The North Tower #42: A New Light on the Prophecy

by Maline

Hi everyone. Sorry about the cliff-hanger at the end of my last piece. What can I say, I felt a bit evil. 🙂 Today’s article is going to take a closer look on the Trelawney prophecy, or, more precisely, on the circumstances surrounding that prophecy and what they tell us.

First thing to note: What Dumbledore told Harry in OotP and HBP doesn’t tally with what else we discover in HBP. At all.

  1. In OotP, we are told that the eavesdropper heard only the first part of the prophecy before being discovered and thrown from the building.
  2. In HBP, in the Weasleys’’ broom shed, Dumbledore tells Harry that they are the only two people who know the full terms of the Prophecy.
  3. Dumbledore’’s memory in the Pensieve clearly shows Trelawney delivering the entire prophecy in one go. JKR has stated that unless tampered with (e.g. what Slughorn did), a memory seen in the Pensieve is an objective account of what happened, not the person with the memory’’s own take on events.
  4. We know from PoA that when Trelawney delivers a true prophecy, she goes into a trance-like state and doesn’’t remember any of it afterwards.

On the other hand…

  1. In HBP, Trelawney tells Harry that she’’d just been feeling a little funny when Snape and Aberforth burst into the room and that Snape had been eavesdropping on her interview.
  2. Dumbledore tells Harry in OotP that the reason he didn’t train Harry in Occlumency himself was that he was afraid Voldemort would discover their connection and spy on him through Harry.
  3. Dumbledore also says (in the same scene) that he’s seen a shadow of Lord Voldemort stir behind Harry’s eyes, which Harry also felt (e.g. the attack on Mr. Weasley).

Now, there is at least one direct contradiction here. There is no way Snape could have heard only half of the prophecy, been thrown out of the building and then been thrown into the room with Dumbledore and Trelawney some 30 seconds later. And if the eavesdropper was thrown from the building the way Dumbledore claims in OotP, Trelawney wouldn’t have known a) that there had even been an eavesdropper (since she was in her trance) nor b) who that person was. Which means that either Trelawney is lying to Harry or Dumbledore was when claiming to tell Harry “everything” in OotP.

Now, Trelawney has no reason to lie, simply because she’s not even aware of the situation she’s in. She doesn’t know, even after seventeen years, that she made a prophecy in the first place, much less what the prophecy was about. She doesn’t have the faintest idea what the eavesdropping was really about (her own conclusion is that Snape wanted to listen to her to get pointers on how to do a good job interview) and on top of that, she’s drunk and ranting. Because of this, Harry dismisses everything she says, except for one thing: the fact that Snape was there and the one eavesdropping on her interview.

Again, I stress that if Snape didn’t get thrown into the room where Dumbledore and Trelawney were (which Trelawney claims), but out of the pub altogether (which Dumbledore claims in OotP), then Trelawney would never have known that he was there. And she clearly does.

Which means that the only logical conclusion is that Snape did hear the entireprophecy and that Dumbledore lied to Harry.

But Voldemort clearly didn’t get anything but the first part.

Which means that that was all Snape told him.

And the plot thickens…

Going back in time

Let’s start examining this by looking at a few dates. In OotP, during Umbridge’s interview, Trelawney claims to have been a teacher at Hogwarts for “nearly sixteen years”. This is, according to the semi-official timeline most people use for these things, sometime in the fall of 1995, which means that she was most likely hired sometime during the academic year of 1979/1980. Dumbledore tells Harry that his interview with Trelawney took place on a cold and stormy (or rainy, or something like that) night, which most people have agreed doesn’t sound very much like it was in the summer. Now, most new teachers are recruited during the summer break for logical reasons, but we have several examples of people starting at the beginning of either the winter or the spring semester as well (McGonagall claims she started in December and Voldemort also went to seek a job at Hogwarts during the winter.) I think that Trelawney was in the same situation, and that she most likely was recruited to start after the Christmas Holidays, i.e. in January 1980.

Which means, in turn, that the Prophecy ought to have been made sometime in the late fall/early winter of 1979, some 7-9 months before Harry was born. I’m personally guessing that it was around Halloween, simply because a lot of important things in JKR’s world seem to happen on that day, and the weather is usually rather horrid at that time. But that’s just a guess.

Now, let’s move over to Snape. He tells Umbridge that he’s been a teacher for fourteen years. He then tells Bellatrix that he went to work at Hogwarts on Voldemort’s orders and that he was at Hogwarts when the Dark Lord fell. He then should have been recruited during the summer holidays and started his job on September 1, 1981, about two months before Voldemort fell. Seemingly, Snape should then have convinced Dumbledore of his deep remorse sometime during the summer – which, as I said in my last article, makes it impossible for the reason behind Dumbledore’s trust to be “oh, I’m so very sorry my arch-enemy and the filthy little Mudblood he married are dead”. When Dumbledore decided to trust Snape, Lily and James were still alive.

Which means that we have at least one clear example of an instant where Dumbledore’s flat out lied to Harry with regards to Snape.

But that’s not all: in “Spinner’s End”, Snape tells Bellatrix that when Voldemort returned, he had sixteen years worth of information on Dumbledore to give him. Now, Voldemort came back in June 1995. That minus sixteen years would put us in June 1979, or, if you allow for some exaggeration and rounding off the way people usually do,somewhere around the time of Trelawney’s prophecy a few months later.

I don’t see why Snape should lie about this to Bellatrix. He could just as easily have said “fourteen years of information” if that was what it was. I even think that he might have slipped up a little on this account, since it does contradict his claim that he “spun a tale of deepest remorse” when joining the Hogwarts staff.

My conclusion is that Dumbledore has trusted Snape since the fall of 1979 and that one of the main reasons is that Snape has proven his loyalties by hearing the entire prophecy and not handing it over to Voldemort. Voldemort got to hear half of it, just enough to make him go after the child he thought could threaten him and therebycreating (JKR has been very clear on this) the one person with enough power to vanquish him.


Looks to me as though the prophecy was used as a trap right from the start.

And Snape was the one dangling the bait in front of Voldemort’s eyes, which means that Harry is right about one thing: Snape is partly responsible for the death of his parents.

But so is Dumbledore, and the even nicer twist is that if Harry does conquer Voldemort (which I’m pretty positive he will), Snape will be equally responsible for that. It’s partly because of him that Voldemort attacked Harry, created the “Chosen One” and, ultimately, brought about his own downfall. I just love the irony of that.

But, if all of this is true, that means that Dumbledore has lied to Harry at least three times: at the end of OotP, in the Weasley broom shed and when confronted about Snape being the eavesdropper in HBP. So, what do we make of all this?

A web of lies?

Actually, I believe there’s really only one big lie out of the bunch. The first one (that the eavesdropper only heard half of the prophecy) is more a case of twisting the truth. The important thing to Harry is the terms of the prophecy, which he gets. The third one is a bit more of the same, because Dumbledore never says straight out “the reason I trust Severus is that he was really sad about your parents dying”, he just lets Harry’s anger do its thing and lead Harry to the wrong conclusions without correcting him.

But why?

The first thing that popped into my mind was very simply that this was because of the connection between Harry and Voldemort. Dumbledore has claimed that he could see Voldemort through Harry’s eyes at times, Harry has been able to unconsciously spy on Voldemort while sleeping and Voldemort has been able to plant false visions in Harry’s head. If Snape set up his old master and attributed to his first downfall, Harry can’t know this because then Voldemort would find out through him. And then Snape would be very dead.

So Dumbledore lies to Harry to protect Snape’s life, not to mention to protect the very useful spy he has among the Death Eaters.

As I said, this was the thing that first struck me as a logical explanation. It would make sense. It was emphasised, time and again, in HBP how bad Harry is at protecting his own mind and how he never learnt Occlumency properly.

The problem with this theory is that it makes the whole Horcrux scenario look very weird and incoherent, because it seems to me that the most important thing when going after the Horcruxes is to make sure that Voldemort doesn’t find out about it and to have the element of surprise at the final confrontation when Voldemort suddenly realises that all his back-ups are gone and that he’s actually dying. Therefore, telling Harry all about them looks like a very stupid idea to me. Harry can’t even protect the information about a book to Snape (who is most likely very much inferior to Voldemort when it comes to Legilimency), how would he be able to protect the secret that he’s looking for Voldemort’s Horcruxes to Voldemort himself – Voldemort who has a direct magical link to Harry’s brain and could, technically, pop in at any time?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Unless Dumbledore is counting on Voldemort to be arrogant to the point of not even considering the option that anyone would ever figure out how very clever he’s been with splitting his soul, which after what we saw in HBP and from the way Dumbledore talked about Tom Riddle, does seem like an option, albeit one that’s grasping for straws.

Then again, bottom line is that Dumbledore told Harry about the Horcruxes and we all know that Harry wouldn’t be able to protect that information if someone used Legilimency on him. Dumbledore must be aware of the risk of Voldemort finding out what Harry is up to, which merits some thinking which I will do when I write the article about the seventh Horcrux that I have planned in my head.

Another thought: it could be that Dumbledore is telling Harry about Tom Riddle and the Horcruxes because he is already dying and has no other choice. I always had a nasty feeling about the curse that ate his arm, for example. Perhaps there was a lingering effect that was slowly killing him, who knows? This is all pure speculation, but I think there might have been a factor of “I have to tell Harry this because I might die soon” when Dumbledore made his decision to fill Harry in.

In conclusion, I’d like to tie this piece to some of the things I said in my last article. I’m becoming increasingly sure, the more I think about the books, that HBP is really all about distraction. What it does, in my opinion, is to place the readers in Harry’s shoes and let us do what Harry does all through the book: draw our own conclusions coloured by the biases carefully built during the first five books. Through the Harry-filter, we have learnt that Malfoy is an arrogant, useless little creep and Death Eater to be. In HBP, he’s revealed to be a Death Eater. We were right. Wohoo! And here’s where the wonderful human flaw of overgeneralization comes in (something Harry’s really good at) – since Harry was right about Malfoy, then he must be right about Snape as well. After all, the man did kill Dumbledore. Snape is evil. Case closed.

And the distraction-strategy has succeeded.

This is what we’re supposed to believe at the end of HBP:

  1. Snape was evil all along and never left Voldemort’s side.
  2. Dumbledore was stupid when trusting Snape on what everybody else realises is a very bad cover story (Lily and James dead).

And this is what I believe after having written this article:

  1. Whether Snape is Good or Bad isn’t clear yet. I personally believe that he’s on nobody’s side but his own.
  2. Snape has been a spy for Dumbledore since Trelawney made her prophecy and the reason Dumbledore trusts him is that he did hear the entire prophecy but agreed to only give Voldemort the first part.

Ok, that’s it for today.

Next time, I’’ll probably deal with “Hermione’’s punishment”, which is a little idea I’’ve had since Book Four and that has been growing stronger and stronger over the past two books. I got a lot of e-mails about this, asking what I meant by the title, but I can’t find a way to summarise it in a few words without it sounding like I’m on crack, so I’’ll just have to ask for your patience.

Until next time