In Philosopher’s Stone Professor Quirrel(mort) is shown doing the jinxing (of Harry’s broom) [Ch11], rope conjuration and animation (Incarcerous?) [Ch17], and is ready to use ‘a deadly curse’ [also Ch17] and not a single time is his wand mentioned.

“…and what a waste of time, when after all that, I’m going to kill you tonight.” Quirrell snapped his fingers. Ropes sprang out of thin air and wrapped themselves tightly around Harry. “You’re too nosy to live, Potter. Scurrying around the school on Halloween like that, for all I knew you’d seen me coming to look at what was guarding the Stone.”

Ok. I guess he could’ve cast that spell with his wand-hand while snapping the fingers of his other hand at the same time. But that’s not what is shown. He just snaps his fingers and the spell effect happens.

“Use the boy… Use the boy…” Quirrell rounded on Harry. “Yes — Potter — come here.” He clapped his hands once, and the ropes binding Harry fell off. Harry got slowly to his feet. “Come here,” Quirrell repeated. “Look in the mirror and tell me what you see.” Harry walked toward him.

Again. While it’s possible to clap your hands while holding something (he could’ve been holding his wand between his thumb and side of his palm) it’s very awkward and most certainly isn’t a proper way of casting Finite or whatever.

And finally we have,

“Master, I cannot hold him — my hands — my hands!” And Quirrell, though pinning Harry to the ground with his knees, let go of his neck and stared, bewildered, at his own palms — Harry could see they looked burned, raw, red, and shiny. “Then kill him, fool, and be done!” screeched Voldemort. Quirrell raised his hand to perform a deadly curse, but Harry, by instinct, reached up and grabbed Quirrell’s face — “AAAARGH!”

He was just choking Harry and burned horribly both of his palms; there is no way he could be holding anything at this point yet he raises his hand to perform a deadly curse.

Even after his re-embodiment and return to his true strength, Voldy is never again showed doing anything like that! Why?

  • 2
    Quirrel was a reasonably academically talented wizard. Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 14:35
  • Exactly, academically.
    – Fen1ks
    Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 14:53
  • 3
    "the text was blithely written with no idea at the time that HP geeks like us would ever analyze it so thoroughly" :D True. I was her first book after all...
    – Fen1ks
    Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 17:08
  • 3
    @Slytherincess Wandless magic is performed all the time by underaged witches and wizards who do not yet have full control of their powers... And didn't Dumbledore use some when accessing the cave that originally contained the locket horcrux?
    – Izkata
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 2:43
  • 8
    This question is my nomination for spoiler title of the decade: let's spoil the first book for new comers in just one word.
    – user32390
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 5:50

3 Answers 3


The Africans are known to rely much on wandless magic.

The wand is a European invention, and while African witches and wizards have adopted it as a useful tool in the last century, many spells are cast simply by pointing the finger or through hand gestures.
(Pottermore - Uagadou)

Quirrell spent some time in Africa

His turban, he told them, had been given to him by an African prince as a thank-you for getting rid of a troublesome zombie
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 8)

It is possible that he learned his acquired his wandless magic skills there.


Quirrell is skilled, and wants to show off

I think the answer can be found in a few facts.

  1. Controlled, wandless magic, even nonverbal wandless magic, is possible with some degree of skill, but having a wand makes things easier. Thus being able to perform spells wandlessly is often seen (at least in areas where wands are the preferred tool) as a mark of a skilled witch or wizard.

  2. Quirrell was conceited.

Quirrell certainly possessed the skill to perform wandless or nonverbal magic if he so chose. We should not be fooled into believing from his bumbling facade or his capitulation to Voldemort that he was a weak or incompetent wizard:

Though Hagrid was correct in saying that Quirrell had a ‘brilliant mind,’ the Hogwarts teacher was both naive and arrogant in thinking that he would be able to control an encounter with Voldemort, even in the Dark wizard's weakened state.

From the same source, we see that Quirrell is more evidence that Quirrell possess great magical skill, but also that he felt very inadequate:

I saw Quirrell as a gifted but delicate boy, who would probably have been teased for his timidity and nerves during his school life. Feeling inadequate and wishing to prove himself, he developed an (initially theoretical) interest in the Dark Arts. Like many people who feel themselves to be insignificant, even laughable, Quirrell had a latent desire to make the world sit up and notice him.

In other words, Quirrell is exactly the sort who would perform wandless magic on a regular basis: the sort who wants to look impressive due to his own insecurities. While Voldemort was determined to wring out every last ounce of power he could, and thus relied on his wand, which he felt was well-suited to him, Quirrell would have been willing to sacrifice actual power for the appearance thereof.

Quirrell is dealing with an eleven-year-old wizard. Until Harry grabs him, it is not a battle situation whatsover. He probably imagines that there is no need to use his wand. And given his desire to make himself look like a powerful wizard, why not show off a bit?

Voldemort or Dumbledore could do something similar, but they are more confident in their abilities. Also, when we see them performing magic, it is usually in pitched battles in which every bit of performance counts, not binding underage wizards who have barely started their education.

Beside, Quirrell has Voldemort inside him. The latter individual could easily be augmenting Quirrell's own considerable abilities.


Basically it boils down to very dark magic. Voldemort is shown doing wandless magic in Deathly Hallows when he flies alongside Harry during his attempt to escape the Dursleys.

Quirrell's wandless magic is not the only wandless magic we see. If we look at the movies (I know you were originally talking about the books) then in the third movie during Dumbledore's welcome back speech he waves his hand in front of the candle and it re-ignites.

This further drives home the powerful/dark magic aspect as Dumbledore was once a dark wizard himself.

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    Do you have any source for the claim that Voldemort uses wandless magic to fly? The implication from Deathly Hallows (the book), when Snape does the same thing just before the Battle of Hogwarts, is that he requires a wand to do it. There's also no real evidence to say that Dumbledore used to be a dark wizard or ever used dark magic; he had some unfortunate views about Muggles in his youth, but that's it as far as canon goes. Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 14:52
  • 4
    @Poseidon "Dumbledore was once a dark wizard himself"? Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 17:17

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