I spent quite some time on this one, but the more I read it the less I like it. I did, however, like it at first, so that should mean something. My first ever attempt at fan-fiction, so please go easy on me!
Note: Dialogues in italics are all excerpts from The Mirror of Erised, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. Surprised?
IMPORTANT: While the oneshot itself doesn't contain references to Book Seven, the footnote gives a bit away, so avoid if you haven't read it yet. Now read on!
Harry Potter was climbing up an unending staircase, a parcel carefully tucked into his cloak pocket. He had to get to the top. He had to.
Reaching the owlery had never been this important.
"It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts."
In the past years, the Boy Who Lived had suffered more than any being deserved to. He had grown up alone, lost far too much, and asked for far too little. And in the years to come, it would continue.
There was no end to the suffering.
There would be battles, beams of enchanting light dashing from one unfortunate soul to another, beautiful yet misleading, charming yet unforgiving. Gone were loved ones in one irreparable moment. Gone for all of eternity, never to be seen again.
It was ridiculous how quickly every trace of what had been the most marvellous existence was brought down to nothing.
And it was the loss of the one most loved of all that was pulling Harry to the top. Deep down inside he knew, he knew, that it was crazy. That perhaps all he would ever get out of this was a sack full of disappointment. After all, it had been so with Sirius. Hadn't he desperately combed out the place and people who had moulded him into who he was? Hadn't he finally turned to the only man who could have had a solution? But there were some things even Dumbledore couldn't change.
Death was a fine example.
At that thought, try as he might, Harry could not quite push away the panic in the pit of his stomach, the tears in his eyes. What was he going to do now? There was more death to come, and he knew it. How many could he shield?
"Sir - Professor Dumbledore? Can I ask you something?"
"Obviously, you've just done so," Dumbledore smiled, "You may ask me one more thing, however."
Never again would he talk to Sirius. Or hear his bark like laugh, the affectionate references to those he came from, that brooding silence that left him feeling both awkward and sympathetic. Sirius had gone off, to join a long army of those he wished he had known better, or even known at all. There was too much he had meant to ask, meant to tell, meant to change, that he had kept stored away for a better time and place.
Neither would there be advice from the sage of a man with the blue, blue, eyes, the wisdom accompanied by a sense of humour that was more magical than any spell could ever hope to be. The reassurance that placed itself in the middle of it all, preventing it, somehow, from falling apart. Everything would be fine. Just go tell Dumbledore. Dumbledore would make everything alright.
It was lost in these overwhelming emotions that Harry found himself amid the hoards of hooting birds.
"What do you see when you look in the Mirror?"
He called to Hedwig.
Harry would never know what Dumbledore saw in The Mirror of Erised. He could guess, he supposed, but there was more mystery to the former Headmaster of Hogwarts than entirely comprehendible.
Before any chance of knowing Dumbledore's deepest desire could appear, there was that other, ridiculously simple question. The ridiculously simple question with answers no one could ever begin to contemplate.
It really was a tragic question, because the man it encircled was gone forever, and he was the one they needed the most.
It really was a tragic question, for it reminded Harry, just like everything did, actually, that those who dared to love were those who dared to lose.
It really was a tragic question, because the man behind the wisdom was not without loneliness. But who would have thought?
And it really was a tragic question, for it was never meant to be answered.
To whom should we go for answers?
And this was the question:
What was Albus Dumbledore?
All knew who he was. You see him there, tall, white hair, blue eyes, glasses. The saviour of the world.
(Wait, that was Harry, wasn't it?
But that's a story for another time.)
How many could say they had truly known him? That they had seen and loved and held the hand of everything that made Dumbledore just so?
The question was not who Albus Dumbledore was. The question was what he was, what made him who he was, what he would have been had there been anyone with the depth to understand him.
Thus, when the vague idea - that had lead Harry to where he currently stood - had begun to form itself behind his green eyes, he realized that there were some things he would never know. And that was just the unfortunate way it was.
He looked out at the soft ripples that formed over the lake, the Forbidden Forest that housed more secrets than Hogwarts itself. Lives peaked and ended, times arrived and passed, but the view from this window had always been what it was. Perhaps his parents had rested their feet here once, oblivious to their cruel fate. Maybe Dumbledore had gathered wisdom at this point as a young boy, before Voldemort had even existed. For all he knew, Godric Gryffindor himself had stood where Harry did now, doing whatever it was that great history makers did.
But Harry doubted if any of the above had been doing anything quite like what he was.
He had wondered, earlier, whether or not inside jokes were allowed when there was no humour involved whatsoever.
After which he had realised that Dumbledore had died trying to bring humour back into the world. The decision was made.
And here he was.
"I? I see myself holding a pair of thick, woollen socks."
"One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books."
It was only when he was back in bed that it struck Harry that Dumbledore might not have been quite truthful.
He was closer to smiling than he had been in a long time as he attached the rather bulky package to the unresisting owl. He was also closer to crying than he had been in a long time as he scribbled a lost name onto the paper.
Perhaps, he thought, Ron and he were better off with the emotional range of a teaspoon.
Little did he know that had Dumbledore been there, he would be smiling too.
All was not lost, when the boy who had little reason to crack jokes was allowing himself to do so. All was not lost when hope was enclosed in a parcel to be delivered far past the deadline. Better late than never, yet better early than late.
All was not lost when each little smile, each owl with an early present attached, each heart that beat ever so subtly for another, brought a little more love into the world.
It was impossible to witness such warmth and proclaim that all was lost.
And as the owl zoomed off into the horizon, Harry knew there was chance that he would never see it again. He briefly considered calling it back, and adding himself to the bundle that was being carried, dangling from the creature's legs just to see where it would go. But somehow, what he did know was that no matter what, the package would reach its destination. One way or the other.
And most certainly, all was not lost when a snowy white owl by the name of Hedwig, given to it before worries haunted all their dreams, was holding close a brown paper package tied up with strings - marked with a well used 'Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore', sent in hopeful seriousness and timid humour - and zooming magnificently off, much before Christmas, feathers reddened by the sunlight to resemble a long-loved phoenix, eyes wet with tears shed for a great man, its mind anything but unaware, its understanding anything but poor, carefully carrying ; a well wrapped pair of thick, woollen socks.
Dumbledore had taught them well.
That's it! I know it was a bit abrupt and rough around the edges, but I haven't been writing long. Please review and tell me what you thought, constructive criticism is welcome (though once again, go easy on me).
Update: I hate to bother everyone with lengthy A/Ns, but after DH there was something about this fic I had to mention. I had expected The Book to be about what we all wanted; the war, Snape, Petunia... I had written this piece as a kind of consolation to myself for us not knowing Dumbledore's past, and really what he was all about. I was surprised at how what I wrote is continued and expanded in the book. JK even made the exact same sentimental references to the Mirror of Erised. (Though of course her style and level of writing are just wow). I'm glad and surprised, because Dumbledore's past has always been fascinating to me and I was sure we would never know. I'm very happy I wrote something that was continued the way this was. That's about it. Thanks for reading!