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Priori Incantatem: A history of notable Slytherin wands

You can learn a lot about a wizard from their wand’s history. And sometimes you can learn a lot about a wand from its wizard, too.

An emotional Draco points his wand
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry discovers something awful about Lord Voldemort when their wands connect at the end of Goblet of Fire; all of Voldemort’s regurgitated, old spells were murders. The spell is known as Priori Incantatem, where a wand forces another wand to reveal the spells of its past.

Lord Voldemort’s wand history was simple; he was out there to kill as many as possible, with seemingly no remorse.

But if we look at the spell history of some other notable wizards and witches’ wands, we see some interesting insights into their characters, and in some cases, the wands themselves.

Harry and Voldemort spells connect creating the Golden Thread
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

What if we take four huge names of Slytherin house, a house known for being cunning and deceiving, and see what their wand histories tell us about them? Because unlike Voldemort, some other members of Slytherin house are a lot more complicated.

Severus Snape

Notable Spells:

Expelliarmus: In Duelling Club in Chamber of Secrets
Avada Kedavra: Against Albus Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince
Sectumsempra: A curse of his own making, that accidentally hits George Weasley in Deathly Hallows
The Patronus Charm: Used to cast a Patronus to help Harry in Deathly Hallows

Severus Snape was a complicated wizard, as we well know. Half the time when Harry, Ron and Hermione found themselves trying to figure out whether or not Snape was doing Dark deeds, he was actually doing the exact opposite. In fact, in one of the first-ever instances we saw Snape using magic in Philosopher’s Stone, we thought he was performing a jinx when he was actually performing a counter-jinx.

Snape pushes Harry and Ron's heads down in the Goblet of Fire.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Just like Snape’s character, his use of magic across the seven books was rather contradictory. In Chamber of Secrets, it was Snape who (inadvertently) taught Harry the spell that he would end up using in the defeat of Lord Voldemort: Expelliarmus.

Harry reached his wand just in time. Lockhart had barely raised his, when Harry bellowed, ‘Expelliarmus!’ Lockhart was blasted backwards, falling over his trunk. His wand flew high into the air; Ron caught it, and flung it out of the open window. ‘Shouldn’t have let Professor Snape teach us that one,’ said Harry furiously, kicking Lockhart’s trunk aside.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

As the years at Hogwarts unfolded, we learnt more about Snape’s double life. After all, this was the man who had used both the Killing Curse on Albus Dumbledore and the Patronus Charm that guided Harry through a hopeless moment in the space of a year. Yes, Snape may have operated through cruel remarks and unsavoury deeds, but his wand history often showed great power and nobility.

Bellatrix Lestrange

Notable spells:

A curse that hit Sirius Black, sending him through the veil to his death in Order of the Phoenix
Cruciatus Curse – Used on Neville’s parents to torture them into insanity, learnt in Goblet of Fire
Cruciatus Curse – Used on Hermione Granger to torture her into giving her information in Deathly Hallows

Bellatrix Lestrange was one of the deadliest witches imaginable. In fact, most of the times we came across her, she was casting an Unforgiveable Curse, usually Crucio. Not once throughout the stories did this particular Death Eater show any remorse for her actions.

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

When Hermione took Bellatrix’s wand in Deathly Hallows, the wand appeared to be so contaminated with evil she described it as being like ‘a bit of her’. Just like her master, Lord Voldemort, we never saw one ounce of goodness in Bellatrix’s spell-casting. Fitting, then, that Bellatrix’s wand was made from walnut, a wood that ‘makes for a truly lethal weapon in the hands of a witch or wizard of no conscience’, according to Mr Ollivander’s notes.

Draco Malfoy

Notable spells:

Serpensortia – A spell that conjures a huge snake, used against Harry in Chamber of Secrets
Locomotor Mortis – Leg-Locker Curse used on Neville Longbottom in Philosopher’s Stone
Expelliarmus – Used to disarm Professor Dumbledore with the intent of killing him in Half-Blood Prince

Draco Malfoy seemed bad to the bone as far as Harry Potter was concerned. Take a look at some of the spells he cast in his earlier years – so proud of his Slytherin heritage he even knew how to conjure a snake when he was in his second year.

Draco Crabbe and Zabini
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

But, as was a continuous theme with Draco, a lot of his cruelty seemed to float on the surface. For example, he may not have been afraid to perform the occasional curse or hex to assert his authority (such as paralysing Harry with the Full Body-Bind Curse) but when it came to true, unparalleled acts of evil, Draco faltered.

He may have been brave enough to disarm Dumbledore, but not enough to kill him. In fact, throughout the stories we don’t see Draco perform any Unforgiveable Curses, yet we see Crabbe and Goyle show no regrets in that area. No, Draco’s spell-choices were usually designed to make the victim vulnerable, which may say a lot about Draco’s own vulnerability.

Salazar Slytherin

Harry in the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Notable magic: (that we know of!)

Helped craft Hogwarts, but also the Chamber of Secrets in Chamber of Secrets
Cursed and jinxed Muggles and animals – via Gormlaith Gaunt in Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

We may have never got to experience Salazar Slytherin’s magic first-hand (what a shame!), but we certainly got a few inklings of the sort of magic he used to perform, especially in Chamber of Secrets. (Clue: these were not very nice things.) We also know that his wand wasn’t just used by him. It was passed down the Slytherin family line for many, many years, and fell into a number of evil hands along the way. And interestingly, the wand itself seemed to change over time, depending on its master.

Eventually it came into the possession of Isolt Sayre, who turned out to be one of the more virtuous members of Slytherin’s long bloodline. All of a sudden, Salazar’s wand went from torturing Muggles to saving lives and doing good, as Isolt forged a new life for herself in America away from her aunt Gormlaith. Although Gormlaith eventually put the wand to sleep so it could no longer perform magic, it says a lot that after years of torturous activities, the wand was buried, and grew into a snakewood tree with powerful healing powers.

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© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

Did Isolt’s kindness have a big influence on the wand’s actions?