In an ideal world, Dumbledore’s Army, introduced in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, need never have existed. But with Dolores Umbridge making a mockery of Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons by cutting the practical element, notably at a time of increased threat from He Who Must Not Be Named, resistance simply had to be mounted. Under the cajoling influence of Hermione Granger, a reluctant Harry Potter stepped up to the plate to arm his students with the techniques they’d need to survive the coming battle.
In doing so, he became wiser, bolder and more grounded – all of which put him in excellent stead for his future career as a senior Auror. Here’s how…
Albus Dumbledore humbly admitted that Harry Potter was a better man than he was at a similar age. Referring to the dark period in the Hogwarts Headmaster’s youth when he entertained the notion of Muggle subjugation alongside Gellert Grindelwald, Dumbledore illustrated the sharp contrast with young Potter, who never sought notoriety or power in any form – and, indeed, was often made to feel intensely uncomfortable by both.
Harry’s initial reluctance to lead what became Dumbledore’s Army, in spite of Hermione’s best efforts to convince him, didn’t last longer than a fortnight. Yet even so, the prospect of even chairing the initial meeting at the Hog’s Head was so horrifying Hermione had to sneakily tell him only a couple of students were likely to show up.
When, inevitably, a good many students showed up, the public airing of his achievements (such as, but not limited to, producing a corporeal Patronus, defeating the Basilisk and obtaining the Philosopher’s Stone) helped convince the group to follow him. And, more importantly, convinced him that he was ready – and able – to lead.
Previously meek, clumsy Neville Longbottom flourished under Harry’s stewardship of Dumbledore’s Army, so much so that Neville himself took over as interim leader when Harry, Ron and Hermione were off hunting Horcruxes. With a bit of encouragement from Harry, it’s amazing to see how much Neville flourished.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, however. Seamus Finnigan, somewhat influenced by his ‘mam’, initially scorned Harry following the Daily Prophet’s excoriating take-down of him. When a more measured appraisal was published in The Quibbler, Seamus saw the error of his ways and was welcomed by Harry as a new recruit for the Army. A lesser master would’ve sent him packing, but exploring how and why people change their mind is a much-underrated quality of fine leadership.
Worse still was Zacharias Smith: openly hostile at the inaugural meeting at the Hog’s Head, the last to sign up, and who only half-heartedly voted along with the rest of the group to elect Harry leader. He dismissed Harry when training sessions commenced, making clear his belief that the Disarming Charm would look feeble and pointless in the face of the Dark Lord. Harry could have reacted in any number of ways – rage or mockery would’ve been entirely appropriate and justified. But no, instead Harry behaved like a true leader, refuted Zacharias in a soft voice and offered him the chance to make his excuses and leave. Naturally, the mouthy Hufflepuff stayed mutely on the spot, and in doing so underlined Harry’s authority before the group.
You all remember that Harry went through his ‘yelling phase’ during Order of the Phoenix. Frustrated at being locked away at the Dursleys’ without information during the summer, Harry couldn’t contain his anger for the world after Lord Voldemort had returned. And once he started, he couldn’t stop himself, his rage coming out in bursts all throughout the year. But his time with Dumbledore’s Army became a source of great joy to him, especially when he was banned from his beloved Quidditch by Dolores Umbridge. He first kissed Cho Chang after one meeting, and regular Army training sessions surely inspired a respect for discipline and practice that must have been key to his future life as an Auror.
It also served to launder his reputation, so sullied by Rita Skeeter and the Daily Prophet. As soon as the Army was founded – with considerable credit to Hermione Granger – he won the respect of fellow students who may never otherwise have had the opportunity to experience Harry’s many fine qualities up close.
Harry’s confidence, people skills and faith in himself were all reinforced by his decision to take the reins of resistance and lead Dumbledore’s Army. And he was all the better character for it.