Story cover by NinthFeather!
Harry didn't quite know what to think of Edward Elric. The Slytherin was an enigma, every bit of him; he had arrived suddenly for his fifth year and had offered no explanation for where he had come from. He had a strange accent, but his English was impeccable…almost as if he had only mastered it recently. Of course, there was the matter of his long hair and striking golden eyes.
And, strangest yet, he didn't have the cruelty stereotypical of Slytherins. He didn't seem to acknowledge his housemates at all; he spent all of his free time in the library. Harry rarely saw him at meals.
Ron had remarked that he didn't seem to fit in at Hogwarts at all, and Harry thought he had to agree. Yes, he attended classes; yes, he practiced magic; but Elric made no effort to befriend any of his classmates at all. None of the Slytherins seemed to hate him, but none of them liked him, either.
Hermione saw him often during her excursions to the library, and apparently they had spoken a few times. He seemed nice enough, she reported back. He didn't mind that she was Muggleborn, or even that she was a Gryffindor. He had been very reserved about his own life, though. All Hermione could tell was that whatever he was studying was far more advanced than their schoolwork.
Hermione seemed to be the closest to the boy as the weeks passed, though that was saying very little. He almost seemed to avoid speaking with the other students, and the rest of the fifth years treated him similarly.
Harry thought it strange that Hermione would invite him to the first meeting of their anti-Umbridge group.
He thought it even stranger that the boy showed up.
Elric sat a bit away from the assembled Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, and Ravenclaws in the Hog's Head; it was no surprise that he was the only Slytherin in attendance. He listened intently to what Harry and Hermione said, though, and signed the sheet when it came to him. Harry caught up to him before he left the pub—
"Elric, no offense, but why—"
"Did I join your little club?" he laughed rather hollowly. "I know an idiot when I see one. Umbridge is one of them. And I know a bit about rebellion…maybe I can help you." And he hurried out into the cold before Harry could say another word.
Harry didn't have a chance to talk to him again until the first practical meeting of Dumbledore's Army. He had decided to start the lessons off slowly, teaching everyone Expelliarmus first. To nobody's real surprise, Elric was left without a partner. Hermione hurried to practice with him, but it quickly became apparent that he didn't need much help. As Harry watched incredulously, he fired off a spell strong enough to knock Hermione back several feet. His aim was impeccable. The thought jumped unbidden to his mind that he was glad he was on relatively good terms with the boy.
And then, Harry had the idea to ask Elric to help lead the class. When he suggested it to him later, he shrugged and nodded.
As the year went on, Elric—Ed—seemed to become more friendly with the members of the DA. Harry couldn't help but notice, though, that he also seemed to grow less enthusiastic about, well, everything. When he asked him about it, though, he received only a hollow laugh and a cryptic reply—
"Just thinking about home. I never found out…"
He had refused to say anything after that, so Harry had pushed it to the back of his mind—for the time being—and surveyed the rest of his students as they worked on the Reductor Curse. They were progressing very well, in his opinion, and several people's self-confidence also seemed to be rising. Overall, he was very pleased.
Inevitably, Harry's thoughts strayed back to Ed. He felt a strange sort of friendship forming with the volatile Slytherin. When he had mentioned this to him, though, Ed had laughed and shaken his head. They were all probably the closest things he had to friends at Hogwarts, he had said, but it wouldn't last. If all went well, he'd be leaving soon. Harry didn't understand, but figured that if he asked, he'd probably only receive a punch to the face.
Eventually, they reached the much-anticipated Patronus lesson. Harry thought with a bit of amusement that maybe they had finally found a challenge for Ed. The boy had mastered every other spell with ease, but this was notoriously difficult to produce correctly.
Ed looked positively miserable as he arrived moments before the lesson started. Harry had no time to ask him about it, though, as everyone was clamoring for him to begin. He explained how to properly cast the spell, and then produced his own stag Patronus. Apparently inspired by the performance, his classmates quickly dispersed to practice on their own. Nothing appeared immediately, but he had expected that; it would probably take a while for anyone to even produce the mist.
He wandered around to all of his students while they tried with varying degrees of success, giving tips and correcting wand movements. Eventually, he found himself near Ed. Rather than attempting the charm like everyone else, he was simply standing there, looking at his wand with a frown.
Harry made his way closer, rather confused. How hard was it to think of a happy memory and try casting the charm? "What's the problem, Ed?"
He looked up at him with dull golden eyes, a far cry from his usually intense stare. "It needs a happy memory?"
His brow furrowed more. "So if I can't think of one, then I can't do it?"
"You don't have any happy memories?" Harry was rather incredulous. Surely there had been something positive in the boy's life…
He shook his head slowly. "They all have bad memories attached. Any happy memories were too long ago for me to remember clearly enough."
"Well…" Harry racked his brain, trying to think of something that would work. "Over the summer, I thought of Ron and Hermione. So maybe just a happy idea…?"
Ed seemed to consider this. "What about something I want to happen in the future?" he asked finally. "It hasn't happened yet, but when it does, that will be the happiest day of my life…"
"If you can picture it well enough, I guess," Harry shrugged. "No harm in trying…just picture it as clearly as you can, and say Expecto Patronum."
Ed nodded and closed his eyes, a slight smile forming on his lips as he raised his wand. Harry expected nothing to happen, or, at best, some silver mist to appear.
He was totally unprepared for the enormous, roaring lion that issued from Ed's wand.
Everyone stopped and turned to stare. Ed was watching the lion with a wistful expression; he looked more alive than he had throughout the rest of the lesson. "How'd you do that?" Seamus demanded loudly, staring at the lion as well.
Ed only shrugged, turning his attention to Harry as the Gryffindor asked, "What'd you think of? That's a really powerful Patronus…"
He smiled ruefully. "Getting my brother back."
Turning to his Patronus again, Ed clearly intended on ending the conversation. The others were beginning to get back to their own work, obviously spurred on by Ed's success. "So—uh—are you all right?" Harry asked. Ed gave him an odd look, and he hastily continued, "You looked really upset when you came in…I was just worried…"
Ed laughed that odd, humorless laugh again. "I hit a dead end. But—"
Crack. Dobby appeared out of nowhere in front of the two of them, his green eyes wide with terror. "Mister Harry Potter, sir! She is coming!"
The bottom dropped out of Harry's stomach. Ed's grim face showed he knew what the house elf was talking about as well.
"Hey!" the Slytherin bellowed. Everyone turned to him in surprise. "Class is ending early. Leave right now, through the door…there," he gestured to a door on the opposite wall that had just appeared. "You know how it works. Act casual. Be discreet. But we're leaving, now."
Many people looked like they wanted to argue, but Ed's face was rather frightening; soon, the room was nearly empty. Harry was just herding Ron, Hermione, and Ed out when the original door banged open, and Umbridge stomped in.
The worst-case scenario had come to pass: the DA had been found out; Dumbledore had been run out of Hogwarts; Umbridge was Headmistress.
Ed stopped showing up to classes once Dumbledore was gone. Hermione said she had caught glimpses of him in the library, but nobody had seen him otherwise.
The fifth years had bigger things to worry about, though; O.W.L.s were nearly upon them, and everyone was driving themselves mad preparing. Even Harry and Ron, who despised studying as a general rule, were buckling down on their books.
Harry even ventured to the library a few times. One late Sunday night a week into Umbridge's reign, he was perusing the Defense section when he heard a strangled yell from a few rows away. He dashed over to find Ed sitting at an enormous table covered with parchment. Harry couldn't hope to understand what was written there; beside the fact that it seemed to be written in a different language, there were also several complex diagrams. Some had been scribbled over; some seemed half-finished; but the one in front of Ed was the biggest and most intricate. As Ed looked up at Harry, his face shone with delirious joy.
"I did it!"
"Did what?" Harry asked curiously, leaning closer to the parchment. The diagram was a large circle with dozens of lines and runes criss-crossing it. Harry doubted that even Hermione would understand it.
"I'm going home," Ed said, grinning up at Harry with strangely bright eyes. "This is it. I just need to activate it, and I'll see Al again…"
Harry didn't really understand what he was talking about, but Ed looked happier than he had ever seen him. Over the year, he had constantly talked about how much he missed his brother, so Harry was glad that they would finally be reunited. "Congratulations," he offered as sincerely as he could. "Are you going to wait until after our O.W.L.s, or…?"
Ed looked at him incredulously. "Are you stupid? Tonight! I need to get back to Al, and Winry, and Granny…" he continued to mumble to himself as he stacked the excess parchment. "Where is big enough? The Quidditch pitch, do you think?"
"...Big enough for what?" Quite frankly, Ed's new, cheery attitude was starting to confuse him. He had never seen the boy so happy!
"To draw the array! I can't mess it up by making it too small!" He gestured impatiently to the complex circle on the parchment.
"Er…well, yeah, the pitch is pretty big," Harry agreed, still not really understanding the situation. "Where is 'home,' anyway? Will you ever come back?"
Ed froze. "It's far away," he said after a moment. "And, unless this fails, you won't ever see me again."
"Oh." Harry was not at all happy with this idea. He and Ed had become fairly good friends over the year, and he knew many members of the DA had come to feel the same way. For him to suddenly just disappear, forever…
"Er…" Ed trailed off, obviously uncomfortable. "Will you tell everyone good-bye for me? And—thank you." Harry had never heard him say that phrase before, and was very surprised to see the sincerity on the Slytherin's face. "For teaching me the Patronus last week…I would have given up without it."
"You're welcome," Harry said, watching as Ed Banished everything but his finished diagram. The two of them walked toward the exit. "So…you're going out to the pitch, then?"
"Mmhmm. Have a nice life, I guess," Ed said, stopping at the doorway and offering his hand. "Good luck with Umbitch, and Baldiewhore, and all them."
Harry laughed and shook the extended hand. "I'll do my best. You get back home to your brother, okay?"
Ed laughed as well—it was loud and amazingly genuine; Harry had never heard one like it—and nodded, walking away quickly down the dark corridor.
The last Harry ever saw of him was his broad, confident back.