One of the first things Ron Weasley told Harry Potter was that the wand he’d brought with him to Hogwarts had previously belonged to his older brother Charlie. It was already worn out – battered and chipped, with its core of unicorn hair nearly poking out – and that was well before the Whomping Willow almost snapped it in two. After that, there was no hope.
And so, the scene was set for arguably the most obvious example of a wand going wrong: that time Ron tried to make Draco Malfoy eat slugs, but the spell went haywire and he was left vomiting a load of the slimy things up himself instead. The message is clear – no amount of Spellotape can make a broken wand work, perhaps especially not when it didn’t really belong to you in the first place. Good thing Ron eventually secured himself a new wand, hey?
Neville Longbottom was no Squib, but given his own family thought he was “all Muggle” for years before accidentally dropping him out of a window, it is perhaps not surprising he arrived at Hogwarts with a serious lack of confidence in his magical abilities. He was also nervous, clumsy and forgetful. This combination meant he struggled in his classes, which is never a good thing when you’re armed with a wand. Once he even managed to accidentally vanish the leg of his own desk, startled by a shout from Seamus Finnigan that made his wand slip.
But for all his mistakes, Neville also had another problem. Like Ron, he arrived at school with a hand-me-down wand that had not ‘chosen’ him. In fact, he spent five years using his father’s wand before it was destroyed in the Department of Mysteries. So if what Ollivander said was true – that wands work best when they have chosen the witch or wizard that owns them – then Neville was working at a serious disadvantage. Maybe it’s no wonder he never got the best results.
Harry’s wand had a pretty unique story, what with the fact that it contained a feather from Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, and was a ‘twin’ of Voldemort’s. This connection meant, as Dumbledore once said, that Harry’s wand was “abnormally powerful” when used against its twin, and it certainly caused problems for Voldemort. Firstly, the connection between their wands stopped Voldemort killing Harry in the graveyard. Then, it forced Voldemort’s wand to regurgitate its previous spells, allowing Harry to speak with the people Voldemort had previously killed – his own parents included. And a few years later, Harry’s wand destroyed the one Voldemort had borrowed precisely to avoid the problem of the twin cores, saving Harry’s life yet again.
So yes, it’s fair to say Harry’s wand caused Voldemort no end of trouble – but, as Dumbledore also said, it was still “a wand like any other.” And that, of course, meant it could be destroyed. Which it was. Harry and Hermione’s dramatic escape from Bathilda Bagshot’s house left Harry’s faithful holly-and-phoenix wand in pieces. Without it, Harry was forced to use a series of different wands: Hermione’s, the blackthorn wand acquired by Ron from a Snatcher, and Draco’s wand, which he took from Draco at Malfoy Manor. And of all the borrowed wands he used, it was Draco’s that worked best for Harry. So it seems Ollivander was right about one thing: “where a wand has been won, its allegiance will change.” Tricky things, wands.
One wand that certainly didn’t pass its allegiance on was Bellatrix Lestrange’s. Hermione, who used the wand to impersonate Bellatrix when they broke into Gringotts Bank, hated it. Because she hadn’t won it, it didn’t work properly for her, but it was more than that: Bellatrix’s wand represented death, destruction and very Dark Magic.
And Hermione’s instinctive reaction to the wand was also right in more ways than one – because the very fact that she had it was one of the first things that alerted the Gringotts goblins to their pretty brazen break-in attempt. She, Harry and Ron got what they were after in the end, it’s true, but only after being burned by fake gold, double-crossed by Griphook, and escaping on a half-blind dragon. Maybe Hermione should have listened to her instincts and left that wand at home…
This wand didn’t really go wrong so much as never work in the first place, but Fantastic Beasts’ Jacob Kowalski is the only Muggle we know of to have ever been given an actual wand by an actual wizard, so here he is. As a Muggle, Jacob’s wand – gifted to him by Newt, on the orders of Dumbledore, and appearing to all intents and purposes like a real wizarding world wand – could not do magic. Still, it looked like it could. And at least it didn’t force him to vomit up slugs, hey?