Voldemort filled Harry's mind with visions of Sirius dying in the Department of Mysteries, to lure Harry there.

This was because the prophecies were enchanted so that only the people referred to could lift them from the shelves. Albus Dumbledore:

‘Only the people to whom they refer can lift [prophecies] from the shelves without suffering madness ...’

But the prophecy also referred to Voldemort, at least as much as Harry! Why couldn't he just go and take the prophecy off the shelf?

An analysis of the prophecy

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches That's a reference to Voldemort

Born to those who have thrice defied him The 'him' is Voldemort

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 Clearly referring to Voldemort

And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives and again. This line also means that the prophecy is also about Voldemort as well as Harry, rather than just referring to him.

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies and yet again.

Voldemort was referred to on almost every line of the prophecy.

Why did he need Harry to take the prophecy off the shelf?

  • 8
    For me the whole "prophecy in a bottle" angle was a complete fail from a writing perspective. It just made no sense, hence the plethora of questions over there →→→→ trying to make sense of it :-)
    – Valorum
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 0:32
  • 3
    The vision Voldemort sent to Harry was about Sirius, not Lupin ;)
    – LilyM
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 14:27
  • Now there's another question I wanted to asked linked to this, thanks for the reminding!
    – LilyM
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 14:28
  • @LilyM d-oh. Thanks for the correction.
    – user32390
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 20:09
  • prophecy = macguffin by which Sirius can be lured to the Ministry to be disposed by (by the author)
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 22:36

5 Answers 5


He could; Voldemort is also a subject of the Prophecy, if the name card underneath it is any indication:

[Harry] stepped forwards. Not as tall as Ron, he had to crane his neck to read the yellowish label affixed to the shelf right beneath the dusty glass ball. In spidery writing was written a date of some sixteen years previously, and below that:

S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D.

Dark Lord and (?)Harry Potter

Order of the Phoenix Chapter 34: "The Department of Mysteries

The problem was that Voldemort didn't want to go to the Ministry unless absolutely necessary; Dumbledore tells us this later:

Only the people to whom they refer can lift them from the shelves without suffering madness: in this case, either Voldemort himself would have to enter the Ministry of Magic, and risk revealing himself at last - or else you would have to take it for him.

Order of the Phoenix Chapter 37: "The Lost Prophecy"

He didn't want Harry to view it, he just wanted Harry to pick it up, and then have Lucius take it from him.

He exhausts every possibility before personally appearing at the Ministry:

  • He attempts to have a random Ministry employee (Podmore) steal it
  • When Podmore is apprehended, he has an Unspeakable (Bode) attempt to steal it
  • When Bode goes crazy, he knuckles down and lures Harry to the Department of Mysteries, expecting his curiosity to do the job
  • When it's become clear that this, too, is failing, finally he shows up in person
  • 6
    The idea that Voldemort only turned up when he knew the mission had gone sour is an interesting one. The "risk revealing himself at last" argument by Dumbledore doesn't seem to add up. Revealing himself at last was exactly what he ended up doing! After going to all the trouble of setting up a huge diversion to clear the Ministry surely it'd be much easier to execute a quick prophecy snatch rather than trusting his fate to headstrong teenagers on the other side of the country. Commented May 12, 2016 at 10:17
  • 1
    wasn't Voldemort also inside the snake that bit Arthur? So technically he did show up personally earlier
    – user13267
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 5:34

Harry also asked so, and Bellatrix answered him: Voldemort expected to remain discreet:

"Why couldn’t he come and get it himself?”
“Get it himself?” shrieked Bellatrix on a cackle of mad laughter. “The Dark Lord, walk into the Ministry of Magic, when they are so sweetly ignoring his return? The Dark Lord, reveal himself to the Aurors, when at the moment they are wasting their time on my dear cousin?”
(Order Of the Phoenix, Chapter 35, Beyond the veil)

  • 4
    Yes, she answers a lot of questions.
    – Obsidia
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 2:26
  • 3
    Upvote for you for recognizing Bellatrix's intelligence! ;)
    – Obsidia
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 17:09
  • 1
    haha of course ! :D
    – LilyM
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 14:57

I suspect Voldemort just wanted to see if Harry could retrieve the prophecy, proving it really was about Harry at all. Any thinking along the lines of Voldemort trying to remain concealed from the Ministry as they denied his return is folly. Obviously Voldemort could easily sneak into the ministry undetected and take the prophecy any time he wanted to.

  • 2
    Can you provide any sources that Voldemort wants to test Harry, surely he knew it was about Harry.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 14:09

He is able to take it. There are many indications throughout the whole arc.

As you pointed out, the prophecy clearly references him just as much as Harry (if not more).

He tries different ways to get it before going there himself (somehow he doesn't think of using a polyjuice potion though).

  • 1
    Good point. If Harry, Ron and Hermione could take Polyjuice Potion and infiltrate the ministry, why couldn't Voldemort do the same?
    – user32390
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 8:34
  • 3
    I suspect Voldemort isn't the kinda guy to pretend that he's someone else. He thinks insanely highly of himself. To disguise himself as someone "less than" himself would go against everything he believes. He'd find it distasteful and repugnant to be disguised as a mere mortal, after devoting his entire life to "improving" himself.
    – Paul L
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 15:21

The hall of prophecies was guarded, by both a physical guard under an invisibility cloak and likely spells on the door that he couldn't open. Voldemort was going there for months, once while possessing nagini, other times possibly possessing other people or imperiusing them. Harry was seeing this through Voldemort's eyes on a nightly basis at times.

  • 3
    Can you provide any quotes to support your answer?
    – TimSparrow
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 16:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.