You and me. Both squibs.
When Neville is disgraced in his third year for unintentionally giving Sirius Black access to the Gryffindor tower, he is in dire need of a friend. There might be one just around the corner... Friendfic.
Neville tried not to cry, but it was not easy. This was the third night in a row he sat alone on the staircase outside Gryffindor tower, well after curfew. Around him it was dark and all the strange sounds of the castle multiplied around him, each and every one sounding to his poor ears as the sounds of the madman Black slowly crawling towards him to finish the job. Neville shuddered. He could still hear the words of professor McGonagall when she told him off. He could still feel the sneers of the first-years who seemed to think it was funny. Much worse, he remembered the disappointed expressions of his friends. Of Hermione, of Dean and Seamus. And of Harry and Ron. Neville shuddered. He did not even dare to think of how close it was that his friends had been killed because of his stupidity. What if Ron had been sleeping just slightly deeper? What if Black had chosen not to run but to strike when Ron awoke? No, Neville did not have a good time. To top it all, Trevor was gone again.
A grunt in the darkness made him jump, but it was only one of the security trolls, the one named Urgh, who was made his round. Coming closer, he caught Neville's eyes and leered at him. He swung his club in the air a few times and pointed at it, grunting a few syllables to the trembling boy on the stairs.
"Yes, yes, yes, sir Urgh! You have a very much bigger club than I have, OK?" Neville squeaked. Urgh nodded contently, and walked back to the portrait where the fat lady was sleeping blissfully, knowing that she was protected from all evil. Neville breathed out and got back to feeling miserable. There was no way anyone of his friends was still outside the common room. If no one remembered to let him in, he would have to spend the night here. He tried not to cry, but it was not easy.
There was a movement at the bottom of the stairs. Neville sprang to his feet, grabbing his wand, franticly trying to decide whether to run, scream, hide or all. He could se a sleek body moving towards him, see two glowing eyes fixated on him. He tried to edge backwards, but he was already at the wall. Suddenly he heard a voice speaking, right next to him. He screamed.
"Outside after curfew again, ain't you lad?" the wheezy voice of Filch the caretaker hissed. Neville turned around and saw the skinny man leaning against the wall, just next to him. He had no idea of he had got there without him noticing.
"I'm so very sorry sir!" he stammered. "I can't get into the dorm you see..." his voice trailed off. Behind him he could feel rather then here how Mrs. Norris sneaked up, closing his way of retreat if he would ever dare to even think of running for it.
"Yeah, I can see that," Filch muttered. "Those snobby, dirty little know-it-alls. Think it's all great fun leaving you here, right?" Neville stared at him. He did not know what to say, so he just mumbled something non-committing.
"And with that Black on the loose as well," the caretaker went on, seeming to talk more to himself than to Neville. "Yeah, it's all great fun for them. But I tell you, would he rip your throat it wouldn't be that funny anymore. Serve'em right, it would." There was a bitter edge to his voice. He eyed the frightened boy up on down. Then he shrugged, a motion involving his whole body, and put a bony hand on Neville's shoulder.
"You'd better come with me, lad." He pulled an old curtain to the side, revealing a small corridor. Producing a lit lamp who gave a sooty light he beaconed to the boy to follow him. Terrified, Neville did so. They walked through the corridor for a short time, then down a stair and out in a bigger corridor that Neville thought he recognized, even if he did not know where it was. Mrs Norris followed them silently. Filch opened a door with a large key he had in his belt. In silence they went inside.
It smelled of fried fish. A fire was smouldering in a small fireplace in the corner, the light and a boiling pot hanging over it gave the room a much more cosy impression than the cold, dark Hogwarts corridors. Half of the room was dominated by a large desk, covered with that kind of mess that takes year and steady and lovingly care to build. Three battered chairs, a large file cabinet and a small tent-bed occupied much of the remaining space. Chains, whips and other, seemingly even more nasty-looking objects were hanging from the wall. Filch pulled two of the chairs to the fireplace and sat down in one of them, nodding to Neville to take the other. Hesitantly, he did.
"Tea?" growled the caretaker. Neville nodded. Muttering Filch pored up two mugs of the brown liquid from the pot and gave one to the boy. He took a bowl of slightly dirty-looking sugar-lumps from the mantelpiece and put a liberal number of them in his mug. He handed the bowl to Neville, but he shook his head. Carefully he took a sip of his tea, and realized that it actually tasted nice. Filch found a dirty spoon and stirred his tea thoughtfully for a while before talking.
"I've been keeping my eyes on you, lad," he said, turning his eyes from the fire to Neville. "I've been keeping my eyes on you for quite a while now." Neville stared back at him, terrified. He knew all to well what trouble Filch' attention could land a student in. But the caretaker did not seem angry.
"You... have?" he asked with trembling voice.
"Can't just let it pass, can I? Can't just let them have there way. Oh, they'd like it, those snobs. But ol' Filch will not let just anything pass." He took a deep gulp of his tea and Neville quickly did the same. His thoughts were razing. Filch lowered his mug and sneered.
"Oh no. That's their way. Find someone who can't stand up for himself and bully him. Anyone a bit slow at that fancy magic shall be put down until he can't take it anymore and gives it up." He snorted. "They don't want us, you know. They don't want anyone not fitting in their idea of how a wizard should be. Better put them down."
The fire cracked. Neville was silent, trying to realize what Filch was saying. He had forgotten all of his tea.
"Same with muggles, really. They can't swing a wand. Then we don't want anything with them to do. Idiotic. Many of those crazy pureblood idiots," he spat out the word, "don't even know what an automobile or a fellyfone is. And I tell you lad, Dumbledore and the others aren't much better. They act as if the muggles are some kind of exotic animal or something that's to be preserved, but not treated as humans." He put down his mug with a thump. "What the hell is it with wand-swinging that makes a bloke a human anyway? Idiots." He glared at Neville.
"Do you understand what I'm saying, lad?"
And Neville did. He felt the tears he had been trying to hold back for so long erupt at last in the face of the sheer unfairness of everything. Ashamed he tried to hold back but there was nothing for it. Sitting in the office of Argus Filch in the middle of the night, Neville Longbottom of the Longbottom family cried as a child. The caretaker put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder.
"Cry, lad. That at least they can't deny you."
Neville cried for a long time. Tears he had been withholding for years finally came to the surface. Tears about his uselessness, about his clumsiness, about his incapability to do anything right, to be good at anything. He cried, and Filch sat next to him, hand on his shoulder, muttering softly words of nonsense.
"Sorry," he muttered at last when he had managed to end the flood of tears. Filch shook his head.
"Nothing to apologize about, lad. God knows you've been given your fair deal of reasons to cry. Locking a thirteen year old lad out from his bed in the middle of the night with a bunch of trolls... That's nice, is it?"
Neville nodded, silently and picked up his mug again. He took a large gulp and rubbed his eyes. They sat silent for a while. Mrs. Norris purred softly in her master's lap. The fire was emitting warmth and light. Filch had produced a pipe which he now was puffing on, staring into the fire. Neville could suddenly feel some of the despair he had carried inside him for so long giving way, something of the cosiness of this office replacing it.
"Thanks," Neville said in a silent voice. Filch nodded.
"Don't mention it. You and me lad. Both squibs. We should stick together."
"Thanks," Neville repeated, this time a bit louder. "I..." he swallowed. "I wish to apologize."
"Yeah? For what?"
"For all those time I've been sneaking up from bed and been around at night, or when I've been dragging in mud, or when I've lost Trevor and have had to search for him where I'm not supposed to be or..." he could feel himself blush and he heard a strange noise. He realized after a moment that it was Filch who was chuckling.
"Nothing to apologize for there either, lad. It's not only the smart-heads who can enjoy breaking a few rules. I expect nothing less of you than to find some adventure now and then." He got a glint in his eyes.
"To tell you the truth, I've seen you quite more often than you might have known, but I thought you deserved some freedom. Oh, and speaking of the toad... Have a look in the box in the corner." Neville bent over to glance into the box and with a small yelp he realized that his toad, Trevor indeed was sleeping happily in the box. Not really believing what he saw he carefully lifted the box and put it in his lap. Filch chuckled again.
"He comes down here to sleep now and then. The corners are quite damp and cold, so he likes it. And to tell you the truth, I don't mind at all him coming to keep me and Mrs. Norris company."
"Thanks," whispered Neville a third time, not finding any other way of expressing his gratitude than this simple word. There were so many things he wanted to tell the caretaker, so much of his thoughts and feelings he had never dared to tell anyone. But he realized that there probably were very few things he could tell Filch that he did not already know.
Mrs. Norris gently stretched out a paw and tenderly nudged the toad. Trevor croaked contently and went back to sleep.