We know Severus Snape was "an accomplished Occlumens." We also see that Voldemort, who was a powerful Legilimens, was unable to detect when Snape was lying to him.

Does this mean that Voldemort could not detect when he was being lied to because of Snape's Occlumency? Would he know that Severus was protecting his thoughts from being read, had Voldemort tried Legilimency on him?

  • 2
    I never understood how Snape, who was so terrible at hiding his feelings and was so easily provoked was able to fool Voldy for so long.
    – user68762
    Jul 20, 2016 at 18:35
  • @Lt.Ortega As someone who rather meets both parts I can say it’s not so simple to compare the two. It’s a conscious, deliberate discipline that does require skill. But remember Voldemort also was unable to understand love. Even then though you could say it worked well to his double act...
    – Pryftan
    Mar 4, 2018 at 22:11

3 Answers 3


If Voldemort had ever known -- or even suspected -- that one of his inner circle was using Occlumency against him, I don't think that person would have lived for very long. Therefore, either:

  1. Voldemort never tried to use Legilimency against Snape (which I find extremely unlikely; especially since, as stated at the beginning of HBP, Snape had to defend his actions of the past fourteen years after Voldemort's return); or
  2. Snape did use Occlumency against Voldemort, but Voldemort was unaware of it.

I lean toward the latter. I'm sure a clumsy beginner's attempt at Occlumency would be easy to spot, but perhaps a skilled-enough Occlumens is able to hide the fact that they're hiding anything -- to leave parts of their mind open while blocking other parts, and leave even a powerful Legilimens like Voldemort none the wiser.

Personally, though, I think that Snape had additional help, beyond even his skill in Occlumency: (spoiler for book 7)

Snape's love for Lily.

Love is the antithesis of everything Voldemort ever stood for; he never understood it, and it actually caused him pain when he possessed Harry in OotP. I think a skilled Occlumens like Snape could turn that to his advantage in steering Voldemort away from any thoughts relating to protecting Harry.

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    Eee...I like this answer :) It gave me everything I was looking for.
    – lightsong
    May 21, 2012 at 15:04
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    Severus did use Occlumency. At Malfoy Manor Voldemort directly probes Severus's mind and all the other Death Eaters were afraid to look at their direction whereas Severus was completely calm. Of course there are examples where his love for Lily was also relevant but he definitely used Occlumency against Voldemort.
    – Pryftan
    Jan 7, 2018 at 0:58
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    @Pryftan Ahh, you're right. Somehow it hadn't clicked in my brain before, but this bit in chapter 1 of Deathly Hallows is clearly Legilimency: "'Saturday... at nightfall,' repeated Voldemort. His red eyes fastened upon Snape's black ones with such intensity that some of the watchers looked away, apparently fearful that they themselves would be scorched by the ferocity of the gaze. Snape, however, looked calmly back into Voldemort's face and, after a moment or two, Voldemort's lipless mouth curved into something like a smile." Nice catch.
    – Joe White
    Jan 9, 2018 at 4:47
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    @JoeWhite Correct! :) That scene resonates with me quite well but so does Severus in general... after his secrets are revealed I realised that I am most like Severus of all the characters in HP (except I'm not a bully and I try my best to not be spiteful). But I still agree with you that the love part made it easier to accomplish. I'm not convinced however that he required that but that's just speculation on my part (my thinking is he's such a good double agent that everyone misjudges him - maybe except Dumbledore - and that would suggest more than because of just love).
    – Pryftan
    Jan 9, 2018 at 21:20

Consider also that Dumbledore is also a skilled Legilimens. Snape is effectively playing a double agent, openly meeting both Dumbledore and the Dark Lord often. If the Dark Lord ever questions him about Occlumency, he can claim that he has to hide his true allegiance very deep in his mind so that Dumbledore cannot see it, so he has locked his mind with Occlumency so strongly that it would be impractical to open it up for the Dark Lord to read it.

  • 7
    This is an advantage of being a double agent. You can lie both side.
    – Himanshu
    Jul 25, 2014 at 11:00
  • Keeping all the lies straight is the drawback to being a double agent.
    – FreeMan
    May 18, 2021 at 18:11

Voldemort almost certainly did not know he was being lied to.

Voldemort, to the end, believed Snape was a very loyal servant of his. Even when he thought he’d need to kill him to master the Elder Wand, he actually regretted it, because he was killing someone he considered a valuable and faithful Death Eater. Though he felt no emotions over Snape, he thought him worthy enough of regret - if he thought Snape was disloyal, he surely wouldn’t regret killing him.

“Snape did not speak.

‘Perhaps you already know it? You are a clever man, after all, Severus. You have been a good and faithful servant, and I regret what must happen.’

‘My Lord –”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 32 (The Elder Wand)

When Harry tells him that Snape was actually loyal to Dumbledore instead, Voldemort is at first dismissive of the idea.

“Snape’s Patronus was a doe,’ said Harry, ‘the same as my mother’s, because he loved her for nearly all of his life, from the time when they were children. You should have realised,’ he said, as he saw Voldemort’s nostrils flare, ‘he asked you to spare her life, didn’t he?’

‘He desired her, that was all,’ sneered Voldemort, ‘but when she had gone, he agreed that there were other women, and of purer blood, worthier of him –”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)

If he knew when Snape was lying to him, then Voldemort would have surely doubted his loyalty more, since his lies were told to hide his true loyalty. He may have known that Snape was using Occlumency to hide his thoughts, but he couldn’t have known for certain that Snape was lying and maintain such a high level of belief in his loyalty.

He probably didn’t know Snape was using Occlumency, either.

It’s never explicitly stated, but Voldemort probably didn’t even know Snape was using Occlumency on him. If he had known, it seems likely that he would, at least, trust Snape less than he did. It’s also possible that Snape gave him a plausible reason why he’d use Occlumency all the time and never be willing to “turn it off” momentarily for Voldemort to see his entire mind, but this too seems to be something that would make Voldemort less certain in his trust of Snape.

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