Fullmetal Alchemist

The Alchemic Wizard

By: Melissa the Damgel

Edited by: S J Smith

I don't own anything of Fullmetal Alchemist or Harry Potter. I just like playing with them and shoving them into situations we know we'd never see them in –and also I like seeing Ed and Winry play. …you'll know what I mean later! It's all for fun and kicks so don't sue! I'm not rich! Really!

Ch. 19


Up and At 'em


"Up and at 'em, Eddy! You got a date with the Second Councilor!"

Bristling from his prone position atop his cot, Ed glared daggers at Hughes the moment the detective sauntered into the room with a beaming grin and a rather wicked looking black eye forming along his right cheek. Several armed men filed in behind the detective, but Ed wasn't paying attention to them, he was snarling at Mason because of that stupid grin. He was not in the mood for his sunshine and daisies attitude. He wanted to sulk in peace damnit! "Don't call me that! And I'm not talking to Colonel Jackass."

A laugh escaped Hughes as the man crossed his arms and smirked down at him, but in an instant he sobered and return a glare of his own. "Oh, you'll talk to him. Especially if you want to see your giiiiiiirlfriend," he drawled and immediately he was back to his old self, clasping his hands together next to his cheek as he moved down to pucker his lips in front of Ed's face.

Scowling even as he flushed scarlet, Ed lifted a hand and tried to shove the man's face away – but he failed miserably all he achieved was a weak pat to the cheek and a groan as his broken ribs protested the movement. "Bastard, making an injured guy move like this.

Hughes straightened, chuckling, "You're the one who agreed to Mustang's terms. Don't go defiling my name just because you were the idiot who made a deal with the devil."

Ed moaned, struggling to sit up and swing his legs over the side of the cot. "You could have warned me he was using me for political interest to gain the favor of the President." He smirked –he found it ironic that that aspect of Roy Mustang hadn't changed in an alternate world what-so-ever; his ass-kissing was just as spectacular as in Amestris.

"Ready?" Hughes asked, crossing his arms over his chest as he gazed down at Ed.

"No." Ed was quick to reply even as he stood with a grunt and wince before shuffling towards the door with his cuffed hands pressed to his ribs.

Two of the armed guards took a position on either side of Ed, while the other followed behind him. Hughes led the way, his back straight, shoulders square and his head held high. There were several hallways they passed through, and all the while a dull, rhythmic thrumming hummed above them with the weight of machinery causing the heavy lullaby.

"What is that sound anyway?" Ed finally asked, his eyes gazing up towards the ceiling.

Hughes glanced over his shoulder. "That's the instant potato factory above us."

Confusion etched itself into Edward's features as he was hustled along behind him. "What?"

Turning his head once more, a grin crawled over Hughes' face. "That noise is the machines for the instant potato factory."

Several long heartbeats hammered in Ed's head as he tried to process that. "So… the United Council of Magic is located…"

"-Under a potato factory, yes." Hughes finished for him, a large smile spreading over his face and belying the sadistic joy he was taking in seeing Edward becoming rather frazzled by this uncommon location.

"Why?" Ed finally managed to get out, thinking that American wizardry was decidedly strange.

"Oh, come on Ed, do you really think Muggles could have come up with something like 'just add water instant potatoes' without a little magical help?" Hughes snickered as they rounded another corner and waved his hand dismissively as though that was the funniest thing he had heard in at least a week. The hallway stopped abruptly in a dead end with 'Restricted Personnel' written on the frosted glass in old English calligraphy on the door's window. "Here we are." Hughes announced.

Inhaling slowly, Edward straightened up as much as his aching body was physically able to, and he stepped forward while one of the guards opened the door and motioned him inside.

Mustang lifted his black eyes, watching the young man enter the small, formerly white room that smelled of old rotten potatoes. Brown stains slithered down the walls and along the floor with crawling sweeps of the old vegetable residues seeping in from the ceiling above. A metal table sat in the middle of the room with a single chair placed centrally on the side facing Ed.

"Edward, please, take a seat." A fake smile spread over Mustang's face as he motioned towards the chair across from him. He waited casually behind the metal table with his back to the wall and a file in his left hand.

Pursing his lips, Edward stepped forward and tugged the chair away from the table, scraping the concrete floor with the metal feet. A shot of pain raced through his ribs from the tug and he bit back a yelp - taking a moment to collect himself before he gingerly sat upon the metal chair. Ed managed to keep the flush in his cheeks down from the weakness he had just exhibited. It was horrible enough that he had to stare at Mustang's ugly mug; he was not going to give the man teasing rights. The bastard would do it, he just knew it.

Leaning back lazily, Edward raised his head and stared at Mustang with an expression of pure boredom and annoyance. "So what do you want?"

"I must say, you are the most curious person I've ever had the chance to meet. Not since Congresswoman Vicki Blair, a witch who went insane after accidentally inhaling Caldron Cleaner, tortured then killed three muggle college students, have I been as confused and intrigued all in the same case," Roy explained, smiling brilliantly down at the young man.

Ed scowled before he turned his head and glared at the wall, shaking his head faintly in irritation.

A smile settled over Mustang's face and a light flickered within his dark eyes. Inhaling deeply, Roy felt the eagerness of his earlier days in politics course through his veins and energize his starving lust for conflict. "Shall we begin then?" He opened the file in his hands. "Edward Elric; that's your name, correct?"

Shifting in his seat, Ed nodded, scowling viciously at the wall just to the right of Mustang's face. "Why does everyone keep asking me that? Do you need me to spell my name for you guys?"

Another flicker of intrigue crossed Mustang's face and he took a step forward, never once removed his dark eyes from Edward's. "No we don't. My men are more competent than that. I ask because the only Edward Elric we found on file was a boy from 1921 who died from a zeppelin's remains crashing over London."

Edward winced and glanced back to the man before he looked to the table in front of him. His shoulders twitched faintly at the memory of being pinned to the ground by one of the steel beams in the zeppelin's interior. That had been a painful experience – the dying part had hurt, too. He really didn't want to die a third time. A chuckle escaped him suddenly as he shook his head. He had technically died twice now. Who could boast about something like that?

"May I ask what you find so funny?" He threw the file down in front of Edward, his black eyes boring into the young man's amber ones as he waited.

"Oh, nothing, just remembering what London was like back then." Ed smirked and lifted his cuffed hands, the chains clinking together as he opened the file.

"If you aren't who you say you are, you could be charged with Identify Theft, and we don't take such a crime lightly in this country." Mustang narrowed his eyes and steeled his jaw.

Edward's eyes scanned the pages, reading over both the typed page and the hand written notes along the margins. "Hughes really does do a thorough job – but at the police station he told me he only found Hohenhiem's name in the records. Did he find something else all of a sudden?" Ed asked, tossing the file back towards Mustang with a lazy flick of his wrist.

Mustang lifted his chin subtly, staring down his nose at the younger man across the table from him. "Yes. The records on this boy were hard to find due simply to the fact he was just a war victim at age sixteen. There were so many deaths back then that few records of the casualties were ever documented correctly. If it wasn't for an old newspaper article that had taken the time to tell the sad story of one of Churchill's advisors' son having been killed, this name would have been erased for all time."

Shrugging, Ed wiggled his wrists in his cuffs, "I don't really care if my name goes down in history. I don't plan on sticking around here forever." The chains jingled loudly, swinging gaily from his shackles and clapping against the metal table several times.

"Stop that," Mustang ordered, his hand resting on the table. He leaned across it, trying to meet Edward's eyes. "So what about the girl? There is no file on her whatsoever. You, we at least can use the excuse of identity theft, but her?"

Ed frowned, golden eyes flashing as he looked up towards the man, "Look, what does this have to do with anything? Those are just names we were born with. If you want to ask me questions about the arrest then do so. Stop wasting my time." He snapped.

A smirk clawed at Mustang's face as he leaned closer towards the young man, towering over him like a shadowy boogeyman. "You're direct, I like that." He straightened up, nodding as his hands moved behind his back and clasping together lightly. "All right then. What magic did you use to create blocks in the middle of the road, to create weapons from a car door, and how did you create holes in the floor of a building?" He asked, moving around the table slowly as he leveled his gaze onto Edward's face. A triumphant smirk crossed Mustang's face as he watched the young man's jaw clench and his breathing deepen. Good. He was getting to him.

"We understand you can use wandless magic," he said suddenly, taking a seat upon the edge of the table just to the right of Edward, "even the Ministry of Magic in England confirms that. But what I want to know is how you created what you did without saying a spell." Mustang leaned towards him, dark eyes hungry for the knowledge this boy possessed. "Our Magical Forensics Team tells me there was no magical residue anywhere on those unique formations you made."

Edward's frown deepened, his boredom gone. "I'm not going to be some weapon for you," he hissed.

"I'm not asking you to be. I'm just curious to know how you did it," Mustang stated, a narcissistic smile transforming his face.

"No." Ed grunted and turned his head completely away from the man. "Magic is enough in this world. You don't need more psychos like Voldemort getting a hold of my knowledge and twisting it to their sick desires."

Knowledge? 'This world'? Hmm, interesting. Mustang stood and circled to the other side of the table once more. He leaned against the wall with his hands pushing into his pockets casually. "What sort of knowledge is it? Old and ancient, or new and experimental?"

"Scientific and precise," Ed stated simply, raising a brow at Mustang and daring him to ask what that meant.

A smirk was all he received from the man. Mustang nodded, accepting the vague answer before he continued. "So tell me about Winry. Why were you so willing to tear a city apart to get back to her?"

"Because she was in danger. En… I mean, Perry, he told me he was going to kill her." Edward lifted his hands from his lap and dropped them loudly to the metal table. He stared down at the brown colored folder that rested several inches away from the tips of his fingers. "I had to get back," He muttered.

Mustang chuckled suddenly with a deep throaty rumble. "Hughes is right, you're in love." His dark eyes lit up as his body began to quiver with his suppressed laughter.

Edward stiffened and he glowered at the man, an icy growl escaping his chest. "So what?" His teeth gnashed as he slouched in his chair and grumbled to himself.

Pushing away from the wall, Roy laid his hands atop the cold metal of the table, leaning toward the young man in front of him. "Because that tells me you are young and impulsive, and it also tells me you are not the criminal the Ministry in the UK is making you out to be." He lowered his voice, "You care to explain why you stormed the Ministry of Magic and destroyed their headquarters, and then later also destroyed part of London and fought the Ministry agents sent to locate you?"

Amber eyes flickered with fire and stared directly into the inky blackness of Mustang's calm eyes with begrudging annoyance. He knew where the man was going with his questions and he hated Mustang all the more for seeing a weakness that was so clearly written upon him as though he had 'I'd do anything for Winry' tattooed on his forehead. Ed's stomach churned and his palms grew moist with that uncomfortable realization that he was willing to do anything for Winry. How ironic he hadn't seen the pattern Mustang just explained to him till now.

"What are you trying to get at?" he finally spat, hating Mustang all the more the moment he began laughing.

Chuckling, Mustang shrugged and pushed away from the table, "Never mind," he told Ed and idly flipped through the folder. He paced while reading random entries throughout the manuscript, a little smirk upon his face.

"No, what is it?" Edward dared to ask, his shoulders once more going rigid despite the stiffness in his muscles and the crying pain in his ribs.

With an eerily pointed look, Mustang faced Ed, leaning his palm on the table. "I know what to use against you."

Blinking rapidly, Edward understood Mustang's words instantly, but the denial that rushed through his body like an icy wave swamped his thoughts just long enough for Roy to smile that sickeningly charming smile that said he was going to exploit Ed till he got what he wanted. The man seemed to loom over him and gain height the longer Ed's brain stayed on vacation.

"Now that you understand me, are you going to cooperate with me and tell me what your unique power is, or will I have to threaten you with Miss Rockbell's safety just as Perry did earlier?" Roy drawled, planting his other hand firmly upon the table and solidified his strong shoulders, readying them for the slightest hint of movement.

Edward shook his head and gasped loudly. His muscles twitched and Edward jumped to his feet, a strangled shout rushing from his throat as he clapped his hands together and slapped them to the tabletop and pushed against the metal, causing it to flow like water within his fingers.

Roy shouted and stumbling backwards and instantly found himself pinned to the wall with his hands locked at his waist. Black eyes widened as he watched Edward grit his teeth, practically snarling at him for the insinuation. A hiss of pain snorted through his nose as he stumbled backwards, never once breaking eye contact.

Ed's body trembled as though heated liquid metal fresh from a fiery forge flowed through his veins. He didn't register the pain in his broken left arm, or the remaining stitches he had torn in his leg from his violent rush. Edward felt his nails dig into his palm and the rush of feeling his fingernails cut open his own skin pulled his temper back just enough to keep him from shouting.

The door behind him flew open and slammed into the wall, cracking the plaster and letting more of the rotten smell of potatoes drift into the small room. "I'll tell you this once, Mustang, don't threaten Winry. You think what you saw in Chicago was all I had? Hardly. If I wanted to, I could level this place with a clap of my hands. Use Winry like that against me again, and those false charges the Ministry of Magic dumped on me will suddenly be reality." Edward snarled and stood perfectly still while allowing the guards to grab onto his elbows to hold him still without a fight.

"Councilor Mustang, are you hurt?" one of the men who held Edward's left elbow asked sharply.

Mustang resisted the urge to glare before he nodded. "I am fine. Let him go and leave us. I'll call for you if I need you." He sounded as though he wasn't currently held captive against a wall by a warped metal table.

The three men glanced to one another and hesitated, eyeing Mustang doubtfully.

"Are you sure you don't want us to call Agent Norris? Chuck said he'd be more than happy to apparate in and straighten the kid out." The blonde guy said, apprehension clearly written on his face.

The shorter dark haired man with glasses – which Edward did a double-take on and realized he looked like Kain – perked up at the mention of his associates name. "Yeah! You know how he loves interrogations."

Raising a brow slowly, Mustang waited one more minute before threatening the guards with termination if they did not leave. "Besides, Chuck's roundhouse kicks outside of the field – not in my office building." He grumbled, watching his men shuffle out and closing the door behind them – yet Hughes stayed where he was, leaning against the wall next to the door with his arms folded over his chest.

Ignoring Hughes, Roy turned his black eyes to the still glaring Edward. "Tell me how you did this." He ordered, no longer going to play Mr. Nice Guy.

Bitter laughter escaped Ed's throat and shook his aching body. "Mustang, you continue to amaze me. Even when you're helpless you still try to stay in command." He limped towards Roy slowly, wincing as he put pressure onto his leg with his newly reopened wounds – he already felt the blood trickling down his calf and being absorbed into his sock and shoe.

Golden eyes leveled on Mustang's when he only had a few steps left to go. His right hand reached out to touch the metal table wrapped around the older man's middle and he leaned in close, the fire within his belly once more flared to life and burned brightly through his eyes and ridged face, "I'll tell you how I did this, if I can see Winry." Ed hissed, a sardonic smile touching his lips. "We both understand each other now, don't we? Winry is the bargaining chip for both of us. Through her, we both get what we want." Clapping his hands once more with a clattering of the chains around his wrists, Edward reformed the table and released Mustang before he grunted in pain and limped back to his chair to take a seat.

Straightening his dress robes, Roy glared black daggers at the younger man as he curled his fingers into fists. "All right, I'll agree to that." Mustang moved away from the wall and folded his arms.

He was so nonchalant with the situation, Edward couldn't help but raise a brow at him. When he didn't move, Ed sighed loudly in annoyance, "Well?"

Mustang smirked, his own brow rising slowly. "First you tell me what it is you use."

Ed frowned. "I want to see Winry first."

A soft chuckle escaped Mustang's lips and his black eyes twinkled in amusement as he shook his head. "I can be a very patient man, Edward. I can wait here all day. The question is, are you as patient?"

Scowling as well as wincing, Ed knew he wasn't. He'd sooner blast his way out of here with a quick clap than sit here and stare at his mug all day. With a growl, Ed shifted in his seat and leaned forward slightly, "All right, all right." He grumbled and narrowed his eyes at Mustang as he straightened in his chair. "You swear I can see Winry?"

Lifting a hand and holding up two fingers pressed together, Mustang placed his other hand over his heart, "Scout's honor."

"Whatever… okay, look, I'm using alchemy." Ed stated simply.

"Alchemy?" Roy asked, his face twisting up slightly as he tried to figure that one out. Alchemy was an old art form that was used more for eternal life and science experiments than magic. How could a science do that without a starting catalyst substance? A bomb wouldn't be a bomb without the chemicals in its core to activate it, so how could a clap from his hands be just as destructive as a bomb?

Ed tapped his foot and glared at Mustang, waiting for a few silent minutes before he sighed loudly once more and shifted in his chair, "Yeah so, that's the big secret. Can we go now?"

Mustang bowed his head slightly as though giving into his demands before he stepped around the table and moved passed Edward to the door, his hand resting upon the door handle before he turned to look at Hughes. "First, change his restraints to something that won't allow him to clap his hands together."

Hughes nodded in agreement as well as understanding. Glancing over at the young man, Hughes motioned with his chin towards Ed and looked back to his superior with a slow raise of his brow, "And the girl?"

A grin twisted Roy's face, "Let him see her. I wouldn't want to break my promise, now would I? I'll be waiting by the girl's cell," He said briskly, opening the door to step out.

Sighing, Hughes looked to the young man whose head suddenly bowed down to his chest, his shoulders going slack. Hughes opened the door and quietly asked one of the guards to come inside and create a stockade style of restraint for the prisoner's hands. Turning back to the room, Hughes wandered over to Ed, one guard entering with his wand drawn. Hughes folded his arms once more over his chest, his brow rose slowly with disapproval clearly written upon his face. "You shouldn't have used her like that."

Edward's frown deepened and he bobbed his head in agreement, "I have to know for sure, though." he whispered, staring down at his cuffs listlessly before the guard lifted the chair and quietly began to chant a spell to transfigure them. "I need to know she's okay."

"She is." Hughes stated while taking a step back to lean against the wall. "Can't you just take our word for it?"

Edward lifted his eyes and glared at the man, no amusement written anywhere upon his face. "No. If the British Ministry has spies moving in their ranks, I can't trust your Ministry either."

Hughes shrugged. Once Edward's typical police handcuffs had been transfigured, Hughes moved closer to inspect the guard's work and nodding in approval. "Good work." He agreed – the new stockade-esque restraint locked Edward securely, though still compensated for the cast on his arm. There was no way he would be able to slip free and there was no room for clapping, for his hands were about a foot apart.

Eying Hughes uncertainly, Ed raised a brow, "Why didn't you just do that?"

"Because I'm a squib." Hughes explained simply, his hands resting on his hips as he took a step back.

Wrinkling his nose, and grunting, Ed looked back to the new set of cuffs and shifted against the bonds. The cold metal was quickly heating to his body temperature, but it was uncomfortable. The metal kept his hands from touching and it was bulky and dug into his arms. "Is this really necessary?" Ed dared to ask, glancing up at Hughes with a withering look upon his face.

Hughes nodded and grinned satisfactorily down at his prisoner. "Yes it is, Edward. You attacked the Councilor, after all. Ready to see your girlfriend now?"

A blush exploded over Edward's face like blossoming red rose buds and he stumbled over his words, "She –she isn't my friend… I mean, my girlfriend. She isn't!" he snapped, his eyes darting back and forth across the room – anything to keep from making eye contact. "She's not…" He fumbled with his words.

Hughes just laughed and took Ed's elbow, easing him up out of his chair and leading him through the door. "Yeah right, and I'm secretly gay." He shook his head with a roll of his eyes at Edward's weak denial. "You want to see her or not?" He raised an eyebrow at the young man.

Ed grumbled and managed a nod.

The men walked down the hall quickly, passing multiple stairwells, elevators, and doorways that led down entirely new sections of the compound. The more Ed saw as he limped along, the more he wondered. Turning to Hughes, Ed snorted faintly, "Why a potato factory?"

"Excuse me?" Hughes turned his head at the question, his brows knitted together and a skeptical look beginning to creep over his features.

Ed rolled his eyes. "Why a potato factory? Of all the places the United Council could have chosen, they chose a place with vegetable residue permanently crawling down the walls, noisy and probably with broken machines thumping over head, and with a rotting, moldy, and consistently wonky smell in the air. Why here?"

Chuckling, Hughes sighed in amusement and led Ed around a corner, leading him back to the holding cells. "Well, about four hundred years ago, U.S. Minister McHill decided that the wizarding community in the United States needed a permanent place to conduct business. This was right after the muggles had won their independence from England –and they inadvertently won the wizarding communities freedom from the Ministry of Magic as well. At the time, we thought we would set up our own Ministry, but McHill, a Minister himself, offered a different proposal and gave us the question of running our community as a democracy just as the muggles had decided. The offer was debated over and it ultimately won, and then to further establish ourselves within muggle society without revealing our magical side, we built this factory. It wasn't always a potato plant, it used to be a brewery, a mail-order tailor shop, a gun assembly plant, and at one time it was even an Underground Railroad refugee camp during the Civil War."

Edward blinked slowly up at Hughes, his jaw slack and his eyes half lidded. "You almost put me to sleep, Hughes."

The man shot a glare at Edward, his fingers tightening upon the younger man's arm, "You were the one who asked."

"I just wanted to know why a potato factory." Ed moaned. "I didn't want to know your history."

Hughes tugged Ed down the hall a step faster. "Fine, the short answer? We wanted to conduct business within the muggle world as well as have a secure location to conduct government affairs without drawing attention to our constantly moving activity."

"There, was that so hard?" Ed drawled, mocking the man.

Shaking his head and muttering something about the younger generation's growing disrespect for authority figures, Hughes gratefully had the machinery above their heads to drown his words down to nothing more than an occasional breathy sigh.

"We're almost there." Hughes announced gruffly.

Ed nodded, but his amber eyes slowly roamed the area and a frown fell over his face, "This is the way we came."

"Yes it is." Hughes agreed without hesitation.

Glancing up at the man, Edward studied the side of his face and noted the way his jaw and neck were tight and strained. He followed as quickly as his aching body allowed while his mind reeled with thoughts and possibilities. "You promised to let me see Winry."

"And you will. She's just down here." He announced and stopped suddenly, gently tugging Edward in front of him to look through the window and into the cell.

Winry sat on her bed, her arms folded over her stomach and her head tilted back against the wall. Her expression was a mixture of awe and reservation as her eyes followed something across the room from her. Winry frowned at that something that had stopped at the foot of her bed and she opened her mouth, speaking quickly with a vehement shake of her head.

Stepping closer with a quick shrug of his arm to force Hughes' hand away, Ed moved closer to the window and gazed inside. Mustang was inside talking to her, that smug smile resting upon his face as he waved his hand congenially as he spoke. Rolling his eyes, Ed turned, "Well, you going to open the door?" he asked, raising a brow as he stepped aside, waiting.

Hughes frowned, staring directly at Ed for a moment before he sighed. He closed his eyes for a moment as he reached out, once again taking Edward's elbow. "As the Second Councilor to the President of the United Council of Magic has ordered, you have seen Miss Winry." Hughes said firmly as he managed to turn Edward around. He nodded to the two guards by the door before averting his eyes sadly. "I'm sorry, Edward." He whispered.

Ed took only two seconds to process the situation – between Hughes' apology and the men approaching him, he knew he had been screwed over. He let a snarl jump from his lips and he took a quick step back. "That bastard…"

"Please, return Mr. Elric to his cell." Hughes stated, trying to keep his own anger out of his voice.

The guards reached for him, one snatched up his elbow and Edward jerked his arm away from him. He spun on his heel suddenly and kicked his injured leg out, catching the second guard in the gut. He elbowed the first guard in his enormous belly then shoved him away, successfully winding both men. He leapt at the door once his way was clear and he struggled with the doorknob, trying to jerk the door open, but it was locked tight and the keys nowhere in sight.

Lifting his bound wrists, he banged a hand against the door as he stared through the window, "Winry!"

Blinking from her place on her bed, Winry sat up quickly and jumped to her feet, blue eyes staring at him in surprise and relief, "Edward?" She called, her voice muffled through the door. She rushed to the door and tried the doorknob – and when it didn't work for her, she pressed her fingertips to the window just as Ed was roughly grabbed and jerked from the window. "Ed!" She shouted, pounding a fist to the window.

Growling and clenching his teeth, Ed struggled against their hands. His battered body was so weak, it was pointless to put up a fight – but she was right there! She was so close…

Stepping back quickly, Ed stomped down on one of the guard's feet and shoved against him, causing the man to fall backwards with his foot trapped under his. The man's head collided with the wall and he slid along the wall, dazed and in pain.

Twisting sharply to the side and leaving his arm in the grasp of the other guard, Ed moved to his side, his back to the man's shoulder blade before he wrenched the guard's arm backwards towards him and he bent forward and flipped the man clean off the ground and over his head. The guard flew through the air, his arm sliding free of Ed's before he landed heavily on the ground.

Hughes frowned as he watched Edward, his hand already pressed to the wall where a button lay. Lights bounced along the walls and a magical voice echoed through the halls.

'Disturbance in corridor D-17, assistance required. Disturbance in corridor D-17, assistance required.' It announced over and over in a sickly pleasant voice.

Limping towards the door, Ed shot daggers with his eyes at Hughes. Mason on the other hand lifted a hand to adjust his glasses before he took a step in front of Edward, ignoring the pounding and shouting on the other side of the door.

Edward caught a glimpse of Winry shouting at someone in the room with her. Her eyes were stony and he could just imagine her voice thick with distaste. Winry turned her face away from the man as she pursed her lips with absolute frustration written across her features. Mustang appeared suddenly on the other side of the pane with a hand motioning in the air smoothly to the side of him as he attempted to calm her in that composed demeanor of his.

"Hughes, move. That bastard swore he'd let me see her."

"I'm not happy about this situation either, Edward, but I have to follow orders. Either step down and return with me to your cell or I'll have to order the security team to dissuade you with force." Mason's hand fell away from his glasses and his gaze settled squarely on the young man before him, clearly stating he wasn't joking.

Mouth twisting in a sneer, Ed shook his head and limped towards Hughes. Ed lifted his locked wrists before him and curled them into fists as he readied himself. "I've never been very good at letting things go. Either move and let me in to see Winry or-"

More men swarmed around the corner before Edward could finish his threat. The guard in the lead drew his wand with a flourish and shouted, a red light flying at him at breakneck speed.

Ed didn't have time to dodge the attack, let alone the strength to avoid it. The spell slammed into his shoulder and sent him flipping sideways head over heels before. Edward landed hard on his arm and he heard a loud 'Pop!' issue forth from his body. Crying out in pain, he curled in on himself, reaching for his arm before he lay still, his face contorted against this new affront to his body.

Life sucked sometimes.

"Agent Breda, you and your men restrain the prisoner. Havoc, get a healer down here to set that shoulder," Hughes shouted, tossing a hand out at his side to point down the hall where Havoc would find the healer.

"Yes Sir," Havoc drawled and lazily turned, wandering down the hall to retrieve the healer.

Ed watched the men surrounding him with blank eyes. His mind recognized the faces, but the pain accosting his already injured body prevented him from gawking as he might have done in the past. Red, hot pokers began to prickle at his shoulder and he winced, grinding his teeth together. He wasn't going to show them anything except his anger.

Several of the guards snatched Ed up, one of whom was this world's Breda. Struggling against the guards' grips, Edward tugged at his captured arm and he threw a foot out to kick away another man as he approached but a heavy fist smashed into his jaw, splitting his lip open and throwing his head to the side.

"Careful! Just get him back to his cell." Hughes shouted, eyes narrowing at the man who had punched Ed. Turning sharply to watch two other men, Hughes motioned them to the cell, ordering them to watch Mustang and the girl within.

Winry was staring out at Edward in horror. Turning on Mustang with all the rage of a she-lion, Winry clenched her jaw and her blue eyes widened as she stalked towards him – very much in the same manner she stormed over to Edward whenever she had found out he had destroyed her masterpieces in the past. She said something to Mustang and it was one of the few occasions Edward wished he could read lips

But Edward was quickly dragged away to his cell next to Winry's room. He saw the young woman shake her head violently, her voice rising threateningly as she demanded to be let out.

It was a shame he couldn't stay and watch. Watching Winry yell at someone else for a change would have been so entertaining!

A solid and strong right hook suddenly plowed into Mustang's face. The man spun around with the force of her blow, doing a pirouette turn and revealing to those on the other side of the window that she had broken his nose in what looked like an explosion across his face before he dropped out of sight from the window.

Winry didn't hold back anything. She turned on him, bellowing down at him with clenched fists and face contorting in that frustrated and desperate manner Edward was all too familiar with whenever she told him what to do. Suggestions did not exist within Winry when she was in this state – and Ed swore he saw her body jerk in what appeared to be a violent kick being delivered to Mustang's prone body.

"Councilman Mustang!" A small man with black rimmed glasses and a puppy-like face shouted and fumbled with the keys to get into Winry's cell.

"…evil, self centered, lying, manipulative son-of-a-" Winry's voice carried out into the hallway before the door slammed shut behind two guards who rushed in to drag Winry away from Mustang.

A smile managed to break out over Ed's face and a chuckle escaped him as he was manhandled into his cell, eyes drooping the moment weariness overcame him. "Tha's m' girl…" he mumbled before blacking out. At least it was a happy thought he was passing out too and not the excruciating pain of a dislocated shoulder and a new split in his lip.

---------- ----------

Al stared out through the cracks in the boarded up window across the room from his seat upon the foot of the bed. His knees hugged close to his chest and his head bowed forward as he watched the snow slowly fall towards the earth. It had snowed again last night, and the wind had found its way into the drafty house and increased the chill that seemed to forever permeate the wobbly construction.

For once, his mind was blank and Al whittled the hours away doing nothing, just staring at the window and the slowly dropping flakes of snow. He vaguely remembered thinking that the November day was cold yet pretty with the twisting dances of the snow, but that was all, and it must have been hours ago.

Harry stood just outside of the door, not yet daring to enter as he watched the boy hug himself and stare at nothing. His stomach jerked within his belly and his fingers curled into a fist, but he didn't yet step forward. He couldn't help being mad at the boy, though he wasn't sure why he was mad at him. Was it just because he had the freedom to brood unlike himself? Though Hermione and Ron would argue that he had been doing plenty of that since the end of school last year and all of this year – it seemed unfair that he had to go about his normal schedule while Al had a suddenly endless amount of time to wallow in his depression.

Jerking his head away from the site of the seemingly soulless body sitting on the bed, Harry's nose and lip twitched as he squeezed his eyes shut. Why should Al be sad? Ed wasn't dead! His friend wasn't dead. He hadn't witnessed the return of the most feared evil the wizarding world had ever known.

"You know Harry, I can't feel them anymore." Al spoke, startling Harry out of his anger.

Looking back to the boy on the bed, Harry realized just how young Al looked curled up the way he was. He was only three years younger than himself, but the childishness about Al finally hit him. Despite Al's innocent nature and his superior maturity for his age, he was still just a boy.

'So what? At his age I had momentarily weakened Voldemort's soul and killed a basilisk. He should be able to handle being away from his family for awhile.'

Al continued to stare through the cracks of the rotten wood that was boarded over the windows, his eyes catching the faint glimmer of another snowflake as it floated past. "I don't really remember what happened six years ago after Ed got my body back. But I hear stories. I hear things about how brave Ed was, how he fought against homunculi, bad men, freed villages from tyrannical men who had enslaved the towns they were supposed to be taking care of, and how he became known as the 'Alchemist of the People'." He paused and took a deep breath, letting it out slightly through his nose as a shiver ran down his spine from the cold air.

"Th-then I hear other things… about how Ed took care of me. How he made it his life's mission to fix my body." Al stopped, his brows knitting together suddenly in the first sign of true emotion he had shown in hours. "And I heard things about how he nearly died a hundred times fighting in battles that weren't even his, but fighting because he knew it was the right thing to do… and then watching friends die in the end. Yet, he never gave up trying to find the philosopher's stone… all because he made a promise to me." He sighed and shook his head faintly whispering under his breath, "All because he made some stupid promise to me…"

Harry held his breath, watching the tear slide down Al's cheek and then down along his jaw only to disappear into the fabric of his shirt. Lifting his green eyes, he studied the side of Al's face – his eyes in particular – and was somewhat unsure as to what the boy was talking about.

"The point is, I hear all that, and I feel so weak and useless sitting here waiting for him to come back. I know Ed wouldn't be sitting here. He would already be out there looking for me." Al gripped at his pant leg and tugged on it harshly, his face twitching and slowly knitting together in despair, "and I can't feel him anymore. I've always been able to sort of feel him, even when he was here in this world and I was back in our world. I could always just sort of tell he was alive. Winry believed me, but everyone else thought it was just blind hope and that I was spouting nonsense." Al bowed his head, gritting his teeth as he tried to hold in the sudden rage that bubbled near the top and the tears that forced their way down his cheeks. "So what will happen to me if he's dead? And Winry? What will happen to her? I don't think I can stay here without one of them. I worked so hard to try and find Brother again, and here I am, without him again."

Al sighed and looked away and the room instantly filled with silence as thick as pudding. The child on the bed hugged his legs tighter for a heartbeat, while the teen in the doorway watched on, having no idea what to say.

Harry's fist tightened suddenly and his brows curled together as he once again felt that anger that had been boiling within his gut since last year fill him once again roll over him and becoming a bubbling substance that jabbed at his control. "At least you knew him." Harry snapped, his green eyes turning away to stare at the gap in the window.

Turning slightly, Al's brows knitted together before a hint of annoyance filled his features, "Don't play the pity card on me, Harry. Just because I knew my mom longer than you, doesn't mean that I can't feel this way about having my brother disappear. If Ron or Hermione-"

Harry scowled at him and took a few jerky steps into the room, "Come off it Al. If Ron or Hermione did disappear, yeah, I would go looking for them and I wouldn't stop till I did. But you're whining and moaning all because you can't do anything to get your brother back."

"And you're whining and moaning because you can't bring Cedric back! Well guess what, death is final and you should live with it. He was only a small part of the entire world, and life will continue even without him." Al shot back with his eyes narrowing at him in return.

All movement stopped momentarily as Harry started at Al, his face twisted in a mixture of anger and confusion, and perhaps with even a glimmer of wanting to just brake down and cry hiding behind his eyes. A sudden gust of wind broke their trance and the boys looked away from the other.


"Just shut up." Harry mumbled, looking down at the ground.

Sighing, Al turned his eyes away and stared at the rough fabric of the cloak he had wrapped about his shoulders. "How's the DA lesson's going?" He whispered.

Harry shrugged and rubbed his arm awkwardly. "Fine." He mumbled.

Al nodded and shifted to rest his chin on his arms. "I wish I could go."

"It's too dangerous." Harry whispered.

"I know." Al grunted as though that were obvious. "Just saying…" He mumbled. The silence returned to the rickety old house and the atmosphere once more was thick with discomfort despite the thinness the cold made the air.

Harry turned away suddenly but stopped, peeking back shyly at Al as he held out a brown paper bag in his left hand that he had forgotten he had been clutching. "I… I brought you some lunch. Hermione got it together for you. She said a growing boy needs more than just rationed candy and leftovers." Harry looked down at his feet before he shuffled forward and set the bag down on the bed.

Shrugging his shoulders, Al peeked at him in a rather shy manner, "Thanks. Tell Hermione it was nice of her to do that." He whispered.

Turning, Harry quietly walked back to the door and hesitated a moment, his hand resting upon the doorjamb. He wanted so badly to yell at Al, but he bit his tongue and concluded it would be better to just leave and tell Hermione and Ron about this.

"Hey, Harry, I'm sorry – about what I said. I know death is hard. That's why Brother and I did what we did when we were kids to try and bring mom back. But what I said was also true. Even though we all miss him, he was just a small part of the bigger meaning. 'One is all and all is one.' He still played a role in the shaping of this world, but he was just a small part and his missing presence is felt, yet, him being gone doesn't stop the sun from rising and setting everyday." Al sighed heavily, his shoulders sagging a bit further. "Brother and I had to learn that from Sensei, and even though she explained that nothing could be brought back once dead, we still ignored her lesson and we tried to bring mother back to life – and look where it got us." Al smiled weakly, his eyes sad and melancholy, "How funny. If we had paid attention and not done it, then we might be at home right now with Winry, sitting on the front porch talking." Al whispered, his eyes flickering as he kept the tears from falling. He just wanted to go home and be with his family.

Turning his eyes away from the shaking boy, Harry sighed heavily and stared up at the rotting ceiling above his head. Hermione had reinforced it with spells to keep the quickly worsening weather at bay so Al could at least have a dry place to sleep. "Al, it's hard to try and focus on other people's problems when I'm angry all the time. It's like I can't control myself and feel… anything… for anyone else's problems. I feel like compared to what I went through last year, having Ed gone is nothing. I don't understand why you have to be so upset about it. Until we know if he really is… dead… I can't see why you can't just keep up hope and be happy you don't have to go back to classes come Monday morning."

A snort jumped from Al's throat and the boy peeked over at Harry. "That's what you think I'd be happy about? Getting out of classes for a few weeks?"

With a tentative smile crept over his face, Harry shrugged and shoved his hands into his pockets, "Well, Ron thinks it's absolutely brilliant and won't stop complaining about why he couldn't get out of classes for awhile. Hermione is worried you'll fall behind and has started collecting make-up work for you to do so you can stay caught up." He lowered his eyes for a moment then peeked back up at the boy who was smiling sadly down at the threadbare blanket he sat upon.

"Well, it'll give me something to do, won't it?" A weak chuckle escaped his lips but quickly died as it hit the cold air of the desolate room.

The boys went silent, one staring at nothing in particular while the other shuffled his feet and dug his hands further into his pockets.

"Well…" Harry started, the heaviness of their earlier argument still hung in the air like an unwanted perfume. It was clawing at his throat and making it hard to breath as his chest constricted and his stomach flipped.

"You should get back before Umbridge gets suspicious." Al mumbled into his knees, a sigh rushing from his lungs and leaving his shoulders limp.

Harry nodded slightly but frowned deeply, looking down at the floor, "But what will you do?"

Turning his head, Al smiled that bright yet weak smile that he had adopted over the last few weeks. "Don't worry about me. I've got more moping to do. And… and maybe think of a way to find Ed." He went silent as he ran the thoughts over in his head, his intriguing hazel and silver eyes flickering with plans, "And maybe ask Dumbledore for help." He whispered.

Harry's jaw slackened even as his brows lifted high upon his forehead. "So you think that's smart? I mean, I trust him, but..."

A shrug was all he got in reply before Al sat up straight and inhaled deeply and gazed towards the boarded up window once more, "Don't worry about me Harry. I'll be fine. I guess… if I waited this long to find Ed, I can wait a little bit longer."

Guilt rushed through Harry and brought a frown to his face. It just felt wrong to leave him here all of a sudden. He knew it was the safest place for him, what with Umbridge hunting for him and interrogating students, but Al really was just a boy who wanted his older brother. He felt bad for saying what he had earlier despite the fact he was still annoyed with him. Shuffling backwards a bit, Harry nodded and turned slightly in preparation to leave. "Well, if you need us, you know where we'll be. The password changed to 'Mandrakes' last night, just so you know."

Alphonse smiled softly and it was the first true smile he had offered anyone since he had fled out to this building only a few days ago. "Harry, I really will be okay. Being alone doesn't bother me, it's not knowing where Ed and Winry are that scares me more."

Harry nodded, not knowing what to say in this type of situation. If Hermione was here she would know what to do for him – she probably would even know how to comfort him and would have gotten a real smile to grace his face. All he did was upset him more. Grunting softly in a farewell, Harry turned, making his way out of the damp and cold room.

"Thanks, Harry." Al whispered.

Pausing in his tracks, Harry turned and stared at the boy sitting on the bed across from him. "For what?" He questioned, his face contorting into confusion.

Turning his head and smiling faintly, Al's eyes finally shone with a light that wasn't glazed over with sadness, "For reminding me of a few things."

Nodding his head, though still thoroughly confused, Harry turned and walked back out into the hall and down the stairs, his hand pulling his invisibility cloak out of his pocket. "What did I do?" he frowned as he asked himself. Pondering Alphonse's words as he threw his cloak back over his shoulders, Harry dropped down through the trapdoor to head back to school with their conversation heavy in his thoughts.

---------- ----------

Grinding rust against old iron was the first indication Edward's space was about to be invaded. The next indication was the silly, lopsided grin Mason Hughes offered as he skipped into the room with a tray in one hand and his other hand lifted above his head in a greeting. "Mornin' Ed! Nice seeing you awake and still breathing."

Ed closed his eyes instead of attempting to snort at the man's pestering of him. "Shut up." Edward whispered with a wince and a twitch of his fingers as he tried to keep his body from moving. His ribs felt like they were about to explode through his chest. It was a very unpleasant feeling.

Hughes laughed jovially and waved his words away as though he were simply waving away a pesky fly. "Don't be that way, Eddy!"

"Don't call me Eddy." Ed growled through his teeth.

A momentary pout splashed over the man's angular face. Hughes pushed his lower lip out and forced it to begin trembling. "Awe, but I came here on my day off to bring you some of the left-overs that my lovely wife made!" Hughes whined, holding the tray up to indicate the plate of various and colorful foods ranging from slices of turkey to yams. "She slaved for hours in the kitchen," he explained with a glimmering look of adoration upon his face. "She put her all her love and her soul into this cooking! She insisted that I bring it to you so you could join us in the feast we had today." Hughes explained with a warm smile curling over his lips. "So I came to bring you your Thanksgiving Feast; as well as pictures of my adorable darling! Isn't she cute?" He gushed, shoving a picture of his daughter into Edward's face.

Ed smiled weakly, issuing a nervous laugh before he turned his head, rolling his eyes and mumbling something about him never being able to escape that form of torture not matter what dimension he was in. Then something occurred to Ed. What was going on to have most of the staff gone for the day, and the ones that did remain, grumbled about missing their turkey. "What's the occasion?" Ed asked, turning his head to stare up at the man and raise a brow at the man as Hughes set the tray down on the table by his cot with a faint chink.

"Thanksgiving!" He explained with a squeal to his voice. "It's the one time a year the American's celebrate manipulating the Indians into helping them before we took their land and drove them off to pastures less suited to their cultural upbringing." Hughes stated all in one breathe as he pulled a picture frame from his back pocket and set the picture of his daughter on Edward's small table.

Edward stared at the man towering above him and felt something twitch near his right eye. "Are you kidding me?"

"Yes," Hughes laughed, "of course I was. That's not the reason we celebrate. It's a day to stop and think about what you have." Hughes leveled his eyes upon Edward's golden eyes and tilted his head. "I thought you could use something more than just instant potatoes for a meal."

A frown grew over his face and he sighed, looking up towards the ceiling, "Yeah." His eyes roamed the cracks in the concrete ceiling before he dared to look back to Mason, "Thanks." Ed mumbled, trying to not feel awkward.

Hughes chuckled and folded his arms over his chest as he studied the younger man's face. "You're welcome. I just dropped off a meal to Winry, so don't worry about her." Mason explained, taking a step forward with his thumbs looping onto his pockets lazily. Do you need help sitting up, or do you want me to get your girlfriend so she can spoon feed you your meal?" he asked as innocently as possible though the glimmer in his eye was sadistic and mischievous.

Edward took a moment to run those words through his mind and develop a visual before his face turned scarlet and he began to struggle to sit up. "I can… gah!" He groaned in pain, but he pushed through it and sat up. "I can do it myself!" Ed nearly shouted.

Laughter fell past Hughes' lips like a bubbling fountain that shook his shoulders and made his eyes shine in pure delight. He wasn't going to let Ed live down his almost instantaneous embarrassment of having someone know he liked Winry. "You should have let her. She could have nursed you back to health. You played doctor as a kid, right? Well, it would just be a grown up version of doctor!" Hughes eyes sparkled with mirth, and even a hint of naughtiness as his teasing increased.

His lips parted and Edward's inner eye ran back in time to twelve years ago when he really did play doctor with Winry and she had kissed his cheek and told him to get better so they could play soon before she smiled sweetly and ran out of his room, and his face once more, and then felt that color spread in a warm rush that flooded down his neck and up into his ears. "W-whatever," he grunted resentfully, "Just… just get the hell out." He stuttered, narrowing his eyes while reaching out to the tray to tug it weakly towards him and onto his lap before he began shoveling food into his mouth to try and cover his embarrassment.

Hughes just laughed once more. Ed was more entertaining that t.v! "All right, I'll leave now. But just so you know, Winry is doing fine, Happy Thanksgiving, and don't forget to turn over your plate when you're done." He saluted to a confounded Ed mockingly before he sauntered out of the room, waving his hand lazily at a guard and the door was once more shut and locked tight.

Frowning once Hughes left, Ed stared down at the food the man had brought. He chewed the cranberries, yams, potatoes, peas, carrots, fruit salad, sweet potatoes, his marshmallow or two, and his turkey with a tasteless tongue. His thoughts lingered on the unexpected arrival of the man, his food, and then the teasing.

Ed's cheeks colored lightly as his thoughts once more stumbled over the idea of Winry playing doctor. It was such a silly thing to get embarrassed over; she technically had been his doctor for the past five or six years – what with his automail and so on. But… doctor? A real doctor? It suited her. She was certainly attentive and caring enough for that sort of job. He winced slightly as a sudden vision of Winry forcing some new treatment on a patient even as they attempted to tell her no flashed through his head and he smiled nervously. "No… I think Automail mechanic is enough." He concluded and finished his meal.

Setting his tray aside then groaning as he flopped back down onto his cot with a yelp of pain, Edward whimpered and closed his eyes. "This is going to be a long night…" He whined.

It only took a minute before Edward turned and eyed the tray next to his cot and stared at the empty plate, wondering what Hughes meant by that. Groaning, Ed hauled his hands from his stomach and shifted against his cot before he painfully reached out for the tray and turned the plate over. Edward's eyes landed on the small, flat, and square metallic case attached to the bottom of the plate. A smile slowly crawled upwards along Ed's face. "Maybe it won't be such a long night after all." He whispered to himself as he palmed the case tightly.

---------- ----------

"Have you seen him at all?" Hermione asked as she whispered from across the table in study hall. She glanced over her shoulder towards Professor Snape – who was in charge of this particular study session today – before she looked back to Harry who's glare only deepened as he frowned down at his book.

"No." He grunted and continued to pretend to read his book.

Ron chewed on the end of his quill, leaning forward over his work as a cat might atop his owner's belongings. "Well, no one's seen him for almost a week. An' from what Fred and George tell me, only ten people in school have a black cat like the one we saw, but none of them have purple eyes." He gazed off over Hermione's shoulder, looking as though he were reciting all this from memory and wasn't truly part of this world at the moment.

Hermione sighed and shook her head at Ron's expression before she bent over her work once more and continued to scribble at her work – she only had a few inches left. "What I don't understand is why Dumbledore would leave the school at a time like this."

"He abandoned us." Harry ground out through his teeth. His knuckles turned white as he gripped his quill tighter, digging the point into his parchment and cutting a small hole through it. "He's off doing something else without telling me what it is… again. He doesn't care." He snarled poisonously.

Stopping her writing to look up at Harry, Hermione brought her brows together as worry and concern etched into her face. "Oh, Harry… don't say such things. He must have a good reason for not being here. Maybe he's trying to find Edward, or he's pleading his case-" she stopped abruptly as Snape walked past – rapping Ron on the head sharply with his bundle of papers and hissed for him to get to work.

Ron jumped and bowed his head, immediately starting to scribble at his parchment – and only succeeding in blotting it with ink and misspelling his name.

Once Snape passed and Ron had shot an ugly glare at his back, Hermione leaned forward and bowed her head towards the boys'. "We can't do anything about Dumbledore's disappearance, but we can take care of Al. And we will need to move him from the Shrieking Shack soon. He isn't safe there if that cat was indeed a spy or an animagus." She whispered, looking both boys pointedly in the eyes before she sat back down and went back to her school work.

Harry sighed heavily threw his quill down, rubbing at his eyes under his glasses. "I can't work right now."

"Is the famous Harry Potter finding his school work too difficult? Or is he finding his schedule to unreasonable for his celebrity blood?" Snape drawled, his hand holding the other in front of him as he gazed down his long nose at Harry.

Closing his eyes and physically biting his tongue, Harry grunted as he reined in his emotions. "I just have a headache, Professor." He answered back tightly.

"Does it require the attention of Madam Pomfrey? Seeing as how your have done none of your work in the past hour, I would think such a debilitating head pain would require a healer's touch." He mocked, peeking over Hary's shoulder at only the few lines he had written out.

Biting back a retort that would have gone alone the lines of him snapping back at him that he did indeed need a healer, Harry turned back to his book and clenched his teeth as he managed to hiss a reply. "No, Professor." He then picked up his quill and concentrated on picking up where he left off on his parchment.

Sneering down at the back of Harry's neck, Snape lifted his head as he straightened up further in a superior way, "Then I suggest you finish your work." He drawled and glided away.

Growling as his quill once more began to dig into his parchment and tear at it slightly, Harry clenched his fist atop the table and stared at nothing in particular at his anger raged through him silently.

Hermione shot a look to Ron, her brows knitted together worriedly. Ron could only sigh and offer a shrug as he shook his head, silently replying back to her that there wasn't anything they could do for him.

The teens worked silently after that – well, Hermione worked silently and quickly, getting through the assignment issued for their study session, as well as another parchment that was twenty four inches long for Herbology on the effects of nightshade and the uses of witch hazel.

Once they were released from their prison, Harry stomped down the hall as quickly as possible to get away from the room Snape was in. Hermione and Ron rushed after him and finally were able to corner him along rows of suits of armor two floors up.

"Harry, just stop!" Hermione called, trying to desperately hold onto all her books, quills and parchment in her arms.

Ron managed to snag his elbow and Harry finally stopped, breathing raggedly with his fist shaking.

"What's wrong mate? Old Snape was a louse in there, but he wasn't as bad as usual-"

"I hate everything right now. Ed is gone, Al is moping, he is under arrest and his face plastered on wanted posters all over Britain, and to top it off, his life is in danger!" He turned suddenly and glared at his friends, his anger unintentionally being taken out on them. "Everyone is looking at me to solve their problems because Dumbledore left without so much as leaving a bloody letter explaining where he went!"

Hermione opened her mouth, her face twisted in concern.

"Shut up, Hermione! I don't know what I'm doing and you telling me no one is looking to me for guidance is bull." He snarled, panting for breath. "Everyone is looking to me for help because of Umbridge-"

"Harry…" Ron started but winced as Harry glared at him.

Hermione looked away as he wiped at her eye quickly to chase away a tear. "You're right. We are looking to you for leadership. But Harry, you're the only one who has seen him." She whispered, daring to lift her smoky eyes up to his. "And Dumbledore believes in you. Everyone knows it…"

"If he believes in me, then why is he gone? Why doesn't he tell me what's going on? Why did he cut me off from everyone all summer and then avoid me once I got back?" He trailed off, his shoulders falling suddenly and his face contorting into pain.


"What did I do wrong?" He asked suddenly in such a weak voice that Hermione had to look away and blink her eyes quickly to keep the tears from falling. "I want to know… I should know what's going on. It's my life, shouldn't I be allowed to know what's going on?" he asked, his voice hitching in such a way that he begged for them to answer his question.

Ron gazed down the hall, his face blank despite the fact his adam's apple bobbed sharply now and then as he tried to work through everything Harry had just unloaded on them.

Inhaling shakily, Hermione nodded, "Yes, you should know. That's why we started the DA. That's why we're here, right now, with you. We want to be there to support you Harry."

A snort escaped Harry's nose suddenly and he shook his head as he looked down at his shoes, "How?"

"We're your friends, Harry. Doesn't that mean anything?" Hermione whispered, her brows knitted together as her eyes gazed imploringly up at him.

Harry went silent and he could only nod guiltily, feeling rather like a prat for everything he had said.

The three went quiet as they stood in the hall. They shuffled the feet or readjusted the book bags on their shoulders several times before anyone dared to look at each other, let alone say anything.

"We need to take care of Al. I finally figured out a way for him to eat real meals regularly, but we do need to move him." Hermione whispered, "We should probably do so within the next week."

"Where too?"

She shook her head with a shrug of her shoulders. "I don't know." She admitted.

"Maybe Sir… Snuffles could help." Harry offered.

"He might be his only hope." Hermione agreed.

Ron nodded slightly, looking down at the floor after finally dragging his eyes away from the hall of armor. "You think those suits of armor really went into the girl's bathroom?" He asked suddenly.

Turning their eyes to gaze up at the red head, a pair of smiles suddenly cracked over their faces and a soft giggle escaped Hermione.

Ron smiled slightly glances down at Hermione then looked to his bed bud. At least he could still made them smile now and then. At the moment, that was the only contribution he was going to be able to make.

----- ----- ----- ----- -----

Okay; I'm sorry it's taken me so INSANELY long to get this posted. I tried so hard to keep going; and honestly, i wrote this entire chapter a year ago WITHOUT the muse there helping me; but when i re-read it, it was horrendous and I couldn't conciously post it for all of you to view and then get reports about your eyes bleeding from their sockets. So yes, I appologize, I swear that I was doing it for the good of humanity!

and to top it off, so many family things have happened. My sister went postal and ran off with the new baby twins then put them up for adoption (it crushed the family but at least the boys went to a VERY GOOD family), and then I nearly quit my job because because i lost 2 head cashiers at work and just didn't want to put up with the managers anymore (I still don't, bleh), and my brother dropped a bombshell on the family and... -.-` needless to say, stress and depression also played a role in not wanting to focus and write on something significant. I've mostly written just short works and random stuff. but... i'm feeling better; and I've been accepted to college and i'm feeling happy, so i think i'll be back to my fun, eager to write self once again.

and now, for the story!

How many cameos did you all count?! :D I don't know why i did this, but there are so many references to different t.v. series or people or situations XD I had so much fun finding places to randomly throw those in. It's not everyday I have a chapter that fits just right and I'm able to throw in countless and random tv show references -(laughs)- it was so much fun!

awe, yes; and onto the sad excuse between Al and Harry. GAH! i HATED that part more than ANYTHING about this chapter; and yet it was sooooo desperately needed! -(cries)- I wanted Harry to get a taste of his own medicine (aka whining and hating life and being Emo (the main reason I don't like book 5 all the much)), and also for Al to make his choice. in my mind, he's been hiding out for a week or so, and he's been very passive up to this point, but from here on out, he'll be the Alphonse we all loved from the series - careful but just as gung-ho as Ed! (but gah i hated that portion of this chapter . ) the worst yet.

um... oh and Winry. awe... 3 love! She was so awesome.... i had this vision of Winry punching Mustang out, and I did everything in my power to make that happen. So thusly, i am content with life :)

I did have to split this chapter in half (not because of length reason (though it is over 40+ pages)), but because of the fact that the ending was extremely.... special. I want to make sure I get the ending just right and perfect. I finally figured out what was wrong with it and that is why the Muse finally returned and coaxed me to work on this. So i have the ending fairly well blocked out.

And I have started working on an outline for the rest of it. I was originally going to have Voldie summon a dragon and attack harry and ed... -(listens to the snorts, laughter and screams of pain)- yes, that is why I'm cutting that out and rewriting XD it was such a HORRIBLE idea, but he will be making an appearance earlier in this fic than he does in the 5th book (but I'll try to keep to the original outline a bit). reason being, Envy Vs. Al (or Ed, still trying to decide) alerts him to some surprising revelations and he jumps at the opportunity. so yes. wish me luck and send good vibes my way. I'm going to try VERY HARD to get back to writing this on a regular basis and as soon as I get the next half of this chapter finished I'll post it and make it available for the world to see! :D and again, give applause to SJ Smith as my editor; she's helping me grow in leaps and bounds with her help! (and she's very patient with me o_o )

So tell me what you thought of it, and I hope this chapter wasn't too disappointing! see ya soon! over and out!

~Melissa the Damgel