Chapter 5: History of a Squib
Chapter 5 - History of a Squib
"I am a Squib Hermione. Have been and will be for all my life."
For the first time in her life, Hermione's brain went blank for a few seconds...then restarted at double speed. The roller coaster was close to derailing now. Her heart seemed to stop in her chest, frozen from his revelation. More seconds rolled by...
"Hey come on. It's not like the return of Voldemort is it...Hermione?...will you for God's sake close your mouth or say something!" his voice jumped into her head as she realised that she still had her hand over her open mouth. Only this man could completely immobilize her and yet manage to embarrass her at the same time. She had to calm down. Moving her hand was the first step.
A squib! He was a squib! She did not see that coming at all! Her mind raced with a million questions. How did he end up here? What was his family story? What was his story? She looked at him as he flopped down again into his chair as he continued to stare at her expectantly. He broke into a sudden smile and she felt her heart return, beating louder than ever.
"I actually managed to have Hermione Granger speechless." he laughed softly as he leaned forward closer to her. "I know that brain of yours is going a mile a minute inside that pretty head of yours but I'm right here Hermione and I will explain as much as I can to you so relax. Remember you need to relax." he grinned.
She finally found her voice as she happily registered his unintentional endearment.
"I'm sorry...you just continue to throw me off Ron. Gosh! I've know you for less than two days and my head has been turned around more times than I can remember. I honestly have never met anyone like you Ron...and I mean that in a good way. I would love to know more about you and your family but I don't know how to begin..." she stopped with her eyes still wide with surprise.
She suddenly realised that she may have said a bit too much about her personal emotions but she just wanted to be honest as he had. He was watching her carefully with his blue eyes trained on hers before he slumped back in his chair with a small smile on his face.
"Good. I'll take that. I guess I should be glad enough that you haven't bolted from here screaming eh?" he let out a laugh but she felt his voice quiver slightly at the last part. She immediately responded.
"Don't be silly. Why would I ever want to do that? I think you have a good idea about me by now." she assured him. "Unless you plan to keep referring to my crispy character and continue to insult my hair." she smiled at him.
"Well said Miss Granger." he smiled back at her. "I humbly apologise. I should never have doubted your character...and you bolting is really the last thing I want. Now...where do you want me to begin?"
"Anywhere you feel comfortable I guess." she answered his prompt.
"Right. I should start with the basics and move on from there. I hope you are comfortable as we might be here for a while. I guess the first thing I should explain is my presence here at Hogwarts." he shifted in his chair as if trying to find his own comfortable spot. He looked at her as he started.
"I've been working with the Professor since I was sixteen years old. Before that...let's just say I was rather aimless and ungrounded...and rather a pain in my family's ass. Thanks to my eldest brother Charlie, the professor agreed to take me on as a site worker of sorts on one of his projects over in Whales. Up to now I am not too sure what he owes Charlie for but it was enough to get me the job. While the work was hard and I initially resented taking orders from someone all the time, I gradually came to feel a kind of a connection with the old building we were working on. It was an old magical church that the Ministry wanted preserved and it was in a terrible state at the time. As the reconstruction progressed it amazed me what the team was able to achieve with what little they had to go on. I sort of fell in love with that beautiful church. I know it sounds crazy but it saved my life." he paused as if trying to remember something.
"For some reason, the professor saw something in me and encouraged me to get more involved in the restoration. He said that I possessed an inherent feel for the old building and that I could "see" what the finished structure could be even before it was completed. At the end of the project, on the night the team was to be disbanded, he shared one of his personal theories with me."
"You see, magic is able to fix and repair failures in buildings by charming the various materials and the way they behave together. You can get any destroyed building to stand up under magic once you can copy the material structure and charm the materials to stay together. The problem is the inherent engineering structure of the building. If the main structural frame of the building is not correct then the building will constantly be under stress. Magic will hold it together but after a while the charms will fade and the building will begin to fail again." he paused again in thought. "I'll give you an example."
"Let's suppose that this part of the building we are currently in is destroyed and is reconstructed but is put together standing on only one tiny column. Magic will keep the building up for a while but the inherent engineering error in the structure will cause the charms to fail after a while. It's what happened here at Hogwarts. The hurried reconstruction by inexperienced people fixed the school magically but there are flaws in the structure and the charms have started to fade under the stress. It was the Professor's feeling that if he could get the engineering right from the beginning then the magical repair would be stronger and last a longer time." he looked at her to gauge her understanding.
"I think I understand so far, but where do you factor in all this Ron?" she asked
"I'm getting to that. There aren't many wizards or witches who go to engineering school and become structural engineers are there? That's where I come in. I don't have any magical abilities but as a squib I can still see places like this unlike a muggle. After that first project with the Professor, I went back to school with a new-found ambition. I was always bright I guess, just unfocused. I went on to university in London and have just completed my degree in civil engineering specialising in building structures. I have worked with the Professor every summer and Easter break for the last five years. I now work with Robert and John to measure and model the structure and to make sure that the framing is correct before the Professor works his magic per say. When this project came up I jumped at it. After all, it's Hogwarts... the most famous magical school in the wizard world." he stopped here to take a big breath. "Are you with me so far Hermione? I know it's a lot to take in."
She was a bit stunned and she was truthfully a little bit in awe of him.
"Amazing! You are amazing Ron!" she couldn't help herself. "What you do is wonderful. I'm so happy that you have been able to find your niche in life so early. I'm a bit jealous as a matter of fact because unlike you, I'm still not too sure what I want to do...you know..." she stopped and looked at him realising again that she may have revealed too much about herself. His smile eased her apprehension.
"Come on Hermione. I know you can do whatever you set your sights on. It will come to you soon don't worry. And before you go gushing over me, please know that this is the largest and most complicated project that I have ever worked on and I hope that I don't mess it up." he laughed out.
"I'm not gushing over you... you prat." she laughed with him as she blushed a little. "Thanks for your confidence in me by the way. I really am glad for you. You have worked hard for your accomplishments and you should be proud of yourself." she stated.
He suddenly turned serious as he gazed at her.
"I happen to be one of the lucky ones Hermione. Not many of my kind can say that. We have been treated with disdain and ridiculed throughout history...by our own magical people. Most of us become alienated to the point where we just don't know where we belong anymore. You have to understand that we are very different to someone like you...a muggle born witch or wizard. You have magical abilities and while you can exist in both worlds you always have the choice to live here...barring someone like Voldemort of course." he said with a slight sneer.
"But squibs live in the shadow of both worlds. We come from a magical family but are treated like outcasts in our own place of birth. We are encouraged to go and live in the muggle world but feel alienated there. We cannot make any friends. We feel like a burden on your family. We have no direction because there is no clear way forward. We feel constantly lost and frustrated and angry. We belong nowhere and sometimes it feels like it may be better not to exists at all." he finished softly looking away from her.
Her previous feeling of joy and wonderment faded with the expression now on his face. She had felt it before. That deep sadness and loneliness that would seep through his beautiful eyes. She had a burning desire within her to reach out to him and physically console him but she could not. She barely knew him. She pushed her left hand out along the desk to touch him but stopped halfway as she fought for control.
He shook his head slightly and looked up at her.
"Sorry. I shouldn't burden you with depressing things. I get like this sometimes. Just ignore me when it happens ok?" he remarked before being attracted to her outstretched hand.
"Can I see it?" he suddenly asked pointing to her forehand. "You don't have to...I'm sorry...I didn't mean to offend...it's just..." he faltered badly . "I'm truly sorry Hermione. I don't know what came over me. Just forget it please." his face was slowly turning a dark shade of pink.
Hermione was at first confused before she understood his request. She suspected that he had observed her scar the night before and now she was sure. Instead of her usual feeling of dread and insecurity at the mere mention of it, she somehow identified with him on this.
"Ron...it's ok. You can take a look if you really want to." she offered quietly as she unbuttoned her sleeve.
He managed a short glance at her before taking her arm gently in his hand making her tingle at his touch. As he rolled back her sleeve and caught sight of the scar he visibly shuddered before softly rubbing over it with his fingers. Hermione had stopped breathing and had closed her eyes in an effort to be able to just feel the sensation of his fingers on her arm. She was about to probably pass out from a lack of air when she felt him let go. She sucked in some air, quietly gathering herself to open her eyes. He was staring at her openly.
"I'm sorry you went through something like that Hermione. You don't deserve that. I don't pretend to know what it was like but I also have two scars like it on me also. One on my chest and one on my thigh. Thank god squib is spelt a lot shorter or it would have been a lot worse." he chuckled at her obviously trying to lighten the mood. "Something else we have in common eh?"
"I got mine when I was a lot younger. I was a mess remember? I was always in a fight somewhere. I always retaliated against it...the teasing you know. I was very good at defending myself but there was usually a lot of them against one of me and I took a lot of beatings in my early teens. My brothers were not always around. It's a wonder my head is still in one piece." he laughed again and she smiled at him despite a heavy feeling in her stomach.
"You can always remove those scars Ron. Mine was given to me with dark magic but a good healer should be able to make yours almost invisible." she informed him with a look of genuine concern.
"Nah. I decided years ago to keep them as is. Just to keep me in line I guess." he shrugged his shoulders.
"I know you must have had a hard childhood Ron but you made it through and look where you are today." she said encouragingly.
"As I said I was lucky. If it weren't for my Mom and Dad and Ginny I probably would not have made it through those early years. My parents always supported me as much as they could and they never let my brothers feel pity for me. I was accepted as a normal son...but to others outside it was different. I was always close to Ginny...my baby sister who for some crazy reason took it upon herself to personally look after me. She still has that protective side even after all these years. You would like her if you get to meet her Hermione." he grinned.
"What does she do Ron...Ginny I mean." she asked.
"Oh...she's a Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch Team. Just made the first team. She's actually very good but don't tell her I said that." he laughed.
"And your brothers?" she continued.
"Charlie he's the eldest remember? He's in Romania looking after dragons believe it or not. Bill and Percy both work at Gringotts as Curse-Breakers and the twins George and...well George has a joke shop in Devon. They...George and Fred wanted to expand their business into Diagon Alley but I'm not too sure if it will happen." He winced at the mention of Fred's name and Hermione guessed that Fred was the one who had died in the war. She decided to stay away from that topic for now.
She did not have to ask him anything as he continued on his own.
"I know the big question you have is why did they not attend Hogwarts. Well I guess it was indirectly my fault even though Mom and Dad will deny this. You see, my Mom and Dad got married young and soon children were on the way. By the time Charlie was ready to start school at eleven, my parents already had six children to deal with, me being the latest. My Dad had a good job in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office and he was promised a promotion to Assistant Head of Department... but when I was born as a...squib...the job went to someone else and for all purposes it appeared that all chance of any promotion disappeared with my birth." he closed his eyes for a moment then restarted.
"My parents however still had five boys to pay for schooling and in the end they decided to send them to a smaller wizard school situated on the historic battle ground in Hastings. It was a good school my parents always said and I suspect my Mother was pleased because it was much closer to home and she felt her children were safer there. Of course there wasn't the prestige of Hogwarts but my brothers and sister all came out all right in the end. At least I am grateful to that as I was racked with guilt for years." he stopped as he realised something.
"You know it's funny but of all the children, it's me who gets to be here. Isn't that irony for you?" he chuckled out.
He suddenly put up his arms and stretched them over his head. He grinned at her and was about to say something when a low rumble sounded from his stomach. His grin turned into a loud laugh.
'Well I guess that's enough for now. Which bring me back to the need for my special arrangements... the first one in question being where can I go to access meals when I'm here? I've been literally starving for the past two days Hermione and I hope you can help me out here." he said seriously.
Hermione practically jumped out of her chair with her face quickly becoming a light shade of red as she spluttered out.
"Oh my God Ron! With all that has happened I forgot to ask you about that. I'm truly sorry! I was to arrange it yesterday. Oh gosh! Can you forgive me?" she pleaded.
"Well I just don't know about that...after all...you nearly starved a vital member of your team...and we've barely started work. I take my food seriously so you will have to make it up to me." he grinned.
She slapped him on the arm playfully before leading him out of the room.
"Honestly! I said I'm sorry. Come on. I'll take you to the staff dining room where you can get all your meals. I normally eat there too so we can go together after our meetings in the evening." she said as she hurried down the corridor.
She led him through a corridor past the entrance hall before going up a flight of stairs. She opened a large door off this corridor to reveal a cosy room with a fireplace and large comfy armchairs which he assumed was the staff common room. Off the side they passed through another hall way before coming to a room with two long tables with high back chairs placed along the sides. They were a few people already seated at the front table eating and chatting. Hermione led him to the table away from the entrance and sat down motioning him to sit next to her.
No sooner had he settled himself when two elves appeared silently and placed a number of food dishes in front of them. The grin on his face appeared immediately and Hermione had to hold back a smile at his genuine eagerness.
"This is great!. Marvellous! ok you're forgiven Hermione but only because I'm back in a happy mood." he laughed as he scooped various pieces of food to place in his plate. "I will personally tell the Headmistress that you have gone above and beyond your way to see about me."
As she placed some food in her own plate she had to laugh at him and his delight. He certainly seemed to enjoy eating as he went about devouring his food at a fast pace hardly stopping to breath. He certainly didn't care about his table manners around her and she felt oddly at ease with him.
"Ron! will you ease up before you choke to death. The food is not going to run away any time you know." she laughed.
"Hey I have to make up for the past two days. Somebody here forgot to tell me that this place existed but I shall not name the offending individual." he smirked as he stabbed his fork into another slice of potato.
She laughed again and as he smiled her face suddenly became serious as her eyes shifted over his shoulder.
"Oh hello Dickinson. Nice to see you again." she said a bit stiffly.
Ron turned around slowly and saw the starchiest robes he had ever seen draped over the starchiest man he had ever seen. The man was medium build with brown wavy hair perched upon an oval shaped face with deep green eyes behind a light coloured pair of spectacles.
"Hello Hermione. I rather hoped you would have been here earlier so that we could dine together. But I see you are with someone else." he pronounced in the heavy English accent of well bred gentlemen.
Hermione now looked at him and cleared her throat.
"Oh sorry. Ron this is Dickinson Ellwood, he is a teacher her also and a friend of mine from school. Dickinson this is Ron Weasley who will be working on the reconstruction project with Professor Sherrard." she introduced.
Ron put down his fork and made to greet the man when he heard the tone of voice that he knew so well.
"Ah yes. I had heard that you might be here with the Professor though for the life of me I could not understand what your role could possibly be. Without any magical powers how could assist? I must admit it was a bit mysterious to me." he said in an obvious condescending voice. Hermione looked completely shocked as Ron put on his best smile.
"Oh you know. I do try to be helpful. I carry the professor's bag and polish his wand. That kind of stuff." he smirked.
Hermione suddenly came to life.
"That's not true! I can't believe your attitude Dickinson! Ron is a vital part of the restoration team and he plays a crucial role in the project. Even if he wasn't, there is no need for you to be rude just because he is...different." she glared at the man.
The man became a bit agitated and he swung around at her.
"Hermione, I was just making an observation. And whatever he may be, I do not like the idea of you being with him on a daily basis." he snapped.
It now appeared that Hermione was close to blowing fire from her eyes and even Ron had to cringe a bit.
"What you like and don't like has nothing to do with me Dickinson! I don't care what you think! Ron and I will be working together as part of a team and if you had any manners which I am seriously doubting at this moment, you would stop acting like a fool and wish us the best." she shouted.
All eyes in the room were now focused on the starchy man as he caught himself.
"Well it appears your stubborn nature has again taken root Hermione. We will speak of this again later when you see more reason to my argument. Goodnight." he spun on his heels and headed out the door.
"Pleasant night Dick..." Ron called out behind him.
"Don't you start too." Hermione stated firmly at him.
"Sorry. Don't worry yourself. I've dealt with hundreds like him Hermione. But I believe you may have an admirer there Miss Granger. That could have contributed to his behaviour a bit you think?." he said smugly.
"I can't believe he acted like that. I actually dated him in my 7th year though for the life of me I can't tell why now." she stated. Did she just spill that! Really?
Ron stared at her a bit in shock.
"Are you serious? You and Dickinson Ellwood? Hermione you know that there are two syllables of his name that are synonyms for a certain pat of the male anatomy." he chuckled.
Hermione returned his stare before realisation hit her and she kicked him under the table.
"Ouch! What was that for? I was just making an observation." he copied the offending accent of the man in question. "Anyway old Dickwood there doesn't seem to be your type." he laughed
This time he got a hard punch in his arm.
"Don't be rude Ron." she tried not to smile. "And what exactly would be my type by the way?" she asked arching her eyebrows.
He studied her for a few seconds.
"Well I guess anyone compatible with a Type A personality like you remember? That's all I can say at the moment." he grinned as he started back on his food.
Hermione looked at him over her shoulder and shook her head with a smile. With all he had told her about his life so far he still appeared to be the same unruly, rude, funny person to her. She actually felt surprised at her ease with him.
The incident with Dickinson also unnerved her. Even if she felt no difference in her new association with Ron, it was obvious that there were other people who felt differently and she would have to accept it and learn to deal with it if she wanted to continue her association...and she most definitely wanted to.