Welcome to Divination

The Gryffindors have a memorable first Divination class

Extract from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

by J.K. Rowling

A voice came suddenly out of the shadows, a soft, misty sort of voice.

‘Welcome,’ it said. ‘How nice to see you in the physical world at last.’

Harry’s immediate impression was of a large, glittering insect. Professor Trelawney moved into the firelight, and they saw that she was very thin; her large glasses magnified her eyes to several times their natural size, and she was draped in a gauzy spangled shawl. Innumerable chains and beads hung around her spindly neck, and her arms and hands were encrusted with bangles and rings.

‘Sit, my children, sit,’ she said, and they all climbed awkwardly into armchairs or sank onto pouffes. Harry, Ron and Hermione sat themselves around the same round table.

‘Welcome to Divination,’ said Professor Trelawney, who had seated herself in a winged armchair in front of the fire. ‘My name is Professor Trelawney. You may not have seen me before. I find that descending too often into the hustle and bustle of the main school clouds my Inner Eye.’

Nobody said anything in answer to this extraordinary pronouncement. Professor Trelawney delicately rearranged her shawl and continued, ‘So you have chosen to study Divination, the most difficult of all magical arts. I must warn you at the outset that if you do not have the Sight, there is very little I will be able to teach you. Books can take you only so far in this field ...’

At these words, both Harry and Ron glanced, grinning, at Hermione, who looked startled at the news that books wouldn’t be much help in this subject.

‘Many witches and wizards, talented though they are in the area of loud bangs and smells and sudden disappearings, are yet unable to penetrate the veiled mysteries of the future,’ Professor Trelawney went on, her enormous, gleaming eyes moving from face to nervous face. ‘It is a Gift granted to few. You, boy,’ she said suddenly to Neville, who almost toppled off his pouffe, ‘is your grandmother well?’

‘I think so,’ said Neville tremulously.

‘I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you, dear,’ said Professor Trelawney, the firelight glinting on her long emerald earrings.

Neville gulped. Professor Trelawney continued placidly, ‘We will be covering the basic methods of Divination this year. The first term will be devoted to reading the tea leaves. Next term we shall progress to palmistry. By the way, my dear,’ she shot suddenly at Parvati Patil, ‘beware a red-haired man.’

Parvati gave a startled look at Ron, who was right behind her, and edged her chair away from him.

‘In the summer term,’ Professor Trelawney went on, ‘we shall progress to the crystal ball – if we have finished with fire-omens, that is. Unfortunately, classes will be disrupted in February by a nasty bout of flu. I myself will lose my voice. And around Easter, one of our number will leave us for ever.’

A very tense silence followed this pronouncement, but Professor Trelawney seemed unaware of it.

‘I wonder, dear,’ she said to Lavender Brown, who was nearest and shrank back in her chair, ‘if you could pass me the largest silver teapot?’

Lavender, looking relieved, stood up, took an enormous teapot from the shelf and put it down on the table in front of Professor Trelawney.

‘Thank you, my dear. Incidentally, that thing you are dreading – it will happen on Friday the sixteenth of October.’ Lavender trembled.

‘Now, I want you all to divide into pairs. Collect a teacup from the shelf, come to me and I will fill it. Then sit down and drink; drink until only the dregs remain. Swill these around the cup three times with the left hand, then turn the cup upside-down on its saucer; wait for the last of the tea to drain away, then give your cup to your partner to read. You will interpret the patterns using pages five and six of Unfogging the Future. I shall move among you, helping and instructing. Oh, and dear –’ she caught Neville by the arm as he made to stand up, ‘after you’ve broken your first cup, would you be so kind as to select one of the blue patterned ones? I’m rather attached to the pink.’

Sure enough, Neville had no sooner reached the shelf of teacups than there was a tinkle of breaking china. Professor Trelawney swept over to him holding a dustpan and brush and said, ‘One of the blue ones, then, dear, if you wouldn’t mind ... thank you ...’

When Harry and Ron had had their teacups filled, they went back to their table and tried to drink the scalding tea quickly. They swilled the dregs around as Professor Trelawney had instructed, then drained the cups and swapped them.

‘Right,’ said Ron, as they both opened their books at pages five and six. ‘What can you see in mine?’

‘A load of soggy brown stuff,’ said Harry. The heavily perfumed smoke in the room was making him feel sleepy and stupid.

‘Broaden your minds, my dears, and allow your eyes to see past the mundane!’ Professor Trelawney cried through the gloom.

Harry tried to pull himself together.

‘Right, you’ve got a wonky sort of cross ...’ he said, consulting Unfogging the Future.

‘That means you’re going to have “trials and suffering” – sorry about that – but there’s a thing that could be the sun. Hang on ... that means “great happiness” ... so you’re going to suffer but be very happy ...’

‘You need your Inner Eye testing, if you ask me,’ said Ron, and they both had to stifle their laughs as Professor Trelawney gazed in their direction.

‘My turn ...’ Ron peered into Harry’s teacup, his forehead wrinkled with effort. ‘There’s a blob a bit like a bowler hat,’ he said.

‘Maybe you’re going to work for the Ministry of Magic ...’

He turned the teacup the other way up.

‘But this way it looks more like an acorn ... what’s that?’ He scanned his copy of Unfogging the Future. ‘“A windfall, unexpected gold.” Excellent, you can lend me some. And there’s a thing here,’ he turned the cup again, ‘that looks like an animal. Yeah, if that was its head ... it looks like a hippo ... no, a sheep ...’

Professor Trelawney whirled around as Harry let out a snort of laughter.

‘Let me see that, my dear,’ she said reprovingly to Ron, sweeping over and snatching Harry’s cup from him. Everyone went quiet to watch.

Professor Trelawney was staring into the teacup, rotating it anti-clockwise.

‘The falcon ... my dear, you have a deadly enemy.’

‘But everyone knows that,’ said Hermione in a loud whisper.

Professor Trelawney stared at her.

‘Well, they do,’ said Hermione. ‘Everybody knows about Harry and You-Know-Who.’

Harry and Ron stared at her with a mixture of amazement and admiration. They had never heard Hermione speak to a teacher like that before. Professor Trelawney chose not to reply. She lowered her huge eyes to Harry’s cup again and continued to turn it.

‘The club ... an attack. Dear, dear, this is not a happy cup ...’

‘I thought that was a bowler hat,’ said Ron sheepishly.

‘The skull ... danger in your path, my dear ...’

Everyone was staring, transfixed, at Professor Trelawney, who gave the cup a final turn, gasped, and then screamed.

There was another tinkle of breaking china; Neville had smashed his second cup. Professor Trelawney sank into a vacant armchair, her glittering hand at her heart and her eyes closed.

‘My dear boy – my poor dear boy – no – it is kinder not to say – no – don’t ask me ...’

‘What is it, Professor?’ said Dean Thomas at once. Everyone had got to their feet, and slowly, they crowded around Harry and Ron’s table, pressing close to Professor Trelawney’s chair to get a good look at Harry’s cup.

‘My dear,’ Professor Trelawney’s huge eyes opened dramatically, ‘you have the Grim.’

‘The what?’ said Harry. He could tell that he wasn’t the only one who didn’t understand; Dean Thomas shrugged at him and Lavender Brown looked puzzled, but nearly everybody else clapped their hands to their mouths in horror.

‘The Grim, my dear, the Grim!’ cried Professor Trelawney, who looked shocked that Harry hadn’t understood. ‘The giant, spectral dog that haunts churchyards! My dear boy, it is an omen – the worst omen – of death!’

Harry’s stomach lurched. That dog on the cover of Death Omens in Flourish and Blotts – the dog in the shadows of Magnolia Crescent ... Lavender Brown clapped her hands to her mouth, too.

Everyone was looking at Harry; everyone except Hermione, who had got up and moved around to the back of Professor Trelawney’s chair.

‘I don’t think it looks like a Grim,’ she said flatly.

Professor Trelawney surveyed Hermione with mounting dislike.

‘You’ll forgive me for saying so, my dear, but I perceive very little aura around you. Very little receptivity to the resonances of the future.’

Seamus Finnigan was tilting his head from side to side.

‘It looks like a Grim if you do this,’ he said, with his eyes almost shut, ‘but it looks more like a donkey from here,’ he said, leaning to the left.

‘When you’ve all finished deciding whether I’m going to die or not!’ said Harry, taking even himself by surprise. Now nobody seemed to want to look at him.

‘I think we will leave the lesson here for today,’ said Professor Trelawney, in her mistiest voice. ‘Yes ... please pack away your things ...’

Silently the class took their teacups back to Professor Trelawney, packed away their books and closed their bags. Even Ron was avoiding Harry’s eyes.

‘Until we meet again,’ said Professor Trelawney faintly, ‘fair fortune be yours. Oh, and dear –’ she pointed at Neville, ‘you’ll be late next time, so mind you work extra hard to catch up.’

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling