In this answer DVK says, that "Lily's protection magic was triggered by her choosing to die to protect Harry". Has she got or knew anything, that would let her believe, that her sacrifice will save Harry? Or was it -- like JKR says in an interview mentioned by Slytherincess -- something, that any normal mother would have done for her child (no magic or mystery involved)?

  • Seems to me like when you jump to take a bullet for somebody, you don't have any guarantee that they won't simply shoot at the person you're protecting again. I assume it works the same for magic, you're not doing it because you are certain it works?
    – Theik
    Mar 10 '15 at 10:01
  • @Theik- Ive always wondered about that. Sure you stop the first bullet, but then you are most probably dead... So who is going to stop the next one? Movies are so stupid ;) Mar 10 '15 at 10:45
  • @LepelLeLama - You probably don't think much about it. Besides, I guess depending on the situation it can actually work.. If the shooter is a trained killer maybe not, unless the protective act gives the original target enough time to take cover. If the shooter is acting not "professional", the fact that he just killed someone, and someone "innocent" in his eyes, might shock him enough to not shoot another bullet at the original target. Of course in this example with Voldemort, it was obvious he would attempt to kill Harry anyway, with or without Lily protecting him before that :)
    – Dagon313
    Mar 10 '15 at 11:57
  • Canon answer aside, I think the head canon for me will always be that she didn't know. I think it makes Lily's sacrifice much more significant because even though she was not sure if her death would prevent Harry's death she would rather die than give up her son, even if the fate of her son remained unchanged. I think it speaks more to her kind and caring personality that was foot-stomped elsewhere in the books. Mar 1 '17 at 22:16

Zero canon evidence that Lily had any idea her sacrifice would protect Harry. Lot's of circumstantial evidence to say she didn't.

No one knew

No-one in the world, save Dumbledore, understood how Harry survived. This suggests that there is little or no research or documentation on this effect, since surely someone else would have looked into it and discovered the truth?

Old magic

Voldemort himself describes it as "old magic", the implication being that it is far beyond the realms of what we could call "ordinary" wizards. He was the second most powerful wizard of the age, and he had to have it explained to him (though to be fair, he obviously understood the magical principles behind it) by Harry. Lily was clever, but she wasn't anywhere near Riddle's league.

Not repeatable

Other answers have pointed out that JK has stated that this isn't a formula that you can repeat - the old magical rules are far more vague and elemental than what's portrayed in the series proper. Even knowing that the effect COULD happen might stop it from doing so.

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    I always understood "old magic" to be a primal magic, not something that could be done consciously. Just what happens when a magic user is in situation and protecting offspring. Link the metaphorical mother who overturns a car to save her child. Mar 10 '15 at 16:46
  • 1
    @JeremyFrench Interesting, I read it more as the most basic magical laws of the universe. Old in the same way as physics, but far more mysterious and little understood by all but the smartest wizards of their time.
    – DavidS
    Mar 2 '17 at 9:49

She did not know, which is exactly why the magic worked, and why it is so rare.

Even though it is possible Voldemort would have spared her after he had killed Harry, she still gave her own life trying to protect him.

Her sacrifice was so selfless because she gave her life trying to protect Harry despite knowing in the end it would be futile. Once she was dead there would be nothing standing in the way of Voldemort.

If she had even the slightest knowledge that her death would mean Harry was spared, then the act would have been inherently self-serving, as she would essentially be trading her life for Harry's, meaning that the act would not have been selfless and would not have worked.

  • In what way is giving your life for another's "self-serving"? Also, this interpretation is contradicted by the events of the last book, IIRC.
    – Martha
    Mar 10 '15 at 20:58
  • It would have been self-serving because she wanted to save Harry's life. If she had known that by sacrificing herself that she would achieve this, then she would have been acting to reach her own goals, even though her goal was inherently selfless. And from her point of view, she couldn't know for sure if Voldemort would spare her, she didn't know that Snape had asked him to. Mar 11 '15 at 10:37

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