EDITED 9/4/12

Chapter 19 Walking in Pitch Black

"So this was what you were doing in the forest? Babysitting a giant?"

Ron was silenced by Hermione's glare. She gave a wary glance at Ed's back; he didn't even turn. They were always looking at his back, and it seemed too large; like it had to support the weight of the world.

The walk through trees was quiet, seemingly long. Edward led the way, taking surprisingly long strides for such short legs. He looked absolutely unfazed, despite what had just happened. He stood straight, manoeuvring through the forest he knew like the back of his hand, each step hard and full, crushing the leaves unmercifully. Crunching sounds, rustling of branches.

He was always clenching his hands as if to brace himself for rejection.

The part of the DA following behind did not say anything. They didn't dare; and they found that Ed's silence was more intimidating than his usual yelling. It was strange what silence could do. They wondered what was the past that plagued Ed; would he reveal his secrets to them? But they knew that Ed was anything but a monster. And he was hurting somewhere. Hurting.

Ed peeked into the clearing full of Thestrals. He tried to spot Arielle; her eyes were always glowing brighter than the rest. She was at the end, licking and nuzzling her foal as it squealed and tried to avoid its mother's cleaning black tongue.

He stepped on the grass, and there was no sound. As he approached the herd, Thestrals glared at him, some approaching him, some moving away. One of the larger males stood in his path.

Back to beg, Homunculi?

The Thestral stood on his hind legs, raising himself tall. His hooves made a loud thump sound when they stomped back on the ground, digging into the earth, killing the small clump of grass.

Hermione jumped at the sound, nudging Luna who described what she saw. There were only the imprints left on the ground, angry marks. "I don't understand," Hermione was whispering. "Thestrals are not usually aggressive."

"No," Ed replied, crossing his arms. "Too bad for you."

The black horse made a sound that was between a neigh and a growl.

What we offered was your only chance! One in a hundred years! You dare refuse! You dare look down on us!

"I don't!" Ed yelled. "You were the ones who gave me a choice!"

Despicable humans! You abhor us! You look down on us! You take advantage of us! Be gone! Get ou...

Enough, Chevalier! Let him pass.

There was a moment of silence as the Thestral's rant was cut off. He was glaring with his glowing white eyes, as if trying to think of something to overrule Arielle's words. The other Thestrals were standing in between trees, as if trying to camouflage into the forest background. Some were disapproving, some had thoughtful gazes, but all were listening. The black horses would listen to wisdom, which was brought by age, rather than authority.

At last, Chevalier stormed off, his hooves kicking off the soil.

Ed approached Arielle slowly, taking time to look back at the group of DA students who were looking more confused than ever (the blur brats), his eyes conveying the message that he would take care of this.

I am not angry, child. Sad, but at least I'm proud.

Ed glanced at her eyes that were like stars and looked away again. He lifted his hand to stroke her head but hesitated, biting his lip.

"Sorry," Ed whispered sheepishly.

Why apologise?

Ed found himself unable to answer. He just continued scratching the back of her ears like how she liked it, feeling the leathery skin and every protruding bone. He gave a look of relief but it held a tinge of helplessness.

I know you. You are brave, just, determined. Your integrity would not let you take this path of shame, Edward. You are strong and so very, very human.

"Arielle..." Ed found his throat clogged up, his heart constricted suddenly, hearing the tiny warning bells in his head, feeling the flare of the Philosopher's stone and the ache of the marks.

What makes what human? The flesh? The body? The heart? The soul?

I can only ask that you do anything to survive. A mother never wants to see her child pass before her. Never.

Ed smiled slightly. "Yeah, I can promise that." The Thestral nuzzled his cheek affectionately. He sighed with a lightened heart.

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It took mere minutes before the group of seven was in the air, making their way with great speed towards London. Most were apprehensive, stiffly trying to avoid eye contact with the ground; riding on what seemed to be thin air just seemed to create new fears. They were gripping the Thestrals' mane for dear life and that not relaxed, constipated posture looked quite hilarious.

Others who could see the Thestrals, namely Harry, just had this grim, worried expression, tension levels rising higher and higher as twilight fell.

Ed watched as six not-so-small teenagers attempted to fit into a battered telephone box.

"You have got to be kidding me."

They have magic and can't find some better secret entrance to a secret Ministry of Magic? What have they been doing this past century?

Ed grimaced for a second and begun squeezing himself into the glass box, muttering curses under his breath.

"Don't worry Ed; you barely take up any room – OW! Did you just bite me?"

"You're lucky that there isn't space to punch you! AND DON'T CALL ME SHORT!"

The door of the telephone box burst open and everyone toppled out. Ron was cradling his hand, teeth marks on his skin barely visible in the dim lights. He ignored Ed's glare, inching away slowly; anything to avoid the dwarf of rage.

"Come on," Harry said quietly, quick footsteps echoing on dark blue tiles of the Ministry of Magic.

Fifty-six...Fifty-seven... Their run broke into a sprint as the very, very long rows of shelves rushed pass them in this dark deserted part of the Department of Mysteries. Eighty-four...Eighty-five... The alleys were barely visible, lit up by the glowing numbers of each row. The only sounds were a combination of panting and hurried steps. Ed was getting that horrid feeling in his gut again, almost 100% sure that this was a trap.

"Ninety-seven!" whispered Hermione as they halted at the end of the row, trying to see through the darkness. There was nobody there.

Ed noticed the shelves were full of glass balls, wondering which weird obsessed wizard would have such a hobby. Anything wizardy spelled trouble now.

There was still silence.

Ed stood still behind the group. They had spotted a suspicious glass ball labelled with Harry's name. Thoughts whirled in his mind as he tried to piece everything together. Was Black actually captured and tortured and used as bait? What was the enemy's motive? What could they want? Where was the trap? He could barely make out the handwriting on the yellowish label underneath the dusty ball. Harry Potter. Dark Lord. What is that damn ball? What does the label mean? Did Truth have anything to do with this? Was this another one of his schemes?

"I don't think you should touch it, Harry," Hermione whispered urgently. She was obviously sensing something amiss.

What kind of game is this?

"It's got my name on it." And Harry closed his fingers around the glass ball's surface. Edward could feel every one of them hold their breath in anticipation.

Nothing whatsoever happened. He picked it up, gripping it carefully, brushing the layer of dust off the surface of the orb.

Silence.

"Very good, Potter. Now turn around and give that to me."

Sh*t.

Lucius Malfoy's hand was held out, expecting Harry to just hand over the strange but important glass ball. Ed's eyes glanced around only to see that they were surrounded by black shapes, Death Eaters, all pointing their wand at them with the promise of violence. How could he have been so careless? They must have apparated here. They must have knew that they would be there, waiting to ambush them.

"Where's Sirius?" Harry demanded, clutching the glass ball to his chest.

Loud, piercing laughter came from the attackers, a particular woman's cackling more distinct than the rest, and more annoying.

"Give it to me, Potter," Malfoy said again.

"I want to know where Sirius is!"

The irritating woman mimicked him in a mock baby voice. Nutjob, Ed confirmed. Probably an obsessed psychopath with a Voldy complex. Loves torturing children and puppies, he deduced.

"It's time you learned the difference between life and dreams, Potter," Malfoy sneered. "Now give me the prophecy, or we start using wands."

Ed remained silent at the back, eyes darting around for some opening, some way of escape. Or a counter-attack, how would he do it to take them by surprise. Smashing their wands would disarm them totally, and he could use alchemy.

Some sort of negotiation was still ongoing. The prophecy must be precious. And Dumbledore knew that Voldemort was after it. And they really did not want it smashed up. Harry was doing well, talking, and aggravating them. Which was good; people make mistakes when they were angry.

And Harry baited Malfoy, insulting Voldy, making sure Malfoy kept talking.

Malfoy was keeping his cool well, must be a trait was the snobby 'nobles'. But he was getting more and more impatient; they had better do something now or they would never get the chance.

"NOW!"

Malfoy was timely interrupted, caught by surprise and five 'Reducto' curses shot out, spheres of glass shattering, sending hundreds of pieces raining down.

"RUN!" Harry yelled.

A loud clap sounded and Ed slammed his hands on the ground, deconstructing and reconstructing, creating a wall and his trademark stone fists and spikes as a barrier. It suited as a distraction, just so they could gain distance away from the enemies.

The group were sprinting aimlessly, dodging curses and sending shelves toppling over like a domino effect. There was running and yelling and bright beams of light, and Ed realised that this was the first real battle he had in decades. Adrenaline was pumping through his blood, reigniting the thrill of battle and his deadly reflexes.

They had split up; Ed was with Neville and Luna. They were fighting in near darkness until a loud crashing sound and their way was blocked by the falling shelves which almost collapsed on them. Glass cut them up as they fell back and there was a loud crack came from Luna's ankle followed by a gasp of pain.

"My wanb!" Neville yelled in panic, trying to stem his bleeding nose. It had flung out of his hand, disappearing in the wreckage.

Ed almost forgot about that twig. He grabbed it out of his pocket and shoved it to Neville. Clapping his hands again, he cleared the debris quickly. They would be coming. Blue lightning was not exactly inconspicuous. Luna had an arm around Neville's shoulder and they staggered forward as fast as they could. Hopefully there would be an exit that was actually visible. This Ministry should get better signage. And emergency escape routes.

They found themselves rejoining the group as they fell through another strange door. And there was silence again. Only heavy breathing and muffled moans of pain.

They were in a pit. Why the f**k was there a pit in a supposed government building? A large stone archway stood on its dais.

Ed felt every inch of his skin crawl, as if sparks of static electricity were dancing on them, with one look the archway. He knew that his core was rumbling, his blood that was the Philosopher's Stone was bubbling there. Soon, there would be screams for his ears only, dragging him to the Gate, into the embrace of the black shadow hands and staring into that large eyeball.

"Did you see that?" Harry asked.

Ed's eyes shifted to the boy that was seemingly drawn to the arch. He could see the souls, the moaning and weeping and pleading, and Truth's menacing grin behind the wall.

"What? There's nothing there, Harry," Hermione whispered, taking a step closer.

"The Veil," Luna replied, her airy voice was anchored to the ground and not floating like usual. "I can see it too."

They were both drawn to the Veil. It was a trap. It was again his plot. Trap. Trap. Trap. Danger. Edward could hear familiar laughter, hated laughter. It beckoned him, created a whirlpool in his chest, staining his breathing and he felt like vomiting. And there was a feeling like something was scratching him under his skin, nails dragging across the underside of his flesh. A migraine greeted him like an old friend. Trap. Danger. Trap. Danger.

"Don't go close to it," he growled. "All of you, don't you dare step near that damn thing, get it?"

"You alright, Ed?" Hermione questioned. "You don't look so good." She tried to touch his arm but he flinched away like it burnt.

It was burning now, under his skin, in his veins and arteries and every vessel that blood flowed through. It was just a mild heated sensation, like the tip of a candle, but it would escalate. Knowing how a total bastard Truth could be, things would get worse.

"GET DOWN!" Harry yelled suddenly, snapping Ed out of his thoughts. He dropped to his knees immediately as tidal waves of magic crashed into the area, those bloody Death Eaters, those bastards.

He felt a hand grab his pounding head, digging its nails into his scalp. There was a wand to his temple, as if he was at gunpoint. But there would be no splattering of brain, of course. A scream rang above the sound of his heavy breaths. His heart was palpitating and he could see Neville's tortured body writhing at the crazy b*tch's curse.

He could never stand any friend hurting in front of him. Scenes of the many tragedies he saw flashed before his eyes. Never again, remember?

"You lot are pathetic! Your Lord is too; going through this trouble for some destiny sh*t in a ball!" he shouted across to everyone, giving a snort of laughter. He could see the worried faces of his friends, horrified at his sheer gut.

The Death Eater tightened the grip on his head. Ed could feel a trickle of blood down his cheek; must have bumped his head earlier. That's why everything was so loud and buzzing and throbbing. He decided take more risk. Provoke the enemy and they'll make more mistakes.

"Why would he need to know the damn future? He's unconfident, isn't he?" Ed yelled, struggling from his captor's grip. "He doesn't think that he can win! And you are all stupid idiots that'll follow him!"

Ed needed to buy time. Buy time and make sure no one else got hurt. The Order was probably on their way; thanks to Severus' message. They just had to hold on for a while more; not get hut for a while more; make sure no one died for a while more.

The Death Eaters seemed stunned. Good, good. Plant the seeds of doubt. Fight dirty. Ed believed those followers were the kind that followed out of fear. They delude themselves to believe that they would win because they had this Dark Lord for a leader. The truth had to be shoved in their faces, to shock them, to wake them. And then, they would be right where he wanted them.

"You bastards are fighting this battle for him and he's not even here! HE'S SCARED! YOUR LORD IS A F**KING COWARD!" Ed's right, metal hand flew to grab the wand that was poking his forehead and snapped it in two with pure strength. He elbowed the Death Eater in the gut and clapped his hands together.

The blue lightning flared, the large scale transmutation affecting as much ground as it can reach. Red light was slowly seeping through; Ed could feel the tug that was reaching into his Philosopher's Stone core, the souls in the Veil wailing.

No shortcuts. No Philosopher's stone. Equivalent Exchange. Analyse, Deconstruct, Reconstruct. No Philosopher's stone. Equivalent Exchange. Equivalent Exchange.

"CRUCIO!"

Ed tried to swallow his scream, but it ended up a choked guttural sound of pain. The lightning ceased, revealing three Death Eaters pinned to the ground by giant cement fists, some knocked to the sides. Malfoy was on his back, barely avoiding a sharp rock spine. And the only one standing was Bellatrix, her wand out and pointing at Ed's heart, inflicting the mind numbing pain. Her breasts were heaving, face purple with rage.

Her eyes glinted with madness and utter loathe, for Ed had insulted her master. She was the kind of follower that was loyal and devoted, just because.

"Avada..."

"DON'T!" Lucius bellowed. "THAT'S HIM!" Bellatrix stopped, glaring at Malfoy. Ed was still hunched on the ground, coughing out patches of bile.

"HOW DARE YOU..."

"NO, IT'S HIM!" Malfoy shouted. "Edward Elric. The Fullmetal Alchemist."

There was a moment of silence. The Death Eaters seemed to be recalling that name, that title as if it were familiar. And Ed came to a terrible conclusion; Voldemort knew about the Game, about Truth, about everything.

Bellatrix laughed menacingly. "You got lucky, Elric!" she spat. "My Lord particularly wants to meet you! You have something that he wants!"

Ed staggered to his feet, wiping his mouth on his ripped sleeve. "Tell him to face me himself," Ed growled hoarsely. He was about to clap and lunge at her with a blade to her throat when more people apparated into the area, and the battle begun once more.

Spells flew from both the five Order members and the remaining Death Eaters, splitting the stone ground. In the midst of the chaos, the glass ball slipped from Harry's hand and smashed on the floor, evolving a silvery mist before that dissolved into nothing.

Malfoy had a look of absolute horror at the shattered prophecy, before he drew out his wand and began duelling Harry and Sirius simultaneously, anger fuelling his hexes. Ed was too busy dodging spells to notice, trying to intercept his opponent and snap her wand. Bellatrix was not making it any easier; she was faster and crazier than anyone else. Her attacks were meant to kill in the most painful way possible.

The woman leapt away suddenly as another wave a blue lightning gave her a surprise attack. She laughed, hard and insane.

"Daddy's here!" she mocked, sending a particularly nasty curse in Hohenheim's direction as he emerged from the dust cloud. "You lead us on a wild goose chase, Hohenheim," she snarled, her glare exceptionally vicious towards the older Elric. "But Daddy can't protect him anymore!"

She yelled out a jinx that Ed didn't dodge; his mind was focused on Hohenheim. The father that abandoned him and came back to abandon him again. And he was protecting him. He dared give that excuse? Ed felt himself get blown away, landing painfully.

Hohenheim yelled out to him, rushing towards him. And Ed wanted him to go away. Go away. Go away, bastard. He didn't need him. He didn't need his protection. Go away.

You won't break me down again.

Lucius Malfoy was down and Sirius took the opportunity to battle Bellatrix himself. Hohenheim had someone named Dolohov to duel and Ed wanted nothing more than to get up, shove the Death Eater away, and plant a good punch on his bastard father's face. He forced himself to his feet.

"Avada Kedava!" Bellatrix shrieked, green light shot towards her flesh-and-blood cousin. She had a more psychotic look now, hair everywhere, eyes wide in glee, cackling with laugher. She was a demon, a black shrouding pale skin, every pore soaking up the cries of torture and pain.

And Ed could almost see the future unravel in front of his eyes. Sirius would be hit square in the chest, tumbling backwards, eyes filled with shock and life drained away, laughing a last laugh as he fell head first into the Veil.

In a split second, Ed reacted, taking a huge leap to give an unworldly shove to Black's side. The Animagus' eyes were wide with shock, the deadly green light missing him by a mere millimetre and a thought clicked in his mind that he was thisclose to death. But he was more filled with terror as the blow meant for him did meet a target. Black. He just remembered seeing Edward Elric hit on the chest directly with a killing curse. Then he was falling. Black.

Sirius Black fell headfirst into the Veil, disappearing into its swirly fog.

A scream left Ed's lips as unimaginable unbearable pain spread through his body instantaneously. This might be what getting electrocuted by lightning feels lie. He felt as if his insides were ripped apart and cooked, boiled alive. His body gave a few spasms as he hacked and did the regurgitating he felt like doing since the battle begun. Splotches of blood spewed from his oesophagus as the last shock waves ran through his spine. Then and there, coughing and hyperventilating furiously, Ed remained on fours fighting unconsciousness.

This won't break me down.

Barely recovered, Ed gripped the closest support he could find, which was the frame of the Veil, dragging himself up despite the more than stinging pain. He pried his eyes opened and desperately tried to focus his largely greying and blur vision. He cursed foully and shook his head, glancing at the archway. The symbols, the circle, the array, alchemy, Philosopher's Stone, Gate, Truth, Sirius Black.

"Don't f**k with me again, bastard," he muttered hoarsely, clapping his hands together. Blue lighting a red glow of the marking on the Veil, familiar relics soon fading and Edward Elric was gone.

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Sirius Black stood in that empty, ominous space, facing a large, intricately carved door that was larger than any door he had ever seen. It was a still door, a Gate maybe, bound to no wall, and who know what it lead to. And as if this were a complete scene from a horror film, faint child-like music played in the background...

And silence.

"Good evening, Mr. Wizard."

Sirius turned, face to face with the oddest thing ever. It was a figure of a boy, yet the only things tangible were the right arm and left leg, so technically he was staring at two pieces of floating flesh. The voice, childish and mocking, could not have come from it since it had no mouth, but it did, and echoed in this white place.

"Who are you?" Sirius asked, warily.

The face splitting grin really freaked him out. But at least he found out that the guy had a mouth, if not how could it have talked? Shrill laughter pierced through the white space, resembling the victorious scream of a child winning a game.

Why was he so happy? It was only a question asked. A very, very often, well-asked question.

"I am what you know as the World," it cried, hands (or hand) spread out. "Or sometimes the Universe. Or sometimes God. Or sometimes Truth." More laughter. "But most of all, I am..."

"Truth!"

Sirius jumped at the interruption, more relieved when he heard the familiar voice.

"Well, well, hello again, Mr. Alchemist." It was a gleeful tone, but anger could be sensed underlining it; the kind of anger related to jealously, possessiveness, control.

"Let him go, bastard. He has nothing to do with this," Edward snarled, walking past him towards the thing, unafraid. Sirius could see the slight stumble in his step, as if he was hurt somewhere. He noticed those smaller shoulders that were straining not to be hunched, with the beads of sweat and the dried blood on his lower jaw.

"Well you don't look too good," Truth jeered, not even faking concern. "And Sirius Black does have everything to do with this." More anger. It was frustrating, that anger. Like it was an enemy he didn't know a thing about because he didn't do anything to offend anyone to make it an enemy. "Everyone you know is involved in this. Anyone you pass by will be involved in this." Cruel, cruel laughter.

And it was even more irritating, with said enemy was laughing as if there was some joke that no one told. Like it was laughing at them even though they did nothing.

How did Ed come to know such a being?

"Even the boring humans, Fullmetal." Fake yawn, before the smirk was back on, full blast. Maybe he wasn't so boring. "Let's have a little gamble, Edward Elric!"

The thing raised its invisible hand, and Sirius felt a strong gust of wind from behind him. The kind of wind that was like an eagle's claws, wrapping around his body and dragging him away. He turned to see the doors of the Gate flung open, eyes widening to the size of golf balls in shock and fear and bile about to gush up his throat. It was a gruesome sight; the moaning, screaming and crying and thousands of little black hands as if billions of people were trapped there, moulded into one monster. A large sized eye opened in the middle of the mass, and Sirius could see every vein pulsing as the eye was unblinking. He felt the little hand reaching out at a great speed grabbing every part of him so that they could pull him into; make him a part of them.

He would be eaten. He would be swallowed whole by the monster. He would be a part of the trapped glob of black, in pain and suffering. Sirius screamed as he tried to pry himself away, but his feet no longer touched solid ground so he could not run and grabbing and ripping away the hands were useless more just came and wrapped around him in a mockery of a hug.

He was going to be eaten. He was going to be eaten. He was going to be eaten. He was going to be eaten.

"Let's bet, Mr. Alchemist. If he survives the Gate, he would live," Truth forced out in between laughter.

Sirius struggled and howled and wailed and flayed his arms, before the doors slammed shut.

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Edward never felt so helpless. He wanted nothing more to sprint forward and deliver Truth's well deserved punch, and pummel the thing so hard it would sneeze out of its bellybutton. He wanted to give pain to the miserable being that made his life hell. But as if wires were wound around every part of his body, he could not move a muscle. He could only watch in dismay as Sirius Black was thrown into the worst possible place to be.

He could only wait. And hope and pray that he would be strong enough to overcome the toll.

Truth's consistent laughter was not helping much. After a few torturous minutes, Truth's ceased his sounds, grinning from ear to ear.

"Looks like I win, Mr. Alch..."

The doors of the Gate were pried open, and Ed could see the human hands struggling to push the heavy doors open. Soon, the Gate gave way and a figure was dropped onto the ground, panting on his knees. His hair hung over his eyes and rivers of sweat were tricking down his cheeks that could be mistaken for tears. He was absolutely exhausted like every part of his body was made of jelly.

Ed felt a smirk find its way onto his face.

"Congratulations, Sirius Black!" Truth exclaimed, though its excited tone was masked with menace. It was unhappy, furious actually, irate, absolutely seething. "You are now my final Sacrifice!"

And it clapped its hands together, making smacking sounds that resonated. It sounded like the beating of flesh, each slap precise and intended. Each clap was hard and heavy, as if it was squashing something between its palms.

There was no more laughter.

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Black. Black like his last name. Black like how his family always was. Black for darkness. Black for the Gate. Black. Black.

"Black, can you stand?" It was a low voice, slightly hoarse. Hands clutched his right arm, to help pull him off the ground (there was no ground). "He's gone. You survived. Come on. Let's go."

Right. Yes he remembered. Right. He survived. He wanted with all his mind to escape and he did. He escaped hell. But not without experiencing it. And hell...hell it was hell.

It was so bright just a while ago. And white. Bright white light.

"Elric?" Sirius asked. Was it him that those hands belonged to? And that voice? Those hands that dragged him up but were trembling slightly. That voice that was filled with pity and pain. He was walking now; lead into nothing, a direction that lead nowhere. Was he still in the Gate? He stumbled and almost tripped over his feet a few times, but there were strong hands holding him up. They were walking, and his support was still trembling, hurting.

"I'm sorry." It was barely audible.

"Elric?" Sirius questioned again. He didn't know why he asked, the voice was recognizably Edward's, but he just had to be sure. The only thing he could see was maybe the back of his eyelids. Or were they that? He was sure he opened his eyes. He blinked a few times. It was so bright earlier. Were they in the Gate? "Elric, why is it so dark?"

PITCH black.

Suddenly his walking stick stopped, frozen in footstep and he could feel the pressure of knocking into someone's back or shoulders. Heh, maybe the shrimp wasn't as short as he thought. He stumbled a little, as if wanting to continue walking forward but hesitated. He couldn't go on if he couldn't see what was in front of him. What if he bumped into something?

There was some form of small breeze just right in front of his face like someone was waving a piece of paper there. A gasp. And a low growling at the bottom of the throat. The grip on his arm tightened. There were thick gulps of air, the steadying of breathing.

"We're going past the Veil soon," Ed said grimly. He sounded choked somehow.

"Can you switch on the lights?" Sirius hated asking such a stupid question but he was always terrible in the dark, always the first to bump into some sort of furniture or wall.

"I'm sorry." Ed's voice cracked. There was it again. Ed was truly guilty; like he did something very, very wrong. The kind of mistake that no one would ever forgive. The firm hold on his arm didn't waver.

Sirius began walking again, carefully. The hard hand wouldn't let go.

A shallow breath, a cold, low tone. "There's always a toll for the Gate. Like how they took my limbs."

Sirius didn't get it. He understood that the big door of evil would come up with something evil to whoever who goes through it, willing or not. And Ed said that there would be some price. He wondered what he paid. He didn't feel any pain, just mildly aching from strained joints and muscles. It was just too dark. And Black. Like his name. He hated his name.

"It's too..."

"They took it."

The words were like dropping a 100 pound marble slab onto concrete ground. There was finality, direct, straightforward truth. It could have come out in a more comforting way, more easing. But ripping off a bandage was better than slowly peeling it off and lengthening the pain.

This time Sirius stopped and Ed stumbled. The ex-criminal let a gasp escape. Maybe he was trembling like he was just slapped. "You mean...I'm...It's...It is..."

"Yes."

He was sure his eyes widened in horror, but they were not adjusting to the darkness at all. There was not even dull blurry shapes, or dim lights or outlines of figures. Sirius wanted to rub his eyes raw, hoping that anything would do anything; something would happen if he did something. His hands twitched.

"I'm sorry." This time the 'I'm' couldn't even be heard, so it just sounded like a broken apology.

The hand was now pulling him forward. They began to move again.

"We're reaching the Veil..." Ed was cut off and his footsteps stopped, causing Sirius to almost trip again. The grip around his arm loosened. He fought the urge to reach out and grab the boy beside him.

"Al." This was a breathy whisper. Relief? Longing? Sorrow?

He felt like he was standing alone in a room that was painted black. He didn't dare move. He almost didn't dare to breathe. He felt like he was a child again. A child afraid of the dark, fidgeting around for anything to hold onto, be it furniture or person. Sirius stood still, tilting his head to any slight sound, contemplating his insecurity and weakness. But he wouldn't be beaten, he never did allow himself to be beaten. Sirius listened.

The echoing footsteps halted, steps that were rushed and almost desperate. There was shuffling of clothes, made from cradling an object in the arms. It sounded like a desperate embrace. And gasping, a lot of gasping, made from held back tears.

"Brother, have you come for me?" It was a childish voice, not like the horrid Truth's, either from a girl or a young boy. It was very hoarse, as if it had been unused for centuries, rough around the edges and dry. It came from a parched throat, accompanied with slight wheezing, raspy, cracked, but so hopeful. So hopeful.

Choked sobs. It was a terrible sound. There was even whimpers. The gritting of teeth and the rapid swallowing of phlegm, making that somewhat gargling noise. But gasps of air dried the sound, and more sucking in of air as if trying to keep it all in but only succeeded to make everything sound more suffocated.

"I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry."

"I'll come back."

"I promise."

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Ed's mouth was in a thin straight line and he wanted to punch something badly. But he knew nothing could be done. Nothing could be changed. That was Gate, you give something, you won't get it back. Even if the 'customer' happened to be unwilling, it didn't matter.

The Gate. It was such a cruel, cruel thing.

Ed held in his hands the one thing that he wanted most. He cradled his brother to his chest, heaving and unable to stop the tears from pouring out of his eyes. He held the person that he wanted back so much. This important person that was waiting for him for so long. He held him in his arms. Yet he still can't take him back.

He held it, but can't have it.

Cruel, CRUEL world.

Ed was sobbing, crying his heart out. His sounds were of relief and tinged with joy yet flooded with devastation.

"Brother..."

The body in his arms was too weak to even lift his hand. Ed could only grasp the bony fingers. Maybe if he held tight enough he wouldn't have to let go.

"I can't right now, I'm sorry," he whispered in a choked sob. "I don't have enough to give in exchange."

Their hands were trembling, tears dripping on their knuckles.

"But I promise I'll come back. Al, I'll come back and take you with me." His weeping voice was determined. "I'll get you back, Al, I promise, I'll come back."

More time to hold you close before I have to let you go again.

"Brother..." It was the only word that could escape those dry, wrinkled lips.

Edward held his breath to cease his sobs and pathetic crying. His heart was heavy as if it was made of lead, so heavy and so painful. He tenderly brushed the limp straw-coloured locks from his brother's forehead so his lips could graze it, leaving the kiss and the tears.

I want you back. I want to take you away from this place. I want you back by my side so bad. So, so bad.

I'm sorry. I love you. I'msorry. Iloveyou. I'msorryIloveyou. I'msorryIloveyouI'msorryIloveyouI'msorryIloveyou.

He finally laid his brother down on the white floor and he felt like he was laying down a huge part of him together. He willed his tears away as he removed his trademark red cloak, torn and dirty, brushed away as much dirt as possible, and laid it over his brother, as if tucking him in bed.

Sirius heard the rustling of clothes. He didn't dare move, he didn't dare make a sound. Then he felt someone holding his arm to lead him away again.

He could feel the cold fingers through his sleeve.

"Ed?"

"Let's go." And he never thought Ed could sound so broken.

The fingers were digging softly into his arm as if in a plea. And he never though Ed cried. He couldn't see it, that's why Ed would cry in front of him.

And they walked, through black, out of the Veil.

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Hi

Alright, sorry for the wait I hoped this chapter was ok and I didn't rush too much in the action or add too much stuff. I would probably finish this story in the next chapter before the epilogue. There would be a sequel, don't worry. More details would be coming up. Thanks to my friend Nat for proofreading!

Any questions feel free to review/PM me. Thanks for reading and reviewing Can't believe this story's going to be over soon...it's been wonderful Haha ok, please review, and no flames as usual. THANKS TO EVERYONE, if not for you this story wouldn't have been possible. Virtual cookies! Review lots please!

ssapphireangel