According to the answers to this question, the reason why Lily's sacrifice created a protective aura around Harry, but James' did not, was because Lily was given the chance to flee and refused.

Showing mercy seems pretty unusual for Voldemort, which leads me to my question:

Was there any other reason (other than Snape's request) that prevented Voldemort from simply killing Lily at the first opportunity?

  • 3
    This seems pretty far off-topic. Per the FAQ : Avoid asking "open-ended, hypothetical question[s]: “What if ______ happened?”
    – Valorum
    Feb 25, 2015 at 22:36
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    I've made a very large edit to try to make this less open-ended and hopefully stand less chance of getting closed. If you feel I've gone too far, click the rollback button.
    – Valorum
    Feb 25, 2015 at 22:42
  • I admit I did not ask the question very well. But my helper questions were to emphasize on my main question. I really wasn't asking what would happen if Snape didn't ask for Lily's life to be spared, but rather, was the request that essentially caused the protection over Harry to work. And since the protection caused Voldemort curse to rebound," Was it Snape who essentially caused Voldemort's fall" ? Feb 25, 2015 at 22:46
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    Voldemort's downfall was a result of a number of factors, his decision to kill Harry as a child, his fear of the prophecy, his fear of death in general, his hesitance at killing Lily and his decision to use a curse on Harry rather than physically killing him. I'd argue that his first "fall" was when he decided to take over the world. All his future problems stemmed from that choice.
    – Valorum
    Feb 25, 2015 at 22:50
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    I spoke too soon :-) As I said, feel free to roll it back. You may have some joy getting it re-opened although it'll likely just get closed again straight away
    – Valorum
    Feb 27, 2015 at 0:38

2 Answers 2


Was there any other reason (other than Snape's request) that prevented Voldemort from simply killing Lily at the first opportunity?

Yes, possibly:

  • He doesn't kill indiscriminately. He is utterly ruthless but doesn't seem to have a serial killer-like compulsion to kill just because.

    Witness him refraining from killing a Muggle in DH, as well as indicating he wants to preserve the noble blood of house Longbottom during the Battle of Hogwarts (until Nevile tells him to Stuff It).

    Beneath the robe be fingered the hand of his wand . . . One simple movement and the child would never reach his mother . . . but unnecessary, quite unnecessary. . . . (DH, ", Chapter 17: Bathidla's Secret")

  • He is a product of misogynistic culture. While it isn't clearly shown in canon, he likely perceives witches as less of a threat than wizards. He calls her a "silly girl" and basically treats her in contempt. He doesn't even plan to kill her, he has so little respect for her:

    He could hear her screaming from the upper floor, trapped, but as long as she was sensible, she, at least, had nothing to fear. . . .


    “Stand aside, you silly girl . . . stand aside now.” (DH, Ch17)

  • While the question excludes Snape's request, it's a VERY powerful motivator. Voldemort is a master power leader - a chance to keep a valuable and powerful follower happy is definitely worth not killing some mudblood.

  • Yes! Voldemort doesn't just go around killing people. He in-fact contemplates and holds himself back from doing so at least once (as you've shown). This is very important, as it shows that if there's no reason to kill, or in this case a reason not to kill, then he doesn't. +1
    – Möoz
    Feb 26, 2015 at 22:33
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    I don't think I would attribute Voldemort's attitude toward Lily to misogyny. His pureblood supremacy is a more likely explanation--he might have believed that Lily's magic couldn't be as powerful as James's because she was Muggle-born. Why not misogyny? In a word, Bellatrix. Harry notes that she is Voldemort's "best lieutenant," and Voldemort is extremely upset when Molly kills her in DH. He does not show a reaction to the death of any of his other supporters. Given that Voldemort is incapable of love, the only explanation is that he knows how valuable Bellatrix--a woman--is to his cause.
    – E. J.
    Mar 12, 2015 at 14:44
  • @E.J. - there's a difference between casual "girls aren't good at $X" misogyny that is quite typical of the generation when Voldemort grew up even in Muggle world and never mind medieval society, and a more drastic kind where one fails to even respect a very specific high achieving woman as an exception. Mar 12, 2015 at 14:52
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    But a casual examination of Lily's school record would have shown that she was a similarly high achiever. Top student, Head Girl, member of the Slug Club--when even a Slytherin like Slughorn, who has some hesitance about Muggle-borns, can recognize Lily's superior talent, Voldemort should have taken notice. Misogyny isn't impossible, but I don't think it is the most obvious explanation.
    – E. J.
    Mar 12, 2015 at 15:52
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    James and Lily had already had three close calls with Voldemort before he killed them. Clearly they were a concern to him. And Voldemort is the sort of person to try to learn everything he can about situations that concern him. He micromanages. He's constantly reading people's minds. He gets extremely upset when he finds out he has overlooked something. For him not to research Lily's background would be very unlike him, especially when he had someone like Pettigrew, who knew nearly everything about Lily, to question.
    – E. J.
    Mar 12, 2015 at 16:26

In agreeing to Snape's request, Voldemort was operating on the assumption that Snape wanted Lily for his own. "He desired her" is the explanation Voldemort gives Harry in DH. Likely Voldemort presumed that, with James dead, Snape would attempt to convince Lily to marry him. Hagrid tells Harry in The Sorcerer's Stone that Voldemort had wanted James and Lily on his side. Hagrid isn't the most precise person on earth, but if that statement is correct, Voldemort may have hoped that if Snape succeeded in his relationship with Lily, she would join the Death Eaters.

Obviously that scenario is very unlikely. Even Snape, who doesn't have the greatest social skills on earth, never seems to have thought that Lily would renew their friendship if James was out of the way. Aside from all other reasons, their friendship broke over Lily's aversion to the Dark Arts before Lily even started going out with James. She would hardly befriend the adult, Death Eater Snape after his master had killed her husband and baby. But Voldemort may not know the exact circumstances of Snape and Lily's estrangement, and--more seriously--he does not understand love. It eludes him entirely. His misunderstanding of love is why he never realized that Snape cared about Lily as a person, not merely as a potential romantic partner. So he would not necessarily understand that a normal person would want nothing to do with someone who had murdered members of their family, no matter what personal gain they might receive. Voldemort operates strictly on a cost/benefit basis, and he has a tendency to assume that other people function in the same way.

It is possible that he may have also seen Lily as less of a threat than James since she was Muggle-born, while James was a pureblood. But, however Voldemort may have felt about Muggle-borns, I doubt he would have allowed prejudice to cloud his understanding of Lily's abilities. (For instance, he marked the half-blood Harry, not the pureblood Neville, as his equal. Pureblood fanatics like Bellatrix Lestrange or the Malfoys would have been more likely to assume that the pureblood child would become the more talented. Voldemort knows better, whether he admits it or not.) In any case, one look at Lily's school record--excellent student, Head Girl, member of the Slug Club--would have made it abundantly clear to Voldemort that Lily was not someone to trifle with. In telling her "Stand aside, you silly girl," he is probably not referring to his evaluation of her magical competence. Voldemort operates on the basis of cold logic. He would never risk his own life to save someone else, and he considers it ridiculous and illogical for Lily to do so.

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