Except for the final time in Deathly Hallow's The Prince's Tale, whenever Harry ventured inside the pensieve, he was either accompanied by Dumbledore from the get-go (in Half-Blood Prince) or he dived into it driven by his curiosity and was taken out by the owner of the memory in question (Dumbledore in Goblet of Fire and Snape in Order of the Phoenix).

During the final one he

... rose up out of the Pensieve, and moments later he lay on the carpeted floor in exactly the same room

Deathly Hallows, Ch. 33

Did he simply rise up because the memory was finished, like when the diary spit him out in Chamber of Secrets, when Riddle had showed him all he wanted to show?

Or is there an active component necessary to leave a pensieve, like imagining an exit or being outside or something similar.

PS: The "automatic exit" whenever the memory is done could maybe be contradicted by the fact Harry watched more than one trial in Goblet of Fire, although those memories where connected, so might have counted as one.

  • 5
    With great panache
    – Valorum
    Feb 21, 2017 at 19:00
  • 3
    How does one leave a pensieve? Very well, thank you!
    – CHEESE
    Feb 21, 2017 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


You get ejected when the memories in the Pensieve come to an end.

As the question points out, the example from Deathly Hallows is unique as it's the only time that Harry goes into the Pensieve when he's a) alone (i.e. not accompanied by Dumbledore) and b) welcome.

“This time, you enter the Pensieve with me...and, even more unusually, with permission.”
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 10, The House of Gaunt).

On every other occasion Harry was pulled out of the Pensieve with a tug on his arm. That's because on every other occasion Harry was accompanied by Dumbledore or Snape (even if they weren't with Harry when he entered the Pensieve). I think that this is the only example we have where we can judge what happens when you stay in Pensieve until the 'end' of the memories.

It's worth noting that Harry watches multiple scenes back-to-back within the Pensieve in Deathly Hallows, just as he does in Goblet of Fire. The Pensieve just seems to move onto the next scene when the current scene elapses.

The scene dissolved, and before Harry knew it, reformed around him.
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33, The Prince's Tale).

The times when Dumbledore takes Harry out of the Pensieve by choice it seems to be because he doesn't want to show Harry anything further. In other words, the memory has some time to run but Dumbledore thinks that they've seen everything they need to. Consequently, he withdraws them from the memory early before it finishes.

“I think that will do, Harry,” said Dumbledore. He took Harry by the elbow and tugged.
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 10, The House of Gaunt).

Withdrawing from a memory voluntarily doesn't seem to be something that Harry's able to do. Dumbledore and Snape both do it, which could suggest either that ownership of the Pensieve is an important part of mastering it or that Harry was a somewhat hapless user of the Pensieve who never really worked out how to control it. Personally, I think that the latter option is the more likely.

How long the Pensieve-memories go on for depends, I think, on how full the Pensieve is. We see Dumbledore adding thoughts to the Pensieve and seemingly filling it to the max.

Every now and then, he placed his wand tip to his temple, removed another shining silver thought, and added it to the Pensieve. The thoughts inside began to swirl so fast that Harry couldn’t make out anything clearly: It was merely a blur of color.
(Goblet of Fire, Chapter 30, The Pensieve).

With Snape's memories, he had given Harry a finite number of memories. It makes sense that when those memories had come to an end that Harry would be automatically ejected by the Pensieve. There's no indication that he had to perform any spell or mental incantation to make this happen.

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