Worth Twelve of Malfoy!

“There’s no need to tell me I’m not brave enough to be in Gryffindor. Malfoy’s already done that,” Neville choked out.

Harry felt in the pocket of his robes and pulled out a Chocolate Frog, the very last one from the box Hermione had given him for Christmas. He gave it to Neville, who looked as though he might cry.

“You’re worth twelve of Malfoy,” Harry said. “The Sorting Hat chose you for Gryffindor, didn’t it? And where’s Malfoy? In stinking Slytherin.”

Neville!!! I finally get to write a post about Neville!!!!
(Even if it is also in the context of talking about Omniscient Narrator POV).

The Harry Potter series (as we’ve discussed ad nauseum lately) is generally written in a limited 3rd person Point of View. But it does dip occasionally into Omniscient Narrator – for five chapters, and random occasions when Rowling needs to get us outside Harry’s consciousness and give us a broader view of the action.

For example: Quidditch. Rowling sometimes puts us right up there on the broom with Harry. But at other times, she takes us down into the stands, far far away from Harry’s point of view. And it’s in one of these Quidditch Omniscients that Neville Longbottom first shows signs of why he was sorted into Gryffindor.

We’ve talked before about how Neville is set up early on as sort of comic relief. He loses everything that’s not attached to him. His magic is weak. He brews catastrophic potions. Malfoy bullies him mercilessly. And when he receives the Remembrall from his gran, he can’t even remember what he forgot to remember!

But during the second Quidditch match, we see a completely different side of Neville. After Draco puts the Leg-Locker curse on him one night outside the Library, Neville becomes convinced he’s not brave enough for Gryffindor. And that’s when Harry tells him that he’s worth twelve of Draco – something that apparantly Neville does not forget because when Draco begins taunting him during that second Quidditch match (far far away from Harry’s consciousness)…

Neville went bright red but turned in his seat to face Malfoy.

“I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy,” he stammered.

Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle howled with laughter, but Ron, still not daring to take his eyes from the game, said, “You tell him, Neville.”

“Longbottom, if brains were gold you’d be poorer than Weasley, and that’s saying something.”

Ron’s nerves were already stretched to the breaking point with anxiety about Harry.

“I’m warning you, Malfoy – one more word – “

Well, Malfoy eventually gets in his “one more word,” Ron turns on him, and Neville……

Neville hesitated, then clambered over the back of his seat to help….

Hermione… didn’t even notice… the scuffles and yelps coming from the whirl of fists that was Neville, Crabbe, and Goyle.

Okay, I snipped some extraneous words, but I didn’t change the basic meaning. Neville(!!!) gets into Ron’s fight, taking on Crabbe and Goyle by himself while Ron wrestles Draco!

Keep this in mind for the future. It may take a long time for Neville to fulfill his promise, but JKR lays in the seeds for where Neville ends up on the Gryffindor brave-o-meter right here in PS/SS.

Oh, and just to tie things together… that Chocolate Frog Harry digs out of his pocket after Draco hits Neville with the Leg-Locker Curse is the same Chocolate Frog that gives the Trio enough information on Nicolas Flamel to find out about the Philosopher’s Stone.


And now, just for fun, here are my answers to the Neville discussion questions on the CoS Forums:
(Warning: They do include questions/answers up through DH)

1) We know Neville’s upbringing (like Harry’s) hasn’t been a bed of roses. How have Neville’s formative years with his grand mother and extended family influence the person he is now? Would he be the same person if his parents hadn’t been tortured into madness?

Neville is deeply wounded and ashamed by his parents’ having been tortured into madness – so much so that he never tells his friends. It’s only when his friends inadvertently find out (and don’t think any worse of him for it) that Neville finally lets his guard down and really starts coming into his own. I love the scene in in OotP, in which Neville’s grandmother – whom we’ve been led to believe up to this point is a severe and forbidding woman – tells Neville that there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Without the effective loss of his parents, Neville would have led a much more normal childhood, with considerably less pressure from his relatives to demonstrate that he’s not a Squib. He probably would have grown into his magic abilities more naturally.

2) Neville evolved into a remarkable leader of Dumbledore’s Army and a true Gryffindor, do you think his previous incompetence was due to lack of confidence? What events in the series allowed him to gain the confidence he needed?

I think I kind of answered this in #1, but I’ll expand here.

I believe that Neville’s incompetence is a result of fear. This is a kid whose parents have been tortured into insanity. His parents had strong magic abilities – as did the DEs who tortured them. And the DEs tortured them using magic. I personally think that even though he’s truly a Wizard, Neville is rather scared of magic because of what it has cost him. Add to that the pressure put on him by his family to prove that he’s got magic, and you get a kid who’s really a basket case.

I think that what gave him the confidence he needed was 1) excelling in Herbology and 2) becoming part of Dumbledore’s Army. Professor Sprout was very supportive of Neville’s abilities, and Professor McGonnagall was very supportive of Neville pursuing Herbology.

But perhaps more important for Neville was joining D.A. Neville got to learn some DADA without the pressure of grades. And his friendships with the Trio solidified through D.A. After the Trio discover him at St. Mungo’s, Neville realizes that they still accept him and love him. Even though I don’t think it’s specifically stated in the text, I thinks it’s probable that the Trio’s acceptance when they learn Neville’s “secret” is what helps him get over his sense of shame and come into his own.

I see the accidental meeting at St. Mungo’s as Neville’s turning point.

3) How does the power of love manifest itself in Neville’s actions throughout DH?

I think it’s the love of his friends that finally brings Neville out of himself and helps bring out the true Gryffindor in him. And in DH, Neville has a chance to “give back” to his friends what they have given to him.

In some ways, it’s shocking that it’s Neville of all people who lifts the sword out of the hat and kills Nagini. But on another level, it’s perfect. He loves Harry, and he thinks Harry is dead, and he is going to defy Voldemort even if it means his own death. It is a deeply satisfying resolution to Neville’s journey – which in some ways is the longest journey of all our young Gryffindors, from the incompetent boy who couldn’t do anything right to the young man who made it possible for Harry to win the war once and for all.

4) Neville is one of the few characters whose profession we learn. What do you think of his choice to teach? What qualities would make Neville a good teacher?

I think that Neville would be a good teacher because he has a passion for his subject, and he’s a natural leader. He didn’t know he was a leader until the position was thrust upon him in Year 7, but he completely stepped up into that role. I think he would interact well with students.

The Remembrall

HP1:Malfoys got the Remembrall by ~Marauders-Map

The first half of “The Midnight Duel” is devoted to the Flying Lessons and their immediate aftermath.

Short Summary: The young Gryffindors are filled with anxiety at the prospect of having Flying Lessons with the Slytherins. On the morning of the lesson, Neville Longbottom receives a Remembrall from his gran – to help him remember things he’s forgotten. Draco tries to nick it, but McGonnagall quickly steps in.

Later, during Flying Lessons, Neville’s broom goes out of control, and the boy falls 20 feet to the ground, breaking his wrist. While Madam Hooch takes the injured boy to the Hospital Wing, Draco picks up the dropped Remembrall, thus leading to a broomstick confrontation with Harry Potter who learns – much to his surprise and delight – that he’s a natural-born flyer. When Draco tosses the Remembrall into the air and challenges Harry to fetch it, Harry performs a daring move that ends in his catching the small object just an inch from the ground – a perfect Seeker maneuver.

Professor McGonnagall comes charging out of the castle, demanding that Harry come with her. Since Madam Hooch threatened expulsion for any student who did not stay firmly planted on the ground, Harry is convinced he is about to be kicked out of Hogwarts. Instead, McGonnagall introduces him to Oliver Wood, Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team, and tells Wood that she has found him a Seeker for the team.


This section further develops the Harry-Draco rivalry – which will become even more intense once Harry gets to own a broom (despite the first-year ban) and becomes the youngest House Quidditch player in a century.

But for me, the real core of this part of the chapter is the development of Neville Longbottom and Professor McGonnagall. And for both characters, appearances are a bit misleading.

Neville Longbottom

I’ve talked about Neville a bit before, but this is the first chapter where we really see a lot of him, so I’d like to repeat a bit and expand.

When we first meet Neville, he is a complete mess. He can’t remember anything (not even something as simple as the password to Gryffindor Tower). He can’t brew a simple potion without blowing up or melting his cauldron. He can’t do any magic worth speaking of. And now, he can’t even fly a broom without hurting himself.

In our introduction to Neville, we assume that he’s in the story to play the buffoon and provide some comic relief. And actually, there is very little in PS/SS to prove we’re wrong. But in GoF we begin to learn a little bit of his backstory… and start to think that maybe he has good reason to be afraid of succeeding at magic. Finally in OotP, he will start to resolve his fears. And in DH… well, let’s just say that Neville comes through in a way that no reader could have anticipated at this stage in the story.

Neville’s story over the course of the series shows that early failure does not doom a person to failure for life. When we first meet him, we wonder why he is in Gryffindor instead of Hufflepuff (the House Hagrid says is for the “Duffers“)? By the end of DH, nobody will be asking questions about what qualities landed him in Gryffindor.

ETA on Neville:
For more extensive analysis of Neville, try this page on the CoS Forum.
I wrote post 605 and post 609, but there are a lot of other posts on that page that are well worth reading.

Professor McGonnagall

We don’t have any concerns for Professor McGonnagall’s competence. But she, too, has a side that it takes awhile for the audience to see.

When we first met McGonnagall – just outside the Dursleys’ house in the first chapter – she came out of her Tabby Animagus form in order to interrogate Dumbledore on the deaths of Lily and James Potter… and the survival of their year-old boy. At that time, she dabbed her eyes on learning that the rumors were true. But ever since that time, we’ve seen her as primarily a stern, no-nonsense teacher. And Harry is certainly expecting a bit of that stern no-nonsense when she brings him back into the castle after his catching the Remembrall.

But McGonnagall is also a fierce competitor… and last year’s Quidditch Cup did not go well for Gryffindor:

“I shall speak to Professor Dumbledore and see if we can’t bend the first-year rule [concerning flying broomsticks]. Heaven knows, we need a better team than last year. Flattened in that last match by Slytherin, I couldn’t look Severus Snape in the face for weeks….”

Part of the reason she does not punish Harry for the Remembrall dive is that she wants to defeat Slytherin as badly as Harry does… possibly more. Her own former Transfiguration student (Severus Snape) can smirk in her face for weeks every time Slytherin prevails over Gryffindor.

But I think there’s even more to it than competition with Slytherin. McGonnagall was Head of House for Harry’s parents, and she was clearly fond of them (as we see from her emotional reaction to their deaths). The fact that she shows up at the Dursleys’ house and tries to convince Dumbledore not to give the child to these “worst sort of Muggles” indicates that she feels a bit protective toward this orphan. In fact, when she and Wood have finished discussing how to get Harry to play for the team, she momentarily drops her stern demeanor:

Professor McGonnagall peered sternly over her glasses at Harry.

“I want to hear you’re training hard, Potter, or I may change my mind about punishing you.”

Then she suddenly smiled.

“Your father would have been proud,” she said. “He was an excellent Quidditch player himself.”

This is McGonnagall’s second smile since Harry arrived. The first was for Hermione’s rudimentary Transfiguration ability. This, for Harry’s potential at Quidditch… but even more, I think, for reminding her of his lost parents.