Why did Harry see flashbacks when Snape used legilimency on him?

As we all know, Harry was taking occlumency in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with Snape. When Snape casted legilimens, Harry's mind was like having a flashback or something he himself saw... Snape's the only one supposed to divulge into his past.

“I am about to attempt to break into your mind,” said Snape softly. “We are going to see how well you resist. I have been told that you have already shown aptitude at resisting the Imperius Curse. . . . You will find that similar powers are needed for this. . . . Brace yourself, now. . . . Legilimens!” Snape had struck before Harry was ready, before Harry had even begun to summon any force of resistance: the office swam in front of his eyes and vanished, image after image was racing through his mind like a flickering film so vivid it blinded him to his surroundings . . He was five, watching Dudley riding a new red bicycle, and his heart was bursting with jealousy. . . . He was nine, and Ripper the bulldog was chasing him up a tree and the Dursleys were laughing below on the lawn. . . . He was sitting under the Sorting Hat, and it was telling him he would do well in Slytherin. . . . Hermione was lying in the hospital wing, her face covered with thick black hair. . . . A hundred dementors were closing in on him beside the dark lake. . . . Cho Chang was drawing nearer to him under the mistletoe . . . No, said a voice in Harry’s head, as the memory of Cho drew nearer, you’re not watching that, you’re not watching it, it’s private — He felt a sharp pain in his knee. Snape’s office had come back into view and he realized that he had fallen to the floor; one of his knees had collided painfully with the leg of Snape’s desk.

(Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix CHAPTER 24: OCCLUMENCY)

When Voldemort read Harry's mind in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry didn't feel even a single twitch or flashback in his mind. (Voldemort read Harry's mind to know where the stone is)

Is there a difference between these two?

  • 1
    Legilimency appears to be the connecting of two minds, with the more dominant reading the weaker. Note that Snape takes out his most important memories in case there's a backwards bleed from Harry to Snape – Valorum Jan 14 '17 at 13:48
  • 2
    I always understood it as Harry's Protego spell somehow reversing Legilimens, so that it was as if he'd cast Legilimens against Snape. – Rand al'Thor Jan 14 '17 at 13:59
  • 2
    @Rand al'Thor: in the CHAPTER:OCCLUMENCY in book 5, when Snape casted legilimens, it is clearly detailed in there that Harry saw the office swarmed out of sight and he saw *flashbacks most particularly his memoried with the Dursleys* – Invoker Jan 15 '17 at 1:42
  • 1
    @Rand al'Thor: I don't think that Book Strikers question is about this incident. It's more general: Why does Harry see his own memories while Snape is reading his mind? (Dursleys, etc.) And why doesn't he see this when Voldemort reads his mind in the Philosopher's Stone? – quirmel Jan 15 '17 at 18:27
  • @quirmel: yes, you're right. That is what i'm specifically asking – Invoker Jan 16 '17 at 2:22

Note this is coming from film version of the story 1

During the Occlumency lessons Snape is pushing Harry hard. They up with a short bicker about Harry's father (Harry saying he was a good man while Snape calls him a "swine"). This seems to push Harry over the edge emotionally and he just wants to be done with the lesson. So instead of trying to resist Snape's use of the Legilimens spell, Harry casts Protego.

The HP Wiki 2 gives us a bit of detail on how the spell works:

When cast, a (usually) invisible shield appears where the caster's wand is pointed providing a protective barrier between themselves and their attacker. The shield itself does not give off light, but rather, the spell bouncing off of it does.

So it seems that Snape's spell was blocked or backfired and it allowed Harry to to use the effects that of Legilimens on Snape.

Here is relevant scene for reference from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

1: The films have been known to be called "nonsense" among the SFF.SE community...

2: Standard disclaimer about the Wiki not being canon and at times unreliable

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I don't think this scene from the movie is a total nonsense. This part was also mentioned in the book 5 that Harry did see flashbacks while Snape was conducting legilimens spell on him. – Invoker Jan 15 '17 at 0:29
  • 1
    That's the chapter of the start of occlumency in book 5. it was well said that Harry did see flashbacks not just in the movies :) – Invoker Jan 15 '17 at 0:32
  • 1
    Read chapter: occlumency in book 5, there it is detailed that Harry saw flashbacks not just in movie but in the book 5 too. – Invoker Jan 15 '17 at 1:39
  • 1
    @Skooba: I don't think this answers the question: Why does Harry see his own memories while Snape is reading his mind? (Dursleys, etc.) And why doesn't he see this when Voldemort reads his mind in the Philosopher's Stone? I think that's what Book Striker is asking, please correct me if I'm wrong. – quirmel Jan 15 '17 at 18:30
  • @quirmel - When Voldy reads his mind in PS, he’s simply learning what Harry’s currently thinking about. Thus no new thoughts are getting dragged up to the surface of Harry’s mind. Plus, Snape is being unnecessarily brutal. Voldemort might prefer subtlety most of the time. – Adamant Jan 15 '17 at 23:02

When Snape reads Harry's mind in HBP, in an attempt to find out how he learned the Sectumsempra curse, that didn't cause Harry to experience random flashbacks either. So this isn't just a retcon, and doesn't have anything to do with whether it is Snape or Voldemort using legilimency.

It seems reasonable to conclude that the reason Harry experienced random flashbacks in OOTP is that Snape wasn't looking for anything in particular. He probably wasn't using his full strength either, since the point of the exercise was to allow Harry to learn to resist. It was just a general push at Harry's mind, bringing up memories at random.

(One might instead ask why in HBP Harry was aware of Snape's intrusion and could even tell how far he was getting, whereas in TPS he wasn't even aware that anything was happening. Presumably that it simply because he was older and more powerful in HBP. Perhaps his occlumency training helped too, even though it was never particularly successful.)

| improve this answer | |

I don't think Voldemort actually used Legilimency on Harry in 'Philosopher's Stone'; I think he was merely judging Harry's behavior and 'affect' shrewdly.

| improve this answer | |
  • See for research in this site. And your answer doesn't really answer my question, it's supposed to be a comment. – Invoker Jan 16 '17 at 21:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.