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If Voldemort had marked Neville Longbottom as his equal, instead of Harry Potter, would Neville have survived the Killing Curse as Harry did? Neville and Harry are both inherently brave; however, their personalities are quite opposite. What would have happened if Voldemort had marked the Longbottoms for death instead of the Potters? How would history have been different? Here are a couple relevant passages from Order of the Phoenix:

Sybill Trelawney's prophecy:

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches. Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies. And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not. And either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies . . ."

Order of the Phoenix - Page 841 - US Hardcover

After relating the prophecy to Harry, Dumbledore says:

"You are forgetting the next part of the prophecy, the final identifying feature of the boy who could vanquish Voldemort. . . . Voldemort himself would 'mark him as his equal.' And so he did, Harry. He chose you, not Neville. He gave you the scar that has proved both blessing and curse."

Order of the Phoenix - Page 842 - US Hardcover

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    I'm assuming Neville's grandmother would have sacrificed herself for Neville which would have produced the same effect. – OghmaOsiris Dec 4 '11 at 0:07
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    @OghmaOsiris - I'm not sure what you mean. Were Neville's parents already institutionalized by the time the Potters were attacked? If not, Neville would have been under the care of his parents, not his grandmother. Augusta Longbottom (Neville's grandmother) is characterized as a very stern and exacting woman. Not exactly a carbon copy of Lily Potter . . . As well, a theme through the book compares sacrifices different parents make -- compare Lily and James Potter to Merope Gaunt and Tom Riddle Sr, for example. – Slytherincess Dec 4 '11 at 0:32
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    @oghma she would likely not have had the chance. Neville's parents were perfectly well when Voldemort killed Harry's parents. They were tortured to insanity afterwards because Bellatrix thought they know where V was hiding. – Kevin Dec 4 '11 at 0:35
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    Every answer basically says "no". I strongly disagree. I read a JKR's quote saying "That's what I love about Neville. He is The Boy It Could Have Been, but also The Boy Who Could Have Done It". I will make it an answer if i find the quote again – Kalissar Jun 26 '13 at 15:01
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    The fact that Harry survived the killing curse had absolutely nothing to do with Harry. He could've been the stupidest, weakest little cretin, but if his mother loved him enough to sacrifice herself, then he would've survived. So the question is not, would Neville have been [insert admirable character trait here] enough, but would his parents have been self-sacrificing enough. And given that his parents were patently brave enough to be tortured into insanity, the answer is "probably yes". – Martha Oct 29 '13 at 15:24
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In short, I think not.

There are two potential factors here, the Neville that we know, and how he would have been changed if Voldemort had killed his parents. We'll assume his mother died for him as Harry's did for Harry, and so he survived.

First, Neville as we know him. I think, as brave and nice as he is, he does not have the initiative, ability, or deep friendship with Hermione and Ron to destroy Voldemort as Harry did. I don't think Neville would have been able to get out of all the scrapes Harry did (although I suspect he wouldn't have gotten into as many to begin with, and that alone could have prevented him from having the opportunity to destroy Voldemort). I don't think he could have taught Dumbledore's army. And, most importantly, I don't think he would have left school to track down all the horcruxes. He just wasn't that sort of person.

And second, what would change if Voldemort had "mark[ed] him as his equal." Neville grew up being raised by his grandmother. That probably wouldn't have changed. He wouldn't be able to see his parents over holidays, and if anything I think that would make him less confident, with more anger and, therefore, less control. I don't think Voldemort destroying his family directly would have made him a more able wizard, and I think the prophecy would not have been fulfilled because I don't think Voldemort attacking him would have made him his equal.

For the timeline with Neville's parents, we go to book 4, inside Dumbledore's memories. Four people (Barty Crouch Jr, Bellatrix and her husband are not explicitly named but are two of them, and the fourth is Rabastan Lestrange):

The four of you stand accused of capturing an Auror - Frank Longbottom - and subjecting him to the Cruciatus Curse, believing him to have knowledge of the present whereabouts of your exiled master, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named
...
You are further accused... of using the Cruciatus Curse on Frank Longbottom's wife, when she would not give you information.

Shortly thereafter, Dumbledore pulls Harry out and explains:

The Longbottoms were very popular... The attacks on them came after Voldemort's fall from power, just when everyone thought they were safe.

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    Something that shouldn't be forgotten is the fact that the help from Severus Snape was instrumental for Harry defeating Voldemort. That help comes from the fact that Snape loved Lily and as such, helped Dumbledore to help Harry (in his own way). – fabikw Dec 4 '11 at 20:15
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    "...he does not have the initiative, ability, or deep friendship with Hermione and Ron to destroy Voldemort as Harry did." — But maybe he would have had it, had his life been different? In the beginning, he shows the typical traits of a boy raised by his grandmother, but he changes significantly throughout the series, so he must have had something more in him. – sbi Dec 6 '11 at 20:08
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    "I don't think he would have left school to track down the horcruxes" - the one person I would never in a million years have imagined capable of voluntarily leaving school for any reason is Hermione, and yet she followed Harry without a second thought. So I don't think we can conclude that Neville would not have done everything he thought necessary, including leaving school. – Martha Dec 21 '11 at 23:20
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    Remember that Harry's character is also shaped by the piece of Voldemort's soul in him; so would Neville's character have been different it he was chosen. – N Unnikrishnan May 26 '14 at 20:31
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    @Martha: Hermione didn't just leave school because of Harry and Ron. She wasn't pureblood, and was at danger in her 7th year anyway. So I guess she would have left Hogwarts regardless of the mission. – voldemort Dec 12 '14 at 14:56
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I've been thinking about this and I feel like Neville's courage and wisdom shown in the last book, together with his key role in killing Nagini, is a way for JK Rowling to show that history would have been exactly the same if Voldemort had made Neville the chosen one. At the end of the day the overall message is about how Voldemort was wrong, and as so destined to lose anyway.

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In short, I think Voldemort would never have gone for Neville.

Let me explain why: a key point in Dumbledore's explanation of the prophecy to Harry was that the prophecy was partially, but not completely, self-fulfilling. Voldemort heard a part of it, second-hand, through Snape, who himself only heard the same part before being discovered listening at the keyhole by the innkeeper. By knowing only half the story, Voldemort was driven to act in EXACTLY the way the prophecy predicted; by attacking Harry, thus "marking him as an equal" as the prophecy stated. Dumbledore's theory was that Harry was the child that Voldemort considered the greater threat; not the pure-blood Neville, but the half-blood like himself.

Had Voldemort heard the entire prophecy, it may never have come to pass; knowing that to attack either child would risk "marking" that child as an equal, he might have avoided both children. In that circumstance, though Neville would probably have been in more danger than otherwise, he'd still be relatively safe in his status as pure-blooded (and thus a lesser threat in Voldemort's mind than half-blooded Harry).

As it was, though, he attacked Harry, and for that reason, everything else the prophecy predicts comes true; HOWEVER, none of it actually happens because the prophecy itself predicts it. Harry is not bound by the prophecy to face Voldemort. He will do so anyway, because even if he didn't know about the prophecy, knowing everything else he does know, Harry would still seek out Voldemort and try to end him.

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Would he have survived Voldemort's attack? Probably

Everyone seems to be focusing on whether Neville could have defeated Voldemort, not if he could have simply survived the initial attempt on his life.

We know James and Lily Potter knew that Harry was being targeted by Voldemort, through the Order of the Phoenix and they had time to act accordingly.

Likewise, it was after Voldemort attack on Harry that The Longbottoms were targeted by Death Eaters:

The four of you stand accused of capturing an Auror - Frank Longbottom - and subjecting him to the Cruciatus Curse, believing him to have knowledge of the present whereabouts of your exiled master, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

Therefore, Nevilles parents were alive when the attack on Harry occurred. Had Neville been targeted instead his parents would have been alive. Given that we know that The Longbottoms had the kind of bravery to stand up to the Cruciatus Curse I think it is far to say they would have had the bravery to protect their son. This love would have been the key to protecting Neville when Voldemort went to kill him.


Now, could Neville have have defeated Voldemort? Perhaps, having his parents die to protect him, and having the magic ability of Tom Riddle within him would have drastically changed who he was. Similarly, he would have been famous as the Boy Who Lived.

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    +1 for being the only answer that actually answers the question. (Important side note: unlike Harry, who was deliberately kept away from the wizarding world and his own fame, Neville was raised in the wizarding world. If he'd grown up as The Boy Who Lived, who knows what he would have become. A slightly less twattish Draco Malfoy, probably.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 20 '15 at 13:17
  • It's not only courage. Otherwise lots of people would have the protection. The difference is that Voldemort didn't want to kill Lily (because of Snape). I don't think Voldemort cared about The Longbottoms, so their sacrifice would have been useless and Neville would have died. – Oriol Dec 1 '16 at 17:19
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I think that Harry and Neville were both extremely brave. While Harry had the personality to go alone and finish a one-man job, Neville had the personality to lead a lot of people. In their seventh year, Neville (along with Luna and Ginny) lead the rebellion at Hogwarts. It was Neville that found the Room of Requirement could be used by students that needed to 'disappear' as Neville states it on page 576 of The Deathly Hallows.

Neville was clearly the leader of Dumbledore's Army in their seventh year, and it seemed to come naturally to him. For example, at one point he stated,

We lost Luna at Christmas, and Ginny never came back after Easter, and the three of us were sort of the leaders.

page 575 of The Deathly Hallows

Because of this, I think that Neville would have had a very hard time going off with only a few people to do a job. He also didn't seem to understand how hard it had been for Harry.

On page 580 of The Deathly Hallows he states:

We've been keeping it going while you three have been off on your own.

This makes it sound like Neville didn't recognize the importance of Harry's job. However, he also didn't know of the Horcruxes, so that could be why he didn't understand.

There is only one time in The Deathly Hallows that he does something alone. It's when he kills Nagini.

That proves that Neville could work alone, if need be. Still, though, it is different then when Harry faces Voldemort at the end.

Harry spoke to the crowd only long enough to say

I don't want anyone else to try to help... It's got to be like this. It's got to be me.

page 737 of The Deathly Hallows

Where Neville cries out, "Dumbledore's Army!" on page 731 of The Deathly Hallows and there is an answering cheer from the crowd.

So, to me, it all comes down to if Neville could do it alone like Harry did. Personally, I don't think he could. He draws too much strength from those around him to function completely independently. A lot of times, he draws strength from his parents. Would he still have been able to do that if they were dead? I doubt it.

  • Hi, and welcome to the site! I think this is a great first post! +1 from me :) – Beofett Apr 2 '13 at 14:55
  • Nice answer! You had me at the canon quotes :) – Slytherincess Apr 2 '13 at 16:35
  • This is a great answer, and I love it, but I don't think you address the question: Would Neville have been "The Boy Who Lived?" – scott Dec 18 '17 at 18:19
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I think you're all forgetting a very important thing. The only reason why Harry survived while all the others didn't is because Severus asked Voldemort for Lily to be spared. Voldemort asked Lily three times to step aside but Lily didn't. Lily chose to sacrifice herself to save Harry, that's a sacrifice - a life for a life - therefore, when Voldemort still went after Harry after having killed Lily, that's the moment where the curse rebounded. If Severus hadn't asked Voldemort to spare Lily, Lily would have died without actually sacrificing herself, like James did. Lily basically offered her life in exchange of her son's and Voldemort basically ignored this. For Neville to be able to survive the killing curse and therefore to be 'chosen' as Voldemort's equal, he would have need for someone who would be willing to sacrifice himself for him that Voldemort didn't intend to kill. Maybe it would have happened if Voldemort decided to spare Frank or Alice Longbottom because they were purebloods but since he killed James without a problem, I don't think it would have happened.

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I think we're missing one aspect of the "power the Dark Lord knows not." It's not enough for the parent to give his or her life for their child; it has to be a total self-sacrifice.

Snape begged Voldemort to spare Lily's life, so he offered to let her go; she had the option to stand aside and chose to give her life for Harry's. Frank and Alice would have been seen only as enemies, and while they likely would have died fighting to save their son, they would have died fighting. That would NOT have activated the protection.

Snape's love for Lily was also part of the power Voldemort didn't know and couldn't understand.

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    Lily and James would both have died fighting, too, if they hadn't carelessly left their wands out of their reach. Snape’s love for Lily did nothing but buy her a few moments extra (if even that—there wasn't much of a reason for Voldemort to kill her at all, apart from the risk of making her a more determined enemy than she was before. He could have just Stunned her and then killed Harry while she was out; if he had, Harry would have died). If Frank and Alice had been equally wandless when Voldemort came, it might well have played out the same way. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 20 '15 at 13:21
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Voldi did not offer to James to step aside. Only to Lili, and only because of Snape. It is unlikely that he would have bothered much with Frank and Alice. And without him doing that offer, she would not have been able to self-sacrificed. And thus no protection. Snape actually brought Voldi's downfall #realhero. – clem steredenn Aug 23 '18 at 7:06
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I think we're drawing too many parallels. It's being surmised that Neville would be incapable because he's not Harry, thus could not live Harry's life. However, he's not Harry, and shouldn't be thought of as living Harry's timeline.

Neville would make his own friends and go on his own path. Dumbledore would still most likely mentor him. The Potters may end up being tortured and killed for information in lieu of the Longbottoms. Snape might resent Neville on those grounds, but equally blame the Death Eaters and train Neville out of spite.

Neville may end up befriending someone reckless to be his personality antithesis, who would drag him into the trouble he needs to grow and destroy the Horcruxes.

Malfoy could still be his rival.

But ultimately Neville would lead a different path that could lead to Voldemort's defeat.

  • I think you're getting too far from the original question. It wasn't "could Neville defeat Voldemort?" it was "could Neville have survived the Killing Curse?" You don't really discuss this at all here, so it seems to be more of a comment on previous answers than an answer to the question. Please read How to Answer. – DavidW Aug 23 at 18:13

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