An Older Time
A HariPo oneshot
Note: The Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling, not me. I like that I can't stay away from slash. XD Read, review, and enjoy! *Written for Morghen for the Gift-Giving Extravaganza 2013 forum with the pairing Dumbledore/Slughorn & the demand that it be fluffy.
Albus had brought him crystallized pineapple again. Truth be told, Albus had been the first person to bring him crystallized pineapple, when the headmaster had first sent him to recruit Horace as Potions professor. Since their first meeting, Horace had enjoyed the treat ever since. He often bought some most times he went out, but the best came from Albus. It was a delightful gift, and Horace knew he really had to ask the man sometime where he got it.
"You'll be the death of me, my good man," Horace told Albus as they relaxed in his office.
Albus' blue eyes twinkled, and Horace could hear the crinkle of the other wizard's silvering auburn beard as Albus smirked very subtly. "Why, pray tell, is that, Horace?"
"Because," the Potions master said with a pat on his ever-growing belly, "I've gained several pounds since I met you a few decades ago."
"Just because I bring you the crystallized pineapple doesn't mean you have to eat all of it—or even any of it."
"Now, now, that'd be rude, Albus…"
Horace's remark made Albus chuckle again, and the taller man stood and paced the room. Horace admired him. Albus always seemed to have energy, no matter what. Even walking with him down in Hogsmeade or when they went out and about in London and Horace got to see Albus try to match the current Muggle fashions—Albus seemed to radiate energy. Horace wondered if Albus might even be the most powerful wizard of their age, considering the man was known for his recent defeat of Grindelwald in 1945 two years ago.
And what had Horace done? Very little. He'd become a Potions master and teacher at Hogwarts, and he was Head of Slytherin just as Albus was of Gryffindor. But, other than that and a very impressive mustache, Horace felt there wasn't anything remarkable to his own name.
"What is on your mind, Horace?"
The Potions master sighed. "Oh, nothing. The usual, I s'pose."
"Care to elaborate?"
Albus smiled, and Horace went a little slack-jawed. Not a single time had Albus smiled like that and Horace refused him. In some ways, Albus reminded Horace of his favorite student and recent graduate, Tom Riddle, for both men were charming and knew it and could use that to their advantage.
"Horace?" the other man prompted.
"Uh, no, no, I'm fine," Horace replied. He turned his head so that those eyes didn't land on him again. "Besides, what brings you here? If you wanted to help me mark my pop quizzes for my N.E.W.T. class, then I'm afraid you've come at the wrong time. I just completed that work myself."
Albus chuckled softly, and Horace busied himself with the pineapple. It was just as sweet as usual, kind of like the gentle rumble of Albus' laughter. "Ever the hard worker, I see."
"Yes…" Horace blinked when he realized Albus had stopped pacing. It finally occurred to Horace why Albus might've stopped by. "Albus, is something the matter?"
"Funny. I could've sworn I just asked you that in a similar manner."
Horace frowned, a bit frustrated. "Now, Albus, I know you've gotten the better of me before, but come now. Be honest with me. I can see it in your face—" Horace paused. He had almost blabbed too much. He could see it in how Albus' eyes darkened. He could see it in how Albus clasped his hands behind his back. He could see it in how Albus' shoulders tensed as Albus almost lost himself in his thoughts… "Albus," Horace said a little more forcefully, catching the other man's attention.
"Hmm? Yes, yes, you did ask… It is only right to answer you." Albus returned to him and took the seat beside him, in the chair nearest Horace's desk. "I have a great sense of unease, Horace."
"Well, that's not good. About what?"
"Many things. My role here at Hogwarts. Those I've guided or tried to guide." His eyes grew impossibly dark; they nearly matched the midnight sky. "Those whom I tried to help and how I might've acted differently."
"Albus—are you unsure of yourself?"
The question hung in the air for several moments. At last, Albus looked at his old friend, and he seemed actually to be taking it into consideration. "That is an excellent question."
Horace lost his words. "Ah, wuh…"
Albus "hmm'd" at the idea and leaned forward, elbows on knees, hands gripped together beneath his chin, contemplating.
Horace found himself frowning again. Strong Albus, shrewd Albus, almighty Albus—was he truly lost for once? Horace couldn't believe it. But the notion also filled him with a deep regret and worry, because he doubted that he, a wizard of little merit, could do anything to help the likes of Albus. Albus was a man beyond the reach of many, including Horace…
Horace leaned over and touched Albus' knee—the one the lion was so proud to say had a scar in the shape of the London Underground—and softly gripped it. When still Albus did not budge, Horace huffed and reached up for Albus' hand. He pushed and nudged until he was able to slip his fingers between Albus' hands and free one to hold. He gave it a squeeze, and finally Albus seemed to return to him. "I may not have the best words to offer, but I'll say this—you're a brilliant man, Albus. Of anyone I know, you the most cannot let things get to you. You solve everything. You do."
"It is just a hard thing to believe, considering…"
"Ah, you mean Grindelwald?" Horace asked gently. He smiled sadly. "There's always evil in the world. You could not have known he'd turn out that way. Besides, even you're allowed to be wrong about someone once." He brightened his smile and kept at it until Albus finally looked back with the tiniest of smiles himself.
"Wrong once… Yes, I presume." He patted Horace's hand with his other hand and gave it a squeeze back. He stood and nodded to him. "Have a good evening, Horace."
"Of course. Goodnight, my dear friend."
Albus left, and Horace felt relieved to see the twinkle return to Albus' eyes. Somehow, that made the crystallized pineapple taste even better.
Okay, so a little explanation is needed—this is post-Grindelwald, as mentioned, but this is also after Tom's graduation, and Albus came to Horace for advice about his misgivings about Tom…misgivings that he couldn't stomach the thought of voicing. Not to mention that Horace already years ago edited his own memories of telling Tom about Horcruxes, so he wouldn't be much help…yet. Also, I feel that Horace might've attended Hogwarts around the same time, making them lifelong friends… But agh, the angst crept in despite me trying to make it fluffy—which is kinda was! XP Well, at least I have two more ideas for them… CURSE YOU, MOR, AND YOUR dA BROWSING OBSESSION!
Hope you enjoyed this, my bratty twin. ;P
Thanks for reading, everyone, and please review!