As ‘the majority of witches and wizards are unable to produce Patronuses, it’s no wonder that they are shrouded in so much mystery. And the effect of love on Patronuses is one of the most intriguing features of all. But as Harry, Ron and Hermione know so well, if you’re going to try to solve a mystery, you’re going to need some clues. Let’s look at some Patronus case studies…
Hold up! Best wait until you’ve finished all the Harry Potter books before you read this article, it has more spoilers than Lockhart received Valentine’s cards…
It was Snape that first mentioned the change to Tonks’s Patronus in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. When Malfoy attacked Harry on the Hogwarts Express and left him immobile under the Invisibility Cloak, Tonks found him and escorted him back up to the school. When they met Snape at the Hogwarts gates, he commented to Tonks: ‘I was interested to see your new Patronus.’ And then, unkindly: ‘I think you were better off with the old one… The new one looks weak.’
Tonk’s’ original Patronus was a jackrabbit – an animal similar in size and form to Luna Lovegood’s silver hare - but the Patronus Harry saw as they made their way up to Hogwarts was ‘an immense silvery four-legged creature’. A wolf, as it turned out that exactly matched the form of Remus Lupin’s Patronus.
Severus Snape might have been rude to Tonks, but love had a long-lasting and – let’s be honest – tear-jerking effect on his own Patronus too. It wasn’t until after Snape’s death and the heart-breaking revelations in ‘The Prince’s Tale’ chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that we learnt its shape. A doe. And in his final battle with Lord Voldemort, Harry explained the significance of this to his adversary, and to us: ‘Snape’s Patronus was a doe,’ said Harry, ‘the same as my mother’s, because he loved her for nearly all of his life, from the time when they were children’.
‘Hermione’s Patronus, a shining silver otter, was gambolling around her. They are sort of nice, aren’t they?’ she said, looking at it fondly.’ We loved hearing that Hermione’s Patronus had such a carefree way of gambolling about her, given that she was so often solving mysteries, getting ahead on homework and researching complicated potions in the library. But then again, according to eighteenth-century Charms researcher Professor Catullus Spangle, ‘the Patronus is the awakened secret self that lies dormant until needed’. Was there some other hidden meaning in Hermione’s otter Patronus though? A meaning related to her feelings for a certain red-headed Gryffindor, perhaps?
We don’t know for sure but otters and weasels belong to the same mammal family (the Mustelidae). Is it really coincidence that Hermione ends up marrying into the Weasley family and her Patronus is a otter? Plus, Ron’s family home was in Ottery St Catchpole. Ottery? Otter? Perhaps Hermione and Ron’s love was reflected in their Patronuses after all?
Although Lily and Snape’s doe Patronuses matched, Severus’s love was devastatingly unrequited. Lily’s true love was James Potter, who, although Lily once told him ‘I wouldn’t go out with you if it was a choice between you and the giant squid’, she ended up marrying the untidy-haired Quidditch player after they left Hogwarts. Their connection and love showed through their Patronuses in a different way to an exact match like Tonks and Lupin. Lily’s husband’s Patronus was a stag, the male form of her doe. The stag and doe complemented each other rather than matched. Interestingly, James’s Animagus form was also a stag, hence his school nickname: Prongs.
Our last case study looks at the Boy Who Lived himself, who discovered that his Patronus was a stag in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This stag matched both his father’s Animagus form and his Patronus, and was the male form of his mother’s doe Patronus. Harry ‘s Patronus is perhaps an illustration that a Patronus form isn’t just influenced by romantic love, but also love for family, and in his case particularly those loved ones you have lost. Harry thought himself stupid to have believed the stag Patronus he saw at the lake in Prisoner of Azkaban was his father. But Dumbledore reassured him: ‘You think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us?’
Our case studies have shown us how great an impact love can have on a Patronus, whether that be an influence on its shape or a change to an already settled form. The Patronus is, after all, on its most fundamental level, ‘a pure, protective magical concentration of happiness and hope’. Happiness and hope, with which love often walks arm in arm.
Besides the Patronus, love as a magical protection was seen in many different forms throughout the wizarding world, perhaps the most important that of Lily’s love protecting Harry as a baby, allowing him to survive and later defeat Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore had – as always – some wise words to say on the matter.
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore told Harry: ‘to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection for ever’. But it isn’t just being loved that protected Harry, Dumbledore insisted to Harry in Half-Blood Prince: ‘You are protected, in short, by your ability to love!’ It seems that if we love and are loved in return, we are protected two-fold.
Looking at our case studies and the wider wizarding world, it isn’t so much of a surprise that love has the power to influence a Patronus, especially when love has the power to protect wizards and witches, just like those mysterious silver guardians.