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"The curse that failed to kill you seems to have forged some kind of connection between you and the Dark Lord. The evidence suggests that at times, when your mind is most relaxed and vulnerable - when you are asleep, for instance - you are sharing the Dark Lord's thoughts and emotions. The headmaster thinks it inadvisable for this to continue. He wishes me to teach you how to close your mind to the Dark Lord."
— Severus Snape to Harry Potter in January of 1996[src]

A short-lived series of private lessons took place after Christmas in the 1995–1996 school year, during which Severus Snape attempted to teach Harry Potter the skill of Occlumency. The lessons began under the insistence of Albus Dumbledore, who believed that Harry's mind was vulnerable to an attack by Lord Voldemort, and so the class was designed to give Harry protection from this type of mind invasion.[1]


Lessons were given once a week, under the guise of Remedial Potions, much to Harry's discomfort. This was to prevent other people from finding out about Harry and Voldemort's connection in their minds (or as the Ministry put it at that time, Harry seeing things), least of all by Dolores Umbridge. Snape made it clear that everybody who had seen Harry in Potions classes could not deny that he needed remedial help. Harry told his best friends Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger about the lessons, despite Snape forbidding him from telling anyone else the truth.[1]

Dumbledore himself refused to teach Harry for the fear of leaving an opening for Voldemort to attack the headmaster, though Snape took it as the headmaster having the right to delegate less-enjoyable tasks to other teachers. Sirius Black was rather displeased with Snape being the teacher, and warned him not to abuse Harry, while Remus Lupin was confident due to Snape's mastery in Occlumency, and encouraged Harry to try his hardest.[1]

Snape performing Legilimency on Harry

Under Snape's tutelage, Harry repeatedly had his mind broken into in order to train him. Snape also ordered Harry to close his mind every night as practice. Unfortunately, due to the mutual animosity between the teacher and student, Snape was unkind and discouraging in his methods despite his own mastery of the skill, while Harry did not take Snape's lessons too seriously, and neglected to practise. Coupled with Harry being emotionally open at all times, the lessons did not progress much, with only rare instances where Harry was able to resist, if only briefly. If anything, having his mind repeatedly assaulted forced Harry to leave himself more vulnerable, as he barely tried to close it willingly.[1]

Unenthusiastic though both were, Snape was nonetheless disappointed with Harry's lack of progress and efforts, as Snape himself had to give up his evenings for these trainings, and would scold Harry viciously for negligence. In order to prevent Harry from seeing into his mind via any potential backlash, Snape borrowed Dumbledore's Pensieve, and placed his memories into it before each lesson.[1]


"Get out, get out, I don't want to see you in this office ever again!"
— Snape cancelling the lessons.[src]

The lessons were ultimately cancelled when Harry saw a memory in the Pensieve of his father hanging Snape in the air by his ankles and was caught by the Potions Master, while Snape postponed the lessons in order to rescue Graham Montague from being stuck inside a toilet. Snape was so furious at Harry that he threw him out of his office (literally) and forbade him from ever returning.[2] Despite Sirius Black and Remus Lupin's insistence for Harry to continue, it was never followed through. Harry was ultimately left open for Voldemort's deceptions.[3]


As Harry was an emotional wizard, he was never able to master Occlumency as a skill; even Dumbledore had to admit that the lessons were a "fiasco".[4] However, he was eventually able to gain a degree of control over the unique connection he shared with Voldemort by focusing on feelings of grief or love, such as those inspired by the deaths of Sirius Black or Dobby.


Behind the scenes

  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore states that these lessons cannot be postponed any longer after Harry's vision, and has Snape drag Harry down to the dungeons, still in his nightclothes, to practise. Thus, they begin on 24 December instead of 9 January.
  • Despite Harry and Snape's hatred of each other, these lessons mark an unusual time when they at least have somewhat decent conversations, as Snape is able to tell Harry information Dumbledore won't even tell him before due to his fear Harry is possessed. Snape also lets some hints about his allegiance drop in these lessons - Harry asks if it's Snape's job to spy on Voldemort, and Snape agrees, looking pleased.
  • In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7, Snape teaches Harry a different spell other than Occlumency in these lessons. In the console and PC versions, it is Focus, while in the handheld versions, it is the Imperius Curse. Regardless, he still appears to be using Legilimency to penetrate Harry's mind during these lessons.
  • These lessons were likely technically in violation of Educational Decree Number Twenty-Six after it was passed: although they were requested and sanctioned by the headmaster, there's nothing to suggest that Snape was being paid to teach Occlumency in addition to Potions, and it can be argued that they were more Order of the Phoenix business than Hogwarts business anyway (although Umbridge had no control over Order of the Phoenix business, Snape gave the lessons at Hogwarts in his official capacity as a Hogwarts professor). Although it was before the decree was passed, the fact that Snape disguised them as Remedial Potions and had Harry do likewise suggests that he knew that Umbridge wouldn't have approved of them in any case, especially as he specifically instructed Harry not to tell Umbridge about them. Because of this, Snape wanted them to be kept secret, so it is highly unlikely that Dumbledore (who presumably also wanted them to be kept secret) put Snape on Hogwarts' payroll as Occlumency teacher, meaning that under the terms of the decree, Snape wouldn't have been allowed to tell Harry (or any other student) anything about Occlumency, or anything other than Potions.


Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 24 (Occlumency)
  2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 28 (Snape's Worst Memory)
  3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 35 (Beyond the Veil)
  4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 4 (Horace Slughorn)