Ooooooooh yeah. Great balls of fire. The reviews/faves are like them Pillsbury Grands little biscuit $h*ts with the layers. Golden on the outside, soft and spongy and warm on the inside. Watching the reviews come in was also like watching those little bitches grow in the oven, except Pillsbury lied because they don't expand exponentially like in the commercials. We just baked some and I literally sat by the oven for all fifteen minutes, waiting for them to get all tall and golden before my eyes like some kind of instantaneous chemical reaction. I was disappointed by the Grands-spectator sport wise, but they sure as hell were delicious. So yes, I just compared all my readers to a refrigerator biscuit. Sorry. Also, sorry for the wait. I'm not gonna lie: college is hella fun and busy and sleep-killing. Enjoy.
Chapter 5: Resistance Interlude
Brother's scar had opened up again. There was a trickle of blood above his right eye in the slightly color-tinted wanted poster. Edward was glowering fiercely, twisting a split lip downwards and showing off his generally beaten face. He really did look like a criminal, complete with dangerous eyes, bruises, and a scowl. If Alphonse didn't know any better, he would have thought the face printed before him belonged to a genuine delinquent. Then again, Brother wasn't to fond of following the rules, so being surprised about the whole thing was out of the question. Al thought of what Ed might say as a response to the poster. There was a brand of strange joy that would prompt the elder brother to snatch the page and scan it hungrily. His first comment would probably be something along the lines of:
"I look like a badass!"
And Alphonse would inevitably respond "No, you look scary."
"And badasses generally look scary."
"I don't know, you just kind of look plain scary-and maybe a bit injured."
"Exactly. I look badass."
"Keep telling yourself that, brother."
Of course Ed would grumble something and frown a bit, but Al tended to come out the victor in arguments-no matter how petty they were. After a bit of sulking and plenty of glances at the poster, Alphonse was positive Edward would inevitably mention a desire to keep the document and then go into detail on how he would use alchemy to mat and frame it.
The paper went into the empty suit of armor. It would be an amusing gift for his brother.
Al wished that he could have been there to see Ed's reaction to the four printed above his moving photo. The eldest Elric was an unsubtle person and, if there ever was a subtle number it would be four. The Fullmetal alchemist would certainly prefer something with more bravado- like one or two. Four just sounded like ill thought-out last words- something along the lines of "Did I leave the gas on?" Or "Et tu, Brute?"-at least, that's how Ed would sum it up. Personally, Alphonse thought "Et tu, Brute?" was a very deep and meaningful last line involving the fundamental hurt of betrayal, but his brother would probably prefer words with a heightened shock value like "Brutus, you son of a bitch!" which, while essentially saying the same thing, lacked the original's grace and sophistication.
Al retrieved the poster from the depths of his armor, giving his brother's mugshot a long, lonely look. He missed Ed. The fact that Alphonse was currently imagining conversations with him only proved that point.
The armored boy sat a while longer, staring at the poster in his hands. Surrounding him was a corridor fit for the grandest promenade of kings. The floors were a creamy, buffed granite that sparkled in the light of numerous golden chandeliers. Thousands of paintings hung on alcoved walls, spreading all the way up to a vaulted ceiling. The air filled the tall area with long echoes and the muted chattering of students. The hallway belonged to a magnificent place.
Hogwarts was no number four (not that Edward was either- in life at least). Hogwarts was number one, only exhibiting the grandest form of grandeur. It soared with Escher-like architecture and glowed with millions of candle flames.
It was a shame not all the castle's contents were up to those standards. Skulking between dark corners of those hallowed halls, were the dregs of wizarding society. A veritable combination of bigotry, ignorance, and unwarranted superiority crawled the corridors, bringing down any soul that chose to withhold the old principles of the school.
Al was appalled. Death-eaters running such an institution. It was awful. He had only been at Hogwarts for about two weeks and he had saved at least two dozen students from inevitable torture. It wasn't metaphorical torture either. It was the real deal, the kind the twisted the space where Al's heart would be; a physical, mental, and emotional attack on anyone who set a toe millimeters out of line. So the alchemist came to the resolution that he would defend the young people who had come to school for learning and got violence and lies instead.
The student body was under the impression the castle itself was helping them, springing doors and new passageways for escape from the likes of the Carrows or any other Death-eater-du-jour. Every time, this occurrence was accompanied by a flash of blue lightning. It was a very strange phenomenon. Alphonse was not planning on taking credit for these happenings any time soon. It wouldn't do anyone any good if he could no longer help the students- except Voldemort's followers, who held mounting frustration in regards to the castle. To them, it seemed the whole structure had taken the side of Dumbledor's Army and similar resistance groups. It was enough to think the ceiling might collapse over them in a form of vengeance.
Al though it was kind of funny. It would be genuinely humorous if the people he was saving children from weren't so evil.
There was a particular student that was the command of resistance, in essence a general- if generals were clumsy, idealistic seventeen year olds with far too much bravery. He was even accompanied by two lieutenants who looked up to him despite his obvious self doubt. These were, of course, figurative rankings, but a large portion of the student body looked to this individual as a leader.
It was an easy decision to like and respect Neville Longbottom. Al had enough cover to watch the comings and goings of the young man. Neville helped younger students from any house, guarding them with a ferocity almost unfitting for his disposition. It still seemed right for the boy to be that way, though.
His actions were something commendable, but they lead to a lot of alchemy on Alphonse's part. This was mostly due to that fact that Neville, much like Al's brother, was not a subtle person and instead found a great feeling of victory when his counter fight was discovered by enemies. Unfortunately, it wasn't always positive experience for the Gryffindor when the Death-eaters caught him red handed, so the armored alchemist aided the student when he could. It was plenty of work for Alphonse.
The poster was back behind Al's chest plate, flattened and then folded into neat, equal quarters. Someone was pounding down the hall. A commotion was up ahead.
Standing, the suit of armor blended with its fellows, watching as two young ladies flew by, heels barely touching the stone floors. From the brief glance that Alphonse got, it was apparent they were the two lieutenants, Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood.
Al was quite taken by both of them. Ginny was fiery maelstrom of fighting spirit, a woman of the revolution. Whenever a scrimmage between forces ensued, she was always on the front lines, wand a blur with blazing spells and hexes. He'd seen her disarm three consecutive opponents in a fight. Ginny Weasley was a formidable young lady.
The second lieutenant, Luna Lovegood was a pale, thin thing with a crop of wavy, nearly white, blond locks. Alphonse commonly found her perplexing as she tended to be an expert on things no one else was an expert on- like particular magical creatures that the others didn't believe in or knot tying or the components of explosives.
Al knew the components of explosives and so far, Luna had never gotten her facts wrong.
When in combat, the young lady seemed to zigzag from back to front, healing the wounded only the rush forward and stun a Death-eater. Possibly the most distinctive thing about Luna was her apparent ability to deliver frightening, unavoidable truths with an ease akin to the invention of Velcro shoes. The young alchemist has seen this in action only a few days into his Hogwarts stay. Lovegood had taken down Amycus Carrow and then, ignoring all hectic action around her, kneeled down and looked hard at the man.
"You are a foolish little man." She told him with minimal emotion, as if he wasn't worth her anger "You seem to think people without pure blood are animals, but you hunt and thirst for violence like some kind of beast." Luna then stood and brushed her hands on the folds of her school robe.
"I feel sorry for people like you."
And with that, the Ravenclaw walked away with a calm that was only ridiculous in the battle around them.
Alphonse had been immediately impressed.
Barreling after the girls was the usual bunch: the Carrow siblings and a couple of faceless minions. The alchemist wondered how the pair of Death-eaters even got the extra men. The arrangement was literally just giving minions to minions. It didn't seem all that efficient.
The chaos flashed by and further up the corridor, retreating with fading echoes. Al remained where he was for a few moments and prepared to tail the group so he could help from afar. The pounding feet of another student rounded the corner had him spinning on the spot to meet the newcomer.
There were very special instances in which Al would forget he was a formidable suit of armor and revert to the idea that he was just a little boy. The act seemed to hold a horribly ironic humor- especially when Alphonse did something as graceful as attempt to wedge his entire metal form into a crevice about 6 inches deep without any help from alchemy. It was at this crucial moment of failed hiding that Neville Longbottom skidded into the hallway.
Al reckoned pretending to be enchanted like his fellows would have been a better choice of action. Nonsensical singing and dancing would have easily convinced any bystanders that this particular suit of armor was charmed to do so. Instead, Al raised a gauntlet clad hand in a small, awkward wave. "Oh! Uh... Hello?"
Neville lost his impressive momentum with an elaborate trip-and-tumble sequence, halting at the armored alchemist's feet somewhat spectacularly.
"Are you alright?" Al asked, prematurely giving up on the notion that maybe he could pretend to be the run-of-the-mill Hogwarts suit of armor. The student before him blinked a rapid set of blinks that suggested there might be a part of a quill in his eye. Perhaps it was simply the entire feather, based on how excessive the action was.
Al guessed this probably wasn't the best introduction and the Gryffindor's shock was rightfully merited, but he was worried about the damage the earlier somersault could have done to Neville
"Are you alright?" He said again and the young man wobbled a dazed nod in response.
"Oh good. I'm sorry about scaring you like that."
"No... Uh, it's fine. You didn't scare me-just gave me a bit of a shock, that's all..." The boy trailed off, a valley forming between brows.
"Why are you in there?" Neville seemed to think Al was a physical body in all that armor. The younger Elric brother didn't blame him. Most people were under that impression. Unfortunately, like nearly every time, Alphonse had no believable answer to that question. So he flailed around in both a verbal and physical sense.
"Well, you see-" gauntlets popped up in some pseudo surrender-arrest pose "-I was hiding from uh..." A lunge to one side in an over-dramatized gesture "from the umm.. The-"
"Yes! Death Eaters! And I saw this suit of armor and I thought 'Wow that would be a really good place to hide!' So I hid in here and I've decided to stay until the Death Eaters are gone!"
Neville's round face didn't seem to match the skeptical expression he pulled, but Al felt the nerves from his flimsy story anyway.
"Uh well..." The student frowned as he conjured his next words "Good for you. I guess."
Alphonse only laughed anxiously. And then, without thinking, asked "So why are you chasing those people?"
Neville blinked, caught off guard, but a shielded look flattened the expression like the closing of curtains over a window.
"What's it to you?"
"Oh! Well, I was wondering if you needed any help."
Peering around through the gaps in Al's armor, the young man appeared to be scoping out his newest acquaintance. The alchemist wasn't sure whether to look away from the Gryffindor's gaze or continue meeting it. All Al was certain of was that he would prefer if people remained under the impression that he was something inside his metal shell. It would do no good for anyone if got the impression that he was some crazy, possessed hunk of steel.
"I umm... I don't mean to be rude or anything, but won't that suit of armor make you slower and-" Neville swallowed, face red "and I'm sorry, I was going to tell you that you'll be weak and unhelpful..." He hung his head as if shamed . Al only chuckled lightly.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to slow you down!" To prove this he took the most elaborate step forward he possibly could. To anyone else, the action may have looked completely ridiculous, but Neville seemed to find it quite impressive, which saved Al a lot of embarrassment. The older boy looked as if he had endless questions for the armored alchemist and his face was the embodiment of open curiosity until he visibly steeled himself to his prior mission. Neville Longbottom looked all the potent leader others claimed him to be.
"How can I know you're not some spy planted by the Death-Eaters?" Another expression that was at odds with the boy's demeanor and appearance marred his otherwise kind face. Al understood that phenomenon. He saw it whenever anyone brought up Ishval at headquarters. It was the look of a veteran. It was a look that should shadow no man's face, but did to horrible extents.
"I have no way of proving my true allegiance, but I can tell you that the people you fight are wrong in so many ways. I've always thought that humans have good in them, no matter what, but what those people do... It's unforgivable. I want to help you stop them."
Neville gave him a wide-eyed look and then abruptly stuck out a hand.
Al responded like-wise. "Alphonse Elric. Nice to meet you."
With a firm shake, both of the young men stood and set off down the corridor.
Alphonse Elric was not a name Neville had heard before. This was an unsettling fact as the two rounded a corner and nearly crashed straight into the fray. A jumble of spells, jinxes, and hexes were accompanied by a marble-dusted chaos of flailing limbs and wands jabbed in all directions. Neville was nearly at a loss of what to do. All prior plans had fallen by the wayside the moment the Gryffindor had slid to a halt before the armor-clad feet of Alphonse. Everything was now reduced to a fight for survival. Any strategy had disintegrated long ago.
Above the electric whir of curses, Ginny shouted something caught between relief and frustration. "Finally! Everything's been bolloxed so get us out Longbottom!" Red burst from her wand, zipping to its target at the center of a Death-eater's mask.
Neville threw himself into the fight with a hasty apology. From the corner of his eye, he saw Elric do the same. There was no wand in the other boy's hand. It took all his restraint not to grab the hulking chunk of metal and drag him from the battle. Fighting with no wand would get you killed and Neville wasn't keen on witnessing any deaths that day. Alphonse curled one hand over another and brought them firmly down on a Death-eater's skull. The dark wizard dropped bonelessly to the floor. Maybe the worry was unnecessary. A metal knee met the jaw of another man, followed quickly by a fist to the stomach. Alphonse's opponent flew a couple feet back before skidding along the marble for another few meters. Neville was now certain he didn't need to save his new ally. Mind at more ease, he focused on his own battles.
Even with the extra help, they were severely outnumbered. The original plan had involved a trap that failed to detonate. It had further deteriorated when Neville had been stalled by the sudden appearance of Alphonse and had shown up far too late to surprise a now brawling group. He only became truly aware of their disadvantage when Ginny took a sectumsempra to the wand arm. A suffocating weight of helplessness seemed to reach up his throat. Neville was too far away to help. Luna was too.
Alphonse, despite being an equal distance from the injured girl as the others, made his was to Ginny with astounding agility. That armor must have held an individual with incredible physical strength to move about like the metal was as light as robes. A hoard of spells ripped towards their newest ally. Most of the fighters seemed confused about Alphonse's existence. Neville was sure a large portion of them thought they were fighting something charmed. The Gryffindor knew better. Something synthesized by magic couldn't speak so passionately about the good and bad within humankind. A simple animation charm couldn't recreate the swift grace of Alphonse Elric's fighting.
Unfortunately, whether or not the Death-eaters thought the armor contained a human didn't matter with the variety of curses they used. Whatever was flying towards Alphonse would most likely kill him. Neville really did not want to see any of it.
Before the young man could shield his eyes from the tragedy that was inevitably going to happen, the armored boy did something incredible. Just as the curses seemed to converge on him, the suit of metal launched himself above and over the attack. The magic met with an explosive flash the nearly blinded those around. But, as blue-violet spots drifted over Neville's vision, he saw Alphonse do something far more remarkable than feats of agility.
As the Death-eaters struggled to recover from the sudden blast of light, a sharp clap resounded over the vaulted ceiling. Neville saw as the glove-clad hands drew apart and the entire suit of armor came hurtling to the ground before Ginny, palms the first to meet the floor. Blue sparks blossomed around the pair and a marble wall rose to protect from further curses.
Neville's mind spun, connecting the phenomenon he had just witnessed with others. The implications were staggering. It had been Alphonse Elric helping all along. Just who was this boy?
As if to mock his shocked state, a second burst of sparks sprouted at his feet. The floor then proceeded to open up below him. Terror grappled with his heart. For a moment, there was nothing under the soles of his shoes but open air. 30 feet down was a flat, unyielding, hard plain of marble. His eyes instinctively twisted shut.
The unity of surface and body happened far too soon. After seeming to hover over the empty space for milliseconds, Neville's rear hit something smooth and sloped with aching force. He then slid forwards, accelerating in a fashion that made him positive he was on a chute of some sort. A peek beyond his eyelids solidified this hypothesis and secured the fact that, while momentum was significantly slowed, Neville was still approaching the ground at an alarming rate. Pressing his hands and feet on the smooth marble slide, the Gryffindor managed to reach the floor in one piece, dismissing how ridiculous he had looked doing so. One couldn't afford shame in life-or-death situations anyways. Neville had learned that lesson very early on.
A clatter drew him from his generally stunned state. Several yards down the hallway Luna and Alphonse made their own, more dignified landings. Upon closer inspection it became clear Ginny was in the metal arms of their newest ally. The younger Gryffindor seemed displeased about her position, audibly grumbling about being carried away like some 'damsel in distress'. Luna wisely told her to calm down and save her energy. This only seemed to frustrate Ginny further as she demanded the identity of her rescuer the so-called 'Metal Brobod'.
"I'm not a robot, Ms. Ginny."
"Oh! I'm 'Ms. Ginny'; what are you, A gentleman robot? Do I look like some helpless twat? Put me down and I'll show you how helpless I am! I could take all those idiots up there!"
"I'm sure you could, but right now we need to get to safety." The suit of armor spun to face Neville Wordlessly, the leader of Dumbledor's army pointed down the hall, ignoring protests from the youngest Weasley.
"You're just going to let him cart me off to Merlin-knows-where? Who is this guy, Neville?"
They were running now, flying by a corner and behind a tapestry and then into another corridor.
"He's an ally, Ginny- and it's not like you don't know where we're going." He shouted back to them as the wall beside them sprouted a door-the Room of Requirement "His name is Alphonse Elric."
Behind him, Luna spoke with remarkable calm, sounding completely unlike she was sprinting. "Elric... I've heard that name before."
Neville's hand wrapped around the door handle with vicious speed. The wood was thrown back on its hinges and all four piled in. There was a collective breath released.
"You can put her down now, Alphonse."
Ginny looked somewhat red with anger, but as she was returned to her feet she did manage a slightly bitter thank you at the suit of armor.
"No problem, Ms. Ginny." There was something strange about the helmet. It was as if someone could see the earnest expression that was undoubtably beyond the metal plates- as if the visor held a glimpse into Alphonse Elric's very soul.
And for a moment, Neville allowed himself to ponder who, exactly, the newest ally was.
Clattering into an unidentified room with and armful of angry red-head was not what Alphonse called an ideal end to a fight, but at least everyone was alive and accounted for. The retreat had been a last resort. He was reluctant to expose himself, preferring the constant bewilderment the seemingly sourceless alchemy caused. Now, the Death-eaters had a face (or rather a helmet) to pair with the phenomenon. That fact would make things a bit harder for Al.
But at least everyone was safe.
The space around them was an improbable mix of utility, grandeur, and eclectic homeyness. Numerous hammocks hung one above another in cozy alcoves strung with fairy lights and posters. House flags were spread over the walls as a testament to the unity necessary in the fight against evil.
"Welcome to the headquarters of Dumbledore's Army." Neville spoke with a subdued flourish. "It's not much, but-"
"Are you kidding? This is awesome!" Al gushed and the other boy immediately turned red. Ignoring Neville's embarrassment, the alchemist continued "I bet you have everything you need in here."
From somewhere behind them, Luna interjected "Oh yes, we do have everything... Except indigo dye... The room refuses to give us indigo dye."
"So mind telling us where you scrounged this hunk of metal?" Ginny was back, arm healed and suspicion laced through her voice.
"Oh! Uh- I'm Alphonse Elric!"
"We know that. Now tell us where you came from."
The youngest Weasley was pushy. Al felt distinctly pressured and he demonstrated this by backing a couple of steps away from the young woman while holding up two glove-clad hands.
"Well-you see-I was just... I was just in the hallway..."
Something twisted on Ginny's face as the alchemist spoke.
"You're too trusting, Neville." The words were sharp and decisive and if Alphonse looked away and imagined an octave lower, he could picture first lieutenant Hawkeye berating the Colonel.
"He saved your life, Ginny." Neville said with soft insistence.
"I don't care what he did! The fact remains-"
"Is this someone you know?" Luna stopped the argument in its tracks. Looking down, Al saw a familiar face printed on a sheet stretched between the witch's pale, spindly hands.
"Brother." Came softly from metallic depths. Seeing the poster again only reminded them of their separation and the danger Ed was undoubtably in.
"Your brother. Then do you know who this is?" Another paper was pulled over the Fullmetal Alchemist's mugshot. It sported a face Al could only vaguely recall. He was speechless. Years had passed since he had seen those strange, distant eyes, so like and so unlike his older brother's. Thinking back, his memories regarding the man were mainly of intimidation and confusion, but something soft remained. Maybe arms other than those of his mother had rocked him to sleep as a baby. Maybe it hadn't always been Trisha's voice drawing him gently away from tears. Were the hands that bandaged cuts and ruffled hair always female? No clear memory could solidify these speculations, but something stuck with Alphonse. Something that whispered gentleness and affection behind the ever somber, stern expression of the man on the wanted poster.
Even softer, and more breathless than before, Al managed a single, astounded word: "Dad?"
AN: I will be able to explain the reasons for everyone being where they are very soon. It's nothing special (although, I was considering having all five sacrifices in our world b/c father was like "wow. Y'all are real irritating/IN THE WAY, so here's a different dimension to keep you busy while I KILL EVERYONE. Have fun you worthless little shits." And Roy Mustang would be busy being upset about not being Führer and BLIND while Izumi was like "Get up off your sad ass, child" and she ends up dragging the Colonel all over Britain being the World's Most Capable Woman. And everyone's just trying to find each other and get back to Amestris to save the day.) But then I realized that kind of squashed the whole purpose of my story which is all about a lot of sappy father-son shit and not about the eternal struggle of getting home or finding your military superior. So you all will just have to deal with my ultra lame reason for everyone hanging in wizarding Britain (and when I mean everyone, I mean Ed, Al, and Hoho Papa.).
HolidAys, yo. Drink a hot beverage to celebrate or something.