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Then Shall I Know by darsynia
Chapter 3 : Through the Looking Glass
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 8

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Children three that nestle near, eager eye and willing ear
Pleased a simple tale to hear—long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die: autumn frosts have slain July.
-Epilogue to 'Through the Looking Glass' by Lewis Carroll

Chapter Three: Through the Looking Glass

The halls were mostly empty as she levitated her trunk beside her on the way to Dumbledore’s office an hour or so later. She was still a bit early, and thus hadn’t bothered to call up to Harry or Ron, as both of them always postponed their packing until the very last minute. Ginny wasn’t in Gryffindor tower, either, but when she’d checked, Hermione had found that her friend had her travel things lined up on her bed, ready to go. At least Mrs. Weasley’s constant pestering of her children had had an effect on one of them. Two, if you counted Percy.

The thought of the Weasleys' estranged son made her sigh. As practical as she was, Hermione secretly hated change. She guessed it was childish of her to wish that everyone around her could stay the same as she grew up—but then, where would one draw the line? She’d been happy enough in second year—until she’d been petrified, that was—but pause time there, and they’d never have the pleasure of Professor Lupin as their DADA teacher. She’d loved finding out how she’d done on her O.W.L.s…but that had been after Sirius had fallen through the veil. She was well pleased at having been chosen as Head Girl, but what if something happened next month that she’d have been ecstatic about, if only she hadn’t tried to freeze everything just the way it was…

Hermione decided that she wasn’t very good at being fanciful. Understanding this the very moment she arrived at Dumbledore’s office struck her as fairly ironic, considering their Headmaster’s disposition. Stacking her luggage against the wall nearby, she turned to search for a comfortable chair in which to wait for the others, only to find that the stairway leading up to the office was accessible. She looked around, but Professor Dumbledore was nowhere to be seen; there wasn’t anyone anywhere in sight. Harry’s tales of what he had seen in the office came back to her, along with a very unusual desire to go exploring. Hermione tried to brush it off, and settled herself on a bench facing the stairs, expecting at any moment to see the stone gargoyle that normally guarded it curve into view, blocking the path to the office.

The longer she sat there, the more curious she became. It made her think of Alice in Wonderland, and the consequences of snooping around where one didn’t belong. Each time she felt the urge to stand up and investigate the stairway and what lay beyond it, she countered herself by trying to remember all the horrible things that had happened to Alice. The problem was, as the minutes ticked away, she started thinking more about the girl’s adventures than her brushes with danger. Her father had read Lewis Carroll to her as a child—much to her mother’s disapproval; her mother disliked the author’s morbid sense of humor. She’d loved Through the Looking Glass, and been reminded of it greatly when she, Ron, and Harry had played full-sized Wizard’s Chess during their first year.

When she had been younger—before she’d made the wonderful discovery that not only was magic real, but she, Hermione Granger, was uncommonly talented at it—she used to imagine what sort of world she would find, if she, like Alice, got a chance to go through a looking glass. She couldn’t help the broad grin that covered her face. It was something she hadn’t thought of since years before she came to Hogwarts, and her child-like fantasies had…well—they’d come true, hadn’t they? Dragons, leprechauns, magic spells, and even people who turned into animals—all were reality to her now.

Animagi… She’d been fascinated by the idea long before the frightening experience she, Ron, and Harry had shared in the shrieking shack. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. Hermione considered herself one of the most gifted in magic among her peers, but even she wouldn’t dream of attempting to become an animagus. That Professor Lupin’s three closest friends all decided to try it, out of caring for him—and, let’s face it, she thought wryly, a strong sense of adventure—was awe-inspiring.

Her eyes were drawn back to that empty curving staircase again, almost as if there were a sign above the opening reading, ‘GO ON, YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.’ She tried to ignore it, turning her thoughts instead back to ‘the Marauders’ and their antics. This proved to be the wrong choice, because her imagination ran away with her, providing an annoying little voice in the back of her head that goaded her to give up and sneak into Dumbledore’s office. ‘Well, are you a Gryffindor, or aren’t you?’ it taunted. This was the same vicious little influence that told her she enjoyed all the rule-breaking and mayhem she experienced when she accompanied Ron and Harry ‘to protect them from themselves.’

She supposed she really was a tried-and-true Gryffindor, because she couldn’t seem to stop herself from getting up and crossing the room, after ‘Looks like you should have been in Ravenclaw, after all,’ echoed in her head. If she’d been placed there, she probably never would have become such close friends with Harry and Ron—and Ron’s wild family—and, Merlin help her, she really did enjoy all the crazy things they’d done over the years, Head Girl or not.

“Hang it all,” she muttered, and with a thrill of excitement, she started up the stone stairway to the unfamiliar room beyond, partly to answer her unasked question of what she’d find behind her looking glass, now that her childlike imaginings of magic had been fulfilled.

Her first impression was that it was decorated in exactly the way she’d pictured it in her mind. Crowded, yet homey, and in no way pretentious, even with the portraits of former Headmasters of Hogwarts slumbering peacefully on the walls. It was just like Dumbledore to make himself comfortable here, rather than decorate it as befitting someone with immense power over the young minds and future leaders of the British wizarding community. Which meant, she realized, that he was probably the perfect choice of Headmaster, not that she’d ever argue with that. As well as being immensely powerful, Albus Dumbledore was a kind man, full of the eccentricities that put children at their ease.

Hermione stood at the top of the stairway for a long time, just drinking in the sights and sounds of the room in front of her. Some things she recognized, either by personal experience or Harry’s descriptions: Fawkes’ cage stood behind the large desk, the smoldering pile of feathers and faint chirping sounds telling Hermione that she’d missed the phoenix’s rebirth by no more than twenty-four hours. High on a shelving unit full of oddities lay the Sorting Hat; she watched it intently for a few minutes, looking for any signs of life. Harry had mentioned it speaking to him, after all. It looked to be resting, or whatever Sorting Hats did while not on duty.

The chair behind the humongous wooden desk looked quite comfortable, but although Hermione was possessed of an impish and inquisitive nature just now, she couldn’t quite force herself to try it out. She did peep at the opposite side of the desk, however, finding an impressive number of drawers. It brought to mind the story Harry had told her of the Weasley twins’ discovery of the Marauder’s Map, and made her wonder what strange and wonderful artifacts Professor Dumbledore would keep in his many drawers.

Hermione was surprised that the plentiful distractions of this room had made her completely forget that she absolutely should not be in here. She supposed that rule breaking could possibly be habit forming, and, as she thought about it, became convinced that if anyone would know, it would be James Potter and Sirius Black. The thought of the two Gryffindor scamps gave her the courage to start examining various objects of interest in the room. If she, Hermione, couldn’t get up the nerve to look around thoroughly, the thought of what the two intrepid young men would have done in her place gave her the needed daring.

She first approached what looked like a fish tank sitting on a tall marble stand under the window. Having assumed there would be fish inside, Hermione was disappointed when it looked empty. When she moved to the left and looked through the side of the tank, though, she was shocked to see an entire school of fish! This didn’t any sense at all…and continued not to, as the fish persisted in disappearing when she viewed the tank from the front or back, only to reappear when she looked in either of the sides. She narrowed her eyes and stared at them for quite a long time until one of them seemed to blink out of sight for a moment and it hit her—were they two-dimensional? She decided she didn’t want to know; the image of magic and Muggle science combined were enough to give even the most dedicated researcher a headache.

The next item to catch her eye looked quite ancient, and she wondered if Harry’s father had ever snuck into the room to stare covetously at it. The writing on the handle read ‘Cloudstalker’ in elegant calligraphy, and the broom itself looked to be hundreds of years old. A horrifying thought struck her, and she dismissed it immediately—as lax as James Potter might have been about rules, she was certain he would never risk the destruction of such an amazing item by actually flying around on it, even in the confines of the office… She went from thinking with trepidation about ‘Prongs,’ to affection about ‘Moony.’

Her former professor was undoubtedly the reason for this handsome mechanism. She was looking at what would have been called a projection by Muggles, although she was fairly sure that the magical version worked in a very different way. This image of the soon-to-be night sky was a lot more real looking than a simple projection could ever have been. A cloud drifted over the waning moon, casting a tiny shadow on the polished wooden surface of the bookshelf it rested on. She wondered how much it had cost in Wizard money—it was quite relaxing to watch, so much so that she’d love to have one for herself. Thinking of Professor Lupin made her wonder if the peacefulness she had always felt when looking at the moon was the complete opposite for him. It probably is, she thought, unless he associated the coming of the full moon with the adventures he had with his best friends

Hermione was suddenly struck with a desire to have known Lupin and his childhood friends during their time at Hogwarts. Such glimpses and snippets of stories about them as she had seen and heard made each of them sound like the sort of people that never lacked for something interesting and unique to do. Not only that, but they’d also been uncommonly clever, and she’d love to learn some of the more unorthodox charms and such that Professor Lupin as an adult wouldn’t dream of teaching them. Sort of like an advanced DA club for the Mischievously Impaired.

She hadn’t eaten any of the sweets in this room, but Hermione felt almost certain that the atmosphere here was starting to affect her thinking.

She turned to look behind her and was mildly shocked to see a full-length mirror, something she was sure hadn’t been there when she first entered the room. She advanced toward it cautiously, remembering stories about magical mirrors. Her imagination was already running wild with all the fanciful things around her—but she ended up standing in front of it with nothing more frightening than her reflection staring back at her. Hermione shook her head in near-disgust—she couldn’t believe she’d allowed herself to get so caught up in the mood of the room and the excitement of rule-breaking (for this she blamed the memories of the Marauders) that she started being afraid of a simple mirror.

As a long-standing habit, she reached out a hand to touch the cool surface of the glass. She’d always told herself that she would regret not doing this, just in case the one time she hadn’t was the one time she could have entered Alice’s world and had some grand adventure. This thought froze in her brain as she registered the fact that her hand had continued on past the supposed surface of the looking glass into the space beyond…

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