Elphias doge said that the summer of 1899 was the period of their lives Albus and he had the least contact. Elphias did come across as slightly fanboy-ish. What do you think Albus saw in him or do you think Elphias is exaggerating their friendship? It confuses me a little. How do you see their early relationship? Platonic or a shade of a crush from one or both of them when they were very young and hadnt grasped the concept of an intellectually equal relationship (From Albus' POV until Gellert)?
I think that him and Albus would have been pretty good friends until that summer. Albus was the centre of attention because of his academic achievements, but he didn’t really have friends. Because of his father attacking the muggle boys that hurt Ariana (if Percival attacking them is even true), the students that he interacted him tended to either distance themselves from him or view him as a muggle-hater and supporter of blood-purity which, despite his belief that the Wizards should come out of hiding and not be abused for what they were, he actually wasn’t. Albus felt an outcast and, as he did until his death, he felt closer to people who he perceived as outcasts.
Elphias definitely loved Albus deeply and even idolized him. I don’t think that it was a Dumbledore fan-boy though. To me, it seems that he was moved by the fact that Albus approached him and was interested with hanging out with him when no one else would. The fact that he was brilliant was a bonus and Elphias would probably be invested in him either way. The fact that Elphias was a good student and quite intellectual too makes me think that, beyond identifying with him, Albus would enjoy their interactions. I doubt that there was anything beyond friendship between them, but I do believe that they were friends at the time. When Elphias left to see the world and Albus had to stay behind, I don’t see how they could have had contact on a deeper level. Especially if Ariana turns out to be an obscurial, Albus couldn’t even elaborate on what was really happening in his life. Almost immediately, Gellert arrived in Albus’s life and I doubt that anything could compare to the feeling of young love that Albus was experiencing at the time and to the sense of having found his equal. Then, by the time Elphias was back, Albus had lost Ariana(dead) and also Aberforth and Gellert. Elphias(even though he did not know the full story) mentions that Albus was never the same and throughout the series it is implied that Albus tried to not invest in people even if he cared for them.
I think that this is a case of Dumbledore feeling that he shouldn’t have friends(Elphias among them), rather than Elphias caring about Albus more than Albus cared for him.