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It always bugged me that being expelled from Hogwarts meant that you could no longer be educated in magic and that your wand would be snapped in half. Expulsion is serious, of course, but magic is the defining aspect of a wizard's being and it seems amazing that a few indiscretions, especially in light of the fact that these indiscretions would be made by relatively young and immature children, would carry such a harsh penalty. The penalty would forever cut off the wizard to the world they lived in and from their family and friends, and incapacitate them in daily life, as magic is used with everything. Is there any information in the books or from JK Rowling that explains this and why it's so harsh? Is the punishment always the same? Can a wizard ever go to a new school?

There doesn't seem to be many if any examples of typical expulsion. The only examples of expulsion seem to be Hagrid, who was accused of something uncommonly serious, Harry, who was being targeted unfairly by the ministry, and Grindelwald, who was most likely of age and was also from a different school/country.

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Does expulsion means that they cannot use magic? or only that they will not receive further training? Because, one might wonder why they do not begin by "expulsing" Voldemort in the former case. –  SJuan76 Sep 3 at 9:46
    
Voldemort was a model student in school, by the time he became The Dark Lord he had already long graduated –  user13267 Sep 3 at 10:41
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Yes, expulsion is an extreme punishment. But I think, despite what Professor Snape tries to suggest to Harry, students are almost never expelled. Hagrid was an exceptional case: he was thought to have killed another student by unleashing some sort of monster. Harry or Hermione was never under the danger of being expelled in their first four years. –  b_jonas Sep 3 at 10:44
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@Zibbobz, interestingly I interpreted it differently: If you do something bad enough to be expelled, you also lose your wand. If you do something bad enough to lose your wand and you're a student, you're also expelled. That's how I saw it at least. –  Mac Cooper Sep 3 at 14:09
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it's not bad unless you get caught –  user13267 Sep 3 at 21:38

3 Answers 3

As you mentioned, there are not many examples of expulsion to draw any conclusions from, but I will try to answer based on what we know and my personal opinions

We know that under-age magic outside of school after you get enrolled in Hogwarts, is an offence punishable by expulsion. But it does not seem to be a rule very strongly enforced (See the comments as well as the first sentence of the accepted answer to this question). It seems that many children can get away with it if they are careful enough (see the Weasely twins, for example; also, Voldemort using magic when he went to look for the Gaunt house and the Riddle house). We only know of one case when this rule was enforced (without bias): when Dobby broke the cake in the Dursey's house in the second book. The other example we know of (in the Order of the Phoenix), in my opinion, was a very biased case, as the Ministry was trying to defame Harry one way or another. This is also the only known case of wand destruction being mentioned as a result of expulsion. (Hagrid's wand being destroyed may or may not have been a result of his expulsion; his offence was much more serious, and that his wand was destroyed may also stem from the fact that he was half giant and there are many wizards in power who are not so tolerant of non human magic users)

So in conclusion, expulsion is a harsh punishment, but it is most probably not always strictly enforced
Expulsion may or may not result in wand destruction, and it is mainly based on the level of offence (as well as the honesty of the enforcer)
The only known example of wand destruction after expulsion was a very special case

As for your second question, the wizard can most probably go to another school after expulsion from one, but I am sure his track record will follow him there as well, and it would depend on how tolerant the second school is based on his track record. Moreover, they do not have many options. For instance, Hogwarts is the only wizarding school in Britain (unless you count institutes such as Kwickspell). If someone is expelled from Hogwarts, where else would he go? He would have to move to another country. Another example, Grindelwald was expelled from Durmstrang (if I remember correctly, that was where he studied) for his practice of the Dark Arts, and Durmstrang was supposed to be the more tolerant school. What are the odds that, after such a record, he would get admission to Hogwarts or Beaubatons?

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The only case we know of where a wand was snapped in half following an expulsion is Hagrid's. I would suggest that it wasn't the expulsion itself that resulted in Hagrid's wand being snapped -- it was the circumstances of Hagrid's expulsion. Hagrid was accused of opening the Chamber of Secrets, an extremely serious offense which had resulted in the releasing of the Basilisk and subsequent death of Moaning Myrtle. I propose that it was the gravity of the situation that resulted in Hagrid's wand being snapped in half. I wouldn't be surprised if the Ministry made a blustering decision to snap Hagrid's wand on short notice, as it is so apt to do -- the Ministry seems to make up many of its rules on the fly.

Regarding schooling, attendance at a wizarding school (Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, etc) is not compulsory. Young wizards are allowed to be schooled at home, by their parents or caregiver. In Hagrid's case, his mother had run off and his father had died, so neither could help to educate Hagrid. Hagrid had nowhere to go and Dumbledore took pity on him, training him up as Hogwarts' gamekeeper and Keeper of the Keys. Dumbledore obviously doubted Hagrid was responsible for opening the Chamber of Secrets; however, Armando Dippet, headmaster at the time, believe Hagrid guilty. As mentioned, I would guess the Ministry was responsible for the decision to snap Hagrid's wand, but note that this is not confirmed in canon.

  • Nearly Headless Nick had his wand striped of him when he was arrested for witchcraft, but the wand was not broken (Tales of Beedle the Bard).
  • The general practice is not to snap a wand, but rather to burn it or bury it with its owner once the owner has died (Tales of Beedle the Bard).
  • Hagrid's is the only canon example of a wand being purposefully snapped as a punishment.
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I'll have to look it up later, but I seem to remember the Ministry letter to Harry in Order of the Phoenix threatened to snap his wand. What I'm 100% sure of is that Mr. Weasley's letter ordered Harry not to turn over his wand, which at the very least indicates there was at least the threat of having it snapped. –  TenthJustice Sep 3 at 13:56
    
Losing one's wand is distressing and inconvenient, but I don't think it means you can never be a wizard again. (Consider Hagrid and his disguised wand/umbrella.) ISTR there are wizards whose wands are broken by accident or enemy action, who are able to get a new one. As for joining a school, presumably an alternative is to learn from a single mentor, who could even be one of your parents. I don't know what provisions the wizarding world has for "home schooling" but it's at least plausible. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Sep 3 at 14:52
    
@TenthJustice - You're right! Harry does get that letter from the Ministry; however, he does not snap his wand in half (it later is accidentally broken in half in Deathly Hallows, as we know). I would just say there seems to be no rhyme nor reason for wand snapping, like there doesn't seem to be a consistent rule by the Ministry as to when and under what circumstances a wand is snapped. Technically, Hagrid's wand is the only one we know of to have been snapped in the series. :) –  Slytherincess Sep 3 at 16:26
    
@RoyalCanadianBandit - I never said anywhere that having one's wand snapped meant one couldn't be a witch or wizard again. I never said that as a general statement, but Hagrid's situation seemed to be different. He himself says he's not allowed to do magic. Why? I don't know. J.K. Rowling has stated that not all kids have to attend Hogwarts or any other school and that learning at home is totally fine. I'm sure a mentor would be an option too. It's not until Voldemort is controlling everything in DH that attendance at Hogwarts (of purebloods) is compulsory. :) –  Slytherincess Sep 3 at 16:33
    
@Slytherincess: I meant for that comment to expand on your answer, not argue with it -- sorry for any confusion. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Sep 3 at 16:42

I think it stems in large part from the seriousness of the offense(s).

The only concrete example we have from the series of a wand snapping is Hagrid, who had his wand snapped when he was accused of murdering someone. Snapping his wand would be the wizard equivalent of prohibiting dangerous criminals from owning guns: regardless of any legitimate purpose the gun might serve, such as self-defense or hunting, the person has proven that he cannot be trusted with its power.

The other offence we know for certain can lead to expulsion is underage magic outside of school. We know that people like Lily Potter could get away with just warning letters. But on the other hand, Harry seemed so certain that his blowing up of Aunt Marge would see him expelled that he immediately went on the run, and obviously he was nearly expelled (albeit under a corrupt court) after the Dementor attack. So some uses of underage magic appear to be more harshly dealt with than others.

The determining factor, I believe, is whether or not the Ministry believes that person poses a threat to the Wizarding World's secret existence. Recall that Harry didn't just face trial for underage magic, but for violating the International Statute of Secrecy.

Suppose that you read Harry's rap sheet without knowing about Dobby, Marge's provocation, or the Dementors. The inescapable conclusion is that Harry has a history of casting unnecessary, obvious and advanced magic in Muggle residential areas and in front of Muggles, even after a warning letter (and Harry ought to thank his lucky stars the Ministry never found out it was him in that flying Ford Anglia).

So what would you, as a Ministry official, do? On one hand, you have to weigh the kid's dreams and future. On the other, you have to weigh 1,000 years of secrecy and peace with Muggles, the safety of hundreds of thousands of wizards worldwide, and the possibility that one renegade would shatter it all.

I don't know about you, but I'd snap his wand in a heartbeat.

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