|"Are you a wizard or not?"
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The most prominent rule that governs wandlore is that the wand chooses the wizard that it will work for. A wand choosing to work for a wizard is said to have given them its allegiance. When a wand has chosen its holder (e.g. when the holder has truly mastered that wand), they can be assured the best results with it.
Wands can 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 relates 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 will be a newly created or "virgin" wand, obtained from an established wandmaker, such as Ollivanders Wand Shop. They will usually have to test a number of potential virgin wands before they find the one that will give its allegiance to (or "choose") them. The precise reasons for which particular wands choose particular wizards is not clear, but certain wands seem 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 will have the highest affinities for them and so be most likely to be chosen by them. In other words, the more similar the holder is to the wand the more likely they are to be chosen by it.
Change of allegiance
One can 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 will only bend towards the new master when it is won. The allegiance of a wand that has not been won may 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 stay loyal to their original owners. For example, even if a wizard is disarmed or loses a fight while carrying his wand, the wand will have developed an affinity with its original owner so that it will not be given up easily. Therefore, simply disarming a wizard may not be enough to win over a wand's allegiance. Wands will also not be won in practise duels as the perceived levity of the situation will prevent the wand from abandoning its defeated master. Even when won, wands will often still retain some fealty to the original owner. The only exception to this is the Elder Wand, which is "completely unsentimental" and will only be loyal to strength. In other words, when won, it switches its allegiance entirely. The method of victory can 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 will turn allegiance to the victor, even if they were not used or even on their person during combat, as the Elder Wand only is loyal to power/strength through the victory over its previous holder. This is 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 may 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 can truly be mastered via this method of attainment, it is known that wands obtained in this way (e.g. ones with a familial connection) work a little better than wands chosen at random and so this may indeed be the next best way to obtain a wand if initial selection is not possible.
However, even if a wand does "choose" a wizard, even if it is won or inherited by them (or some combination of the three) it is in no way a guarantee that the wand will be totally mastered. Every wand has a different personality according to its exact nature (wood, core, rigidity etc.) that it will act with and hence often sport extra conditions that one is required to fulfil before the wand will give the holder its full power and support.
A good example is thestral hair wands - these wands cannot simply be "mastered" by winning them. Thestral tail hair is a potent yet mysterious substance that will only "choose" a wizard that is capable of facing death. In other words, only Masters of Death can wield the full powers of such a wand. Similarly, blackthorn wands require that they go through some difficult hardship with the holder before they can be truly mastered.
When the cores of two wands derive from the same source, they are referred to as "brothers". This has a number of profound effects.
Firstly, brother wands cannot be forced to duel against one another. Should two such wands ever come in the way of one another, a rare connection is formed, called Priori Incantatem. When the connection is formed, the wands battle to merge a golden orb into the other's shaft; the one that succeeds to force the orb in the other is the winning wand. Because of its rarity, most wizards never learn that such a connection is possible.
After two brother wands connect through means of Priori Incantatem, both wands come to know one another and may react towards the other's presence on their own, without the owner doing anything, or the winning wand only reacts towards the losing wand. Also, under special conditions it is possible for one wand to recognise its brother's master, even when a different wand is 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)