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Sybill Trelawney
Sybill t
Professor Trelawney in her classroom.
Born 9 March (year unknown)
Died Unknown
Species Human
Parentage Muggle mother, wizard father
Family Members Early marriage ended in unforeseen rupture when she refused to adopt the surname
Affiliations Hogwarts
Hogwarts House Ravenclaw
Wand Hazel and unicorn hair, 9 1/2 inches long, very flexible
Special Abilities A Seer, though the gift is unpredictable and unconscious
Hobbies Practising making doom-laden prophecies in front of the mirror, sherry

Professor Sybill Trelawney is the Divination teacher at Hogwarts.

Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown consider Professor Trelawney to be the best teacher and both of them believe every word she says. The rest of the students don't take her seriously.

Introduction

Professor Sybill Trelawney is the Divination teacher at Hogwarts. She is a thin lady, usually draped in a shawl, with very large glasses.

New from J.K. Rowling

Sybill is the great-great granddaughter of a genuine Seer, Cassandra Trelawney. Cassandra's gift has been much diluted over ensuing generations, although Sybill has inherited more than she knows. Half-believing in her own fibs about her talent (for she is at least ninety per cent fraud), Sybill has cultivated a dramatic manner and enjoys impressing her more gullible students with predictions of doom and disaster. She is gifted in the fortune teller's tricks; she accurately reads Neville's nervousness and suggestibility in his first class, and tells him he is about to break a cup, which he does. On other occasions, gullible students do her work for her. Professor Trelawney tells Lavender Brown that something she is dreading will happen to her on the sixteenth of October; when Lavender receives news on that day that her pet rabbit has died, she connects it instantly with the prediction. All of Hermione's logic and good sense (Lavender was not dreading the death of the rabbit, which was very young; the rabbit did not die on the sixteenth, but the previous day) are lost: Lavender wants to believe her unhappiness was foretold. By the law of averages, Professor Trelawney's rapid fire predictions sometimes hit the mark, but most of the time she is full of hot air and self-importance.

Nevertheless, Sybill does experience very rare flashes of genuine clairvoyance, which she can never remember afterwards. She secured her post at Hogwarts because she revealed, during her interview with Dumbledore, that she was the unconscious possessor of important knowledge. Dumbledore gave her sanctuary at the school, partly to protect her, partly in the hope that more genuine predictions would be forthcoming (he had to wait many years for the next).

Conscious of her low status on the staff, who are almost all more talented than she is, Sybill spends most of her time apart from her colleagues, up in her stuffy and overcrowded tower office. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, she has developed an over-reliance on alcohol.

Professors Trelawney and McGonagall are polar opposites; the one something of a charlatan, manipulative and grandiose, the other fiercely intelligent, stern and upright. I knew, however, that when the consummate outsider and non-Hogwartian Dolores Umbridge attempted to oust Sybill from the school, Minerva McGonagall, who has been critical of Trelawney on many occasions, would show the true kindness of her character and rally to her defence. There is a pathos about Professor Trelawney, infuriating though I would find her in real life, and I think that Minerva sensed her underlying feeling of inadequacy.

J.K. Rowling's thoughts

I created detailed histories for many of the Hogwarts staff (such as Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall and Rubeus Hagrid), some of which were used in the books, and some of which were not. It is in some ways fitting that I only ever had a vague idea of what had happened to the Divination teacher before she washed up at Hogwarts. I imagine that Sybill's pre-Hogwarts existence consisted of drifting through the wizarding world, trying to trade on her ancestry to secure employment, but scorning any that did not offer what she feels is the status due to a Seer.

I love Cornish surnames, and had never used one until the third book in the series, so that is how Professor Trelawney got her family name. I did not want to call her anything comical, or which suggested chicanery, but something impressive and attractive. 'Trelawney' is a very old name, suggestive of Sybill's over-reliance on her ancestry when seeking to impress. There is a beautiful old Cornish song featuring the name ('The Song of the Western Men'). Sybill's first name is a homonym of 'Sibyl', which was a female clairvoyant in ancient times. My American editor wanted me to use 'Sibyl', but I preferred my version, because while it keeps the reference to the august clairvoyants of old, it is really no more than a variant the unfashionable female name 'Sybil'. Professor Trelawney, I felt, did not really qualify as a 'Sibyl'.

From the Story

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Discovered in chapter 6, Talons and Tea Leaves

Professor Sybill Trelawney is the Divination teacher at Hogwarts. She is a thin lady, usually draped in a shawl, with very large glasses. She tells the class that she does not often enter the hustle and bustle of the main school, as it clouds her Inner Eye. As she introduces the course, she makes several predictions about students, which leave the class uneasy. She starts the students off reading the tea leaves, encouraging them to broaden their minds in order to see past the mundane. As Harry and Ron attempt to read their leaves, Trelawney snatches up Harry's teacup, promptly dismissing all of Ron's predictions. She predicts danger and an attack in Harry's future, before screaming and sinking into a vacant armchair before announcing that she has seen the Grim in Harry's tea leaves: the omen of death.

Discovered in chapter 11, The Firebolt

Professor Trelawney enters the Great Hall as Christmas lunch is beginning. She tells the assembled teachers and students that she has been crystal-gazing, and saw herself joining them. When Dumbledore conjures her a chair, she is very reluctant to sit down, reminding them of the old superstition: when thirteen dine together, the first to rise will be the first to die. Although she is eventually persuaded to sit, she does so hesitantly, as though expecting a thunderbolt to hit the table. She behaves almost normally for the rest of the meal, up to the point when Harry and Ron get up from the table. She is very concerned about which of them rose first, and is offended when no one else seems to take her fears seriously.

Discovered in chapter 16, Professor Trelawney's Prediction

Trelawney sees the students separately for their Divination exam. She calls Harry last, and encourages him to gaze into the crystal ball and tell her what he sees. She is initially excited when Harry mentions seeing a Hippogriff in the Orb, but is disappointed that it doesn't appear to be dead. As Harry leaves, Trelawney starts to speak in a loud, harsh voice unlike her own. She goes rigid, her eyes lose their focus, and her mouth sags. Trelawney tells Harry that the Dark Lord will rise again, and that the servant who will help him will set out to rejoin his master before midnight that night. When she finishes speaking, Trelawney doesn't remember her prediction, and is startled when Harry tells her what she said, refusing to believe that she would predict something so far-fetched.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Discovered in chapter 13, Mad-Eye Moody

At the beginning of her Divination lesson, Trelawney tells Harry that he has difficult times ahead; that the thing he dreads will come to pass sooner than he thinks. She tells the students they will be considering the stars and planets during their lesson; she singles out Harry once again as she tells him he was clearly born under the influence of the planet Saturn. The significance of her pronouncement is lessened somewhat after she continues by asking whether Harry was born mid-winter, incorrect by several months. Trelawney gives the students complicated circular charts to work on during the lesson. She unfortunately overhears Ron's crude joke to Lavender, which is possibly why she gives the students such a huge amout of homework at the end of the lesson.

Discovered in chapter 15, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang

Professor Trelawney gives Harry and Ron full marks for their Divination homework. She reads out a large portion of their predictions, and commends them for their unflinching acceptance of the horrors in store for them. She asks the pair to do the same thing for the following month, much to their dismay.

Discovered in chapter 21, The House-Elf Liberation Front

During the Divination lesson, Professor Trelawney tells the students that she sees death gazing back at her from her crystal ball. She stares pointedly at Harry as she speaks and thinks that he and Ron should act less frivolously during her class given this information.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Discovered in chapter 26, Seen and Unforseen

Professor Trelawney stands in the middle of the Entrance Hall with her wand in one hand and an empty sherry bottle in the other. She looks utterly mad; her hair is sticking up on end, her glasses are lopsided, and her shawls and scarves trail from her shoulders. Trelawney tells Professor Umbridge that she refuses to accept her dismissal; she has been at Hogwarts for sixteen years, and the castle is her home. She sinks onto her trunk, sobbing uncontrollably.

Trelawney is helped by Professor McGonagall, who tells her she doesn't have to leave the school, regardless of whether she is still a teacher. When Professor Dumbledore arrives in the Entrance Hall, Trelawney insists she will leave and seek her fortune elsewhere, but he requests that she remain. She is helped back to the Divination teacher's lodgings by Professors Sprout and McGonagall.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Discovered in chapter 15, The Unbreakable Vow

Trelawney attends Professor Slughorn's party. She greets Luna, but becomes angry when Luna mentions that her Divination professor is Firenze for her fifth-year. Trelawney drunkenly titters that she prefers to think of the Centaur as 'Dobbin'. She is angry that, now she has been reinstated as a teacher, Dumbledore chose to keep Firenze on, and that they now share classes.

Trelawney is upset that Harry hasn't continued studying Divination for his N.E.W.T.s, and thinks that the subject is vital for him in particular.


Discovered in Book 3, Chapter 11, The Firebolt

"Professor Trelawney enters the Great Hall as Christmas lunch is beginning. She tells the assembled teachers and students that she has been crystal-gazing, and saw herself joining them. When Dumbledore conjures her a chair, she is very reluctant to sit down, reminding them of the old superstition: when thirteen dine together, the first to rise will be the first to die. Although she is eventually persuaded to sit, she does so hesitantly, as though expecting a thunderbolt to hit the table. She behaves almost normally for the rest of the meal, up to the point when Harry and Ron get up from the table. She is very concerned about which of them rose first, and is offended when no one else seems to take her fears seriously."


Discovered in Book 3, Chapter 16, Professor Trelawney's Prediction

"Trelawney sees the students separately for their Divination exam. She calls Harry last, and encourages him to gaze into the crystal ball and tell her what he sees. She is initially excited when Harry mentions seeing a Hippogriff in the Orb, but is disappointed that it doesn't appear to be dead. As Harry leaves, Trelawney starts to speak in a loud, harsh voice unlike her own. She goes rigid, her eyes lose their focus, and her mouth sags. Trelawney tells Harry that the Dark Lord will rise again, and that the servant who will help him will set out to rejoin his master before midnight that night. When she finishes speaking, Trelawney doesn't remember her prediction, and is startled when Harry tells her what she said, refusing to believe that she would predict something so far-fetched."


Discovered in Book 4, Chapter 13, Mad-Eye Moody

"At the beginning of her Divination lesson, Trelawney tells Harry that he has difficult times ahead; that the thing he dreads will come to pass sooner than he thinks. She tells the students they will be considering the stars and planets during their lesson; she singles out Harry once again as she tells him he was clearly born under the influence of the planet Saturn. The significance of her pronouncement is lessened somewhat after she continues by asking whether Harry was born mid-winter, incorrect by several months. Trelawney gives the students complicated circular charts to work on during the lesson. She unfortunately overhears Ron's crude joke to Lavender, which is possibly why she gives the students such a huge amout of homework at the end of the lesson."


Discovered in Book 4, Chapter 15, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang

"Professor Trelawney gives Harry and Ron full marks for their Divination homework. She reads out a large portion of their predictions, and commends them for their unflinching acceptance of the horrors in store for them. She asks the pair to do the same thing for the following month, much to their dismay."

See also

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