Keeping a Promise: A Day of Eternity
By: Lanx Borealis
High up in the North in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock. It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years, a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak.
When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of eternity will have gone by.
A soft, yet sharp tap, tap, tap rattled the window across the room. Though the first couple of taps did nothing to garner the attention of a young-looking man sitting hunched over his desk, after a few more insistent taps, his head shot up.
"Would you mind?" the young-looking man growled. He stabbed his pen hard into his desk, poking a hole through his papers. He shook his head and tossed his pen down.
Tap, tap, tap!
That lead had been a dead end, anyway. He shoved the papers off the desk and onto the already cluttered ground.
The young-looking man glanced behind himself. A graying barn owl had perched itself on the sill. It continued to peck the glass without pause.
Tap, tap, tap!
Though now that the owl's beady eyes met the bright gold eyes of the young-looking man, each tap! grew harder, and the time between each one shortened.
The young-looking man shook his head. "Another fucking owl. Gotta say I'm actually a little surprised. Haven't seen one of you pests in fifty years! And I wanted it to keep it that way! But you had to ruin that, didn't you?" The young-looking man pointed a single, gloved finger at the owl. "I'm not gonna let you in, you know. You can tap all ya want, but I am not letting you in!"
"No! I won't!" The young-looking man stomped across the room, his heavy boots crunching the carpet of fallen and crumpled papers. "And you know what? I bet I can tap more annoyingly than you!" Taking his glove off, the young-looking man revealed a metal finger. With a furrowed brow and a sneer curling his lips, he tapped just as insistently against the glass as the owl.
The owl jumped at the noise, but it continued it's tapping. In fact, it tapped back twice as hard. The window shook in its frame.
"Jesus, stop it already! Just let it in!" a floating voice inside the young-looking man's head whined. "You're both giving me a headache."
"You don't have a head, and my headache stems from the fact that there is an owl here, not the tapping!" he growled, grabbing a fistful of his black hair.
"But the tapping doesn't help!"
"Oh, shut it, John," the young-looking man said with a roll of his eyes.
"Yeah, John!" a younger, feminine voice piped up. "Shut up!"
"Don't speak to me like that, miss! You are too young to be using language like that!"
"I'm over five hundred years old! If I wanna tell you to shut up, I can! Right, Edward?"
Edward laughed. "Of course you can! Hell, you can put fuck before and after every word if you fucking want to!"
"Fucking hell fucking yeah! Fuck!"
"Maria! You stop that foul language right now!"
"Fuck you, John!"
"Yeah!" Edward laughed. "Fuck you, John!"
At his yell, the many other voices inside Edward's head came to life, waking up from a long, peaceful, slumber.
Why they had to rest, Edward would never know. It wasn't like they had bodies that could get fatigued or anything.
Edward ignored the hollow pang that echoed in his chest at the thought.
The voices in his head—voices of the victims lost to pure sin and the creation of a Philosopher's Stone—split distinctively into three groups.
One yelled at John to fucking shut the fucking hell up god fuck.
The second told the others to watch their language.
The last and loudest of the three demanded everyone shut up and go back to sleep so Edward could deal with the stupid owl that was still pecking the damn window and causing the massive migraine that, somehow, now affected all of them.
Edward rubbed his temple with his flesh fingers, groaning. "How about all of you shut the fuck up, because I'm getting pissed at all of you rather than this stupid owl!"
Even after all the years that had passed, Edward couldn't handle when all those voices spoke at once. Echo after echo of too-human remains rung between his ears. Each voice, the actual sound of it forgotten by its owner, sounded just a little off. Too high, too low, with an accent just off enough to notice. One or two? No big deal. Hell, even when five of those voices spoke at once, no headache blossomed.
But when the thousands of them awoke, and all spoke, Edward's head threatened to splinter into a thousand and one pieces. Whether by the insanity that gripped him or just because of the noise itself, he couldn't tell.
Though the voices had settled at his yell, it was too late. Edward tapped a little too hard on the glass with his metal finger. The owl, on the other side of the glass, banged its little beak back so hard, Edward swore it would chip it.
Instead, cracks laced through the glass, and with one accidental last tap, Edward shattered a pane of the window.
"Fuck! Look what you all did!" Edward screamed to his empty room as the owl wiggled through the hole. As it flew over Edward's head, its claws grazed the crown of his head. Edward ducked down just in time before the owl could pull out his black ponytail.
"No, don't respond!" Edward said as the voices rumbled inside his head. He growled under his breath and whipped around, glaring at the owl that now perched on his desk, glaring at him with displeased, yet triumphant, golden eyes.
"Don't look at me like that." Edward stalked back over to his desk and collapsed into his chair. The owl held out its leg to him.
"I already told your wizards to fuck off already," Edward growled. "I ain't gonna open that."
The owl didn't lower its leg. It continued to glare hard at Edward. I'm just trying to complete my job. Now get this thing off my fucking leg, its expression said.
"Fifty years have passed and they still haven't invented mailboxes? They're worst off than I thought?"
The owl blinked slowly.
"You don't know what a mailbox is too. At least you have an excuse. You're an owl." With a single sigh dripping with finality, Edward reached out with his flesh hand. With a gentle touch, he unwound the message from the owl's leg. "Wait one second," he told the bird. Getting up, Edward wandered into the other room, only to return a few minutes later with a bowl of water and bits of meat in a bowl.
"You'll have to stay until night if you wanna catch mice here," Edward said, placing the bowl down.
The owl seemed to huff. After drinking its water and pecking at the proffered meat, it beat its wings, taking back off into the air. Without a second glance back at Edward, it squeezed back into the hole, disappearing from sight into the darkening night.
Edward stared at the message the owl left. It was rolled up, tied with a red ribbon. A name he hadn't used in fifty years, I scrawled Edwin Eichel across it in familiar, swirly handwriting.
"Wizards." Edward spat the word like a curse. "It took you fifty years to find me again? For all the good your magic is that's still a hell of a long time. I think." Edward sighed. From a week to a year, to ten years, to fifty years, all were a drop in the endless bucket of near eternity.
Shaking his head, Edward waited for the discussion about the owl, about him shattering the pane of the window, and then each and every opinion each and every person in his mind had, before snapping the red ribbon with a single metal finger.
Those voices. His souls.
No. He didn't own their souls. Only they themselves owned their souls.
The souls of the Philosopher's Stone residing within his own body finally settled down. From mutterings to mumblings to finally near silence.
Near silence. For over 500 years, thoughts not of Edward's own shared his headspace. Getting all thousands of souls in his head silent was an impossible feat; he had given up on getting them all quite a long ass time ago.
At least now he could ignore the mutterings in the back of his mind as if those voices were nothing but radio static.
Without a single thought, lest he rouse the souls, Edward shook out the message.
Edward cocked a single brow at the dull thud of a gaudy-looking ring that fell onto his desk and at the blank piece of paper he now held pinched between his fingers.
Staring at the strange ring, at its thick copper band and fake blue jewel adorning its center, Edward tilted his head to the side. A small grunt of confusion escaped him.
"What the hell?" Edward asked no one as he dropped the blank piece of paper. Scooping the ring up into his palm, Edward held it up to the lamplight to get a better look at it, peeling away its properties under a scrutinizing gaze to figure out what the ring was for.
As he did so, however, something in the pit of his gut gave a sharp tug. Pins and needles pricked his skin. Tingles sparked in his chest, and despite the odd sensations running up and down his spine, a sudden primal rage overtook Edward.
"No! Stop it! Fuck!" But he couldn't drop the ring, couldn't will his hand to turn over and dump it onto the table. Paralyzed, the disgusting and gaudy ring became his center of gravity as his room spun around him. Colors blended together into a water paint smear.
His old "friend," Dumbledore, the bastard himself, had sent him a portkey.
The tangy buzz of magic lay thick in the back of Edward's throat as the spinning colors around him came to a standstill. Smears of brown became the walls while the messy stokes of red and yellow stilled into a roaring fire. The dark blues smoothed into the curling shadows of night, creeping along the wooden floorboards through half-curtained windows.
As soon as Edward's feet slammed into the ground, his legs buckled, and he collapsed into a nearby, well-loved chair. A grunt escaped him as he bounced on the cushions.
Damn portkeys. His stomach twisted itself into knots, and Edward had to swallow the bile gathering in his mouth down.
Instant travel never sat well with him.
And, as always, the souls within his being started chattering to themselves once again.
"Edward, what's going on? Where are we?"
"He doesn't know! Can't you tell?"
"He probably has an idea. Let's all calm down so he can think. Edward, dear, are you alright?"
"Edward! I'm scared! Is someone going to die? I don't wanna die next!"
"Hell no, you won't because if anyone is gonna die in this damn place, it's gonna be me!"
"Don't say that!"
Edward shook his head viciously from side to side. He shattered the calmness of the room by shouting, "shut up! All of you! I don't know where we are, but no one will die!"
Rubbing his temples with two fingers, Edward scooted to the edge of his chair to stand, but a dark shape from the other side of the room stilled him. Edward's muscles tensed. Alchemical formulae ran through his head. His hands darted up, palms facing one another, ready to clap together. He almost looked as if he were about to pray.
"Edwin—or should I say, Edward—it is good to see you. You haven't changed one bit in fifty years, have you? Besides your hair, of course."
In an instant, Edward's hands fell into his lap. His shoulders slumped. A groan split his lips. "Of fucking course. Why are you just standing there in the shadows? Are you trying to be creepy or something?"
The dark shape chuckled as he slid into the light. Golden light from the fire scattered across his magnificent, wiry, silver beard.
Albus Dumbledore—or Dumbles, as Edward always dubbed him—had changed a lot in the past fifty years. Where youth had once reigned, age had set in, carving deep lines across his forehead, around his eyes, and around his mouth. An odd pair of circular glasses sat on the tip of his crooked nose.
Despite that, he still retained his flowing, starry blue robes, and those clear, sparkling cerulean eyes.
A wide smile stretched Dumbledore's lips. He lowered himself into a second, nearby armchair. "It is good to see you again."
"And it's good to see wizards still don't know what electricity is. Or a lightbulb," Edward shot back, eyeing the room. Besides the roaring golden fire, there was no other light source inside the expansive living room they sat in.
Wherever they were, it wasn't Hogwarts, that for sure.
Dumbledore—the bastard—had the nerve to laugh. "You really haven't changed at all, have you?"
Irritation set in, and Edward ignored the surprised and even joyful mutterings of the souls within him to spit out, "let's cut the fuckin' small talk, all right? I told you we wanted nothing more to do with you or wizards ever again. I thought we had made that clear."
The serene happiness melted from Dumbledore's expression, his smile tightening.
"Looks like you got him, eddy-boy!"
"Don't call me that," Edward muttered.
Dumbledore tilted his head to the side. "Hmm?"
Edward bit the inside of his cheek. He was too used to being cooped up inside his apartment. At home, the walls never gave him weird looks when he talked out loud.
"All of you need to settle down," Edward thought. "Nothing," he said out loud. "Why are we here? What do you want now? Also, I think this counts as kidnapping."
"I did not kidnap you, you can get up to leave whenever you wish—"
"Bullshit! We don't even know where we are! So stop dancing around the damn question." Edward slammed his fists onto the arms of his chair. He shot up to his feet. The fire tossed his shadow across Dumbledore's as it leaped happily within its brick cage.
Dumbledore sighed. Weaving his fingers together, he rested his hands on his knee as he stared up at Edward evenly. "I suppose it is best to get to the point in situations like these. Nicholas Flamel is dying, Edward."
Edward's skin prickled as his blood froze. He swore his heart skipped a beat. For half a beat, real silence reigned between his ears. Every soul, the thousands of them that remained, were silent.
Then, another beat passed, and cacophony broke out. Screams and cries, hisses and prayers, all exploded out of the remnants of human life floating inside him. Edward slammed his hands over his ears.
That did nothing to dull the dissonant noise.
Nicholas. Nicholas Flamel. He hadn't heard that name in a long time. The last someone had uttered it to him had been from the man in front of him.
Paralyzed by the pain shooting through his head, Edward screwed his eyes shut tight, pressing his chin into his chest. He gritted his jaw. Even if he wanted to speak, he knew the only noise his lips would produce would be screams.
"SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP STOP IT STOP IT!" Edward thought instead. "I'LL TAKE CARE OF THIS. HE WON'T HURT ANY OF YOU ANYMORE. PLEASE. PLEASE QUIET DOWN."
Sniffles replaced the cries. Snarls and whimpering replaced the screaming. Those screamed prayers fell into maniac mutterings but didn't diminish.
Edward wasn't sure how much time had passed since that utterance of that name. Within the binds of his own head, time had seemed to stop. With his head still pounding, Edward sat back down, unable to support himself.
The last time had been the final straw for Edward. "Flamel" had been the last word Dumbledore spoke to him till now. Last time, it had taken nearly three hours to calm down the souls within him.
Nicholas Flamel. His poor, wayward apprentice. Nicolas Flamel, a murderous bastard.
"Don't say his name," Edward ground out.
Dumbledore shook his head. "It's just a name, Edward," he murmured, not unkindly. "Nothing to be afraid—"
"Don't. Say. His. Name."
Dumbledore fell silent. Whether out of politeness or discomfort, he looked away, staring past Edward into the fire as Edward regained his grip on himself and his thoughts.
Releasing yet another sigh, Edward blinked slowly, his rapid heartbeat settling. Only after more time had ticked past, the night marching on as the moon rose high in the sky, did Edward straighten himself back up.
His face, schooled into that sneer he had worn before that name had been spoken, appeared uncracked as if it had never shattered in the first place.
Edward cleared his throat, ignoring what had just happened completely. "Everyone dies." He paused. "Everyone should die. It's nothing special."
Dumbledore shook his head, giving Edward a look as if he had overlooked something important. He hesitated.
"I know your relationship with one another is complicated, but Edward, can you please put the past behind yourself and—"
Edward stomped his foot—the metal one—and the jarring noise halted Dumbledore's words.
"Put the past behind myself?! I will once I'm fucking dead. That man ruined our life! He's a murderer! A mass murderer! We will never forgive him for what he has done. Never!"
Dumbledore released a long, weary sigh. "He was still your apprentice. Though he has made many bad decisions in his life, he has tried to repent—"
"A bad decision doesn't include murder and repenting means nothing."
"Edward. May I please finish my thoughts first? I have some important news to tell you, some of it regarding a Philosopher's Stone."
Edward's brow twitched, a frown marring his face. For a second, he remained tense, remained ready to jump up and walk out, all wizards be damned.
Then, with an almost inaudible sigh, Edward relaxed back into his armchair. "Well? I'm waiting."
"A while back, Flamel—"
Dumbledore sighed through his nose. "—made a stone, but not one crafted from human life. He created it with high levels of magic instead."
"So it was a fake."
"I suppose so."
Edward relaxed if for half a second. "That's a relief," he grumbled to himself. After learning the truth behind the Philosopher's Stone, Edward would take a fake stone over the genuine and horrible thing any day of the week.
Although Edward tried to prevent his mind from wandering from the task at hand, he couldn't stop the sudden onslaught of his past obsession rearing up to bite him in the ass.
A Stone made of magic. How would such a thing be crafted? How many wizards did it take? What sort of spell—or spells—could exist to craft such a horrifying and sinful object? Most likely, it wasn't even a spell or multiple spells, but a ritual.
But where did that power originate from…?
The growing disgust spreading throughout the souls within Edward halted his thoughts. As soon as his mind had run amok, shame overtook him. Edward hung his head.
Memories not of his own flashed in Edward's mind. Over a thousand different memories of that fateful, dreary day assaulted him.
Edward had already seen these memories before. He knew what every single soul had been doing the moments before the red light flashed, and their lives had been… stolen and condensed….
"I'm sorry," Edward thought. "I am so sorry. Old habits die hard, as they say."
Only a handful of souls rippled with slight laughter at that. Edward's shame deepened into a blackened pit.
The souls were tired of his apologies and apologizing to them tired him in turn.
The sound of Dumbledore's voice broke Edward from his reverie. He blinked, his head snapping up.
"Edward? Did you hear what I said?"
Edward shook his head, cursing himself. Perhaps he had been away from physical human interaction for too long….
"My stupid ex-apprentice made a fake stone. So what?"
Dumbledore shook his head as if he were talking to a young child rather than a man many years his senior. Edward grit his teeth.
"With it, he tried to help many people—"
"And prolonged his own life. He didn't care about those people that's the only goal he—"
"Edward." Dumbledore's calm voice cracked. It was faintly there, if anyone else heard the way he said his name, it would sound as if he were about to hand out a regretful reprimand.
But Edward knew better. He knew Dumbledore better, despite the years.
"I am aware that Nicholas is a touchy subject for you... all of you, and I also understand your… bad past relating to him. But you haven't talked to him in hundreds of years. I ask of you to give me, at the very least, the benefit of the doubt a time gap of hundreds of years could make."
Edward ground his teeth together. The scorn on his face deepened, along with the lines of anger pushing his eyebrows together.
Only the sound of the crackling fire kept the silence between the two at bay.
Eventually, Edward dropped his eyes from Dumbledore's severe expression back to the way the fire tossed his shadow all around the opulent room.
"Fine," Edward muttered. "But if I, we, don't like what we hear, I'm walkin' out of this place. And you won't be able to find us again."
Dumbledore dipped his head. "Very well. Although Nicholas created the Stone, he didn't believe it was safe with him. Dark forces have been gathering in the Wizarding World, Edward."
"When are they not?" one of his souls whispered. Some laughed in agreement; others sighed in exasperation. Edward noted that most of his souls opted to remain silent. He figured they were most likely still disturbed from that name being mentioned so often.
Edward pursed his lips to prevent a quick quip from slipping out.
"He asked me to protect it at Hogwarts. Things… didn't go as planned, however."
Edward cocked a brow at that. "How so?"
"For lack of a better term, Hogwarts was… infiltrated. To protect the Stone, it had to be destroyed."
"He shouldn't have created it in the first place. Even if it didn't cost human lives, no one should have that much power in their hands." Edward's voice dropped into a low mumble. "No human can become God."
We are proof of that. Edward's thoughts reverberated among the souls. They all murmured in agreement.
"I agree." Dumbledore paused, then echoed, "everyone dies."
Edward narrowed his eyes. "Without the Stone, Flamel is dying."
"Yes. And he wants to see you, one last time."
"And so the truth finally reveals itself," Edward hissed. "It always does. That's the real reason for bringing us here. Not to just tell me of a passing."
Dumbledore sighed. "Yes, Edward."
Edward tore his eyes from the old wizard to his surroundings once again. He had thought they were, perhaps, in Dumbledore's living quarters. He had never imagined Dumbledore to be a paint sort of person, more of a wallpaper kinda guy, but now that Edward inspected the room he had sat in, he noticed the tells.
The stretch of bookshelves against the wall, all ordered by color of all things. How new the magical theory books compared to the alchemy books sitting alongside them. How pictures of landscapes hung on the wall rather than pictures of family or friends. Hell, even the lack of a rug on the hardwood floors should have clued Edward in on where they all were.
"Where's Flamel?" Edward growled.
Dumbledore didn't point. He didn't stand up from his seat. He barely twitched. Yet, his eyes shifted to the right, glancing down the short hallway.
Edward had no words for Dumbledore. He stood and left through the hallway.
Edward tightened his hands into fists as he ducked out of Dumbledore's sight. He bit the inside of his cheek hard, narrowing his eyes into slits, glaring at the cracked door at the end of the hallway.
A faint glimmer of golden light leaked from the slim crack.
Inside him, the souls shifted. They wriggled and squirmed and many fought against moving forward.
As soon as Edward took another step down the hallway, the screaming resumed.
Edward shot his right arm out. His metallic fingers dug into the wall as he held himself up. His splitting migraine returned, cracking his brain in two. With his flesh hand, Edward cupped his face, refusing to let a groan slip past his lips.
The souls begged. They begged for him to turn around, to leave this horrid house. They begged for him to return to Germany, or perhaps even go back to America. Go far, far far away as far away as he could get from the man—monster—bedbound at the end of the hallway.
Edward shook his head at their cries and their toothless threats.
"If he's really dying, I have to check. I have to make sure."
Numerous voices replied to him.
"He's the one who did this to us! He should have died a long time ago-!"
"He had no right to live this long."
"Nothing he could do can forgive this sin."
Edward agreed with every spat statement, every bristled snarl. Every nasty insult, petty sneer, and angry cry caused Edward to nod his head in understanding. Yet, underneath those countless souls spewing fire, underneath the torrent of reopened scabs and scars, the tinny voice of Maria touched him.
"But we aren't the only ones who lost everything!" the little girl cried out. Though she lacked a body, though she lacked any sensation and touch, Edward could still hear her cries in her voice.
It broke his heart. It warmed his insides.
"Edward has suffered just as much as we have! And if he needs to— to confront him, then he should." Maria said nothing about herself, but Edward could feel her desperate need of confrontation in the pit of her soul.
He feared to speak of what he felt needed to be done. Maria felt the same. And they weren't alone. Many souls—hundreds and thousands—hungered to face the man who did this to them. They yearned to face the creature that could rip lives away without a second thought for himself, only to burden his sin on the one doing all he could to stop him.
Those standing beside him, those supporting him both with words and without, brought a touch of gratefulness to Edward. He closed his eyes, bathing in the warm sensation that started in the pit of his heart and spread outward. He dared a small smile to grace his lips.
"Thank you," he whispered so quietly, only the souls could hear him. Dropping his arm back to his side, Edward continued down the hallway without incident.
As soon as his flesh fingers met the wood of the door, the simmering voices in his being absconded into silence.
A study engulfed half the bedroom. The desk was a little cleaner than Edward's own. Bookshelves stuffed with knowledge and trinkets of all kind surrounded the bed sitting beneath the window.
The emaciated man laid beneath a blanket of moonlight. The weight of the wrinkles obscured his beady black eyes. All his hair had fallen out, leaving nothing but a bald head with plenty of spotting behind.
Without his Stone, even a fake, Nicholas had transformed into looking his actual age. Edward feared to even breathe near his wayward ex-student in fear he would turn to dust.
Underneath the folded skin, Nicholas grinned. It stretched too wide. His black eyes disappeared behind several sagging flaps of skin. When Nicholas parted his thin lips, a toothless black hole met Edward. The words that seeped from the decrepit man were mere wispy whispers.
Edward had to lean in to hear him.
Nicholas repeated himself, weak and faint coughs underlining each word. "It's… it's good to see you aga- again, sir."
Edward paused, waiting for a reaction from the souls within his Stone, but they all remained quiet. The shocking silence ringing between his ears chilled Edward.
"I can't say the same, Nicholas," Edward growled. He crossed his arms, looming over Nicholas like Death himself.
Nicholas sighed, turning his sights out the window and into the murky night. "I know." A sigh seeped from him, and he shook his head. "It's… hard to look- look at you. You haven't changed a- a single bit."
Edward's eye twitched but dismissed the assumed slight at his height. "That's no thanks to you." Edward gulped, the tense awkwardness stringing the two together too much to bear. Locking his jaw, Edward ground out, "And I assume, if it wasn't for the destruction of your fake Stone, you would be as lively as ever, wouldn't you?"
Nicholas, already as still as death, froze. "You would be correct."
Clenching his hands into fists, Edward hissed, "how did you do it? How did you create a second Philosopher's Stone? Why? Even after what you did to all of Europe, you still craved immortality?"
"Edward, please. You speak of- of old matters." Nicholas swung his gaze back around. The slight warmth that had been bubbling in his eyes had cooled down.
"Old matters my ass. And you will answer my questions." Edward glowered down at Nicholas, his nails digging into his flesh palm harder, carving half-moon crescents.
Nicholas broke under his old teacher's stare.
"Albus said you created it from magic," Edward pressed.
"That I did. It took no- no lives. I created it from mag- magical energy, press- pres- pressurized and condensed into a s- single point." Nicholas shook his head. "It took- took countless magical re- resources, countless years, and- and even then, this stone—the Sorcerer's Stone—cannot com- compare to the real Phil- Philosopher's Stone."
Edward sighed but refused to fall lax. "So it was a fake."
Nicholas narrowed his eyes. "I would not- not call it a fake. Mer- merely different. I know you th- thought I had died a long- long time ago—"
"We had. Until that loon sitting out in your living room offered to introduce us."
Nicholas winced. "Yes, I- I recall him telling me about you."
"And you told him everything."
"Not everything." Nicholas was quick and sharp to correct him. "He would have- have figured it out anyway—"
Edward shook his head. "We don't understand how that man out there can call you his friend even after knowing what you did."
"He is a- a wonderful friend," came Nicholas' reply.
"He's insane, that's what. Like how most you wizards are." Edward huffed, peeling his eyes away from Nicholas to stare out the window. "If you could destroy the Stone so easily, it was a fake. A knock-off Philosopher's Stone."
Nicholas grunted at that remark. "Discussing the- the Stone isn't the only rea- reason I requested Albus to br- bring you here, you kn- know." Nicholas fell into a small coughing fit. Edward waited it out.
"So why else did you bring us here? To look at how your handiwork has been—"
"No!" Nicholas snapped. For the first time since Edward engaged with the man, real anger seeped into his voice. "I wanted to- to see how you were faring, I- I wanted to see- see you, Edward, one last ti- time. And— and I wanted to ask- ask a favor."
Edward's hard gaze fell back on Nicholas. The silvery moonlight painted stark shadows within the folds of his face. However, even within that ink, Edward could see desperation etched into Nicholas' expression. His lipless mouth hung open with his slug of a tongue poking out. Those beady black eyes, shining with exhaustion, gripped Edward's, begging him without words to listen for once in his goddamn life….
Edward released a long sigh. He dropped his arms back to his sides. He closed his eyes, listening to the quiet, inquisitive murmurs of the braver souls in the back of his mind.
Edward opened his eyes. "As you can see, I am doing fine. We all are. What favor do you want from me?"
Nicholas' entire being glowed with gratitude. A lopsided grin twisted the hole of his mouth. "Oh, it's a small matter, really! Have you heard of a young wizard known as Harry Potter?"
Edward wracked his brain, but he had no recollection of that name. He shook his head. "No. I have not kept up with the Wizarding World."
"That- that doesn't surprise me. Harry Potter is… is… well, well he is an important figure in our world—"
"Your world," Edward quickly corrected.
Nicholas shook his head. "The Wiz- Wizarding World. He defeated the dark- dark lord known as Vold- Voldemort—"
Edward snorted and muttered something about "batshit wizard names." Nicholas elected to ignore him a second time.
"During his first y- year at Hogwarts, he- he not only helped pro- protect the Sorcerer's Stone from e- evil, but refused to- to use it. Albus told me that- that he asked for- for it to be des- destroyed."
Edward narrowed his eyes in thought. "So a kid who actually has a decent head on his shoulders. What about him?"
"Don't be- be so flip- flippant, sir."
Edward's cheeks colored with red at that cursed title. "Nicholas-"
"You- you know better than- than anyone else that any- any normal person would- would desire the Stone for- for their own gains. And- and furthermore, use it."
Edward cursed at that, raking his fingers through his hair. "So this kid is better than me and a whole hell better than you. What do you want from me?"
"Harry Po- Potter is a child. And his fame in- in my world will bring forth not just- just friends, but enemies t- too." Nicholas sighed. Somehow, he seemed to melt further into his mattress. His breaths gained weight, the heave of his words rattling inside his bony chest.
Edward twitched but could not bring himself to help the man—monster—in front of him.
"I have… have no time… left. I ask of you to- to protect him. Harry Potter. That child. Protect him from- from the wiz- wizard- my world."
Nicholas gulped. "Sorry, I am… tired." He fell into another coughing fit. Unable to summon the strength to even cover his mouth, Edward watched Nicholas hack black dust onto himself.
"So this is your last request, huh? You have nerve to ask anything from me. Us."
Nicholas found himself unable to answer through his coughs.
Edward shook his head. "We will… think about your request. I'm not the only one in this body—life—of mine anymore." He hesitated, almost willing to grasp Nicholas' hand in a limp handshake. Instead, Edward kept his hands loose at his sides and dipped his head.
Nicholas' coughing fit ended, and he laid limp in his bed. His eyes didn't open, but from his mouth, weaker words than before leaked out. Edward nearly didn't catch them.
"Thank… you…. And- and Edward… b- by the way… you- you looked much better with bl- blond hair." Nicholas snorted, and his body stilled.
Edward turned away with the softest of grunts, refusing to watch the emancipated body of his wayward apprentice collapse into dust.
"Goodnight, you bastard."
Dumbledore stood as Edward slinked from the darkened hallway and into the fiery light of the living room. Clutching his robes in his hands, he hurried over to Edward as he stood at the mouth of the corridor.
"Well?" Dumbledore prompted, staring at Edward imploringly. His clear blue eyes lacked their typical twinkle. Rather, darkened worry had set into them.
Edward merely shook his head. "Did you know what Nicholas would ask of me?" The slight tremor of his voice told Dumbledore all he needed to know what had just happened.
Dumbledore closed his eyes and allowed himself a small, yet lengthy sigh. He nodded once. "I had an idea. What did he ask of you?"
Edward kept his intense eyes pinned on Dumbledore, unblinking and unwavering. Any weaker man would have crumbled under his gaze.
Dumbledore met the stare with ease.
"He asked me to watch over some kid. Harry Potter."
Dumbledore nodded once, a soft hum seeping from him. "I see. Harry Potter is quite an important boy in the Wizarding World-"
"I was told," Edward said.
Dumbledore regarded Edward coolly. "So what will you be doing now, Edward?"
Edward released a long sigh, shaking his head. He ruffled his own black locks with one of his hands, musing his ponytail. "Oh, I have no idea. We will have to think about it. Cast a vote if you will."
"Very well." Dumbledore paused for half a second, the gears in his head clicking away. Edward could almost hear his thoughts.
"If your conclusion is a positive one, will you owl me?" Dumbledore asked.
One of Edward's brows cocked up at that. "And why would you need to know?"
A wry smile threatened to crack Dumbledore's pressed lips. "Why, because Harry Potter spends most of his year at Hogwarts, of course."
Edward cursed at that. He hadn't forgotten that Potter was just a wizard kid, but his brain hadn't quite connected that fact to Hogwarts yet, still reeling from the appearance of Flamel barely an hour ago.
"Dumbledore, don't tell me—"
"Hogwarts is always open to you, Edward Elric."
Edward waved Dumbledore off. "Oh, don't start all that! We haven't decided yet!"
But, by Dumbledore's smile, Edward knew Dumbledore knew, he kinda had. He cursed the man more.
With a roll of his eyes, Edward stomped past Dumbledore toward the open, roaring fire. He crossed his arms as he stared into the leaping, crackling flames.
"Just take me home, you bastard."
A small chuckle slipped from Dumbledore, and his aged hand brushed Edward's back.
"As you wish, Edward. And thank you."