I'm just looking for canon, either books or JKR. Or movies, I haven't seen those.

In a July 16, 2005 interview, JKR was asked

MA: ... “Do the memories stored in a Pensieve reflect reality or the views of the person they belong to?”

and answered

JKR: It’s reality. ...

Now, when the incident happened where Sirius was imprisoned for killing Peter & muggles, he knew who the real secret-keeper was and saw what happened when confronting Peter about it.

Both Sirius and Peter were members of the Order of the Phoenix, of which Dumbledore was the founder. He was also already Headmaster at Hogwarts and Order of Merlin, First Class. He also might have been the Supreme Mugwump and Chief Warlock (but I can't find canon for that). Either way, he had pull.

Fudge was only a Junior Minister and didn't actually witness what happened between Sirius and Peter, only the aftermath, so I can't imagine he had more pull than Dumbledore.

After his death, his sentence was revoked, so it's possible for sentences to be overturned. Dumbledore thought Sirius was guilty, and we know that veritaserum wouldn't be useful. But, since we know the Pensieve exists and (if at Hogwarts) Dumbledore would have access to it, no matter what Dumbledore believes, he had access to obtain the truth about what happened between two of his members of the Order.

Also, there is a possibility of using memories as evidence.

So, is there any canon as to why Dumbledore didn't go to Azkaban to find the truth out about what happened between Sirius and Peter with the Pensieve (assuming Black would cooperate to exonerate himself)?

  • 4
    It is possible for memories to be tampered with. Recall Slughorn does this (poorly).
    – BoBTFish
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 13:55
  • 1
    I was going to say what @BoBTFish did, about being able to tamper with memories, but I also want to know why so many people feel like Dumbledore did or ought to have had some kind of overwhelming personal investment in advocating on behalf of Sirius? Why, when he believed Sirius to be guilty, would Dumbledore turn over every rock to try and prove Sirius's innocence? I think the question is really Why didn't the Ministry use a Pensieve to view Sirius's memories? Dumbledore is not a ministry official, his accolades aside. How he had the power to release Hagrid from Azkaban in COS, I don't know. Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 14:07
  • @Slytherincess He was involved in criminal trials though (the Wizenamot, was he chief warlock at the time?), which doesn't seem to have specific parties to represent the prosecution and the defence, so he did have some interest/responsibility in pushing to make sure the truth was fully uncovered.
    – BoBTFish
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 14:12
  • 1
    Note that it was Crouch who put Sirius in jail without a trial.Also,Sirius blamed himself for the family's death.So after knowing(falsely) that Wormtail was dead,he wanted to punish himself for their death.So Albus couldn't have suspected anything.
    – rah4927
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 17:04
  • @BoBTFish - Yes, I'm aware of his credentials, but there seems to be a somewhat pervasive attitude that Dumbledore should have, for some reason, been more invested in Sirius's case than others, which doesn't make sense to me on a logical level. A person working in the law -- like Dumbledore did through the Wizengamot -- can engage in impeccable due diligence, yet still conclude an individual is guilty, and subsequently move on to the next case. Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 3:23

1 Answer 1


Three reasons I can think of:

Memories are unreliable

When JK says the memories reflect reality this means they are free from personal bias etc. that would otherwise taint a persons recollection. It does NOT mean that the memories are reliable. We've seen several magically modified memories that show up in the pensieve, most notably Slughorns ineptly edited ones. If a dark wizard modified their own memory they could appear to be completely innocent.

Sirius never fought the charge

Consider the exchange between Dumbledore and Harry when discussing the framing of Morphin Gaunt.

"But he had this real memory in him all the time? [Harry]

Yes, but it took a great deal of skilled Legilimency to coax it out of him," said Dumbledore, "and why should anyone delve further into Morphin's mind when he had already confessed to the crime?

It's important to note that, at least from what the books tell us, Sirius never fought the accusation. When he was caught he went quietly, after a laughing fit. The implication seems to be he went temporarily insane from grief and the unfairness of it all. Not one character in the HP universe ever mentions Sirius defending himself, or the crazy defense he used concerning unregistered Animagi and rats.

Personal Rights

Perhaps less important, and far more speculative, but it's possible rights issues exist in the HP world regarding accessing the memories of others. Veritaserum is "highly regulated" according to Snape, and the privacy issues of having your memories searched against your will could certainly cause legal trouble.

  • 1
    I find the "rights" possibility rather interesting, since that would imply they have no problem throwing him in Azkaban for life (living with dementors, having all the happiness gradually sucked out of his life), but still value his privacy. That's a rather... different set of social priorities.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 18:36

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