Hey, all. It's almost my birthday, and I thought I'd post this as a treat. I started it a while ago and thought I'd better finish before inspiration abandoned me. Hopefully you like it.

Dedicated to Toki Mirage, because I really do love her Harry/Albus fic and am not above a little bribery in hopes of an update. Yes, I can be shameless.

Lonely hearts troubled minds
Looking for a way that we can never find
Many roads are ahead of us
With choices to be made.
-Sarah Brightman

Albus Dumbledore didn't notice the boy at first. He was too deep in his own thoughts, at last away from the stifling and dreary atmosphere of the house, leaving his mother, brother, and sister behind for the time being. It was freeing, being on his own, out in the woods on the edge of Godric's Hollow, and he dreamed of being this free when he came of age and could go his own way at last.

The mumbling caught his attention, and he turned his head to see a rather scruffy looking stranger sitting back against the trunk of a tree and pulling at his hair. Albus frowned. There was something wrong with the boy. His skin, his clothes, even his hair had an almost colorless cast to them. Only his eyes stood out, a brilliant green.

" – stupid, goddamn Deathly Hallows, Master of Death bullshit. Why the hell don't the things come with an instruction manual?"

Albus watched him warily, radiating disapproval at the casual cursing. Where had he learned such manners? He was talking to himself as well, so perhaps he was mad or dangerous. But though he looked older than Albus was, he also appeared to be weaker. Besides, Albus was a prodigy. Surely he could hold his own against this colorless wizard if the need arose.

"Excuse me?" he said politely, coming to a halt a short distance in front of the boy.

As the other's head jerked up, Albus was startled to notice that the stranger wasn't sitting on the grass, but hovered only an inch or two above the ground. What was he?

"You can see me?" the other wizard asked, astonished. He scrambled to his feet, overcompensated, and shot up nearly half a foot above the ground. With a wince, he floated back down until it almost seemed as though he were standing on the earth. Clearly, whatever he was, he was not used to that particular ability.

"Of course," Albus replied, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, you're the first," the green-eyed boy retorted. "And believe me, I did everything I could think of to get someone's attention over in that village." He jerked his head in the direction Albus had come from.

Albus frowned in thought, his analytical mind puzzling through this new conundrum. "What are you?" he asked with a rather uncharacteristic lack of tact.

"I'm fairly sure I'm dead," his companion replied absently, sticking his hand through the trunk of a tree. "But if you're the only one who can see me, I don't think I'm a ghost. And I know I wouldn't want to return as a ghost anyway. I'd've liked to have moved on and seen everyone." He looked wistful at the thought, and Albus shifted uncomfortably. Death wasn't something he really contemplated. His death seemed ages away, nothing to worry about so early in his life.

He turned his mind away from such morose thoughts and returned to examining the not-ghost. He retained some of his color, and the ghosts he knew were all silver and see-through, so that lent credence to the boy's theory.

Albus wasn't sure what prompted him, but he reached out a hand to his new puzzle. Both of them jumped when he actually made contact with his arm.

"You can touch me, too," the stranger murmured softly. There was something in his eyes, as though he had come to a conclusion or an understanding. Albus was slightly put-out that he didn't share whatever thought he had.

"What were you talking about earlier, the Deathly Hallows? Are you saying they are real?" Albus prompted, knowing he would regret it if he didn't broach that particular subject.

His companion's expression closed off instantly, and Albus was surprisingly hurt by the action. He had only known him for a very short while, after all. Why should he be so attached?

"I don't think that's something that needs to be talked about. It's safer if you forget about whatever you heard me say." There was an edge to the tone that only succeeded in further rousing the eldest Dumbledore's curiosity, but he let the subject go for the moment.

"You look familiar," the boy said after the uncomfortable silence stretched on. "What's your name?"

"Albus Dumbledore. And yours?"

The not-ghost reeled back in shock, staring at him with disconcerting intensity. It was difficult to tell, but Albus thought he had grown rather pale.

"What year is it?" he whispered.

"1898," Albus replied, concerned. "Are you quite well?"

"Fine, thanks. Just a little shocking, is all." He managed a tremulous smile. "I – oh. I feel…strange."

They noticed, almost at the same time, that he was fading. He smiled, and it looked much more sincere this time. Albus thought it was breathtaking, but he would never speak the thought out loud.

"I'm Harry," the stranger said, and then Albus was abruptly alone.

Harry was a little surprised when he materialized again – this time in a darkened room somewhere – but nothing could have prepared him for what he saw. He was frozen in place, eyes wide, cheeks flushing a brilliant red as he stared at the two naked bodies in the bed. Skin sweaty, hips thrusting, breaths coming in harsh gasps, the motions were rhythmic and erotic.

Albus didn't know when his not-ghost apparition appeared. He had never thought to see Harry again, so it was astounding and rather embarrassing to glance past Gellert's bare shoulder and see him standing stock still, shocked motionless. But his mind couldn't focus yet, he was preoccupied, couldn't concentrate on anything else, Gellert sliding in and out of him, and oh God, he was so close, so close.

For one searing moment his eyes met those brilliant green, and then his hips were surging upward, back arching, nails raking down his lover's back, and he was coming hard, biting back a cry of ecstasy.

When Albus opened his eyes again, Harry was gone.

He waited for his heartbeat to return to normal and his breath to even out before he rolled out of bed. "I'll be back," he told Gellert quietly as he slipped into a robe and exited the room. He descended the stairs and entered the living room, located directly below. He assumed Harry had simply sunk through the floor. Or hoped, in any case. Albus didn't want the spirit's last memory of him to be that of having sex.

Harry was sitting cross-legged just above the couch, alternately fidgeting and blushing with embarrassment. He didn't notice when Albus entered the room, so he flinched and sank partway through the couch when the other wizard cleared his throat.

"So…" Harry said awkwardly, both of them making eye contact and then glancing away.

"I didn't think I would see you again," Albus murmured when the silence began to stretch. He crossed the room and settled in an armchair.

"I don't know what happened," Harry said, shaking his head in confusion. He was more than happy to focus on this new topic, to keep his mind from wandering back to what he had seen only moments before. "One moment I was dissolving, and the next I appeared…erm…" He blushed. Damn. He really, really needed to get the images out of his head.

His mouth twitched slightly when he saw Albus flushing as well. He didn't think he'd ever seen him so embarrassed. It was somewhat endearing. But his thoughts returned to the identity of the wizard still upstairs, and he sighed. It wasn't his business. But Harry couldn't not say something. Not knowing the tragedy that would occur because of Grindelwald, the choices that would haunt Albus for the rest of his life.

"Do you know what caused this?" Albus was asking, interrupting his thoughts.

Harry shook his head. "I don't now. I remember dying. I remember being unable to dodge the Killing Curse, thinking that at least I would be able to rest now." He paused. "Oh. Oh."

"What is it?" Albus questioned eagerly.

"I think…I made a wish right as I died. And the Deathly Hallows are attempting to grant it."

"What wish? And do you know where the Hallows are now?" Harry was slightly disturbed by the eager light in Albus' eyes at the mention of the mythical objects.

"Perhaps I'll tell you what I wished for, if it comes true," he murmured. "As for the Hallows, they only bring trouble, Albus. The Cloak is the most harmless of the three, but it's still not completely harmless. It's better to just leave them be."

Albus didn't look convinced. Harry hadn't thought he would be, but he had to try.

They sat in silence for several moments as Harry worked up the courage to speak.

"Do you love him?" he asked softly.

Albus avoided Harry's gaze. Those green eyes had haunted his sleeping and waking hours ever since he had first met him. "I'm trying to," he said with unusual honesty. "I want to. It would be easier…"

"He's not…good for you," Harry said, struggling to get our words that didn't sound bossy or accusing.

Albus felt anger flare up inside of him. How dare he? How dare he enter Albus' life with his beautiful eyes and casual manner, his mystery and his secrets? How dare he unknowingly exert this pull over Albus, igniting in him a desire to grow ever closer to Harry? He had finally found someone to distract him from his foolish attraction to the spirit of a dead wizard. And perhaps Gellert was becoming something of an obsession, but at least their ideas, power, and intellect were so complementary. At least Gellert was searching with him to find the Deathly Hallows.

"I don't think that is any of your business," Albus said coolly.

Harry's eyes were so old and sad that Albus felt his anger dissipate and he regretted his words. But it was too late. Harry was disappearing once again.

"Be careful, Albus," Harry said faintly, reaching out a hand toward his companion. He was gone before ever making contact.

Harry opened his eyes and saw what looked to be the aftermath of a battle zone. Tables were overturned, furniture blasted into splinters, holes and scorch marks on the walls. And blood, enough for him to notice.

What had happened?

And then he saw the dead girl on the couch with Aberforth crouched beside her in an exhausted and fitful sleep, and he knew. Arianna had just been killed.

He spotted Albus curled up in a corner, sobbing helplessly, and was instantly at his side. He wasn't any good at giving comfort, having experienced so little of it in his life, but he did his best. He held onto Albus, allowed the broken wizard to cling to him and hide his face in his shoulder. He rocked him a little as regret filled him. "I'm sorry, Albus," he whispered. "I'm so sorry."

He should have done something more. Should have warned Albus, should have told him something, anything, so that this tragedy hadn't happened. He would never have ordered the boy about, would never have taken away his right to choose, but there must have been something. Screw whatever the hell the Deathly Hallows had done, screw messing with the timeline. It killed him to see Albus like this and know he blamed himself.

Harry stayed as long as he could, tried to exert some control over his disappearance, but the moment Albus looked up at him, at last aware of his surroundings, Harry dissolved.

"Thank you," Albus whispered at the very last moment.

It was raining when Harry appeared in the Godric's Hollow cemetery. Albus knelt before his sister's grave, a bouquet of wilted lilies lying before the headstone. Harry waited in silence for the wizard to notice him and recalled the last time he had been here, visiting his parent's graves.

"I don't know what to do with myself."

Harry jumped. He hadn't realized Albus had seen him.

"I should have listened to you." Albus stood slowly, as though carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Harry approached him cautiously. "All those years ago – for me anyway – did you know? What G…what he would do?"

Harry hesitated. "Yes," he said reluctantly.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Albus asked listlessly. "Is it because I'm a monster? Is this my punishment?"

Harry stared at him, stunned into silence for the moment. Then indignation took hold of him. He grasped Albus' face in his hands gently but firmly and forced him to meet his gaze, ignoring how much taller than him Albus was. Harry was used to being short.

"Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, you are not a monster. You do not deserve this. We all make mistakes, and I should have been more forceful when I warned you."

Albus embraced him then, clung to him as though he were a drowning man. Harry wondered how many years he had held onto this guilt and grief with no one else to confide in.

"You'll be all right in time, Albus. It will be hard, but you're a strong person," Harry whispered.

They stood in silence until at last only Albus was left.

"Fascinating," Albus commented. "I've never heard of anything like it."

Harry had been more than a little surprised to discover that it had been decades since the last time Albus had seen him. It was currently nearing the end of World War II, and Harry was lounging – or pretending to lounge – on Albus' couch as he worked on decoding his correspondence. He had also been a little surprised when he hadn't faded away after the first couple hours he had spent in with the other wizard in his study. Whatever pattern he might have been working out for his appearance and disappearance was messed up completely now.

So, he had been telling Albus a bit of his background and vague facts about the future. It was nice to see an Albus that was so much more at peace with himself. The broken young man he had last seen had grown up without the fanaticism and arrogance Harry had noticed in his visits.

"Yeah," Harry sighed. "I pretty much break all the rules, be they school, government, or universal. And it's not even intentionally."

He floated a little as he rose from the couch and walked up behind where Albus sat. He draped his arms over the professor's shoulders and lightly leaned on him, peering down at the papers that cluttered the desk. In a world where he didn't seem to exist, Harry was relieved to have something that was solid to his touch.

"These documents are meant to be top secret," Albus murmured.

Harry snorted. "Who and how would I show these to? It's not like I really understand this stuff anyway. I was never one for strategy."

"Hmmm." For a moment there was only the crackle of flame and the scratch of a quill across parchment.

"Albus, I'm sorry," Harry whispered at last.

Albus paused. "Whatever for?" he asked, turning to look at his not-ghost.

"About Grindelwald. Your sister. I didn't do nearly enough. It was my fault it happened again. I'm sorry." He couldn't meet those bright blue eyes, frightened to see condemnation in his gaze.

"Harry, look at me," Albus said firmly, and Harry obeyed. "It was not your fault. You tried your best to warn me."

"But if I had explained – "

"Even had you had the chance to explain more fully," Albus interrupted, "I was far too arrogant, too sure of myself, to have listened." I was far too busy trying to prove to myself that I wasn't in love with you, and failing. "You helped me to recover, Harry. The thought of you and remembering how you comforted me helped me to recover. That tragedy was never your fault."

Harry's guilty expression had lessened as Albus talked, and he opened his mouth to respond when the sound of the Floo distracted them.

"Dumbledore!" a frantic voice shouted. "Dumbledore we found it! We found Grindelwald's lair. Hit Wizards are already in the process of attacking." An empty bottle shot through the fireplace as the man's head disappeared.

"I'm coming," Harry said instantly.

Albus made to protest, and then stopped.

Harry grinned crookedly having guessed what protective notions had gone through his head. "They can't kill me, as I'm already dead. They can't even see, touch, or hear me. But at least I might be able to help you, or find whatever room Grindelwald is in. Maybe this is my reason for showing up this time. Just…" Harry swallowed hard. "Just don't get yourself killed," he whispered.

"Come," Albus said. "Hold on tight, and we'll see if the portkey will take you along."

Harry wrapped his arms around Albus, pressing close against his front. He was determined not to be left behind. When the older wizard didn't immediately reach for the bottle that was the portkey, he leaned back to look up at him.

Harry gasped slightly in surprise when he felt the warm pressure of Albus' lips against his own. And then the gut-wrenching sensation of the portkey kicked in and the pair found themselves on a battlefield, with no time to dwell on what had just happened.

"I'll find Grindelwald," Harry said as his friend hastily threw up a shield.

Dumbledore could only nod, concentration wholly upon staying alive.

The spirit floated through the halls of the fortress, zipping through walls and floors as he frantically searched for the leader of this conflict. A large pair of double doors caught his attention and instincts told him this was what he wanted. He stepped through quickly and found himself in something like a throne room. Were all dark lords this ostentatious, or was it just the ones Harry knew? In any case, he recognized the man pacing at the other end, and made his way back outside as quickly as he could. This time he paid particular attention to following halls, doors, and stairways, so that he could lead Albus correctly.

He didn't know how long he had been gone, but to his relief Albus was holding strong against his opponents.

"Duck!" he shouted, panicked when he noticed a wizard creeping up behind Dumbledore.

With agility that belied his age, the professor dove to the side and quickly took out the interloper.

"I found him," Harry said, keeping enough distance between the two of them so as not to hinder Albus. "This way."

The older man followed on the spirit's heels as they slipped inside.

"I don't know what enchantments or wards are around here, if there are any," Harry said worriedly as they ran.

"Don't worry," Albus replied. "I have some skill in detecting wards."

They moved quickly, with only a few pauses as Harry struggled to remember which door or hallway he needed. At last, Albus crashed into the throne room, wand at the ready.

"Albus, my old friend," Grindelwald practically purred. "I was wondering when I would see you again."

"Gellert," Albus replied expressionlessly. "I do not want fight you, but I will not let your depravity destroy both worlds."

"There is no depravity in this," Gellert scowled, "only good for those with vision to see it."

And then they were dueling, trading spells that were beyond what Harry could ever have done were he still alive. Faster than thought, almost, the light of the spells streaked through the air. Hard to tell who drew first blood, but they fought on and on, both of them tiring after countless hits had been exchanged. Harry stayed close to the wall, awed by the knowledge and power displayed in the duel. He was worried for Albus. What if something he had said or done had affected the timeline in such a way that victory was not certain?

And then his nightmare manifested. Albus was trapped against the wall as though shackled to it, clinging desperately to his wand as he exhaustedly attempted to free himself.

"No," Harry hissed to himself as Grindelwald laughed. "No, no, no."

The spell streaked through the air, and Harry detachedly recognized it, knew its purpose, even as he flung himself in front of the man he seemed destined to love. He noticed Albus tense, and then relax with the knowledge that none but him could touch Harry. And so, the professor stared, uncomprehending for a moment as the curse struck his not-ghost, blood spurting horribly from the wound.

And then the anger surged through his veins as Harry twitched horribly on the floor and faded away, as Gellert stared at the air where his curse seemed to have disappeared mere inches from his ex-lover's chest. With a cry of fury and grief, Albus wrenched himself from the wall and poured his magic into his last attack, so that Gellert was immediately incapacitated.

He ignored the unconscious body of the Dark Lord and crouched where Harry had last been, letting the tears come unchecked.

The adrenaline was still surging through Harry's veins when he appeared straddling Albus' lap, although his heart didn't beat.

"Harry," Albus whispered in shock.

Harry patted himself down quickly, taking note of his now-healed chest. Even his robe appeared clean and un-torn. "Wh-what happened?" he stuttered, fully appreciating the disorientation that came from being so suddenly transported from a deadly situation to a quite office scene.

"You're all right." Albus couldn't stop staring at the wizard in his lap. He had never thought he would see the younger wizard again. He paused, brow furrowed. "You look different. Older. And you have some white in your hair now."

"I do?" Harry responded in surprise, bringing a lock of hair in front of him for inspection.

"It's been a year, Harry," Albus said softly. "I thought you had died." He gripped Harry's arms firmly, as if to keep him from ever leaving again.

"I'm already dead, remember?" Harry replied in an attempt at brevity that fell short.

"Harry," Albus said in a rather strangled tone of voice, and then he yanked the wizard's body even closer and kissed him hard on the mouth. It wasn't gentle this time, but desperate, passionate. He sucked on Harry's lower lip, thrust his tongue into Harry's hot mouth, and swallowed his moan.

When they broke apart at last, Harry could do nothing but gasp for breath while Albus continued his assault, kissing along the smaller wizard's jaw and throat. He bit down on the juncture between neck and shoulder, smiling to himself as Harry moaned and shuddered at the sensation, his hard length pressed against Albus' own.

"If you don't want this," Albus murmured against Harry's smooth skin, "just tell me and I'll stop."

"Don't stop," Harry gasped, rocking his hips against Albus'.

Albus aborted his own thrust through great strength of will, and grasped Harry's hips to still his movements. "I don't want to take advantage of you."

Harry paused, shaking his head a little to gather his thoughts, and smiled at him. "My wish, as I died – the wish I believe the Deathly Hollows are attempting to grant – was to experience what it was like to be in love. I realized the first or second time I met you that you were the person the Hollows chose – or rather, that I would choose. I was just never sure you would want me like that…this." He flushed a little as he looked down at the way they were pressed against each other.

"I have always wanted you," Albus replied, soothing his fears, eyes dark with desire. He closed the space between them, kissing Harry against and again. "Bedroom," he whispered as Harry rocked against him with panting moans.

"Yes," Harry agreed, wrapping his legs around Albus' waist as the other wizard stood. Clothes were tossed aside carelessly in the privacy of the bedroom and Harry writhed beneath him as he nipped and sucked at flushed skin.

"Albus," he gasped breathlessly, arching his back the moment he felt the other wizard's hands on his erection. "The bed…can't…concentrate."

Albus understood immediately what Harry was trying to say, witnessing the struggle to keep from sinking through the furniture. He adjusted their position so that he was beneath him and continued the long awaited exploration of Harry's body.

"Please, Albus," Harry whispered, gathering his scattered thoughts with difficulty. "I want…you."

"Are you sure?" he asked, short of breath himself.

"Yesss," was the insistent reply.

Albus whispered a spell and slid easily into his lover, waiting a moment for him to adjust. And then Harry began moving and he was lost completely in the feeling of making love to this remarkable wizard.

They lay together in the afterglow as their breathing returned to normal. Albus noticed the crease in the sheets where Harry lay, saw how the color had seemed to flood back to his skin and hair so that he no longer threatened to appear see-through. He rested his head on Harry's chest and smiled to himself. "You have a heartbeat, Harry," he murmured.

It took a moment for his words to sink in, and then Harry sat up quickly, fingers on his pulse. "I do," he whispered. He tried to stick his arm through the bed and instead clutched the sheets. "I'm alive," he said in stunned disbelief.

Albus kissed him, distracting him. "Master of Death, indeed," he said, lips moving against bare skin.

You made a wish, that much is true, but you did not wish for anyone to be made unhappy. You made a wish for love. In my experience, such wishes have a way of coming true in the end, which is not the same as saying the journey isn't difficult and long.

-Cameron Dokey, Before Midnight