In Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore uses a small silver instrument that puffs pale green smoke and shows him a snake, to which he then says, "Naturally, naturally, but in essence divided?" It then turns into two snakes. What exactly is the significance of this? And what is the function of the instrument?

This happens right after Harry has a vision of Mr. Weasley being attacked by the snake in the Ministry of Magic.

2 Answers 2


It is possible that the silver instrument was able to provide magical confirmation of facts:

Dumbledore now swooped down upon one of the fragile silver instruments whose function Harry had never known, carried it over to his desk, sat down facing them again and tapped it gently with the tip of his wand.

The instrument tinkled into life at once with rhythmic clinking noises. Tiny puffs of pale green smoke issued from the minuscule silver tube at the top. Dumbledore watched the smoke closely, his brow furrowed. After a few seconds, the tiny puffs became a steady stream of smoke that thickened and coiled in the air ... a serpent’s head grew out of the end of it, opening its mouth wide. Harry wondered whether the instrument was confirming his story

Order of the Phoenix - page 415 - British Hardcover

It's possible the color of the smoke is significant; obviously the shape of two snakes is hugely significant. The two combined together could be hinting at Slytherin House and, ultimately, Tom Riddle/Voldemort, the Heir of Slytherin. I think this would be entirely incidental, though. What the two divided snakes represented -- the essence divided -- was the fact that Harry had a part of Voldemort's soul inside him, and Dumbledore began to understand the enormity of it.

Rosi: What does 'in essence divided' mean?

J.K. Rowling: Dumbledore suspected that the snake’s essence was divided – that it contained part of Voldemort’s soul, and that was why it was so very adept at doing [Voldemort's] bidding. This also explained why Harry, the last and unintended Horcrux, could see so clearly through the snake’s eyes, just as he regularly sees through Voldemort’s. Dumbledore is thinking aloud here, edging towards the truth with the help of the Pensieve.

J.K. Rowling Web Chat - The Leaky Cauldron - 07.30.07

I believe the above paragraph refers to both Nagini's status as a Horcrux and Harry's connection to Nagini and Voldemort. I also interpret the last sentence to mean Dumbledore stored his memory of the "essence divided" silver instrument and reviewed it (I'm guessing numerous times) in the Penseive.

  • Nice find on the interview. Tha ks!
    – morganpdx
    Apr 9, 2012 at 3:26
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    It seems JKR blundered in the web chat here—whatever that instrument is, it's surely not a Pensieve. Harry has already been inside and seen Dumbledore use a Pensieve, whereas this one is “one of the fragile silver instruments whose function Harry had never known”. (Pensieves are also not otherwise described as issuing puffs of green smoke, or indeed as having silver tubes at the top.) Apr 28, 2015 at 21:09
  • It also seems strange for her to use the term "unintended horcrux" since last I remember seeing from discussions on this site, those 2 words are contradictory. Oct 28, 2016 at 17:29
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    Voldemort had no intention of creating a horcrux when he killed Lilly, but when his curse rebounded, his soul had been so weakened by his prior horcruxes that it ripped one more time and attached to Harry. Jan 28, 2018 at 7:41
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    @MichaelBrown The point is that a piece of your soul latching on to something/someone else is not a Horcrux. Creating a Horcrux requires a complex spell; splitting the soul is only the first part. As such, Horcruxes cannot be accidentally or unintentionally created. JKR has said that Harry was not a Horcrux—he was something not wholly dissimilar to it in function, but he was not a Horcrux. Aug 2, 2018 at 19:31

I believe this is more than just Harry's connection to the snake/voldemort. I believe that this machine confirms that even though Harry could see through the snakes eyes just like Voldemort was ultimately doing Harry could not "control" the snake like Voldemort was doing and in essence was divided from the two.

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    Some references to material and / or explanation of your reasoning would be helpful.
    – Stan
    Sep 3, 2013 at 3:05

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