Why does everybody say it in the same way: that Harry “has his mother’s eyes”‘? It would have made sense to change it from time to time to “their eyes look just the same” or something equivalent. But no, it’s always the same. So, what if it should be taken literally? That Harry actually has got his mother’s eyes because they were transplanted into him? It explains quite a few things. It will also have its consequences for the final instalment of the series.
Whenever a wizard that has known Harry’s parents meets him for the first time they mention the eyes. For instance, the members of the Advance Guard when they pick up Harry in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: “ ‘Except the eyes,’ said a wheezy-voiced, silver-haired wizard at the back. ‘Lily’s eyes.’ ” 1
Or even Harry himself when he sneaks into Snape’s Pensieve: “It was one of the girls from the lake edge. She had thick, dark red hair that fell to her shoulders, and startlingly green almond-shaped eyes – Harry’s eyes.” 2
Dumbledore obviously uses Harry and his eyes to persuade Slughorn to come to Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, because when he leaves Harry and Slughorn together the latter says: “ ‘Except for your eyes. You’ve got—’
‘My mother’s eyes, yeah.’ Harry had heard it so often he found it a bit wearing.” 3
People are saying it to him all the time; so often that Harry gets blasé about it! Later in the same book Slughorn mentions it again, obviously being very moved by it (and being a bit too tipsy):
“You’re a good boy,” said Professor Slughorn, tears trickling down his fat cheeks into his walrus moustache. “And you’ve got her eyes … just don’t think too badly of me once you’ve seen it.” 4
Even in an interview Rowling mentions it: “But he has his mother’s eyes and that’s very important in a future book.” 5 Each time it is his “mother’s eyes” or something equivalent to this phrase, never something like “Your eyes look just like your mother’s,” which is also quite valid if they just look the same. It is too consistent. It looks like there is something more going on here; Jo is dropping a very subtle hint, one that we all have overlooked so far.
What do we know about wizard medicine? Well, we have seen quite a lot of it in St. Mungo’s hospital,6 which seems to be the main wizarding medical facility in the UK. In St. Mungo’s we are introduced to Healers: “ ‘Doctors?’ said Ron, looking startled. ‘Those Muggle nutters that cut people up? Nah, they’re Healers.’ ” 7
However, it is not the only place where people are treated. In Hogwarts, Harry has been to the hospital wing several times; the first time after his first battle with Quirrell/Voldemort.8 It is not unlikely that there are other hospitals as well that we have not heard from so far.
Healers deal with different diseases and accidents than Muggle doctors do – just look at the various problems with which wizards come to St. Mungo’s.9 Their solutions to mishaps that may happen to wizards and Muggles alike are different as well, for instance the spell that Tonks uses to stop Harry’s nose from bleeding.10 Also, several potions are used for healing throughout the series.
The potions and spells can be used by normal wizards and Healers in a similar fashion to Muggles going to a drugstore for drugs for which no prescription is required, which must mean that Healers have extra qualities and/or powers. They get a kind of apprenticeship (Trainee Healers like Augustus Pye11) before they become full Healers. This must mean that a fully trained Healer will be able to do, well, er … magic.
So what I am getting to is this: even though in Muggle medicine it is not possible to replace eyes,12 it may be possible in wizard medicine!
Moody, Wormtail and Missing Limbs
So why does Moody have an eye that is obviously artificial or at least magical? He has lost part of his nose and has sustained heavy damage to his face and to the rest of his body,13 so his original eye was lost, obviously. He probably could have a replacement eye, but chose not to. He chose to enhance his vision with a kind of X-ray eye that could see through walls and the back of his head.14 This is not just a replacement, but an enhancement. Moody used to be an Auror and needed whatever useful tool he could lay his hands on to keep himself alive.
The only wizards we meet in the series with limbs missing are Moody and Wormtail. Wormtail gets a replacement hand very soon after he has lost the original,15 even though it is an artificial one. Harry himself has to take Skele-Gro potion after Lockhart removes the bones of his arm16; if bone can be grown while the rest of the arm is still present, it must also be possible to grow a completely new arm! Moody never got a replacement leg, even though he likely would be helped without any restraint to get a new leg. In Moody’s case it is probably a matter of pride and dignity (well, and it makes him look quite forbidding…).
Usually a maiming is something that can be cured either by replacing a limb or replacing it with an artificial one, unless the wizard in question doesn’t want to or can’t access care. What if a wizard loses both eyes? Even though it is not mentioned in the books, it seems quite likely that those eyes could be regenerated, or successfully transplanted from a donor.
So, Why Does Harry Have Lily’s Eyes?
Let’s go back to 31 October 1981. Voldemort has just been vaporised, and James and Lily are dead. Harry is still alive, but has been hurt. Hagrid arrives in the ruined house and finds Harry with a big wound on his head.
So what does Hagrid do? The boy has been hurt and Hagrid needs to be gone before the Muggles arrive. So he takes him away and brings him to a Healer, probably at Dumbledore’s instruction. This Healer cures the wound on Harry’s head as well as he can, even though a scar remains, but finds that the attack has blinded the boy. Quick thinking of the Healer brings the solution: why not use James’s or Lily’s eyes?
James has fought quite severely and his eyes may have been damaged as well, so the Healer chooses Lily’s eyes to replace Harry’s. The rest is history.
This course of events helps us to offer a plausible explanation for some important unanswered questions in the series. It explains why it takes Hagrid such a long time to get to Privet Drive.17 It explains why Harry needs glasses, as the eyes are not his own in the first place. It explains Snape’s loyalty, as any part of Lily still alive would still be better than nothing at all.18 And, most important of all, a part of his mother still lives on inside Harry.
Obviously Dumbledore knows, and probably most other people who are acquainted with Dumbledore do. Harry has never questioned it, simply because he assumes that they are using the metaphorical meaning of “he has his mother’s eyes.” It is probably not something you want to tell somebody who’s got such a burden to carry as Harry.
What Does It Mean For the Deathly Hallows?
Now the important thing about Harry’s mother, the really, really significant thing, you’re going to find out in 2 parts. You’ll find out a lot more about her in Book 5, or you’ll find out something very significant about her in Book 5, then you’ll find out something incredibly important about her in Book 7.19
The book five bit is unmistakeably the “Snape’s worst memory” scene,20 where Snape loses Lily’s allegiance forever. More important for this argument is the last part of the quote. If part of Lily still lives on inside Harry, this would make Harry a stronger wizard, as it will give him at least part of his mother’s powers too. Harry received powers from Voldemort through an act of ultimate evil – it could be possible that he also received powers from his mother through her act of ultimate love.
Lily was a crafty witch. She was very good at potions21 and had “a nice wand for charm work.” 22 Harry is quite good at potions when Snape is not around,23 and gets an Exceeds Expectations on both Potions and Charms for his O.W.L.s,24 so it looks like he has inherited some of her qualities. As we see in Harry’s conversation with Luna as he moves outside of his own grief to offer her help in retrieving her stolen items,25 he has also inherited Lily’s empathic capabilities, and, let us not forget, his mother’s capacity to love. Voldemort lacks especially the latter two, which will render him vulnerable this way.
Moreover, with a part of his mother still living on inside him Harry would have a connection to her soul. It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul, and Harry has now received this window through the gift of his mother’s eyes. It is the reverse of what Voldemort has done, as he used Horcruxes as anchors to keep the remaining fragment of his soul from disappearing when his body dies. Harry would therefore be the logical opposite of a Horcrux; a kind of anti-Horcrux. And therefore Harry is an anti-Voldemort.
So suppose we have the big standoff between Harry and Voldemort, somewhere near the end of the book. All Horcruxes are destroyed. Either of them has to die. Would somebody with two souls and the magical powers of two persons be in the advantage against somebody with only one-seventh piece left? I would say yes!
1. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 47.
2. Ibid., 570.
3. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 70.
4. Ibid., 459.
5. Loer, “All about Harry Potter.”
6. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 427–34.
7. Ibid., 428.
8. Ibid., Philosopher’s Stone, 214.
9. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 429.
10. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 150.
11. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 448.
12. About.com, “Are Complete Eye Transplants Possible?”
13. Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 163–4.
14. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 154.
15. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 563.
16. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 131.
17. Ibid., Philosopher’s Stone, 16.
18. “I fell in love with an alien / I fell in love with her eyes” – that’s what the Kelly Family sang…
19. Rowling, The Connection interview.
20. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 564–72.
21. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 70, 298.
22. Ibid., Philosopher’s Stone, 63.
23. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 631.
24. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 100.
25. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 759–61.Bibliography
About.com. “Are Complete Eye Transplants Possible?” http://vision.about.com/od/othereyediseases/f/eyetransplant.htm (accessed 17 February 2007).
The Kelly Family. Lyrics from “Fell in love with an alien.” Almost Heaven album, Virgin Records, 1996.
Loer, Stephanie. “All about Harry Potter from quidditch to the future of the Sorting Hat.” The Boston Globe, 18 October 1999. Transcript, Accio Quote! http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/1999/1099-bostonglobe-loer.html (accessed 17 February 2007).
Rowling, J.K. Interview with The Connection (WBUR Radio), 12 October 1999. Transcript, Accio Quote! http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/1999/1099-connectiontransc.html (accessed 17 February 2007).
———. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1998.
———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury, 2003.
———. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury, 1997.