Of all the Harry Potter franchise’s wide cast of eccentric, bizarre characters, Sybill Trelawney is one of the more difficult to pin down. I’ve never been quite sure what to make of her.
On the one hand, she’s clearly intended as a comic relief sort of character to a certain extent. Rowling’s description of her, when Harry first meets her in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, paints a clear image of a Grade A kook. She’s a figure of fun, in her super-thick glasses, her numerous shawls trailing behind her.
Her subject, Divination, is seen as a bit of a joke too. The ever-logical Hermione dismisses it as a lot of crapola; she storms out of the class and outright quits it, but not before scathingly calling it “A very woolly discipline.” Even Professor McGonagall has zero respect for Trelawney and Divination, laughing off her many predictions and speaking scathingly about her reputation as a seer.
On the other hand, though, there are times when Trelawney just knocks it right out of the park. Genuine prophecies are rare, but if you’ve seen the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, you’ll know that they’re darn frightening to behold. It’s jump scare-amundo around here.
On that note, let’s take a look at the times Trelawney got it right. Buckle up, friends. We’re running the gamut from accidents with fine China to the prophecy that shaped the future of the Wizarding World.
20 Neville Longbottom And The Pink Teacup Incident
Divination class, as Potterheads will know perfectly well, centres around predicting the future. Naturally, there’s a whole range of ways to do this. Reading the stars, crystal balls, cards… all of these classic methods are explored over the course of Harry’s Divination lessons.
As with any other branch of magic, though, some methods are a little more complex than others. Trelawney opted to start her students off with something quite manageable: tasseomancy, or the art of reading tea leaves.
It’s during one of these early classes that Trelawney makes one of her first predictions. It’s super insignificant, but it’s just enough to foreshadow the fact that there’s more to this supposed seer than meets the eye. As her students are preparing to start trying their hands at tasseomancy, she says to Neville, "Oh and dear… after you've broken your first cup, would you be so kind as to select one of the blue patterned ones? I'm rather attached to the pink."
Sure enough, moments later, Neville dropped his cup. Now, there are two schools of thoughts here. Was this a self-fulfilling prophecy, brought on by Neville’s clumsiness and anxiety? Did the professor see this happening, or did she make it happen? Either way, she was right, and that’s what counts.
19 Padma Patil And The Inattentive Date To The Ball
Now, if you’ve ever watched Doctor Who, you’ll know that time isn’t a simple linear progression of cause to effect. It’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey… stuff. If we’re to believe the beloved British sci-fi drama, the future is not fixed (beyond certain ‘time-locked’ events), but constantly in flux.
At the best of times, then, it’s going to be darn tough to predict. What if the future you could see were to change? Are you then ‘wrong’ or not? That sort of question’s far too deep for me this early in the morning. I haven’t even had my darn coffee yet.
What I’m really getting at, I guess, is the fact that even the most accomplished seer is sure to have trouble. Several of Trelawney’s predictions can be seen to be correct, depending on how you interpret them.
Let’s take another of the more minor examples. Again in Prisoner of Azkaban, the Divination professor suddenly exclaims, “By the way, my dear… beware a red-haired man.” This remark was aimed at Parvati Patil, and fans have several theories as to what she meant.
Parvati herself jumped and shuffled her chair away from Ron, who was sitting behind her. Could this be a foreshadowing of Ron’s harsh treatment of her sister, Padma, at the following year’s Yule Ball?
Another possibility is that Trelawney was referring to Ron’s break-up with Parvati’s best friend, Lavender Brown.
18 Sybill Trelawney And The Super Predictable Exam
So, yes. As we’re starting to see, Trelawney is a complex character. Opinions of her and her powers vary wildly, both among fans and fellow characters in the Potterverse. Nobody seems quite able to make up their minds whether she’s simply ‘an old fraud,’ a lucky guesser, or a true seer who is simply lacking confidence in her abilities.
We certainly see evidence of her trying a little too hard to convince her audience.
Whether because she’s just timid about revealing the extent of her gift, or because she’s trying to overcompensate to conceal her lack of it, she does tend to drop predictions where predictions don’t belong.
Speaking to the students of their upcoming Divination exams, she states, “the fates have informed me that your examination in June will concern the Orb, and I am keen to give you sufficient practise.”
The ever-logical Hermione, who has never taken any crapola from this subject, retorts, “Well, honestly... ‘the fates have informed her’… who sets the exam? She does! What an amazing prediction!”
Hermione’s new-found sass aside, this is an interesting one to consider as well. Trelawney was right, of course, but what does this say about her and her talents? More importantly, what does it say about her attitudes towards her talents?
17 Lavender Brown And The Rabbit Incident
While Professor Trelawney is on a super-dubious roll, let’s take a look at another prediction of hers that kinda sorta came to pass. Speaking to Lavender Brown, this time, Trelawney dropped this little bombshell out of no-darn-where: “Incidentally, that thing you are dreading— it will happen on Friday the sixteenth of October.”
This one, too, is very controversial. True enough, on that day, Lavender receives a letter from home. In it, her parents explain that her pet rabbit, Binky, had been mauled by a fox and passed away. Lavender is devastated by the news, but reveres the Divination teacher, and exclaims that she was right.
Hermione, the serial snarker of Divination, is having none of that. As she points out, the rabbit actually passed the previous day, the 15th; it just took until the following day to relay the news. Further, Binky was a very young and healthy rabbit, and so this was a real shock. There was no reason to dread it, from a stoic sort of standpoint, which is the whole thing with this brand of magic, really.
It’s all about perspective.
Take astrology, for instance. Those who believe in it will point out various examples of instances where the predictions have proven to be correct, while the disbelievers will say that they’re just conveniently fitting life events around them. Who’s really right here?
16 Hermione Granger And The Day She Pulled A Snoop Dogg And Dropped Divination Like It Was Hot
One thing’s for certain: Hermione Granger was not impressed by Trelawney or her class.
In Harry and his friends’ third year at Hogwarts, the students were able to start tailoring their classes with the Hogwarts endgame in mind. Hermione, being the super-studious know-it-all she was, tried to take on just about everything at once.
As we later found out, she was even given a Time Turner (allowing her to travel back in time and attend two classes at once) to help keep up with her timetable.
Even for the greatest bookworm in the whole school, that is extreme. To turn away a student like that, then, your class has got to be really shonky. That soon proved to be the case, as another of the teacher’s predictions would reveal. “Around Easter,” she stated in one class, “one of our number will leave us forever.”
This sounded like another of her doom-laden prophecies, but it would come to pass when Trelawney spoke scathingly of Hermione’s abilities. Hermione stormed straight out of the classroom, and dropped Divination from her timetable permanently. Naturally, soon afterward, Trelawney swooped in and reminded everybody that she had indeed seen this coming. Chalk another one up for the suspect seer.
15 Remus Lupin And The Darn Brief Teaching Job
As Potterheads will know, the Defense Against the Dark Arts job is a tough gig. Through Harry’s time at Hogwarts, there was an incredible turnover. Professor Lockhart had to leave the school after his memory charm backfired, Moody was…not Moody after all, Quirrell melted into defeated hunks of stone… it’s rough all around.
According to Dumbledore in the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince novel, there’s a reason for this.
Voldemort (still ‘half’ Tom Riddle) once returned to the school, asking the headmaster for the post of Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. Dumbledore refused him, whereupon Voldemort seemed to have placed a jinx upon the role. Ever since then, no professor has managed to keep the job for more than a school year.
Remus Lupin, who arrived in Harry’s third year, was another victim of this curse. One of the Marauders (James Potter’s old school friends), he and Harry became close over that year, and Lupin’s classes, centered around curious dark creatures, were popular with the students.
As we know, though, Lupin was also a werewolf, and that’s not really a trait that parents tend to look for in their children’s teachers. When that school year ended in dramatic, werewolf-y fashion, Lupin was forced to resign.
This is yet another one that Trelawney can claim to have foreseen. During a group meal, she interjects, “I have seen that poor Professor Lupin will not be with us for very long. He seems aware, himself, that his time is short.”
14 Sybill Trelawney And The Ambiguous Yet Doom-Laden Meal
A little earlier in this rundown, we saw Trelawney’s prediction of Lupin’s limited time at Hogwarts. She was speaking during a Christmas meal at the Great Hall, which was so poorly attended (with most students at home for the holiday) that only 12 people were seated at the table when Trelawney arrived.
Now, of course, she’s the sort of person who would be utterly petrified by anything pertaining to the number 13. At the idea of sitting down to join the meal, she recoils and shrieks, “I dare not, Headmaster! If I join the table, we shall be thirteen! Nothing could be more unlucky! Never forget that when thirteen dine together…” she blathers on, proclaiming that the first to rise from the table will be the first to pass away.
You could dismiss this as superstitious nonsense, but this could well be one of the most interesting of Trelawney’s predictions.
As fans have pointed out, if we’re counting Peter Pettigrew (who was seated with Ron, as Scabbers), that does make 13. Dumbledore rose from the table first, and was the first of the diners to pass away. The same can also be true of the Order of the Phoenix members eating at Grimmauld Place. In that case, Sirius was the first to stand, and again the first to perish.
13 Dolores Umbridge And The Darn Well-Deserved Grisly Fate
Ah, yes. Dolores Umbridge. Now, Voldemort likes to present himself as the villain of the piece. True enough, what with all the megalomania and the wanton Avada Kadavra-ing and all, he’s not the sort of guy you’d want to bring home to meet your mama. However chill she may be about the guys you date. Despite all of that, Umbridge is definitely more hateful in my eyes.
It’s the way she’s portrayed. Rowling presents us with a woman who is super cutesy, pink and adorable, and grandmotherly on the outside, with a heart of pure venom. In some ways, this is a far more frightening and intimidating idea than somebody who just wears their malice on their sleeve. In the movies, Imelda Staunton just knocked that concept of insidious wickedness right out of the park.
True to form, Umbridge is completely skeptical of the seer’s abilities, and has zero respect for her. During an inspection of her class, Umbridge demands that Trelawney predict something for her, and the seer falls back on that classic standby of hers, “I sense something… something dark… I am afraid that you are in grave danger!”
Completely scathing as Umbridge is to this, there’s no doubt at all that it’s true. Could Trelawney have been referring to Umbridge’s upcoming trauma at the hands of the Centaurs? Harry’s attack on her, as he retrieves the locket at the Ministry of Magic? Just a lucky, panicked shot in the dark on Trelawney’s part? That’s for you to decide.
12 Harry Potter And The Surprise Hunk Of Voldemort’s Soul
Now, I don’t want to go all decades-old spoiler on you, so if you’re a super slow reader (or you take years to get through movies, because you fall asleep and have to keep rewinding them to know what in heckola is going on) look away now.
So, yes. In the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we learn that Harry himself is a Horcrux of sorts. Not intentionally made by Voldemort, but there he is. This is what enables Harry to survive that last curse in the Forbidden Forest: it was the shard of Voldemort’s soul inside Harry that he destroyed, not Harry himself.
This was intended by Rowling as a big old Da Vinci Code of a plot twist, and everyone’s got differing opinions on how that worked out for the author. The curious thing about all of this, however, is how it relates to Trelawney.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she seems to make a great gaffe when she introduces the class to the study of the planets. Due to their positioning, she believes that Harry was born in midwinter, to which he responds that he was actually born in July.
It’s possible, however, that she is actually seeing the Horcrux within Harry (Voldemort was indeed born in midwinter).
Could Trelawney’s references to Harry’s ‘troubled soul within’ be about something much more?
11 Harry Potter And The Young Man Who Could Have Been Anybody, Really
So, sure, Trelawney has a tendency to be super vague on us. This is a common trait with fortune tellers and such, and you can see how it can come in handy for such people. After all, the more open to interpretation your predictions are, the more likely you are to be ‘right,’ really.
Consider the situation with Lavender and her pet rabbit, Binky. Had the Divination teacher actually told her outright what was going to happen, that would have been a remarkable prediction. By simply saying that something she dreaded was going to happen on that particular day, anything bad that happened to her, big or small, could be interpreted as fulfilling the prediction.
All Trelawney then had to do was adopt a smug expression and claim that the exact event she foresaw came to pass. That’s her speciality, really.
In the same way, a lot of her choicer utterances come down to interpretation. When passing through the castle one day in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry overhears Trelawney shuffling through a deck of cards, making frenzied predictions as she goes. One of these is “knave of spades: a dark young man, possibly troubled, one who dislikes the questioner.”
Who is she seeing? The brooding Harry, who is listening at this very moment? Draco Malfoy, whose climactic encounter with Dumbledore is coming up? A young Tom Riddle, perhaps? We don’t really know, but she’s right on the money either way.
10 Harry Potter And The Grim Story Of The Grim
As we’ve already established, then, Trelawney certainly did have a novel way of greeting students. McGonagall swoops in after the class’s first Divination lesson to explain that their teacher is always that way; she loves to be theatrical by choosing a student and offering them horrible portents of doom.
Even with that in mind, she must have had a field day with Harry Potter. This is a boy with a deeply disturbing past, a boy who seems to have doom, destruction and misery in his very DNA. If that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for in a student, then he’s the one you want to latch right on to.
True to form, then, Trelawney wasted no time in telling Harry just how much darn danger he was in.
The grim, that great spectral dog that haunts churchyards, constantly cropped up in Harry’s Divination work, as the professor would always delight in pointing out — which is a curious one, in and of itself.
There are two obvious links here. The first is Sirius, and the fact that Harry’s godfather would often assume the shape of a large black dog. The other is… well, Harry is constantly in mortal peril throughout most of the series. Whatever the Grim actually represented, she was definitely correct, even if she was shooting fish in a barrel at that point.
9 Harry Potter And The Time Voldemort Grew A Darn Body Again
So, yes. From everything we learn about Professor Trelawney over the course of Prisoner of Azkaban, it’s clear that she is not very well respected. Granted, Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown soon learn to revere her, but they are just assumed to have been captivated by her mystical manner and showmanship.
The book explains that the two of them disappear up to join Trelawney in her tower room. Maybe, getting close to her, they actually saw a little of Trelawney’s true talents? Perhaps she’s not a hack, but nobody troubled to get any closer to give her a chance to prove it?
All of this is up for debate, but we know for certain that she hit the mark on occasion, and hit it with real gusto. In 1994, just after Harry completed his Divination exam, Trelawney descended into a trance and gave a true (darn horrifying, in the movie adaption) prophecy. She spoke of Voldemort’s return to power, stating that, “The Dark Lord will rise again with his servant's aid, greater and more terrible than ever he was.”
Sure enough, as that very school year came to a close, the treacherous Wormtail would escape and return to his master’s side. The pair would then hatch a plot that would lead to Voldemort’s revival.
8 Albus Dumbledore And The Lightning-Struck Tower
So, as I say, there are all manner of mystical ways to read the future. Tea leaves, the position of the planets, palmistry, horoscopes, all of these methods make an appearance in Divination in some form or another. From Harry’s perspective, none of them are seen to be particularly insightful or reliable.
My favourite example of this is when Harry and Ron are inventing fictitious disasters for their own homework predictions, and Trelawney is thrilled by them.
One method of predicting the future that we don’t see in class is reading cards. Nevertheless, we do see Trelawney doing so, and apparently to great success.
As we see elsewhere in this rundown, Harry happens to witness the professor distractedly shuffling a deck. She’s confused and alarmed by the cards she deals, all of which point to the same looming incident: the demise of Albus Dumbledore. Probably the most telling card she draws is one she calls “The lightning-struck tower… calamity and disaster.”
While these predictions are usually vague and up for debate, there’s very little question as to what this means. That fateful encounter atop the Astronomy Tower, and Snape’s Avada Kedavra spell, which is always portrayed as a bright flash of green light.
7 Sybill Trelawney And The Possible, Super Sad Battle of Hogwarts Revelations
Of the many contradictory theories about Trelawney’s predictions, this one’s a little more out there. It’s incredibly poignant, though, and super sad, so it definitely warrants inclusion.
As we know, few people are particularly impressed with the Divination teacher on first meeting her. Harry himself sees her as a great, glittering insect, on account of her gangly nature and bizarre, sparkly clothing. It’s not only the students who see her as a figure of fun, though. Even professor McGonagall, on hearing of the third-years’ first class, talks a little crapola about Trelawney.
McGonagall states that she has no time for Trelawney’s subject, no patience for it. She’s deeply skeptical about the seer’s abilities, too. On learning that she had freaked Harry out by predicting his demise, McGonagall explains that Trelawney has predicted the same of one student every year since arriving at the school. A kind of dramatic, theatrical way of greeting a new class. All of them, McGonagall goes on, are still alive.
We're still alive as of Prisoner of Azkaban, that is to say. I wonder how many of these unnamed students survived the Battle of Hogwarts, Voldemort’s final assault on the school? We’ll never know, I guess, but it’s a poignant one to think about.
6 Harry Potter And His Unappreciated Inner Beauty
When we first meet her, as we’ve established, Trelawney is seen as a bit of a comic relief character. As with Luna Lovegood, she begins her journey in the series (from Harry’s perspective) as a kind of kook, an interesting aside but nobody who’s going to have a major impact on the overarching story. In both cases, of course, that first impression is proven entirely wrong. Luna is a key figure in Dumbledore’s Army; a brave, loyal and important ally.
Trelawney’s significance, meanwhile, comes to light later.
Dumbledore is shown to be less than impressed by her abilities, but he keeps her employed at the castle for a crucial reason: the one big prophecy, and the vital importance of keeping her (and the knowledge of it) safe.
The prophecy she made to Dumbledore after her job interview proved to be the key to defeating the Dark Lord. (We’ll get into that later, but for now, one of the most curious details of the prophecy is also one of the most telling.) The one with the power to vanquish Voldemort, according to the prediction, will have “power the Dark Lord knows not.”
Trelawney was right, here, insofar as it was love that protected Harry from Voldemort’s initial attack (and possession in Order of the Phoenix).
5 Sybill Trelawney And The Escaped Rat-Man
As we’ve already seen in this rundown, Trelawney was able to foresee Voldemort’s revival and eventual return to power. I guess we can’t give her too much credit for that alone, though.
After all, the wily old Dark Lord wasn’t actually gone, and had already tried a couple of canny schemes at that point. The Philosopher’s Stone, those shenanigans with Tom Riddle’s diary… it wasn’t all that tough to predict that he’d take another shot at it. And another. And another. You could bet dollars to doughnuts that he’d make it back eventually.
What was truly interesting about Trelawney’s second big prophecy, however, was how specific it was. She is super darn vague by nature (hence the interpretation necessary in a lot of these predictions), but this time, she gave us a full blow-by-blow account of how everything was going to go.
In her trance following Harry’s Divination exam, Sybill states, “It will happen tonight. The Dark Lord lies alone and friendless, abandoned by his followers. His servant has been chained these twelve years. Tonight, before midnight... the servant will break free and set out to rejoin his master.”
This did, of course, come to pass exactly as she said.
4 Peter Pettigrew And The Ambiguous Return To The Dark Lord
Oh, wait, I’m not so sure now. I’m a little conflicted over here. As I say, Trelawney went way down into the nitty-gritty with her second major prophecy. The specifics of Voldemort’s situation, how long his loyal servant had been captive, not ‘soon’ or ‘eventually’ but tonight… heck, that’s not a prophecy, those are precise straight-up TV listings to the ins and outs of what’s happening.
Or so you might think.
When you stop and really break it down, this is completely open to interpretation too. Of course it is, because the whole crux of the narrative relied on it.
“Tonight, before midnight... the servant will break free and set out to rejoin his master. The Dark Lord will rise again with his servant's aid, greater and more terrible than ever he was,” you say? It sounds like Sirius Black, who has escaped from prison after 12 years, is going to rejoin Voldemort tonight.
That’s what you’re supposed to think, of course, but that’s not what really happened. Instead, the prophecy refers to Wormtail, who has been ‘imprisoned’ in his rat form for over a decade. Unless, that is, she saw only Sirius’s return to Hogwarts, and not everything that followed. She is right, though.
3 Harry Potter And The Totally Uncool Return Of The Dark Lord (Featuring Cedric Diggory)
So, yes. As I’ve already said, you don’t get too many brownie points for correctly predicting that Voldemort was on his way back into town. By the time we hit book/movie four, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we’ve basically got the pattern down. At the end of every school year, Voldemort and/or his buddies will swoop in and haplessly try to put Harry down.
Sirius the non-traitor was a neat little spin on that, but generally, we know how things work around here.
Predictions based around that fact, then, are indeed a safe bet for Professor Trelawney. In the fourth installment, then, she tells Harry, "You are preoccupied, my dear... my Inner Eye sees past your brave face to the troubled soul within. And I regret to say that your worries are not baseless. I see difficult times ahead for you, alas ... most difficult .. I fear the thing you dread will indeed come to pass ... and perhaps sooner than you think ..."
This seems quite a simple one, on the surface, but perhaps it’s a little deeper than it seems. What exactly is she seeing here? The threat of Voldemort, or his actual success and return to his true strength? Maybe the tragic business with Cedric Diggory, somebody else being lost to Harry’s cause?
2 Neville Longbottom And The Chosen One Who Never Was
Back with Trelawney’s MAJOR PROPHECY, there’s something else that needs to be teased out here. If you’ve read the books, you’ll know of the connection between Neville Longbottom and the prophecy (if not, you’ve just seen Matthew Lewis waving a sword around and saving the world while wearing a cardigan, and that’s fine too).
Let’s break it down:
Trelawney’s exact words, in that first fateful prophecy, were, “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…”
Now, Neville’s birthday is also at the end of June, and his parents (who were active Order of the Phoenix members) had thrice defied Voldemort, too. What this means, essentially, is that either of them could have been the chosen one the prophecy speaks of.
In attacking the Potters and leaving Harry with that distinctive lightning bolt scar, Voldemort marked him as his equal, effectively choosing his own archenemy.
Meanwhile, faithful Death Eaters were dispatched to deal with the Longbottoms, and… well, we all know the tragic consequences of that. In the books, Harry himself muses on how different things would have been if these roles were reversed, and it’s an interesting thought indeed.
1 Harry Potter And The Destruction Of The Dark Lord
In the end, I guess all of that is a side story. All of us, right here in the real world, tend to use up a lot of energy musing on the what ifs. Life is full of those sorts of decisive moments, where you have to pick a lane and stick to it. Sometimes, it doesn’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped, and it doesn’t do anybody any good to dwell on the paths they didn’t take.
Let’s not get hung up on Neville as the hypothetical Chosen One, then. Let’s boil it all the way down and think about what really matters: the second prophecy is all about Harry Potter slaying Voldemort. Or, more accurately, one of them slaying the other. You’ll notice that the wording of the prophecy doesn’t specify that the one with the power to vanquish him will do so, only that the two of them will clash. “either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives.”
By being characteristically vague, Rowling was able to pull another neat little bait and switch at the close of Deathly Hallows. Technically, Harry did meet his demise, and for a moment, it looked as though he really would. If the contents of Snape’s memories didn’t convince you, what would?