It was no surprise that Nicolas and Ed's application for a spot in the presentation schedule of the Lügner Research Conference had made the papers. Although the media had no knowledge of their discovery, it clearly hadn't stopped them from dedicating an entire article to their application.
Ed supposed it made sense. The entire wizarding world had been entranced by the news of the eccentric Nicolas Flamel teaming up with a muggle. It was only natural that they would be curious about what they had discovered.
That being said, almost no time had passed since the swathes of articles concerning his W.O.M.B.A.T pass. What more did they have to say? Not very much, it turned out.
He had been pleasantly surprised to come across Idris' opinion piece on their partnership. There were, of course, some rather unpleasant opposing points of view, but Idris' face beaming out from the paper warmed him. It was nice to know that there were at least some people on his side.
Not many, but enough.
He had spent the best part of the day preparing for the conference with Nicolas. Albus had also applied to present, following through with his plans to focus on the dragon blood research. It had taken a bit of cajoling, but Nicolas and Ed had eventually persuaded him to let them credit him as a contributor to the creation of the stone. Even if the bulk of the work had been done by the Nicolas and Ed, there was no denying the significance of Albus' contribution.
Edward trudged down the now familiar cobbled street that led back to the house he shared with Hohenheim. He readjusted the heavy satchel that was swung over his good shoulder. It was filled with his normal books filled with notes and diagrams, but the weight that continually threw him off balance was down to one book.
The Deathly Hallows.
Even the name sent a strange shiver down his spine. He had been looking for the right time to confront Albus with his concerns, but he had been proving a difficult man to find recently. The righteous anger he had felt earlier had receded and he was simply left with a strange sense of dread.
Dumbledore's brother had insisted that the so called Hallows were mere fables, simple fairy tales. Edward hoped beyond hope that this was the case. It all seemed far too familiar for comfort.
Ed opened the front door and dropped his satchel to the floor. He was about the call out a greeting to Hohenheim, when the man appeared in the hallway.
"Edward! Perfect timing, speak of the devil and all that."
Edward paused, narrowing his eyes, "What do you want?" he asked, more than a little suspicious.
"You're not overly busy, are you?"
"Well, no, but-"
"Perfect!" Hohenheim exclaimed, gesturing back at the study, "I have someone I would like to introduce you to."
Ed considered refusing, but Hohenheim hadn't been overly annoying recently. He could afford to cooperate a few times, without setting too much of a precedent.
Ed shrugged, and Hohenheim beamed in reply.
Sitting beside the desk in Hohenheim's office was a man dressed sharply in a shirt and waistcoat. His wool jacket was slung over the back of the chair. Edward noted that he wasn't a particularly young man, a receding hairline and lined face placed him at around sixty.
"Edward, I would like to introduce you to Mr. Hugo Junkers."
"Uh, hi. Nice to meet you." Ed said, sticking his hand out as an afterthought.
Junkers took Ed's hand in a firm grip and smiled broadly.
"It is a pleasure to finally meet you, young man." Ed blinked at the unexpected German accent.
"Hugo and I have been corresponding a great deal of the last few months. He is one of the foremost engineers in world."
Junkers scoffed, "I do not know if I would go quite that far my friend. Aeronautical engineering is my particular passion." he explained.
"Give him a pig, and he could almost certainly make it fly." Hohenheim said with a hearty chuckle.
Ed struggled to hold back the urge to tell them that, in fact, he knew a number of people who could easily do just that.
"Well, I could probably put the pig in something that flew. I'm not quite sure about the biological side." Junkers said with a quirk of his lip.
"However, flying pigs are not the reason I invited Mr Junkers to visit."
"I'm shocked." Ed said flatly.
"Indeed." Junkers chuckled. "There are two things I wish to talk to you about Edward. First of all, as you know, I am an aeronautical engineer by trade, but I also have an interesting in mechanical engineering and anatomy. Hohenheim happened to mention your dissatisfaction with your current prosthetics, and he gave me some interesting ideas about possible improvements. I've made a very basic prototype from your father's suggestions and measurements." he pulled a strange tangled mess of metal, wire and cables from under the table, "Would you care to try it on? It's clearly a work in progress, but the sooner we start perfecting the fit, the more effective it will be."
Ed's eyes had bugged out at the mere sight of the arm.
Hohenheim hadn't been kidding. The old bastard had actually come through with one of his promises for once.
He ripped off his jacket, waistcoat and shirt with little regard for modesty. Who cared about the stuck-up rules of this world when he had the chance of a functional arm within his grasp? He didn't miss the grimace on Hohenheim's face as he removed his current, incredibly heavy prosthetic. The straps always cut deep red marks into his skin that lingered even when it was removed. He was sure that his arm wasn't entirely pleasant to look at, but he didn't know why the old man looked so guilty. Ed's lack of limbs was no one's fault but his own.
Junkers passed over the arm carefully and Ed smiled, turning it over in his hands. As Junkers had said, it was little more than a skeleton frame, but he could see the potential. The joints were painstakingly articulated and the fingers had been built with a fascinating gripping mechanism. He pulled the arm flush against himself and tightened the makeshift harness.
"What do you think Ed?" Hohenheim asked.
It was simple, almost primitive. If Winry had been presented with this contraption, she would have laughed until she cried.
Ed looked back up and locked eyes with his father, grinning ear to ear.
Edward woke early, the sun already streaming through the windows. It was the day of the conference and he wanted to make sure that he was as prepared as he could be. Admittedly though, that was only half of what had driven him to wake at such an ungodly hour.
After Junkers had fitted the prototype, he had asked Ed whether or not he would be interested in joining a research group in Germany. A few weeks ago, he would have scoffed at the suggestion, but in all truth, it sounded fascinating. It would also mean that the work on the arm would progress twice as fast. He had woken up, the thoughts of a possible future refusing to simply stay as dreams.
However, the world of magic was still so deeply exciting. He just couldn't see himself leaving it behind for pure science. There was still far more left to learn.
Ed grabbed his satchel from where he had dropped it next to the door. Nicolas was bringing almost all of the important materials, but Edward couldn't bear to leave the house without his notes.
Perenelle opened the door with an exhausted, but genuine smile.
"Good morning Edward! I'm sorry, it's all a little hectic this morning."
There was a muffled thud from the direction of the laboratories.
Perenelle cringed. "Would you care to join me for tea in the parlour while Nicolas prepares?"
"Are you sure I can't help?"
"Very!" she chuckled, "You must understand, this is the culmination of a lifetime of work for Nicolas. I don't blame him for being a little high strung, even if it is unbelievably wearing."
"Well, I'm just glad that I've been able to help him to realise his dream. I guess this day has been a long time coming."
"Longer than you might think." Perenelle said with an almost imperceptible smile. "So, don't be shy, come and relax with me while my husband runs around like a headless goose."
Ed shrugged, "I have nothing against relaxing while Nicolas does all of the work."
"I also have those little biscuits you like."
At that, Edward needed no further persuasion. He followed Perenelle into the parlour and settled into one of the soft leather armchairs. They sat there for a good half-hour, eating biscuits and discussing international wizarding relations. He hadn't realised that both Nicolas and Perenelle had travelled so extensively. It seemed as if they had connections all over the world.
Eventually, Nicolas blustered into the room, looking slightly wild-eyed and like he hadn't slept a wink. He brightened slightly upon seeing Edward, who was still stuffing his face with biscuits.
"Ah, Edward! Just about ready to go?"
"I feel like I should be the one asking that!" Ed said, rubbing the crumbs from his mouth and suppressing a laugh. "Are you sure you don't need to sit down for a few minutes before we go?"
He rubbed a hand over his cropped beard and yawned widely. "No no, there will be plenty of time to sit and relax while we watch the other presentations."
"Whatever you say!"
Nicolas chuckled and swatted Ed around the head. "I've checked, double checked and triple checked everything. We are ready to go whenever you can bring yourself to part from the biscuits."
"Ah, I dunno, that might be a challenge." he said, pulling a mock-pained expression before his expression suddenly shifted to something more genuine, "Wait. No wait, really. Seriously? No, please tell me we're not going by Floo again?"
Nicolas grinned broadly, and Ed groaned.
The Floo journey was just as nauseating as the last one and Ed was more than certain that he was currently a rather putrid shade of green. Nicolas, damn him, stepped out of the fireplace a few seconds after Ed looking, somehow, less ruffled than he had when they had left the house.
"I hate you." Ed moaned, rubbing at his eyes with the heel of his hand.
"Perk up Ed! This is it, the day we've been working for!"
Ed side-eyed his partner but decided not to make any comment. Floo most certainly did not agree with him.
The hall for the Lügner Research Conference was opulent and stunning. The same as every wizarding building he had ever visited. It was almost kind of...boring? There was almost no diversity of design in any of these places, they were all filled with gold and ornate carvings. The floors were universally gleaming without a single chip or crack. It made him curious about the economy of the English wizarding world. Suer, he had a good grasp on magical theory, but he was still rather in the dark concerning current affairs. When you could enchant everything to be beautiful, what was the point in spending money on anything but labour?
Amestris had been different. Alchemists were far scarcer than wizards seemed to be, not to mention the unshakable fact that alchemy refused to allow something to be created from nothing. That was something that Ed still had yet to understand. Just how did this so-called magic allow the creation of matter? The manipulation of behaviour?
Perhaps this conference could provide some answers.
The registration was thankfully, straightforward. Of course, Nicolas had to have his wand checked and then vouch for Ed. He didn't really agree with it as a system, It seemed foolish to totally rely on wands for identification. What did squibs do? That sort of thing was Idris' job, he supposed. Campaigning for their rights and petitioning to change the laws that made people's lives so unnecessarily difficult.
Edward was watching the charmed quill at the registration desk fly over yards of parchment when Nicolas' voice jolted him back to reality.
"Goodness, we're on after the DoM!" Nicolas exclaimed, looking up excitedly from the timetable.
"The Department of Mysteries?" Ed asked. He had read a great deal about the secretive research that took place in the bowels of the Ministry. Not that much had been written about the details of their research. Ed could only imagine what new discovery they would be presenting.
"They present almost every year, I can't think of many teams with better funding than that of the Ministry."
"And we're the ones following that? Great."
"No, no! This is a great honor. It means that we are guaranteed a full audience for our presentation. Someone must have an idea about what we will be presenting, not to mention the draw of a muggle presenter! It's in their best interest to save you until last. Everyone's going to want to catch a glimpse!"
Ed smirked and shrugged lightly, he didn't care all that much about how much attention they drew. He just wanted to hear more of these presentations, there was so much that he didn't know, and it was almost too exciting.
They moved through the halls, Nicolas occasionally stopping to greet elegantly dressed wizards in flowing robes. Ed noted that a few of the attendees were dressed in muggle suits. Admittedly, they were generally rather alarming shades of green and purple, rather than the muted tones he had become accustomed to. However, it was one of the first times he had seen so many wizards dressed in something other than yards of swirling fabric.
Nicolas had clearly noticed his interest and laughed.
"It seems to be a relatively recent fashion." he explained, "Muggle fashion has more of an influence here than you would think. And academics always try to get ahead of the crowd."
"I'm not sure if I would call that fashion." Ed said, eyeing a nearby wizard's fushia jacket dubiously. "But I think I prefer it to the robes."
"I just enjoy seeing change." Nicolas said with a smile. "But I think you should give robes a chance. I'm sure they would suit you, and don't worry, it's no issue to get the hems taken up."
Ed's eye twitched, but he managed to control it with a few deep breathes, as Nicolas laughed at him.
"Oh Edward, you are far too easy to rile."
Ed shot him a look that could have putrefied fruit and tried to stop himself from making a rude gesture. He wouldn't have held back in the lab, but he didn't want to ruin Nicolas' reputation in public. Not too much, anyway.
"Nicolas, Edward!" a beaming Albus Dumbledore waved at them from across the room. "I'm glad to have found you! The first presenters are already setting up, in fact, I think Gellert is already ready to start! When are you due on?"
"We're the closing act." Ed said with a quirked eyebrow.
"I should have known." Albus said with a chuckle. "I can imagine that you're going to cause quite a stir."
"Well, apparently we're due a big audience, so that will be fun." Ed only injected a hint of sarcasm into that statement.
"It's true. Many people come late and only attend the final few presentations. And everyone always stays to hear the DoM's new findings."
"Did I not tell you?" Nicolas said with a smile.
"Hey, I'm a scientist, now your assertions have been peer-reviewed."
The conference was utterly fascinating, and their own presentation was an overwhelming success. As soon as they finished, the audience had been clamoring for answers to questions, confirmation of the finest details, and simply wanting to shake their hands.
He had gained the contact details of around ten different researchers within ten minutes of their presentation finishing. The enchanter who had presented on remotely activated magic had been very eager to talk to Edward, and he even snagged the details of one of the head researchers at the Department of Mysteries.
They had set up a makeshift panel after the conferences' official conclusion, to field the many questions people seemed to have for them. Admittedly, most of the questions had been addressed to Nicolas, which Ed could understand. It was Nicolas' life's work after all.
"I would like to direct this question to Mr Elric." A bespectacled witch started, "If, as you have proven, the creation of a Philosopher's Stone is feasible, does this mean that other legendary magical artifacts could be recreated? Is there a chance we might be seeing another so-called 'Merlin's Box' in the coming years?"
Edward started at being addressed and reached out clumsily for the charmed amplification device that had been provided for him.
"Thanks for the question." he scratched the back of his neck awkwardly, "Well, first of all, there's a big difference between something being possible, and something being a good idea. You know what I mean? Creating almost anything is possible, but there are some things that are too dangerous to even think about researching."
"Can you give us an example?"
"Anything that created an immense imbalance of power between people, or anything that upsets the natural flow of the world is a good example."
"I'm sorry, but can you explain what you mean by 'the natural flow'?"
"Do you really want me to spell things out? Bringing people back from the point of death, playing with power that you don't understand, those sorts of things, y'know."
"But is that sort of power really obtainable?" the woman was leaning forward in her seat.
"Sure it is." Ed snorted, "But you'd have to be pretty stupid to play around with that sort of magical alchemy. I mean, the general principles wouldn't be too far from the Philosopher's Stone, but the potential applications are worlds apart." he leaned down into the make-shift amplifier, "In short you won't ever catch me trying to gain power that isn't mine."
The room went rather quiet, and Ed realised that he was talking to a room full of researchers who were searching for exactly that.
He cleared his throat. "I guess that's a positive about being a muggle. I'm not under any illusions that I'm anything other than really, really ordinary." he grinned and the tension broke as the room erupted into small chuckles.
As laughter bubbled over the room, Ed made eye contact with a steely gaze.
Gellert Grindelwald was most certainly not laughing.
"Elric, what were you talking about back there."
"What?" Ed swung around to meet the eyes of Albus' friend, Gellert.
"Don't play stupid, what do you know about the Hallows?" there was something wild and strangely desperate in his eyes.
"Nice to see you again." he replied with a raised eyebrow.
"Tell me what you know."
"I don't know what you're talking about. Can you leave me alone? I need to pack up before Nicolas gets back." he turned back to the table.
"I am asking you nicely, Elric. You couldn't have been more direct, and my interest in the artifacts is no secret."
"I have no idea what you're talking about. But I really need to pack these things away, so I'd appreciate it if you would leave me alone."
"As a muggle, I would have thought that you would have more respect for your superiors."
Ed swung around with an incredulous expression.
"Look, I know you don't like me, but seriously? Are you actually insane?"
Gellert locked eyes with Ed.
"If we're not careful, I have a feeling that we're going to have some problems, Elric. And I don't think either of us want that."
"Well that answers that, and speak for yourself." Ed snorted, stepping back from the table.
"I obviously didn't make myself clear."
"Oh no, you did. I'm just choosing to ignore the shit that seems to flow in a constant stream from you." Ed paused and then looked back over his shoulder, "Might want to get that checked out by the way."
Something in Gellert's expression twisted sharply, and he took a step forward. "You are treading a very dangerous line, boy."
"Oh, am I? I must not be making myself clear enough then. Step off, leave me alone and get the hell out of my face." he made to walk away, but turned back suddenly, "And, 'boy'? Seriously? You aren't that much older than me. Take your head out of wherever you've stuck it."
Gellert's hand spasmed angrily and Ed rolled his eyes. He knew Gellert's type, all bark and no bite. He would threaten and monologue until he was blue in the face, but he was essentially impotent.
Edward twisted, just missing the burning jet of light that flew over his shoulder. Before he could do anything in retaliation, the other man was upon him. Ed found himself pressed against the wall, Gellert's hand at his throat and a wand pressing sharply under his chin.
"You would be wise," Gellert said, eyes wide and breaths carefully measured. "to not push me any further. I would not be accountable for my actions. Tell me what you know."
"Oh really now? I mean, you've already confirmed to me that you're fucking insane . So I guess that would make sense." Ed grunted out as Gellert pressed harder against his throat.
Ed threw himself to the side, attempting to push Gellert off him. He kicked the desk sending a chair and his satchel flying.
The bag burst open, pages of both loose and bound notes spilled out, accompanied by one very large book.
Gellert's eyes darkened, something brittle and cold overtaking his expression.
"You little thief."
"I didn't-" Ed started, but he was cut off by Gellert's fist making contact with his face. His head slammed back against the wall, and Gellert reeled back, holding his hand. It was almost laughable really, Ed had taken hits ten times as hard in the past, and Gellert had clearly never thrown one.
Nonetheless, it sent him reeling.
Just as the world started to right himself, he was blown off his feet by a jet of light. He tried to spring to his feet, but his body wouldn't cooperate, every muscle was frozen in place.
Suddenly it hit Ed that he was completely and totally defenseless.
Gellert crouched down next to him, pushing Ed's hair out of his eyes with the tip of his wand.
"This is for your own good, Elric. You're a muggle. You're weak and you need firm direction. Personally, I think of it like training a dog. Most animals will fall into line if the pack leader asserts themselves. But sometimes the weaker dogs don't know that they are weak. They need to learn it the hard way." he fixed Edward with a hard look. "If you don't choose to cooperate, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to show you how weak you really are."
Ed wished his muscles would cooperate enough to allow him to spit into the arsehole's face. Clearly he had enough control over his face to convey that thought, because Gellert laughed, a strange hiss from between his teeth.
"Don't say I didn't give you an option." Gellert said casually, flicking his wand between his fingers. "I suppose it's the kindest thing to do."
Without warning, everything was pain. Pain and cracking and something shattering. He was trapped, falling and the walls were closing in. Centuries passed in seconds and he couldn't scream.
Just as suddenly as it started, he was released. He felt Gellert's foot come down hard on his shoulder and then his body was released from its paralysis. Ed gasped until his lungs ached, his eyes stinging and streaming.
"I hope that was worth it, you pathetic creature."
Ed couldn't reply; he was still choking on lungfuls of air.
Gellert crinkled his nose at Ed's prone form, nodded, turned on his heel and swept out of the room in a swirl of silken robes. He paused in the doorway, not deigning to even look back into the room.
"Leave Dumbledore alone, Elric."
Nicolas faces some difficult developments, Albus is assaulted on all fronts and Edward has to pick a path.
I am so sorry for making all of you wonderful people wait for an update! I can promise you that this story will never be abandoned, any breaks between updates just mean that the real world is being mean.
If you enjoyed this, it would mean the world if you left a comment with your thoughts! Also, please don't hesitate to visit me on Tumblr, I am also 'SomethingIncorporeal' there. I would love to hear from you!