In what is a spectacular column by Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin, the case is made that Neville Longbottom and NOT Harry Potter is the most important and influential character in the series. She opens by saying thus:
So here’s the thing: out of all your wizarding students and house elves and headmasters and Death Eaters and muggles and centaurs, there is really only one person who determines the course of the Harry Potter series.
It’s Neville Longbottom.
Neville Longbottom has quite a following in the Harry Potter fandom, and for good reason—he is humble and noble, brave and kind, he’s a wonderful friend and a fierce supporter. Neville is what most Gryffindors would be like in the real world, a person capable of heroic feats under dire circumstances, but not inclined to them every waking moment. Neville understands that it’s not about being loud and brash every day, it’s about picking your battles and knowing what’s dear and worth fighting for.
Furthermore, she goes on to make some fascinating parallels between Harry’s generation and his father’s. She connects James with Harry, Sirius with Ron, Lupin with Hermione, Lily with Ginny, Snape with Draco, and Neville with…Peter Pettigrew. Yes, Peter Pettigrew:
Think about it—the tag along friend who looks up to the trio, but is looked down on by everyone else for not being remarkably talented or suave. Someone who is trusted with a lot of Harry’s most important secrets, in a perfect position to give everyone away. “Foolish boy,” as McGonagall said of little Pettigrew. Another pureblood who has no respect from the higher-up notable wizarding families. Gullible, the easy mark, someone who other children make fun of when Harry, Hermione, and Ron aren’t on hand to defend him. Neville is Peter’s brand new analog in the story.
Or, at least, he could have been. Neville is a perfect example of how one single ingredient in the recipe can either ruin your casserole (or stew, or treacle tart, whatever you like), or utterly perfect your whole dish. Neville is the tide-turner, the shiny hinge. And all because he happens to be in the same position as Wormtail… but makes all the hard choices that Pettigrew refused the first time around. Other characters are in similar positions, but none of them go so far as Neville. None of them prove that the shaping of destiny is all on the individual the way he does.
We strongly encourage you to read the rest of her post. It’s a fascinating read, and we’re inclined to agree: Neville never gets the credit he deserves, and it’s up to us as fans to make sure he is properly appreciated. Simply put, he’s a heroic wizard, but more importantly, a phenomenal person.