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In the book Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Professor Trelawney says this:

“If Dumbledore chooses to ignore the warnings the cards show —” Her bony hand closed suddenly around Harry’s wrist. “Again and again, no matter how I lay them out —” And she pulled a card dramatically from underneath her shawls. “— the lightning-struck tower,” she whispered. “Calamity. Disaster. Coming nearer all the time . . .”

Professor Trelawney did make a real prediction here. She mentions the lightning-struck tower and a nearing calamity related to it. Later that day, we see that

Dumbledore dies in the same lightning struck tower.

Doesn't it seem that Sybill Trelawney is taken lightly more often than necessary?

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It feels like you are asking two questions here. 1) Did Prof. Trelawney make a real prediction with the "lightning-struck tower" in HBP, and 2) is Prof. Trelawney given enough credit in general for her predictions, ie is she generally right or wrong? Answering 2) would go beyond the scope of 1) however. Could your question be reworded maybe? – The Giant of Lannister Feb 24 at 12:19
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@TheGiantofLannister : Right. Updated the title. Answer to your question 2 is what I'm looking for. – Priyanka.Patil Feb 24 at 12:26
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My impression when reading the books was that she had a gift that was intermittent (at best) but due to her own feelings of inadequacy, she frequently embellished, if not outright lied, about premonitions, in order to be taken more seriously. This had the "cry wolf" effect and she ended up being taken less seriously than if she had only said something after real premonitions. What I never understood was why she was allowed to be a teacher. – Kevin Feb 24 at 15:14
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@Kevin For the same reason that half the other teachers at Hogwarts were allowed to be a teacher despite being horrendously unqualified in one way or another: because it's a children's story that values dramatic impact more highly than realism. – Mason Wheeler Feb 24 at 21:55
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@Kevin (and MasonWheeler) -- One thing you guys are missing is that, to the best of his ability, Dumbledore was preparing for getting Harry to wizard-adulthood and defeating Voldemort. In doing so he was pedantic about covering all the bases. Such actions seemingly included hiring the only functional Seer that Dumbledore personally knew. A Seer who could prophecy re Voldemort. Someone who could "see", however intermittently (!), what Voldemort was up to is useful to keep close. No? -- Like I said, see Mithrandir's answer :) – user23715 Feb 25 at 15:04
up vote 33 down vote accepted

Sybill is the great-great granddaughter of a genuine Seer, Cassandra Trelawney. Cassandra's gift has been much diluted over ensuing generations, although Sybill has inherited more than she knows. Half-believing in her own fibs about her talent (for she is at least ninety per cent fraud), Sybill has cultivated a dramatic manner and enjoys impressing her more gullible students with predictions of doom and disaster. She is gifted in the fortune teller's tricks; she accurately reads Neville's nervousness and suggestibility in his first class, and tells him he is about to break a cup, which he does. On other occasions, gullible students do her work for her. Professor Trelawney tells Lavender Brown that something she is dreading will happen to her on the sixteenth of October; when Lavender receives news on that day that her pet rabbit has died, she connects it instantly with the prediction. All of Hermione's logic and good sense (Lavender was not dreading the death of the rabbit, which was very young; the rabbit did not die on the sixteenth, but the previous day) are lost: Lavender wants to believe her unhappiness was foretold. By the law of averages, Professor Trelawney's rapid fire predictions sometimes hit the mark, but most of the time she is full of hot air and self-importance.

Nevertheless, Sybill does experience very rare flashes of genuine clairvoyance, which she can never remember afterwards. She secured her post at Hogwarts because she revealed, during her interview with Dumbledore, that she was the unconscious possessor of important knowledge. Dumbledore gave her sanctuary at the school, partly to protect her, partly in the hope that more genuine predictions would be forthcoming (he had to wait many years for the next).

-Pottermore (Emphasis mine, both italics and bold)

She knows more than she thinks. So yes, she should be given a little more credit (but not much).

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Cassandra you say? Well, that explains a lot... – Zibbobz Feb 24 at 18:02
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@Mithrandir Cassandra is a seer from Greek legend, who was cursed so that nobody would believe her predictions despite the fact that she was always right. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassandra – Daniel Wagner Feb 24 at 18:43
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As I understand the Pottermore quotation, only her two prophecies about the Dark Lord are real divination. Everything else is just fraud, though she may be right by accident or by (intentional) vagueness sometimes. – chirlu Feb 24 at 18:59
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Well yes, by accident. Anyone could do the same without any Seer blood. (And people do, in real life …) – chirlu Feb 24 at 19:10
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I understand you think that, but I disagree. – chirlu Feb 24 at 19:37

In an answer to "What is Divination, as practiced by Wizards, really like?", DVK points out to a 2005 interview with J. K. Rowling that also seems to answer this.

[…] at one point there was a blind character who went by the name of Mopsus, and I will let you look him up because there is a mythological connection there, but he sort of ­­-- that was a very early character and he had the power of second sight, in other words he was a bit like Professor Trelawney, he was a very, very early character, this was when I was drafting Philosopher's Stone, the reason I cut him was he was too good. As the story evolved, if there was somebody who really could do divination at the time that Harry was alive, it greatly diminished the drama of the story because someone out there knew what was going to happen.

So that is why Mopsus went and I have never really replaced him, […]

I take this to mean that Professor Trelawney isn't very good in Divination, so her predictions are not reliable enough that Professor Dumbledore should take her more seriously.

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The short answer is yes - as the series progresses, it becomes apparent that Professor Trelawney is generally accurate in many of her predictions, albeit she does not always interpret the signs correctly

The "lightning-struck tower" is one example of one instance in which Sybil Trelawney foreshadows an event, but fails to relate the prediction to the specific event.

A number of people have written about Sybil's predictions and their correctness, links below:

Potterheadonline article

Forum thread "Trelawney's corrrect predictions?"

Leaky Cauldron article submitted by Zarathrustra

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I think JKR uses irony there. Sometimes Trelawney's predictions are accurate and we don't find out until much later. However, it's not just her. In GoF, Ron and Harry make up fake predictions for their homework, and they turn out to be partially true, to a point that can't be coincidental out-of-universe (but in-universe it probably is). I think it's just JKR having fun, really. – Pwassonne Feb 24 at 21:51
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@Pwassonne yes, I don't disagree. However it is fair to say that the accuracy of Trelawney's predictions does fly under the radar a little bit. Hence my answer to the question that was asked (potentially the question could have been worded differently, it did go through more than one iteration). I've given +1 to Mithandrir due to the Pottermore quote in his answer, at any rate. – The Giant of Lannister Feb 24 at 22:18
    
@TheGiantofLannister I probably didn't get any rep from it, but thanks anyway. :P (I lost 84 rep to the repcap.. why...) – Mithrandir Feb 25 at 10:20

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