Most Harry Potter characters have some sort of dark side. These are complex people and so they don’t always do the right thing. You could write a book on the flaws of Albus Dumbledore alone. In fact, Rita Skeeter actually did. But the exception to this rule is Neville Longbottom. There’s not a trace of villain in him, right?
Well actually, some Harry Potter fans think Neville was very close to following the path set by one of the best Harry Potter villains. In another world, one of the best Harry Potter characters and the truest of Gryffindor heroes could have become the rat-faced – and often rat-bodied – Peter Pettigrew.
Initially, it seems like there’s nothing to link Neville with the man who betrayed Lily and James Potter. But if you work your way through the Harry Potter movies in order again and look closely at the two members of the Harry Potter cast, you might well notice a few uncomfortable parallels between the bullied outsiders of the two generations of Gryffindor students.
Both Neville and Pettigrew are slightly unsual when it comes to the denizens of Gryffindor. They’re both insecure, afraid, and outwardly weak. Given the fact Gryffindor is associated with leonine bravery, they both seem like odd fits for the red house.
In a one-to-one comparison between the friend groups of James Potter and his son, Neville ends up paired with Pettigrew as the “weak” wizard in the group, treated as something of an outsider. It’s an understandable connection for people to draw, especially as Neville’s fear of Snape tracks neatly on to Pettigrew’s fear of Voldemort.
This theory, though, doesn’t give Neville enough credit. Yes, the Sorting Hat could’ve put Neville into Hufflepuff, just as it could have put Pettigrew into Slytherin. However, Neville has repeatedly been shown to be much braver than his outward appearance implies.
He experienced enormous trauma in his childhood with what Bellatrix Lestrange did to his parents, but persevered and made it to Hogwarts, pursuing his interest in Herbology.
Of course, he famously won the House Cup for Gryffindor in his first year. And for what reason? Bravery. In standing up to his friends to save Gryffindor, he proved that he was in some ways the bravest Gryffindor out there.
He was also instrumental in destroying the last of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. And the reason for that? Bravery. He stood up to the actual Dark Lord and was rewarded for this most Gryffindor of actions by the sword of Godric Gryffindor himself arriving in his hands.
One Reddit user has suggested that there’s a key reason for Neville turning out much better than Pettigrew. “I realized the main difference between these two characters was their friends,” they wrote in a 2020 post.
“At the start of the school both of them were in a very similar situation, but Neville had Harry as his friend while Pettigrew had James and Sirius. Harry encouraged Neville to become a better person through all their friendship and always supported him. But James and Sirius seemed to just enjoy his admirations and used him as a way of feeling better about themselves. Maybe if Pettigrew had someone like Harry as his best friend instead of James and Sirius, he could find his inner strength and become a better person as Neville did.”
This makes a lot of sense. As brave as James Potter and Sirius Black were, they didn’t have the most tolerance for difference and they had a tendency towards arrogance. So perhaps they helped create the monster that Pettigrew became. Thank goodness, then, for Harry.
For more from the Potter world, find out the surprising truth behind Harry Potter’s Quidditch record and learn why the most heart-breaking Harry Potter scene wasn’t even in the movies. We’ve also explored the reasons why we still can’t forgive the Harry Potter finale for one particular book change.
As well as looking back at the best movies in the Wizarding World, we also look ahead to new movies and TV. So find out more about the Harry Potter TV series release date, the Fantastic Beasts 4 release date, and the possible Harry Potter and the Cursed Child release date. Or switch franchise and find out about House of the Dragon season 2.
The creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, has made a number of transphobic remarks on social media in recent years. If you’d like to learn more about transgender equality or lend your support, here are two charities we encourage you to visit: the National Center for Transgender Equality in the US, and Mermaids in the UK.