In Half-Blood Prince, as Harry is going towards his first ‘class’ with Dumbledore, he passes Trelawney in one of the corridors. Hiding behind a statue, he overhears her Divining with a pack of tarot cards (or whatever they are exactly) while she thinks she’s quite alone and unheard. She says:

‘Two of spades: conflict,’ she murmured, as she passed the place where Harry crouched, hidden. ‘Seven of spades: an ill omen. Ten of spades: violence. Knave of spades: a dark young man, possibly troubled, one who dislikes the questioner –’
  She stopped dead, right on the other side of Harry’s statue.
  ‘Well, that can’t be right,’ she said, annoyed, and Harry heard her reshuffling vigorously as she set off again, leaving nothing but a whiff of cooking sherry behind her.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, ch. ‘The House of Gaunt’

As far as I can tell, we never see another reference to this. She sees conflict, an ill omen, violence, and a dark young man who dislikes the questioner, whatever exactly that may mean.

But apparently, that can’t be right. Something is wrong about this combination, even though it seems to fit Trelawney’s usual style of death, gloom, and horror at every step.

Why is that? What is it that can’t be right about this prediction?

And for bonus points: what is the reference to the dark young man who dislikes the questioner all about? The only thing I can think of is Harry being questioned by Umbridge, but that was a year earlier…

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    I believe "the questioner" means the person asking the question of the cards, i.e., Sybil. Presumably, the reason she thinks that can't be right is that she can't believe anybody dislikes her. The only puzzling bit is that the cards actually seem to be sensing Harry's presence, in contrast to Trelawny's usual incompetence. Aug 8, 2018 at 7:49
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    This answer states that Draco is the dark young man.
    – Jenayah
    Aug 8, 2018 at 7:56
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    I can't back it up, but it seemed obvious to me that the "dark young man" was Harry. Aug 8, 2018 at 8:26
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    @HarryJohnston That was also the impression I got. It seemed to be simply: dark-haired, troubled Harry doesn't like Trelawney, but she can't imagine Harry not liking her, combined with the trope that eavesdroppers in fiction tend to hear pointed, non-complimentary comments about themselves. Aug 8, 2018 at 8:42
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    "I can't possibly imagine why this student, whose death I predict every time I see him, yet has still to actually die, would possibly dislike me".
    – Jenayah
    Aug 8, 2018 at 11:51

1 Answer 1


She doesn't know that Harry is there.

As other people have stated, this is a bit of genuine divination. The first few cards are just her usual doom and gloom, but the last is more specific. Let's parse it:

Knave of spades: a dark young man, possibly troubled, one who dislikes the questioner –

The questioner, of course, is the "subject" of the reading; the person who wants knowledge. The diviner reads the cards. Since Trelawney is reading the cards for herself, she is both questioner and diviner.

In a tarot reading, the questioner is the person seeking enlightenment (you if your doing a reading for yourself) and the diviner is the source of the information.

Some people have suggested that a "dark young man" is a person who's conflicted or violent, like Draco Malfoy. However, this can't be the case: it's followed immediately by "possibly troubled," which would be not only redundant but not strong enough if the "dark young man" were definitely troubled.

Instead, it merely refers to someone with dark hair or complexion. Real-world tarot websites agree. For instance:

As far as coloring goes, the Spade court cards represent very dark-haired people. On that point there is consensus.

Of course, Harry dislikes the questioner ("Trelawney") and is a bit troubled.

The key here is that Trelawney doesn't know Harry is there. I think that card is simply sensing Harry's presence right on the other side of the statue, but Trelawney has no idea that he's there. As such, it seems odd that the cards are giving her a symbol for someone who's receiving her divination. That's why the line about her "stopping dead" near Harry immediately follows it.

I don't believe it has anything to do with Sybil not being able to understand that people might dislike her. She grasps Umbridge's dislike just fine, for instance. Sure, she might not understand Harry's antipathy toward her, but she doesn't have any reason to think this card refers to Harry in particular.

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    +1, though I think the key point (at least as regards how I had originally understood it) is not so much that Trelawney didn’t know Harry was there – I was aware of that – but rather that “the questioner” refers to the person questioning the cards, i.e., Trelawney, rather than the person questioning the dark young man. (It also makes sense that this is a genuine bit of Divination, since Trelawney only ever seems to shrug off or disagree with her own real Divinations.) Aug 9, 2018 at 17:15
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - I could provide a reference for the use of that term in Tarot readings. The questioner is actually the person seeking knowledge, and the diviner is the person reading the cards. They're the same person in a self-reading.
    – Adamant
    Aug 9, 2018 at 17:15
  • Such a reference would make your answer a very strong one! I know bugger-all about Tarot reading, so I had no idea this was an actually used word in this context. Aug 9, 2018 at 17:17

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