18

Sybill Trelawney does not know when she does actual prophecies.

"She does not know — and I think it would be unwise to enlighten her — that she made the prophecy about you and Voldemort, you see."
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 19, Elf Tails)

In fact, she's quite "out of herself" in a trance:

Relieved, Harry got up, picked up his bag and turned to go, but then a loud, harsh voice spoke behind him.

"IT WILL HAPPEN TONIGHT."

Harry wheeled around. Professor Trelawney had gone rigid in her armchair; her eyes were unfocused and her mouth sagging.

"S-- sorry?" said Harry.

But Professor Trelawney didn't seem to hear him. Her eyes started to roll. Harry sat there in a panic. She looked as though she was about to have some sort of seizure. […]

Professor Trelawney's head fell forward onto her chest. She made a grunting sort of noise. Harry sat there, staring at her. Then, quite suddenly, Professor Trelawney's head snapped up again.

"I'm so sorry, dear boy," she said dreamily, "the heat of the day, you know... I drifted off for a moment...."
(Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 16, Professor Trelawney's prediction - emphasis mine)

Snape was listening through the door when Trelawney made the prophecy about Harry and Voldemort and heard the first part of the prophecy. But he was discovered and did not hear the end.

"As you and your friends found out to your cost, and I to mine that night, it [The Hog’s Head] is a place where it is never safe to assume you are not being overheard. Of course, I had not dreamed, when I set out to meet Sibyll Trelawney, that I would hear anything worth overhearing. My — our — one stroke of good fortune was that the eavesdropper was detected only a short way into the prophecy and thrown from the building.”

“So he only heard... ?”

“He heard only the first part.
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37, The lost Prophecy)

So surely, Trelawney being in a "trance" was not conscious of what happened (for her it was kind of like as if she had been sleeping).

But when she describes the scene to Harry, she seems to remember that Snape was apprehended and came into the room:

"I remember I was starting to feel a little odd, I had not eaten much that day ... but then ..."

And now Harry was paying attention properly for the first time, for he knew what had happened then: Professor Trelawney had made the prophecy that had altered the course of his whole life, the prophecy about him and Voldemort.

"... but then we were rudely interrupted by Severus Snape!"

"What?"

"Yes, there was a commotion outside the door and it flew open, and there was that rather uncouth barman standing with Snape, who was waffling about having come the wrong way up the stairs, although I'm afraid that I myself rather thought he had been apprehended eavesdropping on my interview with Dumbledore--you see, he himself was seeking a job at the time, and no doubt hoped to pick up tips!"
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 25, The Seer overheard)

How can Trelawney know this if she was in a trance, making a prediction at the time?

  • 3
    How have I read this whole series at least half a dozen times and never noticed this before? Excellent question! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 28 '16 at 16:19
  • Your question was a bit over-heavy on quoted text (I have a sneaking suspicion this may be the reason someone downvoted the question—I can’t think of any other reason), so I’ve taken the liberty of cutting it down to the essential bits and also adding a bit of clarifying detail and making the crux of the question stand out a bit more. Feel free to roll back the edit if you disagree with it. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 28 '16 at 16:32
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Dunno, but it also took me quite a times... In fact I think every time brings its bunch of epiphanies... and new questions! – LilyM Apr 29 '16 at 11:55
  • @JanusBahsJacquet and thank you. I felt it was too long, but couldn't bring myself to cut the quotes (love them too much?) :( – LilyM Apr 29 '16 at 11:58
17

What it appears is that the "commotion" between Snape and the Bartender interrupted Snape from hearing the rest of the prophecy.

"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...."

The prophecy is fairly short, Snape hearing the first part, then being essentially attacked by the bartender in the hallway, say it takes 15 - 30 or so seconds in the hallway before the bartender brings Snape into the room Trelawney is now done with the prophecy and has woken back up, to see the barman dragging Snape into the room.

Its very clear that Trelawney always blacks out during a prophecy but wakes back up after, so from her perspective, she was in the room with Dumbledore, and suddenly Snape and the barman burst in. With the 30 seconds or so of prophecy a blip/non-existent part of her memory.

  • 2
    using a stop watch, it took me 17 seconds to recite the prophecy. – Himarm Apr 28 '16 at 15:04
  • 8
    This makes perfect sense. Dumbledore knows that he is listening to something very important at this point, so he stays focused on Trelawney until she finishes, and then turns his attention to the commotion outside. Trelawney comes to while Snape is still being subdued by Aberforth, and then a few seconds later the door opens. Presumably the commotion began as Snape noticed and was distracted by Aberforth coming up the stairs to confront him. The unwritten details really fit like a delicate jigsaw in this instance. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 28 '16 at 16:21
  • 6
    @Himarm Did you do the harsh voice and the rolling eyes? That's mandatory for a precise estimation! :) – LilyM Apr 29 '16 at 12:29
  • @JanusBahsJacquet This completes well Himarm's answer; thank to both of you for this little reconstruction! – LilyM Apr 29 '16 at 12:31

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