Lily's Letter to Sirius

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Lily's Letter to Sirius

Post  Elanor on Sun May 29, 2011 12:57 am

Lily's Letter to Sirius

This topic serves as an archive of a thread from the Harry Potter Lexicon Forum as hosted on World Crossing which ceased operation on April 15, 2011. Elanor

zelmia - Sep 9, 2007 10:21 pm
Edited by Kip Carter Nov 1, 2007 9:31 am
I'm not sure what the life expectancy of this Thread will be. But the Letter from Lily that Harry finds in Sirius's room seems to be referred to enough that maybe we need a separate Thread for it.

I think the main issue for discussion is how soon before she died did Lily write this? She mentions Dumbledore "still" having James's Cloak, which Dumbledore says he had for only a few days. "Still has" implies that Dumbledore's had the Cloak longer than that, especially since Lily also mentions that James is getting rather stir crazy.

Another interesting point is that Lily mentions Petunia having sent her a vase for Christmas. So clearly the Evans sisters were still in touch until at least a few months after Harry was born, even though apparently "they hadn't seen each other for many years", as stated in PS.
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Lily's Letter to Sirius (Post 1 to 27)

Post  Elanor on Sun May 29, 2011 12:58 am

NFla Barbara - Sep 9, 2007 9:54 pm (#1 of 27)
I'm going to let better minds figure out the timing of the letter...I can't! But I also thought it was interesting that Petunia had sent Lily a hideous vase for Christmas. We know that Lily's parents were quite proud and supportive of her, so my guess would be that Petunia made some minimal gestures towards her sister to keep them happy, even if she begged off ever seeing her in person. Evidently her habit of giving gifts to convey disdain for the recipient didn't start with Harry, though.

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Phelim Mcintyre - Sep 10, 2007 7:30 am (#2 of 27)

While Lily hated the vase, Petunia may have actually liked it. I have seen people buy vases which they find wondeful I I can't understand why they would want something so vile in their house. I doubt it though. Wormy being there makes sense as he is the secret keeper. The thing that suprises me is Batilda Bagshott being there. Who told her the secret? If she knew that Pettigrew was the secret keeper why didn't she speak up for Sirius? Also if Dumbledore took the cloak after the Fidelius Charm was cast how did he not know that Wormtail was the secret keeper? As to the timing of the letter, James doesn't appear to be one who liked the quiet life. I can see him getting stir carzy after just two days.

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legolas returns - Sep 10, 2007 11:01 am (#3 of 27)

I agree that the letter was probably written before the Fidelius charm was cast. I thought that they were under the charm for less than a week before they were betrayed (My POA has gone missing so cant check).

If this is true then there are a number of possibilities

1)Why did Dumbledore have the cloak so long?

2)Why did it take Lily so long to thank Sirius?

3)Was Sirius late with the gift because he had been busy with the order (the letter mentions the Order coming first)? Was Dumbledore trying to keep Sirius and James apart so that they could not get up to mischief?

4)Were they told not to send Owls so not to draw to much attention to the place.

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zelmia - Sep 10, 2007 11:16 am (#4 of 27)

Oh! And that's a bad miss!
Petunia could very well have meant the vase as a legitimate gift. There's no accounting for taste, after all. Then again, she could very well have meant it in the same vein as the toothpick she would later send Harry. One thing is for sure though. The vase shows that she was still in contact with Lily, even if they never got together.

No one but Sirius (possibly not even James and Lily themselves) knew Peter was the Secret Keeper. It would have been all but impossible to have casually revealed the Secret - particularly to anyone who wasn't in the Order - without also revealing that he was the Secret Keeper. So when Lily mentions that Dumbledore or Bathilda came by, that seems to indicate that the Fidelius had not yet been performed.

My overall take on the letter is that the tone implies that Lily and Sirius haven't seen each other in a while ("the Order's got to come first"), even if they have communicated otherwise. She is giving their day-to-day routine ("Bathilda drops by most days"), letting Sirius know what's been going on since the last time they saw each other.
Whatever Sirius was doing for the Order, it is a bit unlikely that he would have had time to do anything about a birthday present for Harry. I think his present must have been sent quite some time after Harry's birthday.

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PatPat - Sep 10, 2007 5:28 pm (#5 of 27)

For some reason, I don't have a problem with Bathilda dropping by. We know from canon that it is possible to tell the secret in a letter. There was nothing stopping Lily and James having Peter write a letter or two so that Bathilda and Dumbledore could be let in on the secret. We know from Sirius that Peter went into hiding after the Fidelius was cast, so it would have been hard for him to tell anyone the secret in person.

It is a little difficult to understand why Lily would be thanking Sirius for a birthday present nearly three months later. But, who knows? It was a very tumultuous time period. Perhaps it was the first chance she had to write Sirius since Harry's birthday.

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Luna Logic - Sep 10, 2007 11:31 pm (#6 of 27)

from the other side (of the Channel)
legolas : Was Sirius late with the gift because he had been busy with the order I had understood that Sirius was not late for his gift, because of the sentence "One year old and already zooming along (...)". But I see now the "clue" is not so precise! And there is nothing more in the letter to show at what moment Sirius' present came...
The strange thing would be then the absence of Sirius' visits to his friends during three months. Another thing - after my first reading, I checked the Lexicon for the timing of the McKinnons death (another book mentionned it - PoA?) but nothing more precise.

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zelmia - Sep 11, 2007 12:03 am (#7 of 27)

Oh! And that's a bad miss!
Hagrid mentions the McKinnons' deaths when he takes Harry to Diagon Alley, but he doesn't say when they occurred.

I think Lily would be thanking Sirius for the present no matter when he sent it.

About Bathilda, I don't have a problem with her dropping by during the Fidelius Charm either precisely because we know that the Secret can be revealed via letter.
But where it becomes an issue is that no one but Sirius - and I'm starting to think that even James and Lily didn't know either - knew that Peter was the Secret Keeper.
So for Peter to reveal the Secret by letter, we have to consider that the information would had to have been handed off by Sirius in order to make it look like it came from him and not Peter. That would have been rather difficult - but not impossible - to do with people who weren't in the Order.

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legolas returns - Sep 11, 2007 12:07 am (#8 of 27)

I think I put this in the plot inconsistancies folder but am going to repost it here as well.

Sirius gave Harry a toy broom when he was one according to the letter.

Sirius gave Harry a broom when he was thirteen saying that it was thirteen years worth of birthday presents.

Did he forget/or did someone else send the broom in his name?

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Joanna Lupin - Sep 11, 2007 5:05 am (#9 of 27)

Zelmia - Sirius says in POA that he persuaded James to change to Peter as Secret Keeper and I can't see James deciding without Lily.

It is without doubt that Dumbledore borrowed the cloak before the Fidelius Charm was performed as he didn't realise there has been the swap (I expect he'd recognize Peter's handwriting).

We don't know exactly how the charm is performed, but I always pictured Sirius and Peter coming over to the Potters and talking them into the swap (it had been done at the last moment, right?). It suggests that Sirius came over after Harry's birthday and before Halloween. The letter sounds as if Lily hadn't seen Sirius in a while so that's another clue that the letter was written before the Fidelius Charm (I'd risk a bet sometime early in September).

That would mean DD had the cloak a little over a month, and in his old age treats any period of time that lasted less than a decade as an eyeblink. LOL

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Madame Pomfrey - Sep 11, 2007 6:07 am (#10 of 27)

It is without doubt that Dumbledore borrowed the cloak before the Fidelius Charm was performed as he didn't realise there has been the swap (I expect he'd recognize Peter's handwriting).

Would Dumbledore even be able to return the cloak if he wasn't in on the secret? I'm not saying he tried,I'm just asking if it would be possible.

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Joanna Lupin - Sep 11, 2007 8:36 am (#11 of 27)

I doubt it, but probably they were going to tell him the secret later on? Or he could have sent the cloak to Sirius to pass it on to James, I suppose.

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zelmia - Sep 11, 2007 12:48 pm (#12 of 27)

Oh! And that's a bad miss!
Ah, thanks Joanna, for that reference. Still, Lily may not have known about it. But I agree that she probably did.

I have always figured that the Charm was performed specifically because of Snape's information to Dumbledore. The image of Snape and Dumbledore's meeting on the windy hilltop seems to me to jibe with the Charm being performed "barely a week" before James and Lily were killed.

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Joanna Lupin - Sep 11, 2007 1:16 pm (#13 of 27)

Snape came to DD about a year before the Potters died, and ever since they were alerted to the danger, but 'someone close to the Potters kept Voldemort informed about their movements' so they decided to go under the Fidelius Charm to protect themselves better. That's how I see it.

I wonder though, did Lily and James know about the prophecy? Did the Order know what they were guarding in OOTP?

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zelmia - Sep 11, 2007 1:25 pm (#14 of 27)

Oh! And that's a bad miss!
Yes, I don't think it was a year before, although it seems most people have interpreted it that way.

I think James and Lily must have known about the Prophecy or they wouldn't have gone into hiding in the first place. But I think when Snape comes to Dumbledore to tell him - for certain - that Voldemort is after the Potters AND that someone close to them is a traitor is when they decide to use the Charm. But I may have to re-read to be sure.

I would say the Order did know about the Prophecy because Snape must have told them that's what Voldemort was after. When Lucius and the other DE's show up, they most certainly know what they are there to retrieve.

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wynnleaf - Sep 12, 2007 12:18 pm (#15 of 27)

Just found this thread.

A problem about sharing the secret through a letter is that presumably James and Lily can't be leaving the house to go around visiting friends (like Bathilda) and sharing a letter about. So who would take the letter to Bathilda? It would look rather weird if Sirius took it, since he's supposed to be the Secret Keeper himself and therefore could share it without a letter. Further, James and Lily supposedly hadn't seen him for awhile. But it would also seem strange for Dumbledore to be visiting after the Fidelius was set up. If he was given a note, it would have to be in Peter's handwriting. Wouldn't he know most of the handwriting from his Order members? Wouldn't he probably know it wasn't Sirius' writing? And wouldn't he wonder if he wasn't given the Secret in person and remember that later when Sirius was supposedly the traitor?

If the discrepancies between the letter and DD's comments about borrowing the cloak only days before the Potter's deaths are simply a continuity error, it seems more likely that the error was when JKR was writing DD's words, rather than Lily's letter, because Lily's letter is so involved and there are numerous things in it that make it sound like it was written weeks or months before their deaths. Whereas there is only DD's brief comment about it being "a few days" before the Potter's deaths. If JKR was going to have a continuity error, DD's words would be more likely.

However, that means DD borrowed and kept the cloak for some time before the Potter's deaths.

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zelmia - Sep 12, 2007 1:46 pm (#16 of 27)

Oh! And that's a bad miss!
Exactly what I was trying to get across about revealing the Secret through a letter, Wynnleaf.

But then, if Lily wrote the letter weeks or months before she was killed, I wonder why it's apparently the only one Sirius kept; and Snape completely fell apart over it and kept both Lily's photo and signature.

Or did he take the second page of the letter, not for Lily's signature, but to keep anyone from finding out some of that stuff about Dumbledore?

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Madam Pince - Sep 12, 2007 6:10 pm (#17 of 27)

The eyes are the windows to the soul...
Evidently (Petunia's) habit of giving gifts to convey disdain for the recipient didn't start with Harry...

Now see, I didn't take it that way at all. It's so fun how this Forum opens up so many different interpretations! I just thought it was a way for JKR to tell us that Petunia was... well, not the most stylish person in the world. I picture Petunia, from this clue along with others, as someone who wasn't as attractive as Lily, not as smart as Lily, not as popular as Lily, and who didn't have very good taste. (She married Vernon, after all...) I actually got a pretty sympathetic view of Petunia from the brief clue in the letter. I'm betting that Petunia was the subject of many "behind-the-back-eyerolls" and giggles from Lily & Co., and I bet although she may not have let on, Petunia was aware of it, too. People usually know when others are laughing at them.

If she'd sent a clothespin or something, then I'd say yes, it was similar to what she did to Harry. But I think the vase was an honest attempt at what she felt to be a nice gift. The way it was received (although we have no clue that she ever got feedback) might be part of the reason that Harry's gifts were so poor in the future. ("Oh, laugh at my gifts, will you? OK, so I'll give your son a toothpick then; what do you think of that?") I realize this is a lot of speculation on my part, but this is just how it struck me.

By the way, Phelim, I know exactly what you mean about ugly vases. I'm not a vase person in general, but I see some of those vases on TV shows like Antiques Roadshow, and the people are raving about them and going on about how they are worth $20,000 and isn't it amazing that she picked it up at a yard sale for a dollar, and I'm thinking "I wouldn't have given you 5-cents for it at a yard sale, and I still wouldn't!" Those are the ones I picture Petunia as sending -- something that's maybe collectible to those who collect such things (like Umbridge's vile cat plates), but appallingly ugly to those who don't.

Zelmia, I took it (again, pure speculation) that this letter was one which just happened to have fallen behind Sirius' dresser or under the bed or whatever, and he and/or Kreacher just never cleaned it up, not that this was a letter that Sirius saved in particular for any reason. I think that Snape just came across it because he was searching more thoroughly, and I most definitely think that he kept it because of the "Love, Lily" rather than anything to do with Dumbledore...

Poor guy, desperately trying to imagine/pretend that she'd once penned a letter to him with those words and that picture in it... *sniff-sniff* Oh it's just too sad...

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mona amon - Sep 13, 2007 5:28 am (#18 of 27)

Like Madam Pince I feel that Petunia did not have very good taste, but that the gift was a sign of affection for Lily. And I feel that, although she was glad when Harry finally broke it, keeping the vase on display since Christmas shows that Lily cared about her sister.

I'm betting that Petunia was the subject of many "behind-the-back-eyerolls" and giggles from Lily & Co.,

I'm not so sure. She is always shown sticking up for Petunia in Snape's memories.

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zelmia - Sep 13, 2007 10:38 am (#19 of 27)

Oh! And that's a bad miss!
Yes, I got the impression that Lily was very fond of her sister. They were obviously very close at one time. Petunia seems to have been the one to have initiated the estrangement and I always imagine Lily over the years trying to keep connected in spite of it.

It seems strange to me that Petunia should have been so horrid to Harry, or perhaps more accurately, allowed Vernon to be. On some level I understand the desire to "squash the magic out of" Harry; but to actually act on that? That's some pretty misdirected resentment, to say the least.

I like how when Harry is reading the letter for the first time he picks up on "they had had a cat". It's such a great detail and very realistic that he would have noticed this; and it is the sort of touchstone to what he has actually missed out on, why people have been so despondent on his behalf, all these years.

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NFla Barbara - Sep 13, 2007 11:27 am (#20 of 27)

Oh, I agree that Lily was fond of her sister...but she had a child that Petunia had never seen. No, I'm not buying that Petunia was showing any great affection for Lily. I think she was still resentful, and that is why later on she is so unrelentingly nasty where Lily and James are concerned.

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mona amon - Sep 14, 2007 4:20 am (#21 of 27)

I agree that Petunia was resentful and jealous of Lily, and tried to cut her out of her life, but she may have cared for her deep down, and I feel this shows itself in her gift of the vase. And I think this is the way Lily regarded it, or she would not have kept it.

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Chemyst - Sep 14, 2007 7:41 am (#22 of 27)

"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up." A.A. Milne
I had posted this in the James & Lily thread about half-a-day before this thread was started:

I think she probably thanked him a little over a month after the birthday – that gives Harry a few weeks to learn to fly, break the vase and scare the cat, and another week to get the film developed & owled to Sirius. I think the extra time is accounted for by DD being so intrigued by the cloak that he kept it for a long time and was a bit wistful at the thought of returning it. Dumbledore could have borrowed the cloak in August; told the Potters he was busy with the start of a new term and needs more time; Lily writes the note shortly after that. They were keeping a low profile when she sent it, but they were still having visitors, so I don't think we can know for 100% if they had "upgraded" to the full fidelius charm yet.
Reading this thread since then has changed my view of the last sentence slightly– I don't think they were under the fidelius charm when she wrote the thank-you note, but they probably were on an alerted level of vigilance. For example, the Weasleys were still living at the Burrow for most of DH until they went into deep hiding at Muriel's around Easter. It is not like one day they were carefree and the next they needed Fidelius. Trouble had been encroaching slowly for some time.

Once school was underway, (say it's late September now,) if James were to aak when will he get his cloak back, do you think DD would make a second excuse to keep it longer just so James would not do anything too reckless? Or because he was entranced by the Hallow?

About Zelmia's question ~
If you send me a letter with a photo, I'm a lot more likely to keep it. In fact, I have a small file of such letters & cards that are waiting for me to find the time to put them in an album; some have been waithg since last Christmas.


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Madam Pince - Oct 2, 2007 10:49 am (#23 of 27)

The eyes are the windows to the soul...
Last Christmas? I have some from the last century...

But I agree about the photo increasing the odds of someone keeping the letter. That's probably exactly what happened with Sirius... he doesn't strike me as the scrap-booking type, but he'd probably feel he ought to hold onto it somehow. Do wizarding homes need/have refrigerators? That's where I stick all photos, etc., that I don't know what else to do with them...

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haymoni - Nov 4, 2007 7:34 pm (#24 of 27)

I think it is very strange for Lily to be sending letters to anyone. They must really have trusted in that Fidelius Charm.

Anyone who found the letter only had to know where Bathilda Bagshot lived and would be able to figure out where the Potters were.

"Silly girl"

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PeskyPixie - Nov 4, 2007 8:17 pm (#25 of 27)

Unless all mail leaving and arriving at Godric's Hollow is also subject to the Fidelius Charm?

I just confused myself.

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Luna Logic - Nov 5, 2007 1:58 am (#26 of 27)

from the other side (of the Channel)
That's more arguments to say that this letter was written before the Fidelius !

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zelmia - Nov 5, 2007 1:32 pm (#27 of 27)

Oh! And that's a bad miss!
The letter need not have been delivered by Owl. Someone visiting the Potters (i.e. Wormtail) could have been asked to hand it off to Sirius.

Regarding Dumbledore having the Cloak "a few days" before the Fidelius Charm, I would say that, even under the broadest interpretation of "a few days", Dumbledore couldn't have had the Cloak longer than about a fortnight without using the words "a few weeks". That would put him borrowing the Cloak around mid-October.

It seems clear, though, that the Letter was written before the Charm if Bathilda was dropping by.
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