At many points in the story, when Dumbledore asks Harry something, he gives him a piercing look. It makes me wonder if that is Dumbledore using Legilemency against him. Is he?

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    I can't remember anything in the books to suggest that. I thought it was the kind of "piercing look" I used to give my students when I wasn't sure they were telling the truth. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 12:27
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    @MattGutting Harry admits that Dunbledore sees through him in a way even Mad eye's magical eye couldn't. Just my thought Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 12:29
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    @HashirOmer - yes. I felt the same way with some of my Muggle teachers. Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 18:00

7 Answers 7


He certainly seems to find some information when giving Harry these 'piercing looks', but he still doesn't know about Harry hearing the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, so I would say no; he's just extremely smart, so he makes some educated guesses as to what Harry is thinking.

I would also say that Dumbledore would feel it is rude to intrude on Harry's thoughts with legilimency, which is likely the reason he gives Harry plenty of opportunity to tell him his thoughts of his own accord. Harry's free will would factor greatly into Dumbledore's decisions.

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    Good point about the basilisk Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 12:56
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    Dumbledore's piercing looks typically are used when hes determining whether hes being lied to or not, Or if something is being withheld from him. legilimency is a very invasive spell as we find out when snape uses it against Harry so we know for sure hes not using it.
    – Himarm
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 13:22
  • @Himarm:Or maybe you just experience it in another way when you KNOW that someone reads your mind?!
    – teair
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 13:28
  • I seriously doubt that Dumbledore would use such a spell on Harry, he trusts people a little too fully remember, so I don't think he would have ever used it on too many people, certainly not people so close to him
    – ZenLogic
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 13:30
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    I dont think you could say Dumbledore trusts people to fully, he trusts people enough where it counts to get the job done. Other then his betrayal by grendelwald you see he never over extends his trust. Also Dumbledore will do practically anything to achieve his goals, and if he felt he needed to force Harry to talk... he would force Harry to talk.
    – Himarm
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 15:22

I disagree. I absolutely think he was using legilimency. There’s a lot of evidence to support this, but the best example is when he asks Harry, notably in Chamber of Secrets, whether there is something he wishes to tell him. The reason Harry can tell when Snape is reading his mind is because Snape is using magic to force him to think of those images and thoughts. Dumbledore is much more subtle, as well as an exceptionally gifted wizard, so he simply asks Harry, who is very honest and open by nature (which is why he fails to learn occlumency with many lessons while Draco learns it almost immediately when taught by Narcissa) automatically thinks of the things he would tell Dumbledore if he weren’t afraid to, such as hearing the voice of the Basilisk. It also explains Dumbledore’s general tendency to know a lot more than he logically ought to. I originally assumed he was just making good guesses, and he jokes in one book that his guesses (not the word that’s used but I’m blanking right now) are usually correct. (Maybe the word is hunch. I digress) but I’ve also come to realize that when Dumbledore is amused with himself it’s on account of a private joke. Again I wish I had a quote for this but I don’t feel like digging for one.

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    Also, I meant to mention, the word Legilimens implies not specifically mind-reading, but knowing the truth. I suspect more complicated or “deep” Legilimency involves actually seeing memories and more subtle Legilimency can simply sense whether a person is being truthful or not. This also explains why Snape, a gifted Legilimens, seems to know whether students, specifically Harry, (again, particularly easy to “read” so to speak) have done something they shouldn’t have, regardless of whether he has evidence.
    – Mary
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 4:27
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    If you need to add to your answer or change something you can click the edit button below the post or in the link to the left to touch-up your answer.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 4:42

I agree with this answer that Legilimency isn't imperceptible, that the 'victim' knows what information is being extracted and that the example with Snape and Harry proves this.

We do have one hint that Dumbledore used Legilimency on Harry, however. Since it's the only instance in canon that suggests this explicitly I thought I'd add an answer to the pile.

Boiling with anger at Snape, his desire to do something desperate and risky had increased tenfold in the last few minutes. This seemed to show on Harry's face, for Dumbledore moved away from the window, and looked more closely at Harry, a slight crease between his silver eyebrows.
"What has happened to you?"
"Nothing," lied Harry promptly.
"What has upset you?"
"I'm not upset."
"Harry, you were never a good Occlumens -"
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 25, The Seer Overheard).

Dumbledore's behaviour here is consistent with the use of Legilimency. He maintains eye contact and focuses intently on Harry. Ultimately, he's able to work out that Harry's lying to him.

Arguably, Dumbledore wouldn't have needed to use Legilimency to work out that Harry was lying to him. Harry was not in control of his emotions and was pretty easy to read once Dumbledore started observing him closely. Moreover, Dumbledore doesn't find out exactly what Harry is angry about, which he probably would have done if he were using Legilimency.

On balance, I don't think that Dumbledore was using Legilimency here. Nevertheless, Dumbledore brings up Harry not being good at Occlumency, which could indicate that he had used it. I don't think he did but it's possible to make an argument that he did based on Dumbledore's wording.



Harry would know if legilimency was being used on him, as when Snape used legilimency on Harry (all emphasis added):

“Liar,” said Snape. Harry’s throat went dry. He knew what Snape was going to do and he had never been able to prevent it. …

The bathroom seemed to shimmer before his eyes; he struggled to block out all thought, but try as he might, the Half-Blood Prince's copy of Advanced Potion-Making swam hazily to the forefront of his mind.

And then he was staring at Snape again, in the midst of this wrecked, soaked bathroom. He stared into Snape's black eyes, hoping against hope that Snape had not seen what he feared, but –

Here, what Snape was trying to see "swam [...] to the forefront of his [Harry's] mind", so Harry was an observer as well as Snape.

This did not happen when Dumbledore gave Harry a piercing look; I guess he was just looking sharply at Harry.

Remember, Dumbledore was extremely smart and had a lot of information that Harry didn't. Chances are that he could guess anything he was a bit uncertain about simply by observing Harry closely and his reactions to what Dumbledore was saying.

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    That's far from conclusive; Dumbledore could be better than Snape and be able to perform it more subtly, or Dumbledore could be not going as deep (detecting just whether Harry was lying, rather than looking for specific details), etc. Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 17:08

I doubt it.

If Dumbledore wouldn't use Legilimency on Slughorn to learn what he had told Riddle all those years ago, instead relying on Slughorn being honest, why would he read Harry's mind instead of just asking him? What ZenLogic said about Harry's free will is extremely important.

You have to remember that Dumbledore had taught literally hundreds of students, so Dumbledore's "piercing look" would have been something he had used for decades. I believe it is simply reading the non-verbal cues of a child that is not yet in control of their emotions.


My opinion is that if Albus Dumbledore as headmaster made it forbidden to use veritaserum (truth potion), Order of the Phoenix, then why would he allow the use of legilimency? (of course only when it was really needed, in Half Blood Prince).

He trusted Harry well enough with all his secrets and more importantly, he once said that truth is a good and terrible thing.

He also said that curiosity should be treated with caution and I believe he wouldn't break his own values.



Then how did Dumbledore and Snape know Harry was there under the invisibility cloak? Dumbledore saw him and knew he was there in Hagrid's house. How could he not be like Queenie? Throughout all movies he suggests he knows what people are thinking before they say it, esp. Obvious with Leta Lestrange.

  • Some more evidence might be a nice addition to that answer (you can edit it in). After all, it's not that hard to guess Harry is where trouble is, is it? :) And Dumbledore is very perceptive even without Legilimency.
    – Jenayah
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 5:37

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