You might say the wizarding world is a breeding ground for heroism. Whether by the extraordinary circumstances that come with the ability (and responsibility) to do magic, or by necessity, thanks to the persistent rise of evil in those who place too much store in power. Characters far beyond the Boy Who Lived subverted our expectations of heroism at every turn.
Sure, Harry walked the hero’s journey as the Chosen One, but he was far from the only hero in the books worth talking about. And there are different ways of showcasing bravery in the face of adversity.
Take, for instance, the newest hero in the wizarding world, Newt Scamander. Newt is not a character thrust into action by some sort of unnatural call to adventure. He is a Magizoologist on a personal mission to learn more about his beloved fantastic beasts. He wasn't trying to make an entrance into the larger political landscape; if anything, he was attempting to avoid detection.
Where many traditional heroes would be assured and authoritative, Newt is more insightful and nurturing - even introverted. An outcast, he is motivated not by courage but by empathy, a trait that makes him a rather singular hero. Although we know Newt can wield a wand and do battle as much as a Dumbledore or a Harry can, Newt mostly thrives through sensitivity and kindness.
In the first Fantastic Beasts film, Newt’s great journey was an emotional one, as much as a physical one. As he worked with Tina, Jacob and Queenie to recapture his fantastic beasts and solve the mystery, Newt learnt to connect with other humans in a way he’d only previously connected with animals. It’s not the kind of slam-bang victory your average caped hero would win, but it was a strikingly powerful triumph for the unassuming Hufflepuff. It’ll be interesting to see how his journey develops…
Snape’s subtle path from menacing Potions master to tragic sacrificial hero is one of the longest gestating storylines in the entire Harry Potter series, and one that still divides fans to this day.
Snape lived a life of spite and solitude – certainly not traits we could define as 'heroic'. But it can't be denied that Snape's ultimate sacrifice was brave and a huge departure from his cruel, former self. The secret to his success as a double agent was a quiet passion that fuelled his purpose for life over the course of many long and lonely years, during which time he protected the son of his school nemesis as a kind of self-imposed punishment for his failure to save his long-lost love from a terrible fate. It’s a gesture so pure and devastating that it smacks of Shakespearean drama.
Snape's death wasn't particularly heroic in the traditional sense either. Rather than dying dauntlessly in battle, Lord Voldemort only killed Snape after making an incorrect assumption, and sent Nagini to do the dirty work. His death was particularly tragic as Harry only realised Snape’s secret turmoil after he died. This is one deep cover agent who won no glory playing his part in Voldemort's eventual demise. He also earnt Harry's respect, after years of despising his former professor.
Hermione once told Harry that 'books and cleverness' were not as important as friendship and bravery. However, books and cleverness did help an awful lot. Although Hermione certainly played her part in the Battle of Hogwarts, it was her unabashed love of learning and her unerring ability to slip out of a sticky situation on the strength of her logic and intelligence that defined her.
What’s more, Hermione was rarely without a mission to help others. From her crucial part in saving Buckbeak to her relentless campaign for elf rights, Hermione never wavered in her work to make the world a better place, even as she tackled the most unreasonable course-load Hogwarts had ever seen. Hermione taught us that it's okay to celebrate your intelligence – despite being mocked by Ron or called an 'insufferable know-it-all' by Snape. And thank Merlin she was so smart – we wonder if Harry would ever have defeated Voldemort without her help.
An outcast among wizards and werewolves alike, Remus Lupin was the long-suffering hero few saw coming. His sleepy debut on the Hogwarts Express, with his shabby robes and battered briefcase, drew up certain expectations quite quickly, but Remus was just as quick to surpass them. By both taking down a Dementor and then handing out blocks of chocolate straight afterwards, Remus revealed himself to not just be a valiant wizard, but a compassionate one. And despite most of the wizarding world shunning him due to his werewolf status, Remus was an empathetic figure that brought a lot of much-needed kindness to Harry’s life. By teaching Harry that he was not ‘weak’ for being affected by the Dementors, Remus showed us that bravery can be a very nuanced thing - and that it was okay for Harry to react in the way he did.
After struggling with prejudice for most of his adult life, Remus still succeeded in being the best Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Harry ever had, and an incredibly valuable member of the Order of the Phoenix. Remus may not have been as vigorous as Mad-Eye Moody or Sirius - but he used his calmness, intelligence and gentle nature to great effect nonetheless. Remus's more level-headed approach to the wizarding war was much needed, as Harry was not exactly the calmest of people himself.
Neville seriously struggled in his early years as a wizard – with even his family wondering if he was a Squib. After a few years of struggling at school, melting cauldrons, losing his toad Trevor and being the target of many of Professor Snape’s jibes, Neville’s later transformation was inspirational. As a first year, he tried (and failed) to keep his impetuous friends in line. As a seventh year, he mounted a low-key rebellion and grabbed Godric Gryffindor’s sword out of the Sorting Hat just in time to finish Nagini in the Battle of Hogwarts. Neville gradually grew into his abilities to become the hero Hogwarts needed, exactly when they needed him. Of all of the characters in the books, Neville's climb to the top was perhaps one of the most impressive.
The girl who taught Harry, Ron and Hermione about Wrackspurts and Nargles while wearing earrings fashioned out of radishes definitely didn't strike us as one of the books' most valiant characters, but Luna proved us all wrong. Much like Lupin, Luna's calm approach to the world was a welcome contrast to Harry's zeal and hot temper – in fact, she was the only one to calm him down in the wake of Sirius's death. Luna's ethereal wisdom may not have been everyone's cup of tea, but her originality and optimism were just what we needed in the middle of a wizarding war.
Fortunately for Harry, the majority of these unlikely heroes threw their talents behind his mission to help him achieve what seemed impossible. What comes next for Newt remains to be seen, but it seems certain he’ll do it in his own way.