Happy Birthday, Lily Evans!

Jan 30, 2018

Posted by: Dawn Johnson

Birthdays, Books, Character Birthdays, Fandom, Fans, Harry and the Potters, J.K. Rowling, News

It’s a bittersweet thing to celebrate the birthday of beloved friend who passes too soon from our lives. In the case of Lily Evans Potter, she is memorialized in pages of fiction, never lost to us entirely but always, there, a reminder of how inadequate are the brief glimpses of her story. We must strive to be thankful for the moments J.K. Rowling gives us and remember without sorrow her many remarkable strengths and contributions.

1. Lily Evans was kind and compassionate.


Lily had no qualms about befriending the strange little unkempt boy from the poor neighborhood down the street. She saw their commonalities, rather than their differences, and easily embraced the dreams and abilities they shared. Though she suffered the displeasure of her sister, Petunia, Lily continued to spend time with Severus Snape, setting aside her kindness for no one. Even when she arrived at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and found that they were separated by House, she treated him as the co-conspirator and confidant he had always been.

2. Lily Evans was loyal. 


Though Lily was popular and Snape was consistently teased and tormented by classmates, including the infamous and arrogant Marauders, she did not abandon him. In fact, she stood up for him at every turn, demanding that James Potter and his reckless friends back down. She knew that superficial differences were not enough to keep friends apart–and she not only stood by him but also sought out the best in him, hoping to be a light for Snape when he seemed increasingly drawn to the dark.

3. Lily Evans was principled. 


Lily was not only determined to be vocal about what she knew to be right, but she also applied those principles unwaveringly across the board. She showed no favoritism or weakness when it came to her core values. Though James was reportedly handsome and popular, she rebuffed him–and rebuked him–for his behavior toward other students. She would not even consider responding to his advances until he had matured, demonstrating better judgment, self control, and responsibility. She needed to see a change in him–for the better.

In the same token, she remained loyal to Snape until he proved that he would not change. In spite of her continued loyalty, he would not reject his fascination with the Dark Arts or see how pure-blood ideology was incompatible with their friendship. Painful though it must have been, Lily would not let herself be brought down by anyone and remained steadfast in her principles. She wanted to be with someone who could be humbled and who could grow with her. Snape showed that he could not–or would not–be that person, and so she had to let him go.

4. Lily Evans was gifted but not proud. 


Lily showed remarkably magical skill even before attending Hogwarts. Severus Snape could see it in her immediately. The wand that chose her was excellent for charms; she was able to produce a corporeal Patronus, a doe; she was extraordinarily talented in potions–so much so that she was invited to join the Slug Club in spite of being Muggle-born; she was skilled at transfiguration, able to transform a flower petal into a goldfish as an enchanted gift for her favorite professor; and she eluded, and defied, Voldemort on three occasions as a member of the Order of the Phoenix.

She was an incredibly talented witch and was awarded the position of Head Girl in her seventh year, and yet there are no indications that her abilities made her arrogant or exclusive. Rather, she called out the Marauders when they misused their talents, showing that she not only had a deep respect for the value and dignity of those around her but also a deep respect for what could be accomplished with magic and a commitment to use it for good.

5. Lily Evans was uncommonly selfless and brave.


There are undoubtedly many examples of Lily’s selfless nature and profound courage. As mentioned above, we know that she was a member of the Order of the Phoenix and, by all accounts, a successful one. Only when Voldemort sought out her family with murderous intent, trapping them in the house, did she finally succumb to his attacks. And not because she was afraid to fight, but because she would not step aside or flee.

In a 2005 interview with Leaky founder Melissa Anelli and Mugglenet founder Emerson Spartz, J.K. Rowling observed the following about Lily’s sacrifice:

“Don’t you want to ask me why James’s death didn’t protect Lily and Harry? There’s your answer, you’ve just answered your own question, because she could have lived and chose to die. James was going to be killed anyway. Do you see what I mean? I’m not saying James wasn’t ready to; he died trying to protect his family but he was going to be murdered anyway. He had no – he wasn’t given a choice, so he rushed into it in a kind of animal way, I think there are distinctions in courage. James was immensely brave. But the caliber of Lily’s bravery was, I think in this instance, higher because she could have saved herself. Now any mother, any normal mother would have done what Lily did. So in that sense her courage too was of an animal quality but she was given time to choose. James wasn’t. It’s like an intruder entering your house, isn’t it? You would instinctively rush them. But if in cold blood you were told, “Get out of the way,” you know, what would you do? I mean, I don’t think any mother would stand aside from their child. But does that answer it? She did very consciously lay down her life. She had a clear choice…” 

There are, as Rowling says, distinctions in courage. Not to diminish any other character in the book or the moving tales of their bravery, but we must honor and recognize Lily’s obstinate stand in the face of otherwise certain death.

6. Lily Evans lives on in her son–Harry Potter. 


Lily Evans imparted more than almond-shaped green eyes to her son, Harry. Though she was not there to take him under her wing as he grew and matured, he instinctively approached difficult circumstances and people in the way that she would have wanted him to.


We’ll grant that Harry’s enmity toward Draco Malfoy was rather like James’ dislike for Severus Snape. But, like his mother, Harry never felt inclined to show off his talents or boast of his accomplishments, though he could have parlayed his status as resident hero and Boy Who Lived into a position of unparalleled popularity and influence. Rather, he used his gifts to better others, teaching and encouraging his friends so they, too, could face danger with success.


Harry didn’t care about wealth, power, or family name. Like his mother, he cared about how people were treated, and he wanted friends who shared similar values. He knew straight away that Malfoy was an arrogant bully and wanted no part of it. Instead, he befriended a boy from the poorest of wizarding families–and one fairly far down the totem pole within that family–and a Muggle-born know-it-all who everyone else wanted to avoid because they couldn’t see all she had to offer beneath her over-eager exterior. And when he saw that classmates were not being treated with respect, he was the first to stand up and call out the offender–and inspired others to do the same.


Like his mother, Harry was brave. Distinctively brave. When he could have run–or fought defiantly–he accepted that he needed to die so that no one else would fall in the Battle of Hogwarts. He walked into the forest, meeting death willingly. He did not raise his wand or utter a spell in his defense. He had a clear choice, and he chose to sacrifice himself–thus extending magical protection to everyone in the castle grounds and finally leveling the playing field between Voldemort and himself.

lily evans and james potter loveteam

In Harry we see the vivacity, compassion, steadfastness, and courage of his mother, Lily, and on this, her birthday, we can commemorate not only how she lived, but also the enduring legacy she left to the wizarding world through her son. She would be so proud. And we would venture to suggest that Lily would consider this her greatest accomplishment. So join us in wishing Lily Evans Potter the happiest of birthdays!


The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.