Snape's entrance into Dumbledore's office was surprising if not completely unpredicted. While Dumbledore often revelled in life's little shocks, this was not one of those times. And his unrest became even worse when words came out of the man's mouth.
"That boy is alive!"
The old Headmaster simply looked at the Professor for a few moments, completely unable to comprehend what he was saying. Then, after a few minutes. He finally decided on the appropriate way to respond.
"There are a lot of boys Severus. Which one are you talking about?"
"Edward Elric, the boy I watched die in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place" he hissed, his brows furrowing as he sat himself in a chair across from the desk. Dumbledore watched with amusement as he found a host of oddly shaped objects beneath his bottom, and was forced to stand back up and push them all sloppily to the floor to join the rest of the clutter, "he's alive. I saw him with my own two eyes, in fact, I talked to him, and he was oh-so happy about his situation."
Dumbledore could sense the sarcasm.
"And what kind of a situation would that be?"
"He's working under Voldemort, and he must be even more important than we imagined. Voldemort seems to have very little control over him, treating him almost like he is a guest rather than a servant. Someone that he has to stay in good terms with in order to keep around."
"Lost his head, back from the dead," the Sorting Hat sang from the shelf behind Dumbledore. The two men tried not to pay it's teasing any attention. The hat liked to make jokes when they were generally inappropriate.
"This is serious," Snape informed him, "I was discussing it with the others and they said that he literally just came right out of the ground. That he was buried, in a grave, and he crawled right out, naked and on the alert. Said they tried to attack him but all their magic just bounced right off, and the first thing he did was ask if he was looking at Voldemort."
"This is unusual. Do you know of any way this could be?" It was not very often that Dumbledore found himself completely stumped. This seemed quite impossible, "is it too much to think that maybe he was not entirely dead when we handed him over to the ministry?"
"Even then, they buried him! Which was not our intention, but I checked him, we all did. He was dead, and then was no trace of potion in him beside the Veritaserum that harmed him in the first place. There was no way for him to be faking it. And you weren't there, it was all very distressing. He was most definitely dead."
"I knew Cornelius wouldn't actually believe anything that I told him. It sounds crude, but maybe we should have kept the body for ourselves."
"That's not the craziest thing I've heard lately," Snape shook his head, "I can't believe it. He's back alright, and the first thing he did was tell me to 'Fuck off.' I don't think this is good for us. His blame goes beyond me, he's out there cursing the whole Order. He's dangerous, and very smart, and I think he has a personal vendetta for you Albus."
"Well, he's not the only one. Have you heard tell of the proposal for the new Educational Decree? Cornelius thinks he needs to have someone here to keep me in check. I don't know how much longer I'm going to be heading this school." He sighed, and then continued, "I think that I may have made a serious error in judgement. Clearly this Elric boy is, well, not just a boy. He may be a force to be reckoned with, and it may be impossible to get him on our side. We have to consider that we have just angered something that we have no way of controlling or predicting. I am trusting you to keep an eye on him, because information is the only form of defense we have."
The Professor of Potions sighed, putting his head in his hands, and Dumbledore felt for him. They were both under more stress than ever before, and it seemed things were spiralling out of control. Snape had Voldemort to worry about, but Dumbledore had Fudge as well. He was fighting a war on two fronts, and he would have to be careful if he was going to win them.
"You two had better watch yourself with that boy," the Sorting Hat declared, "he's got you all in a tangle. He's everywhere at once, and everyone needs him. He's not meant to be here. Everything will change."
Dumbledore knew from experience that whenever the hat decided to offer up free words of wisdom, nothing was going to turn out alright.
"What did you just do?"
Edward frowned, he honestly didn't know, but it was really, really cool.
He had felt it instantly, this adverse reaction he had to the world manifesting and reaching out. Somehow his strangeness had caused a phenomenon of sorts. He was like a germ in this world, somewhere he didn't belong, and he was infecting the system of the body piece by piece as he came into contact with them. He was like a virus, and it was quite possibly the best bit of news he had received in a long, long time.
"Answer me boy!" Voldemort insisted, advancing on him.
Edward was still reeling with the implications, "I'm a virus!" he exclaimed quietly, "an infection, don't you see? I'm a direct influence," I'm making your mind sick, he thought, I'm engineering my way into their minds just by being present. I'm an invasive species with unpropitious intentions.
I'm going to burrow my way into your brain.
Edward shook off his excitement, finally concerning himself with the Dark Lord that seethed in front of him. The look on his face for once actually made Edward feel a bit nervous. He took a step backward, shifting his weight so that his posture was more alert. He assumed that after this breach, it would not be out of the question to be defending himself in the near future.
The wizard was quickly advancing on him, wand raised in an intimidating gesture, as they both knew it wouldn't actually do him any good. Still, his intent was clear, murderous in fact, and Edward didn't like the smell of it. "Stop," he muttered, taking a step back, and watched as Voldemort's step faltered, then he overcame the command and returned to his approach with renewed vigor.
"Tell me how to do what you just did or I'll kill you." It was so matter of fact, and the next thing Edward knew his back was pressed against the wall, and Voldemort had his wand pressed hard into his larynx. He rasped for a moment, his throat protesting the offensive object, before his eyes became stern and his body tense with readiness. He wasn't going to attack, but he was going to be prepared to do what he had to. His alchemy was his ultimate weapon, and with that on his side, he considered himself untouchable.
The smell of death was overwhelming, and malice emanated from the wizard like a fog. He felt his eyes watering in from the sudden sharp pain in his neck, and from the slight lack of oxygen. Voldemort's mouth was so close he could see inside it, and he watched the back of his tongue move as he spoke, "I'm sick of your games boy," he hissed, and suddenly there was another hiss behind them, and Edward could just barely see over the wizard's shoulder to the huge snake that was approaching, "you'll tell me what I want to know or I'll kill you. I don't need magic to slit your throat."
Ah, the threat that Edward had been waiting for. Finally, he was proud of this Dark Lord. It was good to think outside of the box.
With a shiver he realized that Nagini had coiled around his feet at least twice, and he didn't feel comfortable at all with the snake touching him. He watched as the mouth in front of him pulled up into a sickening grin, "I can always feed you to Nagini."
That idea didn't sound attractive in the least, and he itched to get away from the snake. He could handle crazies with impossible delusions of grandeur, on a hunt for world domination, but snakes had always kind of creeped him out. They looked cool, but that was a from a distance, on the back of his coat, in architecture, or as a decorations on baby cribs sort of thing. They certainly didn't look cool as a wrapped around his neck biting his face repeatedly sort of thing.
"That's okay," he squeaked, shifting his head to the side so that the wand didn't make him sound like a little choking boy, he took a deep, easy breath, "I don't know how I did it. So I can't tell you."
His relief was short lived, as the wand was moved back to it's original position in mere moments, the angry gesture pushing it even further into his throat. At this point, he thought maybe Voldemort had fully intended to stab him. He really meant it though, and saying, hey, it's no big deal, it's just that I'm from another dimension that I suspect has entirely different universal laws of physics.. Well, that probably wasn't going to cut it. Even he knew it would sound ridiculous out loud.
Voldemort gave him a look that said he wasn't waiting patiently and pressed the point a little bit further into his flesh. Nagini wrapped another coil around his leg, tightening her hold on him. This was too much, and the moment she opened her mouth with a hiss and he saw those fangs, he decided that he wasn't going to deal with it anymore.
With a clap of his hands he placed his palms on the wall behind him, sparks of electric blue danced down the wall and across the floor, and Voldemort's insistent grip on his wand slackened for a moment as his eyes traveled along with the light. In another second, two large pillars of stone behind the wizard rose up out of the ground. The first wrapped around Voldemort like a hand, and the other hit his hand hard, knocking the wand from his grip, and then crumbled and fell on the surprised Nagini, effectively pinning her where she was and making her all the more angry. He sensed more than felt her viciously bite at his leg, luckily she had been on his left side when he had started the transmutation. He kicked his leg outward, and the stretch was too much for her and she had to release her maw, allowing him to escape.
The Dark Lord's face was enraged, but also astonished. He looked dumbfounded, and almost a little excited, in a way. Edward wasn't sure what he should call the expression that was on the wizard's face, but it probably didn't bode well. The emotions eventually manifested into a sort of frustrated anger and he hissed out commands to remove him immediately, and Edward thought that he would probably leave him there forever and leave if he didn't need his help, and if three or four Death Eaters weren't rapidly approaching them.
"I wouldn't make threats to someone that you don't fully understand," Edward admonished, "they might be more dangerous that you think."
Voldemort smirked, "I guess I underestimated you," he was still pulling his body forward, trying to reach for his wand. Edward figured it was just a natural wizard reaction to be drawn to their stupid stick, even when all their efforts were clearly for naught, "I've never seen anything like that, but I've heard legends about it before. Or at least something of the sort. I see now what you are, but I don't know why you've come to me. If you let me down, we can talk about this,"
Edward cocked his head in confusion. Voldemort had heard about alchemy? Suddenly this seemed more promising than ever before. Maybe the wizard made him sick, and had questionable morals, but if he knew something about alchemy, then he would be even more of an asset in his quest of finding his answer, "What do you know about alchemy?" Edward demanded, as the first of the Death Eater's reached them. It was one whose name he had never bothered to learn, and he let the man grab his arms and restrain him. It wouldn't last, both he and Voldemort now knew that he would need his hands to release him.
"Release him!" Voldemort predictably hollered at the man, who seemed more confused than ever before, and that was saying something when it came to some of the Death Eaters. "And let him release me,"
"Why should I?" Edward muttered, crossing his arms after readjusting himself, "maybe I'll just sit by and watch your lackeys chisel you out of there,"
Voldemort's horrible face screwed up in what might have looked like thought, but it was a horrible display for anyone who had an idea. A day didn't go by that Edward didn't wish he had a little bit more nose, at least so he would be easier to look at. The Dark Lord craned his neck sideways, hissing at the Death Eater, "get me out with magic. Right now."
The other Death Eater had arrived at this point, and was actually first to act. Edward sort of, oddly, caught on to what Voldemort might be thinking. At least he thought maybe that was what was happening, and he decided to step back a few feet and watch.
The Death Eaters were silent, watching as their spells simply did nothing to the rock that was imprisoning their leader. They were stupefied, and Edward, he was excited. And apparently, he wasn't the only one.
Even if Edward lived to be a hundred (which was a complete impossibility) he swore that he would never see anything more strange than the look of discovery, and maybe even excitement, upon the strange creature that was Voldemort's face. It almost made him want to leave and go strangle himself for a few hours. It was kind of disgusting.
More so than usual.
"Magic doesn't work on things that you create with alchemy either," Voldemort muttered, and the only thing Edward could think was that this was it. He had finally heard tell of alchemy in this world. He had picked the right freak to follow around.
So with a clap of his hands, he smoothed out his transmutation, and watched as Voldemort's servants caught him and made sure he stayed on his feet. He shook them off almost immediately, and they looked terrified. Edward was surprised that they had even touched him, but they could probably imagine the punishment if they had let their leader fall to the ground. Either way it was a bit lose-lose, plus it wasn't like they had any idea what was going on.
Voldemort looked him right in the eyes, and Edward set his face in a deep scowl, crossing his arms even tighter. He wouldn't show any fear of this creature. He didn't feel any in the first place.
"This is it," Voldemort sneered, even when he was happy it seemed his expressions were still atrocious, "you're the ultimate weapon. How can that boy stand up to me when I have you? My plan can advance a million times quicker. We'll have the world in moments, Edward."
"I won't kill anyone for you, if that's what you're getting at. I'll do your shitty dirty work but I won't kill anyone," Edward scowled, "and only if you tell me what you know about alchemy, and how I can figure out more,"
"This isn't child's play Edward, you might have to get your hands dirty,"
"Then I'll leave, and I'll find another way,"
"Don't think I won't kill you,"
"Don't think I won't kill you,"
Voldemort may not realize it, but despite his apparent knowledge of alchemy, his entire attitude about Edward had revealed that he didn't know as much as he thought. That Edward's alchemy was completely new to him, and that he had no idea how to handle it.
But Edward had to be careful. Voldemort wasn't stupid, he was extremely intelligent and conniving in fact, and the whole idea that he might not realize he had done something was preposterous. For all Edward knew, this could be some kind of an act. He'd leave now if he knew that that wasn't what Voldemort wanted him to do, but he couldn't be sure. Anyway, he didn't care for the confusion of the Muggle world, he was much more comfortable surrounded by the insane raving of megalomaniacs vying for world domination. That was pretty much what his whole life had been like. He didn't want to move out of his comfort zone now, what was the point?
The only real way to find out what he needed to know was to be right in the thick of it. That was how it always had been. The crazier things were, the more likely he'd be slapped right in the face with the truth.
So what if he got a few bruises along the way?
Edward had no idea how this situation had went from a complete breach of order, and a consequential burst of murderous anger from an extremely powerful wizard, to a sudden eureka moment between two people plotting two very different schemes. He was sure that he was going to be removed from the Dark Lord's order, probably in a violent way, that involved fighting for his life. However, he was suddenly the cream of the crop, and Voldemort, rather than be mad about his attack, was almost praising him for his use of alchemy. It was very confusing.
But he could roll with the punches.
"I'm not going to pretend to understand you Edward Elric," Voldemort moved towards his chair once more, "I'm not even go to pretend that I know what you are,"
"I feel the same way about you dear,"
He looked a little upset that he'd been interrupted, "but I can't afford to lose you, if we're being honest. On my side, you only ensure my victory, on another's side, you could be a barrier that would take years to conquer. I don't have that kind of time."
"I wouldn't want to be a burden,"
"I really would like it if you got out of my sight. You've given me so many reasons to want to kill you within the last hour, I think it's a talent of yours."
Edward was silent.
"Remember when I said I had a task for you to undertake? I'd like you to sit still and listen to what I have to say now, if you'd be so kind."
It sounded less like a request and more like a snake was dragging it's fangs across Edward's ear drum.
Mustang had sent him on plenty of pointless, aggravating, and just plain ridiculous missions during his time in the military. But this…
Well, this was pushing it.
Anything, he would literally have rather done anything else, as long as he didn't have to spend another second with this harpy. Damn it all, he might even consider taking back his no kill rule, or maybe just killing Voldemort before he could even send him on this stupid assignment. Or even better, just kill her, because that would give him the most satisfaction.
As far as diplomacy goes, he was fairly sure that if any other living, breathing human being had to be in the presence of Dolores Umbridge, then they would simply declare war on Magical England and be done with it.
Every other country in the world would probably join in. Maybe even London. War on Umbridge.
"You look a little young to be a government official."
At first Edward thought she meant it as an accusation, but a second glance at her stupid pitbull face told him that it was not so. He was famous enough in Amestris to recognize flirting from all sorts of women, even if it was a horribly phrased backwards way of going about it.
He felt like his mouth was full of ashes, "I am an ambassador," or maybe fire, "miss, and I assure you I am qualified. We don't have to be ancient, just good at keeping the peace." He almost choked on his next words, and wasn't sure if he was going to be able to maintain his cover without being sick every five minutes, "I'm sure a fine woman like yourself would understand the importance of something like that?"
"Oh yes, keeping the peace and all that," she waved her hand dismissively through the air. Edward was sure she had her own ways of 'keeping the peace', and they were all probably just as ugly as she was. Or maybe as ugly as whoever it was that dressed her in the morning. Either one, "of course I recognize the importance, it's just that I haven't been properly introduced to you I'm sure."
"I'm Dolores," she smiled, "Dolores Umbridge that is, and I am going to be traveling to Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry this school year. The Ministry is currently considering the Educational Decree Number Twenty-Two, which will enable the Minister to appoint new professors providing that one cannot be found. As soon as the decree is passed I will be serving as their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher," her smile got wider, and it looked like her face might crack, or melt, "I understand you'll be accompanying me?"
It was sick how they already had it all figured out. The Decree wasn't even passed yet, and she practically had her bags packed. For all he knew, she really did.
"My country is interested in learned how magic is taught here in London," Edward could wax poetic when it came to official, he had been listening to military bullshit for years, "Hogwarts is a very prestigious school, and affiliating ourselves with them would be beneficial for us both. Perhaps an exchange of knowledge about alchemy would be useful."
"Not as prestigious as you'd think," Umbridge muttered, turning in her chair and playing with an empty tea cup that sat lonely on her black desk, "the Headmaster is a nut. He's completely hell bent on destroying all of the order we've established under the Ministry."
"Dumbledore," Edward frowned, "I've met him actually, and he seems just as crazy as you say." He was being honest now, at least they could agree on something, "A complete lunatic."
She perked up even more at this, and he almost wished that he hadn't said anything at all, "A man of reason!" she giggled, and it was like someone had ran their nails across a chalkboard, never had there been a more disgustingly sweet laugh, "we'll have to give him hell when we go, yes?"
"I think maybe we should stick to business, Dolores." Edward resisted the urge to smile, if he could catch her in her admiration of him this easily, then he could gain respect simply by seeming like he was the wiser and more thoughtful of the two. Acting like an adult even when prompted to have a younger perspective would set him apart, earn him distance and discourage snooping. He wanted to appear strict.
Honestly, he was. He might not like to appeal to others rules. But he was fairly strict in his own.
This might be a weird time for it to show.
But nothing about this situation was normal in the first place.
Magic. Good Lord, his life was ridiculous.
"Also," she interrupted his thoughts, "I think you'd find more luck with learners here in the ministry. I'm sure everyone would be happy to learn how to gain immortality," he was fairly certain she was patronising him, but at the same time attempting to convey an actual point. She didn't want the children at Hogwart's learning anything that might assist them in helping Dumbledore gain control of the ministry. She was just as paranoid as the Minister he had spoke to before.
"Yes, well, I'll take my chances. And I don't mean to disappoint, but I don't think I'll be teaching anyone the secrets to immortality," he smiled deviously and lathered on the charm, thinking in his head only about how backwards all of this was, "although I doubt a lady like you really need it."
Umbridge blushed, honest to god, and despite his disgust, he was a little proud of his deception.
I'd like to thank my horrible childhood. I owe my acting skills to you. Thank you for all the help and support with my career. I'll see you when I get home.
He had been sent here by Voldemort under the impression that he would be working with a government official. Not a freaky, evil little girl in a grown ups body, wearing pink sweaters and looking like she wanted to eat him. This was gross.
The Minister, Fudge - which was a horrid name for anyone important, but seemed to be a trend here - had been his first stop. The story was that he was a diplomat sent from Egypt, where apparently the very first recordings of magic were found, and that he came representing the Egyptian Centre for Alchemical Studies. Imagine that.
He had looked at a world map, and he most certainly would have been traveling there instead if he didn't think it would take far too long, be too dangerous, and that it could ultimately be too pointless. From what he had learned about alchemy in this world so far it appeared that it was a completely different form of the art. Or, at least, no one really knew enough about it to do much of anything with it. The only things he had been able to find were legends at best, and they mostly seemed to concern acts that were generally illegal or frowned upon back in Amestris. It wasn't really much to go on.
It seemed that Voldemort had enough influence in Egypt that their story would be able to ring true if anyone bothered to check, though he doubted that they would. Fudge seemed unconcerned with his intentions or his being here at all. He was vaguely worried about him starting a war or attempting to overthrow his power or whatnot when they first met, but Edward had come to see that that was just a general vibe that he gave off. The idea was that he would be shown to one of their most important wizarding landmarks, their school in Scotland, and that he could consider integrating alchemy into their curriculum in exchange for a lesson taught there. Such as classes on Dark Arts, which were only taught in Hogwarts and a school that they called Durmstrang.
Edward didn't like the names here.
What it really seemed to be though was a way of putting a problem in Dumbledore's lap rather than his own. Fudge was almost overeager to make Edward someone else's burden. He didn't want to deal with the responsibility probably. Or, you know, do his job.
All in all, it seemed way too easy to get himself in there, but he supposed that came with the evil dark lord of all stuff. There were even Death Eaters stationed within the ministry he was told he could go to to report or to receive help. It was fun to think about how Fudge would probably shit himself if he knew about all the infiltration and power grabbing that was actually happening. Not just the stuff he seemed to be hallucinating about.
Although this quest of sorts may be the bane of his existence. He had already ran into one of the people who had had a hand in his death before, and that hadn't worked out perfectly. He suspected foul play, but then again, he always did.
He wasn't looking forward to seeing all those people again. His time away from lunatics who kept trying to get under his skin had been pretty nice. He liked it better when the crazy people just left him to his own devices.
It was going to be fun though. To suddenly appear out of nowhere. Hey, it's me, back from the dead! He was going to have a good time thinking of ways to approach it. He could studiously ignore them and pretend it never happened, act like they were crazy, he could never speak to them ever out of genuine anger… He could do all sorts of things. But flashy entrances were always his thing, and he couldn't deny the fact that he was actually a little bit excited for it. What a shocker, this would be the talk of the ages.
Sometimes he made himself laugh.
And if they don't like it, well...
It wasn't like he cared.
Harry sat in his seat at the sorting ceremony, and noticed one thing that he had never expected to see.
"Ron," he whispered, grabbing his friends shoulder with urgency, "Hermione. Look,"
And they looked.
"...though condemned I am to split you
still I worry that it's wrong,
though I must fulfill my duty
and must quarter every year
still I wonder whether sorting
may not bring the end I fear.
Oh, know the perils, read the signs,
the warning history shows,
for our Hogwarts is in danger
from external, deadly foes
and we must unite inside her
or we'll crumble from within
I have told you, I have warned you...
let the Sorting now begin."