Harry Potter is the kind of story with a completely enveloping world. Every character, even ones who might seem insignificant, has a crucial role to play in the story. Lily and James Potter aren't insignificant characters, exactly, but they don't have a ton of story time. Part of the reason for that is that their death is the event that sparks the entire story. Given that fact, Harry has to learn about his parents through stories told by other people.
Even so, there's plenty of interesting, surprising facts out there about Lily and James. The two may seem like a perfect couple, but there's more to their story than meets the eye. Harry's parents lived rich, full lives before Voldemort killed them. They aren't just totem poles in Harry's story. They lived lives that were totally their own.
Sirius and James were best friends all through school. They first met on the Hogwarts Express and became fast friends shortly afterward. James and Sirius were also particularly mischievous, even for Hogwarts students. As a result, they spent quite a bit of time separated and in detention.
When they were facing punishment, though, they had a way to communicate with one another. Through two-way mirrors, they were always able to speak with one another. One of those two-way mirrors eventually passed on to Harry. It was in that mirror that Harry first saw Aberforth Dumbledore, and it's how Dobby saved him and his friends from Malfoy Manor.
Although Lily and James were both skilled magicians, neither one of them was prepared to battle Voldemort in a duel. Because Voldemort's attack was so sudden, James left his wand behind in the room where Harry was. Although he tried to buy Lily enough time to escape out the back of their cottage with Harry, he was killed with a single curse by Voldemort.
Similarly, Lily was defenseless against Voldemort. Although her death protected Harry, she herself had no protection against him. All in all, it seems like Voldemort handled their deaths with ease until he got to Harry. From then on, the rest of the story is fairly familiar.
As has already been covered, James and Sirius were troublemakers. In fact, by comparison, Ron and Harry's antics seem quite tame. On one occasion, the pair decided to tempt fate by getting into a chase with a pair of muggle policemen. The chase started as a harmless gag, but James and Sirius were soon attacked by three men on broomsticks.
James and Sirius were able to lift the police car into the air so that their attackers collided into it. That's how they got away, but for a second there, it looked like a very close call. If they hadn't made it, Harry would never have been born.
Harry only ever managed pretty average grades, but his mother was much more like Hermione. She was an incredibly gifted witch, especially in potions, transfiguration, and charms. Her skill in potions is what led Horace Slughorn to take notice of her, but it's worth noting how much Lily and Hermione have in common.
Both are talented, muggle-born witches who play a crucial role in taking down Voldemort. There's a suggestion in J.K.'s work that it's women who really know how to save the world. The story may be about Harry, but Lily and Hermione are two of the good guys' biggest assets.
The point of Hogwarts is to give young witches and wizards the ability to control their magic before they hurt someone with it. Lily, who was born to muggle parents, had some measure of control over her magical abilities before she even went to Hogwarts.
That kind of ability is rare. The fact that Lily was muggle-born and didn't even know about magic until she met Snape only makes this more remarkable. She was a one of a kind talent, and should be remembered as such. Her sacrifice may have defined Harry's life, but there was a lot more to Lily than that.
We don't learn much about the magical world outside of England in Harry Potter, but thankfully, J.K. Rowling loves the world she created. In advance of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, she began to explain how the American magical world worked.
One of the things that we learned is that there were originally 12 American aurors in the 18th century, and one of them was named Abraham Potter. Potter is a super common last name, but J.K. confirmed that they were related when she wrote that Abraham's relationship to Harry was uncovered centuries after the American auror had died.
Sirius always hated his family. That much is clear in the Harry Potter novels when the Order of the Phoenix is headquartered in his family home. Before he was even of age, Sirius decided to leave that house and never return. During the year before he was ready to live on his own, he lived with James's family.
That's why Sirius and James always felt more like brothers. The two were so close that they actually lived together for a year. James's family was a lot more open-minded and kind than the Blacks. Although James had his own issues to work through, he didn't have Sirius's level of family drama.
Although Petunia and Lily's relationship was undoubtedly strained, Lily never bore her sister any ill-will. In fact, right up until her death, she wanted nothing more than to improve things between them. The strife between them arose largely out of Petunia's jealousy of her sister. Eventually, she decided that both she and James were freaks.
It's easy to understand how Petunia felt, but she let her feelings fester, and it ultimately hurt her sister. When we last see her, it seems like Petunia has some regrets about how she treated her sister and nephew. She let an old wound fester, and it made her angrier than she really was.
James's parents were quite old, and they died shortly after he left school of Dragon Pox. That magical disease is a fairly common malady, but it meant that James inherited his parents' vast fortune at a relatively young age. Because he was wealthy, James and Lily were able to devote all of their time to fighting against Voldemort after they left school.
James also used his wealth to support Lupin, who had trouble finding employment because he was a werewolf. All in all, James was the kind of rich person the world could use way more of. He used his money for good.
Harry was saved by the power of his mother's love. That fact is at the core of the entire Harry Potter saga. Unfortunately, it was that same love that also meant Harry would be safest with a relative. That was the power of Lily's magic. Because the Dursleys were family, Harry was safe from all manner of dark magic under their roof.
Of course, there's another side to that coin. Although Harry was safe with them, he was never truly happy. It was only as they said farewell to one another that Harry began to appreciate what they'd done by taking him in.
Lily was the better witch, but both James and Lily excelled in duels. It's highly likely that that skill is what kept them alive in the fight against Voldemort for so long. Part of the prophecy that led to Lily and James's death suggests that they had already defied him three times.
Defy could mean many things, but it's likely that at least one of those times involved Lily and James escaping his grasp. Their ability to escape likely comes from their skill with wands. Although they couldn't ultimately save themselves, their skills in duels likely kept them from dying much sooner.
Hogwarts is a complex place because it's a place of magical learning and also one where kids have to grow into adulthood. As a result, hormones can fly, and feelings can develop rather quickly. It wasn't until his fifth year that James decided he liked Lily Evans, and at that point, she didn't very much care for him.
James was a bit of a bully, and in order to prove he was worthy of Lily, he had to make an effort to change his ways. Thankfully, he managed to do it, and became someone that Lily could and did love for years.
Part of the reason that J.K. started writing Harry Potter was to deal with the idea of death and what would become of her mother's passing. It's fitting, then, that J.K.'s mother died only a few months after she'd written James and Lily's death.
Appropriately, the death of Harry's parents looms over the entire of the Harry Potter series. By the time the seventh book is over, it's clear that J.K.'s real interest was in finding a way to talk about death that didn't feel final. As her story makes abundantly clear, death is not the end. In fact, it's just the start of something new.
The Marauder's Map is one of the most useful things that Harry has at his disposal in Hogwarts. It helps him navigate the castle without running into anyone he shouldn't be seeing. As it turns out, that map was created by James and his friends when the four of them were in school together.
It's another example of James's innate skills with magic, and how he chose to use them. The Marauder's Map was originally built to help Lupin navigate the castle when he was transforming. Eventually, Fred and George and then Harry found ways to put it to other equally great uses.
The hatred between Snape and James was mutual, but it wasn't the kind of rivalry that involves murder. Because Snape hated James and his friends so much, he began to get curious about where Lupin went every month on the full moon. One month, he followed them to the Shrieking Shack and discovered that Lupin was a werewolf. Unfortunately, he almost got himself eaten in the process.
If James hadn't been there, Snape likely would have died. One would think that would have made their relationship warmer. Instead, Snape thought James only saved him to protect himself and his friends, and their bitter rivalry continued.
Sirius and James were best friends, so it was only natural that Sirius would be James's best man at his wedding. Lily and James's wedding was a fairly intimate affair, but Sirius wrangled himself an invite. Sirius was also named Harry's godfather when future-The Boy Who Lived was born shortly thereafter.
Although he isn't the most responsible figure, Sirius is the closest thing that Harry ever gets to a father. He acts as James would have wanted. He gives Harry advice, listens to him, and seems to genuinely love the boy. Sirius is one of Harry's very favorite people by the time he meets his end.
James's patronus was a stag. Lily's was a doe. Just as in nature, it seems that these patronuses suggested the two were meant to be together. As we learn shortly after his death, Snape's patronus was also a doe. The doe works as a symbol of Snape's undying love for Lily, and the way in which it ultimately shaped every choice he made.
The stag is not only James's patronus, but it's also Harry's. In that way, the stag symbolizes that parts of Harry that Snape couldn't stand — the parts that reminded him of James. Harry was a mixture of someone he loved and someone he hated, and Snape couldn't handle that.
Snape and Lily met before either one of them were at Hogwarts. Because Lily displayed magical aptitude before she ever arrived at school, Snape knew that she was a witch, so he told her. Snape's connection with Lily was inevitable from that point on.
The fact that Snape told Lily what she was speaks to his importance in her life. He's the reason she knew about Hogwarts, and he's the one who helped her adjust to this new world. Snape was a pure blood, but an incredibly poor one. The two of them didn't seem like a likely match, but they bonded anyway.
Adrian Rawlins may not be a familiar name to many Harry Potter fans, but he played James Potter for a full ten years. He probably wasn't cast for this reason, but he also shares a birthday with James. Both were born on March 27, and only two years apart. James was born in 1960, whereas Adrian was born in 1958.
Of course, because Harry Potter is set in the 90s, that means that Adrian was roughly 10 years older than the character he was supposed to be playing. Even so, he plays the part well. It's clear that James is a good man in the films, even if he was an occasionally troublesome child.
James and Lily were both skilled, and that skill did not go unnoticed by Voldemort. In fact, the Dark Lord tried to recruit them but ultimately failed to do so. This was the first time that James and Lily defied him. They did so twice more before their eventual death at his hands.
Unfortunately for Voldemort, James and Lily didn't share his view of the world. After all, Lily was muggle-born. She knew that muggles didn't deserve to be treated as subservient to wizard-kind. She wanted everyone to get along, and she fought hard to see that world created for her and her family.
It doesn't get discussed frequently, but Harry is actually quite wealthy. He inherited that wealth from his father, who inherited it from his parents. That wealth means that, even though Harry didn't know he was a wizard, he was already set up for a good life in the wizarding world.
If he didn't want to, Harry probably wouldn't have had to work a day in his life. Fortunately, Harry's just a little bit more driven than that. He didn't rest on his laurels after leaving Hogwarts. Instead, he became an auror, and worked to catch other dark wizards like Voldemort.
J.K. Rowling is the woman we have to thank for the entire universe of Harry Potter. It's her vision that led to seven books and eight films. When it came time to start making those movies, director Christopher Columbus, who directed Sorcerer's Stone, asked J.K. if she wanted to play Lily in the Mirror of Erised.
J.K. wisely declined, in part because she probably knew that Lily would be a somewhat major character in the series' story moving forward. She probably figured it was better to hire an actress for that role than to task J.K. with being in the films.
We don't know exactly how this happened, but we do know that James and Lily defied Voldemort on three separate occasions. The first time was when he tried to recruit them. After that, they defied him twice more. We know that because the prophecy states that the chosen one will be born to parents who have defied the dark lord three times.
Of course, we also know that Lily and James weren't the only couple that could apply to. It could also have applied to the Longbottoms. Neville could have been the chosen one, if Voldemort had decided that's the family he wanted to go after.
One of the very first items Harry picks up as he traverses the world of magic is an invisibility cloak. That invisibility cloak is a nifty tool, but it also turns out to be one of the Deathly Hallows. The cloak came from James which means that Harry inherited it when he died.
It also means that James is descended from the third Peverell brother in The Tale of the Three Brothers, and Harry is as well. The Potter line is quite long, and it contains a lot of interesting tidbits. None are more interesting than this detail, though, which suggests that James's ancestry went with death willingly, when the time came.
Although they never were, J.K. has admitted that Lily and Snape could have been romantically involved. We know that Snape loved Lily desperately. What's less clear is how Lily felt. For the most part, she loved Snape as a best friend, but, had Snape held less abhorrent views, something more could have developed between them.
Instead, Snape went to fight for Voldemort before realizing that Lily was the one thing he couldn't let go of. Snape's story is one of redemption and love. Lily never fell for him romantically, but she was the person he valued most, and ultimately sacrificed himself for.
Although their relationship was tumultuous for much of their time at Hogwarts, James and Lily married shortly after graduating. The ceremony was a small one, and Petunia did not attend, even though she was invited. Witches and wizards move quite fast in terms of starting a family.
Of course, the pair also got married in the midst of the first wizarding war. That may have hastened the urgency of their union. After all, they weren't exactly made of time. If they hadn't gotten married so fast, Harry might never have been born. It's a good thing they decided they should marry young.
It's easy to think that, because Lily and James married so young, they must have fallen in love at first sight. In fact, that couldn't be further from the truth. Initially, Lily thought James was a brute who took joy in inflicting pain on others. She wasn't exactly wrong. For much of his time at Hogwarts, he was a bit of a brute.
It didn't help that, whenever Lily was around, James worked extra hard to impress her. Inevitably, he made a fool of himself instead. Love is a strange beast. You wouldn't think that hexing someone would win you any love, and it didn't work for James either.
Petunia wanted to go to Hogwarts so badly that she wrote letters to Dumbledore begging him to take her. Although his answer was no, imagine how different Petunia and Harry's lives may have been if she'd been allowed to explore the magical world. Instead, she decided to close herself off from it as much as she could.
Of course, that became infinitely harder when Harry showed up on her doorstep. Even still, though, she wanted as little to do with magic as possible. She may have once wanted to be a part of that world, but by the time we meet her, she doesn't anymore.
Although Lily and James were invited to Vernon and Petunia's wedding, Lily was not asked to be a bridesmaid. This slight was yet another in a long line of things that ultimately strained their relationship. Petunia let one fact — Lily's magical abilities — hurt their relationship indefinitely.
Before Petunia discovered Lily had magical powers, the two were actually quite close. Lily's magical abilities and her relationship with Snape strained things even before she went to Hogwarts. After she left, things got even worse between the two sisters until they were barely on speaking terms with one another. Still, Petunia agreed to take Harry in.
Like all good domestic families, the Potters had a cat. When Voldemort's killing curse rebounded off Harry, the cottage that the family lived in collapsed. It's unclear what happened to the cat after that, but it likely ran off into Godric's Hollow somewhere.
Harry was certainly a good addition to the family, but no family is really complete without a good pet. Although they may not have had it long, it's good to know that James and Lily were animal lovers. Some things can unite those who possess magic with those who don't. A love of fuzzy, cuddly animals is definitely one of them.
Like Harry, James was an only child. Because his parents were so old, James was actually lucky to have been born at all. That explains why James quickly fell in with Sirius and the rest of his friends at school. Sirius became a surrogate brother for James, in part because Sirius also hated his actually family and his actual brother.
It's important that Sirius and James were so close because it makes it clear that Sirius would never have betrayed him to Voldemort. They loved each other like brothers, and that love is what ultimately made them so deeply loyal to one another.
Wizards come of age much sooner than muggles. By the time Lily and James were 20, they already had Harry to take care of. What's more, they died only a year later. The movies clearly aged up the characters significantly, but it's important to know exactly how young they were when they died.
The world of Harry Potter asks a lot of its young people. At 17, they're expected to be full-grown adults. Of course, Harry was burdened with responsibilities he didn't want even sooner. James and Lily died at the young age of 21, cutting short both of their remarkable lives.
Harry was a seeker, and fans of the movies may remember that Harry sees a plaque in Sorcerer's Stone that says James was a seeker. In the books, that is very much not the case. Although James desperately wanted to be a seeker, he didn't have the skill required for the position. Instead, James was a chaser.
James never got to see Harry ascend to the Quidditch position he had longed to play, but he probably would have been proud. James wasn't a shabby flyer, but Harry turned out to be a truly terrific one. It's one of the things he's best at.
It's hard to imagine Vernon and James ever sharing space. In part, that's because Vernon never treated Harry with any particular kindness. As it turns out, when the two did meet, they didn't exactly get along. At the time, Vernon was Petunia's fiancé, and Lily and James had come to have dinner with them.
Vernon tried to show James his new car in order to impress him. Shortly thereafter, a fight broke out that cemented the rift between Lily and Petunia. It was the last time the two saw one another before Lily's death. A sad end to a tragic relationship.
Although Lily was certainly the better of the two magically, James was by no means an idiot. He was especially skilled in transfiguration. After years of practice, he figured out how to turn himself into an animagus. So did Sirius and Peter. They did so in order to protect Remus whenever he turned into a werewolf.
Of course, Sirius and Peter were similarly skilled, and both learned to assume animal form as well. This speaks both to the magical skill of James and his friends, but also to his commitment to helping the ones he loved. James may have been a scoundrel, but he was also a deeply loyal friend.
Wizards live to be quite old. Dumbledore was well over 100, and he wasn't exactly on his death bed before Snape killed him. Even by wizarding standards, though, James's parents were old. Fleamont and Euphemia Potter had actually given up hope of having a kid when Euphemia found out she was pregnant with James.
Fleamont was an accomplished cosmetics potioneer who had made a name for himself by inventing Sleekeazy's Hair Potion in 1926. That explains where the Potter family wealth comes from. James never wanted for anything in his life. Because his parents were elderly, he also had more freedom than most children.
James had a difficult time wooing Lily, but by their seventh year, he had gotten his act together. So much so, in fact, that he and Lily were named Head Boy and Head Girl respectively. That only improved their status even more and made them the school's de facto it couple.
It also proved the lengths that James was willing to go to to prove his worth to Lily. He became a better man than the bully that she had once known. It was that man that raised Harry, albeit only for a little while. Harry's father wasn't always a great man, but he died one.
When we meet Peter Pettigrew in the present day, he's a sniveling, cowardly creature. He's the reason James and Lily died. He gave their location to Voldemort. As a result, it's hard to feel much sympathy for the character. What's more, it's easy to convince yourself that Peter was always a pathetic person.
When Peter and James were in Hogwarts, though, they were real friends. It wasn't as though James took pity on Peter because of his deferential personality. James genuinely liked having Peter around. Of course, that only made Peter's betrayal all the worse. In the end, he was not a true friend at all.
When Horace Slughorn comes to Hogwarts, it becomes clear quite quickly that he has a fondness for certain students. These students are typically bright, well-connected, or famous for one reason or another. Often, a person's connections matter much more than their skill.
Fortunately, even for Slughorn, that wasn't always the case. Lily Evans was such an undeniably talented witch that, even though she was muggle-born, she was invited to join the Slug Club. In fact, she was one of the best students that Slughorn ever had, and he was incredibly fond of her. That's why Harry was able to get that memory out of him in Half-Blood Prince.
James ends up being a good man, but he was raised to be a bit entitled. Not only were his parents quite old, but they also pampered and spoiled him every chance they got. James's parents were also quite wealthy, and it's easy to imagine a world where James ends up more like Draco Malfoy.
Thankfully, that's not the world we live in. Although he's a pure-blood, James learned at a fairly young age not be prejudiced as a result. Like the Weasleys, the Potters are the kind of pure-blood family that nonetheless values all life, whether it has magical blood in it or not.