Sybill Trelawney is said to be the great-great-granddaughter of the celebrated Cassandra Trelawney, an ancient Seer in Greek mythology. After she rejects the romantic advances of the god Apollo, he curses her for always making accurate prophecies that no one believes. The Divination professor seems to have a similar fate; even though she prophesied the destiny of Harry Potter, she is still seen as “an old fraud” who makes predictions that are so ambiguous, they are inevitably right. Her theatrical tendencies don’t help either, with her “misty, dreamy” voice, her heavily scented classroom, and her particular fondness for death-oriented prophecies.
During her first lesson with Harry’s class, she correctly foresees that Neville Longbottom will break her teacup. However, it can be argued that the power of suggestion makes him shatter it in nervousness. She also tells a terrified Lavender Brown that whatever she is dreading will take place on 16th October — the date on which her pet rabbit suddenly dies. As Hermione Granger logically points out, she could not have been anxious about it since the death is unexpected. Similarly, Trelawney dramatically tells the class that one of them will “leave forever” around Easter — which simply turns out to be Hermione dropping her subject. She does the same for Dolores Umbridge, who is determined to get her fired, by telling her that she is in “grave danger” (in an attempt to save her job).
On the other hand, it is true that Neville not only breaks one teacup but two. It is also worth noting that Sirius Black, whom the students (including Lavender) fear would break into Hogwarts, manages to do exactly that on 16th October. Even though it turns out to be a less extraordinary turn of events than Trelawney made it seem, Hermione does leave her class. Umbridge also ends up being attacked by a herd of centaurs. It seems that, with her soggy tea leaves and crystal ball, there is more than just “guesswork” in Trelawney’s fortune-teller practices.
“Neither Can Live While the Other Survives”
During a job interview with Albus Dumbledore at the Hog’s Head, Trelawney suddenly enters into an entranced state and makes her first prophecy. It could apply to either Harry or Neville, since both were “born as the seventh month dies” and to “those who have thrice defied him”. As Dumbledore explains to Harry, it is Voldemort’s own actions that make the prophecy come true and lead to his undoing; for his own reasons, he believes Harry is the one who has the “power to vanquish the Dark Lord” and, by casting the killing curse at him, inadvertently marks him “as his equal”. This sets the rest of the events in motion: by sacrificing her life to save Harry, Lily Potter’s love gives her son “power the Dark Lord knows not”.
Even though it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, it still unfolds how Trelawney predicts it. Dumbledore, who is about to turn her down for the teaching position at Hogwarts, decides to give her the opportunity after hearing the prophecy.
“The First to Rise Will Be the First to Die”
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Trelawney refuses to join the faculty and students for Christmas lunch as she believes that, when thirteen people dine together, the first person to get up from the table will die first. Unknown to all, however, there are already thirteen people at the table – Ron Weasley’s pet Scabbers (who is actually Peter Pettigrew) is hiding in his pocket at that time. Dumbledore is the first to rise, in that case, and he turns out to be the first person in that group to die.
Trelawney’s prediction also foreshadows the deaths of other characters: in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, thirteen people dine together at Grimmauld Place, and Sirius is the first person to get up from the table; and, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, thirteen people gather at the Burrow after the Battle of the Seven Potters, out of whom Remus Lupin stands up first.
Interestingly, it is also during this very lunch that Trelawney remarks that Lupin “will not be with us for very long” and that “his time is short”. This could either refer to him leaving Hogwarts at the end of the term, or getting killed during the Battle of Hogwarts just a few years later.
“The Dark Lord Will Rise Again”
Harry witnesses Trelawney deliver her second prophecy (while being completely unaware) at the end of his Divination exam. She proclaims that a servant of Voldemort, who “has been chained these twelve years”, will “rejoin his master” before midnight. When she snaps out of her trance, Harry informs her that she just declared mere moments ago that Voldemort will regain power “with his servant’s aid” and will be “greater and more terrible” than ever before, but she dismisses it and calls it “far-fetched”. However, this is exactly how that day ends: Wormtail, who has been hiding in the form of a rat for the past 12 years, manages to “break free” from the remaining Marauders’ capture, and travels to Albania to find his “friendless” and “abandoned” master. A year later, he uses Harry’s blood to bring about the rebirth of Voldemort.
It should also be noted that Trelawney also sees the Grim in Harry’s teacup that year — which turns out to be the Animagus form of his godfather Sirius, who has been stalking Harry for months until he finally meets him on that same night.
“The Troubled Soul Within”
In his fourth year, Trelawney tells Harry that she can see “difficult times ahead” for him, and “the thing you dread will indeed come to pass… and perhaps sooner than you think”. This turns out to be the same year when he finally comes face-to-face with Voldemort. While discussing star charts, Trelawney also comments on his “dark hair, mean stature” and how he experienced “tragic losses so young in life”, and asks him if he was born in mid-winter. Even though he was born in July, it should not be overlooked that Voldemort, whom the aforementioned also applies to, was born on 31st December — suggesting that maybe Trelawney had sensed the piece of his soul that lived in Harry.
Even though she implies that her second prediction in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire refers to Harry (that death “comes ever closer” and “circles overhead like a vulture… over the castle”), it proves to be true when the second Hogwarts champion Cedric Diggory dies at the end of the Triwizard Tournament. However, that is not to say that her constant predictions about Harry’s death are false; he does technically die (albeit briefly) during the second wizarding war.
“The Lightning-Struck Tower”
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Trelawney continuously sees “conflict” and “violence” when she shuffles her cards: “Calamity. Disaster. Coming closer all the time.” All these ill omens, as is revealed later on, refer to Dumbledore’s tragic and shocking death, when he is struck by the Killing Curse at the top of the Astronomy Tower.
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