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When Did the Potters Go Into Hiding?

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During her 2007 appearance at Carnegie Hall, JKR mentioned that Lily and James were full-time fighters for the Order "until Lily fell pregnant with Harry" and "then they went into hiding," which contradicts her 2004 World Book Day statement that it "looked as if the Potters would have to go into hiding" at the time of Harry's christening. In the 2005 MuggleNet/Leaky Cauldron interview, however, she stated, "At the time that they christened Harry, they were in hiding," leaving open the possibility that they went into hiding before Harry was born.

It seems JKR changed her mind about when the Potters went into hiding between writing OotP and HBP. In DH33, when we see Snape go to beg Dumbledore to keep Lily safe, it's autumn ("...the sound of the wind in the branches" and "Though leaves and branches still flew through the night air around them..."). This scene could thus fall in late 1979, when Lily was a couple of months pregnant, or in late 1980, when Harry was a few months old. But late 1979 seems more likely, given that the prophecy was worded "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches," not "has arrived," implying its subject wasn't born at the name Trelawney made it.

The order of events thus seems to be:

  • Autumn 1979: Lily finds out she's pregnant.
  • Autumn 1979: Snape overhears Trelawney making the prophecy
  • Autumn 1979: Snape tells Voldemort about it and he targets the Potters.
  • Autumn 1979: Snape goes to Dumbledore, seeking protection for Lily.
  • The Potters go into hiding.
  • July 1980: Harry is born while his parents are in hiding.

This leaves open the question of how Voldemort learned Lily was pregnant, much less expecting a boy, but I think there's enough evidence from various sources to support the above order of events.

What does everyone else think? Starstuff (Owl me!) 00:08, August 7, 2011 (UTC)

I would say that the 2007 statement would be the more "official" as it is the latest statement made by Rowling. However, personally, I think that a large amount of time in hiding is unfeasible since it means that Pettigrew waited a long time before betraying the Potters. Perhaps this is one of the things that Pottermore will clear up in the coming months. - Cavalier OneGryffindorcrest(Wizarding Wireless Network) 00:30, August 7, 2011 (UTC)
I'm revamping the Lily Evans article to include more known canonical information and I was wondering how to cover information about the Potters going into hiding. Personally, I always had a bit of trouble accepting that Pettigrew's betray came suddenly, I'd find it more believable if the Potters were in hiding for two years and he had that long to progressively grow frightened enough to sell them out. Starstuff (Owl me!) 02:38, August 7, 2011 (UTC)
I'm inclined to agree with Cav and go with the more recent interview. After all, Lily's letter to Sirius in Deathly Hallows mentions Peter visiting them around Harry's birthday in late July, and they still weren't killed for another three months, so it's not unreasonable to think he'd been conflicted enough to wait for quite some time before betraying them. Then again, we all know the REAL reason is simply because it's J. K. "I hate teh maths" Rowling. - Nick O'Demus 10:26, August 7, 2011 (UTC)
Snape has overheard the prophecy in late 1979 or early 1980. It must have been later than Halloween 1979, because Harry was born on 31st July 1980, so he was conceived around Halloween 1979.
Snape asks Dumbledore to protect Lily after Harrys birth, because they talk about "her son". The weather is not necessarily in autumn, it could well be winter or early spring, when the dry leaves are still around. But if we assume that it is autumn, then it would be in 1981, because it would take even Voldemort some time to find out about all children born at the end of July 1980 to parents who have thrice defeated him. (The prophecy could also be referring to Neville Longbottom, but by attacking Harry, Voldemort "marks him as his equal".)
So lets say Snape talks to Dumbledore in autumn 1981 and tells him, Voldemort thinks the prophecy is referring to Harry. Dumbledore warns the Potters and they use the Fidelius Charm to go into hiding. BUT only because they change to Pettigrew as Secret Keeper at the last moment, he is able to betray them. I think that he did it immediately, because Sirius talks about how happy he must have been realising that he could be of great service to his secret master. No sense in waiting, imho. Bearig 20:05, March 27, 2012 (UTC)

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