"I don't get it," Harry scowled at Hermione and his other classmates as they waited in line for the ferris wheel. "Just exactly why are we here?"
"Relax, please, Harry" Hermione begged. "This could be fun."
"Fun? You call this fun?"
Hermione looks around as if to expect Draco Malfoy to transfigure; the sarcasm in Harry's tone matches that of many Slytherin cynics, and these days it was hard to tell the difference.
Harry continued to complain, all the while kicking pebbles at the nearest fence.
"There is nothing FUN about standing in a filthy Muggle amusement park when you should be at Hogsmeade."
Parvati and her friends giggled, and Hermione's glare put them back into place. Harry knew they were snickering about him because his attitude "needed a little adjustment" as McGonagall so loudly announced at the last common room gathering for sixth year students.
"Look, I'm not much for heights--I'll meet you at the gate during roll call," Harry stuffed his hands in his pockets and rudely broke through Parvati's little gathering of gossips on his way toward the funhouse.
"Where are you going?" Hermione yelled, hoping he would at least turn back so she could catch up.
Harry shuffled through painted children, clowns with demonic grins, midgets who teetered back and forth as they stared at his scar. Yes, what a brilliant idea, Dumbledore, he grimaced inwardly. Their headmaster had always found ways to entertain his students when all other safety measures prevented true fun in the dark world of Voldemort.
The young Gryffindor climbed the steps to the funhouse, hoping against hope that a mirror of Erised would materialize after five years of withdrawal. After all, when you didn't have family reunions, you took what you could get.
He stood alone at the top of the stares, confronting the mirrors, row after row, a hero's pose or a challenge to inanimate objects who refused to stare back. The only thing that stared back was his own reflection.
The first mirror made his face long and gaunt, drawing out every stress line to its final tributary among black tousled hair. The next mirror found him as small as the carnival midgets, only much more frightening with a lightning bolt that stretched across his forehead like a mark from a botched lobotomy lesson.
The third mirror was simply empty. Like a mirror reflecting a vampire, its contents showed no signs that Harry existed. It was a metal reflection of emptiness, staring coldly out in the November night at him, all smoke, no substance.
A hand caught him on the shoulder. "Potter."
"Professor." The tone was acerbic, but it did not rise or show signs of animation. It merely accepted the inevitable. A nemesis can smell his foe from rides away, even in muggle territory.
"You have yet to find your place in this circus, I see. You've moped for two hours straight."
"Yes sir. And I'd like to do it alone." Harry moved away from Snape, hoping the fourth mirror would yield more interesting surprises. He frowned.
The fourth mirror was empty, too.
The potions master seemed like a shadow that lengthened as it followed his steps across the room. "I've bewitched the mirrors, Potter. You'll find no answers here."
Harry could feel the slow burn of hate coming back, and at least he was alive for now rather than a mindless corpse following his buddies into dirty carnival seats.
"I suppose you think I'm vain enough, right Snape? No mirrors for the Boy Who Lived."
Snape chuckled. "If only it were that easy."
"Yes, if only..." Harry trailed off, losing the insult that had flickered for just a moment and then vanished in his stupidity.
"Try this one, perhaps." Snape's hand gestured toward a mirror in the far corner, his face playing with a small smile that was mocking but encouraging.
"I don't have time for games right now." But when Harry walked away, he stepped toward the corner rather than the exit.
He stood quietly, waiting for the smoke to rise. And when it did, two figures materialized, one towering above the other, holding the chin of a kneeled boy...a boy who was Harry. The taller figure, Lord Voldemort? Harry wasn't sure.
"You hold control so tightly. You can't win," Snape said softly, his hand once again on Harry's shoulder.
"The prophecy says..."
"The prophecy will come true, Harry. But you will be the one who loses. I have foreseen it."
Harry shook his head. "I won't bow to him. I'll never bow to him. I'm not like you."
"You are more like me than you will ever know." The hand moved closer to his neck, caressing the nape there, holding him fast before he could flee in typical teenage anger.
"What the hell do you want from me?"
Snape urged him toward the mirror, its contents becoming more lucid as mist seemed to swirl around the figures within.
As Harry stared, a man with dark hair and penetrating eyes became clear, and he wasn't Voldemort. He wasn't MacNair. He wasn't Lucius.
It was Snape.
Standing above Harry, with a smile of triumph as he cupped the boy's head toward him, holding him prisoner with his glare.
Harry would have laughed had the image not been so sinister. "I always knew you had to dominate me; you do it in class every day for six years, why not now when I'm on death row? You love to see me in pain. And this mirror is just more evidence--"
Snape twisted Harry around to face him, clutching his shoulders much tighter than needed, staring down at him with muscles taut and eyes on fire.
Harry stopped breathing. The man in the mirror was alive, holding him prisoner, forcing him to his knees in submission, and there was nothing he could do. He felt his legs buckle, he felt the cheap carpet beneath his knees.
"Let me go, damn you!"
"Not until you hear me out."
"Go to hell!"
"You're already there, Mr. Potter. I offer you Purgatory instead." And with one swift movement, Harry was jerked toward the man's body, his chin held defiantly in one grip as he fought to break free.
Strong hands pulled him back to his feet, had him under the arms, and the mirror was grey again, all swirls, and Snape's face was only inches from his own, making the carnival music recede, making the funhouse disappear as he breathed on Harry's lips a secret.
"I will be the one who kills you, or I will be the one to sacrifice my life for you. And since the choice is mine, I will take what I like without asking."
His lips bore down on Harry's, and the young man whimpered, clawing his hands against biceps, against a wall of strength he never knew Snape had. His mouth filled with mint, with camphor, with all things wrong and right and part of this war.
He tore his mouth away, breathing heavily and gazing into a mirror which held nothing now except the truth.
Two men, in each others arms, waiting for death.
Harry fell back, staggering against the wall. "You're lying," he choaked.
Professor Snape only lifted his hands, a grotesque parody of theater of the absurd, a clown without a costume. "I guess we'll wait and see."
And when Snape turned back to the mirrors, they all held his reflection, a tall, domineering man, marked for a redemption he did not seek. "These mirrors remind me, Potter, that even the greatest wizards offer false hope. Even Dumbledore cannot offer a new beginning without your blood on my hands."
"So you hate him, too?" Harry now let the bitter laughter in his soul flood out and echo off the metal on the walls.
Snape only moved closer again, and let his fingers fall on Harry's cheek, a mockery of a fatherly caress. "I hate you more," he purred.
"And here it is, and the reflection is the same for both of us," Harry whispered, fury constricting his vocal cords and making him hoarse. "Only you would make it my fault. I never asked for this."
"Shhh." Snape's fingers descended on his neck, more threat than caress now, only the mirrors were brightening again, and the spell had lifted.
Harry turned and ran from the funhouse, from the hate he felt toward Snape, toward Voldemort, toward the universe at large.
It was only after he left that the reflections shown their brightest.