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Lily, James, and their pre-seventh year relationship - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Lily, James, and their pre-seventh year relationship
I'm so behind the times. I just noticed a new review on Summer Strangers that congratulated me on a Niffle, and wow... it got Niffled at FA. Thanks, LovelyThumper! I'm happy that the people who read it liked it, and the comments following aren't trying to say, "You should have liked it better!" or whatnot, just sort of thinking about the subject at hand.

The thread talked about the fact that it was written pre-OotP and had James and Lily as friends in their first year, and some people said that it was AU. First, persephone_kore is right in her comment on the thread... it does in fact drive me buggy when obsoleted fics are called AU. Just right up the wall.

But the question I'm thinking about in regard to it is the relationship between James and Lily before seventh year. Is it really even obsoleted to consider it possible--or even likely--that they would have been friends during their first year?

I'm not actually defending "Summer Strangers" on this. That was written a long time ago, and my emotional attachment to it has dipped beneath the usual pathological devotion I have to "fresher" stories. I could certainly deal with it being wrong. It's more of an intellectual question, and an analysis question, and the question I'm thinking of is, How much weight do we put on the Pensieve scene as far as making judgments about the long-term interrelationships among the characters? I've talked about the Marauders/Snape dynamic a little bit elsewhere (it seems to definitely be before the prank, as MWPP aren't being personal and vindictive, but callously cruel--the vibe is not one of, "This guy's been nosing around and trying to get Remus expelled; let's get him," but just one of, "Geek alert! Attack!"), but what of James and Lily?

We see Lily being quite angry with James for his treatment of a weaker student, and calling him arrogant and stuck-up and so on. Later on, Remus and Sirius agree that they were arrogant berks, and that James had gotten a little puffed up by his Quidditch success. It all fits very well for their fifth year configuration.

But what does it say about first year?

My opinion on the subject is, not much. There are a lot of possibilities for the course of their relationship, and unrelenting hatred from Lily strikes me as the least likely.

The things we know in the scene are:
  • James is absolutely besotted with Lily. He doodles her initials on his exam papers, strives to impress her by making his voice sound more adult, and so on.
  • Lily is not remotely impressed by anything he does.
  • James feels that she will go out with him if he bargains. Lily cuts this assumption to shreds.
  • James is every bit as offended by the term "Mudblood" as Lily is, and considers its use to be fair reason to hate anyone. Lily doesn't pretend not to be offended by it, but cuts at James by pointing out that his moral failing is every bit as bad. (Not J/L related, but her statement that James is "as bad as [Snape] is" suggests that this is not the first time he has called her that; if it weren't a pattern behavior, she'd say James was worse.)
  • James is confused by Lily's behavior ("What is with her?"). He appears to have a really different set of expectations.

So, what does all of this suggest?

Hard to say. There are some possible paths of the relationship, though.

First, there's the common fanon assumption that the scene means Lily always detested James until he won her over when they started dating seventh year. Like I said, I don't find that likely, but obviously we can't rule it out. My reasoning for finding it unlikely is mainly that James seems to have really out-of-whack expectations--not just the kind of arrogant berk ones you might expect, but almost delusional ones if she's never liked him. Also, even Snape dates James's arrogance--the point with which Lily is so frustrated--from his success on the Quidditch pitch. We know from canon that Harry's first-year Quidditch-playing was rare and noteworthy. Chances are, James didn't start playing immediately upon reaching Hogwarts. For Lily's part in the scene, up to the point of her intervention, Sirius is taking as active a role as James in the torment of Snape, but it's solely James she descends on, which again brings up questions of expectations. She dismisses Sirius entirely, but apparently believes that James will behave better if she reprimands him. On the whole, what the interaction suggests to me is that for whatever reason--personal or impersonal--Lily has reason to expect James to have a higher moral stance than he is displaying, and James has reason to be surprised at how cold Lily is being to him.

The second possibility is the one I used in "Summer Strangers"--that the pair of them were good friends during their first year, but, as James's head grew (and Lily got more self-righteous about it), they fell out, causing Lily to become bitter and James baffled. The major point against this is that I think Sirius and Remus would have mentioned it immediately when Harry said that his mother seemed to hate his father--they wouldn't want to leave him twisting in the wind with such a horrible thought. But all that was said was, "Nah, she didn't." In its favor is almost the same thing, though--Remus and Sirius both seem unable to take Harry's fear of this at all seriously. To them, Lily's outburst and James's discomfort seem to be nothing more than an amusing memory. And all that they said it took for her to date James was for him to "deflate his head a bit." That suggests a strained friendship being repaired at some point when James straightened up.

The other scenario it could suggest is that James finally won Lily over after years of not really being either friends or enemies, but of being two people who ran across one another a lot and had some good and some bad experiences to point out. Everyone seems to agree that James hated the Dark Arts, represented at the time by the rising Death Eaters. His anger at Snape's "Mudblood" comment seems genuine enough. It's possible that James has come to Lily's defense at some points in the past, without necessarily having been her friend. She might realize he's someone she can count on without necessarily having been his friend.

They also might have an on-and-off friendship.

Or an explosive one like Ron and Hermione's.

Or a tentative one like Harry and Ginny's--one with a mad crush for awhile, the other with a non-committal fondness but not much more--which James tests very sorely when he turns into Jamezilla. (At which point, she exploits his crush by using it to hurt him in punishment.)

Or a totally distant but non-adversarial relationship, like Harry and Susan Bones.

Really, there are any number of configurations the relationship could take and I don't think the Pensieve scene obsoleted any of them other than the two of them being madly in love and dating the whole time they were at Hogwarts.
16 comments or Leave a comment
sreya From: sreya Date: December 29th, 2004 10:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

I have an extremely hard time believing that James and Lily had an entirely adversarial relationship before falling in love in 7th year. For one thing, having been in the same house and same year would make that really exhausting. For another, it doesn't really come across as "hate" from Lily -- as you pointed out, she acts disappointed and irritated by James's behavior.

At worst, I could see Lily as the Lavendar/Parvati sort (if you're focusing on MWPP) -- someone outside of the group who's just there, until James takes a special interest. At best, they may have been friends who had a falling out, or grew apart, and then later fell in love.

But absolutely detesting each other for 6 years and then falling in love their seventh? That'd take some pretty extreme footwork by James!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 29th, 2004 11:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
That'd take some pretty extreme footwork by James!

What, you don't buy Harry's adolescent theory that he forced her into it? ;)
affabletoaster From: affabletoaster Date: December 30th, 2004 06:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm still looking for a good Evil!Kidnapper!James/unwilling!Lily fic... ;)
gryffinkat From: gryffinkat Date: December 29th, 2004 10:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

my two knuts

Thanks so much for posting your excellent thoughts on this. I really appreciate that you put so much logic into thinking about these things.

I have to admit that I did subscribe to the adversarial theory for a while. But these days, I'm more likely to think that they were not really either friends or enemies, but just two people who came across each quite a lot (understandably, being in the same house) -- until James developed a crush sometime in or before their fifth year. I also suspect that Lily returned many of these feelings for James, but was put off by his arrogance. From my experience, nothing seems to make a girl so angry as seeing someone she likes doing things she doesn't like.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 29th, 2004 11:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: my two knuts

I think there's an inclination to have new info replace rather than revise old info until we sit down and think about it. I also entertained the idea that they always hated each other and almost pulled "Summer Strangers"; it was only after some thought about what we'd seen that I started to understand why it felt wrong to make that assumption.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: December 29th, 2004 10:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent analysis. I remember discussing James and Lily with alkari some time back and we came to the same conclusion. While I don't believe that Lily was ever The Fifth Marauder or, worse, their "Anybodys," I believe that Lily and James had a cordial, probably even a friendly relationship for their first and second years. While Lily appeared to have her own circle of female friends, she and James probably encountered each other quite a lot being in the same House and year, and both being bright students and leaders amongst their peers.

I think that James started out as a perfectly nice kid. He reached out to Sirius (a boy from a dubious family background and almost certainly prone to fits of emotional outburst), Remus (a werewolf) and Peter (a timid, clumsy kid). For the latter three boys, MWPP was the family they never really had and James appears to have been their emotional center because he took them under his wing. But then comes third year or so, when James joins the Quidditch team and becomes one of its stars. He's brilliant, popular, good at Quidditch, and what do you know, his head starts getting bigger and bigger and bigger - just as could be expected under the circumstances. Lily, meanwhile, witnesses this change in formerly nice, genial James and is Very Very Disappointed and, being Lily, does not hesitate to let him know it.

Harry appears to have inherited his "saving people thing" from his mother, and to Lily, her anger with James might well have been part of her own "saving people thing." Her anger was partly to save Snape from humiliation, and partly to save James from prathood.

I think that the Whomping Willow incident and, soon after, Sirius' moving in with the Potters was the turning point which forced James to grow up, take responsibility for his actions and deflate his head. I see James spending sixth year proving himself to (among many others) Lily that he was now a changed boy who realized the error of his ways. I think that Lily was cautious at first but then they became friends, and after a year or so of friendship, James persuaded Lily to go out with him. By this time - seventh year - James and Lily were Head Boy and Girl and I think this helped, that Lily was able to see that James could handle responsibility.

To sum up - I don't think that Lily ever hated James, just was bitterly disappointed and angry with him, and she wasn't the type of person to keep her mouth shut.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 29th, 2004 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that the Whomping Willow incident and, soon after, Sirius' moving in with the Potters was the turning point which forced James to grow up, take responsibility for his actions and deflate his head.

I agree. They talk about a lot happening when they were sixteen (hmm, wondering if we'll get more past info on this in HBP), and James would have to either take responsibility for his position as a leader and group center or never take responsibility at all. Even more than The Prank, I think that taking in Sirius when he had nothing left would have forced James into this choice. Here's his friend--his brother, for all intents and purposes--rendered homeless and emotionally unstable. If it's before The Prank, James might be accepting his responsibility for Sirius by realizing that he can't let Sirius do this; if it's after, Sirius may go there as an acceptance that he needs James to keep him from going off the deep end. Either way, the point when Sirius literally comes into James's care and good graces is the point of no return for him. He's become the responsible one--maybe not the moral compass like Remus (ineffectual as he might be), but the one who will ultimately come forward take the brunt of any impact. And that potential had to have been there all along.

BTW, I also agree that he's the one taking the other Marauders "under his wing" so to speak--I see them basically as each having a primary relationship with James, and developing relationships with one another because of it. This would have been a childish incarnation of his leadership, but a perfectly genuine one.
dudley_doright From: dudley_doright Date: March 10th, 2005 10:05 am (UTC) (Link)
it also makes sense to think that the prank might have had something to do with why Sirius had to leave home in the first place...
glitterdemon From: glitterdemon Date: December 30th, 2004 01:43 am (UTC) (Link)
i really love what you have to say about james taking the other marauders under his wing. however, i then find it surprising that you attribute harry's need to "save" people to lily; if the aforementioned is true, then i would think that patented james behaviour. harry's two closest friends are acquired in much the same way. he bonds with ron on the train, notes his sensitivity to his lack of money, and the finalization of the precedings, if you will, is when ron has been shot down by malfoy and harry makes a very deliberate decision to be friends with the right "sort." hermione is taken under wing after she's firmly been established as a social outcast -- in fact, i think it's sort of implied that harry and ron's change of heart save hermione from this being permanent. i think this very closely reflects the potential formation of mwpp.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 30th, 2004 01:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I think there's a difference between the caretaking, bonding behavior we see from James (which Harry also gets) and the saving-people-thing, which is more akin to running into the fray and rescuing someone, which Lily does (and which Harry also gets).
psychic_serpent From: psychic_serpent Date: December 30th, 2004 12:50 am (UTC) (Link)
That's so true about AUs. It is pre-OotP, not AU. There is a huge difference. It simply depends on how much of the canon you are taking into account (usually because of how much was available at the time it was written). If you know what happened to Harry in his first year and you write a version where he's sorted into Hufflepuff--THAT'S an AU.

And I don't see any reason that Lily and James couldn't have been friends in first year, given what we knew pre-OotP. In The Lost Generation (1975-1982) I depicted them in fifth year as brother/sister-type friends, which they'd been for years. James had a girlfriend in another house and Lily was starting to be interested in both Remus and Severus and feeling a bit torn about them both. She wasn't even considering James in a romantic vein, not the least because he already had a girlfriend and Lily liked her. I never saw James as the prat JKR shows us in OotP; I sort of saw Sirius that way (in my version it's Sirius who's playing pranks on Severus with support from Peter while both James and Remus turn a blind eye, neither abetting nor preventing).

Post-OotP, it's still not implausible that James could have been a perfectly nice kid when he was only eleven. He could have been friends with Lily from the start but then became more and more influenced by Sirius and turned into the prat we eventually saw in the fifth book. Part of Lily's antagonism toward him could stem from the friendship with him that she lost due to his development into an obnoxious git, complete with tasteless and ill-timed propositions. If this is the case no WONDER she responded the way she did in OotP.
straussmonster From: straussmonster Date: December 30th, 2004 02:55 am (UTC) (Link)
The other thing that I wonder about is...how much of a history was there between Snape and MWPP that Lily didn't know about, or wasn't quite in a position to catch? I say this as someone with a sneaking suspicion that ideology, in its peculiar teenage manifestations, is behind the bullying of Snape as well as the bored-and-looking-for-amusement "Geek Attack". Lily as Muggleborn may be aware of some of the tensions going around, and she's sure not amused about being called a 'Mudblood', but she does lack a cultural insider perspective on it. (It's obvious that the kids at Hogwarts are ideologically aware, to some extent. Ron's comments about 'Mudblood' show both that he knows the connotations, and that he was clearly taught that it was unacceptable. Everyone has an ideology, fully aware of it or not.)

But finding out that the Lestrange mentioned in GoF is a Cousin of Sirius, oh, that gets my wheels a grindin' about buildup and background to that scene.
affabletoaster From: affabletoaster Date: December 30th, 2004 06:32 am (UTC) (Link)
And in the Mudblood scene in the Trio era, Ron is far more outraged than Hermione, because he has grown up in complete digust of it. Hermione knows the connotation, but doesn't feel it the way Ron does. She has the knowledge of how terrible it is, but not the emotional...investment(?) in his disgust.

Lily is in a similar situation. She knows what it means, and has gotten some feel for the connotation during her years, but still doesn't have that deep revulsion that is bred into James.
jazzypom From: jazzypom Date: December 30th, 2004 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

LJ ate my post!

Relationship - personally, in seventh and eigth grade Lily and James probably didn't notice each other. James is very much a 'bloke' and he would have been with his friends. He probably noticed Lily in ninth grade, when she grew into her looks and got breasts.

Then, he must have had some sort of feelings for her in ninth/tenth grade, and she must have been shooting him down with regularity. This is shown when she scuppers his notion of them going out, and note Black's off handed 'bad luck, prongs' when that happens.

After The Prank, and when Dumbledore makes him Head-Boy they both had to work together and Evans sees a different side to James in that light.

krabapple has a nice take on this. ON her website www.12grimmauldplace.com she has a fanfic about Lily/James called 'Us Merry Few' or something along those lines. I like her take on it. It's a monster of a fic, but a good read.
jazzypom From: jazzypom Date: December 30th, 2004 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)


It's www.twelvegrimmauldplace.com
musesfool From: musesfool Date: December 31st, 2004 01:35 am (UTC) (Link)
mousapelli and I like to speculate that there was an early abortive attempt at dating for James and Lily (third year, maybe? with holding hands and first kisses), that he did something dumb (I wrote a fic where Lily stuffs her bra and James blabs about it, thus setting up her constant shooting him down afterward) to torpedo it, and so she really doesn't like him because she likes him and she ended up humiliated.

I also think at that age, people have polar changes in attitude about other people, sometimes as frequently as week to week, so we may find out Lily wasn't always, "Down, James" but was sometimes, "Mmm...maybe... not." Enough to give him hope, anyway.

After the prank, when James starts to settle down and mature, and becomes Head Boy, they probably had to work together and she remembered why she liked him, and really, she never actually hated him, just found him excessively irritating, and he's rather charming in his way so... they go out.

I think it's certainly as possible as anything else.
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