|"Are you a wizard or not?"
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The most prominent rule that governed wandlore was that the wand chose the wizard that it would work for. A wand choosing to work for a wizard was said to have given them its allegiance. When a wand had chosen its holder (e.g. when the holder had truly mastered that wand), they could be assured the best results with it.
Wands could be acquired in one of three general ways: by selecting a newly created wand (usually made by another), by winning a wand or by inheriting one. Each one of these related to this law in a different way.
- "The wand chooses the wizard. That much has always been clear to those of us who have studied wandlore... If you are any wizard at all you will be able to channel your magic through almost any instrument. The best results, however, must always come where there is the strongest affinity between wizard and wand. These connections are complex. An initial attraction, and then a mutual quest for experience, the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand."
- — Mr Ollivander[src]
Normally, a witch or wizard's first wand would be a newly created or "virgin" wand, obtained from an established wandmaker, such as Ollivanders. They would usually have to test a number of potential virgin wands before they found the one that would give its allegiance to (or "choose") them. The precise reasons for which particular wands chose particular wizards is not clear, but certain wands seemed to have a natural affinity for certain wizards or witches. It is most likely (given the similarities between known wizards/witches and their wands) that the wizards/witches with the most similar personalities to their prospective wands would have the highest affinities for them and so be most likely to be chosen by them. In other words, the more similar the holder was to the wand, the more likely they were to be chosen by it.
Change of allegiance
One could also procure a wand by "winning" it from its master. Of course, it is always possible to simply steal/borrow another witch or wizard's wand and obtain fair results with it, but its allegiance would only bend towards the new master when it was won. The allegiance of a wand that had not been won might be noticeable to its holder, as Hermione Granger was uncomfortable using Bellatrix Lestrange's wand.
To win a wand, one must overpower and hence defeat its master in some way. However, it should be noted that wands usually stayed loyal to their original owners. For example, even if a wizard was disarmed or lost a fight while carrying his wand, the wand would have developed an affinity with its original owner so that it would not be given up easily. Therefore, simply disarming a wizard might not be enough to win over a wand's allegiance. Wands would also not be won in practise duels as the perceived levity of the situation would prevent the wand from abandoning its defeated master. Even when won, wands would often still retain some fealty to the original owner. The only exception to this was the Elder Wand, which was "completely unsentimental" and would only be loyal to strength. In other words, when won, it switched its allegiance entirely. The method of victory could be even as subtle as ordering a subordinate creature to slay the opponent as opposed to doing it oneself, as Lord Voldemort ordered Nagini to kill Severus Snape in belief that Snape had mastery over the Elder Wand.
It should be noted that only the Elder Wand, when "owned" by a defeated wizard, would turn allegiance to the victor, even if they were not used or even on their person during combat, as the Elder Wand only was loyal to power/strength through the victory over its previous holder. This was evidenced when Harry Potter simultaneously became the master of both Draco Malfoy's wand and the Elder Wand when he defeated Draco (who was the master of both having disarmed Dumbledore yet possessed only one of them at the time).
In some families, wands might be inherited, such as Neville Longbottom using his father's wand and Ron Weasley using his brother Charlie's old wand. Whilst it might seem questionable as to whether or not wands could truly be mastered via this method of attainment, it is known that wands obtained in this way (e.g. ones with a familial connection) worked a little better than wands chosen at random and so this might indeed be the next best way to obtain a wand if initial selection was not possible.
However, even if a wand did "choose" a wizard, even if it was won or inherited by them (or some combination of the three), it was in no way a guarantee that the wand would be totally mastered. Every wand had a different personality according to its exact nature (wood, core, rigidity etc.) that it would act with and hence often sported extra conditions that one was required to fulfil before the wand would give the holder its full power and support.
A good example was Thestral hair wands - these wands could not simply be "mastered" by winning them. Thestral tail hair was a potent yet mysterious substance that would only "choose" a wizard that was capable of facing death. In other words, only Masters of Death could wield the full powers of such a wand. Similarly, blackthorn wands required that they went through some difficult hardship with the holder before they could be truly mastered.
When the cores of two wands derived from the same source, they were referred to as "brothers". This had a number of profound effects.
Firstly, brother wands could not be forced to duel against one another. Should two such wands ever come in the way of one another, a rare connection was formed, called Priori Incantatem. When the connection was formed, the wands battled to merge a golden orb into the other's shaft; the one that succeeded to force the orb in the other was the winning wand. Because of its rarity, most wizards never learned that such a connection was possible.
After two brother wands connected through means of Priori Incantatem, both wands came to know one another and might react towards the other's presence on their own, without the owner doing anything, or the winning wand only reacted towards the losing wand. Also, under special conditions it was possible for one wand to recognise its brother's master, even when a different wand was used by them. For example, during the Battle of the Seven Potters, Harry's wand recognised Voldemort and spurted "golden flames" at him, even though Voldemort was using Lucius Malfoy's wand at the time.
Behind the scenes
- It is known that Veela hair makes for "temperamental" wands. This may mean that wands of Veela hair changes hands easier than other wands, possibly working equally well for whomever holds them until coming into the possession of someone of actual Veela heritage (like Fleur Delacour), for whom they may work best. This is supported by the fact that Thestral hair wands are also won through unconventional methods.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Mentioned only)