The Pensieve

chapter thirty of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Waiting for Dumbledore, Harry notices his Pensieve – and, curiosity getting the better of him, accidentally falls in and watches the trials of Karkaroff, Ludo Bagman, and Barty Crouch’s son. He then tells Dumbledore about his dream, and they talk about Voldemort and Snape before Harry is dismissed.

Phoenix, by Cambryn

Fawkes, Professor Dumbledore’s phoenix…. swished his long tail and blinked benignly at Harry.

(by Cambryn)


The Pensieve, by MartinTenbones

The tip of his nose touched the strange substance into which he was staring.


The Pensieve, by VikingCarrot

The dementors placed each of the four people in the four chairs with chained arms that now stood on the dungeon floor.


Bellatrix in the Pensieve, by MartinaC

…a woman with thick, shining dark hair and heavily hooded eyes… was sitting in the chained chair as though it were a throne….


Led by the Dementors to Azkaban, by Cambryn

The boy continued to struggle. “I’m your son!” he screamed up at Crouch. “I’m your son!”
“You are no son of mine!” bellowed Mr. Crouch, his eyes bulging suddenly. “I have no son!”

(by Cambryn)


The Pensieve, by Laurence Peguy

“It is called a Pensieve,” said Dumbledore.


But Why, Bertha? by gerre

“But why, Bertha,” said Dumbledore sadly, looking up at the now silently revolving girl, “why did you have to follow him in the first place?”

(by gerre)


Snape, by reallycorking

Harry saw his own face change smoothly into Snape’s who opened his mouth and spoke to the ceiling, his voice echoing slightly. “It’s coming back… Karkaroff’s too… stronger and clearer than ever….”


Albus, by Katrina 'Rohanelf' Young

Dumbledore shook his head. “Curiosity is not a sin,” he said. “But we should exercise caution with our curiosity… yes, indeed….”


about the chapter


Something You May Not Have Noticed

There are two very interesting things about the memories in Dumbledore’s pensieve, and both of them fly right over Harry’s head. The first, of course, is the people whose trials Dumbledore is revisiting – Igor Karkaroff, Ludo Bagman, and Barty Crouch, Jr. And the second is the fact that he’s reviewing these memories at all. Dumbledore thus far has always seemed to know everything that’s going on, but the presence of these memories here makes it clear that he’s mystified by whatever plan Voldemort is currently executing, and can’t figure out who’s responsible. For Harry, who puts all his trust in the headmaster, that’s a pretty scary thought. But even more mystifying is the people that Dumbledore is interested in. Karkaroff seems too terrfied by Voldemort’s return to be behind all of this; the idea of Ludo Bagman working with Voldemort is laughable; and Barty Crouch Jr. died in Azkaban years ago (and the Lestranges are still there) – what could Dumbledore be trying to glean from these memories now?

Life at Hogwarts

The password system that Hogwarts uses to guard rooms is sort of funny, and seems pretty seriously flawed. After all, Harry – and any other student who has ever visited Dumbledore’s office – knows enough to guess the headmaster’s password. Because how could a teacher ever give the password, with a student present, without the student hearing it? We know Snape locks his office, so perhaps when Dumbledore isn’t around he locks it in addition to the password. But then why the password at all? And wouldn’t the same problem be true of students visiting their friends in other common rooms? (Is that even allowed?)

The Boy Who Lived

It’s fascinating to watch Dumbledore showing Harry the Pensieve. Surely on the one hand, he’s simply realizing that Harry is curious about what it is and how it works, and wanting to make sure he understands what he’s accidentally witnessed. But at the same time, it also seems like Dumbledore’s almost trying to give Harry clues about the crazy things that are going on in the wizarding world. For instance, swirling the basin to bring up the memory of Snape talking about something getting “stronger and clearer” – why would he have shown that to Harry? He’ll show us many times that he’s willing to give Harry lots more information than he would ever give another student, and before too much longer we’ll begin to learn why. But in the meantime (apart from the usefulness toward the story of course), his behavior is a bit mystifying.

Something to Remember

We only ever hear of one Death Eater who makes a guilty plea when brought to trial for their crimes – and it’s the female Death Eater Harry sees here, who we will later learn is named Bellatrix Lestrange. How crazy would someone have to be to openly declare their loyalty to Voldemort in front of the Wizengamot? Can you imagine a person openly proclaiming herself a terrorist in front of the U.S. Supreme Court? What horrors could a person like that be capable of? You’d have to be completely unhinged…

27 Responses to “The Pensieve”

  1. I find it interesting that in MartinTenbones picture of Harry going into the Pensive that Harry’s eye color stands out.

  2. In defense of the password system, I think it would be a lot more efficient and “secure” if Dumbledore didn’t insist on using sweets every time. xD However, you have to wonder…especially after Ginny, Luna, and Neville manage to get into the headmaster’s office during DH. Is it really as simple as overhearing a teacher say the password and coming back to use it before it changes?

    House passwords–I think anyone who tried would be clobbered, if you consider the House-unity mentality. We see a huge amount of house loyalty throughout the series in various situations and it strikes me that, even if a student did have a friend in another house, they would know better than to try something like that, especially when there are places all over Hogwarts to meet other than the common rooms. I know middle school kids will sometimes go bananas if someone so much as breaks rank at lunch tables, so one can only imagine the same mentality in eleven-year-olds in a magic school. Harry and Ron sneaked into the Slytherin common room with the full knowledge that they were dead men if they were found out.

  3. This is so refreshing! I’m currently rereading the series and I’m only a few chapters behind this (like ch. 28!), but I must say the companion is helping! I have always hated this book, it’s my least favorite next to Deathly Hallows, and I always go through it at a snail’s pace. The companion has shed some new light on the book, and I must say, thank you for helping me enjoy it to its fullest!

  4. Does anyone else wonder why wizards lock doors when they could easily be opened with a simple ‘alohamora’ spell?

  5. I think that Dumbledore soen’st put his thoughts in the pensieve because he all suspects the people they involve for working with Voldemort: I think it’s more to remind himself of the characters he’s dealing with: A sportsman at the wrong time, wrong place, but who never really got punished, a mad guy who had his own son send to azkaban and a man who has already been on the wrong side before….

  6. I don’t think there’s another time in the series where Dumbledore seemed so unaware and not in control (even peripherally). Because of this, there was a real palpable sense that something bad was about to happen which kept me on the edge of my seat while reading. I think Rowling captured this uneasiness better here than at any other point in the series (although the end of Book 6 comes close).

  7. I think Martin is right about Dumbledore unawarenes… or at least that he wasn’t able yet to put all the pieces together… on the other hand, Dumbledore always is “mystifying”
    I don’t think Dumbledore is trying to get the students out of his office and, how many students do we know that has to go to his office??? Most of the time the head of the house deals with the students, so I think he doesn’t see many students in his office…

  8. Paula, my thought is just that if you don’t care about students knowing the password, then why bother with the password at all?

  9. Well, that’s a good point. My train of thought was different, though.

  10. Didn’t it ever occur to the Wizengamot to use Veritaserum on the people they were questioning????

  11. Billie, I’m sure it did occur to them, but like a lie detector test, Veritaserum is unreliable. Here’s J.K. Rowling’s response when she was asked that very question:

    Q: “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?”
    JKR: “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.

” (

  12. Concerning passwords – I always thought they weren’t really about security, more to announce the presence of the person wanting to enter. The locations of the various Houses are known only to those part of them, so they’re all at least visually hidden – it’d be the obvious route to ask for entry when you can’t knock, and we know how much wizards like their incantations. And a normal door with a turnable handle would not be in keeping with the tradition of pomp and theatricality that the magical culture seems to enjoy. ;D

  13. I’ve always wondered about the significance of the quote regarding Bertha by Dumbledore “why did you have to follow him in the first place?” Is it just trying to show us what kind of person Bertha was?

  14. For those of you who have read DH, do not forget that not all the common rooms have passwords for gaining entry.

  15. For those wondering the significance of showing the memory of the scene where Dumbledore says to Bertha “Why did you have to follow him in the first place? It first confirms that Bertha was indeed a gossiper as Sirius said, and second reveals that she is an extremely curious person which is what lead her to her downfall

  16. @Cj, is that something that Jo said or is it your theory? I was going to ask that question about Bertha too. Who was she talking about? Why did Dumbledore recall that particular memory? Why did he seem so sad about it? I always wondered that since I first read the book. No offense if it is your theory but it seems kind of anti-climatic. Kind of like the Mark Evans thing turning out to not mean anything.

  17. I was just re-reading this book and I realized that if Barty Crouch is nineteen at the time, than he would have been at Hogwarts the same time The Marauders, Lily, and Snape were (seeing as that they are all twenty-one when Voldemort falls). I wonder if Crouch and Snape knew each other. Does anybody know what house Crouch was in?

  18. A random sort of thought I had while listening to this chapter tonight: Karkaroff says only Voldemort knew the names of all the Death Eaters, maintaining the utmost secrecy between them (presumably so they would be unable to rat each other out). But Voldemort seems to have dropped this tactic entirely the next time he came to power – all the DEs are present and unmasked at the Malfoys’ at the beginning of Deathly Hallows. I wonder why the drop in security…?

  19. Voldemort has returned, stronger and more powerful than ever, and he is almost able to operate in the open. Harry and DD have already told everyone he is back and the ministry has now acknowledged the same. I believe Voldemort does not feel any need to keep everyone secret, DD is gone and the ministry is almost his. He has little to fear from anyone, unlike the first time he rose to power when DD, the Order, and the ministry were fighting him.

  20. Very, very late comment, Pam, you asked I’ve always wondered about the significance of the quote regarding Bertha by Dumbledore “why did you have to follow him in the first place?” Is it just trying to show us what kind of person Bertha was? I think it goes along with his comment before he showed Bertha, “curiosity is not a sin, Harry, but we must exercise caution with our curiosity, yes, indeed.” I think he was showing Harry what can happen if we DON’T exercise caution, what kind of a person we can be and what kind of trouble we can get into. Bertha was hexed, remember.

  21. Dumbledore always seems to know who is at his door, I wouldn’t put it past him to give everyone who frequents his office a different password and in some scenes the gargoyles have a mind of there own (like the ones outside the staff room, ‘oh an emergency is it, well that’s told us hasn’t it?'[or is that in the movie]) so would be able to recognise the people and only admit those who give their own personal password (like in that scene where Harry rhymes off loads of sweet names but it only opens to one)

  22. Emma, I would agree with you, except for one thing – remember the time that Harry rushes to see Dumbledore and starts yelling out the names of various candies, trying to guess the headmaster’s password? Most of them don’t work, until he lands on Cockroach Cluster. When you couple that with the fact that the password changes regularly, I think everyone probably uses the same password at any given time.

    Of course, that’s not to say Dumbledore might not have another method of knowing who’s at his door. Though it also wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t. Remember when Harry shows up after getting Slughorn’s memory, and Dumbledore is clearly surprised to see him?

  23. Considering what we learn about Barty Crouch Jr. in Chapter 35 of this book, why did he act like he didn’t do it?

  24. @Jeremy- There was a huge discussion of this somewhere online. It could be that he wanted to pretend innocence to escape punishment. In this hypothetical, Voldemort’s conviction of Barty’s loyalty may be due to the fact that he doesn’t know about that particular incidence. The only people that know about it are the Lestranges (in Azkaban), the Wizemagot (not likely to have an anecdotal conversation with Voldemort), and Barty Crouch Jr (not likely to tell him). Barty Crouch Jr. may also have been a good actor, only pleading innocence to return to Voldemort as soon as possible.

  25. Josiah, I personally tend to lean towards the last one, that Barty, Jr., was merely trying to play on his father’s sympathy to escape punishment, not for his own sake, but more so that he could keep his freedom to continue the search for his master.

  26. I love the picture of Fawkes! This website is really good, I love the essays and wish you would do more of them, when you can.

  27. I love the pensieve. It is like a portmanteau word. Pensive meaning thoughtful reflection and sieve, a strainer. So the pensieve is a strainer of thoughts for liedurely review

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