The Great Hall is done up like it’s never been before, never that he’s seen it at least.
The house tables that normally span the length of the room have been whisked away, with round tables covered in fine velvet cloth and that seat maybe five or six people staggered around the edges. Even the professors’ table has been shifted further back, split into two, to allow for more room. Giant evergreen trees stand behind where the professors sit, three of them, two of the same size and one larger in the middle. Snow that will never melt dusts their branches, glittering under the lights. Icicles of varying sizes hang from the ceiling that’s been enchanted to look like the night sky, full of twinkling stars. Glittering snowflakes hover midair, never to fall. And statues of creatures with angels’ wings and dragons’ heads line the archways on either side of the room. There are two water fountains towards the back corners of the Great Hall, carved out of marble.
The Great Hall is gorgeous, a stunning, truly magical sight. The perfect setting for the Yule Ball.
But the decor isn’t what Roy can’t keep his eyes off of.
Standing in the center of the now-ballroom are the Triwizard champions and their companions for the evening. Standing there, only meters away from Roy, is Ed.
He’s decked out in wizarding robes, looking more elegant than Roy’s ever seen him, crimson fabric swirling around him as he moves, gold embroidery shimmering. Fitting, given Ed’s house. Though to be honest, Roy’s surprised to see that he’s not wearing all black or some leather monstrosity of a cloak—likely due to the influence of the Hufflepuff girl in his arms. (Her intensity and temper, however, Roy knows, rival that of a Gryffindor.) And as much as seeing her with him, the way they seem to fit together like puzzle pieces, is a bitter pill in his mouth, Roy can’t help but be thankful for her influence, if it means Roy gets to see Ed looking like this.
Riza coughs next to him, quietly, but pointedly. Roy’s eyes flit to her, then to where the Headmaster stands. He doesn’t stand for long, clapping his hands twice, and as the music begins and Bradley sits down, Roy realizes he missed the opening speech. Riza rolls her eyes at him as he quickly sits down, joining in on the audience’s applause, and he knows he’ll be her ‘practical demonstration dummy’ for her Charms class for the next week, at least.
The champions move with the start of the music, bowing to each other before clasping their partner’s hands and starting to dance. The students from the visiting schools dance wonderfully, gliding across the floor like they’ve been training for it their entire life. And they very well may have been, if what Roy’s heard about Beauxbatons is true.
Ed and Winry flow like water, meeting curves and dips with ease. But there’s something in Ed’s steps, that even as he holds her close to him, one hand entwined with hers while the other rests gently on her back, that lets Roy know his heart isn’t fully in it. For all that an outsider would see, they would appear to be a couple, young and in love, waltzing gracefully on a romantic night. But even from here, Roy can see that while Ed is smiling, it’s not his blinding grin when he’s filled with joy, or his lopsided smile, a little soft, a little shy, that makes his eyes crinkle in the corners. It’s not the smile he only directs at Roy when no one else can see them.
The music, an orchestral melody, reaches its crescendo, and as the intensity begins to slow, to quiet, Ed apparently decides to break from the mold, because of course he does, it's Ed we're talking about. Instead of following the choreography with the rest of the champions, he twirls Winry out, quickly pulling her back in and dipping her low.
When they straighten, they're facing towards the front. Ed's looking directly at Roy. Applause starts thundering throughout the room; Roy barely hears it over the sound of his heart as Ed flashes a grin at him.
More students flood the dancefloor after that, modern pop blasting through instruments enchanted to amplify. With them, Ed is lost.
Roy turns to Riza and clears his throat, holding out his hand as he stands. “It’s not our usual scene, but would you care to dance, Professor?”
Her smile is small, a little wry, like she knows that she’s not the one Roy truly wishes to dance with. And in all honesty, she likely does know. Roy may be a master of masking what he’s thinking and feeling most of the time, but he’s always been terrible at hiding things from Riza, much as he tries to.
She places her hand in his, pulling herself up. “Only if I get to lead.”
He chuckles quietly. “Of course. After you.”
It’s not until later in the evening that Roy sees Ed again.
He’s heading over to the refreshments table, to get himself and Riza something to drink—hopefully something other than the god-awful punch that’s being served. Is it really too much to ask for a dry bar for the staff, Roy gripes internally.
Someone bumps into him while he’s pouring water and quick reflexes and the ability to perform nonverbal wandless magic are his only saviors. He turns, and it’s the Yao boy, Ling, with Ed close behind him. They’re trying—and failing —to smother their laughter. And it doesn’t have anything to do with their collision into him, by the way the two of them are clutching their goblets close to their chest, like they’re afraid Roy’s gonna try to take them away.
Roy narrows his eyes slightly, taking in their appearances—the flush on their cheeks, the gleam in their eyes. The way they can’t seem to stop stumbling and giggling enough to stand straight, hanging off of each other.
Merlin’s beard, christ above— whatever is one’s choice phrase for exasperation. Are these two really drunk? How did they even spike their drinks? Roy thought Riza had put an anti-interference charm on the punchbowl, and it’s not like her spellwork to fade so fast. But more importantly—
Where did they get the alcohol and would they be willing to share?
“Whoopsie, sorry, Professor,” Ling says, and Ed slaps Ling’s arm, causing him to yelp in pain, then dissolve into laughter.
Roy looks skyward for a moment, sending a prayer up to a god he’s never believed in and that most wizards have never heard of. “No worries, Mister Yao. Just try not to become too obviously merry.”
Ling widens his eyes, blinking to feign innocence. “You don’t want us to have fun?”
Roy shoots him a look, while Ed hisses at him to “shut up, you idiot! I told you he wouldn’t care.”
“Have fun,” Roy says. “Just don’t get caught.” It’s not like he can judge them. Roy was doing the same at their age, and younger too.
“Aaah,” Ling says exaggeratedly, nodding faux-sagely. “I understand completely, Professor.”
“In any case,” Roy moves on, blatantly refusing to acknowledge what’s happening any longer, “your dancing earlier tonight, Mister Elric,” and it’s really a good thing, that his classes give him plenty of practice of not stumbling and slipping up by calling him Ed, “was impeccable. Truly, with the way you traipse about the halls, one would believe you have two left feet or were constantly under a confundus charm. Or perhaps Miss Rockbell had you under a tarantallegra earlier?”
Ed rolls his eyes, tugging down the skin under one eye—with a particular finger, Roy notes with amusement—while sticking his tongue out. “Just cause you’re allergic to actually working doesn’t mean we all are, Professor.”
Ling attempts to look scandalized for half a second—failing miserably—before a snort escapes him and he slaps a hand over his mouth to muffle his laughter. Roy’s eye twitches. Perhaps the nearest threat Roy has to worry about isn’t Riza or Ed but the headache looming on Roy’s horizon. Christ, he needs a drink.
“Hmm,” he says, taking a sip of his water. “I’m sure Professor Grumman would agree with you. How goes Divination, by the way?”
Ed sputters, and Roy smirks, hiding it behind his goblet. What students always fail to realize is that teachers are just as much gossips as the students are, if not worse. And while Ed may have exceptional grades, there are two classes in which he periodically just does not do his assignments: Divination and History of Magic. They’re too boring, he claims when he’s complaining to Roy, useless and stupid, particularly in Divination’s case. Ed’s gripes about Divination are a source of amusement for Grumman, but Roy knows his lack of engagement in History of Magic makes Falman want to pull his hair out. He’s drunkenly cried about it to Roy more than once.
“Divination’s fucking fine, you ass” Ed mutters, tone surly as he avoids Roy’s eyes. There’s pink on his face not from the alcohol and if Roy’s to believe what he sees, Ed’s pouting as well. Inwardly, Roy melts. He’s so cute when he’s embarrassed—Roy can’t help himself, even if he knows he should. A lock of hair falls forward into Ed’s face; Roy’s fingers twitch with the urge to tuck it behind his ear. He grips his drink tighter, squashing the impulse.
Outwardly, he tsks. “Language, Mister Elric,” Roy reminds him, though he knows Ed won’t listen to him. Nor does Roy truly care, really. Not anymore, at least. Crassness has never really been something that Roy’s attracted to, but with Ed, he finds it gives him a certain charm. A honest boldness, a bold honesty, that Roy appreciates—that he’s come to love. The admonishment is more for show; an act where Roy is only a teacher and Ed is only a student, they are nothing more than that to the other.
“I’ll show you ‘language’,” Ed says, starting towards him before Ling yanks him back by the arm and covers Ed’s mouth with his hand. Ed struggles against Ling, but Ling doesn’t let go.
“Allllright! Well, see ya, Professor Mustang!” Ling says, dragging Ed away. For all that Ling is just as much a chaotic student as Ed is—worse in some regards, even—he at least has some sense of self-preservation. A good thing too, especially in this situation—a tipsy Ed swings between aggressive and affectionate like a pendulum and is just as likely to kiss Roy as he is to punch him; neither of which would be ideal at the moment. As much as Roy would like to kiss Ed, would like Ed to pull him forward by the front of his robes, fists tangled in the material, and kiss him, there are too many eyes around. Too many people that wouldn’t understand—wouldn’t understand them or their love. Roy would love to show Ed off, would like nothing more than to show him the love he deserves in front of everyone, but there are some things that just cannot be, much as you may wish otherwise.
Roy watches them go, lifting his goblet in lieu of a wave. He watches as Ed leaves, disappearing into the crowd. Roy watches, even long after Ed has vanished from his sight. He’s glad Ed seems to be enjoying this night, even if they cannot celebrate it together. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel sad as well, however, that they can’t even dance with one another. Roy is glad Ed is having fun, yes, but he also aches— yearns to be the one with him.
He sighs. Riza will be wondering what’s taking him so long; he supposes he should get back to her, lest she come looking for him herself. Topping off his drink, Roy glances one last time in the direction that Ed left, before turning around and leaving himself. It wouldn’t do for Roy to stand around alone and noticeably pine—he might as well stand with a friend and try to enjoy himself too, even while he secretly pines.
He sees Ed a few times more throughout the night, though never close enough to touch. It seems like every other time he turns around, Ed’s there, meeting his eyes across the room. And every time, Roy’s heart skips a beat; something in his stomach flutters. It’s getting harder and harder to stay away.
Roy’s currently watching as Ed breaks away from his gaze and slips out of the Great Hall when Riza leans over and murmurs, “this ends in thirty minutes. If anyone asks where you are, you forgot you had a fire-call appointment with the Madame.”
He looks at her and asks “Riza, have I ever told you how much of a blessing you are?”
“You have,” she says, amused, “but saying it more often wouldn’t hurt.”
“I owe you,” Roy says, already walking away.
“I know,” he hears her reply.
By the time Roy’s made it through the throng of students and into the hallway, he’s lost sight of Ed. But it doesn’t matter—he knows where Ed is heading for. Quickly, but calmly, so as not to attract unwanted attention—because even though the halls are practically a ghost town, the portraits hanging on the walls still have eyes and ears—Roy makes his way to the seventh floor, heart racing in anticipation.
It seems silly that he should feel like this. Like a naive school girl at prom about to ask her crush to dance. Ironic, even, considering his situation. But Ed brings out the best, the worst, and all the things unexplored in Roy, and he isn’t in the habit of denying his heart any longer.
There’s no one on the seventh floor corridor when he arrives, just Roy, a tapestry on one side and a giant blank wall on the other. But he casts a detection spell, just in case. Assured that there’s nobody around to watch him, he paces in front of the empty wall three times, letting his heart speak for him. Slowly, a door forms in front of him, appearing as if it was always there. Roy glances over his shoulder and then enters, the door dissolving as it shuts behind him.
He looks around at the room, the room that always appears when he and Ed meet like this. A fireplace that’s always lit on one side of the room, with a plush rug and a sofa in front of it. Bookcases filled with all kinds of books, ones that you can’t access from the school’s library—books on rare magics, academic texts on muggle sciences, muggle fictions and stories. A giant bed, which the softness of rivals his own.
Roy finds Ed on the rug, sprawled out on his stomach, reading a book by the firelight. Roy had thought Ed looked stunning before, but besides the fire, he is positively ethereal. The way the glow of the fire and its shadows dance on his skin and highlight his features—Roy cannot believe that he is lucky enough to call this golden man his.
He must make a noise of some sort, or perhaps the two of them are just so in sync that they can sense the other’s presence, but without Roy even saying anything, Ed turns his head around to look at him, gold eyes arresting him once again.
“About time your ass got here, I was starting to think you weren’t coming.”
Roy huffs, amused. “As if I could ever stand you up.”
Ed laughs, quiet, but fond. “Mmm, right.” He stands, setting his book aside, and carefully wobbles his way over to Roy. He’s tipsy, but doesn’t appear to be as drunk as he was earlier in the evening.
“Someone’s been hitting the bottle,” Roy remarks. “How did you and Mister Yao accomplish that anyway?”
Ed wrinkles his nose when Roy calls Ling ‘Mister Yao’ and swats his chest. “How many times do I have to tell you to just call ’im Ling? ‘Sides, a magician never reveals his secrets,” he says, smirking.
“Ah, but you’re a wizard, not a magician,” Roy counters, tapping Ed’s nose.
He scoffs. “Fuckin’—uh… whazza word again? Pedantic? No…”
“Semantics?” he suggests, wry.
“Yes! That’s it! Fucking semantics!” Ed exclaims, pointing at Roy. “Now c’mere, I wanna dance with your lame butt.” He grabs Roy by the hands and drags him over to by the fire. Roy provides no resistance, follows him all too willingly.
“My butt’s lame, is it? I’ll have you know this butt won Witch Weekly’s award for best eligible bachelor wizards’ butt three years in a row!”
Ed sticks his tongue out at Roy. “The lamest. And that’s coz Witch Weekly is run by a buncha middle-aged single witches with no taste.”
Roy puts a hand to his chest, stumbling backwards and gasping dramatically. “You wound me deeply, Edward.” How shall he ever recover from this? He can’t believe it; this is worse than the time Maes insulted his hair and that was devastating.
Ed laughs, getting pulled along with Roy. “S’ok, though.”
“Oh? Why is that?” Roy asks, tugging Ed closer and clutching his hands to his chest.
“I’ve been told I have pretty bad taste,” Ed says, tilting his head and quirking his lips in a smile.
Something in Roy’s chest flutters, and he can’t find the words to reply. Instead, he leans down and kisses Ed softly, sweetly, hoping to convey everything he feels but cannot say. They part, Roy resting his forehead on Ed’s. “I’ve been wanting to dance with you too,” he whispers. “All night, in fact. It nearly killed me, not being able to.”
“Nuthin’ stopping us now,” Ed whispers back, wrapping his arms around Roy’s neck.
Roy doesn’t even have to lift a finger or swish his wand—the room senses their desire and then there’s a record player on the nightstand next to the bed, needle down and soft music filling the room. Roy chuckles quietly to himself, grateful for the convenience. He shifts his arms down, holding onto Ed’s waist, holding him close. One hand sneaks back, to rest against the small of Ed’s back.
A slow, gentle melody floats through the air and the two wizards sway together, like blades of grass in a spring breeze. There is nothing but the two of them in this moment; no rules or roles getting in their way; no society or people to judge and condemn them; no looming consequences if they were to be discovered; just two young men in love dancing on a night they wish could have been theirs.
The music picks up tempo and the room shifts to accommodate them as they change pace along with the music. Slow to fast, romantic to silly, waltz to swing, fun, intense—them, hand in hand, side by side, heart with heart.
Roy isn’t sure how much time passes while they dance. It could be only twenty minutes, it could be hours. When Roy looks out the window, the moon is high in the sky, bright and full against the midnight backdrop.
Ed’s wrapped up in Roy’s arms, tucked against his chest with his head resting on Roy’s shoulder while Roy’s fingers tangle themselves in Ed’s hair. “It’s getting late,” he murmurs into the top of Ed’s head.
“Mmnf,” Ed protests, hiding his face in the curve of Roy’s neck. “I don’t care. Fuck off.”
Roy chuckles quietly. “You need to get back to the dorms, unless you want the Fat Lady to sing.”
“Uggh, I don’t wanna,” a yawn escapes from Ed and he makes a frustrated, sleepy noise. “Jus’ wanna stay here. There’s a bed. We can sleep there.”
It’s a debate they’ve had numerous times. As much as Roy wishes he could give in to Ed’s desire, on this, his stance won’t change. “It’s too risky, Edward.”
Ed sighs and his arms tighten around Roy. “Yeah yeah, I know. Just—one more minute.”
And Roy can’t deny him that. “Alright, but just one.” ‘Just one’ he says, but when a minute passes, Roy says nothing, continuing to stand there with Ed in his arms, quiet. He says nothing, as five minutes pass by, and it’s only as the ten minute mark nears does Roy nudge his boyfriend, with a soft utterance of his name.
Ed reluctantly untangles himself from Roy’s grasp and Roy lets him go, even though his arms ache to hold him again. He strokes the side of Ed’s face, tucking a stray lock of gold hair behind his ear. His fingers trail lightly down the edge of Ed’s jaw and Ed shivers. Roy tilts Ed’s face up by his chin, thumb brushing over the slight pout of Ed’s bottom lip. He allows himself to get lost in pools of warm gold as he stares into Ed’s eyes—eyes almost as familiar to him as his own now, ones that he could never tire of looking at. He closes his eyes and kisses Ed one last time; an I love you, a goodbye, a thank you all rolled in one. Ed grips the collar of Roy’s robes and pulls him closer, kissing back desperately, a silent plea.When they part, Roy quietly says a camouflage charm, his magic cloaking Ed and rendering him invisible to nearly all but a careful eye.
He feels, rather than see, Ed pull away.And it’s only by watching their shadows move across the floor that Roy knows Ed is standing by the door, hesitating.
“Go,” he says softly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“...Yeah,” comes the sound of Ed’s disembodied voice. “Tomorrow.” The door opens by an invisible hand and clicks shut not long after. Ed is gone.
Roy stares at the door, sighing for what must be the nth time that night. I miss you already, he does not say, to the empty room surrounding him. He picks up the book Ed had set aside earlier and settles onto the sofa, idly flipping through the pages as he waits for enough time to pass for it to be safe for him to leave. Eventually, he departs as well, not turning around as the door disappears back into the wall behind him.
It’s only until tomorrow that he has to hold out until he can see Ed again. Only until the end of the school year, that he has to wait for them to properly be together. Roy is a patient man; he can wait. And then they will have all the time in the world to be with each other.
Two months later, Ed emerges from the enchanted maze, victorious in the third trial, bringing home the title of the winner of the Triwizard Tournament. It is mere weeks after his eighteenth birthday and Roy knows he is riding a high like no other. They celebrate his victory much the same way they celebrated Ed’s birthday—days after the fact, just the two of them, far away from the castle grounds, in a muggle town where no one knows their names or faces. But until then, all Roy offers him is a nod of the head, a congratulations, Mister Elric. Well done.
And three months after that, Ed graduates, free from the confines of student life and its rules. They aren’t able to be public, not quite yet, but freedom is close enough that Roy can taste it on the tip of his tongue. Hours after the ceremony ends, late at night, Roy meets Ed under the quidditch stands and gives him a proper congratulations, one that he couldn’t give before.
By the time the new school year starts in September, Roy holds Ed’s hands in public as much as he pleases, and when the time comes for the train to depart, Ed kisses Roy goodbye on the platform without an ounce of hesitation. Finally.