Harry Potter: 15 Things You Didn't Know About James And Lily Potter

Geraldine Somerville as Lily Potter and Adrian Rawlins as James Potter

James and Lily Potter remain two of the most tragic characters in the Harry Potter series, as well as two of the most heroic. They were true Gryffindors to the very end. Even though they weren’t able to raise him themselves, they passed on their best qualities to their son Harry, and he was continually protected by people they loved.

Before sacrificing themselves in order to save young Harry's life, James and Lily lived fulfilling lives, despite the fact that they were cut short at the tender age of 21. Both excelled at Hogwarts and joined the Order of the Phoenix during the First Wizarding War at Dumbledore's urging. Even though they had separate interests, their passion for doing good bonded them together.

Although we know tons about Harry, whatever information we know about his parents comes from other people’s memories of them. The following are a few things you may have never known about two individuals who brought The Boy Who Lived into the world.

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15 James’ family has ties to the American wizarding world

American Wizarding World Map with Ilvermorny

Earlier this year, J.K. Rowling released a series of writings on Pottermore exploring the American Wizarding World and its own school of witchcraft and wizardry. Among all the information, which was preparing fans for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, was a key connection to the Potter family. In the piece about The Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA), a list of the original twelve American Aurors was revealed. Among those twelve was a wizard named Abraham Potter, who lived in the US around the turn of the 18th Century.

Although it could easily be dismissed as a coincidence -- Potter isn't a super uncommon name, after all -- it's become safe to say that there is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to J.K. Rowling's writing. According to Rowling, Abraham Potter's "distant relationship to the famous Harry Potter would be uncovered by eager genealogists centuries later." At some point, the Potter family tree must have branched off into America from Great Britain, like so many other Muggle families did during that time. Since there are five Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films in the works spanning from 1926-1945, it's possible we'll get to see James Potter's parents, Fleamont and Euphemia, on screen at some point.

14 The actor who played James in the films shares a birthday with his character

Adrian Rawlins Actor Who Played James Potter in Harry Potter Films

Talk about a perfect casting. Adrian Rawlins, the actor who plays James Potter in the Harry Potter films, was born on the same day as the fictional character he plays on screen. Both Adrian and James' birthdays are on March 27th, although Adrian was born two years earlier, in 1958. Even though J.K. Rowling couldn't have asked for a happier coincidence, Adrian was quite a bit older than James was supposed to be when the events of the books take place.

Both James and Lily were killed in 1981, when they were only twenty-one years old. When Harry first goes to Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, it's 1991, ten years later. However, the first film was made in 2001, ten years after that. That means Rawlins was forty-three years old when he appeared in the Harry Potter films, making him twice the age James was supposed to have been when he died. Because of the filmmakers' choice in hiring an older actor, fans who saw the films first are often surprised to learn James and Lily's true ages.

13 James wanted to be a Seeker

James Potter Seeker Plaque

Throughout the books, folks are constantly telling Harry just how much he reminds them of his parents. “You have your mother’s eyes,” they say or, “your father was an excellent Quidditch player himself.” Naturally, since Harry is so much like his parents, you’d think he would have had the same Quidditch position as his father.

Well, Chris Columbus, the director of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, would certainly like you to think so. An insert shot of a Quidditch award is show in the first movie with “Seeker, James Potter, 1972” written on it. However, according to a 2000 interview with J.K. Rowling for Scholastic Books, James was, in fact, a Chaser, not a Seeker.

To make matters even more interesting, during the "Snape’s Worst Memory" chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, James is seen playing with a Snitch. While he was indeed a Chaser, his fascination with the elusive Golden Snitch made it clear he really wanted to be a Seeker. It's funny how even in fictional stories, children are seen fulfilling the dreams of their parents, as Harry becomes the youngest Seeker in nearly a century at Hogwarts.

12 James was an only child like Harry

Robbie Jarvis as a young James Potter in the Harry Potter films

Another similarity Harry and James shared was their only child status. While James and Lily didn’t live long enough to have additional children, James’ parents were another story. According to a piece of writing by J.K. Rowling on Pottermore, Fleamont and Euphemia Potter tried for years to have children, but to no avail. They had pretty much given up when they were in their 40s, perhaps older, when Euphemia suddenly found out she was pregnant in 1959.

Since James was their only son, he was spoiled and pampered in ways that would have amazed Harry, given his upbringing. As the Potter family had amassed a small fortune by this time through various entrepreneurial endeavors, James never wanted for anything. Considering his parents probably never said no to him, it’s no wonder he was such an arrogant jerk during his early years at Hogwarts, parading around like he owned the place and tormenting poor Severus Snape.

11 James saved Snape’s Life

Alec Hopkins as Young Severus Snape and Robbie Jarvis as young James Potter in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Despite the constant teasing and bullying Snape was subjected to from The Marauders, there were limits to what was an acceptable form of torment, at least on James’ end. Those limits were tested during their time at Hogwarts, when Sirius Black decided to play a trick on Snape.

Sometime between their fifth and seventh years at Hogwarts, Snape became curious about how to get into the Shrieking Shack, likely because it was rumored to be haunted. In fact, it was the place where Remus Lupin went to turn into a werewolf during the full moon, a small detail which Sirius purposefully left out of his conversation with Snape.While Sirius, James, and Peter could safely visit the Shrieking Shack via the tunnel under the Whomping Willow, since they were all animagi, Snape, on the other hand, would have been ripped to shreds. Lucky for him, when James found out about Sirius’ trick, he put a stop to it — saving Snape’s life. Although James probably wouldn’t have minded if Snape was expelled or dropped out of school, at least he didn’t want him dead, a small consolation considering his history with Snape.

10 Lily’s love for Harry wasn't the only thing that kept him safe at the Dursleys

Baby Harry Potter Being Left at Number 4 Privet Drive

It's well known that because Lily consciously sacrificed herself to save Harry, her love protected him from Voldemort's killing curse. Instead of being Avada Kadavra-ed out of existence, Harry was only left with his lightning bolt shaped scar — well, that and a piece of Voldemort's splintered soul inside of him. Nevertheless, if it wasn't for his mother's love, he wouldn't have been around to take down Voldemort years later and fulfill his destiny as The Chosen One.

Why then was Harry given to The Dursleys, when there were so many other people in his parents' lives who could have loved him like a son? Lily's sacrifice literally ran through Harry's blood and would remain there throughout his life. However, even that by itself couldn't have kept him safe at The Dursleys forever. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore tells Harry about an additional layer of protection he placed on him before leaving him with his only blood relatives: "Your mother's sacrifice made the bond of blood the strongest shield I could give you." Thus, when his Aunt Petunia took him in, she sealed the bond of blood, ensuring Harry's safety until he came of age.

9 Snape and Lily could have been an item according to J.K. Rowling

Lily Evans and Severus Snape as Children in Harry Potter

There are many passionate Harry Potter fans out there who are avid Snape and Lily shippers. If you aren’t up on your fandom lingo, ‘shipping’ means to put two fictional characters into a relationship with one another. Snape and Lily are also affectionately referred to as Snily in these fan fiction circles. Aside from the fact that they romanticize Snape’s unrequited love for Lily, and the close friendship the two shared in their childhood, J.K. Rowling perpetuated the matching herself.In a 2007 chat on, Rowling confirmed that Lily did indeed have feelings for Snape at some point in her life. “She might even have grown to love him romantically (she certainly loved him as a friend) if he had not loved Dark Magic so much, and been drawn to such loathsome people and acts,” answered Rowling. It’s likely that Lily’s conflicted feelings for Snape reached their breaking point when he called her a mudblood in their fifth year, ruining any lingering chance he had with her forever.

8 Lily was extremely skilled at Potions, Transfiguration, and Charms

Lily Potter in the Slug Club during Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we learned that Lily was especially skilled at Potions. Both in the book and movie versions, Horace Slughorn reveals this information to Harry, and invites him to join the exclusive club his mother was also a part of, The Slug Club. Later on, in both the book and film, Harry takes the Felix Felicis potion he won for making a perfect Draught of Living Death in Slughorn's class. During this time, he’s able to obtain Slughorn’s memory of Tom Riddle’s Horcrux question. In the process, however, he also learned just how skilled his mother was at Transfiguration. Lily was able to make a flower petal turn into a fish, which she gave to Professor Slughorn as a gift while she was at Hogwarts.Early on in the series, Harry also found out from Ollivander the wandmaker that Lily’s wand was “nice for Charms work.” Her sister, Petunia, complained of singing teapots, clearly the result of some type of Charms work cast by Lily. Perhaps the most obvious evidence of her skill at Charms, however, was the fact that she could make a fully corporeal Patronus, which resembled a Doe — complementary to James’ Stag.

7 J.K. Rowling was asked to play Lily in the Mirror of Erised scenes

Geraldine Somerville as Lily Potter Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter Adrian Rawlins as James Potter in Mirror of Erised

Writers of particularly famous book series sometimes make cameos in their TV or movie adaptations. Diana Gabaldon appeared in an episode of Outlander in Season 1, Stephanie Meyer had a couple cameos in the Twilight films, and even E. L. James supposedly appears in the background of a scene in Fifty Shades of Grey. So how about J.K. Rowling?

According to an archived version of the ‘Rumours’ section of her website, J.K. Rowling was asked to play Lily’s part in the Mirror of Erised scenes during Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “I really am not cut out to be an actress, even one who just has to stand there and wave. I would have messed it up somehow,” she wrote.

Even though Lily was a very minor character in the movies, mainly seen in reflections, photographs, and memories, she did appear in every one of the Harry Potter films at various ages. Aside from having no acting ability, J.K. Rowling probably didn’t want to put in the time commitment or become just another recast in the Harry Potter films.

6 Lily wasn’t even a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding

Petunia and Lily Evans as Children in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

As was revealed in a piece of writing by J.K. Rowling on Pottermore and through Snape’s memories of Lily as a child, it was obvious that Lily’s magical abilities were a source of contention her and her sister. Petunia called Lily a freak on numerous occasions, which was largely born out of the jealousy she felt because Lily was deemed special by everyone else. "I was the only one who saw her for what she was — a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!" she told Harry in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Even when Petunia and Vernon got married, Petunia couldn’t even bring herself to make Lily a bridesmaid because she was afraid of being overshadowed at her own wedding. It’s a wonder she invited Lily and James at all, since she so adamantly refused to accept the magical world. Her obsession with normalcy continuously drove a wedge between the two sisters, which was sadly never healed before Lily's death.

5 James and Lily were Head Boy and Girl in their seventh year

Young James and Lily Potter at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

When Hagrid first delivers Harry’s Hogwarts letter to him, he’s bewildered at how little Harry knows about the magical world and especially his parents. As he tells Harry how James and Lily died, he also briefly mentions that they were Head Boy and Girl in their day. It’s an easy tidbit to overlook, especially since it occurs so early on in the series. However, it says a lot about their academic achievement, skill, and responsibility as students at Hogwarts.

One Head Boy and one Head Girl are chosen by the headmaster in their seventh year from the entire student body. As such, they are essentially liaisons between the professors and students at Hogwarts, often communicating school procedures and tasks to Prefects and regular students alike. Since they’re given so much responsibility, it’s obvious that James Potter dramatically improved his behavior sometime before his appointment of Head Boy. Since he and Lily were already dating at this time, she’s likely to have had some effect on him, which seemed to have paid off in his favor.

4 They married at the age of eighteen

Geraldine Somerville as Lily Potter and Adrian Rawlins as James Potter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

From conversations with various characters, it’s revealed that James and Lily got married pretty much right after Hogwarts. Although the exact date is unknown, it was likely sometime in the fall of 1978, the year they graduated. Not much else is known about the wedding, except that Sirius Black was James’ best man and that The Dursleys did not attend at all. Since wizards have been known to live well past the age of 100, like Albus Dumbledore, why then did they get hitched right out of school when they were obviously a talented pair that could have had any wizarding career they wanted?

Judging from Uncle Vernon’s comments in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, James and Lily didn’t work at all. While they were members of The Order of the Phoenix, that was a voluntary position, not a paid one. J.K. Rowling explained in an appearance at Carnegie Hall that “James has gold, enough to support Sirius and Lily. So I suppose they lived off a private income." In short, they did not need to start careers right away because James had a small fortune from his family, leaving them free to get married and immediately start a family.

3 J.K. Rowling’s mother died six months after she wrote James and Lily’s deaths

Geraldine Somerville as Lily Potter Death Scene

A little over six years ago, J.K. Rowling donated $10 million to The University of Edinburgh for a regenerative neurology clinic to fund research treatments for diseases like multiple sclerosis. Rowling’s mother died from MS in 1990 when she was forty-five and Rowling was only twenty-five. Rowling had already begun writing the story of Harry Potter, including the fate of his parents, Lily and James.

When Rowling’s mother died, she was forced to reevaluate how she had been writing about death, specifically Lily’s death. “Definitely Mom dying had a profound influence on the books because … in the first draft, his parents were disposed really in quite … in the most cavalier fashion.  I didn't really dwell on it.  Six months in my mother died and I simply {couldn't kill off the fictional} mother.  That callously.  Not-- it wasn't callous, but it's-- it wasn't what it became …” she told Dateline NBC in 2007.

If it hadn’t been for her mother’s death, the underlying themes of Harry Potter probably would have been a lot different and probably a lot less profound.

2 Neither used their wands to defend themselves the night they were murdered

James and Lily Potters Grave in Godrics Hollow

On the night they were murdered, James and Lily were caught by surprise in their home without their wands on them. In a passage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry sees his parents’ murder from Voldemort’s point of view. As Voldemort encounters James he observes, “It was easy, too easy, he had not even picked up his wand.” A previous passage shows that James had tossed his wand on the couch prior to Voldemort’s attack, leaving him completely unarmed and unable to defend himself or his family.

Voldemort also comments on that fact that Lily doesn’t have her wand either as she barricaded herself in Harry’s room. If they had just kept their wands in their pockets, perhaps they could have at least cast a disarming spell, but then again, if they had, Lily might have tried to disarm Voldemort before he had a chance to allow her to step aside. After all, it was this choice that allowed her to sacrifice herself for Harry and seal his fate as The Boy Who Lived.

1 Voldemort tried to recruit them as Death Eaters

Voldemort and his Death Eaters from Harry Potter

In Sybill Trelawney’s prophecy about Harry and Voldemort, the Chosen One will be “born to those who have thrice defied him.” Since Harry was effectively chosen by Lord Voldemort, (because Neville also fit the prerequisites) this part of the prophecy specifically refers to James and Lily Potter.

Rowling has explained the prophecy further, saying, I mean, if you're counting, which I do, anytime you arrested one of his henchmen, anytime you escaped him, anytime you thwarted him, that's what he's looking for.” She also goes on to explain that this was established in the very first book when Hagrid is telling Harry about his parents. “James and Lily turned him down, that was established in ‘Philosopher's Stone’. He wanted them, and they wouldn't come over, so that's one strike against them before they were even out of their teens.”

Since Voldemort only wanted the most powerful witches and wizards on his side, he was even willing to ignore Lily’s blood status as a Muggle-born just to have them both fight for him. You’d think he would have just used the Imperius Curse to make them join his side, but Snape probably would have protested — for Lily at least.


Do you know of any other fun facts surrounding the parents of The Boy Who Lived? Let us know in the comments.

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