I wrote an essay recently about the timing of the attack on Neville’s parents, talking about how he must have been around five years old when it happened (give or take a year or two). This means he has an awareness of what happened and remembers his parents as they were before. From this I would expect his biggest fear to be his parents’ attackers, however they manifest themselves in his nightmares, but it isn’t. We see in the Boggart scene in Prisoner of Azkaban that Neville’s worst fear is Snape.
Firstly, this gives a sense of how much he truly fears his teacher and the amount of damage Snape’s bullying caused, and secondly, what perhaps we don’t think about is that Neville faces Snape, his worst fear, almost every day for seven years. Imagine Ron having to face a giant spider every day for seven years, or Hermione being told she had failed all her classes – she would be in hysterics after about a week – and then think the bravery that Neville shows without anyone around him realizing.
This quiet show of bravery on Neville’s part is a surprising theme in the earlier books, when you look out for it. For example in Prisoner of Azkaban, when Neville’s actions indirectly lead to Sirius breaking into Gryffindor Tower, he steps up and admits it to McGonagall in front of the whole house, when he could have easily stayed silent and it never would have been traced back to him. And in Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore awards him ten points because “it takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to our friends”.
Two other Gryffindors, Remus Lupin and Dumbledore himself, know this better than anyone: Lupin never had the courage to stand up to the other Marauders’ bullying and Dumbledore ignored the evidence of Grindelwald’s true nature. Though they are two of the bravest Gryffindors we know, Neville has a bravery at the age of eleven that they never did: the courage to do what he felt was right with no thought to how it would affect him.
So I suppose what I’m trying to say is that Neville didn’t only find his courage in the later books: he was always a true Gryffindor, but there are many different types of bravery, some less noticeable than others.
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