In the seventh book Harry thinks he knows what Dumbledore really had seen in the mirror. But what if Dumbledore had told the truth?
"Sir - Professor Dumbledore? Can I ask you something?" Harry said hesitantly.
"Obviously, you've just done so," Albus smiled at him. "You may ask me one more thing, however."
"What do you see when you look in the mirror?" Harry asked curiously.
"I?" Albus paused. That was not the question he had been expecting. He hadn't looked in the mirror in decades, ever since the time he had spent over 48 hours just staring into it. He knew the image would be the same though. It always was, and it always would be.
As he was about to answer, memories flooded his mind.
Summer of 1899. If you had asked Albus Dumbledore what he was planning for that summer, he would have said something about the Grand Tour with Elphias Doge, celebrating his graduation from Hogwarts, doing something for his birthday, maybe some job search in the wizarding world, and general fun summer things. He would never have imagined that he and his brother Aberforth would have to be taking care of their incapacitated younger sister, Ariana, who had accidentally murdered their mother. He also never imagined he would fall in love.
Albus cursed the muggles that had done terrible things to his sister, and it made him question the allowance of muggle-borns to Hogwarts. He had prided himself on his morals, but every time his sister did anything, the questions were back. Since she was asleep again, he ventured outside for the first time in a few days. He tied his long auburn hair back and stepped into the sun.
A few houses down, he saw a boy he had never seen before. It was Bathilda Bagshot's house, and she lived alone. The boy had blonde, shoulder-length, curly hair, and was enthusiastically zapping bugs out of the air. Albus took a few steps down the street towards the boy. The blonde looked up, studied him for a moment, then met him halfway down the street.
"Hello, I'm Gellert Grindelwald," the boy said with a slight accent and held out his hand.
"Albus. Albus Dumbledore," he replied, shaking his hand.
"I'm staying with my Great Aunt Bathilda for the summer. Hogwarts?"
"Yes, I just graduated. You?"
"Durmstrang. Just got expelled. Bit of a misunderstanding, only had a year left, but they let me keep my wand and I can do magic a year early." A year ago, Albus would have been in awe of the casual manner in which he spoke of getting expelled, and a bit concerned that Gellert didn't seem to care about his education. Now, however, it didn't bother him. There were other things to worry about, more important things.
Gellert was staring at him. Apparently the statement was really to judge his reaction. Albus didn't really know what to say, so he tried to change the subject.
"Oh. So are you just here for the summer, or are you staying longer?" The subject change seemed to please Gellert.
"It depends. Have you heard of the Deathly Hallows?"
"The myth? Of course I've heard of it."
"What if I told you it wasn't a myth?"
As the summer went on, the boys became inseparable. Gellert had many new ideas about the greater good of the world and the purity of wizard-kind. The concepts were foreign to Albus, but the more Gellert got excited about them, the more Albus did as well, and the ideas seemed to go along with getting revenge for his sister.
Aberforth did not approve much of Gellert, so they took their plans to Bathilda's house. It was just as well, Gellert didn't like Aberforth much either. Though they were the same age, Gellert had a more mature air about him.
Gellert's room could only be described as eccentric. There were many random magical objects that Albus had never seen covering the furniture surfaces. Books lined the walls, candles floated around the ceiling, and parchments with notes were tacked on the walls. The top drawer of the dresser was open and he could see that it was full of socks. They weren't just ordinary socks; some were nice thick woolen socks, some were magically enchanted, and quite a few of them were different colors. He noticed the magically enchanted socks had little broomsticks, snitches, wands, and slightly disturbingly, thestrals. They were all moving across the stitching, and it fascinated him.
Gellert laughed, "One can never have enough socks! I made the enchanted ones myself."
Suddenly Albus was very conscious of his thin, holey, cotton socks.
Even though they had only been friends for a few weeks, Albus trusted Gellert completely. Their friendship was different from any other, this was the closest Albus had felt to anyone. Gellert seemed to feel the same way.
They both told each other things they had never told anyone. More Albus than Gellert, Gellert was very open about certain things, but Albus suspected the nonchalantness was a facade. He could tell there was something hidden in his best friend's mind.
One day Albus confessed that he was gay. Gellert was the first he told, but he thought Ariana had figured it out a while ago. Even though the wizarding community seemed more accepting about that sort of thing, most people still didn't talk about it much, and Gellert was surprisingly accepting.
Albus was extremely grateful, but he didn't, however, mention that he fancied his new best friend.
Later that night Albus realized that Gellert had never said whether he felt that way or not. He was hopeful, though.
Albus' birthday went by rather uncharacteristically. His parent's friends gave him books, books, and more books. He had come to expect it, everyone knew he was studious, so everyone gave him books. A few of his friends from school sent some new quills and parchment by owl, and he was thankful for that, he was running a bit low. Bathilda brought by a chocolate cake in the morning. His brother gave him a collection of muggle sweets from him and his sister. The lemon drops were his favorite.
Later that day, he and Gellert were going to hang out and talk some more about their plans for the greater good of the wizarding world. Bathilda let him in and sent him up the stairs.
Gellert handed him a rectangular package.
He opened it. Inside were nine pairs of new socks. Three were grey wool, and six were enchanted. Three of the magic socks had wands with different color sparks coming out. The other three were truly spectacular: one had a phoenix bursting into flames, one had a phoenix rising from the ashes, one had a beautiful phoenix flying around the cuff.
Albus ran his fingers over the threading gently and looked up, speechless.
"It seemed like enough people were giving you books, and you looked like you could use some new socks," Gellert said with a shrug.
"Thanks, Gell," he breathed.
At that moment, everything was perfect. At that moment, Albus was finally happy; the worry for his sister, sorrow for his parents, concern for his brother, guilt, anger, and sadness all were gone from his mind. At that moment, he realized he was in love.
"What do you see when you look in the mirror?"
"I?" Albus came back to the present. "I see myself holding a pair of thick, woolen socks."
Harry stared. Albus smiled sadly. The boy wouldn't understand yet.
"One can never have enough socks," he explained, drifting back into his memories. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books."
He turned and walked out of the room, leaving Harry to his thoughts, as a single tear escaped his crystal blue eyes.