The Sugar Quill
Author: Stellar Hawk  Story: What I've Tasted of Erised  Chapter: Default
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What I’ve Tasted Of Erised…

What I’ve Tasted Of Erised

 

Some say the world will end in fire

Some say in ice

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire

 

But if it had to perish twice

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice

 

 

Severus Snape was not sure what had suddenly brought the words of the famous Robert Frost poem to mind. Perhaps it was the last faint warning of a long-dead conscience. Perhaps it was the fact that his life had always been a clash of elements—a battle for supremacy between fire and ice. It was not that Snape did not know what it was he desired, oh no, that was not the cause of his fury and frustration. Most assuredly not! It was the galling fact, the cruel irony of his life, that everything, everything he had ever wanted or desired had the singularly damnable habit of slipping through his fingers just when he thought the object of his pursuit well within his grasp…

 

But not this time. Not. This. Time.

 

Soon the Sorcerer’s Stone would be his, and with it an endless supply of the Elixir of Life, not to mention all the gold he could ever wish for. An infinite supply of money along with an infinite lifetime in which to spend it…what more could a wizard wish for?

 

Snape reflected for a moment. Infinite power, of course. That would be the ultimate dream-come-true. Then Snape would serve no one else but himself. No more Dumbledore. No more obligations. No more rules and restraints. Nothing between himself and…and what? After omnipotence, what more could one wish for?

 

Why, vengeance of course.

 

But vengeance on whom? James Potter was dead. Sirius Black was serving a life sentence in Azkaban, which was nearly the same thing. Peter Pettigrew was confined to his animal form for the rest of his life, bound to do whatever Snape told him to do…lest Snape let it slip to certain ears that a certain spineless traitor had only faked his grisly demise. And Remus Lupin…suffered from an excruciatingly painful, incurable malady. Voldemort perhaps? Yes, His Lordship had been most cruel to his servants, had treated most abominably those who had unwisely placed their trust in him. Indeed, Snape had good cause to hate his former master. But the Dark Lord had lost almost all of his former power and now clung to life as a parasite, a mere shadow, an almost laughable echo of his once-matchless might and terror. What fate could be worse for the vain, power-loving, self-absorbed, self-styled Dark Lord than that?

 

Who else was left whom Snape detested enough to enjoy punishing?

 

Who else, but Harry Potter, the child of his hated enemy James. Harry Potter…The Boy Who Lived. The spoiled, thankless eleven-year-old whelp could hardly know, alas, what the purchase of his life had cost others in tears and sleepless nights. He could never know the depths of grief into which the miracle of his survival had plunged others. Not even if Snape had an infinite amount of time in which to instruct the child…not even then would the boy understand.

 

Snape shook his head as if to clear it, and mentally drug himself back into the present. No sense wallowing in past miseries, he scolded himself. Regret was unproductive. The key to the Sorcerer’s Stone awaited him on the off-limits third-floor wing!

 

Snape briskly ascended the steps, his pace as quick and as silent as a shadow’s. The Potions master knew how to walk like a cat when he wished; the Marauders had long ago taught him the value of stealth. Hogwarts was full of bad memories. Seven years and dozens of bitter enemies—some of whom had been in his own house until the war had begun—made for a great many reasons to keep his thoughts grounded in the present.

 

Oh, it was not that the halls and stairs and rooms did not hold the same humiliating, painful, depressing memories, no. The memories remained, like dagger-sharp crystallized tears…but now they were bottled, and labeled, and stored, and lined up in neat rows like the bottles of his potions ingredients on the shelves in his dungeon domain. Everything had its use, and everything had its place…even grief. For the most valuable lesson Snape had ever learned was the lesson so many of his students seemed too lazy or too small-minded to grasp these days.

 

Mastery.

 

Snape could take any bottle he wished at any time, remove the stopper, pour out the contents, and bottle it back up again when it had accomplished its purpose. Lies dripped from his tongue like honey, and for the most part were lapped up eagerly. He could glide into a room full of people, unnoticed, as invisible as if he wore a cloak of demiguise hair. Or he could charge into a classroom like a raging black funnel-cloud and send disruptive students scurrying for cover. He could change personalities and camouflage himself like a chameleon, or like a Boggart, he could take whatever form his adversary most feared.

 

Mastery.

 

Snape always used to be at the mercy of others, and they had shown little of it indeed. And that was all well and good, for it had made him stronger, and had taught him the weakness and uselessness of the foolish concept of mercy. To have mercy on an enemy was to grant him another chance to destroy you with the next blow. And Snape had learned a little more with each defeat, had risen again a little stronger for each time that he had been struck down. It had not taken Voldemort’s instruction to show him the true measure of things. No, life itself had been his greatest teacher. He did, however, have to admit that it was Voldemort who had taught him the secrets of power and control over enemies, emotions, thoughts, minds, indeed, to be master of all he surveyed. Vengeance, Voldemort had promised, and peace, security, satisfaction. Indeed, all of the things Dumbledore claimed to offer, but had not the will to enforce. These things Voldemort had understood, and for a while Voldemort had had the will and the power to make them happen.

 

But something had gone wrong with His Lordship’s great ambition. Something had caused him to lose control. Perhaps, Snape reflected soberly, the Dark Lord had shared his insights about power and the secrets of life a little too freely. Perhaps this was why he became paranoid, and why he felt it necessary to begin punishing his servants so harshly. Snape decided that if he were to ever become as powerful as Lord Voldemort, he would certainly keep his secrets to himself. No one, not even his own reflection in the mirror would ever be allowed to know his thoughts. Yes, Snape thought, if he were ever to have the kind of power that the Dark Lord had once had, he would certainly wield it more wisely…

    

Mastery, Snape thought again with a serpentine smirk. Yes, that was the secret of life. He had mastered himself, and he had mastered his enemies, and someday, maybe he would even master Hogwarts as well. Omnipotence… Snape reflected. Who knew but that with an infinite amount of time to devote to his craft and to his studies he might master…everything?

 

But first the Stone, without which all other ambitions were moot.

 

Snape reached the top of the stairwell, rounded the corner, and traversed the off-limits corridor where the staggered stone pillars sprang to life with flame at his passing. Somewhere around here…

 

Snape paused, wondering which storage room off this hallway housed the object of his search. Dumbledore hadn’t said specifically where the mirror was stored, and Quirrell hadn’t had a chance to look. Or so the cowardly fool had said. Snape suspected that Quirrell was only stalling again, due to the fact that he was afraid to go through with the plot. Snape tsked irritably as he headed for the nearest door. If only he could do it all himself! He hated having to rely on that bumbling idiot for help. But Snape knew that successfully stealing the stone would require at least two people.

 

The door was unlocked, and the knob turned easily in Snape’s hand. Potter must have forgotten to lock it behind him when he left the last time. Perhaps that was how Dumbledore knew the boy had been sneaking in here after curfew. Or perhaps…was it possible? That the door had been left unlocked for another reason?

 

Snape pushed the door open, stepped into the dusty, moonlit, cobweb-bedecked room and looked around. The room was empty.

 

Except for the mirror.

 

And the memories.

 

This room…

 

Snape froze beside the door with his right hand still on the doorknob. This room he remembered quite well…

 

There had been drop-cloth covered chairs and desks in this room once. Bookshelves, filing cabinets, unused textbooks, extra rolls of parchment. Unused torches, candle stands, and oil lamps stood like silent sentries, ghostlike in the shafts of moonlight streaming in through the mullioned windows. The floor had been coated with dust then as well, but the dust had been disturbed by three sets of footprints leading into the room. Had Snape been a little more observant of his surroundings back then, he would have known better than to walk into this room alone…

 

“Expelliarmus!” Sirius shouted, leaping out from behind one of the support pillars.

 

“Prote….” Too late. The Shield Charm failed as the wand flew out of Snape’s hand and landed several feet away.

 

Ambush! Snape felt a thrill of panic run though his veins as he dove for the wand.

 

“Petrificus Totalis!” James shouted, leaping out from behind a filing cabinet. Peter removed a drop cloth from over his head (thus putting to an end his rather unconvincing impersonation of an unused piece of furniture), and raised his wand threateningly.

 

James’ aim was flawless as always. Snape went as stiff as a board in mid-air and hit the floor with a resounding thump, his wand-hand stretched out before him, a taunting half-meter away from its goal.

 

“Gotcha, Snivelly!” James crowed, laughing maliciously.

 

Peter snickered. “Nice one, James. Nice one!”

 

James took a deep, exaggerated bow while Sirius stalked over and grabbed Snape’s wand. “What an idiot!” Sirius remarked, handing the wand to James.

 

Snape was not sure whether the comment was directed at him or James’ simpering sycophant.

 

“See, I knew he’d fall for it,” said James. “He just can’t resist sticking his big nose into other peoples’ business.”

 

“I think we ought to put the Cruciatus Curse on him, and see how he likes the taste of his own potions,” Sirius remarked, while Peter snickered nastily, and James and Snape glared at each other.

 

James turned his glare toward Sirius. “No, Padfoot,” he said sternly. “We’re not stooping to his level.”

 

Snape very much thought that they already had, but was not exactly in a position to say so.

 

“C’mon, Prongs,” Sirius wheedled. “It’s not like anyone is going to find out about it or anything.”

 

“It’s not that,” James argued. “It’s the principle.”

 

“So who cares about principle? It’s only Snape we’re talking about.”

 

“We’re not using the Cruciatus Curse, and that’s final.”

 

“You’re starting to sound just like Perfect Prefect Moony, do you know that, Prongs?”

 

“Oh don’t even start that again, Sirius, I’m getting very tired of hearing…”

 

Snape twitched his fingers while the two continued to argue. The Binding Spell was beginning to wear off.

 

“Um…James…” Peter interrupted, pointing at Snape.

 

But James and Sirius waited a little too long to pay attention to the warning.

 

Snape stealthily drew his legs up under himself, and then rather clumsily launched himself at James.

 

Prongs tried to jump out of the way, but reacted a split second too late. Snape tackled his legs, and James toppled like cut timber. Peter watched as James and Snape grappled fiercely on the floor. Sirius tried to get a bead on Snape with his wand, but was reluctant to cast anything for fear of hitting James.

 

After a moment, Sirius threw up his hands in exasperation and then put away his wand. He turned to Peter and pushed up his sleeves. “Okay, if you get a chance, hit Snape with whatever hex you want. If not, then just keep standing there like a bump on a Clabbert like you always do while I take care of this…”

    

Snape supposed that if Lily Evans hadn’t gone looking for James that night, the Marauders would have beat him to a bloody pulp. Lily had always seemed to have the most extraordinary sense of timing, always showing up to save the day. Although, in that case, said rescue also involved the grizzled old caretaker Filch, and two weeks’ worth of detentions for all parties involved in the fight…

 

Yes, Lily had always had good timing, except, of course, for the one time when it really mattered.

 

She shouldn’t have died that night. She shouldn’t even have been there! Snape had arranged things so carefully…but nothing had gone according to his plans.

 

The Potions master sighed softly, his hand slipped off the doorknob, and he walked over to the object of his search. In the light filtering in through the mullioned windows, Snape could see many sets of footprints on the floor where someone, or more likely several someones, had come and gone to sit or to stand and peer into the Mirror of Erised. This, Dumbledore had said at the meeting, would be the last obstacle, the final layer of defense around the Sorcerer’s Stone. And now that Harry Potter had had a chance to study the Mirror of Erised, it was time to move the mirror to its new home.

 

And that meant that Snape only had a limited amount of time in which to study the Mirror himself, to figure out its purpose, and to ponder Dumbledore’s intent for it. One night only to gaze into the mirror, to understand its secret, and to pass that secret along to Quirrell, his pawn.

 

Snape looked into the mirror and saw…

 

Only himself, black-robed, black-haired, pale-faced, glittery-eyed with ambition, determination…and hatred. Snape watched the corners of his thin lips curl into a small smug smile of satisfaction. “We may not be much to look at, you and I,” he remarked drily to his reflection, “but here we are. We have survived. We have fought, scratched and struggled, and we have survived. Maybe even we will win. Maybe someday, we will have it all our way.”

 

But as Snape spoke, a fog rolled over the surface of the mirror, and his shadow-self vanished and was replaced by…

 

A room. An office. A very fine, impressive-looking office with a large imposing ebony desk and tall, mullioned windows (which, by the way, had heavy curtains drawn over them), and several dozen portrait paintings whose occupants were slumbering within their frames. This, then, was the Hogwarts Headmaster’s office, Snape realized, but it was not Dumbledore’s office. For the room was no longer warm, peaceful, and inviting. Instead it seemed cold, austere, oppressive. The glittering silver telescopes and gyroscopes and other mysterious instruments and personal objects which Snape had become accustomed to seeing in this room, were conspicuously absent. So too was Fawkes the phoenix. Indeed, even some of the occupants of the paintings had changed…no…wait, the paintings had been rearranged to make room for a new addition. Albus Dumbledore himself! So, whose office is this, now, Snape wondered?

 

As if in answer to his question, Snape’s view of the room changed, and he was now facing the desk, looking over it at the new master of this room. Himself. Almost as if to confirm the matter, Snape watched his other self remove a small cloth from a drawer in the desk and use it to polish a large, ostentatious brass nameplate which read Severus S. Snape, Headmaster.

 

Snape’s lips curled into a gleeful grin. “I like this mirror,” he murmured to himself. “What a shame Dumbledore has been keeping it hidden away. I could do with one of these in my current office.”

 

Headmaster Snape finished polishing his nameplate and put away the cloth, then withdrew another object from the desk and began toying with it, turning it this way and that in the light from the candle stands and admiring it.

 

Snape gaped at his reflection in surprise. It was the Sorcerer’s Stone!

 

The headmaster soon grew weary of playing with his most prized possession. So he opened a desk drawer, then opened a secret compartment inside the drawer, and shoved the stone inside. He closed the drawer with a bang and reached for a fine raven-feather quill, then jotted a quick note to himself on his desk calendar. In the Friday, May 13th block he wrote: Make more Elixir. The year on the calendar, Snape was astonished to note, was 2051. And his other self looked as though he hadn’t aged a single day in sixty years!

 

Snape watched as his counterpart pawed through various enrollment and disciplinary forms, consulted several appointment books and notes on his calendar, quilled several boring correspondences, yawned, got up from the desk and ambled over to the unlit fireplace where a great black cauldron sat empty, looking alone and forlorn. Headmaster Snape gazed longingly at the cauldron for a moment, then turned his eyes toward a row of bottles and canning jars on a cabinet on the right side of the room. Most of the jars were coated with dust, the lids were rusty, and the contents were impossible to see through milky glass. Some looked as if they hadn’t been touched in over sixty years, but this did not seem to discourage the gloomy headmaster from walking over to them and studying them with cold, glittery eyes.

 

Snape half-expected himself to retrieve several of the jars and carry them over to the cauldron to make one or another of his favorite concoctions. Yet, as he took a closer look over his counterpart’s shoulder and read the labels on the jars, he realized the impossibility of doing just that. For the labels contained not the expected names of potion ingredients. Instead they read: James Potter – 1981. Sirius Black – 1996. Remus Lupin – 1997. Peter Pettigrew - 1997. Igor Karkaroff – 1996. Alastor Moody – 1997. Albus Dumbledore – 1996. And there were others, many others. Some names Snape recognized, some he did not. But of all the ones he recognized, all of them had one thing in common. They were all people whom Snape had, at one time or another, hated enough to kill. And perhaps, had circumstances been favorable, he would have arranged for their demise.

 

So… the observer wondered silently, is this my future, or only a possible future?

 

The headmaster stared reflectively at his collection for several moments, and laid a hand on one of the jars as if to pick it up. Then he changed his mind, turned on his heel, and strode back to his massive ebony desk. He seated himself in his sleek, functional chair (Snape decided that Dumbledore’s favorite purple chintz would definitely be the first thing to go if he ever did get the headmastership), leaned back, put his hands behind his head, and laced his fingers.

 

I wonder what I’m thinking about? Snape thought, watching himself savoring…or at least trying to savor his victory. Snape thought as he watched that he looked rather bored, restless, dissatisfied. There’s something missing from this scene, he realized.

 

And as if in answer to his thoughts, his other self sat up suddenly and soundlessly invited someone into his domain. That someone was Harry Potter, a full-grown, gray-haired, seventy-year-old Harry Potter. Of course, Snape thought, his eyes narrowing with hatred. The one name that ought to have been among his collection of grudges…

 

Harry Potter shuffled in slowly, head down, looking very much like a whipped house-elf. He did not once raise his eyes as he knelt on the floor before the desk. Snape chuckled to himself with amusement, and thought that the mirror had now moved out of the realm of possibility and into pure fantasy. Nevertheless, he was enjoying the ride.

 

Meanwhile the headmaster got up from his desk, spoke soundlessly, and raised a commanding hand. Harry obediently got to his feet, accepted several papers which Snape carelessly handed him, then turned and left without the slightest hint of defiance or resentment. The headmaster stared at the door for several long moments after Potter left, and as Snape watched himself, he thought it strange that his other self should look so unhappy.

 

There’s something very wrong with this picture, Snape realized. But what is it?

 

Snape’s counterpart started to return to his desk, then changed his mind and strode over to the window. He put a hand to the curtain as if to pull it back and flood the room with light, then changed his mind again, and his hand fell away from the curtain. Instead, the headmaster again turned his attention toward the doorway to invite another visitor. Snape wondered who was going to walk into his office this time, and gasped in shock when he saw…

 

Lily Evans, just as she had looked in 1981—the last time Snape had seen her alive.

 

Snape’s counterpart recoiled as if he had just taken a sucker-punch to the gut. He threw up a pale spider-like hand and stumbled backward several steps until he came up against his massive desk and could retreat no further.

 

Lily stared at Snape’s other self accusingly for a brief moment, then stalked over to the canning jars and carefully inspected them. The Snape who was observing did not need to see the label in order to know which one she picked up and clasped to her breast while tears streaked down her cheeks.

 

“Lily Evans…” Snape whispered softly, feeling his breath catch in his throat. He could never think of her as Lily Potter. Never…

 

Lily put the jar back in its place and turned her attention not to the headmaster—who had by now recovered his poise but seemed to have lost the ability to command his tongue—but to the melancholy observer on the other side of the glass.

 

“I know what you did,” she said soundlessly. Or was it, “I know what you want?”

 

And with those words fog rolled again across the surface of the glass, and the Hogwarts Headmaster’s office disappeared and was replaced by a blasted, blackened shell of a house in Godric’s Hollow, where only moments before an immaculate, detached wizarding residence had stood, proud and defiant against the darkness of the night sky.

 

“No…” Snape whispered. “Not again. I can’t bear to watch this again…” but in spite of his words, Snape could not seem to tear himself away from the hateful mirror. With sick fascination he watched as one of the Death Eaters standing guard around the perimeter drew his wand, aimed it at the sky…

    

“Morsmordre!” thundered a voice, and the entire neighborhood became bathed in a sickly greenish light as the Dark Mark sprang from the wand and soared into the sky, almost instantly growing to the size and impending menace of an anvil-topped cumulonimbus cloud.

 

Voldemort did not return from the wreckage for several minutes. The hand-picked Death Eater escort that stood guard around the house in order to prevent anyone inside from escaping, began to shift restlessly from one foot to the other and to mutter impatiently. Finally one of the Death Eaters said to the others close to him, “Stay here, and keep watch. I will go see what is keeping His Lordship.”

 

Snape broke away from the ring of evil around the house and strode into the ruins through a front door that had been torn off its hinges, into a burned-out shell of charred timber, of scorched plaster and paint, into the smoking debris of human habitation. The smell was almost overwhelming. The Dark Mark gave everything a dim, noxious, greenish cast, but had little power to penetrate the haze and gloom which gradually engulfed Snape as he vanished into the wreckage.

 

Snape resolutely lit his wand and held it before him like a torch as he searched…a growing panic gnawing at the corners of his mind. Three people had been inside the house when Peter Pettigrew had opened the door to the Dark Lord and then fled in abject terror. There had been screams, shouts, crying, and sounds of battle. Then a flash of brilliant green light—that was the signal to unfurl the Dark Lord’s banner across the sky—then a second flash, then a third, coupled with a tremendous explosion. And then…a profound silence. No sign of the Dark Lord’s exit from the house. No distinctive crack of apparition. No sign, nor sound of any survivors. No attempt by any of the victims to escape the house that had become a deathtrap…

 

She couldn’t be dead! No, he would not believe it! Surely she had received his warning in time and had taken it seriously!

 

But how else to account for the third flash of light?

 

Unless…but no…the Dark Lord was invincible.

 

And yet…His Lordship had never tarried this long at the scene of an execution before…

 

Snape carefully ascended a charred, crumbling staircase, leaping over several steps that had been blasted away altogether during the duel. The walls bore numerous patches of blistered paint and scorched wallpaper. Shards of glass from shattered picture frames sparkled on the stairs and on the floor below. No doubt Potter had fought bravely, if vainly. For the outcome of this desperate struggle had been determined from the moment Lord Voldemort had crossed the threshold of the Potters’ home.

 

The house creaked and groaned around him, threatening to collapse at any moment as he reached the top of the stairs and turned left. Snape passed a closet and a bathroom before coming to an open doorway. The door was lying flat on the floor inside the room, having been blown off its hinges by the Dark Lord’s wand.

 

Snape stepped over the door and entered the room.

 

“Lumos Maxima!” Snape whispered, and the glow of his wand intensified and filled the room with light.

 

Surprisingly, although this was where the final confrontation and the explosion seemed to have occurred, the child’s room had taken almost no damage, as opposed to the rest of the house. Then again, the Potters would have put the strongest charms and defenses on this room in order to protect their son…as though it were possible to protect anyone from the Dark Lord’s wrath.

 

Snape looked over at the crib…and felt a lump form in his throat.

 

There at the foot of the child’s crib, Lily lay on her side in a crumpled, lifeless heap. Her hair was half covering her lovely face like an auburn curtain. Her emerald eyes were still open, but there was no light in them. With agonizing slowness, Snape knelt down, brushed the hair back with a black-gloved hand, and closed the lids of her lifeless eyes. As he did so, a tear slid out of one eye and ran down his right cheek.

 

“Why?” he whispered. “Why didn’t you flee when I warned you? Why did you stay to face an enemy you could not defeat?”

 

Off in distance there came the rapidly approaching roar of a motorcycle…a flying motorcycle, to be precise.

 

“Sirius Black!” Snape hissed, standing swiftly. Outside the window came cries of, “The Aurors are coming!” and, “Where is the Dark Lord?” and, “Let his Lordship take care of himself! Run for it!”

 

Snape glanced toward the window then turned his gaze toward the crib, where he fully expected to see the victim of the third flash of green light.

 

The child was still alive, and silently staring at him in wide-eyed innocence…with his mother’s eyes. On the boy’s forehead a lightning-shaped mark glowed with a greenish hue. Lily had died to defend her son…and Snape had heard that such self-sacrifice was the most powerful magic in existence. Perhaps even more powerful than all the Dark Lord’s rage. Could it be that Voldemort’s curse had backfired, had rebounded on its caster and left its target virtually unharmed?

 

Snape stared back at the infant boy with pure loathing. “You’re not worth it, you little beast!” he hissed venomously. He raised his wand threateningly, and Baby Potter started to cry. “I ought to kill you. Oh, how I would love to finish the Dark Lord’s work! But…you are protected now in a way that you do not have the capacity to understand. Indeed… I wonder. I wonder if you will ever understand. I hate you, Harry Potter. I hate you more than I have ever hated anything in my life! I hate you…

 

Because of what you have cost me. And because I cannot kill you.

 

Even if you did not bear that scar…I could not kill you. Because you were hers. And because…

 

You should have been mine.

 

In the mirror, Snape watched himself go into the house all over again, and watched himself leave all over again. And a different man left the house than the one who had entered it…a bleaker, angrier, harder man. A man who had been determined to take what was not his, and in consequence had lost the only thing that had ever truly mattered to him.

 

But the Mirror of Erised showed things not as they had happened, but as its observer wished they had happened.

 

Snape left the house unobserved, for the Death Eaters had fled in fear when it became clear to them that their master had abandoned them. He watched from the shadows as Hagrid ran full-tilt up the street and plunged into the house through the gaping front entrance. A moment later, Sirius landed his motorcycle and disappeared into the house as well. A few agonizing moments passed. Then Hagrid left on foot, empty-handed and crying. Sirius left in a towering rage, mounted his motorcycle, and tore off into the night, hell-bent on revenge at any cost.

 

As Sirius flew away, Lily came out of hiding and ran to Snape, burying her face in his black robe and soaking his Death Eater uniform with tears. Snape clasped the love of his life to himself with one hand and took off his white mask with the other, but the tears in his eyes were not tears of sorrow for James Potter or for the boy who would not have lived in this scenario. No, they were tears of joy…of victory.

 

If only…

 

If only she had chosen differently.

 

And the fog rolled over the surface of the mirror once again, and the house went away, and the night went away…and there was only a life-sized reflection of Lily facing him. Lily Evans in 1981—beautiful, sophisticated, clever, compassionate, vibrant, eternally young…the way he would always remember her. Snape longingly raised a hand and pressed it to the surface of the glass, wishing with all his heart that he could go right on through to the other side, into the world where desires took form. Oh, why could he not cross that hateful plane of glass?

 

Lily reached a hand up, palm forward, and seemed to rest it flat against her side of the glass. “I know why you used Peter and your master. I know why you did it, Severus.”

 

Her eyes were filled with a terrible sadness, and her lips moved and formed the words, “I forgive you anyway, even if you don’t deserve it.”

 

Snape’s lips parted in shock, his hand fell away from the glass, and he stepped back. “No…” he whispered. “That’s not what I want!”

 

“No!” he shouted.

 

But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate…

 

Snarling in anger, Snape drew his obsidian wand from the folds of his robe, trained it on the mirror like an artillery man targeting an enemy fortification. Blind rage welled up in him like a volcanic eruption; wrath flexed its muscles and snapped its bonds like a djiin bursting forth from a bottle at its master’s summons. “Reducto!” Snape thundered, breathing fury…

 

And the mirror shattered as the spell hit with the force of a mortar blast. Shards flew everywhere, littering the floor with a million tiny slivers of reflected darkness. Snape curled a lip in self-satisfied triumph, pocketed the wand in one smooth motion, then pushed his oily black hair out of his face with a steadier hand than he had expected.

 

Desire was dangerous, Snape reminded himself with an irritated sniff. It was the one thing that never seemed content to stay in its bottle, in its proper place on the shelf in his office. Therefore, it was better to destroy it than to be destroyed by it.

 

To say that for destruction, ice…

 

Farewell fire, thought Snape. I will not miss you. You never gave me anything but disappointment anyway.

 

“Severus?” Dumbledore queried anxiously, striding into the storage room with a swift, worry-driven stride that belied his age.

 

“Ah, my sincere apologies, Headmaster,” Snape said coolly in a voice that was not quite his. “I am afraid that I have accidentally damaged your mirror while attempting to move it to the secret chamber…as per your orders.”

 

Dumbledore studied the Potions master for a moment with a piercing look and stroked his white-whiskered chin. “I gave no such orders, nor did I ever imply that anyone was to attempt to move the Mirror of Erised. As I distinctly recall at the meeting earlier this evening, I said that I would be tending to this matter myself.” The headmaster’s light blue eyes hardened with suspicion and the confirmation of suspicion as he continued. “Destroying this mirror serves no purpose but to further the work of the Enemy.”

 

“That mirror was a torment and a cruel lie to all who ever looked into it, for it has only ever shown that which we cannot have…and reminded us of all that we have lost in vain pursuit of unattainable wishes…”

 

“If you had only listened to my instructions, you would not have felt the need to destroy the mirror. Indeed, you would have found it a joy instead of a torment,” the elder wizard replied mildly, but his eyes lost none of their intensity.

 

“Oh, iss that ssso?” Snape sneered with a sinister, menacing hiss in his voice. “Then why is it that you could not bear to look into the mirror yourself?”

 

“I have looked, and I have borne it,” Albus replied softly, and just for a moment his eyes lost their sternness and reflected only a deep sadness. “Indeed,” the headmaster continued, “I have borne more than you will ever know. More than you will ever have the capacity to understand.”

 

Ice… is also great and would suffice.

 

“I find that hard to believe,” Snape retorted nastily. “Well, it is no longer a matter worthy of reflection, now, is it?” And he walked out of the room chuckling to himself.

 

Dumbledore watched Snape’s retreating dark form and sighed sadly as he drew his wand. “Reparo!” he commanded calmly, and the mirror was magically, immediately mended.

 

“Even after all that you have witnessed, are you still so blind?” he queried softly toward the doorway. “You will face this mirror again before the end. And I hope that your response will be more enlightened the next time. For it will be your last chance…and Harry’s as well.”

 

And he raised his eyes and looked into the mirror of his desires, and he saw that Harry and Severus were standing beside him in the white halo of his aura, and they were shaking hands and smiling. And behind them, there stood thousands and thousands of wizards, Muggles, and magical beings from every age, and nation, and language, and race. And there was no Darkness among them, nor sorrow, nor anger, but only joy and love and unity in the light. And among the multitudes were all those who had ever been taken by the Enemy: Grindelwald, Mordred, Caliban, Rasputin, Riddle, giants, goblins, hags, vampires, centaurs…as far as the eye could see.

 

And he turned away with tears in his eyes and thought of what he’d told Harry Potter…and so many others who had asked. They didn’t understand. None of them understood—not the ones who asked. And how could they?

 

Unless they saw it for themselves…  

 

//
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