(This article is not an endorsement of J. K. Rowling’s transphobic views. Please respect and support trans people)
Since Harry Potter is clearly the hero of Harry Potter, we spend a lot of time following him, admiring his deeds and the deeds of those closest to him. What this means is that a lot of the heroics we were exposed to were of a very specific type. Harry, in my opinion, is reckless and usually fairly loud about what he’s doing (or maybe he just feels loud because he’s the narrator, or because people are constantly focused on him), so other characters feel distant in comparison.
Even though he often seems to exist as a joke, Neville’s actions, from his adventures tagging along with Harry to how he seems to go about his life, are impressive and he manages to do most of it while other people constantly underestimate him. Since July 30th is Neville’s birthday, it feels like a wonderful time to sing Neville’s praises. Here are some of the reasons Neville is awesome:
Faced Adversity at a Young Age
A lot of terrible events occurred in Harry Potter, especially towards the end. For Neville, losing his parents at a young age must have been horrible. Is the fact that he stayed quiet about it admirable? Mental health is complicated and the best approach depends on the person, but what I do know is that Neville grew up knowing how terrible the world could be from a young age and was still brave enough to face it, and even to oppose the very people that caused his pain in the first place.
Stood Up to Hermione and Peer Pressure, Two Frightening Forces
I agree with Dumbledore that Neville deserved recognition for trying to dissuade Harry, Ron, and Hermione from sneaking out, even if his efforts would have caused Voldemort to rise. His ability to go against peer pressure is also admirable. Imagine a celebrity, the smartest person in your year, and some other guy whose family is in important positions in the school were going to do something that was against the rules and that their actions wouldn’t affect you expect that your organization would lose a reward-less competition. Neville really goes out of his way to defend the honor of Gryffindor, revealing himself early on as the type of person who isn’t afraid to do what’s best for everyone even if there’s very little chance he’s not going to suffer some sort of consequence for it.
followed harry to the Department of Mysteries
Would you go with your sort-of-friends, a group of teenagers, to break into a government building and rescue a man who you were pretty sure was a murderer not long before you began the operation? I definitely would not. And yet Neville has enough trust in his friends that he believes in what they’re doing and goes to help them despite the consequences. On this journey, he encounters the horrors of the Department of Mysteries and comes face to face with one of the people that tortured his parents. Despite this, he does not appear to receive a therapeutic session of throwing things with Dumbledore even though he definitely deserves one (they all do).
Made it Through School Despite Struggling Some
If I remember correctly, I think potions is probably Neville’s worst class (probably largely because of Snape being horrible), but I seem to recall that he wasn’t winning any best student awards. However, he goes and becomes a professor as well as seems to succeed in his classes as far as we can tell. Hermione being ridiculously smart is impressive, but hard work is also impressive (something, I have to say, that applies to Hermione as well), and from the little we see of Neville it seems that that is something he’s quite capable of.
Survived Hogwarts Seemingly With Little Help
Harry has Ron and Hermione, Dean and Seamus are close, and Lavender and Parvati seem to be best friends, so who does Neville spend time with? Something I’ve learned especially from the pandemic is that it’s hard to exist without having close friends to support you, especially when you’re putting a lot of effort into school or work or just feeling down. Perhaps Neville had people he spent most of his time with that were completely ignored, but considering the way people talk about him (Ginny admitting that she’s taking him to the Yule Ball comes to mind), it doesn’t seem like it? I’m impressed that he made it through Hogwarts and everything that came with it with seemingly very little support.
Endured Torture to Protect Others
This one is fairly self-explanatory. I could not imagine going through something like that and am curious about how many people Neville and the others managed to protect from harm in their efforts.
Murdered a Gigantic Snake
I like snakes quite a bit, so there’s a part of me that feels bad that Nagini was killed, but then I remind myself that she was evil and killed a large number of humans and I feel less bad. I think this is supposed to be Neville’s moment of triumph, but I find it somewhat lacking in comparison with everything he did for Hogwarts in the year leading up to it.
Probably a Great Professor
Considering everything Neville went through, from struggling through potions with a teacher that threatened him to him working hard to protect others, I feel like Neville has the potential to be one of the kindest, most effective teachers at Hogwarts. Unless, of course, he internalized that everything that happened to him was normal and continued on in a system that normalizes bullying and the punishment of students who aren’t doing well, but let’s hope that that is not the case.
Even if Neville eventually becomes a hero, I still feel somewhat negatively towards how he’s treated in the earlier books. What’s supposed to be an underdog story feels a bit like an excuse to make fun of a kid who is neither popular nor unpopular in the right ways. I have to wonder sometimes whether Neville would have just been forgotten if he hadn’t had his several brave moments throughout the books. I feel a little silly listing his qualities, I admit, because I feel like he should be worthy of respect even without them. Stories where people go through trials to earn respect, where the they have to jump through hoops to earn the tiniest bit of recognition, feel wrong to me. So let’s take the time to admire how brave and wonderful Neville is, but also to hope that the next Neville to grace Hogwarts doesn’t have to be laughed at anymore, even if they live a peaceful existence where they never need to stand up to groups of murderers.
featured image via syfy wire