In the magical realm of Harry Potter, the murder of Lily and James Potter by the notorious dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, forms the genesis of Harry’s extraordinary journey. This tragic event, driven by a complex mixture of prophecy, choice, and misunderstanding, led not only to the demise of Harry’s parents but also to the iconic lightning scar on Harry’s forehead.
This article delves into the compelling reasons behind Voldemort’s fatal decision and its profound repercussions that echoed throughout Harry’s life.
Sybil Trelawney’s First Prophecy
When Albus Dumbledore, then the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, went to the Hog’s Head Inn, he had a simple agenda: to interview Sybill Trelawney for the position of the Divination professor at Hogwarts.
Dumbledore, known for his wisdom and foresight, had his reservations about the subject of Divination, considering it rather unreliable. However, as he had not found anyone better suited to fill the position, he had agreed to meet Trelawney, who was the great-great-granddaughter of a renowned seer, Cassandra Trelawney.
During their meeting, Trelawney, who was often viewed as a bit of a charlatan, even by Dumbledore himself, went into a trance. Unbeknownst to her, she made a prophecy about the birth of a boy, born as the seventh month dies to parents who have thrice defied Voldemort. This boy was destined to have the power the Dark Lord knows not.
“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…”Sybill Trelawney in a trance speaking with Dumbledore
As fate would have it, this prophecy was partially overheard by Severus Snape, who at the time was a loyal Death Eater serving Voldemort. He reported what he heard to his Dark Lord, not knowing that he had missed a crucial part of the prophecy – that Voldemort himself would mark the boy as his equal.
The part of the prophecy Voldemort did not hear was: “…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…” This line, which ultimately proved crucial, meant that either Voldemort had to kill Harry or Harry had to kill Voldemort, and one of them must kill the other in the end.
This incomplete knowledge set a chain of events into motion that ultimately led to Voldemort deciding to kill Harry Potter and his parents, marking Harry and determining his own downfall.
The Choice of Voldemort: Harry Potter or Neville Longbottom
Indeed, the prophecy made by Sybill Trelawney could have referred to two boys born at the end of July — Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. Both boys were born to parents who were members of the Order of the Phoenix and had defied Voldemort three times.
However, Voldemort made a choice based on what he understood from the prophecy. He chose Harry, who, like him, was a half-blood wizard, over Neville, who came from a pure-blood family. This choice was significant. By choosing Harry, Voldemort inadvertently marked him as his equal and set him up as his ultimate adversary. This action led to the series of events that ended in the downfall of Voldemort.
Why Voldemort Chose to Kill Harry’s Parents
Voldemort’s decision to kill Harry’s parents was largely influenced by his desire to neutralize the potential threat stated in the prophecy. The prophecy had stated that a boy born at the end of July to parents who had defied Voldemort three times would have the power to vanquish the Dark Lord.
Having chosen Harry as the subject of the prophecy, Voldemort saw James and Lily Potter as obstacles to eliminating this threat. His ruthlessness and scant regard for life were apparent in his decision to murder them, despite them posing no immediate danger to him.
A notable aspect of this event was Voldemort’s choice to kill Lily Potter. Severus Snape, who was in love with Lily, had pleaded with Voldemort to spare her life. Although Voldemort agreed to this request, he ended up killing Lily when she refused to step aside and let him kill her son. This event reflects Voldemort’s cold-heartedness and his readiness to kill anyone who stood in his way, even when there was no need to do so.
It is important to note that Lily’s sacrifice was instrumental in protecting Harry from Voldemort’s killing curse, which not only left Harry with a unique scar but also equipped him with powers that eventually played a crucial role in Voldemort’s downfall.
The Attack and Harry’s Scar
The night of the fatal attack is one of the most significant events in the Harry Potter series. On Halloween night in 1981, Voldemort went to the Potter residence in Godric’s Hollow. James Potter faced him first but was defeated, as he was unarmed at the time.
Voldemort then proceeded to find Harry and his mother, Lily. Despite Snape’s plea to spare her, Lily was killed when she refused to step aside, attempting to protect her infant son. Her selfless act of love cast an ancient magic that marked Harry as her own – a sacrificial protection.
When Voldemort attempted to kill Harry next with the Avada Kedavra curse, it backfired. Lily’s protective charm rebounded the curse onto Voldemort, almost killing him and leaving only a fragment of his soul that latched itself onto the only living thing in the room, Harry. This rebound of the curse left Harry with a lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead.
This scar was more than a mark; it was a connection to Voldemort himself, an unintentional Horcrux, and a symbol of the survival of a curse that was known for its certainty of causing death. It would serve as a constant reminder for Harry and others of his extraordinary survival and Voldemort’s potential downfall.
Read more: Tom Riddle’s Transformation into Voldemort
The Significance of Voldemort’s Actions
Voldemort’s attempt to defy the prophecy and his fatal attack on the Potters resulted in his initial downfall, underscoring the theme of fate and the potentially self-fulfilling nature of prophecies. It also highlighted the power of a mother’s love and sacrifice, a central theme in the series, as Lily Potter’s act of sacrifice provided Harry with a protective charm that saved his life.
Additionally, these events led to Harry receiving his scar, a constant reminder of his personal loss and destiny. The scar serves as a symbol throughout the series, a mark of Harry’s bravery and survival, a sign of his connection to Voldemort, and a testament to the ultimate power of love over evil. Ultimately, the narrative around Harry’s parents’ death is a foundational element of the Harry Potter series, underpinning the story’s core themes and driving its central conflict.
Read more: Why Did Snape Kill Dumbledore?