Imagine feeling such incredible pain that it drives you mad. This was the sad fate of Frank and Alice Longbottom.
Illustration of Frank and Alice Longbottom with baby Neville

‘Yes, they were talking about Neville’s parents,’ said Dumbledore. ‘His father, Frank, was an Auror just like Professor Moody. He and his wife were tortured for information about Voldemort’s whereabouts after he lost his powers, as you heard.’
‘So they’re dead?’ said Harry quietly.
‘No,’ said Dumbledore, his voice full of a bitterness Harry had never heard there before, ‘they are insane. They are both in St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. I believe Neville visits them, with his grandmother, during the holidays. They do not recognise him.’
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

This was the first time we heard about how Neville’s parents were affected during Voldemort’s first reign of terror. What made their attack worse, perhaps, was that it was carried out after Voldemort had fallen from power and people thought that they were finally safe. Dumbledore went on to explain to Harry how the attack had caused a wave of utter fury because the Longbottoms were such a popular couple.

The next time we heard about the Longbottoms in more detail was when Professor Moody gave Harry a battered old photograph. In it were the original members of the Order of the Phoenix and, among them, Alice and Frank. This moment really did capture the unsung heroism of this couple. They were parents and yet, like Remus Lupin and Tonks, they gave their lives for the protection of others. They stepped up in tough times and helped to create an Order which not only saved people (Muggles and wizards alike) when Voldemort first came to power, but was successful enough to be rekindled when he returned.

Just imagine for a moment if you had been in their shoes. Would you have stood up from your desk, put on your robe, grabbed your broom and headed out into the cold night air to a secret meeting knowing it could result in your death? Or would you have locked that door, laid down those hexes and hoped that the bad things passed you by? It would have been very easy to do the latter.

Alice and Frank did not. They stepped up and paid the most awful price for their bravery.

‘Harry’s stomach, already uncomfortable, clenched as he looked at Alice Longbottom; he knew her round, friendly face very well, even though he had never met her, because she was the image of her son, Neville.
‘– poor devils,’ growled Moody. ‘Better dead than what happened to them …’
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny in the permanent or long-lasting damage ward.

Then there was that moment when Harry, Hermione and Ron met up with Neville and his gran at St Mungo’s hospital. Neville looked as if the ground was betraying him because it was refusing to eat him up. Harry didn’t know which way to turn. Interestingly, it was in this moment that Neville’s grandmother – so far someone we had only heard about through Neville’s nervous mumblings – stood out. It was she who proudly announced the sacrifice made by her son and his wife. In many ways it was their ailment which had likely made her so spiky and shaped the way she’d raised Neville.

‘Well, it’s nothing to be ashamed of!’ said Mrs Longbottom angrily. ‘You should be proud, Neville, proud! They didn’t give their health and their sanity so their only son would be ashamed of them, you know!’
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

When Alice edged down the corridor to give Neville a Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum wrapper, you could almost taste the sadness of the situation. A part of her remembered Neville; she knew he was important to her, and his tender pocketing of the old sweet wrapper showed how deeply he cared. Neville was an extraordinary boy and this was in no small part to the extraordinary nature of his parents.

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‘No, no, no,’ said Bellatrix. She looked transported, alive with excitement as she glanced at Harry, then back at Neville. ‘No, let’s see how long Longbottom lasts before he cracks like his parents … unless Potter wants to give us the prophecy.’
‘DON’D GIB ID DO DEM!’ roared Neville, who seemed beside himself, kicking and writhing as Bellatrix drew nearer to him and his captor, her wand raised. ‘DON’D GIB ID DO DEM, HARRY!’
Bellatrix raised her wand. ‘Crucio!’
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

In that moment we know that Alice and Frank Longbottom lasted a very long time before they were broken by the Cruciatus Curse. Hats off to them both. Not many would face down Bellatrix and watch her torture the person they love and still stay strong. We’ll never know much about this couple beyond that grainy photograph, but we’ll always respect just how brave they, and their son, really were.

Harry and Neville in the Room of Requirement from the Order of the Phoenix

Each month Pottermore will shine a spotlight on a character from the Harry Potter stories who we feel deserves more credit. Come back next month when we celebrate Regulus Black.

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