With autumn finally in the air, it’s the perfect time to dive into a reread or binge-watch of Harry Potter. Even though the earlier films have somehow become categorized as Christmas movies, Harry Potter is, at its true core, an autumnal experience. From pumpkin juice and broomsticks to literal ghouls and goblins, the world of Harry Potter is a spooky treat. And what is a scary story without powerfully magical witches? The Harry Potter series has them in spades. As the series teaches us, the most powerful form of magic — the kind Lord Voldemort could never master — is love. Explicitly and implicitly throughout the series, evil is portrayed as a form of weakness. So in this ranking, we’ll be keeping with those values and highlighting the good witches of the series, the ones who use their powers to fight stigma, protect their loved ones, and save the world — not destroy it. (Sorry, Bellatrix.)
12. Madame Maxime
As headmistress of the French magical school Beauxbatons, Madame Olympe Maxime is a fair and talented leader. Though she refuses to identify as a giant due to fears of persecution, she nevertheless uses her connections to giant culture to serve as an ambassador during the war. And let’s not forget that she went on that months-long tour of giant country with her on-again-off-again boyfriend Hagrid. Any witch that can stand going on such a trying and intimate journey with an aggravating ex in order to serve the greater good is goddesslike in our book.
11. Angelina Johnson
Angelina Johnson put up with former quidditch captain Oliver Wood’s harsh moods and strict coaching for years as one of only three witches on the Gryffindor team. A top-notch chaser, Angelina wasn’t shy about correcting the coach on moments of sexism. And, though it’s not overtly shown in the books, we can’t help imagining she also put up with her fair share of racist microagressions as one of the few black students at a Hogwarts, a school that remains ambiguous on its feelings about magical people of color. Despite all that, Angelina was appointed quidditch captain during her last year at school, proving to be a fierce and persistent leader despite the constant interruptions from Dolores Umbridge.
10. Mrs. Crouch
It’s a crime that we never even learn Mrs. Crouch’s first name, because the sacrifice she makes for her son is near Lily Potter–level. Stuck married to a high-level Ministry of Magic official with no time to care for his wife, Mrs. Crouch was practically alone in raising their difficult son, Barty Crouch Jr., who would grow up to be a murderer. After her son is put away for life in the wizarding prison, Azkaban — in part by his own father who publicly disowned him for his crimes — Mrs. Crouch convinces her cold-hearted husband to help her spare their son’s life by sacrificing her own. She takes polyjuice potion to trade places with her son, who leaves Azkaban with his father to have a (relatively) free life back at home while she dies soon after in his cell and is buried under his name. Mrs. Crouch led a life of bleak and tragic circumstances that ultimately ended in an unappreciated act of a mother’s love.
9. Fleur Delacour
Fleur is often equated simply with her inherited veela beauty, but let’s not forget that she was the only witch picked to compete in the Triwizard Tournament. It’s clear her character is meant to break the stereotype of the stuffy French woman. She competes in the Triwizard Tournament, she works at Gringotts to improve her English, she assists the Order of the Phoenix, and she stands by her fiancé Bill Weasley’s side after he’s brutally attacked by the werewolf Fenrir Greyback. And she stands up to Molly Weasley, of all people, by calling her out for assuming Fleur only cares about good looks and not accepting her as her future daughter-in-law. Anyone who has the guts to put Molly Weasley in her place has some Godric Gryffindor–level bravery.
8. Nymphadora Tonks
Tonks stumbled onto the pages of The Order of the Phoenix with the clatter of a knocked-over umbrella stand and won our hearts immediately. With a bubblegum-pink pixie cut (at least in the original drawings by artist Mary Grandpré), Tonks’s defensive magic skills are powerful enough to have earned her an elite place among the wizarding FBI equivalent, the aurors. But beyond her magical skills, Tonks stands out for her individuality, her tenderness, and her devotion to the people and causes she cares about. Plus, her metamorphmagus abilities have spawned fandom theories about Tonks being genderqueer, and we’re into it.
7. Ginny Weasley
While the Ginny of the movies was stripped of all personality, Ginny in the books is a total badass and, potentially, one of the most engaging characters in the original septology. We watch her grow from awkward preteen to top-tier athlete and absolutely savage dueler (don’t get in the way of her Bat Bogey Hex). But if you look through the sassy clap-backs she sends her older brothers, we’re occasionally reminded of the trauma she experienced while being possessed by Lord Voldemort as an 11-year-old and the extra challenges she faced by being the youngest in an impoverished family. Ginny is relatable because her talent and spunk, while enviable, don’t come out of nowhere. She reminds us that even the most awkward, looked-over, or underprivileged of us can still turn out to be heroes.
6. Molly Weasley
The primary matriarch of the series, Molly Weasley hems and haws over every friend and family member, no matter their age. Molly is an example of how traditionally feminine skills are often discounted as weak or pointless, but where would any of our favorite characters be without Mrs. Weasley holding down the fort, feeding them, and even washing their socks? Her fierce love and protection for her brood is heartwarming. The best example of this protection, of course, comes from the absolute best line of the entire series, when an outraged Molly Weasley saves Ginny from being murdered by Bellatrix Lestrange and screams, “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” Tell us again how maternal figures aren’t powerful?
5. Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff
Founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it’s undeniable that Rowena and Helga needed to be powerfully talented witches with strong community-organizing skills and a passion for sharing their knowledge with others in order to create the insitution. As a further mark of their abilities, they managed to get equal billing as founders of the school with their two male counterparts, Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin. Not bad when you imagine what the state of women’s’ rights were in the 900s — even in the Wizarding World. It is called the Wizarding World, after all.
4. Luna Lovegood
No one else in the series taught us, or Harry, more about the true power in being yourself, despite what anyone thinks. Readers may or may not have immediately loved Luna when we met her in Harry’s fifth year on the Hogwarts Express, with her radish earrings and upside-down issue of The Quibbler, but by the end of the series, her loyalty, ideals, and tragic background combined to make her one of the more fascinating and endearing characters in the series. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione visit her home in Deathly Hallows and see the mural she’s painted of them, your heart breaks realizing how much more they meant to her than she did to them. Luna is never ashamed of any of her behaviors or interests, however, nor do they stop her from being a powerful witch who fights with the others until the very end.
3. Professor Minerva McGonagall
Headmistress of Hogwarts. Order of Merlin, first class. Registered Animagus. Member of the Order of the Phoenix. Minerva McGonagall is like the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Wizarding World. She’s highly accomplished and does things by the book, yet she’s fierce in her beliefs. While she’ll bark at a student for wearing a hair accessory that violates dress code, she’ll also reward students for breaking the rules when it’s in protest of government-sanctioned abuse… or if it benefits the Gryffindor quidditch team. Professor McGonagall kept the students of Hogwarts safe time and again, through the Battle of Hogwarts when she was on the front line fighting Death Eaters and long after that as headmistress of the school.
2. Lily Potter
Everyone in the Wizarding World calls Harry “The Boy Who Lived,” but he wouldn’t have survived the attack from Voldemort when he was a baby if it weren’t for his mother Lily’s protection. Her powerful magic and use of pure love is what saved his life, kept him protected for the rest of his childhood, and — let’s be real — what actually defeated Voldemort. Plus, when she was at Hogwarts, Lily managed to become Head Girl and get O’s in her OWLs while having to put up with a constant pissing contest between two grade-A fuccbois. She deserves a medal for that alone.
1. Hermione Granger
To be honest, the series might as well be called Hermione Granger instead of Harry Potter because if Hermione hadn’t been there for Harry from the beginning, he probably would’ve died his second week at Hogwarts. She is a constant source of requisite knowledge and insight that saves Harry and Ron (and the rest of the Wizarding World) time and time again. As she grows, we see her mature from a girl so excited about knowledge that she can’t help but share what she knows at every chance to a teenager sloppily finding her voice in activism and eventually into a young woman who nobly and heartbreakingly erases her parents’ memories of her for their own protection. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Hermione discounts her power as simply “books and cleverness,” but by the end of the series she proves through her sacrifices, empathy, and love that she is just as “great” a witch as Harry is a wizard — if not greater.
Jackson Bird is the director of wizard-muggle relations for the Harry Potter Alliance, a nonprofit that uses the power of story to turn fans into heroes and firmly believes that Hermione Granger was the true heroine of the series. You can follow him @jackisnotabird.