MYTHTERY: Was The Prophecy Referring To a Different Wizard?
Everyone assumes the prophecy applies to Harry, and Neville is the might-have-been. But is there another character that could be the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord?
On most occasions people discuss the prophecy, it’s taken as a given that Harry is the subject, that Neville was the only other possibility, and that the choice was made when Voldemort went after the Potters. After all, that’s how Dumbledore explains it to Harry at the end of Order of the Phoenix, and he’s never wrong, right? And prophecies are so well known for being precise and unambiguous.
A common plot twist or joke in fanfiction is to have someone other than Harry finish off Voldemort (whether directly or indirectly), and it later be revealed that they were born at the end of July, though this plot element is rarely taken seriously.
But could it be? What if there was another candidate that – canonically – the prophecy could apply to? And what if that candidate was Draco Malfoy?
To ensure this isn’t complete nonsense, we should examine the prophecy’s criteria to see if they can fit Draco. As a reminder, the prophecy reads: “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 … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies …” – OotP 37
From these statements (making some reasonable assumptions, for example, that Voldemort is the Dark Lord referred to), we can extract the following rules:
- Person X (the subject of the prophecy) will have the power to defeat Voldemort
- X was not born at the time the prophecy was given
- X’s biological parents defied Voldemort three times
- X’s birthday is at the end of July
- Voldemort will make special note of X
- X will have power unknown to Voldemort
- X will cause the death of Voldemort or vice versa
- X and Voldemort cannot co-exist peacefully
Given the circumstances of Voldemort’s death (his curse backfires because the wand is not loyal to him), we can also make a fairly safe claim that the power referred to in both Rule 1 and Rule 6 is the loyalty of the Elder Wand. This could apply to Draco (just as it could to Harry), as both claim the wand at different points (which Voldemort never does). This also accounts for Rule 7, as a wand passing by the hand from Draco to Harry, is what transferred the Elder Wand’s loyalty.
Rule 2 and Rule 8 are trivially valid for almost any magical child around Harry’s age. Once Voldemort returns to life, the whole magical community is unsettled.
Rule 3 is where it gets interesting. “Defy” can mean to oppose, challenge, resist, thwart, or disobey. Lucius and Narcissa are Voldemort’s supporters; when do we ever see them going against Voldemort? Three times each, in fact:
- The whole Chamber of Secrets fiasco – surely when Voldemort gave Lucius his diary he would have ordered to “keep it secret; keep it safe!”, which Lucius did not do.
- Claiming to be completely loyal, despite not searching for Voldemort, and running from the Dark Mark at the Quidditch World Cup (GoF 33)
- The Department of Mysteries debacle (OotP 34-36)**
- Going to Snape about Draco’s mission thereby speaking of a plan that was supposed to be secret, and furthermore, enlisting Snape’s aid when Voldemort had specifically given the task to Draco (HBP 2)
- Lying about whether Harry survived in the forest (DH 36)
A fair criticism of the last point is that all of this defiance happened after Draco was born, but given that we’re talking about a prophecy, we can expect things to be a bit timey-wimey.
Draco’s secret mission allows us to tick off Rule 5: Voldemort has singled out Draco for a task that Voldemort himself has struggled with. Despite the low expectations of success, Draco did defeat Dumbledore, (even if Snape dealt the final blow).
Which leaves us with Rule 4. Seemingly the simplest to resolve: was Draco born in late July? From an authorial tweet, Draco was born on June 5th. So much for that.
But wait! “July” is never specified in the prophecy, only “the seventh month”. Maybe a different calendar is in play. The Celtic calendar has the year beginning on Samhain, which has been standardised to fall on November 1st but traditionally would have been halfway between the autumn equinox (late September) and the winter solstice (late December).
The word “month” is originally related to the phases of the moon, and it makes sense to describe a waning moon as dying. The Celtic calendar recognises seasons rather than specific months, so using the phases of the moon is appropriate.
In 1979 the halfway point would have been November 7th, (although Samhain may also have been tied to the full moon, which in the UK was on November 4th). Regardless of which date we take for Samhain (1st, 4th, or 7th of Nov), if we examine the U.K. calendar for 1979 and 1980, there are seven new moons between Samhain and the 5th of June:
- 19th November
- 19th December
- 17th January
- 16th February
- 16th March
- 15th April
- 14th May
On the 5th of June, the moon is waning (having been full on May 29th). Draco Malfoy was born as the seventh moon died.
So it is conceivable, given some slight poetic licences that Draco Malfoy was in fact the other wizard the prophecy was referring to.
– Myth managed?
You tell us.
* Everywhere else in the prophecy, the pronouns he/him refer to the subject (the “one with the power”), whereas the Dark Lord is referred to by the title. Interesting ambiguity: did James and Lily defy Harry three times?
** Granted, this is a failure rather than defiance, but they are equally unacceptable in Voldemort’s eyes.