Neville Longbottom: Future Hogwarts Professor

by Tom Morey

I think many of us would have a hard time identifying a single “favorite” character in the Harry Potter series, but Neville Longbottom has to be among mine. As his character has aged and developed, he has served as both a parallel and a contrast to his more famous Gryffindor classmate.

Neither handsome nor cool, Neville is instead the exemplar of many of the quieter virtues. He is brave, although not in flashy ways; the original bravery he is noted for is the famous example at the end of PS/SS where he stands up to the trio. He is loyal; his intense loyalty never wavers during the period in OotP where both the media and the Ministry are attacking the credibility of both Harry and Dumbledore on a daily basis. In the same book, he refuses to be separated from Harry during the fight at the ministry, and ultimately saves Harry’’s life by jabbing a wand into the eye of a Death Eater strangling Harry. In HBP, he is one of only two D.A. members to show up to fight against the Death Eaters.

Neville’’s journey during the series has been from a comically forgetful and occasional character to a genuinely tragic, and even heroic, one. He is one of the second-tier characters, but one that many of us congenitally un-cool people can identify with. I know I certainly do. As a favorite character of mine, I am curious as to what Neville’’s ultimate place in the story and fate might be. And then I stumbled on an old interview JKR gave 6 years ago that may have given me a clue.

The Forgotten Interview

I found the following while trolling sites for older J.K.R. interviews (MuggleNet’’s interviews as of this writing go back to 2000.)

WUBR: But after that, we’’re curious as to whether Harry is going to have a life after Hogwarts, or if maybe, Harry might be a Hogwarts teacher.JKR: Well, because all your kids said ‘hello’ so nicely in the background there, I am going to give you information I haven’’t given anyone else and I will tell you that one of the characters, one of Harry’’s classmates, though it’’s not Harry himself, does end up a teacher at Hogwarts. But, it is not, maybe the one you think, hint, hint, hint. Yeah, one of them does end up staying at Hogwarts, but —-

WUBR: Do the kids want to guess at it, Kathleen?

JKR: Do you guys have a guess as to who it is? [Kids shouting in background: Ron!]

WUBR: They say Ron.

JKR: No, it’’s not Ron. I can’’t see Ron as a teacher. No way….

–J.K. Rowling interview transcript, The Connection (WBUR Radio), 12 October, 1999

I was immediately intrigued, because it is the only reference I know of as to the ultimate disposition of any of the major characters in the series: one of Harry’’s classmates will become a Hogwarts professor. Not only that, I believe this to be a reference to my guy, Neville Longbottom. Let’s see how this can be gleaned from this seemingly trivial piece of information, written before Goblet of Fire was released in bookstores.

  1. The classmate that becomes a teacher will not be Harry, Hermione, or Ron. She explicitly states that it is not Harry; it is “not the one you think” (so it is not the über-student, Hermione); and JKR also explicitly states that it will not be Ron.
  2. The future professor is someone in Harry’’s year. It is a subtle distinction, but “classmate” carries a different meaning than “fellow student.” Fred and George were fellow students of Harry’’s, but not classmates.
  3. The future professor isn’’t any of Harry’’s classmates introduced after Prisoner of Azkaban. JKR gives the children at the interview the opportunity to guess who the future professor will be, so it must be someone that readers of books 1-3 would be familiar with.
  4. It would have to be someone who is outstanding in the subject that they will teach. It can be assumed that a Hogwarts professor in a given subject would be outstanding in that subject. One way to measure this would be by O.W.L. or N.E.W.T. grades; we only know of three “Outstanding” O.W.L. recipients in Harry’’s year: Harry himself (Defense Against the Dark Arts); Hermione (11 subjects – everything except DADA); and Neville Longbottom (Herbology).

This last name kind of jumps out at you. Neville Longbottom.

Looking at a list of Harry’’s classmates, only one non-Hermione student has been pointed out as being particularly great at any one school-taught subject, and that is Neville. It has been pointed out in every book since Goblet of Fire that Neville is very, very good in Herbology:

  • The faux Professor Moody mentions Professor Sprout’’s high opinion of Neville’s Herbology skills in GoF.
  • Harry notes Neville’’s Herbology skills while riding the Hogwarts Express and being shown the mimbulus mimbletonia in OotP
  • He is shown as single-handedly being ahead of the trio of Hermione, Ron, and Harry in their class project in Herbology in HBP

Not only that, Neville’’s ultimate O.W.L. grades indicate strengths in other areas as well, achieving excellence not only in Defense Against the Dark Arts (we knew he and Hermione were the best two students in the D.A. from OotP) but in Charms as well. Professor McGonagall’’s positive comments as to Neville’s abilities when determining class schedules in HBP are another clue as to the turn his life will ultimately take.

If any one student in Harry’’s class will ultimately be a teacher at Hogwarts, then, it seems almost a certainty that it will be Neville, who would remain at Hogwarts after graduation to become the new Herbology professor (presumably to replace a retiring Professor Sprout, or possibly as an assistant training for when she does retire). Of course, after the final battles have been fought, it is very possible that any number of Hogwarts teachers may no longer be there to teach.

The ultimate irony, given his grandmother’s frequent statements as to his not having his auror father’’s talents would be for him to one day teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. Given Neville’’s willingness to give his all to learn to defeat and fight against the dark arts, it would be fitting destiny.

The Value of the Outcast

Part of the great joy I took in rereading HBP was the realization throughout the story of how Harry gradually has taken on Dumbledore’’s characteristics as a leader. Some of these ways are more obvious (keeping his cool in dealing with Rufus Scrimgeour, organizing an impromptu protection of the school and his friends with Felix Felicis potion the night of the battle at Hogwarts), but, to me, the most dramatic way in which Harry showed his growth into the Dumbledore leadership role was in his recognition of the value of the outcasts in his circle of friends, notably Luna and Neville.

When Neville and Luna are the only two D.A. members who answer the call to protect the school, Harry knows that it was their loneliness and isolation that drove to them to check to see whether or not the D.A. would be meeting. It is a huge sign of Harry’’s emotional growth between OotP and HBP that he stoutly defends the value of both of his outcast friends.

Glimpses of this attitude had been popping up for years: his sympathy for Neville after seeing the fate of Neville’’s parents in the pensieve in GoF; his intensified sympathy for Neville after meeting his parents in St. Mungo’’s in OotP; and his pity for Luna at the end of OotP when he realized the extent to which she was teased and made fun of by other students.

In HBP, however, Harry reaches the new level of declaring them both to be cool and even asking Luna to attend Slughorn’’s party with him as a friend when seemingly every other girl in the school wanted to be the one Harry asked. Harry has recognized the value of these two people when only a few others (notably Ginny and Hermione) have.

Neville, whose life has paralleled Harry’’s in so many ways, should also come to the realization in the end: that he (Neville) is somebody, and not only that, he is somebody special. As a student who was formerly terrorized by one of his teachers (Snape), Neville would almost certainly be an unusually understanding and sympathetic professor. It would certainly indicate a happy ending for a character whose bravery in the face of adversity has been one that we can all admire.