1. You remove your memory from your brain to store in a Pensieve (as Snape or Dumbledore did).

  2. Then, you re-watch the memory (e.g. as Dumbledore re-watched his memories of Voldemort's investigations with Harry) in the Pensieve.

Does that mean that you now re-created the memory in your brain (because you remember watching it) and thus you'll need to extract/erase it from your brain again if you don't wish to keep it there for security/capacity reasons (which was why you stored it in the Pensieve in the first place?

Canon answers only please.

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    Surely Dumbledore recalls the content of his memories or he wouldn't have been able to direct Harry to them.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 23:16
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    @calccrypto - considering that I wrote the answer to that question, I think I'd know if that answer addressed my own question, eh? :) Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 23:42
  • @Richard - as I noted in the recent Pensieve answer, it seems (to me at least) as if Dumbledore retains summary/stub/metadata of what he removes. Like an Amazon or Google Books listing type thing. Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 23:43
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    By re-watching your stored memories you can create multiple copies to share with your friends! Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 0:04
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    Do we have information suggesting that placing a memory into a Pensive deletes the memory from your brain, rather than just creating a duplicate?
    – Misha R
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 0:33

2 Answers 2


Like most people (I assume), I thought the Pensieve was storing memories, but according to JKR it actually stores an accurate copy of reality. From an interview in July 2005:

MA: 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.

ES: I was dead wrong about that.

JKR: Really?

ES: I thought for sure that it was your interpretation of it. It didn't make sense to me to be able to examine your own thoughts from a third-person perspective. It almost feels like you'd be cheating because you'd always be able to look at things from someone else's point of view.

MA: 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.

So the Pensieve plays you an exact copy of the event you remembered, rather that how you remember it when you add it to the Pensieve. This means that when you watch it again, you’re seeing the same event exactly as it played out the first time, and not a slightly different version of it (based on your memory).

The two memories (the original and the watching) are based on the same event. When you watch it back, you might brush up on the details, rather than remember somebody different to the original.

JKR continues:

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.

So I don’t think it recreates the memory, so much as brings it to the foreground. As time passes, you might no longer be able to recall the specific details, but they’re still in there somewhere, and the Pensieve can bring them back up.

You might remember the new observations or thoughts that followed from rewatching the event, but I don’t think it would fundamentally change your memory of the event itself. For example, Dumbledore will remember finding Harry in his Pensieve, but he doesn’t suddenly have a copy of the memory which includes Harry as somebody who is “in” the courtroom.

I hope this makes some sense, and if not, I’ll tidy it up in the morning.

  • +1, great info, but doesn't seem to answer my main question. If your goal to put stuff into Pensieve was to get RID of the memory in the first place, then would re-watching it put it back into your head and require another removal? Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 0:44
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    @DVK - I don't think wanting to eradicate a memory is contingent upon a Pensieve. Look at Slughorn, for example. Although he didn't forget his memory of Tom Riddle, he was able to alter it for others to view. The Obliviate spell will erase a memory, and is probably a better choice for total amnesia than messing with Pensieve memories. Alex -- nice answer! I was going to quote this exact portion of the Mugglenet interview, but you beat me to it! +1 :) Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 1:08
  • @Slytherincess - I meant ala Dumbledore, not ala Slughorn, where he's using Pensieve like a DVD backup to free HDD space :) Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 1:17
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    I think that would be more like ala Snape instead of ala Dumbledore wouldn't it?
    – user13267
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 1:56
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    @dvk: may be if Dumbledore visits the courtroom in the pensieve again, his memory of visiting the courtroom again will be stored as pointer to the original "real" memory in his brain, so once he removes the real memory into the pensieve, the pointer will have nothing to point to. If the brains file system had a windows explorer-esq viewer, may it would produce an error like "file not found' when we double click a broken .lnk file in windows
    – user13267
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 2:01

When you put a memory into the Pensieve to preserve it, the memory doesn't automatically get removed from your brain. You just have it saved in case you forget. This makes Pensieve users still very susceptible to Legilimancy. I hope this answers your question!

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