The Lost Prophecy

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Chapter 37 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Lost Prophecy← Chapter 36 | Chapter 38 →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The Portkey delivers Harry to Dumbledore's office, which has been repaired since Dumbledore's spectacular escape. Harry, deeply grief-stricken over Sirius' death and blaming himself for falling for Voldemort's deception, rejects friendly overtures from the portraits on the walls, and tries without success to escape the office. Dumbledore soon arrives, to cheering and applause from the portraits, and places Fawkes tenderly on the ashes under his perch. He tells Harry that Madam Pomfrey is tending the other students. Tonks was also injured, but she has been taken to St. Mungo's hospital and will recover.

Harry rages at Dumbledore, but when Dumbledore claims responsibility for Sirius' death, he is subdued somewhat. Dumbledore admits that if he had been more open, Harry would have realized that Voldemort was luring Harry into a trap. When Voldemort gave Harry his scar, it left a mental connection between the two. Voldemort discovered this gateway after Mr. Weasley was attacked, and then began deliberately intruding into Harry's thoughts. That is why Dumbledore insisted Harry study Occlumency and why he remained aloof all year, fearing Voldemort could use the link to gain valuable information about the Order through Harry.

Dumbledore then explains that Kreacher, being bound magically only to the Black family, had lied to Harry when he tried to contact Sirius, who was actually upstairs tending to Buckbeak. After Harry warned Professor Snape in Umbridge's office, Snape checked to see that Sirius was safe. It was only when Harry failed to return from the Forbidden Forest that he had alerted the Order, who then went to the Ministry. Snape wanted Sirius to remain at Headquarters, but instead, Sirius ordered Kreacher to tell Dumbledore what happened, then went to the Ministry himself. Dumbledore seems slightly abashed at the measures he had been forced to take to get Kreacher to admit that he lied to Harry about Sirius, and that Kreacher's instructions came from Narcissa Malfoy, the last Black family member that Kreacher respected. Sirius' orders had prevented Kreacher from betraying the Order to Narcissa directly, but he was able to reveal enough information to Narcissa to lead Harry into a trap.

Dumbledore defends Snape, saying he had to behave as if he disbelieved Harry's warning while in Umbridge's presence to protect his position within the Order. Dumbledore also discounts Harry's accusation that Snape used Occlumency to open Harry's mind to Voldemort and reiterates his complete faith in Snape's loyalty. He regrets not being able to teach Harry himself, as he had feared Voldemort could access his thoughts, and was concerned about the use Voldemort would make of knowledge of the connection between Harry and Dumbledore. His selection of Snape was made because of Snape's mastery of the skill, but he had underestimated Snape's deep, lingering resentments towards Harry's father.

Even though many Wizarding families offered to adopt the orphaned infant, Harry was placed with the Dursleys for a particular reason. Lily Potter's sacrificing herself to save her child created a magical shield that has safeguarded Harry from Voldemort. However, Harry must live in his mother's blood relatives' home to maintain the protection—that relative is Aunt Petunia. Convinced Voldemort would return, Dumbledore's priority was to keep Harry safe. The Howler Petunia received was Dumbledore's stern reminder that she was obligated to protect Harry.

The prophecy Voldemort sought was originally made shortly before Harry's birth. It is why Voldemort wants to kill Harry. Voldemort, however, never knew the entire prophecy, and was trying to retrieve the stored copy to learn its contents. The prophecy is known to Dumbledore, however, because it was originally told to him. Sixteen years ago, Dumbledore interviewed Sybill Trelawney for the Divination position, meeting her at a pub in Hogsmeade. Although she was descended from a gifted Seer, she herself seemed minimally talented and Dumbledore declined her the post. As he was about to leave, Trelawney fell into a trance.

Extracting a memory, Dumbledore places it in the Pensieve. Sybill Trelawney's veiled image rises, and in a familiar harsh voice recites, "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..."

According to Dumbledore, two boys fit the prophecy: Harry and Neville Longbottom, born days apart. Both Harry's and Neville's parents, who were Order of the Phoenix members, defied Voldemort three times. Voldemort probably attacked Harry because he is a half-blood like himself, and therefore considered him more dangerous than Neville, a pureblood. By deliberately choosing Harry, Voldemort "marked" him as his equal, leaving the scar on Harry's forehead. But Voldemort was only told the prophecy's first half. The second part predicted that the marked child would have powers that the Dark Lord could never know, and that one must die at the hand of the other, for both cannot live while the other survives. The power Harry possesses and Voldemort does not is love. It is what protected Harry from Voldemort's killing curse while ripping the Dark Lord's soul from his body. Dumbledore confirms that the prophecy means that either Voldemort or Harry must kill the other.

Finally, Dumbledore explains why Harry was not chosen to be a Prefect: "I must confess . . . that I rather thought . . . you had enough responsibility to be going on with."

Analysis[edit]

Much that has been hidden in the series is now revealed. First and foremost is the Prophecy; this one item explains why Voldemort has singled Harry out as his main target. It also explains why Harry is the hero in this series; if the Prophecy is true, and the wizards generally believe it is, then Harry alone can defeat the Dark Lord, and the Wizarding world's sole hope rests with him. We also see Dumbledore's love for Harry, his fear for what would happen if Harry learned too soon about the burden the prophecy has placed on him, and to some small extent the efforts that Dumbledore has made to protect Harry and, as much as possible, nurture him.

As a side note, Dumbledore's revelation of the Prophecy also teaches us several things: first, that thoughts can be preserved in crystal spheres; second, that it is possible to extract a copy of a thought from a wizard's mind while retaining the original; and, as we saw the recording of the prophecy after the sphere was broken, that a Pensieve is not necessary to replay these extracted thoughts. We surmise that the crystal spheres in the Ministry, used to store prophecy recordings, are charmed in a manner similar to the Pensieve, but we have as yet no way to be certain. One thing that the reader should pay attention to is that this information about the nature of Wizarding thought is presented organically; it is all the more easily understood because it is simply presented. This exemplifies the prime rule of writing: show, don't tell.

The prophecy, and Voldemort's attempt to recover it, of course, have affected the course of the series so far, and likely will also affect the final two books. We also learn exactly why Dumbledore had acted aloof towards Harry, and why he had wanted Harry to learn Occlumency. Additionally, we learn that Snape acted correctly when Harry warned him. This seems to reinforce Dumbledore's opinion of, and trust in, Snape. Harry, however, believes Snape had somehow engineered matters such that Sirius died, and he cannot be convinced otherwise. Examining what Dumbledore says, and the sequence of events, we can see that Snape believed Sirius was safe at Grimmauld Place. It is unknown whether Snape goaded Sirius into going to the Ministry, or whether Sirius decided this; Dumbledore believes it was solely Sirius' decision, but Harry, if he chooses to contemplate this, refuses to believe it was. However, considering Sirius' reckless and impulsive nature, his pent up frustration at being confined and feeling useless, as well as his paternal need to protect his godson at any cost, it seems nothing could have compelled him to remain at Grimmauld Place while the Order rushed to the Ministry.

We also learn that Dumbledore can make serious mistakes. Until now, Dumbledore had seemed largely infallible. Aloof as he always was, and somewhat unknowable, his pronouncements were invariably accurate. Here, we see Dumbledore admitting his failures in not telling Harry sooner what was prophesied for him, of attempting to have Snape teach Harry Occlumency, and in a somewhat backhanded manner, of failing to properly explain why Harry must bar Voldemort's thoughts. These latter two errors have fairly major consequences. Snape's attempts to teach Occlumency to Harry, surrounded as they were with Snape's bias against Harry, and Harry's distrust and dislike of Snape, only strengthened the link between Harry and Voldemort. And being unaware that Voldemort could plant fake images into his mind resulted in Harry being lured to the Ministry, and in Sirius' death.

One interesting and nearly hidden point occurs late in this chapter. Dumbledore tells Harry that the power he has that Voldemort cannot understand is love. It was that deep love, for his parents and Sirius, that protected Harry from Voldemort possessing him. Voldemort fled Harry's mind because "he could not bear to reside in a body so full of the force he detests." This could be a factor in later books.

Harry, meanwhile, is roiling in turmoil—simultaneously experiencing rage, grief, and guilt at Sirius' death. Although Dumbledore explains why he withheld vital information and reveals the entire prophecy, it does little to console Harry. He now understands his ties to the Dursleys, and though his relationship with Petunia will likely never change, he now realizes that it is she, through their blood connection, who stands between him and Voldemort. And though Petunia has no love for her nephew, she continues to fulfill her obligation to protect him; Harry knows he must continue to endure living in her home until he comes of age. And now Harry has a new burden to bear: either he or Voldemort "must die at the hand of the other".

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

Review[edit]

  1. Why didn't Dumbledore teach Harry Occlumency himself? Was this a mistake?
  2. Why does Harry have to return to the Dursleys each summer?
  3. Why did Voldemort "mark" Harry as his equal rather than Neville Longbottom?
  4. What is the powerful force that can be used against Voldemort, and why is the Dark Lord incapable of possessing it?

Further Study[edit]

  1. The prophecy never mentioned Harry's name. Two boys fit Trelawney's description, and either could have been marked by Voldemort: Harry or Neville Longbottom. Therefore, is it possible that Neville, who might have been chosen by Voldemort, could also have retrieved the orb from the Department of Mysteries? Explain why he could or could not.
  2. How might Harry and Neville's relationship change now that Harry knows that Neville could have been "The Chosen One"?
  3. Should Harry tell Neville about this connection between them? Why or why not?
  4. What might have been the result if Dumbledore had instructed Harry in Occlumency, rather than Snape teaching him?
  5. Why does Aunt Petunia continue to protect Harry, even though she does not love him?
  6. Who could have repaired Dumbledore's office?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

It is interesting that, when Harry is yelling at Dumbledore, he says that Dumbledore cannot possibly know the pain he is suffering. Harry blames himself for Sirius' death by having allowed Voldemort to penetrate his mind, and then falling for the ruse that lured him into the Department of Mysteries. In fact, Dumbledore does know how Harry feels, more so than many others would. As discussed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore's sister Ariana was killed during a three-way duel between Dumbledore, his brother Aberforth, and the Dark wizard, Grindelwald. While it is never known whose spell actually fatally struck her, there is no doubt in Dumbledore's mind that he is responsible for his sister's death. Indications are that he carries this regret and remorse for his remaining life, and Harry muses, near the series' end, that what Dumbledore desires the most and sees in the Mirror of Erised is his family, including his sister and mother, whole and together again. This pain is also seen in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Dumbledore drinks the potion in Voldemort's secret Sea Cave, though the reasons behind it are unknown until Aberforth's explanation in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Dumbledore says Voldemort wanted the orb because he never heard the entire prophecy. While the Hog's Head, where the prophecy was made, is known for its eavesdropping population, Voldemort's informant apparently only heard the prophecy's first half. In a later book, Harry learns that when Trelawney returned from her prophecy-induced trance, Severus Snape was present. Harry leaps to the conclusion that Snape was Voldemort's informant. Dumbledore, confronted by Harry, does nothing to dispute this, and this fact is actually confirmed much later. However, if he was present at the end of the prophecy, why does Dumbledore say that he had only heard the first part? If we look at the prophecy itself, and the earlier one, we will see that Trelawney's prophecies seem to repeat the first part at the conclusion; so someone hearing the end of the prophecy would hear a repetition of the prophecy's beginning.

As suggested, Harry being filled with love, for his parents and for Sirius, makes him a particularly unpleasant place for Voldemort to occupy. As a result, Voldemort never again re-enters Harry's mind, though Harry will experience Voldemort's thoughts in the final book, as he has in this one, when Voldemort is feeling strong emotions. We know already that Dumbledore's aloofness over the past year has been from his worry that Voldemort would perceive and make use of the connection. In this chapter, that aloofness has vanished; Dumbledore not only speaks directly to Harry, but admits to caring more about him than would be expected of a headmaster. In the next book, Dumbledore notes that Harry has had no further episodes of pain in his scar, indicating that Voldemort has not tried to re-enter Harry's mind. It seems from Dumbledore's behaviour in this chapter that he expects this avoidance of Harry by Voldemort to have already begun; he does not expect Voldemort to learn about the openness he exhibits in his office, despite Voldemort having been in full possession of Harry's mind only an hour before.

It is never made clear who repaired the damage done to Dumbledore's office on his escape. We know that the office had sealed itself against Umbridge on Dumbledore's departure, and we see here that Dumbledore can return to the office despite that seal presumably still being in effect. We don't know who else would have had the ability to enter, though we suspect Professor McGonagall, Professor Snape, or perhaps Professor Dumbledore himself, would have been able to clean up the office in preparation for Dumbledore's eventual return. We note that the portraits on the walls seem to believe it has been a while since Dumbledore was there, so if he did clean up his own office, we would suspect it was done shortly after his nominal departure from the school, possibly at the same time as the office first sealed itself. Of course, it could be that Dumbledore sealed the office at the same time.

Connections[edit]

  • The prophecy which we hear in this chapter drives much of the series. Dumbledore alluded to its existence in the first book, and the orb containing a copy of it was broken a very short while ago. This is the first of the two real prophecies that Professor Trelawney has made, according to Dumbledore two years earlier. We will revisit this prophecy and the events surrounding its revelation in the next book.
  • We are finally told why Dumbledore insisted, over Professor McGonagall's protests and to Aunt Petunia's dismay, to place Harry with the Dursley family at the beginning of the story. As Harry's mother's death had protected him, his living in Petunia's home would also shield him from Voldemort. It is only in the final book that we will learn what hold Dumbledore had over Petunia to force her to accept Harry.
  • The mental link between Harry and Voldemort, first appearing as a pain in Harry's scar in the first book, is here explained, along with the fact that it had been involuntary until recently. Once Voldemort had discovered its existence. he made use of the linkage to attempt to trap Harry; but he has now closed that link and will not voluntarily re-enter Harry's mind. Harry, on the other hand, will be able to perceive Voldemort's thoughts and surroundings, as Voldemort's emotions grow stronger and his power wanes in the final book.