Chapter 2: Planning and Playing

A long, restful sleep later, it was eight in the morning and I was wide awake, ready to tackle the day. Ideas swirled in my mind, though there wasn't much chance I could work on most of them.

'First things first,' I thought as I got dressed.

"Good morning, mom," I said in greeting as I walked into the dining room.

"Edward, good morning!" Wisteria exclaimed, looking up from the table where she'd been reading the Daily Prophet. "You're up early! Do you feel alright? Is everything fine? No aches or pains?"

"No, mom, I feel much better today," I told her, giving her a reassuring smile. "Thank goodness for potions, huh?"

My attempt at humor fell flat, as my mother continued to look worried. She also looked dreadfully tired, and I wondered how many hours of sleep she'd actually gotten.

"Mom, we need to talk," I said, deciding to go ahead and get some of the items on my mental list finished.

"Should I ask Inky to bring you a cup of tea, maybe something to eat for breakfast?" Wisteria asked, and I nodded after a moment.

I slid into a chair while listening with half an ear as mother called for Inky and then made her request to the old House Elf. A couple minutes and a few popping noises later and before me there was a cup of Earl Grey and a plate of scrambled eggs, baked beans, and three slices of toast.

"What did you want to discuss?" Wisteria inquired as I began to eat.

"Mom, I love you, but I don't… I can't keep living here, in this house," I finally admitted after chewing and swallowing.

"What? Why not?" she asked, teary eyed.

"I'm a Squib, mom," I said, as if it explained everything. And sadly, it did. "Rudy will probably blame me for father's death, and that will only cause friction between us."

"He's your brother!" Wisteria snapped.

"He's also been ruined by father's opinions and views," I pointed out, which mother was unable to deny beyond a token, "He can change!"

"He can't change while I'm here, reminding him every day of father, and why he isn't here anymore," I claimed. "So, I want to move out."

"And do what, Edward?" Wisteria wondered. "My parents could take you in…"

"I want to move to London," I interrupted. "I want to… live my life the way I want to."

"As a Muggle?" she asked incredulously.

"How many opportunities are there for a Squib in the magical society?" I asked my mother. "At best I might be able to get a job as a stockboy or some other menial task in one of Diagon Alley's shops, but it'd be seen as charity at best and I would always be looked down upon. Squibs don't live a good life among wizards and witches. The best chance we have is to try and succeed among the Muggles."

Mother looked like she wanted to refute my words, but again, she couldn't. I was speaking the truth, after all.

In the end, she sighed heavily in defeat, and surrendered. "Very well. I will look into this," Wisteria declared, standing up from the table as she did so.

"I have to go in to the Ministry soon to go over your father's will and other documents. I do not know how long it will take, but while I am there, I will make… inquiries. I know one or two people who may know how to help us with your… transition."

I nodded, and waved goodbye as she went to freshen up and take the Floo to the Ministry. That left me alone in the kitchen, one step of my plans complete.

'She agreed a lot easier than I thought she would,' I thought to myself. 'She must really be out of it.'

Normally, she'd have tried to argue with me a lot harder about staying. She was always trying to keep me 'safe' after all. 'Babied' was more accurate, though thankfully mother never acted like I was an invalid.

I gave a mumbled "Thanks" to Inky as the House Elf took the dishes away, and I walked out of the house, blinking weakly in the morning sunlight. The sun was already rising on the horizon, and our house had the misfortune of being directly in its path. This was good for the garden, but not much else, in my opinion.

'First things first,' I thought, circling around the side of the house to where my room was. I found my sack of belongs I'd tossed out there last night, and thought about what to do with it as I looked through its contents. Luckily, everything was still in there, undisturbed.

'If I put it back in my room, Rudy will likely find it,' I thought with a grimace. 'I could ask Inky to hide it for me. But there's clothing in it. Will he even be able to touch it without breaking the bond he has with the family?'

'Actually, now that father is dead, who is the primary bond-keeper?' I wondered, scrunching up my face in thought. 'A House Elf can survive just fine without a bond, at least for a while. Is it mother? Or could it be me? Can a Squib even maintain a bond? I have magic, I just can't use it.'

I shook my head, having gotten distracted. 'Ugh, thoughts for later.' "INKY!" I called out aloud. There was a pop, and then, from behind me, I heard it.

"Yes, Young Master Error?"

"Gah! Sonnova!" I swore, jerking a bit in surprise. "Please don't pop up behind me like that!"

"Of course," Inky said with a nod of his head, ears flapping this way and that. "How can I be of service?"

"Hide this from mother and Rudy," I told him, gesturing to the sack tangled up in the bushes. Inky raised an eyebrow but did as I asked, and a snap of his fingers later it was gone.

"Is there anything else?" he asked, and I nodded.

"Yes. Keep Rudy in the house whenever he eventually wakes up. If he complains or tries to leave, just let him know mother will be back soon and pop him back into his room."

"Yes, Young Master Error."

"And stop calling me that," I snapped, a bit testily. "If you must call me something, call me 'Master Edward.'"

"Of course, Young Master Edward," Inky said, and I swore the elf waggled his eyebrows at me all cheeky like.

"I'm going for a walk," I informed Inky, and the House Elf merely nodded before vanishing.

I returned to the walkway and headed down away from the house. Once I left the property, I turned around and glanced back at it.

The Hunch's, like many magical families, had lived in one house for so long it'd gotten a lot of, shall we say, personality. And, just like quite a few magical homes, it had a name. Hunch Manor was called Lumpkins Patch, for reasons I could only guess at.

The building was oddly rounded on the north side, and a belfry jutted up out of the west wing for some unfathomable reason. The roof tiles were all orange. And not a subdued, dark or burnt orange like sensible people, but bright, pumpkin orange hued. A line of moss-covered stone snail statues – some smaller than my fist, others coming up to my waist – lined the walkways, forming a border between the flagstones of the path leading up to the front door and the garden

Said garden was quite vast, and mainly used for providing homegrown potion ingredients for my mother's work, though a few tulips and marigolds brought up some color during the spring and summer. The garden took up all of the front and back lawn, and memories of weeding it with her flickered through my mind. Those had been good times, some of the few decent ones I had of this place.

Finished with my inspection of my soon-to-be former home, I turned and walk off, following a plain dirt road down through the hills and past some fields towards the sole source of civilization for miles in any direction.

The Hunch family lived in Ottery St. Catchpole, a mixed community with about a dozen families in it, both magical and Muggle in Devon, England.

And yes, it meant that the Burrow was nearby, and the Weasleys and Lovegoods were my neighbors.

Ottery St. Catchpole was a typical mixed rural settlement. Muggle homes and businesses clustered close together in the 'center' of town, while all the magical folk lived a few minutes away in warded, undetectable (to Muggles at least) structures. Unless you lived in an urban center like one of the Alleys in London or a magical enclave in another city, magical houses were at least a ten minutes' walk away from your closest neighbor or town center.

Many of the magical families in the area were Purebloods, and old and childless. The consequences of two magical wars less than half a century apart having done considerable damage to the already thin on the ground magical population. You rarely saw any of the older magicals out and about these days.

Except I saw a pack of red-head children hovering around the general store, and couldn't help but wince.

"Oh, joy," I muttered as one of them – Ron – caught sight of me, and tugged on the sleeve on an older brother to get his attention. Charlie, I think, given that there was a taller and older sibling nearby who was probably William – or Bill, as he preferred to be called.

All seven of the Weasley children turned, alerted by Ron, and seemed to home in on me like a pack of red seeker missiles. Two identical brothers, the prankster duo Fred and George, were the first to reach me. They were nine, two years my junior and the same age as Rudy.

Seeing them coming I merely accepted my fate, opening my arms and closing my eyes.

"ED!" the twins both called out as they tackled me to the ground with their 'hug.'

"Oof!" I choked out, their affection driving the breath from my lungs. A couple seconds later Ron and Ginny joined in, adding themselves to dogpile atop of me.

"Being crushed! Air!" I gasped out.

"Careful now, don't want to suffocate the poor bloke," Bill said, nudging his siblings off of me before offering his hand to help me up.

I took it, and got back to my feet and dusted myself off, before giving them all a thin smile in greeting.

"Hey there, everybody. What, no hug for me, Percy?" I teased the Weasley boy who was my age. He shook his head, already developing his 'stick in the mud' attitude the books and movies had displayed. Still, he did shake my hand when I offered it. And to be honest, as an introvert, Percy's calmer personality meshed better with my own.

"So, what's up with the early morning greeting?" I asked, trying not to sound put off by their enthusiasm.

It's not that I disliked the Weasley's, far from it. The Weasley kids and their dad were great, and I'd grown up with them. Hell, I'd seen two of them as babies and was practically an honorary older brother to Ginny and Ron, who had been very cute as newborns.

But I'd hoped that, perhaps today, I could have had a little bit of time alone before the Red Whirlwinds struck.

"We heard about… your dad. And everything else," Charlie said hesitantly. The others all gained grave expressions at that. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," I said brusquely.

"You sure?" Bill inquired.

"I don't really want to talk about," I claimed, looking at the ground and kicking it, uncomfortable with their stares. Pity and sympathy were evident in their gazes and it hurt. Even if they didn't know the whole truth about what went on back at Lumpkin Patch, they were aware of how I'd been treated.

The 'mature' adult part of me, the one that had been in my late twenties before dying, felt insulted by their compassion. The child part of me, which I technically was at the moment, disliked all the attention. Because attention was bad. It rarely boded well for me back home. But there was also a part of me that was glad to know someone cared.

I shuddered at the warring emotions within me, and the red-heads seemed to realize they were making me uncomfortable because Ginny was the first to come up and give me a gentle, non-tackle-based hug.

"Thank you," was all I was able to say.

"Mom said she was going to bake you guys some food and stuff," Ron helpfully supplied, and I grimaced.

"Tell her thank you, but she shouldn't bother taking anything over today," I said. "Mom went out to deal with the paperwork and visit the morgue. It's just me and Rudy right now. But, uh, tell her thanks, and maybe bring it over tomorrow?"

Bill and Charlie both nodded in understanding, the former walking off to no doubt pass my message on before their mother did too much pity baking.

I sighed in relief. One disaster averted. 'I have no idea if Mom or I would have been able to deal with her so soon after father's death,' I thought to myself in distaste.

Molly Weasley was a disturbingly unpleasant woman. The few times I'd met her, I'd gotten an eerie sense of uncanny valley from her. She was nice enough, I suppose, but the matriarch of the Weasley Clan (the proper term for a Pureblood family who were not nobles) was definitely the epitome of how backwards the Wizarding World truly was. She could bake a nice batch of cookies or a pie or whatever, and then spout the most bigoted and racist things with a smile, as if she had no idea what she'd just uttered was backwards by modern standards.

She might not have been a Death Eater, but Mrs. Weasley was without a doubt a Conservative, and displayed all the tiny evils of a person raised in an environment that was behind the times.

For instance, she thought that Veela were all homewrecking harlots, that if there wasn't a spell or magical equivalent of something, than it wasn't worth it, and that Muggles were useful only for providing 'new blood' into the Wizarding World, while their inventions and achievements were looked down upon in a very patronizing, 'that's nice dear,' sort of way. The sort of way you'd condescendingly praise a toddler for drawing on the wall in crayon.

She believed that children should be seen and not heard, and that a woman's place was in a household, and while they could work, it was either because it was part of the family business, or as a means to find a husband. Oh, and any woman past thirty who hadn't married yet was a failure as a female.

And this was not seen as a problem. If anything, Molly Weasley was the perfect example of a witch who'd been raised in the magical world all her life. Her opinions – that she vocally espoused almost constantly – were simply the norm.

It made me sick. So, I was quite glad when Mrs. Molly 'Holier Than Thou' Weasley started snubbing my family for its 'dark inclinations' and 'unsavory past' a couple years ago.

Since I was the same age as Percy Weasley, and one of the few other magical kids in the whole town – the others being Cedric Diggory, Sarah Fawcett, Luna Lovegood and my little brother – we ended up playing together more often than not.

And when Molly heard the rumors of me being a Squib, she'd gotten very patronizing, and encouraged her children to play with me 'despite my disability.' And yes, she used that word. Disability. As if I was lesser, somehow.

So, yeah, Neither Wisteria or I were up for a visit from Howling Molly, as she was known in town. We'd have to put up with her eventually, but her visit was staved off for now.

"Want to go throw gnomes into the river?" I asked, breaking the depressing silence, and everyone nodded, eager to do something.

"Is it true you didn't get your letter?" Ron asked as we walked towards a nearby field to root around for gnomes to toss.

"Ron!" Charlie hissed, and Percy and the twins shook their heads at their little brother's words.

"No, it's fine," I said, waving it off when Ron tried to apologize. "It's true. I'm officially a Squib."

Winces and sympathetic frowns adorned the Weasleys faces.

"What will you be doing, then?" Percy inquired.

"Muggle schools start around the same time as Hogwarts," I replied with a shrug.

"That's… far," Fred – Or was it George? – commented. "I don't even know where the nearest Muggle town is!"

"I don't even know if I'll be staying in the area," I admitted, revealing a sliver of my ultimate plan. "There might be plans for me to move out and live in London, or some other area to be closer to the Muggle schools."

"You're moving?" Ginny said sadly, and I winced at her tone.

"Yeah. Maybe," I said.

"I'll miss you," she declared.

"Me too," I replied. "But hey, if you really get lonely, you and your brothers can always write, and I can still use the Floo, even if I can't use a wand."

"True," Percy said with a nod. "And we know you can brew potions just fine. So, you can still make a living somehow."

The Weasleys all nodded, and once more I was struck by how they simply didn't even consider the chance I might try and ditch the magical world behind and make money in the Muggle world.

I wondered briefly what they'd think of my plans for the future, and stifled a chuckle. The twins would, at the very least, appreciate the chaos.

"Found some gnomes!" one of the twins called out, hoisting a stubby brown potato with arms and legs in the air.

"Great! Let get a few more for chucking!" Charlie suggested, and we rifled through the field for more deformed dirt-babies. We all got disgustingly filthy before lunch time rolled around, but we all had wide grins. It was a good day.

And, in the back of my mind, I dared hope the peace and happiness would last.