Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, walked into the cold, stone vault that currently housed the Mirror of Erised, otherwise known as the Mirror of Desire. He sat down on one of the desks and waited for the first year student he knew would come. He kept his eyes strictly away from the mirror. He had no desire to see what it would show him.
Half an hour later Harry Potter had not appeared. Albus felt a magnetism pulling him to the mirror, only getting stronger as the minutes passed. He darted his eyes towards the silver surface and then, just as quickly, tore them away. His fingers started rap-tapping on the surface of the desk and he couldn't prevent his foot from jiggling.
He leapt up and started pacing, screwing his eyes tightly shut, straining his ears in the hopes that he would hear footsteps coming to relieve him of this duty. To no avail. When he opened his eyes next, he found that he had moved considerably closer to the mirror.
Finally sighing in defeat, Albus walked slowly to stand in front of the mirror. He was being a coward by refusing to see what could be his greatest desire. Slowly, very slowly, he raised his eyes and focused them on what the mirror showed him.
There were three figures. The first and the closest was a small, fragile girl with dark red hair and blue eyes. She was smiling happily and waved cheerily at him. Arianna. Albus couldn't have prevented his hand from lifting and reaching towards his sister if his life had depended on it. Luckily, it didn't.
The second figure standing just behind Arianna's left shoulder was a face in many ways similar to his own. Aberforth. Not the bitter and angry man he had come to know as the Hog's Head barkeeper. Not the vengeful and angry relative who had broken his nose at a funeral. Not even the rebellious and angry boy who had so disapproved of his friendship with Gellart Grindleward. No, this was the smiling and happy boy of Albus' childhood before his sister had been attacked and his father had been sent to Azkaban. Albus swallowed, trying to force down the lump that had formed in his throat.
The third figure standing just behind and to the right side of the other two was another memory. His one-time lover and beloved friend. Gellart. As with the other two, it wasn't the man he had met on the battlefield; the Dark Lord with a malicious twist to his lips and glint in his eye. It was the teenager who he had debated magical theory with, made plans to save the world with, loved and lived with. It was the vision of the man that Albus had lost when he stood over a corpse, no one sure who had cast the final curse.
Behind the trio were two more, shadowy, figures. His mother and father. Again, they were the memories of the people he had known before the horrible incident which had broken their family apart. His father mouthed something at him, a smile on his lips. I'm proud of you, Albus.
Albus screwed his eyes shut and bent forwards slightly, wrapping his arms around himself, trying to curl around the pain that throbbed deep within his chest. Warm tears ran down his face and dripped into his beard.
He cried silently, the tears of loss and pain forcing their way from behind his eyelids. He cried for the lives that were broken, lost, ruined. He cried for the man who had gone on to create two wars and murder millions. Most of all, he cried for the stupid fool who had been the cause of so much of the misfortune, the imbecile who was now trusted with the British Wizarding World's children.
Finally the tears ran dry and he opened his eyes, rubbing away the wetness thankfully. He couldn't stop himself from looking into the mirror once more and a watery smile crept onto his face at the sight of their smiles. Albus suddenly narrowed his eyes. There was something there, right at the back, an even more shadowy figure than his parents. What was it?
Footsteps pounded outside the room and Albus barely had enough time to cast an invisibility charm on himself before the first year he had been waiting for entered. Albus withdrew to the desk he had started on and regarded the boy sitting in front of him sadly.
He saw the same painful longing that must have been on his own face moments before. Oh Tom. Why did you have to take this path? Why did you have to orphan so many children, destroy so many families? Albus knew how this young orphan felt and sorrowed at having to tear him away from one of the few memories of his parents he had. But, as he well knew, staring at a dream was not enough to survive on and there was so much more this particular child could achieve. He dropped the charm.
"So – back again, Harry?" The child whipped around, his expression shocked and slightly horrified.
"I-I didn't see you, sir." Albus smiled to put him at his ease.
"Strange how short-sighted being invisible can make you." He slid off the desk and walked forwards to sit beside Harry on the floor. "So, you, like hundreds of others before you, have discovered the delights of the Mirror of Erised."
"I didn't know it was called that, sir."
"But I expect you've realised by now what it does?" Albus was intrigued to see whether the child had connected the dots.
"It – well – it shows me my family –"
"And it showed your friend Ron himself as Head Boy." The boy's eyes narrowed in confusion. Ah, he had not yet heard, then, that the Headmaster is omniscient and omnipotent. Albus' thoughts held a bitter tinge.
"How did you know - ?"
"I don't need a cloak to become invisible. Now, can you think what the Mirror of Erised shows us all?" Albus couldn't prevent a small smile at the innocent way Harry shook his head, willingly admitting to ignorance. So many children, and adults, he had come across tried to bluster their way through life, seeing ignorance as an admission of weakness instead of the opportunity for growth that it was. "Let me explain. The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is." That man was not him and Albus knew it never would be. "Does that help?"
He watched the play of emotions across Harry's face as the boy reflected. The young Gryffindor was an open book, something Albus hoped he would always be able to be. Finally Harry slowly and hesitantly replied as if worried he would give the wrong answer.
"It shows us what we want…whatever we want…"
"Yes and no," Albus replied, his voice barely above a murmur. "It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them. However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge nor truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible." At least, Albus thought bitterly, you and I need not worry about that. There is no return from death and unfortunately, we both see ourselves surrounded by those beyond the veil. "The mirror will be moved to a new home tomorrow, Harry, and I ask you not to go looking for it again. If you ever do run across it, you will now be prepared. It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that." Albus had to wonder as he spoke the words whether he was lecturing Harry or himself. "Now, why don't you put that admirable Cloak back on and get off to bed?" Harry responded to the veiled order and stood up.
"Sir – Professor Dumbledore? Can I ask you something?" Albus smiled; like all youth he would have to learn to phrase his thoughts more precisely. Unfortunately Gryffindors were not the best teachers for that.
"Obviously, you've just done so. You may ask me one more thing, however."
"What do you see when you look in the Mirror?" Well, that was unexpected. For a moment Albus wasn't sure what to reply. The truth was too intimate to reveal to a student, even this one. Yet he hesitated to lie outright; the atmosphere of the room almost forbade untruths from occurring.
"I?" he asked, stalling slightly. His gaze darted towards the mirror once more. He smiled, realising what that barely perceptible figure in the background was. There was his answer. "I see myself holding a pair of thick, woollen socks."
A/N Obviously, I do not own any of the material from here that I blatantly lifted from the British version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I do, however, own the interpretation and the image Dumbledore sees in the mirror.
This Dumbledore is not supposed to be manipulative. No matter how strange it seems that a priceless magical artefact is languishing in a room, seemingly waiting for a hapless student to stumble upon it. In this Albus is trying to help Harry with whom he feels a slight kinship for from wasting his life on dreams and longings for impossibilities.
Feedback is always welcome!