Chapter Forty

The next morning, Ed and Harry had an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Diggory. They were happy that Harry had returned Cedric's body and proud that Cedric had saved Ed's life, though, Mr. Diggory sobbed through most of the interview.

"He suffered very little then," Mrs. Diggory said sadly. "And after all, Amos…he died just when he'd won the tournament. He must have been very happy."

Mr. and Mrs. Diggory got to their feet. Mrs. Diggory looked at Ed and Harry.

"Both of you take care of yourselves, now," Mrs. Diggory said.

Harry seized the sack of gold on the bedside table.

"You take this," Harry said to her. "It should've been Cedric's. He got there first. Me and Ed think you should--"

Mrs. Diggory backed away.

"Oh no, it's your and Edward's dear," Mrs. Diggory politely refused. "I couldn't…You two keep it."

Ed and Harry were released the following evening. Instead of hanging around Harry, Ron, and Hermione, Ed had stuck around Winry. Al and the Curtis' were staying in Hogsmeade so they could be close to Ed. Winry was wise not to say anything to Ed about the third task since she knew that it was a sore subject.

Ed didn't even object to Winry checking up on his auto-mail; Winry found out about Ed fixing his auto-mail with magic. A couple of days before the end of the term, Dumbledore approached Izumi about a job opportunity.

"You do know my stance on magic, don't you?" Izumi asked, her arms crossed in front of her as she sat in front of Dumbledore's desk.

"Yes, I do," Dumbledore answered.

"Then why are you offering me a job?" Izumi asked.

"Because I want you to teach alchemy to the students," Dumbledore answered.

"You want me to be an alchemy teacher, do you?" Izumi said. "I usually don't take jobs like this. I even refused to become a State Alchemist. I almost didn't teach Edward and Alphonse."

"What made you change your mind, if I may ask?" Dumbledore asked.

"I looked into those boys' eyes," Izumi said, sighing. "They were so determined to learn alchemy. Little did I know that they just wanted to learn so they could…"

"Yes, I know of the story," Dumbledore said. "But I have heard from students that Edward has threatened to 'give a fist in someone's face' if they called alchemy an ancient magic."

Izumi chuckled.

"I should have you know that I'm a very tough teacher," Izumi warned. "I don't go easy on Edward and Alphonse, and I certainly won't on the students here. I don't tolerate misbehavior."

"That's all right," Dumbledore said. "Does this mean you will take the job?"

"I suppose so," Izumi sighed. "If it means that I will be close to Edward and Alphonse. I worry about Alphonse though."

"Why?" Dumbledore asked.

"He's the same, but he's different," Izumi said.

"How do you mean?" Dumbledore asked.

"He still has his light mannerism, but there are times that he will get scared for no reason or will space out for a few moments," Izumi explained.

"Hm," Dumbledore said.

"It may be nothing though," Izumi said. "Don't worry, I accept the position."

"Good," Dumbledore said.

At the Leaving Feast, the decorations were black instead of the usual House colors. Ed and Winry sat by Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

"The end,," Dumbledore said at the feast, "of another year."

He paused, and his eyes fell upon the Hufflepuff table. Theirs had been the most subdued table before he had gotten to his feet, and theirs were still the saddest and palest faces in the Hall.

"There is much that I would like to say to you all tonight," Dumbledore said, "but I must first acknowledge the loss of a very fine person who should be sitting here," he gestured toward the Hufflepuff table, "enjoying our feast with us. I would like you all, please, to stand, and raise your glasses, to Cedric Diggory."

They did it, all of them; the benches scraped as everyone in the Hall stood, and raised their goblets, and echoed, in one loud, low, rumbling voice, "Cedric Diggory."

They all sat down again.

"Cedric was a person who exemplified many of the qualities that distinguish Hufflepuff House," Dumbledore continued. "He was a good and loyal friend, a hard worker, he valued fair play. His death has affected you all, whether you knew him well or not. I think that you have the right, therefore, to know exactly how it came about. Cedric Diggory was murdered by Lord Voldemort."

Frightened whispers went through the Hall.

"The Ministry of Magic," Dumbledore went on, "does not wish me to tell you this. It is possible that some of your parents will be horrified that I have done so -- either because they will not believe that Lord Voldemort has retuned, or because they think I should not tell you so, young as you are. It is my belief, however, that the truth is generally preferable to lies, and that any attempt to pretend that Cedric died as a result of an accident, or some sort of blunder of his own, is an insult to his memory."

Stunned and frightened, every face in the Hall was turned toward Dumbledore now… or almost every face. Over at the Slytherin table, Harry saw Draco Malfoy muttering something to Crabbe and Goyle.

"There are two other people who must be mentioned in connection with Cedric's death," Dumbledore went on. "I am talking about Edward Elric and Harry Potter."

A ripple crossed the Great Hall as a few heads turned in Ed and Harry's direction before flicking back to face Dumbledore.

"Cedric had pushed Edward out of the way," Dumbledore said. "And both Edward and Harry had managed to escape Lord Voldemort. Edward had tried to avenge Cedric's death as Harry had risked his own life to return Cedric's body to Hogwarts. They showed, in every respect, the sort of bravery that few wizards, or Alchemists, have ever shown in facing Lord Voldemort, and for this, I honor them."

Dumbledore turned gravely to Harry and Ed and raised his goblet once more. Nearly everyone in the Great Hall followed suit. They muttered Ed and Harry's names, as they had Cedric's, and drank to them. But through a gap in the standing figures, Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, and many other Slytherins could be seen they had remained defiantly in their seats, their goblets untouched. Dumbledore did not see this. When everyone had once again resumed their seats, Dumbledore continued, "The Triwizard Tournament's aim was to further and promote magical understanding. In the light of what has happened -- of Lord Voldemort's return -- such ties are more important than ever before."

Dumbledore looked from Madame Maxime and Hagrid, to Fleur Delacour and her fellow Beauxbatons students, to Viktor Krum and the Durmstrangs at the Slytherin table, and then to Ed and Winry. Viktor looked wary, almost frightened, as though he expected Dumbledore to say something harsh.

"Every guest in this Hall," Dumbledore said, his gaze lingering upon the Durmstrang bunch, "will be welcomed back here at any time, should they wish to come. I say to you all, once again -- in the light of Lord Voldemort's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.

"It is my belief -- and never have I so hoped that I am mistaken -- that we are all facing dark and difficult times. Some of you in this Hall have already suffered directly at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Many of you families have been torn asunder. A week ago, a student was taken from our midst. Remember Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory."

On the train ride back to King's Cross Station from Hogwarts, there wasn't a single cloud in the sky. Ed and Winry rode in a compartment along with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Pigwidgeon was once again hidden under Ron's dress robes to stop him from hooting continually; Hedwig was dozing, her head under her wing; Owl and Sara were staring at one another again; and Crookshanks was curled up in a spare seat like a large, furry ginger cushion. They all spoke easily among one another, and Ed felt like he had a load off after the Leaving Feast.

When Hermione returned from the trolley and put her money back into her schoolbag, she dislodged a copy of the Daily Prophet that she had been carrying in there. Harry looked at it, unsure whether he really wanted to know what it might say, but Hermione told him not to worry.

"There's nothing in there," Hermione reassured. "You can look for yourself, but there's nothing at all. I've been checking every day. Just a small piece the day after the third task saying you and Edward won the tournament. They didn't even mention Cedric. Nothing about any of it. If you ask me, Fudge is forcing them to keep quiet."

"Of course he is," Ed said. "That's how it is in Amestris sometimes. Fuhrer Bradley likes to cover things up a lot."

"But Rita Skeeter -- ," Ron started.

"Hermione caught her," Ed said.

Hermione looked shocked.

"You did?" Harry asked.

"Yes, you and Edward gave me the idea of bugging," Hermione said, pulling out a jar with a beetle in it. "Especially since Edward acted suspicious of the beetle that was in Winry's hair and in mine at the second task. She was on the windowsill of the hospital wing. If you look closely, you can see the markings around her antennae that are exactly like those foul glasses she wears."

"There was a beetle on the statue the night we heard Hagrid telling Madame Maxime about his mum!" Harry said.

"Exactly," Hermione said. "And the beetle from Ed's arm after the second task that he almost crushed. The beetle in my and Winry's hair. And unless I'm very much mistaken, Rita was perched on the windowsill of the Divination class the day your scar hurt. She's been buzzing around for stories all year."

"When we saw Malfoy under that tree…" Ron said slowly.

"He was talking to her, in his hand," Hermione confirmed. "He knew, of course. That's how she's been getting all those nice little interviews with the Slytherins. They wouldn't care that she was doing something illegal, as long as they were giving her horrible stuff about us and Hagrid. I've told her I'll let her out when we get back to London. I've put an Unbreakable Charm on the jar, you see, so she can't transform. And I've told her she's to keep her quill to herself for a whole year. See if she can't break the habit of writing horrible lies about people."

"Just what she deserves!" Winry said as Hermione put the jar back into her schoolbag.

The door of the compartment slid open.

"Well done, Granger," said Draco Malfoy.

Crabbe and Goyle were standing behind him. All three of them looked more pleased with themselves, more arrogant and more menacing than Harry had ever seen them.

"So," Malfoy said slowly, advancing slightly into the compartment and looking slowly around at them, a smirk quivering on his lips. "You caught some pathetic reporter, and Potter's Dumbledore's favorite boy again. Big deal. Trying not to think about it, are we? Trying to pretend it hasn't happened?"

"Get the fuck out, Mal-fart," Ed snarled, standing.

"I'm not afraid of you, Elric," Malfoy said. "You've all picked the losing side! I warned Potter! I -- !"

Before Malfoy could finish, Ed had punched Malfoy square in the face with his right hand and beat Malfoy and Crabbe and Goyle up. As the trio left the compartment, there was a bang and they were knocked unconscious. Turned out that Harry, Ron, Hermione, Winry, Fred, and George had jinxed Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle. The latter were shoved out into the hall. Fred and George came in and sat with the former and Ed.

"Are you coming back to Hogwarts, Ed, Winry?" Fred asked.

"Yeah, we're coming back," Ed said, as he played Exploding Snap. "Al is going to be attending too."

"You mean, he's entering as late as you did?" Hermione asked. "Why?"

"Tch, beats me," Ed said. "But he wants to come. So, I'm gonna come back next year."

"I'm coming because I like magic and to keep an eye on Ed," Winry said.

"Hey," Fred and George said.

"Shut up!" Ed said, blushing.

"Does your alchemy teacher approve?" Hermione asked.

Ed made a face.

"She won't only be my and Al's teacher anymore," Ed said.

"What do you mean?" Ron asked.

"She's got a job now as the Alchemy professor at Hogwarts," Ed grumbled.

Hermione gasped in delight.

"Really?" Hermione asked.

"Yeah, but she's just taking third to fifth years at first, and then she'll teach sixth and seventh years," Ed explained. "Thank God. I don't need to go through more of her teaching."

Ed shuddered.

"She can't be that bad," Ron said.

"Just you wait, Ron," Ed said, taking a bite out of a pumpkin pasty. "One day in her class, and you'll be wishin' that you were in another country!"

"Ed, you're just bein' melodramatic," Winry scowled.

"Yeah right!" Ed scoffed. "I still can't forget when we brought Al to her place. She gave me the beating of my life!"

"You?" Ron asked.

"Unfortunately," Ed muttered.

When they got to King's Cross, Harry stopped Fred and George.

"Fred -- George, wait a moment," Harry said.

The twins turned. Harry pulled open his trunk and drew out his Triwizard winnings.

"Take it," Harry said, thrusting the sack into George's hands.

"What?" Fred asked, shocked.

"Take it," Harry repeated firmly. "I don't want it."

"You're mental," George said, trying to push it back at Harry.

"No, I'm not," Harry disagreed. "You take it, and get inventing. It's for the joke shop."

"He is mental," Fred said in an awed voice.

"Listen," Harry made clear. "If you don't take it, I'm throwing it down the drain. I don't want it and I don't need it. But I could do with a few laughs. We could all do with a few laughs. I've got a feeling we're going to need them more than usual before long."

"But… what about Ed?" George asked. "He -- ."

"He doesn't want it," Harry interrupted. "He threatened me to keep it, so I'm wanting you to have it. It's a thousand Galleons… a lot of Canary Creams. Don't tell your mum where you got the money and buy Ron some different dress robes and say they're from you."

Then Harry left the compartment and train. Harry saw his aunt, uncle, and cousin looking at Roy, Ed, and Winry warily once he had crossed the barrier. Harry could tell that his relatives were wary of a military person picking up his friends.

"See you later, Ed," Harry said.

"See you, Harry," Ed said.

"Have a good summer," Winry bade.

"You too," Harry said. "Don't get into trouble, Ed."

"I'll try," Ed said.

Ed waved and then left with Roy and Winry, wondering what the summer and next school year would bring for him.

Author's Note: I hope you all liked this! I'm working on the sequel. Review!