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 Mighty Hogwarts Power Trios… Face Off!

In this corner (of Harry’s train compartment), we have Team Snake. In the other corner, we have… Team Gryff?

Team Snake
Slytherin Seal
When Draco bursts into Harry’s compartment with his cohorts Crabbe and Goyle, we are given our official introduction to Slytherin’s future “shadow Trio.” These boys know each other already, though we we have to get a little deeper into the story to find out how.

As it happens, Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle are the sons of Death Eaters who all apparently avoided imprisonment in Azkaban at the end of the First Wizarding War.

On first sight, Harry notices of Draco’s friends that…

“Both of them were thickset and looked extremely mean. Standing on either side of the pale boy, they looked like bodyguards.”

Physically at least, they seem to be more than a match for Harry and Ron, yet when things turn nasty after Harry rebuffs Draco’s offer of “guidance,” the future Gryffindors stand up to these much larger future Slytherins. Just like a good Gryff should.

Team Gryff
Gryffindor Seal

But unlike the Slyther-friends, there is no such cohesiveness on Team Gryff (“Team Lion” doesn’t sound quite as good).

These kids barely know each other, and so our future main Trio is currently in disarray. But they remind me of something… my “gutty little Bruins” from UCLA, where I attended Grad School.

You know about teams like this, right? Statistically speaking, they don’t come close to matching up with the opposing team, and nobody would ever pick them in fantasy sports. They’re smaller than their rivals. They don’t have as much money. They often seem to have less talent. But they play with lots of heart, and they appear fearless, regardless of the odds.

That would be our Gryffindors.

A Closer Look at Team Gryff

On the train to Hogwarts, our future gutty Gryffs do not look impressive, so let’s look at their lineup:

Harry: A Half-Blood Wizard boy raised in a Muggle family. For the first time in his life, Harry is confronted with the fact that he’s famous and people are expecting “great things” of him. But he has spent his life bullied by his cousin and treated like a slave by his aunt and uncle. He fears that the kids raised in Wizarding families will know loads more magic than he does. And worse, he worries that maybe there’s been some horrible mistake and that no House at Hogwarts will have him.

Ron: A Pureblood Wizard boy raised in a very large family. As the sixth child, Ron doesn’t even have a new wand or pet. In fact, when he tries to perform “magic” on his hand-me-down pet rat, we find that a unicorn hair is sticking out of his wand. Though he’s not famous like Harry, he still has a lot to live up to. His older brothers have excelled at Hogwarts. Among them are Quidditch players, Prefects, and even a Head Boy.

Hermione: A Muggle-born Witch also raised in a Muggle family. Hermione is an overachiever who becomes more talkative and pretentious the more nervous she is. She shows off her knowledge at every given opportunity and bosses the boys around. This is not a fortuitous beginning. Her future spouse Ron, in particular, just can’t stand having her around. In fact, he hopes to sort into some House that she’s not in. (Ah, true love! Was it ever more obvious?)

Well, there you have the Trio. And then, there’s the hanger-on…

Neville: A Pureblood Wizard boy who seems completely hapless and hopeless. On the train, he’s lost his toad. In the future, he will forget his password (and everything else that isn’t tied down), botch Potions, be nearly incapable of producing any magic, and just generally embarrass the proud Gryffindor heritage. But Neville has a secret, and that secret is most likely the key to his magic problems.

I have to confess, I thought Neville was just comic relief when I first got to know him. But of all the kids, his transformation is possibly the most beautiful. This boy is a true and worthy Gryffindor. But right now? It’s all hidden. You would never know.

And that’s pretty much the way with Team Gryff. Like the gutty little Bruins, these kids don’t look like much. But you underestimate them at your own peril!

Team Gryff vs. Team Snake

In the first matchup, by the way, Team Gryff wins on a Deus ex Machina. Ron’s pet rat bites Goyle on the knuckle when he and Crabbe try to use their intimidating size to dig in to Harry’s and Ron’s Chocolate Frogs. Whatever possessed the (former Gryffindor, current Death Eater in hiding) rat to bite, I guess we’ll never know. But I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Speaking of which… I’ve seen the site stats. I know you’re out there. But man, are you quiet!

There are lots of Slytherin fans in Potter fandom, and lots of fans of Gryffindor. How do you feel about the Gryffindor / Slytherin rivalry? Which side are you on and why? What do you think of this first encounter… before the kids even sort into their respective Houses?

Would love to hear your perspectives!