Harry had always thought that Edward Elric was a strange boy.
The Ravenclaw fifth year had just randomly arrived about three weeks into the year. No explanation, no nothing. Professor Dumbledore had just introduced him and that was that. Life at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry carried on as normal.
He looked unlike anyone Harry had ever seen before with his long golden hair that he wore in a braid and his golden eyes that seemed to be filled with a fire that could rival the sun. He ignored the uniform rules completely and wore leather looking trousers underneath his blue and black robes. He also wore black combat boots with a thick red sole and white gloves. On weekends her wore a black jacket with a white or sometimes silver trim and a red coat that had a strange black symbol emblazoned across his back. It was slightly familiar to Harry; he couldn’t place it, but he knew that he’d seen the snake intertwined on a cross with a winged crown above it somewhere before.
He spent most of his time alone, either in the library or Ravenclaw Tower. He begrudged partnered work in classes and didn’t say much to anyone. The Professors loved him though. He always scored high marks on tests, if not the best overall. Hermione finally had an intellectual peer and was rather put out when he refused her offer of studying together.
Once when he and Harry were partnered together in charms, Harry was surprised to see that all of the boy’s notes were written in a different language. When Harry asked him about it though, he only got a glare in return.
He got letters most days. Some were read with swift disregard and others were greeted with soft smiles. Some though, got scowled at and/or ripped up. Those particular letters were always followed by obscenities in both English and his native tongue. Those scenarios had landed him in multiple detentions.
He completely flipped out whenever anyone dared call him short or anything that could be taken as meaning such. He usually screamed at whoever it was until he ran out of breath or the person had run away. Ron did it once. It was horrific. Harry broke out in a cold sweat whenever he thought about it.
He had a bizarre fan club that was completely oblivious to. It was mostly filled with girls who swooned over his looks. Harry was secretly glad that he wasn’t the only one with an unwanted fan cub now. Colin and his camera were extremely annoying though he had cooled off some as the years passed by.
What Harry found rather peculiar though was that Edward would often have long stays in the hospital wing. Long enough for the introverted boy to be noticed as missing and raise some eyebrows but never long enough to justify proper worry. He was always completely fine when discharged though.
The only thing about Edward that Harry knew for certain was where he was from and that was only because Dumbledore had said it when he arrived. A country called Amestris, wherever that was. Even Hermione had never heard of it until Edward arrived. She had tried to research it but had come up blank. When she questioned Edward, she failed to get anything out of him apart from ‘land-locked. North of Aerugo, East of Creta, South of Drachma and West of Xing past the Great Dessert.’ That was the only information he was willing to give on his home country. Researching those countries had also drawn up a lot of nothing apart from the fact the Xing had just crowned a new Emperor.
Everything else Harry knew about Edward was done through observation and rumour.
One Transfiguration lesson Harry overheard some of the Ravenclaw boys talking about Edward and listened in. Transfiguration was the only class Edward point blank refused to take part in. After a meeting involving Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall and Flitwick; Edward was excused from them indefinitely. Again, no one knew why. But then at least Transfiguration gave the opportunity to gossip about the boy.
The overheard conversation was discussing Edward’s frequent nightmares. They boys said that they seemed brutal and that it was hard to wake him from them; and when he did wake he was extremely defensive and looked like he was about to attack. One boy said whenever it happened that Edward looked feral. They also said that he refused to talk about them and brushed them off like they were nothing. Apparently dreamless draughts didn’t help. Harry worried after he found this out but never asked Edward about it. He knew that his worry wouldn’t be appreciated.
Another thing that was odd was the way Edward moved. Some days he had a limp in his left leg and other days he was completely fine. He didn’t like people touching his right arm either. Once when Harry was passing the golden haired boy in a corridor they clashed shoulders and Harry could have sworn he heard a metallic clang. But before Harry could ask him anything about it he had rushed off. Harry chalked it up to his imagination and tried to forget about it.
So yes, Harry believed that he was justified in believing that Edward Elric was strange.
He thought about the enigmatic boy as the fifth year Gryffindor and Ravenclaw Defence Against the Dark Arts class was waiting to start. Due to it being O.W.L. year their professor was offering a series of quick catch-up lessons on anything from first year until fourth year that they were unsure on. A few students had requested a recap on Boggarts. Harry himself didn’t need this particular catch-up lesson. He knew what his Boggart was and how to combat it, so he was fine. He could cast Expecto Patronum in his sleep. He was more there for moral support for Ron and Hermione.
Ron was practically cowering, not looking forward to facing a horde of spiders. Hermione was nervous. Harry wasn’t completely sure what her greatest fear was. It had probably changed since third year. Other students looked like they were about to throw up. Some of them really didn’t want the entire student body to know their greatest fear. Not that Harry could blame them. You were at one of your most vulnerable in front of a Boggart.
Edward looked quite relaxed which was why Harry was never expecting what happened.
Slowly the class all took a shot at facing the Boggart. Shouts of ‘Riddikulus’ filled the room as one by one the students faced their greatest fears. Ron had faced his spider. Hermione had conquered her fear of not being worthy (more or less). Harry was next to face his Boggart.
He stood in front of the chest where the Boggart was being held. Harry signalled to the professor that he was ready with a nod. The clasp was released and a Dementor slowly drifted forward towards him. Instantly the room went cold and many students shrank back in fear. Harry felt the dread that was natural when facing a Dementor. Luckily he no longer fainted when faced with one.
He gathered his courage and thought of his happiest memory. With a confident voice he called out “Expecto Patronum.” His stag Patronus burst forth and charged at the Dementor. The coldness bled from the room and the Boggart Dementor retreated into its chest. His fellow classmates ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ at the silvery beast before it dissipated. Joining his friends Harry watched the rest of the class take their turns.
Finally it was Edward’s turn. Harry decided to pay more attention. Maybe he could learn more about the foreign boy. Ron and Hermione turned their attention to Edward as well, just as curious as Harry was. Several of their conversations over the past year had centred around the mysterious boy.
The first thing Harry noticed was that Edward looked scared. The expression was surprising to see on Edward’s face and it didn’t seem to fit his facial structure at all. Nor did it fit his personality, Edward was always so confident it bordered on cocky. His smirks were something else as well. Not quite Malfoy level but they were up there.
He approached the chest slowly and after a long moment signalled that he was ready.
The chest opened and a black mass dribbled out onto the floor. The rest of the room was confused. What was it meant to be?
Red light and sparks began to cover the mass as it rose up and took the shape of a human being. A wide toothy grin appeared on its head and several eyes of varying size appeared all over its body.
Gasps sounded and several students fell over at the sight of it or tried to run away. Harry found himself rooted to the spot. He couldn’t move due to the shock and fear. Just what the hell was that thing?!
Edward was petrified. He dropped his wand in shock and was just staring as he started to tremble. It was obvious that he wasn’t expecting whatever that thing was.
The black mass slithered forward, hesitated and then morphed. It became a monster. Again it looked vaguely human but it’s limbs were in all the wrong places. It was covered in blood and it let out raspy breaths. Then it spoke.
“Why didn’t you save me Edward?” It questioned as it reached out a hand. It’s raspy breathing then stopped and the hand fell lifeless.
Edward had sunk to his knees ignoring the rest of the class as they screamed.
Edward himself screamed. “Mum! I’m sorry!” The screams then turned into whimpers, but Harry knew what he was saying. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Then the Boggart changed again. It became what looked like a child and a dog mushed together.
“Big… Bruh… Ther… Wanna… Play…” Sounded from the monstrosity. The voice was weak and feeble. Unmistakeable as the voice of a young girl. Harry was nearly sick. The dog/girl mash up then fell over dead, blood pooling at the back of its head.
A man appeared over the body. He was an elderly looking man with glasses and a dishevelled appearance.
“You’re no different than I am! You thought you could do it, so you did!” The man taunted. “You couldn’t help but try it even if it was forbidden! In fact, because it’s forbidden!” The man laughed.
Edward looked up at him in horror. “I’m not like you Tucker! Never! I would never do what you did you bastard!” He cradled his head in his hands. “Nina… I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I couldn’t save her!”
Horrified silence rang around the room. This man had created that thing?!
The Boggart then changed yet again. Harry had only ever seen a Boggart change so fast when there were multiple people around and it couldn’t settle on a victim. The Boggart now had all its attention on Edward, forcing him to relive the horrors of his past and share them with the room. Harry was nearly positive that even if someone else were to jump in front of Edward now the Boggart would ignore them. It seemed relentless in its hunt through Edward’s mind, digging through his darkness memories.
This time it transformed into a suit of armour. Well, that’s what it would have been. It was blow to pieces. A red circle on the inside of it had what looked like stab wounds littered throughout it.
“Brother help me.” Another weak voice called out but this one was male. “Why won’t you help me? This was your fault brother. It’s your fault I’m like this.” With those words the armour disintegrated. Edward screamed again and lunged forward, grasping for the armour.
“Alphonse!” He yelled as his fist closed around nothing. “No Al! Come back! I promised. I promised I’d save you. Come back!” Tears streaked down Edward’s face as sobs were racked from his mouth.
Edward looked broken and Harry wished there was something; anything he could do for the boy. But there was nothing to be done until the Boggart ran out of ammunition or until Edward could face his fears.
One last transformation was waiting and this one confused Harry.
It turned into a strange looking door. It was massive and nearly reached the ceiling. It was dark grey in colour and had what looked like a tree motif carved into it. Several circles were spaced out around it and had strange symbols and words written in them. The branches also had more of the words and symbols. Harry couldn’t make heads nor tails of them, he somehow knew that he wasn’t supposed to.
In front of the doorway was a white silhouette that cast no shadow. A wide manic grin appeared but unlike the first transformation that was it. No colour or eyes; it was just simply there.
“Well, well, well, Mr. Al-Chem-Ist~~” The voice sing-song-ed. The voice seemed to echo around the room; coming from nowhere and everywhere. “Who am I? I’m so glad you asked.” It sounded gleeful. “One name you might have for me is The World, or you might call me The Universe, or perhaps God, or perhaps the Truth. I am all and I am one, so of course this also means that I am you.” The figure raised a hand and pointed it at Edward in a taunting manner.
The way Edward reacted to this Boggart was different. He didn’t scream or cry or fall over. Instead a hateful look was born in his eyes and his face turned into burning fury.
He quickly sprung onto his feet and charged the white figure, much like Harry’s stag had done to his Dementor Boggart. A heavy metallic sound rung out whenever his left foot hit the floor.
“Truth, you bastard!!” Edward raged. He pulled his right arm back and then launched it forward in a fist aiming to attack the white figure’s gut. The thing only laughed as Edward’s fist passed straight through.
Ed let out a scream of rage as he clapped his hands together roughly. Harry briefly thought that it looked like he was praying before he slammed his hands onto the floor. Blue light surrounded Edward’s palms and the blue light travelled across the floor until it reached the white figure. Once it reached it stone spikes spiralled up from the floor leaving craters at their origin points.
At last Harry jumped back woken from his shock. He didn’t want to be hit with blue light or stone thank you very much.
But just like Edward’s fist, the stone passed straight through the figure as it laughed at Edward’s attempts of attacking it. Harry thought that was one way to tackle a Boggart: attack it viciously. He now knew why Edward’s roommates had described him as feral.
Once Edward’s rage against the thing had worn him out, he sank to the floor again in front of it panting heavily.
“Silly Al-Chem-Ist. You should really remember where you are. Now everyone here knows your past. What you’ve done.” The thing giggled and a look of dread passed across Edward’s face before it hardened again. “Now, play nice with the little witches and wizards. Have fun~~.” The silhouette giggled again and took it upon itself the retreat back into the chest.
The professor chose then to recover from their shock and went around the room comforting the students who hadn’t fled. They reminded everyone that what they saw wasn’t real and that it couldn’t harm them.
Harry was unconvinced. He knew that those things wouldn’t harm him, and he knew that they weren’t real to him, but they had been real for Edward at some point. What had he been through to see those things? And all of them in such quick succession. Harry would never complain about his misfortune again.
The Golden Trio quickly came to a unanimous decision. Find Edward and make sure he was okay. A swift sweep of the room revealed he wasn’t there. He must have fled in the chaos after the Boggart retreated. The class was then dismissed and after another quick deliberation the three of them decided it would be best to look in the library.
They found him hidden amongst the tall stacks of some of the oldest books where hardly anyone went anymore, shaking slightly and muttering to himself in English and Amestrian.
Creeping closer so that they could hear him without giving away their position Harry wished they hadn’t. People had always said that their curiosity would get them killed. He now decided to take that advice on board. What they heard wouldn’t get them killed per se; they just didn’t have the right to know. It wasn’t fair to Edward.
"It’s not real. It's not real. It's over. The Homunculi are gone. Al got his body back. Mum, Nina and that bastard Tucker are all dead. Nothing can bring back the dead. I beat Truth. I punched God in the gut for fucks sake. It's all done. Over. Finished. Fine. Everything's fine. " Edward didn't seem to realise that he was switching languages.
The trio looked at each other and came to the same conclusion. They couldn’t help him.
They couldn’t ask about what they had witnessed. They were his greatest fears for a reason and it seemed that he was still fighting some of those demons. It wouldn’t be fair to demand answers and explanations.
He had been through a lot in his short sixteen years and they could do nothing but leave him be. Without words the group decided that they would watch out for the mysterious foreigner from now on. Whether he wanted it or not.
It could have been considered cruel by some to not do anything but with what they heard next; they knew he’d be alright.
“I know all that.” The dry laugh seemed louder than it was in the stillness of the library. “If Teacher could see me know, she’d kill me. Winry would hit me. Al would yell at me. Mustang would just be a bastard as per usual.” He scoffed and Harry knew there was a smile on his face. “They may not be real anymore and the memories will stay with me forever, but I’ve got two strong legs to hold me up. One of them courtesy of Winry. So I should stand up and walk. That’s what you do in the face of fear.”
Harry found he couldn’t agree more.