"They are insane. They are both in St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. I believe Neville visits them, with his grandmother, during the holidays. They do not recognise him."
-- Albus Dumbledore (GF30)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Neville and the attack on his parents. I’ve always had trouble with the timing of this event and others surrounding it, and rereading the Pensieve scenes in Goblet of Fire leads me to think that it didn’t occur straight after Voldemort’s defeat at the end of 1981, but several years later. I’m going to try and hash out the dates and repercussions here.
We know the order of events in the Pensieve was Karkaroff’s trial, then Bagman’s, then the group of Death Eaters, and we know Karkaroff’s trial was after Voldemort’s downfall. At that point, Crouch looked “fit and alert” (GF30). At the trial of his son, however, Crouch looked “gaunter and greyer than ever before” – presumably several years later, after Bagman’s trial (when he looked “tireder and somehow fiercer, gaunter”), after Bellatrix and the other Death Eaters had “talked their way out of Azkaban” (GF27), and long enough after Voldemort’s death for Bellatrix to proclaim that “they alone tried to find him”. We’ve previously assumed the attacks on Neville’s parents took place in Nov/Dec 1981, because Dumbledore describes them as being “after Voldemort’s fall from power, just when everyone thought they were safe” (GF30). But would they have felt safe just a month or two after his death? A decade long reign of terror like that isn’t something you recover from in a few weeks, particularly as all of the Death Eaters were still at large. I think it would have taken a couple of years for the country to deal with the aftermath of war, settle down, and feel secure again. Based on these facts I’d say the earliest the attack could have been was at least 1984.
We also know that in November 1981, Fudge was a Junior Minister in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes (PA10) and he became Minister for Magic in 1990 (OP10) (presumably at some point in between becoming Head of the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes). If we go with our previous timeline, Crouch Jr was arrested in 1981 and ‘dies’ a year later in 1982. But his death is described as leading to Crouch Sr’s loss in popularity, which resulted in Fudge becoming Minister for Magic instead of him (GF27). I know politics can drag on, but I can’t believe this period took eight years. It seems most likely to have been maybe two years, three at most. This means the earliest Crouch Jr’s ‘death’ could have been is 1987, placing the attack on the Longbottoms in 1986.
These two sources of evidence don’t seem to quite match up – it may be another error due to Jo’s maths. But they do at least agree that the attack on the Longbottoms must have been later than we thought: finger in the air, somewhere between 1984 and 1986 (timeline of events below). This means Neville remembers his parents. It also brings us to the question of whether Neville was there when the Death Eaters tortured them. Imagining the trauma that would have caused him, as well as the question of why the Death Eaters left him unharmed, leads me to think that he wasn’t. Surely if he remembered this event, Harry would not have been the only one to pass out because of the Dementor on the train. Neville too would have the “horrors in his past that the others don’t have” (PA10). I wouldn’t be surprised if Neville had been affected even worse than Harry; not only would he have listened to or even seen his parents being tortured, but as a four- to six-year-old he would have a far greater awareness of what was happening than Harry did as a baby. So perhaps his grandmother was coincidentally babysitting that day. Or perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence, and the Longbottoms somehow knew what was coming for them and so made sure he was out of harm’s way. Or maybe the attack did not take place in the Longbottom home as I’ve always assumed; rereading the trial scene in Goblet of Fire Crouch says the Death Eaters “captured” Frank Longbottom (GF30), so it seems more likely they were attacked in the course of their work while Neville was being looked after at home, presumably by his grandmother.
Whether Neville was present at the attack or not, the fact that he was around five years old at the time means he must have suffered so much more than we previously thought. Unlike Harry he remembers his parents, and he remembers the last day they recognised him, the day they didn’t come home. I’m not saying having your parents dead or incapacitated and remembering nothing about them wouldn’t cause huge suffering, but knowing what you’ve lost and having your family taken away from you is a whole other dimension. His grandmother accuses him of being ashamed of them, to which he says “I’m not ashamed” (OP23) – so why does he never tell anyone about his parents? Partly because he feels he can’t live up to them, but also because it’s too painful. He loves them and he misses them, every day of his life.
October 31, 1981 – Voldemort’s downfall
1985-1987 (1 yr later) – Barty Crouch Jr’s death is faked in Azkaban
1990 – Fudge becomes Minister for Magic; Crouch Sr becomes Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation