If one were to look in the Mirror of Erised while in someone else's memory (say the Pensieve or some device like Voldemort's diary) would you see your own desire, or the person whose memory it is?

How much of the Pensieve's 'memory bubble' content is the original user's, and how much is the viewer's?

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    The properties of the mirror are irrelevant in this case. For all intends and purposes its the pensieve/memories of the original subject one gets access to. What the person's brain (consciously or unconsciously) recorded. So if they got close enough to the mirror youll have their desires displayed.
    – user68762
    Sep 11, 2017 at 15:39
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    Excellent question.
    – vs_292
    Sep 11, 2017 at 16:17

3 Answers 3


Probably not

Every time that the pensieve is entered in the books, it is always in third-person. One sees as if they were in the room with the memory's owner, not as if they themselves were the memory's owner.

For example, Harry can understand parseltongue when he visits Bob Ogden's memory, despite the fact that Bob Ogden wasn't able to understand any of it.

Do the memories stored in a Pensieve reflect reality or the views of the person they belong to?

JKR: It’s reality. It’s important that I have got that across, because Slughorn gave Dumbledore this pathetic cut-and-paste memory. He didn't want to give the real thing, and he very obviously patched it up and cobbled it together. So, what you remember is accurate in the Pensieve.

So there are things in there that you haven't noticed personally, but you can go and see yourself?

JKR: Yes, and that's the magic of the Pensieve, that's what brings it alive. Otherwise it really would just be like a diary, wouldn’t it? Confined to what you remember. But the Pensieve recreates a moment for you, so you could go into your own memory and relive things that you didn't notice the time. It’s somewhere in your head, which I'm sure it is, in all of our brains. I'm sure if you could access it, things that you don't know you remember are all in there somewhere.

Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. "The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Three," The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005

When one looks into the mirror of Erised, others in the room cannot see what they see. Likewise, people standing in the memory wouldn't be able to either.

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    I'm not sure your quote proves your point. JKR is talking about how realistic Pensieve memories are, not about whether magic contained in the memories like the Mirror continue to affect third parties (I suspect that it doesn't). Sep 11, 2017 at 13:06
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    @TheDarkLord it probably doesnt. When Harry was submerged in the BCJ trial memory, he was 'invisible' to those in the memory, therefore he probably wouldn't be reflected in the mirror either.
    – user68762
    Sep 11, 2017 at 13:29
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    I wonder what a person would see when using the pensieve to view his or her own memories of the Mirror of Erised. The heart's desire of an adult, for instance, could be quite different from that of the same person as a child.
    – Gaultheria
    Sep 12, 2017 at 3:18
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    @Philbo - Exactly. A pensieve shows things as they were, not just as you saw them. A viewer sees as if he was standing in the room next to the person.
    – ibid
    Sep 13, 2017 at 11:54
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    @Philbo - I believe the concept of extracting memories against the will of the owner is one of the plot points of book six.
    – ibid
    Sep 13, 2017 at 13:20

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Pensieve is described as way of reviewing one's memories.

"I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one's mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one's leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form." - Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, chapter 30, p. 597)

In this sense, when you view a memory, it's like watching a recording of it. So when Harry views one of Dumbledore's memories from Barty Crouch Jr.'s trial, Harry sees what Dumbledore remembers. Nothing from Harry would be contained in the memory. And Harry can't control where he goes in Dumbledore's memory — where Harry goes depends on what Dumbledore stored in the memory.

So if you found a memory of someone looking into the Mirror of Erised, you would see what the person saw in the mirror, and not what you desire. Hypothetical example: Harry stores his memory of looking into the Mirror of Erised. Ginny finds the memory and uses the Pensieve to view Harry's memory. She would see Harry's parents in the mirror, same as he did, and not whatever she would see in the mirror.

Tom Riddle's diary would have been similar. It had recordings of sixteen-year-old Tom Riddle's memories. If the diary showed the reader a memory of Tom looking into the Mirror of Erised, the reader would see whatever Tom saw in the mirror. But, since the diary was a Horcrux, and more than memory storage, it's possible it could have showed the reader something else to manipulate them. We know the diary's goal was to have the reader use it a lot, so that the Horcrux could "feed" on the reader.

So Ginny poured out her soul to me, and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted...I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets. I grew powerful, far more powerful than little Miss Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into her..." - Tom Riddle (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, chapter 17, p. 301)

But we don't know from canon if the diary could show the reader false/manipulated memories.

  • That is an interesting implication, that Tom Riddle fed Harry slightly altered memories of what really happened. I've never thought of it that way before. Do you mind if I take it and make it a question? Sep 17, 2017 at 23:27
  • @HomuraAkemi Not at all — go ahead. :)
    – Sparrow
    Sep 18, 2017 at 23:18

I don't think you would see a your own desires in a memory of the Mirror of Erised. Look:

"Professor!" Harry said in a kind of strangled whisper. "I'm sorry-I didn't mean to-I was just looking at that basin in your cabinet-I-where are we?"
But Dumbledore didn't move or speak. He ignored Harry completely.

This shows that a person is not actually in the scene that they are viewing; they are simply watching it. The viewer is separate from the scene being viewed, and they can affect nothing in it. If they went in front of the Mirror with the person in the memory, they would see what the memory-person is seeing, I think. So basically, this is the only way to see what another person sees in the Mirror.

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    Except that people standing next to a person looking in the mirror can't see what they see. (Ron stands right next to Harry in PS, but says "I can only see you".)
    – ibid
    Sep 17, 2017 at 23:40
  • No, you can't see what they see, but you are at the time separate from the memory, so you are supposed to view it omniscient or something like that. I'm not Rowling, you know. Sep 18, 2017 at 21:41
  • You are not actually viewing the mirror yourself, so that rules out seeing your own desires. Nov 16, 2017 at 21:09

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