Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Lily Potter
|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character|
|Related Family||Petunia Dursley (née Evans) (older sister), James Potter (husband), Harry Potter (son)|
|Loyalty||James Potter, Albus Dumbledore|
Overview[edit | edit source]
Lily Potter (née Evans) was a Muggle-born witch and Harry's mother. She was born 30 January 1960 and died on 31 October 1981 at age 21. She was quite young, 19 years old, when she became pregnant with Harry, giving birth to him at 20.
Role in the Books[edit | edit source]
Harry has been told that his parents had been killed in a car crash, which is why he was living with his aunt and uncle.
In the hut on the rock, when Rubeus Hagrid arrives, there is a fair amount of discussion about Lily. Petunia Dursley, her sister, bitterly recounts how proud everyone else was that they had a witch in the family, and of the way she would come home with pockets full of frog spawn and do magic in the house, but she (Petunia) saw Lily for what she was: a freak. Hagrid is shocked that anyone could have believed that James and Lily could have died in a car crash, tells Harry that they were murdered by the evil wizard Voldemort, and mentions that James and Lily were head boy and head girl.
A large number of pictures of Lily and James are in the photo album given to Harry by Hagrid just before Harry leaves the school for the summer.
Harry, in talking with Professor Lupin about Dementors, mentions that when they approach him, he can hear Voldemort murdering his mother. Lupin is apparently moved by this revelation. This causes some conflict in Harry; he misses his mother greatly, and would do almost anything to hear her voice and see her face, as we have already seen. But if the only way that can happen is for him to suffer attacks from Dementors? And is he going to be able to fight Dementors, if something he wants so dearly would be removed by that fight?
Lupin later comments that Harry looks extraordinarily like his father, except for his eyes. He has his mother's eyes.
In the Shrieking Shack, we hear Sirius Black's side of what happened when he was confronted by Peter Pettigrew. Pettigrew had yelled that Sirius had betrayed James and Lily, then blew up the street, changed into his rat shape, and escaped, leaving behind his own cut-off finger and robes. Sirius had then been taken to Azkaban, where he had served time for the murder of Pettigrew. It turns out that it was Pettigrew who had betrayed James and Lily to Voldemort.
In the battle in the graveyard, while Harry is battling Lord Voldemort, shadows of the people Voldemort has killed begin appearing. Harry's father and mother both appear and speak with him.
At Grimmauld Place, during the party that Mrs. Weasley throws to celebrate Ron being made Prefect, Moody shows Harry an old picture of the Order of the Phoenix. Harry's father and mother are present in the picture. While Moody clearly intends this as something of a treat, Harry feels that he has been rather taken by surprise, and is evidently dismayed at having this picture presented to him.
In Professor Dumbledore's Pensieve, Harry sees Professor Snape's memory of an episode where his father and the other Marauders are bullying a teenage Snape. Harry also sees his then-teenage mother, who yells at Harry's father to leave Snape alone. She even goes to the length of aiming her own wand at James.
When Harry first meets Horace Slughorn, Slughorn appears to be biased towards pure-bloods, which is no surprise given that he was head of Slytherin house. However, that doesn't mean that he refuses to see qualities in the Muggle-born; Harry's own mother, for instance, was quite a powerful witch, though of Muggle parentage, and was one of Slughorn's favorites.
In Potions class, Professor Slughorn mentions that Lily had been truly excellent at potions, and attributes Harry's skill to his being Lily's son.
While viewing Snape's memories in the Pensieve, Harry sees Lily as a child at her original Muggle home. Severus Snape, also then a child, informs Lily that she is a witch and that he had been spying on her and seeing her do incredible things. Snape explains the magical world to Lily and they soon develop the bond of friendship, despite the interference of Lily's sister Petunia. Later in the memories, when Lily is at Hogwarts, she explains to Snape that they can't continue their friendship because she has issues with the type of person Snape is becoming and who he associates with. Even though Lily marries James, she is Snape's unrequited love.
As he goes to meet Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest, Harry finds that he has the Resurrection Stone, and uses it to summon the shades of his godfather Sirius Black, Lupin, his father James, and his mother Lily. Lily tells him that he has been so brave, and the four of them accompany Harry to the clearing where Voldemort and his Death Eaters wait. Harry then drops the Stone, and the four shades vanish.
Strengths[edit | edit source]
In book six, it is repeatedly mentioned that Lily has extraordinary potions skills. Professor Slughorn, as mentioned, says she was one of his brightest and most charming students.
She was a beautiful soul, forgiving, kind, compassionate, but did not entertain evil. She was not a typically judgmental person. And everyone loved her; she was good with everyone.
Weaknesses[edit | edit source]
Lily loves too much to save herself. She gave her life to protect her one year old son, Harry. From a pragmatic view, that could be considered a weakness —it seems likely Voldemort would think so— though the philosophy of the books portrays it as a strength.
Relationships with Other Characters[edit | edit source]
Lily's parents are proud to have such a talented daughter, but her sister Petunia despises Lily for her magical abilities, seeing her as a freak. In the start of the first book, we learn that Vernon and Petunia have largely cut the Potters out of their family tree.
We learn that she met James Potter in Hogwarts, and although she leaves the impression that she dislikes him because he behaves like an arrogant bully, they eventually fall in love with each other, marry, and have a son, Harry.
As a member of the Order of the Phoenix that opposes Voldemort, we are told that she, with her husband, confronts him three times, and manages to escape. However, when The Dark Lord learns from Severus Snape about the prophecy, he starts looking for the Potter family. Pettigrew's betrayal leads Voldemort to Godric's Hollow, where he kills Lily and James.
She seems to have cherished her son, Harry, as she sacrificed her own life to protect him from Voldemort, refusing to stand aside. On those occasions when her shade was brought back, she said that she was proud of him and loved him.
Analysis[edit | edit source]
Lily Evans Potter is seen as kind and caring person who stands up to bullies, including Lord Voldemort. Her friendship with Severus Snape was a close one, though Lily never loved Severus; this friendship ended when Severus called her a "mudblood", the most discriminatory name in the Wizarding world. Even though Lily ended the friendship at that point, Severus still promised Albus Dumbledore "anything" in return for protecting her when Voldemort targeted her small son.
Knowing about the restrictions on magic done by students out of school, readers may be surprised by Petunia's assertion in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that Lily was always bringing home frog spawn and doing magic at home. We must bear Petunia's anti-magic bias in mind here, of course. If Lily was born in January, she will have turned 17 and thus come of age in January of her sixth year at Hogwarts. She will have then been able to legally perform magic at home starting with the Easter Break that year, and all later vacations, including the summer between her sixth and seventh years. To our less biased eyes, one summer and three school breaks does not constitute "always", but one must remember that Petunia, already smarting from being shut out of the Wizarding world, as we discover in the final book, and seeing this as one more thing that she can't ever do, would have dwelled on these few periods obsessively, and they probably now appear in her memory to occupy far more time than they ever actually spanned.
Our only view of Lily's school days, seen as it is through the eyes of Snape, ends in her fifth year when she broke off her friendship with him. At that time, Lily hated James Potter because of his arrogance. We must assume that between then and her seventh year, James grew up, as she apparently fell in love with the man James became. They married shortly after they graduated Hogwarts, and they joined the Order of the Phoenix to fight Lord Voldemort and Death Eaters. When her son was born, she cared and loved him more than anything in the world, even to the point where she sacrificed her own life to save him.
Throughout Harry's life, he lacked the connection between mother and child which is so psychologically necessary to a child. It is possibly because of this lack that he reacts strongly to being surprised by the image of his parents presented by Alastor Moody in Grimmauld Place, during Harry's fifth year. Harry's loss has made his interactions with memories of his mother and father a very private business, and presentation of the picture in such public surroundings leaves him feeling that he must conceal his feelings on having these memories reactivated.
It is, perhaps, surprising that Harry turned out so well despite being reared by Lily's abusive sister. A number of times in the series, we hear that Harry inherited his mother's eyes, and it seems her personality, and good heart and soul. It may have been this gentle strength in himself that sustained him through the difficult times in the Dursley family home. Harry, perhaps, does not recognize this in himself.
Questions[edit | edit source]
Greater Picture[edit | edit source]
At least twice, it is noted that Harry has Lily's eyes. (Although the films are, as mentioned, not canon, it is worth noting that this characteristic is also mentioned in the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.) Clearly this is important, but we don't find out why, specifically, until the final book of the series. Snape, as he dies, asks to look into Harry's eyes. We shortly learn that Lily is the love of Snape's life, that his sacrifices over the years were for Lily's love, and looking into Harry's eyes he was able to see Lily looking at him in his final seconds. We can only assume that much of Snape's antipathy towards Harry was the result of this constant reminder of what he had lost and what he had surrendered for her.
We never discover the shape of Lily's Patronus, but we see that Snape's is a doe. As Dumbledore recognizes immediately that this means Snape's unrequited love for Lily has remained in force, we must assume that there is some relationship there. It is unknown whether Lily's Patronus would also be a doe, or whether Snape simply sees her in that light due to her being "mated" to James, whose Patronus is a stag. While the author has since stated that Lily's Patronus is, in fact, a doe, we should point out that the author, in interviews, often tailors her responses to the audience, and so we must lend less weight to this response than to the published work, in which the shape of Lily's Patronus is not mentioned.
When Harry brought Lily's shade back with the Resurrection Stone, she seemed to look at him hungrily and as if she was not able to look at him enough. She also told her son that she was proud of him, and that she will love him forever and be with him until the end of his life.