The train was due to arrive in five minutes, but Molly already felt like she had missed it. She had volunteered to host Hogwarts' new alchemy teacher, an Amestrian State Alchemist, until the start of the school year.
The young man, Major Edward Elric, she was told, knew very little about the magical world.
Molly wasn't sure why Dumbledore would hire a Muggle to teach, but he was reportedly very skilled and Magical Britain had few alchemists of their own. He was also a member of the military. With Sirius Black running around, Molly was grateful that he would be able to help protect her children, although she could only guess at his skills against wizards.
The train pulled into the station right on time and hissed to a stop. Passengers disembarked in twos and threes. She didn't see anyone traveling alone.
"Excuse me," a voice at her shoulder said. "Are you Mrs. Weasley?"
Molly turned to see a young man in his late teens with a golden ponytail and golden eyes. He was leaning heavily on a cane in his left hand.
"That's me," Molly said. "I take it you're Major Elric?"
The young man ran a gloved hand over his ponytail. "Call me Ed. Major is too..." He gestured vaguely with his right hand.
"Alright then, Ed," Molly replied with a smile. Ed seemed like a charming boy, if somewhat younger than she had expected. "Call me Molly."
"Sure," Ed grinned. He picked up his small suitcase and fell into step beside her.
"It's just a short walk to the Leaky Cauldron," Molly explained. "We're staying there until the school year starts. We just got back from a trip to Egypt, you see, and the Leaky Cauldron is closer to the train station than our house. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all," Ed said. "We've been traveling since we were pretty young. I'm used to hotels."
"We?" Molly asked. She doubted Ed had even noticed the plural.
"Me and my brother," Ed explained. "This is the first time we've been apart in... ever, really." Ed's face fell and he sighed.
"Well, you can always buy an owl in Diagon Alley, or use one of the school owls," Molly offered.
Ed looked confused and Molly suddenly remembered that he wasn't magical.
"We use owls to send letters, dear. As long as you know who the letter is for, a good owl will always find the recipient."
Ed nodded. "That's awfully convenient." After a few moments he said "So, um, could you tell me what school's like? I haven't actually been to a normal school in almost ten years."
"Ten years?" Molly gasped.
"Yeah. I dropped out of school when I was eight to study alchemy with Teacher and after I'd mastered alchemy, I joined the military." At Molly's stunned look, he elaborated. "Teacher taught me the normal school stuff too and Warrant Officer Falman and Lieutenants Hawkeye and Breda tutored me when they had the time, so I'm properly educated. I just didn't go to a real classroom or anything."
Molly nodded. It shouldn't have been so surprising that an eighteen year old military officer had an unusual education. Ed listened to her explanation of houses and lessons and points while they walked.
Finally, they reached the Leaky Cauldron. "I have five children with me right now," Molly warned. "They can be a handful."
"How many of them will I be teaching?" Ed asked wryly.
"At least four," Molly said. "I'm not sure if Percy's taking alchemy. He's Head Boy, you know. I'm very proud of him, but I'm not sure if he can handle the extra class along with everything else."
"Probably for the better. Alchemy is a very difficult study. It's better that he knows his limits."
Molly agreed completely. She couldn't bear the thought of any of her children working themselves to exhaustion.
She asked Tom to show Ed his room, number twelve, while Molly met with her family. She was sure they'd caused enough mayhem already.
Ed didn't bother to unpack since they would be leaving early the next morning. Instead he unfolded the letter in his breast pocket. He had contacted Amue Armstrong, one of the few practicing witches in Amestris, before starting his mission, and she proved to be a fount of knowledge about everything he needed to know. The Armstrong messenger falcon (apparently owls were to plebeian for such an ancient and noble family), Apollo, had delivered the letter to him on the train, shocking the other passengers. He hadn't yet had a chance to read it.
My Dear Major Edward Elric, the letter read
I hope this letter finds you well. You are, indeed, in a most dreadful quandary, my young friend. I remember when my darling husband, Lyndon Alcor, proposed to me. He had bought me a most beautiful diamond ring. It cost him a small fortune, even by Armstrong standards, and I will treasure it for the rest of my days and it will become an heirloom that will be passed down the Armstrong line for generations to come.
However, you do not have the money to buy a ring worthy of the Armstrong family. If you intend to settle for nothing less, then I must remind you that you have the astounding art of alchemy at your disposal. Graphite is far cheaper than diamond, but, as they are the same element, you should have no trouble forming one from the other. I am sure you will be able to devise some cunning scheme to forge the band. Remember: in the absence of opportunity for ostentatiousness, a personal appeal is always your best option.
As to the other matter regarding your fiancee, my dear boy, I must be honest with you. Even if I were madly in love with you, had you proposed to me like that, I would have rejected you out of hand. Clearly, Miss Rockbell is a far more forgiving woman than I. Once you get the ring, do it again properly. It is always essential to keep your spouse and those who keep you alive happy, and she happens to be both. You are also braver than I in that regard.
You may not wish to put all your eggs in one basket, to use the common phrase. Any arguments with your wife could be most dangerous to your health, although I am certain she is a fine young woman, especially given her enterprising nature.
Regarding that awful criminal, Sirius Black, whilst I am as well versed in combat as any Armstrong woman worth the name, I am afraid I would be of little use against such a man. Beware those who act in the throes of dread passion, for when they are calm, they are oft as charming as snakes.
I wish you only the very best of luck educating the youth of Magical Britain in that fine science of alchemy that you attained mastery of at such a tender age. Should you need assistance in this endeavor, Strongine is the schoolteacher, not I, but she would be more than willing to offer counsel.
Amue Charisma Armstrong
Ed grinned at the letter. Amue was becoming a close friend of his in that strange, magnetic way Armstrongs had. It helped that she had never tried to hug him.
He pulled a sheet of paper out of his briefcase and started to write a letter to Al, but a knock at the door stopped him.
"Ed?" Molly called.
"We're having dinner now."
"Alright, be down in a second," Ed said, putting a paperweight on the letter to let the ink dry while he ate. He had no idea why wizards couldn't just use pens and pencils, but Amue had taught him how to hold a quill properly and write with ink jars. It had been much easier to relearn writing with his left hand.
Ed still couldn't write with the right hand. Winry had offered to try to make Ed's automail hand more dextrous, but that would have meant more nerves and more pain putting the arm on. He had declined and Winry experimented on her other clients instead.
Rockbell Automail was becoming famous all throughout Amestris and Xing, the latter courtesy of Lan Fan's glowing reviews. Ed couldn't have been more proud.
He walked downstairs, taking the rickety stairs slowly, and soon found himself in a sea of redheads. Molly pulled him away from the throng, all of whom were talking at once, making it impossible to tell what anyone was saying.
"Children!" Molly yelled, seizing their attention. They fell silent expectantly. "This is Professor Elric, who will be teaching alchemy at Hogwarts. Professor Elric, these are my children Percy, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny and their friends Hermione Granger and Harry Potter."
Ed just nodded at them, not sure how else to respond. Granger and Potter were the only non-redheads.
"You don't look old enough to be a teacher," Ginny, the youngest, said dubiously.
Ed bit back no less than five scathing retorts. "I'm the youngest State Alchemist in history," he said instead. "I know what I'm doing."
Ginny nodded, satisfied.
The dinner was much better than Ed usually experienced from pub food and the conversation flowed easily enough for the first four courses.
Ed stayed quiet, gleaning what he could from the conversation around him. He learned that Potter was famous in the Wizarding World and that Sirius Black was the first ever prisoner to escape Azkaban. That last bit was the most interesting, but the adults seemed reluctant to discuss Black with children at the table.
Ed supposed he could understand why, but it still rankled. In his experience, ignorance meant bliss, but knowledge meant safety.
Just as dessert was brought out, a tall black man with a single gold earring approached the table. Arthur smiled at him.
"Kingsley," he greeted. "What brings you down here?"
Kingsley smiled. "I was hoping to talk to Major Elric before the term starts. I assume you're him." He addressed his last words to Ed.
Ed nodded. "Yeah, that's me. And you are?"
"Kingsley Shacklebolt. I'm leading the hunt for Sirius Black." His voice was deep, smooth, and soothing. It reminded Ed of Sig Curtis.
"Can it wait until I'm done with my pudding?" Ed asked. Pudding was one of the few foods containing milk that he could tolerate.
"As long as you share," Kingsley said.
Kingsley had to admit Tom had really outdone himself with the pudding. It was far better than the usual fare.
The young alchemist sitting next to him was just as far from what Kingsley had expected.
Fuhrer Grumman had assured the Ministry that Major Elric was more than capable of tracking Sirius Black and that he had just as much combat experience as the average Auror, if not more. Kingsley had seen some astonishing things in his life, but if Elric could hold his own, he would top them all.
Elric finished his pudding in good time and stood up.
Kingsley took his Portkey, a small brass statue of a bird, out of his pocket and held it out. "This will take us to the Ministry," he explained.
Elric took it and they were whisked away.
Elric fell when they landed, but pushed himself to his feet and brushed himself off as if nothing had happened. Kingsley noted that he didn't seem to be carrying any weapons, which struck him as odd for a member of the Muggle military.
"Welcome to the Ministry of Magic," he said.
Elric nodded. He swept the atrium once, nodded to himself, and gripped the handle of his cane more firmly. "Not bad," he said. "Like the architecture."
Kingsley smiled to himself. Elric couldn't hide the glimmer of wonder in his eyes.
"All visitors please register your wands," a pleasant female voice called from the ceiling.
"I don't have one of these," Elric remarked. "That gonna be a problem?"
"Not at all," Kingsley replied. "But Magical Britain isn't overly fond of Muggles, so you may want to keep that fact to yourself."
"Muggles don't know about wizards here, right?" Elric asked. At Kingsley's nod, he snorted. "In my experience, one large group of people keeping secrets about the laws of nature tends to lead to genocide."
"I was under the impression that there were only seven such... individuals involved," Kingsley noted, deciding to leave discussions of genocide for another time.
Elric shrugged. "Eight. But it depends on how you define people." He shook his head. "Anyway, let's get to business. Tell me about Black."
Author's Notes: Just a few backstory things.
Ed still has his alchemy and his automail arm. Hohenheim sacrificed himself for Al's body, but they still needed a little extra to get Al's soul back, so the arm had to go. Ed was very annoyed.
Amue Armstrong is a canon character who appears for maybe a couple seconds of the anime and a single panel of the manga. She's the one who looks like Alex and has ringlets.
Ed decided to learn magic by teaching alchemy and hopes to fuse them both like Al is doing in Xing. He's also lending his talents to the hunt for Sirius Black on the side. Let's all pray he never crosses paths with Umbridge.
Amestris has very few wizards, but they don't really keep it secret, mostly because of how prominent alchemy is. There's maybe a total of ten wizards in all of Amestris, which is way too few to justify making it a huge secret so Ed knows that magic exists, but it's not something he's ever really had much reason to think about. Magical Britain is the same way about alchemists, which is why they had to hire a foreign teacher.