Red Hen Publications

Red Hen Publications — Commentary Collection: Potterverse Subjects - The Pensieve Gambit
Potterverse Subjects

Trying to make the Potterverse make sense since 2003!

Very much to my surprise this essay needed almost no reworking after the release of DHs. Virtually nothing in DHs contradicts any of my observations of the story’s development up to the point that the situation of Harry, Snape, and the Occlumency lessons arose.

The underlying business of the connection between Tom and Harry was certainly raised again in DHs, but under sufficiently different circumstances that I think it would be better to examine that separately, somewhere other than in this essay.

The Occlumency lessons, and the alleged reason they were introduced, upon first glance appear to be utterly central to the action in OotP. Further consideration does not call this impression into question. Not to mention that those Occlumency lessons were the about only real point at which Harry was connected to anything that was going on beyond the walls of Hogwarts that year.

Nevertheless, upon my first rereading of HP and the Order of the Phoenix I’d no alternative but to suspect that the whole incident concerning our trip into Snape’s Pensieve was a deliberate set-up.

Nothing in HBP convinced me otherwise. (And even DHs hasn’t sunk that reading.) What is more, I began to pick up indications that I might really be onto something, although it could still have all turned out to be hallucinations. And even if it wasn’t, it might not add up to what I was inclined to suspect it did.

But, at that point, I couldn’t believe that particular demonstration had anything whatsoever to do with Snape’s worst memory.

Of course, back in the days of OotP we did not yet know about the additional twist to that incident, namely that James was using Severus’s own magic against him, “giving him a dose of his own medicine”, which would have upped the odds of the incident ranking closer to the top of Snape’s little list. And I supposed that it was just possible that public humiliation really is the worst thing that Snape could conceive of ever happening to him. He is extremely jealous of his dignity, after all.

— But if that’s the case, and that was the worst thing to have ever happened to him, I’d suggest a major scaling-back of one’s general expectations of his actual involvement with the Death Eaters might be in order. Maybe he really was just off in a lab somewhere brewing illegal potions. But I’d hate to bet the farm on it.

Of course, at that point we also didn’t have any official hint of the alleged Snape+Lily childhood friendship. In fact, even at the end of the series we’d seen so little hint of anything of that nature on Lily’s side that by this time I frankly don’t believe it ever was a real friendship. Not on her side, at least. And if it wasn’t, and that was the best that Snape had to compare with, how would Snape have been expected to know the difference?

Furthermore, by the time DHs was pending, I was also wibbling over whether John Granger might be onto something in a theory that he had posted on his blog earlier in the year.

Just the prompt of the title of his posting (Tom Riddle’s Scar-O-Vision) was enough to nudge me. Although perhaps in a different direction from the one John took.

But, even post-DHs and upon even further consideration, the whole Occlumency lesson sequence still feels like a deliberate set-up. The only thing about that sequence that I cannot account for is that I still cannot see any clue as to how Montegue managed to reappear so very fortuitously in order to facilitate it.

• • • •

Even leaving the extraordinary convenience to Professor Snape in the timing of Montegue’s miraculous reappearance out of the equation altogether, there is still something decidedly off about Montegue’s return. In fact, there is something distinctly off about Montegue’s whole adventure.

The twins admitted (to their friends, not to the staff) stuffing him headfirst into a vanishing cabinet when he tried to deduct some House points from them, and he eventually shows up — a day or two later — stuck in a toilet.

Now, getting Montegue stuck in a toilet is precisely in the Weasley twins’ style — but if they had known that would be the result you can be sure that they would have been crowing about it. Yet they weren’t.

While we are at it; we also never hear of the twins coming up against any particular consequences for having stuffed a fellow student into that vanishing cabinet, either. And we ought to have.

Montegue turns up “confused”. Evidently we are just supposed to believe that he is too confused to say what happened to him, or who was responsible. And to understand that he remains too confused to give any information about it to the end of the year — a couple of months later.

Just from being trapped in a cabinet? And how did he get from the cabinet to the toilet? Something about that story simply does not add up.

And we’d all seen something along the lines of this kind of damage before. More than once over the course of the series, Most recently in this same book, in fact, just the previous week, in Dumbledore’s office.

More to the point, we’d known since the end of CoS (and got a hefty reminder just the previous Christmas break) about the kind of damage an inexpert Obliviate can do. I would say that Montegue has clearly been Obliviated. And probably not by someone who was an expert at that spell. (Who can say, maybe the twins did Obliviate him, before they stuffed him into the cabinet. Or at least Confunded him.)

I went into HBP determined to watch for anything that might shed some light on this issue. And to do the same afterwards in Book 7, if it didn’t show up in Book 6. Nothing ever came up in either book that would clarify it.

But the explanation (or lack of it) that Rowling finally gave us raises far more questions than it answers. So I’m not sure that I can believe her explanation. It just doesn’t make sense. And it contradicts everything she’s told us about Apparition and Hogwarts over the entire series.

Not to mention the inexcusible negligence of the Hogwarts staff under Albus Dumbledore’s leadership (and probably Armando Dippett’s as well), of leaving a known vanishing cabinet on display in a public area in a school. That cabinet has been referred to as a “vanishing cabinet” since we first heard of it in passing in CoS. So there was no mystery about its potential function. Not only was this a breech of basic security, but it would appear that no one seemed to be aware of where what would be vanished by it went.

And not only that, but when the cabinet was smashed by Peeves, the physical case was repaired, and the cabinet left in place without even testing whether the charmwork was still functional or subject to engaging at random without the proper activation phrase.

Explain to me, please, just how leaving a potential trip to nowhere out where students can lark about with it, and bullies can dispose of their enemies/targets with impunity shows a justifable concern for the safety of the students with which they have been entrusted on the part of the staff.

I know that by the time we reached OotP the series had run off the rails and Rowling was inventing explanations and excusing the inexcusable, but this is beyond the pale.

I swear, the Carrows openly endangered the students from the day they took up their posts, but that was only a matter of type. Not degree.

According to Rowling’s explanation in HBP (via Malfoy); Montegue, it now seems, was not Obliviated, after all, nor, apparently was he really even confused. He was simply not talking.

Or at least he was not talking whenever anyone in any kind of position of authority at Hogwarts was asking him questions. Or, perhaps he was just not talking to anyone who might have let the story out where it could get back to Harry. We are rather limited here by the Harry filter.

But, evidently, as soon as everyone’s backs were turned, and Montegue was safely on the London-bound Hogwarts Express he couldn’t wait to share the whole story with a group of his fellow Slytherins.

Excuse me? What is the motivation here? Why didn’t he nail the Weasley twins for having entrapped him. They were still at Hogwarts when he made his reappearance. They trapped him in a cabinet long enough for him to have come to physical harm (unless he was really good at summoning food and water into his prison). So, upon escaping, was he delirious from dehydration? Having a hypoglycemic episode? Is that why he was “confused”?

And why is his story not more widely known if he told it to a group? Even if the full implications of the story, he — and most of his audience — was evidently not aware of. Were they mostly fellow 7th-years who wouldn’t be back either? (Query: Montegue was stated as being a 7th year. He sat his NEWTs in that condition?)

And if he would tell a group — and apparently he did tell a group, for Draco states that “everyone” thought it was a really good story — why had he not told the authorities? And why did he not tell the authorities, immediately?

Why the silence? Not for the twins’ sake, certainly. Montegue could have gotten the Weasley twins into real trouble if he’d spoken up. Particularly since they were of age and with Umbridge in control of the school. He could have got them expelled. Or arrested. By the time he went into that cabinet Dumbledore was already gone and Umbridge was in charge. Under those circumstances, why would he not speak up?

No, I’m sorry, this does not hang together at all. If this was Montegue’s own decision, it is “idiot plot” behavior in spades. And not the only piece of that kind of thing we’ve been handed either.

What I now suspect is that he did tell someone in authority. He told Snape. And Snape strongly advised him to keep it under his hat. It really makes much more sense to believe Montegue was warned off from speaking of the matter by someone whom he did not especially want to cross. Somebody like his own Head of House.

• • • •

Even more of a stumper; Montegue claimed to have finally escaped from the cabinet by Apparating out of it, and getting himself stuck in the toilet in Hogwarts. Excuse me, but how many times have we been told that you cannot Apparate in or out of Hogwarts? And if you can Apparate from place to place inside Hogwarts, why has this not been discovered and rediscovered by any clever 6th or 7th year from time immemorial?

And Rowling clearly expects us to just swallow this down and not ask questions. Sorry, but I’m just not that unobservant. Or that forgetful. Maybe this is supposed to be a clue. To what, I can’t even imagine. Maybe a clue that Montegue — or Malfoy — or Rowling — was just plain lying. About something anyway.

Post-HBP, it becomes fairly easy to see Snape’s fine italic hand in Montegue’s refusal to say anything about the matter until he boarded the Hogwarts Express for his last ride home to London. Which is when Draco got hold of it.

Snape would not have wanted that story spread around the school.

I now suspect that Snape did convince Montegue to confide in him after he extracted Montegue from the toilet, because it now really does seem to be outside any kind of probability for Albus not to have known that something was up with that lacquer cabinet from a very early point in year 6, if not before the end of Year 5. I now think that Snape tipped Albus off to the fact that the (damaged) cabinet had figured in Montegue’s disappearance as soon as Albus returned to the school in the aftermath of Umbridge’s adventure with the Centaurs and Harry’s raid on the DoM. If my original suspicions of the cabinets’ original ownership is anything like correct, Phineas Nigellus’s portrait would probably have also confirmed the purpose of those cabinets.

And if not Phineas Nigellus Black, then possibly the portrait of whichever other former staff member had introduced that cabinet to Hogwarts. For it certainly didn’t get there by itself.

And Snape, recognizing that the information was a potentially dangerous, security breech would have advised/warned Montegue to not spread the story around. And he didn’t.

Until he boarded the Hogwarts Express.

None of which, however, advances any suggestion explaining the outrageous convenience of the timing of Montegue’s return from that particular adventure. I’m still completely at sea regarding that.

• • • •

As for Professor Snape and the business with the Pensieve, that’s a different class of knot to unravel. But at least that knot can be unraveled. First off, you have to find the right end of the thread.

Snape does not appear to have been under suspicion by either of his “principals” during Book 5, but he had to be well aware that he was walking the razor’s edge. And you would expect that being instructed to teach Harry Occlumency must have put Snape into an intolerable position, vis-a-vis his relationship with Voldemort. There appears to have been more going on at that end of the equation than Dumbledore is presumed to have been aware of, regardless of whose side Snape was on. Or so one would be led to believe. At least at first glance.

But, then again, particularly where Snape is concerned, appearances tend to be deceiving, and Albus was very good at encouraging people to lead themselves up the garden path.

At first glance, his order that Snape teach Harry Occlumency seems to have been yet another of Dumbledore’s smaller mistakes, although given Dumbledore’s wariness about making eye contact with Harry since long before he claims to have believed that Riddle was aware of their mutual connection, it is easy enough to see at least one convincing reason why he might have given that order. The longer he could keep Voldemort distracted and occupied by the red herring of the record of the Trelawney Prophecy, the better. And if Tom was nodding in and out of Harry’s head all year, Albus could hardly teach him the skill himself without taking too big a risk of compromising his bluff.

But Albus wouldn’t look Harry in the eye all the way back as early as the disciplinary hearing in the middle of August. He later claims to have seen a shadow of Tom looking out of Harry’s eyes off and on all through the year, not just after Christmas. Hold that thought.

Harry, with his open connection to Voldemort, appears to have been the weak link in Dumbledore’s whole Prophecy record scam. Dumbledore tacitly admits to have been reluctant to teach Harry Occlumency himself lest he inadvertently let Tom get a glimpse of his scam.

And I think that Albus was probably on the right track about that, too. Because Harry almost always managed to have some sort of a “Tom”-based reaction, whenever he was in the same room as Albus over the whole course of year 5. Even if it was just a spurt of annoyance. Since blooming when had we ever seen Harry getting a knee-jerk reaction of annoyance at Albus? Answer me that. That was not typical.

But he sure was getting them over the course of OotP.

So did Tom know about the Occlumency lessons? Had Snape told him?

Snape, rather a lot like Dumbledore, just isn’t the sort of person who tells anyone everything he knows. (Especially if he did get burnt that way in his 1st year at Hogwarts, as I have speculated elsewhere.) But I really can’t see any way in which he wouldn’t have told Tom that he was going to be stuck trying to teach the Potter brat Occlumency. After all, if Tom was nodding in and out of the kid’s head, there was every chance that he was going to find that out anyway. So Snape’s involvement in the project had to be accounted for from the outset.

Which reminds us of one of the truisms mentioned in the essay regarding Snape and his spying activities; in any rational universe, Dumbledore had to have been telling Snape what he needed to know in order for him to take steps to protect himself. And he would have known that in order to protect himself, in this instance he was going to have to inform Tom, since the chances of Tom finding it out anyway were just way too high to try to sneak the whole project past him.

And, besides, Potter was also part of the bait for this particular trap. We are replaying the whole basic plotline from Year 1, after all.

So. Tom knew, and Albus knew that Tom knew.

Even if the reader wasn’t convinced Snape was a White Hat, to the best of Dumbledore’s understanding, Snape was his own double agent. He must have mentioned the possibility to Snape that Riddle might choose to make an unscheduled appearance during these sessions. Which I contend was, in fact, the case.

Because, it now appears to me that Dumbledore was absolutely right in his reservations regarding Harry, and eventually Lord Voldemort had indeed come along for the ride. Probably not only once, either, but with some frequency.

After all, Harry tells us later that those lessons made his scar hurt. Throughout the whole series, Harry’s scar has only hurt when Voldemort was involved. (Even though we were shown several instances when it ought to have hurt, and didn’t.)

But, if I am reading the situation correctly, at some point during Year 5 Voldemort must have figured out how to walk through Harry’s head without immediately setting the scar off.

Instead, his intrusions tended to set off an attack of CAPSLOCKS!

(Well, once he sealed off the connection from his end the Capslocks effectively stopped, didn’t they?)

But if the connection worked for Voldemort the way it worked for Harry during OotP (and in GoF), Voldemort had no access to Harry’s actual thoughts. Only to his feelings, and to his immediate environment. If it worked for him as it worked for Harry then, he could hear and see what Harry was hearing and seeing. He knew how Harry felt about it, but he didn’t know what Harry was actually thinking.

Or did he? Voldemort is a whole league better at this kind of thing than Harry. And even Harry was able to register Tom’s thoughts in DHs (for no properly explained reason, other than authorial fiat — and that it presumably has to have been connected with whatever caused Harry’s holly wand to go off on autopilot during the escape from the Dursleys’ house).

But, still, I think that at that point, OotP, Tom wasn’t able to get into Harry’s mind. Just his head.

Which brings us back to the business with the Pensieve.

We can no longer depend upon the reading that Snape was merely off-loading memories in order to keep them out of Harry’s way. He probably didn’t give a damn about Harry getting a peek inside his head during a lesson (or think very highly of the possibility that the boy might manage to do so, either). If he was worried about Harry doing that, the memories were safer where they were originally.

At first glance, it is easy to assume that he might have been off-loading memories that he couldn’t afford to show to Voldemort. Which, right there, gives us a paradigm shift in our interpretation of just what was really going on during that series of Occlumency lessons.

But the paradigm continues to shift. Because that reading appears to be faulty as well.

We’ve since had some pretty clear indications that loading a memory into a Pensieve (or a bottle) doesn’t remove it from your own head. All that off-loading does is make a copy. Slughorn still had the original memory of that discussion with Riddle after he off-loaded a copy to tamper with. Albus still knew which memory of his own he was showing Harry when he picked up a bottle, from a collection of bottles, and dumped it into the Pensieve. For that matter, I’ll bet Voldemort remembers perfectly well the day he made a fishing expedition to find out what Dippett was going to do about the death of a student, and then framed Hagrid. Putting the memory into the Diary (which functioned exactly like a Pensieve) didn’t eradicate it from his own memory.

Let alone whether or not he still recalls exactly how he murdered his father and grandparents and shared the memory of doing it with his uncle Morfin. It really does appear that the only thing that loading a memory — or more properly, a copy of a memory — into a Pensieve, or other vessel does is to make it easier to examine it without one’s own emotions getting in the way, or to share it with someone else.

So, right off the top, already we have ample indication that there was something more going on with those lessons than Harry was aware of.

• • • •

Speaking of which:

Buckle your seat belts because we’ve got another paradigm shift to plunge through. Or at least a potential one. And it’s a major one.

We’ve known since Book 5 that Tom is a master Legilimens.

We’ve known this about Albus as well. For every bit as long.

Why haven’t we ever really applied that knowledge to this situation?

So, just what kind of an effect does the application of our understanding that “Albus Dumbledore is a master Legilimens”, have upon the issue of the Occlumency lessons fiasco — which Albus freely admits was a fiasco?

What effect does this awareness have upon our reading of Snape’s directing of that fiasco. We get a distinct impression at the end of the year that Snape seems to have let Albus down to some degree. But we don’t get the feeling that Albus was particularly put out over it. Somewhat regretful, yes. But not deeply disappointed nor seriously upset. And he was certainly not anything like angry.

Could this have anything to do with the Pensieve gambit?

For that matter, is off-loading memories into a Pensieve even necessary in order to teach a kid Occlumency? They certainly never used that Pensieve in the course of the lessons. It isn’t an obvious component to the process.

So what was the Pensieve even doing there?

Albus knew that Harry was aware of what a Pensieve is for. He’d fished the kid out of that Pensieve in his office himself a year earlier. He allowed Snape to borrow the Pensieve. He seems to have raised no objections to Snape’s having done so (Q: was that at his suggestion?). But what purpose would Snape have had in asking to borrow it? Albus would hardly have supposed that Snape was going to make a presentation on getting memories into and out of a Pensieve if the point is to keep someone else from getting memories out of your head. We’re missing a connection here.

And the following year, after the shouting is over, and the crisis about Tom messing with Harry’s head seems to be past, Albus informs Harry that he “rather expected” that Tom would have closed the connection off; yet even though they now seem to have a breathing space in which to do it, he doesn’t reschedule the Occlumency lessons, doesn’t even try to teach the kid how to keep someone out of his head. Can he be so sure that Tom will never feel he has a reason to ever want to read Harry? That doesn’t sound like a particularly safe assumption to me. In fact it turned out not to be safe at all. Nor even accurate.

So. Again. Why was the Pensieve there at all? Why were the memories there? Why was that memory there?

Do the memories in the Pensieve even matter?

Sure, it looks like they do. But do they, really?

They certainly matter to the plot. I am far less than convinced that they mattered to the lessons. Snape never even used the memories in the lessons.

Particularly when you reflect that the incident which we watched in our Pensive junket has got to have provided at least a part of the centerpiece of the “official reason” why Snape may have signed up with Riddle in the first place. (He doesn’t even seem to have revealed the werewolf caper to Tom, which would have made a far more valuable bit of information for someone who is supposedly “against” Albus Dumbledore.) Even if Snape had never directly told Tom of the incident we saw in the our Pensieve junket, that episode took place in public. At least two of the 2nd-generation DEs were still at school when it happened. The incident was certainly known. Frankly, given the backtrail of Snape’s dealings with Albus, using the Pensieve junket as an ‘official reason” to sign up with the DEs in retaliation begins to look about as convincing as the tale of remorse and forgiveness which serves as the “official reason” for his having recanted from them.

— Providing yet another reason why he may have stocked the Pensive with that memory. No one could be sure of just how much access Tom had to Harry’s conscious thoughts, after all. Once the boy went blundering into that memory — which Voldemort was already aware of — could Voldemort possibly blame Snape for throwing the kid out of his office and ending the lessons?

Hold that thought.

• • • •

From Albus’s end, I ended up suspecting the Occlumency lessons were a charade from the beginning. Sure, he probably hoped that the boy might be able to pick up something from them. But, more to the point, it kept Harry distracted from the fact that he was being deliberately kept in the dark by giving him a justification for why he is being kept in the dark, and dangling a carrot in front of his nose as to what he has to do if he wants to be let in on the secrets.

A carrot which everyone involved in the project, apart from Harry, seems to have known is never going to be within his grasp.

I repeat: Albus Dumbledore was an accomplished Legilimens.

Rowling tells us in one of her post-HBP interviews (not that we can necessarily trust anything Rowling ever tells us in an interview) that Draco Malfoy’s ability to compartmentalize his thoughts and feelings is one of the reasons he was able to so effectively learn Occlumency. Albus can see at a glance that Harry’s mind is a disorganized jumble with everything bleeding into everything else. And that isn’t going to change any time soon. Harry’s inability to emotionally compartmentalize is going to ensure that he will probably never make a sufficiently effective Occlumens to be able to trust him with sensitive information. The lessons simply aren’t going to succeed. They have a far better chance of getting Tom to close off the connection from his end.

Hold that thought, too.

Belatedly one really has to wonder whether Harry’s obvious inability to block off the connection wasn’t being dangled in front of Tom as bait for another trap. And Voldemort fell right into it.

I will admit that this reading requires a willingness to read Albus as a lot more calculating than one really prefers — although it is perfectly in keeping with DHs!Albus — but if Dumbledore was stuck with the fact that Tom was almost certainly messing with the kid’s head anyway...

It’s possible that the Occlumency lesson gambit may have been Plan B.

• • • •

Because the fact remains that Albus — or somebody — had called off the Order’s guards by the time Harry was goaded into making his raid on the DoM. Harry only had to deal with spinning doors and DEs. He didn’t have to bypass somebody in Moody’s invisibility cloak standing guard as well.

Unless somebody in Moody’s invisibility cloak was standing by, and sent a Patronus off to Albus as soon as the kids were through one of the doors and no longer in a position to see it.

Ought we to be paying a bit more attention to the fact that it was only after the Order nearly lost Arthur Weasley to his stint of guard duty, that Harry was abruptly informed that he was going to be having Occlumency lessons with Snape? Had Albus decided that the potential risk was too high, or had a new possibility for working the situation occurred to him when Harry came to report the snake attack? Particularly since he must have seen that shadow of Tom in Harry’s eyes when he was given Harry’s story in his office before sending Harry and the Weasleys to #12. Even Harry was aware of Tom wanting to bite Albus during that sequence.

That would have certainly been a reasonable time for Albus to have come up with a Plan B. The Occlumency lessons were proposed barely a scant couple of weeks after that snake attack. Before the end of the term break; before Arthur was even released from St Mungo’s.

Had the snake attack just revealed a leak that needed to be plugged and this was an attempt to do so, as it appeared? Or did Albus come up with an alternate plan to use the current situation against Tom?

And yet, if he and Snape were pretty sure that they weren’t going to be able to teach Harry how to keep Voldemort out of his head, why force the boy to take Occlumency lessons at all?

Might it be, perhaps, that once it was clear that the connection between Tom and Harry was known to both parties, Albus decided that posting guards in the DoM was no longer likely to flush Voldemort out of hiding, because Tom would be more likely to try to get at the Prophecy through Harry?

Or was Albus privy to some other bit of relevant information via Snape?

The big Azkaban breakout took place the day the kids all piled onto the Knight Bus and the Hogwarts Express and rode back to school at the end of the Christmas holidays. Had Snape been able to give Albus a heads-up to expect it?

After all, once Rookwood was out of Azkaban and able to bring Tom up to speed on what security measures the Ministry actually uses on Prophecy records, Albus’s “guarded door” bluff was due to be called.

• • • •

Before going any farther down this rabbit hole, let’s look in on the party of the third part.

Just what was Tom Riddle up to over the course of year 5?

Tom, after all, had an agenda in Year 5 (well, to be frank, Tom has always had an agenda)

He needed to get up to speed on just what resources he had available to work with. Where were his remaining followers placed, what were their assets, what was the most effective way to deploy them?

He needed to retrieve the surviving faithful from Azkaban and re-establish or renegotiate his contacts with Greyback’s band and the Giants.

He particularly wanted to examine that Prophecy record to see if the full record would make it clear what had gone wrong at Godric’s Hollow.

Before he knew about the specific protections the Ministry places on Prophecy records Tom was sending redshirts in to retrieve it. We don’t know whether he lost any of his own to the magically induced dementia triggered by the Ministry’s spells before they started Imperiusing others to fetch it in their place (Sturgis Podmore, Bode) but I suspect he may have. We do not know who they were though. This was the situation, as it stood, all through the summer and the Autumn term at Hogwarts.

In December he finally possessed Nagini and went after it himself*.

*Or something of that nature. If he was able to possess the snake without ill effects, it suggests that the failure of his attempt to possess Harry at the end of the year was either due Lily’s remaining protection on her son, or to some damage sustained at Godric’s Hollow by the fragment itself.

On the face of it, it seems completely brain-dead to send a dirty great snake into the Ministry rather than to take Polyjuice and go in himself, but it probably would have worked, if Arthur Weasley hadn’t got in the way.

After the snake gambit — with Tom’s emotions running high enough to drag Harry along too, there was a pause. Tom turned his attentions to the Azkaban breakout for about three weeks, since that was imminent, and after that, he had access to Rookwood and his information about how the DoM operated. Once he had that, he stopped trying to send anyone after the record in the Ministry. By the summer term, Albus appears to have called off the round-the-clock guards on the DoM as well.

Instead, I think Tom spent the Spring term priming Dolores, at long distance through Lucius and Fudge, to send him Trelawney herself.

And, in the meantime, he started actively exploring the possibilities of the Harry connection. He had just managed to confirm that, yes, the connection would enable a deliberate sending, as well as unconscious random connections by the end of the term, when Dolores officially sacked Trelawney and attempted to get her thrown from the castle where she would be without protection.

Dumbledore nipped in and foiled the attempt to capture Trelawney, but he was driven out of the school himself by the following week, and unable to continue to monitor further developments on the Harry connection. And also unable to provide a clear and present reason for Snape to be forced to continue the lessons.

• • • •

The Pensieve had been a presence in those lessons from the beginning, even if it was never used in the lessons. So what did Albus and Snape mean by it? What did they mean by the lessons at all?

Well, let’s take a look at this problem through our standard filter of; “what happened was what was meant to happen.”

There really do seem to be remarkably few coincidences over the course of this series (regardless of what Rowling keeps trying to imply).

So, okay, what did actually happen during all those Occlumency lessons?

Snape repeatedly broke into Harry’s memories and sifted through them.

Looking for something?

I think he just may have been.

Snape was covertly monitoring the situation.

He was repeatedly breaking into Harry’s memories looking for signs of Voldemort’s tampering.

You bet it was “his job” to find out what the Dark Lord was up to!

They knew that Tom was aware of the connection. They suspected he was using Harry as an observation post, and they hadn’t any real hope of being able to stop him. But I think it is a safe bet that they would have wanted to determine whether Tom was using that connection for anything else.

Weeks before Albus was “driven” from the school, Snape would have already reported that Potter was getting visions of the hall of doors, possibly a few other random glimpses. Albus let that much slip at the debriefing session at the end of the year by admitting that he knew about those. But I don’t think they were able to determine whether those were actual sendings, or just leaks.

I think it is probable that Albus and Snape had concluded that sooner or later Tom would make an attempt to lure Harry into the DoM. After all, they knew about the protections that the Ministry puts on Prophecy records. Once Rookwood, who had worked in the Department had been broken out of Azkaban, (at the end the Christmas break) they knew that Voldemort would soon know it too. Either Tom would have to go himself, or he would have to lure Harry into doing it. And given Tom’s reluctance to do his own dirty work the probable direction of his future plans was all but inevitable. Particularly when such a lure might also facilitate capturing Potter.

Albus no doubt thought that between himself, Minerva, Hagrid, and Snape they would be able to keep Harry at Hogwarts when the lure was deployed, or that he would be in a position to accompany Harry when the balloon went up, and get Voldemort’s return publicly exposed — as he had been attempting to do all year.

No one anticipated that by the time it happened not only he, but both Hagrid and Minerva would ALL be removed from the school, leaving Snape, over-extended, to man the fort on his own, without blowing his cover with Tom.

And it wasn’t until the Rookwood “vision” surfaced which served as their first unequivocal indication that Voldemort was deliberately sending up a trial balloon.

Their hypothesis had finally been confirmed.

Now they had to make preparations for the lure. Whenever that would come. They had no idea when it would come. Only that it would..

• • • •

Which brings us back to the blooming Pensieve.

What the hell was going on with that?

I still doubt that Snape gives a damn over Voldemort finding out how James Potter bullied him while they were both at Hogwarts, either. Tom already knows about that. He’s probably taunted Snape about it, too. Tom does that kind of thing. For Tom, that memory was just there as a bonus.

Or as a plant. We have no way of knowing whether the three memories that Snape made such a point of off-loading before each session were always the same three memories.

With Tom potentially watching over his shoulder, Snape frankly couldn’t afford to succeed in that particular venture’s official purpose of teaching the kid to shut him out, even if they had considered it doable. And with Tom and his demands in the equation, Snape and Albus must have always known that they might need an exit strategy. I think the Pensieve memories constituted that exit strategy.

And from the outside, it looks very much as if Snape decided that the best way to sidestep the whole issue was to provoke Harry into behavior that would give him an excuse to throw the boy out of the office and refuse to teach him further. At that point in the story, regardless of who you thought Snape was really working for, his primary concern would be to cover his own arse with both his “Masters”.

But, now… what I really suspect he was doing was putting on a show for Tom.

Think about it. Snape’s behavior throughout the whole Occlumency fiasco was as fishy as a dockside quay. He could have removed those memories before Harry showed up for the lesson. He could have put the Pensieve in a cupboard, or kept it in his private quarters. Instead, he certainly knows that Harry is aware of what a Pensieve is (if I am on the right track here, Albus would have brought him up to speed on that), he definitely knows that the kid can be as curious as a cat, and yet the first thing he does at every lesson is to put on a great show of sticking private thoughts into the Pensieve as soon as the boy shows up. Just what are we supposed to think of such behavior?

For that matter what was Voldemort supposed to think of that behavior? We can count upon his having been informed of the project. He knows what a Pensieve is, too. AND how they work. Hell, he duplicated the function of one in that Diary when he was Harry’s age. He also knew that putting memories into a Pensieve doesn’t erase them from your head.

Snape knows that too. So does Albus.

Ah, but did Harry?

We’re supposed to have overlooked that detail aren’t we? I’ll bet Harry (who, in a lot of ways, is written as a dolt) didn’t realize it yet. So now we’re all supposed to assume that the whole point of that performance was in case Tom decided to wander in, right? Well, maybe that is the point. Maybe the whole show was for Voldemort’s benefit.

And just maybe Tom might have had a more active part in the proceedings, too.

He may have even written the script.

After all, what would Tom have thought of Albus’s directive that Snape was suddenly supposed to teach Potter Occlumency?

He couldn’t have wanted him to succeed.

In fact, he would have wanted Snape to find some pretext to throw the kid out, wouldn’t he?

And once Albus had been driven from the school, which Tom would have certainly learned quickly enough either from Snape directly or through the Umbridge-»Fudge-»Malfoy grapevine, Snape wouldn’t have had much of an excuse not to.

I do now think that Snape may have been ordered to end those lessons. He’d have passed word to Albus about it, but he had no choice but to comply (which might explain Albus’s lack of anger at Snape over having put a stop to it). That might also make sense of the only hiccup in the whole planned “exit strategy” hypothesis, in which Albus’s last statement to Harry was an exhortation to concentrate on the Occlumency lessons.

Instead, Tom spent the Summer term concentrating on Harry.

• • • •

At the beginning of the enterprise Snape couldn’t have anticipated just how very poor Harry’s performance would be. Or could be led to be. We were given a strong impression that Harry’s performance steadily degraded throughout the entire Spring term. And as long as Harry was making such a miserable show of the proceedings, Snape hadn’t any real reason to push the issue in the face of Dumbledore’s supposed orders. In fact, he may have even gotten a mean satisfaction at having the boy at his mercy and was perfectly willing to string the situation out as long as necessary. Particularly with Tom looking on. He could then smugly, and truthfully, inform both his masters that the boy “wasn’t trying”. But once Harry turned the tables on him towards the end of March, the edge that Snape was walking became just too precarious.

And way too suspicious, also. What the hell was going on there?

If you reread the relevant sequence of Harry’s penultimate Occlumency lesson, in the chapter ‘Seen and Unforeseen’, you will notice that it was only in that particular session — in which Snape had finally uncovered the Rookwood vision — that Harry, after yet another failed attempt to block Snape’s intrusion into his mind, picked himself up off the floor, and after listening to Snape’s taunting harangue about it not being Harry’s job to find out what the Dark Lord was doing, Harry suddenly, out of the blue, challenged Snape about being Dumbledore’s spy. Which Snape admitted, with a smirk.

Immediately afterwards, when the session resumed, Harry’s perception was suddenly that, yes, he could see the Dementors converging on him from his own memory — but that he could still see Snape standing in front of him muttering under his breath. Gradually the Dementors faded out, Snape came back into focus, and only *then* did Harry raise his wand and cast the Protego shielding charm, which drove through Snape’s Occlumency shield and some way into Snape’s own early memories.

Now, Snape’s Occlumency shield may have had to be lowered somewhat in order for him to attack Harry’s mind. That may be why Dumbledore wasn’t going to get involved in the lessons himself. And, given that he”d now found the evedence of tampering that he was looking for, Snape may have deliberately drawn Potter in in order to raise his curiosity, in order to tempt him into taking the bait for the exit strategy.

But my point here is that Harry clearly didn’t consciously do anything to bring this result about.

From where he was standing, it just happened. Ergo; it is not beyond the realm of possibility that either Snape’s retreat was deliberate, or that someone other than Harry was pushing back Snape’s attempt to invade his thoughts. If it wasn’t Snape’s doing, and it wasn’t Harry’s, and Harry’s wand wasn’t doing it on autopilot, who does that leave?

I don’t think Tom would have deliberately revealed the Rookwood “vision” to Snape. I doubt that he would have been overjoyed when was uncovered, either.

And, suggestively enough, as soon as Snape throws Harry out of his own head, he, white-faced, goes and fiddles with the Pensieve as if to be sure the memories he stored in it were still there. i.e., Drawing attention to them.

It might also be significant that when Snape recovered his composure and they resumed the session Harry’s mind went immediately to the hall of doors. And for the first time, one of the doors opened.

If it weren’t for that Protego charm, I’d be convinced that maybe this sequence WAS all Snape’s doing. That maybe this whole sequence was Snape’s first attempt at the gambit to throw Harry out of his office and end the lessons. Now that he’d found the Rookwood vision, Snape could inform Albus that he was correct in his suspicion as to what the Dark Lord was “up to”.

There is every reason to suspect that, with Lucius Malfoy’s commendation behind him, Snape had been at least to some degree in Umbridge’s confidence that year, (the Inquisitorial Squad was composed entirely of students from his own House, after all) and that he may have known that it was Umbridge’s intention to sack Trelawney that very evening, and that this would raise enough of an uproar to give him an excuse to leave Potter alone in the room with the Pensieve, and a set of hand-picked memories, especially selected just for him.

The ploy of pulling Potter into his own memories — memories which not at all coincidentally cast himself very much in the same role that Harry had played among the Dursleys — more knowledge with which Snape was entirely familiar by that time — would have made for a very good lead-in to a trip into that Pensieve and a particularly... enlightening evening for young Potter.

But that Protego charm was not Snape’s doing. I find I can’t think of any definite indication of what prompted it.

• • • •

For that matter, until HBP came out, it looked as if there was another potential booby trap involved in this little exercise, and Snape may have been aware of that one as well. From what we’ve seen in both GoF and OotP, while Harry clearly knows what a Pensieve is, he didn’t seem to know how to use one properly.

To that point in the series, it had appeared to me that when a Pensieve is used the way it is intended to be used, or, at least as Dumbledore had always been seen to use it, one places the selected memories into the Pensieve and stirs them with one’s wand and the memory rises up out of the Pensieve and replays itself *exactly as it played out* in real life.

When one uses a Pensieve improperly, as Harry had always used it, someone puts their memories into the Pensieve, you shove your face into the bowl like a dog, and mentally wander off into someone else’s experience — which clearly contains more than just their own vantage point. In fact it seems to record everything within a specific (and as yet unstated) radius around that person — until the owner of the Pensieve comes along and hauls you out of it.

Leading me to suspect that someday Harry was going to wander off into a Pensieve and not be able to find his way back.

Well, it now seems that this interpretation was distinctly off. Both techniques are valid usages. But the first version enables the user to chose what part of the memory is on view, and to exert far greater control over what information is actually conveyed, thereby concealing part of the truth. Which, in retrospect, is only what we might expect from Albus.

• • • •

But, returning to that penultimate Occlumency session, we were handed yet another piece of screwiness. While Harry undoubtedly knew at least one Shield charm which causes a rebound of an attacking spell upon the attacker — for he taught it to the DA — we didn’t know going into this sequence that the one Harry knew was in fact the Protego charm. And it was suddenly very unlike Rowling’s earlier methods of exposition to spring the use of a new spell on us in the course of the story unless that piece of magic had been previously introduced *by name*. Sometimes anything up to a couple of books earlier.

I guess we ought to have taken this as a warning that Rowling was changing the rules on us and throwing the established concept of “fair play” out the window. But at the time it seemed like it could be a bit of possibly relevant screwiness. (From this end of the series, this lapse now just looks like yet another cumulative indication of burnout.)

For Harry to — without even consciously making a choice in the matter — suddenly raise his wand and cast Protego, especially when he had done nothing but stand there, like a lump, until the memory of the Dementors had already faded out, and Snape’s Legilimency attack had allegedly been successfully resisted; to cast Protego, and then — and only after the fact, and by default — to have Snape identify Protego as the reflecting Shield charm, is all of a piece with the extra-thick layer of murkiness and confusion with which Rowling has shrouded the whole issue of those Occlumency Lessons Or, indeed, the whole back half of the series.

Particularly since there is no apparent reason for her not to have already given us the name of the spell back when Harry was actively teaching it to the DA. That made me very uneasy. It’s almost as if Rowling intended for us to be suspicious of this suddenly unfamiliar piece of magic despite the “reasonable explanation” she waves under our noses immediately afterwards.

Or as a warning that, as we have found is typical in this series, she intended to pull this particular unfair trick on the reader again. (Boy howdy.)

I also suspect that Ron may have also been at least partially right; Snape was not helping Harry to improve at this skill, even if Harry’s own slacking off was what was primarily at fault. Even if Harry really does lack the underlying makings of an Occlumens. Albus confirms Ron’s suspicions when he admits that the lessons were likely to open Harry’s mind further — which is why he hadn’t attempted to teach Harry himself.

By this time I just have to wonder whether this wasn’t simply an admission that Snape was deliberately subverting Harry and leaving him open to Tom’s tampering. With Albus’s knowledge and approval, too. And if you go with one of the Evil!Albus readings, possibly even at his direction.

If Albus’s Plan B depended upon Tom attempting to lure Harry into the DoM to retrieve the Prophecy record for him — and possibly for Albus to accompany him when he did it — then it definitely appears to have been working.

• • • •

As it turned out, Harry didn’t look into the Pensieve the first time it was offered. Trelawney’s uproar over being sacked, called Snape out of the room right on schedule, leaving Harry alone with the Pensieve. (Exactly at the point that it had been borne in on Snape that his escape clause might need to be executed.) But Harry followed Snape out of the room to see what the ruckus was, instead of taking the bait.

Something else that I suspect might be significant is that this particular breakthrough appears to have taken place at the very end of March, about two weeks after Harry had his vision of the interview between Voldemort and Rookwood. And the timing of all of these events now seems rather suspicious to me.

The three Hogwarts terms run; Autumn Term = September to mid-December; Spring Term = roughly January-March; Summer Term = roughly April-June, with respectively a 3 week and a 2 week break between them. This second break apparently shifts slightly one way or the other, year by year, possibly in order to contain Easter. Or it might simply be called the Easter break and its timing based on some other criterion.

Note: Rowling plays fast and loose with these term divisions whenever she chooses. But it seems significant that her narrative of the time between the penultimate Occlumency session and the final one, manages to seriously muddle our realization that the actual time involved could not have been more than a week. She buries us in day-to-day minutia which gives the impression that rather a lot of time had passed, but the only definite statement as to time passing between the penultimate session and the final one (which ought to have been no more than a week apart) is that we went from March to April. (Easter must have been late that year.) During this interval the DA was routed and Dumbledore was driven from the school. Which could have been only a day or two after Trelawney was sacked.

And the very first Occlumency session after Dumbledore is gone, which was still before the term broke up for Easter, Snape deliberately left Harry alone with the Pensieve, before they could even get properly started. And, from the way Rowling gives us the lead-in to this final session, it sounds very much as if this probably is the *very next session* after the one where Harry “broke through” Snape’s guard.

Although I still cannot be altogether certain about the possible offer of the gambit during the previous session, I am convinced that this second “opportunity,” the one that did succeed, absolutely was set up deliberately. We tend to overlook just how quickly that second opportunity followed upon the first.

• • • •

Harry and Snape (and the rest of Hogwarts) were all having a very busy time that Spring. In the middle of February Harry had given Rita Skeeter an exclusive interview about the return of the Dark Lord. The article had been printed in the March edition of the Quibbler. Harry had his vision of Voldemort and Rookwood right after the article was published and copies reached the school, and the vision was already two weeks past when he appeared to finally turn the tables on Snape during an Occlumency lesson. This session took place on the evening that Trelawney was sacked.

Query: doesn’t it strike anyone but me as decidedly sinister that within two weeks after we see Rookwood explaining the protections that the Ministry routinely places on Prophecy records, Trelawney is abruptly sacked, a scant week–10 days before the end of the school Term (why not just wait until the Term ends at least?) and a determined effort is made to see her ejected from the protections of Hogwarts Castle?

On the other hand, do we have any reason to believe that the Rookwood “vision” took place in real time? In that vision, we watched Rookwood explain why Bode (strangled by the cutting of Devil’s Snare in St Mungo’s over the Christmas break) could NOT have removed the Prophecy record from the DoM.

Rookwood had been sprung from Azkaban back in, what? The first week of January? The news of the break-out was all over the front page of the Prophet on the kids’ first day back at school. Wouldn’t you expect this particular conversation to have taken place back around then?

And what’s with the bit at the end of the vision where after Rookwood leaves the room, and once there no longer is anything in the room to associate it with any specific time, then Voldemort suddenly gets up, goes over and reveals himself in the mirror, so Harry cannot help but get the point of what he has been watching? Does the former Tom Riddle really strike you as the kind of guy who spends a lot of time contemplating himself in mirrors? He’s not exactly introspective, is he?

But he does have a very long track record of experimenting with memory manipulation.

Think about it.

• • • •

Let’s take a broader look at what was going on the evening Harry had that vision.

The Quibbler article had just come out, and Umbridge with her usual ineptitude managed to assure that everyone in the school would read it, by declaring it contraband. There is much celebration in the Gryffindor common room.

And Harry’s *scar* starts prickling. He ends up going to bed early and falling asleep with what is now beginning to look like suspicious ease.

Immediately he is in the room with Rookwood, observing the proceedings from Voldemort’s eyes. And, at the end of it, Tom identifies himself.

Harry wakes with a shriek, his scar burning, and relates the “dream” to Ron who has come upstairs and is getting ready for bed.

Ron turns in, and Harry lies awake for some time longer, his scar still prickling. Harry is sure that this is backwash of the DE Avery being punished for giving his Master bad information, as had been mentioned in passing in the vision.

Well, I’m no longer so sure of that.

Even if Voldemort only did become suddenly aware of the connection just before Christmas — of which I am not altogether convinced, it might have been earlier — he will probably have been forming plans to use it ever since. And it is clear that at the end of the year he did use it — by sending an entirely false vision to Harry through it.

I think the Rookwood “dream” was a test run.

Tom had already figured out that he could eavesdrop on the kid, which wasn’t at all profitable. The kid didn’t know anything of use. He had also figured how to do it without the kid being aware of him. At least some of the time. He probably looked in on the Occlumency sessions and saw nothing in Snape’s behavior to rouse his suspicions. In fact, from his vantage point he sees Snape continually ripping through the boy’s mind and taking a great degree of satisfaction from it.

He’s lately taken to pushing the vision of the hall of doors at the kid whenever the kid drops off to sleep. By March he may have felt it was time to see whether he could actually send the kid a coherent memory. One of his own. Something to clue the kid in that there was something important involved, a mystery for him to solve. In the Department of Mysteries. One that only he can handle.

Lucius tells us later that Tom wasn’t aware that Harry still didn’t know about the Prophecy. Tom thought he was giving the kid a much juicier clue than he actually had.

And then he follows the dream immediately afterwards and hangs around to listen in on what the kid has to say about it, to find out whether the process works.

• • • •

In the week or thereabouts following Umbridge’s attempt to sack Trelawney, we go from March to April, Marrietta Edgecombe rats out the DA’s last meeting *of the term* and Dumbledore, who had managed to keep Trelawney from being thrown out of the castle a couple of days earlier is driven out himself by Cornelius Fudge and his staff. Umbridge is declared Headmistress. Montegue disappears. Madam Umbridge tries to question Harry under Veritiserum, there is another major Weasley Twins disruption, this one with fireworks, and at the very next Occlumency session, the *last of the term*, Montegue suddenly and conspicuously makes his reappearance and Snape is called out of the room leaving Harry alone with the Pensieve.

Like I say, I cannot see any way that Montegue’s return could have been orchestrated deliberately. By anyone.

Draco — and Umbridge — clearly didn’t know what was going on regarding Harry and Snape’s sessions. Not even the cover story that Snape was teaching the boy “remedial Potions”, let alone Occlumency.

(One really has to wonder what Malfoy thought of Potter’s abrupt elevation to being an alleged potions genius the following year. Continuity? What’s that?)

I very much doubt that it is beyond Snape’s ingenuity to have set up a situation where he could depend upon something calling him out of the room and leaving Potter alone with that Pensieve. But it is impossible, given the information at our disposal to imagine any scenario wherein Snape could have arranged for that sudden, oh-so-opportune reappearance of Montegue. It’s plausible that he already had the matter covered by some other design, and Montegue’s fortuitous reappearance scuttled the need to invoke his original arrangement. But I certainly do not know what that design might have been, and I certainly cannot prove it existed.

• • • •

And while we are on the subject:

I am forced to have to concede that in both Book 5 and Book 6 there is a point that you just have to throw up your hands and allow for there being a crucial, but totally random element playing hob with the equation.

In HBP it seems to have been Trelawney blundering into the Room of Requirement and being ejected just in time for Harry to stumble across her and be given her account of the night of the Prophecy. There just isn’t any plausible way for anyone to have orchestrated that. It appears to have been pure sod’s law. But the incident was absolutely critical to getting a key piece of the Snape backstory information across to both Harry and to the reader.

In OotP the determinedly random element is Montegue’s reappearance at exactly the right time for Harry to have been left alone with the means of discovering yet another key piece of information about Snape’s past. I cannot see any plausible way in which that can have been planned for by anybody involved in the matter, either. But, I still contend that some alternative distraction probably had been.

Look at it. The timing of Harry being left alone with the Pensieve is just too suspicious for it to have been a coincidence. I mean, really! The very next session after Dumbledore was driven out of the school, Harry just “happens” to be left alone in a room with a Pensieve holding Snape’s private memories, and no other distractions? I ask you!

For that matter, if this is a set-up, we can’t be altogether sure that the memories the Pensieve was stocked with that evening were even the same ones that Snape usually made such a show of extracting. Although they were probably all fairly similarly in content.

With this in mind, what I suspect is that the memories selected for removal that particular evening (and, I agree, it is quite possible for all of those evenings, but I seriously doubt that Snape gives a good goddamn whether Voldemort knows how Potter and Black picked on him when they were all still at school, and there is nothing in that memory to reveal or confirm any previous connection to Lily) were the very memories that would be the most shocking and painful to Harry. What’s more, I would wager that all three of the memories extracted that evening were hand-picked to show James Potter and Sirius Black in the very worst possible light.

And another inference, assuming that the above is an accurate reading, is that however much genuine feeling may have underlain it — also assuming that Professor Snape possessed any sort of genuine feelings — his towering fury at finding Harry messing about in the Pensieve must have been at least partially a performance. This was not a ludicrous and out-of-control tantrum on the order of the one he threw at the end of PoA. The very fact that the one object actually thrown at the boy was a jar of dried cockroaches — possibly the very easiest thing in his entire stores to replace — certainly does not offer much in the way of a contradiction of this reading.

As to the presence of Lord Voldemort in Harry’s head over the course of OotP: I think that Voldemort was along for the ride far more often than the reader realizes on an initial trip through the book. Lord Voldemort’s emotions are seriously out of whack for the most part, but we know that if there is one emotion which fuels just about all of Voldemort’s actions, that emotion is rage. We have hardly ever seen him when he was not angry. Frustrated anger over the puzzle of the Mirror of Erisid, sullen anger at his own helplessness and being at Wormtail’s mercy, vindictive anger at his followers who had deliberately let him down, or the controlled fury of finding his mission bollixed up by their incompetence in the raid on the DoM. Apart from that one single burst of exhilaration when he and his followers managed to break out the Azkaban inmates, at this point in the series various shades of anger were about the only emotion he had that still functioned.

Which suggested to me that much, if not most of the CAPSLOCK!Harry tedium that we were treated to over the course of OotP was a side effect of his having an angry Dark Lord waltzing in and out of his head and jerking him around. There are far too many points in the story where we are told of some surge of anger that “came out of nowhere”.

Only, Harry, rather than trying to determine whether the anger he was feeling was actually his, would immediately cast around for a reason for why he was suddenly angry.

Well, hey, a 15-year-old who is being deliberately kept in the dark about matters that concern him, and moreover is being deliberately provoked by the likes of Dolores Umbridge will find no shortage of reasons to be angry. But it was only when the emotion came as a long-distance transmission, and Voldemort himself was not actually present in his head that Harry was able to determine that the feeling was not his own.

And Voldemort, who was probably aware of the effect he was having no doubt took some satisfaction in jerking Potter’s chain. Get the kid mad enough and maybe he’ll do something stupid.

And one wonders just how much of this Snape was aware of, and how an awareness of this issue contributed to Snape’s treatment of Harry over the same period.

Rowling has to a large degree confirmed my suspicion about the cause of Harry’s CAPSLOCKS syndrome. Although since she said it in an interview, I won’t be surprised if she changes or reverses the statement whenever she feels like it.

• • • •

So just what was the timing on the wrap-up of the Occlumency sequence?

First; Albus was forced to beat a strategic retreat. I don’t think that he originally intended to leave the school to Umbridge. But I also don’t think he gave much for her chances of being able to do the place any lasting harm, either. Once Voldemort’s return was publicly acknowledged, her house of cards would come tumbling down around her ears, and he would rather leave the school in her hands until then than let a couple of dozen of his students be expelled (which unlike her “lifetime bans” on playing Quidditch would not have been reversible) over this DA business.

Before he leaves, he exhorts Harry to pay attention to what Snape tells him and to practice it. To try to close his mind to Voldemort. He does not appear to know, or to admit, that the lessons have already served their purpose. But, once again, this is Albus. He must have hoped the kid would at least try.

And Harry should have kept practicing, even if Snape wasn’t still giving him lessons.

Next; Snape discontinues the Occlumency lessons.

Leaving the way clear for Voldemort to send his lure without interference.

And then everyone settled in to watch Harry like a flock of hawks, and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

It belatedly occurred to me that this was yet another Book 5 = Book 1 moment.

Waiting for Voldemort to send out his lure to Harry must have been every bit as nerve-wracking as waiting for QuirrellMort to storm the Labyrinth after Hagrid had passed him the final piece of information of how to get past Fluffy all the way back at Christmas.

No one anticipated that Hagrid would be forcibly driven from the school by Aurors and that Minerva would get caught in the cross-fire and end up in St Mungo’s.

Leaving only Snape to hold down the fort under Umbridge’s watch.

And between Hermione, Umbridge, and Grawp, Harry managed to give Snape the slip.

The very next day.

One seriously has to wonder how much coordination was going on from the Ministry end through Lucius and Umbridge that Snape had little access to.

And lurking off at the other end of the whole Occlumency sequence, we have Albus’s peculiar statement early in HBP that he “rather expected” that by that time Tom would have closed off the connection between himself and Harry.

Albus explained it that Tom would have belatedly realized the danger of allowing Harry such access to his own mind.

For no reason that we could determine — given the evidence that had surfaced by that point in the series. Having access to Tom’s mind was an issue which only later became relevant two books after OotP.

Having lost nearly a quarter of his followers in the botched raid on the DoM, I should imagine Tom might decide the link to Harry wasn’t worth maintaining. But, I suspect the real reason for his closing the connection off, was that Tom had finally got what he wanted from it and saw no further use for it.

After all, in the final wrap-up, Albus finally showed Harry Trelawney giving her Prophecy. WHILE Harry’s mind was still wide open to Tom. I really am convinced that Tom was along for the ride in that debriefing.

And Tom has always underestimated Harry. For that matter, a year-long trip through the tunnel of adolescent angst would have given him every reason to continue to underestimate Harry. He probably cannot imagine any circumstances under which he would ever again need to read Harry.

• • • •

Which brings me to John Granger and “Tom Riddle’s Scar-O-Vision”.

This was one of John’s theories which was largely designed to serve as a jumping-off spot rather than necessarily to be taken seriously. I stumbled over it from a somewhat oblique approach. There was a meet-up of some Potter fans here in L.A. in January of 2007 and one of the people there had come up with what was largely a duplicate of Professor_Mum’s theory that the Albus who took Harry to the Sea Cave was a polyjuiced substitute.

As I believe I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t actually think too highly of that particular theory, although I do agree that Albus’s behavior was noticeably peculiar that evening.

The salient point was that the default leader of the group read a number of the passages regarding the adventure of the Dark Lord’s Sea Cave aloud and having already read John’s post referring to his Scar-O-Vision theory, something clicked. I can’t honestly say that I had altogether overlooked the issue before that, but I’d noted and dismissed it. The material sounded a bit more significant read aloud.

I’m still not altogether convinced, and Rowling has shot the central theme of it down, but I do agree there does appear to be a viable alternate reading from the standard one lurking about.

So. Concerning Tom Riddle’s Scar-O-Vision:

Once again from the top: Albus asks Harry at the first opportunity in Year 6 whether he has had any more trouble with his scar, and Harry tells him no, admitting that he had expected it to be giving him more trouble and it wasn’t. Albus rather surprisingly responds with the statement that he had expected otherwise, that after his experience in the Atrium, Tom would have closed of the connection from the other end.

Why do we just assume that that is the end of the matter? (Well, Harry seems to, that’s probably the reason we do.)

Is the assumption justified?

I’m not at all sure it is. (Turns out it wasn’t, either. Although it certainly didn’t work out as one might have expected it to.)

Just because someone has an Occlumency shield up and nothing is getting through, I’m not sure we can say that they aren’t aware that there are things out there trying to get through. The connection still exists.

Over year 6 Harry has the usual adolescent angst to juggle, but Tom who may have been vaguely aware of it in the background, doesn’t give squat for adolescent angst. He takes no interest in Quidditch, even less in chest monsters, and while Harry was intermittently jealous, or annoyed, or embarrassed, and in the Sectumsempera incident horrified and frightened, there really wasn’t much sustained emotion going on that year from Harry’s end to catch Tom’s interest. Harry was having an uncharacteristically “normal” year. For Harry.

Until the night that Albus hauled him off to the sea cave.

Harry got a major shock from Sybill. And at that point he suddenly went into the kind of sustained rage that we hadn’t seen from him since the year before, when he had an angry Dark Lord waltzing in and out of his head.

Could we really count on Tom not having become curious over what on earth was going on and deciding to check it out? It was Tom who had control of the connection after all.

Albus distracted Harry by changing the subject to Horcruxes and adventure soon after as he got to the office;

“Rage and resentment fought shock and excitement: For several moments Harry could not speak.”

And yet, over the following short exchange on the business of Horcrux hunting Harry’s anger and desire to do something risky “had increased tenfold”.

Over the course of OotP we had all learned to be suspicious of rages that come out of nowhere, or that increase exponentially when nothing in particular has happened. And I certainly could not think of any reason why a discussion of Horcruxes would have infuriated Harry.

And then Albus moves away from the window, and takes a closer look at Harry, and asks: “What has happened to you?”

Could Tom have opened the connection and been listening in?

Well, after watching Tom go personally checking on the status of his Horcruxes during the run-up to the climax of DHs and discovering the one in the cave missing, it is fairly clear now that he wasn’t.

But could Albus have believed that Tom had opened the connection and was listening in?

Did he see a shadow of Tom Riddle in Harry’s eyes?

And — letting the Polyjuice substitution theorists have their day, for the sake of argument — if that wasn’t Albus, but, just for example, Snape, would he have recognized a shadow of Tom behind Harry’s eyes?

Well, he’d had a whole school term the year before to have learned to.

Is that why — whichever one of them it was — he suddenly — after nearly six years — fails to insist that Harry give Snape his due of respect by insisting upon his referring to him as Professor Snape?

Is that why he carefully recounts the “likely story” of Snape’s supposed remorse upon taking up his teaching post. The story that Tom may have sent Snape off to Hogwarts to give to Albus?

Is that why he didn’t tell Harry the real reason why he trusts Snape?

Is that why he sent Harry off to “get his cloak”? To get him out of the room so he could warn his partner in this production that Tom is up to his old tricks again? (Or is that what that piece of advice was really about? We suddenly were given some reasons to be suspicious about that cloak in DHs.)

Did Tom manage to suppress his own feelings and stay with Harry? Is that why Albus was acting so peculiar for the rest of the evening? There was something awfully “stagy” about that whole performance in the cave.

While we’re at it: did Tom witness the murder of Albus Dumbledore?

• • • •

Well, as to that last, no. He didn’t. Otherwise he would have known that it was Malfoy who disarmed Albus, even though it was Snape who killed him.

And for that matter we know that Tom had not tuned in, because Rowling directly contradicted that possibility by Tom’s actions in DHs. Harry spoke of capturing a Horcrux. Albus brought up the sea cave. Acto DHs we now know that Tom was not expecting anyone to have gotten into that sea cave, and until the Gringotts break-in and the theft of the Cup, he appears to have had no suspicion that anyone knew about his Horcruxes.

But, even though the possibility was flatly contradicted in DHs, it is a seductively easy speculation to propose that Tom’s rage might have been added to Harry’s in the exchange with Albus.

Or, when Harry brought up the subject of Draco celebrating in the RoR. The Scar-O-Vision reading would be tempting to draw upon, since Tom would then have known that the invasion/assassination was likely to come off that same night — as soon as Albus was out of the castle — and he may have had matters of his own to tend to regarding it. That was certainly a larger team of DEs who showed up than you would have expected to turn up on less than an hour’s notice. Particularly since these were all DEs who were walking free, with their own responsibilities, not Azkaban escapees collected into one secure location with nothing else to do but wait to be deployed at their master’s whim. But, unfortunately there is altogether too much contradictory evidence strewn about in DHs which (for a wonder) is just plausible enough in itself to constitute a viable contradiction to John’s theory.

If there had been any truth in John’s theory, Tom would probably have been reported to have tuned out when Harry left to “get his cloak”. He had already been given quite a bit of information in that exchange between Albus and Harry and he has no interest in Potter and his damn cloak or his boring friends. But from later developments we know that he wasn’t there listening in at all.

But did Albus realize that? He was all too well aware of the possibility of Tom’s “dropping in”

And both Albus AND Snape seemed to be playing to the balcony for the rest of the evening. Were they doing it just in case Tom did tune back in. (I mean, really, declaring; “I, the half-blood Prince!” just like a villain in a melodrama...)

• • • •

And, in any event, there is also the simple fact that Harry did not get any twinges from his scar at any point during that evening.

But then, he didn’t get any during the debriefing with Dumbledore at the end of OotP they year before either (although he had a couple of unexplained spikes of rage going into that interview). And I am ¾ convinced Tom was present for that meeting.

Possibly, just possibly, Tom had only just discovered — when he tried to possess the boy in the Atrium — that the scar functioned as an alarm system. Maybe once he realized that, he also understood that he needed to slide past it without setting it off. He already knew he could to do that, for he’d been managing it off and on all year. He just hadn’t known he needed to. (Suggesting that while he could see and hear what Harry saw and heard, he could not feel what Harry physically felt until he physically possessed him.)

Albus only told Harry that he expected that he “wouldn’t be having so much trouble from the scar” after that business of the Atrium. There would have been nothing to gain from telling the boy that Voldemort might have figured a way around that particular bit of “protection” as well. Particularly since Albus couldn’t have been sure that it would ever become an issue again at that point.

After all, it’s not as if the boy could do anything to effectively stop Tom.

And, after the fact, one now also wonders whether all of that ultimately useless distraction of giving us ‘The Life and Times of Tom Marvolo Riddle’ over the following year wasn’t yet another attempt at feeding Tom things he already knew — if he had actually decided to drop in and do a bit of poking around. For in the end, apart from giving us a clue about the Cup and the Locket, it certainly seemed to serve no other purpose than to pad out the page count of that book. It’s not like Harry was ever able to use any of that information for anything.

But I think that John might well be at least partially right. There may have been more “performance art” going on over the course of year 6 than I had originally realized.

The very possibility of Tom potentially having Scar-O-Vision at his disposal would certainly explain just about all of the vaguely screwy and contradictory statements we got from Albus over the course of the year, if he was hedging his bets and trying to inform Harry without letting Tom know just how much he had figured out, or exactly when he did so.

Even if it all turned out to be a case of fleeing when none pursueth.

Even though I think any chances that Tom had tuned in prior to the night of the sea cave adventure are negligible, Albus’s awareness that he might tune in could have led him to shave his statements accordingly.

And I’ll admit that until Rowling shot it down, I was trying very hard to resist adopting that particular theory wholesale.

It almost makes the whole thing too easy, y’know?

• • • •

Nor, I now realize it, long after the fair, does it appear that the Occlumency lessons were the last time that we saw Snape make effective covert use of that Pensieve.

Yes, I'm talking about The Prince’s Tale.

Really. How likely is it that a dying man in his final moments of consciousness would have been able to expel so coherent, so complete, and so relevant a sequence of memories on command? I know that Snape appears to have had uncommon levels of mental organization and discipline, but that’s skills on a downright superhuman level.

Well, Snap. The truely relevant memory in that sequence was already in that Pensieve. It was in the Pensieve waiting for Harry by the time Snape left his office to go looking for him, right after he felt Alecto Carrow zap-call Tom with a Potter sighting. It would have taken only a moment to pull the memory of Albus’s last message and slip it into the Pensieve in the cabinet before leaving the office to meet his fate.

I do not know what he had planned to do if he had managed to address Harry directly. But I very much doubt that he was counting on being able to manage that.

Albus Dumbledore had saddled him with an impossible task. To pass a message to a boy who would never believe anything he told him? He could not just *tell* Potter Albus’s message. And he already *knew* he could not simply tell the boy the message. He had to get the boy to accept the message. And there is no way that he could do that by giving him the message directly.

But he could goad that boy into looking into a Pensieve.

What he needed to give the boy was a memory. Not a message. The boy would certainly take a memory. He would snatch it and be off to examine his prize. With the Pensieve already stocked with the relevant one, whatever memory Snape actually gave him could be any memory. And I suspect that he knew he could expel a memory even if he was in a full body bind. Harry couldn’t speak or blink when Albus (or Draco) had him in one, but he could think, and I suspect that that is probably all that’s needed to expel a memory — if you aren’t trying to be tidy about it. All Snape had to do was remain conscious.

So we don’t really know which memories it was that he expelled as he lay dying. Quite probably it was the whole irrelevance of his childhood with the Evans girls, which may have given a great deal of satisfaction to the fans, but had no bearing on Harry’s great task. But the very fact that he lived long enough to expel any memory at all means that he died with the certain knowledge that he had fulfilled his task. The boy would not be able to resist a trip into Albus’s Pensieve.

Which Harry found in the Headmaster’s office waiting for him.

• • • •

But, frankly, looking back through OotP, Snape’s reactions and overall behavior throughout the whole Occlumency sequence was positively calibrated to make us all suspicious of Rowling’s final intentions toward him. And it worked.

Upon completing my first reread of OotP I thought that there was an exceptionally good chance that the matter of Snape’s true loyalties might become one of the central issues of either book 6 or 7. And it turned out that I was more right than I could have ever anticipated.

By the end of HBP the gloves were off. The Snape-watchers were right. Whatever else Snape was, he was NOT a “secondary character”.

And Rowling’s determination to treat him as such, and to dismiss him as much as possible throughout DHs is one of the many failures of that book.

(i.e., ‘Harry Potter and the Snape-Shaped Hole’, as it has been dubbed by at least a few other fans. Kind of says it all.)

I have said elsewhere, and had been saying ever since the last stretch of the 3-year summer, that I was confidently expecting Snape’s loyalties to be called into question again, but there for a while it was almost beginning to look like the way this subject was going to be introduced was through Rowling progressively adding to the growing body of evidence that Dumbledore had made considerably more mistakes than the ones he admitted to, and that trusting Snape might turn out to be one of them.

And with Harry at the point of being determined to find something, anything, to blame Snape for — as he clearly seems to be by the end of OotP — if he was committed to closely observing Snape, it was only a matter of time before he would be convinced that he had discovered one.

And boy did Rowling hand us that one. In spades.

But I was not prepared to swallow the post-HBP reading whole, either. I had not been convinced of Snape’s unquestionable alliance with the forces of the Light at the end of GoF, and I was not convinced of his unquestionable allegiance to the Dark Lord at the end of HBP.

In fact, the opposite.

Yeah, that was the point where I finally got off the fence. He’s a White Hat.

But, I will have to admit that it was only with HBP that I finally managed to fully appreciate the perfectly wonderful little Pot vs. Kettle moment that Snape had handed us in the opening to those Occlumency lessons in the previous book.

You know; where he sniffily informs us (and Harry) that Legilimency is not mere “mind-reading” and that it is the people who wallow in sad memories, and wear their hearts on their sleeves who are easy prey for Lord Voldemort.

Excuse me Severus, but just who is it that we all know who stalks about in black-on-black relieved only by festive touches of black, and fills up every space in Hogwarts that he is given to call his own with gruesome images?

Oh, yes, that’s right, Severus. You.