Harry's first Occlumency lesson

Harry struggles to close his mind against Professor Snape during his first Occlumency lesson

Extract from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

By J.K. Rowling

Snape pulled out his wand from an inside pocket of his robes and Harry tensed in his chair, but Snape merely raised the wand to his temple and placed its tip into the greasy roots of his hair. When he withdrew it, some silvery substance came away, stretching from temple to wand like a thick gossamer strand, which broke as he pulled the wand away from it and fell gracefully into the Pensieve, where it swirled silvery-white, neither gas nor liquid. Twice more, Snape raised the wand to his temple and deposited the silvery substance into the stone basin, then, without offering any explanation of his behaviour, he picked up the Pensieve carefully, removed it to a shelf out of their way and returned to face Harry with his wand held at the ready.

‘Stand up and take out your wand, Potter.’

Harry got to his feet, feeling nervous. They faced each other with the desk between them.

‘You may use your wand to attempt to disarm me, or defend yourself in any other way you can think of,’ said Snape.

‘And what are you going to do?’ Harry asked, eyeing Snape’s wand apprehensively.

‘I am about to attempt to break into your mind,’ said Snape softly. ‘We are going to see how well you resist. I have been told that you have already shown aptitude at resisting the Imperius Curse. You will find that similar powers are needed for this … brace yourself, now. Legilimens!’

Snape had struck before Harry was ready, before he had even begun to summon any force of resistance. The office swam in front of his eyes and vanished; image after image was racing through his mind like a flickering film so vivid it blinded him to his surroundings.

He was five, watching Dudley riding a new red bicycle, and his heart was bursting with jealousy … he was nine, and Ripper the bulldog was chasing him up a tree and the Dursleys were laughing below on the lawn … he was sitting under the Sorting Hat, and it was telling him he would do well in Slytherin … Hermione was lying in the hospital wing, her face covered with thick black hair … a hundred Dementors were closing in on him beside the dark lake … Cho Chang was drawing nearer to him under the mistletoe …

No, said a voice inside Harry’s head, as the memory of Cho drew nearer, you’re not watching that, you’re not watching it, it’s private

He felt a sharp pain in his knee. Snape’s office had come back into view and he realised that he had fallen to the floor; one of his knees had collided painfully with the leg of Snape’s desk. He looked up at Snape, who had lowered his wand and was rubbing his wrist. There was an angry weal there, like a scorch mark.

‘Did you mean to produce a Stinging Hex?’ asked Snape coolly.

‘No,’ said Harry bitterly, getting up from the floor.

‘I thought not,’ said Snape contemptuously. ‘You let me get in too far. You lost control.’

‘Did you see everything I saw?’ Harry asked, unsure whether he wanted to hear the answer.

‘Flashes of it,’ said Snape, his lip curling. ‘To whom did the dog belong?’

‘My Aunt Marge,’ Harry muttered, hating Snape. ‘Well, for a first attempt that was not as poor as it might have been,’ said Snape, raising his wand once more. ‘You managed to stop me eventually, though you wasted time and energy shouting. You must remain focused. Repel me with your brain and you will not need to resort to your wand.’

‘I’m trying,’ said Harry angrily, ‘but you’re not telling me how!’

‘Manners, Potter,’ said Snape dangerously. ‘Now, I want you to close your eyes.’

Harry threw him a filthy look before doing as he was told. He did not like the idea of standing there with his eyes shut while Snape faced him, carrying a wand.

‘Clear your mind, Potter,’ said Snape’s cold voice. ‘Let go of all emotion …’

But Harry’s anger at Snape continued to pound through his veins like venom. Let go of his anger? He could as easily detach his legs …

‘You’re not doing it, Potter … you will need more discipline than this … focus, now …’

Harry tried to empty his mind, tried not to think, or remember, or feel …

‘Let’s go again … on the count of three … one – two – three – Legilimens!’

A great black dragon was rearing in front of him … his father and mother were waving at him out of an enchanted mirror … Cedric Diggory was lying on the ground with blank eyes staring at him …


Harry was on his knees again, his face buried in his hands, his brain aching as though someone had been trying to pull it from his skull.

‘Get up!’ said Snape sharply. ‘Get up! You are not trying, you are making no effort. You are allowing me access to memories you fear, handing me weapons!’

Harry stood up again, his heart thumping wildly as though he had really just seen Cedric dead in the graveyard. Snape looked paler than usual, and angrier, though not nearly as angry as Harry was.

‘I – am – making – an – effort,’ he said through clenched teeth.

‘I told you to empty yourself of emotion!’

‘Yeah? Well, I’m finding that hard at the moment,’ Harry snarled.

‘Then you will find yourself easy prey for the Dark Lord!’ said Snape savagely. ‘Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked so easily – weak people, in other words – they stand no chance against his powers! He will penetrate your mind with absurd ease, Potter!’

‘I am not weak,’ said Harry in a low voice, fury now pumping through him so that he thought he might attack Snape in a moment.

‘Then prove it! Master yourself!’ spat Snape. ‘Control your anger, discipline your mind! We shall try again! Get ready, now! Legilimens!”

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

By J.K. Rowling