Dumbledore has an armory of peculiar magical devices in J. K. Rowling’s story of Harry Potter but there’s one that’s of particular interest to me. He keeps it locked away in a cupboard and when the young wizard first stumbles upon it toward the end of the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it’s only a short time until the final contest of the Triwizard Tournament. After having a vision of the dark lord Voldemort, Harry finds himself in Dumbledore’s office and accidentally discovers the object in the cupboard, left slightly ajar: it’s the Pensieve and Harry’s curiosity gets the better of him when he leans in too close to the shining basin and falls in, finding himself doused in the headmaster’s memories.
As with many things in Rowling’s books, “Pensieve” is a play on words: “pensive” means to be thoughtful or absorbed in deep reflection and contemplation. Dumbledore periodically takes his memories–which appear as a wispy white vapor on the tip of his wand–from his head and drops them into the Pensieve where he will return to examine them on occasion to search for “patterns and links.” Continue reading