“Where do you think I would have been all these years, if I had not known how to act?”
I think it is a very interesting statement, and its honest. He is indeed acting. But when is he acting, to whom? And when is he really himself….only Severus Snape? Sometimes I got the feeling he confused himself with that…..
OK so when asked about Lily and James’ Patronuses being the same species, JK Rowling said,
“…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).”
So I’m guessing that maybe either Lily’s or James’ Patronus/spirit animal used to be something different. Here’s why I think it was James’ which changed
(Now bear with me…)
So James didn’t fully become an Animagus until his 5th year … around the same time he developed feelings for Lily. There’s no indication that he knew he was a stag before falling for her. I imagine learning to transform is something like a Patronus, only harder. You can spend ages practising the Patronus Charm without seeing its corporeal form, so perhaps Animagus transformation is a case of constantly hitting a wall and only finding out what animal you are when you finally break through.
And perhaps when James finally did break through, the animal he transformed into was compatible with Lily’s. Granted, he probably didn’t know Lily’s Patronus form at that point, but I don’t think he would need to. If Lily’s was always a doe, then it’s just representative of who she is - in some ways, she IS a doe even when she’s human. And therefore anyone who loves a doe would become a stag.
Now this is the best part … if Lily’s was always a doe, and James and Snape changed their Patronus/Animagus forms to match hers, then this is sort of indicative of both their feelings and attitudes about her …
-Snape’s Patronus completely matches Lily’s because she’s what makes him happy - she’s the one he loves. But Snape, as far as we know, was never willing to change and be the man Lily deserved. All he did was love and care for her from afar, and so his Patronus could only imitate.
-But James decided to change into someone Lily could marry, someone more compatible that she could love, and so his Patronus/Animagus became a stag - something compatible with a doe, but not identical.
This would also bring a whole new meaning to the name “Prongs”. It is the only feature of his animal form that isn’t shared by Lily, and is the difference between his Patronus and Snape’s. The fact that James grows “prongs” and Snape doesn’t is what makes him a better man in the end. And finally, if James being a stag is symbolic of his superior love for Lily, this is a fantastic extra reason for a stag to be Harry’s Patronus, as he is the product of their love.