There have been quite a few questions recently regarding Patronuses, and who could summon one, and why. The general consensus seems to be that Death Eaters could not summon Patronuses, since they are Very Bad People.

My question is, if Death Eaters supposedly were unable to summon a Patronus under any circumstances, then why could Dolores Umbridge summon one? Umbridge was sick and twisted, at least to the level of most Death Eaters, yet we see in Deathly Hallows that Umbridge had her Patronus, a cat, guarding her from Dementors while she was persecuting Muggleborns.

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    2 words- Evil glee. Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 19:37
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    why do you think death eaters cant conjure a patronus? where is you evidence for this? Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 18:59
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    The happiness needed to conjure a Patronus is a relative thing. You don't need to think about something "objectively happy" or "good" (there is no evidence that good and evil are objective concepts in the Potterverse anyway), you only have to think about something that makes you FEEL happy. For an evil sadist like Umbridge, good and bad might be reversed : Dementors might make her relive her disastrous encounter with the centaurs, while she might use a memory of sentencing a Muggle-born or torturing someone to conjure her Patronus.
    – Pwassonne
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 6:47

6 Answers 6


Rowling has said that Snape was the only Death Eater who could summon a patronus, but the wording indicates that it is more of a lack of need of a patronus than an actual inability.

From a Leaky Cauldron chat:

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.

In regards to Umbridge herself, Harry Potter Wikia lists her loyalty as Death Eaters (indirectly).

And going back to that original Leaky Cauldron chat, we have this question/answer:

James Farrell: How did umbridge manage to conjure a patronus while wearing the locket when harry wasnt able to

J.K. Rowling: Because she is a very nasty piece of work. She has an affinity for this horrible object, which would help rather than hinder her.

Based on these quotes from Rowling herself, there is no reason why Voldemort or any other Death Eater could not learn to summon a patronus if they were to ever understand love. So if Death Eaters could summon them, there is no reason why Umbridge could not do so as well, despite being a horrible person.


You're all forgetting that Dolores Umbridge was not actually a death eater that we know of. She worked for the Ministry but as far as we know did not become a Death Eater, just sided with them because of their cause.

Plus, why wouldn't they be able to conjure a patronus? In a sick and twisted way their happy memories could be torturing or killing someone. And like someone said they have no reason for a patronus since the dementors were fighting for them.

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    I'd say she sided with them more so because it would help her rise in rank. She was an opportunist too. Just like when Cornelius Fudge was Minister she sided with him because he could give her power. But you're right that she wasn't ever said to be a Death Eater - just a nasty woman who did nasty things.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 1:46

Maybe the definition of Patronuses have been a bit vague.

Patronuses are a good thing, but they don't necessarily need to be cast by good people only. Umbridge, as said in the book, Deathly Hallows:

...she [Umbridge] was so happy here, in her element, upholding the twisted laws she helped to write.

It seems that Umbridge was feeling rather happy interrogating a Muggle Born. Death Eaters are able to cast Patronuses, although I doubt many of them have happy enough memories or imaginations for this. In fact, Snape was the only Death Eater shown to cast a Patronus.


Also, Snape was about the only Death Eater who learnt to love, and the ability t o love seems to play a prominent role in casting a Patronus.

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    I agree. This reminds me to Michael Ende's words in Zauberschule, where he says there exist evil wizards, but but there are much fewer of them than of good ones, because evil wizards have to be in complete harmony with their evil deeds. I believe this sort of applies to evil wizards having happy memories for a Patronus spell in the Potterverse.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Jul 28, 2013 at 17:30

Because she believed in her own righteousness

It is true that Death Eaters and other Dark Wizards are generally incapable of casting a Patronus.

According to the old Pottermore, of which the relevant part is preserved here,

While there is a widespread and justified belief that a wizard who is not pure of heart cannot produce a successful Patronus (the most famous example of the spell backfiring is that of the Dark wizard Raczidian, who was devoured by maggots), a rare few witches and wizards of questionable morals have succeeded in producing the Charm (Dolores Umbridge, for example, is able to conjure a cat Patronus to protect herself from Dementors).

It would seem that Dark wizards generally cannot cast a Patronus. Indeed, there may be risks if they attempt to do so, as with Raczidian being consumed by maggots. It appears, however, that a genuine belief that one is doing what is best for others may be sufficient.

It may be that a true and confident belief in the rightness of one’s actions can supply the necessary happiness. However, most such men and women, who become desensitised to the effects of the Dark creatures with whom they may ally themselves, regard the Patronus as an unnecessary spell to have in their arsenal.

This excerpt is a little vague, but it seems clear that what gives Umbridge the power to produce a Patronus is her whole-hearted belief that she is doing the right thing.

She seemed to be talking herself into something. She was shifting her weight nervously from foot to foot, staring at Harry, beating her wand against her empty palm and breathing heavily.

As he watched her, Harry felt horribly powerless without his own wand.

'You are forcing me, Potter... I do not want to,' said Umbridge, still moving restlessly on the spot, 'but sometimes circumstances justify the use...I am sure the Minister will understand that I had no choice. '

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Note how Umbridge is "restless" and moves around frequently. She is uncomfortable with the idea of using an Unforgivable Curse, which according to her beliefs is wrong. Although she is indeed a sadist, she tries to justify her behavior by appealing to the greater good: the safety of the school, the security of the Ministry.

This, I think, demonstrates that belief in the morality of her own actions that allows her to cast the Patronus charm.


I agree with the fact that Umbridge was able to cast a patronus because she was very capable of thinking of good/happy thoughts. The feeling of good/happiness is reletive to the person using the charm. Since Umbridge was extremely happy causing/inflicting pain in others it wouldn't be very difficult for her to find a memory that made her extremely happy. After all that's all that professor Lupin told Harry he needed to do in order to conjur the paronus. In fact it was probably more difficult for Harry Potter to conjur a Patronus that it would have been for Umbridge.


Paronus' are conjured using warm memories, and a Death Eater most likey don't have any, being too full of malice and hate. For all her wickedness, Umbridge actually thought she was doing good, even if she was bad at it. I think she was able to conjure up some good feelings in her long enough to conjure a patronus (probably cats or some nonsense).

Also, Death Eaters probably never needed them since they were allied with the Dark Lord.

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    But maybe a Death Eater genuinely thinks the world would be better without Muggleborns? Wouldnt eliminating them make them feel good? If we're talking about feeling good, I'm sure Bellatrix Lestrange felt great when she was torturing people. Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 14:58
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    @GabeWillard that actually is a very good point, but while it felt good, I don't think it's strong enough. The Patronus is cast using happiness and love, and while the Death Eaters like torturing/harming people, it is unlikely it made them truly happy. They probably just got satisfaction from harming others. For example, if you see your best friend after a while, you are most likely o be truly happy, but if you've just eaten a good meal, you're just content. Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 17:26
  • @GabeWillard Certainly! There's nothing better!
    – Obsidia
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 23:28

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