n what order are the five wizards or witches most directly responsible for the demise of James and Lily Potter?
Oh, let’s take an objective look at the suspects in order of most to least:
1 . Lord Voldemort
Voldemort cast the fatal curses, so he’s the most responsible. If he had been smart enough to just dismiss prophecies as “suggestions” he could have just taken over the world.
2. Peter Pettigrew, AKA Wormtail
Peter betrayed his friends as Secret-Keeper of the Fidelius Charm that protected the Potters. He feared Lord Voldemort and apparently was the only member of the Order of the Phoenix to notice that Albus Dumbledore had been able to do nothing to stop Voldemort and that Voldemort and his Death Eaters were running rampant across the wizard landscape.
He was a despicable coward to turn on his friends because he saw his side was losing. Some people might even think he got off easy the way he went beyond the Veil.
Quickly: I’m going to add Numbers 3–5 here, but it might be worth considering something.
From here on out, no one is really at fault for the deaths of the Potters because no one else from this point forward was actively seeking to end their lives. No one.
So it’s a little bit absurd and ridiculous to pretend anyone else is at fault for putting the Potters in harm’s way — especially not one particularly popular character who people either love or hate, and who is really the desired focal point of this entire exercise — when we start questioning who was most accountable beyond Voldemort and Wormtail.
But, some people like to play this little game of pointing fingers, so let’s have at least one objective view on the subject.
3. James Potter
James is the one who decided Peter Pettigrew should be his Secret-Keeper. Someone in another answer stated it’s not fair to blame James or Lily because they were the victims and that’s true. It’s not fair.
But it is accurate. James had the opportunity to make a number of better choices for Secret-Keeper, including Albus Dumbledore, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, three wizards James should have known would never betray him.
And still, he chose the weakest link in the chain. It’s been argued by many that this was actually a clever choice on James’ part because who would have thought of Peter Pettigrew? (Gee, I don't know. Maybe Voldemort?…)
See, that's the problem with that argument — it didn’t work. And the Potters ended up dead. So James doesn’t get credit for being clever. He gets credit for being stupid.
4. Sirius Black
Sirius is the one who put it in James’ head to use Peter Pettigrew as Secret-Keeper. And the same way James doesn’t get credit for being clever, Sirius doesn’t get any cleverness points either, because his best friend and his best friend’s wife were both ended.
In fact, unless we’re going to say Sirius doubted himself, he should have realized that other than Dumbledore, he was the best choice for Secret-Keeper, considering a secret can’t be forced, coerced or otherwise tricked or magicked out of the Secret-Keeper.
All Sirius would have needed to do was keep his mouth shut about the location of the Potters.
5. Lily Potter
Sorry; again, I know, it’s not fair. But neither is life or death. And Lily should have pushed back when someone mentioned Peter Pettigrew, of all people, as Secret-Keeper.
Harry was your most precious possession, Lily. Your baby. Albus Dumbledore should have been the first and only choice, and you should have threatened to run to Severus Snape for help, if James chose anyone else.
It’s been suggested the Potters thought maybe Dumbledore was too busy. Really? Someone wants to get rid of your kid, but you don’t want to bother someone as important as Albus Dumbledore? Who had already offered?
Okay, so you thought he was too busy. I guess we should have thought twice about that.
So, where is Severus Snape in all of this? He delivered the prophecy didn’t he? That practically makes him the perpetrator, doesn’t it? No, it doesn’t, but I’ll get to that.
Severus is on this list, but he’s not even Number 6. That honor goes to:
6. Albus Dumbledore
Dumbledore knew more than anyone how critical it was to choose a strong Secret-Keeper. He also promised Severus he would protect the Potters in exchange for Severus going undercover to report back on Voldemort.
So Dumbledore should have insisted that the Potters use him. He should have made it clear there was no better choice.
Instead, it’s implied that he offered once and when they said no, he just accepted their choice and went on his merry way.
And if he DID insist and the Potters STILL didn’t use him, well, that’s why he’s not higher up the list. And we do, at that point, have to question how he had lost the Potter’s trust.
7. Severus Snape
Here he is. Whew! I know, you think he belongs far higher up, simply because he was doing his job and gave relevant information to Voldemort. Honestly, most Snape-detractors attitudes towards Severus are the epitome of “shooting the messenger.”
But he really had the least impact of anyone who had anything to do with this whole tragedy.
Everyone ahead of him — from Voldemort to Wormtail to James to Sirius to Lily to Dumbledore — all had a greater impact on the demise of the Potters than Severus Snape.
If Dumbledore convinces the Potters to use him as Secret-Keeper, the delivery of the prophecy doesn’t matter.
If Lily insists on using Dumbledore, well, then, the prophecy doesn’t matter.
If Sirius doesn’t get cute and come up with Wormtail-instead-of-Dumbledore, guess what? Yeah. The prophecy doesn’t matter.
James? Need I say more? The prophecy wouldn’t have mattered.
That’s all in addition to the fact that as soon as Voldemort targeted the Potters, Severus went straight to — guess who? — Dumbledore. And the Potters then had somewhere between seven and ten months of a head start on Voldemort.
That’s seven-to-ten months of preparation. In addition to Snape reporting back to Dumbledore about what Voldemort was up to, of which Dumbledore STILL couldn’t figure out how to stop the Dark Lord or keep the Potters safe.
So, yes, most of the blame typically set on Snape is completely misappropriated.
By the way, to be clear, I’m not a Snape apologist. I don’t think anyone needs to apologize for anything he did. The mistakes he made, he was aware of, and he made himself accountable for all of them. He paid for all of them, in spades.
It wasn’t his fault the people he tried to help, Dumbledore and the Potters, couldn’t put the information he gave them to good use.