry, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger showed up at the trial of Mary Cattermole in order to get Slytherin's Locket from Umbridge, and she let the Dementors loose. Harry saved them with the Patronus Charm.
In about March or April 1998, Harry was taken prisoner by Death Eaters who wanted to use the Dementors and give Harry the Dementor's Kiss, in order to weaken him by the time they took him to Voldemort, but Harry managed to escape. In May 1998, the Dementors fought for Voldemort at the Battle of Hogwarts, but fortunately many of the students had learned the Patronus Charm and managed to keep them back.
Defences from Dementors
- "Expecto Patronum!"
- — incantation of the Patronus Charm
- Chocolate helped people who survived a Dementor's Kiss feel better immediately following the event. It had a short-term effect.
Behind the scenes
Notes and sources
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 20
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 12
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 19 - "Dementors can't see, you know …' [...] 'They feel their way towards people by sensing their emotions …'"
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 19
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 10
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 19 - "but they thought, of course, that I was losing my mind like everyone else in there, so it didn't trouble them."
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 9
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 11
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 6 - "They suck the happiness out of a place, Dementors."
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5 - "An intense cold swept over them all. Harry felt his own breath catch in his chest. The cold went deeper than his skin. It was inside his chest, it was inside his very heart … Harry's eyes rolled up into his head. He couldn't see. He was drowning in cold. There was a rushing in his ears as though of water. He was being dragged downwards, the roaring growing louder."
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5 - "'You went sort of rigid and fell out of your seat and started twitching – '"
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5 - "He felt weak and shivery, [...]"
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5 - "Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises – or even an Invisibility Cloaks [...]"
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 19 - "they could tell that my feelings were less – less human, less complex when I was a dog …"
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 3
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 13
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 12 - "'With an incantation, which will work only if you are concentrating, with all your might, on a single, very happy memory.'"
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 7
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 22
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 1
- J.K. Rowling's web chat with Bloomsbury
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 8
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 13
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 28
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36