In the first book, Hagrid says that Lily and James Potter were both head girl and head boy.

But Lupin says that he was the prefect, so how could James Potter become the head boy?
This has never happened before, right? Percy and Bill were both prefects and then head boy.

  • 1
    Can the downvotter explain the reason ?
    – stud
    Mar 5, 2015 at 13:41
  • 12
    Not the down-voter, but I expect it's because you don't have to be a prefect to become Head Boy. In fact, the fact that the Head Boy and Head Girl are given the privilege of using the prefect's bathroom indicates that they aren't prefects.
    – Jeff
    Mar 5, 2015 at 13:44
  • @Jeff Thanks for the response but I meant " Can the downvoter explain the reason of the downvote ?" I guess I had to be a bit more clear .
    – stud
    Mar 5, 2015 at 14:04
  • 3
    stud - I did explain, I thought. Nowhere does it say in the books that you have to be prefect to become head boy, and the books clearly say the opposite (given James wasn't a prefect, as you say). Your question also shows a lack of research effort (though at SFF we don't close for not looking at property-specific wikis).
    – Jeff
    Mar 5, 2015 at 14:08
  • 5
    @Jeff - while it doesn't say so and so in the book, it's a VERY sensible assumption to make, both in and out of universe. Mar 6, 2015 at 17:27

6 Answers 6


The Head Boy/Girl are chosen by the Headmaster/mistress and do not have to be Prefects, though they can be.

From the HP Wiki:

Head Boy:


At the beginning of the school year, the Headmaster appoints new prefects, as well as one Head Boy and one Head Girl from all of the seventh year students. These students are chosen because of their academic achievement, outstanding reputation as a student, and an honest, good, and hard-working personality. It should be noted that being a prefect is not a prerequisite to being appointed a Head Boy or Head Girl.


A prefect at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a student who has been given extra authority and responsibilities by the Head of House, Headmaster or headmistress. One male and one female student are chosen from each house in their fifth year to act as prefects, and would continue to be prefects in their sixth and seventh years until they leave school. Thus, there are approximately six prefects per house, and twenty-four prefects in the whole school at one time. The Head Boy and Head Girl may be chosen from among this number and may not be replaced, but, like with James Potter, the Head Boy or Girl does not have to be a prefect.

The Prefects are chosen in their fifth year, and the Head Boy/Girl are chosen in their seventh.

Two years is a long time, especially for teenagers. People can mature a lot between 15 and 17 (or 14 and 16, for those with late birthdays).

Look at the qualities for Head Boy: "academic achievement, outstanding reputation as a student, and an honest, good, and hard-working personality". This certainly describes James Potter in his seventh year. He had always had a reputation, and had always been an achiever. That said, he had not demonstrated, by his fifth year, that he was a good candidate for added 'responsibilities and authority'. In that year he was still bullying, still hanging Severus in the air by his ankle, and still portraying himself as a ruffian.

By his seventh year, this had mostly changed. He (mostly) stopped bullying, and started helping. He expanded his circle of friends beyond the Marauders, and began displaying the qualities he'd show for the rest of his short life.

The people who are chosen as prefects are people who display many of the qualities a Head Boy (or Girl) should have, but not everyone is suited to wielding power or authority. Some people take it and let the expression of power become the focus of their life (like Malfoy). These people should not be permitted added power, and the staff at Hogwarts have learned to recognize those who have failed to live up to their potential. Putting someone who used their power as a weapon in charge of the rest of the prefects would serve to institutionalize that mindset, and the teachers know this.

If, by some rotten luck, all 4 prefects of a given gender in a year were to fail in this way, the staff can chose someone outside of that limited sampling to become Head Boy or Girl. It also gives people who have demonstrated growth the chance to demonstrate it - they can still work hard and be recognized for it.

  • 2
    The wiki is just speculation. There's nothing in canon to back that claim up other than this question itself, so you can hardly use it to answer this.
    – ibid
    Mar 21, 2019 at 18:17
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    @ibid - definitely, but in absence of solid evidence, speculative responses are sometimes the best we can do. In any case, the thought that the Head Boy does not have to be a prefect is supported by James (who was not a prefect) becoming Head Boy. The supposition that the Headmaster chooses the Head Boy/Girl is supported by the fact that he directly chooses the Prefects (as stated at the end of book 5).
    – Jeff
    Mar 21, 2019 at 18:40
  • @Ibid the wiki is also supported by the fact that this is broadly the way the Prefect/Headboy and Girl system works in real British schools that use that system.
    – Sarriesfan
    Mar 22, 2019 at 0:34
  • @Jeff - That sounds like circular reasoning. James can be head boy because head boys don't need to be perfects and head boys don't need to be perfects because James was head boy. Speculation is okay when presented as such. You've presented it as of you were quoting from an authoritative source. (When your source is literally entirely based on the one thing you're trying to prove.)
    – ibid
    Mar 22, 2019 at 2:43
  • @Jeff - You quote a fan written site and then analyze the specific wording it uses. This is meaningless and very misleading.
    – ibid
    Mar 22, 2019 at 2:47

I totally agree with the premise of your question. As someone with experience in British-style education, it is very unusual for non-prefects to be head students, in fact, I've never heard of such a thing. I think JK Rowling made James a head boy to further bring up his stature and quality before she actually started developing his character.

Two canonical evidences that seem to contradict James being made head boy:

  1. Precedence - All the evidence we have suggests that head students were first prefects before their elevation. This is true for Tom Riddle, Lily Evans, the two Weasleys, etc.
  2. James Potter's Character - Let us remember that James is described in comparison to Fred and George. Do you see any headmaster giving those two a prefect badge a piece, let alone the head boy's badge?

Remember this:

“No one would have made me a prefect, I spent too much time in detention with James. Lupin was the good boy, he got the badge.” - Sirius

“I think Dumbledore might have hoped that I would be able to exercise some control over my best friends,” said Lupin. “I need scarcely say that I failed dismally.”

At the end of the day, James Potter was a Head Boy, no matter how unlikely the fact might be.

  • 4
    You're ignoring the canonical evidence that he was Head Boy, in favor of speculation based on him having not been a prefect. As to his character, he changed from the person described by Sirius and Lupin (in your quotes) to the person he became due to his love for Lily Evans. It's no surprise that the year he became Head Boy is the year he started dating her. He loved her, and she didn't like the person he was in fifth year. By seventh year, he had changed and grown, and she liked the person he had become.
    – Jeff
    Mar 5, 2015 at 21:36
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    This answer seem extremely biased and is not looking at all the available canon facts. Like @Jeff said, he was headboy, and he was not a prefect. Mar 6, 2015 at 8:46
  • When you say James Potter was a prefect , you dont actually mean that right ? Since he wasn't though you might have your views on him being as talented as a prefect .
    – stud
    Mar 6, 2015 at 14:14
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    @Jeff Right, if it wasn't obvious before Matthew Najmon kindly edited my answer, it's clear that I meant head boy. But Jeff, how am I ignoring that evidence when I stated that he was indeed head boy? What is more, you speak of canonical evidence while using HP Wiki in your own answer. HP Wiki. let that sink in. You might as well have quoted the movies. Lepel: how is my answer biased? Did I make up any of those quotes? Was James not the "precursor" to Fred and George? What a magnificent transformation James must have made in the 6th year to land both the Head Boy's badge and the girl (Lily). Mar 7, 2015 at 7:45
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    @jeff Did you read my comment right above yours? It was obviously a mistake when I said he was a prefect, which contradicted everything I said earlier in my answer. Also, no, James did not have all of the fifth year to change. Remember we see him in the 5th year. In fact, we see him at the END of 5th year during the OWLs. Lily still hates him. She calls him an "arrogant toerag." Lupin says he failed to control James (by the end of 5th year). Any change would have happened in the 6th year, and what a remarkable change it was. This is what happens when u set too much store by wiki & the movies. Mar 8, 2015 at 7:14

He was made head boy because after the incident with Snape, Dumbledore likely lost respect for Lupin as he let his friends become Animagi and accompany him when he was responsible for transforming privately and not putting fellow student in harms way.

  • Do you have any supporting evidence for this you can edit in?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jan 27, 2019 at 5:25
  • What about the prefects in the other three houses?
    – Alex
    Jan 27, 2019 at 8:12
  • ....but James was also involved in that scheme and would likewise have disqualified himself, right?
    – NKCampbell
    Mar 21, 2019 at 20:55

The only person who said James was the Head Boy was Hagrid, and I think he was so excited he didn't know what he was saying. I can believe Lily was Head Girl but James? No way. Unless Dumbledore's favouritism had gone out of control. James is a dick and he never completely changed (personality never does). My proof of the fact is that he behaved immaturely with Petunia and her husband at a restaurant [according to Pottermore]

  • 2
    You have quite a number of unsubstantiated claims in this answer. It would be improved if you could, for example, provide quotes from Pottermore regarding James' behaviour. Of course the claim that personality never changes is a bit baffling; I can only speak to myself, but I'm a much different person now than I was at 15 (heck I was a much different person at 17 than I was at 15) Jul 27, 2015 at 16:49

Honestly? It's just another oops on Rowling's part. She's human and makes mistakes. I don't believe James was head boy. Perhaps Hagrid was mistaken.


James bullying of Snape was well known but saving his life and betraying, to a degree, Sirius to do it might have redeemed him of this bullying in Dumbledore's eyes as when it came down to it he would do the right thing rather than blindly follow. Whether you think it redeems him or not personally Dumbledore clearly believes in redemption as he believed Severus redeemed and his actions resulted in two deaths not a life being saved like James' action did so it was likely enough for him and he the Headmaster chose the Head boys and girls. Voldemort was recruiting heavily at the time and so James 'purity' of character would be good for a Head Boy in difficult times even if he hadn't been the ideal student. Voldemort would like have attempted to recruit James Potter if he thought he would join him; he was a rich, talented, charismatic pure blood. He wouldn't be an obvious death eater suspect a la Barty Crouch Jr. He was seeker in Quidditch too so McGonagall probably had affection for him despite of how much trouble he caused her. She does still support Fred, George, Harry and Ron when they clearly have made mistakes.

  • This sounds like speculation that Dumbledore made James the Head Boy because he thought making him a role model would help discourage recruitment by Voldemort. Do you have anything to back this up from the books, Pottermore, etc? Jan 8, 2017 at 3:57
  • Rowling said James turned down recruitment by Voldemort when talking about how Lily and James thrice defied him, as the prophecy. Dumbledore having someone who would definitely not turn as Head Boy would be influential. It's not a guarantee or anything, as Pettigrew shows, but weak willed, on the fence students like Peter might be resolved to stay good by seeing James Potter be unrecruited. Compare James to Percy a prefect, head boy, a perfect student and rule follower who fell into line when the ministry was anti Harry. Having James as a Head Boy not a blind follower of power was preferable.
    – user76639
    Jan 9, 2017 at 3:30
  • I vaguely recall Rowling saying the quote you mentioned, but everything after that seems to be your own interpretation. It's plausible, but that doesn't mean it happened. I've seen some very plausible fan fictiction, for instance. I'm asking for sources to back up your claims that JK Rowling intended this . Jan 9, 2017 at 3:42

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