I don't think it's a big spoiler to note that Harry, as heroes go, really isn't that bright. He spends a good deal of The Deathly Hallows blundering into one ambush after another, when even a modest amount of planning or foresight would have allowed him to accomplish his various tasks with a good deal less peril to himself and to his friends.
On the plus side, Harry is good at sports. He acts according to his instincts, which are invariably correct. He's brave, kind, compassionate, loyal, trustworthy, morally straight, and a good deal more forgiving of his enemies that I would have been in his situation. ("Accio Armalite" is a spell I would have had handy had I been Harry, as few evil wizards seem prepared to dealed with a weapon that shoots 700 rounds per minute, each with a muzzle velocity of 945 meters/second. But I digress.)
Harry is a throwback. He's the ideal of the 19th Century hero, which of course is the sort of person that the English public school system was intended to create. Tom Brown's Schooldays was the first and most successful of a raft of fiction set in British boarding schools, and which eventually produced such unforgettable works as Dean Farrar's Eric, or Little by Little, Elinor Brent-Dyer's Chalet School series, Elsie J. Oxenham's Abbey Girls series, and many more. (Which in turn produced a reaction or deconstruction, which included benign examples like Charles Hamilton's Billy Bunter, who was the fat kid at his school, through the Molesworth books, to Harry Flashman, and then to outright demolitions like George Orwell's Such, Such Were the Joys.)
Public school heroes in fiction (and, I guess, in reality) were physically courageous, outstanding in sports, considerate to the weak or less fortunate, instinctively noble, fine Christian moralists, and (if you were an Elsie Oxenham heroine) terrific at folk dancing. If anybody possessed greater than average intelligence, they were relegated to the sidekick part, following Thomas Hughes, who assigned the brilliant but sickly George Arthur to his hero Tom Brown.
All of this became so ubiquitous that E.W. Hornung could write, with almost a straight face: "Everybody knows how largely the tone of a public school depends on that of the eleven, and on the character of the captain of cricket in particular; and I have never heard it denied that in A. J. Raffles's time our tone was good, or that such influence as he troubled to exert was on the side of the angels." (Of course Raffles inverted public school morality by becoming a thief, though in the end he redeemed himself by dying nobly in the Boer War.)
Rowling seems to have absorbed all this public school fiction, and regurgitates it with extreme competence.
(For a contrary view, see Eric Blair--- not the one who occasionally posts here, but the other one-- "The various codes which were presented to you at St Cyprian's — religious, moral, social and intellectual — contradicted one another if you worked out their implications. The essential conflict was between the tradition of nineteenth-century asceticism and the actually existing luxury and snobbery of the pre-1914 age. On the one side were low-church Bible Christianity, sex puritanism, insistence on hard work, respect for academic distinction, disapproval of self-indulgence: on the other, contempt for 'braininess,' and worship of games, contempt for foreigners and the working class, an almost neurotic dread of poverty and, above all, the assumption not only that money and privilege are the things that matter, but that it is better to inherit them than to have to work for them. Broadly, you were bidden to be at once a Christian and a social success, which is impossible . . .
("That was the pattern of school life — a continuous triumph of the strong over the weak. Virtue consisted in winning: it consisted in being bigger, stronger, handsomer, richer, more popular, more elegant, more unscrupulous than other people — in dominating them, bullying them, making them suffer pain, making them look foolish, getting the better of them in every way. Life was hierarchical and whatever happened was right. There were the strong, who deserved to win and always did win, and there were the weak, who deserved to lose and always did lose, everlastingly.")
19th Century fiction also featured the adventures of the adolescent heroes grown up. Alleyne Edricson in The White Company, Jan Skrzetuski in With Fire and Sword, the eponymous Brigadier Gerard, Wagner's Siegfried, and Dumas' d'Artagnan were all brave, terrific warriors, highly instinctive, loyal, trustworthy, trusting, and not very bright. (It has to be admitted that d'Artagnan wasn't much of a Christian gentleman, either.) Brainy types, like Aramis or Pan Wolodjowsky, were still the sidekicks.
The 19th Century hero, trusting and brave and somewhat dim, marched off to war in August 1914 and never really came back--- following d'Artagnan, who died for a social order that viewed him as scum at worst and cannon fodder at best. Heroes are a lot smarter and cynical now. James Bond is brave as hell, but you can't picture him shouldering his Lee-Enfield and marching over the wire into the German machine guns; and if you asked him to, he'd sneer at you.
My own fictional heroes possess above-average intelligence. I write science fiction, after all, a form of literature where in order to succeed a character has to be adroit at manipulating physical laws--- being a good wide receiver just won't cut it when the universe is at stake. My characters reason and ponder and sometimes connive their way to success. It's not that they don't have ideals--- at least some of them do--- but they're suspicious of anyone who appeals to their better natures. All my characters know better than to trust Tricky Dick. None of my characters are Special by nature in the way that Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter are Special--- if they're special at all, it's because they've worked hard at what they do.
(Of course, Harry and Luke are far more popular than any characters I've ever created. Readers seem to love Specialness in their heroes, whereas it makes me annoyed and suspicious: "Skywalker gets to sword-fight in the air and brilliantly fly fighter craft that he's never even trained on; whereas I have to practice these damn side kicks over and over.")
(And it has to be admitted that Harry Potter's Specialness gives him more grief and anguish than it ever gives him happiness and triumph.)
But on the fourth (or fifth, by now) hand, none of my characters possess Harry Potter's nobility. Harry would clearly sacrifice himself for his friends, for his school, even for strangers. With the possible exception of Gabriel in Aristoi, my characters would think long and hard before sacrificing themselves for anything so abstract as the moral tone of the universe, let alone the moral tone of their private academy.
Of course, I never asked them to. My characters have more mundane worries than moral tone. Generally they're happy if they survive without serious injury or maiming; and if they get a little loving on the side, it's a bonus.
But now I'm wondering about the nobility issue. Does nobility necessarily imply the willingness to unhesitatingly march into the guns at Passchendaele? Or can you be noble without being, well, a chump?
Examples, pro and con, are solicited.