35

In a 2007 interview JK Rowling once said:

Also, James and Lily turned him down, that was established in Philosopher's Stone. He wanted them, and they wouldn't come over, so that's one strike against them before they were even out of their teens.

(With thanks to DVK and this question).

But I find this odd. Why would Voldemort wish to recruit a Muggle-born witch to the Death Eaters?

'The Death Eaters can't all be pure-blood, there aren't enough pure-blood wizards left,' said Hermione stubbornly. 'I expect most of them are half-bloods pretending to be pure. It's only Muggle-borns they hate, they'd be quite happy to let you and Ron join up.'

'There is no way they'd let me be a Death Eater!' said Ron indignantly, a bit of sausage flying off the fork he was now brandishing at Hermione and hitting Ernie Macmillan on the head. 'My whole family are blood traitors! That's as bad as Muggle-borns to Death Eaters!'

'And they'd love to have me,' said Harry sarcastically. 'We'd be best pals if they didn't keep trying to do me in.'

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - p.227 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 12, Silver and Opals

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    I assume they wanted James as he was a pure blood and a good wizard. They probably offered to let Lily join if James joined. – Bellerophon Oct 18 '16 at 16:24
  • He could also not have known she was Muggle-born, but I doesn't seem likely. – Arnaud D. Oct 18 '16 at 20:28
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    It's note like Voldemort himself was a pure-blood :) – Luaan Oct 19 '16 at 8:01
  • Man, I was going to ask the same question!! It's a major inconsistency in my opinion, and I don't find the answers convincing at all. Talented or not, it is as Draco would partner up with Hermione. – erised Jun 21 '18 at 21:16
12

As a Muggle-born, Lily had little to no place in Voldemort's ideology in her own right. You're right about this. But that does not mean she was useless to him. Voldemort did not understand love, but he knew enough to know he could use it to manipulate people. He did so, on multiple occasions.

If James had joined the Death Eaters, Voldemort could have used Lily as a hold over him, much like he used her as a hold over Severus Snape. Indeed, offering her membership may have been exactly this: an implied deal that if James joined, Lily would be spared. He could always threaten to renege later, or even actually do so if James got headstrong and needed to be broken. Having direct access to Lily would also strengthen his hold over Snape, making her a very useful bargaining chip indeed.

  • If James had joined the Death Eaters, Voldemort could have used Lily as a hold over him, much like he used her as a hold over Severus Snape Exactly how do you gather that Voldemort did anything like that with Lily and Severus? Did Voldemort even know he fancied Lily (I didn't think so)? And I'm pretty sure Rowling said it's because she was quite talented. You're right that she could be useful to him but that doesn't mean it was your reasoning; if he did understand it enough he'd have foreseen the danger of giving Lily the chance to step aside, wouldn't he? – Pryftan Mar 8 '18 at 23:40
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    ...and just because it's against his ideology doesn't mean there aren't exceptions. That's something bigots love to say: I can't possibly be racist because I have a friend who [...] etc. It doesn't work that way in reality. The Nazis are a perfect example: they too had exceptions and quite a lot to say on what constituted a Jew depending on the context. Doesn't mean they weren't anti-Semitic though. – Pryftan Mar 8 '18 at 23:43
42

To have a successful movement you need the support for prominent and wealthy families. The Potters fit this category.

Some relevant quotes from The Potter Family by J.K. Rowling

  • The wizarding Potter family had illustrious beginnings, however, some of which was hinted at in Deathly Hallows.

  • Linfred’s eldest son, Hardwin, married a beautiful young witch by the name of Iolanthe Peverell, who came from the village of Godric’s Hollow. She was the granddaughter of Ignotus Peverell.

  • Occasionally, a Potter made it all the way to London, and a member of the family has twice sat on the Wizengamot:

  • It was Fleamont who took the family gold and quadrupled it, by creating magical Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion

We can see the Potters may not have been as wealthy or influential as the Malfoys per se, but they were well known and respected, not to mention wealthy in their own right. Their connection to Peverell was probably an important factor; while Voldemort did not believe in the Deathly Hallows, a bloodline tracing back to one of oldest wizarding families is certainly desireable. Voldemort was probably trying to recruit the family name rather than Lily specifically.

4

Muggle-borns could join the Death Eaters in rare circumstances.

Though Lily was a Muggle-born, J.K. Rowling said Muggle-borns were allowed to be Death Eaters, though they were allowed in only in rare circumstances. Exactly what those circumstances would be isn’t specified, but it’s apparently not unprecedented.

Apart from Harry, Snape is my favourite character because he is so complex and I just love him. Can he see the Thestrals, and if so, why? Also, is he a pure blood wizard?

Snape’s ancestry is hinted at. He was a Death Eater, so clearly he is no Muggle born, because Muggle borns are not allowed to be Death Eaters, except in rare circumstances. You have some information about his ancestry there.
- Edinburgh Book Festival (August 15, 2004)

Though it’s unusual, it’s apparently occasionally allowed, so it’s likely Lily wouldn’t be the only one. It’s unclear exactly what the reason the Dark Lord would allow Lily in (though good possibilities would be to placate James or to have one less opponent in the Order fighting against him) but it doesn’t seem to be something that’s never been done.

Also, it’s not clear what the Dark Lord’s offer to them was.

The Dark Lord tried to get the Potters to join him, but we don’t know in what way. Not everyone who joined the Dark Lord was, or was allowed to become, a Death Eater. For example, Fenrir Greyback allied himself with the Dark Lord but wasn’t given a Dark Mark, and Narcissa Malfoy was an ally but not actually a Death Eater. We know the Dark Lord tried to get the Potters to join him, but we don’t know in what capacity. He might not have planned to make either of them Death Eaters, or planned to accept James as a pure-blood but not Lily. Especially if his main goal was getting James on his side, it’s likely the Dark Lord was willing to permit Lily to surrender and join him in order to convince him since killing people’s wives doesn’t get them on your side. His offer to her to join him may have been simply along the lines of “side with me and I won’t kill you”.

3

To accompany @Skooba's answer, Lily Potter was according to Professor Slughorn, a talented witch in her own right.

Voldemort has a preference for pure-blooded allies, but he uses talented non-pure blood witches and wizards when it suits him, such as Professor Snape

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    Voldemort had tremendous disdain for muggle-borns. While he could tolerate half-bloods like Severus, there would be as much chance of Lily being recruited as that of Hermione. This is especially made clear when Tonks married Lupin. – Arcane Oct 19 '16 at 9:33
  • @Arcane You're confusing ideology with reality. You're also ignoring the fact that the two of them were in the Order and he also was mocking the Malfoy family. And Remus was also a werewolf (he's half-blood which means the lycanthropy and being part of the Order is the nail in the coffin). Your reasoning is simply wrong. – Pryftan Mar 8 '18 at 23:47

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