Chapter 12: Equivalent Exchange
"Hey, Harry, you got a minute?"
Harry, Hermione and Ron all turned around at the sound of Ed's voice. All three stood expectantly, waiting for the blond boy to go on.
"Actually I need to talk to you. Alone."
"What's wrong with saying it in front of us?" Ron asked. "We're his best mates!"
"Obviously it's none of your business Carrot Top," Ed said.
"Carrot Top!" Ron spluttered. "You're like a yellow speck-"
"WHO ARE YOU CALLING SO MICROSCOPIC THAT LIGHT CAN'T EVEN BOUNCE OFF MY PARTICLES!?"
"That's enough," he said. Harry stepped between the two boys. "Ed, I will go with you only after you apologize to Ron and stop trying to hurt him whenever he brings up your height."
Ed crossed his arms. "Only if Carrot-Ron stops with the insults. I'll give you my word."
Ron also crossed his arms. "Well, go ahead then."
"Nope, you first."
"Oh, for heaven's sake!" Hermione moaned, "you two need to stop this now! Ron, apologize so we can go to class!"
"Sorry," Ron mumbled quickly.
"Apology accepted and returned," Ed said. "Over here Harry."
As Hermione pushed a disgruntled Ron into the Great Hall, Harry followed Ed over to a side passage of the Entrance Hall filled with unused classrooms. Once they ducked in, Ed pulled out his wand and tapped the door. There was a flash of blue light.
"What did you do," Harry said quickly, gripping his own wand tightly. He remembered the imposter Moody all too well.
"I want to make sure no one tries to come in or listen at the door," Ed said. "Don't worry, I'm not out to get you or anything."
Harry didn't reply but regarded Ed with suspicion. Ed sighed.
"Look, do you really think I would do something to you after making a big scene and having two of your friends witness everything?"
"What do you want," Harry asked, "and why couldn't you say it in front of Ron and Hermione?"
Ed said nothing. Harry locked eyes with him. He was surprised and slightly afraid of the intensity emanating from them. His neck hairs bristled and he shifted uncomfortably.
"You grabbed my arm last night,"Ed said.
"I did," Harry said defensively. He gripped his wand tightly.
Ed crossed his arms. "You know then."
Harry's eyes flickered to Ed's right arm.
"You can never tell anyone about it, not even your best friends."
Harry contemplated Ed's request. It wasn't unreasonable. However, it made Harry burn with a mix of suspicion and curiosity.
"What's it made of?"
"How does it work?"
Ed shifted his weight onto his other leg. "Not too sure. I need your word that you won't tell."
Harry's suspicion won. "First tell me why you have that arm, then I'll agree."
To Harry's surprise, a wry smile crossed Ed's face. "Equivalent Exchange, huh?" he muttered.
"Nothing," Ed said, his smile turning sad. "I was involved in an accident when I was younger. It resulted in the loss of my right arm."
Harry sensed that was the end of that conversation. He didn't respond, however.
"I really hope you understand how important this is to me," Ed said. "This arm is not something I am proud of. It is both my curse and my burden." Harry felt Ed's golden gaze rest on his forehead. "I think you, of all people, should know how that feels."
"I have awarded you the grades you would have received if you presented this work in your OWL," said Snape as he swept among them, passing back their homework. "This should give you a realistic idea of what to expect in the examination."
He bypassed Ed's desk without returning his essay. Ed scowled.
Miserable bat, won't even return my work...
Snape reached the front of the room and turned around. "The general standard of this homework was abysmal. Most of you would have failed had this been your examination. I expect to see a great deal more effort for this week's essay on the various varieties of venom antidotes, or I shall have to start handing out detentions to those dunces who get a "D"."
He smirked as Malfoy sniggered and said in a carrying whisper, "Some people got a "D"? Ha!"
Ed balled up his fist. What an annoying twerp! Twerp? Great, now I sound like that stupid, smirking Colonel...
His eyes flickered to Harry trying to hide his essay from a nosy Hermione. He sighed. The encounter with Harry had went far better than he expected; Harry eventually agreed to keep Ed's arm a secret. Ed wasn't too sure whether or not the boy could be trusted to keep his word, but he knew he could always fall back on what he overheard the previous night between Harry and Sirius...
…I wonder about Harry's connections to Sirius Black, Ed thought as he mixed his Strengthening Solution. They were on friendly terms, too. How can you be so friendly with the man who killed your parents? It's not like it's some kind of secret what he did...
...unless he didn't do it...
Ed ended up finishing up his potion ten minutes earlier than the rest of the class. He walked up to Snape's desk and dropped the flask off. He felt Snape's black eyes boring into the back of his head as he returned to his seat.
...Umbridge mentioned that Snape is a POI. Wonder what his problem is...
As he sat and watched the rest of the class finishing, he noticed Hermione sneaking glances over her shoulder periodically.
Geez, is it even that serious? These people need to get a life...
Ed skipped lunch to finish reading a book for his research. He ended up late for Divination. As he came in, he saw Umbridge sitting in a corner of the room with a clipboard. Professor Trelawney descended on him like a broken-wing moth.
"As I predicted! One among us was untimely in his arrival...however, I shall not ask for his excuse, which I already know, but that fate will keep him from repeating this misfortune again..."
"Whatever," Ed muttered as he sat at a table with Seamus. He felt Umbridge's froggy gaze on my, but he didn't turn to look at her. "So what mysteries of the future are we unveiling today?"
Seamus snorted. "We're supposed to be doing more dream interpretation. You should think of one today, I did last time. It's not fair for me to do all the work."
Ed sighed. What kind of dream could he talk about?
"Uh...I dreamed about... food."
Seamus stared. "Really? That's the best you could come up with?"
Ed gave a sheepish smile. Seamus shook his head and opened his book.
"Ok, what happened in the dream?"
"Um, I was eating, stew, pizza, a hamburger, a steak, some potato chips..."
Seamus raised an eyebrow. "What, is that stuff people in America eat?"
"Yes," Ed said, "just like how Britons eat fish and chips all day."
While Seamus was busy looking through his copy of the Dream Oracle, Ed caught snatches of conversation between Trelawney and Umbridge.
She's intimidating Trelawney, but it only works because the woman is a hack. Wonder what would happen with the other professors?
Ed had a mental image of Umbridge and Snape facing off and blowing each other to pieces.
I don't think that would be a bad thing...
The bell rang and everyone packed their bags. Ed trudged to Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Defense Against the Dark Arts, he thought sardonically, what a great class. I'm sure nothing will happen in this class at all, oh no...
Harry sat fuming throughout dinner. His second conflict with Umbridge resulted in louder whispers that were irritating him and pushing him to his limits. Ron and Hermione sat in silence beside him. He gripped his fist. He knew it would be bleeding again soon.
A twinge in his stomach and a flash of gold announced Ed's presence at the table. The blond boy looked between the Trio. Harry looked up to glare at his intrusion, but looked away when Ed made eye contact. His stomach twinged again. The encounter with Ed from earlier today suddenly reappeared in his mind. He silently got up and headed back to Gryffindor Tower.
"Harry, wait!" Hermione said. Harry ignored her voice as he walked at a brisk pace. He continued up the stairs and turned down another passage. He paused when he head footsteps behind him.
"Harry." It was Ron's voice this time. "We know things suck now and everything, and you have every right to be mad...but we're still here for you, ok?"
"Unless you want to be alone," Hermione added, pulling Ron back by his sleeve. "Just let us know."
Harry paused. The injustice of Umbridge caused him to burn with anger, but then he remembered with shame his behavior at Gimerauld Palace.
"No, it's not that..." he muttered. "Let's head back to the common room."
The trio walked back in silence. All three made their way to the chairs in front of the fireplace and sat down.
"Hermione, have you ever heard of Equivalent Exchange?" Harry said after a moment of staring into the flames.
"Equivalent Exchange?" Hermione said, taken aback. "I think it has to do with balancing out equations so both sides are equal. I might have read it in an old book a long time ago. Why do you ask?"
"Ed mentioned it while talking to me today," Harry muttered.
"Oh yeah, what did he talk to you about?" Ron asked.
"Er, he was talking about the owl he received," Harry said. "He doesn't want me to take anymore mail for him because it's private."
"Sheesh," Ron said, "he got so uptight over a letter? He's a bit off, if you ask me."
"Ron," Hermione said, "he probably had a good reason for responding like that. Maybe the letter dealt with family matters?"
"Hermione, why take his side?" Ron asked, annoyed.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, we've only been back in school for about a few weeks! He's here alone in a foreign country! Let him adjust first before bashing him!"
"Bashing him? He's been bashing me if you haven't noticed," Ron sputtered, "unless you've been busy paying attention to his pretty face and golden eyes."
Hermione narrowed her eyes. "What are you saying?"
"Oh, come on, like half the girls here don't fancy him already!"
"I'm going to bed," Harry said suddenly as he leaped out the chair. Tonight wasn't the night for petty arguments. He entered the silence of the dorm room and threw himself on the bed.
He thought about what Hermione had said about Equivalent Exchange.
"Equal equations, huh?" he said quietly to himself. "So what was equal in that conversation?"
Hello :) To the old people, it's been a while! I won't bother with any excuses as to why it took me so long to deliver such a short chapter.
To the new people, hope you like this story! I will try my best to keep updating up to completion!