(And please, nobody say "Cause Dumbedore asked them to")

We know one of the tasks of the Order after its re-creation was to keep safe a weapon Voldemort was after.

“What’s he after apart from followers?” Harry asked swiftly.
He thought he saw Sirius and Lupin exchange the most fleeting of looks before Sirius said, “Stuff he can only get by stealth.”
When Harry continued to look puzzled, Sirius said, “Like a weapon. Something he didn’t have last time.”
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 5, The Order of the Phoenix)

Sturgis Podmore was Imperiused while patrolling around the door behind which it was kept, and Arthur Weasley was attacked there by Nagini (or Voldemort in Nagini).

“Your father has been injured in the course of his work for the Order of the Phoenix,” said Dumbledore.
“The Ministry wouldn’t want everyone to know a dirty great serpent got —”
“Arthur!” said Mrs. Weasley warningly.
“— got — er — me,” Mr. Weasley said hastily,
“You were guarding it, weren’t you?” said George quietly. “The weapon? The thing You-Know-Who’s after?”
“George, be quiet!” snapped Mrs. Weasley.
“Anyway,” said Mr. Weasley in a raised voice...
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 22, St Mungo's Hospital)


“Sturgis Podmore,” said Hermione, breathlessly. “Arrested for trying to get through a door. Lucius Malfoy got him too. I bet he did it the day you saw him there, Harry. Sturgis had Moody’s Invisibility Cloak, right? So what if he was standing guard by the door, invisible, and Malfoy heard him move, or guessed he was there, or just did the Imperius Curse on the off chance that a guard was there? So when Sturgis next had an opportunity — probably when it was his turn on guard duty again — he tried to get into the department to steal the weapon for Voldemort"
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 26, Seen And Unforeseen)

We also learn later that the said weapon was the Prophecy about Voldemort and Harry.

Voldemort was after it, because he thought its end would tell him how to destroy Harry.

And so, since his return to his body, and particularly since your extraordinary escape from him last year, he has been determined to hear that prophecy in its entirety. This is the weapon he has been seeking so assiduously since his return: the knowledge of how to destroy you.
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37, The Lost Prophecy)

But let's look at the content of the Prophecy, and what part he already knows of:

(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37, The Lost Prophecy)


“He heard only the first part, the part foretelling the birth of a boy in July to parents who had thrice defied Voldemort."
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37, The Lost Prophecy)

The bold parts are already known to Voldemort... and the rest of the prophecy does not really gives him valuable information:

  • Mark him as his equal: OK, that's already done.
  • He'll have a power the Dark Lord knows not: Yep, that's love. But since Voldemort does not know of it, he won't be able to understand this sentence. He will imagine another power, but that won't help him (and he probably already guessed this while planning to kill baby Harry).
  • Either must die at the hand of the other...: Alright, so Voldemort should go and kill Harry then! Oh, but he kind of already wanted to anyway, didn't he?

Was preventing Voldemort from hearing the end of the Prophecy worth all the trouble and the risks (one member of the Order lost for 6 months to Azkaban, another heavily wounded and happy not to be dead...)? Why did they bother to do so?

  • 2
    Or they could have just destroyed it. It was just a copy anyways. Edit: Destroying the Prophecy
    – Oriol
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 16:12
  • I think the out-of-universe answer is 'foreshadowing'. Rowling had to introduce the concept of the door and the importance of its contents early on and keep building the theme throughout the book. In-universe, he did of course want to kill Harry anyway. But the prophecy would give him the final clue as to Harry's importance and how vulnerable he was whilst Harry still lived. Plus, whilst Voldemort can't hear the prophecy there's the frustration of not knowing what it says - there may be some key clue to killing Harry/staying invulnerable in the prophecy but V can only guess what it contains. Commented May 6, 2016 at 21:08
  • @Oriol Thanks for the link, very interesting!
    – LilyM
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 13:34

7 Answers 7


I think you're dismissing


a little too quickly. Throughout the books, even after Voldemort is defeated by Harry as a baby, defeated by Harry while inhabiting Quirrel, defeated by Harry in the graveyard, through all of that, Voldemort is still operating under the impression that Harry is nothing, simply a little brat who happened to get lucky (a lot). Perhaps if Voldemort had heard the prophecy and learned that Harry was, in fact, "his equal", he might have considered Harry a more worthy opponent, and would have taken greater care, more careful planning, when it came to arranging his demise. Basically, not knowing that Harry was anything but a fortunate child had the impact of lulling Voldemort into a false sense of security.

Or so, perhaps, might Dumbledore have believed.


Bearing in mind that Dumbledore didn't tell the Order what the prophecy said, they clearly have taken his word for it that it was worth protecting. Whether it really was is debatable.

However, Dumbledore would have wanted to prevent Voldemort from hearing the whole thing because Voldemort will be more careful and make his moves slower if he doesn't know what it says, as he was clearly burned the last time he jumped the gun with baby Harry and got himself disembodied. For all he knows, the end of the prophecy said that he would die. While he doesn't know for certain what it says he's likely to avoid all out war on the Order as much as possible.

Of course, the flip side is that it meant he was far sneakier for a lot longer and consolidated his power and control of the Ministry etc before making himself known again, whic arguably wasn't in anyone's interest.


Nowhere in the book is it actually specified that the Order's goal is to prevent Voldemort from attaining the prophecy; as the asker rightly points out, the prophecy would not help Voldemort at all. So why bother?

I believe it was possible that the Order's ultimate plan was to force Voldemort and/or his Death Eaters into the open. After all, this was their main problem in the book: nobody believes Voldemort is back. The Order members themselves have no idea where Voldemort is and cannot really do anything against his Death Eaters. The only definite knowledge they have of Voldemort's plans is that he is after the prophecy, so why not surprise him there when he comes after it? After all, they know either Voldemort or Harry has to retrieve it; we know this because Dumbledore says:

"And then you saw Rookwood, who worked in the Department of Mysteries before his arrest, telling Voldemort what we had known all along — that the prophecies held in the Ministry of Magic are heavily protected. Only the people to whom they refer can lift them from the shelves without suffering madness." (Order of Phoenix, Chapter 37)

Keeping a guard stationed at the Department of Mysteries thus serves the following purposes:

  • It keeps them updated on Voldemort's movements. They'll know from the ways in which Voldemort attempts to retrieve the prophecy the extent of Voldemort's reach, specifically how much power he has within the Ministry, as well as how much information Voldemort has managed to gather.
  • It helps maintain the charade that the prophecy is important. Not only does this keep Voldemort distracted by a fruitless goal, it forces him to potentially make mistakes like the Bode incident that might expose him, and, as long as Voldemort doesn't give up, it will eventually force Voldemort himself to show up at the Ministry once he learns that only he or Harry can retrieve the prophecy.
  • If Voldemort and/or a horde of Death Eaters show up at the Ministry, Fudge will be there to see him/them (which, of course, is what happened when they did). The guard would be able to alert Dumbledore and the rest of the Order, who could show up and hold them off until they can get Fudge to arrive and confront the truth.

Ultimately, the Order's goal may very well have been to force Voldemort himself to show up at the Ministry, exposing his revival to the wizarding world at large.


I think the primary reason was because Dumbledore is really trying to protect Harry.

Dumbledore explains that Harry never should have felt the need for going into the Department of Mysteries.

"Sirius was a brave, clever and energetic man, and such men are not usually content to sit at home in hiding while they believe others to be in danger. Nevertheless, you should never have believed for an instant that there was any necessity for you to go to the Department of Mysteries tonight. If I had been open with you, Harry, as I should have been, you would have known a long time ago that Voldemort might try and lure you to the Department of Mysteries..."
-- Rowling, J. K. (2004). Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic.

This is because Dumbledore should have told Harry the full contents of the prophecy. But instead, he tries to protect the prophecy because he cares too much for Harry.

“I cared about you too much,” said Dumbledore simply. “I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth, more for your peace of mind than my plan, more for your life than the lives that might be lost if the plan failed. In other words, I acted exactly as Voldemort expects we fools who love to act."
-- Rowling, J. K. (2004). Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic.

He is worried that if Voldemort learns the full contents of the prophecy, he will realize just how important Harry is and focus his efforts on killing him. And he says specifically that he is putting more importance on Harry's life and happiness than those that might be lost; so clearly he thought protecting the prophecy was worth the trouble and the risk.

P.S. I don't think could be the only reason. If it was, it would make much more sense to destroy the prophecy. I agree with other comments/answers that the only thing that seems to make sense as to why they should keep the copy of the prophecy around at all is to distract Voldemort while Dumbledore hunts Horcruxes.


I think the biggest reason for Dumbledore to guard the prophecy was to give it more importance to Tom. This would be a splinter in his mind and he would get desperate and mess up and that's just what happened Tom showed himself to the entire ministry and they knew he was back now. Even though the prophecy did not have any real value to Tom, Dumbledore used it and Harry to get Tom to show himself.


So Voldemort didn't hear the full prophecy. Voldemort only heard the first half of the prophecy from Snape because Severus only heard the first half before being thrown out of The Hog's Head (where the prophecy was made) by the barman Aberforth Dumbledore, Albus Dumbledore's younger brother.
The prophecy was:

"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...."
Sybill Trelawney,some point in 1980/81.

If Voldemort heard the whole prophecy then he would try to kill Harry more frequently which is what Dumbledore wanted to prevent. This is why the Order protected the prophecy.

  • Can somebody please help me with the quote about the prophecy.Ive tried to fix it twice but it is not working.I've done what it tells you to but the blockquote is not appearing. Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 19:35
  • You got it! Just so you know, it needs to be on a new line (by pressing the enter/return/ new line key). If you want to add a space between your lines, just hit enter twice. If you just want to move it to a new line, add two spaces to the end of the previous line.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 19:46
  • @Edlothiad Thanks for fixing it 🙂 Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 19:47

It was a strategic move and a genius one that actually may have proved quite key to winning the war. No, seriously.

The biggest problem at the time was that Voldemort was alive and dangerous and the Wizarding World was stubbornly refusing to believe this. It gave ol' Voldy the chance to build an army while the opposing side did nothing but divide themselves, which could have resulted in a swift victory for the Death Eaters.

But Voldemort had a single, obsessive desire to hear the rest of that prophecy, which he considered being his one weakness. Fortunately, the prophecy was stored in the depths of the Ministry of Magic, AKA the one place Voldemort could not risk going.

So Dumbledore, knowing that Voldemort hearing the prophecy might not matter much, but also knowing that Voldemort would certainly not stop until he had heard it, decided to guard it, to make it more difficult for that reading to happen. As long as it was guarded, Voldemort would assume that it was, in fact, as important as he thought it was, and would therefore devote more time and resources to the prophecy instead of, you know, building his army.

In an entire year, Voldemort was able to ally with the giants and free ten of his deadliest Death Eaters from Azkaban, while his focus was clearly elsewhere. In the summer following the prophecy's destruction, he allied with the dementors, killed multiple key fighters for the opposing side, gained what seemed to be many new allies including werewolves and Death Eaters, perpetrated mass Muggle killings, and captured the top wand maker in the country. Most of which he could have accomplished while still staying incognito.

Instead, his focus was on the prophecy, which all but guaranteed that not only would he be distracted from accomplishing his goals, but also that he would eventually enter the Ministry on his own (or at least send enough Death Eaters to make them believe he had returned), which is in fact what happened.

So even though guarding the prophecy did result in the Order having one member jailed, one hospitalized, and one dead, it did stop Voldemort from winning the war before it even started, which was worth it in the end.

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