In the Harry Potter series, Neville Longbottom is presented as the other possible “Chosen One,” according to a prophecy made by Professor Trelawney. Both of them have the apparent potential to destroy Lord Voldemort, given the special circumstances surrounding their childhoods.
Why, then, is Harry ultimately the one who takes on the mantle of responsibility from the prophecy?
The books constantly emphasize the importance of personal choices (like Hogwarts students ultimately having a say as to which house they’re sorted into, despite the Sorting Hat). That said, circumstances and privilege also come into play frequently.
Neville didn’t come from wealth, and, unlike Harry, he didn’t inherit a vault full of gold. As such, Neville had to make do with a hand-me-down wand which had once belonged to his father. This minute difference in circumstance could have ultimately made a huge difference in the trajectory of these characters.
As is detailed in a theory from “Soggy Old Coot” on the Harry Potter Theory blogspot:
In Order of the Phoenix, (p. 794 US), Neville Longbottom mentions that his wand, i.e. the wand broken from the same kick that broke his nose, once belonged to his father. It has been an established fact since Philosopher’s Stone that a wizard may not have as successful results with another’s wand as with his own (p. 84). Hence it would be logical to assume that, to a certain extent, Neville is a much more powerful wizard than he has previously been presented as.
When Neville is given a new wand, his performance improves drastically, and his bravery gets a healthy boost. (Though many may attribute this to a natural character arc.)
The story about Neville and his wand goes on further to connect it to Neville living under his father’s shadow. No one thinks he’s as good as his dad, and people take great pains to remind him of it. In “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” Neville says, “Gran’s always telling Professor Marchbanks I’m not as good as my dad . . . ” Of course, later in the book, Neville’s wand breaks in the Department of Mysteries, and he starts to become more apt at using his new wand that chose him.
“Soggy Old Coot” believes that Neville’s perception of his inferiority to his father ultimately contributes to his initial ineptitude at Hogwarts:
Because of this, Neville has lacked the confidence to demonstrate his full capabilities from the very first day of his first year at Hogwarts. He will never be able to be able to attain his full potential until he is able to remove himself from the shadow of his father.
Also: everybody needs their own wand! The wand chooses the wizard, y’all! It only stands to reason that, unless the wand’s allegiance changes (which can happen, if you recall the final book), a wand will not respond properly if it is used by someone other than its true owner.
Harry and Neville were presented as being essentially alike in Professor Trelawney’s prophecy — but, ultimately, the small-yet-crucial differences in their circumstances molded them into two completely unique wizards.