Harry Potter Off Camera: The Potter Family

Just over three years passed from the day James and Lily graduated Hogwarts until the day they were murdered. They were eventful years: the couple married, joined the Order, escaped Voldemort three times, and of course, had Harry and raised him for fifteen months. Here is our take on what life might have been like for the tragically short-lived Potter family.

Lily Evans and James Potter, by Katrina 'Rohanelf' Young

Even though Lily and James didn’t start dating until their seventh year, they couldn’t have waited long after graduation to get married – Lily was pregnant with Harry fifteen months later.
“…Nicer people yeh couldn’t find.” (PS4)


Frosty Morning, by Katrina 'Rohanelf' Young

The couple’s lives must have been a whirlwind of change, with all that went on before Harry was born. But it’s still fun to imagine they had some chances for quiet time to just live at home and enjoy being newlyweds.
“I thought I might go back to Godric’s Hollow,” Harry muttered…. “It started there, all of it.” (HBP30)


Mother's Intuition, by Mudblood428

At the same time, amidst the joy of marriage and being pregnant, there must have been moments of such fear. A war was raging on around James and Lily, and they had already inserted themselves into the midst of it. It was a scary time to bring a child into the world.
“You have no idea, you’re too young. Just picture coming home and finding the Dark Mark hovering over your house, and knowing what you’re about to find inside. Everyone’s worst fear… the very worst….” (GF9)


Mommy and Baby, by Ani Bester

But before long, a baby was born. Named Harry. And the little cottage in Godric’s Hollow must have just been filled with joy.
A happy baby without a scar on his forehead…. (DH16)


'This Love I Got For You...' by Lisa Villella

“You are truly your father’s son, Harry.” (PA21)


Young Sirius, Baby Harry by Wacca

And of course baby Harry’s parents wouldn’t have been the only ones helping care for him.
“I don’t know if anyone ever told you – I’m your godfather.” (PA20)

(by Wacca)


Passing, by gerre

Sadly, the only living relatives the Potters had were also basically estranged. The Dursleys refused to attend Lily and James’s wedding, and it’s not hard to imagine that even if Lily had encountered her sister, she might not have even been acknowledged.
Mrs. Dursley pretended she didn’t have a sister, because her sister and her good-for-nothing husband were as unDursleyish as it was possible to be. (PS1)

(by gerre)


James, Lily, and Harry, by Cambryn

But from what we know of James and Lily, we have to imagine that their home life was full of warmth and, above all else, laughter. And they seem to have really enjoyed spending time together with little Harry.
“Of course James thought it was so funny….” (DH10)

(by Cambryn)


Harry and James, by Loleia

It’s also easy to forget that Lily and James lived with Harry long enough (fifteen months) that he was no longer an infant. They would have begun to see hints of his personality, and he would have been able to walk, say a few words, and play simple games with them. And of course, James certainly would have been able to make him laugh.
“I see what you mean, Remus,” said a bald black wizard… “he looks exactly like James.” (OP3)

(by Loleia)


Halloween at the Potters, by FrizzyHermione

And when Harry was fifteen months old, Halloween would have dawned just the same for the Potter family as it did for every other young wizarding family. As the day progressed, the little family would have had no idea how it would be ripped apart before they made it to bed for the night.
He saw them quite clearly in their little sitting room, the tall black-haired man in his glasses, making puffs of colored smoke erupt from his wand for the amusement of the small black-haired boy in his blue pajamas. The child was laughing and trying to catch the smoke, to grab it in his small fist. (DH17)


Halloween, by mneomosyne

But that afternoon, their worst fear arrived on their doorstep.
The gate creaked a little as he pushed it open, but James Potter did not hear. His white hand pulled out the wand beneath his cloak and pointed it at the door, which burst open. (DH17)


Lily's Sacrifice, by Jenny Dolfen

And even in Lily’s desperation – with her husband already dead – she would have known there was nothing she could do.
There she stood, the child in her arms. (DH17)


Sirius' Worst Memory, by TomScribble

When Sirius Black rode up on his motorcycle a bit later, he must have felt so much horror: knowing what it meant that he could see the cottage at all, wondering what on earth had happened to blow out the second floor….
Most of the cottage was still standing… but the right side of the top floor had been blown apart. (DH17)


James, by Ani Bester

And simply by opening the front door, Sirius would have found his lifelong best friend lying dead on the floor – betrayed by the friend Sirius had convinced him to trust.
Sirius was staring at the patch of carpet where the Boggart, pretending to be Harry’s body, had lain. (OP9)


I Comforted the Murderin'.... by gerre

But before long Rubeus Hagrid arrived as well; he comforted Sirius, took his motorbike, and started on the journey Dumbledore had ordered him to take, bringing Harry Potter – no longer an ordinary baby, but a child with a destiny – to Privet Drive to begin his new life. And thus dawned the “dull, gray Tuesday our story starts.”
…there was nothing about the cloudy sky outside to suggest that strange and mysterious things would soon be happening all over the country…. (PS1)

(by gerre)


21 Responses to “Harry Potter Off Camera: The Potter Family”

  1. A beautiful post. I tend to forget how young they were. They were only 21 when they died. I’m approaching my 21st birthday and I can’t imagine being married and having a young child let alone approaching my death. Not that they would be expecting their death of course. It’s all just too sad.

  2. Gorgeous photos! And another page — thanks, Josie! Two tiny things: I have to assume Harry did not yet have glasses by the time he arrived at the Durselys’ (as cute as it is to put him, for example, on his dad’s shoulders with the same glasses on) and is it true that Sirius convinced the Potters to switch secret keepers? I always thought that was James’s idea. I will have to re-read with that in mind next time.

  3. Thanks for the beautiful posting, Josie. I would imagine that growing up with a war raging around you makes you mature much faster than usual.

    (Anna – Yes, Sirius had them switch to Peter, if you re-read chapter 18, PoA it covers the whole sad business.)

  4. Anna1: I was under the impression it was Sirius’ idea, didn’t he say something about the fact that everyone expected it to be him, so they thought themselves clever for switching it to Peter?

    Josie: I love this page so much! They didn’t have that much time together, did they? Even though they were in school at the same time, their lives together didn’t really begin until they began dating and got married. And I can’t imagine not being with my daughter starting next year. There’s just too much joy that I’d be missing out on.

  5. I loved the first picture, and Lisa’s does a great job portraying James’ similarity to the older Harry. Thanks as always for the wonderful site!

  6. Wow- loved this post. Lots of effort went into all of this, that’s obvious. I love how you pulled out the lines from the books, here and there, and fit them to a picture!

  7. Beautiful artwork. The pictures of Lily crying while pregnant and trying to shield Harry from Voldemort are both stunning. The first one is amazing as well.

  8. I’m dumbfounded that I never before realized that Molly’s Boggart appearing as Harry would have a particularly profound effect on Sirius: that he would have seen almost the same thing when he walked into Godric’s Hollow that fateful night. I’ll never read that passage the same way again!

  9. I second that Jim. I love how Jo puts these little things in the books – if you know enough about a character’s tragic past, all the events take on a whole new light with that in mind.

    Another great page Josie! I really loved these two you put up this week, because it’s such a great lead-in into the books. It’s an important part of the story, even though it isn’t actually in the books as a whole.

    If I can make a suggestion – do an off-camera for the Tom Riddle era at Hogwarts. I find that period fascinating – not to mention the cast of characters that are all at Hogwarts at once is astounding. McGonagall, Sprout, Hagrid, Moaning Myrtle, Eileen Prince, and Tom Riddle… if ever there was a lot going on off-camera this would be it!

  10. Thanks for the kind words, everyone!

    hpboy13, I had actually originally planned a Tom Riddle era page (actually it was an everything-pre-Marauders page), but I ended up axing it because I just didn’t have enough quality drawings to use for it. There were only a couple that I really loved, and they all fit other places so I’ll end up using them all the same. Most were really just portraits to begin with anyway; I don’t recall ever coming across fan art that concocted stories among any of the characters you listed. Sadly I’m bound by the art that I have….

    I’m still planning three more Off Camera pages, one for Harry’s years at the Dursleys and then two post-books. But I’m guessing that will probably be it.

    I do think that when I eventually build a character page for Voldemort, the first part of it might fulfill the thing you’re looking for. I hope it does, anyway. :)

  11. Thanks, Josie! Indeed, I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s true that charatcer pages for Voldemort, McGonagall, Hagrid, and Myrtle would cover that era pretty thoroughly. Anyway, can’t wait for all of those and all the off-camera pages coming up! I love the idea of Harry with the Dursleys off-camera. Any chance we could get the same for Ron? Surely there are enough anecdotes in the series about his childhood to inspire some fantastic fanart!

  12. Your page is amazing, I’ve only found out about it 2 weeks ago and I simply can’t stop reading! It makes the whole Harry Potter journey even more fascinating.
    Thanks for all the articles!

  13. Thank you for another thoughtful and sympathetic addition to the story! I started reading the books as a single college student; I’m now the married mother of a 15 month old boy. I just finished re-reading the series, and it’s surreal how different they are from the perspective of a parent – I ended up identifying with completely different characters, and was so much more affected by the loneliness Harry had to endure. One question I have always had about the books, though, still bothers me: everything hinges on Lily’s sacrifice to save her son, and Voldemort’s continued inability to understand the implications of it. But how can Lily be the first mother to ever sacrifice herself for her child? Surely it’s happened before – lots and lots of times, in fact. How can this be such an anomaly? Parents sacrifice themselves for their children, friends sacrifice themselves for each other; this happens whenever there’s war, or catastrophe, or illness. That Lily was the only one who ever did this never made sense to me. Surely others died trying to protect their loved ones from Voldemort? Why is Harry the only one to get special immunity from it?

  14. Stellaluna: I think it was a combination of her death, her willingness to die in his place (i.e. sacrifice), and the fact that she was a great charm-maker. At least, they made such a big deal about her doing well in charms and her wand being suited for charmwork, so I just had that factored in to everything that happened that horrible evening. But maybe that’s just me. :D

    And, on a side note, not all parents would sacrifice themselves for their children. There was a horrible incident just this weekend where a man killed his own children rather than be wtihout them.

  15. @stellaluna and Natalia. I don’t think it was to do with her being good at charms, I don’t see how that would have anything to do with it. Natalia, why do you think that would be important in protecting Harry? After all she didn’t have her wand on her when she died or have any time to do any magic.

    In my view, the key point is that she was given the option to live. Snape loved her and asked Voldemort to spare her life. She was asked a couple of times to stand aside. To me that is what is key. Sure lots of people might have sacrificed themselves for their family or friends but I think they would have been sacrifices like James’. Voldemort wasn’t bothered about who he killed. If someone stood in his way he would just kill them too. James sacrificed himself for his wife and son but it didn’t have any impact on their protection because he wasn’t given a choice. Lily was and this made all the difference. Her situation was unique. I highly doubt Voldemort would have given anyone else the chance to live, if they got in his way they were killed. So the fact that Harry lived comes down to Snape. If it wasn’t for him Lily would have been murdered straight away and wouldn’t have been told to step aside. The fact that she then still chose to stand between Voldemort and Harry is what gave him the protection.

  16. I agree with Amy, however, it is also important to remember that James, Lily and Harry are hiding from Voldemort because of the prophesy. Only 2 sets of young parents who have 3 times escapedVoldemort and both with baby boys born in July meet the criteria of prophesy. The Longbottoms and the Potters. The Longbottoms are both pure bloods, as is Neville. While James is pure blood, Lily is muggle born (like Hermione, a mud blood) so by Potter world definition, Harry is a half blood like Voldemort (though Riddle aka Voldemort is really half pure blood and half muggle without muggle born wizardry), so Voldemort chooses Harry because he is perhaps more like himself. At least Dumbledore thinks that (OP). Because Voldemort is particularly choosing to kill Harry to defeat the prophesy, Lily is not like the other victims of Voldemort’s reign of terror. And it is Snape who overhears part of the prophesy, and Snape who is aghast at the realization that Voldemort applies it to Harry, Lily’s son. Snape is the one who reports Voldemort’s plan to Dumbledore and who wants to save Lily. It is Snape who tells Voldemort of his desire for Lily and for her not to be killed. So, unlike others in the 1st wizarding war, Lily knows exactly why Harry is the target and she wants to give her own life for Harry, even though she could have moved aside. I kind of doubt Voldemort would have left her alive after killing Harry tho. I mean she was a witness. On the other hand if Lily had stood aside and not represented sacrificial love, would she have been no better than a death eater?

    Just a thought. A couple of questions, since wizards can regrow bones, repair broken bones, heal wounds, how come they can’t fix eye sight?

    Do you think that the likely happy home the Potters had for Harry in those first 15 months gave Harry that kindness factor?
    Surely living with the abusive Durselys would have made him a child unable to be loved or to love (much like Tom Riddle) .

    And what happened to James Potter’s parents and extended family? And how about Mr and Mrs Evans, surely they would have protected Harry somewhat from the favoritism and they had some understanding of the world in which Lily lived. And I wonder who the non magical Squib in Lily’s family was? Must have gotten that magical gene from somebody.

  17. @Kc I wrote an essay about the role of parents in their children’s identity formation. I basically said that Harry and Voldemort are so similar in their upbringing and yet have completely different personalities. My point bottled down to the fact that Harry lived with his parents for 15 months which is the key period in forming an attachment to an adult. Voldemort never had this, he didn’t have anyone that loved him and when he was older he found out that his father abandoned him and his mother chose to die. Harry on the other hand knew that he had been loved. He might not remember it but it would be there subconsciously. I also mentioned that Harry survived the Dursleys because JKR needed him to. She is a storyteller and not a psychologist. Harry’s situation is highly unlikely (most kids who went through that would be psychologically damaged) but is possible.

    As for Harry’s grandparents JKR killed them off. I think she said they suffered natural deaths. James’ parents had him late in life and died from old age. This is definitely a case of needing to tell the story. She couldn’t have them alive or, like you said, they would have protected Harry.

  18. Great pictures. One thing though, it says in PoA that Hagrid arrived at Godric’s Hollow first and then Sirius. Hagrid says, “It was me what rescued Harry from Lily an’ James’s house after they was killed! Jus’ got him outta the ruins, poor little thing, with a great slash across his forehead, an’ his parents dead… an’ Sirius Black turns up, on that flyin’ motorbike he used ter ride.”

  19. I like this because I like reading this a lot and Harry and his mum and dad where living in peace but after the dark lord voldemort came and killed his dad first and then his mum second then Sirius came and found James on the ground but a little later a giant man came and got the baby Harry potter away from his home and put him on his aunts and uncles door step and he will see him again at hogwarts again.

  20. Love the pics, especially the one with a pregnant Lily crying (the dress she’s wearing is awesome!) . James, worried, also looks good there.
    And the destroyed house!
    Didn’t think about the Boggart that way! Wow.
    I think one of Jo’s marvels is that she has created so many believe characters, that have mistakes and good points and develop over time. As well as a psychopath or two.
    As I reread the books I empathise with new people. When I was younger, I loved Hermione – the brainiac – and Ginny – the cute little sister who grows up to have spunk. Now I also love Dora Tonks – she made clumsiness cool! Yay! I also feel for Petunia. Now that we’re learning the full backstory, her actions are more explainable. I’m an older sis too and I can be overprotective of my younger sibs sometimes… Including my sis!

    I learnt in psychology this year about the 15-month critical point too. Trust vs Mistrust, according to psychologist & researcher Erik Erikson. I even had a discussion with my Psych prof (err, teacher, oops) which helped me confirm that Harry is a Teusting person. Riddle, not so. Harry would have scored less in some of the stages that stretch from toddler to adolescent, given the Dursleys’ neglect & Dudley’s bullying. What sort of teachers he had would’ve made the difference there…

  21. Just a quick note, couldn’t thelp myself. Don’t know how many of you would be interested, but…

    Stage 1: Early Infancy: Trust and Mistrust (0-18 months)
    Baby learns that life is predictable, safe & happy if her needs are met.
    She develops a sense of TRUST in people.
    If baby is neglected, she learns life is unpredictable and unsafe; she becomes suspicious and MISTRUSTFUL.

    Stage 2: Late Infancy: Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt (12/18 months – 3 years)
    Toddler learns he can do things for himself and develops a sense of AUTONOMY. Leads to self-confidence.
    Toddler learns he is unable to do things for himself (smothering/ controlling parents) and feels SHAME. He has no self-confidence.

    Stage 3: Early Childhood: Initiative vs. Guilt (3-5 years)
    Child can make own choices and decide what to do, what to wear, where to go. Tis leads to INITIATIVE.
    If choices go beyond what is safe, child gets in trouble and feels GUILT.

    Stage 4: Middle & Late Childhood: Industry vs. Inferiority (5-12 years)
    Child learns they can make and do useful things. This leads to self-confidence and a sense of achievement = INDUSTRY.
    Child learns they cannot make and do useful things. This causes them to feel INFERIOR to their peers: they may stop trying.

    Stage 5: Adolescence: Identity vs. Role Confusion (12~25 years)
    Person works out their values, their ideas about the world and what career they want to pursue. This leads to a sense of IDENTITY.
    The person does not work out who they are and what they want to be. This leads to ROLE CONFUSION such as foreclosure, moratorium and diffusion.

    Stage 6: Young Adulthood: Intimacy vs. Isolation (~25-40 years)
    Person can share their life with someone and become INTIMATE without losing oneself in the process. First needs a sense of identity.
    If a person cannot become intimate they may become lonely, without anyone to care for or share one’s life with. They feel ISOLATED.

    Stage 7: Adulthood: Generativity vs. Stagnation (40-65+ years)
    A person has concern about others beyond her immediate family (e.g., future generations) to make the world a better place. This leads to GENERATIVITY.
    STAGNATION occurs when a person has boredom, inactivity and too much concern for personal needs and comforts and a lack of personal growth.

    Stage 8: Late Adulthood: Integrity vs. Despair (65+ years)
    When a person has a sense of satisfaction with his achievements in life and a belief that life has been valuable and worthwhile, they feel INTEGRITY.
    When a person has bitter feelings of hopelessness involving lost opportunities and mistakes, they feel DESPAIR and feel that life has been meaningless and empty.

    Interesting to see where HP characters such as Riddle, Harry, Marauders, Lily, Severus, Dudley, Albus, etc, fit in.

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