A/n: Apologies for this extremely late chapter update! I would like to clear up a few things that I thought were mentioned previously in 'Subject to Change' but in actuality were just little figments of my imagination trying to confuse me as they always do. So please let us assume that:

Edward was previously briefed on the situation (a.k.a. the war with Voldemort) by Dumbledore and his father, and therefore knows the general information of the events since Harry obtained his scar

Either Dumbledore or Hoenheim has also told Edward about Harry, Ron, and Hermione. He knows only what everyone else knows about their experiences at Hogwarts, meaning that since Edward and all other persons not involved in the trio's excursions were not present during said excursions, they only know what they have been told.

My theory on Hoenheim's appearance is this (please ignore that most of this is a bit out there and unbelievable….;): Since being sent through the Gate to pre-war London, England by Dante, Hoenheim still had some soul left in his body. He was able to live during that time and met Dumbledore a little later on. Since their initial meeting, Hoenheim has been secretly working with Dumbledore and was only introduced to the rest of the Order after Edward's arrival in England.

Thank you! I hope you enjoy this chapter.

Disclaimer: This story is based on situations and characters created and owned by Hiromu Arakawa and J.K. Rowling, and various publishers including Scholastic and Bones.

The opinions of the characters Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger do not reflect those of the author.


Around the Corner

The sun was setting in the west, throwing bursts of deep orange light through the quiet cemetery. Two small boys stood in front of a brand new gravestone, the slightly taller one stared at the letters carved into the white granite, the smaller one struggling to hold back tears.

"Hey, brother?" the smaller one asked.

"Hm?"

"Will we ever see Mom again?"

The taller one looked up sharply at his brother. "What do you think?" he asked sarcastically. A baffled look crossed his face as he felt his eyes tear up. "Mom's dead." The little boy started to cry. "And she ain't ever coming back."

"B-but brother," the little boy stammered, "what are we gonna' do? How are we gonna' take care of ourselves?"

A sudden hint of determinedness shone in the older brother's eyes. "We're going to bring her back."

"But how?"

The older boy looked into his little brother's eyes and grabbed his hand to lead him back to an empty home. "With alchemy."

In the distance, a boy of about ten looked at the scene with agonized eyes. "Don't do it. Don't do it," he whispered, repeating the phrase like a mantra. He had a bad feeling about what was to come, but he was not able to tell why. There was a sense of foreboding as he was left alone at the cemetery. He tentatively walked over to the grave the two boys had just left and stared at the name. Trish Elric, he thought.

Suddenly the landscape around him dissipated. What is going on? He panicked. When the space around him cleared again, the boy found himself in a dark room. He felt around himself, only to find a wall of some sort that prevented him from escaping his small enclosed space. Somewhere to his right he heard a door open. Light streamed in from above, (What?! These walls are invisible?) illuminating a flight of narrow rickety stairs and the two boys from earlier descending into what he assumed was a basement, carrying loads of bags in their arms.

"Hey, switch the light for me?" one of them said.

A lamp near the stairs turned on, and the boy continued to trump down the stairs. The boy in the prison stared. The brother appeared older by maybe a year or two, with an excited look on his face. Behind him, the younger brother's face was now visible. "He looks like me!" he said, surprised. Neither boy looked up. He banged on the invisible walls. "Hey! You two! Can you hear me? I'm kind of stuck in here!" The brothers continued with whatever they were doing.

The boy sighed and plopped down on the floor. He was bored, and these kids were boring too. They weren't doing anything except for drawing a large circle on the floor and pouring some powdery substance in the center. "Wait a minute, this seems familiar…" The boy gasped as the brothers cut their fingers with a penknife and watched a few drops fall into the large pile of powder in the center of the circle. The two boys shared a look before dropping to their knees and placing their hands on the chalked lines of the circle.

Instantly, cracks of yellow light filled the room. The materials disappeared with a flash of bright white light and the brothers grinned at each other. But then the light turned an ominous shade of deep purple, and the white light at the center of the circle distorted and grew red.

"No…" The boy in the prison whispered. "No no no, stop, please stop, no no—"

He was cut off as the younger brother started to scream hysterically. "Brother! Wh-What's happening?!" The other boy tore his eyes away from the red light to look at his younger sibling.

"Alphonse…?" he said slowly. Then he screamed as well when he saw his brother's legs disintegrating into nothing. "Alphonse!" He grappled frantically for his brother's hands, but felt several slimy, cold things latch onto his own legs. He froze, eyes wide, and slowly looked down to see small black arms stretching out from nowhere holding onto his feet.

He screamed again and struggled with renewed vigor to reach for his brother's hand, but his legs were disappearing into a black pit of nothingness. "Alphonse!" he repeated.

The boy in the prison was rocking back and forth, staring at the scene in front of his eyes, unable to tear them away from the somehow-familiar situation. "Oh my God, Oh my God…Stop, please just stop…" He cried helplessly and let out a cry as the brothers, still reaching for each other, disappeared in a flash.

"No, this can't be happening, no no no," the boy repeated. There was a mist all around the room, but his eye caught something moving in the middle of the circle. His rocking slowed then stopped. The thing gave a shuddering twitch. What is that? He thought. A thin black arm extended from the thing on the ground. Is that…a body? The hand rose shakily, reaching for the boy. Then suddenly he found a pair of blank white eyes staring into his own, a mouth wide-open, emitting horrid sounds that made his blood run cold.

Another flash of light and the older brother reappeared, crumpled on the ground in a heap. The boy's face paled at the sight of the blood pooled around the other's body. His right arm and left leg were missing. The brother let out a choked sob. Then he heard a hacking cough that turned into a screech. His head slowly turned to the circle at the floor and he propped himself up on one knee, using his only hand for balance.

"Mom…?" he said cautiously. "Mother?"

The soulless eyes turned to him and the thing let out a gurgled shriek.

The brother's eyes went wide in hysteria. "Mommy?" The malformed arm reached for him. He screamed.

"AL! ALPHONSE!" he cried his brother's name frantically, backing away then collapsing against the wall. He looked around. "AL!"

The boy in the prison clapped his hands to his ears and screamed as loud as he could, to block out the noise of the older brother's distress.

"ALPHONSE! GIVE HIM BACK, YOU SON OF A—! HE'S ALL I HAVE LEFT, PLEASE! ALPHONSE!"

"ALPHONSE!"

"ALPHONSE!"

"ALPHONSE!"

Alphonse woke with a start and fell out of his bed to the floor. He blinked his eyes multiple times, to get rid of the onslaught of tears that was building up. A woman's worried face, framed with dark, braided hair, swam into his view.

"Teacher?" Alphonse said shakily.

"It's alright Alphonse. I'm here. Don't worry." The woman shifted to a mother's role, which fit like a glove. "Don't cry anymore, dear. It's ok." She hefted him up gently onto her lap and hugged him tightly with strong arms. One of her hands drifted to pat his dark blonde hair, as he sniffled into her white dress. He tightened his hold around her neck and let out a trembling laugh.

"I'm too old for this cuddling stuff, aren't I, Teacher?" he asked. His eyes wrinkled up again and his body shuddered as he loosed another sob.

"Hush. Just calm down, nightmares happen to everybody. And you're only ten years old, dear," his teacher said soothingly.

"I was fourteen a couple of months ago, wasn't I?" Alphonse inquired bitterly. "Before, when brother was here?"

The teacher stayed silent. Her husband, Sig, shuffled his feet at the door to Alphonse's bedroom. "Izumi?' he asked, surprisingly soft for a man of his size and bulk. "Should I—"

She motioned for him to be quiet and flapped her hand to shoo him away. Her thoughts traveled back to the situation at hand. What Alphonse had said was true. After that incident in the underground city below Central, Alphonse, had emerged from the rubble as a sobbing ten-year-old boy in tattered rags, instead of the fourteen-year-old soul trapped in a suit of armor he was before, or the fourteen-year-old human teenager everyone was hoping and waiting for.

Military officials (herself among them of course, along with the Ishballan woman Rose, who had managed to escape the building with her baby before it fell) were already stationed outside the collapsed building when Alphonse had forced his way out of the debris, confused, scared and miraculously unscathed.

Frankly, Izumi knew something was wrong the moment Alphonse had demanded to know where his brother was. From the reports, the two were together when they entered the building, and it only made sense that they escaped together as well. Al did not go anywhere without his older brother, after all.

The sense of foreboding in her gut only grew when Colonel Mustang approached Alphonse, only to be on the receiving end of a hard kick to an uncomfortable area between the legs and a punch to the face. As Mustang went down (Izumi had momentarily felt a bittersweet pang of pride for her former student) and Hawkeye stepped in, the boy had begun to yell for his brother.

"Brother? I-I'm scared, brother! I don't know who these people are, Brother, where are you?"

Mustang was interrupted from his personal meeting with the ground at Al's outburst. "What do you mean you don't know us, Alphonse?" he asked slowly.

Alphonse scanned his surroundings before his gaze had fallen on Izumi. She remembered how his beautiful tear-filled eyes had gone impossibly wide with recognition.

"Teacher!" he exclaimed. He pushed himself awkwardly onto his feet and ran to Izumi, enveloping her in a hug. Izumi remembered how she had almost cried when she felt skin and bones fill her arms, instead of the hollow steel of armor she had been hugging for the previous four years. "Teacher," he said shakily, "Teacher, I'm scared. What is this place?"

Izumi looked down at Alphonse's dirty blond hair, and began to scrutinize the situation at hand. Edward and Alphonse had attempted human transmutation four to five years prior to the recent events. Edward emerged with a missing arm and leg. Alphonse's body did not make it at all. Just now, however, Alphonse's body was returned to him, exactly the same as when it was taken, but Edward was gone. The Gate was obviously involved, which led to the conclusion that someone had attempted human transmutation in the city below Central. But what—

Izumi's eyes had widened when she finally understood what had happened. "Alphonse, what is the last thing you remember?"

"Wh-what?" the boy stuttered. "What does that have anything to do with—?"

"Just answer the question, Alphonse," she had said sharply. She remembered that the surrounding military personnel shuffled uncomfortably while staring at her.

"Mrs. Curtis," Mustang began defensively, "Alphonse has just been through a rough ordeal. I know you're worried, but we cannot afford—"

Izumi had interrupted him with a glare that froze his bones. How dare he! "Colonel Mustang, I hope you are not telling me how to handle my own students."

"Uh, no ma'am, not at all," the Flame Alchemist had said hastily, and Izumi almost grinned as she remembered the cowed look on his young face. "I was just—er—never mind."

"Good," Izumi muttered before turning back to the child in her lap. "Alphonse?"

The boy had stiffened in her arms. Dread filled her heart (Please do not let my assumptions be correct! She had pleaded with whatever deity who would listen to her) as his hazel eyes, clouded with regret and apology, rose slowly to look into her own. "Our human transmutation of Mom," he whispered before he fell asleep.

"Teacher?"

The sound of Alphonse's voice broke Izumi out of her thoughts. It had been a couple of months since that time, and there was still no word on her student's older brother. It was as if he had disappeared off the face of the world.

"Are you okay now, Alphonse?" Izumi asked.

The boy nodded and sniffed pathetically, turning watering eyes to the window. The sun was just beginning to break the horizon, coloring the sky all shades of pink and purple and light blue, spreading beacons of warm and comforting light over the landscape.

As the two watched the miracle grow, Alphonse's hitched breathing began to even out. His slightly pudgy fists rubbed furiously at his eyes.

"Why don't we go and get ready for the day, Alphonse?" suggested Izumi softly. Then her calm expression morphed into a wicked grin. "You've got a helluva' lot of stuff to do today, runt."

Alphonse 'eep'd!' before scrambling to his feet. "Yes, teacher!" he said hurriedly while bowing. As she left the room, he walked to his closet to pick out his clothes for the day. After pulling out a pair of shorts and a shirt, the boy's thoughts wandered to his missing older brother.

Winry Rockbell, his friend from Risenbul, would be arriving at the local train station that afternoon. Just to visit, she had said cheerfully over the phone the last time he had spoken to her. And Sheska's come to visit me, so she'll be tagging along too on her way back to Central.

Remembering her words made Alphonse sigh. From what he had gathered from the stories he was told by Winry and various military personnel he could not for the life of him remember, it had been four years since he and brother had tried to resurrect their Mother. After a freak accident that had somehow landed himself without a body and his brother with a missing arm and leg, the two had traveled to Central, headquarters of the government.

There, his brother had been enlisted as a certified state alchemist under the direction of a certain Colonel Roy Mustang (whom Alphonse had met with regularly before the man had demoted himself and transferred to an "icy-shit bucket," in Izumi's words). Upon meeting with the man, Alphonse had concluded that he was a loyal friend and a good leader, although his slightly pompous and egoistic attitude told him that this was a man whom his short-fused brother would not have been able to handle very well.

From what he had heard from Mustang and his subordinates, this assumption of his was very true.

Alphonse sighed deeply. No matter how hard he tried to remember, he could not recall anything from the last four years. Nothing at all. He and his brother had made so many friends during that time, but the ones that he knew of he found out about through stories about his brother.

His brother had done so many things during the past four years while he was enlisted in the military, but the majority of those things were not for his own benefit. His work was aimed towards Alphonse and the people who surrounded him, the new friends he had made, and the people who respected him because of his position.

Alphonse wasn't about to let that go. It was because of his brother that he was alive in the first place. What kind of family would he be if he didn't make any attempts to find out where he was? And what better way to find his brother than through the results of Alchemy? After, Alchemy was what took him away. Logic and reason pointed to the hypothesis that it would bring him back as well.

That was why Alphonse had turned to Izumi for help two weeks after he was found in the collapsed building. And now here he was, observing all aspects of transmutation with his skilled teacher. Hopefully, her wisdom would be enough to find a way to his brother. If she couldn't help him, well then…wait, what would he do? Having not thought this far into the future before, the ten-year-old began to panic.

Alphonse was spared from continuing that train of thought by Izumi's jarring voice, half-screeching and half-yelling his name.

The boy winced. "C-coming, Teacher!" he yelled back hastily.

"The sun's coming up, Alphonse! Move it!" came the short reply.

Alphonse yanked his shirt over his head and scrambled for his bedroom door. Knowing he was pressed for time but not really caring, he turned his slate-gray eyes towards the rising sun. The breathless sight of the yellow orb breaking the distant line of smooth pasture and farmland was enough to quell his previous pessimistic thoughts. Strength and hope bloomed somewhere deep in his chest, reminding him of how his brother was always able to plant some optimism into his spirit. The reminder of his brother raised his determination even more.

No more weak Alphonse, the boy thought, a grin spreading across his face. I'll do whatever it takes. I swear that with my own two hands I'll bring you back, brother. Next time I get this feeling, I swear it'll be you putting it in me.

I swear that the first thing you see when you come back is me, Edward.


"Elric. Hey, Elric! Oh dear God, he's got his nose in a book again. This kid is worse than Hermione."

Edward ignored the annoying voice and continued to scan the words on the page in front of him. If transfiguration is the form of magic used to transform one certain object into another, he thought, then would that make it the same as transmutation? It doesn't make sense at all because there's no equivalent exchange. Gah, there's no equivalent exchange in magic at all, it doesn't make SENSE! The lack of equivalency in magic was a frustrating thought that had been bothering the teenager for many weeks.

An obnoxious finger poking him on the forehead rudely stopped his train of thought, and an orange blob swam into his peripheral view.

"Oi, El-ric," the voice sing-songed. "Is anybody there?" The tapping turned to knocking.

"Weasley, if you don't want that wrist broken, stop it now," the blonde muttered without looking up from his book. "Whaddya' want, anyway?"

"Well," the red-head said thoughtfully, ignoring the threat, "We were just wondering if you wanted to play another game of Quidditch. You know, since that's what manly men do, not sit around reading books like bloody girls. Ow!"

"Serves you right, Ronald Weasley," Hermione said impishly. "Where's playing Quidditch going to get you?"

"Right in with the Chudley Canons, that's where!" Ron retorted hotly. His ears immediately flamed red. "I'd rather be playing Quidditch than reading books and being smart any day."

Hermione smirked. "How's being smart worse than playing stupid sports? A toad looks like a genius sitting next to you, Ron."

Before he could bite back, Edward paused his reading to look up at the two. "Would you guys mind? I'm kind of reading here."

Hermione and Ron stopped their easy bickering, and sat quietly while looking at the book in Edward's gloved hands.

Ron's eyes furrowed. "Hey, why are you reading all the time anyway? I mean, it honestly can't be better than Quidditch."

Golden eyes glanced at Hermione who snorted, before they settled on a raven-haired head that had just popped through the doorway. "Hey guys," Harry said casually. "Sorry, Ginny and Mrs. Weasley wanted help with breakfast."

Edward nodded and said, "Well I can't really go to Hogwarts without knowing anything, can I? If I'm going to enter the school as a sixth year I have to know what you guys know."

"Wait, hold on," Ron said, perplexed. "That means—"

"That means you have to know everything we do?" Hermione interrupted. "But that's absurd! No one can ask you to learn five years of magical knowledge, you've only had a few months!"

"Hey, hey," Edward said, flustered, "What makes you think I can't do it in a few months? That's plenty of time! Dumbledore gave me all the school books for up to fifth year a couple months ago (you know, for just in case I did decide to come to Hogwarts) and I've been studying them since. I'm almost done."

While Ron stared, astounded at the blonde, Harry frowned. "Wait a minute, Ed. Dumbledore said that your alchemy was turned into magic when you passed through the Gate. Wouldn't you already know how—?"

"No," Edward cut him off, "Just because I can do magic know doesn't mean I know how to do it. I still have to study and everything. I don't have a clue how the wand-waving crap works into all this and I haven't even tried it yet, since I don't have a wand. And Dumbledore mentioned something about a Minist-whatever that doesn't allow under-age wizards to perform magic outside of school."

The other three nodded understandingly. This Ministry guideline had always been a bit of a hassle for their "adventures."

A low whistle came from Ron. "So, you're something like a genius, huh?"

Ed looked at him blankly. "What's a 'ge-ni-us'?" he asked slowly.

Hermione, always eager to deposit knowledge on any unsuspecting person, said matter-of-factly, "Well, in the way Ron used the word, 'genius' means a person with high intellectual levels." Then she gave him a baffled look. "Hold on, you've never heard of that word before?"

"Even if I am a ge-nius, Hermione," Edward stated, "you can't expect me to learn an entire language in only a few months, can you? I mean, I can't learn every word there is in that amount of time, and I haven't come across that particular one in my reading."

Edward received gapes from his recently acquainted friends. "What?" he muttered uncomfortably.

Harry shook his head. "You mean to tell me that when you came here through the Gate you didn't know how to speak English?"

"That's right," came the short reply.

"And now you do?"

"Yes sir."

Ron shared a look with Hermione and Harry. "What did I tell you? Genius."

Before Ed could smirk (in a cocky way, since he liked to piss the Weasley off), the door opened with a crack to reveal a red-faced Ginny.

"Breakfast downstairs, get your arses down now," the teenage girl said tightly before stomping back to the kitchen.

Looking confused, the four shrugged to each other. "Phlegm's probably bugging her," muttered Hermione waspishly. "She always gets in the way when she's not needed."

Ron was about to protest Hermione's snide comment but she grabbed his arm exasperatedly before dragging him down the stairs to follow Ginny.

"Well, we might as well go down too," Harry said to Edward. When the blonde nodded the two trooped out the bedroom door and down to the kitchen.

"SURPRISE!" Edward flinched back when the loud outburst reached his ears. As he glanced around, he took in with a bit of surprise the colorful balloons, weird flying things flitting near the ceiling, and the wide banner that stretched from wall to wall, proudly exclaiming "HAPPY 16th BIRTHDAY HARRY!" in an obnoxiously loud voice.

Everyone was laughing and congratulating Harry on having lived to sixteen years of age (Ron received a slap on the back of the head from both Ginny and Hermione while joking that he was surprised Harry hadn't kicked the bucket yet). Edward stepped cautiously towards the door in order to escape the warm atmosphere.

Really, he didn't feel comfortable there. And who could blame him for that? He had spent the past few years of his life without a close family and avoiding teenagers of his age. This was the first time he had friends like this, and if he felt antsy here, then damn if he wasn't going to find a way to slip out. He didn't belong in this close, tight-knit family scene anyway.

Just as Edward was about to slip through the doorway, Harry hooked a finger around the collar of his shirt.

"And just where do you think you're going?" the birthday boy asked, smiling.

"Upstairs. Must study. Um, books waiting, you know, we've only got a couple of weeks 'til—"

"Oh come off it," Ron said exasperatedly. "You said yourself that you're almost done. You can spare some time to party a bit, can't you?"

"Well, yes," the blonde replied reluctantly, "but I'd much rather get it done early and review everything before starting the semester, and you know I've also got to—"

"There's food," Ron said slyly. He grinned mischievously as Edward stopped his struggling. He continued with his bribing. "There's a lot of it too. You know, the usual stuff we have for breakfast, only there's twice as much, and later on Mum's going to make a cake. Five layers. Have you ever tried my mum's cake, Elric? It's so good, sugar frosting that's not too sweet, and buttery soft on the inside. Sounds good, huh Elric?"

Ed nodded slightly before realizing he was being scammed, and shook his head. He struggled to keep his hand from wiping the traitorous drool that was gathering at the corner of his mouth.

"You dirty bastard," he muttered, "trying to hoax me into joining your little…you know I've got to…argh, gah!" Edward shook Ron and Harry off him before stomping to the kitchen and grabbing a plate.

Harry and Ron shared a small, triumphant grin before they themselves returned to the party. "Happy birthday to me," Harry sang quietly to himself after he gave Mrs. Weasley a quick hug. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his adoptive mother flash Edward a bright smile, which the blonde timidly returned before he proceeded to stuff his face full of omelet.


Edward looked at the heavy parchment envelope in his hand with apprehension. The letter was addressed to him in loopy emerald green ink, and there was a thick bundle of folded parchment inside the envelope. He could feel the beginnings of a headache forming between his eyes at the thought that he would have to read all of this.

"Bloody hell."

The blonde looked up and watched as Harry's eyes widened at something that he was holding in a shaking hand.

"What is it, mate?" Ron asked, jumping off the bed he was sitting on and smacking Ed on the back of the head with his palm before picking his way across the small bedroom through the piles of laundry and books littering the floor towards his best friend. Edward hissed, rubbing the back of his head.

"Q-Quidditch captain," the shocked boy said, turning his hand so a gold medal of some sort caught the rays of early sunlight. "I've been made Quidditch captain."

Ron snorted. "You seriously can't be surprised about that, Harry," he said while giving him a congratulating pat on the back. Hermione and Edward nodded their agreement. "I mean, Dumbledore and McGonagall would have to be stark raving mad not to make you Quidditch captain."

"Harry!" Hermione gasped suddenly, "That gives you equal status with prefects! You can use our special bathroom now and everything!"

Edward inconspicuously tuned the trio out and turned back to the letters in his hand. Aw hell, he thought reluctantly, might as well get it over with.

Unfolding the packet in his hand his amber eyes scanned the parchment on top.

Dear Mr. Elric,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Due to your abnormal situation, the Headmaster requests your presence in his office upon arriving at the school. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall,

Deputy Headmistress

Confused as to why Albus Dumbledore would want to meet with him, Ed turned to the next piece of parchment. This one bore the same long green cursive that was used on the envelope.

Dear Mr. Elric,

I'm sure Professor McGonagall has already let you know of our scheduled meeting in my office on September 1. We'll try to make this as quick as possible, since your fellow students (including yourself) will most likely be waiting to eat. I must cover some important matters with you, including your House sorting and rules.

Depending on your preference, I can introduce you to your fellow students during announcements, or I can leave that task up to you.

Thank you for deciding to attend Hogwarts. It means a great deal to your father as well as myself. We both wish for you to return to your brother as soon as possible, and this might be the only way. It may take a few years, but please have patience. I know you are worried about Alphonse, but I'm certain he is fine.

I hope Harry, Ron, and Hermione are treating you well.

Sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore

Headmaster

Aw geez, Ed thought. That old coot always knows what I'm feeling, just by looking at me. Perturbed, he shook his head and turned to the next page. Bloody hell.

Edward's gold eyes wandered from the parchment in front of him. A wand? Oh shit. I forgot about that. The other items on the list were numerous and complicated. Where the hell was he supposed to get all this stuff? And how would he pay for it? He didn't really fancy the idea of asking for money from Mrs. Weasley. They were already doing so much for him, letting him live in their house, it wouldn't be equivalent. Besides, they had several kids to buy things for, it wouldn't do at all.

His questions were answered (Ed breathed a sigh of relief) as he flipped to the next page of the packet.

Dear Mr. Elric (Edward was starting to get annoyed with the lack of letter openings available in the English language; he could come up with at least five different ones in his own native tongue),

Due to your special circumstances, the Ministry of Magic will be granting you access to limited government funding. You have been given a bank account with Gringotts Bank in Diagon Alley. You may withdraw up to 250 Galleons every visit, and bank transactions may be made through Bill Weasley if you wish. I hope this will be to your convenience and enjoy your semester at Hogwarts.

Sincerely,

Rufus Scrimgeour

Minister of Magic

A snort escaped Ed's throat, and his lips formed a small grin. This would be just like when he was in the military, charging everything to his state funding, albeit he often charged too much (usually on restaurant checks) and was left to scrabble for extra work from that bastard Mustang for money.

"Hey, Ed?" Hermione called giddily. "Anything exciting? Wow, that's a big letter."

"Nah," said the blonde, scrunching up his face. "Just a couple of letters from crazy old bats telling me what to do and everything. Oh, and Dumbledore wants to meet me when we get to the school."

A baffled look grew on Harry's face. "Wonder why, though?"

Ed shrugged and continued to sift through his letters. "Where do we get all this stuff, anyway?"

"Well, Diagon Alley, of course," Ron said, as if this were obvious.

"Don't get cocky, smartass," muttered Ed vehemently. It wasn't his fault he didn't know.

"Oops," commented Ron with a wise grin on his face, "forgot you're new here, pipsqueak."

Mrs. Weasley, who was calmly administering to dinner in the kitchen downstairs, jumped as the noise of Ed's strangled voice yelled some colorful obscenities to a certain life-threatened son of hers who was screaming like a girl. Honest to God, her own children would be her demise before You-Know-Who could even touch her.


Over dinner, the Hogwarts students were eagerly discussing the new school year, and the highly anticipated trip to Diagon Alley.

"Well, I don't suppose we can put off a trip to Diagon Alley much longer now you've got these," Mrs. Weasley said wearily to no one in particular, as she looked over Ron and Ginny's booklist. Really, there was so many things to buy. Would the shopping ever leave her a moment's peace? "Arthur's managed to get Ministry cars again, thank goodness. And we're to meet our security guard once we get to the Alley."

"Security guard, Mum?" mumbled Ron through a mouthful of pudding. Hermione punched his arm and quickly reminded him to keep his mouth shut while chewing. After shooting the brunette a look behind her back, he asked "What for?"

"For me, of course," Harry muttered moodily. "They can't leave the basket case unprotected after all."

The five teenagers at the table sniggered, but Mrs. Weasley was not so quick to entertain.

"Well," she snapped, her red-orange hair popping our of her tied back hair. Strange, Edward noticed, smiling. It's like her hair reacts to whatever she's feeling. "Apparently you lot haven't heard of Florean Fortescue and Ollivander disappearing, have you?"

Harry's smile slid right off his face. "Fortescue?" he asked with an unnamable look in his eye. "That bloke who owned the ice-cream place in Diagon Alley?" When Mrs. Weasley nodded, he continued. "He used to give me free ice creams. What's happened to him?"

"Dragged off, by the look of his place."

"Wait a minute," Hermione interrupted. "What'll Edward do for a wand? If Ollivander's gone—"

"We'll just have to make do with other wand makers, Edward dear," the slightly plump woman said kindly, turning to the blonde. "Such a shame though, Ollivander was the best there was. I was hoping to buy you a proper wand."

"That's alright, Mrs. Weasley," Ed said hastily. "The Milit—I mean, the Ministry, they're funding me. I've got my own bank account with Gringotts, so I can pay for all my school supplies myself. And the letter from the Fuh—uh, the Minister, said that Bill's my transactor, and he can make withdrawals in my name, if it's not too much trouble."

"Well," a new voice coming from the back door said, joining the conversation, "I'll get the gold for you lot during my night shift tonight then. 'Evening, Mum." He placed a peck on her cheek and nodded to everyone else at the table.

"Hello, Bill dear," Mrs. Weasley said with an almost discrete sigh of relief. "Welcome home. Fleur's upstairs in the bedroom, she mentioned having a headache earlier today."

"Thanks, Mum," he said worriedly. "Is she alright?"

"Yes, Bill, hurry and go see her." Mrs. Weasley flapped a hand to get him to hurry, but Ed could see a tic working in her face that told him she did not want to talk about Fleur at the moment.

The chatter (and a small outbreak of a food fight, courtesy of Ginny) continued until Mrs. Weasley took it upon herself to shoo everyone up to bed, claiming she would handle the dishes herself, and to get plenty of rest because only God knew how long they would be stuck at Diagon Alley tomorrow.

Harry and Edward called their goodnights to the other three as they went their separate ways at the stairwell, and the two trudged together up another flight of stairs to the bedroom that they shared.

"Where is Diagon Alley, anyway?" Edward asked sleepily. He grabbed one of the open books on his desk and plopped down on his bed, wearing a pair of shorts and a sleeveless shirt. He had gotten more and more comfortable with leaving his automail arm and leg exposed while living in the Weasley house, but he would have to be very careful about it once the school year started.

"Well, it's in London, somewhere," Harry said thoughtfully, turning the switch of the lamp closest to him. "But I don't really know, I've never been in the surrounding area. The place is behind this pub, the Leaky Cauldron, but I think only wizards can see the place."

"Oh." Edward grunted a short thank you, before flipping his book open to a previously marked page. A mumbled 'good night' came from somewhere underneath Harry's mound of blankets, but the alchemist was already far too engrossed in his reading to acknowledge it. It wasn't until well past midnight that his bedside light finally clicked off.


A/n: -;; Slight unsatisfaction with this chapter (mainly the Alphonse part) was probably to blame for the lateness of this update. That, combined with my amazing skills in procrastination. I really hope that it won't decide to rear it's ugly head at me again. Expect a quicker update next time (hopefully), I had to cut three pages worth of writing to put in the next chapter since at the rate I was going at I wouldn't have finished until August. Sorry!

Thank you to anonymous reviewers WinterChanterelle and anon. Your kind words are appreciated!

Once again, thank you for reading. Until next time!

Michi P.