Going Under: Chapter 3

By Mii-Chan 24

A/N: Yey... Update. Before I forget, though...

1. I have a deviantArt now. You can visit me, spam me, whatever. I don't have much on it yet, but hopefully I will... Eventually.

2. This is the important one: I appreciate your input, guys. Seriously. It helps me make so many decisions its not even funny. There is ONE thing I won't tolerate, though, and that's people TELLING me what to do. I can understand suggestions. I'll take them all into consideration. But flat-out telling me what to do? Not happening. I know what I'm doing with the fic, and I don't need people back-seat writing.

Thank you for putting up with my rantings. Go on now. Read. You know you want to.

Harry's mood the next morning was sour at best. After the fight with Seamus that night when he arrived at the Gryffindor common room, and the bitter silence that continued when they awoke, he was ready to bite someone's head off.

He was sick of being treated like a freak and a leper. He hadn't chosen his life! Why couldn't people understand that? He had no reason to lie like the Prophet was saying - he wasn't an attention-seeking whore, contrary to what the wizarding world thought.

Ron walked with him down to the common room, trying in vain to cheer him up. His stormy mood threatened to swallow him, though, and his efforts to forget his situation failed miserably.

Annoyed, he snapped at Hermione as they caught her on their way to breakfast, making him feel guilty immediately after. He didn't want to be a prat, but he was tense; Dumbledore ignoring him at his hearing, and the absolute bull the Daily Prophet was spouting was fraying his nerves.

He reached his limit when a pack of Ravenclaw fourth-years scurried away from his gaze, huddling as if worried he'd lunge after them and attack stragglers. He could barely contain his growl as he, Hermione, and Ron followed the blue-clad students into the Great Hall.

He glanced up automatically, frowning at the suspicious lack of Hagrid. He would have to ask McGonagall where he was... Or Dumbledore, if the old wizard was willing to look at him.

He looked away, eyes wandering down to the end of the Ravenclaw table. Alphonse sat alone, the spoon in his mouth forgotten, entranced with the book before him. There was almost a circle of empty seats around him. Was he alone because he wanted to? Or were others as suspicious of him as Harry was?

Edward opened the side door beside the staff table, sticking his head out cautiously, as if hoping to avoid someone. When he deemed the coast clear, he walked out, making a beeline to his brother. He wandered over casually, petting his Alphonse's head affectionately. The younger blonde looked up, grumbling good-naturedly, and stood, following him up to the staff table.

"Should he be doing that?" Hermione questioned, following his gaze up to the blondes. Ron shrugged.

"Who cares? They're related, right? And the professors don't seem to care." Apparently, the Elrics were well known amongst the Hogwarts staff. Flitwick greeted Alphonse happily, as if he and the young boy were old friends, and the blonde returned the gesture.

The only person who seemed truly upset over the arrangement was Umbridge, who glared daggers at the two newcomers. She huffed, stomping over to the brothers, making students scurry away from her immediate line of sight.

Glancing up at the increased whispers, Edward frowned. When he saw it was Umbridge, a large smirk spread across his face. He stood nonchalantly, ignoring Alphonse's hissed warning. "Is something wrong, Professor Umbridge?"

"Students should not be seated at the staff table!" The witch purred, obviously struggling to keep her temper under control. Alphonse frowned.

"I'm not sitting here, though..." He muttered, looking away from the Toad-Woman's gaze. "I was just talking to my brother..."

"And that's not against the rules, Dolores," Edward drawled, letting the words roll off his tongue in disdain. Umbridge gaped, unused to such defiance, and spluttered incoherently for a few minutes. Her cheeks resembled two bright tomatoes as she glared hatefully at the Elrics.

"No," she began slowly, hands twitching, restraining herself from reaching for her wand. "But it is looked down upon. Students cannot mingle with teachers as if they were friends."

Edward rolled his eyes, bored with the conversation. "He's my brother, lady. I have a right to make sure he's okay."

"Why wouldn't he be okay?" Umbridge countered. "Hogwarts is a perfectly safe institution."

Edward's smirk grew. "That's not what you and your little toadies at the Prophet have been saying."

Harry wasn't sure if the Elrics could be trusted, but at the moment, he sure as hell was rooting for them.

"Well, I... That's not..." Edward's smirk never dipped as he pushed his way past the flabbergasted professor, Alphonse trailing after him nervously. The hall was silent as they made their way out, but as soon as the doors closed, frantic babbling broke out amongst the students.

Umbridge fumed, red with rage, and looked around the Hall for someone to take it out on. A Hufflepuff second year, the closest student within range, ended up being the target, and Harry winced as the poor boy trembled under the older witch's anger.

Ron clucked sympathetically. "Poor bloke. It's terrible to deal with something like that so early in the morning."

Before he could respond, Angelina dragged him away, briskly informing him about the Quidditch try-outs for their new keeper. Since Oliver Wood was gone, they would really have to step up their efforts if they wanted to win the cup.

From there, timetables were passed out, and he was whisked away in talk of classes and courses and O.W.L.s. It was a whirlwind, throwing his mind into a frenzy that refused to settle until some time in the middle of Binn's History of Magic class.

He and Ron played hangman for the better part of the period, struggling hard to stay awake through the ridiculously boring class. When they gathered their things to move on to their Double Potions, Hermione coldly informed them she was considering not sharing her notes.

"Hermione, you can't do that! We'll fail," Ron muttered, shivering as they entered the dungeons. Harry nodded.

"You're just so much smarter than us... You've got the brains to get through Binn's lectures... We're not that good..." She rolled her eyes, smiling faintly, and followed Ron into Snape's classroom.

Harry was surprised to see Edward sitting at Snape's desk, flipping through an old potion's book with a bored expression on his face. Alphonse sat beside him, whispering urgently. When the door opened, he snapped his mouth shut with an audible click, looking around guiltily.

Edward glanced up, chuckling faintly. "Well, well. Look who's here."

Ron frowned, following Harry and Hermione to their seats. Hermione looked nervous, and pulled her textbook out to keep her hands busy.

"Brother," Alphonse sighed, ruffling his hair with mild irritation. "You need to stop that."

Edward responded with a cheeky grin, and tossed his book behind his shoulder as students began taking their seats. "Sit down, Al."

"I'm sitting because I want to, not because you told me to," the younger blonde grumbled, wandering to the back of the class. People whispered to their neighbors, glancing at Edward warily and glancing back at Alphonse with burning curiosity.

The young Ravenclaw sat in a corner, trying hard to avoid conversations, despite the growing group of girls surrounding his immediate area. His tie was loose, hanging limping off his neck, and his robes were messy. He seemed uncomfortable wearing them, and squirmed in his seat uneasily.

He didn't seem used to the attention, or perhaps the atmosphere that Hogwarts offered, and seemed to shy away from the attention. Edward, however, was trying his best to bring attention towards him, perhaps in an effort to ease his brother's discomfort. "Alright, settle down, guys. I'm sure Snape'll be here soon..."

On cue, the door slammed open, and Snape swept in like a giant, greasy bat. Edward smirked, leaning back. "Just in time."

Snape ignored him, waving his wand at the blackboard at the front of the class. "We're making a Draught of Peace today, though surely you imbeciles will find some way to botch up the directions. You have until the end of the period to turn in your sample, otherwise you will fail today's assignment. Ingredients and directions are on the board. Make sure to follow them precisely, otherwise we could all be suffering."

And he sat, lip curling as he turned to Edward. The blond smirked, gloved hands placed behind his head. "Hello to you too, sunshine."

Ron snorted, ducking his head to avoid the death glare Snape shot his way. "What are you doing here, Elric?"

"What d'ya mean, Severus? I dragged my poor, aching body down all this way just for the sake of our stimulating conversations. What do you think I'm doing here?" A few other students tittered. Snape growled.

"Keep your mouth shut or I'll kick you out," he warned, glaring at the class. Edward smiled, pretending to zip his lips.

Harry would have continued watching their exchange, but if he didn't hurry, he wouldn't finish his Draught. He hurried as much as he possibly could, taking care to make sure he didn't screw up the potion. Unfortunately, his spewing cauldron looked nothing like what the potion was supposed to look like.

Edward limped around the class throughout the period, observing the potions quietly. He stopped beside Ron's and Harry's, frowning faintly at the smell of bad eggs and smoking grey clouds. He shook his head, wandering towards the back of the class.

Alphonse was leaning back against the wall, thumbing through a textbook Harry couldn't recognize. His cauldron was simmering lightly, thin silver smoke skimming the surface. Edward shook his head, mumbling softly, a strained look on his face

"I didn't, Ed," Alphonse responded, stretching. "I thought you did."

The elder blonde shook his head, hissing faintly as he leaned against the wall. "Damn it..."

"Your arm?" Al asked, stirring his potion absently. Edward grunted in assent. "Just go to the Infirmary, Brother. Toughing it out won't help you any."

"It's the damn cold, Al, that's all." Edward rubbed his face, glancing around the quiet room. "I can't believe I'm saying it, but... I wish we were in Briggs..."

Alphonse chuckled as if they were sharing an inside joke, stirring lightly. "Do you think sparring would help you any?"

"Maybe..." Edward groaned faintly, limping heavily towards the door, slamming it shut with enough force to make dust rain down from the ceiling.

Ron yelped as the dust turned his potion a deep red. "Bloody hell!"

Harry sulked under Trelawney's door, waiting patiently for the trap door to open up. He was too mad to eat, and didn't feel like having company. Sometimes he felt that being alone was better... Certainly better than being stared at like a freak and a liar.

The silver staircase clinked down, and he trudged up, struggling to keep his balance with his heavy bag.

Inside, the smothering smell of incense clung to his lungs, and he fought to keep from coughing. At the head of the class, Trelawney sat daintily on a large pouf, humming faintly, obliviously tracing palm lines. Edward sat across from her, bored out of his mind as she giggled to herself like a schoolgirl. "My, my! Mister Elric, I don't believe I've ever seen anything like this!"

"Oh really? Why do you say that?" He mumbled, uninterested. Trelawney giggled again, tracing his palm, glancing at the book at her side occasionally.

"This should be impossible," she mused, biting her lip absently. "Your life line... It's been severed so many times..." She tittered to herself, blushing up at the blonde. "But that would mean you'd died before, multiple times, even! It's preposterous!"

Edward smiled weakly, forcing a thin laugh. "Yeah... Preposterous..."

Harry felt his paranoia go up a few notches. Sure, he didn't believe Trelawney knew half of the crap she was spewing, but the uneasy tense visible in Edward's shoulders was enough to set him on edge. What was that man hiding? Why was he there, and what was he planning?

"Harry!" He nearly jumped a mile when Ron tapped his shoulder, and flushed darkly at the dark look Edward shot his way. He cleared his throat, and sat as far away from the blond as he could. Ron followed, confused, but quickly engaged in the retelling of some event that occurred while he was sulking upstairs.

He spaced off easily, aided by the sickly sweet smells and the dull droning of Trelawney. She would stop occasionally to glance at the younger blond, twittering inanely, before clearing her throat and continuing with the lecture.

As for the young man, he sat by the fire, staring into the flames as if expecting something to fly out of them. His gaze was intense, and with the flickering blaze, his face seemed to gain lines, almost as if piling on years that had been left behind.

"Harry?" Ron nudged his side, a worried frown on his face. "What's wrong?"

"Um..." He coughed, pretending to flip through his dream interpretations, and pulled him closer, quickly mumbling the information he had caught the night before. Ron didn't seem too impressed, but agreed that it deserved some discussion with Hermione.

Bolstered by the faint concession, Harry leaned back, smiling to himself. He was going to find out what the Elrics were up to no matter what.

Yay. I'm done. Review guys. Give me your comments, your flames, your random crap... I shall take it all.