"All anyone knows is, he turned up in the village where you was all living, on Hallowe'en ten years ago. You was just a year old. He came ter yer house an' — an' — 'You-Know-Who killed 'em. An' then — an' this is the real myst'ry of the thing — he tried to kill you, too... But he couldn't do it. Never wondered how you got that mark on yer forehead? That was no ordinary cut. That's what yeh get when a powerful, evil curse touches yeh — took care of yer mum an' dad an' yer house, even — but it didn't work on you, an' that's why yer famous, Harry."
Rubeus Hagrid describing the attack[src]

The attack at Godric's Hollow took place on 31 October (Hallowe'en), 1981.[1] The attack happened not even a week after Peter Pettigrew was made the Potters' Secret Keeper. Pettigrew betrayed the Potters and gave up their location to Lord Voldemort.[2]

Having been told half of the Prophecy by Severus Snape, Voldemort came to believe his mortal enemy to be Harry Potter.[3] He travelled to the Potters' home in Godric's Hollow and murdered James and Lily Potter, whom died protecting infant Harry. When he attempted to murder Harry, Lily's loving sacrifice allowed Harry to live and rebounded Voldemort's Killing Curse. The rebounded curse caused a shred of Voldemort's already mutilated soul to be ripped from his destroyed body.[4]

This event marked the end of the First Wizarding War. It also sealed Harry's fate as the 'Boy Who Lived', via a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead and the fact that he was now the only known survivor of the Killing Curse.


Background information

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies...."
Sybill Trelawney's first prophecy[src]

Early in 1980, Sybill Trelawney met Albus Dumbledore in the Hog's Head to interview for the Divination professorship at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.[5] During the interview, Trelawney slipped into a trance and delivered a prophecy. This prophecy referred to a young boy born at the end of July whose parents had defied Voldemort three times. It said that the boy would have power that Lord Voldemort lacked and that the boy would be able to defeat the Dark Lord.[5]

Death Eater Severus Snape was eavesdropping at the keyhole, but he was interrupted by the barman, but not before he had heard half of the prophecy.[5] Immediately, Snape took everything he had heard to Voldemort, who decided that the boy was Harry Potter, although it could very well have been Neville Longbottom. When Snape found out that Voldemort had decided to eliminate the Potter child, he begged his master to spare the boy's mother, Lily Potter.[3]

Betrayal and attack

"Lily, take Harry and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off!"
—James Potter moments before his death[src]
Voldemort arrives

Voldemort arrives at Godric's Hollow intending to murder Harry Potter

Although they had been in hiding since Lily became pregnant,[6], once the Potters were aware that Voldemort was after their son they sought increased security measures. Ultimately, Albus Dumbledore advised them to use the Fidelius Charm; this was an extremely powerful and ancient spell which would conceal the information on their location within the soul of a certain individual. The Potters did so, originally planning that Sirius Black be their Secret-Keeper, as he would rather die than betray them. However, Sirius felt that this was a rather obvious move, as he and James were best friends, so he suggested that Peter Pettigrew be the Secret-Keeper instead. In the interest of secrecy, the Potters agreed and told no one else, not even Dumbledore.[7]

Alas, it was this secret, last-minute change that spelled their doom. In a cruel twist of fate, Pettigrew had been working as a double agent for the Death Eaters for over a year and within a week told Lord Voldemort of the Potters' whereabouts.[2] Armed with this information, Voldemort travelled to their home on Hallowe'en, which now offered no protection. Upon arriving, he saw James, Lily, and Harry in the same room, James playing with Harry.[4]

Potter family murder

Potters' cottage in Godric's Hollow under attack, Lily is murdered by Lord Voldemort

Voldemort then entered the house, confronting James as he burst into the hall. James then shouted for his wife to take Harry and flee whilst he held off the Dark Lord. Wandless, however, he was quickly cut down with the Killing Curse. He then proceeded upstairs to murder the boy. He found Lily and Harry locked in a room with furniture blocking the door. Faithful to Severus Snape's request, Voldemort asked the unarmed Lily who was guarding the cot where Harry sat to step aside, but Lily refused to move.

Voldemort then warned her several times, but she refused to stop protecting her son and continued to plead with him to kill her instead of Harry. When she did not move again, he murdered her and then set his sights on the last living member of the Potter family. Harry, who had until that moment assumed it was simply his parents playing games with him, then started to cry. The crying unnerved Voldemort and he pointed his wand right in the child's face, Voldemort proceeded to cast the Killing Curse on young Harry.[4]

Harry Voldemort 1981

Harry as an infant faces death for the first time at the hands of Lord Voldemort

However, Lily's loving sacrifice protected Harry, something that Voldemort did not realise as he was unable to understand or feel love. When Voldemort went to murder him, the spell rebounded upon him, obliterating his corporeal form. His wand was blasted from his "corpse" and landed nearby. From his history of murder and self-mutilation of his soul via Horcrux creation, Voldemort's unstable soul shattered and a piece splintered off and attached itself to the only living being left in the cottage, Harry himself. Harry survived with just a lightning bolt scar on his forehead, becoming then famous as the "Boy Who Lived".


"Is it true, Albus? Lily and James... are dead?"
Minerva McGonagall after hearing of the attack[src]

The effects of Voldemort's curse went beyond just the two wizards; half of the top floor of the house was blown apart by the rebounding curse. Albus Dumbledore was immediately alerted that something significant had happened.[8] Rubeus Hagrid arrived just as the Muggles began to swarm around and rescued Harry Potter from the ruins. After realising Peter Pettigrew's betrayal, Sirius Black came to the cottage. He offered to take Harry, but Hagrid refused on Dumbledore's orders. Sirius then lent Hagrid his motorbike and went off to seek revenge on Peter.[2]

Also that night, Peter Pettigrew visited and retrieved the Dark Lord's wand, hiding it in an undisclosed location.[9] In the aftermath of the attack, the Muggle police was called to the house where they found James and Lily Potter, but their child Harry had disappeared without a trace. Sometime later the house was made invisible to Muggles and left in its ruined condition as a memorial to the Potters and the tragedy that befell them. A sign was added in front of the cottage that depicted that nights events. People would often carve inspirational messages into the wood of the sign, wishing Harry luck and showing their support of him.[4]

LilyJames PM Memorial

As a memorial to James and Lily Potter and a dedication to Harry Potter

The Potter memorial was also erected in the aftermath of Voldemort's attack. The memorial is a statue at the centre of the village square in Godric's Hollow. From a distance, it appears as an obelisk, carved with the names of people who died in a war. While Muggles can see only this obelisk, a witch or wizard can see that the memorial changes into a statue of a family as he or she approaches: James, Lily, and an infant Harry Potter.[10]

As a portion of Voldemort's soul resided in Harry, the two shared a bond, causing Harry to feel Voldemort's anger or happiness. Also, as the Dark Lord grew more and more powerful, Harry began to see into his mind, seeing Voldemort's thoughts and actions, sometimes through his senses. Harry also dreamed about things Voldemort wanted or things he was obsessing over. In 1993, whenever Harry was affected by the effects of Dementors of Azkaban, he heard memories of what occurred during the attack before Lily's death. In 1997, while sharing Voldemort's mind, Harry viewed the entire attack at Godric's Hollow, that Voldemort at the time was recalling.[4]

Behind the scenes

  • In the movies, the attack on Godric's Hollow is portrayed through flashbacks. While the clips that are shown portray it in mostly the same way, there is one crucial difference. After James and Lily were killed and Voldemort's mangled spirit had fled, Severus Snape arrived at the house, presumably with the intention of protecting Lily, only to find her dead body lying in Harry's bedroom. Heartbroken, Snape embraced Lily's body in front of her infant son.


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Notes and references

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 4 (The Keeper of the Keys)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 10 (The Marauder's Map)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince's Tale)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17 (Bathilda's Secret)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 37 takes place in June 1996, and Dumbledore says the prophecy was sixteen years earlier. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince's Tale), Snape mentions the prophecy to Dumbledore on a hilltop with trees without leaves, meaning the prophecy must have been made before the spring.
  6. J.K Rowling at Carnegie Hall from The Leaky Cauldron
  7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 19 (The Servant of Lord Voldemort)
  8. PotterCast #130 - Interview with J. K. Rowling
  9. J.K. Rowling Web Chat Transcript Jul 30, 2007 from The Leaky Cauldron (website)
  10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 16 (Godric's Hollow)