Disclaimer: I own nothing. Oh, most certainly nothing. Especially from Harry Potter, both past and present. Of course, in this economy, my first statement applies to practically everything…
Albus Dumbledore grunted a little as he levitated the very large, rather heavy Mirror of Erised through the darkened hallways of Hogwarts. He'd reserved this task for himself, after delegating the care of the unconscious Harry Potter to Poppy Pomfrey and the comforting of the Granger girl—a bright little thing, someone to be watched, Albus mused to himself—to her Head of House, Minerva McGonagall. Seeing as it had been his idea to hide the Philosopher's Stone in the mirror in the first place, it only seemed fitting for him to be the one to destroy both the Stone (which now rested safely in the pocket of his robes) and its erstwhile hiding place.
But he was no longer as young as he used to be, and it showed. There was a time when Albus would have been able to land a levitated object so smoothly that it wouldn't even shake the ground as it made contact. But the Mirror of Erised wobbled dangerously when it hit the floor of the Headmaster's Office with a dull thud, shaking enough to cause its large canvas cover to slip onto the ground and reveal the mirror's shining reflective surface, which glinted eerily in the waning moonlight that streamed through the unshuttered window.
Albus, his back already to the mirror as he prepared to leave the room, hesitated in his steps when he heard the cover hit the floor. He only had to spin on his heels, and he knew he would easily be able to see his reflection even in the dim light of his office. Erised had its own ways of showing the viewer his or her reflection...that was its sole purpose in life, after all.
Albus himself had never yet seen his reflection in Erised. Not because he knew what he would see—far from it! No, as embarrassing as it might be for the one wizard whom Lord Voldemort truly feared...Albus Dumbledore was afraid—yes, afraid of what he might find in Erised's silvery depths.
"Sir—Professor Dumbledore? ... What do you see when you look into the mirror?"
How mortifying when young Harry, who was exceptionally perceptive for a lad his age, asked the very question Albus had not yet dared to answer! Albus had been glib enough at the time to come up with a satisfactory answer—some rubbish about woolen socks; but it certainly had been a close call. Albus knew he ought to take at least one look in the mirror, if only to satisfy his curiosity before he destroyed Erised forever. After all, how did the saying go...
"There is nothing to fear but fear itself," Albus murmured as he slowly turned and faced the Mirror of Erised for the first and last time.
Albus was surprised to find a young man, barely out of his teens and dressed in plain black robes that were a tad too large for him, staring back at him from the depths of the mirror. The reflection bore no trace of the long flowing beard that would later be iconic in the Wizarding World; but the auburn hair and bright blue eyes (which hadn't yet gained the capacity to twinkle) were very familiar to Albus indeed. He was looking at himself, an Albus Dumbledore from almost a century earlier.
Albus hadn't expected his deepest desire to be younger again—but wait, there was someone else approaching his reflection from the back, a shadowy figure whose hair gleamed like spun gold in the moonlight. The real Albus half wanted to glance behind him to check for the newcomer, but instead he fixed his gaze on his younger self, who had seemingly recognized the intruder and thus was smiling happily in expectation.
A pair of long arms, bare from the elbows down, slipped around the reflection's neck; and another grinning face peeked over the young Albus' shoulder, one that made the old Albus' breath catch in his throat. Tousled blonde hair fell over part of the new young man's face, which had a strong Germanic cast in its aquiline nose and firm jaw. Piercing grey eyes stared out from the mirror, not filled with the hatred Albus remembered during their last encounter, but instead warm with tender love and desire.
Gellert Grindelwald, who would later be reviled as one of history's most evil wizards, was just as handsome at that age as Albus remembered him. Almost ten years they'd had together, from the time they'd met as young students to their abrupt separation after both Albus' mother and sister had passed away; and those years had perhaps been the happiest of Albus' life. He supposed he shouldn't have been terribly surprised to find that Gellert would be the object of his deepest longing, even all these decades later. After all, Gellert had been all Albus thought and dreamed of during those blissful years.
Albus slowly exhaled in a soft sigh, but his breath hitched again as a second figure came into view, this one a young woman with a sleeping baby in her arms. She smiled at the older Albus, her dark auburn hair cascading down her back, blue eyes the hue of the clear summer sky sparkling with joy. It was his sister, Ariana, the very same image that hung in Aberforth's back room in the Hog's Head. The baby she held bore resemblance to her, but also to the young man who stood behind the Albus in the mirror.
And, to the real Albus' shock, Ariana handed over the infant to the reflected Albus, who beamed down on the child as if he himself was the father. And perhaps he was, Albus realized suddenly as Gellert reached down to muss the small tuft of golden hair on the baby's head. Or, rather, perhaps he was one of two fathers this child would have had, if only Fortune had been kind enough to allow Erised's vision to come to pass.
Albus did recall, now that he thought of it rather than kept the subject buried in the depths of his mind as he'd done for the last century, that Gellert had dreamed of raising a family with his then-partner. The only problem had been that Albus was not capable of giving Gellert what he wanted, even with the magic available at that time. But Albus' only sister, Ariana, more open-minded than most girls of that time, was more than willing to help the pair; she herself had harbored a crush on the handsome German student Albus had brought home, first as a friend, then as a lover once both boys realized their true tendencies.
On the other hand, Albus' younger brother Aberforth was not so kind-hearted. Jealous as he was with his older brother's successes in school, the conservative-minded Aberforth was furious over Albus' orientation besmirching the pureblood Dumbledore name. For many months, as Albus and Gellert conducted their relationship behind the many closed doors of the Dumbledore household, Aberforth smouldered and fumed to himself, holding it all in until his one and only explosion after finding Albus and Gellert planning their future together in the family's back shed, with Ariana watching and giggling along with them. It had been his sister's presence that had sent Aberforth into a tirade against the older boys.
"How dare you—you perverted freak! Stay away from my sister! Bad enough that you've made my brother like—like YOU!"
Gellert was never a man of great patience or restraint, and Aberforth was itching for a fight in any case. A few more acidic verbal exchanges later, and it wasn't long before things started getting physical. Ariana watched from the sidelines, her eyes wide in horror as Aberforth got his hands on Gellert's throat, slowly strangling the older boy and showing no signs of relenting. Albus, who'd been torn between staying with his brother or with his lover, finally moved to intervene at that point, trying to pull the furious Aberforth off of Gellert, who was slowly turning blue in the face from lack of air.
Albus still remembered with startling clarity all these years later the bloodcurdling shriek that tore through the shed. There had also been a blinding flash of white light, followed by an explosion of magical power that sent all three boys flying in different directions; Albus himself hit the far wall of the shed, almost knocked out by the impact and dazed for a good minute after, struggling to his feet automatically with his back still pressed against the wooden boards.
The air in the small shed was rank with the smell of something burning, and static with loose magical energy. As his vision cleared, the first thing Albus saw was Ariana lying in a crumpled heap on the floor, face down, a red pool slowly forming around her body as she lay almost completely still. Ariana had always had trouble controlling her magic, which had grown to such a level that it rivaled both Albus and Gellert in sheer power; it had become such a problem that Ariana had remained at home during the school year, since she couldn't be trusted to keep herself in control in such a crowded place as Hogwarts.
The first to reach her was Gellert, who was still having visible difficulty breathing after Aberforth's attack. Gasping and crawling on all fours, Gellert reached Ariana's side, pulling her into his arms, trying to keep her alive as she gasped for air, her bosom heaving and something audibly rattling in her chest with every breath. Her once-fine auburn hair was blackened and singed; blood poured from her nose, ears, and mouth, staining Gellert's shirt red while he tried to stop the bleeding, to no avail.
Her last words, moaned just before she exhaled on a soft sigh and finally fell still in Gellert's arms, echoed through the shed and tormented all three boys for many years after.
Gellert burst into howling sobs over Ariana's limp body, rocking the dead girl back and forth in his arms as he wept. He'd loved her, perhaps not as much as he'd loved Albus, but still caring for her as if she were his own sister. Aberforth staggered over to Ariana's side as well, dropping to his knees and weakly punching Gellert in the shoulder and back before himself collapsing into sobs, unable to find the strength to attack even Gellert in his grief over Ariana's death.
Albus, however, remained frozen against the wall, unable to move, staring instead at Ariana's still face, as if willing her to come back to life, to get up and laugh and say that it was all a joke. But no life returned to her glazed blue eyes, those eyes unseeingly staring at Albus in an accusing fashion that haunted Albus for the rest of his life.
He saw those eyes throughout Ariana's funeral, as Gellert stared at him balefully from across the open grave, while Aberforth yelled at Albus and broke his older brother's nose in a graveyard fight that made headlines of the Daily Prophet. He saw those eyes during the final duel with Gellert, after Albus' former lover had taken his own steps to avenge Ariana's death by trying to defeat Death entirely using Dark Arts and in a fruitless quest for the Deathly Hallows; to this day, Albus couldn't tell if the burning hatred in Gellert's eyes was over Albus taking the Elder Wand away or over the death of Ariana that both men had witnessed so long before. It could even have been, Albus only realized much later, that Gellert had wanted Albus to follow him, not remain in England after Gellert rescinded his offer to start a family together on the Continent.
And Albus was haunted by Ariana's death gaze every time he looked into a mirror, almost hating the twinkle he saw in his eyes, eyes that were so similar to his sister's. It was the same even in the Mirror of Erised, especially since the living Ariana was there to double the effect. Albus swallowed, realizing that he'd probably been standing in the same spot, rooted before the mirror as he allowed himself to get lost in the what-might-have-beens, for nearly an hour. What he'd warned Harry was correct...men could grow old and die before Erised, addicted to the hopes and dreams that the enchanted mirror offered.
Albus moistened his lips as he gazed on his sister's face, so alive and happy as he only wished it could have been. "Anna, forgive me," he whispered, the pet name easily slipping from his tongue after all these years. Ariana merely smiled at him, her innocent look bearing not a hint of the grudge he always imagined that he saw in his dreams.
Turning to his old lover, Albus hesitated, almost not wanting to break the tenuous silence between them. But the Gellert in the mirror stopped caressing the baby in the mirror-Albus' arms, looking up and breaking into a wide grin as he seemed to see the real Albus for the first time. He mouthed something silently, a phrase that Albus recognized immediately as the pledge the two had made when they first became lovers and which brought fresh tears to his eyes.
"I'll love you forever...for forever and a day."
"And I've never forgotten, Gellert," Albus breathed, aching to reach out and touch Gellert one last time. "Never, and never will." Slowly, he raised his wand, hating himself for doing this but knowing that it was the right and necessary thing to do. Even with that knowledge, many moments passed before he could force himself to say the words that would end his joy forever.
Softly, Albus began to chant a long string of Latin, a soft blue light leaving the tip of his wand as he did so and enveloping the Mirror of Erised. The mirror shimmered, Albus' reflection wavering and disappearing in a silver fog, before suddenly collapsing in a pile of powder and ash. Seconds later, a light wind blew through the room, sweeping what was left of Erised into nothingness. The Mirror of Erised was gone for good.
And with it, all of Albus' desires and dreams. But perhaps that was for the better, Albus thought to himself as he left his office, ready to check on Harry Potter and his friends for the night. Perhaps those dreams, his very heart's desire, had never been meant to be in the first place.