Neville Longbottom: The Other Chosen One
by David Haber
On the night that Sirius d, after the battle at the Ministry of Magic at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore showed Harry, with the aid of his pensieve, the complete Lost Prophecy:
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month s... and the Dark Lord mark him as his equal, but he have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord be born as the seventh month s..." (OotP pg 841/741)
As Harry comes to the realization that the prophecy is about himself, Dumbledore tells him, and us:
"The odd thing is, Harry," he said softly, "that it may not have meant you at all. Sibyll's prophecy could have applied to two wizard boys, both 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." (OotP pg 842/742)
When Harry asks Dumbledore, then could it have meant Neville instead of him, Dumbledore says it could only refer to him, and reminds him of the second half of the prophecy, that Voldemort would mark the boy as his equal.
We've seen before that when J.K. brings up some bit of information but then abruptly changes the subject, that bit of information later turns out to be very important. In this case, why does Dumbledore even bother to mention to Harry that the prophecy COULD have referred to Neville, when he immediately turned around and tells Harry that there's no doubt that it doesn't?
Later, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry wonders to himself about this again:
Had Voldemort chosen Neville, it would be Neville sitting opposite Harry bearing the lightning-shaped scar and the weight of the prophecy. . . . Or would it? Would Neville's mother have d to save him, as Lily had d for Harry? Surely she would. . . . But what if she had been unable to stand between her son and Voldemort? Would there then have been no "Chosen One" at all? An empty seat where Neville now sat and a scarless Harry who would have been kissed good-bye by his own mother, not Ron's? (HBP pg 139/133)
We know, of course, that this isn't the first time a shadow of doubt is cast over Neville Longbottom. We've known there was something "different" about him, ever since we saw him for the very first time in the first book:
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... (PS/SS pg. 120/90)
What made Neville such a tough case for the sorting hat? Did he have qualities that made him suited for more than one house? Or was something else different about Neville, something that prevented the sorting hat from looking into his mind?
A few pages later, while the kids are introducing themselves and what kind of households they came from, Neville tells us:
"Well, my Gran brought me up and she's a witch," said Neville, "but the family thought I was all-Muggle for ages. My Great Uncle Algie kept trying to catch me off my guard and force some magic out of me -- he pushed me off the end of Blackpool pier once, I nearly drowned -- but nothing happened until I was eight, Great Uncle Algie came round for dinner, and he was hanging me out of an upstairs window by the ankles when my Great Aunt Enid offered him a meringue and he accidentally let go. But I bounced -- all the way down the garden and into the road. They were all really pleased, Gran was crying, she was so happy." (PS/SS pg 125/93)
Interesting situation isn't it? Neville's Grandmother seemed content with her grandson's lack of magical ability. It was his Grand Uncle (his Gran's brother or perhaps brother-in-law) which did not seem to accept Neville's apparent lack of magical ability, trying to coax it out whenever possible.
We know there are squibs in the Wizarding community, but we have to assume that is because of intermarriage with Muggles, the results of which can be offspring with varying degrees of magical ability. But this cannot account for Neville, because, as we learn for sure in Chamber of Secrets, Neville is pure-blood. In the scene in which Ron is coughing up slugs, he's explaining the meaning of mudblood and pure-blood:
"I mean, the rest of us know it doesn't make any difference at all. Look at Neville Longbottom -- he's a pure-blood and he can hardly stand a cauldron the right way up." (Cos pg 116/89)
What if Neville's lack of magical ability was being artificially inhibited? Is it possible Neville is under some kind of long-term spell, perhaps to keep him from remembering something? But was the spell put on him by his Gran to protect him, or by others to assure his silence about something? When Great Uncle Algie finally proves Neville has magical ability, Neville says his Gran cried. He assumes it was from happiness. But what if revealing Neville's magical powers ruined some plan of his Gran's to prevent that?
Later in the first book, we see Neville receive his package from home:
"It's a Remembrall!" he explained. "Gran knows I forget things -- this tells you if there's something you've forgotten to do. Look, you hold it tight like this and if it turns red -- Oh ..." His face fell, because the Remembrall had suddenly glowed scarlet, "...you've forgotten something..." (PS/SS pg 145/108)
Interesting, isn't it, that we never find out exactly what Neville forgot. What if there wasn't anything specific? What if the Remembrall turned red immediately when he held it because there was something big he had forgotten, because of a spell put on him to forget it?
There are, of course, lots of other examples of J.K. Rowling pointing out that Neville had trouble remembering things:
"Coming through, coming through!" Percy called from behind the crowd. "The new password's 'Fortuna Major'!" "Oh, no," said Neville Longbottom sadly. He always had trouble remembering the passwords. (PoA pg 95/74)
Of course, if he's under a spell to forget something, it's undoubtedly related to what happened to his parents. When (the fake) Mad-Eye Moody confronts Neville in his class with the Cruciatus curse, it very clearly affects him. But it doesn't make him sad or upset, as we would suspect if he's remembering his poor parents. It just appears to scramble his brain a bit. Later, after the class, Harry asks Neville if he's alright, and Neville replies:
"Oh yes, I'm fine," Neville gabbled in the same unnaturally high voice. "Very interesting dinner -- I mean lesson -- what's for eating?" (GoF pg 218/193)
If he were simply repressing the bad memory of his parents, we'd expect him to be morose, or depressed. But instead, his reactions are just strange. These could be side-effects of the spell put on him to make him forget. He doesn't react like a normal person, because his memories have been tampered with. Neville's other obvious personality traits, his clumsiness and forgetfulness, are likely also side-effects of this spell.
And, like other people we've seen under a long-term spell, Neville seems to be coming out his forgetfulness and awkwardness, a little at a time. The first glimpse of this is in Order of the Phoenix, when they are all waiting outside of Snape's classroom, and Draco is running his mouth:
"And as for Potter...My father says it's a matter of time before the Ministry has him carted off to St. Mungo's...apparently they've got a special ward for people whose brains have been addled by magic..." Malfoy made a grotesque face, his mouth sagging open and his eyes rolling. Crabbe and Goyle gave their usual grunts of laughter, Pansy Parkinson shrieked with glee. Something collided hard with Harry's shoulder, knocking him sideways. A split second later he realised that Neville had just charged past him, heading straight for Malfoy. "Neville, no!" Neville struggled frantically, his fists flailing, trying desperately to get at Malfoy who looked, for a moment, extremely shocked. ... Neville's face was scarlet; the pressure Harry was exerting on his throat rendered him quite incomprehensible, but odd words spluttered from his mouth. "Not...funny...don't...Mungo's...show...him..." (OotP pg 361/321)
Neville comes out of his shell in Order of the Phoenix
Of course, through the course of Order of the Phoenix, we see Neville grow up a lot, joining Dumbledore's Army, finally finding the confidence to do magic, and showing great bravery by joining Harry in trying to save Sirius at the Ministry of Magic.
How much does Neville know about the day his parents were attacked by the Eaters? He couldn't have been that much older than a year old when it happened, Dumbledore tells us in Goblet of Fire:
"The Longbottoms were very popular," said Dumbledore. "The attacks on them came after Voldemort's fall from power, just when everyone thought they were safe." (GoF pg 603/524)
We do know he knows the circumstances of his parent's fate, however. Later in Order of the Phoenix, he acknowledges he knows who was responsible for putting his parents in St. Mungo's:
"Longbottom?" repeated Bellatrix, and a truly evil smile lit her gaunt face. "Why, I have had the pleasure of meeting your parents, boy..." "I DOE YOU HAB!" roared Neville... (OotP pg 800/706)
So, if he was under a spell to forget, perhaps a spell to spare him from remembering such painful details of his parents being tortured, he seems to be slowly coming out of it in the course of the last few books. But what if that's not what the spell is preventing him from remembering? What if something else happened during the time that Neville witnessed those awful events that somebody doesn't want anyone to know?
Which brings us back to the prophecy, and why Dumbledore brings him up in relation to it, and then totally dismisses it in the next breath. Does Neville still have a great role to play in the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy?
It's ironic, isn't it, that Neville, himself, is the one who is responsible for the Ministry copy of the prophecy being destroyed:
He gave another stupendous heave and Neville's robes tore all along the left seam --- the small spun-glass ball dropped from his pocket and before either of them could catch it, one of Neville's floundering feet kicked it. It flew some ten feet to their right and smashed on the step beneath them. (OotP pg 804/709)
If the Ministry copy of the prophecy had not been destroyed, is it possible that Neville could have found out that he could have been the other Chosen One? Who could it be possibly be that wouldn't want Neville to know that? Who wouldn't want the rest of the Wizarding world to know that?
There's one more very ominous clue in the books that concerns Neville. In Prisoner of Azkaban, after Harry had learned what the Wizards thought was the truth about Sirius having had betrayed the Potters, Harry is laying in bed trying to sleep, and this image comes to him:
He watched, as though somebody was playing him a piece of film, Sirius Black blasting Peter Pettigrew (who resembled Neville Longbotton) into a thousand pieces. (PoA pg 213/158)
Harry had to make up an image of Pettigrew from the description he overheard from McGonagall, as he hadn't yet met Peter. But, isn't it ominous that in Harry's father day, there was James, Sirius, Lupin, and Pettigrew, a steadfast trio and sort of a hanger-on:
"Pettigrew... that fat little boy who was always tagging around after them at Hogwarts?" said Madam Rosmerta. "Hero-worshipped Black and Potter," said Professor McGonagall. "Never quite in their league, talent-wise." (PoA pg 207/154)
And now, we have the steadfast trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione, with the addition of the not-so-talented Neville. I know it seems unthinkable, but does this mean perhaps that, given the proper circumstances, Neville could betray our heroes, as Wormtail betrayed the Marauders?
One thing is for sure, Neville is as connected with the prophecy as Harry is. How that affects him and Harry still remains to be seen.
Is Neville, not Harry, the one with power the Dark Lord knows not? Is Neville, not Harry, the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord? If he is, who doesn't want us, or him, to know that?
Published May 28, 2007
This article is Copyright © 2007, David Haber, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission