Recipient:purplefluffycat Author: ??? Title: Cabled Socks and Cognac Rating: light R Pairings: Horace Slughorn/Albus Dumbledore Word Count: ~1,500 Medium: Fic Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *one sentence of explicit sex*. Summary: When Albus Dumbledore appears one night, a mystified Harry Potter by his side, echoes of the past arrive in his wake. Lured back to Hogwarts by the mystery of a blackened finger and Muggle knitting patterns, Horace Slughorn attempts to reawaken their relationship with the help of a pair of socks. Author's Notes: Many thanks to my adorable beta. purplefluffycat, after five different drafts, this is the least angst I could write. I hope you enjoy this missing moment, despite the brevity.
The uncertainty of the future made them turn their hearts toward the past. -Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
When the alarm sounds, Horace struggles into his pyjamas, nearly losing a button to the corner of his potions chest as he grabs the vial of dragon's blood. There are only two parties searching for him, and faking his death will only fool one, if that. But he doesn't have much time, so he flicks his wand at the chandelier, severing the chain it hangs by, and at the same time throws the vial at the ceiling, hoping the blood will drip realistically.
He knows Albus is looking for him--has known ever since he packed his belongings for the first time, heading for an unknown house in unknown territory--but he isn't ready to face those scintillating eyes that seem to never blink and lemon-scented exhalations of questions. It is all too real. Too close. Oh, he and Albus had parted on amicable terms when young Severus took over his position, but it all changed that balmy, late-June night a bit over a year ago when Albus came knocking.
The whispers had been circulating for days; hyphens were once again in style. You-Know-Who was back. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had a body. The-Boy-Who-Lived had lived. Again. Horace wasn't a fool--he remembered the war against Grindelwald, the rise of the Dark Lord. Both started with whispers and ended with friends turning against friends, streets full of dead, and a charismatic leader named Albus Dumbledore, so when he had opened his door, it was with his wand drawn in expectation of Death Eaters.
Instead it was Albus. Albus, who his only contact with had been through the Daily Prophet--who looked older and greyer than ever. Horace greeted him with a smile, invited him to tea, knowing something was wrong when the man didn't add sugar. Talk of the Harpies led to allusion to the past and insinuations of war. It was a different Albus who visited--no longer the man who insisted making love while wearing socks intensified the stimulation, but an Albus who didn't want crystallised pineapple, only answers in the form of memories better left forgotten. It was an Albus who, for the first time ever, left his presence with disappointment smeared across his face like clotted cream on Sunday morning scones.
Now, Transfigured into an overstuffed armchair, he watches Albus open the door, wand drawn, a shadow following his every move. Later, he will wonder at the novelty of teaching young Mr Potter--at the prospect of a safety at Hogwarts within Albus' arms, but at the moment all he sees is a hand blackened and scarred from a curse--all he feels is an unpleasant gurgle in his gut that has nothing to do with the wand spearing his stomach. Because Horace knows that curse. And Horace knows who else knows it.
How the conversation proceeds, Horace doesn't quite remember. Oh, he plays his part, acting the grumpy curmudgeon reluctant to leave his abode, but it is for Mr Potter's sake only. Albus knows the script as well as he does--knows how to make him forget the lines.
"I was merely reading the Muggle magazines. I do love knitting patterns."
And Horace has nothing to say to that, because he knows how much Albus loves knitting patterns. The evidence fills his drawers and keeps his head warm on chilly days.
So he waits for Albus to turn his back--waits for him to walk away once more--to acquiesce, hoping there will be a new pair of socks lying at the foot of his bed Christmas morning.
Hogwarts is much different than when he left in 1980. Oh, Slytherin house is prospering, but a dark shadow much like the one gracing Severus' face cloaks it. The ceiling of the Great Hall is darker, and judging from his former grades, Mr Potter has metamorphosed into a potions genius overnight. Minerva has a sharper tongue, and a curious house-elf in misshapen hats has taken to following him. One thing that hasn't changed is Albus' appreciation for socks.
Horace sits at the Head Table, debating the merits of hard alcohol before supper. After the incident between Severus and Draco during his small get together (as if he wouldn't have placed Spying Charms on the corridors around his quarters), he surely deserves some, doesn't he? It certainly has nothing to do with the fact that he sent Albus socks as an early Christmas gift that morning and still hasn't received a reply. Nothing to do with that at all.
He has just decided that a splash of whiskey might do him some good, when an owl lands messily beside his plate, a small bit of parchment in its beak. Horace quickly unfolds it, smiling when he recognises the handwriting.
Stuffing the parchment in his waistcoat, Horace leans forward and grabs a roll in pretence as he catches Albus' eye with a wink. Albus smiles back, fingers combing his beard, before he lifts a strawberry to his mouth, deliberately letting a small drop of juice drip onto his beard.
Blushing as if he were a fourth year caught snogging by a professor, Horace jerks back, nearly toppling over his chair.
"Are you alright?" Sinistra asks, putting down her fork.
"Oh, yes, yes, quite alright. Just a bit of indigestion," he stutters, patting his stomach. "Quite common, you see. I'm afraid my age is catching up with me."
Sinistra dabs her mouth with a napkin. "Perhaps you should see Poppy if this is a regular occurrence, Horace. Albus is quite healthy, and you're a tad younger than him."
Horace's gut warms in an entirely different fashion when Sinistra mentions Albus, and he fights back the urge to blush. It's just an invitation to drinks, not a summons to his bed--though both are in his chambers, a little voice reminds him. Horace firmly quashes the thought. In all probability, Albus only wants to question him more. Still...
Deciding the alcohol can wait for later, Horace begins to butter his roll. A little extra energy can't hurt.
When Horace arrives wearing lilac robes with matching shirt and waistcoat (a fitting tribute to that summer night, he thinks), Albus is already sitting on the dark Chesterfield by the fire, a bottle of Cognac and two filled glasses on the table in front of him, boots discarded on the rug.
Seeing no other place to sit but the sofa, Horace settles on the opposite end, feeling more awkward than he has in fifty years. Trying to cover his nervousness, he leans down and begins to unlace his boots as Albus had.
"The socks are simply delightful, Horace," Albus remarks, lifting his robes slightly. Horace looks to the side; purple-clothed toes peek out, a clumsily knit cable pattern twisting around his thin foot. He notices a toe sticking through a hole, and can't help but feel a bit embarrassed. "Did you knit them yourself?"
He nods, unable to find anything to say as Albus lifts his robes to knee height. The deformed socks lie bunched around Albus' ankles, but it is his legs that attract Horace's attention. The calves aren't as muscular as they once were, but the downy covering of silver hair adds its own appeal, tempting him to run his hand up the limb, following the bones to their apex.
Gulping, the Potions master straightens and picks up a glass of alcohol and swirls the Cognac, raising the glass to his mouth in the process
"I am forever amazed at your many talents, Horace," Albus continues, wiggling his toes. "Every time I take a step, the texture caresses my insteps like the wonderful massages you used to give me."
Horace splutters, the brandy rippling up to soak his mustache. He remembers those massages--the hands stroking Albus' foot being replaced by his tongue that would slowly wander up a leg until his mustache brushed the slowly-hardening cock, the tips of the hairs collecting pre-come--
"Aren't we a bit too old to play games of seduction, Albus?" Horace asks, setting down his glass and nervously wiping his hands on his robes. A drop of Cognac quivers on the end of his walrus-like mustache.
Albus tilts his head, smiling a bit. "We are never too old to experience all aspects of life." Eyes transfixed, Horace watches as Albus pulls his legs onto the sofa, shifting toward him until he can see his reflection in Albus' spectacles. "And personally, I believe that I have quite a few aspects left. I, for one, have never sucked Cognac from a mustache." Light breaths tickle his cheeks as Albus leans in, lips parting.
"You'll get hair stuck in your teeth," Horace protests weakly. Still, he reaches out to grasp Albus' waist, hand sneaking under the robes.
"I imagine that it's happened to you quite a few times. You will just have to teach me how to remove it."
Blue eyes twinkle almost imperceptibly before Albus descends. As lips latch onto his mustache, Horace surrenders, warmed by the feel of a cold toe surrounded by rough wool digging into his leg.