This extremely long recess from blogging has its own reasons; laziness and procrastination being the chief ones, apart from the quagmire of frustrating non-creativity I have somehow found myself trapped in.
With due apologies (to anyone who would take them), I pull myself out of the mire with all the effort I can muster and present to you the 4th character analysis in my series: Neville Longbottom, the boy who is often underrated, taunted for his magical ineptitude and tormented by the memory of his tortured parents; but whose understanding of loyalty, courage and friendship (not to mention Herbology) is second to none.
Let us now buckle up for a journey through Neville’s life at Hogwarts, along with some interesting facts about his present life.
We are introduced to him in the Philosopher’s Stone by Hermione, who enquires of Harry and Ron the whereabouts of Trevor, Neville’s rather dodgy toad on the Hogwarts Express. The very first description of him gives us an impression of a clumsy, forgetful boy who has trouble with accomplishing even the most trivial tasks.
When Neville Longbottom, the boy who kept losing his toad, was called, he fell over on his way to the stool. The hat took a long time to decide with Neville. When it finally shouted, “GRYFFINDOR,” Neville ran off still wearing it, and had to jog back amid gales of laughter…
(The Sorting Episode, Hogwarts, 1991)
His first year is mostly spent in bearing sarcastic remarks and taunts from people around him (especially Draco Malfoy), struggling to cope with classes and, I must add, forgetting common room passwords. His lack of confidence in himself, coupled with the discouragement he was subjected to from his peers and teachers (Snape gets a special mention here) is what, I think, suppressed the magical talent in him. Towards the end of the year, however, Neville loses his inhibitions to a small extent and stands up to Harry, Ron and Hermione, (who were then out on an excursion to save the Philosopher’s Stone, while breaking rules). He is, however, put under a full Body-Bind curse by Hermione, for there were far more important things at stake than losing house-points. Nevertheless, even Dumbledore deemed it fit to reward Neville for his confidence and Gryffindor is awarded ten full points for Neville’s (however small) act of bravery, leading to a victory for the house.
‘There are all kinds of courage,’ said Dumbledore, smiling. ‘It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Mr Neville Longbottom.’
(End of the Year Feast, Hogwarts, 1991)
Although I should think one must give credit to Neville’s attempts to do better, he never so much as ‘gets over’ his inferiority in the next couple of years. Only in the Goblet of Fire, when Mad-Eye Moody takes a class for the fourth-years on the Unforgivable Curses, does he realise that it was time for him to shed his cowardice. Surprisingly, he also asks Hermione to go with him to the Yule Ball, and when she refuses, he goes with Ginny. This shows that he was slowly beginning to break out of his sphere of shyness. In the same book, Harry gets to know, from Dumbledore’s Pensieve, that Neville’s parents had been tortured into insanity by the Lestranges, and that this was the reason behind his strange reaction to the Cruciatus Curse in Moody’s class. This fact more than suffices to demonstrate that he was immensely strong inside (emotionally, if not magically); having parents who are alive but don’t recognise you, is exceedingly painful, even for the imagination.
As time passes, Neville becomes more confident and works harder than ever before, especially in his fifth year. When Harry decides to set up the Dumbledore’s Army, Neville gets highly enthusiastic about regular classes and learning more defences. His triumph at performing a Disarming Charm against Harry himself, gives him a great impetus and encouragement.
‘Expelliarmus!’ said Neville, and Harry, caught unawares, felt his wand fly out of his hand.
‘I DID IT!’ said Neville gleefully. ‘I’ve never done it before – I DID IT!’
Also, he masters all the spells taught at the DA with an ever-quickening pace and increased confidence, what with the Death Eaters who tortured his parents running on the loose. More notably, most of his friends are made aware of his parents’ condition when they come to visit Arthur Weasley recovering from a snake attack at St. Mungo’s, and Neville no longer seems to be ashamed of disclosing it to people.
When Harry is lured into the Department of Mysteries by Voldemort, who uses Sirius as his bait, Neville insists on accompanying the trio to the Ministry of Magic, knowing very well that he was shoving his life into grave danger. Ginny and Luna fight at the Battle of Department of Mysteries too, garnering all their efforts to save Sybill Trelawney’s prophecy and while Neville puts up a brave resistance against all the Death Eaters, and confronts Bellatrix boldly, under the effect of a curse, he accidentally kicks the prophecy and it shatters, leaving its contents a mystery.
Fortunately, Dumbledore, witness to the prophecy when it was made, has it in his memory, and in a trip down the Pensieve, Harry is enlightened of the full terms of the Great Prophecy; that he is the Chosen One and ‘neither can live while the other survives’. One startlingly unusual revelation that is made here is that Neville could equally well have been the Chosen One, for his birth circumstances fulfilled the terms of the prophecy, but Harry was marked by Voldemort as his equal, which changed things.
Here’s an excerpt from the Order of the Phoenix, where Dumbledore speaks with Harry.
‘… the person who has the only chance of conquering Lord Voldemort for good was born at the end of July, nearly sixteen years ago. This boy would be born to parents who had already defied Voldemort three times.’
‘It means – me?’
‘The odd thing is, Harry,’ he said softly, ‘that it may not have meant you at all. Sybill’s prophecy could have applied to two wizard boys, born at the end of July that year, both of whom had parents in the Order of the Phoenix, both sets of parents having narrowly escaped Voldemort three times. One, of course, was you. The other was Neville Longbottom.’
We do not know, of course, if Neville was aware of this, but surely, the Sorting Hat took an unusually long time to sort him, just like it did for Harry, which means it knew something about this round-faced boy and his destiny.
In his next two years at Hogwarts, Neville transforms into a much more courageous and daring wizard, and keeps the DA alive when the trio is away finding horcruxes. He strongly defies the Death Eater professors at Hogwarts, bearing a lot of physical and emotional harm in the process. He leads the DA, and during the initial stages of the Battle of Hogwarts, he finds a secret passage out of the Room of Requirement and makes it a hideout for all members of the Order of the Phoenix. His presence of mind and responsible behaviour must not go unnoticed here. His fights valiantly in the battle and nurses the dead and wounded, in a manner that would never have been expected of him. As Harry finally learns of the sacrifice he must make, he confides in Neville of the task of killing Nagini (the sixth horcrux), which he carries out at his very first opportunity. When Voldemort arrives from the Forbidden Forest, with an apparently dead Harry, and threatens the crowd to join the Dark Side, he charges at Voldemort and opposes him, breaking out of the silencing charm that was cast and showing remarkable spirit and bravery, following which he slices off Nagini’s head using Gryffindor’s sword.
‘I’ll join you when hell freezes over,’ said Neville.’Dumbledore’s Army!’ he shouted, and there was an answering cheer from the crowd, whom Voldemort’s silencing charms seemed unable to hold.
The battle ends soon after, and Voldemort is killed by Harry, but one must remember the crucial part Neville had to play in it and how responsibly he played it, for he is a role model to all those people who have a lot of potential in them but do not realise their capabilities.
Neville later married Hannah Abbott, and though he trained as an Auror initially, owing to his interest and efficiency in Herbology he later became the Herbology Professor at Hogwarts, and works there till today.
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