At the start of Order of the Phoenix Harry loses his wand and is surrounded by total darkness.

The star-strewn indigo sky was suddenly pitch black and lightless - the stars, the moon, the misty street lamps at either end of the alley had vanished. The distant rumble of cars and the whisper of trees had gone. The balmy evening was suddenly piercingly, bitingly cold. They were surrounded by total, impenetrable, silent darkness, as though some giant hand had dropped a thick, icy mantle over the entire alleyway, blinding them.
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 1, Dudley Demented).

He searches around for the wand aimlessly in the dark. He has no idea where it is. Yet he is able to cast a spell.

...he scrambled to his hands and kness, feeling around frantically in the blackness...
Harry muttered frantically, his hands flying over the ground like spiders. "Where's - wand - come on - lumos!"
He said the spell automatically, desperate for light to help him in his search - and to his disbelieving relief, light flared inches from his right hand - the wand-tip had ignited. Harry snatched it up, scrambled to his feet and turned around.
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 1, Dudley Demented).

Now we know that wizards are capable of doing magic spontaneously and without intending to do so, especially before they start at Hogwarts. This magic is clearly not in that category. Harry knew the spell he wanted to cast but wasn't holding his wand, wasn't exactly concentrating and spoke more out of hope than expectation. I've not come across another example of wands working at a distance (hands-free, if you like) before.

Is this example unique within the Harry Potter canon? Do we see anyone else using wands in this manner?

Edit. To clarify, I'm looking for examples where all the criteria below apply.

  • A witch/wizard uses a wand to do magic.
  • They aren't touching said wand whilst performing the spell.

I am not asking in any way, shape or form about wandless magic.

I hope that clears things up!

  • Thanks for the link to the other question, @Valorum, which didn't come up in the search that I did. It part-answers my question. I'll fine-tune mine to focus more on the uniqueness aspect. May 31, 2016 at 19:22
  • I see what you're driving at. Not a dupe.
    – Valorum
    May 31, 2016 at 19:43
  • For further reading and theories: harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Wandless_magic
    – Paul L
    May 31, 2016 at 20:38
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    I dunno here folks, is Horace Slughorn taught us anything it's that we may not want to answer a question posed by the The Dark Lord ;)
    – NKCampbell
    Jul 11, 2016 at 20:09
  • 1
    I think it's going to be hard to disprove such a specific negative as this, but I cannot recall any other instance in the books and wouldn't expect it to be found. Remember almost all scenes in the book are from Harry's POV. But given that Harry's magical ability is nowhere considered ludicrously above average (it was his heart and character and substance that was special, and in many ways what was special was he was just an ordinary guy, not power hungry), it seems unlikely that he would be the only one who ever could
    – Au101
    Jul 11, 2016 at 23:52

6 Answers 6


We have not seen any others

The vast majority of all magic performed, whether in the main series, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, or on Pottermore, involves the use of a wand. There is some wandless magic, but it is uncommon. Further, to the best of my knowledge, we have seen no other instance of a spell or incantation requiring the use of a wand, but not holding said wand.

There is no reason to believe that this ability is unique to Harry. A link clearly remains between wizard or witch and wand (assuming the wand has some allegiance to the witch or wizard) even when the former is not touching the latter, as evidenced, for example, by the Elder Wand refusing to kill Harry.

Harry saw Voldemort’s green jet meet his own spell, saw the Elder Wand fly high, dark against the sunrise, spinning across the enchanted ceiling like the head of Nagini, spinning through the air toward the master it would not kill, who had come to take full possession of it at last.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

However, it certainly must be rare, or the magic produced thereby less potent, otherwise disarming one's opponent would not be nearly so effective as it seems to be.

There are a few similar cases

We have a few similar, but not totally analogous, examples.

Apparition requires a wand, but may not require one to be physically touching that wand.

We have a few quotes indicating that Apparating and Disapparating generally requires a wand:

Ron was now trying to Disapparate without a wand.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry looked over at Hermione and the question he had wanted to ask— about whether Mrs. Cattermole’s lack of a wand would prevent her Apparating alongside her husband—died in his throat.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

However, people have Apparated without holding their wands. Most prominently, in the description of Harry's Apparition lessons in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the students were not told to take out their wands, and in fact Malfoy's hand was described as "flying to his wand" when Harry insulted him, implying that he was not holding it. Fred and George are also frequently mentioned as Apparating in Order of the Phoenix, but not as holding their wands while doing so.

It then seems that one must have a wand for Apparition to work, but not necessarily be holding it. This is a similar case to what happened with Harry, but not precisely analogous. First, it is not a spell. Second, it is not clear, for example, whether one could Apparate with a wand that was nearby, but not on one's person.

Gormlaith Gaunt, a descent of Salazar Slytherin, was able to control his wand remotely.

Next, she uttered a single sibilant word in Parseltongue, the language of snakes. The wand that had served Isolt so faithfully for many years quivered once on the bedstand beside her as she slept, and became inactive. In all the years that she had lived with it, Isolt had never known that she held in her hand the wand of Salazar Slytherin, one of the founders of Hogwarts, and that it contained a fragment of a magical snake’s horn: in this case, a Basilisk. The wand had been taught by its creator to ‘sleep’ when so instructed, and this secret had been handed down through the centuries to each member of Slytherin’s family who possessed it.

Neither of these are quite like Harry's situation, though: He remains the only person we have seen to use a wand to cast a spell without touching it.


I don't have references, but this is what I understood.

All wizards can do some magic without any wand. However, a wand allows to amplify and control this ability much better. Therefore, without one most wizards only manage to do very basic magic or uncontrolled unintended one. This case would belong to the first category, lumos is an easy spell.

It might be the only occasion we see a wizard doing intended magic without a wand, but that's probably because usually that's not useful:

  • When a wizard wants to do some intended magic and has a wand at hand, the spell will be more powerful and he will control it better with the wand. So he uses it.
  • When a wizard has been disarmed by another one, attempting to do some magic (e.g. attacking) without a wand will be pointless, because the other wizard will use his wand to easily counteract the weak magic.

This is a rare case because Harry has been disarmed by Dudley, not by a wizard. So using some basic magic to find the wand is useful because Dudley can't counteract it.

And the disbelief is not because lumos worked. It's because he already palpated that zone:

his hands flying over the ground like spiders

so it was unexpected that the wand was only at inches from his hand.

  • 4
    Interesting points but I'm not convinced you answered the question. I'd also disagree with your last paragraph. The fact that he said the spell "automatically" makes it clear to me that he said the spell without thinking and therefore had no real expectation that it would work. May 31, 2016 at 22:18
  • Are you Harry, the God of Wands?! Nov 9, 2019 at 23:49

Magic performed by kids when they are angry or scared doesn't count for the question here, as they perform what they want to do Without casting any spell (Including blowing up Aunt Marge).

In Order of the Phoenix, Harry desperately searches for his wand and mutters the incantation in desperation to save himself and his cousin from Dementors.

This is an act of desperation, not uniqueness as it was life threatening situation for him.

Consider the same case in Half-Blood Prince, when Harry was stuck with body-bind curse in Train, he tried with all his might to summon his wand (assuming he was trying to use the spell as non-verbal). But that was not possible. As he wanted the wand, but wasn't that desperate as he was when facing Dementors.

One might argue how desperate Harry should have been?

In Goblet of Fire, Harry tried to learn Summoning Charm as a lesson, but could not master it. But when he had to learn the same Charm for the First Task where he would be facing a dragon, the desperation to learn and master it became more pronounced, and he mastered the Charm in few hours - which he couldn't even after days of feeble practice.

  • 1
    I'm afraid this doesn't answer the question as to whether or not the use of magic was unique. In the Triwizard Tournament task Harry possessed his wand the whole time. Desperate or not, he didn't during the Dementor attack. I'm wondering whether or not there's another example of using a wand from a distance in the series. Jul 11, 2016 at 21:01
  • Which dementor attack during triwizard tournament are you referring to? In third task, he actually conjures a stag in front of dementor. Which attack are you referring to? Jul 15, 2016 at 5:20

I believe Dumbledore, by keeping Harry frozen under the cloak in Half Blood Prince, displays this. It is true that he cast the spell before he lost his wand but the fact that the curse was lifted when Dumbledore dies implies Dumbledore was still controlling it.

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    This doesn't appear to properly answer the question. The question asks about casting the spell whilst not holding the wand not keeping a spell "up" once the wand is dropped. There is also no indication that he couldn't have used wandless magic to keep it up rather than through the wand he isn't holding. Lastly, there are lots of forms of magic in Harry Potter where the spell does not need to be maintained to still work.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Oct 4, 2018 at 14:00

In the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, when passing through the Leaky Cauldron, there is a Wizard reading A Brief History of Time while gesturing with his (wandless) hand at his coffee causing a spoon to stir it.

Addition: I would argue that Harry's using of Lumos on his wand was an example of similarly wandless magic, which just happened to be of a charm that specifically causes the tip of his wand to light up. The wand was not actually used to cast the spell, but was, instead, simply the target of the spell.

Further: So to answer the question: No; wizards need to be holding their wand to be able to use their wand. This particular case was not Harry using his wand while not holding it, but using wandless magic on his wand at short range.

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    That would be wandless magic. I'm interested in examples of using a wand without holding it. Jun 2, 2016 at 15:50
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    I would argue that this was a use of "wandless" magic. The effect of the spell is not to merely create light, but to specifically create light on the end of the wand. I would argue that the wand is the target of the charm and, in this one case, was not actually used in the casting of the spell. Jun 2, 2016 at 16:01

No, wandless magic is quite common among children, which is why Harry blowing up Aunt Marge is treated so leniently.

"...and the Ministry can punish you if you do magic outside school, you get letters." "But I have done magic outside school!" "We’re all right. We haven’t got wands yet. They let you off when you’re a kid and you can’t help it."

This interaction between Lily and Snape shows that while it's commonplace for children, the Ministry doesn't expect them to have any control over it.

Also it's heavily suggested that Tom Riddle used some kind of magic on the children from the orphanage whom he lured into the cave.

  • 3
    As I mention in the question, I think Harry's use of magic with a wand is of a different sort from that performed by children who can't control themselves. I'm asking about using a wand without holding it. Jun 2, 2016 at 15:49
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    I think you've misunderstood. He's not asking if wandless magic is possible, he's asking whether someone other than harry has been able to command a wand effect (red sparks, for example) without physically touching their wand.
    – Valorum
    Jun 2, 2016 at 17:17

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