Disclaimer: All recognizable characters and fictional places do not belong to me; I am merely borrowing them for playtime before I (respectfully) put them back. Thank you JKR, for allowing such things to happen.
Thank You: To the amazing team that is inspiring/cleaning up after me in this project: BSC_AG, Allee, Tom Without, Lauren and Roo. Please remember to thank them if you are enjoying this story.
Story Summary: Hermione must deal with the aftermath of the war and with the other lost souls and broken hearts that have survived it. Life is every bit as hard as war, and growing up has a way of changing both friendships and minds. That's not always a bad thing... Rated M for later chapters. This story is primarily about Hermione, and does include a main pairing with Severus Snape. There is also several non-graphic side pairings, including a m/m slash.
Main Characters: Hermione Granger, Severus Snape, Harry Potter, George Weasley, Ron Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, Ginevra Weasley, OC
Chapter Dedication: My 200th reviewer for Severus, Redux requested only that I continue my SSHG works-in-progress. Therefore this chapter and Chapter Eleven of Severus, Redux are dedicated to the fabulous Azulkan2.
THE LUCKY ONES
Chapter Twenty-One: (In which Hermione discovers a long forgotten room)
The room was perfectly circular—the base of a tower, she realised, glancing about. She assumed it must be located towards the rear of the castle, overlooking the lake where it might only rarely be seen from the outside. Wide, shallow steps climbed the inside of the wall in a slow spiral, jutting out into the centre without a rail, before disappearing through an opening in the high ceiling.
The only other objects in the room were the mirrors.
There were seven of them, and they were massive: easily three metres high and two wide. They were each set about a metre apart in a wide circle that faced inwards; there was only a small walking space between the mirror backs and edge of the stairs ringing the inside walls of the tower. The large gap in front of her was clearly missing an eighth mirror; the space was just too wide to be mistaken for a path into the centre. A mirror should be standing with its back directly in front of her to complete the unusual circle; further inspection of the floor even revealed grooves where the clawed supports of the frame were once locked into place.
She was so caught up in studying the empty space that at first she missed the words. Flowing script inscribed in a soft green colour made a second ring, just inside the mirrored circle. When she noticed, she blinked for a second, trying to puzzle out what the upside-down words in front of her said.
"Strength, power, direction…" she made out softly, before the mirror to her left blocked the rest. Reaching out a hand, she touched the letters softly, and felt herself start slightly in surprise when they encountered cool metal. It hadn't originally been green, she realised. It was oxidized metal of some kind—copper or bronze perhaps. Someone had once taken a great deal of care in the creation of this room.
Hermione paused, indecisive. Stepping into unknown circles made by a magic user could be extremely dangerous, and this one was clearly built to be a place of power. However, she couldn't see any runelines laid into the floor, which was generally required of the more powerful circles. There was just the flowing script.
She supposed she should find Prof—Minerva and show her, but even if she were to leave the way she had come, she would still be lost. There was also no guarantee that she would ever be able to find the room again. Hermione dithered for a moment longer, shifting her weight from foot to foot as she tried to figure out what she would do.
It was the absent mirror that decided her. Even if this had been a maliciously powerful Rite Circle once, it had been broken, and very likely did not hold power anymore. Some circles, even broken, could hold power still, but usually not for very long, and not nearly in the strength they needed to accomplish what they were meant for.
Boldly, Hermione crossed the line, forgetting about her earlier fears and upset. Eyes still on the floor, she traced the script back to what appeared to be the beginning of a large poem inscribed into the floor, almost exactly opposite of where she had entered.
To see oneself, one must look at the whole,
Lovely and ugly, the heart and the soul.
To do so brings strength, power, direction.
Thus it was made: The Room of Reflection.
Be wary my friend, if you lack control:
Reflection will take a serious toll.
The mirrors would show you something of yourself, then. Something teased the back of her memory—a triumphant and half-forgotten conversation from years earlier in the hospital wing—a conversation about how Professor Dumbledore had hid the Philosopher's Stone inside a huge mirror that showed your deepest desires.
Breathing heavily, Hermione spun to stare at the empty space behind her that she had entered through. The huge mirror Harry had spoken of used to be here, in that very place. She was almost sure of it. Slowly, heart fluttering, Hermione walked towards the empty space, and the false wall directly behind it. Someone in the past had removed the mirror—probably through the very door she had just entered, and then had carefully enchanted the open portal into nearly a solid wall.
It was an enormous amount of effort for someone to go through, Hermione thought furiously. Why hide the room, but remove one of the mirrors? Was it that they wanted that mirror specifically, and didn't want people to realise where it had come from, or had they just wanted to break the circle, and that mirror had been the easiest to remove?
Reluctantly she turned from the empty space again. Anxious, but too curious to help herself, Hermione let her eyes drift to the mirror to the far right. Her image smiled at her, and to her surprise, beckoned her closer. Hermione felt her breath hitch and she crossed over to the mirror, not even realising that her feet were moving until she was half-way there. When she stood directly in front of it, the images began.
They were all of her—she was shown studying, cross referencing, brewing potions and concentrating as she drew rune lines. Her brows were knit, and her hair a general mess, and a smudge of ink graced one cheekbone, but there was also an air of peace and contentment about her. Her fingers were nimble and knowledgeable in their movements, the slight smile curling her lips making it clear that she was in her element.
The image of her was replaced with another—she was now standing in front of Hogwarts, her wand drawn, the Order, DA, and a hundred others with her, facing down Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Her expression was fierce and determined. She looked so…certain of their imminent victory. She hadn't remembered feeling that way. She had felt frightened, desperate and horrified that Harry was—to all appearances—dead. Yet, according to this mirror, she had looked as strong and as fierce as a Valkyrie. Watching herself was…inspiring. It felt very odd to be inspired by an image of herself, especially one of a moment where she hadn't felt inspiring in the least.
All she had felt or known at that moment was that she wasn't about to surrender, or run away, or be taken alive. If she and her friends were going to lose, then she had fully intended to do everything in her power to take as many Death Eaters as she could with them, and if possible, hack a way to Voldemort himself.
The mirror in front of her shimmered, and shifted again, changing to a different scene. She was eleven years old; her brows furrowed deep in the heart of the castle as she read a bit of singed parchment and puzzled out the potion master's riddle. Her young self hesitated, lightly touching bottles as she read aloud, while Harry nearly danced from foot to foot with impatience and worry behind her.
Hermione lost track of time, as the mirror played through several scenarios from her past. It showed her rescuing Sirius and Buckbeak, brewing a complicated potion in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom at age twelve, telling off Crabbe and Goyle for picking on Neville, and huddled with Harry in a tent…it was like watching a disjointed movie of herself. She wasn't certain what all the images had in common—they seemed to be a tangle of her academic accomplishments and moments that had, quite frankly, terrified her.
Watching the ground suddenly soar under her from the point-of-view she had while dragon-back, she blinked dizzily, and suddenly realised there were words floating at the very top of the mirror.
I show not your face but your greatest weaknesses.
Greatest weaknesses? Hermione's mouth fell open briefly, stunned. Then she realised. The words were in the glass and stationary, despite the shifting images—which meant they were being reflected from behind her! Hermione spun in place to look at the huge mirror directly opposite in the circle. Yes, there. The top of the huge gilt frame did have backward letters. Since she knew what to look for, she was able to make out the phrase clearly.
Hermione turned back to the mirror next to her and backed up a pace, tilting her chin to try to read the backward phrase on the mirror directly in front of her. It started out the same—I show not your face but your greatest…strengths. She was looking at her strengths. Hermione's eyes drifted down to the images again, this time understanding.
It wasn't showing images of her terrifying moments; it was showing her images of her facing down those terrifying moments. Her clever moments, her loyal moments and her courageous moments twined together and overlapped. It was like balm on her recently bruised ego.
An untold amount of time later—it hadn't seemed like a long time, but Hermione couldn't help but feel that it had been longer than she suspected—the words floating at the top of the reflection caught her eyes again. I show not your face but your greatest weaknesses. Hermione shivered, and pulled herself away from the mirror, shaking herself slightly. It was somewhat addicting, looking into that reflection. If she hadn't noticed the ominous inscription of the mirror behind her, she might have stayed in here, caught by the mirror for hours.
Hermione shivered again, and deliberately left the circle of huge mirrors. The point of coming in here in the first place was that she had lost her way; she still needed to find her way back to some familiar ground. Hermione surveyed the room. She supposed there could be more hidden doors like the one through which she had entered, but they would be difficult and time consuming to find, if they existed at all.
Her gaze alighted on the slowly spiraling staircase, just outside the circle of mirrors. Nowhere to go but up, it seemed. Hermione drew her wand, more out of the need for the comforting feel of having it in hand than because she actually thought there might be something dangerous. Warm, comforting spirals tingled up her forearm, and teased her senses. Feeling calmer, she skirted the edge of the mirrors, and headed for the stairs.
The spiraling stairs made her slightly dizzy, suspended as they were in mid-air without supports or railing, or anything to keep her from tumbling to the cold stone floor below. Hermione hugged the wall of the round tower, determined not to look down in the narrow spaces between the shallow steps. Logically, she knew they were not wide enough for her to actually fall through, but the glimpse of the floor in conjunction with the slowly lowering mirror frames made her swallow and focus resolutely on the steps ahead of her anyway. The room was taller than she had realised—easily twice the height of an average room; by the time she was half-way to the opening in the ceiling she had to remind herself that the mirror below her had just shown her flying on a dragon's back. Surely she could handle a silly staircase! Hermione paused, took a deep breath, and narrowed her eyes at the opening that was her goal, and continued.
She found herself in what was once someone's study or office, dust coating every surface—clearly no one had been within for years, not even the house-elves. One side of the room was arranged as a small library, with several tall aging mahogany bookcases fitting not-quite-perfectly against the curved tower wall. They were filled with old tomes, neatly stacked scrolls, and even what appeared to be cured hides. The other side held a matching writing desk, and more shelves—these built to fit under the spiraling stairs that continued around the outer perimeter of the room.
The fitted shelves broke briefly around a door, and continued until they reached the hearth directly opposite of the landing where Hermione was standing. These unusually constructed shelves were filled with a variety of objects—there was a clock, a small vanity mirror, several pieces of jewelry, a conch shell, a couple vials of liquid, and even a violin.
A small but comfortable-looking lounge with faded, sky-blue cushions stood in the centre of the room, facing the hearth, with a pretty little mahogany tea cart parked next to it. The room was as charming and oddly cluttered as the room below it had been intimidating and stark. Smiling a little, Hermione approached the nearest bookshelf, and read a few of the spines of the tomes placed there.
They all appeared to be spellbooks and grimoires-books of spells, about spells, their theory and wand movement mechanics. They all looked very old. Professor Flitwick would no doubt love to see this! Hermione reached out and stroked her fingertip along one of the spines longingly-she dare not actually remove a book to read, since there was no telling if there were any preservation spells on this small library. It was entirely possible that these tomes were fragile enough to simply disintegrate under her fingers.
Turning from the bookcases with a regretful sigh, Hermione focused her attention to the other side of the room and its various oddities. The assortment of items seemed placed at random-the shelves honestly reminded Hermione of Professor Dumbledore's office when he had been the Headmaster. They were all enchanted to some degree, she realised; there was a jade statue of a hand that was almost humming with power. Once she found her way out of here, she would definitely have to come back with Professor Flitwick; the rooms were clearly a treasure trove of spell-based magic.
Hermione eyed the stairs, slightly tempted to see what further rooms the tower had to offer, and then shook her head. The door amidst the shelving was likely her way out of the tower, and from there she would be able to figure out how to get back in again without losing her way in the dungeons. If it did turn out to be just another room or closet, then she had the excuse she needed to continue exploring.
Hermione tried the handle, and found that while it turned relatively easily, the door itself seemed to be stuck. She pulled harder, throwing more weight behind it, and with a protesting creak, the hinges finally gave and the door opened a bit. Hermione continued to tug, bracing her opposite arm against the door frame until she managed to pull the door open far enough to fit through.
She wriggled through the opening, and stumbled into the room beyond. Her movements stirred up an incongruous amount of dust; Hermione immediately doubled over, coughing, her eyes stinging and watering. The room was swelteringly hot, and was absolutely covered in a heavy layer of thick white dust that stirred every time she moved. Hermione covered her face with a hand, desperately trying to keep more dust out as she coughed, when a particularly violent sneeze nearly knocked her off balance.
Groping behind her for the door to the room she had just left, Hermione leaned against the door frame, and stared with dawning realisation. She was in the Room of Hidden Things, or what was left of it, anyway. The dust wasn't dust—it was ash. There had to be at least fifteen centemetres of it, covering the entire room! The fiendfyre had apparently burned itself out, but the room was still unnaturally warm from its effects—the walls practically radiated heat.
Hermione eyed the floor with trepidation. Every time she moved she would disturb the ash and possibly set to coughing again, she would have to step very gingerly to get to the main door and out into the seventh floor corridor.
The thought made her brows wrinkle. She had gotten lost in the dungeons, and the stairs she had taken were not nearly enough to have gotten her all the way to the seventh floor. The magic intrinsic in Hogwarts and the Room of Requirement itself must be interfering with the logic behind spatial placement, again. At some point, she really needed to find a book about how that worked.
The door to the seventh floor corridor was clearly visible half way down the wall to her left. Leaving the door to the hidden study and the Room of Reflection below it still cracked behind her, Hermione took a cautious step in the ash towards the door.
A hiss from several metres away had her freezing in place, her head jerking around to stare in surprised horror as the ash shifted, and a gray, serpentine head rose, its bright red eyes glowing at her like coals.
A/N: So, obviously I've been messing with canon again. In canon, the inscription for the Mirror of Erised is written in reverse order, but the letters are still facing forward. In The Lucky Ones, the inscriptions are truly backward-a mirror image so that they are easily read in the reflection of the mirror directly opposite.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you are continuing to enjoy-and five points to those who know what creature Hermione has just stumbled across in the Room of Requirement. ;-)