More About Neville
by Amanda Fried
Neville Longbottom. As Harry Potter analysts, we can all agree that there is something special about Harry’s round, forgetful friend. J.K. Rowling does not introduce a main character for no reason, and Neville is no exception. We learned that he is an integral part of the septology, perhaps holding a vital key to secrets we are dying to know.
Many Potter analysts take for granted certain aspects of Neville’s role after OotP. We “know” that there is probably something buried deep within his memory that will eventually fill in a large plot gap. We know this because he has a bad memory and there are many references in the books that explain that a poor memory is a result of a previous memory charm being put on someone. Which leads us to what we don’t know-what is Neville’s memory hiding?
OotP gave us a few more clues. We were shown what happened to Neville’s parents and lamented that they were hit with the Cruciatus Curse. However, this only led to more questions that remain unanswered for the time being. Why were Neville’s parents tortured? Why would Crouch Jr. and the LeStranges assume they were the key to finding Voldemort? Is it the same reason that someone put a memory charm on Neville? More importantly, is Voldemort after Neville because of what he knows?
I argue yes, Neville knows something and Voldemort wants it kept hidden. In GoF, there is a subtle hint that took me about eight readings to uncover. In the chapter, “The Unforgivable Curses,” the fake Mad-Eye Moody takes it upon himself to teach the fourteen-year-olds the scariest curses there are. He demonstrates the Imperius Curse, which is amusing to the kids. He then demonstrates the Cruciatus Curse, which adversely affected Neville. Hermione had to yell at Moody to stop, because “Neville’s hands were clenched upon the desk in front of him, his knuckles white, his eyes wide and horrified” (GoF, 215). We now know why. Or do we?
We assume once we read OotP that it is because he is flashing back to when his parents were tortured if he was there, or at least imagining what it was like if he was not. However, what if his reaction was not only because he witnessed his parents’ torture, but because seeing the curse tapped into subconscious memories that were erased? Did the curse performed in front of him unlock the secret that is hidden in Neville’s mind?
If this is true, it creates a whole torrent of new questions-and answers. After the class, Neville is clearly shaken up. Harry, who had just witnessed the curse that killed his parents, is not even that frazzled. Neville says in an “unnaturally high voice” to Hermione, who noticed his odd mood, “Oh yes, I’m fine. Very interesting dinner-I mean lesson-what’s for eating?” It is not characteristic of Neville to mix up his words like that, especially in front of his closest friends. At that moment, instead of allowing Neville to answer his friends, the fake Moody sweeps him away in what seems like a caring gesture, but even dim-witted Neville thinks something is wrong. He “looked pleadingly” at his friends, like he did not want to go with his teacher. We later learn that Moody provided Neville with the Herbology book, which has a double meaning. Fake Moody planted it to help Harry win the tournament, but it raises a more important question-why does Moody know that Neville is good at Herbology? The answer is written for us-he spoke with Professor Sprout. But why? Do Hogwarts teachers routinely discuss students with each other? (GoF 218-220)
I think that fake Moody took Neville away from his friends in the nick of time. The curse triggered the memory that had been erased, which Voldemort wants hidden. It is most likely the secret for which the Longbottom parents were tortured and gave their sanity. Fake Moody had been doing research on Neville, under Voldemort’s orders, to ensure that whatever is in his head does not leak out. He realized what the curse had done to Neville and ushered him off to his office to “readjust” Neville’s memory.
The final question that this episode raises occurs back in the first chapter of GoF. Voldemort, addressing Wormtail, declares, “One more murder…Harry Potter is as good as mine.” Who were they planning to kill? They weren’t planning to kill Crouch or Cedric, so who was it? It is a question that has always plagued me. Could it be Neville?
Recap: Neville’s memory had been modified because he knows something of value to Voldemort and when he saw the Cruciatus Curse performed on the spider, it was triggered in his subconscious. Fake Moody knew about it and re-modified Neville’s memory when it looked like he might spill. Also, who was supposed to die in Voldemort’s plan and could it have been our beloved Neville Longbottom?