neville longbottom has been visiting his parents from the time he was very little. his grandmother believed that knowing the truth, of how they were and how they are, would motivate neville to do great things, even at the risk of ending up like them. she wanted neville to believe that his parents' lives were not cursed, not crueller than death would be.
augusta longbottom believed the best in her son and his wife. she trusted their crucio-addled brains with watching neville when augusta's old witch bladder called to her.
neville would never remember when it started. he was always physically affectionate when he visited, eager to have any relationship he could with his parents, despite their unresponsive stares and meaningless gurgles causing discomfort to envelope his stomach. he loved them, and so when he hugged his father hello, and frank's hand moved from behind to neville's front, neville was gentle. he remembers the one time he wasn't. he had asked his father to stop, he didn't like that. frank continued touching neville in that odd way, incomprehensible to neville's small child brain until neville felt he had no choice but to physically push those arms off of him, hit them when they came forward again.
augusta longbottom came into the ward at that exact moment. she grabbed neville by the ear as she marched her grandson out of the building, demanding to know what he had thought he was doing. neville tried to explain, tried to describe the touching and the fear, but he was met with only this. "your parents are not like us, neville. they cannot control their actions. you, however, can, and if you ever harm either of them again, i will disown you."
neville was already a disappointment to the family, already being subjected to tricks to scare his magic into appearing. neville needed to have a family, and his grandmother was right, his parents were not in control of their mumbling and pacing. his parents were disabled, less well off than him, and as their son he owed them his presence, his visits. so he allowed them, both frank and eventually alice, to touch him in those places. he shoved all of his discomfort down into the same hole where he shoved his anger at his grandmother for her constant criticism, his anger at uncle algie for his cruel pranks. he was not angry at his parents. he was not allowed to be.
neville wondered, sometimes, as he aged from child to adolescent, if his parents were mirroring behavior around them. if the doctors at st. mungo's were violating them, and so his parents only way to handle these unwanted advances was by imitation. neville wondered if his parents had been sexual people before- if, had voldemort never recruited anyone, neville would have any siblings. neville was too embarrassed to ask his grandmother, and she would likely admonish him for daring to speak of his parents' misdeeds. neville was a lonely child, though, and so sometimes, as he walked through the meadows around his town, he would imagine siblings for himself. who would they be? would his parents have favorites?
neville knew almost nothing about his mother, as augusta had not known alice long before the attack and no other family members knew her at all. neville knew only that his father was a heroic gryffindor, an expert in astronomy, and had wanted to become a hitwizard before the war. neville lived in the shadow of his father, a constant barrage of not enough not enough not enough following him throughout childhood. he had trouble reconciling the boy in his grandmother's stories with the shaking hands, wandering eyes, lip-licking father he visited monthly. neville cherished some of those visits, when his grandmother or the doctor remained in the room, when his mother unwrapped chewing gum and his father mumbled nonsense. neville diligently ignored the discomfort he had when even those visits ended in hugs, pretending he was not sighing with relief when he exited the long term care hallway.
when neville bounced off the concrete, he wondered if all his magic had been kept busy holding his emotions in that pit in his brain, that only almost dying could scare it out of hiding. neville screamed at his uncle for the first time that night, and augusta was so happy her grandson was not a squib she forgot to punish him for insolence.
neville found trevor in the grass outside st. mungo's, after a visit where his mother said a coherent word, "more", while touching neville in the swimsuit area, a feat all the more frightening because his grandmother was there and said nothing, the disapproving frown on her face never morphing into the concern and anger neville sometimes fantasized it would. neville sometimes fantasized his grandmother's anger finally being on his behalf, even defending him from her own son, but he chastized himself for those fantasies afterward. neville's emotions always seemed outside his control. neville's discomfort and feeling of obligation faded when he noticed the toad, hopping about, looking just as conflicted as neville felt. neville felt a kinship towards the toad, like maybe it could be the protector he dreamt about. a warty, small, damp being that would disgust people enough that they would stop touching him.
augusta let neville keep trevor, and the first time neville lost the toad was on the hogwarts express. neville wondered if that was significant.
neville was not brave. he feared his grandmother, feared his parents, feared how others would react if/when they found out about his parents' condition, feared failing, feared making no friends... neville was loyal, that was the only quality he knew he possessed. he argued and argued with the sorting hat to no avail. "gryffindor," and neville ran with the hat still on his head, still pleading, still thick with terror.
neville would never know what made snape so terrifying. was it the lurking presence, oddly reminscent of frank during the visits augusta stayed watching?
(neville was not afraid of his father, neville was a good son. neville loved his father loved loved loved-)
was it the constant barbs, the refusal to answer questions, the lack of empathy even when neville was hurt? (the same traits his grandmother held, the ones he ignored and ignored, praying if he tried hard enough he could earn her love, earn the look she developed when reminiscing about her son's exploits)
was it just the simple imagery of the man, beady eyes and robes that flowed like a spider's web as he stalked about the dungeons? neville stared in horror at his boggart, but he recited the spell.
attraction and fear contain the same main component - the eyes widening, heart beat quickening, tingling quality known as arousal. neville felt it when his parents- when he visited. he felt it in potions class. in third year, he began having dreams. sometimes they took place at st. mungo's. sometimes they contained a naked snape, touching neville while insulting him. neville tried to tell himself the dreams only contained fear, that his shakiness in class was pure terror, but in the dead of night he masturbated to those images. in the morning neville projected onto trevor, imaging the toad's round eyes being filled with disappointment rather than anticipation for crickets.
neville had hated snape for using trevor as a threat, harming the only creature that ever loved neville as a reminder of neville's unending incompetence. neville longed to befriend hermione after that day, and eventually did. snape's eyes stared whenever neville closed his. neville was allowed to be angry at snape, snape hated him. neville relished in the rage he felt when complaining after class, knowing that he held no obligation to like the professor. no reason whatsoever to hold any respect or reverence to the man, and isn't sexualizing someone a form of disrespect? neville grew older, and learned ballroom dancing. neville found a mother figure in professor mcgonagall, a kindred spirit in professor sprout's greenhouses. neville grew braver in his time, and more defiant.
neville's parents died his seventh year - the year he first suffered the crucio, the year he led a rebellion, the year he pulled the sword out of the sorting hat. neville did not cry. neville planted sundews outside of the hospital, and stayed with ginny and luna at luna's house the day of the funeral. neville's grandmother, augusta, never forgave him. she sent howler after howler. ginny's bat-bogey hexes turned the red envelopes into confetti. luna distracted neville with talk of exotic plants her father had discovered in africa, ones that may have been the first to evolve bio-luminescence. neville would learn to deal with his mixed emotions towards augusta with a mind healer, but in the time directly after the war, distractions were enough.
years later, a teacher and man in his own right, neville would explain himself to the portrait of severus snape. snape would forgive him his youthful errors, his years spent feeling dirty and broken. snape would apologize, the way the living snape never had the bravery or willingness to. neville knew that uncharacteristic kindness was a spark of the artist, dean thomas, shining through. severus snape the man was a horrid human being who allowed students to be tortured while headmaster. severus snape the portrait was, like the man who haunted neville's teenage wet dreams, merely a creation.