The Seer Overheard

chapter twenty-five of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

After discussing the Prince with his friends, Harry gets a note to see Dumbledore – but bumps into Trelawney on the way, where he learns that someone has been celebrating in the Room of Requirement and that Snape was the one who overheard the prophecy. He rages until Dumbledore stops him, though, and he and Dumbledore then depart to seek out a Horcrux.

Dragon Tattoo, by Marta T

“You’d think people had better things to gossip about,” said Ginny, as she sat on the common room floor, leaning against Harry’s legs and reading the Daily Prophet. “Three dementor attacks in a week, and all Romilda Vane does is ask me if it’s true you’ve got a hippogriff tattooed across your chest.”

(by Marta T)


The Lightning-Struck Tower, by Loleia

“Again and again, no matter how I lay them out – ” And she pulled a card dramatically from underneath her shawls. “- the lightning-struck tower,” she whispered. “Calamity. Disaster. Coming nearer all the time…”

(by Loleia)


Sibyll Trelawney, by mneomosyne

Trelawney… looked back over her shoulder, having only just realized that Harry was no longer with her; he had stopped walking and they were now ten feet from each other. “Harry?” she repeated uncertainly….
Harry was standing stock-still as waves of shock crashed over him…. It was Snape who had overheard the prophecy.


A Terrible Mistake, by Vizen

Dumbledore… went on. “Professor Snape made a terrible mistake. He was still in Lord Voldemort’s employ on the night he heard the first half of Professor Trelawney’s prophecy. Naturally, he hastened to tell his master what he had heard….”

(by Vizen)


Professor Dumbledore, by Laurence Peguy

“If I tell you to leave me and save yourself, you will do as I tell you?”
“I -“
They looked at each other for a moment.
“Yes, sir.”


about the chapter


Something You May Not Have Noticed

So before leaving to seek out the Horcrux, Dumbledore first sends Harry to get his Invisibility Cloak – which would make sense, were it not for the fact that Dumbledore previously told Harry to keep his cloak with him at all times this year. Dumbledore isn’t the type to forget an instruction like that; so, then, why would he send Harry off? It’s possible Dumbledore wants Ron and Hermione to know what Harry is doing, just in case the worst happens and neither Dumbledore nor Harry reappears; it’s also possible Dumbledore wants to give Harry time to refocus his thoughts after his outrage over the fact that Snape was the one who reported the prophecy to Voldemort. It’s also possible that Dumbledore had something he wanted to do himself before departing; but, then, why not simply do it before calling Harry to his office? Either way it’s a rather perplexing decision on the old man’s part.

Something Else You May Not Have Noticed

I absolutely love Harry’s conversation with Trelawney, for the snarky comments he makes that fly right over her head. First:

“Harry stared at her…. “And then – ?”
“And then I called out ‘Who’s there?’”
“You couldn’t have found out who it was without asking?” Harry asked her, slightly frustrated.
“The Inner Eye,” said Professor Trelawney with dignity… “was fixed upon matters well outside the mundane realms of whooping voices.”

Now, Harry probably didn’t ask her that question intending to criticize her “Inner Eye;” he was probably just frustrated that she didn’t investigate the sound before yelling out, the way he would have done. But her reaction seems to have given him an idea, because then:

[Trelawney said,] “Everything went pitch-black and the next thing I knew, I was being hurled headfirst out of the room!”
“And you didn’t see that coming?” said Harry, unable to help himself.
“No, I did not, as I say, it was pitch -” She stopped and glared at him suspiciously.

If I were ever to encounter Trelawney, I would make snide little comments like that all. the. time. Come to think of it, we have seen someone who can’t resist doing just that – and I’d bet that somewhere, Minerva McGonagall is smiling.

Life at Hogwarts

Hermione’s ability to uncover Eileen Prince in decades-old Daily Prophet archives begs the question of how research in the Hogwarts library is done. After all, when the trio was looking for Nicolas Flamel in their first year, they resorted to simply reading through every book they could think of, and Harry approached his search for Triwizard Tournament spells more or less the same way. Obviously wizards don’t use computers, but surely they would have invented some sort of magical system that serves the same purpose, and gives you the ability to do a keyword search (or even more reasonably, a search of every word) of the books on the shelves? A magical card catalog, at the very least! On some level, that must exist, unless Hermione read through literally thousands of newspapers – the Prophet comes out every day, so it’s awfully unlikely she’d just happen on Eileen Prince otherwise. But I can’t help but wonder how it all works….


The first time I read Trelawney’s account of her interview with Dumbledore, I freaked out. After all, it’s well-established that she’s unaware of her surroundings when she’s in the middle of making an actual prophecy; we learned this when Harry saw her prophecy of Voldemort’s return in his third year. However, in this case, despite Dumbledore’s assertion that the Death Eater who overheard the prophecy was evicted from the building having heard only the first half, we now see clearly that Trelawney saw Snape in the room herself – which must have been after she had finished the Prophecy. Possibilities started firing off in my brain; perhaps Snape told Voldemort he’d only heard half the prophecy, but he’d actually heard the whole thing and then worked out a compromise with Dumbledore! Or… or… well, it didn’t matter what other possibilities existed, because it eventually became clear that this was simply an inconsistency that Rowling didn’t think about at all. Perhaps Snape missed the second half of the prophecy because he was arguing with the bartender; who knows. But even though the passage doesn’t make sense, it’s meant to, and we clearly aren’t intended to take it at more than face value. Sigh.

Something to Remember

Dumbledore’s reaction to Harry accusing Snape is interesting. Harry knows that Snape was listening in to the prophecy; he knows that it was reported to Voldemort and led to his parents’ deaths; and he knows that Snape absolutely despised his father and called his mother a “Mudblood.” So why does Dumbledore continue to state, in the face of this evidence, that reporting the prophecy to Voldemort was “the greatest regret of [Snape’s] life?”

34 Responses to “The Seer Overheard”

  1. as for the “oops”. i thought snape was listening as trelawney was making the prophecy, heard aberforth and was distracted, missing the second half of the prophecy. it would probably take trelawney a minute or so to say the prophecy. snape tried to walk away, aberforth stops him, they have words, aberforth opens door and shows albus who he caught outside. that was how i thought of how it fits together.

  2. My guess is that Snape was listening at the door and heard the first part of the prophecy, but before he could hear the rest, Aberforth caught him. They probably argued for several minutes before Aberforth opened the door to tell Albus that Snape had been spying, which gave Trelawney enough time to finish the prophecy and come back to her senses.

  3. Yeah, Robert and Erica, you guys are probably right that this is what Rowling was trying to pull off here. But in Order of the Phoenix here’s Dumbledore’s line:

    “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.”

    You can technically argue that these two descriptions can match, as there’s no direct, clear-as-day contradiction. But the intent feels pretty plainly different to me, enough so that it really distracts me when I come across this chapter.

  4. Thanks, Josie. Couple of things though – this is chapter 25, not 24 as it says at the top, and in the caption for the third picture is written “waves of shocked crashed over him”. Dumbledore does say “ejected from the building” in OOTP – perhaps he just said that as it was faster than saying “was found, missed the rest of the prophecy while arguing with the finder, shown to me, then ejected from the building”? Perhaps he didn’t say this because then he’d have to reveal how he knew that the eavesdropper didn’t hear everything.

  5. Why Dumbledore asked Harry to get his cloak: because he probably wanted time to alert Snape and the Order of what Harry had just informed him of Draco. Dumbledore understands that this implies Draco will attack tonight, and whatever he told Harry to the contrary, he has to put extra defences in the school. Of course, this then begs the question of why there were like 3 Order members present and why they couldn’t have sent Patronuses off for help. Call me crazy, but I’ve an inkling that Dumbledore’s Army is organized better than the Order. In the Order, there seems to be over twenty of them (Ron’s initial estimate), yet there are never more than half a dozen present at any battle. Even for the Seven Potters, the Weasley family has to step in and fill half the spots! Whereas the DA mobilizes completely whenever called (with the exception of the battle in HBP).

  6. The contradiction in that passage never occurred to me. I wish I had the book with me, because maybe I could read the exact wording and see if there wasn’t another way for Trelawney to see Snape.

    As for that Harry-Trelawney exchange, I had forgotten that and it is just perfect.

    It’s possible Harry just forgot the Cloak and Dumbledore notices and tells him to get it. Again, I’ll have to refer to the text.

    As for the library, Madame Pince must have some way of finding everything quickly that isn’t available to students. She returns pretty quickly with Moste Potente Potions when Hermione asks for it, and since Lockhart signed for it she couldn’t object. She must have some magical way to locate books in the enormous library to return with a book so quickly.

    As for why the Trio couldn’t use it, I think that is because Harry and his friends were researching particularly dodgy topics. Nicholas Flamel was linked to the Philosopher’s Stone, so they didn’t want to ask about him or it would have looked suspicious. Also, Harry wasn’t supposed to ask for assistance from the staff during the Triwizard Tournament, so it would have looked bad to ask Madame Pince to help him look for information about the tasks.

    As for Eileen Prince, Hermione probably asked for help with that, too, but the information was so obscure that it took the librarian a bit longer to find it. After all, the Prophet archives must be massive…

  7. Ooh! Sorry, almost forgot. I love that Trelawney mentions the lightning-struck tower, because it makes the chapter of the same name seem so much more ominous. The foreshadowing is subtle but effective.

  8. It always bothers me in this chapter that Harry tells Trelawney to wait for him in the hall, but he never follows up on that. It seems like she’d still be there when he goes to get his invisibility cloak. Jo Rowling is so good at tying up loose ends that I’m surprised she left this one dangling.

  9. I always thought that Snape had came in at the second half. Remember Dumbledore never says which part Snape overheard and that the prophecy says the part about the one being born at the end of July at the beginning and the end. That’s just my opinion on that.

  10. I always wonder about Trewlawney; it seems that pretty much every prediction she makes comes true (yes, even the Grim to Harry… sort of.) They may be self-fulfilling at times, though…
    As for Snape, I always assumed that Trewlawney has a dim memory of things while in the trance. It may seem for her like gazing off into space for a moment.

  11. Snape was rather impulsive about the prophecy. In OOP it says he heard the first part before he was ejected from the building, but it is unclear which part was cut off. Did he miss the part about the Dark Lord marking the child as his equal? The mysterious child is mentioned twice in the prophecy; at the beginning and at the end. Also, he had to have heard that “neither can live while the other survives.” This is how Voldemort knew the child was a threat to him.

  12. I wonder if you are allowed to use summoning charms in the library. Someone could just say “Accio books about Nicholas Flamel”, for example, and then the books would come straight to them. But I could see how that could be a bad idea because then books would be flying everywhere and someone could get hurt. There also might be spells on the books keeping them in their shelves. Just an idea.

  13. Isn’t there also an Evening Prophet, meaning there are two papers a day? Just a sidenote. =)

    JPM, I’m trying to remember… Does hermione ask for Moste Potente Potions by name or author? Because it would be much easier to locate a book with that information than to determine in which book a certain person or subject were mentioned.

  14. I love the double meanings of the name of this chapter as it relates to sight and hearing:
    true sight or inner eye?
    overheard – heard with stealth or heard again?

  15. Rtozier, thanks for noticing the mistakes – fixed now!

    hpboy13, I love your idea of Dumbledore using the excuse to alert the Order. It hadn’t occurred to me and totally makes sense. To answer JPM’s question, Harry does note that he already has his cloak.

    Billie, your comment about Trelawney waiting in the hall cracks me up. I picture her standing there for hours, until (remember she’s right outside the Room of Requirement) Malfoy arrives and runs smack into her in the darkness. Totally different ending to the book!

    Laura, the Evening Prophet is a funky thing. We only see it the one time, when Harry and Ron arrive at Hogwarts in the flying car, and it’s loaded with problems and inconsistencies then. I think Rowling must have decided later to can the idea.

  16. Thanks Josie! In that case, it makes complete sense when Harry says “Dumbledore thinks I’m getting my Invisibility Cloak.” And yes, hpboy13, it makes total sense that Dumbledore must inform the Order. I agree that Dumbledore expects an attack based on Harry’s information (which means he must know a lot about Malfoy’s plan already). However, he doesn’t want Harry to know he is summoning the Order, or Harry will fear for his friends at a time when he needs to exhibit unswerving resolve.

    But then why wouldn’t Dumbledore simply say “Tell your friends that you’re leaving so they won’t worry?” Why does he say “Go get the Cloak?”

    As for the library, I cannot remember if Hermione asks by name or author. Even if she does, though, it is still a large library and it would take Madame Pince a long time to find a book without some sort of catalog system at her disposal.

  17. re: the library

    I always assumed Madame Pince to be THE librarian: she doesn’t need a catalog system because she just knows where everything is. Furthermore, the Restricted Section might be considerably smaller than the rest of the library and as Pince is the only one who gets books from there nothing gets moved around.

    I agree that there should be some kind of research system for students, but then again magical folk tend to have the quickest solution to everyday problems and then all of a sudden are totally clueless with something else. They are rather medieval in some aspects and that might be one of them: if you’re searching for something you either know where to look or you simply start turning pages.

    re: Trelawney, Snape and the prophecy

    I think that Aberforth causing Snape to miss the end of the prophecy and then Trelawney catching a glimpse of him through the door once she was done makes the most sense. Maybe it wasn’t even Aberforth barging in with the eavesdropper that opened the door, but rather Albus, once the prophecy was done, who wanted to check what all the racket was about and who might have overheard.

    I think Dumbledore’s quote at the end of OotP is simply a generalization of events that avoids him going into details with Harry… And also avoids Rowling to go into details with us. At the time she wrote that, of course she knew that it had been Snape who had overheard the prophecy, but she might not yet have decided how precisely Harry was going to find out.

  18. I like rick007’s theory about Snape only hearing the second half of the prophesy. Also i love Marta T’s picture!

  19. My take on Dumbledore’s request to Harry is simply that it’s another case of Dumbledore underestimating him. Harry seems to have his cloak with him literally 24/7, but maybe Dumbledore isn’t sure how well Harry followed his directions (and also wants to alert the Order). So Harry seized the opportunity to go talk to Ron and Hermione.
    Great update as always! I love the picture by Vizen.

  20. The header picture of Dumbledore with his arm on Harry is too dear. Really is a great picture. Great updates, Josie…I am so pumped for the movie in November.

  21. I know it’s not terribly interesting, but we know from Deathly Hallows that library books at Hogwarts do not have defensive charms to prevent the use of summoning charms (unless, of course, Dumbledore removed them from the books about Horcruxes, specifically, which is likely), so I always assumed that would be the only way of finding books, outside of knowing where everything is, of course.

    Hermione could have summoned articles on Prince, and thus provide the idea to try it out again before the end of the year to locate books on Horcruxes. Add to that the fact it is in their fourth year students are taught Accio, and thus students in their most intense years of studying would have it at their disposal. I would say it’s not a popular method, as it makes sense that it would not occur to those truly willing to search the shelves manually beforehand, as it is such an abstract thought only those meaning to find knowledge, no matter the cost, would try. I imagine Madame Pince is not a fan of the method, seeing as we know her books are meant to attack those just vandalising them.

  22. Josie, this may have already been mentioned but maybe Dumbledore described the eavesdropping like he did to not dwell on the subject so Harry wouldn’t ask too many questions about the eavesdropper.

  23. Has anybody ever discussed that Harry’s invisibility cloak apparently fits comfortably in a pocket?

  24. I always thought it was just another example of ‘wizard space’ – spaces expand to fit the need. The cars that take everyone from the burrow to the train, the Room of Requirement, and Hermione’s bag to name a few.

  25. Thank you, daddybug! This has always baffled me. A cloak big enough for me a two friends would never fit in my pocket. I know men’s pants are looser and have more accessible pockets, but still… cl1314, that’s a good theory, but I would like to know for sure.

  26. @daddybug It’s probably an error in the text, although I like the idea of wizard space in Harry’s pockets.

    Speaking of Hermione’s bag, how can she carry it with everything she put into it? Does it somehow reduce the weight of the contents as well?

  27. daddybug, don’t forget it’s also the pocket of a *cloak,* which I imagine could be quite large.

  28. Re: Hermione researching Eileen Prince

    I don’t think she would have to have spent an onerous amount of time looking at old Daily Prophets. Hermione had the picture of prince and knew she was president of the Gobstones club. I assume she would have easily found the year Prince held that position and researched from there, also taking into acount the publication date of Harry’s potions textbook. This would definitely narrowed down the research to a few years.

  29. I think this discussion has already come about, but after reading this, I cannot see Snape as a hero in any capacity. The only reason he feels remorse is not because Voldemort killed James, or tried to kill a one year old child, but killed Lily. He wouldn’t have even cared if Voldemort had killed Neville’s entire family, as long as LIly was fine. That’s the mark of a despicable and selfish man. I suppose it could be argued that he has had a change of heart toward all human beings after LIly’s death…

  30. re: oops
    i was just reading the chapter and realized that the seventh floor corridor isn’t the way to DD’s office. it is stated by harry when he finds tonksgoing to DD’s office in the unknowable room room. another mistake?

  31. On the “Evening Prophet”, it’s not abandonned after the second book, it’s mentioned in this one, chapter eleven: “Hermione reached out for a copy of the ‘Evening Prophet’, which somebody had left abandoned on a chair.” This is where they read that Mr. Weasley went to the Malfoy’s house.

  32. This is one of the chapters I really like to re-read, because in the light of The prince’s tale, a lot of things from this chapter can be seen differently. It’s so interesting now that you have the whole story.
    I feel sorry for Harry in this chapter as well… most of the time when he is stubborn about Malfoy and Snape, I feel like he is embarrasing himself infront of Dumbledore a bit (even if he actually is right), but here I just think he has all the reasons in the world to be upset. And Dumbledore’s reactions are very interesting to read, too, now that you know more as a reader…

  33. I agree 100% with you in your “Life At Hogwarts” section, but I feel this way about communication! I mean they ARE wizards, couldn’t they think of anything better that OWLS?!

  34. One thing I thought was interesting was that the card Trelawney was looking at apparantly depicted a “lightning-struck tower,” and that she took it to mean calamity and disaster, getting nearer all the time. Well, we know what happens later ;)

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