This piece is probably one of the most horrific pieces of fanfic that I've ever read. Normally, I find horror (for lack of better word) fics to be totally not my style, but this is one that I have multiple times and will likely read again. Your look into Neville's character and how he reacts in different situations is fascinating, and I feel that you do it justice. The strong characterisation mixed with the absolute horror of the situation makes for a very compelling read.
First off, the description of everything going on in this story is amazing. You don't spend paragraph upon paragraph describing the scene, but you still manage to create this world where everything is defined. The images that I get when reading this story are so vivid and so incredibly hard to turn off, no matter how much I want to. Everything from Neville's blistering flesh to the small, claustrophobic room he was kept in is etched in my mind. Perhaps the most horrific moment of this fic is when Neville finally breaks. The description there is so vivid, especially at the climax of the story, when Neville is banging the man's head on the floor. The statement "red spattered on the bone white tile --" makes my stomach churn after all that is happened, and I'm relieved when Harry grabs him, because I couldn't take one more thing. I remember reading this for my first time, and stopping right here. I'm so glad I returned to read it through, but the description is just so intense that it actually made me stop reading at one point.
I loved how you used the time subtitles to help show Neville's decent. It starts off exact. "14 March 2001, 9:14 am". Not quarter after nine, but 9:14, showing how completely composed Neville is going into this training. He is completely in control and is ready for anything. Next, we go into approximates. Morning. Here, we see that Neville is starting to be in less control, but he's still aware enough to know about how much time has passed. Then he loses that. Gradually, Neville continues to lose time until all he knows is "March", and he's not even sure about that, showing his complete lack of control and full consciousness.
I mentioned earlier how I found Neville's characterisation to be one of the strongest points of this fic. It's no secret that Neville is your forte, but I think that the fact that you managed to put Neville through immense torture and still keep him completely in character is something that you should be very proud about. Straight from the getgo, Neville stands up and says he will not, under any circumstances, give up. In fact, his direct statement "Who am I kidding?" shows an almost inability to give up. This is so accurate to the Neville we see in the novels who, though beaten and tortured, never ever gave up. Who, when his hero had died and all hope seemed lost, refused to surrender. You have managed to really lock into one of Neville's strongest personality traits and make it shine. Even when Neville does break, he isn't so much giving up. Yes, he gives up his middle name, but he does it while smashing someone's face in. I love how this is reflected in the last section of the story, where Neville is trying to heal himself. He knows he's broken, but he continues to fight on, knowing that someday he'll mend. Another characteristic that I thought you portrayed well is Neville's need to prove himself. When Neville thinks there are people watching, he pushes himself to stay strong in order to " I'll show them [he's] just as tough as [his] parents were." This is a characteristic we see throughout the novels. Neville is constantly being compared to his parents by his grandmother, and it is part of why he does what he does. Lastly, I thought that the vines were a very nice touch. It was exciting to watch Neville get excited about the vines. You made plants his anchor, something I find very believable. Like most people I know, Neville has found the one thing that keeps him him, and it adds a very personal feeling to the story.
I think the biggest quibble I have about this story is Harry. A lot of Harry's characterisation is spot on. He clearly cares for his friends and can't just stand by and watch his friend feel complete torture. The one thing I'm not quite sure about is why Harry stopped it only when Neville broke. I can't see Harry letting anyone go that far with his friend. That being said, the torturer does say that no one knows they are down there. If that is the case, how did the swarm of Aurors manage to stop Neville at that moment? While all this confusion helps us see the world through Neville's eyes in the moment, I, personally, would love a little clarification as to how and why the torture was allowed to go so far.
The torture methods you used were quite scary, to be honest, but quite realistic at the same time. You chose to make the torturer one of Neville's worst memories. Even before we knew that Carrow raped Neville, we can understand a little bit of Neville's fear. Even without the sexual assault, Carrow had tortured and allowed other people to torture Neville and his friends repeatedly over the year, thus seeing him would have caused panic in the first place. Next, you introduce small rooms. While not everyone is claustrophobic, putting someone into a small room with no visible way out would be terrifying and suffocating. Then, you introduce fire. Fire is perhaps one of the most cruel forms of torture. The pain resides for a long time afterwards and leaves scars and nerve damage even when the burns have healed. Combine that with Neville's memories, and fire creates one of the strongest weapons that the torturer has against Neville.
Neville's breaking point in this story is truly interesting. Neville can withstand pain, horror, and small spaces, but what really gets to him is the attack on his dignity. I'm not saying that sexual assault isn't physical or horrible, but it's so much more. It's just as much about the psychological damage as it is about the physical, and the fact that it is Neville's real trigger just makes sense to me. Neville's dignity as always been something he's fought for, and to have it ripped away and then used against him is cruel, and it is completely understandable that that is what breaks him.
Lastly, I think that you ended the story in the perfect place. Until very close to the end, the reader has not had time to breathe. There is literally no relief in this story. It's simply horror upon horror upon horror. In the last line, the reader is given this little spark of hope. Neville is not okay at this moment, but we know that he will be. In the end, we may not remember the specifics of Neville's torture, but we will remember that Neville is strong enough to move ahead and try to heal, and that is powerful in itself.
Overall, I think that this is an amazing story, Jamie. The story as a whole definitely shows why you are one of the best Neville authors out there.
Wow, this story was so well-written and intense, fantastic job writing it. Neville slowly losing his mind in there, even I'm not really sure what was real and what wasn't, and you nailed his character as well. This left me really on edge, and even though while reading I felt disgusted and horrified, I had to keep going. Eerily disturbing, but I assure you in a brilliantly written way that left me thinking at the end. I would most certainly hope that that sort of training was not allowed at the Ministry, or any other place for that matter :) Excellent piece.
Fantastic... I read the whole thing twice, my eyes glued to the screen both times. You, my friend, are a very skilled author.
This is going to be an awful review :0 But I know how it feels to be stuck in the lands of obscurity, lol! So as a result of that, here you are.
I liked Neville's characterisation~he might not be the most talented but he is definitely brave, he shows that from the first book where he stands up to H, R and Hr all the way up until the last where he stands up to Voldemort.
I did think it was a little odd that Carrow was raping Neville, especially since I think Neville's punishment during DH was mostly physical pain ie cuts and bruises; I didn't think Carrow would do that. But we never do see that much of him so you're free to do that :P
I liked how Neville was unsure of everything after he got out of the training~this is awful but it kind of reminds me of A Midsummer Night's Dream where Helena and Hermia and Lysander and Demetrius all wake up and they're like "oh my gosh, what happened to me, what did I do, I don't think that really happened?" But of course your example was much harsher.
The training thing was interesting. I thought Aurors were definitely pushed beyond their limits when learning, but not that far and DEFINITELY wouldn't be allowed by the Ministry of Magic imho, even just Legilimency (I think I spelled that wrong but I'm too lazy to go look, lol)
Anyway, this was a great read, I'm not sure why it doesn't have any reviews yet, I thought it was lovely.
p.s. I may end up using this as a SPEW review...shows how low I'm sinking :P
Author's Response: YAY! ::huggles:: Thank you from saving me from obscurity! My fellow puffs are the best.
Given Fenrir's permission from Voldemort to do whatever he pleases with his victims (and iirc JKR did allude to him being a child molester) it didn't take too much suspension of disbelief for me to see Carrow as a sadistic monster who wouldn't do a thing because he wanted the sexual gratification - he'd do it because it's such a horrible punishment that lasts. Anyone who gets their kicks by making kids practice the Cruciatus on one another is plenty horrid enough to like punishing someone by any means necessary.
And even though the story is over, I really want to know what Neville and Harry did to make Unspeakable Ross completely flip his lid and pull out all the stops, even though it was extremely illegal to do so. I may have to explore Ross's psyche a bit. You're right, that level of anti-torture training is definitely NOT allowed by the Ministry. Some is necessary, but certainly not what happened here.
Thank you kindly for the R&R. I shall have to return the favour once I perfect my method for shoving 4 extra hours into the day. :)