The Phoenix Files #8: Neville Longbottom

By Christopher Stephen

Hey everyone! Thanks so much for the amazing Dumbledore submissions. There were over fifteen submitted for only three spots, so only the very best were chosen! Congrats to those who were, and those who weren’t. I’m going to give you TWO more chances: I’m opening up both Folder #3 (Rita Skeeter) and Folder #4 (Seamus Finnigan) this week!! If you have some ideas about either of these characters (and, especially, their futures in the series), feel free to send them in editorial format. Don’t forget to send your editorials to me at christopherstephened at hotmail dot com. Submissions are due this Friday, the 20th, at midnight CST. Be sure they expand upon or differ from my own Files, or they won’t get published. Now, start writing! Good luck!

I hope you all have built up your stamina in reading the past few Files, because this one is going to be a long one! I believe the only characters who could possibly have longer Files would be Snape and Harry himself. Unfortunately, that’s why it’s taken me so long to write/publish this one. Sorry, I hope it was worth the wait!!

There are quite a few areas I wish to cover with Neville, including (chronologically):

  • Trevor the toad
  • Gran
  • Great Uncle Algie
  • Forgetfulness/Clumsiness
  • Why Gryffindor?
  • The boggart
  • Mimbulus mimbletonia
  • Parents
  • Thestrals
  • Wand
  • Oh yeah, the prophecy

So grab your books, a quill and some spare parchment, because we’re diving into Neville Longbottom’s past, present, and future!

The first thing we ever hear about Neville comes, appropriately, in Book One, when we hear Neville telling his Gran on the platform that he has lost his toad. We meet Neville himself later on the Hogwarts Express, when he comes into Harry and Ron’s compartment. Finally, Hermione comes in and states, “Has anyone seen a toad? A boy named Neville’s lost one.” Obviously, this is our first introduction to Hermione as well, but it seems interesting to me that we hear Neville’s name before Hermione’s. The point that we know about Neville and his missing toad (THREE TIMES!) well before we know the name or even have heard of a major character like Hermione is very interesting and must be important.Why is Hermione so interested in helping Neville at this point in the series, anyway? She knows nobody (as a Muggle-born); was Neville the first person to be kind to her? Obviously, there is much more to Trevor than we realize. He is constantly being mentioned throughout Book One, and then we seem to totally forget he even exists after that (thanks, Jo). He’s only mentioned twice (that I can find) in the nearly 1,000 pages that comprise Book Five, and it is just in passing on the train to school. Is this intentional? I hate to constantly be bringing other fans’ viewpoints into my column, but Galadriel Waters said it perfectly when she wrote that Trevor was a bit too close to Hagrid’s chicken coop for us to be comfortable. I couldn’t agree more. Still confused? Think of something big and slimy with a look that would kill, then consult your copy of Fantastic Beasts. (You do have one, don’t you? The money goes to charity.) That’s right, Trevor could have VERY big potential in the future of the series, which is why we really hope Neville keeps a better eye on him (if he hasn’t already performed his duty). We also learn from Neville that his Great Uncle Algie gave him Trevor as a gift for getting into Hogwarts. There is more on Algie to come.

Neville’s Gran is on TPF’s chopping block. His grandmother has the potential to be an extremely important character in the series because of her ability to shape Neville and his views. Is she working on our side, or not? Much doubt has been placed in this respect, but I believe she is either neutral in the great war or will join Voldemort’s side. I could be totally wrong, but the comment that got me was when Neville is talking to Seamus in the dorm room after the Sorting Feast and says, “We believe Harry…Gran always said Voldemort would come back…If Dumbledore says he’s back, he’s back.” That quote alone would support Gran’s Voldemort connection (how many people really believed he would return? Even some of his own followers thought he was gone for good), but Neville also says they cancelled their subscription to the Daily Prophet because she knows Dumbledore’s not losing his marbles. If she was working for Voldemort, wouldn’t she want Neville to believe all the things the Prophet was writing? Hmm…there’s even more. In PoA, Neville says to Lupin that he doesn’t want his boggart to turn into his grandmother, either. You must admit, she is quite intimidating. If any of you have seen Finding Neverland, I see Neville’s grandmother exactly like Peter’s grandmother in that film – firmly in control of every situation, and very well-to-do. Neville’s Gran always seems so proud of her son, but not so much of Neville. At St. Mungo’s, she says, “He’s a good boy…but he hasn’t got his father’s talent, I’m afraid to say…” When she meets Harry in the closed ward, she states, “Ah, yes…yes, yes, I know who you are, of course. Neville speaks most highly of you…And you two are clearly Weasleys.” Does this remind you of any other encounter? It seems to me this is quite similar to Lucius Malfoy’s introduction to Harry and the others in Flourish and Blotts in CoS. Mrs. Longbottom also looks “closely at Harry” when she introduces herself. Even though she sticks up for her son and daughter-in-law, she only speaks of them because they were “very well respected within the Wizarding community.” Perhaps she thinks Neville should be “proud” because they were chosen to be important enough to be tortured by Death Eaters instead of “proud” because they stood up to Voldemort. Jo is extremely careful with her wording. Unfortunately, we just don’t know enough about her yet to know whether she is on our side or not. What we do know, however, if we re-read that passage, is that there are multiple royal clues in the passage. Neville’s grandmother says things “graciously, bearing down upon them all.” Neville has a “dull purple flush” creeping up his face – purple is the color of royalty. She proffers her hand “regally” to Ron and Ginny. Is it possible someone in the Longbottom family could be the Half-Blood Prince? (Frankly, I’m thinking Dad.) No matter what, keeping an eye on Neville’s Gran is extremely important (do we even know her name?); while it at first seems as though she is definitely on Dumbledore’s side, we can’t be sure. We can only hope…

Gran isn’t the only relative of Neville’s with questionable motives. In fact, it’s quite possible Gran is on the good side, but it’s much more likely that his Great Uncle Algie is working for the Dark Side in some way. A great-uncle is a person who would be the brother of a grandparent; it is therefore possible that Great Uncle Algie is Neville’s Gran’s brother. Algie is a clear play on the word algae, which is a type of sea plant. That’s nice, because that’s what Neville’s interested in, right? We do know that he is magical, because he was constantly trying to force magic out of Neville, pushing him off Blackpool pier (isn’t that a site of a real-life British amusement park—Blackpool Pleasure Beach or something? Any connections there?), and Neville said he nearly drowned. But when Neville was eight years old, Uncle Algie was hanging him out of an upstairs window by the ankles “when Great Auntie 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. And you should have seen their faces when I got in here – they thought I might not be magic enough to come, you see. Great Uncle Algie was so pleased he bought me my toad.” So states Neville at the Opening Feast of Book One. It seems to me Uncle Algie was attempting to kill Neville instead of force magic out of him. It’s also possible Neville didn’t understand the real reason why Gran was crying, either. “And you should have seen their faces” – were they really proud, as Neville believes, or were they shocked and alarmed? Is it possible they didn’t want him to become a fully-trained wizard? So Algie bought Neville Trevor, and we all know from Hagrid that toads are no longer cool (Book One). But that’s not the only “gift” Neville’s received from Algie. For his birthday, he received Mimbulus mimbletonia, which is supposed to be a Latin genus and species, or scientific name, for a plant. Thus, this plant would belong to the mimbulus genus. Neville states that it is “really, really rare,” saying Algie got it “in Assyria.” Isn’t there an Assyrian Shrivelfig in a Hogwarts greenhouse? Anyway, more on this mysterious plant later (see #7), but we have reason to believe it is not a good thing that Neville has this plant, so the fact that Uncle Algie gave it to him (as well as his other “gift” of Trevor and constantly trying to kill him when he was young) puts him under great suspicion.

Neville is also extremely forgetful. He’s constantly forgetting about the trick stairs in Hogwarts staircases, forgetting Gryffindor tower passwords, and other important information. We are consistently reminded of his forgetfulness, so many (including Ms. Waters) have conjectured that this forgetfulness is the result of a Memory Charm placed upon him after his parents were tortured. If so, he could know extremely important information about Bellatrix as well as other people there the night his parents were attacked; and if that could somehow be retrieved without permanently damaging Neville more, it could prove extremely useful to the Order and DA. I believe this is a very good theory, but it’s quite possible that he is just forgetful, as well. For instance, in OotP, he seems to be getting much better at remembering important things (including spells in the Department of Mysteries, even though they were ineffective). In the films (and in the books), he is portrayed as awkward and clumsy. This is similar to Tonks (I wonder if they’ve met), and could end up being detrimental. Then again, this forgetfulness/clumsiness can also end up being beneficial through a stroke of luck or something similar. I can just see Lupin battling Bellatrix in Book Six when Neville trips and knocks over a bucket of a vanishing potion, making Lupin invisible or something.

Another important question about Neville that hasn’t been totally answered: why was he placed into Gryffindor instead of Hufflepuff? After all, Hufflepuffs are loyal (see the episode with Seamus in the dorm room; Neville was certainly loyal then), and Neville loves Herbology, Professor Sprout’s subject (though this doesn’t matter much). Perhaps the best examples of why he belongs in Gryffindor came during Books One and Five. In PS/SS, he shows a “great deal more” courage by standing up to his friends, and in the Department of Mysteries, he shows his true colors by fighting the Death Eaters in every capacity possible even while injured. Thus, Neville definitely deserves to be in Gryffindor, which we already thought because the Sorting Hat itself tells us it’s “never yet been wrong” (though you’re never to take anyone’s or anything’s word for it in the series). Still, one cannot help but think he might fit in more in Hufflepuff. Since now we know about the contents of the prophecy, his bravery may need to come into play in the last two books.

Neville’s boggart is Professor Snape. Why? Why is he more afraid of Snape than anything else in the entire world? It is true he is constantly cruel and malicious to Neville, but Neville’s more scared of Snape than anything, which I can only assume would include Death Eaters (or perhaps his boggart has changed since the episode in the Department of Mysteries). Is it possible Neville knows something about Snape that we don’t, or is his fear based solely upon what we already know of him? This is a pretty minor point because I’m not sure how it will have a future impact in the series, so I’m not going to spend much time on it. I just wanted to bring it up as something to think about. Could Neville have walked in on Snape doing something that scared him?

Now, the real reason this File was created: Mimbulus mimbletonia. Apparently there is a real flower called the Mimulus, which grows abundantly in the University of Exeter campus (where Jo has some history, according to Waters), and that it is called the “monkey flower.” If you place together all the clues in Book Five, that is extremely important. Waters points out that Ginny gets Stinksap in her hair, Neville got it in his eyes, while Harry got it in his mouth. There’s a particularly famous picture of three monkeys. One has its hands over its ears, and is the “Hear no” monkey, another has its hands over its eyes, and is the “See no” monkey, and the third has its hands over its mouth, and is the “Speak no” monkey. Those who are familiar with this picture know that they are the “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkeys. Thus, since the plant is the monkey flower and spurted Stinksap in such a way that Ginny, Neville, and Harry looked like these monkeys while attempting to cleanse themselves, the one missing word from the action of Neville’s plant is evil. Is it possible Neville’s plant itself is evil, or just that Algie, who gave it to him, is? It’s clear that Jo wants us to recall the plant throughout the book, because it is constantly mentioned, and it is the Gryffindor password throughout the year (the only year it doesn’t change at all throughout the book). In case that wasn’t enough information about the potential of potted plants, Broderick Bode gets murdered by his “gift” plant of Devil’s Snare. And don’t forget that the huge statue of Slytherin in CoS was described as “monkeyish.” Obviously, this “monkey flower” plant has much potential. It is described as a stubby gray cactus with boils instead of spines. I don’t like Neville’s new plant. Worse, Neville seems to LOVE his new plant. Is it possible it could be used to be spying on Neville or Harry? What exactly is its function? Why does Neville want to breed from it? Ahhh – too many questions, not enough answers!! I suppose that’s what Book Six is for…

Neville’s parents, Frank and Alice Longbottom, are possibly the saddest story in the entire series. I didn’t cry when I read about the final function of the veil in the Department of Mysteries, but I did cry when Alice Longbottom gave her son a gum wrapper. It is so sad! Now, I’m positive there’s more to those wrappers than Neville’s Gran understands, and it’s possible that Neville does understand their function, because he doesn’t just trash them as his grandmother tells him to. Apparently, Neville’s received quite a few of them. I wonder if they can help him get his memory back… Don’t count on the Longbottoms recovering quickly if they remain in St. Mungo’s, however; it’s probably under Death Eater influence (Malfoy’s donation to St. Mungo’s in GoF, anyone?), and they could even be controlling the type of treatment the patients are receiving. Perhaps those in charge of the Longbottoms are making sure they don’t recover. Recall Bode died on that same witch’s watch. But I digress. Neville’s parents, both Aurors, were extremely accomplished wizards. They were probably outnumbered at their home (or wherever they were attacked by Bellatrix), and that is probably why they could not defend themselves more effectively. We do not know how many Death Eaters they captured or took, er, “out of commission” prior to that episode; just that they had “thrice defied” Voldemort. Why would the Death Eaters choose to go after them? Did Voldemort send them simply because of the prophecy, or was there another reason (other than the Auror thing, hehe) the Longbottoms were targeted?

The thestrals are another interesting point about Neville. He can see them. Why? He didn’t see his parents die. Who did he see die? Had he known they had been pulling the carriages all along, or was there something that happened since they all arrived at Hogwarts that we do not know about yet? Or perhaps he witnessed another death, and that is why he has the suggested Memory Charm (not, as everyone believes, because he witnessed his parents get tortured). I believe it is highly significant if he has witnessed a death since he’s started coming to Hogwarts. Who would it have been? When would it have happened? We know there are many ways in the wizarding world to impersonate someone; is it possible Neville is one of the only people who knows this person died and is being impersonated by another? Finally, on a related note, he and Ginny stood transfixed at the veil in the Department of Mysteries, while Harry and Luna were drawn toward it. Why is this? Ginny cannot see thestrals, so why should she be transfixed by the veil? Why isn’t Neville drawn toward it like Harry and Luna? More questions about the dead…

Neville’s wand broke in the Department of Mysteries. After watching his improvement in the DA with his father’s wand, it will be extremely interesting to see how quickly he can learn in HBP and beyond. It is possible he will become more powerful than Hermione (if only he can remember the spells). He definitely has a family history of great wizards and witches, so there should be quite a bit of magical potential in him! Mr. Ollivander says that you never get the best results with another person’s wand, so Neville will finally reach his full potential toward the end of HBP. Perhaps McGonagall will even notice that his Transfiguration has improved? Let’s just hope that Great Uncle Algie doesn’t volunteer to buy Neville’s wand for him. In fact, I’d be even more comfortable if Neville went to Ollivander’s without his Gran, but I highly doubt that’s going to happen. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how it pans out.

The prophecy that changed everything drew a huge parallel between Harry and Neville. I’ve already decided to speak on the prophecy subject, and I’ve received quite a few e-mails from people who agree that Neville could still be “The One,” and quite a few more from people who believe we’re totally nuts. There have been multiple readings of the prophecy, but perhaps the one I like the best is that which interprets “the other” as a third person in the prophecy every time it is read. Perhaps this “other” is either Harry or Neville, and “The One” to whom the prophecy refers with the power to vanquish Voldemort is either Harry or Neville! If that is true, then it’s quite possible that both Harry and Neville will have a major hand in the downfall of Voldemort (which will hopefully happen eventually, hehe).

Well, I believe I’ve addressed Neville’s future in the series above in each section. It’s clear that he has the potential to be a major factor in the prophecy, his family ties and pet toad could change the entire outcome of the series, and his plant could be much, much, much more than meets the eye. Will his parents ever recover? Will we ever discover why he can see the thestrals? It seems as though Book Five brought Neville into the spotlight, whether he likes it or not, and that means that way more questions have surfaced about his past and future. No matter what, it’s obvious we’ll receive more information in about two months!

Hope everyone enjoyed this File. Thanks for reading! Remember to send your comments to christopherstephened at hotmail dot com and look out for when we open up the ninth folder by request, the folder of Ginny Weasley!