Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 115

The Prophecy is the topic of hand once again, but this time we wonder about the implications interesting “what if”…

In this chapter we find out that Dumbledore has known about the prophecy since before Harry Potter’s birth, but has yet to share it with him until now. What would’ve happened if Dumbledore told Harry about the prophecy at an earlier age? How would it have affected Harry’s personality? What pivotal moments of Harry’s life would’ve changed and how?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and tune in next week to see if your ideas are discussed on the show! Don’t forget that you can also send us an audioBoom by using the green recording button on the right-hand panel!

  • RoseLumos

    This could change since the episode hasn’t been released yet but I think Dumbledore made the right choice by waiting until Harry was older. Even 15 is still pretty young but as the war is beginning I can see why now is the right moment. In a way, this information is like telling a cancer patient that they are terminal. Right now Harry thinks he will either have to kill Voldemort (which at this point seems impossible) or die at his hands. Earlier in the book we see Harry in his “moods” which could almost be diagnosed as depression or PTSD. Imagine how much worse it would be with this information? In fact let’s imagine that Harry knew about the prophecy last year. Imagine his guilt after the third task, knowing that he is destined to die but instead he lived and Cedric died. It would almost be to much to handle. Like I said, my opinions could change after I listen to the episode but I think it was best for Harry’s mental health to wait for now.

    • Mama_Slytherin

      I kinda feel though that Harry always knew it would end with either him or Voldemort dying…after all, Voldemort can’t stop coming after him. The guilt he feels is just the same already – Cedric was there because Harry insisted on taking the Cup together and the Cup was a portkey because of Harry.

  • Saiyangirl

    Personally, I think Albus ought to have told Harry when he was in the Hospital Wing at the end of Philosopher’s Stone. I don’t think any age would have been “right” emotionally, but Harry was open-minded and curious at that moment in time. He may not have fully understood everything yet, but Dumbledore could’ve taken the boy under his wing; talked to him at length on a regular basis while he was in school, and prepared him for a fate he could choose if he felt it was the right thing to do. Harry didn’t have the baggage to carry around of having seen Ginny almost die and faced the treachery of Riddle’s diary, heard his parents’ deaths through the Dementors, or of having seen Cedric die and Voldemort return, or of gaining and subsequently losing his godfather. He was a bit shocked after the whole Quirrell-ordeal, but not scarred or traumatised by everything. He still had the innocent open-mindedness of a child, and to me, that would have seemed the perfect moment. Harry would have most likely been more able to defend himself against future trials such as Riddle’s diary and the Dementors as well, because he’d have been armed with the truth, and if Dumbledore would have actually spoken with him regularly, he wouldn’t have become as secretive, because what would the need of that have been if he’d been given straightforward honesty from the start? No need to sneak around or find everything out on his own, less potential to draw the wrong conclusions…
    I think Harry would’ve grown into a very different person and matured much faster, but at the same time, I think Dumbledore would’ve been a very different person had he told Harry earlier. Although I do believe Dumbledore cared about Harry, I believe him telling Harry about the prophecy so late was more a strategic choice to make Harry more likely to do exactly as Dumbledore wanted and fulfill the prophecy. After all, Harry had seen so much and was in such turmoil that he’d do anything to get at the one responsible at that time. Dumbledore chose not to give Harry the chance to reflect on everything rationally without all this baggage dragging him down by telling him so late.
    At the same time, I don’t think Harry’s choice to fulfil the prophecy would’ve been any different had he been told aged 11. I think at age 11, Harry was remarkably more selfless than at age 15. But he’d have been able to fulfil the prophecy on his own terms and with more support around him. It’s a waste that Dumbledore always felt this constant need to be so secretive and omit so much. I think the story would have been mostly the same, except that Harry would have been less damaged, and Sirius would most likely have lived (assuming Harry and Albus developed a good relationship starting right there, at the end of Philosopher Stone).

    • ISeeThestrals

      Considering the next two times that Harry encounters Voldemort, learning about the prophecy early might have compelled him to try and kill Voldemort in those moments at a time when he was still maturing his magical abilities. I kind of feel he might have a little resentment for the magical world, feeling that was why he was brought into the magical world in the first place; to fulfill a prophecy. At the beginning of Chamber of Secrets he wrongfully thought Hermione and Ron stopped caring about him, so he might get the wrong impression of the prophecy early as kids can easily misunderstand things. Even in the fifth book he was under the impression that Dumbledore had turned his back on him.
      Anways, from a writer’s point of view, I think revealing why Voldemort tried to killed Harry that early is too much of a spoiler for readers. It’s the biggest question of the series, and to find out a big answer early might have taken down the excitement just a bit in reading the rest of these books. Rowling wanted to hold off that answer for as long as she could while fans were trying to work it out for themselves. I think it was revealed around book 5’s release that we would be learning the answer, and I’m sure everyone was waiting in anticipation for that moment. If there’s anything people take away from book five, it’s finally receiving the answer to the biggest question of the series 😀

      • Saiyangirl

        I agree that from a writer’s perspective, book 5 was the best way to go. I would’ve gone for the fifth one as well if I’d been Jo, and the revelation is part of the reason book 5 is my favourite. I also think it speaks to Dumbledore’s character not to tell Harry any sooner. Nonetheless, I still think that from an ethical point of view, Harry should have been told in book 1. I know it would have been hard on Harry and I understand where you’re coming from when saying Harry may have developed some kind of resentment against the magical world, but to be honest, I think Harry’s too selfless for something like that to stick, and I’m inclined to believe his resentment was actually much greater at age 15. I’m also still inclined to think that he was more selfless at age 11 and would have developed less resentment as a consequence, and been prepared to face up to the task at hand. In addition, I’m assuming Dumbledore would have given him actual guidance and talked to him regularly throughout each and every school year. So I think any misunderstandings could have easily been prevented (or corrected) had Harry been on such close supervision. I think that’s one of Dumbledore’s greatest mistakes; letting Harry down by not talking to him, not developing a proper mentor-pupil relationship. And then when he finally does take Harry sort of under his wing in book 6, it’s only to give the information most convenient to him so Harry fulfills his tasks. I think he would have shown Harry a whole lot more care had he been honest from the start, and combined that honesty with emotional availability and genuine mentorship.

  • SlytherinKnight

    Really like this question, it is probably the most asked ‘what if’ question of the entire series, and there are a lot of ‘what ifs’ that could be asked. As I think about the quandary that Dumbledore was facing, I can understand that he might believe that 11 is too young to tell Harry that he has the weight of the entire world on his shoulders, Dumbledore probably thought that Harry had too much on his plate already, though most of the stuff on Harry’s plate is because Dumbledore let the prophecy come to pass. Dumbledore is in the three main positions of power in the wizarding world, at least at the beginning of the series, he could have made sure that it was much more difficult for Voldemort to return, but he couldn’t trust himself with power, and so sat back and allowed those who were corrupt, evil or just dumb swoop in and muck up the wizarding world. That’s the biggest quandary that Dumbledore faces, he is afraid of his own power and doesn’t trust himself with it, yet holds Chief Warlock, Supreme Mugwump and Headmaster of Hogwarts at the same time.

    If Dumbledore had told Harry about the prophecy at the end of first year, when he was still somewhat innocent, I think Harry would have become a more focused wizard. We can see that Harry’s lazy, he doesn’t truly work for his skills (expect for learning the Patronus, and during fourth and fifth year) expect when forced too. And when Harry does buckle down and pay attention, he is a extraordinarily gifted wizard (learning the Patronus as a third year, getting through the Triwizard Tournament, dueling Voldemort several times) are all examples of Harry’s powers that if given focus would make him into the most powerful wizard of them all. I also think that Harry might have been treated better by the Dursleys because Dumbledore, who admits he knows that Harry was abused there, would have made sure that Harry had the most conductive environment to ‘train’ whether it be at Privet Drive or Hogwarts or even somewhere else.

    • ISeeThestrals

      I agree that I think Harry would have been more focused, but I don’t know about the Dursley’s treating him better. Considering the type of training Dumbledore gives to Harry in book 6, this is training that takes place at Hogwarts. Young wizards aren’t allowed to do magic outside of school. The most Harry does do at Privet Drive is study, which would add to his training by learning more spells. Regardless of what Dumbledore tells the Dursley’s about Harry, their opinion of him doesn’t change, except Dudley.

  • Hufflepug

    This seems like an unpopular opinion but I think Dumbledore waited until the right moment. Harry has the tendency to act on his impulses and if he knew that he had the power to defeat Voldemort before he became a true threat then he would have tried something drastic and not well thought out. How many times have we seen Harry ignore the wiser advice of Hermione, Lupin, McGonagall or Dumbledore (etc. etc.) and act directly on his emotions in times of pressure? Just considering this book, we see him do this in Occlumency lessons, in class with Umbridge, and when he rushes to the Ministry to save Sirius. It would have been a mess if Harry knew he had to defeat Voldemort before this point, especially if Dumbledore had still waited to tell him about the Horcruxes. I picture the graveyard scene in GoF panning out similarly, Harry feeling frustrated that he couldn’t defeat Voldemort in that moment, and then Harry going off on his own to find him and defeat him for whatever reason. Harry had to mature and he had to be in an environment where he was not the only one fighting before learning the truth.

    • norwegian_ridgeback

      I agree, I think that if Harry had known in his early school years about the prophecy and what it meant – that one of them would have to kill the other – he would have tried to kill Voldemort rather than defend himself, for example in the graveyard scene in Goblet of fire, putting his life at a bigger risk since he had little
      experience in offensive magic and wouldn’t be able pull off the killing
      curse. This scenario is dependent on Harry not knowing about the horcruxes – of course, Voldemort wouldn’t die anyway because of them.

      So if Dumbledore had told Harry about the prophecy earlier on, he would
      also have to warn Harry that Voldemort couldn’t be killed yet because
      of the horcruxes. I think it would be really frustrating for Harry to
      know all those years that he had to kill Voldemort eventually, but that
      he couldn’t do it yet. Not to mention the stress and fear it would
      cause him to know all this at such a young age – what good would it do
      him to know it in his first three school years? Or even in his fourth? Dumbledore could have told Harry of his suspicions about the horcruxes at the end of Goblet, in relation to the remark Voldemort made in the graveyard about going “further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality”. But there wouldn’t be much point in telling Harry this without telling him about the prophecy.
      Speaking of horcruxes – it’s actually a little strange that Dumbledore
      didn’t tell Harry about them at the same time as he explained the
      prophecy, because the two are so tied together: Harry has to kill
      Voldemort, but he can’t do so before the horcruxes are destroyed. I
      guess Dumbledore thought there was no way Harry could get to Voldemort –
      or the other way around – during the summer, and maybe he didn’t want
      to bother Harry with more heavy information on top of everything else.
      Or maybe he just wanted to know all there was to know about his
      horcrux-theory before presenting it to Harry, he does seem like the type
      to keep his cards close to his chest until he has all the facts… ;-p

      Anyway – my last, but perhaps most crucial point: Dumbledore emphasized the importance of it being Harry’s own choice to go after Voldemort, which is the most important reason why I don’t think he should have told Harry about the prophecy earlier on. I think the loss of Sirius caused Harry to want to kill Voldemort, regardless of the prophecy.
      I’m not sure that Cedric’s death had the same effect on him, and I think that if he ahd known about the prophecy earlier on the fact that he had to kill Voldemort would feel more like a burden, like he didn’t have a choice.

      • Hufflepug

        Exactly. If he had known about it earlier, he wouldn’t have known when the right time was and would feel so guilty that he couldn’t kill him due to not having found the Horcruxes whenever people died because of Voldemort. I think the main reason Dumbledore waited longer to tell Harry about the Horcruxes was that he wanted to be sure his theory was correct. That’s why he went to destroy the ring, searched for the locket, and asked Harry to get Slughorn’s memory. He probably didn’t want Harry to go after all these random objects if they didn’t end up meaning anything.

  • Casey L.

    Do we assume Dumbledore’s going to tell Harry the entire prophecy here? If so, I think the series has the potential of being much darker. For example, in Chamber of Secrets, does Harry ask permission to keep the sword of Gryffindor? One year later, what happens when Harry asks Lupin about ways to kill a dark wizard? In the Goblet of Fire, when Crouch/Moody teaches the unforgivable curses, think of the chill that goes down your spine if/when Harry thinks to himself, “Avada Kadavra? I might be able to use that.”
    Now, what if Dumbledore only tells Harry part of the prophecy at a time? At the end of the first book, Harry asks why Voldemort chose him, and maybe Dumbledore tells him about only the part Snape heard. That might have been enough to satisfy Harry’s curiosity and bought Dumbledore some time until he was ready to hear the rest. The rest of the story could change very little in this scenario, until the Hall of Prophecy scene, when obviously Harry would have known more than he did in the book as Jo wrote it.

  • SwishySycamore

    I believe that Dumbledore was right to not tell Harry until he was older (maybe not 5th book late, maybe 3rd or 4th). However if Dumbledore did tell Harry in book 2 or even book one, Harry would become very panicked. He would become worried like he was when he saw Voldermort drinking the unicorn blood in Philosopher stone. As he becomes older, Harry would turn a lot more dark (especially after Cedric’s death). I even imagine Harry trying to go after Voldermort especially in book 5th when he is very angsty.Thus, Harry would have to be under close security like he was in Order of the Phoenix. He is still courageous and kind just maybe a little tormented over his inevitable fate.

  • DisKid

    I wonder if Harry would have been tempted to learn darker magic if he was told earlier. After all, one thing that struck me after Harry was told this prophecy is that he never really thought too well as to how he was going to kill Voldemort after the horcruxes were destroyed. Was he going to stupefy him off a cliff? Harry did not even, technically, kill Voldemort. Voldemort killed himself accidentally because his spell backfired, showing that while this prophecy existed Harry did not have to actually murder Voldemort. It was not a definite fate. I’m sure Dumbledore knew there was a possibility that Harry wouldn’t have to kill him as he mentions many prophecies in the department of mysteries did not come true and Voldemort brought this on himself. Perhaps Dumbledore has an idea in his head that other people would help Harry kill him, that somebody would do it for him, or maybe the thought did occur to Dumbledore that Voldemort may accidentally do it himself since he’s screwed up so much already. I wonder if a reason Dumbledore did not want to tell Harry the prophecy too early was a fear that, before he had strong allegiance to the good side, that he would be tempted to learn dark magic as it could easily seem like this is the only way really kill a dark, powerful wizard like Voldemort once the horcruxes are gone even if that’s not true. I wonder if Dumbledore thought Harry needed to learn he was not dark like Voldemort before knowing this prophecy.

    • RoseLumos

      Thinking about it, the only reason Harry really knows about the Unforgivable Curses is because fake Moody taught it to him. He had all three curses used against him at the end of Goblet but really it is because of a Death Eater that Harry knows about them.

      • DisKid

        There’s probably books on them in the library. Restricted section I’m sure, but maybe he could convince a teacher to write him a letter with a made up story.

    • Hufflepug

      I love that. It makes sense that Dumbledore chose this moment because it signifies the end of Harry’s darkest year. If Harry were to have ever considered using dark magic to kill Voldemort, it would be during his anger-filled fifth year. At the end of the battle at the department of mysteries Harry proves two things: he can push away possession from Voldemort and he is unable to use the Cruciatus curse. This is a sign of his moral maturity and shows that he can finally suppress some of the impulses from the scarcrux.

  • Mama_Slytherin

    I think that Harry should have been told prior to this point. If not at the end of his first year, then surely at the end of his second or third year. Given Harry’s understanding of life and death and his maturity about his situation in life, I think Harry could have handled the knowledge. I am not sure it would have changed much about his life (after all he does have a bit of a hero complex, hence his constant getting in the middle of things), but maybe it would have given him a better understanding and stopped some of the angst we see later. I think the one thing that could have really changed is the constant wondering about the Department of Mysteries and ultimately the events that led to Sirius’ death. I really, really, VERY strongly feel they should have not have told Harry that Voldemort was after a “weapon” – Dumbledore should have been straight with him that it was a prophesy and that ultimately it wouldn’t change anything. I’m not exactly sure the Order knew it was the prophesy he was after, but I am certain that Dumbledore did. In the long run the prophesy didn’t change anything for Voldemort, so I’m really not sure why the Order made such a deal over it in the first place. Someone please correct me if I am wrong, but the information it contained didn’t help Voldemort at all, as far as I can tell. And the information wasn’t really news to Harry, who I think always felt that it would come down to Voldemort and himself – that one would have to kill the other to end the constant chase and flight we see over and over again.

  • WizardorWhat

    I think that Harry could have been told at the end of Book 1. Harry’s defining features (in the absence of intelligence, diligence, and magical ability) are his ability to love, his bravery, and his ability to deal with pressure. All of these qualities have been clear from Book 1. I think he would have coped, and risen to the occasion. It’s interesting that in Book 5, the news doesn’t particularly worry him (though this may be partly because he was so sad about Sirius). More importantly, receiving the knowledge in Book 1would have equipped him to deal with later challenges:

    a. Harry would have recognised Riddle’s name in Book 2, and given the Diary straight to Dumbledore.
    b. Harry would have understood the importance of occlumency in Book 5, would have been harder to trick into going to the Ministry.

  • ISeeThestrals

    Dumbledore made a good point in not revealing this information early because
    Harry was too young. He was also still being introduced to the magical world, so
    he might not have fully grasped the issue of the prophecy until he understood
    more about magic as well as his own history with the wizarding world and Voldemort.
    I feel if Dumbledore had told Harry earlier, it would have affected the way he handled
    the troubling situations he always finds himself in towards the end of the year. Harry
    does not occupy himself with thoughts of Voldemort around the clock when he has
    school to deal with, along with any events that are occurring at the time. So thoughts
    of the prophecy would arise whenever he’s caught in a moment of facing Voldemort,
    which might compel him to try and vanquish Voldemort on the spot because he believed
    he had to. This would mean that Dumbledore would have had to train him earlier in how
    to deal with his enemy.
    As Dumbledore mentioned, revealing the prophecy early would be placing another burden
    on Harry’s shoulders. So if Harry knew sooner, he might have feelings of trepidation at being
    a wizard. He might also feel that he could not experience much freedom and happiness in the
    magical world with the idea that his life was already predetermined; that he must either kill or
    be killed. It would leave him feeling his choices were limited and that he must put all his efforts
    into becoming a great hero. His view on a world he was beginning to love might have darkened in
    his eyes. The prophecy would appear to be giving him a purpose and a sole reason for joining
    the wizarding world as opposed to simply joining it for the sake that he was born a wizard.
    When Harry entered the magical world, he tried to ignore the fame placed upon him, but the
    prophecy would be a heavy reminder of who he was and what role he had to fulfill. But this would
    make him more compelled to seek Dumbledore’s help and work harder in his magical studies for
    fear of failing a world that holds him in such high regards, whereas under the Dursley’s roof, he
    was all but ignored. Harry would have had to mature past the idea that he was bound to a prediction
    in order to live his life more freely as just Harry.

  • TrevorTheTurtle

    I think Dumbledore told Harry only a few months too late. I would’ve waited until Voldemort was a real (I guess corporeal) threat again, so I don’t really think he was that far off. But say he did tell Harry in his first year. Aside from the obvious (Sirius not dying, at least not that way), I don’t think too much could have changed plot-wise. Harry knows this guy is coming after him repeatedly, so after the initial shock has passed, the knowledge that he will have to kill Voldemort or be killed at some point seems the most likely thing to happen, prophecy or no prophecy, which is exactly what he ends up realizing in Half-Blood. I do think that would have made him really scared and paranoid for years, because Voldemort returning would mean it was time to step up or die. Also, that would mean Harry would want to kill Voldemort, and Dumbledore would have to explain why he couldn’t do that just yet, and Horcruxes is definitely not a topic he was ready for in first year.

    Also, I think the incident with Mr. Weasley would have still happened whether Harry knew what the hell that was about or not, and Dumbledore would still be scared of Voldemort spying through the scar. So to Occlumency with Snape we go, which is a disaster, Voldemort sees into Harry’s mind when it’s weakest and potentially learns what the prophecy says. Overall, can’t say I disagree completely with what Dumbledore did here.

  • PuffNProud

    I have a bit of a different take on this. I think that Harry’s selflessness or “saving people thing” always existed as part of his personality and that if Dumbledore told Harry that “neither can live while the other survives,” Harry would consider sacrificing himself earlier to save his friends and people in the wizarding world. Using some convoluted logic, Harry may conclude that Voldemort would be able to be killed if Harry was no longer alive. So Harry sacrifices himself and trusts that another wizard could then get rid of Voldemort.

  • Tweak6

    To be honest, I don’t think Harry would have really reacted differently if he had heard the prophecy earlier. When he has had time to grieve for Sirius and actually gets around to thinking about the prophecy, Harry realizes it tells him much of what he already knew- that he and Voldemort would face each other. Harry acknowledges the fact that no matter what he would want to stop Voldemort when talking to Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince, but this is not a new mind set- Voldemort killed his parents, therefore at any age he would have tried to stop Voldemort, as demonstrated by his constant bravery in facing Voldemort again and again. Dumbledore even admits that Harry was ready to hear the prophecy at a much earlier age- it would not have warped his outlook or personality because what it reveals is not news for Harry.

    The only thing that might have changed would be the events at the Ministry and Sirius’ death. But lets face it, Harry is very good at getting into trouble. Voldemort would simply have made moves to gain power slightly earlier, Harry would probably have shown up and gotten himself in danger, and the Order and Sirius would have arrived to try and sort it out. The prophecy is mostly important in the way it explains Voldemort’s motivation in attacking Harry and therefore the underlying narrative of the series, not in the way it affects Harry or his actions.

  • The_Potter_Dude

    Draco and Harry? Similar or Different? Even though Harry is in Gryffindor and Draco in Slytherin, I find it weird they don’t have the guts to kill someone. Draco’s father has probably kill hundreds of people. The only I think Draco is in Slytherin is cause he is cunning, mean, and hates Muggleborns!!! Maybe there should be a fifth house where there are people who are cunning and sometimes means but don’t want to kill people!!! It would be call Munning!!! (Mean and Cunning) Draco and Harry have different thoughts but they both don’t kill.

  • The_Potter_Dude

    I think slytherin should be split into to parts the Crazy, Mean, Killing people like Umbridge, Voldemort, and Draco’s father and then another which is the cunning and mean people. The names would be Munning and Lord Killable!!!

  • The_Potter_Dude

    Share your ideas!!!