The Pensieve

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Chapter 30 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Pensieve← Chapter 29 | Chapter 31 →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Professor Moody opens the door and invites Harry into the Headmaster's office. Professor Dumbledore asks Harry to wait there while he, Cornelius Fudge, and Professor Moody survey where Mr. Crouch appeared and then disappeared.

Alone in Dumbledore's office, Harry notices a shimmering light. Inside a partially opened cupboard is a stone bowl filled with an odd, glittering, substance. Peering into it, he sees a torch-lit stone room, filled with tiny witches and wizards. He moves closer for a better view and is catapulted into the scene. Nobody in the room notices him, and Harry, seeing that apparently younger versions of Dumbledore and Moody are present, realizes he is inside a memory, and settles down to watch.

In a courtroom, a younger Bartemius Crouch is overseeing the proceedings. Chained to a chair, Igor Karkaroff bargains for his freedom, offering to identify Death Eaters. He names Antonin Dolohov, Evan Rosier, Travers, and Mulciber. All have already been captured or killed. Karkaroff then claims that Augustus Rookwood, who works in the Department of Mysteries, was passing information to Voldemort. This information is apparently new to the court, but Karkaroff is to be returned to Azkaban while the court deliberates. In desperation, Karkaroff names Severus Snape as a Death Eater. Dumbledore interjects, saying that while Severus had been a Death Eater, he had turned double agent before Voldemort's downfall and is no longer the Dark Lord's servant.

The memory fades and returns to the same room with a lighter atmosphere. A younger Ludo Bagman is seated in the same chair, but not chained, as he answers charges of aiding Death Eaters. Bagman claims he was unaware that Rookwood was working for Death Eaters and believed that he was collecting information for "our side." As the wizards vote, Harry realizes this is the Wizengamot. The judges vote to free Bagman, though Moody and Crouch seem annoyed by the verdict.

Again the memory fades and reappears, only now the room is grimmer. A witch and three wizards are chained before Mr. Crouch, accused of torturing the Aurors Frank and Alice Longbottom to uncover Voldemort's whereabouts. The Wizengamot unanimously sentence them to life in Azkaban. The boy, Barty Crouch, Jr., pleads for his father to spare him; Crouch, stony-faced, disowns his son while Mrs. Crouch, weeping, watches as Barty is condemned.

A second Dumbledore suddenly appears and, grasping Harry's elbow, returns them to Hogwarts. The bowl, he says, is a Pensieve. When too many thoughts and memories cram Dumbledore's mind, he siphons some off and stores them there. Patterns can be seen inside the Pensieve that are not otherwise immediately apparent. Using his wand, Dumbledore extracts a thought and places it in the Pensieve. Harry sees his own face smoothly turning into Snape's who says, "It's coming back, Karkaroff's too . . ." It is a connection Dumbledore could have missed without help. Harry apologizes for snooping; Dumbledore responds that curiosity is not a sin, but it requires caution. A teenaged girl's image then rises from the Pensieve. It is Bertha Jorkins as she was at Hogwarts. She is complaining that a boy jinxed her because she reported him for kissing Florence behind the greenhouses. Dumbledore asks why she followed him behind the greenhouses in the first place.

Harry then recounts his dream, but is surprised that Dumbledore already knows about his scar hurting him that summer. Unknown to Harry, Dumbledore has been corresponding with Sirius. Dumbledore believes Harry's dream was hardly ordinary and that Harry's scar hurts whenever Voldemort is nearby or feeling strong emotions. In the dream, Harry never saw Voldemort, only an armchair from behind, but there would be nothing to see: Voldemort still lacks a body. Dumbledore says Voldemort is growing stronger, and his earlier accession to power was marked by unexplained disappearances; there are currently three missing people: Bertha Jorkins, Bartemius Crouch, Sr., and a Muggle, Frank Bryce. Dumbledore believes they are linked, though the Ministry does not.

Harry learns that Neville's parents, mentioned in the final memory, were tortured until they went insane, and now permanently reside in St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. That is why Neville lives with his grandmother. Also, Ludo Bagman and Severus Snape have been uninvolved in anything Dark since the trials, and Dumbledore trusts Snape completely. Dumbledore requests that Harry say nothing about Neville's parents, not even to Ron or Hermione. That is Neville's story to tell. Finally, he wishes Harry luck in the third task.

Analysis[edit]

Readers have watched the story unfold mostly through Harry's point-of-view or as told to him by other characters; gradually, the author has added additional mechanisms for Harry (and readers) to gain information about Voldemort and his Death Eaters. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry viewed Tom Riddle's memories that were stored in his diary. Now Dumbledore's Pensieve provides another means for Harry to observe historical events at first-hand. The Pensieve is also introducing new characters from the past that readers may see again in the present. It also sheds light on some current characters, such as Ludo Bagman, who was interrogated but never convicted as a Voldemort follower, though his actual involvement is apparently still suspect to Dumbledore and Moody. And though Harry has learned much from Tom Riddle's Diary and Dumbledore's Pensieve, these are still memories, and they may be imperfect and somewhat tinged with personal viewpoints and biases. We note that Tom Riddle's memories, accurate though they may have been, were purposely presented in such a way as to give Harry a false impression. We suspect that will not be the last time Harry will see a deliberately skewed memory.

Harry has also been occasionally watching events in real time through a mental connection existing between him and Voldemort. As these mostly play out when Harry is asleep, he still believes these are just bad dreams. Harry's mental connection to Voldemort may become his most valuable information avenue, as he is viewing things that are currently happening, though he has yet to completely utilize this, being previously unsure if what he saw was actually real; also, the information he does receive is sporadic and incomplete, making it difficult to analyze. There is also a danger that Voldemort can learn as much through Harry if he also discovers this link; it is probably only a matter of time before he does.

Also, Dumbledore has likely been depositing his abundant thoughts into the Pensieve for many decades, presumably many unrelated to Harry or Voldemort. How then does Harry happen to see only those memories directly related to current events and that are the most helpful to him? Is it possible that Dumbledore intended for Harry to view these particular recollections, leaving him alone in his office at an opportune time? The opened cupboard door almost seemed an invitation, beckoning Harry to peer inside. Dumbledore may be legally prevented from sharing such confidential information with a student, and by making his memories available in this way, he is able to pass this on to Harry without reprisal. Quite possibly, Dumbledore was merely reviewing those particular memories because they may be related to current events, and Harry happened upon them during an unguarded moment. All this is, of course, only speculation and unfortunately, it remains unanswered.

The Pensieve also reveals much about Neville Longbottom through what happened to his parents. The trauma Neville has suffered over his mother and father's sad fate may partially explain why his memory and magical abilities are impaired. For whatever reason, Neville has chosen to keep his parents' condition secret; Harry's knowledge about this will bring the two boys closer together, and Harry realizes that Neville has lost his parents to Voldemort, just as he has lost his.

To the uncritical reader, the appearance of Bertha Jorkins in the Pensieve might seen unrelated. We note, however, that it immediately follows Dumbledore's comments about curiosity not being a sin, but requiring care. The incident which Bertha is complaining about is a case where she was jinxed because of excessive curiosity. We also note that she is close to the surface of the Pensieve, being able to rise to visibility so easily. There must be many cases in Dumbledore's memory of students who let their curiosity send them into trouble; one of them is, in fact, standing in front of him at that instant. Bertha's appearance does indicate that she is, for whatever reason, right near the top of Dumbledore's current thoughts. Dumbledore's mention of multiple unexplained disappearances might well be the reason she is on his mind.

As a side note, it is interesting that even though the courtroom scenes are from Dumbledore's viewpoint, he is seen as a bystander. This matches what had happened in Tom Riddle's memories; though it was Tom's memories, Harry was always standing beside Tom, rather than seeing directly through Tom's eyes.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

Review[edit]

  1. Why has Neville never told anyone about what happened to his parents? How might this knowledge change Harry's relationship with Neville?
  2. Why is Harry so surprised that Dumbledore has been communicating with Sirius? Why has Sirius never mentioned this to Harry?
  3. Why did Harry wait so long to tell Dumbledore about his dreams?
  4. Why is Dumbledore convinced that Harry's visions are something other than dreams?

Further Study[edit]

  1. Why does Dumbledore refuse to tell Harry the reason he trusts Snape? Is Dumbledore's trust warranted?
  2. Why does the Ministry maintain that Bertha Jorkins', Mr. Crouch's, and Frank Bryce's disappearances are unrelated? Are they? Explain.
  3. Did Dumbledore intend for Harry to view his memories in the Pensieve? What evidence is there for this? If he did intend for Harry to see them, why didn't he just tell Harry all this instead?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Knowing now that Harry has had at least two "dreams" which mirrored Voldemort's thoughts, Dumbledore is beginning to understand exactly what the link is between Harry's mind and Voldemort's. This causes Harry great concern in the next book, as Dumbledore takes great pains to conceal his and Harry's relationship from any potential eavesdropping by Voldemort through that link. Dumbledore believes, correctly, that if Voldemort knows that he and Harry have anything more than a student to headmaster relationship, he will use that as a weapon against Harry, Dumbledore, or both. To conceal his affection for Harry, Dumbledore will studiously avoid nearly all contact with him. As a result, Harry feels hurt and abandoned, and will, on several occasions, refuse to pass useful information to Dumbledore. Voldemort learns about the link near Christmas, when, through it, Harry "sees" Mr. Weasley being attacked. Shortly after that discovery, Voldemort will begin to use that link to manipulate Harry into stealing a Prophecy for him.

Harry will use the Pensieve again, to provide answers not only about Voldemort, but also his father and mother, Aunt Petunia, and also Snape. Perhaps interestingly, the Pensieve's primary purpose in the narrative is not to store and search for connections between existing memories, as is implied here. Its function is to replay memories placed in it. In the next book, it will show us an episode in Snape's life. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we will examine memories belonging to individuals who knew Voldemort in his younger days, when he was still known as Tom Riddle. And in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we will replay Snape's memories from both his youth and adult life, thereby learning more than a little about Harry's parents.

The Pensieve also, apparently, has the ability to store memories outside of the user; Snape's placing a memory in the Pensieve before Harry's Occlumency lesson is apparently intended to keep it away from Harry in the unlikely even that he is able to overpower Snape and read his memories. From this we conclude that the magic that allows memories to be extracted from the mind allows for either copying or moving: Snape seems to think he is safeguarding the memory by moving it to the Pensieve, which would imply that the memory is removed from his mind, while a later memory of Professor Slughorn is retrieved twice, which implies that the earlier, highly edited extraction was a copy of the original memory.

A little further comment is germane also to Bertha Jorkins' appearance in the Pensieve. Dumbledore seems to be implying that Bertha is the sort of person who would allow her curiosity to lead her into trouble. We learn, later in this book, that she had discovered that Barty Crouch was still alive, and had her memory massively altered as a result of that discovery. She had also strayed into Voldemort's clutches, and had been interrogated and killed as a result of that. As we see neither of these incidents directly, we cannot be certain, but we suspect from what we are told that both of these cases involved curiosity on Bertha's part.

Connections[edit]

  • This is the first appearance of the Pensieve. Professor Snape will store memories in it as a precaution in the next book, starting with the first Occlumency lesson, and continuing until Harry experiences that memory by examining the Pensieve when Snape has left the room. Professor Dumbledore and Harry will use it repeatedly in the sixth book to examine memories that Dumbledore has retrieved, and Harry will use it in the final book to view Snape's autobiography.
  • We have here the first confirmation that Snape was a Death Eater, and we hear of Dumbledore's trust in his conversion. This will be a recurring issue throughout the series, and will only be fully understood once Harry experiences Snape's memories in the final book.
  • While it has not been identified specifically as yet, Snape's "it's coming back" refers to the Dark Mark, the combination identification and communication technique Voldemort forces upon his Death Eaters. Karkaroff mentioned it earlier, and Snape will show it to the Minister for Magic at the end of this book. Harry will spend a lot of effort trying to see if Draco is wearing the Dark Mark throughout the sixth book, and it will be used by Death Eaters for communication later in this book and in the final book of the series.
  • We learn here why Neville is being reared by his grandmother. Neville will shortly be enraged by allusions Draco makes regarding mental patients confined to hospital, even though it is Harry who is then Draco's target, and Ron, Hermione, and Ginny will meet Neville's parents in the next book. Later in that book, Bellatrix Lestrange, who we also saw in this chapter, will taunt Neville with his parents' fate.