HARRY POTTER: THE PREQUEL
"He was not ready to see their expressions when he told them that he must be either murderer or victim, there was no other way..."
Part One - Before Hallowe'en 1981
1. THE PROPHECY
Who, When, How?
The first issue we have to deal with here is the who, when and how of the prophecy - who knew of it, who knew its contents, when they found out about it, and how they learned of it.
Let's start with the ones that we know. Dumbledore is the only one whom we are certain knew the entire prophecy bH81. (As for aH81, we know of two: Dumbledore and Harry. The rest might not have heard it.) He heard it all directly, and remembers it exactly, via that excellent Pensieve of his. However, we also know of at least two others who knew about the prophecy and part of the contents of it - an eavesdropper in the Hog's Head Inn who was a servant of Voldemort's, and Voldemort himself, who only heard this information second-hand from the eavesdropper. (I'm deliberately not calling the eavesdropper a Vspy because there is nothing to suggest he was someone whom Dumbledore trusted, or even a spy. He may have just been concealed in the Hog's Head when he saw Dumbledore and Trelawney entering an upstairs room, and decided to eavesdrop in case he heard anything significant. It could be Snape, it could be Mundungus Fletcher, but it could just as easily be Lucius Malfoy or Antonin Dolohov.)
I'm now going to move away from the tricky issue of Voldemort's knowledge of the prophecy, which I will explore at length later, and for now stick with Dumbledore's side. The issue here is this: whom did Dumbledore inform of the prophecy? As the quote above suggests, it's not an easy thing to tell someone about a destiny like that.
The Potters and the Longbottoms
Now, I assumed that it was ethical for Dumbledore to tell the Potters and Longbottoms the prophecy - the whole prophecy. They've got to know what their son might have to face if Voldemort picks him. Not only is it ethical, it's also important for them to know because they need to know why they might have to go into hiding. The entire Order of the Phoenix knew about the prophecy in Harry's fifth year (suggested by the quotes above), because they had to guard it, so if the Potters and Longbottoms had to go into hiding for the sakes of their sons, they needed to know why too.
The key concern with the Potters and Longbottoms is when Dumbledore told them the prophecy. Was it as soon as he heard it and realized they were the parents of two potential Ones? Or after the boys were born?
I argued that it was unethical to inform the parents prior to the births. What if one of the kids had been born on August 1 or later? Then those parents would have worried for nothing. Plus it would mean that they then knew about the prophecy when it wasn't essential - and as we know, Dumbledore didn't like too many people to know. On top of that, Dumbledore wouldn't want to cause undue stress to a pregnant mother. That kind of information could even induce an early labor - and Dumbledore wouldn't want to mess with fate.
Tennille argued that it was unethical NOT to inform the parents prior to the births. She said the parents have a right to know about something that major which may concern their son, and they need to prepare themselves for all that might involve. She also said that even if their son was born in August, the parents still had a right to know what could have been. I can see her point of view. Also, if Lily would have to hide away with Harry, she might appreciate the chance to visit her parents while Harry still isn't born (because as long as Lily isn't captured, she's technically safe while Harry is unborn).
Caitlin argued that Dumbledore wouldn't mind if, for example, the Potters knew of the prophecy and then Harry was born in August. He had no reason not to trust them, even if it didn't concern them. They were in the Order, after all, and to our knowledge, no one in the Order was distrusted until Pettigrew became a Vspy and Dumbledore got suspicious.
This is an issue that can only be reasoned - there's no direct evidence from the books or JKR to suggest it was one way or the other. Therefore, it will have to remain unresolved. It has a slight impact on issues I will discuss in the next section, on the christening, but otherwise has little bearing on key issues.
My HP girls, however, didn't refute the assumption that the Potters and Longbottoms knew the contents of the prophecy. It is possible, I guess, that they knew of it - as an explanation for going into hiding - without knowing what was in it, or even possible that they didn't know of it, and just had to trust Dumbledore - possible, but not probable, and here I'll go with the probable.
The Spy Circle
We'll move on to the next issue, where fortunately I found that my discussion buddies supported my assumptions. Here we ask whether or not the spy circle knew of the prophecy. As above, there is little to suggest that they either did or didn't know about it, apart from, again, common sense and reasoning. I'm making the assumption that the Potters told Sirius, Pettigrew, Lupin and Person X (see the section on the spy circle for more about that) about the prophecy because it was such a significant issue. I know I'd want to tell my best friends, and having trusted them for around ten years, I wouldn't even listen if Dumbledore tried to tell me not to tell anyone. Can't you just see James telling Sirius about it no matter what?
I can, however, also see the Potters being sensible, and accepting Dumbledore's order to not tell their friends the contents of the prophecy. This wouldn't be because they don't trust them enough. It would be because, at the rate Order members and others are going down, the odds are too high that Voldemort could capture one of their friends and use Legilimency to uncover some vital information about the prophecy. And, as it happens, this was exceedingly lucky, because if Pettigrew had known the whole prophecy, Harry might have died prior to PS/SS, or at the very least, the entire plot of OotP wouldn't have occurred and Sirius would still be alive. :-( (Okay, it's not lucky that Sirius is dead, but you get my drift hopefully.)
Now, we can't even say that Sirius might have known the prophecy and Pettigrew might not, because Sirius was suspected of being the traitor. If Sirius had known the whole prophecy, and then been framed as the traitor, surely Dumbledore would have wondered why Voldemort didn't appear to know the prophecy when he attacked Harry. And then Dumbledore would have wondered if Sirius really had been the traitor ... etc, etc.
This does leave a little bit of room, however, for Dumbledore simply not being aware that Sirius knew the whole prophecy. Lupin, however, still probably didn't. James might tell his best friend in secret, but to tell Lupin and not Pettigrew would be a little weird ... therefore, I'm coming to the conclusion that Pettigrew and Lupin did not know the contents of the prophecy. That is really the key issue - whether or not Pettigrew knew. Because if Pettigrew knew, then Brandon Ford was certainly right in saying that the whole "let's go after the prophecy" plan of Voldemort's was really a hoax to distract the Order from realizing something bigger was going on. I believe that Pettigrew didn't know, because Sirius and Lupin probably would have known of this, and would have told Dumbledore that Pettigrew knew and Voldemort probably therefore also knew, and the Order wouldn't have been fooled into thinking Voldemort was after the prophecy.
Now we're onto the complicated issue of how Voldemort understood the prophecy. So let's start with our source of wisdom, through whom JKR herself speaks: Dumbledore.
"He [the eavesdropper] heard only the beginning, the part foretelling the birth of a boy in July to parents who had thrice defied Voldemort. Consequently, he could not warn his master that to attack you would be to risk transferring power to you, and marking you as his equal. So Voldemort never knew that there might be danger in attacking you, that it might be wise to wait, to learn more. He did not know that you would have power the Dark Lord knows not -"
Let me get this straight. Voldemort's servant heard the following portion of the prophecy: "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies..." (Trelawney via Pensieve, OotP, p.741) and so Voldemort knew this, as well as that this wasn't the whole prophecy. So did Voldemort really just assume that the rest of the prophecy only contained more descriptions of "the one"? As Dumbledore says, Voldemort didn't realize "that it might be wise to wait, to learn more" - but is Voldemort really stupid enough to not think of what the prophecy might involve for him?
Okay, maybe he'd never had exposure to prophecies before. Or maybe he knew that the people who learn prophecies can't act to make the predictions invalid - in other words, if he and his servant didn't hear the rest of the prophecy, they weren't meant to and should act accordingly. Or maybe some other prophecies that he knows of are simpler than this one, perhaps making a description prophecy seem normal.
Even so, from the sounds of things Voldemort didn't even try to find out more about the prophecy. Did he think there wouldn't be more in there that could give him a hint as to whether Harry or Neville was "the one"? The prophecy indicates that Voldemort would choose to attack the one he perceived as his equal, "the boy he thought most likely to be a danger to him" (Dumbledore, OotP, p.742). But Voldemort wasn't to know this - so how did he know he would have to choose between the two?
Maybe it all works out because of the prophecy. As Dumbledore mentioned to Harry in PoA, predicting the future is no easy business, and if you know the story of Oedipus or Macbeth, you know that hearing a prophecy can influence a person's behavior, which leads them to fulfilling the prophecy, often accidentally. So maybe the prophecy was always going to be right because it (or its author, or whatever) knew that Voldemort would only know part of it so that he could identify which kids might be "the one", that Voldemort would decide to just kill one or both and would first go for the one he perceived as his equal, and that the kid he first attacked would have powers of which Voldemort wasn't aware.
So, apparently, Voldemort really did choose to attack Harry without realizing that there might be danger in it - because that's what the prophecy suggests, and the prophecies always manage to come true according to their wording (and we're just left to wonder how to interpret the wording). I often thought that maybe Voldemort picked Harry because he had easy access to him through Pettigrew being made the Secret-Keeper, or because Neville was born on July 30 and Harry on July 31, which he might have thought was significant. The prophecy, however, indicates that Harry was marked because Voldemort saw himself in Harry, saw him as an equal. Voldemort instinctively attacked the kid who posed the bigger threat and seemed more likely to be able to defeat him, more likely to be "the one". And maybe he just accepted that, seeing as he hadn't heard the full prophecy (and didn't seem to be able to learn it, not even by infiltrating the Ministry and abducting the keeper of the Hall of Prophecy), it was destined that he would have to choose between the two.
I also wondered how Dumbledore knew these things, but if we figure that he reasoned it from what he knows about prophecies, then what he tells Harry here makes sense:
"Voldemort himself would mark him as his equal. And so he did, Harry. He chose you, not Neville. ... He chose the boy he thought most likely to be a danger to him... he chose, not the pure-blood (which, according to his creed, is the only kind of wizard worth being or knowing) but the half-blood, like himself. He saw himself in you before he had ever seen you, and in marking you with that scar, he did not kill you, as he intended, but gave you powers, and a future, which have fitted you to escape him not once, but four times so far - something that neither your parents, nor Neville's parents, ever achieved."
Okay, that section wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be. It all fell into place quite nicely. I hope you agree, and that it made sense for you. It might be put into perspective better when you read the fifth section.
Posted by: Nicole
If you would like to contact Esther, you may do so at eskimoe_girl at hotmail dot com.