Yeah look see I can do quick(-ish) updates.
I warn you of the long monologues in this chapter and non-existent plotline. CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED.
Also I seem to be incapable of actually putting emotion into an emotional scene because I suck, so also be warned of the non-emotional pathetic scenes. otl
Chapter Eleven - Too Much Information
Mindless whispers echoed around the Great Hall like parrot chatter that morning. All were the same - 'You-Know-Who is back' - but Ed couldn't bring himself to care. He had no clue who this 'You-Know-Who' guy is or why he had such a stupid nickname and frankly he had more pressing matters to concentrate on.
"You!" a voice rudely yelled in his direction from the Hufflepuff table. Ed blinked, taken aback, and cast his gaze over the studdent population in an attempt to find the person responsible.
It was difficult to miss her. A bright tuft of turquoise hair stood atop her head, and she was wearing the wrong tie. A purple-painted nail was pointed accusingly at him as she thoughtfully provided an explanation. "It was you, wasn't it, transfer student? I know The Quibbler's editor is Loony Lovegood's father, and you two have been awful close recently. You manipulated Lovegood to make her father publish false stories about You-Know-Who's return!"
Ed, for once in his lifetime, was rendered completely and utterly speechless. He was suddenly aware of the fact that he was eating breakfast with Luna that morning at the Ravenclaw table in an attempt to avoid Harry, and realised there was not much he could say in his defence.
He was again reminded of the slightly worrying - and frankly painful - events that had taken place three days ago.
"I want an explanation, Ed."
Ed gritted his teeth. "I'm sorry, but I can't give you one."
The sharp emerald eyes narrowed at the response, but Harry's grip loosened on Ed's shoulder, and he simply sighed. "Look, Ed, at the risk of sounding naïve, I thought we were friends. I understand that everyone has their secrets, but if your secret is so big you've lied about your age - then who knows what else you've been lying about? Maybe you've completely faked your identity. And to be honest, I'm not comfortable knowing that there's some guy in my life who I might know literally nothing about. Who knows, you could be dangerous. Hell, you could be one of Voldemort's lackeys for all I know! I just need something, Ed; something to tell me that I can trust you."
The rest of the group was out of sight now, and the blonde slumped wearily against the stone wall. Suddenly, the age of the boy - no, man - was shockingly obvious, and Harry wondered how he'd ever been fooled.
"I haven't really lied about much," Ed hesitantly started, keeping eye contact with the ground and his voice carefully controlled. "Yeah, I'm eighteen, not fifteen... but my name is Edward Elric, I'm here to study, and I'm no enemy of yours."
Harry waited patiently. He could tell Ed was deciding exactly how much to tell him.
"Look, Harry... You gotta promise not to say anything, okay? I mean, Dumbledore knows it all, but no one else really knows anything and it's got to stay that way." Ed's eyes were serious, all traces of jest gone, and Harry nodded definitely, preparing himself for any and all possibilities of what Ed could say next.
Ed inhaled. "I'm here undercover. I was sent here by my... boss, so that I can research some stuff to benefit the guys back home. But I'm one of the 'good guys', okay? I really don't mean anyone any harm, but I hope you can understand why I had to disguise some stuff, otherwise..."
"Otherwise people would ask questions. Right." Harry seemed complacent enough, though Ed still shrunk slightly under his harsh gaze. It was suspicious and searching, and the opposite of his previous soft, friendly expression.
"Yeah, okay. Whatever," Harry murmured softly, sighing as he ran a hand absentmindedly through his jet-black locks. "I'm glad you could tell me, even a bit... Although how am I to know you're not lying about that, too?" he added with a chuckle, and though it seemed good-hearted enough, Ed still felt a prick of hurt at the distrustful attitude.
Damn it all, Ed thought as Harry strolled away to his next lesson, and he cursed his habit of getting attached to people.
He winced at the memory. He hadn't been that vulnerable to someone in quite a while.
Ed's ear twitched at a familiar voice - the very voice he'd been avoiding at all costs for the past three days - exclaim loudly, "Haven't I been saying this all along?"
He watched as Harry slumped forward in his seat in frustration, and as Ron rubbed his back in a gesture of comfort. Ed had never been the best at lipreading, though he saw the words form on Harry's lips over and over - "I knew it I knew it I knew it" - and wondered who the hell could have the whole school in such a state.
Well, whoever it is, it's worth telling Mustang about them.
As if by magic, at that moment, his owl gracelessly dropped a sharp, papery object on his plate, flapping his wings and zooming out of the hall like a dizzy chicken.
Batting away the irritation at the incompetent animal, he carelessly broke the seal and tugged the short but sweet letter out of its envelope.
My dear Fullmetal,
I'm sure the only reason you received a Valentine at all was because you look so weird that girls mistook you for being somewhat attractive. If you had been back in Amestris, I doubt any of the female population would have made that mistake.
As well as being far more attractive than you, I also bear far more patience. I can wait for new information regarding the possibilites and limits of interspacial travel.
- Colonel Roy Mustang
P.S. Alphonse requested I include this as neither he nor Mrs Elric were able to send you a letter as they're currently busy moving house.
Ed raised an eyebrow at the afternote. What's 'this'? He rooted around in the military envelope, and his golden eyes widened briefly as his fingers stroked something smooth and shiny. He carefully slid the slip of paper out, and his heart melted as he took in the vision before him.
It was a photograph of his dear brother and Winry on their wedding day, both wearing expressions of clear euphoria and looking goddamn beautiful.
He fought a stray tear as he realised he had missed the wedding after all, just as Al had warned him not to. March already... Heh, time flies when you're having fun, he thought sarcastically.
"Uwaaah..." a breathy voice whispered in awe from his left.
Ed jumped slightly, though couldn't resist the wide grin as pride shot through his small frame.
"Who's wedding...?" Luna questioned, reaching meekly for the slightly bent paper to get a better look. Ed handed it over, though continued to stare longingly at it over the blonde girl's shoulder.
"My brother and my best friend," he chuckled softly, his smile tinted with melancholy.
Luna sighed - happily or sadly, Ed couldn't tell - and turned to the boy beside her, delicately handing back the photo as if it might break at the slightest of touches. "They look very happy."
Ed nodded enthusiastically. "I'm sure they are. They've loved each other since childhood."
"That's so romantic," Luna giggled, and the sparkle in her cerulean irises caused Ed's heart to jolt.
"I... I suppose it is," he murmured, a small grin matching the younger girl's spreading on his face.
The following silence between them was almost tangible, thick with something that Ed couldn't describe that made the blood pool in his cheeks and his calloused hands tremble.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, Ed was still undecided), the lull in conversation was broken as a Gryffindor - Ed strongly suspected Ron - knocked a tin bowl full of various magical fruits onto the granite floor with a harsh, squeaky crash.
Laughter ensued throughout the hall and gradually it also infected the two short blondes.
Ed paused, nibbling absent-mindedly on the end of Harry's borrowed pen as he considered which code to use.
Believe it or not, it's not me who's weird here, it's everyone else. They walk around in capes and wave sticks around.
And for your own safety, I'm going to ignore that attractiveness comment.
Ed's eyes narrowed minutely as he was reminded of the ugly irritation that sentence had ignited within him.
Everyone here is going insane over some 'You-Know-Who' guy who's apparently back from somewhere. And there's also this bitch called Umbridge who makes students write lines that etch the words into their skin with quills that use their own blood as ink, and she's a total creep. Plus she works for some fucked up government.
Although there isn't really anything mission-related to tell you about, as I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to continue my research. I do have loads of books lined up to read, though, so as soon as I get round to it I'll report what I find out.
Satisfied, he roughly folded up the parchment and inserted it into Mustang's envelope, re-sealing it with selotape and shoving it angrily at his uncooperative owl. "No, you stupid animal, stop sleeping and deliver my bloody letter," he mumbled.
Eventually, the owl - which he'd impulsively named 'Mustang Jr.' after a loud argument with it over whether it was actually going to give him his mail or not - finally flapped out of the Owlery, squawking irritably at him. Ed rested his elbows on the balcony railings, watching it gradually fade out into the distant, dark night with eyes half-lidded with boredom and fatigue.
An icy shiver crawled over his bare arms and pinched his rough skin, though Ed was oblivious to the chilly spring air, his sharp mind lost among the midnight clouds as he fidgeted restlessly.
The event at breakfast had really been bothering him; he hadn't been able to concentrate during any of his classes today, which was unusual for him. What was even more shocking, however, was his following inability to consume lunch or dinner. He hadn't even noticed the twinges of pain in his gut at the lack of food, for his mind was totally focused on just one thing; something that totally bemused Ed, and something whose unfamiliarity was very disconcerting for the young man.
Ed had always been a man of science. Formulae, equations and logic ruled over him, and he worshipped the laws of nature and physics religiously. He had spent his life studying how the world works through precise calculations. To him, the world was painted in black and white; things were either correct or incorrect, right or wrong; and, failing that, simply theoretical, providing a comfortable grey area for unknown material.
Recently, however, he'd been slightly unnerved. Certain events involving a certain blonde had triggered certain emotions and decisions that were far from logical. Ed knew that whatever he was feeling wasn't love; but he was also fully aware of the fact that it was far more than something platonic. This was not Ed's way; he had never been swayed by something like mere attraction before. Sure, he openly acknowledged that Winry and some of the women he worked with were very pretty, but he'd never felt anything more than that about it. They were simply people in his life, like Al and Mustang and Havoc.
Ed's expression drooped with many emotions that he couldn't put into words. He sighed in something like acceptance and something like defeat as he realised that for all his scientific and alchemical knowledge and prowess, he was still just an eighteen-year-old boy, clumsy and inexperienced in the simultaneously exciting and terrifying world of romance that painted his monochromatic life in shades of pink and blue.
"What the hell is this?" Ed asked no one in particular, his golden gaze fixed on the gargoyle leering at him from its place atop a marble column.
The blonde teen jerked back a step as the statue suddenly moved, sliding smoothly out of his way and revealing a spiral staircase.
"Tch..." Ed shook his head in mild amusement at the strange Headmaster's antics as he swiftly ascended the steps, leaping lithely over two or three at a time.
"Welcome," a kind voice echoed as Ed's knuckles were almost touching the grand oak doors. "Come in, Mr. Elric."
Ed placed a cautious foot into the impressive - although odd - office, and the other quickly followed suit. "Yo," he greeted casually.
Dumbledore smiled, his young eyes twinkling at the alchemist from behind his desk. "What is it you wish to see me for?"
Ed strolled up to the looming piece of furniture and placed himself in a nearby seat. "Was just wondering who this 'You-Know-Who' character is. Everyone's in a crazy panic and I feel like I should be too, because he must be pretty bad to have an effect like that on people." Ed pulled a face. "And what's with the lame nickname, anyway?"
A croaky chuckle wheezed through the old man's lips. "His real name - not his original name, mind you, though he prefers to forget that now - is Voldemort. However, it has become a taboo of sorts to mention his name aloud because he is so revered and feared, and so he is commonly known as 'You-Know-Who' or 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named'. I don't imagine you're the type of person to honour that tradition - rather like Harry."
"Still, if you must call him by his name, please at least try to be subtle about it, otherwise you'll just attract more attention than you've already gained." The wizard shot Ed a meaningful look, and the blonde squirmed in his seat.
Dumbledore breathed deeply as he pushed his halfmoon glasses further up his crooked nose. "Voldemort is possibly one of the most powerful wizards in existence. However, he decided long ago to use his power for evil. To explain briefly, as I'm sure there's something you'd rather be doing than hearing an old man drone on," he smiled amusedly, "Harry Potter is famous because of an encounter he had with Voldemort while only an infant."
A curious golden eyebrow was raised.
"You see, Harry is the only one who Voldemort was unable to kill. The remnants of the Avada Kedavra curse are left as a scar on his forehead. Voldemort now seeks Harry's life. The reason the students were so riled up over such an event was because Voldemort was believed to be dead until today."
Ed opened his mouth, but he was quickly silenced by a wrinkled, ringed finger. "Before you say it has nothing to do with you," Dumbledore began, eliciting a grunt of protest from the young alchemist, "let me assure you that our agreement with your military states you are obliged to prevent to the best of your abilities any harm coming to the school or its students. Voldemort is a threat to not only Harry but the entire student and teacher population, so I would be grateful if you would make it something to do with you."
"Ah, fine," Ed agreed willingly enough, slouching back into the comfy chair and crossing his arms leisurely. "I'll help you with this Voldeward-"
"-and his whole 'let's kill people' thing." Ed glanced at the looming bespectacled grandfather clock to his left. "Ah, I need to go."
Dumbledore waved him away amusedly. "Go as you please."
Ed sighed, his shimmering locks glittering in the evening light as he strolled across the large field. He wasn't quite sure why he was going there again - to relax? To get away from everyone? Avoid Harry?
He frowned in something like resignation, because Ed knew they weren't the reason; but if it wasn't something like that, then what was it?
A snort and dusty kick of hooves broke him from his reverie, and Ed grinned at the skeletal animal, patting its side fondly as his gaze roamed the surrounding area.
He blinked in surprise as something was hung in the middle of his vision, and he had to lean back for his eyes to properly focus on the object. It was a small lilac drawstring pouch - but that didn't quite matter now, since his shoulder had made contact with something warm behind him.
"They're blueberries," a breathy voice whispered onto his neck, and Ed felt the hairs stand on end where the sound had fallen.
He shivered slightly, belatedly accepting the proffered bag as Luna wandered into the front of his vision. She was smiling.
Ed couldn't resist the tug at his own lips at the sight. He said softly, "Hey, Luna."
There was no reply, but her slender hand paused fractionally as it offered a handful of berries to her favourite thestral, and Ed knew she'd heard.
He emptied the bag into his right hand as he approached a ghostly being. Ed watched with fascination as it ate roughly, though couldn't help the poke in the back of his mind that pestered to know what sort of blueberries had inch-long thorns.
"Ouch," he hissed, automatically drawing his hand away to see the damage. It was rare that he experienced anything other than phantom aches in his automail hand, and he was nervous as he searched the palm for the source of the pain.
Luna gazed over at him, concern seeping into her tone as she asked, "Are you okay?"
Ed nodded as he eyed the thorn wedged in one of the wrist joints. It must have hit a wire.
As the alchemist poked at it slightly and wondered how he was going to get it out without damaging the wire it was pressing into, two smaller hands appeared in his vision, the smooth pale skin a sharp contrast to his deep silver limb.
Luna took his hand in hers as she too studied the foreign object intensely.
However, before she could properly analyse it, Ed had drawn his hand back as if it had been burned. Luna's eyes were round with surprise and Ed instantly felt a pang of guilt in his gut. "Don't..." he murmured, his automail half-hidden behind his vested back.
The witch's stance faltered - Ed wasn't sure why, or what for - and she attempted, again, to inspect the thorn, but this time slowly and delicately, every motion a silent question to proceed.
Ed gave in, and stared intensely at the girl whose hands he let grasp his prosthetic firmly.
The alchemist almost missed the question entirely it was so quiet, and he found himself unable to respond. He stared down at the lowered head, bent over his hand and avoiding eye contact.
Luna's face creased in something - worry, confusion, hurt - as she breathed, "Why do you get so nervous when I touch your automail?"
Ed's breath hitched in his throat that suddenly felt a little dry.
Luna knew she might be treading on broken glass. "Is... Is it because you are embarrassed of it? Or ashamed of it?"
The words Ed was so used to saying - the same words of mocking denial that spun off his tongue like a fractured movie reel - were somehow lodged in his throat, and he found himself unable to deny the pure truth of her words.
Luna lifted her head, the burning intensity in those glistening cerulean eyes almost enough to knock Ed off his feet. "What is there to be ashamed of? You lost a limb - that is not shameful! And even more, you actively did something to fix it; you didn't lose hope and give up! You tried your best to fix the problem and had the strength to stand back up on your own two feet!"
'Stand up and walk.'
Rose's image suddenly flashed through Ed's mind as he recalled the event from so long ago. 'Keep going forward. At least you have two strong legs to get you there.'
He blinked slowly, and realised what a hypocrite he was.
Luna gritted her teeth, tears forming and dripping onto his automail with limp splashes, but the raging emotions in the young girl's eyes drowned their sound out.
"I wouldn't call that shameful," she continued in a lower, though considerably shakier tone. "I would call that admirable!"
Ed's jaw went slack. The word ricocheted around his head like a loose cannon - admirable. No one had ever used a word such as admirable to describe his automail before. Sure, he'd heard the lot: strong, useful, scary, convenient, inconvenient... but never admirable.
"Don't," Luna whispered, her hands trembling horribly by this point as she mimicked Ed's earlier words. "Don't ever feel like that, okay?"
The young man let out a shaky breath as he worried his hair with his free hand nervously. "Okay."
Luna let out a choked sob, freeing his hand only to push herself against Ed's chest and bury her damp face in his neck.
His arms instinctively wrapped around her as she wept openly, a steel heaviness gripping his heart as every muffled cry shot through his chest like a diamond arrow.
"Stupid," he muttered under his breath, and he refused to acknowledge the fact that Luna had certainly heard his voice crack. "Don't cry over me."