End of the Line
Train stations are interesting places. You never know whom you'll end up meeting.
Disclaimer: Sadly, no, neither FMA nor Harry Potter belong to me.
Spoilers: If there is someone out there who has not read Book 7 of Harry Potter, here be spoilers. Similarly, tread with caution if you have not seen Episodes 50-51 of FMA.
Note: This is written from Harry's POV, but I left it under the FMA category since Ed tends to gloss over key details. Slightly AU to make things work.
Everything was very quiet in the ethereal train station, but Harry didn't mind too much. More accurately, Dumbledore had left him with enough to think about that he hardly noticed. And so Harry sat and thought and relaxed in the misty, vast, whiteness of the station, waiting for his train to arrive.
Then he heard footsteps.
Harry turned toward the sound, expecting to see another person from his past. He was therefore surprised to see an unfamiliar teenaged boy walking in his direction. The stranger was dressed in the same loose, white robes as Harry and wore his long blond hair in a braid that hung down his back. Harry noticed he looked a little disoriented, so he waved him over with a friendly, "Hello." Startled, the teen's head snapped in Harry's direction. He relaxed a moment later.
"Hey," he replied and smiled a bit. "Mind if I sit down?"
"No. Go ahead," Harry obliged.
The stranger began making his way to Harry, but stopped when he heard the gruesome child wail from under its chair. A horrified expression creased his face as he bent forward for a closer look. He turned questioningly to Harry who shrugged.
"You can't help," Harry explained using Dumbledore's words.
"No?" Another cry distracted the teenager, but this time he took a step away. "Yeah, okay." Looking over his shoulder one more time, he asked, "What's with the troll-baby?" The brashness of his words didn't quite mask his concern.
Harry just shook his head sadly. "It's probably best to leave it alone," he said.
Harry studied the blond a long moment while the other sat down and took in his surroundings. "So…do I know you?" Harry finally asked. It seemed like a reasonable question as Dumbledore more or less told him this place was 'his' creation, and Harry didn't think he'd just invent someone to keep him company. His new companion turned his focus on him, and Harry felt himself shift a bit uncomfortably under the intense scrutiny.
The other boy pursed his lips a bit then shook his head definitively. "Nope," he declared. "I don't think so. If we've met, I don't remember you." He hesitated momentarily then stuck out his right hand. "I'm Ed."
"Harry," said Harry taking Ed's hand in his own. He was going to add, 'Nice to meet you,' but didn't think it would be appropriate considering the context of their current situation, being dead-ish and all. Instead, he asked, "Is something wrong with your hand?" The question probably wasn't any more appropriate, but he was curious and a little concerned. Ed, once he had gotten his hand back had been studying it very carefully, palm up, palm down, wiggling each finger.
"No," he replied after a moment. "It's perfect." Ed favored him with a sad smile. "My brother made it," he explained, pride evident in his voice. Harry watched with interest as Ed then bent forward and began flexing the toes of his left foot. He assumed it was the work of Ed's brother as well. The other boy was lucky to have had such an experienced healer in the family who could take care of a missing hand and foot. It all reminded Harry of the time he had the bones of his arm re-grown. He shuddered. That was a painful procedure in itself; he didn't want to think what it would be like to re-grow an appendage.
After another minute of studying his foot, Ed straightened up with a gusty sigh. "Weird. This place looks like the station in Central, just…not quite," he commented. "It's big enough, though."
"It's actually Kings Cross," explained Harry knowledgably. He briefly wondered where Central Station was located. New York sounded about right.
Ed blinked at him then shrugged, apparently taking Harry's word as the truth. "You know, I don't really know why I'm here," he stated, scrunching up his face. "I was pretty sure I was supposed to be dead."
Harry stared a moment, surprised that anything in this place could actually seem surreal. "Same here! I thought I was dead until Dumbledore told me I wasn't."
"Dumble…oh, uh, a former professor of mine." Harry was a little puzzled. He figured even someone from New York would have known Dumbledore's name, unless they were a muggle. Then again, he could be wrong. Ed didn't know of Dumbledore but last Harry checked, muggles couldn't re-grow limbs. Pushing those thoughts aside he asked, "Who told you?"
Ed shook his head. "No one. You're the first person I've seen."
Harry wondered if he supposed to explain things to Ed like Dumbledore explained things to him. That didn't seem right, though, since he didn't know Ed, and the other appeared to have a pretty good handle on things as it was. Maybe Ed was supposed to explain something to him. This was his world after all. "So how do you know you're not dead?" Harry decided to ask.
Ed considered this. "Well," he began. "It's different than the last time."
Harry nodded along with Ed's words. "Oh. That makes sense." He paused as the explanation started to sink in. "Wait. What?! What do you mean 'this time'?" Wincing as if he said too much, Ed looked away. Harry's eye went wide. "You mean you've done this before?"
"Well, not exactly," was the not very forthcoming answer.
"How not exactly?" Harry prodded.
Ed slumped a bit in his seat and sighed. Harry wasn't sure he was going to answer at all until he heard Ed give a wry sort of laugh. "Aw hell," said the other boy. "I guess it doesn't really matter, does it? Not here, anyway." He turned his honey colored gaze on Harry. "I did die once before. Last time everything was all white and stuff too, but there was a big Gate, not a train station."
"How?" Harry blurted out before fully considering it might be rude to ask. Ed didn't seem to mind, though. He broke off his gaze and absently brought a hand to his abdomen.
"I was…" he paused as if searching for the right words. "I was run through by the homunculus version of my dead half-brother," he finished glumly.
Harry's eyebrows shot up. What an awful way to go. Then the word 'homunculus' triggered a memory. He was pretty sure he heard it in DADA. "A homunculus, that's a created, er, a person whose…"
"An artificial human," Ed supplied.
"Yeah, that's right. Then how did…" Harry began, unsure of how to phrase the question. "Someone must have…I mean, if you don't mind, of course." Ed shrugged broadly.
"My little brother." He went back to studying his right hand. "Al had been turned into a philosopher's stone and used its power to bring me back."
Harry openly gaped. If a philosopher's stone could not only provide immortality but also bring back the dead…He thought of his parents, of Sirius, of Cedric, of Dumbledore. Dumbledore once helped to make a philosopher's stone. Perhaps when all of this business with Voldemort was over he could think about researching.
"It won't work the way you think it will." Those words quickly snapped Harry out of his train of thought. He was a little embarrassed he was so easy to read, but Ed looked sympathetic. Or perhaps it was empathy he saw in the other boy. "Life only goes in one direction, except in a few weird cases like us," he explained. "My brother was able to bring me back because my soul hadn't yet crossed over."
"Oh," Harry replied, but he wasn't ready to completely drop the subject. There was a lot he wanted to know. "It's really possible for a person to be a philosopher's stone? I mean, the philosopher's stone is, well, a stone. I didn't think it could have other forms."
"Most people don't," was all Ed said.
And conveniently I'm part of the unenlightened most, Harry thought dryly. However, Ed spoke with such conviction, Harry found himself believing him anyway. "So if your brother used his power to save you, what happened to him?"
Ed gave him quite the scowl, and Harry noticed his throat bobbed a bit. "You ask a lot of questions, you know that?"
The other boy rolled his eyes and went on with his story. "When I woke up, he was gone. There was nothing of him left. That wasn't the way things were supposed to happen." Ed clenched his fists and glared at nothing in particular. "I'm the older brother; I'm supposed to look after him. I promised Al, before all this happened, before I died, that I would get his body back. It was my fault he spent five years as a soul bound to a suit of armor in the first place! So, after he brought me back, I traded my life for his," he continued, his temper ebbing away. "That way he would have a chance to live again, like a complete person."
Harry had a lot of questions but found himself only asking one. "Did it work?"
Ed didn't look at him. "I don't know," he admitted. "Considering I'm alive – sort of, I don't know. Maybe not."
"Wow," said Harry. He wasn't sure what else to say in response. "That's wild," he ended up adding, thinking it covered just about everything going through his head. Unfortunately, that statement wasn't as neutral as he thought because Ed shot him a look.
"Yeah, well, what's your story?"
"Mine?" Harry thought for a moment. "Well, in a way, it's a little like yours. You see, the dark wizard Lord Voldemort…"
"What?" asked Harry, a little shocked. Since the time he turned eleven years old, he had come across many reactions to the name Voldemort. Most of them involved fear. None of them involved snorting.
"The dark wizard Lord Voldemort." Ed repeated in disbelief. Harry just stared at him. Maybe Ed hadn't put it all together yet: a boy named Harry, the lightning bolt scar, a direct reference to Voldemort. Or it could be he just didn't know. Honestly, what did American wizarding schools teach in History of Magic?
Ed held his hands up in placating manner. "Alright, sorry. Go on." Harry gave him a sidelong glance before continuing. He figured he'd have to explain more that he originally intended.
"So sixteen years ago, Voldemort terrorized my country and killed a lot of people. When I was a baby, he killed my parents and tried to kill me, but his curse rebounded and killed him instead. That's what everyone thought, at least. Voldemort actually wasn't dead; he was just really weakened. He spent the last fifteen years gaining his strength back and gathering his old followers. Dumbledore figured out the reason why Voldemort didn't die is because he split his soul seven times and attached each bit to a different container – a horcrux."
"He could bind his own soul to a bunch of different objects?" Ed interrupted.
Harry frowned. He hadn't expected a question like that. "You just said your brother's soul was bound to armor," he retorted.
"Yeah. All of his soul," Ed clarified and crossed his arms. "There's no way a soul can be split seven times and still hold its integrity!"
"No. I mean, you're right; it can't." Harry took a deep breath. He wasn't prepared to debate the logistics of soul attachment and really wished Hermione was somehow with them to do the explaining. "Look, I don't know why it works exactly, but that's what he did." He narrowed his eyes. "And you said I asked a lot of questions."
Ed grinned. "Equivalent exchange." Harry only had a second to contemplate what that meant before the other started in again. "Anyway, so one seventh of his soul can sustain his body? It isn't rotting or anything?"
"No, but he doesn't look very human. He kinda looks like a snake."
Ed nodded thoughtfully. "Because of the soul thing?" he asked.
"Partially," Harry conceded, " but I think it's also because he has a thing for snakes."
"So where were you going with all of this?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah." Harry thought a moment to remember where he left off. "Um, I kinda became responsible for finding these horcruxes and destroying them. A professor of mine, before he died, gave me one of his memories to look at. I found out the night Voldemort tried to kill me, a bit of his soul attached to mine." Harry pointed to the gruesome child. "Making me a horcrux too."
Ed wrinkled his nose. "Gross."
Harry had to agree. "Even if we destroyed all the other horcruxes, so as long as I was alive, he would be too. The only way we would have the chance of beating Voldemort would be if I died, but he didn't know that. Voldemort's wanted to kill me for a while. This last time we met, I let him."
Everything was silent for a moment, as Ed apparently digested what Harry just told him. "So," he said slowly, "troll-baby over there is Voldemort's soul spawn that was somehow bonded to your soul, but neither of you knew that until you saw a dead guy's memory. And my story is wild?"
"Damn straight," said Ed with a genial grin, making Harry laugh. Both of their situations were pretty ridiculous, if you ignored the seriousness. After a minute he asked, "Hey Harry, do you have idea when the train comes?"
"No. Not a clue," he answered shaking his head. "Do you know where you are going?"
Ed's brows furrowed. "I think I'm supposed to go to London," he said cautiously. "My dad's there."
"Oh. Well, that's good you have family," Harry replied, more wistfully that he intended.
"I guess," Ed grudgingly acknowledged. "But it doesn't make him any less of a bastard." Harry nodded knowingly. With relatives like the Dursleys, he totally understood.
"Why don't you go back to your brother?" It seemed like the obvious place to go considering the brothers were close.
It was Ed's turn to be wistful. "I can't," he explained. "It'd upset the exchange if I went back now." That answer didn't make a lot of sense to Harry, but there were a lot of things about Ed he didn't quite understand so he let it drop.
"You could come with me to Hogwarts," Harry suggested. Ed looked surprised and a little hopeful. "If you decide you don't like it, there's a train that goes right back to London."
"Yeah." Ed nodded. "That sounds good."
"Oh, wait!" said Harry, suddenly remembering a very important detail. "I should warn you, Ed, Hogwarts is kind of in the middle of a war right now." He was surprised to note Ed didn't look overly concerned.
"So is London," Ed pointed out. Harry hadn't considered that, but it made sense. There were a lot of wizards that couldn't get to Hogwarts to help the cause, and Voldemort probably still had Death Eaters stationed at the Ministry. It was possible there were battles being fought all across the country. He wondered who was winning.
As if on cue, a train pulled up to the station. Harry boarded followed by Ed. He turned to his new friend and asked, "So, to Hogwarts?" Ed smiled back at him.
"Yeah. To Hogwarts."
To say Harry was exhausted was an understatement. All he wanted was to find a quiet corner to sleep in, and maybe get something to eat, and he definitely wanted to find Ron and Hermione; however, it didn't look like any of that was going to happen soon. Defeating Voldemort had earned him the praise of the Wizarding world, but not five minutes of respite. All the same, he felt a little guilty as he ducked away from a throng of people to a quieter part of the school. Harry leaned against the cool, stone wall and closed his eyes. A second later, he heard a familiar voice drifting through a nearby doorway.
"…He's not a Hogwarts student. I don't recognize him. Poor lamb, to have lost both an arm and a leg… They don't look cursed off so they should grow back. If I ever find the Death Eater that did this, so help me! Oh hello, Harry, dear," said Madame Pomfrey as she came out of the makeshift infirmary with a woman Harry didn't know. Madame Pomfrey gave him a big hug. "I am so proud of you!" she exclaimed. "But if you'll excuse me, I need to make arrangements to get some of the injured to St. Mungo's."
"Sure," said Harry a little bewildered. Not a Hogwarts student. Lost an arm and a leg. Wait a second; could he actually be here?
Curiosity won out over finding peace and quiet. Harry slipped into the infirmary and immediately zeroed in on a heavily bandaged teenaged boy with a long shock of blond hair. Keeping his footsteps quiet, Harry walked over and knelt beside the resting figure. His mouth dropped open. No. Way.
"Ed?" He whispered and waited as the boy turned groggily toward him.