If Snape didn't fall in love with Lily, or "got over" it, would he still be able to summon a Patronus or would he then become a run of the mill Death Eater?

According to J. K. Rowling, Snape is the only Death Eater with a Patronus.

Samantha: Was snape the only death eater who could produce a full patronus

J.K. Rowling: Yes, because a Patronus is used against things that the Death Eaters generally generate, or fight alongside. They would not need Patronuses.


Snape's Patronus is a doe, explained as being because of his love for Lily, which may very well be his happy memory to generate the Patronus. If this was no longer the case, would the consistent presence of the Dementors on his supposed side mean he's no longer able to summon a corporeal Patronus?

  • 4
    That quote would seem to indicate to me that Death Eaters didn't make Patronii because they didn't want to. It doesn't say that they couldn't, only that they didn't need to. Maybe they just didn't try? Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 1:53
  • I think you're reading the question in the quote differently to me. Rowling is confirming that Snape was the only Death Eater that could produce a full (corporeal) Patronus. I read that as meaning that all the rest either cannot produce a Patronus or can only produce an incorporeal Patronus.
    – dlanod
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 1:59
  • 2
    Yes, but in her explanation of why Snape was the only one who could, she says: "They would not need Patronuses." Not needing to is different from not being able to. Conjuring a full Patronus was advanced magic that took dedication to learn. What it's saying to me is that a Death Eater wouldn't need to spend the effort. Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 2:18
  • I also recall Dolores Umbridge could conjure a full Patronus: a cat. She wasn't a Death Eater, but she'd fit right in with the lot as far as personality and actions go. Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 3:27

2 Answers 2


Jaclyn: Did lily ever have feelings back for Snape?

J.K. Rowling: Yes. She might even have grown to love him romantically (she certainly loved him as a friend) if he had not loved Dark Magic so much, and been drawn to such loathesome people and acts.

Mugglenet - Deathly Hallows Webchat - July 2007

I think that had Lily not been in the picture, Snape would have continued down the path of becoming a full-fledged Death Eater. As J.K. Rowling has explained, Snape wanted to be part of something important, something big, because he felt insecure about himself (which was probably exacerbated by the bullying he endured from James Potter and Sirius Black). Further, the Death Eaters were compatible with his inherent attraction to the Dark Arts.

Nithya: Lily detested Mulciber and Avery. If Snape really loved her, why didn't he sacrifice their company for her sake?

J.K. Rowling: Well, that is Snape's tragedy. Given his time over again he would not have become a Death Eater, but like many insecure, vulnerable people (like Wormtail) he craved membership of something big and powerful, something impressive. He wanted Lily and he wanted Mulciber too. He never really understood Lily's aversion; he was so blinded by his attraction to the dark side he thought she would find him impressive if he became a real Death Eater.

Mugglenet - Deathly Hallows Webchat - July 2007

Lily was Snape's moral compass; without her, I think he would have become like Draco Malfoy: Able to shut down the good parts of himself and compartmentalize his emotions to allow himself to brutalize others without emotional trauma. Snape grew up with an alcoholic father and a possibly domestically violent home; without Lily, Snape didn't have a lot to be happy about.

As dlanod mentioned in his question:

J.K. Rowling: [A] Patronus is used against things that the Death Eaters generally generate, or fight alongside. They would not need Patronuses.

Mugglenet - Deathly Hallows Webchat - July 2007

I don't know how long Snape would have remained a bonafide Death Eater, but during the time that he was, I don't think he would have been able to produce a corporeal Patronus, regardless of the status of the Dementors.

  • 1
    So there was nothing else Snape loved that could have helped conjure a Patronus?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 7:28
  • @Pureferret, of course it's possible there could have been, though it'd be pure speculation. It makes a better story if she was Snape's reason for being able to conjure a Patronus.
    – Neil
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 10:18
  • 2
    @Pureferret - In many ways Snape had an incredibly bleak life from the get-go. I think Lily was his one bright spot; she was truly a good friend to him and the light in his otherwise dark existence. Even with Lily's love and friendship, Snape did not grow to be a nice man. Without the memories of her devotion and friendship, (from canon) what else would have been Snape's happy thought if not Lily? Mulciber? Avery? The Dark Mark? Voldemort? The moment he became a Death Eater? Despite Snape's attraction to the Dark Arts, I can't see any of those examples as being his happy thought. :) Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 13:24
  • @Pureferret - Also, I meant to say that I don't think Snape's magical ability to produce a Patronus is in question, whether he was an Order member or a Death Eater. Snape was a prodigious wizard, absolutely. But without Lily, I don't think all the elements necessary to produce a Patronus would have fallen into place for him. This is just my interpretation of canon, though. :) Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 13:45
  • @Slytherincess I think you last comment is exactly what I was thinking, I just wanted to hear it form someone who knew the cannon better than me.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 15:30

My understanding of canon is that any witch or wizard of sufficient skill has the ability, with the necessary training, to conjure a patronus charm just as they could conjure any other charm. So yes, Snape would still have been able to cast a patronus, it would simply be a different shape.

Of course, if Snape had ended up actually a Death Eater (rather than double agent), I expect he wouldn't be needing to cast a patronus, as J.K. mentions in the quoted interview.

I agree with Gabe Willard, that Death Eaters likely have the (perhaps untrained, since it's likely not necessary for them) ability to cast a patronus.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.