Characters: Sybill Trelawney, Luna Lovegood
Word Count: ~2700
Summary: In front of her lay the free copy that she had been promised – the people at The Quibbler were very nice; so very much nicer than those horrid scribblers at The Prophet… and here it was in print, word-for-word, exactly as Sybill had spoken it.
Author's Notes: This was written in response to vaysh’s prompt, ‘Fic that explores Sybill's Seer talent’, in the excellent hoggywartyxmas fest. Despite Minerva's taunting on the subject, I’ve managed a little more than a drabble!
Sybill sat in her office, the warm autumn light trickling through stained glass, and a gentle breeze tickling her numerous wind-chimes. They had done a wonderful job at rebuilding; the tower almost looked like new - and by the time she had finished re-hanging all of her drapes, one would barely notice the places where the stone had been scorched, or a new section of wall was raised to fill a painful wound.
A brand new set of crystal balls gleamed on the shelf in the corner. It was such a relief to be back home, thought Sybill. She couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
In front of her, on her favourite desk inlaid with semi-precious stones, lay the free copy that she had been promised – the people at The Quibbler were very nice; so very much nicer than those horrid scribblers at The Prophet. Especially lovely was that charming Miss Lovegood – she was so full of interesting views and theories, Sybill would not have been surprised to hear there was evidence of the Sight in her family.
The poor child had lost both her mother and almost lost her father, now. It was probably no wonder that she was throwing herself into her work – and unlike most journalists, she was so refreshingly honest. Luna had promised that the interview would not be paraphrased or tinkered with – and here it was in print, word-for-word, exactly as Sybill had spoken it.
LL: For this week’s special guest feature, we have Sybill Patricia Trelawney joining us – respected Professor of Divination at Hogwarts, and celebrated Seer. Professor, thank you for coming, at what must be a busy time of year, preparing for the first new intake after the war.
SPT: Thank you, Miss Lovegood. I’m delighted – though you understand I must keep appearances such as these to a minimum, lest they interfere with my Gift. It is difficult enough to pry oneself away from the workings of the Inner Eye to teach, but I cannot think of anything more worthy than inspiring the next generation of Seers - so for that I am happy to make the sacrifice.
As she read, Sybill pondered as to where her teaching notes might have got to, in all of the kerfuffle. She made them a decade or so ago – only a few lines for each subject, mind – and tended to have a quick read-over every few years. That was more than enough; only far less talented instructors – like poor old Minerva and Pomona – actually needed to plan what they were going to teach. Like the Sight, true inspiration in the classroom came to those who were Gifted, not through some kind of pedestrian hard graft.
LL: Speaking of generations, it’s well known, Professor, that you are related to the legendary Cassandra Trelawney. Could you tell us a little more about your relationship with her, and how that has affected your career?
SPT: Ah yes, Cassandra! I commune with her every day. Ordinary witches and wizards cannot reach beyond the Veil, of course, but she and I have a special understanding. She is with me when I foretell, and it is her Gift and mine combined that speak through me. Therefore, her prophecies were great, but mine are greater still – the confluence of generations together walking the earth...
Staring up from the page, Sybill reflected.
She had never known life without Cassandra. The family home had a large and darkened portrait above the fireplace: a comely woman in Victorian velvets, with corset cinched rather too tight for the comfort of her well-padded frame. Her eyes were dark brown and serious, and her hair pulled back in the chignon of the times.
The portrait itself was not an advanced piece of spell-work - it generally played on-loop, with Cassandra’s One-Hundred-and-Fourteen Great Prophecies delivered in predictable order – but every so often it would regard young Sybill as she watched, and ask her what she wanted from the future.
“To be like you! To be a great Seer!” was always the little girl’s reply, and the portrait would give a benevolent smile.
Throughout Sybill’s teenage years, Cassandra was her only confidante. Volumes of leather-bound diaries overflowed from her trunk, each filled with letters to Cassandra: Dear Cassandra… My dear Cassandra… Dearest Cassandra…” Her classmates were not kind to her: poor grades, gawky limbs and bottle-bottom glasses probably had their effect, and Cassandra was the only one who cared.
LL: So when did you first realise you had the Sight?
SPT: I think it was apparent from the day I was born. My dear parents recognised they had a Gifted child, because I showed magic from a very early age, indeed. Prophesying came naturally, too – I was showing them the future before I was old enough to speak. But, realising what a rare and delicate Gift it was, they made the very sensible decision to keep the news to themselves, and thus protect me from the intrusion of the outside world.
When Sybill, aged fourteen, had first announced to her parents that she liked Divination and wanted to be a professional Teller, they thought it was some kind of joke. They were a level-headed pair – her, father, an Arithmancer for a large firm, and her mother, an editor of Herbology textbooks – and although kind to their underachieving daughter, they had hoped that she would struggle through a decent clutch of NEWTs and manage to do something sensible. They had always viewed the family connection as just a strange little curiosity – the sort of thing that might be mentioned at a dinner party as a ‘you’ll never guess what funny thing…” sort of story. Divination wasn’t even an examinable subject, in those days. It was just a class offered on Wednesday afternoons for those who didn’t want to play Quidditch.
There were only three of them who attended regularly: a boy who had lost a leg when he was a toddler, a girl so very pale the sunlight hurt her eyes, and Sybill, herself. There was no tuition, as such; Professor Binns rolled his eyes and muttered something about ‘unsubstantiated nonsense’ as he scattered some cards and teacups on the table, added some books with gaudy covers and improbable names, and said that they were free to go when it got to teatime.
Yet, even with such uninspiring beginnings, Sybill was delighted:
'Dear Cassandra, Today, for the first time, I got to see what being a Seer is like!'
'Dear Cassandra, I made my first prophecy today. I said that there would be potatoes with dinner, and there were!’
It was a wonderful feeling to be the top of the class for once – and while others were getting wet and muddy on the Quidditch pitch, she could cultivate an air of mystique, safe within the tower. It even earned her a little respect. Instead of the endless taunts - scrawny Trelawney, scrawny Trelawney - people came to her for advice: 'So, does he fancy me?' 'Will he go out with me?'
Sybill’s teacups and cards and crystal balls and palm-maps became her proudest possessions.
LL: But you came to prominence only recently, when it was revealed that as a young adult, you made the famous Prophecy concerning Harry Potter and the Dark Lord. Could you tell us about that night?
SPT: It was the most intense communion with the Sight that I have ever experienced; truly transcendental. I knew at the time, when the Truth was coming to me,that this foretelling was going to be very special indeed. And then, afterwards, it was clear that I had been Chosen – something that my dear parents had suspected all along, of course. Cassandra herself, and the gods, had decided that I was the one worthy of delivering the great news to this mortal coil!
Of course, I’m very modest about it. No-one knew for years that it was me; I just prefer to keep all of my staggering achievements private.
In truth, Sybill remembers nothing about the Prophecy. She was just sitting there in a job interview, she blinked, and then Dumbledore was staring at her with renewed intensity. It was only recently, after the end of the war, that Harry Potter told her what had happened.
Her first reaction was disbelief – followed quickly by a determination to get every last drop of credit out of it that she could. That seemed to be working pretty well, so far.
How gratifying that Cassandra was right about me, she thought.
Sybill took a deep breath, and smiled at her perfect tower room. It was ridiculous to doubt it – she deserved her position here more than anyone else. She must just try to remember that, whenever the whispers and disparaging remarks came to scratch at the doors.
LL: Yes, that would certainly seem to be the case. Our readers may wonder whether such a tendency to seclusion may explain this surprising statistic: according to Ministry records, by your current age – which I shall not, of course, disclose here – Cassandra Trelawney had made ninety-eight official Prophecies. According to the same records, you, Professor, have made... two.all the time.
SPT: I’m making Prophecies all the time! Literally
It’s just that the Ministry’s incompetent. They’d run out of space on their shelves, they said. They were making a new quota-system, they said. And then, before we knew it, they'd let some Death Eaters in, rampaging about the place, and it was all ruined! I wouldn't trust any numbers you might get from there, dear girl. Not. At. All.
Two. Pfft! Sybill wrinkled her nose as she read it. These 'Official Prophecies' were thoroughly overrated, anyway. She very much preferred her own predictions, thank you very much - not some strange thing that other people had claimed had happened to her when she fainted.
'An empty vessel makes the most noise...' That had been one of Minerva's barbed comments of late. Completely unfair, it was, too.
Yet, sometimes, in the dead of night, Sybill couldn't quite shake the feeling that her only real worth to the world was those rare times when she was... not really there.
-As if her body were just some conduit being used by a force outside her control. And that was... frightening, to be honest.
Sure, she may have capitalised on the Harry Potter Prophecy for all it was worth, but she didn't like to think too carefully about it. For who had really said those things; those famous words? For every reasonable interpretation of the idea, she had not, and as much as she loved Cassandra, Sybill had no evidence that it was anything to do with her, either.
What if, one day, that other thing were to take her over entirely? Would she have any control over it? Would she be dead? Or would she just be put in a cage in the Department of Mysteries with a bored clip-boarded employee set to notate every word disgorged from her lips?
Sybill shuddered, and pulled her shawl more tightly around her shoulders. It may be a Gift, but perhaps it was also a Curse.
LL: Ok, then, I think we can all agree that the Ministry has had a chequered history of late! But the institution to which you must have rather more loyalty, Professor, is of course Hogwarts. Having now taught there for eighteen years, could you tell us how the school has changed over your time, and how the four Headteachers under whom you have served have each left their mark?
SPT: Albus Dumbledore was undoubtedly the greatest; he recognised my Gift from the moment we first met. He was an astounding wizard, and also a man who led with insight and kindness, never interfering in the work of a fellow expert - such as myself. We all miss him very much. Among other things, Professor Dumbledore was remarkably astute with the deployment of the castle - he gave me my lovely Divination tower, for example - and thus clearly recognised the needs of those blessed with special talents.
Minerva McGonagall is... a competent deputy, to be sure. Workman-like, if you will, but - just between us - perhaps not the sharpest crayon in the box. She has no appreciation for the Art and Science of Divination, for example. Indeed, she recently suggested that my subject be downgraded from core curriculum to a mere after-class activity! It's a preposterous idea, of course, and I will fight it tooth and nail!
With a grating of teeth, Sybill thought back to the most recent staff conference that she had been forced to attend. She really hated those meetings - what with all those people raising their voices and banging on the table, they sometimes disturbed her Inner Eye for days. Minerva had pushed the proposal hard, citing 'statistics' and 'empirical evidence' regarding 'the clearly ineffectual nature of Telling techniques'. It was really unfair! Besides, what would she know? The harpy.
Luckily, though, that nice man Xenophilius Lovegood had been appointed as a new member of the board of governors the day after the meeting - in the name of 'post-war diversity', apparently - and he would veto any such change. Glad to have some good, level-headed people around, thought Sybill, and it's clear to see where Luna gets all of her interesting ideas.
That all being as it may, the present situation did not compare to the sense of security Sybill had felt with Professor Dumbledore. He had really believed in her; he never meddled, just letting Sybill to her own devices, exactly as she liked it.
Minerva's snide suggestion that Dumbledore had merely let Sybill stay in the castle all these years to save her life was obviously nonsense. -As was the claim that Dumbledore would have downgraded Divination, if only he had found the time to get around to it.
Yes. Absolute utter nonsense. Sybill nodded vigorously to reassure herself.
LL: And how about the controversial fourth and fifth? I refer of course to the period of turmoil in which Dolores Umbridge, war criminal, assumed control of the school, and to the darkly heroic Headmastership of Professor Snape.
SPT: The less said about the former, the better, I daresay! The only unfortunate hang-over from that is that we still have a Centaur occupying a teaching position at Hogwarts...
As to the latter, it was clearly a very difficult time for most of us. I remember little from that year; in times of stress, those of us in possession of the Sight often retreat from the material world, and commune even more strongly with the spirits...
Naturally thinking of herself as a kind-hearted soul, Sybill hated the idea of Dementors acting upon anyone... with one particular exception. May that evilly-prim pinkly-bowed abomination rot in Azkaban for the rest of her life!
It may seem surprising, but Sybill had genuinely never been more scared than the time she was going to be evicted from all she had known. Even the Death Eaters at the gates didn't compare with that; the Battle was a great collaborative defence of all that she loved. She, the teachers and the castle - they were all together, all of a team - but when she was left crying in the courtyard, her trunk hurled down the stairs behind her in to the freezing morning, she had never felt so isolated, alone and terrified.
...Perhaps Minerva wasn't so bad after all.
LL: By 'spirits', do you mean 'sherry', by any chance? Some people have reported, Professor, that you might have been turning to drink, in the stress of the war...
SPT: Nonsense! I am far too strong and stable for such a thing!
Sybill flinched slightly, and put the flask of sherry under her bed out of her mind. So, she liked a quick drink. Who didn’t, after all?
To suggest that it was a problem was totally unreasonable; this was only the fourth bottle this week, and those of sensitive persuasions should be allowed a little help in relaxing, now, shouldn't they?
LL: Well, that brings us to the end of today’s interview. But may I say, Professor? - What a pretty shawl.
SPT: Thank you!
She gave a tight smile. It was a nice shawl, yes: purple with metallic green and the sign of the Seer embroidered in silver sequins.
At last, something in print with which Sybill could truly agree.