- Annie - Maya - Summer - Laura -

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A sharp jerk in my leg brought me back to reality with a gasp.

It was tugging, my leg- wait, my leg's not even there- it's familiar, though- but... no, it couldn't be, that never happens during the middle of the da-

I almost heard the younger me scream in agony. I gave another small gasp- then another- I soon find myself breathing like this, panting, gasping for air. Yes, this was definitely familiar. The quill in my hand snapped in two like a twig, the top flicking away across the table I'd taken in Potions. I practically shook in my seat. I gave a quick glance around. Everybody seemed too busy doing their own thing around me, potions bubbling idly. I let the remaining tip of my feathery writing utensil drop and let my left hand slide away from the table and under to grasp at my left port.

I don't have my leg anymore- it's gone- this is an illusion, Ed, it's already happened. You're imagining the pain. The pain is not real-

Ripping. Stabbing. Tearing.

Out. Gasp. Out. Gasp. GaspGaspGasp.

I let out a loud, shuttering breath and gasped it back in, reaching my automail arm across the table.

Big mistake.

Ripping. Stabbing. Tearing.

It all broke out along my shoulder port.

They're phantom pains, Ed, they aren't real-

But that didn't keep me from gasping and biting down on my lip sharply, shaking heavily in my seat as my left hand gave up and resting back on the table again, shaking and clenching and unclenching.

"Ed! Ed! ED! Brother! BROTHER!"

"ALPHONSE!"

Accompanying the pain in my shoulder came a sharp jerk-

Screeeeeeeeeeeeech!

Through half-closed eyes, I glared at the metal arm that had raked its way down the table, leaving dips in the material along with chalk-white skid-marks. I noticed that my glove had ripped and the metal fingertips now gleamed in the dungeon's light, however little.

That certainly got someone's attention.

"Toll? What toll?"

"He's a bloody cripple!"

I chose- well, not really chose, but I ignored Blaise Zabini and clenched both fists, letting out a sob.

A fucking sob.

Well, fuck.

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"Snape's a bloody git," Ron began, glancing at the man with the aid of his peripheral vision, and tossing his chin slightly in his direction, before riveting his attention back to Harry, "my potion's beautiful. There's nothing wrong with it at all, and if he thinks that -"

Screeeeeeeeeeeeech!

I started at the sound, nearly falling out of my seat and only just catching my hand on the table to steady myself. What in the world was that?

A quick glance around the room helped me to discover that no one was really focusing on the lesson anymore - and me, I haven't been focused on the lesson all class anyway. They all had eyes for only Edward, the golden haired boy that sat only two tables away, broken quill laying upon the surface, and his hand strained and gripping so tightly that it looked as if he would dig his fingers into the wood.

It looked this way, sure, but what surprised him the most was when they actually... Kinda... Did. My feet hit the ground and I was standing before I could even comprehend my own movement, glancing over the tops of heads to see better. What the hell? What was happening?

"He's a bloody cripple!" Zabini's voice was loud and glaring, a usually unwelcome tone, but at the moment, the helpful information was exactly what I wanted to hear. However more confused it made me, I guess.

Because at least now I could understand the strange glint of metal the had caught my eyes beneath the glove. Yet, still, I didn't really get it. A cripple? Were his fingers metal? Was that possible? If someone even lost their fingers, wouldn't they just grow them back? Unless, I thought, thinking quickly of Moody, unless it's... Dark magic... Right?

Then, in another instant, there was a sound I thought I'd never hear. I hadn't even known the boy for very long, but I knew enough about him entirely that his next action made this whole situation seem, if it was at all possible, even more unreal.

Was he crying?

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I've known Ed since forever.

When we were small, we'd always used to go to the river beside the hill and splash and play and have water fights. Sometimes, people would come to wash their clothes or take a bath when they didn't have water - some even joined us, children and teenagers of all ages, just having fun with that cool water against their skin and faces.

I can remember when I see only blood against his face.

That night is forever tagged in my mind as the worst night of my life.

I can hear those nights, that painful moment where his face is in anguish and blood and he's squirming and thrashing on the bed, screaming in pain while Granny bandages his bleeding shoulder, changing out of it's tourniquet.

Then I remember his face, so closed off and his eyes so deep and begging and pleading and full of pain while he shuts his lips tight and forces himself not to scream, not to cry out for help, when me and Granny are attaching new limbs and new nerves and a hunk of metal to his limbs and he's just dying inside and I know that it's all my fault.

There was those nights where he would gasp in sharply and he would cry and I know that he feels something that isn't there.

In the middle of the classroom, I see his face and I know that it's starting again.

His eyes can clearly relive its pain, and I can read him like an open book when he's like this. His fingers, they dig into the wood of the table like he wants to rip it apart. I don't know if he does.

"He's a bloody cripple!"

Immediately, my inside flare, and in my rage, I throw my textbook at Blaise Zabini - hitting his head and sending him to the floor. Professor Snape doesn't look at me - his eyes are trained hard on Edward. Like he's trying to probe him, look him through.

Legillimency.

I stand up, and walk over to Ed so fast that his partner blinks at me for a second in surprise. I glare at the offender, and hold Ed up by his arm, defecting the view of Ed to Snape.

"Come on," I soothe. His brow is damp with sweat. I can see everyone looking at us. "Ed, it's gonna be okay. It's not real. Not real. Just remember that, okay? Not real."

I hope my words go through to him, but he doesn't speak a word. I don't think it has.

"I know," he croaks, voice sounding gravelly. "I know, but it doesn't stop the pain any less."

I knew I had to get him to the infirmary, but for some reason - I knew that he would only get over this with himself.

So I didn't say a word.

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I had always been suspicious of Winry Rockbell and Edward and Alphonse Elric.

Yes, Dumbledore had assured me that they were three harmless teenagers. That they were only here temporarily. That they were trying to find a way home. And yet, my logical mind wouldn't let me accept that answer. Why couldn't they Apparate home? Why couldn't they use the Floo? Or even some of the—God forbid—Muggle methods of transportation? It didn't add up, and I was determined to find out what their true story was.

I had always planned on reading one of their minds at some point, but had never gotten the chance. Even during the (several) detentions the elder Elric had received, he had always glared into whatever concoction I forced him to clean up, never meeting my eyes for more than a brief, unexpected second.

But now, something seemed horribly, horribly wrong. The usually composed boy was shaking violently in his seat near the front, his face like chalk and his hands clutching the desk tightly. There was a loud screech as he moved his right hand along the table, and I realized with surprise that his fingers had gouged into the wood. Zabini's yell from the adjacent table explained much, but it left more questions than it answered. Nobody in the world had any sort of prostheses that were made of steel, as Elric's fingers seemed to be. And for me, Severus Snape, who was unusually observant, to not notice that his hand was fake, it had to be highly advanced technology. Nothing like Mad-Eye Moody's leg, or old Kettleburn's crude plastic prostheses.

And, quite possibly the most important question: how did he lost his hand in the first place?

But here I spied my golden opportunity. Whatever was wrong, he was obviously in a great deal of pain, and in no state to communicate what was ailing him. Yet, nothing seemed wrong with him physically. As much as I disliked the Gryffindor, it was my job to protect the students. I muttered a quick Legilimens under my breath, looking straight into Elric's agony-filled, unseeing eyes.

The boy's mind was a jumble, hazed over with pain and terror. I realized quickly that the boy was—for whatever reason—reliving the incident where he had lost his hand. I found it odd that there were several unrelated images—so many, traveling so fast, that my head hurt a great deal trying to focus on them—and instead tried to make clear which incident was the accident. That, most likely, would be where his mind was, and where I could most easily pull him out.

I landed upon a memory of a dark room, splattered all across the floor with blood, and lit up with an eerie purple glow. One boy—a younger Edward—was trying to balance on one leg as he reached in alarm for someone who looked like a younger Alphonse. The younger boy looked equally terrified, and seemed to be being dragged by some strange force into the source of the violet light.

Wait...leg?

But then what about his hand?

Alphonse disappeared, and Edward slumped to the ground with a sob.

Elric's mind jumped suddenly to another memory, presumably not long after; his leg was sloppily tied by a tourniquet, but he was still bleeding heavily. His younger self drew some sort of circle on a suit of armor with his own blood, yelled something incomprehensible, and clapped his hands. He vanished suddenly, but appeared again after a second. Except this time, he was missing nearly all of both his right arm and left leg.

What the...?

Inexplicably, the armor began to move.

I never got to see any more; Winry Rockbell pulled Elric from his chair by his left arm, breaking our eye contact, and hauled him to the door as gently as she could. She muttered something in a soothing tone, though I couldn't quite make out what it was. As the two of them turned through the doorway and vanished from view, the rest of the class looked on in shocked silence.

I recovered before any of them, though, and snapped in my usual manner—"Get back to your potions, or I'll take points from Gryffindor!"

Several of the students grumbled—Ronald Weasley was chief among them—and gradually got back to the lesson of the day. I continued to sit at my desk at the front, mulling over what I had been able to glean from the boy's mind. The Elrics couldn't have been older than ten or eleven, and Alphonse had disappeared. Where had he gone, and how was he back now? How were Edward's prostheses—most likely both his arm and leg, now that I thought about it—so much more advanced than anything I had ever heard of?

And most importantly:

What the hell happened in those memories?

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