Prophet of Doom
by Peri At The Gate
Sybill stared at the tea leaves in Rose McLaren's cup. Her mind swam with the tiny brown flecks, drowned in the flood of images. How could she ever choose just one? How did her classmates do it?
"What do you see, Trelawney?" demanded Miss Popffer, suddenly appearing over Sybill's shoulder. The teacher glared at the cup. "Looks pretty obvious to me. What do you see?"
"Umm," Sybill stalled. There was so much! An avalanche of visions rolled over her, all with Rose somewhere in the picture. Which one? The candlelight dinner? The wedding? The --oh, frightening! --the gathering of hooded figures? The one where Rose waved her wand at a Dementor! Once Sybill saw that, she couldn't look away.
"Rose will fight a Dementor - I guess that means she will go to Ashkaban," stammered Sybill. It was always the dark scary ones that held her attention.
Rose gasped. "Wha--?" said Miss Popffer. "That is ridiculous! Pay it no mind, McLaren. It is just another one of her morbid fancies."
Miss Popffer snatched the cup away. "This is a very easy Divination, Trelawney. I don't see how you could miss it. McLaren will meet a young man who will ask her out to dinner. They will have seafood. That's all these tea leaves say."
Rose sighed in relief. "I love seafood," she said.
"Well, I do see that, but-" Sybill began.
"Then why didn't you say that? Why do you constantly terrorize your classmates with these doom and gloom predictions? It is neither amusing nor helpful, you know!"
"Class is dismissed," Miss Popffer boomed out suddenly. "You may all go now, except for you, Trelawney. We must talk."
Sybill sat at her desk in misery as the rest of the class filed out. The students cast sidelong glances at her as they left, and none of them looked kind or friendly. "This is why no one ever wants to partner with you on the Divinations," said Miss Popffer as she closed the door.
"Miss Popffer, I did see the dinner. But-"
"But you also saw the Dementor, correct?"
"And you thought the Dementor was more important than the broiled fish, right?"
"But it isn't. Do you know why? Because the Dementor vision is only possible, not certain. The only divination from those tea leaves that is certain is that Rose McLaren will go out to dinner with a man. The rest of it is subject to change."
"But that man, Miss Popffer! He's evil! He works with - Him-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named! And she'll marry him and then get mixed up with bad people! I did see this!"
"I saw it, too, Trelawney - as possible outcomes."
"And she'll be convicted and sent to Ashkaban. And she'll try to get away, but the Dementor-"
"I know, Trelawney. But much could happen over time. She may accept her sentence and not try to get away. She may refuse to work with the Dark Forces and never be convicted. She may not marry him. All this could happen. Will probably happen. McLaren is a sensible girl and she's basically good."
"Someone needs to tell her!"
"If it gets to that point, I'm sure someone will. For now, she doesn't need to be frightened out of her wits."
Sybill hung her head. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'll apologize to Rose."
"Trelawney, do you know what most - or probably all - of the other students would have seen in that cup?"
"The dinner date?"
"And that's all. And that indistinctly. Can you describe the restaurant?"
"Yes." Sybill sat up straight. At least she was on firm ground here. "It was the Trident in Hogsmeade but it had been redecorated. The walls were dark green. The tablecloths and napkins were a sort of peach color. There were candles in little glass containers. The menus were written in script-"
"That is exactly what I mean. You see much more than most. You are so very gifted. You can become a great Divinist - maybe even teach here at Hogwarts eventually. Or you can let your talent run wild, uncontrolled, and end up like those sad people who frequent that coffeehouse in Hogsmeade, the Crystal Mushroom I believe it is."
"My parents..." Sybill began.
"Your parents?" Miss Popffer peered at her.
"My parents...have been to that coffeehouse. I think."
"I'm sure your parents are very good people. It may be that they are not as talented as you. Or it may be that they chose not to cultivate their gifts. In any case, you must learn not to predict anything but that which is definite, which will not be changed."
"I don't know how to do that."
"I don't mean you should stop seeing what you see. Just don't say it. You understand?"
Sybill nodded. "I'm sure I can do that," she said.
"Good. Now, the Christmas break begins tomorrow. When you are home, practice every day. Read someone's tea leaves. And only tell them the parts that are definite. Nothing else. Is that clear?"
"Yes, but what if there's danger? If they need to know?"
"You are not to be the judge of that!" Miss Popffer's stern voice relented a little. "If you really feel someone needs to know about a possibility, send me an owl. But don't make that decision yourself. Enjoy your holiday." Miss Popffer waved her hand in dismissal, and Sybill gathered up her books and hurried out.
* * *
Sybill Trelawney was probably the first Hogwarts student to reach her home the next day, since she didn't have to take the Express. Hagrid very kindly loaded her bag into the horse cart and dropped her at her parents' door in Hogsmeade. She thought about asking if he wanted to come in for a cup of tea or coffee, but he seemed in a hurry. And then there was what Miss Popffer had said. Sybill had never been aware that people looked down on the place before. She felt slightly ashamed to belong to it.
Dragging her bag awkwardly, she pushed open the door of the Crystal Mushroom. The coffeehouse was dark and empty. "Mum? Dad?" she called.
"Oh, there you are!" Dorothea Trelawney came from the back, a cup and the dishtowel she was using to dry it in her hand. She was dressed as usual for her: black beret, black leotard and long black skirt. "Your dad's upstairs taking a nap. We thought you'd be here by now."
"No one picked me up," Sybill said, almost whining.
"No. Clementine looked at my tea leaves and said Hagrid would bring you in the cart, so it seemed silly to go all that way. How are you, dear?" Mrs. Trelawney kissed Sybill's cheek.
"Hagrid only brought me in the cart because no one was there to fetch me."
"Well, whatever happened, you're here now. Sit. I'll get you some tea, and you can tell me all about school."
The door burst open. "Oh, thank goodness!" Sybill's Aunt Clementine stood in the doorway, her purple hair windblown and wild. "Are you badly hurt? Should we do some healing spells?"
Mother and daughter stared at her. "Is who hurt?" asked Mrs. Trelawney.
"Why, Sybill, of course. When Hagrid's cart tipped over into that ditch. Is Hagrid hurt?"
"No one's hurt, Auntie Clem. The cart didn't tip over."
"But I saw it! In the tea leaves! A rabbit ran across the road and spooked the horse, and you and Hagrid and the cart and the horse toppled into a ditch!"
"There was a rabbit. But Hagrid managed the horse very well and nothing happened. Auntie Clem, I want to ask you something."
"Of course, dear. Let me sit a moment and catch my breath. I was so frightened! Dorothea, maybe a cup of tea..."
"Give her a cup of coffee, Mum," said Sybill firmly. "Auntie Clem, when you saw the cart fall in the ditch-"
"I'm traumatized by it! Please hurry with that coffee, Dorothea. Maybe a tot of brandy to go with it?"
"When you saw it, was it a definite thing? I mean, was it sure to happen? Could you see that?"
"The rabbit was definite. Certain. And, of course, it doesn't take a wizard to see what would happen when a rabbit spooks a horse."
"But what you saw was, a rabbit would run out for sure, and maybe the cart would tip over?"
"What cart?" A goateed man was by the door, unwinding a long scarf from his neck. "Hallo, Clem. Dorothea. Sybill, nice to have you back. Where's Ackley?"
"Hallo, Chester. Ackley's upstairs taking a nap."
"Sybill's just given us an awful scare, almost falling into a ditch from a cart wreck."
"Ackley is not taking a nap. He's awake now, and wants to kiss his daughter and get some tea." Sybill's father emerged from the back of the coffeehouse.
"Hello, all." Two more people came in, then more. Dorothea Trelawney scurried about with teapots and coffeepots; people waved wands and cups flew from the shelves to the table; someone began to stroke arpeggios on a guitar; and someone else laid down a gentle rhythm on bongos. Suddenly the place was a party. Sybill sat in the middle, too used to this to be befuddled by the stew of sound around her: "I saw it, too. Just like Clem. A cart wreck. Just awful-" "I'm really not sure that I did put the lights out before I left. I wonder--" "I saw it. The rabbit scared the horse, you see-" "Well, they're closed for remodelling, but what they really need to remodel is their shrimp recipe--" "Hagrid broke his collarbone. The horse had to be put down. Broken legs." "But Sybill's not dead. There she is right there!"
Sitting quietly, Sybill thought. All these people saw the cart wreck. But all they really saw was the rabbit. And this was what Sybill had lived with for her whole sixteen years.
Was it any wonder she saw evil husbands and Dementors?
* * *
Christmas break was finally over. Going back to Hogwarts meant a return to noisy crushes of students in the hallways, constant hum and buzz of conversation in the common room, and the exuberant chatter of hundreds of youths in the dining hall together with the clink of utensils as they ate. It meant never a moment alone, never a waking second of quiet. Sybill looked forward to the peacefulness of it.
She was laying out her robes on her bed in the dormitory, waving her wand over each one. Dorothea had already freshened and neatened them for her, but somehow when her mother did it, it never quite took. The robes looked a little wrinkled and grimy and in need of attention.
"Hullo!" Rose dragged her suitcase into the bed next to Sybill's and began to unpack her own clean crisp clothing. "Have a good holiday?"
"Great," lied Sybill. Actually, she did like to be home with her parents - she loved them, after all - and with all their bizarre but well-meaning friends. But the certain versus possible question had haunted her the whole time. She found herself examining every statement anyone made. She drank endless cups of tea (good to have a mum and dad in the business, then!) and scanned the residue in the bottom for truth. "Teapot knocked over - certain. Chester gets third-degree burns - possible." She was there when the teapot fell to deflect it so it crashed on the floor and shattered, but the scalding liquid missed Chester's leg. ("Reparo," said Chester. "Thanks, Sybill, but you know, catching it in mid-air is more fun.") "Clem loses her glasses - certain. She takes a wrong turn on her way home and falls in the river - possible." Sybill located Clementine's eyeglasses and made sure her aunt was wearing them before she left the coffeehouse.
"Oh, good," Ackley had said when he saw his daughter hand the spectacles to his sister-in-law. "I didn't fancy a swim to rescue you at this hour, Clem." Would it make any difference with Miss Popffer, Sybill thought, if she knew that both heredity and environment had been at work in shaping Sybill's approach to Divination?
"Sybill, don't you think I know my way home, with or without my glasses?" said Clementine gently.
And the biggest one: Verity had one more cup of coffee before she left the Crystal Mushroom (certain), so she got home just minutes too late, and a lamp had fallen over and set fire to her house (possible). Sybill gave Verity her coffee in a paper cup and rushed her out the door. And the house was saved.
"Glad you thought of the paper cup," said Verity in parting. "Otherwise I'd have had to miss the coffee."
"--How was your holiday, Rose?" Sybill pulled herself back to the present and smiled at her roommate.
"The best! I had such a good time!"
"Girls, hurry!" The Ravenclaw prefect stuck her head in the door at that moment. "There's a special Welcome Back gathering in the dining hall - attendance mandatory. Get a move on!"
"Coming!" sang Rose. Sybill quickly waved her wand over the robe she was wearing and followed Rose out.
The dining hall was in an uproar as students greeted their friends. Tables to the sides held sweets, snacks and drinks. There were no chairs anywhere, so everyone was milling around, houses mixing together as the children, their hands full of goodies, babbled with their classmates. Two first-year Gryffindors were having some success levitating butterpuffs into each others' mouths, although the boy often missed and the girl's face was becoming quite smeared.
"Aren't they cute?" Rose nudged Sybill. "Missing on purpose, the little imp. He likes her."
"Then why is he getting that filling stuff all over her face?"
Rose rolled her eyes. "Weren't you ever eleven years old?" she asked. "Just check those two out in a couple of years. Hi! Emily!" And Rose was off to chatter with another returning friend.
Sybill took a slice of bread and jam from one table and a glass of sugarberry juice from another and stood awkwardly. She was never very popular with her classmates even without her gloomy Divinations. Now she just found a place by the wall where she could stand quietly and not attract attention, and she nibbled and sipped as she watched the party.
The little Gryffindors continued their butterpuffs game; but now the girl was wise to the boy's tricks, and she was missing with her butterpuff as often as he did. Their faces were a mess, and they giggled as they pelted each other with sweet treats. Sybill watched them quietly. They took no notice of the older girl.
"James, enough! It's getting on my robe!"
"Awright. Cuppa tea?"
"I mean it, James. I'm tired of playing with food," warned the little girl.
"Me, too. I don't think I'll eat another butterpuff as long as I live! Wingardium leviosa!" The little boy waved his wand over the teacup and made it float gently over to his playmate. Quite skilled for a first year, thought Sybill. A lot of talent there.
"I swear it, Lily!" he protested as the girl hesitated and dodged the cup. "I'm through playing. I'm just being nice, giving you tea. Really!"
The girl raised an eyebrow. But she took the cup and drank it.
"Who is that pale boy in the corner? I mean, he's in Gryffindor, so I should know him, but he's always so quiet."
"That's Peter. You like the quiet ones, do you?"
"James, don't tease me. I'm just saying he seems shy."
"Yes, he does. Let's go talk to him and see what he's about. Maybe still waters run deep."
The two set their cups down on the nearby table and headed off toward a tallish awkward boy in the corner. What nice children! Sybill wished someone from her class would notice the tall awkward girl in the corner and come and talk to her.
She decided to take a butterpuff. There were so few left! And while she was at it....
Lily's cup sat on the table. Sybill peered in. She reeled.
She saw James and Lily talking to the boy Peter. She saw them with others as friends. And then she saw - horror. Death. Green blasts from an evil wizard's wand... James dying... Lily trying to protect a baby...The blast hitting Lily and killing her. And behind it all, Peter. Peter was the cause. They would make friends with this boy Peter and he would get them killed.
But all of it was only possible. The only certainty was that they would talk to Peter. And they were about to do that right now.
Sybill scanned the room wildly. Miss Popffer! Where was she? She must find Miss Popffer and tell her. They were only children! Something must be done.
Frantically Sybill rushed around the room. She was so intent in her search that she didn't even see Hagrid's bulk until she bumped into him.
"So sorry-" she murmured.
"No harm done, Sybill. Glad to be back, are you?"
"Yes. I don't know. Hagrid, have you seen Miss Popffer?"
"Not back yet. Maybe not till tomorrow. Travel conditions, you know. Maybe you students will get a bit more break, eh?"
Sybill almost swooned. Miss Popffer wasn't here. There was horrible danger and Sybill could see it and it must be stopped. And Miss Popffer had told her not to make that decision on her own.
But! Something must be done. Sybill must make this decision. And after all she had been right about Chester and Clem and Verity and no one had been angry with her.
"Hallo, I'm James-" she heard the boy say.
"James! Lily!" She strode purposefully toward them. No need to tell them what she saw. Just get them away from Peter. "This mess on the butterpuffs table! Hasn't anyone taught you to clean up after yourselves?" She scowled and made her voice stern and scolding.
"Sorry," said Lily. The girl drew her wand from her sleeve and started to wave it.
"Not from here! There are too many people walking about. Someone could get hurt. Go to the table."
"Yes, ma'am." James seemed subdued. Perhaps Sybill's act was fiercer than she had intended. In any case, the two turned and headed back.
"Don't worry, miss. I'll help them," said Peter, and he drew his own wand and started after them.
"NO!" Her voice rose. People nearby stopped talking and turned to look at her.
Sybill stepped into Peter's path. "They made the mess, they have to clean it up," she said defensively.
"But it's a party. And it really isn't that hard to clean up. But okay, I'll let them do it. I'll just watch." Peter stepped around her and followed James and Lily.
"Stay away from them!" Sybill was practically screaming. The whole gathering fell silent. Everyone turned to look at her.
It was as bad as in Divinations class, when she told the truth and her classmates got angry with her for it. Worse, because it was the whole school. She was making a scene and making a fool of herself and she couldn't help it.
Lily stuck her chin out at Sybill. "Peter can come with us if he likes," she said. "We want him to."
"We like Peter," agreed James. "He's deep."
"You can't trust him," argued Sybill hoarsely.
Peter looked stricken. "Why can't they trust me? What's wrong with me?" His eyes began to fill with tears.
"Now you're making him cry! You leave him alone." Lily stepped between Sybill and Peter, glaring at the older girl.
Sybill felt tears in her own eyes. Frustration rose in her. Why couldn't they just listen? It was true and it was important and Sybill could see it. Why couldn't they listen to her?
"He'll kill you! You'll die!" she yelled savagely at Lily. "You'll die because of him!"
She felt a hand on her elbow, gently tugging her. "Sybill, come on. Let's go back to the dorm," Rose said softly. "Come on. You're scaring them. They're just little kids."
"Trelawney!" A familiar voice boomed and a path cleared. Miss Popffer was back, and she was bearing down on Sybill. Roughly she grabbed Sybill's arm. "Come with me!" she commanded. "Sorry, Albus," she called loudly to the headmaster across the room. "She's been under stress. I'll handle it."
Miss Popffer dragged Sybill none too gently away from the party and into her office. "Sit!" she commanded. Sybill fell into the chair before Miss Popffer's desk. Tears streamed from her eyes, but she squared her shoulders and faced the teacher.
"This is absolutely your last chance, Trelawney. You are talented, but we will not have you here causing distress. It sets the other students back and we will not tolerate it. Is that clear? One more episode and you will be expelled. Do you understand me?"
"I know I can keep bad things from happening. I've done it. I did it at home over the break. And I saw what I saw," said Sybill defiantly.
"And what did you see?"
"Lily and James becoming friends with Peter. And then he'll cause their deaths."
"Friends, certain; death, possible?"
Sybill blinked. "Yes," she allowed.
"Well, Pettigrew could use some friends. He's a lonely boy. As for their dying-"
"I did see it!"
"I'm sure you did. But it's only a possibility. You have to stop acting on possibilities."
"Miss Popffer, over the break I saved someone from getting a bad scalding, someone from falling in the river, and someone's house from burning. I did this because I took what was possible seriously."
"Are you sure? Are you absolutely certain that these things would have happened?"
"No. But what if I did nothing, and they did?"
Miss Popffer sighed. "Trelawney, I see that you don't understand the purpose of Divination."
"It's to save us."
"No. It's to help us in making choices. You come to a crossroads in your life, and you consult a Divinist to see what's next, to help you choose. The Divinist has the responsibility to tell what's true, what's actually going to happen. And then to let people make their own choices.
"If you act on the bad possibilities you see," she continued as Sybill looked doubtful, "then you'll just wrap everyone in cotton wool and no one will leave their houses. Because if you step out your front door, there's always a possibility you'll be run down by a bus, or struck by lightning, or something as bad. You can't save the world, Trelawney. You can help it save itself. Or not."
"But James and Lily-"
"-are intelligent, gifted students and they can make their own choices. I'm not sure they wouldn't choose to befriend Pettigrew anyway, even if you managed to convince them that it's dangerous. Last chance. I mean it, Trelawney. Stop telling about these bad possibilities, or you will be expelled. Tell only the truth and you will develop your considerable talent and become great. Your choice."
Sybill was silent for a moment. "You will have no cause to expel me from Hogwarts. I will tell only what's certain," she said.
"Good." said Miss Popffer briskly. "Now off with you." She ushered Sybill out of her office and down the hallway.
They found Rose waiting in the corridor. "Let's go back to the dorm, Sybill," said Rose. "The party is pretty much over, anyway, and we're all tired."
"Good thinking, McLaren," said Miss Popffer.
"Rose, that man you go out with - you know, for seafood, don't-"
"Ahem!" said Miss Popffer.
"-order the shrimp. That's not Divination. It's just that the Trident puts too much garlic in it."
Miss Popffer chuckled, and the girls turned toward the Ravenclaw dorm.
I will do as they say, thought Sybill, at Hogwarts. I will never tell about the bad things I actually see. At Hogwarts. Later, after I've graduated and I'm a full-fledged Divinist and they can't expel me, I'll tell the truth. I can save people. I will. Later, I will.
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