A single, soft shadow swirled in shining silver; faint as summer shade, silent as winter snow. It writhed far beneath the shimmering surface, like the glimmer of gold beneath a river’s bright ripples. A desperate need clawed its way up his throat like a fistful of razors, his heart seized beneath his ribs, and a fierce heat stung his eyes.
What is that? He tried to crush it all away into the dark and focus on the shadow, but the deeper he stared into that faint twisting shade, the further through him the storm of emotion tore. What is this feeling?
‘Back again, Harry?’ Dumbledore’s question drifted over his shoulder. ‘If you don’t mind me asking, what do you see there to bring you back night after night?’
The shadow faded into smooth, still silver. Harry tore his eyes away. ‘Nothing.’
Dumbledore stepped alongside him and rested a hand on Harry’s shoulder. ‘It doesn’t do to dwell too hard on dreams, my boy. Don’t forget to live.’
The shadow flickered through the silver, a fleeting darkness, like a wisp of cloud passing across the face of the sun.
Harry glanced up into Dumbledore’s bright, sharp, blue eyes. ‘Can’t we live our dreams, professor?’
‘It depends on the dream.’ A soft sigh escaped Dumbledore’s lips. ‘Your classmate, Miss Granger, might look into that mirror and see herself seven years older and head girl, and that wish might well come true should she continue to excel. Others may see the family we’ve lost, but no amount of hard work or brilliance will bring them back. That dream is beyond our reach. Chasing it is but a bittersweet torment.’
Perfect wishes don’t come true. A faint twinge tugged at Harry’s temples and the surface of the mirror fell still and calm as a sheet of polished steel. The echo of that fierce need tolled a soft, hollow knell in his chest. But there was something… there is something…
‘Back to bed, Harry.’ Dumbledore stooped and plucked Harry’s cloak from the floor. ‘Try not to come back here again. Some of the less wise among us have dreamt entire lives away in front of the mirror. I shall move it somewhere else soon.’
The smooth silk of the cloak pooled over Harry’s arms. ‘Sorry, professor.’
‘Even the greatest of us can be ensnared by sweet dreams, my boy.’ Dumbledore patted him upon the shoulder with one wizened hand. ‘And like a dream, when you tear your gaze from the mirror, the memory of it fades just enough to drive you to look once more. Try not to look again, Harry.’
But I have to come back. I have to know what it is. The hollow at the centre of Harry’s heart smouldered and burst into flame, and the shadow in the mirror flickered and danced as if it were cast by candlelight. I need it. Whatever that was, I need to feel it again.