It turns out that a wand’s allegiance to its owner depends on a lot of things.

Even legendary wandmaker Ollivander didn’t know everything about wandlore, but he was adamant that the wand chooses the wizard. Was that the whole story, though? Harry’s wand connected with him instantly, but it still had its moments. Riddle used it to reveal he was Voldemort, Barty Crouch Jr used it to cast the Dark Mark and, of course, there was its connection to Voldemort’s own wand.

Harry’s wasn’t the only one to occasionally betray its owner, either. That’s the problem with wands. They could be as unpredictable as their owners.

Ron’s first wand

Ollivander told Harry that the best results come from wands that have chosen their owner. If that was the case, then it wasn’t surprising that Ron’s first wand betrayed him quite spectacularly. It was, after all, a hand-me-down from his older brother Charlie,

Charlie’s wand went particularly wrong for Ron after it snapped in half following an accident with the Whomping Willow. Mending it with Spellotape did not improve its performance, and as it backfired its way through second year, Ron’s hand-me-down wand showed him no loyalty at all. The ‘eat slugs’ spell was the worst: it should have been Malfoy vomiting up slime, but instead it was Ron burping slugs over Hagrid’s hut.

There was perhaps another reason for the misbehaviour of Ron’s first wand. It was made of ash wood and, as Ollivander himself recorded:

‘The ash wand cleaves to its one true master and ought not to be passed on or gifted from the original owner, because it will lose power and skill. This tendency is extreme if the core is of unicorn.’
‘Wand Woods’ by J.K. Rowling

Charlie’s wand had a unicorn core. So Ron never stood a chance with it, really.

Isolt Sayre’s stolen wand

When Ilvermorny founder Isolt Sayre fled her unpleasant Aunt Gormlaith in 1620 she took Gormlaith’s wand, not knowing it had originally been owned by Salazar Slytherin or that it contained a fragment of a Basilisk’s horn.

The stolen wand worked faithfully enough as Isolt began her life in America, but when Gormlaith tracked her to Mount Greylock it turned dramatically against Isolt. The wand obeyed Gormlaith’s command, delivered in Parseltongue, to ‘sleep’, and refused to work. That may have been because although Isolt took her aunt’s wand, she did not win it, so never earned its allegiance. As Ollivander said:

‘Subtle laws govern wand ownership, but the conquered wand will usually bend its will to its new master.’
‘Wand Woods’ by J.K. Rowling

Gormlaith’s wand worked well enough for Isolt when she was the only Slytherin descendant around, but when called upon in its ancestral tongue its loyalty immediately shifted. Moral of the story: never trust a stolen wand.

Harry and Draco’s wand

An emotional Draco points his wand

A conquered wand, on the other hand – that is, a wand acquired directly from its owner, as Harry did with Draco’s at Malfoy Manor – was another story.

Harry had far more success with Draco’s wand than the blackthorn wand given to him by Ron, because he never won the blackthorn wand’s allegiance. The spells Harry cast with that wand were weaker. It felt ‘intrusively unfamiliar’. Draco’s, on the other hand, showed Harry plenty of loyalty once he’d won it: it even helped to kill Voldemort.

Hermione and Bellatrix’s wand

Ollivander described Bellatrix Lestrange’s wand as ‘unyielding’, and when Hermione used it during their Gringotts break-in she found it hard to get to grips with:

‘It feels all wrong, it doesn’t work properly for me … it’s like a bit of her.’
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry’s theory was that Hermione failed to master Bellatrix’s wand because she had not won its allegiance, in the same way that he failed with the blackthorn wand. And yet, interestingly, Hermione seemed to have no problems using Bellatrix’s own wand against her during the Battle of Hogwarts.

Harry and Voldemort’s twin-core wands

Harry learned of his wand’s relationship to Voldemort’s on the day he acquired it, but given it went on to save his life on several occasions he never had cause for complaint.

It took Voldemort longer to learn of the connection, but he became certain that, coupled with Lily’s sacrifice, was why he was unable to kill Harry. Voldemort’s wand failed him several times: it didn’t kill Harry as a baby, it didn’t kill Harry as a teenager, it didn’t protect Voldemort from the rebounding spells that spilled out as Harry fought him in the graveyard after the Triwizard Tournament. So Voldemort tried other wands, never realising the damage was already done. His wand hadn’t just failed him, it had actively betrayed him, as Dumbledore explained to Harry:

‘I believe that your wand imbibed some of the power and qualities of Voldemort’s wand that night, which is to say that it contained a little of Voldemort himself. So your wand recognised him when he pursued you, recognised a man who was both kin and mortal enemy, and it regurgitated some of his own magic against him…’
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

And when you set this alongside Ollivander’s observations about conquered wands, Voldemort really does seem to have been barking up the wrong tree with his Elder Wand obsession.

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