When a troll breaks into Hogwarts, Harry and Ron are supposed to head to the Gryffindor common room. Instead, they rush to warn Hermione, who is unaware of the drama because she's upset in the girls’ toilets. Thanks, Ron.
OK, so Ron might be the reason Hermione was even in the girls' toilets in the first place, but still – they don’t have to risk a marauding troll to find her, especially when they aren’t exactly friends. And when they face the smelly twelve-foot beast with a huge wooden club in its oversized hands, they don’t run away. No. OK, again, they do inadvertently lock it in the bathroom with Hermione, but as soon as they realise, they rush in to rescue her without a thought for themselves.
For her part, Hermione is quick to save Harry and Ron from something arguably scarier than a troll - a handful of very cross teachers - and takes the blame for Harry and Ron being in the way of a troll in the first place. All in all, it’s all pretty heroic, and the whole reason this trio became a trio in the first place. Imagine if they hadn't...
Centaurs are not supposed to interfere in events that have been foretold. They are especially not supposed to interfere by carting people around on their backs ‘like donkeys’, as Bane says, even if that means leaving a schoolboy to the mercy of a bloodied, unicorn-killing creature hiding out in the Forbidden Forest.
So when Firenze disregards all that to rescue Harry from said unicorn-killing creature, he is not only setting himself against foretold events, he is also setting himself against his fellow centaurs. Bane is furious. For him, it is a centaur’s duty to remain separate from the human world, making no attempt to influence it.
Not Firenze, though. When he rescues Harry, Firenze ignores the expectations of his herd because he acknowledges something more important: standing together is their only chance to defeat the thing lurking in the forest, no matter what has been foretold.
From the moment he boards the Hogwarts Express, the anxious Neville is a prime target for Malfoy’s malicious teasing, which makes him miserable and even more nervous. Ron, Harry and Hermione are forever telling him to defend himself – but then he does, and it couldn't come at a worse time. When standing before the three of them in his pyjamas, attempting to stop them losing Gryffindor even more points, Neville takes a big, brave risk. He’s tried standing up to Malfoy; now he’s doing it to the closest thing he has to friends. He doesn’t back down, either – only Hermione’s full Body-Bind spell stops him from stopping them.
We know this moment must cost Neville, but he does it anyway. So when Dumbledore acknowledges the bravery of his actions with the ten house points that win Gryffindor the House Cup, we’re cheering along with the rest of them.
If Neville standing up to his friends is one kind of bravery, Ron standing up for them by taking a beating from a giant wizard chess piece is another.
It takes a particular kind of heroism to face up to a vicious, stone queen that wants to knock you out cold, in order that your friends can advance. Yet that’s what Ron does. He makes an immediate, decisive assessment during that chess game. He knows that without his sacrifice, Harry and Hermione won’t get any further in their bid to reach the Philosopher’s Stone. So he makes the call and he brooks no argument.
Chess is a game of logic and Ron’s sacrifice is part of a strategy, albeit one that he has to come up with on the spot. When Harry comes face-to-sort-of-face with Voldemort he has no such scope to strategise – he’s completely blindsided by the red eyes staring at him from beneath Quirrell’s turban. With no idea what’s coming, there’s not much Harry can do except think quickly and hope.
Which is why what he does hope for is so impressive. When Voldemort instructs Quirrell to put Harry in front of the Mirror of Erised and work out how to get the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry subverts all Voldemort’s expectations by picturing himself finding the Stone in order to keep it safe. He doesn’t want to use it; he’s not even thinking about the glory of outwitting Voldemort. He just wants to keep it away from him. Harry’s bravery is instinctive and intuitive, and he just knows that Voldemort with the Philosopher’s Stone would be a very bad situation.
One final act of heroism is Scabbers’ finest hour: the moment Ron’s old family rat bites Malfoy’s big, bullying pal Goyle. And then went back to sleep. Good one, Scabbers.
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