Neville Longbottom is a hero of the wizarding world. You know the story — he kept Dumbledore's Army going at Hogwarts, he helped defend the school against Death Eaters, he proved himself to be a worthy Gryffindor by pulling the sword from the Sorting Hat and he destroyed the final Horcrux, Nagini. Not bad.
But Neville wasn't always the epic sword-swinging, round-faced legend we all know and love. In fact, the first few years of Neville's life at Hogwarts were, simply put, the worst. Like most people who spent years believing that they weren't quite good enough, Neville's transition from a self-conscious kid to a snake-slaying icon didn't quite happen overnight.
‘You should have seen their faces when I got in here — they thought I might not be magic enough to come, you see.’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Let's take a look back at what might have been going on in Neville's mind on that first day on the Hogwarts Express, for instance. After all, he must have felt like an outcast. Although he came from a pure-blood family, Neville never really believed he'd ever be going to Hogwarts because his family didn't think he had any magic in him for most of his life. Especially Great-uncle Algie.
As a result, it's only natural that poor Neville must have been fretting over his magical ability. And from the sounds of things, Hermione Granger, ‘the cleverest witch of her year’ was one of the first students he met on the Hogwarts Express. He must have been terrified. Why couldn't he have run into Crabbe or Goyle for a couple of minutes for a bit of a self-esteem boost?
Then, to make matters worse, his only companion Trevor managed to get loose. And as we all know, thanks to Hagrid, toads aren't even cool, so his widely known search for the toad already set him off to a bad start. All of this took place before the poor boy even stepped foot in Hogwarts. Of course, once he was actually inside the castle his luck only got worse.
One of Neville's biggest problems throughout the series was Severus Snape. The Potions professor was Neville's number-one bully at Hogwarts. Snape had no reason to give Neville such a hard time (sure, the prophecy could have meant Neville, but Voldemort marked Harry as his equal so you can all pipe down), and yet he pushed Neville to such a place where not only did he struggle in lessons because of how terrified he was of messing up, he was also horrified that Snape would kill old Trevor. Yep, can we all take a moment to remember the time Snape threatened the life of Neville's toad?
Neville was pink and trembling. He looked as though he was on the verge of tears...
‘Longbottom, at the end of this lesson we will feed a few drops of this potion to your toad and see what happens. Perhaps that will encourage you to do it properly.’
Snape moved away, leaving Neville breathless with fear.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Later in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban we see how deeply Neville's terror goes after we find out that his worst fear is Snape. Can you imagine having to deal with your worst fear every single day? That's like a Dementor for Harry, a giant spider for Ron, Hermione failing her exams — every day. How could this not have a deep impact on your feelings of self-worth?
Neville backed away, his wand up, mouthing wordlessly. Snape was bearing down upon him, reaching inside his robes.
‘R-r-riddikulus!’ squeaked Neville.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Then there are his peers. Of course, none of the Gryffindors dislike Neville. It seems that most of them are quite fond of him. But the complex friendship groups of Hogwarts don't really work in Neville's favour right up until Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. As in, everyone has a best mate except Neville. And maybe Eloise Midgen, but that's for another day.
In the Gryffindor dormitory, this buddy-up scheme sees Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan as BFFs, and of course Ron Weasley and Harry (with Hermione). Who is Neville left with? Trevor the toad, that's who. And even Trevor tries to keep his distance by vanishing every three pages.
Not to mention that even on the odd occasion Neville had a chance to spend one-on-one time with his friends, they still tried to shake him off.
One of the most particularly upsetting examples of this was when he was banned from visiting Hogsmeade and suggested that he and Harry did their homework together. Harry could have just hung out with Neville, you guys. He could have even told Neville about the Marauder's Map and have taken him along to Hogsmeade. Instead, Harry just evaded him and scooted off to the village on his own. Can you imagine how Neville might have felt when he realised Harry wasn't coming back from the library?
Yet, in the face of all of this adversity, Neville turns into a hero and all it takes is a little encouragement from a proud teacher (thanks, McGonagall), an aptitude for Herbology and a group of rebels teaching each other how to perform banned spells under the noses of their oppressors. So, should you ever be unsure of yourself or worry you're not good enough, just remember that if Neville did it, so can you.
Just don't go buying a toad.