Occlumency

chapter twenty-four of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

As the holidays wind down, Kreacher turns up but Snape informs Harry he’ll be giving him private Occlumency lessons (despite Sirius’s protests). Then after a Knight Bus ride back to school, Harry manages to ask Cho out but soon has his first Occlumency lesson, which is something of a disaster; and afterward, Harry gets a vision of Voldemort being really, really happy.
 

Kreacher, by Heather Campbell

Kreacher, it transpired, had been lurking in the attic.


 

At Each Others Throats, by James J. Dunn aka JamusDu

“I’ve warned you, Snivellus,” said Sirius, his face barely a foot from Snape’s, “I don’t care if Dumbledore thinks you’ve reformed, I know better -“


 

Harry, Severus and Sirius, by glockgal

“NO!” Harry yelled, vaulting over the table and trying to get in between them, “Sirius, don’t -“


 

Look After Yourself, Harry... by gerre

It was his last chance to tell Sirius to be careful; he turned, looked into his godfather’s face and opened his mouth to speak, but before he could do so Sirius was giving him a brief, one-armed hug. He said gruffly, “Look after yourself, Harry.”

(by gerre)


 

S.S., by Wacca

“Well, Potter, you know why you are here,” he said. “The headmaster has asked me to teach you Occlumency. I can only hope that you prove more adept at it than Potions.”

(by Wacca)


 

To Whom Did That Dog Belong? by FrizzyHermione

“Did you see everything I saw?” Harry asked, unsure whether he wanted to hear the answer.
“Flashes of it,” said Snape, his lip curling. “To whom did the dog belong?”


 

Occlumens, by Patilda

“I want you back here same time on Wednesday, and we will continue work then…. And be warned, Potter… I shall know if you have not practiced…”

(by Patilda)


 

about the chapter

 

Snape has plenty of faults, and Harry certainly faults him for his goading of Sirius. But to be fair, the confrontation between the two old schoolmates really isn’t Snape’s fault, aside from his willingness to rise to Sirius’s bait (and despite Harry’s perception of it). A close look reveals that Sirius begins the argument, is the first to stand up, is the first to move towards Snape, and is the first to pull out his wand (and also calls him “Snivellus” for good measure). Can you really blame Snape for reacting the way he did?
 

Something You May Not Have Noticed

The passage where Harry walks into the Grimmauld Place kitchen to find Sirius and Snape is an interesting one. Take a closer look:

[Harry] pushed open the kitchen door a minute or two later to find Sirius and Snape both seated at the long kitchen table, glaring in opposite directions. The silence between them was heavy with mutual dislike. A letter lay open on the table in front of Sirius.

What happened in the minutes leading up to this scene? It’s not hard to envision Snape arriving at Grimmauld Place, announcing that he needs to speak to Harry alone, and Sirius fighting him on it, insisting that he be present as well. But then – what’s with the letter? It’s never mentioned again. Did Dumbledore perhaps foresee Sirius’s reaction, and send a letter with Snape insisting that Snape is following his orders? (Would Dumbledore really consider that necessary?) It could just be an unrelated letter that Sirius happened to be reading when Snape arrived and found him in the kitchen – but who would be writing to Sirius that isn’t already at Grimmauld Place? Perhaps Rowling wrote the letter in for some purpose and then later removed all the other references, but accidentally left in this mention of it. And there is a letter that will show up at Grimmauld Place way down the road, but I can’t figure out why Sirius would be reading it now. Either way, I can’t make sense of it.
 

The Boy Who Lived

The fact that Snape is teaching Harry Occlumency is fascinating. After all, it’s already well established that both Dumbledore and Voldemort think he’s a spy for their respective sides. And from what Snape tells Harry, it also sounds as though Voldemort has also now realized he has the ability to read Harry’s mind whenever he pleases. Which places Snape in the very interesting position of having to teach Harry Occlumency so he can fight Lord Voldemort – and having to answer to Dumbledore if he’s not successful – while simultaneously having to act in a way that if Voldemort happens to read Harry’s mind while he’s in a lesson with Snape, Voldemort won’t be suspicious of Snape’s leanings. Add on top of it all that Snape absolutely despises Harry, and Harry Snape (not to mention the fact that blocking emotion is necessary to perform Occlumency…), and it’s hard to see how these lessons could possibly be effective. What was Dumbledore thinking, I wonder, in ordering Snape to give the lessons to Harry – and what on earth made him think this would work out?
 


26 Responses to “Occlumency”

  1. I kinda always thought of it as Dumbledore’s way of saying,”This is a variation of the kid you always wanted…go spend time with him and you’ll learn to see past the hair and the scar and see his eyes and how much he is like Lily”

  2. I always thought the letter was from Dumbledore to Sirius about occlumancy; just never really gave it much thought beyond that.

    But, yeah, the idea of Harry being able to learn ANYTHING from Snape, esp. something so important, is a bit naive on Dumbledore’s part, I think.

  3. I too simply assumed it was a letter to Sirius from Dumbledore explaining the situation. Dumbledore may have underestimated Snape’s ability to hold a grudge (and enact revenge on the next of kin), but he could probably foresee Sirius fighting Snape on the issue of lessons. Dumbledore seems to be one of the few people who can ‘control’ Sirius at this point.

    Amy Darlene, interesting possibility. I think the practical aspect was primary – Harry needs to learn Occlumency and Dumbledore finds it unwise to teach him himself – but I can see Dumbledore also hoping that it would also be beneficial to Snape.

  4. I just think it’s one of Dumbledore’s biggest miscalculations. Anyone with the smallest knowledge of Harry and Snape could have said it wouldn’t work, he might have just as well sent Bellatrix to teach Neville. I just think Dumbledore was out of options.

  5. The Occlumency scenes (and really any Harry/Snape interations) in this book are among some of the most frustrating in the entire series; just watching Harry bang his head against the wall (literally and figuratively) is so painful for the reader, especially the first time through. The lessons are (as both Harry and Dumbledore later admit) a disaster, and I agree with “hpboy13” that this pairing was a huge miscalculation/failure on Dumbledore’s part, though to be fair, with all the resentment Harry was feeling towards his headmaster this year, he probably wouldn’t have been much better off under Dumbledore’s tutelage. On the other hand, Snape never actually tries to teach Harry the techniques behind Occlumency; Dumbledore probably would have at least given a brief overview at first!

  6. I have wondered if this is where Dumbledore is “starting to show his age” – up to now he has seemed a really wise and venerable wizard – but now that Voldemort has returned seems a little unsure of himself – Ron and Hermione seem in this book to understand Harry much better than Dumbledore does, and to better gauge his reactions to the decisions being made for him than Dumbledore himself. Just a thought!

  7. Elacta, I see your point about Ron and Hermione, but I also find it a bit unfair. I mean, while Ron and Hermione spend their days with Harry, only have to worry about thier friend (and maybe their homework, in Hermione’s case) Dumbledore knows that he has to stay away from Harry to not tempt Voldemort, while he’s also trying to figure out what exactly is going on. It’s a bit obvious that he doens’t have as much time for Harry than in the previoous books.
    Off course Snape teaching was a huge miscalculation when you see it from Harry’s side, but was there really anyone else who could do it at the time? Also, like Josie mentioned, if Voldemort is watching through Harry and sees the Occlumency-lessons, Snape can tell to Voldemort that he’s actually only opening the boy’s mind. When another wizard would have done it, Voldemort would get suspicious and maybe even trying to posses Harry like (spoiler!) he did a the Ministry of Magic later.

    sorry for the long post. Love the drawing of FizzyHermione

  8. I love glockgal – such motion!

  9. Yes, I can see what you mean, Kim, but have just finished reading OOP again over Christmas – Dumbledore himself (at the end) says that the decisions were a mistake due to old age thinking. But I agree, he does have many strings to his bow in sorting out just what Voldemore is up to.

  10. *SPOILER*
    I love the little details that JK Rowling slips into the book, little hints of what is to come…
    After a few of Harry’s memories surface, including one of his “father and mother…waving to him out of an enchanted mirror”, she mentions that Snape “looked paler,than usual and angrier”
    At the time I just thought it was because Harry still wasn’t fighting it, but now I realise it was probably because the image of Lily and James TOGETHER was sprung upon him when he wasn’t prepared for it…

  11. On the Knight Bus: The woman who gets off one stop before Harry and the Weasleys (heading for Hogsmeade) is Madam Marsh. The only other time Harry rides the Knight Bus, in PoA, a sickly Madam Marsh again exits the bus just before the stop at the Leaky Cauldron.
    Madam Marsh must be awfully accident prone to be so consistently picked up by a vehicle that provides emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard!

  12. I remember reading the Sirius/Snape scene for the first time and thinking, “Okay boys, separate corners, NOW! And if either of you speak in the next twenty minutes, you’ll both feel the flat side of my wand!” I think I may have been channelling Molly Weasley a bit. :)

  13. Ragmar Dorkins, remember that Harry and company aren’t stranded in this case; they booked their seats on the Knight Bus in advance. So it’s possible that despite Stan’s description of the bus’s purpose, Madam Marsh was doing the same. On the other hand, she is also *sick* both times she rides the bus, so I don’t know why she would keep doing it….

  14. If no-one’s mentioned it above (sorry, I don’t have time to check), Josie wrote an excellent essay on the subject of what Dumbledore is thinking in getting Snape to “teach” Harry Occlumency, entitled “Harry Potter – Occlumens?” which can be found on the Essays section of this site.

  15. I guess Madam Marsh doesn’t have a broom or an apparition license. Maybe it’s like when you forget to buy milk, go to get your cereal and then realise too late that you don’t have any – except she’s forgeting to buy Floo Powder.

  16. I would like to point out though, that even though it does seem like a mistake at the time, It does seem to have come to fruition later in DH. He was able to resiste finally at the end of DH to turn on and off at will the ability to see what Voldermort was doing. It may have been in the reasons Dumbledor dit this is that the emotions and anger that Harry and Snape generate in each other would make the lessons more advanced, and since they are running out of time…And i don’t think he had anyone else that would trully show Harry what it felt like to have someone forcfully and viciously enter your mind. Even though he wasn’t able to master it in this book, he at least was prepared for what it was like and was able to overcome it during the actual possesion at the end of the book. I do believe he was able to repel snape though at somepoint right. I have to say though, if I was getting lessons from snape I wouldn’t want to practice either.

  17. I think that Dumbledore just didn’t realise how much Harry had on his mind that year. He was dealing with Umbridge, Cho, the DA, Grawp and huge piles of homework. If he had had a quiet year, maybe he could have focused better on his occlumency, in spite of his hate for Snape. Dumbledore just didn’t realise how much was on Harry’s shoulders.

  18. I’m always a little surprised that Snape doesn’t show the smallest bit of sympathy to Harry while he is seeing all of Harry’s memories. I mean they both seem to have had a very similar childhood. *spoiler* When Harry sees Snape being picked on by his father and Sirius he feels terrible, but when Snape sees all of the stuff Dudley and his friends did to Harry and his life at the Dursley’s he does not show an signs of caring. That is one of Snape’s qualities that stop me from thinking of him as a hero. Although I know Jo never wanted him to be seen as a hero.

  19. I think that the reason Dumbledore made Snape give the lessons is because he wanted to make Harry push himself to become emotionless, even though his instructor brings out so much hate in him, if that makes any sense….

  20. Snpae removed three memories before starting the fisrt Occlumency lesson. One memory we see later in Chapter 28. What are the other two memories?

  21. Jeremy, I’d be willing to bet they’re memories we see later in DH33. The moment where he agrees to do anything for Dumbledore in exchange for protecting the Potters; the moment where he agrees to protect Harry for life; lots of possibilities there that he clearly doesn’t want Harry to know about.

  22. While reading these comments, and coming across the Knight Bus ones, I thought of something: why don’t the Weasley’s ever take the Knight Bus to get to King’s Cross? Is it because most of the time the order of when people are being dropped off isn’t controlled, and they may end up late? Or maybe the Knight Bus doesn’t allow it, because otherwise there’d be so many people on the bus the day of September 1st?

    I can’t remember if Dumbledore says this at the end of the book, but I think Dumbledore didn’t trust himself enough to give Harry Occlumency lessons. I think he was afraid he cared too much for Harry and didn’t want to force himself to subject him to that kind of mental torture. Then again, in Dumbledore’s hands, I doubt it would even feel like torture, like it does with Snape, but we may never know that. I also think he wanted Snape to see that Harry didn’t grow up so much different than Snape did. Snape, of course, is too arrogant to see this, and is still blinded by Harry’s appearance and everything, but I think Dumbledore wanted to give it a shot.

    And I think Snape and Sirius are both to blame for their argument. Snape was goading Sirius on about not being useful and everything Sirius has been feeling resentful about this whole book. I do agree that Sirius had a heavy part in the whole thing, but Snape’s was just as heavy. They hate each other equally, and it’s really shown just how much in this chapter.

  23. Off topic a bit, but couldn’t Harry have used the mirror to just talk to Sirius? Just to chat and tell him what’s happening like with Cho and the D.A.? I would have. It would help ease his loneliness a bit if nothin else.

  24. @Ari
    harry doesnt remember about the mirror for a long time as just as he got it, he was in Knight bus. when *spoiler* he goes to umbridges fire to go to check on sirius if hes being tortured, he still doesnt remember the mirror.
    its only use for him is in DH

  25. As Dumbledore couldn’t teach Harry Occlumency himself, for reasons stated above, Snape is the obvious choice. He’s definately skilled in it, or Voldemort would have known all along about him.

    The “failings of age” Dumbledore admits to in the end, I think at least, refer to the fact that he had hoped that Harry and Snape could overlook their mutual hatred and work together for the greater good. His failing is that he forgets what it’s like to be Harry’s age (or even Snape’s), with your emotions so close to the surface.

    And, I figured it was a letter from Dumbledore to Sirius to explain about Snape giving Harry lessons. If Sirius was sitting their reading the “other letter”, it would have only been to have another way of goading Snape.

  26. …although…That would explain Snape coming back for it

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