The Longwinded Tale of Neville Longbottom
A change of outlook changes our whole world.
I was introduced to the Harry Potter series by a primary school teacher in 1999. The books (and later the films) were something that I connected with immediately. Harry himself was an inspiring character, and I learnt a lot about dealing with hardships and friendships from his life story. But the character that I have always had the strongest connection to would have to be Neville Longbottom. His life story has so many similarities to my own.
Neville faced a horrific trauma in his early childhood. His parents were tortured to the point of permanent insanity by the Death Eater (one of Voldemort’s followers) Bellatrix Lestrange. Neville was a very young child when this happened, but was still deeply affected by it. His grandmother brought him up for the rest of his childhood. Though he would still visit his parents regularly in hospital.
Due to a mixture of anger, grief and sorrow within him, his magical ability was weakened. This was so much so that his loved ones initially believed he was a squib (a non magical child born to wizard parents). They even doubted whether he would be magical enough to be sent to Hogwarts (the British wizards school). Though shortly before his eleventh birthday a letter had been sent to his family stating that he was due to start his first year. His great-uncle was so pleased that he bought Neville a pet toad, which he named Trevor.
During the first half of his seven years as a Hogwarts student Neville did not mention a word of what had happened to his parents with anybody. It was simply too traumatic for him to face up to. Yet his memory of the incident bruised his self-confidence and also his academic performance. Though he had a strong passion for Herbology (studying and tending to magical plants) and his favourite teacher was Professor Sprout. Herbology was the one subject that Neville excelled at. The attention that Professor Sprout would give him for his extraordinary knowledge of magical plants was the one thing that gave him a sense of pride.
The truth of what had happened to Neville’s parents ended up coming out during the second half of his student years. Harry had come across it when he saw one of their headmasters, Albus Dumbledore’s memories. Dumbledore was almost always a very passive man. But Harry saw such anger in his eyes when he discussed what Lestrange had done to Neville’s parents. Though he told Harry to leave it to Neville to release this when he felt ready. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger discovered the truth when they ran into Neville and his parents in the hospital. Shortly afterward, he was no longer afraid to speak about it.
Once he had revealed this wound, he developed much more self confidence. Yet, in truth, his life itself had not changed. His friends remained the same, as did his school marks and enemies. Though it was the most important thing of all that had changed, which was his outlook. Also, his boosted confidence made him willing to take action against what had happened to his parents. He then began to fight Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Neville also played a major part in destroying Voldemort for good. A few years later, Professor Sprout retired and Neville himself became the Herbology teacher at Hogwarts.
The life of Neville Longbottom reminds me very much of my own life. I had an early childhood trauma that’s been wrapped under a blanket for many years. Memories of that event affected my ability to cope with friendships and schoolwork. It has given me immense anxiety and has made my autism much worse. Yet as all this is slowly getting revealed publicly, my self-confidence has been boosted, even though everything that is making me happy has always been present in my life.