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Love and Devotion

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They were the most beautiful flowers that Harry had ever seen. He didn’t hesitate to pick them, even though it was obvious that they were magical, because nothing poisonous grew in his garden. He had cast a charm over his over the soil, at the advice of Mrs Weasley, so that only flowers flourished there. There were no weeds or nettles and no thistles or thorns; nothing unsightly or dangerous.

He gathered the flowers into his arms, ran his fingers over the blossoms and breathed in their scent. It was unbelievably wonderful. He couldn’t stop himself from burying his face in the bouquet and gasping with delight.

He kept sniffing and stroking at the flowers as he carried them into the house and put them into a vase. It was only once he had finished arranging them and set them down on the breakfast table that he saw the blue stain on his hands.

He thought that perhaps it was some sort of pollen but when tried dusting it off of his hands he saw that it had sunk deep into his skin, like an oil or a dye.

So then went to the sink and tried washing it away but it still didn’t shift, even when he scrubbed at his hands with a rough cleaning sponge. Getting a little desperate, he grabbed his wand and tried casting stripping and scouring charms, all to no avail.

It was only then that he started to worry that he had made a mistake.

**

The healer let out a heavy sigh; a sound that no patient ever wanted to hear.

‘Bachelor’s Blight,’ he murmured sadly. ‘There’s no doubt about it.’ He glanced up at Harry’s face. ‘You are single, I assume?’

‘Uh - Yes,’ Harry stuttered, ‘but wh - what does that have to do with it?’

‘The curse only affects people who are un-married. Usually men. Hence the name.’

He reached for the flower cutting, peeling back the parchment that Harry had wrapped it in, and brushed his fingers over the petals.

‘It’s enchanted so that you’ll want to pick it up and touch it and the curse falls on your hands, making them grow weaker and weaker. In some cases it can spread up the arms and even to the chest, paralysing half the body.’

He glanced up at Harry again and shook his head. ‘I’m sorry.’

Harry started at the man and then back down at his stained hands. They were trembling now, the veins standing out in indigo strands.

‘But ... there must be a way to break it.’

The healer brightened slightly. ‘There is, actually. Quite a simple one, too. Perhaps, it won’t be a problem for you.’

He leant back against his desk.

‘You just need to get married.’

Harry gasped at him. ‘I - I’m sorry, what?’

‘That’s how you break the curse,’ the healer explained, ‘by making a commitment. It can’t be with just anyone, though. It has to be someone who truly loves you.’

He took in Harry’s frantic, fearful expression and his own face fell.

‘Oh dear,’ he said softly. ‘I felt sure there just be someone.’ He tried to force a smile. ‘Well, perhaps there’s still time?’

Harry swallowed. ‘How much time?’

The healer glanced back down at his blue-tinged fingers and winced a little. ‘Perhaps ... three weeks?’

**

‘Bloody Hell,’ Ron breathed. ‘That can’t be right though. There must be some other way!’

He glanced around the crowded kitchen at all the glum, resigned faces.

‘I don’t think so, Ron,’ Hermione said delicately. ‘I’ve read a little bit about Fidelium Familius and it carries a very powerful curse. No one’s ever been able to break it in any other way.’

‘Yeah, but ... getting married?’ Ron made a face. ‘Whoever heard of a curse that made you do that?’

‘Young women used to give them to their lovers to force them to propose,’ Mrs Weasley explained. ‘It was an awful trick, but it certainly did the job.’

‘No one gave them to me,’ Harry told her. ‘I just found them growing in my garden.’

‘Well, they’ve been growing wild for decades now,’ Mr Weasley shrugged. ‘The ministry keeps trying stamp them out but no matter what they do they keep popping up again.’

‘He just has to get married, though,’ Charlie said. ‘That’s not so bad.’

‘Yeah, Harry,’ George chipped in. ‘There must be someone who will have you. You’ve got a lot of fans.’

‘It can’t just be a fan,’ Hermione said sharply. ‘It needs to be someone who truly loves Harry.’

The room fell very quiet. Harry was aware that half the people there were exchanging meaningful glances with each other while the other half were determinedly avoiding meeting anyone else’s eyes.

‘Have you ... spoken to Ginny?’ Ron asked very quietly.

Instantly the tension in the room doubled, the men squaring their shoulders and the women wringing their hands.

Harry swallowed deeply before speaking. ‘I can’t ask her. I - it’s too late. She’s engaged.’

‘Yeah I know, but if she knew what was going on with you.’ Ron gestured at Harrys hands. ‘I mean, she still loves you.’

Mrs Weasley made a sound in the back of her throat and shot her youngest son a look.

‘We all love you, Harry,’ she said slowly. ‘You know that. We don’t want to see you suffer but ... ‘ A pained expression flitted across her face.

‘I know, Mrs Weasley,’ Harry said quickly. ‘I would never ask. I know it wouldn’t be fair on her.’

Mrs Weasley’s face softened with pity. ‘It’s just she’s so happy with Tristan. She wants to make a life with him.’

She picked up a tea-towel absently and started twisting it between her fingers.

‘It would be different if you thought ... if you felt ...’

‘I know,’ Harry said, holding up one of his disfigured hands defensively. ‘I know.’

He took a deep breath.

‘That’s why I asked everyone to come here today. I - er - really could use some suggestions.’

He forced a smile, which George and Charlie returned, but everyone else stayed stony-faced. It was obvious they didn’t know what to say to him and the situation was becoming more and more uncomfortable by the second.

‘The difficulty is,’ Lupin said slowly, ‘finding someone who’s still unattached. There are many people here who care for you, but they already have partners of their own. That makes it impossible for them to break the curse.’

‘Yeah,’ Harry muttered. ‘I see that. I keep trying to think of people - of friends, I mean - but I’m just drawing a blank. I thought perhaps, Luna - ‘

‘Yeah! Luna!’ Ron interrupted excitedly. ‘She’ll marry you! I’m sure of it!’

Harry shook his head. ‘I sent her an owl last week. She just got married.’

‘Oh come on!’ Ron exclaimed. ‘Why’s everyone getting married all of a sudden? Did they all get poisoned by this flower curse?’

‘What about your old ex-girlfriend,’ George said thoughtfully. ‘Cho Chang?’

Harry laughed. ‘Cho was never really my girlfriend. We only ever went on one date and we ended up falling out by the end of it. She probably doesn’t even like now, let alone love me.’

‘She’s engaged anyway,’ Hermione said briskly. ‘I heard about it from Neville. She’s getting married in the spring.’

‘Bloody Hell!’ Ron said again.

‘What about fleur’s sister ... what’s her name?’ Charlie said, glancing at his older brother.

‘Gabrielle?’ Bill said, wrinkling his nose. ‘She doesn’t really know Harry that well.’

‘Yeah, but she likes him, doesn’t he?’ Ron said. ‘He saved her during the second task and she was all sweet in him for it.’

Bill looked doubtful. ‘She’s grown up a lot since then.’ He nodded at Harry. ‘I’m not saying you wouldn’t have a chance, just that you’d have a lot of competition.’

‘I don’t think she’d love Harry enough to break the curse anyway,’ Lupin interjected. ‘Admiration or affection wouldn’t be enough. It needs to be a real, enduring love.’

There was another uncomfortable silence.

‘Well ... I guess I’m pretty fucked then,’ Harry said, trying to force a jovial tone. Unfortunately his voice broke a little on the words.

Everyone looked at him with a terrible pity in their eyes.

**

‘Oh, dear,’ Dumbledore said, turning Harry’s hands around in his own. ‘That’s quite nasty.’

He traced one long blue vein up Harry’s wrist, pressing down gently into the soft skin. ‘Can you feel that at all?’

Harry sighed. ‘No, not any more.’

His lips started to tremble, as well as his hands, a violent vibration that he couldn’t suppress. He was completely losing control of his body.

‘I don’t know what to do,’ he whispered. ‘I can’t even hold a wand any more. I can’t work. I can’t do anything.’

Dumbledore folded his hands over Harry’s tightly, as if he meant to suppress the shuddering. His large, wrinkled palms hid the blue stain from sight.

‘Hush now,’ he said soothingly. ‘We’ll find a way around this. I can teach you some wandless magic. You’ll be able to cook and clean and take care of yourself.’

Harry swallowed back a sob. ‘I just feel so useless. I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this.’

Dumbledore stroked reassuringly along Harry’s broken, trembling thumbs.

‘Who says you’ll have to? You’ll meet someone special eventually and then the curse will be broken.’

‘What if I don’t?’

Harry looked up at his old headmaster with desperate, pleading eyes.

‘Isn’t there any other way? Can’t you do anything?’

It had been a long time since he’d thought of Albus Dumbledore as an all powerful being, capable of solving any and every problem, but in the face of something as terrifying as this he couldn’t help turning to him and begging for help.

Dumbledore met his gaze sadly. ‘No. I’m sorry, Harry. This curse is very strong and particular. It demands that you play by its rules.’

He turned his attention back to their clasped hands, stroking along the length and breadth of the bright blue stain.

‘I assume you’ve considered all the possibilities amongst your friends and acquaintances?’

‘Yes,’ Harry said firmly. ‘I’ve thought of everyone I possibly could! There’s barely anyone who’s still single to start with, let alone someone who already cares for me.’

Dumbledore looked thoughtful. ‘Well then ... would you be offended if I made a proposal?’

‘No, please go ahead!’ Harry said eagerly. ‘I’d welcome any suggestion!’

Dumbledore chuckled a little. ‘No, I mean literally. I‘m offering to marry you.’ He met Harry’s eyes. ‘I love you very much, Harry. More than enough to break the curse I’m sure.’

Harry stared at him in silence for several seconds, struck dumb by this suggestion.

‘But ... were both men,’ he said, selecting the most obvious point from a very long list of objections.

‘That doesn’t matter,’ Dumbledore assured him. ‘Traditional binding ceremonies are gender-neutral. The magic invoked doesn’t discriminate on whose participating, as long as both parties are willing and of age.’

‘Are - are you sure?’ Harry said, in disbelief.

‘Yes, quite sure,’ Dumbledore insisted. ‘There’s no impediments as far as I can see.’

Another awkward pause.

‘It needn’t be a physical relationship,’ Dumbledore said quickly. ‘We would just need to demonstrate a certain level of commitment. Living together and spending time with one another.’

‘What about the vows,’ Harry pointed out. ‘Don’t they say something about sex? They must do.’

‘No, not precisely,’ Dumbledore replied. ‘The wording is, “to share my bed and my warmth, through the winter and summer alike,” which only promises company and comfort.’

Harry smiled uneasily. ‘Surely that’s just a euphuism though? Warming each other in bed.’

‘Yes, it is,’ Dumbledore agreed, ‘but it’s not explicit. It allows for couples who are unwilling or unable to consummate their relationship in that way. Under magical law, their marriages are considered just as valid.’

Harry stared at the professor. ‘We’d have to be intimate in some way though. For it to be a real marriage.’

He had already learned this much from Hermione. It would have to be a genuine, loving relationship in order to break the curse. Simply putting on a show and pretending wouldn’t be enough.

‘We would have to be affectionate with one another,’ Dumbledore agreed, ‘but I do not think that would be especially difficult.’ He reached out to brush Harry’s hair away from his forehead. ‘We are not unaffectionate now.’

Harry looked away, embarrassed. ‘That’s not quite the same though,’ he murmured. ‘Is it?’

‘We would not need to be much more intimate than this,’ Dumbledore assured him, fingers grazing his cheek. ‘It’s more of an emotional commitment than anything else.’

Harry bit his lip. ‘Could I perhaps think about it?’

‘Of course!’ Dumbledore exclaimed, leaning back in his chair. ‘I didn’t expect you to decide right away. I just wanted you to have the option.’

Harry bit down harder, tasting blood. His heart and mind were both racing. ‘Would I have to live with you at Hogwarts?’

‘Not all the time,’ Dumbledore replied. ‘I think it would make sense for you to keep this house. For one thing, it would make commuting easier, as you can’t apparate or dissaparate on the Hogwarts grounds. You would have to use floo powder.’

He glanced around Harry’s snug, comfortable little kitchen, as if seeing it for the first time, and nodded in appreciation.

‘I imagine you might still want to stay here a couple of nights a week. I know you work late sometimes, after all. And sometimes you’ll have to travel abroad. As long as we’re together for most of the time I don’t think there would be a problem.’

‘What about meals?’ Harry asked. ‘Would we eat together? The teachers usually eat with the students, don’t they?’

Dumbledore considered. ‘I suppose it would depend what would best suit you. I think it would be good to have dinner together at least once a week but most of the time it might be easier to eat separately. You’ll be in London quite late so you might want to grab something. We can eat in my rooms though, any time you want. I can always order food up from the kitchens. You know how obliging the house elves are.’

Harry smiling weakly. ‘That might be nice. Having room service whenever I wanted.’

Dumbledore smiled too. ‘I don’t think we’ll have any trouble sorting out the practicalities,’ he assured Harry. ‘I have a lot of freedom at the school and I’m used to getting things my own way. I’m only concerned with whether you could be happy and comfortable with such an arrangement.’

He gave Harry a searching look. ‘I know you’ve used to living alone and no matter how we decide to organise things this would be a very big commitment.’

Harry swallowed. ‘I know.’

‘It would not necessarily be forever,’ Dumbledore continued. ‘If you met someone else then we could dissolve our marriage and you would be free to marry again. The curse doesn’t seem to mind how many partners you go though as long as you remain in a loving marriage.’

Harry let out a breathy little laugh. ‘I suppose I could keep looking then, while we’re together. Really, you’re just buying me time.’

Dumbledore nodded eagerly. ‘Yes, exactly. It’s important that understand this. I wouldn’t want you to feel trapped by our relationship. I want you to feel free to live your life.’

Harry didn’t want to say anything, but he couldn’t help thinking that it was very unlikely he would ever find someone else.

‘Besides,’ Dumbledore continued brightly. ‘I’m a very old man now. Who knows how many years I’ve got left in me? And if I die then you’ll be a widower, free to live as you please. The curse will be lifted forever.’

Harry shuddered. ‘Don’t talk like that,’ He pleaded. ‘I don’t like to think about you dying, not under any circumstances. I think you ought to live to be at least two hundred. All the greatest wizards do.’

Dumbledore smiled and gave a slight shrug as if to say, ‘I’ll do my best.’

An uneasy silence crept back over the room, like a foggy cloud, making it difficult to breathe.

‘It is a very big, difficult decision,’ Dumbledore said quietly, underlining the issue once more. ‘I want you take your time and then let me know what you want. I’ll do anything I can to help you.’

He touched Harry’s arm again and then rose up, grabbing his coat and hat. He left him to think it over, heading back out into the grey London rain with a fond farewell.

Harry sat alone for a few moments, cradling his hands in his lap and listening to rain rattling the windows. Then he jumped up suddenly, knocking over his chair, and ran to the door.

Dumbledore was halfway up the street when he caught up to him, soaked and panting.

‘Professor!’ He gasped. ‘Please, wait! I realised I don’t need any time. I accept your proposal!’

He could feel his face flushing as he spoke, burning hot despite the water trickling down his cheeks.

Dumbledore seemed surprised and slightly amused. He quickly held out his umbrella to shield Harry from further onslaught and cast a drying spell upon him.

‘You really didn’t need to chase me down,’ he chuckled. ‘It’s not as if I’m entertaining any other prospects, not at my age. I’m entirely yours.’

**

‘I still think this is insane,’ Ron complained as he helped Harry into his dress shirt. ‘What if it doesn’t work?’

’Dumbledore seems pretty confident it will,’ Harry replied, ‘but if it doesn’t it’s not as if I’ve lost anything. I’m just back to square one and we still get to have the cake.’

Ron scowled at him. ‘You’re not taking this seriously.’

Harry let out a fluttering little laugh. ‘I assure you I’m taking this very seriously. I have to, if I want to get cured.’

Hermione had made that clear as well. He needed to mean what he said, making his vows in earnest, otherwise the curse simply would not break.

He held out his arms awkwardly. ‘Will you help me with the cufflinks too?’

By now, his hands were the deep, mottled blue of a ripened blueberry and he’d lost all sensation in them entirely. They hung limply at his wrists, like a pair of empty gloves, utterly useless, reminding him vaguely of the time he’d lost all the bones in his right arm.

Ron picked up the small silver cufflinks from the table, still frowning. ‘You do know Dumbledore’s gay, don’t you?’ He said quietly.

‘Of course I do,’ Harry replied. ‘What’s that got to do with anything?’

‘Well,’ Ron pulled a face. ‘Doesn’t that bother you? I mean, he actually likes men. What if he tries something on with you once you’re alone?’

Harry laughed again. ’You really think this whole thing is an elaborate plot to get me into bed?’

‘I dunno,’ Ron said, reddening. ‘I’m just think it’s something you should bear in mind.’

Harry pulled a face. ‘Ron, he’s known me for nearly twenty-five years now, pretty much my whole life, and he’s never made a move on me before.’

‘Yeah, but now you’re getting married,’ Ron protested. ‘That’s bound to change his ... expectations somehow. And it’s not just me saying this,’ he added quickly. ‘Hermione agrees with me.’

Harry raised his eyebrows. ‘Hermione thinks that Dumbledore is planning to seduce me?’

‘Well, no not exactly,’ Ron admitted. ‘She just said that she thinks Dumbledore might want more from this than you do. She thinks he’s lonely.’

‘Well, I can understand that,’ Harry said quietly. ‘I’ve been lonely too, these past few years.’

This confession obviously made Ron uncomfortable. He turned away and started fussing with Harry’s jacket, brushing at it feverishly, even though though it was already perfectly clean.

‘Dumbledore says we’ll be companions to one another,’ Harry said softly. ‘I think that will be nice, for both of us.’

Ron tensed. ‘What about ... ?’

‘It won’t be sexual,’ Harry said firmly. ‘I told you that already. Why do you keep worrying about it?’

Ron shrugged, looking sheepish. ‘I dunno. It’s just so weird. I mean, he’s so old and he’s a bloke.’

‘I know it’s a little strange,’ Harry said, with a sigh, ‘but I have to marry someone if I want to break this curse and I think Dumbledore’s my best chance. I mean, he loves me more than anyone else.’

And I love him too, he added inside his own head. It was the one truth he was entirely certain of, a touchstone to return to again and again. It reassured him that, despite what anyone else might say, he was making the right choice.

Ron opened his mouth and then closed it again. He shook Harry’s jacket one more time and then held it out for him. Harry slid his arms clumsily into the sleeves, wincing as his nails caught on the fabric.

‘I’m actually really nervous!’ Harry declared, with a breathy little laugh. ‘Butterflies and everything! Can you believe it?’

‘Yes,’ Ron laughed. ‘That’s what I’ve been saying. You’d be crazy not to be!’

**

Dumbledore was wearing bright blue robes and a shy, tentative smile. He reached out to Harry as he entered the circle and took his hands in his own.

The guests moved in closer, drawing the circle tight around them. Harry could feel their eyes upon him as they joined hands, observing everything with wary stares.

The priest officiating was a very old, severe-looking wizard with shoulder-length grey hair and pitch-black eyes. He waited a few moments, until everyone had settled into their places, and then addressed the crowd solemnly.

‘We are here to bear witness to a binding of two willing souls in a union of love and necessity.’

He turned back to Dumbledore.

‘Would you declare to everyone here who you are and what you have come here to do.’

Dumbledore looked Harry right in the eyes and smiled gently.

‘I am Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore and I have come here today to bind myself to Harry James Potter. I do so freely and with perfect love and devotion.’

Then it was Harry’s turn. His voice shook a little when he spoke, although it was nowhere near as bad as his hands.

‘I am Harry James Potter and I have come here today to bind myself to Albus Percival Wilfred Brian Dumbledore. I do so freely and with perfect love and devotion.’

The priest nodded again and then drew out his wand. With a delicate flick he produced a long, winding strip of ribbon. It hovered in the air for a moment and then began twisting itself around their clasped hands.

Once their hands were tightly bound and Harry’s curse scars were no longer visible the man addressed them again.

‘Now it is time to make your vows to one another to seal the binding for good.’

Harry could feel himself blushing again, cheeks burning red hot. He had practiced the vows by himself and knew them perfectly, but he still felt unprepared.

‘On this day I bind myself to you, flesh to flesh and soul to soul. I offer you my love, friendship, loyalty and protection for today, tomorrow and the rest of our days.’

Harry was glad to hear that his voice was no longer shaking. He was speaking clearly enough, the words flowing out smoothly and easily.

‘In front of all these witnesses, I take you as my partner for life. To comfort and care for, through pain and misfortune. To live and laugh with in joy and prosperity. To share my bed and my warmth, through the winter and summer alike. ’

He was relieved to have got through it all successfully, although he could feel himself blushing all more deeply on the last line.

Dumbledore grinned, eyes creasing deeply, and then repeated the vows.

There was a hushed silence once he was done, as if everyone in the clearing was holding their breath, waiting to see what would happen.

‘These two souls are now bound by both love and magic,’ the priest declared, ‘and cannot be severed by any other mortal.’

Harry stared at his hands as the binding ribbon was removed, trying to work out whether they looked any different. He tried wiggling his fingers and was exhilarated to feel the slightest of tingles. Was it just his imagination or had the ceremony really worked?

**
Half an hour later Harry was flexing his fingers and laughing with delight. His hands were a creamy white once more, as healthy as they had every been.

‘I have to hand it to you, Dumbledore,’ Professor McGonagall said quietly. ‘That really does seem to have done the job.’

She had been one of the greatest dissenters, decrying the whole affair as both pointless and obscene. She had even called the headmaster ‘a sentimental old fool’ when he tried to argue with her. Still, she had agreed to act as a witness and seemed quite satisfied now.

Hagrid slapped Harry on the back and let out a hearty laugh. ‘What a way to break a curse!’ He declared.

He had already consumed a couple of flagons of beer and was ready for a jolly party. Like many of the guests, he viewed the ceremony as nothing more than a novelty.

Harry smiled his agreement and turned back to his new husband. ‘Thank you,’ he whispered. ‘This really does mean so much.’

You cured me with love, he thought, utterly overwhelmed by the idea. He didn’t quite know how to express everything he was feeling. It was just too great and unexpected.

Dumbledore smiled back at him. ‘You know it was no sacrifice for an old man like me. I’m glad to have been able to help you.’

‘Come on,’ Ron said, clapping his hands impatiently. ‘Let’s get on with the banquet! I’m starving!’

This earned a roar of approval. Suddenly everyone was laughing and smiling, all tension and wiped away.

There was no more need for fear or outrage or apprehension. The curse was broken and the bad times were over.

**

‘I’ve made some room for you,’ Dumbledore told Harry, showing him through to a small, empty alcove.

Harry looked around with interest. He had never seen the headmaster’s private rooms before and was impressed by all the light and splendour.

‘You meant that literally,’ He commented, running one hand over the wall. ‘This is all new, isn’t it?’ He fixed the old man with a quizzical look. ‘You know that most people just clear out a drawer.’

‘Well, I’m not most people,’ Dumbledore replied, patting the younger man’s arm. ‘Are you tired?’

‘Very,’ Harry replied.

The bed was large enough that four men could have slept in it, side by side, without ever touching. Like everything at Hogwarts, it had been built for stability and comfort and was probably several centuries old.

Harry noticed, as he clambered in, that the sheets smelt faintly of the headmaster. He burrowed down deep, breathing in the familiar scent, that to him, meant something like home.

‘Are you cold?’ Dumbledore enquired, emerging from the bathroom in an emerald green nightgown.

‘A little,’ Harry admitted. ‘Though, probably not enough for a fire.’

Dumbledore leant forward and waved his hand over the bed. Instantly the mattress began to heat up underneath Harry’s body, taking on the soothing temperature of a blanket left outside all day in the sun.

‘Warming the bed for me?’ Harry said, grinning.

‘Of course,’ Dumbledore replied. ‘It’s my duty, isn’t it?’

‘You ought to be cuddling me,’ Harry chided.

‘Well, I can do that too,’ Dumbledore said, climbing into the other side of the bed. ‘Come here, my love.’

Harry giggled a little, wriggled over to the old man and clumsily threw his arms around him.

Dumbledore gathered him up tenderly, setting his head against his chest and wrapping one arm tight about his back.

‘Are you comfortable?’ He asked.

‘Yes,’ Harry sighed, ‘very,’ and he reached out to tangle his fingers in the old man’s beard.

‘Shall I put out the lights then?’ Dumbledore suggested, raising one hand in the air.

‘Shouldn’t we kiss each other goodnight first?’ Harry protested. ‘That’s the way things ought to be done.’

In his child’s mind that was alway how he imagined married couples to have behave. Not the Dursley’s, of course, but the sort of loving couples that featured in stories.

Dumbledore chuckled very softly. ‘As you wish.’

He tilted Harry’s cheek towards him and pressed a soft, dry kiss against his skin.

‘Goodnight, my darling boy.’

Harry responded in kind, leaning in close to kiss one wrinkled cheek.

‘Goodnight Professor,’ he whispered, which Dumbledore laugh. ‘I suppose I ought to call you something else now. Would like me to call you by your first name?’

‘You must call me whatever you like,’ Dumbledore told him, clicking his fingers and extinguishing all the candles in the room.

‘Then I will call you darling,’ Harry said, softly. ‘Just as you do me.’

**

Harry understood that it might take a time to adjust to his new relationship with Dumbledore. After all, it had taken them long enough to become friends.

After the last battle, Harry had been so angry with Dumbledore that he refused to meet or speak with him. He even got upset when other people started talking about him and had to leave the room if the conversation went on too long. He got a lump in his throat whenever he saw the man’s name mentioned in the Daily Prophet and had to avoid all articles about the school and its students.

It was almost a year before they had any contact whatsoever. Harry needed a reference for his training as an Auror and decided to finally swallow his pride and visit the headmaster at Hogwarts.

Professor Dumbledore had greeted him warmly as if there was no unpleasantness between them.

'It seems a little ridiculous that the man who defeated Lord Voldemort should need a reference,' he commented playfully.

Harry had given him a weak, unconvincing smile, trying not to think about the things he’d had to done in order to destroy the Dark Lord. It still kept him up most nights, haunting him like a waking nightmare.

Dumbledore must have realised that because he hastily changed the subject, enquiring about Harry’s training.

‘Who will be mentoring you?’ He asked. ‘Casper Hemlocke? He’s very good, if a little hardline in his attitude.’

He had continued to make pleasant enquiries while he wrote his reference and Harry wasn’t sure what was worse, having to answer his kind questions or watch the glowing testimony unfold before him.

Professor Dumbledore wrote smoothly and effortlessly, without any doubt or hesitation. He seemed to know exactly what he wanted to say and didn’t make any false starts or mistakes. In a matter of moments, he had filled two sides of parchment in thin, looping handwriting.

’Here you go,’ he declared brightly, signing the letter with a flourish. ‘If that’s not good enough then I don’t know what will be.’

‘Thank you,’ Harry had mumbled, taking up the reference. Just as he was about to withdraw when Dumbledore reached out and stopped him.

‘Harry,’ he whispered. ‘I am truly sorry for everything that happened. For everything that I put you through. I never wanted you to suffer like that. You ... you didn’t deserve it.’

This was not the first time that Dumbledore had apologised. He had made an attempt right after Voldemort’s death, falling over himself to explain his actions, but Harry had shouted him down, unwilling to hear more of the same excuses and justifications.

Dumbledore had tried again later, when things had calmed down a little, but Harry still hadn’t been ready to listen. It was still too painful for him to face what his mentor had done to him.

Now though, with this simple apology, Harry could feel his resolve melting away.

‘I thought I was going to die,’ he whispered weakly.

‘I know,’ Dumbledore said, turning pale. ‘I needed you to believe that when you faced him.’

Harry looked up at him, eyes welling up as he did so. ‘Did you know that I would come back? That I would be alright?’

Dumbledore grew paler still. ‘I hoped so.’

Harry swallowed deeply, feeling the tears pricks at the edges of his eyelashes, knowing that they were about to fall.

‘It really hurt me,’ he whispered. ‘Thinking you had just been using me for all these years. Manipulating me.’

‘It was never like that,’ Dumbledore insisted. ‘I cared about you Harry, I really did. I wanted you to be happy.’

‘But you would have let me die!’ Harry gasped, tears scorching his cheeks. ‘If you had to, you would have stood by and let him kill me. You were willing to sacrifice me for the greater good.’

Dumbledore had started crying then too, tears trickling out from behind his glasses and down his broken nose. His whole face looked cracked and ruined, like a mirror that someone had smashed.

‘If there was anything I could have done to save you, to protect you, I would have done it. I swear it, Harry.’

Harry had known it was true and in that moment he opened his heart up to Dumbledore once more.

It was a relief to forgive him, really. Holding on to all the pain and resentment had felt like a constant struggle. If he was honest with himself, he wanted nothing more than to return to Dumbledore’s side.

He had gotten up and hug him goodbye and the embrace had lasted a very long time. Harry wasn’t even sure who it was that had finally ended it. Neither of them had seemed to want to let go.

It had happened very slowly, in next few weeks and months after their meeting. They started to rebuild their relationship, getting to know each other all over again, through long letters and brief encounters.

Harry sent Dumbledore clippings of things he thought would amuse him and packets of sweets from around the world. Dumbledore sent Harry books he thought he would like and news about their shared acquaintances.

It was strange at first. Harry was so used to having intense, life-and-death debates across a desk. He wasn’t quite sure how to handle casual conversation about obscure novels, politics and quidditch.

He adjusted though, into the gossip and laughter, and after a while it felt like they had always been that way with each other. They had learned so much about one another over the years that a close friendship came quite naturally.

Perhaps love was more malleable than most people realised; it could reshaped into another form with only the slightest pressure and influence.

When Harry awoke, the morning after the binding, with Dumbledore’s arm around him, he felt no unease or uncertainty. On the contrary, he felt utterly safe and content, as if he’d just come home after a long journey.

**

‘We’ve made the papers,’ Dumbledore announced over breakfast.

Harry raised his eyebrows. ‘Really? Are they saying anything nice?’

‘No,’ Dumbledore replied, pushing the Prophet over to him. ‘There’s a good picture though.’

Harry put on his glasses and squinted down at the grainy image of himself and Dumbledore standing side by side. They looked happy and handsome, smiling brightly in pale, spring sunshine.

In contrast, the words were stark and ugly. They clawed at Harry’s eyes, demanding his attention.

Readers may well be shocked to read that at a hundred-at-fifty years old, Professor Dumbledore has tied himself to his former student and prodigy, Harry Potter in marriage. The so-called boy-who-lived has only just entered his twenties and many who have heard of this union have already voiced their shock and concern.

Mr Potter’s closest friends, who attended the ceremony, have insisted that the marriage was purely one of convenience, arranged to circumvent the effects of fidelium familius, or as it is more commonly known “bachelor’s blight.” However, even presuming that this is true, many readers may still be disturbed to learn that this young man has been coerced into a magical binding under such circumstances.

‘I’m thirty-five!’ Harry burst out furiously. ‘Almost thirty-six! How do they keep getting my age so wrong? Isn’t my birthday a national holiday or something?’

Dumbledore smiled. ‘They just want you to appear young and vulnerable. As if a century-wide age gap isn’t enough by itself.’ He took a sip of coffee. ‘Incidentally, I’m not a hundred and fifty years old yet.’

‘I know,’ Harry said. ‘You’re exactly a hundred years old then me, aren’t you?’ He frowned at the paper. ‘It seems like that would be an easy thing to remember.’

‘It’s only natural that they would want to highlight the more sensational aspects of our marriage. If you keep reading then you’ll see they talk a lot about our relationship when you were a student. They suggest that I’ve manipulated you into this for my own perverse reasons.’

Harry chocked on his pancake and quickly turned the page over. He found a large picture of himself from the Triwizard tournament. His younger smiled up uncomfortably, still raw from his interview with Rita Skeeter.

‘Should we respond to this?’ Harry asked. ‘I don’t want them saying anything nasty about you.’ He glared at the paper. ‘They don’t even have any pictures of the cake or the dancing. You would’ve thought they’d at least cover the thing properly.’

‘No, let it be,’ Dumbledore insisted. ‘You can’t win against journalists.’ He reached out and turned the page back over again. ‘That one’s a nice picture though,’ he said, tapping the cover image. ‘We should keep that.’

**

Harry had always wanted someone special to come home so when Dumbledore greeted him with a smile and an hug, he couldn’t help but feel grateful.

The Dursleys had never treated him as anything other than a burden and nuisance and were always in a hurry to get rid of him, from the second he arrived home from school.

While Dudley, the golden boy, was fussed over, given snacks and quizzed about his classes, Harry was relegated to his cupboard and shut away from sight. If there was one thing that Harry had envied Dudley, above all else, it was this. No one had ever been there to ask him what he’d been doing or how he was feeling.

‘Come sit with me,’ Dumbledore urged though, as soon as he stepped out of the fire. ‘Tell me about your day.’ As if nothing could be simpler.

And that was how they spent their evening together. Harry told Dumbledore about the cases he was working on and all the in-fighting at the Ministry, and Dumbledore told him about the latest mishaps with the students.

Harry smiled at the headmaster fondly, as he spoke. The old man was somehow managing to talk, read and knit all at the same time, his needles floating magically in the air in front of him, adding lines to a long, stripy scarf.

‘Can we ... cuddle up?’ Harry asked shyly, inching his way across the sofa.

‘Of course,’ Dumbledore replied, laying down his book.

Harry tried huddling up against the other man, but struggled to find a comfortable position. Dumbledore tried adjusting his legs and then, impulsively, pulled Harry onto his lap.

Harry laughed out-loud with surprise.

‘Is it too much?’ Dumbledore asked. ‘Are you uncomfortable?’

‘No, it’s nice!’ Harry replied happily, resting his head against Dumbledore’s chest. ‘Like being a little kid.’

Dumbledore considered this for a moment, his hand moving to Harry’s hair. The knitting needles had halted in their progress and the room suddenly felt very still.

‘Do I feel like a father to you?’ He asked.

Harry felt heat flood through his body and he hastily his his face in the old man’s beard.

‘Maybe a little,’ He admitted.

‘That makes sense,’ Dumbledore assured him. ‘I’m so much older than you and I cared for you a lot, when you were a child.’

‘We were never that close though,’ Harry protested. ‘You never touched me.’

Dumbledore ran his fingers through Harry’s hair and stroked gently at his back. ’I thought about it sometimes, a quick hug or a pat on the shoulder perhaps, but I worried that it would be inappropriate.’

Harry sighed. ‘I wish you would’ve. No one ever hugged me back then.’

Dumbledore’s hand stilled. ‘Did your aunt or uncle never hold or touch you?’

Harry snorted into the old man’s beard. ‘No! You know what they were like. They hated me.’

‘Even when you were little?’

Harry squirmed a little. ‘Maybe when I was a baby? When they had to. I don’t remember it though.’

Dumbledore let out a heavy sigh. ‘You know, I who the one who brought you to your aunt and uncle’s house. I knew that they had fallen out with your parents, but I couldn’t really believe that it would really stop them from caring for you. How could anyone help but love such a sweet little baby?’

Harry blushed deeper and nuzzled against the old man’s throat. ‘I wish things could’ve been different between us, back them. I wish we could’ve been closer.’

It hadn’t just been their position, as headmaster and student. It had also been the weight of the war and the prophesy bearing down upon them. It had dictated everything they had done.

Dumbledore’s hands moved back to Harry’s scalp. ‘We’re together now,’ he said soothingly.

‘Yes,’ Harry replied, with a lump in his throat, ‘but I’m not a child anymore.’

He was very aware of his adult body, of his broad shoulders and bony hips, of his gangly legs spilling out over the headmaster’s lap.

‘You’re never too old to be loved.’ Dumbledore whispered, hands caressing the small of his back.

**

Harry had set up a small crystal vase with the bright, blue flower that had cursed him. Despite everything, he couldn’t help but love them. Above all else, Fidelium Familius, was truly beautiful.

‘I really did want to marry you,’ Harry said, as he tended the leaves. ‘It wasn’t just to break the curse.’

‘I know,’ Dumbledore said softly. ‘I wanted it too. You know that.’ He took one long stemmed flower and added it to the bouquet. ‘We talked about it.’

‘Yes,’ Harry agreed. ‘We talked about the arrangements and about what we wanted from each other, but not about our feelings. Not so much, anyway.’

Dumbledore peered at him curiously, sapphire blue eyes as bright as the blossoms. ‘What did you want to share?’

Harry clipped off another wilting leaf, adding it to the pile on the table. He hoped he wasn’t blushing too much. There’d been too much of that already and he wasn’t the shy, squirming child that he’d once been.

‘I wanted us to belong to each other,’ he said quietly. ‘Properly.’ Another snap as he cut into a thick stem. ‘There’s never been anything real between us. No blood, no legal bond, no physical intimacy. I wanted to change that.’

Dumbledore took a step closer, wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulder.

‘Well, you belong to me now,’ he whispered, ‘and I belong to you.’ He paused, breathing in the scent of the flowers. ‘Forever, if you wish it.’

‘Yes,’ Harry sighed, ‘Forever.’

**

Chapter Text

Dinner parties were often fraught affairs. Harry accepted the invitation from his friends, knowing full well that the evening was likely to end in disaster, and sure enough, an argument broke out as soon as the meal was done.

Harry tried to keep quiet while Ron and Hermione bickered, sinking back into the sofa and sipping at his drink. He wished he had his invisibility cloak with him.

‘I told you to fix that stair!’ Hermione hissed angrily at her husband, ‘It was only a matter of time before someone tripped over it!’

‘I did fix it!’ Ron protested. ‘It must have come undone again.’

‘Well you should have done it properly!’ Hermione snapped back. ‘You never do anything properly!’

Over her shoulder, Hugo wailed piteously. ‘It still really hurts, mummy!’

Hermione turned to hush him, her voice mild and gentle. ‘It’s alright now, darling. There won’t even be a bruise.’

‘You know I’m no good at that stuff,’ Ron said pleadingly. ‘You’re the one that can fixe things good as new, even broken bones and sprained wrists!’

‘That’s not the point!’ Hermione spat. ‘You always leave me to do everything!’

She stalked off to put the children to bed, still grumbling as she went. Ron sat down beside Harry with a heavy sigh.

‘How are you doing, anyway?’ He asked him. ‘How are things with Dumbledore?’

‘Good,’ Harry replied. ‘Better than with you and Hermione.’

Ron elbowed him in ribs and then shot him a sheepish grim.

‘She’ll calm down in a bit,’ he promised. ‘She’s just tired from work and, she has sort of got a point. I’m pretty useless around the house.‘

He moved closer to Harry. ‘Seriously, though, is everything okay?’

‘Fine,’ Harry smiled. ‘It’s been really nice hanging out at Hogwarts again. Almost like old times.’

‘How many nights are you staying there now?’

Harry frowned. ‘Four or five.’

‘Woah,’ Ron reached for his drink. ‘I thought you were only going to visit one night a week. Don’t you miss having your own space?’

‘Mmm, not really,’ Harry murmured. ‘I like having someone to talk to in the evenings.’

‘Yeah, but ... ‘ Ron grimaced. ‘I mean, I know you’re just going to get annoyed with me again, but isn’t it weird to be sharing a bed with him and stuff?’

‘No,’ Harry replied calmly, ‘it’s a pretty big bed. Besides, men used to share beds with each other all the time. It’s only recently it’s come to be seen as strange and sexual.’

Ron sighed. ‘Well, okay, but that’s still a lot of time you’re spending together.’ He furrowed his brow. ‘I mean, are you even dating anymore?’

Harry let out a short laugh. ‘Where have you been, Ron? I haven’t dated anyone for about ten years now.’

‘Yeah but now you aren’t even trying.’

Harry shrugged his shoulders. ‘I guess not. What’s your point?’

Ron’s expression grew more serious. He set down his drink on the table, pausing to slip a coaster under the glass so it wouldn’t leave a ring.

‘Hermione thinks that you’ve settled for this, uh, arrangement with dumbledore as a substitute for something real. She thinks you’re afraid to deal with the stress of a proper relationship.’

He said all this very fast, eyes still fixed on the coffee table.

Harry sucked in a deep breath. ‘If it’s Hermione who thinks this then why isn’t she telling me so herself? Why is she always talking through you?’

’I guess she thinks it’s better coming from me,’ Ron muttered. ‘She has a very flawed understanding of our friendship.’

‘Well, I don’t know what to say.’ Harry glanced down at his hands. ‘I don’t think I’m running away from anything. I’m just happy with the way things are.’

Ron grimaced. ‘You’re spending literally all your time with Dumbledore. You’re living with him, sleeping with him. You’re um ... cuddling and touching him?’

‘It’s sounds like you’re suggesting I’m too close to my husband,’ Harry commented.

Ron bristled like he’d had an electric shock. ‘That’s just it! Why are you calling him that? Are you joking?’

‘No,’ Harry replied. ‘It’s just a fact. He is my husband.’ He gave his friend a look.

Ron squirmed. ‘Yes, technically, but not really.’

‘Yes, really,’ Harry snapped back.

Ron opened his mouth and then closed it again. ‘You don’t have sex though,’ he said quietly, going very red.

‘No,’ Harry admitted, ‘but I don’t think that’s all that defines a relationship.’ He considered for a moment. ‘Besides, there’s no reason we couldn’t be more intimate, if we wanted to.’

Ron choked. ‘You don’t want to though, do you?!’

Harry smiled and shook his head. ‘No, I don’t think so.’ A missed beat. ‘I mean, come on, Dumbledore’s over a hundred years old! I don’t think he’s looking for that sort of thing anymore than I am.’

Ron still looked shaken. ‘Why did you say it then?’

Harry sighed. ‘I don’t know. I was just making a point. It’s not like I think it’s the worst thing in the world.’

Ron looked like he was wrestling with something very large and unpleasant.

‘Don’t you think you should set some boundaries?’ He asked, in a pleading voice.

‘No.’ Harry exclaimed. ‘Not at all.’

**

Summer came quick, with its long, bright days and short, sweltering nights. Harry tossed back and forth, kicking the covers right off of the bed and into the floor.

‘You’re still like a teenager,’ Dumbledore told him. ‘So fidgety and restless.’

‘I can’t help it,’ Harry complained. ‘It’s so hot. I can’t get comfortable.’

He wriggled his toes against the rumpled sheets, prompting Dumbledore to reach down and tickle them.

‘I’ll take care of it,’ he said, as Harry squirmed and giggled, and cast a cooling charm over the bed.

This had the opposite effect of a warming charm, giving the sheets a crisp, refreshing chill.

Harry tucked himself back in happily.

‘Thank you, darling.’

‘Anytime.’

Harry slept fitfully for a couple hours before waking again, uncomfortable once more, bu for an entirely different reason.

It had been a while since he had woken to this particular urge, throbbing between his legs so he supposed it was overdue.

His schoolboy instinct was to reach for his wand and cast a silencing and smothering spell over himself. Then he remembered where he was and who he was with. He didn’t have to hide his desire, if he didn’t want to.

His hand halted, halfway to the nightstand, and fell back down the bed. Fingers skirted over his thighs, plucked at his pyjama bottoms, as he considered the obscene.

Dumbledore was breathing softly and steadily, with his body curled towards the wall. He seemed to be sleeping soundly, although he could easily wake at any moment.

Harry hesitated for a second or two more, before finally slipping his hand into his underwear and pulling his dick into his hand.

He was quiet enough about it, only panting a little and arching his back against the mattress, but he didn’t trouble himself to suppress every gasp and shiver.

He heard the old man stir beside him and readied himself for a confrontation, but Dumbledore just rolled over and then fell still once more; a silent spectator in the dark.

Harry took a deep breath and curled his toes against the mattress. He could just make out the other man’s breathing, underneath his own, reverberating like an echo.

He stroked leisurely for a few minutes and then edged across the mattress. He was surprised to feel the intense heat coming off of the other man, as if his flesh was alight with fire.

Harry reached out very tentatively and touched Dumbledore’s hand in a wordless invitation.

He expected the older man to hesitate and seek further permission before acting, but to his surprise and amusement, Albus Dumbledore all but jumped at the opportunity, moving across the mattress like a panther and coiling himself around Harry. His hand went straight down to Harry’s groin, long fingers curling tight around him in a firm grasp.

Harry lay back with a shiver, revelling in the familiar spikes of pleasure that came with each smooth tug of his foreskin.

For several minutes, there was nothing else. He closed his eyes and surrendered himself to the headmaster’s service in a strange act of selfish abandon that most people would not have thought him capable of.

After a time, he began to long for a little more tenderness. He would have liked Dumbledore to kiss his face or his neck, but still felt unable to voice such a request out-loud.

Instead, he reached up slowly and caressed the old man’s face, running his fingers along his jawline and down through his beard. He pulled softly at the thick hair, like a rider tugging at the reins of his horse, guiding him down towards his throat.

He sighed contentedly when the man’s lips finally met at his skin and Dumbledore replied to his pleasant murmurs with an answering moan that left Harry in no doubt of his desire.

Dumbledore kissed at Harry’s neck a couple more times, with a wet, open mouth, and then leant in even closer, to whisper in his ear.

Harry tensed a little, in anticipation, as the old man’s breath ghosted over his earlobe. He wasn’t sure what he expected him to say, at a time like this, but it definitely wasn’t what came out, in a hoarse little croak.

‘Would you like me to use my mouth?’

Harry flinched as though he’d been struck. ‘Oh no,’ he gasped. ‘I could not - I would never ask you to - ‘

‘I should like to,’ Dumbledore whispered back. ‘I would enjoy it.’

Harry felt utterly lost. He gasped uncertainly for a few moments and then muttered his consent.

He closed his eyes as the other man moved down between his legs, not wanting to even picture in his mind’s eye what the headmaster would look like in such a position.

His thighs prickled for a moment as Dumbledore’s long hair trailed over them and then he found himself overcome by the sudden sensation of warmth and wetness.

He relaxed again, rolling his hips a little and even bucking sharply when Dumbledore went deep. It felt so very good and Harry’s body was half-starved of contact, aching for release.

‘I - I’m not going to last long,’ He said urgently.

He felt a touch on his thigh, a soft squeeze of encouragement. Dumbledore did not stop moving and so Harry surrendered once more.

When it was over, Harry lay back against the pillows, weary and breathless, skin moist with sweat.

Dumbledore shifted between his legs, gasping and gulping. Harry understood that was swallowing back his cum and felt a brief twinge of shame and disgust.

He knew that Dumbledore had given him permission to let himself go, but he still reproached himself for doing so. He ought to have held back a little.

He waited for the other man to lie back down beside him, but instead Dumbledore rose up and leant over him. His legs were bare against Harry’s stomach and he was fumbling with his nightgown, clearly intending to take care of himself.

Harry remained quite still and listened to the sound of skin slapping on skin with a calm, detached fascination. It all felt so surreal that he could hardly process it properly, especially in his drowsy, post-climactic state.

He just about had the presence of mind to reach out and press a hand to Dumbledore’s hip, to show him that he was comfortable, but couldn’t think of anything to say. He hoped that his still, silent body would be enough, and apparently it was.

Harry jerked back when the other man’s hot seed splattered across his stomach and chest. He supposed he ought to have been ready for it, but it had still taken him by surprise.

‘Sorry,’ Dumbledore panted. ‘I should’ve - ‘

‘It’s okay!’ Harry said quickly. ‘I - I don’t mind.’

Dumbledore grasped hurriedly down the side of the bed. Harry assumed he was looking for a tissue but when he came back up he was holding his wand.

‘Purificius.’

The spell swept over Harry like a tidal wave, leaving him trembling and breathless. His skin was made cool and dry, completely purged of all traces of sweat and cum.

‘Thank you, darling,’ Harry mumbled, wriggling about under the covers, searching for his underwear.

‘Anytime.’

They settled back down again, side-by-side, clean and dressed once more.

‘Will you hold me for a while?’ Harry asked shyly.

‘Of course,’ Dumbledore whispered back, surprised.

He pressed himself against Harry’s back, arms locked tight about him, and Harry relaxed into his embrace.

‘Thank you,’ Harry murmured again. ‘You know I like cuddling up like this.’ A heartbeat, and then, ‘I love you.’

He heard the old man’s breath catch in his throat. Felt it, in the little hairs on the back of his neck.

‘I love you too, Harry.’

**

In the morning there was a slightly tense atmosphere, like after an argument. Harry kept his eyes down as he made his way through breakfast.

‘Do you want to talk about what happened last night?’ Dumbledore asked quietly, once the silence grew too oppressive.

Harry shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Do we really need to?’ He picked up a spoon and started gouging out his grapefruit. ‘I don’t have anything I feel I need to say.’

He could feel the old man staring at him, surveying him over his half-moon glasses in the same way he did when he was a child.

‘I think we ought to address what happened, one way or another. I need to know how you’re feeling.’

Harry shrugged again. ‘I feel fine,’ he declared. ‘I’m not ashamed at all, if that’s what you’re asking.’

He braved a glance up at the headmaster and took in his nervous, worried expression. His already heavily-wrinkled face was further creased by a deep frown and his lips were pale and tight.

‘We’re both adults here,’ Harry said, working hard to make his voice light and airy, ‘Free to do whatever we want. And it’s not as if I’ve never done that sort of thing before.’

‘No,’ Dumbledore murmured, ‘but never with a man, I assume?’

Harry looked down again, mashed absently at his fruit. ‘No,’ he admitted. ‘Not with a man, but ... ‘ his eyes flickered ‘... you’re not like other men.’

Dumbledore frowned. ‘How so?’

‘Well, you’re over a hundred years old, for one thing,’ Harry muttered. ‘For another ... you’re my husband and I love you.’

Dumbledore smiled down at him uncertainly, his blight blue eyes still troubled.

‘I know that ,’ he said, ‘and I love you, but ... one thing does not quite follow another. We agreed that we would have a purely platonic marriage and I assumed you would not want anything else.’

Harry laid down his spoon and wiped the juice from his fingers. His hands felt clumsy, even though they were strong and healthy, and he struggled to handle his napkin.

‘I did not think that I would want it,’ he admitted, ‘given our history and well ... everything, but now ... I’m not so sure.’

The tissue paper stuck to his skin and he ended up tearing it into small pieces and then mangling it into a ball.

‘I felt like you would be open to something even more, If I wished it. I thought I only had to ask.’

He looked up at the headmaster, wondering if he had got it all wrong.

‘You did enjoy it, didn’t you?’

Dumbledore made a dismissive noise, in the back of his throat. ‘Obviously, I did.’

‘Well then,’ Harry said, with a little laugh. ‘What’s the problem?’

The old man looked perplexed. ‘I never said that there was a problem. I just wanted to know where I stand with you.’

Harry laughed again, shrugged his shoulders. ‘Well, I enjoyed it too. Obviously.’

‘Yes,’ Dumbledore agreed patiently, ‘but there are many different ways to enjoy something. Just as there are many different types of relationships.’

This was true enough, but Harry wasn’t sure what else Dumbledore expected him to say about it. Sometimes he wished that the old man would stick to direct questions instead of trying to prompt things out of him with oblique, teasing statements.

’I still consider myself straight,’ he told him, ‘but I feel comfortable enough with you to cross that line.’ He shrugged yet again. ‘I suppose that no one’s sexuality is one hundred percent.’

Dumbledore looked down at his plate, still frowning. ‘I know that people say that, but personally I’ve always felt that my sexuality is pretty absolute.’

‘Really?’ Harry replied. ‘You never had a brief heterosexual sexual phase in your seventies?’

Dumbledore’s lips twitched into a smile for a second before falling back down again.

‘I am open to whatever you want, Harry. If you wish to repeat last night’s activities, at any point, then you have only to ask. If you would prefer not to, then we never need speak of it again.’

He picked up his own grapefruit and started poking at it, apparently just for something to do.

‘I have to say I am a little embarrassed by how I acted last night. I know that you would not judge me for it, but sexual desire is something I have always felt somewhat conflicted about.’

He leant his head on his hand, long white hair cascading down messily between his fingers.

‘I am very old man now and I’ve been alone for the past part of a century. I suppose that part of me is a little like a starved dog, panting and slobbering for a bone.’

Harry felt that this metaphor was unnecessarily grotesque, but he could see what Dumbledore meant by it.

‘I do understand,’ he said quietly. ‘I’m a man too, after all. I know what it’s like to have those urges.’

Dumbledore looked up at him again, eyes soft and tender.

‘You have always been so sweet and forgiving,’ he murmured. ‘I just hope I am not taking advantage of your kindness.’

‘I hope I’m not taking advantage of yours,’ Harry shot back, with a smile.

**

It only ever happened in the dark. Harry always waited until all the lights were extinguished and Dumbledore was comfortably positioned on his side of the bed, before initiating anything.

Usually it was just a hand-job. He curled up in the old man’s arms, spooning and snuggling with him, and then guided his hand down between his legs.

Those hands, so large and gentle, knew exactly what to do to get him off. Harry never had to comment or intervene, he could just lie back and enjoy himself.

Sometimes he tried to reciprocate, slipping his hands under Dumbledore’s robes and groping at him, but after a few moments Dumbledore always pushed him away again. He preferred taking care of himself.

Harry had the impression that Dumbledore was embarrassed of his own body and didn’t like Harry feeling too much of it. Perhaps because he was an old man. He must have assumed that Harry would find him repulsive.

He was wrong though. While Harry didn’t find Dumbledore particularly attractive, he certainly wasn’t perturbed by his sagging skin or jutting bones. He liked pressing his hands to his bare skin and caressing his arms and legs.

If he had to put a word to his feeling he would have to say that it was just love, pure and simple. There was no mistaking the rush of tenderness whenever he brushed his fingertips along the bumps and ridges of Dumbledore’s spine.

He supposed that what he felt was similar to the way most people felt about babies. To Harry, infants always appeared hideously misshapen, with their over-sized heads and fat, stunted limbs, and yet, people loved to cover them in kisses and pinch at their cheeks, and declared that they were beautiful.

What Dumbledore liked best was holding Harry naked in his arms and running his hands all over him. His breath always hitched when he stroked at his chest, his back and his buttocks, and he usually came soon after.

His urge to touch was clearly not a pure expression of love, but something far hungrier and desperate. Sometimes he clutched at Harry as if he was drowning and his body was the only thing keeping him afloat.

Harry did not mind this, though. In fact he loved being touched with like this and sighed and shivered under Dumbledore’s hands. Their difference in taste and appetite did present a problem. They had developed a way of being together that worked for both of them.

Harry had always felt like men were supposed to take an active role in sex, doing all the kissing and touching to get a girl excited, and so he’d never really been on the receiving end of that kind of attention before.

To his surprise, he found that he not only enjoyed taking on a passive role, but actually preferred it. There was just something about it that appealed to the lost little boy inside him who had been starved of affection for so many years.

‘You’re so perfect,’ Dumbledore whispered to him once, his voice impossibly sweet.

His hands were creeping up and down Harry’s chest, caressing at his pecks and stomach, apparently relishing the lean distribution of muscle.

’Do you really think so?’ Harry asked.

He knew that he was in pretty good shape, toned by years of quidditch practice and auror training, but he had never thought of himself as particularly attractive.

‘Yes,’ Dumbledore sighed. ‘If only you could feel what I feel.’

**

For the most part, Harry was content to let Dumbledore touch him however he wanted, but when he felt the man’s fingers suddenly circling his asshole he flinched away.

‘I can’t. I - It’s dirty.’

He was shocked that Dumbledore would want to do something like that. He knew that most gay men engaged in anal intercourse and anal play, but had assumed that Dumbledore was an exception. He was too good, upright and proper.

He couldn’t see why anyone would want to poke around inside someone else’s butt anyway, but even if Dumbledore did then Harry could never let him. There was just too much filth churning away in his guts.

‘It’s okay,’ Dumbledore said, pulling his hand away. ‘Don’t worry.’

Harry thought that was giving up and started to relax, but then Dumbledore reached for his wand and cast an unexpected spell. Harry felt it whipping through him like a whirlwind.

He gasped and drew his knees up, trying to work out what the other man had just done to him. His asshole felt tender and loose.

‘It should feel better now,’ Dumbledore told him. ‘If you’ll let me try.’

Harry glared at him. ‘How could you just do that?’ He hissed. ‘You just cast that - that spell without even asking!’

‘I’m sorry,’ Dumbledore said. ‘I thought it would be quicker than explaining.’

‘You’re sneaky and manipulative. A sneaky, manipulative old bastard.’

He was mostly just teasing, but he couldn’t stop a little bite from creeping into his voice.

‘Oh, don’t sulk, my darling,’ Dumbledore whispered. ‘You know I would never hurt you. I only want to touch and play with you.’

He stroked gently at Harry’s knees. Harry still felt reluctant, but he didn’t want to say no. He felt sure that whatever spell Dumbledore had used had cleaned him out completely and gotten him ready.

He put his legs back down again and lay back as Dumbledore leant over him. The old man’s fingers slid up inside him easily, two digits at once, twisting and prodding delicately.

Harry’s erection, which had wilted a little, started to pick up again as Dumbledore stroked at him, inside and out. He was shocked when he felt a little tingling behind his balls; an unfamiliar sensation of pleasure.

He murmured and shivered as Dumbledore worked him, arching his back and gripping at the sheets, and came quickly, in an explosive spurting.

As usual, Dumbledore followed soon after and then they curled up close, arms around each other’s shoulders.

‘Did you make it feel good inside?’ Harry asked curiously. ‘When you cast that spell? Did it change something in me?’

‘No,’ Dumbledore replied, sounding surprised. ‘All men have a sensitive spot back there. Didn’t you know that?’

‘No.’ Harry said, marvelling. ‘Why don’t more men use it?’

‘Well, I think most men are disinclined to experiment,’ Dumbledore said. ‘You seemed pretty nervous about it yourself.’

‘Yeah, but I didn’t know it would feel good!’ Harry protested. ‘Or that you could make it all clean and easy.’

He fidgeted a little. ‘Is it something only gay men know about?’

Dumbledore laughed loudly, his chest shaking against Harry’s cheek.

‘No, it’s no secret,’ he told him. ‘I’m sure most people are aware of it, they just choose not to investigate first-hand, so to speak.’

‘I think that’s mad,’ Harry declared. ‘That was really good. I would’ve thought most men would try anything to get themselves off better.’

Dumbledore chuckled again and trailed his fingers along Harry’s arm, stroking gently at all the fine little hairs.

‘I suppose most straight men find the thought of any type of penetration frightening and humiliating. They don’t want to feel like a woman.’

‘I don’t feel like a woman,’ Harry objected. ‘I feel entirely myself.’

He found Dumbledore’s hand with his own, massaged at the soft, wrinkled knuckles.

‘Anyway, it’s not really penetration, is it? Just fingering.’

Dumbledore nipped playfully at his ear. ‘I think you are a good deal more relaxed about these matters than most people.’

‘I feel like you’re insulting me somehow,’ Harry murmured, ‘although I’m not sure how.’

**

A couple of weeks later, Harry ran into Lupin, outside the ministry.

‘Remus,’ he declared delightedly. ‘What brings you here?’

‘I came to speak on the Werewolf Committee.’ Lupin said, frowning. ‘I am concerned about their new proposal.’

‘Yes,’ Harry said eagerly. ‘Dumbledore will be speaking to them too. He seems to think we can get them to reconsider their decision if only we can convince them that the packs are dying out.’

Lupin nodded his agreement, although he did not look convinced. ‘They asked me a lot of questions about my son. I had the impression that they wanted him to be examined. They even brought up the new research ward at St Mungo’s.’

‘That’s awful!’ Harry exclaimed. ‘I’m so sorry, Remus.’

Lupin shook his head and forced a smile. ‘It’s okay. Anyway, do you have some time now? I was hoping to catch you for lunch.’

‘That would be great,’ Harry said, with a warm smile. ‘I know a good cafe just round the corner.’

They sat at a table in the back, where they were less likely to be recognised. Harry still got asked for autographs from time to time and dreaded being approached by fans.

‘How is Teddy?’ He asked kindly.

‘Very good,’ Lupin replied. ‘He’s just got a job in the Department of Mysteries and he’s going to go on a two-year research trip to Africa. I don’t know what for, of course, he’s not allowed to talk about any of it.’

Harry laughed. ‘I still can’t believe he’s all grown-up,’ he said wistfully. ‘Time moves on so quickly, don’t you think?’

Remus agreed. ‘Sometimes I find it strange to see you now,’ he admitted. ‘You look so much like James, but of course you’ve outgrown him now. You’re older than he was when he died.’

‘I find it strange, too,’ Harry replied. ‘When I was younger it was like I was always growing closer to him, into him even. Now I’m growing further away. One day I’ll look into the mirror and he’ll be gone completely.’

There was a sad silence, during which both men sipped at their drinks and pretended to deliberate over the menu.

‘Do you ever wish you’d had children?’ Lupin asked tentatively.

‘Sometimes,’ Harry confessed. ‘I think I would have liked to have had a big family. Perhaps, if things have worked out differently with Ginny.’

‘There’s still time, of course,’ Lupin said, looking up. ‘You might think there isn’t but you can take it from me, there’s always still time.’

Harry smiled. ‘I don’t think so,’ he said delicately. ‘That moment has passed, for me.’

Lupin shook his head. ‘You can’t be so sure, Harry. I know that all this recent business with Fidelium Familius has got you down, but you should remember that things can still change. Sometimes when you least expect it.’

‘I think they already have,’ Harry said. ‘I am married, after all. Things are very different for me now.’

This made Lupin laugh nervously He drank all
of his coffee and then ordered a steak sandwich.

‘Are you happy, Harry?’ He asked when their food arrived.

‘Yes,’ Harry replied. ‘Very happy. There’s nothing else that I want anymore.’

Lupin tore the crusts from his sandwich like a child. He looked confused.

‘I know that most people assume my marriage to Dumbledore is just a marriage of convenience but it is more than that. We truly care for each other.’

‘I know that,’ Lupin said quietly. ‘I just wasn’t sure whether you considered it a full, real marriage.’

‘Well, I do,’ Harry said, ushering-in an uncomfortable silence.

After a few moments, Harry decided that if he was going to make things awkward anyway he might as well go all in.

Throwing caution to the wind, he asked Lupin, ‘Have you ever been with a man before?’

He had the pleasure of watching the man spit out his food in shock.

‘What?’ Lupin coughed. ‘N-no, of course not! Why would you ask?’

‘I don’t know, I was just curious,’ Harry said. ‘I thought you might have experimented when you were younger.’

‘No,’ Lupin said again. ‘I I don’t have anything against that sort of thing. I just not for me.’

‘What about my father?’ Harry prompted.

‘What, James?’ Lupin exclaimed, sounding bewildered. ’I don’t think he was ever interested in anyone other than Lily.’

Harry nodded. ‘You were so close. I thought if anyone would know, it would be you.’

He gazed out of the window dreamily, at the bustling London street.

‘Sometimes I still wish I could speak to him. I imagine that he would understand whatever I’m going through. I know that’s naive. We’re not nearly as alike as I like to imagine.’

Lupin frowned again, even deeper than before, thick lines working their way across his forehead.

‘Why would you ask about that, though?’ He asked. ‘Is it just because you’ve grown so close to Dumbledore?’

Harry nodded vaguely. ‘I feel like I need to redefine my sexuality a little. I would like to say that I’m entirely straight, but I don’t feel that it accounts for everything I feel.’

Lupin turned his attention back to his food, although it seemed like he had lost his appetite.

‘I don’t want to make you any more uncomfortable than I already have,’ Harry told him. ‘I just thought that talking to you might be the closest thing to talking to my father.’

Lupin sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair.

‘I don’t mind talking to you about this, Harry,’ he said quietly. ‘I just don’t think I can be much help.’

Harry smiled up at him. ‘I don’t really need help, I just want someone to confide in.’

He examined the older man’s face carefully, wondering how much more he could take.

‘I know most people find the idea of me and Dumbledore together totally disgusting. Even the thought of us cuddling or kissing is enough to turn stomachs.’

Lupin looked faintly ashamed. ‘I suppose I’m hardly one to judge, given my own marriage.’

‘Oh don’t be ridiculous,’ Harry said impatiently. ‘You’re not that much older than Tonks. I don’t know why you always made such a fuss about it.’

‘I’m also a werewolf,’ Lupin said sadly. ‘That makes a difference. Probably more than age or gender.’

Harry raised his eyebrows. ‘You really think so?’ He considered for a moment before making a full confession. ‘My relationship with Dumbledore has recently become sexual.’

As Harry expected, the man looked horrified by the revelation, although he worked hard to hide it.

‘I ... see ... ‘ he said slowly, fumbling for each word. ‘And are you ... I mean to say... is that what you want?’

‘Yes,’ Harry said firmly. ‘I’m happy with the way things are. Obviously I’m not going to go into the details, but we have worked things out so that we’re both satisfied.’

Lupin looked stricken. ‘I know you’re a grown man now, Harry, capable of making your own choices, but I can’t help but worry about you as if you were still a child.’

His eyes wandered around the crowded cafe, without finding anything to light upon.

‘I trust Dumbledore more than any man alive,’ he said steadily. ‘I know that he would never do anything to hurt you, but still, I can’t understand how he could do anything sexual with you. I thought he loved you like a son.’

Harry blushed, for the first time that afternoon. ‘I think he does, in part,’ he admitted, ‘and I love him like a father, but that is not all we feel for each other. Our relationship has grown beyond that.’

Lupin opened his mouth and then closed it again. He had nothing to say to this.

**

Harry was not a fool. When Dumbledore started inserting a third and forth finger inside him, he knew he was angling for something more.

He wasn’t sure how he felt about this. On the one hand, there was no pain or discomfort when Dumbledore stretched him, but on the other, the thought of full, penetrative sex still daunted him.

He did not think he could enjoy being fucked, at least not in the same way he enjoyed being fingered, but he loved Dumbledore far too much to deny him. He was sure that the older man would enjoy it a great deal.

When Dumbledore finally whispered his desire into Harry’s ear he consented easily, wrapping his legs around the other man’s hips and lying back against the pillows.

Dumbledore kissed his face as he slid inside him, his beard tickling at Harry’s cheek and chest.

Harry tried to stay calm and relaxed, but found that he did not like the sensation of being plugged up so thoroughly. It was even worse when Dumbledore started moving, although he was very gentle. It made him feel like he desperately needed to empty his bowels and it was not at all erotic.

After a few seconds, Dumbledore stopped, aware of his partner’s discomfort. He pulled out and hugged Harry closer to him, kissing at his shoulders and rubbing at his back.

Harry appreciated the headmaster trying to soothe him but didn’t want to put things off any more than necessary. If they were going to fuck then Harry would rather they just got on with it.

‘It’s okay,’ he urged his lover. ‘Keep going.’

Dumbledore’s hands moved to Harry’s head, combing through his hair. Instinctively Harry mirrored his actions, coiling his own fingers in the other man’s long, trailing locks.

‘Darling, could you perhaps roll over?’ Dumbledore suggested. ‘On to your knees.’

Harry did not like the sound of this at all. In his mind, lovemaking should always happen face-to-face. He did not argue though; a mixture of love and trust driving him to obey the older man absolutely. He scrambled about clumsily, face burning in the darkness, and got onto his knees.

Dumbledore leant over him carefully, wrapping his arms around his stomach and pulling him up a little so his back was flush with his stomach. This skin-to-skin contact made Harry feel a little better, and Dumbledore kissed lovingly at the back of his neck.

Harry relaxed and let himself be moved and adjusted as the other man pleased, resting his head on his arms and raising his hips up higher.

The first thrusts glided smoothly through him and although there was still a little resistance from his body, a little squirming and aching, for the most part the angle of penetration was easy and good.

Harry was pleased to feel the tip brushing against the sensitive spot deep inside him, hitting at it with almost every stroke. He realised that this was why Dumbledore had requested the change in positions.

He regained his erection and started to anticipate each assault on his body, rolling his hips slightly to meet them and letting out little gasps and groans.

‘It’s good,’ he murmured. ‘So good.’

Dumbledore increased the tempo of his movements, holding Harry tightly by the waist and fucking him properly.

Harry did not hold back his moans of pleasure, knowing that the headmaster loved to hear them, and the sounds of their pants and grunts mingled together.

Harry actually felt it when Dumbledore came, his pelvis shuddering and legs locking. It sent Harry over the edge too, gasping and shivering. For once he was the second to climax, although they followed closer together than ever before.

They disconnected slowly, untangling their limbs beneath sweaty sheets. Harry could feel a wet patch on the mattress beneath him and rushed to clean it up. When Dumbledore tried to raise a wand on him though he stopped him.

‘No, don’t.’

Dumbledore was confused. ‘I just want to clean you out again,’ he whispered.

‘I don’t want you to,’ Harry replied, wriggling down deeper under the covers. ‘I like having it inside me.’

Dumbledore’s silence following this pronouncement made Harry worry that he had said something irredeemably disgusting.

‘I just like the idea of it,’ Harry explained.

Dumbledore touched his face, caressing his cheek in a gentle curve.

‘That’s very sweet, but I would prefer it if you let me take care of it.’

Harry sighed and submitted, spreading his legs apart once more. He lay still afterwards, his skin moist and cool, and tried to work out how he was feeling. It seemed as though there were a great many emotions swirling around inside him.

Dumbledore lay down beside him, playing with his hair. Harry responded in kind, finding the old man’s hair and beard in the dark and stroking gently at them.

‘Thank you for that,’ Dumbledore whispered. ‘It meant a lot to me.’

Harry sighed, closed his eyes. ‘It’s fine,’ he murmured. ‘It was good.’

**

They talked about it more in the morning. As with their first sexual transgression, this act required a thorough debriefing.

‘I think perhaps I should not have asked for it,’ Dumbledore declared. ‘I knew you would not enjoy it, the way that I did.’

‘But I did not enjoy it,’ Harry protested. ‘I enjoyed it very much.’

They were lying side by side, in the pale morning light, examining each other curiously, like a couple of wide-eyes children.

Harry reached out to touch the other man’s throat and chest, feeling at the soft skin and fine white hair and for once, Dumbledore did not flinch away or cover himself up. He let himself be appraised.

‘You often regret it afterwards,’ Harry commented. ‘You worry that you’ve gone too far, that you’ve upset me. I don’t know why you think I wouldn’t stop you, if I wanted to.’

Dumbledore smiled faintly, pale pink lips twitching behind the mass of white beard. ‘You are so young and I know you want to please me.’

Harry smiled back at him and traced the lines at the corners of his eyes and at the top of his brow; creases of both laughter and worry.

‘I suppose there is some truth in that,’ he admitted, ‘but I never set aside my own feelings entirely.’

Dumbledore frowned, deepening the crease across his forehead.

‘Is there anything else you would have preferred?’ He asked. ‘Anything I could have done differently?’

‘No,’ Harry replied. ‘I was unsure at first, but you knew what you were doing. I was happy to follow your lead.’

There was the faintest of freckles across Dumbledore’s white shoulders, like a sprinkling of cinnamon on the surface of a pastry. Harry admired them fondly, trying to work out if they made the man look much younger or older than he was.

‘Is it ... something you would like to repeat?’ Dumbledore asked.

‘Yes, I think so,’ Harry told him. ‘Not every night, though. I think I would prefer just playing with each other, most of the time.’

‘Of course,’ Dumbledore said quickly. ‘I do not think I would be up to it every night.’

Harry laughed at this. ‘You are far stronger and hardier than you pretend to be. You have always been that way.’

Dumbledore hummed playfully, in response, eyes glittering, and Harry laughed loudly like a child.

‘Darling, darling, darling,’ he murmured, walking his fingers over the man’s freckles.

**

What Harry liked best in the evenings was to cuddle up with Dumbledore, with his head on his shoulder, and wind his fingers in his hair. The fine white strands reminded him vaguely of candy-floss and cobwebs; the sweet and sour contrasts of Hogwarts.

‘I have you wrapped around my little finger, don’t I?’ Harry commented, pulling gently at the spool. ‘Quite literally.’

‘It appears so,’ Dumbledore murmured, eyes still on his book. ‘I am utterly at your mercy.’

Harry laughed happily, pulling his feet up on the chair and curling his bare toes in the folds of the headmaster’s robes. For several minutes all was still and silent; a perfect scene of domesticity.

‘Do you love me?’ Harry asked softly.

‘You know I do,’ Dumbledore replied, turning a page. ‘More than anything else in all the world.’

‘No,’ Harry pressed. ‘I mean, do you really love me?’

Dumbledore caught his meaning at once and looked up at him sharply, eyes bright with alarm.

‘You are asking if I am in love with you?’

‘Yes.’

Dumbledore hesitated for a moment and then shut up his book and set it aside. His hands were shaking a little, something that Harry had never seen before.

‘It is difficult for me to articulate my feelings for you. I do not know what you will think of me.’

He glanced nervously at Harry, looking for all the world like a shy child, despite his white hair and wrinkles. Harry smiled reassuringly at him.

‘I would never think badly of you.’

Dumbledore tried to return his smile, but there was still fear and unease in his eyes.

‘I can’t deny that my feelings for you have changed a great deal, Harry. We are so close now, far closer than we have ever been, and my heart is very soft.’

Harry continued to smile at him. ‘Say it,’ he urged.

Dumbledore looked into his eyes, his expression impossibly tender.

‘I have fallen in love with you Harry,’ he whispered. ‘You hold my heart and soul in your hands.’

Harry let out a deep breath. ‘I thought so,’ he said, ‘but when did you first start to feel this way for me?’ He searched the old man’s face. ‘Was it only after we were married, after we became lovers, or was it long before that?’

The headmaster shivered a little. ‘I never thought of being intimate with you, romantically or sexually, until the incident with Fidelium Familius. I can assure you of that.’

‘I know,’ Harry said. ‘I never thought that you did, but perhaps your feelings for me were already a little more intense than you made them out to be?’

Dumbledore was quiet for a long time. ‘I do not think I fully realised it, at the time, but I had already come to care for you more deeply than a friend or a son. When you agreed to marry me, I was overjoyed, even though it was only to break the curse. I knew I wanted nothing more than to have you with me.’

‘I felt the same,’ Harry told him. ‘I was so happy.’ He touched the headmaster’s face gently. ‘I realised, in that moment, just how much you loved me and I knew I loved you too. We both wanted the same thing.’

Dumbledore took Harry’s hand in his own, enfolding his fingers in a warm, tight grasp.

‘I never thought that you would want to be physically intimate. It changed things. I couldn’t help but start to care for you more deeply and dearly. Sex creates such a strong, enduring bond.’

Harry closed his eyes and tucked his head under the headmaster’s chin.

‘You must realise I’ve fallen in love with you too,’ he murmured. ‘I don’t think there’s anyone else who could make me feel as you do.’

Dumbledore was quiet for a time, but Harry could hear his heart thumping away wildly in his chest.

‘I don’t deserve you, Harry.’

Harry laughed at this. ‘Well, you have me now, whether you deserve me or not. I’m entirely yours.’

**

It was several weeks before Harry returned to his house in London. When he finally did, he discovered that the garden was now utterly overrun with Fidelium Familius. The tidy little bushes and neat flowerbeds had all been completely overwhelmed by the bright, blue flower.

For a while, all Harry could do was stand and stare. It seemed quite impossible that such a thing could have happened in such a short stretch of time. But then again, he supposed, love conquered all.

He considered tearing them all up and restoring the garden to its former state, but then what was to stop the flower from coming back. From what he had heard, it was almost impossible to root it out entirely.

In the end, he decided to let them be. They were so beautiful, after all, and so powerful too. It was best to let them have their way.

He locked up the house again, cast a spell to keep it clean and safe and returned to Hogwarts and his husband.