patronus

The Deep Origins of the Patronus in Harry Potter

What exactly is it?
As Professor Lupin told Harry in Prisoner of Azkaban, the Patronus is ‘a kind of Anti-Dementor – a guardian which acts as a shield between you and the Dementor.’ It’s also ‘a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the Dementor feeds upon – hope, happiness, the desire to survive – but it cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so the Dementors can’t hurt it.’

The Patronus has two forms, non-corporeal and corporeal. A non-corporeal Patronus can appear as ‘a thin wisp of silver’ that hovers ‘like mist’. Whereas a corporeal Patronus has a form that is clearly defined and is more than vapor or smoke.

The ability to cast a corporeal or non-corporeal Patronus is down to the skill of the witch or wizard. Each Patronus is unique to the witch or wizard who conjures it, and it’s possible, in some cases, for a Patronus to change.

Here are the witches and wizards who accomplished it, with some significant Patronus moments from across the stories.

Harry Potter – Stag

Harry flung himself out from behind the bush and pulled out his wand.
‘EXPECTO PATRONUM!’ he yelled.
And out of the end of his wand burst, not a shapeless cloud of mist, but a blinding, dazzling, silver animal. He screwed up his eyes, trying to see what it was. It looked like a horse.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Harry’s Patronus took the same shape as his father’s. He saw it for the first time during a Dementor attack with Hermione and Sirius at the Great Lake, and at first glance it looked like a horse. Coincidentally, the Patronus of Harry’s future wife, Ginny Weasley, was a horse.

James Potter – Stag
James Potter’s Patronus was the same form as his Animagus.

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Lily Potter – Doe

Lily is never seen casting a Patronus in the “Harry Potter” books or films, but Rowling has noted her ability to produce a corporeal doe Patronus on multiple occasions.

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Albus Dumbledore – Phoenix

‘Should I go and get someone?’ said Harry. ‘Madam Pomfrey?’
‘No,’ said Dumbledore swiftly. ‘Stay here.’
He raised his wand into the air and pointed it in the direction of Hagrid’s cabin. Harry saw something silvery dart out of it and streak away through the trees like a ghostly bird.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Dumbledore’s Patronus was a phoenix, which was revealed to us when he wanted to summon Hagrid after Viktor Krum was Stunned. It can be no surprise that Dumbledore had an affinity with this particular creature, given that his own animal companion was an enigmatic and loyal phoenix, Fawkes.

Remus Lupin – Wolf
Remus Lupin often disguised his Patronus so as not to reveal the fact that he was a werewolf.

Nymphadora Tonks – Wolf

‘Tonks’s Patronus has changed its form,’ he told him. ‘Snape said so, anyway. I didn’t know that could happen. Why would your Patronus change?’
Lupin took his time chewing his turkey and swallowing before saying slowly, ‘Sometimes … a great shock … an emotional upheaval …’
‘It looked big, and it had four legs,’ said Harry, struck by a sudden thought and lowering his voice. ‘Hey … it couldn’t be –?’
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Yes, Harry, it could. Tonks’s Patronus changed into a wolf after she fell in love with Lupin, a sure sign of true love if ever there was one.

Minerva McGonagall – Cat

‘Come. We must alert the other Heads of House. You’d better put that Cloak back on.’
She marched towards the door, and as she did so she raised her wand. From the tip burst three silver cats with spectacle markings around their eyes. The Patronuses ran sleekly ahead, filling the spiral staircase with silvery lights, as Professor McGonagall, Harry and Luna hurried back down.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Well of course Professor McGonagall could cast a Patronus. It being a spell of advanced magic, and she being Professor Minerva McGonagall, she could also cast three at once. Here, McGonagall used her Patronuses for communication – to alert the Heads of House that Hogwarts would soon be under attack from Voldemort, before the Battle of Hogwarts began.

Severus Snape – Doe

‘For him?’ shouted Snape. ‘Expecto patronum!’
From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: she landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
‘After all this time?’
‘Always,’ said Snape.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It still gets us after all this time. We also see Snape’s Patronus when it guides Harry to Godric Gryffindor’s sword in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Take the Patronus around you.

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