It's well established that Harry's parents, Lily and James Potter, had doe and stag Patronuses respectively. It's also well established that falling in love can change a person's Patronus; for example Tonks' werewolf and Snape's doe. There's also this quote:

Chely: James patronus is a stag and lilys a doe is that a coincidence?

J.K. Rowling: No, the Patronus often mutates to take the image of the love of one's life (because they so often become the 'happy thought' that generates a Patronus).
30 July 2007 Bloomsbury live chat with J.K. Rowling

which suggests that this latter point is true for the Potters.

Given that James' Animagus form was a stag, and that his Patronus was obviously affected by that, the conclusion is that Lily's Patronus is a doe because she fell in love with him.

Is there any canon evidence that says what form Lily's Patronus took prior to her falling in love with James? Failing that, I'd also consider canon proof that Lily never cast the Patronus charm before she fell in love with James as satisfactory evidence that her Patronus was "always" a doe.

  • 10
    Apropos to nothing, I admit I've always hated the concept of matching Patronuses. So hokey. Taking the doe/stag as an example, to me it makes James and Lily seem weirdly interdependent, Snape a pathetic loser (whether he really is a pathetic loser is better answered as a separate question/answer, I think), and Harry stripped of his individuality. Ugh, so much dislike! YMMV, of course, and that's totally fine. Offhand, I can't recall a reference to Lily having had a Patronus other than a doe, but maybe someone else knows differently. :) Dec 6, 2013 at 23:33
  • @Slytherincess I totally agree. This is a question I've been thinking about for probably six months now (since I last read the books), and recently another question came to mind: Why on earth is Snape's Patronus a doe? If Lily's is that simply because of James it makes no sense for Snape's happy memories of Lily to take the form of an animal that's tied so deeply to a man he despised. Dec 6, 2013 at 23:36
  • I'm stumped. No canon info comes to mind. Then again, Lily was a headstrong girl, I wouldn't be surprised if she wasn't the type to bend her Patronus shape just for some boy, even if she did consent to marry the git. May be there's some sort of "girls rule boys drool" statement from JKR there, hidden :) Dec 7, 2013 at 0:09
  • 2
    I think it goes the other way: James's patronus and animal form was a stag because he started to copy Lily.
    – b_jonas
    Dec 7, 2013 at 7:26
  • 4
    Is there any reason to think that Lily even had a Patronus before she and James married? The Patronus charm was beyond N.E.W.T. level, so likely wouldn't have been taught at Hogwarts; she probably picked it up in the Order of the Phoenix after graduation, by which time she and James were already an item (per OotP Ch29, they began dating in seventh year).
    – Joe White
    Jan 22, 2014 at 3:01

4 Answers 4


The only authoritative canon evidence[1] we have is already in your question:

  1. At least one of Lily's/James's Patronuses mutated

    Chely: James patronus is a stag and lilys a doe is that a coincidence?
    J.K. Rowling: No, the Patronus often mutates to take the image of the love of one's life (because they so often become the 'happy thought' that generates a Patronus).

    (src: J.K. Rowling and the Live Chat, Bloomsbury.com, July 30, 2007 (2.00-3.00pm BST)).

    Now, does this prove that Lily's Patronus mutated from non-doe? No. It could have been James's Patronus that mutated. Or hers. Or both.

  2. From elsewhere in canon, we know that both men's (Snape) and women's (Tonks) Patronuses mutate. So that doesn't help us.

  3. James's Patronus was likely to always have been a stag because that was his Animagus form. This is not 100% proven, but I think makes sense. He was an Animagus since 5th year - probably before Lily was able to cast Patronus charm.

If that's the case, then it was Lily's Patronus that "mutated" to Doe. But we simply don't have enough canon information to prove it - nowhere does JKR mention explicitly when she cast her first Patronus; nor what it was.

[1] - "Only" meaning that I checked the text of all books, every single known interview JKR gave; and Pottermore info

  • 1. while unlikely, it's still worth mentioning the possibility of neither mutating, being in that form since the beginning, already matched by happenstance
    – o0'.
    Jan 23, 2014 at 10:08
  • 3
    @Lohoris - JKR's wording implies that it was an example of such a mutation. Jan 23, 2014 at 11:05
  • Admittedly, Pottermore may have some future details on this when they cover DH... they had no good entries on either Lily or James yet (Unlike Remus Lupin, which incidentally included his patronus in details). Jan 23, 2014 at 12:55

I haven't seen anyone mention that it's possible neither James nor Lily's patronus changed. I feel it's safe to say James's patronus is a stag because his animagus form is. But I also think that Lily's is a doe, because severus' is since he loves her. Wouldn't it change to her original patronus rather than her changed one?

I personally find this whole thing suspicious, the fact that their patronuses have not switched. Shouldn't true loves' patronus' switch around? (Eg. James' a doe and Lily's a stag) then they would be truely in love with each other. I think this is where Severus comes in, Lily must not fully love James because part of her loves Severus.

I do not know why James' patronus hasn't changed then maybe he doesn't truly love lily for an other reason. Then again maybe we are all thinking this through toward and there's a simple answer to this. . . .


This is pure speculation, but I always thought that since a patronus is created by happy emotions then it would be hard to have a patronus that is not manipulated to some extent by outward influence. I don't think it's pathetic to have a patronus that symbolises someone you love.

I also think that animagus form is random and is chosen by personality alone not by outward influence or choice in the matter.

The patronus is a charm which means it can be manipulated to some extent animagus is a type of transfiguration therefore meaning it is more scientific and precise with only a single outcome.

Also if you check the Pottermore Wiki JK Rowling has posted more info about patronus and how they are chosen.

  • 1
    This is a good start, but try to focus in on the question. Based on your logic, what was Lily's Patronus prior to it being a doe?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Jan 21, 2014 at 23:48
  • 1
    I understand what you're getting at, but this doesn't really answer the question in any meaningful way...
    – Valorum
    Jan 22, 2014 at 0:08

James loved Lily long before she loved him back. I think that his patronus and form as an animagus changed to match hers.

Yes, it's only taught at NEWT level normally but we know that she was an exceptionally talented witch, particularly at charms, as is shown by the lily-petal fish she gave Slughorn. I think she learnt to cast a patronus early, and I think that even if she didn't, given that a patronus is a reflection of the inner self I don't think that James would have to know that she had a doe patronus for his to become a stag - her patronus reflects who she is and his patronus reflected who he loved. It is a manifestation of her personality.

James' patronus didn't copy hers like Snape's, it was just a form compatible with hers.

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