Chapter 2 : Squib Encounter
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Also, I added more to the last part of the first chapter about genetics. You don't have to go back and read it. I don't think it's vital to the plot that you know it all now, and it will be repeated, eventually.
Chapter Two: Squib Encounter
Draco Malfoy didn't always understand the purpose behind the missions they gave him. He just did what he was told, and he depended on the fact that whoever he was working for had the same mission he did.
As he stood over the decomposing corpse of his latest target in the Darkest magical neighborhood of eastern Europe, he felt a certain amount of pride in what he did. He was a puppeteer in a land of blood-thirsty criminals, and with the powerful people he had supporting him, he could do just about anything.
He hadn't personally taken out the target, though. The people he worked for would never have approved of something so directly barbaric. He'd started his mission by trying to convince the target to stop taking over the black market business of Erumpet Horns by killing off competitors. When that hadn't worked, Draco hadn't had a choice but to put together the remaining Erumpet Horn dealers, provide them with ample amounts of Dark Magical Artifacts, and lead them through the Wards of the dealer.
After this, the worldwide market for these horns would be open again, and their black-market price would plummet. The people he worked for had a lot of stake in Erumpet Horns, apparently.
Draco looked uneasily at the bloodstained trail down the hall. The people he worked for also would never approve of taking a risk in order to save the child of the target. Draco had Apparated the ten-year-old son of the target away before the violence had started. Innocent casualities were a natural consequence of his line of work, but it was difficult. He didn't think there were many agents who would disagree with him.
At least Draco could save the child from a brutal death. Was it Draco's problem that the orphaned boy was probably wandering around the streets of St. Petersburg, scared out of his mind?
He shook himself from his dark thoughts, returning to the bloody mess of a room he was in now. With a swipe of his wand and a muttered incantation, any traces of his magical signature in the room was gone, and Draco was already leaving.
The morning light streamed through the window straight onto Hermione’s face. She rolled over, groggily checking the time on the bedside clock.
Five o-clock. Brilliant.
She’d forgotten to close the curtains last night. In her frenzied planning, she’d barely had time to consider sleep. It was only when Harry gently led her to bed that she had realized how late it was.
She sat up slowly. She could hear the rush of cars in the street below her, even at this ungodly hour. Harry hadn’t thought to place silencing charms on his house.
With heavy eyelids, she bumbled her way into to the kitchen.
A high-pitched giggle stopped her mid-step.
Hermione paused and furrowed her brow at the odd noise coming from Harry’s bedroom.
Still half-awake, she knocked on his door. “Harry?”
No response, but then she heard it again, suddenly aware that it was a feminine giggle. She paused. Was he…?
Embarrassed, and now very wide-awake, she backed away from the door. What should she do? There was no way she could pretend she didn’t hear if she was out here when they came out, but… She could feel her face heating up, and she desperately wanted to run back to her room. Before she could unstick her feet, the door opened, and Harry’s head peaked out from behind it.
“Harry?” she choked out in surprise.
He flushed. “Hermione!” he exclaimed, as if just now realizing she was staying in his apartment.
“Hermione!” shrieked a voice from behind Harry.
Hermione was really confused now. “Ginny?”
After an awkward pause, Harry shut the door with a snap. Hermione could hear the murmur of their voices and the rustling of cloth. When had Ginny come over? And didn’t they just break up?
She shook herself loose, trying to brush away the embarrassment. Their break-up must’ve been the temporary kind. Harry and Ginny had always been inseparable.
She shook her head. Alright, time to think of something else. Coffee! Coffee, she should be making coffee. Harry likes coffee too, so she should make enough for him. Does Ginny like coffee?
She stormed into the kitchen, pulling out the coffee grinds and pouring them in the Muggle machine. She added enough water for three cups. She tried to get it started, but the light didn’t turn on. Frustrated, she pushed the button, hard, but nothing happened.
She nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard a cough behind her.
“You might want to plug it in,” said Ginny, when Hermione turned to face her.
Hermione blushed, fumbling the coffee mug in her hand. “Er, hello.” Ginny was wearing Harry’s shirt from yesterday, and a pair of boxers that probably also belonged to Harry.
“I know I’m not all that knowledgeable with Muggle appliances, but I think Harry usually plugs it in first. My dad once showed me how to work a plug – it’s a bit tricky. I can help you, if you want,” Ginny said seriously.
Hermione gaped at her for several moments, and then, finding her mind, she turned back to the machine. “I’ve got it. Thanks though.” She plugged in the machine. Alright, Hermione. Calm down. You’ve become frantic enough that you’re taking Muggle appliance advice from a pureblood.
She sighed when the machine started working, putting down two more mugs next to the machine, and pulling the cream out of the refrigerator. Ginny was sitting at the kitchen table by the time she turned around again.
“So,” Hermione said, “what have you been up to?”
“I’ve been trying a few different jobs, here and there, and doing interviews. I only just got out of Hogwarts last year. I’m still not sure what I want to do.”
“Last time we talked, you said you wanted to be an Auror.”
“And the time before I said I wanted to be a professional Quidditch player,” Ginny said. “I came back from visiting Charlie in Romania last night. He was trying to get me to do Dragon taming.” Ginny pulled up her sleeve and showed Hermione an enormous scar running up her arm and disappearing under her shirt. “I learned that it’s not for me.”
Hermione winced, taking a careful look at the purple scar. “That looks serious. They couldn’t get rid of the scar?”
Ginny grinned. “Nah, I wanted to keep it. The healers thought I was crazy. Mum’s angrier than the dragon that did it.”
Hermione nearly grinned at the thought of Mrs. Weasley’s reaction, but she sobered when she remembered Ron.
“What are you up to?” Ginny asked.
“I’ve made a huge discovery,” she said. “Well, Harry helped me actually. I think I know why the pureblood lines are dwindling.”
Ginny’s eyes widened comically. “What?”
“Well, it actually comes from a Muggle science. Do you know anything about genetics?”
At Ginny’s blank look, Hermione knew she had her work cut out for her. “It’s – ”
“Don’t let her even start,” Harry said as he walked into the kitchen. “It gave me a headache last night just listening to her try to explain it.”
Ginny raised a brow suggestively. “Talking about geneticuts with another woman, deep into the night, Harry? Should I be jealous?”
At their ensuing awkward silence, Ginny raised both brows. “Something actually happen between you two?” she asked.
Hermione’s eyes widened, and she looked at Harry, who looked equally surprised. “How did you come to that conclusion?” Hermione asked.
“Look, Ginny – ” Harry began, only to be interrupted by the sudden explosion of Ginny’s laughter.
Hermione and Harry stared at her dumbly.
“I was so surprised when Harry told me a few months ago that you'd never even tried to be more than friends. I mean, how could he just know that you two weren’t meant to be together if he’d never tried? Of course, he waits until we’re broken up do it. Such a gentleman.”
Hermione wasn’t sure how to reply to that. She knew that Ginny wasn’t being sarcastic. She wasn’t the sarcastic type. But it was hard to believe that the woman that sat in front of her in her best friend’s clothes used to be the same ten-year-old Ginny Weasley that had once had a celebrity crush on the Boy Who Lived.
Even just comparing the Ginny Weasley in front of her with the one that had been at the Final Battle two years ago was glaring. Hermione shook off the uneasy feeling that something serious had happened to Ginny in the last year - something that she wasn't even telling Harry.
“But,” said Ginny, waggling her finger at Hermione with amused brown eyes, “I hope you didn’t enjoy it too much because he’s mine now, and I’m not letting him get away from me ever again.” The way Ginny finished the sentence made Hermione believe that Harry really didn’t have much choice in the matter. Of course, he didn’t seem to mind Ginny’s forwardness either.
Suddenly finding her voice again under Ginny’s wide grin, she said, “We were very drunk, Ginny – it wasn’t like that. Just a very sloppy kiss. And, well,” Hermione figured she’d have to tell Ginny eventually, “Ron walked in on us.”
Ginny nearly shrieked. “What?”
“I still can’t believe what happened,” Hermione said. “He broke up with me, which is why I’m living here. It’s – it’s terrible.”
“Are you kidding me?” Ginny said. “This is fantastic!”
Hermione felt her stomach dip in anxiety and uncertainty. What was Ginny saying?
“I mean, don’t get me wrong, Ron is a good guy… for somebody. But you are an independent woman, Hermione!”
“Er, Ginny,” said Harry.
“You don’t need to be catering to Ron all day. He’s spoiled rotten by our mum, and he’s a bit too stupid for you, too. No offense meant, of course. You need a real man, a strong man that will give you the respect you deserve – like Harry here, except he’s mine.”
Hermione felt herself begin to hyperventilate. “You’re wrong,” she managed to say, though it came out a bit breathlessly. “Ron and I make a great couple.”
Ginny shook her head, though she backed down when she realized she'd gone too far.
“Well then,” Harry said awkwardly, breaking the tension as he poured himself the first cup of coffee. “After you went to sleep, I think I found a Squib who can help us. She’s in the Muggle world, at a university.”
Hermione nodded. “Alright. I’ll draw up a plan, and we’ll see about visiting her this afternoon.”
Harry nodded, putting his hands up in fake surrender. “You’re in control, Hermione.”
“I don’t see why we have to be disguised for this,” Harry grumbled under his breath. They were navigating through the halls of a packed Muggle university. He was under the Polyjuiced disguise of an overweight and middle-aged father, and Hermione was disguised as his beautiful daughter, the prospective student. He should never have left all the planning to Hermione.
“Would you stop complaining, Harry? You’re worse than Teddy sometimes,” Hermione glanced down at the paper she held in her hands, and then back up at a door they were walking by. She grabbed Harry’s wrist, stopping him. “This is it.”
The office was small, with only a desk and a half-empty bookshelf. A young woman sat behind the desk, furiously scribbling on a piece of paper. She looked up at them, blinking and then putting on glasses until they came into better focus. “Ah, you must be Melissa Gallagher,” she said with a smile. “Sit down! Go ahead, ask your questions! I don’t get many prospective students, actually. They usually want to talk to the tenured professors, not lowly graduate assistants.”
“Actually, Miss Walker, we’re here under false pretenses,” Hermione said, taking a seat. Harry followed her example. “My friend found your name in some files at the Ministry of Magic. I needed to find a Squib who knew enough about science to help us with an experiment.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, Hermione was sure she should have gone about this a different way. Within moments, Miss Walker clamped up, her brow furrowing and lips thinning into a line. “Why are you coming to me?” she demanded. “That world is ignorant and stubborn. Muggle science will prove nothing for them.”
Hermione said quietly, “They haven’t treated you kindly.”
Miss Walker snorted. “That’s an understatement… Miss Gallagher? Is that even your real name?”
Hermione shook her head. “I’m sorry we can’t be more straight forward about this. What we’re trying to prove – it’s dangerous and our identities can’t be known. We’ve disguised ourselves.”
“Ah, yes, but none of you Magicals care that my identity is out there. Brainless morons, the lot of you.”
“I don’t know about that – ” Harry began, but he was interrupted.
“I know,” Hermione said, and then she paused when she realized what she said. Backtracking, she said, “I’m a Muggleborn. Before Hogwarts, everything made so much more sense. The world could be explained by science and physics and math, and the government was fair and democratic. People had… I don’t know – it’s something that Magicals don’t have, for some reason.”
“Yes, that’s right. I like to call it common sense!” said Miss Walker.
Harry rolled his eyes, drawing the attention of the two irritated young women. “You’re both exaggerating,” he said.
Hermione just laughed bitterly. “It’s easy for him to say.”
“Pureblood?” she guessed.
“Half-blood, raised by Muggle relatives,” Harry corrected. “There are good and bad Muggles, just like there are good and bad wizards.”
“Oh stop being so sensitive, Harry. The Wizarding world is decades behind the Muggle world because of ignorance and a lack of common sense. This has nothing to do with good and evil,” Hermione said. She turned to the teaching assistant. “We’re trying to show the inheritance of magic through Muggle genetics, Miss Walker. We thought that maybe you could help us?”
The teaching assistant frowned and then placed her hands on her desk. She looked across the desk at Hermione and Harry. Slowly, she said, “I suppose you’re in luck because I’ve already done it."
Ms. Walker stood from her desk, walking towards the nearly empty bookshelf. She pulled out a sturdy two-inch binder and held it for a few moments pensively. "It's not exactly rocket science," she said. "With my roots, it was only natural that I'd pursue genetics as soon as I had learned enough to understand what they were."
Hermione hesitated. She could see the grief behind Pamela's words, and she began to feel uncomfortable about being there. What right did they have to pull Ms. Walker back into the world that had rejected her?
Shaken from her morose thoughts, the teaching assistant returned to her desk. She plopped the binder in front of Hermione, and smiled tightly.
"Oh, and call me Pamela, will you? You’re making me feel old.”
Hermione was in heaven. She hadn’t been this happy and hopeful in weeks.
“Everything is going to be different, now,” she said with a sigh at the end of Pamela’s lengthy explanation. “We’ll change history! Do you understand what this will do? Purebloods will no longer feel obligated to marry purebloods, and with Muggleborns being integrated into high society, ridiculous prejudices and laws will be reversed! Everything will change.”
“I’m afraid not,” said Pamela. “I’ve already sent this to your ministry, several times to different departments.” She sighed. “It’s their loss.”
“They are all half-bloods and purebloods,” Hermione explained. “They probably just don’t see the full implications - ”
“They’re stubborn idiots. But isn’t it ironic that evolution appears to be working against magic?”
“It is interesting,” Hermione said. “Magic is clearly a better tool for survival, yet because of man’s tendency to create us-and-them situations, it cannot thrive. Magical people isolate themselves, only marrying like with like. Or, perhaps, because of the various wars and power-struggles that have killed off pureblood lines in the past two centuries, there is less genetic diversity.”
They heard a loud snore, and turned to see that Harry had fallen asleep in his chair. Their Polyjuiced disguises had long ago faded away.
Pamela just shrugged. “I’ll give you my research, but I don’t think you’ll get very far with it.”
“I think they’re desperate enough to listen, and Harry, well, he is very famous in our world. He might be able to get the publicity we need, if the ministry won’t listen.”
Pam nodded, studying Harry with a pensive gaze. “So he’s the Harry Potter?”
“You’ve heard of him?”
“Squibs aren’t born knowing they are Squibs,” said Pamela. “Their families don’t send them away at birth. They only really know for sure when they don’t receive their Hogwarts letter.” She tucked away a stray piece of hair with shaking hands, leaving a heavy silence behind those words.
Hermione felt her heart dip in pity, but she plowed on, “Then you know how important it is that no one know we came here?”
Pamela nodded, brow furrowing. “Keep me updated.”
Hermione grinned. “I think the Wizarding world is in for a shock.”
Later that day, while Harry was at Auror training, Hermione, energized by her success with Pamela, decided that it was the perfect time to confront Ron. She’d been going over what she’d say for days now, and she finally felt that she had the perfect speech to give. She needed Ron to know what that kiss was, what it meant. He needed to know that she hadn’t wanted to cheat on him, and that there was nothing between her and Harry.
She used the nearest Apparition station, which was actually a hefty hour walk from Harry’s apartment, and she landed just outside the privacy wards, on the small patio she’d created herself a month ago. A robin was singing just feet away from her, watching her cautiously from its perch.
Weeds were starting to grow between the stones she had laid, breaking weak garden enchantments. She’d been experimenting with garden charms just last week, and now she might never be able to perfect them here… She swallowed back her sudden grief.
She’d fix this. She and Ron were engaged. They’d told everyone, built a home together, and she’d be damned if she had to give it all up because of one stupid mistake.
She felt her heart hammering in her chest as she sat on the only bench, clenched her eyes shut and said, “There’s no place like home.”
She felt a shiver run through her, and when she opened her eyes again, she was sitting on a bench on their front porch, relieved that Ron hadn’t found a way to take away her access to the wards. She had constructed them herself, and he’d never been interested in learning how to use them.
“Ron!” she called when she opened the door to the house. “Ron?”
She turned towards the stairs, where Ron stood with a grim expression on his ragged face. He looked like he hadn’t shaved in a few days, and his hair was a mess of red tangles.
Hermione froze, all of a sudden incapable of speech. She’d prepared a whole monologue, an apology that would solve all problems, but seeing Ron as he was now, she finally found herself reaching a new stage of grief.
She fell to her knees and clenched her eyes shut. Hot pearly tears dripped from the tip of her nose to the arm she used to shield her face. She could feel herself flushing in embarrassment, and she desperately wanted to stand again. But her knees were weak, and her sobs unyielding. Where had this come from?
She finally understood, all at once, the full extent to her mistake. She’d hurt Ron. She had not only cheated on him and ended their relationship forever, but she’d completely ruined his friendship with Harry! She was that girl! She broke up the golden trio.
Why was she so stupid? And now, everything would be different. They would no longer be able to laugh together, to go on adventures, to attend those semi-annual Weasley family reunions… and Molly! What would she say? And would Ron ever even get to see Teddy again?
“Hermione.” This time Ron said it softly, and she could feel his hand on her shoulder.
She calmed, fruitlessly wiping away tears that were being replaced just as quickly. She turned to him and saw that he was kneeling next to her, concern knitted along his brow.
“I’m so sorry,” she said shakily, her voice cracking and a hiccup interrupting her last word. Embarrassed, she reflexively buried her head into his shoulder.
Almost as soon as she did it, she was backing away in repulsion. “When was the last time you showered?” she said through her tears. She blushed when she realized what she’d said, but Ron just grinned sheepishly.
She took a deep breath, trying to calm her shaking body. “I came here to apologize,” she said. “What happened with Harry…”
“Was a mistake,” finished Ron, and his voice was rough like he hadn’t spoken in days. “I’ve read your letters. I know what you think.”
Hermione shook her head. “We were very drunk, Ron, and it wasn’t powered by anything but – but loneliness. I was really upset about everything in my life, and I was desperate.”
“But you shouldn’t have been desperate. If you were so upset, why didn’t you feel like you could come to me about it?”
“I did come to you!” Hermione all but yelled. “I told you over and over again how angry I was about the ministry. But instead of supporting me, you’d just tell me to deal with it.”
Ron spluttered. “I did not!”
“Well you might as well have! Whenever I complained, it was, ‘Hermione, the ministry isn’t going to change, and you shouldn’t be set on a career in politics.’”
“But that’s the truth!”
“Well, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted you to tell me that I was right. I wanted you to tell me that the ministry was nuts, and that I could fix it.”
Ron let out a long sigh. “Hermione, I don’t think you can.”
“Don’t you think Muggleborns or halfbloods have tried before? Purebloods have created all the obstacles and bylaws they can to stop it from happening. Society itself supports the system. I think you’re going to kill yourself trying, in one way or another. Hermione, my father worked for this government. He’d tell us some of the things that went on there, and well, I just don’t think it’s possible. No one could change the ministry, past the surface stuff.”
Hermione didn’t know what to say. She’d always known that Ron wasn’t completely behind her quest to take over the ministry, but she’d never heard him say it so candidly. Of course, she’d never voiced her goal so clearly, either.
Ron didn’t believe in her.
“I need to sit down somewhere,” she said, getting off the floor.
Ron motioned for the sofa, and Hermione took a seat. Ron sat in an armchair nearby. For a whole minute, they sat in a tense silence that was only broken by the sound of the clock Molly had bought them as an engagement gift.
“I got a job offer,” Ron said finally. “It’s the American branch of Gringotts.”
“Are you going to take it?” Hermione asked carefully.
“I might have to,” Ron admitted. “It’s the best job offer I could hope to find. They offered a few weeks ago. I was going to say no, but I think I’m going to do it now. I need some time away from all this, Hermione.”
Hermione felt a lump form in her throat, and she couldn’t reply. Ron was leaving her.
He continued, “They said that in two years, I could have a chance to be transferred to the London branch. But maybe this is what we need – a break. We’ve been together for nine years, Hermione! I mean, not as a couple, but you know. We’re fighting like an old married couple! And, neither of us is very happy. What if there are people out there who could make us happier? I think time apart would be good.”
Hermione took a deep breath, thinking about what Ron was saying. He had a good point, but after being with Ron for so long, Hermione couldn’t imagine what life would be like with anyone else.
“I think,” she started, surprised that her voice came out strong, “I think you’re right.”
“Four words I rarely hear,” Ron said with a sheepish smile.
Hermione hesitated. “But you need to talk to Harry. I don’t mind taking a break, but I don’t want to destroy our friendships.”
“We saved the world together, Hermione. I don’t think that we’ll ever lose touch with each other. I’ll stay in contact.”
Ron frowned. “’l’ll probably visit in a few months for Christmas, and maybe I’ll talk to him then. I can’t do it now. I’m having trouble figuring out who hurt me the most. I think a part of me saw our break-up as inevitable, but Harry… I just don’t know what would make him do such a thing to us! To me!” Ron sighed, running his hands through his hair just like Harry does.
Hermione stood and said, “You can sell the house. Use the money you make to buy one in America. I’m staying at Harry’s place for now. He’s helping me infiltrate the ministry, and I still have some pocket money from the Order of Merlin.”
“I can’t believe I’m really going to leave,” Ron said after a moment’s pause. “They will probably have no idea who I am in the States.”
“They won’t,” agreed Hermione. She tried to wipe away the tears that kept leaking from her eyes, but more replaced them. Why was Ron being so stubborn? Why couldn’t he stay? And when did he become so – so willing to go along with what the purebloods say? “The magical communities in the States are much more scarce and isolated from the rest of the Wizarding world. I’ve also heard that they mostly live among Muggles in heavily populated cities.”
“I can always depend on you to give me the facts. I hope this isn’t goodbye,” Ron said as he stood.
Hermione turned away, heart racing in fear at the thought. After a moment, she managed to calm herself down, and she faced Ron again. He still looked terrible, like he’d been living in a cave for the past week, but his eyes were bright, a new fire filling her depths. She hadn’t seen him so optimistic in so long!
She swallowed back her sobs, and managed to say tightly, “Of course not. But this is a new beginning for you, I think. And for me, too.” When she said it, she knew it was true. She couldn’t control Ron. She didn’t have a right to do that, and as long as she had this goal, she’d never be happy with herself if she didn’t pursue it. This was a breaking point for them. But Hermione was determined to believe that it wouldn’t be forever.
She looked at the clock, eyes widening when she saw the time. “Oh! Harry and I are meeting with a Ministry contact in ten minutes. I have to…”
Ron nodded. “Until next time, Hermione.”
Hermione threw herself at him in a bear hug, squeezing him tightly, and taking one last gulp of his scent, even though he smelled terrible.
She stepped back, took a deep breath, and nodded. “Bye, Ron,” she said, taking one final look at their painstakingly created home before she Apparated away from it forever.
With his International Apparition Badge, it took Draco only a matter of hours to return to London. As soon as he returned, he went straight to Headquarters, slipping into the phone booth entrance of the Ministry of Magic.
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