Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Neville Longbotton/Hermione Granger
Spoilers: Books 1-7
Notes: I am assuming at least a passing familiarity with the book series and film adaptations
Neville/Hermione is an unusual ship. They are neither best friends nor worst enemies. It defies no barriers of age or sexual orientation. Indeed, it’s perfectly logical. Nonetheless, it waivers between the popular and the obscure. Likelihood is neither great nor nonexistent. Reactions range from delight to disgust to disbelief, but always surprise.
Neville Longbottom is a supporting character, and thus gets less pagetime than the lead character Harry Potter and his friend Ron Weasley. However, he is a developed character that grows and matures as the books go on. When we first see him, he is a clumsy, shy, preoccupied boy with a mischievous pet toad and a demanding grandmother. As the series goes on, we see more of him. He shows great bravery early on, fighting Crabbe and Goyle when Malfoy’s gang antagonizes Harry and Ron and even stands up to the main trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione. He honestly cares about his friends, being caught and sent to detention trying to save Ron and Harry from a trap, and trying to stop the trio from getting into trouble.
Neville is a sensitive person, showing empathy for even a spider when it is used as a guinea pig for dark magic. He visits his parents, trying in vain to communicate with them and keeping them in his heart. He is seldom violent except when he is confronted by insults and threats to his friends.
His misadventures and character development alternate throughout the series. Barty Crouch Jr, in his guise as Mad-Eye Moody, explains to Harry about Neville’s parents and their tragic madness after a fateful attack the same day Harry was orphaned. This subplot of Neville’s living up to his famous parents continues in Order of the
His arc is complete in the last book, as he leads the resistance against Voldemort at Hogwarts, rejects an offer from Voldemort himself, and kills Voldemort’s pet snake Nagini, who had earlier killed Neville’s old enemy Snape. His bravery, loyalty to his friends and beliefs, and defiance of all odds bring him full circle and fully worthy of his parents. The last we see of him is a teacher at Hogwarts years in the future, caring for the children of the trio and still friends with the trio although their paths have seperated. In a dubious interview, author JK Rowling pairs him off with Hannah Abbot, a quaternary character with little establishment.
We certainly see more of Hermione Granger, as she is one of Harry’s best friends. Her character is well-rounded and shows suprising twists and turns in character. She acts condescending to her friends, especially if she believes that they don’t put effort into their work. However, she also shows great compassion, befriending Harry, Ron and Neville despite their unpopularity. She is a stickler for rules, but lies and bends rules when her friends are truly on the line. Like Neville, she is loyal and sensitive to others, and shows compassion for even loathsome characters like Kreacher or Snape.
While Neville suffers from low self-esteem, Hermione always has pride in her abilities and often cannot see eye-to-eye with others. She bosses around Harry and bickers with Ron, but underneath it all is her genuine concern. This empathy may have limits, like in the case of Hagrid’s bizarre friends, but it extends to those like centaurs, ordinary humans, and elves that are mistreated by the wizarding world. She helps found Dumbledore’s Army (later headed by her friends Neville, Ginny, and Luna) with Harry and Ron due to her concern with the vulnerability of the students and also founds S.P.E.W. due to her compassion towards House-Elves, even defying the magic that makes them loyal to their masters. Although Harry, Ron and her other friends may frustrate her, she never breaks their friendship.
Like Neville, she has expectations put on her due to her muggleborn heritage, but exceeds them, defying the racial bigotry of characters like Voldemort and Draco. She shows no guilt of her heritage, even declaring “mudblood and proud of it” against the oppression. She is not a central character, but she is vital to Harry’s story, acting as adviser and comrade. She takes charge, and enjoys it, imposing what she thinks is the best for everyone. Although there is tension between her and her friends about her demands and theories, they always reconcile and stay loyal.
Evidence for NL/HG first surfaced in Philosopher’s Stone, where Neville and Hermione became friends before both became part of Harry’s circle. It was while searching for Neville’s toad Trevor that Hermione met Ron and Harry. Lesser incidents include: Neville and Hermione both showing ineptitude in flying brooms, Neville becoming so close to the trio that he fights against Draco Malfoy and tries to thwart his trap, Neville’s concern for his friends that he tries to physically stop them from endangering themselves and Hermione showing the greatest of regret when she body-binds him.
Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban lack Neville as a major character, but we do see Hermione saving Trevor and Neville from Snape and her later helping him in potions. Their shared enmity of Snape is interesting in that it lacks the “bad blood” hatred between Harry and Snape Also interesting is how Hermione helps Neville directly, while working with Harry and Ron (who are almost as bad as Neville with Potions) after class. Overall, Neville shows no signs of resisting her advice the same way that Harry and Ron do.
More significant is the Goblet of Fire. There, Neville is the first Hogwarts boy to ask out Hermione, only to be beaten by Viktor Krum. Harry and Ron are shocked to find of Neville’s attempt (not only do they see little to recommend her, but also never see Neville as a romantic figure), and Hermione is deeply offended when Ron suggests that she lied to Neville in order to send him off. Indeed, the vast majority of the fandom has ignored this crucial fact: the feeling may be mutual and Hermione truly carries something for him (many have suggested it is just her own sense of pride, but is it not also true that she hold her honesty to her friends as sacrosanct as well?). No doubt it was Hermione’s suggestion to ask out Ginny, but that turned out to be a disaster for both young Griffindors. The vast majority writes off his stepping on Ginny’s toes as sheer clumsiness, but could it be influenced by disappointment and rejection? He was more mature than Harry or Ron, trying to enjoy it and please his partner, but it is more than slightly likely that he had his spirit and confidence destroyed when he was turned down. Whenever one reads of the Yule ball fiasco, you always hear of Ron and Harry’s frustration, not of Neville’s despair (or, for that matter, how the Patils must have felt) Neville works best when he has a motivation, like most human beings.
Almost as momentous was Moody’s demonstration of the Cruciatus curse, where Hermione alone noticed Neville’s terror and rescued him by stopping Moody. She is watching him, perhaps even as intently as he watches her. She shows no concern to Harry, scarred by the Avada Kedavra, but rushes to Neville’s side when he nearly faints at Crucio. She holds Harry’s scar in such high regard that Harry openly avoids telling her lest she worry, but it is very likely that she has a less matronly motivation for helping Neville.
This pales in comparison to the facts of Order of the
In the final confrontation of OotP, Hermione is downed by the Death Eater Dolohov. Neville is injured and disarmed on his way to her side (not to Harry, also in danger), and he feels her pulse to confirm that she’s alive (Harry worries and frets, but it is Neville that takes action about their fallen friend). For the rest of the battle, he’s at Harry’s side, but he insists on carrying Hermione to another room and uses her wand as both magical object (his broken nose prevents him from spellcasting) and as a blunt instrument (he pokes MacNair in the eye). He may have also saved Ginny, but did not show nearly as much dedication as he did to Hermione (Harry wanted to leave her)
In the Half Blood Prince, he is reduced back to cameo status as the trio and other characters take precedence. He participates in classes, fights in the final battle, and is seen at Dumbledore’s funeral, but he is peripheral at best. Hermione, on the other hand, is too busy trying to make Harry listen to reason and dealing with her mixed feelings about Ron. The book, like Slughorn, seems to think Neville simply not glamorous enough to pay attention.
In Deathly Hallows, there is little interaction as Hermione and Neville spend most of the books in completely different settings. Still, their joy and hope seeing each other alive shows that neither has broken their close bond despite Hermione’s relationship with Ron. These last two books lack the clearer evidence of the previous two, but that is due to Harry’s focus and the focus of the main storyline. Their stories diverge, leaving only “What-ifs” and “could-have-beens” in the wake. There are hints of their personality compatibility, however. Hermione finally resolves her feelings to Ron when he shows compassion towards House Elves, something rather Neville-ish. Meanwhile, Neville takes the brunt of the Death Eaters’ abuse for honesty and speaking out against unfair rules, something Hermione would be proud of.
It is obvious that the filmmakers and possibly Rowling have discounted the pairing completely (indeed, they show Neville perfectly happy with Ginny in the fourth film) and prefer the mainstream trio ships. This extends to the massive fandom, which deluges Rowling’s mailbox and tries to influence her despite her mastery. Readers that never saw the possibility are less likely to accept it in the future, even though the Neville/Hermione bond was well-established by Philosopher’s stone.
Fans like the clumsy but golden-hearted Neville the same way they like Hagrid; willing to fight to make sure he survives the next book. When it comes to romance, however, he is expendable. Fans have no patience for a nice, practical, quiet pairing, and so bury it in favor of Draco, Harry, and Ron. Whenever the pairing is brought up in conversation, it buried under a chorus of disgust and disbelief, as many refuse even to consider it. Subtle hints are not enough, even as JKR made Neville a star in OotP. They must remember that both are full of surprises; love is one of the greatest surprises of all.
What are their objections? “He’d be walked over”-not entirely true; the boy has guts, and can stand up to his friends, as evidenced at St. Mungo’s and before the search for the Philosopher’s stone. Just because Hermione would dominate does not mean a failure; indeed, this is also true for Ginny and Neville. It seems interesting that Hermione is most often paired with more aggressive, dominant males. Are the fans afraid of a relationship where the man is the happy submissive?
“There’s no chemistry”-just because Harry never sees it doesn’t mean the reader should follow only his point of view. They work well together, and they help each other in every way possible. It’s quiet; no fireworks or pomp, but you can see it if you look carefully. People prefer fireworks in their ships, not quiet, touching moments between good friends. While most teenagers have fast, emotional relationships, it’s harder to predict unique fictional creations.
The “it’s boring” argument is a weak one; you can argue that the whisper-thin H/Hr and the loud R/Hr are even more so; besides, Hermione is often dismissed as boring by her own best friends.
“I don’t see it”-Subtle it may be, but there are clues dropping throughout the series. The Yule ball and the grandmother’s meeting at St. Mungo’s are the clearest hints to the pairing. It took nerve for Neville to ask Hermione out; why would he want to go to a dance (and why ask well ahead of the more social Harry and Ron) if not for the feelings he had for her. Likewise, why else would Hermione stand up for him in particular; with Ron and Harry, she just nags and pontificates, but genuinely tries to help Neville; why shouldn’t she remember his role in her life?
“She’s ahead of him in too many ways”-her intellect is unmatched, but Ron and Harry are not particle physicists either. Indeed, Neville’s bumbling could just as easily be explained as due to lack of confidence as much as actual ineptitude. Indeed, Hermione’s role in Neville is coaxing him out of his low-self esteem; a relationship would be the natural result. They are equals in loyalty, courage, and perseverance in the face of tough odds.
“She’s set with Ron/Harry”-This is easy to denounce. Harry/Hermione has been shot down, and canon facts easily fail it. Ron/Hermione is by no means certain; it’s been at least five years, and neither has acted. Sure, they get into jealous snits, blush at awkward moments, and snipe at each other playfully, but nowhere has any sort of settlement towards a relationship been established. The barrier stops at friendship, nothing more. Weasley is indeed our king, but he is wise enough not to destroy their friendship.
These arguments are not at all sophisticated, and most opponents do not raise an argument above the level of “Never!” or “Ewwww”. There is no maturity or intellect applied to this ship; most opponents merely shrug it aside without consideration. So set in their opinions are they that any dissent is quickly shoved down. As said before, they seldom truly think about the ship and its strengths. In some polls, even Viktor Krum and Draco Malfoy get more votes than poor Neville, let alone the intra-trio ships.
Unglamorous, subtle, and overall non-confronting, the ship is more popular in smaller enclaves where people look at a gentler, calmer side of the shipping race, where a calm, rational look at ships is taken. There are a number of groups that are loyal to the ship, a few calling it “Forget and Remember” (a poor name for such an excellent pairing. Why not “Looking for Trevor”, “Not the last choice”, or “Courage within”?). They update slowly, and are not as well-staffed as other websites, but they do post art (rare), fiction (even the occasional smut pic where Neville takes the dominant side), but not yet any essays. Fanfiction,net has 100 N/Hr fanfics (link here), but there is not particular community. There are threads discussing the ship, such as in FictionAlleyPark and Portkey.org, and videos featuring it (Such as in this Google media search), but there are no organized movements.
I personally did not ship the characters for many years due to my overlooking Neville’s possibilities and Hermione’s character. I first shipped Harry/Hermione, being conventional. After the third book, I became a Ron/Hermione supporter, seeing the obvious clues. Goblet of Fire looked to be the turning point, where Ron and Hermione would finally reconcile. I was disappointed by their lack of resolution in Order of the
I’ve always been a Hermione fan, being a geeky outcast with a mouth too big for his own good. I was always ahead of the rest, always a perfectionist, and always a stickler for school rules. It was in the university that I found out the other side. I learned what it was like to change from a confident master to a bumbling novice in the course of a day. My ineptitude with chemistry made me remember Neville, and I re-read Order of the
I became an avid shipper, and rushed off to the newly-discovered world of fanfiction to find out more. To my dismay but not surprise, I found little. Due to sheer volume of fics, a small minority of Neville/Hermione fanfics has appeared, but there is no definitive work since there is no particular attention paid to this ship. Like I had done so in the past, most readers overlooked the possibility. It is genuinely depressing being the only supporter on a ship, but I took a page out of my shipped characters, and still promote them vigorously when appropriate.
That’s why this essay was written. Like most N/Hr shippers, this author has been dismissed by the mainline community. The evidence was weak until Goblet of Fire, when it became a distinct possibility in my mind. When Order of the
HMS Neville/Hermione survived six books without sinking completely. It has been ignored by the blundering battleships of Heron and Harmony, which savage each other single-mindedly. Some have described it as a “toy boat”-isn’t that what many submarines are dismissed as? It’s a small, old ship, but it has firepower and has not yet hit the bottom. Like the heroes of Harry Potter, it’s the underdog against the all-powerful regime (the canonical, universally accepted by most fans, Ron/Hermione). Underdogs are not to be underestimated.
During the course of this essay, LJ user lunalotte88 contributed appropiate songs for the ship
Slow Me Down (Emmy Rossum)
All I Ask of You (from Phantom of the Opera)
So She Dances (Josh Groban)
You Found Me (Kelly Clarkson)
You Get Me (Michelle Branch)
She Blinded Me With Science (Thomas Dolby)
Because You Loved Me (Celine Dion)