We see in the Deathly Hallows Ollivander examining wands taken from the Malfoy Manor. He identifies Bellatrix's, Draco's and Pettigrew's wands.

When he identifies Draco's wand, he senses that the wand changed it's allegiance to Harry. How can he tell that? Does the wand feel a certain way, does he listen to it?

How can you tell whether a wand has changed allegiance?

Relevant quotes from the book:

“Can you identify these?” Harry asked.
The wandmaker took the first of the wands and held it close to his faded eyes, rolling it between his knobble-knuckled fingers, flexing it slightly.
“Walnut and dragon heartstring,” he said. “Twelve-and-threequarter inches. Unyielding. This wand belonged to Bellatrix Lestrange.”
“And this one?”
Ollivander performed the same examination.
“Hawthorn and unicorn hair. Ten inches precisely. Reasonably springy. This was the wand of Draco Malfoy.”
“Was?” repeated Harry. “Isn’t it still his?”
-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter Twenty-Four (The Wandmaker).

[emphasis added]

  • Do you have a specific quote showing what he said about changing allegiance? Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 22:33
  • 1
    “Hawthorn and unicorn hair. Ten inches precisely. Reasonably springy. This was the wand of Draco Malfoy.” “Was?” repeated Harry. “Isn’t it still his?” "Perhaps Not, if you took it from it" "I did", "Then it may be yours" How does Ollivander know that?
    – USER920
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 22:43
  • 6
    "If you took it from him, it may be yours." That's not really a firm statement.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 22:51
  • I took it to mean that Ollivander is guessing that it might have changed allegiance, not that he knows for a fact it is. As far as I can tell, the only way to know is for the person who may have earned the wand's allegiance to try it out, or for the possibly former owner to try it out.
    – Kai
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 22:53
  • 4
    Wibbley Wobbley Wandy Lorey Stuff? Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 7:56

3 Answers 3


In this instance, it seems more like Ollivander is putting two and two together.

He remembers every single wand he has ever sold:

Mr. Ollivander fixed Harry with his pale stare.
“I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single wand.
-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter Five (Diagon Alley).

And clearly he must remember Draco's and Bella's wands.

Now, seeing them in the possession of Harry, he clearly surmises that they were taken from their previous owners, and may have in-fact passed their allegiance onto Harry and co.

The next part of the quote which you have in your question explains this:

This was the wand of Draco Malfoy.”
“Was?” repeated Harry. “Isn’t it still his?”
“Perhaps not. If you took it —”
“— I did —”
“— then it may be yours. Of course, the manner of taking matters. Much also depends upon the wand itself. In general, however, where a wand has been won, its allegiance will change.”
-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter Twenty-Four (The Wandmaker).

  • 1
    Recently re-watched the movie, and whether this makes sense or not, after 'viewing' the wands, Ollivander then sort of 'listens' to them.
    – Möoz
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 21:25

Presumably, it was similar to the way Dumbledore found the entrance to the cave in which Riddle's locket horcrux was located:

Twice Dumbledore walked right around the cave, touching as much of the rough rock as he could, occasionally pausing, running his fingers backward and forward over a particular spot, until finally he stopped, his hand pressed flat against the wall. "Here," he said. "We go on through here. The entrance is concealed." Harry did not ask how Dumbledore knew. He had never seen a wizard work things out like this, simply by looking and touching; but Harry had long since learned that bangs and smoke were more often the marks of ineptitude than expertise.

-Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, chapter 26 (The Cave)

Though no specific technique is mentioned, this passage indicates that it is possible to sense and examine magical spells and enchantments without casting them yourself, or at least without appearing to. Ollivander was probably able to use similar techniques to determine the make, composition, and allegiance of a wand simply by handling it.


He probably made an educated guess.

Ollivander remembers every wand he has ever sold, from the length to the core, including how loyal the wand will be (based on flexibility.) He also says,

"If you took it from him, it may be yours."

It sounds like he is just guessing, based on the materials of Draco's wand.

This is proved because Draco's wand is described by Ollivander as "reasonably springy." According to JKR's wizarding world feature on Length and Flexibility (see here)

"Wand flexibility or rigidity denotes the degree of adaptability and willingness to change."

As his wand is reasonably springy, this means it is likely to change hands better than a wand that's more inflexible. It is most likely from Draco's wand flexibility that Ollivander concludes that the wand has changed hands from Draco to Harry.

Away from this example, as a general answer, Mr. Ollivander probably takes an educated guess based on the materials of the wand, specifically flexibility, to figure out the true master of one's wand, if its loyalty is in question.

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