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"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's prophecy made to Albus Dumbledore[src]
Trelawney first prophecy

The prophecy that altered Harry's life forever

Sybill Trelawney's first prophecy, also known as the Lost Prophecy[1] or simply The Prophecy, refers to the prophecy made by Sybill Trelawney to Albus Dumbledore at the Hog's Head Pub early in 1980.[2] It referred to a boy who would be born at the end of July in 1980, who had the power to defeat Lord Voldemort (which Voldemort took to mean Harry Potter). It is referenced at the end of the Second Wizarding War as public knowledge and named "The Big One", in respect of the prophecy and the sequenced events from it.



Albus Dumbledore: "The thing that smashed was merely the record of the prophecy kept by the Department of Mysteries. But the prophecy was made to somebody, and that person has the means of recalling it perfectly."
Harry Potter: "Who heard it?"
Albus Dumbledore: "I did. On a cold, wet night sixteen years ago, in a room above the bar at the Hog's Head Inn. I had gone there to see an applicant for the post of Divination teacher...."
— Albus Dumbledore recalling the night the prophecy was made[src]
Sybill Trelawney

Sybill Trelawney, the seer who foretold the prophecy

The prophecy in question made to Albus Dumbledore by Sybill Trelawney had foretold the coming of a boy who would have the power to vanquish Lord Voldemort. The prophecy was made while Trelawney was having an interview with Dumbledore for the post of Divination teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Dumbledore, who was disappointed at the performance she gave during the interview, was about to leave when she went into a trance and made the prophecy. During the prophecy, Trelawney specified the requirements for the boy who was capable of (but not necessarily would be) defeating the Dark Lord.[3]

They were the following: it was a boy, he is born in the closing days of July of 1980 (the year that the prophecy was made), his parents had defied Voldemort three times and lived to tell about it, he would have a power that Voldemort was unable or unwilling to comprehend, and if more than one person was born that met the requirements, Voldemort himself would choose to whom it would ultimately refer.[3]

Severus Snape, who at the time was working for Voldemort, was caught eavesdropping on Trelawney and Dumbledore by the owner of the Hog's Head and was subsequently thrown out of the pub. Snape then returned to Voldemort to tell him what he had heard.[4]

Voldemort's reaction[]

"Voldemort tried to kill you when you were a child because of a prophecy made shortly before your birth. He knew the prophecy had been made, though he did not know its full contents. He set out to kill you when you were still a baby, believing he was fulfilling the terms of the prophecy. He discovered, to his cost, that he was mistaken, when the curse intended to kill you backfired. 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."
— Discussion of Voldemort and the prophecy[src]

As Snape was apprehended by Aberforth Dumbledore before the full prophecy could be made, only part of the prophecy was reported to Voldemort.[4] Voldemort learned that there were two boys that met the requirements of the prophecy: Aside from Harry Potter, the other was Neville Longbottom, who was born on 30 July, 1980, to a pair of Aurors who, like James and Lily Potter, had directly defied Voldemort on three separate occasions.[3]

However, Voldemort chose Harry as his target, who was, like himself, a half-blood, rather than the pure-blooded boy named Neville. Voldemort chose Harry as he believed Harry was the most danger to him and he saw himself in Harry before even seeing him.[3] He marked him with a lightning-bolt scar[5] and did not kill him, but gave Harry powers, and a future, which would enable Harry to escape Voldemort four times, something neither Harry's parents nor Neville's parents ever achieved.[3]


Snape conjuring his Doe Patronus

Shocked by Voldemort's decision, Snape hastened to Dumbledore and explained that Voldemort had come to the conclusion that the Potters' child was his would-be vanquisher and had vowed to murder him. Snape also confessed his longtime love for Harry's mother, Lily Evans. He offered Dumbledore his loyalty in exchange for her protection. Snape while revealing his love for Lily expressed no concern for her husband and infant son, as he has hated James since their time at Hogwarts. He even pleaded with Voldemort to spare Lily and the Dark Lord agreed, not knowing or understanding Snape's motives. Snape was now loyal to Dumbledore, and he became a double agent who feigned loyalty to Voldemort during the Second Wizarding War.[4]

Death of the Potters[]

Lily Potter: "Not Harry, please, no, don't kill him, take me, kill me instead —"
Lord Voldemort: "This is my last warning —"
Lily Potter: "Not Harry! Please... have mercy... Not Harry! Not Harry! Please — I'll do anything...."
— Lily standing between Voldemort and her infant son[src]
Potter family murder

Voldemort murders Lily Potter on his way to murder Harry and thus circumvent the prophecy

After months of searching Voldemort finally discovered where James and Lily Potter were hiding and that they were using the Fidelius Charm to conceal themselves. Within a week of being named Secret Keeper, Peter Pettigrew betrayed the Potters and Voldemort was able to enter their Godric's Hollow home.[6] While there, he murdered James and Lily, who died trying to protect their infant son. In the process of trying to murder Harry, Voldemort's Killing Curse backfired on him and destroyed his body. This caused Voldemort's already mangled soul to become even more unstable, thus he left a fragment behind.[4]

Harry Voldemort 1981

Infant Harry Potter faces death for the first time

Harry was protected from Voldemort's killing curse because Lily had lovingly sacrificed herself to save Harry. This imbued him with a charm that prevented Voldemort from harming him. Dumbledore furthered this magic by sending Harry to live with his aunt and uncle, because while at 4 Privet Drive Harry's blood protection from Lily would be preserved, as the blood lives on in both him and Lily's sister, Petunia Dursley, Lily's only known biological relative. Despite Dumbledore explaining all this on a letter to Petunia, Petunia never treated Harry as her own son, and she and her husband abused Harry and made his life as miserable as possible. Despite this, as long as Harry returned to Privet Drive once a year, he would still be protected.[3]

Destruction of the Prophecy Record[]

Harry Potter: "So he wanted me to come and get it, did he? Why?"
Lucius Malfoy: "Why? Because the only people who are permitted to retrieve a prophecy from the Department of Mysteries, Potter, are those about whom it was made, as the Dark Lord discovered when he attempted to use others to steal it for him."
Harry Potter: "And why did he want to steal a prophecy about me?"
Lucius Malfoy: "About both of you, Potter, about both of you ... Haven’t you ever wondered why the Dark Lord tried to kill you as a baby?"
— Lucius Malfoy explaining the importance of the prophecy to Harry Potter[src]

Voldemort greatly desired to hear the full prophecy, believing it would give him the information to avoid his fate and destroy Harry, but the only people who could retrieve the prophecy record from the Hall of Prophecy in the Ministry of Magic's Department of Mysteries were either Harry or Voldemort himself (as they were the people about whom the prophecy was written).[7]

Voldemort was hardly going to walk straight into the Ministry of Magic when they were so conveniently pretending he hadn't returned. He used Legilimency to show Harry the door to the Hall of Prophecy in his dreams,[8] expecting the Boy Who Lived to seek it out, but that failed, as Harry was kept in the dark regarding the prophecy. He entrusted the task of retrieving the prophecy to Lucius Malfoy, who separately used the Imperius Curse on Sturgis Podmore and Broderick Bode but failed;[7] Sturgis was caught and sent to Azkaban, while Bode triggered the prophecy's magical safeguards, sending him to St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, forcing the Death Eaters to send him a Devil's Snare to silence him.[9]

Luna, Neville and Hermione in the Hall of Prophecy

Harry, Ron, Ginny, Luna, Neville, and Hermione in the Hall of Prophecy

Opportunity came knocking when Sirius Black banished his family house-elf, Kreacher, from his house, at which Kreacher went straight to the Malfoys. Though bound by the Fidelius Charm which prevented him from revealing information on the Order of the Phoenix, Kreacher told the Malfoys of how close Sirius was to Harry. With this information, the Dark Lord planted a vision in Harry's mind of Voldemort torturing Sirius Black, counting on Harry to go and save his godfather.[7] Sure enough, Harry, joined by Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood, journeyed to the Ministry of Magic in order to save Sirius, but when they got there they discovered Sirius was nowhere to be found. Ron, however, found the Prophecy with Harry's name on it on row 97. It read:

S.P.T to A.P.W.B.D
Dark Lord
and (?) Harry Potter[10]
Order-of-the-phoenix-harry prophecy

Harry picking up the prophecy about himself

S.P.T were the initials of Sybill Patricia Trelawney, and A.P.W.B.D were the initials of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. A question mark (?) was placed on the prophecy because at that time, the identity of the boy who would defy Lord Voldemort was still not entirely certain, as either Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom was a possibility. However, when Voldemort meet his first downfall in 1981, which Harry brought upon after the Dark Lord's attack on the infant, the record of the prophecy was changed. It was changed by the employees of the Department of Mysteries so that Harry's name was shown.[3]

Neville threatening Bellatrix GIF

Death Eaters trying to take the prophecy from Harry by force

However, the Death Eaters lay in wait until he had done so and then gave chase through the Department of Mysteries, attempting to take the Prophecy from him. It was eventually smashed in a skirmish during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries taking place in the Death Chamber when it fell from Neville's pocket and Neville accidentally kicked and smashed it. The destruction of the prophecy infuriated Lord Voldemort, as it symbolised Harry triumphing over him once again.[7]

Harry's reaction[]

Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore are the only two people who know the full contents of the prophecy. As the prophecy was made to Dumbledore, he had a memory of Trelawney telling it to him and thus could show it to Harry by means of his Pensieve. Harry soon realises that this prophecy is the catalyst for everything that ever happened to him. It is the reason he had a scar, the reason he could speak to snakes, the reason he had no parents, and the reason he shares a connection with Voldemort's mind. It was all due to the fact of Voldemort trying to circumvent this prophecy in order to destroy the only one who could defeat him.[3]


Dumbledore showing Harry the Prophecy

Despite being the reason for his past, however, Harry also realised that the prophecy greatly affects his future: the part of it saying "Neither can live while the other survives" means that either he or Voldemort must kill the other in the end. Despite this, Dumbledore makes it clear to him that it is not entirely because of the prophecy that Harry would try to defeat Voldemort, it is because of the type of person Harry is that he would not rest until he had defeated the person who murdered his parents, Cedric Diggory, and countless others. In fact, the prophecy does not mean he has to do anything, but Voldemort sets store by the prophecy by marking Harry as his equal when he tried to kill him, as tyrants such as Voldemort are always afraid of those they oppress. Though Harry told Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger what the prophecy meant, he never told them its contents word for word.[3]


"By attempting to kill you, Voldemort himself singled out the remarkable person who sits here in front of me, and gave him the tools for the job! It is Voldemort's fault that you were able to see into his thoughts, his ambitions, that you even understand the snakelike language in which he gives orders, and yet, Harry, despite your privileged insight into Voldemort's world (which, incidentally, is a gift any Death Eater would kill to have), you have never been seduced by the Dark Arts, never, even for a second, shown the slightest desire to become one of Voldemort’s followers!"
— Albus Dumbledore regarding the impact of the prophecy[src]
Tent PM

The trio spent a year hunting down Voldemort's Horcruxes

After Harry heard the full prophecy in Dumbledore's Office, he had to live with the knowledge that he would have to kill Voldemort in the end. Rumours also were let slip to the Daily Prophet about what the battle in the Ministry was centred on, leading to Harry being called "The Chosen One" in the newspapers.[11] Indeed, Harry was the "The Chosen One" because Voldemort chose to believe that the prophecy was talking about Harry, the half-blood like himself and thus his equal. Harry survived the Killing Curse because his mother sacrificed her life for him and gave him a protection from Voldemort until he comes of age (at 17).[3]

The so-called Chosen One either had to destroy Voldemort, or be destroyed by Voldemort. Along with Dumbledore, Harry unravelled the secret of Voldemort's Horcruxes, objects in which pieces of Voldemort's soul were hidden so as to make him immortal, which were the keys to defeating him once and for all.[12] Harry knew that the prophecy meant he was the only one who could stop Voldemort. Only he had the ability to vanquish the Dark Lord[3] and that it was up to him to finish the Horcrux hunt after Albus Dumbledore died and end Voldemort's reign of terror.[13]


Love, the power Harry has that Voldemort cannot comprehend

Dumbledore explained to Harry that by attempting to kill Harry, Voldemort himself singled out the only person who would be able to defeat him, and thus it was a grave error on his part to act as Trelawney said. Not all prophecies are fulfilled, and so it was because of Voldemort that the prophecy of someone being able to vanquish the Dark Lord came true. Furthermore, Voldemort handed Harry the necessary weapons for the job. Voldemort also discovered, after the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, that it caused him excruciating agony to try to possess Harry because Harry is full of love. Voldemort didn't understand this, as in his haste to mutilate his soul to create Horcruxes he never paused to think about the power of an untarnished, whole, and loving soul.[3]

Harry realised what Dumbledore said to him about the prophecy is that it his destiny was the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Harry knew that some would think there wasn't much difference between the two ways, but Harry knew with a rush of pride that both he and Dumbledore knew that it made all the difference in the world.[3]

Voldemort vanquished

Harry's final defeat of Lord Voldemort and the end to the Second Wizarding War

The prophecy was eventually fulfilled when Voldemort's Horcruxes were all destroyed, rendering Voldemort mortal and resulting in his final defeat and death at the hands of Harry Potter.[14] Interestingly, while Voldemort chose to mark Harry as his target due to their similarities, Neville Longbottom proved by standing up to Voldemort and destroying his last Horcrux, Nagini, that he was capable of being the other boy to meet the prophecy's requirements. Thus, both boys eventually played their part in the prophecy: Neville rendered Voldemort mortal by destroying his last Horcrux which allowed Harry to inflict the final defeating blow upon Voldemort.[14] In addition to Harry's love, the "power the Dark Lord knows not" could be Neville's courage (which enabled him to pull Gryffindor's sword out of the Sorting Hat to kill Nagini).

In an alternate reality inadvertently created by Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, they caused Cedric Diggory so much humiliation during the Triwizard Tournament that he joined the Death Eaters and killed Neville during the final battle. As a result, Nagini was not killed, and Voldemort gained the upper hand, successfully killing Harry and ruling the entire Britain wizarding community, thus causing the second scenario of the prophecy to become true.

Behind the scenes[]

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...and the Dark Lord shall mark him as his equal but he shall have power the Dark Lord knows not...For neither can live while the other survives...."
  • Incidentally, the prophecy makes no mention of the Dark Lord's vanquisher being born in July in the fifth film. However, in Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Dumbledore says that the prophecy refers to a boy born at the end of July, despite that part not being part of the record seen in the fifth film.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore indirectly mentions this prophecy, as he said that the prophecy about Peter Pettigrew returning to his master was the second prophecy Trelawney had made.
  • The Dark Lord's vanquisher was to be born in July, which is the seventh month, as it is said that seven is the most magical and powerful number.
  • The Prophecy is mentioned and referred by Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy when they time travelled to 30th October, 1981, to prevent Delphini from preventing the prophecy from occurring during the attack of the Potters. It is stated by both boys as the "The Big One", in respect to other prophecies.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore tells Harry in a broom shed at The Burrow:
"There are only two people in the whole world who know the full contents of the prophecy made about you and Lord Voldemort, and they are both standing in this smelly, spidery broom shed."
However, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, we learn from Dumbledore:
"The official record [of the subject of the prophecy] was relabeled after Voldemort’s attack on you as a child. It seemed plain to the keeper of the Hall of Prophecy that Voldemort could only have tried to kill you because he knew you to be the one to whom Sybill was referring.”
This suggests that the Keeper of the Hall of Prophecy has the ability to hear prophecies (without suffering madness) in order to file them. It's not clear then how Dumbledore's statement in The Half-Blood Prince could be true then (or why Lord Voldemort didn't seek this person instead to learn the full prophecy).
It is, of course, possible that Dumbledore was referring to living people and that prophecies can only be heard by the Keeper of the Hall when they are first filed and that person has since died. In that case though, Voldemort would have still been able to at least track this person down prior to killing Harry, when the former was definitely alive.
When asked about the Potters and the Longbottoms defying Voldemort three times Rowling said:
JKR: It depends how you take defying, doesn't it. I mean, if you're counting, which I do, anytime you arrested one of his henchmen, anytime you escaped him, anytime you thwarted him, that's what he's looking for. And both couples qualified because they were both fighting. Also, James and Lily turned him down, that was established in "Philosopher's Stone". He wanted them, and they wouldn't come over, so that's one strike against them before they were even out of their teens.[15]


Notes and references[]

  1. The biggest lies Harry Potter characters told on Pottermore, 18th January 2018
  2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37 (The Lost Prophecy) - The day is the morning of 19 June 1996, and Dumbledore says the prophecy occurred sixteen years earlier on a cold, wet night, likely making it late winter or early spring.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37 (The Lost Prophecy)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince's Tale)
  5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 1 (The Boy Who Lived)
  6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 10 (The Marauder's Map) -"“And then, barely a week after the Fidelius Charm had been performed —”"
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 35 (Beyond the Veil)
  8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 26 (Seen and Unforeseen)
  9. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 25 (The Beetle at Bay)
  10. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 34 (The Department of Mysteries)
  11. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 3 (Will and Won't)
  12. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 17 (A Sluggish Memory)
  13. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 30 (The White Tomb)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
  15. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2007/1217-pottercast-anelli.html