Title: Time Laughs At Us All
Beta: the beautiful Shara Lunison
Pairings: I was tempted to not put this in here, just to see who I'd get to read it, but...: Young!Albus/Harry
Warnings/Kinks: Observe the pairing, slash, character death
Challenge: Dumbledore is Harry Potter
Summary: Time-turners and age potions shouldn't be mixed, Harry accidently finds out. His luck holds steady, though, and he finds both love and pain in the strangest of times.
Disclaim Her: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Challenge issued by Gryphineyrie.
A/N: Please note, this was started before DH came out, and after a re-read, I've realized that changing things to fit DH would take too much work. Perhaps, if there's a day when I'm feeling a bit more, shall we say, Gryffindor-ish, I might re-write this to be DH compliant.
Technically, this is post-HBP, but Dumbledore never died.
The first bit of this was posted on my fic LJ in September of 2006 as a teaser and to get some feedback about it. Since that teaser, some things have changed, including the date Harry ends up in, which is now about a decade later, due to some brief time figuring that I had to do later in the story.
Please note that Young!Albus is about twenty.
Harry James Potter was bored half to death. Although, really, what did one expect of the twenty-two year old ex-saviour and Auror while he was waiting for a potion to boil. Why Ron wanted an age potion now of all times was beyond Harry's grasp. Since his best mate had asked Harry, though, he had a sinking feeling that it had something to do with Hermione and nothing to do with his ministry job, not that Ron could have boiled the potion, even if it was...
Only Ron would ask Harry to brew a potion for something he shouldn't be doing with his wife - or without his wife, really.
And only Harry would brew a potion for Ron under such circumstances.
Harry felt like slamming his head into something. Why couldn't time-turners go forward in time anyway? Wouldn't that make them better?
Harry slouched down in his chair and fingered his time-turner, which hung on a long chain around his neck. It had been a gift from Headmaster Dumbledore on his last birthday. The old man had said something about the bloody thing being 'useful only when the time was right'. Why could that man never speak in straight English?! Why must he always use riddles for everything?
Harry sometimes had to wonder if his life would be easier without Dumbledore constantly confusing him. It didn't help that the man was so sure of everything. Hell! When Snape had apparently turned traitor, Dumbledore didn't even blink! Why? Who knew! Then Snape came back. And Dumbledore accepted him back with open arms! It was mind-boggling.
Had Dumbledore always been like that?
Harry's head jerked up when he heard the potion boiling. Finally!
Harry stepped over to the potion and checked on it. It was certainly boiling. In fact, it was boiling so much that a large bubble popped and splattered potion goop all over the front of Harry's protective robes.
"Damnit!" Harry jumped back and jerked his wand at the fire beneath the potion. The fire went out with a puff and the potion in the cauldron calmed. Rolling his eyes, Harry waved his wand at himself, smiling when the front of his robes became clean again.
The potion would have to sit for an hour before Harry could bottle it. Until then, it was almost lunch time. Time to make some food!
Harry groaned and slammed a hand down on his muggle alarm clock. He hated mornings. Despised them, in fact.
With a muttered curse, Harry shuffled out of bed and proceeded to get dressed. Foregoing his usual shower in hope of having the time to stop and get himself some coffee, Harry slipped on his shoes, grabbed his briefcase, and slipped out of his apartment.
Harry was debating over getting plain old, rather nasty coffee, or some coffee with some chocolate in it to hide the taste when Ron poked him. "Hey, mate. Where have you been? You were supposed to be at work an hour ago. I was just about to come over and wake you up."
Harry blinked. "Huh? But it's only six twenty..."
"Mate, did you forget to set your clocks ahead an hour again?"
Harry's eyes widened and he found himself far too awake without having had any sort of caffeine or shower. "Shit!" His hand flew to where his time-turner rested against his chest under his robe. "Mate, I will be seeing you an hour before now," Harry decided firmly, then slipped down the nearest alley.
He pulled out his time-turner and twisted it a full turn and a half. It only took five minutes to get from where he was to work, after all. Might as well still give himself time to get a coffee, right?
Harry felt ill, then the already dreary world went completely black.
"Excuse me. Sir? Are you well? Sir?"
Harry groaned and opened his eyes. What the fuck happened?!
The alley hadn't changed much, other than the brick-work looking newer. The bike that some kid had trashed and hidden back by the dumpster two weeks ago? Gone. So was the dumpster, for that matter.
"Sir? Sir, are you well?"
Harry blinked up at the young man who stood over him. Short auburn hair brushed the tops of brilliant blue eyes. Worry creased the young man's forehead like a fresh cut – but without the blood. Harry shook his head and blinked. "Uh, yeah. Sorry. Who're you?"
A sudden smile made the young man's eyes brighten. "Albus Dumbledore!"
Harry felt like a sledgehammer had just knocked all the air out of him. But, that was impossible... "I'm sorry, but I thought you just said your name was Albus Dumbledore?"
Harry shook his head and looked up at the sky. It was clear; a beautiful blue.
But it had been cloudy when Harry got up that morning.
Harry stood quickly and rushed to the end of the alley. Unpaved streets and horse-drawn carriages. Feeling the blood drain from his face, Harry turned back to the young Albus Dumbledore. "What's the date?"
"August fifth!" Albus chirped.
Harry blinked. "What's the year?"
Albus rolled his eyes, looking like he thought Harry was an idiot. "Eighteen seventy-two, of course!"
"I think I need to sit down..." Harry murmured, then did so, one hand held over his heart. What the hell is going on here?! he wanted to scream.
Albus knelt next to Harry. "Sir? Sir, are you well?"
Was he always this annoying? Harry grumbled to himself before looking up at Albus. "My name's Harry. I seem to be a bit out of place here..."
Albus frowned. "Well, yes. You are wearing robes out here in Muggle London."
"This..." Harry shook his head. "This wasn't where I intended to come."
Albus' eyes widened, then he smiled knowingly. "You must be doing the Apparation study."
Harry blinked. Apparation study? The hell? "Er, yes?"
Albus smiled, then pulled out a long, thin stick of wood. "Let me transfigure your robe into something more Muggle, then I will take you to my place. You can Fire your partners, if you would like."
"Er, sure..." Harry watched as Albus made some far-too-complicated wand movements over his robes. None-the-less, the robes became a stern suit – Harry really didn't think it matched his personality, but he didn't dare say anything.
Albus held out a hand to help Harry up, then led him through the confusing streets of Victorian London. Harry had to bite back a laugh at a few of the clothes – he couldn't help but think of them as costumes – that were being worn about. And he'd once found Albus' robes gaudy! Little did he know what his old mentor's childhood had looked like.
Albus stopped before a pleasant-looking flat. He pulled out a key and unlocked the door, then waved Harry in. "Do not mind the mess."
Harry smiled at the beautiful artefacts he'd known Albus to have even in his day. He remembered smashing those Astrologer Orbits in his fifth year. And over there was a Pensieve – without any memory liquid, though. Harry knelt to get a good look at the feet of an entirely silver table.
"It is from Bangkok," Albus supplied, stopping next to Harry with a fond smile.
"You travel?" Harry was surprised. He judged Albus to have just gotten out of Hogwarts a few years previous.
Albus shook his head. "There is a lovely shop down Knockturn that sells all sorts of wondrous things from magical cultures around the world. I enjoy studying them and trying to learn what they do." The young man visibly brought himself back to the present with a faint smile. "The fireplace is in the living room, through here."
Harry realized that, with Albus' help, he might be able to get back to his time. "Albus, wait."
The young man looked back at Harry curiously. "Yes?"
Harry bit his lower lip. "Look, this is going to sound insane, but I'm not from this time period."
Albus' eyes widened, but he didn't look like he thought Harry mad. "You are from the past? No, wait, that would not make sense... The future, then?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah. About a hundred and fifty years in the future."
Albus was silent for a long moment, seemingly staring off into the previously unknown future before him.
Albus shook his head, then re-focused on Harry. "Do you have a way back? We do not know anything about time yet. All our tests fail."
Harry shook his head sharply. "I don't even know how I got here in the first place."
"I was afraid of that." Albus let out a heavy sigh. "Then I guess you will just have to stay here until we do figure something out...."
Harry groaned and collapsed on the ground. "Fucking hell."
"Watch your language!" Albus scowled.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Forgive me. In my time, everyone curses."
"Well...do not do it here!" Albus spun on his heels and disappeared into the next room. "We will have to find you a place to stay."
Harry rubbed at the bridge of his nose. Brilliant. He leaned against the silver table from Bangkok. "Could I stay here, at least for a few days?"
Albus' head poked back around the corner, looking thoughtful. "I do not see why not." He blinked. "Do you know how to Apparate in the future?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Of course we do."
"Well, let us try and set you up with that study, then. It could not do any harm." He disappeared back around the corner. "Would you like some tea?"
Harry got to his feet with a groan and walked into the living room – where Albus was fidgeting with a tray. "Yes, please," he murmured.
Albus startled and dropped his teapot, which shattered on impact with the ground. "No!"
Harry blinked a few times, then pulled out his wand and performed a simple reparo on the teapot, then scourgifyed the carpet. "You'll have to make more tea, but– Why are you looking at me like that?"
Albus shook his head and retrieved his teapot. "What spell was that?"
"I have never heard of it before."
Harry groaned and removed his glasses to rub at his eyes. "Do you have a spell book somewhere that I can look at? I need to see which spells I shouldn't use."
Albus smiled faintly. "Of course. Let me pull it out for you." He stepped up to a bookcase and pulled down a book. After handing the book over to Harry, he disappeared through another doorway that looked like it led to the kitchen.
Harry flipped through the book and was startled to realize that most spells that he took for granted didn't exist. Or, if they did exist, the wand movements looked insane and the incantations were off. "This is so weird."
"I have no doubt." Albus returned with his teapot and carefully poured them both some tea. "Sugar or milk?"
"Two spoonfuls of sugar and a dash of milk, please," Harry rattled off his usual. "I'm gonna have to relearn everything."
"You will have to learn how to talk, first," Albus replied, handing over Harry's cup. "What sort of word is 'gonna'?"
Harry smiled at that. "You might want to lock me up, Albus. I don't know the first thing about manners or etiquette or...well, anything, really.
Albus laughed – the first one Harry had heard from the young man – and offered Harry a fond smile. "You will be fine. Give me a week to run you through the basics and I guarantee you will be ready for the real world."
Harry snorted. "We'll see." He took a sip of his tea, then broke the silence that had settled with, "How's your brother?"
Albus' head shot up and he stared at Harry in shock. "How did you know I had a brother?"
Harry winced. He really needed to watch it. "Uhm, I know you in the future?"
Albus pursed his lips. "Be careful what you say. You might just give yourself away."
Harry rubbed at the bridge of his nose again. "Somehow, I seriously doubt I know anyone else well enough to shock them with a question they don't expect."
Albus leaned forward, interested. "We are close in the future?"
Harry shrugged. "We talk over tea a lot," he said carefully. "Can we forget I said anything?"
Albus let out a sad little sigh and sat back in his seat. "Yes. I am sorry. I should know better than to pry."
"Forget it. Anyone would be interested if they met someone from their future who could tell them what was to become of them."
"I suppose that is true."
"Of course it's true." Harry sipped at his tea again. "Heck. If someone ten years in my future suddenly appeared, I'd want to know if I ever make it back home."
Albus looked away. "Like I said; we do not know much about time, but I can certainly try and help you out."
Harry smiled up at the other man. "It's nice to know some things never really change."
Harry woke to a banging on his door. "Jest five more minutes, Ron!" he groaned loudly, pulling the covers over his head.
"You need to get up!"
Harry sat up quickly at the sound of a voice he didn't know. Then it all came rushing back to him and he groaned. "I'm up, Albus."
"Good!" Footsteps retreated out in the hallway.
Harry slipped his glasses on, then climbed out of bed. "I should have taken a shower yesterday. Maybe then I wouldn't be in this mess..." He pointed his wand at himself. "Scourgify. Argh! I hate using that spell to get clean." Harry pulled out the clothing that Albus had lent him – they were to go shopping today – and slipped it on, trying not to remember times when scourgify was the only way to get themselves clean. No, it wouldn't do to dwell on the past...or the future, really.
Harry slipped downstairs and into the kitchen silently. When Albus turned away from the stove, he jumped. "Harry! Why do you insist upon moving so silently?!" he cried, aggravated.
Harry blinked. "Am I really that quiet?"
Albus pursed his lips and served his guest some eggs. "You scare me half to death every time you sneak into a room."
Harry looked down at his eggs sadly. "I'm sorry. I've gotten so used to moving silently that it's habit now."
Albus sat down across from his guest. "Sneaking around school?" he asked teasingly.
When Harry looked up at the other young man, his eyes were haunted and Albus froze. "If only it had been that innocent."
Albus looked away quickly. "I take it the Wizarding World is not very peaceful in the future."
"It is now, but it wasn't for a long time there." Harry took a bite of his eggs. "These are good. I didn't know you were such a good cook."
Albus forced a smile, unnerved by Harry's ability to change subjects so easily. "It is good to know you do not know everything about me."
Harry chuckled. "I suppose."
Albus glanced up at Harry and realized that the other was smiling warmly as he ate. It must be a defence of some sort, his rapid mood changes. I suppose that, were I in his shoes, I would be grateful for such an ability.
The meal finished in silence.
Harry sat with Albus' spell book, reading quietly, while Albus hummed away in the kitchen. Well, Harry was trying to read quietly. It was working, for the most part, but he kept making small noises of discontent.
Finally, Albus poked his head out. "How is it coming?"
"Why do all these spells have to be so impossible?!" Harry exploded, throwing the book to the floor. "The Banishing Charm looks like it would take you a full minute to perform! How do people duel like this?!"
Albus picked up his book and dusted it off calmly. "They generally cut the wand movements in half. The spell is not as powerful, but it still works."
Harry tugged off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes angrily. "This is going to be impossible."
"Nonsense." Albus handed the book back over to Harry with a small smile. "Nothing is impossible if you really try."
Harry looked back down at the book cover for a long moment, then opened it to a random page. "We'll see."
Albus' smile widened and he walked back into the kitchen.
The first thing Albus noticed when he got back after visiting his ailing mother was that all of the candles were out. The second thing he noticed – or heard, really – was shouting coming from the cellar. Harry's voice and a man that Albus didn't recognize.
Pulling out his wand, Albus slipped through his home and down the cellar steps. The sight he found made his blood freeze.
A golden web rose high above Harry and his opponent. The man – if one could call him that – that Harry duelled wore a midnight robe – the hood thrown back to show bone-white skin and no hair. The creature's face, Albus saw, was flat and thin with silted blood-red eyes standing out sharply against the cruelty and hatred that surrounded him.
Red eyes met blue and Albus drew in a sharp breath. "If it isn't Albus Dumbledore," the creature breathed, a horrifying sort of excitement crossing his eyes.
"For fuck's sake! Finite!"
Albus stared at the spot where the demon had stood, frozen in place.
Harry stepped up to Albus carefully, cradling his wounded arm against his chest – he should have known better than to conjure Voldemort as his duelling partner; that monster was the only being who could hit him quite so accurately. "Albus?"
Albus turned terrified eyes on Harry and the man from the future flinched. "What was that?"
Harry took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes. "Lord Voldemort. Let's go upstairs."
Albus didn't move. "And what, pray tell, was this Lord Voldemort doing in my cellar?"
Harry looked away. "I was duelling him to get rid of my frustration," he admitted quietly.
"I never want to see him in my home again." Albus informed Harry coldly before spinning and stalking up the stairs.
Harry relaxed against the cellar wall. "Bloody hell. Now I remember why I swore I'd never be on the receiving end of his anger again." He pushed away from the wall and moved tiredly up the stairs. "Albus?"
Cold blue eyes met worried green as Harry stepped into the kitchen. "Get out."
Harry froze. He couldn't have heard that right. "What?"
"Get out! Get out, get out, get out!" Albus threw a towel at Harry.
Harry ducked the towel, then hurried forward to pull the other into a hug. He kept forgetting that this wasn't his mentor. This wasn't the kindly old man who led the Light to victory time and again against both Grindelwald and Voldemort. No. This was Albus Dumbledore before fame touched him, before war came in and fought against his eternal kindness so it was all he could do to smile at the fools he'd one day fight with over ministry policies.
And Harry held Albus tight, hushing him as the young man cried. Because Voldemort was a lot to handle. Because Albus was Harry's only friend. Because, one day, it would be Albus who held Harry while he cried.
And, slowly, silence fell, broken only every other moment by a quiet sniffle. And, then, there were no more sniffles.
Harry glanced down and smiled kindly at Albus, who was staring up at him. "You okay?"
Albus nodded slightly. "Sorry."
Harry was shaking his head before Albus finished speaking. "I should have given you some sort of warning. It's I who should be apologizing."
A smile touched Albus' lips. "I thought you did not know anything about manners?"
"They've been known to rear their ugly head every now and then," Harry replied jokingly.
Albus laughed. "I see that."
Harry laughed as well, then winced.
"What is wrong?" Albus asked quickly, gaze filling with worry.
Harry glanced down at his arm, grimacing when he realized that he'd gotten blood on Albus' shirt. "Voldemort hit me with a Slashing Hex. Nothing too bad..."
Albus stood and disappeared from the room.
Harry blinked after his friend for a moment, then pulled himself to his feet with a groan. "I think I'm getting old."
"Sit down," Albus ordered, walking back into the room with a small black bag.
Harry shook his head, but did as ordered. "It's really not that bad, Albus."
Albus set the bag down on the table and, without another word, set to work on cleaning and wrapping Harry's arm. If he was surprised by Harry's calm expression while a wound that would have made most men scream was being seen to, he didn't say anything.
It wasn't until they were both sipping some tea that Albus finally spoke again. "I do not really want you to leave."
Harry smiled. "That's good. You're the only person I know here, after all."
Albus looked away. "I am sorry."
"Albus..." Harry sighed and shook his head. "Look, for the last bloody time, it wasn't your fault. Right?"
Albus shrugged. "I should not have told you to leave. I knew you did not have anywhere else to go."
"You know, my best mate back at home comes over to my apartment every time his wife gets annoyed and kicks him out," Harry stated with a fond smile. "One time, I was furious with him over something that happened at work and he dropped by, asking to stay the night. You were over having tea at the time and, when I refused him, you told me that friends fight all the time, but little things aren't worth ending a friendship." Harry met Albus' gaze coolly. "We all lose our temper and get into fights, Albus. It's the fact that we can continue being friends even through those fights that makes us friends to begin with."
Albus bit his lip. "You are much wiser than me, Harry."
It was Harry who looked away that time. "Naw. I just had a good teacher."
Harry and Albus learned how to live with each other peacefully after Harry's duel with the false Voldemort. Albus learned to not snap when Harry did something that scared him or that just seemed wrong and Harry learned to anticipate what might make Albus angry and stop himself from doing it.
It was a few weeks after Harry's duel that the first change came to their, by then, regular morning arrangement. Harry woke to the alarm clock he'd transfigured from his old robes and got up. He proceeded to stumble down the stairs of Albus' flat and into the living room. There, he found Albus entertaining a young man who looked a lot like him. Not being quite awake enough to tell himself not to, Harry muttered, "Mornin', Albus. Mornin', Aberforth," before continuing his way into the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea so he could wake up enough to keep himself from doing something to tick off his host.
Albus just smiled at his shocked younger brother. "I told you."
"So you did," Aberforth agreed, smiling back.
Harry's head appeared back around the doorway, looking slightly more awake. "Err... Albus, why's your brother here?"
"I got invited over to see if I could come up with a way to help you," Aberforth replied with a wicked smile.
Harry covered his face with one hand. "Bloody hell."
"Language," Albus warned automatically, hiding a smile. After a month with his new housemate, he was almost used to Harry's profanities, not that he stopped correcting him for them.
Harry just shot his housemate a bored look. "Sorry, Albus," he intoned before turning around and disappearing back into the kitchen.
"This is truly amazing, Albus," Aberforth said, eyes shining brightly. "We can learn stuff about our future from hi-"
"Aberforth!" Albus gave his younger brother a sharp look. "What have I told you about prying into the future?"
"It doesn't matter," Harry stated, coming back into the room with a cup of tea in his hands. "I'm not telling you anything, Aberforth. Messing with time is dangerous. If I tell you something that I know to have happened and you work to change it, you could completely destroy the time line and thousands of people could die when they weren't supposed to."
Aberforth's eyes had widened in shock and horror as Harry spoke and now he bowed his head. "I understand," he whispered to his lap.
Albus cocked his head at the future wizard. "If we are not able to find a way to send you back and you are forced to live out your life in your past, will you be able to keep yourself from stopping things from happening that you know to have happened?"
Harry closed his eyes and dropped into a chair tiredly. "I'll have to, won't I?" He glanced at the two brothers. "No matter how much I want to keep Dark Lords from rising or my own childhood from having been as poor as it was, I can't change that. To change one little thing could lead, ultimately, to the destruction of the world."
Albus and Aberforth traded startled looks. "I had not realized that time travel is so dangerous," Albus said, turning back to Harry.
"Ah, but it is," Harry replied in a tone that neither brother could place before rising to his feet. "I'm going to go get dressed now. Excuse me."
The brothers were left to stare at one another worriedly.
Although Aberforth couldn't come up with any ways to get Harry back to his own time, the two hit it off perfectly, much to Albus' joy. Together the three wizards decided that Harry should remain at Albus' house, rather than go out and try to get in the Apparation study. Better that Harry's name not come up as one of the people in the study since, according to him, he didn't need any more fame in the future. Aberforth and Albus had both found that to be a funny consideration, but stopped laughing when Harry shot them dark looks.
Together, Aberforth and Albus said, they could easily provide for both themselves and Harry if Aberforth moved in with his brother and new friend. So it was that the next day found the two brothers and their friend moving Aberforth's things into Albus' flat. When one of Aberforth's tables wouldn't fit in his bedroom, Harry quietly expanded the room, then whistled innocently when Albus shot him a furious look. Aberforth, on the other hand, laughed it off and thanked Harry profusely, which, in turn, embarrassed Harry into claiming that he'd stick with the modern spells from then on out.
The three lived happily together for four months. Their new life was broken in the beginning of the new year by Albus and Aberforth's mother dying. The brothers invited Harry to the funeral, but Harry denied.
"Why?" Albus asked, voice strong despite the tears in his eyes.
Harry shrugged. "It's a family thing," he replied before walking back up to his room.
The two Dumbledores didn't understand, but left Harry alone in the house.
Harry sat up in his room sadly. He remembered the deaths of his friends' parents in the future. He'd refused to go to those funerals, too, after he'd gone to Mrs Weasley's funeral. He'd felt desperately out of place in the middle of the family funeral and had sworn to never go to another like it. His friends hadn't understood his feelings, but had left him be after they'd tried a few times to get him to change his mind without any luck.
Now, once again, he was home alone while his friends went off to the funeral of their family. Once again he was hit with the cold knowledge that he was an orphan and had no one to care for him – never had had anyone, for that matter. His only "family" that he'd had while he was old enough to understand such things was Sirius, and the man hadn't been given a funeral – Harry had been left to mourn by himself at the Dursleys.
With a sigh, Harry stood and got some clothing on. He needed a drink. And, for once, there wasn't a caring Order member standing by the door to keep him from leaving.
Aberforth found his friend at dusk just outside Hogsmeade, wandering around aimlessly on the road to Hogwarts. Harry held a half-empty bottle of Firewhiskey in one hand and looked like he might have been crying hours ago.
Harry smiled at Aberforth. "I haven't been back here for a while," he said softly. "After I graduated, I moved to London with Ron. Albus would always visit me in London, rather than ask me back here. He knew I didn't like it."
Aberforth touched Harry's shoulder gently. "Why don't you like Hogwarts, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Death," was Harry's only response.
Aberforth nodded knowingly. He, like Albus, had heard about the war that Harry had fought in during his time, though Harry was always careful when it was brought up. "Is the war why you wouldn't come to Mum's funeral?" he inquired curiously.
Harry shrugged. "Orphan's curse," he stated calmly, then took a long swig of his drink.
Aberforth sighed and took a hold of Harry's elbow. "Come on, Harry. Let's head back to the house before Albus has a panic attack."
Harry frowned. "Albus was worried?"
"We both were," Aberforth replied. "We got home and you weren't there. Albus said he'd wait at the flat for you and I said I'd search you out. That was at least four hours ago."
"Oh." Harry sighed and nodded. "Well, let's head home then."
Aberforth smiled faintly, then looked around with a touch of conspiracy in his eyes. "No one's looking. Think you could Apparate us?"
Harry chuckled. "While I'm drunk? I'm likely to splinch us."
"No more likely than the people in the Apparation study," Aberforth pointed out with pleading eyes. "Come on, Harry. Please?"
Harry rolled his eyes in amusement and placed his hand over Aberforth's. "Oh, fine," he agreed before Apparating them away without a second thought.
Albus was relieved to see that Aberforth had found their friend. As "punishment" for leaving the house without a note, Albus took Harry's drink away and sent him up to his room to sleep off the alcohol. Harry had just smiled knowingly and gone along with the "punishment". He remembered a time when his own Albus had found him getting pissed in London and dragged him back to his home. Albus had "punished" him the same way then, but he'd also stayed overnight so Harry could have a friend around when he woke and needed to talk.
After Harry had disappeared upstairs, Albus turned to Aberforth seriously. "Where did you find him?"
"Hogsmeade." Aberforth shrugged.
Albus let out a heavy sigh and fell into a chair – a habit he'd picked up from Harry. "Did he say why he did not want to come with to Mum's funeral?"
"Orphan's curse," Aberforth stated, taking the seat next to his brother.
Aberforth shrugged again. "It probably has something to do with the war. When I asked, all he said was, 'orphan's curse'."
Albus let out a heavy sigh.
"Why don't you just tell him you like him?"
"He knows I like him, Aberforth," Albus grumbled, frowning at his brother's change of subject.
"Does he?" Aberforth smiled. "Mum's dead, Albus. No one is here to tell you that dating men is bad."
"Aberforth." Albus gave his brother a sharp look.
Aberforth stood, smile not fading. "I've spent four months watching you two, Albus. Tell him you like him – I doubt he'll turn you down," he said before walking from the room.
Albus let out a groan and buried his face in his hands.
"Albus is avoiding me, isn't he?" Harry asked a week later when he came down in the morning to find, once again, that Albus had left early to deal with his mother's stuff, leaving Aberforth to greet Harry alone.
"And he thought you wouldn't figure it out on your own," Aberforth replied cheerfully.
"Aberforth." Harry gave the younger of the two brothers a sharp look.
"It's amazing how much alike you two are," Aberforth mused aloud, smiling. "You both use the same tone when you're warning me against saying, or not saying, something."
Harry took off his glasses and rubbed at the bridge of his nose wearily. "Why is he avoiding me?"
"Ask him," Aberforth suggested, looking serious – a rare thing.
Harry jabbed his eggs with his fork. "That would require him to be in the same room as me for more than two seconds, now wouldn't it?"
Aberforth cocked his head to one side and gave Harry a speculative look. "You know where Mum's house is, you know," he pointed out innocently as he stood.
Harry narrowed his eyes. "Yes..."
Aberforth's smile turned mischievous for an eye-blink before he seemed to become impassive. "One of my mates in Ipswich asked me to drop by. I'll probably be gone all of today and most of tomorrow too, knowing how we get when we're together," he said calmly before waving and leaving Harry alone in the kitchen to think.
Harry had not been the least bit surprised to find Aberforth's copy of his mother's house's key lying before the front door of the flat when he was on his way out to walk for a bit. Nor was he really all that surprised to find that his aimless walk had led him to the neighbourhood of the Dumbledores' home. He glanced down at the key in his gloved hand – winter had come quietly, but coldly that year – for a long moment before stepping over to the house that Albus had brought him over to once, before his mother had died, so Harry could meet the woman. With a touch of his Gryffindor bravery shoving him in the back, Harry unlocked the door and let himself in.
The house was eerily quiet – the last time Harry had visited, Mrs Dumbledore, Albus, and Aberforth had all been there, joking with one another and Harry. The lack of laughter made the large house seem hollow and broken. Harry tugged off his winter wear and hung it up next to Albus' by the door before wandering off into the house, wondering where Albus could be hiding.
He found his friend in his childhood bedroom after almost half-an-hour of searching – why three people had needed such a large place, Harry would never know – and had knocked gently on the open door, knowing that he always seemed to move too silently for Albus, even when he stomped his feet while moving. When Albus didn't turn to look at him – he was crouched over something on his desk, back to the door – Harry cleared his throat and said, "Albus?"
Albus' breathing seemed to stop for half a second, then he turned slowly and looked at Harry. His eyes were red and puffy, as if he'd been crying, and he held something to his chest protectively. "How did you get in?" he asked in what would have been an accusing voice, if it hadn't been filled with sleepless nights and tear-filled eyes.
Harry stepped into the room and took a seat on the chair that sat before Albus' desk, seeming to know that Albus didn't want him on the bed. "Aberforth dropped his key this morning before he left. Decided I'd drop by and see if I could help," he replied, unable to ask why it was that Albus was avoiding him now that he'd seen the man.
Albus looked away from Harry with a frown. "I do not need any help," he muttered, sounding somehow both petulant and broken.
Harry frowned too. "Albus, you look like you need a good night's sleep," he informed his friend stiffly, his temper shifting under barriers he'd grown years before.
Albus turned bodily away from Harry, so all that Harry could see of him was his back. "I am fine. Go away."
Harry took a deep breath and rubbed at his nose under his glasses. "I'm beginning to think you're trying to piss me off," he informed the back in front of him.
Albus stiffened, but didn't say anything.
"It doesn't take much for one to figure out that you're avoiding me, by the way. I'm not hopelessly dense," Harry continued informing the stiff back in front of him, speaking so his temper didn't flip. "But I can't, for the life of me, figure out why you're doing so. Will you tell me?"
Albus bowed his head and remained silent.
"I'm not leaving until you tell me something, Albus. I thought we were friends–"
"We are friends."
"Then why are you avoiding me?"
"Because it is so simple," Albus said, voice full of scorn.
"Things are never simple," Harry replied dully. "But you're doing a good job of making this more difficult than it should be."
"You are making this difficult!"
"Not on purpose, I assure you." Harry sighed and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "Albus, talk to me. Please?"
Albus glanced back at his friend, expression guarded. "You will hate me."
"Highly unlikely. If you were to say that you're the current Dark Lord, I might get angry, but I wouldn't hate you."
Albus shook his head. "You will."
Harry rolled his eyes. "How about I be the judge of that?"
Albus looked painfully indecisive for a long moment, then he stood and stepped over to where Harry was sitting and leaned down to kiss him.
Harry's eyes went wide and he felt he suddenly couldn't breathe. Albus liked him?! Albus liked him? How? Why?
Albus pulled away and met Harry's wide eyes. "You hate me now."
Harry shook his head sharply. "Albus... Albus, no. Damnit, I don't hate you. You're my best friend. Why would I hate you?"
"I kissed you–"
"I like you, Harry. I really like you."
Harry took a deep breath. "I rather figured that out myself, I think."
"No, I mean–"
The elder Dumbledore's mouth clicked shut at the order in Harry's voice.
Harry sighed. "Okay, look. Being homosexual isn't a taboo thing. Not where I come from. One of my dorm mates in school was gay. Admittedly, we even had a fling once..." Harry shook memories of Seamus and their night of drunken sex from his mind. "I don't care; it doesn't bother me. Even you liking me doesn't bother me. Honestly, the only thing that is bothering me is that you've been avoiding me."
Albus swallowed. "But, you do not... reciprocate?"
Harry blinked a few times and seriously considered the question. It wasn't a question of whether or not Harry was gay; he already classified himself as bisexual, especially after a day out with Ginny, spent checking out both sexes as they walked around muggle London after the war.
"I find you attractive," Harry allowed after a long moment, during which Albus yanked on his robes nervously. "Do I currently have a crush on you? No, admittedly, I don't. But nor do I find the idea revolting." Harry met the worried blue eyes. "I'm willing to try, if you'll have me?"
Albus practically threw himself into Harry's arms, face damp with relieved tears.
It was the start of something completely new for Harry.
After a year of casual dating, Harry admitted that he'd fallen head over heels for his old mentor. With Aberforth's blessing, the two lovers performed a small bonding ceremony with only the youngest Dumbledore as their witness.
The next twenty-two years proved to be the best years of Harry's twisted life. And having Albus as such a constant in his life finally chased away nightmares of war and deaths.
Then, in eighteen ninety-seven, the world came crashing down on the three wizards.
It had been a regular check-up with the Dumbledore family mediwitch. Harry had stayed home, perfectly happy to not be poked at by an overly helpful witch or wizard, thank-you-very-much, while the two brothers had gone in.
Harry was humming cheerfully to himself on the couch, reading a recent spellbook, when the brothers walked in, looking glum.
Harry immediately sat up, worried. "What's wrong?"
Albus sat next to Harry on the couch and pulled him into a desperate hug. When the elder Dumbledore started to cry, Harry looked up at Aberforth, eyes narrowed.
Aberforth closed his eyes. "You've heard about Father?"
Harry nodded, recalling the time the brothers had told him about how their father had died when they were still small children from a hereditary disease. When Aberforth didn't continue, and Albus started crying harder, Harry put two and two together and got four.
Aberforth nodded, lips drawn in a grimace of pain. "I'm afraid so."
Harry shook his head in denial. "The–there's got to be a way to fix it! I mean, he's alive in my time! I remember him being there!" Harry wrapped his arms around his sobbing bonded. "It'll be okay, Albus. I promise. I'll make it better."
Albus, having taken up the belief that Harry could do practically anything, believed him and calmed down.
Aberforth, however, continued to look grim. "Let's get Albus to bed," he suggested.
"No!" Albus clutched at Harry's shirt like it was all he had left in the world. "I will not! I do not need bed!"
But Harry had seen something in Aberforth's eyes that had him prying Albus' hands from his shirt. "Come on, love. Sleep for us now and Abe and I'll find something. It'll all seem like a bad dream when you wake up!"
Aberforth nodded and forced a smile. "Yeah, you remember how Father always felt better after he took a nap?"
Albus pouted a bit at that, drawing a real smile from Harry, who had never gotten over how cute Albus looked like that. Albus took Harry's smile as a good sign and reluctantly agreed to go to bed.
The other two wizards helped Albus to bed, then retired to the kitchen for a cuppa.
After a couple of fortifying sips, Harry whispered, "You don't think he'll survive." His voice was tired, and a little broken.
Aberforth shook his head, eyes glistening. "Harry, not even wizarding medicine can face this. I know you always complain about how backwards everything here is, but even you have to admit that medicine isn't that different between our times."
Harry stared down at his cup, wishing his chest didn't feel like it had collapsed. Because Aberforth was right, everything Harry had read about wizarding medicine had been practically the same now as he'd remembered it being back home. Potions had evolved where duelling hadn't, and medical spells had to be slow anyway, to keep from killing the patient.
Harry sipped at his tea, feeling helpless. "But, what about the future?"
Aberforth shrugged. "Maybe the Albus you knew, wasn't him."
Harry swallowed. "Then, who?"
Aberforth shrugged again and finished his tea. "That, I don't know."
Albus had good days, and he had bad days. On the good days, he would sit with Harry and Aberforth and joke about the good times. On bad days, he would throw books and yell about his companions not caring that he was dying.
On good days, Harry would make a big dinner and make love to Albus before they went to sleep. On bad days, Harry would calmly leave the flat and find somewhere to cry, while Aberforth drugged his brother and dragged him back to bed on his own.
On good days, Harry and Aberforth could pretend the man they both loved wasn't sick. On the bad days, they couldn't forget.
"Shush, love. You need your sleep."
Albus shook his head and tried to sit up a bit in the bed, so he could see his bonded. "Harry, what will you do when I am gone?"
Harry looked up from the fire with tired eyes. "Albus, you'll never be gone."
"I am dying."
"I know." Harry's voice cracked and he looked back to the fire. "Oh, I know."
"What will you do with your life?" Albus asked again.
Harry closed his eyes against tears. "I'm not sure."
Albus sighed. "Live? For me?"
Harry smiled. "I'll try."
Albus snuggled back under the covers and closed his eyes, at peace.
In front of the fireplace, Harry cried.
Aberforth practically had to drag Harry to the funeral. "He was as much your family as he was mine," he snapped, when Harry shook his head again from under the covers of the bed he'd once shared.
When Harry still wouldn't come out, Aberforth snapped, "Fine life you're living for him!" and stormed from the room.
Harry sniffled and gingerly climbed out of bed. He dressed himself, then hurried to the funeral, making it just in time, and earning himself a dark glare from Aberforth, the only other person there. The two Dumbledores hadn't spent much time with people outside their flat, and so there was no one else to invite to the funeral.
The real funeral of Albus Dumbledore.
After they finished burying Albus, Aberforth said, "Who better than you to be Albus?"
Harry hiccuped around a sob and wiped at his eyes again. "I suppose," he whispered, "that would be one way to live for him."
Aberforth smiled sadly. "Well, then, Albus..."
They both laughed with tears on their faces at that.
Harry used a spell to obscure Albus' headstone before they walked away.
"What were you thinking?!" Aberforth demanded, waving the acceptance letter in the doorway of Harry's room.
"The position was open, and I knew he – I – taught Transfiguration, so I thought, 'why not?' Why? Have you got a problem with it?" Harry demanded, looking up through his long auburn locks.
"I still can't.... You said you're horrible at Transfiguration, Harry!" Aberforth tried.
"I'm pants at it in my time, Abe," Harry sighed. "As far as this time is concerned, I'm a bloody genius."
Aberforth sighed. "So you're leaving me? To this house? These ghosts?"
Harry winced, reminded of the other reason he'd applied for the position as Hogwarts' Transfiguration teacher. "Oh, Abe..."
Aberforth huffed and stalked off, letting the letter that had started the whole mess laying on the floor.
Harry flinched when he heard his unofficial brother slam his bedroom door down the hall. They both needed to leave the flat where they'd lived together with Albus, but Harry had only thought about himself. Again. Rubbing tiredly at his face, Harry wrote out a quick letter to the current Headmaster, saying that his brother had just lost someone dear to him, and Harry couldn't leave him at home. So he wondered if it would be okay for Harry to bring Aberforth with him to Hogwarts.
The next day, Harry got an owl back saying that, while Harry couldn't bring Aberforth with him, he was certainly welcome in Hogsmeade. In fact, one of the barkeeps was looking for someone who would be willing to take over his shop.
Aberforth immediately accepted the job and the two not-quite brothers sold the flat before moving up north.
Harry watched history pass from behind a daft smile. He watched Tom Riddle grow up and become Lord Voldemort. He watched the Marauders bully Snape so much that the boy went to Voldemort. He got to know James and Lily Potter, and saw himself as a baby. He heard a prophecy of himself, and sent his family into hiding. He hired Snape and learned to trust him so implicitly, that he wondered at his own sanity. He suffered ten years of reliving his own childhood, while his child-self survived them. He watched himself grow up to be a striking young man.
And, when the time was right, he gave himself a timeturner so he could find love and happiness.
The morning Harry Potter disappeared from London, Albus Dumbledore wandered over to the Hog's Head and smiled at his brother. "And so it begins," he said.
Aberforth smiled sadly. "He will enjoy it, I'm sure."
"Oh, it will be hard, and it will hurt, but I think it will be worth it," Albus said, with a wink. "I'm heading out to the cemetery. Care to join me?"
Aberforth smiled and pulled out a bag of lemon drops from behind the counter, before closing shop.
Together, the two not-quite brothers Apparated to the final resting place of the man who brought them together in the first place.
"To the beginning!" Albus said, laying a bouquet of flowers down on the unmarked grave.
"May it never end," Aberforth agreed, setting down the candies.
A/N: I'm all sniffly now!. -grabs a tissue-
Special thanks to ladyphoenixia, animehime, flosspyromaniac, clion_roma, arsenicgraffiti, cloe, suza_kirill, haruka89, falconoflight, elfgirljen, order_of_chaos, sdrana, raven_kerry, and tsuki_no_suzu for their invaluable help in the editing of the teaser of this fic back in 2006. (Even if all they did was hide from the, at the time, unstated Harry/Albus. XD)
And, no, I'm not dead yet. I'm working on a couple of fics – alas, not any of my posted ones – which I hope to finish or get close to finishing before I post them. Because no one likes having to wait.