Recently, you might have noticed the phrase “Dumbledore’s first army” cropping up, as we learn more about Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Today, we gaze into Dumbledore’s past and future, where communities have always formed around him.

In the upcoming third Fantastic Beasts instalment, we can see from the trailers and teasers that a new alliance is coming together with Albus Dumbledore, as Grindelwald’s influence begins to take hold across the wizarding world. A blood oath currently means that Dumbledore is blocked from moving against Grindelwald himself, and it is up to his former student, Newt Scamander, to fight for what is right. But, as you have seen from our first glimpses of the new film, he certainly isn’t alone. In fact, the band of witches, wizards (and one Muggle!) is being dubbed “Dumbledore’s first army.”

It is comforting to see that Dumbledore has always had groups form around him in times of unrest: a testament to his stature as a truly great wizard. As he once said himself, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

Indeed, years and years beyond the events of Fantastic Beasts, we already know that Dumbledore would have future armies banding together, when a different Dark wizard overtook the wizarding world. Because, although Dumbledore is one of the most powerful wizards we know of, he has always known the strength of having allies around him. After all, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts.

The Order of the Phoenix

Decades after the events of Fantastic Beasts, Lord Voldemort reigned supreme, casting darkness across the wizarding world, with a dangerous group of Death Eaters in his wake. With Voldemort following a similar trajectory to Gellert Grindelwald, gaining more followers as he became more powerful, Albus Dumbledore knew that he would have to do the same to counter him. Now we know this was not the first time Albus banded together an army against a Dark wizard. In fact, Grindelwald and Voldemort’s stories follow similar themes.

The Order of the Phoenix was formed twice, once for Voldemort’s original ascent, and rebuilt once Lord Voldemort found a way to return, years later.

The first version of the Order of the Phoenix featured a collection of friends, family, confidants, colleagues and talented Aurors – many of whom Dumbledore would’ve taught at Hogwarts or worked with. And some would return for the Order’s revival many years later. But, of course, many members were lost during the first wizarding war against Voldemort, most notably the Longbottoms, who were tortured to insanity, and James and Lily Potter, who famously gave their lives protecting their son, Harry. Other lesser-known members who were killed included Molly Weasley’s brothers, Gideon and Fabian Prewett, witches Marlene McKinnon, Dorcas Meadows and Emmeline Vance, and many more. Hagrid even mentions some of these families in the first Harry Potter book, explaining Lord Voldemort’s impact to a very young Harry.

‘No one ever lived after he decided ter kill ’em, no one except you, an’ he’d killed some o’ the best witches an’ wizards of the age – the McKinnons, the Bones, the Prewetts – an’ you was only a baby, an’ you lived.’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Then, in Harry’s fifth year, we learnt more about the first Order through Mad-Eye Moody (who served in both iterations) who would go through an old photograph of the first Order with Harry, explaining just how many people were lost in grim detail.

‘That’s Edgar Bones … brother of Amelia Bones, they got him and his family, too, he was a great wizard … Sturgis Podmore, blimey, he looks young … Caradoc Dearborn, vanished six months after this, we never found his body … Hagrid, of course, looks exactly the same as ever … Elphias Doge, you’ve met him, I’d forgotten he used to wear that stupid hat … Gideon Prewett, it took five Death Eaters to kill him and his brother Fabian, they fought like heroes … budge along, budge along …’
Mad-Eye Moody
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Switching allegiances

We also saw examples of members switching allegiances. Peter Pettigrew, having grown up with Sirius Black, James Potter and Remus Lupin, of course joined the Order alongside the others. But his devastating betrayal of the Potters’ whereabouts not only led to their death – but also the demise of his future master in a strange twist of fate.

Now we know that Dumbledore would have seen this sort of defection before, with Queenie moving over to Grindelwald’s side, for example. In the Harry Potter books, we see the Hogwarts version of Dumbledore’s Army betrayed by Marietta Edgecombe, a student who divulges the secret location of their society with unfortunate consequences (in the accompanying film, it was Cho who betrayed them). Unbeknownst to Marietta, however, Hermione had cast a hex on anyone who might deceive Dumbledore’s Army, causing the words “sneak” to appear across their face. After all, in any group, without trust, it all falls apart.

The second formation of the Order of the Phoenix

After losing so many members of the Order, it would come down to a rebounding Killing Curse that would eventually ‘finish’ Lord Voldemort, after it failed to kill Harry. A period of peace time followed, but Lord Voldemort kept finding ways to return – and finish what he’d started. Soon after the events of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where Lord Voldemort finally pulls the ultimate trick to regain his body, Albus Dumbledore immediately starts taking steps to get the band back together. The survivors of the first generation returned immediately, with some new, younger additions added to their ranks, including Aurors Nymphadora Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt, and members of the Weasley family who were of age.

Dumbledore’s Army (or the D.A)

Unbeknownst to Dumbledore, though, another army was secretly forming in his honour. After the frustration of being too young to join the Order, Harry, Ron and Hermione (although, almost all of the credit must go to Hermione...) formed their own version. Created to move against Dolores Umbridge, who was rapidly taking over Hogwarts with her ‘educational decrees’, the students decided to teach themselves Defence Against the Dark Arts, (seeing as Umbridge was stifling their tuition in this area too...) to be ready for the oncoming storm of Voldemort’s return.

The values of this secret society mirrored that of the Order, with different Hogwarts houses coming together (including certain students who weren’t huge fans of others) and putting aside their differences. We saw similar attitudes take place in the Order, such as the Marauders and Snape reluctantly joining forces, all through their mutual trust of Dumbledore. Again – that concept of trust was a power all of its own. Dumbledore’s legacy was so strong, conflicts of interests were being thrown to one side. Even Cho Chang and Ginny Weasley (Harry’s ex-girlfriend and future-girlfriend, respectively) worked together to come up with the name of the group.

‘The Defence Association?’ said Cho. ‘The DA for short, so nobody knows what we’re talking about?’ ‘Yeah, the DA’s good,’ said Ginny. ‘Only let’s make it stand for Dumbledore’s Army, because that’s the Ministry’s worst fear, isn’t it?’

Eventually, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Neville, whose parents met such a tragic end during their work in the first Order, carried on Dumbledore’s Army, who proved crucial during the Battle of Hogwarts. Sometimes, Dumbledore didn’t need to bring people together at all – the memory of his influence and character was enough to unite others in his name, to fight for what is right.

The magic of community

But it wasn’t just about Dumbledore. These organisations were doing so much more than just defending themselves against Dark forces – they were forming bonds. Look at Jacob, a down-on-his-luck Muggle baker struggling to open his own business after the war, who in any normal circumstances shouldn’t even know witches or wizards, let alone be teaming up – or indeed - falling in love with one of them.

Particularly in the American wizarding community of the 1920s, where fraternising in such ways was strictly disallowed under law. Jacob’s inclusion into this group feels like a shining beacon of hope – especially when you remember Grindelwald is actively trying to disparage the non-magical community. Then think of another character who felt like an outcast, Luna Lovegood, who was bullied frequently before she joined the Hogwarts-era of Dumbledore’s Army, which she described as “like having friends”.

Think of Hagrid, an expelled student, sometimes ridiculed for being a half-giant, who was not just given a home by Dumbledore at Hogwarts, but a core role in the Order of the Phoenix, as well as becoming one of the most important figures in the life of Harry Potter’s – the character who would one day end Lord Voldemort for good.

Without these communities, inspired by Dumbledore, characters in the wizarding world would be totally different people. Dumbledore wasn’t a perfect character by any means, but the loving energy he radiated as a leader was contagious, permeating everyone he met. Though Dumbledore wished he’d made better choices in his youth, he always tried to teach others to be the version of himself he put out into the world, creating whole unions embodying his spirit. In Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, we are about to see that magic in action once again.