Fudge and Umbridge might have thought otherwise, but we knew Dumbledore’s Army had little to do with Dumbledore. It didn’t even have much to do with Harry at first, given he was so resistant to the thought of teaching his fellow students. No, it was all Hermione’s idea (obviously), and we’d love to have been in the Gryffindor common room when she first broached the subject…
Harry’s reaction to Hermione’s suggestion – and to Ron listing all his achievements in the practical pursuit of Defence Against the Dark Arts – was one of the few times he shared his feelings on facing Voldemort:
‘The whole time you know there’s nothing between you and dying except your own – your own brain or guts or whatever – like you can think straight when you know you’re about a nanosecond from being murdered, or tortured, or watching your friends die…’
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
It was frightening and real, and it wiped the smile off Hermione and Ron’s faces. Harry’s reaction wasn’t born of false modesty; he was too honest for that. Harry resisted because he knew it wasn’t a ‘sitting-in-the-classroom’ subject. This was even clearer when he referred to Cedric Diggory’s death: Harry acknowledged that luck, help and Voldemort’s own choices were as much a part of his survival as skill.
Of course, we knew that Harry’s courage, loyalty and ability to love were all equally essential. Perhaps these were the qualities that Hermione and Ron sensed when they asked him to teach them, but they phrased it all wrong and in the process, we got a rare insight into Harry’s feelings.
Hermione being Hermione, she knew when she’d got it wrong – and she also knew what to say to calm Harry down. Her first stuttering mention of Voldemort’s name showed she understood that fighting Voldemort would take more than books and lesson plans. Still, she wanted Harry’s help, so she re-phrased her request:
‘This is exactly why we need you… we need to know what it’s r-really like… facing him ... facing V-Voldemort.’
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
She doesn’t give up, does Hermione.
Imagine being part of that group walking into the first meeting at the Hog’s Head. There was so much to love in that important moment: Hermione’s determination; the fact that so many actually turned up; Ron, Fred and George challenging Zacharias Smith; and the actual Dumbledore connection that only became obvious when we later realised Aberforth was serving the Butterbeers. All in all, it was an historic occasion.
That first meeting in the Room of Requirement was pretty incredible. Dobby’s suggested location was perfect: hidden, spacious, full of cushions for students to land on after being knocked over by spells, and with books upon books for Hermione. The lesson itself was pretty good too, with Harry’s verbal takedown of Zacharias over the use of Expelliarmus a particular highlight. But the best moment was definitely Ginny coming up with ‘Dumbledore’s Army’, a name that would define the Hogwarts resistance. It was also telling in terms of Ginny’s character – no longer crippled by shyness, her defiance was starting to show.
If the D.A. helped Harry realise his talent for Defence Against the Dark Arts, it also spurred Hermione to even higher levels of achievement. The Protean-Charmed coins she created were so advanced they prompted Terry Boot to ask a question we’d wondered, too: how come Hermione wasn’t a Ravenclaw? Apparently, the Sorting Hat did consider it, ‘but it decided on Gryffindor in the end’, so there you go.
The hex she put on the D.A.-signed paper was also impressive, if a little sneaky. Although perhaps it was even more impressive for its sneakiness: we do like rule-breaking Hermione. Not great for Marietta Edgecombe, mind you, but a prime example of Hermione using her immense talent to support her friends.
After Bellatrix Lestrange escaped from Azkaban, Neville redoubled his efforts in D.A. classes and improved rapidly, mastering the Shield Charm before anyone else except Hermione. Neville’s courage was never in doubt, but the D.A. was the making of him – that transformation from nervous schoolboy to determined fighter began to take shape in the Room of Requirement, and he really came into his own in the battle at the Department of Mysteries.
While Harry, Ron and Hermione were hunting Horcruxes, the D.A. remained an active concern under the co-leadership of one Neville Longbottom, who really ‘got’ the Room of Requirement. When he, Ginny and Luna decided to retrieve the Sword of Gryffindor from Snape’s office the fact that they were caught – and that the sword was a fake – did nothing to diminish their bravery. We’d expect nothing else from the D.A.
One of the greatest-ever D.A. moments was also Neville’s. In the heat of battle, believing Harry dead, facing a seemingly-triumphant Voldemort, Neville showed the spirit and bravery that summed up Dumbledore’s Army – and as he shouted, ‘I’ll join you when hell freezes over… Dumbledore’s Army!’ in Voldemort’s face, we were all right there too.