The Foundation of Truth
Epilogue: Equivalent Exchange
Harry checked his preparations in the mirror one last time then quickly pulled on his invisibility cloak. He walked though the halls of Hogwarts as quietly as he could even though technically he hadn't been a student for more than a year. In the time since his graduation however things had quickly gone from bad to worse. Most of Britain was unsafe for wizards with Hogwarts being the only true safe haven left.
And now Dumbledore was dying.
It wasn't foul play or a move by the enemy. It was simple old age and stress. Now Harry had to do what he had promised himself he would do. And, considering everyone else would consider it suicidal, he had to go alone. Well almost everyone. One blond actually knew what Harry was going to do and helped him plan it though Ed didn't know he was going now.
A flash of light out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. From previous experiences the Boy-Who-Lived knew exactly what that meant. He hesitated barely a moment then moved quickly into the dark library. The magic-alchemy light had shown quite a distance away in the pitch black setting. A soft accio summoned the box from the top of the library shelves. Under the light of his wand Harry opened the box and peered inside. He stifled a laugh. He should have seen this coming. But then again, it was rather appropriate it came now.
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It was probably a land mark event. Ron and Snape had agreed on something.
Actually, everyone in the room had agreed on something. Namely that one Harry James Potter better have a good reason for abruptly vanishing when he knew Dumbledore was on his death bed. They had summoned the teen two day ago to say goodbye. When he couldn't be found no few had worried but as Dumbledore's condition deteriorated worry had turned to rage. The Headmaster and the Boy-Who-Lived had their disagreements over the years but everyone had expected Harry to be here in this of all times.
Just then the objects of their thoughts walked though the door.
Harry didn't even pause. He strode quickly though the crowd and stopped at Dumbledore's beside. The quite smile on his face only further enraged the people standing around him. "Several years ago, a very wise man told me that to the organized mind, death was only the next great adventure." Dumbledore's blue eyes looked up at Harry in confusion. The young wizard smiled and withdrew a something from his pocket. It was a length of old wood, much worn by use, a little over a foot long. The Boy-Who-Lived snapped it over his knee. Within the wood a faded phoenix feather appeared. "Walk forward without regrets, Albus. The war is over."
Dead silence reigned. Harry took Dumbledore's hand. "Thank you Harry."
The younger wizard wiped a tear from his eye with his free hand. "Say 'hi' for me?"
"I will." Dumbledore closed his eyes and allowed himself to pass on. Harry stood silent for a moment then released the wizard's hand.
"Harry," Hermione stepped forward. "Is it really?"
Harry turned to Snape. The potions master raised his sleeve to reveal a bare arm. "YES!" Ron shouted hugging Hermione. The witch pulled both of her friends into a hug. Harry smiled as joy abruptly filled the room. Voldemort was gone for good, though the method used was only known to a few people. And Harry had no intention of sharing it.
Hermione pulled on Harry's coat. "From Ed?"
Harry glanced down at his clothing. It almost matched the set he had given the alchemist three years ago, only the silver accents were gold. The coat was the biggest difference. It was blue instead of red with a white stage stitched across the back. He handed Hermione the brief note that had come with it.
The young witch laughed. Ron read it and rolled his eyes. "Is he obsessed?"
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Ed finished placing the outfit into the box then paused. He grabbed a strip of paper and carefully wrote out two words.
Snickering he dropped the box into the center of the array and tapped it with his wand. Light flowed from the edge of the intricate symbol to the center. With a soft 'pop' the box vanished.
Learning how to integrate alchemy and magic had taken quite a bit of time. It was almost six months before he could get it to work. Then he managed to successfully send his first package over to Hogwarts. Since then Ed, Hermione, Harry and Ron had written each other frequently. Unfortunately passing people between the worlds still remained impossibility. It wasn't difficult to go from here to there, but the return trip remained impossible without a source for alchemy power. Now, one could simply slaughter several people but that wasn't exactly practical. Or moral.
As Harry became more and more involved in the war against Voldemort (having completed his Occlumency classes), he learned more and more about Alchemy principles and Ed's unique combination of science and magic. Using these combined aspects the two wizards managed, with Ron and Hermione's help, to successfully discover a way to deconstruct the spells granting Voldemort 'immortality.' The problem was it would only work for Harry since he could manipulate the Dark Lord's power due to the small bit transferred when Voldemort had given him his scar.
Ed didn't know exactly what was going on in the war though from Harry's last letter it sounded like things were coming to a head. He squashed the tiny bit of guilt he felt. The Fullmetal Alchemist had felt required to stay behind and help with the war but Harry had firmly crushed that idea. Ed certainly couldn't kill Voldemort – that was Harry's job – and the blond was actually a liability. Merlin forbid, but if Voldemort ever got his hands on Ed for a long period of time he would have all the knowledge he needed to perform alchemy. And Voldemort certainly wouldn't have a problem killing masses of people just to get that power. Ed had to agree with Harry. He could handle quite a bit of pain but no one was unbreakable. Especially in Voldemort's clutches considering he employed people who took delight in finding new ways to torture people but not letting them die until the last moment. So Edward had left with Harry's blessing.
"If you're going to use my office for experiments I'd appreciate you asking first."
Ed rolled up the array (Most stuff he didn't need them for but sending objects between worlds was complex. The last thing he wanted to do was take a chance.) then shrunk it so it fit into his pocket. "Not an experiment General. Just sending some mail."
Bridger General Mustang surveyed the young man in front of him. The blond had done the near impossible: restoring his reputation and revealing King Bradley's secrets. Of course being able to apparate certainly helped. Somehow security wasn't quite so tight when you could bypass walls, guards and security systems.
Officially the Fullmetal Alchemist had retired. He no longer received any aid from the government nor had any obligations. Unofficially Ed retained his second name. He still wore his trademark outfit after all and many civilians recognized him from previous encounters. Ed also continued to help Mustang promote change in the military. The blond acted as the man's spy these days along with his usual duty as rabble rouser. Things had improved after Artemisia had changed over to a democratic government but the military was still riddled with corrupt individuals. Roy had continued his drive to the top trying to gain enough power to actually make a difference. He owed it to an old friend.
Neither of the alchemists actually discussed their relationship. Words would break the balance too easily. Closer than they had been six years ago but not exactly friends either. Though if things continued they might become that. Roy privately hoped that would happen. It would be nice to have another close friend like Hughes had been. "You shouldn't do that," Roy rebuked the wizard as Ed cleaned up his mess with magic.
"Between the notice-me-not spells and the silences charms no one will even look," Ed gave his companion a look. "I'm not that stupid."
Earlier Mustang might have made a comment about Ed's lack of height allowing others to over look him. However he had no desire to view the world though a bouncing ferret's eyes again. Or be covered in stripes. Or be stuck to the ceiling. Or…the list continued. The worst part was he had the hardest time retaliating. After all Roy had a hard time frying someone who could conjure water quite readily. "I see."
"Glad you do. Now, I've gotta go. Winry's going to smack me for being late as it is. The report's on your desk." Roy shook his head as Ed vanished with a snap. He silently thanked any Powers that listened to atheists that there was only one of Ed. He couldn't handle two.
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Ed grimaced rubbing his head has he reappeared in his library. Winry had been rather angry at him for being late for dinner. Not that he wanted to eat her dinner. He much preferred Winky's food. If only he could somehow transmute it into something edible… "Why don't you ever duck?"
"Because if I did she'd just get angrier," Ed answered Alexander. The ghost laughed. Ed groaned. "I really need some pain killers. I don't think Winry realized how hard she hit me."
"You are a wizard, are you not?" Alexander replied unknowingly paraphrasing Ron's words to Hermione in their first year.
Ed flushed, embarrassed and applied the proper medical charm. Even after over three years of practice magic still wasn't second nature to him. He was good at it certainly and used it rather often but it wasn't his first reaction. Alchemy still held that place. So even when magic might have made a better solution Ed tended to rely on science. Only if he was in 'magic mode' did he pull out his wand. Or if someone reminded him.
Then again, it really wasn't his fault. He'd been correct when he assumed no one used magic in his world. Some had the ability but science had replaced magic, unlike in Harry's world where the two coincided without interacting. Because of this Ed had to be careful where and when he used magic. If someone saw something they shouldn't the blond might just end up a lab somewhere.
"Niisan?" Al poked his head in the doorway. The sixteen year old's face continued to bring a grin to Ed's face even three years after his return. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah. Just Winry as usual."
Al laughed. "I'm doing some work in the lab."
"Thanks for the warning. I'll keep quiet." They had discovered complicated works of alchemy shouldn't mix with magic. Performing the two simultaneously within a small area by different people not working together well at all. As in level the building kind of at all. And if Al wasn't doing anything complex he wouldn't be in the lab.
Edward loved this house. After his return the brothers had journeyed home to Risenbourg and built it a short distance away from their old one. It appeared to be a one story small cottage really. It had two bedrooms each with a small bathroom, one for guests, the other the brothers shared needing each other's company far more than privacy. There was a combined kitchen and dining room and a small library that served as their study and receiving area for the clients coming to seek the brother's experience in alchemy. The basement was completely stone holding a single table. This served as their alchemy lab.
Beneath the basement however…
It had taken a great deal of creativity on Ed's part to get the rest of the house built. He had actually commissioned two houses and later move the second down here. There were three bedrooms, an extensive library, a huge kitchen and a bathroom similar to the one the prefects enjoyed. Most importantly it had Ed's workroom. Unlike the lab this room contained quite a bit. All of the various magical items he had made over the years along with potion ingredients he received from the Gryffindor trio and all the necessary tools of the magical trade.
Very few people knew the second house existed. There was a single passage from the basement down. Those who did know also knew about Ed's second occupation as it were. Winky and Alexander usually stayed down here, safely out of sight from prying eyes. Ed and Al spent a good deal of their time here as well. Ed had wards set up around the perimeter to let them know when someone was coming so they could get back up to the surface.
Ed apparated from the kitchen down to his workroom and settled down with a heavy tome on his lab. The twenty-one year old had a few experiments of his own he wanted to run but they could wait until his brother completed his own. In the mean time he could accomplish some light reading.
Ed nearly fell out of his seat as Alexander popped out of thin air an hour later. "Don't do that!"
"It's your brother! He's in trouble!"
Ed flipped open his golden watch and felt his heart momentarily stop as he saw Alphonse's hand on 'moral peril.' He raced up the stairs, burst into the basement and ran to his brother's side. Power swirled around the room focusing in the collapsed figure lying on his right. Ed didn't even think. He slammed his hands onto the floor and allowed his power to dissolve the array. The power faltered, diminished but not gone. The blond understood in a moment what had happened. The power raised wouldn't leave but now lacked purpose. He pulled his wand out but Alphonse moved first murmuring something Ed couldn't quite catch. Whatever he said the power latched onto and immediately exploded in a flash of light.
When the spots left Edward's eyes he looked down at his brother's form. He felt his jaw drop. Al looked older, approximately twenty. His eyes spotted another figure across the room, one very familiar. He tightened his jaw. He made sure Al was safe then summoned Winky. The house elf took care of the two sleeping men while Ed apparated down to his workroom quickly pulling out ingredients. The potion thankfully didn't take long. He managed to appear at the other man's side before he woke. Ed nodded to himself as he watched the potion take effect. Good, that should take care of that problem.
"Niisan?" Al sat up slowly. "What happened? I don't think there was anything wrong with the array…" His eyes brightened. "Niisan! I remember! I remember everything!"
Ed smiled at his brother, his mind running a mile a minute. Al's magic had tapped into the energy raised and granted his deepest wish. Not unusual actually. Most wizard children went through a stage like that. It resulted with various small acts of wandless magic. As they became trained however their emotions became less able to affect their power. Those who had magical abilities and weren't trained generally lost any belief in magic therefore negating their own skills. Al knew magic existed so he wouldn't forget. And he was older making his source of magic larger than a child's.
Mentally Ed started compiling a checklist. First he would have to get in touch with Harry. The black haired wizard could set up a transfer point inside Ollivanders. They could pass wands back and forth until they found a match. (It was really a pity Al couldn't use phoenix cores. Ed could have made him a wand.) Then he'd have to pull out the standard books to get started teaching his brother. You couldn't allow that sort of thing to go untrained. He really should have done it before now but they had been so busy…
Al's shout broke Ed's concentration. The younger Elric struggled up and ran to his father's side.
Gold eyes behind glass lenses opened slowly. "Alphonse?"
"Father! You're alright!" Al hugged his father tightly.
"How?" Hohenheim asked as he spotted his other son over Al's shoulder.
"Probably a freak accident. I doubt Al could recreate it if he tried," Ed replied. "Getting that type of uncontrolled combination between magic and alchemy is dangerous."
Hohenheim stared as his eldest son as if he had stared speaking another language. "He doesn't know Nissan," Al reminded Ed.
"Right. I guess we should start at the beginning then." Ed plopped down beside the pair. The two brothers took turns telling their adventures in full to their father. It was late by the time they finished. Luckily Winky had brought food and more comfortable seats. "So that's about it. Now, I have a few ideas on how Al could bring you back but nothing concrete," Ed finished. "Magic is highly sensitive to emotion after all." Which was far from being logical.
Hohenheim smiled at his two sons. "Well I am certainly glad he did. However, I am quite tired and would like to rest." Al immediately jumped up and led his father to the guest bedroom. Hohenheim assured his son that yes, he didn't need anything. Really he was fine. Just a little tired. Alphonse finally left and Hohenheim sat on the bed with a sigh. He really wasn't that tired. He would much have preferred staying and talking with his children more. But he had seen the need between the brothers to talk alone and respected that.
The blond pulled his coat off in preparation to go to sleep. He realized with a shock that his skin was whole. "How…?"
"It's useful having a wizard for a son." Alexander replied as he floated through the door. "There are a few very dark curses that cause symptoms similar to your condition. Provided you keep taking the potion regularly your skin will remain whole though it won't do anything for the internal damage."
Hohenheim smiled to himself. "'And they lived happily ever after. The end.'" He quoted.
"What are you talking about?" The ghost huffed. "This isn't the end."
"It's merely the beginning."
NO NO NO! Alexander you're going to get me in trouble! At the moment there are NO plans for a sequel. Please don't ask for one. I've got enough fics on my hands (or in my brain as the case may be) as it is! (Should I be worried the epilogue is 2 pages longer than most chapters? Oh well.) I will probably edit this eventually, possibly expand some sections in the future. That won't be for several months at least because I'll need the distance. I will be deleting responses to readers in the next few weeks so if there are any you want to keep copy them. It tends to make the fic neater. Also, any sections you feel should be explaned/contracted, parts you hated, characters you wanted to see more of: tell me! I may use your imput in future edits.
Notes on Harry's Animagus form: The White Stag. The stag is a hunted animal which very much depicts Harry's life if you think about it. He was hunted by Voldemort, Dudley's crew, the wizarding public (sometimes for good things, sometimes bad) and the students at Hogwarts (books 2 and 4 come to mind). White is the color generally associated with goodness or light, the side Harry represents. It also represents purity and innocence. All of these (in my opinion) describe Harry, especially in the first four books. The original idea for this came from a distant recollection of a legend depicting the chase of a white stag. It also had something to do with immortality (surving the Avada Kedavra). Don't quote me on that one though; I couldn't find the actual legend I was thinking of. I forgot James Potter was a stag for a while actually...
The trip has been (mostly) a pleasure. I started this fic during the two weeks right before exams as a stress reliever then typed it over break. I'm glad so many of you liked it. And now for a finial word of thanks.
For all the readers: whether you left a message or not. I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I liked writing it.
For all those who left a response: Thank you for your imput. Most of them brightened my day considerably. Especially the long paragraph ones submitted by readers multiple times over different chapters. You know who you are.