Snape’s Worst Memory

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

Umbridge becomes headmistress, and interrogates Harry as to the whereabouts of Dumbledore and Sirius, but is interrupted as Fred and George launch their fireworks. Harry then goes to Occlumency, but when Snape rushes out dives into his Pensieve – and watches as James Potter torments Snape while Lily protests. Soon, though, Snape discovers Harry, and kicks him out of his office.

Professor Umbridge Uses Veritaserum to Try to Get the Truth from Harry, by Drew Graham

It had just occurred to Harry what Mad-Eye would say if he ever heard that Harry had drunk anything offered by a known enemy…. He raised the cup to his lips again and pretended to take a sip, though keeping his mouth tightly closed. Umbridge’s smile widened.


Fred and George's Spectacle, by Beeeb

Filch and Umbridge were standing, apparently transfixed with horror, halfway down the stairs…. Filch… dashed to a nearby cupboard, pulled out a broom, and began swatting at the fireworks in midair….

(by Beeeb)


Fireworks, by Leela Starsky

Harry had seen enough. Laughing, he ducked down low, ran to a door he knew was concealed behind a tapestry a little way along the corridor and slipped through it to find Fred and George hiding just behind it, listening to Umbridge’s and Filch’s yells and quaking with suppressed mirth.


Come on, Potter... by Vizen

“Very well, very well – Potter,” said Snape, “we shall resume this lesson tomorrow evening instead.”

(by Vizen)


Harry and James, by Marta T

Harry stopped in front of the desk and gazed down at his fifteen-year-old father.

(by Marta T)


Sirius Black, by Elspethelf

With another shock of excitement, Harry saw Sirius give James the thumbs-up…. He was very good-looking; his dark hair fell into his eyes with a sort of casual elegance neither James’s nor Harry’s could ever have achieved, and a girl sitting behind him was eyeing him hopefully, though he didn’t seem to have noticed.


Young Remus, by LMRourke

And two seats along from this girl – Harry’s stomach gave another pleasurable squirm – was Remus Lupin.


DADA- OWL. Severus, by Vizen

Harry looked around and glimpsed Snape a short way away, moving between the tables toward the doors into the entrance hall, still absorbed in his own examination paper.

(by Vizen)


Marauders, by Jenny Dolfen

Sirius’s head turned. He had become very still, like a dog that has scented a rabbit.
“Excellent,” he said softly.


Lily Yells, by Tealin Raintree

“Leave him ALONE!”
James and Sirius looked around…. it was one of the girls from the lake edge…. Harry’s mother…


What's He Done to You? by Mudblood428

“Leave him alone,” Lily repeated. She was looking at James with every sign of great dislike. “What’s he done to you?”
“Well,” said James, appearing to deliberate the point, “it’s more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean…”


Bullies, by reallycorking

“You think you’re funny,” she said coldly. “But you’re just an arrogant, bullying toerag, Potter. Leave him alone.”
“I will if you go out with me, Evans,” said James quickly. “Go on… Go out with me, and I’ll never lay a wand on old Snivelly again.”


Snape's Worst Memory, by FrizzyHermione

There was another flash of light, and Snape was once again hanging upside down in the air. “Who wants to see me take off Snivelly’s pants?”


Discovered, by Becky Roberts

But whether James really did take off Snape’s pants, Harry never found out. A hand had closed tight over his upper arm, closed with a pincerlike grip. Wincing, Harry looked around to see who had hold of him, and saw, with a thrill of horror, a fully grown, adult-sized Snape standing right beside him, white with rage.


having FUN? by Cambryn

It was scary: Snape’s lips were shaking, his face was white, his teeth were bared….
“You will not repeat what you saw to anybody!” Snape bellowed.

(by Cambryn)


about the chapter


Prior to the release of this book, the ‘Harry Potter for Grown-Ups’ message boards were circulating a list of “Top Things we Won’t Hear in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Many of the additions were hilarious, and it included memorable quotes like Molly asking, “Good grief, Harry, must you always spend so much time here?”; Draco Malfoy ordering, “Crabbe, you follow me. Goyle, stay here,” or Ron admitting, “I read it in Hogwarts, a History.” But one of my favorite inclusions on the list was a quote from Hermione, where she said, “Screw it, let’s party.” It’s one of my favorites, of course, because once Umbridge took over Hogwarts and Fred and George launched their rockets, this quote became the only one of the fifty I saved that we sort of did hear in Phoenix, when Hermione decided not to do her homework as she was feeling a bit “rebellious.” Just goes to show – you never know.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

One of the more interesting aspects of Umbridge’s having to chase around fireworks all day is the fact that it seems she really isn’t a very powerful witch. We will see her do a N.E.W.T.-level bit of magic later on, but when it comes to these fireworks… can you really imagine McGonagall or Flitwick having any trouble at all getting rid of the things if they wanted to? Perhaps there’s more than one reason Umbridge isn’t teaching any magic in her classes. I’m not convinced she could pull it off.

The Wizarding World

Not like Harry needed another example of the blatant corruption in the Ministry, but it’s fascinating that when Umbridge is interrogating Harry, she admits that she knows Harry was talking to “the criminal Black” when she almost caught Sirius in the Gryffindor common room fire. Say what? After all, Sirius was imprisoned for killing Harry’s parents, yet she clearly didn’t stop for a moment to think about the fact that Sirius is clearly not trying to kill Harry. Her perspective doesn’t make any sense at all, but that’s Umbridge: anyone who isn’t for her is against her, so Sirius and Harry are in the same (albeit illogical) boat. Or rather, Sirius and Harry have both shown up the Ministry of Magic, one by escaping Azkaban and the other by claiming Voldemort’s return, so both need to be punished – regardless of the law.

The Power of Magic

Pensieves are fascinating magic, and the type of device that makes my head all but explode with questions and curiosities. It seems, for example, that when placing a memory into a pensieve that you have the option of either retaining a copy in your head or giving away the only copy you have – but then, if you view the memory again, do you now have a new memory of watching your memory?

Far more interesting from the standpoint of this chapter, though, is the omniscience that Harry seems able to achieve in Snape’s memory. For one thing, he can see things behind Snape’s back – how can Snape have a memory of things he never saw himself? Is his brain just interpolating based on what he does know is there? And for another, Harry seems perfectly able to hear conversations that would have been out of Snape’s earshot; after all, Snape may have been able to hear some of the Marauders’ conversation, but it’s highly doubtful he heard every word. Rowling actually addressed a question related to this in an interview:

(Question: “Do the memories stored in a Pensieve reflect reality or the views of the person they belong to?”)
Rowling: “It’s reality…. What you remember is accurate in the Pensieve.”
(“So there are things in there that you haven’t noticed personally, but you can go and see yourself?”)
“Yes, and that’s the magic of the Pensieve, that’s what brings it alive. Otherwise it really would just be like a diary, wouldn’t it? Confined to what you remember. But the Pensieve recreates a moment for you, so you could go into your own memory and relive things that you didn’t notice the time. It’s somewhere in your head, which I’m sure it is, in all of our brains. I’m sure if you could access it, things that you don’t know you remember are all in there somewhere.”

I have to be honest and say that this quote doesn’t make much sense to me. Think of the *power* that would exist in being able to go back and view any moment in your life from multiple angles, with the benefit of an unbiased perspective – if everyone could do it, it’s hard for me to imagine the world wouldn’t be radically different. For example, why isn’t Umbridge handing out detentions for things students are doing behind her back? It would give anybody the ability to be a Big Brother at any time they want, and it just doesn’t make sense. I actually think that, given the evidence in the books, Rowling is wrong about what’s in the pensieve, and it *has* to be limited by your experience. Snape *must* have simply been able to hear every word the Marauders said. Nothing else makes sense.

Of course this is interesting too, because if what we’re getting is Snape’s perspective of these events – rather than, as Rowling says, an unbiased view of them – it also calls into question how accurately the memory reflects James’s actual behavior. Snape viewed him as a bully, so is that the only reason he comes across as one? That’s almost certainly not Rowling’s intention. So perhaps what’s most logical is that the Pensieve is simply replaying what Snape could see and hear, exactly as he saw and heard it (so relatively unbiased, but still from a singular perspective), and interpolating the information around it (say, the things happening behind him) based on his expectations. For example, if Harry tried to read Lupin’s book, perhaps it would be the book Snape thought he was reading rather than his actual book. But it’s hard to say… it’s all very murky no matter what explanation we use.

The Boy Who Lived

Harry’s experience in Snape’s memory is an interesting one. When he first drops in, his first thought is to seek out his father; and he’s so absorbed in watching James, Sirius, Lupin, and Wormtail that he doesn’t even think to look for his mother. Yet after watching the events unfold, he realizes how arrogant James really was – and without even thinking about it, is left relating much more to Snape and his mother than to James. Dumbledore has mentioned before that James’s and Snape’s relationship was similar to Harry’s relationship to Malfoy; except he didn’t mention that in Harry’s case, the roles are reversed, as Malfoy (like James) is almost always the aggressor. The experience really turns Harry’s world upside down, but it also points to a flaw in Snape’s character – after all, the reason Snape hates Harry is his similarity to his father, yet Harry comes out of the memory relating much more to Snape. Here’s betting Snape would never, in a million years, guess that Harry would have had that reaction.

Something to Remember

Mentioning that she knew Harry and Sirius were friends wasn’t Umbridge’s only arrogant slip-up. She’s also full of herself enough to brag to Harry that her fireplace is the only one in Hogwarts not being monitored by the Ministry of Magic. Of course, she doesn’t stop to consider what Harry might make of this information.

The Final Word

“[Dolores Umbridge] is one of those people, and they do exist in real life, who will always side with the established order. As far as she is concerned authority cannot be wrong so she doesn’t question it, and I would go as far as to say that whatever happened and whoever took over at the Ministry, Umbridge would be there, she likes power. So she is going to side with the people who give her the authority. “–J.K. Rowling, July 2005

Pensieve, by mneomosyne


62 Responses to “Snape’s Worst Memory”

  1. Nice artwork. The funny thing is that James looks a lot like Harry in all these pictures, but you can still tell them apart.

    Hi hi, also great comic at the end.
    The only reason we know that this is Snape’s worst memory is because JKR told us so in the title of the chapter. Of course everyone jumped to conclusions. What it’s really about will not be revealed until the end of book 7.

    James and Sirius are pretty mean to Peter. It kind of makes me think it’s no wonder he turned against them. Not that I don’t blame him for what he did, but it’s a little similar to the way Sirius treated Kreacher and what ends up happening there.

    Memories are confusing. Harry can see stuff that Snape didn’t look at or presumably see. Is it all in Snapes subconsciousness? Dumbledore later says that his memories are bound to be clearer because he’s so good at remembering details, so it is about what people notice.

    I never noticed this before, but do we see a bit of Sectumsempra in the memory?

    We only ever see Harry being escorted out of a memory, so I’m wondering how someone gets out of them actively.

  2. Oh, happy day! Another update! I’m always amazed at how much happens in these few chapters.

    Also, I love Harry’s thoughts as he’s being interrogated by Umbridge–Moody would be furious that Harry had very nearly drunk that cup of tea. And it just shows, again, what a good actor Barty Crouch, Jr. was, for his teachings to still ring true to the real Moody.

    One of my favorite lines: “I could have got rid of the sparklers myself, of course, but I wasn’t sure whether I had the authority….” Lol, I adore Professor Flitwick. :)

    Also, this chapter makes me dislike Peter even more. I mean, granted, we’re already swayed at this point in the story, but I always kind of hoped that if we saw him younger, there might be a redeeming quality, but it turns out he was always pretty weak and fawning on whoever was around and not very clever (Sirius had it right–he runs around with a werewolf every month, how does he *not* know how to answer that question on his O.W.L.s?)

  3. Kim–I always assumed it was Sectumsempra.

    And, yeah, I’ve wondered the same thing about exiting memories. Obviously if it ends, you don’t get to leave, since GoF just has Harry pass from memory to memory . . .

  4. This chapter actually always bothered me because I always had a nagging feeling that perhaps Snape wanted Harry to see these memeories. Remember, Snape borrowed the Pensieve from Dumbledore specifically for these lessons and after Harry’s experiences in Dubmledore’s memories (in Goblet of Fire) Snape hopefully got the heads-up that Harry not only knows what a Pensieve is but has also demonstrated a curiosity about its contents. With that knowledge in mind, and with evidence stemming from previous Occlumency lessons, if I were Snape I might conclude that my memories were far safer in my own head than in a Pensieve with Harry alone in the room!

    In any case, it also seems illogical (to me, anyway) that Snape would have allowed Harry to even see him putting memories in there; I would have assumed that his pride in his own Occlumency skills and his desire to maintain an image of invulnerability would have caused him to remove his memories in private and then store and lock the Pensieve far away from Harry’s prying eyes. It seems like an uncharacteristic neglect of security from a character who has spells and locks over his office, classroom, storage cupboards, etc.

    And in the end, of course, it is this memory combined with many others, that finally give Harry some insight into Snape’s true self. In Deathly Hallows we see Snape protest Dumbledore’s use of both him and Harry as cogs in a larger plan to defeat Voldermort, and while I think Snape to be a wetched human being (fascinating character, though) perhaps this was just one little bit of his resistance to Dumbledore’s plans coming through — introducing Harry to at least one memory that he’ll have to eventually see.

    Far-fetched, I know, but it still nags me a little bit. And of course it doesn’t explain Snape’s lividity after discovering Harry in the Pensieve, but if we know one thing about Snape, it’s that he’s an incredible actor.

    And, just to finish up, 2 quick Pensieve questions to add to Kim’s. How do you know someone’s in your Pensieve? And what would happen if the memory you were in was returned to its owner’s brain before you got out? Images of Harry trapped in Snape’s skull are dancing in my mind right now!

  5. Meri, I like what you pulled out about Snape’s wanting/not wanting Harry to see those memories. It’s always bothered me, too, that he makes *such* a show of putting those memories into the Pensieve, in front of a kid who is outrageously curious… and hates him… and is nothing if not foolhardy enough to take a peek at his first opportunity. Snape either wants Harry to see them, or wants to basically gloat in front of him that there are memories he doesn’t want Harry to see. But the pieces just don’t add up. He certainly seems genuinely angry when he finds Harry in there…. I don’t know.

    Another question I’ve always had about the Pensieve is whether the memory stays in your head (in part or in whole) when you put the memory in the Pensieve. Snape would seemingly make it clear that it leaves your head completely, but if this were the case, how would you know which memories were there? And once you’d viewed them in the Pensieve, wouldn’t you have a new memory of them?

    All in all, I think Pensieve magic was just a rare area where Rowling was a bit sloppy and didn’t work out details. She’s said in interviews that Pensieve memories reflect reality and not the perspective of the person who gave the memory, but this is very strange for lots of reasons. Also, Harry really shouldn’t be able to hear the Maurauders if Snape couldn’t, or the magic just takes off in all kinds of ridiculous directions. For example, couldn’t you hang out in the Ministry of Magic for a while, go back into the memory in the Pensieve, and then just travel in the memory to Fudge’s office to find out what he was talking about? There need to be limits, and there aren’t. Alas.

  6. Here’s something I’ve always suspected–the memory shows the Marauders as much worse than they actually were. Oh, no doubt they picked on and harassed Snape, but no one’s memory is 100% accurate, and in HBP, we’ve seen that memory tampering is possible. But everyone tends to remember things that casts them in a little better light, even people like Snape. It’s entirely possible that the memory leaves Harry so disgusted with his dad simply because Snape was disgusted with his dad, and it was Snape’s version of things. Unless the memory sat in the pensieve untouched for twenty years (we know it didn’t), it’s bound to have been subtly tweaked.

    Also, just a note for the Wizarding World thing at the end. Sirius was NOT in Azkaban for killing Harry’s parents. The conversation between professors in PoA that Harry overhears starts with “the worst he did isn’t widely known.” Sirius was in prison for murdering thirteen people, including one school boy friend of Harry’s dad. Unless Umbridge was in with either the Order (she wasn’t) or Death Eaters (she wasn’t), she wouldn’t have known about the whole secret keeper thing, ergo she wouldn’t have equated Black being friendly with Potter as something completely illogical.

  7. Becky Roberts’ painting is one of my favorite works of fanart of the entire HP fandom. I’m so glad to see it here. ^^

    Regardless of his reason for using the Pensieve in the first place, I always saw Snape’s intentional display of removing his memories as being a show of … authority? power? I assumed he was snidely showing Harry that his own memories were safe, while all of Harry’s were fair game. Just another instance of abusing his power as an authority figure.
    Still, it does seem a bit uncharacteristic of Snape, as he usually acts more cautious than pompous.

    Josie, Harry was afraid that if young Snape went in one direction and the Marauders in another, he wouldn’t be able to follow James. Though we don’t find out if his fears are justified (because they all went outside), I took that to be the way the Pensieve works anyway. Though there isn’t a defined radius, and we don’t know if the extension and details of a memory are bound by physical limitations such as rooms, it seems that there are some limits nonetheless.

    If memories do leave your mind completely after removing them, you would at least have the newly-created memory of removing them, along with the reason for removing them. Also, if Dumbledore uses the Pensieve for the purpose of seeing details he wasn’t aware of at the time the memory was being formed, in some cases, the reason for using a Pensieve would be to create new memories of a particular event.

  8. Spider, I’m wondering if Josie meant that everyone thought Sirius had betrayed the Potters in some way, and so was responsible for their deaths, even if he did not directly kill them?

    My thoughts on Harry seeing this memory of Snape’s are that Snape was directed by Dumbledore to allow Harry to see where the memories were stored, possibly to allow him to view Snape’s memories at some point, and to react convincingly when he finds Harry in the pensieve. It’s easy for Snape to react the way he does because he really doesn’t want Harry to see these memories, his humiliation at the hands of James, but is following orders. We know that Snape is a very good actor, as was already said, and that he also follows orders from Dumbledore. Of course, we don’t know what a good actor he is or how he follows orders until late in the 7th book. Before DH, I was very confused with this scene for all the reasons already pointed out. After reading books 4-7 repeatedly (I’m guessing I reread them in order about 20 times in a row, just couldn’t tear my self away when movie 6 was coming out!), I have decided that Snape must have been told to show Harry something, for what reason I am not 100% certain of, but we all know that Dumbledore has his reasons.

  9. Fascinating discussion about the limits of pensive memories. It certainly opens up all kinds of possibilities. I think there was something in this chapter about how Harry knew he wouldn’t be able to stray too far from Snape, since it was his memory he was in. That doesn’t really clear much up.

    Meri, in response to how Snape knew Harry was in the pensive: I always assumed that although Harry would feel that he was completely inside the memory, anyone else in the room would just see him standing there with his face in the bowl. Not sure.

    And Josie, in response to your comment in the “Recent Updates” section about this chapter: We did get a (very) brief prequel about the escapades of James and Sirius when J.K.R. wrote that short story about them on Sirius’ motorcycle for some charity auction. It’s kind of amusing, but certainly doesn’t reveal any new info.

    But maybe if we could go back in a pensive memory and look at all the stuff we missed….

  10. Wow, Ben. I’m pretty embarrassed that I didn’t even think of the obvious answer of someone just having their head in a bowl (and we’ve seen Floo powder work like this, so why not?). I always assumed they were somehow submerged and Snape knew he was in there because it was kind of like seeing a television screen left on, he looked into the Pensieve and saw his memory “playing” with Harry visiting.

  11. Ben, good thinking on the ‘head in a bowl.’ I’d never really thought about it before, but you’re probably right. Although that then begs the question of how it would look when Harry and Dumbledore were viewing a memory simultaneously in HBP. Perhaps they should have invited four or five more people along, just to give the portraits a laugh watching. ;)

    Spider, I hadn’t thought of Sirius’s killing 13 people, but Umbridge surely would have been important enough to know that Sirius was also imprisoned for James and Lily’s deaths. Remember, she’s on the Wizengamot, in front of whom Dumbledore testified that Sirius was the Potters’ secret-keeper; also, she’s senior undersecretary to a Minister who spent Harry’s whole third year assuming that Sirius had escaped to come after Harry, and directing the might of the Ministry toward his protection. She should definitely know enough to realize that things don’t add up, although you’re right that it would be fair for her to still consider him a criminal until proven otherwise (though something tells me she wouldn’t give him the opportunity to prove otherwise).

  12. In regards to Umbridge, I’m fairly sure she’d have heard, or at least overheard, from Fudge. After all, he tells McGonagall, Flitwick, Hagrid, and Rosmerta of all people. In GoF he implicitly states that he doesn’t trust half giants (which includes Hagrid), and I don’t see him being bosom friends with McGonagall or Flitwick either, yet he tells them anyway. Worse, he tells them in a crowded pub, where anyone can overhear (and the trio do overhear). I just think he has a big mouth.

    As to what was going on with Snape and the memories I’ve given it a lot of thought. I agree with the idea of Snape taunting Harry by making th ememories secure. I also think that Snape wasn’t as furious at Harry as he was terrified. If Harry had just seen that memory, then he had also come very close to seeing all the other memories giving proof of Snape and Lily’s friendship and the rest of the Prince’s Tale. Snape must have been out of his wits with fear that Harry had or would have learned about all that. That’s why this spell of Snape-anger is so drastically different from how livid he was at the end of PoA. Just my two cents.

  13. I’ve worked for the (muggle, admittedly) Civil Service, and Umbridge is of all people likely to ‘work late’ and put in private overtime reading other people’s files. If she wanted to know anything, she’d find a way. Of course, she wouldn’t bother with stuff that wasn’t of value to herself at that particular time …

    As for Snape’s memory: what always bothered him about Harry was his resemblance and relationship to James. And what really annoyed him about Harry was Harry’s unconditional, ignorant love for his father. Assuming that he guessed that Harry would have a little peep in the Pensieve (and who could resist?) wasn’t he trying to rattle Harry’s cage a bit and show him that what he believed wasn’t necessarily accurate? Rather like a precocious preschooler telling all her friends that it’s our parents who leave the Christmas presents! After all, Snape was clearly a brilliant teacher though not a lovable one, but he was also clear-sighted enough to know that it would take more than his talent to make Harry any good at Occlumency at all; so, yes, his memories would have been safer in his head … but then he couldn’t teach Harry another kind of lesson about James! For that reason, hpboy, I think Snape was play-acting his anger … or giving his real dislike and resentment of Harry a fake outlet … and had left his memories of Lily in his head where they’d be safe. He wouldn’t want to be without them, would he? And a good actor can for his own reasons produce ‘bad’ acting … as he clearly did in PoA, you’re right.

  14. Ooh, good point about Snape’s fear-anger hpboy. I had never considered that before.

  15. Several thoughts about this chapter (and the ones that follow):
    First – Harry imagining how Fudge would react about the disruption caused by the twins on Umbridge’s first day as Headmistress. I think that Fudge would hear about this episode from somebody else other than Umbridge (like she says later, “What Cornelius doesn’n know won’t hurt him”);
    Second – We never hear about Umbridge inspecting Firenze’s classes. Weird, considering that it is another half-breed hired by Dumbledore without Umbridge’s approval;
    Third – Umbridge has now full power over the school, why didn’t she used that power to complete the sacking of Professor Trelawney by having her expelled from the castle?

  16. hpboy13, I think I like your theory best so far, I hadn’t thought about it that way. Snape is removing the memories because Harry isn’t ready (or allowed) to see them, rather than because he simply doesn’t *want* him too (after all, surely he wouldn’t want Harry to see those childhood memories either, right?). That would TOTALLY explain his reaction upon finding Harry. He’s angry, yes, but also really scared. And Snape’s making a show of putting them in the pensieve is just his way of gloating, as Inky Squirrel mentioned – “snidely showing Harry that his own memories were safe, while all of Harry’s were fair game.” This is the first theory on this that completely makes sense to me!

    Snape is a good actor obviously, but I don’t think he’s acting here, partially because of the way he continues to direct his anger at Harry, ignoring him in classes and giving him zeros. Plus, if I were a teacher and a student were arrogant enough to dive into my secret memories, I’d be furious even if I *did* expect it beforehand. I would also be very surprised if Snape showed Harry the memory intentionally, for the purpose of showing him how awful his father was. Snape views Harry through the James-lens – in Dumbledore’s words, sees “what you expect to see.” I think Snape would think (and does think) that Harry would find his father’s actions amusing. And he’s too blinded by that hatred to see that Harry’s true reaction is quite different.

  17. Also meant to respond to Jose Lopes re: Umbridge. I always thought that Umbridge would leave Firenze and Trelawney alone because she doesn’t want to remind everyone of those two episodes, both of which were quite embarrassing for her. Once she’s headmistress it becomes clear very fast that she’s not well-liked, and she’s doing everything in her power to command respect.

  18. Maybe Umbridge is really keeping a [very] low profile (being Hagrid the exception to the rule)…

  19. Very good pensieve-discussion, I’ve enjoyed reading all your comments!
    I don’t want to repeat much of what’s been said, just two things:

    Like Ben I have always imagined someone standing with their head in a bowl when they’re in a pensieve. In that case the way to get out might be to pull your head out of it, just not as simply. You would need some kind of mind-trick. However, I hadn’t thought of two people being in the pensieve at the same time. But then again maybe it becomes as big as it needs to be in that case.

    I’m with Inky Squirrel on Snape removing his memories in front of Harry to display that he had that power and Harry not. Most of the arguments for him doing it so that Harry would be able to see them make some sense, too. But if that were the case, why would Snape not only be mad, but also completely cancel Occlumency?

  20. When I first read this series, I realized around about book 3 that Snape’s hostility toward Harry was too intense to be explained entirely by his dislike of James. I tried to think of an additional reason – a motive that could be enduring, powerful, and understandable to children reading the books. I formed the theory that in addition to hating James, Snape had been in love with Lily. Needless to say, Snape’s reaction to Lily in the Pensieve completely killed that theory.

    JKR bamboozled me with every one of the mysteries she set up in her books. I never figured out who was trying to steal the Sorcerer’s stone, who was opening the Chamber of Secrets, why Scabbers and Crookshanks were behaving so strangely, who Fred and George were trying to blackmail, what mission Voldemort had given to Draco, or where the diadem of Ravenclaw was hidden. And I enjoyed every minute of being bamboozled. :-)

  21. This was an interview with Jo on how a Pensieve works:

    MA: “Do the memories stored in a Pensieve reflect reality or the views of the person they belong to?”

    JKR: It’s reality. It’s important that I have got that across, because Slughorn gave Dumbledore this pathetic cut-and-paste memory. He didn’t want to give the real thing, and he very obviously patched it up and cobbled it together. So, what you remember is accurate in the Pensieve.

    ES: I was dead wrong about that.

    JKR: Really?

    ES: I thought for sure that it was your interpretation of it. It didn’t make sense to me to be able to examine your own thoughts from a third-person perspective. It almost feels like you’d be cheating because you’d always be able to look at things from someone else’s point of view.

    MA: So there are things in there that you haven’t noticed personally, but you can go and see yourself?

    JKR: Yes, and that’s the magic of the Pensieve, that’s what brings it alive.

    ES: I want one of those!

    JKR: Yeah. Otherwise it really would just be like a diary, wouldn’t it? Confined to what you remember. But the Pensieve recreates a moment for you, so you could go into your own memory and relive things that you didn’t notice the time. It’s somewhere in your head, which I’m sure it is, in all of our brains. I’m sure if you could access it, things that you don’t know you remember are all in there somewhere.

  22. Roonil Wazlib, thanks for posting that. That was the interview I referenced earlier, was just too lazy to get it. :)

    I think this is one area where I just disagree with Jo. I know it’s her book, but that idea makes no sense to me at all. It raises about a thousand questions – how the reality got into your head, things you could do with it once it’s there, etc. It’s like Legilimency, in that it has to have strict limits on it (stricter than Jo places on it, at least in that interview), or it would be powerful enough to totally dominate the magical world.

  23. Her description of the Pensieve reminds me of the show Cold Case. Each show consists of a number of flashbacks relating to the case, provided by people who knew the victim. In some of the flashbacks, the witness will be standing fifty feet away, talking to someone else or mowing the lawn or listening to music on headphones, while the victim and someone else have a whispered conversation. Yet the witness hears every word clearly. And the flashbacks are always true.

  24. Billie, I disagree, I think this is one of those hints where we weren’t as bamboozled as perhaps Jo had hoped. Because I distinctly remember that this chapter single-handedly gave birth AND credibility to the Snape/Lily fic. Admittedly, no one saw the twist of them being childhood friends, but other than that, readers drew a lot of very correct conclusions about Snape/Lily. If you want further proof, check out my pre-DH essay about Marauder-era ships (including Snape/Lily), found here:

    Here is the entire text about that section (keep in mind I wrote this when I was fifteen).

    “This is one of the most popular m-ships, and one of the best supported. There is a lot of evidence supporting it, and you can read it in other essays, like the one here. I’ll do a sum-up for you.

    The scene that indicates this m-ship the best is “Snape’s Worst Memory” in Order of the Phoenix. Why would that be Snape’s worst memory? Surely he’s been bullied plenty of times before. The common belief is that it’s his worst memory because Snape, probably inadvertently, called Lily “Mudblood.” Lily was very likely the only friend Snape had. They probably became friends during Slughorn’s Potions lessons. They both hated the Marauders, so they could have sat together and become friends. Snape probably developed a crush on her. But when he called her “Mudblood,” that would probably have been the end of their friendly relationship. And that’s why it’s Snape’s worst memory. He lost the only girl he ever loved.

    This would also explain a lot about Snape’s feelings towards Harry. Harry is the manifestation of Lily’s love for Snape’s enemy—no wonder he hates Harry! It’s interesting to know that Snape never insults Lily throughout the series, while he regularly makes snide comments about James.

    This m-ship could actually be very important in DH. I think it may be the reason Dumbledore trusts Snape, and the reason for Snape’s change of loyalties (I won’t go into Snape’s loyalties in this essay, I’ll just discuss why this may be the reason he is or was on the good side). When Snape brought news of the prophecy and Voldemort went to kill the Potters, Snape probably felt awful because he was causing the death of the only girl he loved. This is probably the tale of deepest regret that Snape told Dumbledore.”

    As you can see, a lot of that came to be true, and these were quite popular theories back in the day. So I view this chapter not as Jo’s bamboozling, but clever foreshadowing.

  25. Thanks, hpboy13. I read your “Ships” essay on the Lexicon for the first time a few months ago, and I was very impressed that you had seen through the wool that Jo was pulling over our eyes. And you wrote that when you were 15? I’m even more impressed!

    I read the series without being part of the online community of Potter fans – in fact, I didn’t even know the community existed. So all of Jo’s misdirection techniques worked very well on me.

    In retrospect, I realize that a lot of Jo’s clues are found in the things that she DOESN’T mention. The fact that Snape never badmouths Lily is one of these. Another good one is the fact that the name of the Hog’s Head barman is never mentioned. (I didn’t pick up on that one, either!)

  26. Thanks so much Billie! Yeah, I was 15, and I cringe a little whenever I reread the essays from back then. I must say, you missed out – in the fandom, we were dissecting the books word-for-word to pick up on things like this. We had also caught RAB and Kreacher and Mundungus with the locket in Grimmauld Place (though we never once thought of the twist Jo put there, having Reg sacrifice himself). The fans really did a good job making the most of the scant clues Jo left us.

  27. First of all, my apologies for the long comment, and for discussing issues I have very little knowledge about (memory creation and maths).

    I was thinking about the Pensieve and the limits to the memories, and I kept picturing it as some sort of hypnotism. I have no first-hand experience, but I have read that while they are in a trance, people can remember details and nuances that they didn’t know they remembered, or didn’t consciously remember. Snape could have heard the marauders’ conversation, the girls chatting by the lake and so on, and stored all this “in the back of his mind”, without even being aware of it. According to my theory, if Snape had been asked at that moment about those details, he would have no conscious recollection of them, but once he got to examine his memories in the Pensieve, he would “see” them and integrate them into his conscious memory.

    Regarding Umbridge’s difficulty dealing with the fireworks, I think it’s not that she is not powerful (I don’t think she is a particularly powerful witch), but that she’s not imaginative. I can make a paralell with math problems: you may have all the knowledge (the numbers, what the arithmetical operations are and how they work), but the key to solving the problem is the imagination you need to apply that knowledge. Umbridge strikes me as the stereotypical civil servant who can only do a certain task that requires very little innovation, creativity and outside-the-box thinking. After all, it is mentioned that Stunning and Vanishing the fireworks does not work and is even counterproductive. Other that these two spells, which seem to be the most obvious, how did the other teachers deal with them? There must be another bit of magic we don’t hear about but gets the job done.

  28. I just realized something that I’d never thought of before- that the reason that particular memory is Snape’s worst is not because of the humiliation, it’s because he called Lily a mudblood, which set off a whole chain reaction. That just shows another thing I love about this series- hints show up in earlier books that you don’t understand until the last book.

  29. *LOVE* Mudblood428’s addition is beautiful. I especially love that Harry is right in the middle of everything, rather than to the side. It’s much more in character. :)

  30. Something I especially enjoy about Jenny Dolfen’s wonderful picture of the Marauders – she shows James wearing aviator glasses, which were the trendy style in 1975.

  31. I’ve been wondering…what happens when you go into the Pensieve? Does Snape enter the dungeon and see Harry standing, half-submerged in the Pensieve, or does he look down into the Pensieve and see a little Harry at the bottom of his memory?

  32. Looking at these wonderful pictures really brought home something I don’t much think about — that Lily was a redhead. I wonder how much that influenced Harry’s being drawn to the Weasleys and Molly in particular in SS on the platform when they first meet? Or does he even know she was a redhead at that point? Or is it just a buried memory from babyhood?

  33. Two more things. The first time I read this, I was certain Umbridge was setting Harry up by saying her fire was the only one not monitored, so that he would try to use it and be caught. I just couldn’t believe she would say that otherwise.

    And back to the penseive discussion — and I hope I’m not duplicating anything I overlooked — I noticed that it says when Snape came and pulled Harry out of his memory, “his feet hit the ground” (guessing on the exact quote). Would that be his real feet, or the feeling of his ethereal feet that had been in the penseive rejoining his corporeal feet in the office?

  34. I just love, how JK introduces Snape’s hand writing in this chapter. the same writing of course that we will see in HBP. Harry actually looks at Snape’s exam and tells us how the writing is cramped and tiny. one of those things that we just don’t notice the first time.
    If only Harry had a better memory. (he should have his own pensieve)

  35. For some reason, I just never picked up on the Snape/Lily thing. It was pretty obvious to me about RAB being Regulus Black and I thought that was really intriguing given that we know from Sirius that Regulus was a Death Eater. But, yeah, Snape and Lily… I always knew, though, that Snape had multiple layers, as many as Dumbledore even, from the moment Harry first sees Snape at the Start-of-term feast in Year One. I mean, you just get that feeling because of JKR’s innate ability to build hype around her characters without putting forth too much effort; it’s just really subtle how she can given them depth.

    The fact that Snape NEVER says anything about Lily, ever, should have been a major clue to me (being so intrigued by Snape’s character) that something had been up between them, because Snape badmouths everyone else in his year worth mentioning (Lupin, Sirius, Pettigrew, James). But never ANYTHING about Lily… I have only just realized this after reading the books avidly for the last 12 years.

  36. I don’t know if anyone has brought this up yet, but given all of the evidence we receive in “The Princes Tale”, I believe it is obvious that what makes this Snape’s worst memory isn’t being hung upside down and embarrased, but calling Lily a “mudblood”. This incident, as we now know, is the breaking point in Snape and Lily’s relationship and following the event, she no longer sticks up for him. I think that grown (and young) Snape regrets that moment more than anything he has done in his life outside of handing her over to Lord Voldemort.

  37. I apologize for the length, but I really like what JKR did with the Occlumency plot and I want to explain my thoughts. It’s in this plot that I really see Snape questioning his assumption that Harry is more like James than Lily. We know from DH33 (The Prince’s Tale) that Dumbledore and Snape argued this topic early in Harry’s first year.

    This topic probably comes up a few times between Snape and Dumbledore over the years, such as when Snape retrieves Dumbledore’s Penseive, especially since we know that Dumbledore promised not to reveal that Snape was protecting Harry because of his love for Lily (DH33). In OOP24 (Occlumency), we get a hint of the topic being fresh in Snape’s mind when he informs Harry about Occlumency and accuses Harry of being just like James (and Sirius agrees). Later in the chapter, Snape also makes a point of accusing Harry of being bad at potions. We find out in HBP that Lily was very talented at potions, so this my be another attempt by Snape to put Harry in the “just like James” box, or at least the “not like Lily” box.

    Dumbledore says in OOP38 (The Second War Begins) that he believed Snape would overcome his hatred of James in response to why Dumbledore didn’t teach Harry Occlumency himself (in addition to not wanting to tempt Voldemort). I can think of two reasons Dumbledore believed Snape would come around.

    First, Snape will have to spend a great deal of time looking into Harry’s eyes. It’s mentioned constantly in the books that Harry has Lily’s eyes. Technically, the first time this happens chronologically in the story is when Dumbledore points this out to a weeping Snape when Lily has just been murdered in DH33, so we know for a fact that Dumbledore is not above using Lily’s death and Snape’s love for her against him to achieve Dumbledore’s ends.

    Second, Dumbledore is well aware of the bullying Harry recieved at the hands of Dudley and his gang (and likely Malfoy’s bullying as well), but is aware of no incidents of Harry bullying anyone. In OOP26 (Seen and Unforeseen), Snape does infact see a series of images of Harry being bullied. Dumbledore would certainly believe this would give Snape pause for thought. On seeing these memories, it should be obvious that Harry would not identify with a bully.

    In this chapter (OOP28, Snape’s Worst Memory), we finally see Snape’s memory and his reaction to Harry having watched it. I think that Snape was starting to come around, but he really does do his nut in this scene. My feeling is that Snape simply never expected Harry to have a chance to see the memories and momentarily forgets about the Pensieve when he leaves with Malfoy. After all, Snape always removes the thoughts after Harry arrives and immediately replaces them before Harry leaves, so how would Harry ever see them?

    Unfortunately, any thoughts of understanding Snape may have been developing for Harry are gone when Snape finds that Harry HAS invaded his very private shame. It’s exactly the sort of thing James would have done. Personally, I think Snape is a saint for not murdering Harry on the spot (hehe), but it is unfortunate that Harry won’t really come to know the truth of Snape until after Snape’s death.

  38. You know, When I first read this chapter I finally realized that Snape was just horribly misunderstood and just needed a friend. If that had happened I’m sure he’d be a much better person in the long run.

  39. Douglas, your analysis is brilliant, and not something that’s ever crossed my mind. But I completely, 100% agree. I may borrow some of those ideas for a future essay!

  40. Thanks, and feel free, Josie. I’ve really been enjoying the site, so I’m more than happy to contribute any insight I can.

  41. I still believe there must be some kind of limit as to how far away you could wander from the owner of the memory. Harry followed his father because Snape was reasonably close, and I think Snape must have, perhaps subconciously, overheard the Marauders’ conversation for Harry to be able to listen to it.

  42. If Rowling is right about the how the pensive work and it pretty much transports you back to be moment the event happened (the memory itself being more like a set of coordinates) then I’d say it’d be an immensely powerful bit of magic so maybe it’s too powerful for most witches and wizards to preform? It certainly seems as though it would be way out of Umbridge’s league. How many people do we actually see use a pensive outside of Dumbledore, Snape and Slughorn?

    I’d say that it certainly seems like more is happening then a simple memory re-viewing but that’d leave more questions when the pensieve reappears in the next book…

  43. How many Pensieves are there? We know that most of the silver instruments in Dumbledore’s office are completely unique, and he may have created/enchanted all of them himself. And we never hear about a pensieve aside from Dumbledore’s. Is it possible that he invented it and that his is the only one? We know that other capable wizards (Riddle) found ways to take other people inside their memories, but I always assumed that Dumbledore’s pensieve was the only one. And it makes sense that he would have created it, since he needed a convenient way to view the memories he had been collecting about Voldemort. In that case, a lot of your concerns about the pensieve aren’t a problem, Josie, since no one else would have one. If they ever became widespread, the wizarding world would certainly be changed!

  44. When Harry first comes across the Pensieve in the eponymous chapter of GoF, Dumbledore tells Harry he “put it away rather hastily when Fudge arrived”. Does this mean that he did indeed invent it himself and is loathe to risk the authorities finding out about and spreading the idea?

  45. I think the pictures were really entertaining and they sort of made sense of what was happening and going on. James looked a lot like how I imagined him to look and Sirius also looked very much like I would have imagined him.
    Although, I think that Sirius and James looked too much alike, if you catch my drift. But It was really good, and I also do wonder why Snape’s worse memory was that. Wouldn’t it be telling Voldemort about Lily and the Prophecy, or his family when he was younger. It kind of shows that Snape’s worse memories was when he was younger.

  46. *SPOILER?*
    @ Kaylie: I think someone else covered why this is his worst memory above.
    I think Snape learned to disassociate from his family memories more, you know? He mostly “got over it,” though it’s clear from the first time Harry breaks into his mind that Snape has never completely healed from the abuse.
    However, this is the memory in which he and Lily break apart forever, no longer even friends, and the day he truly lost her. If this memory had never occurred, he probably wouldn’t have told Voldemort about the prophecy because having Lily as a friend (or more) very well may have kept him from becoming a Death Eater. This memory was the beginning of the complete misery that became Snape’s life.

  47. It is believed by scientists and psychologists that the mind stores away a lot more information than you are able to actually recall. Say you went to the theatre. A few days later you’d probably only be able to recall a general impression, a basic knowledge of what happened and bits and pieces of specific scenes and lines. Despite this, your brain has in fact stored away every last line of dialogue, every action of the actors, every change in lighting, every cough from the audience, every single movement anyone sitting in front of you or in the peripheries of your vision made. Your sub and unconscious brains remember, even if your conscious one doesn’t (and let’s face it, if it did we’d probably only live a very short time before having a nervous meltdown from information overload). The penseive however would extract not the version of events that is recalled (which is affected by values, prejudice and emotion), but all that raw data that the brain has stored away, reconstruct the events from it, and play it back to you, accurate to the last detail. So the penseive does show the memories from the person’s physical perspective, but not from their emotional perspective, if you know what I mean. Which I think is what Rowling was saying in that interview.

    However this does not explain the Penseive including things going on behind Snape’s back. I think that was probably a bit of creative license on Rowling’s part. With the Marauders’ conversation though, I reckon Snape was actually deliberately following them, pretending to be engrossed in the exam paper while actually listening in on them, rather than just happening to sit down behind a bush near them. Sirius did say in PoA that Snape was always spying on them, trying to find out where Moony went once a month etc.

    Regarding Snape making a show of removing his memories, he probably knows Harry’s frustration about information being kept from him so he’s rubbing in the fact that he himself is hiding even more. But then messes up by accidentally leaving Harry alone in the room with the penseive. Oops. :)

  48. This chapter is one of my favourites, but I find it hard to read. I feel for every person in the memory (including Harry).

    I think that the Pensieve is a really clever idea. I think that when a person puts his or her memory in the pensieve, it doesn‘t completely leave the mind. I think that the person still has a general idea of what the memory is about, but isn‘t overburdened by it, its details and all the feelings associated with it. And another person can‘t penetrate it by legilimency.

    I really like Elspethelf‘s portrait of Sirius.

  49. I hadn’tthought about this until this moment, when I read the comic at the bottom. At first, I agreed with what it said; why on Earth would Snape’s worst memory be some petty bullying, after all he’s been through. But after reading the 7th book, I think the real reason that’s Snapes worst memory has nothing to do with the embarassment he faced. It’s his worst memory because of the moment he call Lily ‘mudblood.’ When he called her that name, he lost her forever; that’s what makes this particular memory so bad for him- not the embarassment, the fact that in one moment of anger and frustration, he lost Lily.

  50. Personally, I loved this chapter because it explained SO MUCH to me. At the same time it made me unbearably sad. For some reason, Snape is one of my fave characters (god knows why bc in real life I’d be just like Neville when it came to him). It never made sense in my mind why he hated James so much. But I had noticed how he never mentioned Lily in all his insults. And then I saw that memory. And everything just clicked. Yes he lost Lily but it was a lot worse than that. Who did Lily turn to in the end? James-Snape’s ENEMY. I remember reading this chapter and feeling so disappointed in Lily. I was pissed at Snape for what he said, but Lily was the one who really let me down. Like someone mentioned above. All Sev needed was a friend. Lily was probably the longest positive relationship he had with anyone at the time. And instead of sticking by him, she started worrying about what everyone else was thinking and left him. That’s the point where he sunk completely into the Dark Arts and got sucked in. The man is severely flawed, there’s no doubt about that. But his attitude makes so much more sense to me after that memory and several other factors were shown. again, I agree with what someone said above. He probably was starting to come around, with his perceptions with Harry. And then that happened, and It blew every opportunity for a better relationship completely apart. A lot of lost opportunities all around. : (

  51. I don’t completely disagree, Hentai. I’m sure Lily is partially to blame, but I wouldn’t say I was disappointed in her (except for her last comment about his underpants…that was a little disappointing). At some point, one friend will influence the other, and Snape’s friendship with Lily was only a string holding him to a facade of morality. Unfortunately, he only kept sinking deeper into the Dark Arts; she never had an effect on him except when he was alone with her. If Snape had influenced Lily and brought her into the Dark Arts, he would have been perfectly happy.
    In calling Lily a Mudblood, it seems that he finally (at least unconsciously) cared more about what others thought than what he thought, particularly about Lily.
    And it’s certainly not as though Lily dated Snape’s worst enemy to annoy him (or at least JKR never made it seem like it); she just liked James.

  52. Love the pictures of young James and company!! This is my favorite chapter art so far! Thank you!

  53. I, too, always assumed the pensieve was another one of the rare magical objects that Dumbledore had either acquired or created. We never see another one, even in the Department of Mysteries. If the ministry had such a thing, I’m sure Umbridge would have used it in exactly the way someone mentioned in a previous comment (sorry, can’t seem to find it now). Come to think of it, if they were at all accessable to anyone else, Voldemort would certainly have one—wouldn’t that give him much more accurate info than simple legilimens?

    Even so, this discussion made me think about the pensieve a lot, and I noticed a really glaring error (I DID read the above comments, forgive me if someone already mentioned this):
    Why did Snape have to borrow the pensieve from Dumbledore at all? We learn in the next book that extracted memories don’t have to be kept in a pensieve. Dumbledore kept his collection of memories in vials until he needed them, and Slughorn gave his memory to Harry in a potion bottle–something Snape should have plenty of!

    Pensieve aside, I am now very curious—and confused—about the act of removing strands of memory. It seems like it would be a very useful spell on its own. From the occlumency scenes, I have to guess that when the memory is extracted, the memory is completely taken away from the wizard. Otherwise, they would still be seen by a legilimens. This makes it much more powerful than the common memory charm done by average ministry wizards, which can be broken as we will see. Here are my questions, based on that conclusion, that make my head spin (Many of these observations are based on info from future chapters/books):

    —Did Snape leave some memories with Dumbledore whenever he was about to visit Voldemort? We know he was a great occlumens, but for really sensitive information it seems like a wise precaution. It also seems like it would have been a good thing to teach Harry to do, since he wasn’t so good at occlumency.

    —If Snape could remove his most disturbing memories, why not remove them permanently? I don’t think memories can be destroyed (otherwise Slughorn would have done it), but it seems like he could have kept his good memories of Lily, and locked the bad ones in a cupboard somewhere. Incidentally, this might also help protect against dementors.

    —How many wizards know how to do this spell? We know Dumbledore, Snape, and Slughorn can, but they are all exceptional wizards. Dumbledore got memories from other people, but he could have performed the spell on them himself. It looks like another bit of magic that, if everyone could do it, would “turn the world on its head”. Imagine if everyone could take their secrets and bad memories and hide them in a vault at Gringotts! There is one advantage to keeping your thoughts in your head, though: apparently, it’s the only way your memories die with you.

    —How many memories was Snape hiding from Harry? Harry only had time to see one before being caught, but Snape removed more than one. Did he remove all of the memories of Lily and James? If so, wouldn’t he have “forgotten” why he hated Harry during those lesson times and eased up on him?

    —We know the extracted memory could be inserted back into the wizards’ head. If one didn’t have a pensieve, could they put another wizard’s memory in their head to see it? They wouldn’t have the same perceptive view as in the pensieve, of course. Would that wizard then think the memory was their own?

    I have other thoughts, but I realize I may have already delved to much into things that happen later in the series. Looking forward to reading the rest of this site!

  54. Sara: I’ve had a few similar thoughts, especially about how removing a memory would seem to lead to removing the pain and other emotions associated with them. I’ve also wondered if viewing the memory in the Pensieve would create a new memory in your mind and, when the original memory had/needed to be removed, if you’d need to also collect all the other memories of yourself viewing/studying that original.

    I just think it’s one of those elements that JKR didn’t expect us to dig that deeply into. :)

  55. I think Snape is genuinely angry at Harry for looking in the Pensieve. As we know, he refuses to continue giving him lessons, even under Dumbledore’s orders, and as we know, he rarely ever goes against Dumbledore’s wishes. He may have been expecting it to happen, but I can see him being extremely angry that it did anyway. That wasn’t acting in my opinion.

    Ben, if one finds someone inside a Pensieve with their face in the bowl, then how does one get in the Pensieve to pull them out? The idea of the Pensieve magically enlarging just doesn’t make sense to me for some reason. I just don’t see it happening. Mental block or something. I always pictured the person maybe slumped over or unconscious on the floor. Or perhaps you find the person is missing and realize what might have happened? This has always been a question of mine when it comes to Pensieves.

    I’m quite happy that I hadn’t been a part of a Harry Potter online community while I read the books. I had read a few fanfictions, but that’s it. I just feel like that’s how the books should be read for the first time (minus the fanfictions, though, possibly). The surprises are the fun parts, and you feel so accomplished when you yourself see through that “wool over the eyes,” rather than someone else bringing it up and thinking “oh yea!”. One of my examples: I was so happy when I found out I was completely correct about where the diadem was while reading DH (from the clue left in HBP). I knew there was something up with that statue bust! xD

    Sara, I would be deeply concerned if Snape were to remove his bad memories and keep the good ones, and I think Dumbledore would be too. As I’ve learned over the years, bad memories make us who we are more than the good ones do. I would be concerned over who Snape might turn out to be if he hadn’t kept those lessons inside his head, and I think he had that same thought process. He didn’t want to forget Lily, good or bad memories, and he needed them to keep his objective in mind: to protect Harry at all costs and keep working for the Light.

    Very interesting comments over the chapter, and a delight to read. I feel like I may have skipped over a few things I would have otherwise commented on (seeing as how there’s so much information to process!) but I think I did myself justice, either way.

  56. harry may look like James but his personality is definetly more like lily’s. It is surprising to me that people did not realize this as they got to nuderstand harry more

  57. Whoa, there were a lot of comments on this chapter! Sorry for not reading all of them…

    I always feel so bad when reading his particular chapter, when Harry – fully aware of how the Pensieve works – dives straight into it. Gah. I just cringe every time Snape stands there, as we know he will. Come to think about it, Harry doesn’t even know how to get back from the memory, does he? When he did it in Dumbledore’s office the previous year, Dumledore fetched him, just as Snape does here. I wonder what would happen if they hadn’t – would the memory play over, or would Harry move along to the next one as he does in “The Prince’s Tale”? Or would he be spat back up?
    I’m betting on the second option, which I think is why Snape was so angry with him when they came back. Some of you have said this already, but still… imagine Harry diving head first into the story of Snape and Lily at this point, seeing everything Snape has been fighting to keep from him at all costs. No wonder he was so mad.

    I also think the title of the chapter is a bit misleading, considering what we learn about Snape later on. Surely he must have experienced far worse things (Lily’s death, for instance).

    As you mentioned, Josie, I also think Harry’s reaction is very interesting, and this experience teaches him some things about life the hard way. Up till now, he’s been idolizing his parents and his dad in particular, which is understandable as he is an orphan not knowing much about his parents. This is a painful wake up call for him in many ways – some of his childish innocence is indeed stolen while watching his father being such a prat. Being a victim of bullying himself (and a lot more mature at age 15 than his father was), his reaction is indeed different than Snape would ever dream of.

  58. Amanda, regarding the chapter title – I like it very much, on two levels. First, in this chapter it’s all about Harry’s perception; why is Snape hiding the memory from Harry if not because it’s embarrassing to him? So it appears to be his worst memory, for very shallow reasons.

    However, at the same time, we’ll learn much later that this is a horrible memory for much deeper reasons as well. Snape has certainly seen far worse, but this was the moment that forced Lily to break ties with him, and which in a sense set in motion all of the terrible things that ensued. It may not be the most horrific moment of his life, but I can certainly see it being the one which he recalls with the most regret. And that is a sort of ‘worst’ memory as well, if of a different type.

  59. @Amanda: I love that Harry learns so much about this mother in this memory. He is so often told about how much he looks like his father, or that several of his actions are like him, but here is a moment when we learn that he has inherited his mother’s kindness. This is what helped him to be more mature than James. :)

  60. I like this quote from Flitwick “I could have got rid of the sparklers myself, or course, but I wasn’t sure whether I had the authority….” It does make me wonder that if the teachers did help Umbridge without being asked, would they have gotten in trouble?

  61. Josie, hpboy, Inky Squirrell, Douglas and elizabethauthor especially – thanks. Great discussion everyone.
    Elizabethauthor, your reasoning on the Pensieve bit is brilliant! I’d say there would have to a radius of what could be explored and what couldn’t be. The grounds around the Lake, yes; anyone up at the castle, no. So once the Incident was playing out, Remus, say, could’ve gotten up and gone to the castle to get the teachers, but we wouldn’t have seen him.
    Douglas, your analysis of Snape also scores full marks. Great stuff.
    Just so you know, I’m grabbing bits of this to store away in my own “Pensieve” – my USB – annotated with who said what. That’s how I develop my ideas and opinions of a character further and I’m always looking for new ways to describe Snape. :P

  62. Regarding the Pensieve and memory. Didn’t Ms Rowling say that it was the magic of the Pensieve? I suspect that the device takes the memory and finds details that the rememberer hadn’t noticed. Dumbledore does say that he has used it to examine things to get a fresh take (I think in the previous book?). I think we are trying too hard to make this into a wizarding version of YouTube or video camera of memory. I think, as magical as that is, that there would be no value in it for someone like Dumbledore if that were “all” it did. It has to be able to do more than that to be truly a valuable tool. And again, it seems not many have one. Maybe this is something, like the Put-Outer, that Dumbledore devised, himself?

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