Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy Birthday, Neville, Harry and Jo

I'm a day late for wishing Neville a Happy Birthday and almost too late to wish one for Harry and Jo, but here it is, better late than never.

I saw the Happy Birthday posted yesterday on Rowling's official site for Neville and was reminded that he is one of my favorite Harry Potter characters. He was the one who was bumbling in the first book and seemed to be only there for comic relief, perhaps to make the real heroes look even better. Much to Harry's credit, he didn't belittle Neville, even when others laughed at his misfortunes; Neville was constantly losing his toad, Trevor, falling from his broomstick, receiving a remembrall from his formidable Gran because of his unfortunate tendency to forget just about everything, and was more intimidated by Severus Snape than any other student even when Snape wasn't singling him out for ineptitude.

But even when Neville seemed to be slowing down the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione, he was a true and faithful friend, always supportive and always trying to do the right thing. We had no idea just how much of a friend he would be until the last book when Neville, as many of us had hoped, finally showed, in the strongest way, that he was indeed a true Gryffindor, properly placed in the house for those who are brave and courageous. To stand up to your friends takes a special kind of courage, as we saw in the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Over time we saw Neville continue to stand up to his friends, but more often, he was standing up for them, especially for Harry. We began to see that Neville was willing to stand up against the evil that threatened Harry in Order of the Phoenix, encouraging Harry to resist giving in to Lucius Malfoy at the Department of Mysteries. That was a courage that none would have suspected from the meek Neville we first met when he was frantically searching the Hogwarts Express for Trevor, with Hermione's help. By the end of Half-Blood Prince, we could see that Neville was loyal, not only willing to help, but also willing to fight, when he and Luna joined in the battle at the end.

The best, however, was learning what Neville had been doing all during their seventh year at Hogwarts, while Harry, Ron and Hermione were on the run and Horcrux hunting, and it was a fantastic surprise. There was Neville, fighting against the evil that pervaded Hogwarts and the wizarding world, spilling over into the Muggle one, in Deathly Hallows, with a courage beyond what any of us might have imagined for him. And at last, he faced the greatest evil of all, Lord Voldemort, and proved once and for all that he had what was needed to survive and to win the battle.

So, in many ways, Neville is my favorite character. He went far beyond what I expected. After all, I had no doubt that Harry, the hero, would survive--well, at least until he defeated Voldemort. And I suspected that if Harry made it through, that Ron and Hermione would as well. At least, that was what I hoped. So in making a list of who might not live, the trio wasn't really on the list, but Neville was. And I was so happy that he not only lived but lived well and heroically. Best surprise of the final book, actually. (There were certainly some sad ones, but this isn't the place for them.)

And then, of course, Happy Birthday to Harry Potter and his creator, Jo Rowling. I'm so glad that we can still wish Harry a Happy Birthday, and that he finally found a happy family life, something that he so clearly wanted and needed for most of his young life.

I remember reading this post last year after my first reading of Deathly Hallows, and I was pleased to see that Beth has posted it in honor of Harry's and Jo's birthdays. So go here, read and enjoy her insightful reflections. Having recently finished reading all seven books in a row, with only a few sidetracks for other books, I really did appreciate remembering how I felt last summer about this time after devouring and then re-reading the last Harry Potter book.

This kind of answers the question that many were discussing earlier--how did I celebrate the one year anniversary of the last book of my favorite book series. I celebrated by doing what I've been doing for the last nine years, by reading and listening to Harry Potter. Again and again, and probably something that I will continue to do, even as I read and listen to all kinds of other books. The Harry Potter books, and especially the last one, will always hold a special place on my book shelf--and a special place in my heart.

So, thanks, Jo Rowling, and Happy Birthday to you and to Harry.