Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter, their birthdays just a day apart, have many similarities that go beyond the fact that either could have been chosen to fulfill Trelawney’s prophecy. Both Neville and Harry grew up without parents, in the homes of families who were critical of them. Once at Hogwarts, they were both Hatstalls who were eventually sorted into Gryffindor. In Potions class, both were tormented by Professor Snape. In fact, it is quite easy to imagine how Neville could have completed the prophecy just as well as Harry had, if the situation had been reversed. Neville’s bumbling awkwardness and insecurity might have slipped away quite easily if, instead of being treated as incompetent, his family had raised him as The Boy Who Lived. Constantly challenged by Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, Neville could’ve discovered his latent bravery much earlier in his life.
As it is, however, Neville does not need a prophecy to discover the power that will help him defeat Voldemort. He eventually breaks out of his shell because he is motivated by much the same thing that Harry is: love. The biggest transformation we see in Neville is during the fifth book, when he learns that his parents’ torturer, Bellatrix Lestrange, broke out of Azkaban. Neville starts focusing particularly hard in Dumbledore’s Army, determined to fight Bellatrix Lestrange should they ever meet. Just like with Harry, Voldemort (and his supporters) hand Neville the weapons he needs to destroy them. Dumbledore say to Harry in the sixth book, “If Voldemort had never murdered your father, would he have imparted in you a furious desire for revenge? Of course not!…Don’t you see? Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do!” (HBP, Ch.23). Neville, just like Harry, is protected by his ability to love. He follows Harry to the Ministry of Magic to protect his friends and face Bellatrix Lestrange. Even more so than Harry, Neville faces temptations to join the Dark side because of his pure-blood status. In the seventh book, Neville takes over Dumbledore’s Army and fights the Carrows, despite the fact that the Death Eaters would have welcomed him into their ranks. In the end of the seventh, Voldemort offers for Neville to join the Death Eaters, and Neville replies, “I’ll join you when hell freezes over” (DH, Ch. 36). Neville is not foolhardy in his bravery; he is not reckless, nor does he pick out fights. He is brave when his love for his friends and his family, and his sense of justice, demand it.
Neville represents the combined power of both choice and fate in the series. He was not picked to fulfill Trelawney’s prophecy, and yet his fate ends up still being entwined with Voldemort, partly because of Voldemort’s cruelty, and partly because Neville himself chooses not to take the easy path.
Any favorite Neville quotes or moments in the series? I’d love to see your questions or comments!