As far as I remember from the books, there's no description of what a person using a Pensieve looks like. When Harry is using the Pensieve, he describes it as if he were falling into it, but it's never stated whether his body really enters the Pensieve, because the experience is just told from his point of view.

Now let's say Dumbledore enters his office while Harry was using the Pensieve -- what would Dumbledore see? Is there an answer in the books/canon?

  • No evidence, but I guessed he really does fall in, otherwise (if his head was in the way) Dumbledore couldn't also enter. Then of course that raises the question of what would happen to Harry if Dumbledore had decided to pour the memories out of the pensieve.
    – George T
    Jul 24, 2015 at 12:59

2 Answers 2


The implication (from OOtP) is that you are quite literally inside the pensieve;

But whether James really did take off Snape’s pants, Harry never found out. A hand had closed tight over his upper arm, closed with a pincer-like grip. Wincing, Harry looked round to see who had hold of him, and saw, with a thrill of horror, a fully grown, adult-sized Snape standing right beside him, white with rage.

‘Having fun?’

Harry felt himself rising into the air; the summer’s day evaporated around him; he was floating upwards through icy blackness, Snape’s hand still tight upon his upper arm. Then, with a swooping feeling as though he had turned head-over-heels in midair, his feet hit the stone floor of Snape’s dungeon and he was standing again beside the Pensieve on Snape’s desk in the shadowy, present-day Potion master’s study.

Snape had to enter the memory himself, grab Harry and then remove them both from it, back into the dungeon. Note that Harry's feet hit the stone floor. Clearly they weren't touching it before.

Later on, we get this exchange between Harry and Lupin:

‘I can’t tell him that, he’d kill me!’ said Harry, outraged. ‘You didn’t see him when we got out of the Pensieve.’

  • In Book 4, the Pensieve is clearly described as being little more than a bowl filled with swirling images. Why JKR decided to make it more interactive is a mystery.
    – Valorum
    Jul 24, 2015 at 18:00
  • I imagine sheer coolness. Also, +1 because this quote is rather amusing out of context.
    – Kevin
    Jul 24, 2015 at 18:32
  • 2
    @Richard: Didn't Harry fall into it in Book 4 as well? To watch Crouch Jr's trial, and then Dumbledore came in as well to get him out.
    – George T
    Jul 27, 2015 at 7:18

There is no direct canon as to what really happens, but there is a moment when Harry uses the pensive for the first time. Dumbledore enters the pensive as well and pulls Harry out.

That means either he saw Harry (I assume) in some kind of suspended animation and entered pensive to rescue him.

Or he expected Harry in the office didn't find him and looked for him inside the Pensive.

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