What happens to the wide-eyed observer when the window between reality and unreality breaks and the glass begins to fly?
Illusion is the first of all pleasures.
Harry floated in the silver valleys and peaks of night. He twisted
into the darkness of his deepest want and the brilliant noon of his
need. He loved and he was loved, given everything he could ever
Yet, he knew that it was not real. He cleared his throat after
a few minutes (or a few months, or even a few years) and whispered,
"I need to go back."
The response was immediate: "Why?" Hands reached out and
smoothed over his shoulders and arms, fingers stroking over his
lips, his hips, his cock. A grey gaze caught his and held firm,
over a sharp-tipped nose and thin lips bent into a warm smile.
"Are you not happy here? Isn't it all you want?"
"Yes," Harry said, choking on the word. He held back a sob
but tears still trailed down his cheeks. "But...it's not real."
A soft kiss pressed onto his trembling lips, and a warm tongue
lapped at the salty track of his tears. "Why does it need to
"Commencing systems check," a low voice echoed through the communication spell, and Draco wrinkled his nose from behind the gleaming bubble of the protective charm which surrounded his head. "Major Malfoy, come in."
"Acknowledged," Draco answered shortly, glancing down at the specially constructed bodysuit he wore. The charcoal-grey material molded to the slender lines of his tall frame and the defensive charms buzzed importantly in many layers. It took about three other people and at least four hours to properly set these spells, and they weighed him down enough to hinder his gait a little.
"Oxygen conversion?" The voice queried; there was a visual component to the communication spell, but Draco had chosen not to activate it at the moment. He felt more settled before a mission without anyone's gaze fixed on him...well, mostly anyone.
"Check," Draco replied, squeezing each of his wrists with the opposite hand to make sure the seals were tight. Faintly, he could sense the set of spells which maintained the life-support systems, working quietly and efficiently to scrub the air of the enclosed environment around his body.
Draco eyed the information scrolling down the surface of the bubble-charm in lines and flickering images. "Check."
"Systems check confirmed by mission pilot. Life-sign feedback is clear, Major." There was a very slight pause, and then a slight inhale. "Good luck, sir."
Draco swallowed, and nodded. "Thank you."
"Sir, wait," the voice returned, a little bit more urgently this time. Draco raised his eyebrows and did as the voice requested; there had been a note of excitement in that usually impassive tone. "Major...the Mission Commander would like to speak with you."
"Of course," Draco murmured, taking a quick breath to calm the increasing pace of his heart. It would not do for the monitors to pick up on that.
"Major?" a different voice came through the comms, deep and smooth. Draco nodded as if the Mission Commander was there standing in front of him; this was the one person who he would have preferred to have seen before a mission, but then the Commander preferred not to speak face to face in such a manner.
"Yes, Commander," he replied as calmly as he could manage. Draco waited through a slight pause, and listened with some surprise as the Mission Commander let out a tremulous sigh.
"I'd like this on a private feed, please," the Mission Commander said, obviously conversing with someone else. "And some general privacy, if you will. Yes, I am aware that we are about to begin. This will only take a few moments." The Mission Commander waited, apparently until the Control Centre was cleared and then sighed again. "Major?"
"Still here, Commander," Draco responded, tightly. He felt a slight rush of annoyance; the start of a mission had never been interrupted in such a manner, and his nerves were already worn thin.
"Major Malfoy," Commander Potter said in a low, soft tone. "I wanted to offer my personal best wishes for this mission."
"Thank you," Draco replied, in the same gentle manner. He and Harry Potter had history, everyone knew that; Draco still couldn't bring himself to call Potter sir as rank dictated; but they had been on enough missions together to work in a civil manner, and Draco was not such a grand prat to disrespect him. In any case, Potter was an efficient commander, calm and forthright. After the War, there had been such turmoil in their world, such upheaval in the lines and layers of magic. The formation of this strike-force had been exceedingly necessary, with stringent training and advanced spellcasting gleaned from nearly every corner of the physical world.
"Major Malfoy," Potter continued, his voice now so low that Draco had to tilt his head closer in the direction of the spell which took care of the transmissions between the mobile Control Centre and the bubble-charm. "You may see something inside there. Something I'm not proud of...but I'm sure I'm the reason it exists."
Draco frowned. "My primary mission is to neutralize the sentient magic. If there are other parameters, then I need to know."
"All pertinent information had been shared, Major," Commander Potter said, his tone sharpening for a brief moment before he let out a soft sigh. "There is just...I am the only person who has managed to leave that place, mostly unharmed. I don't know what I left behind."
"I understand," Draco said, even though he was mystified. As long as he had all the data he needed, then he would be able to withstand whatever was thrown at him.
"Draco," the Commander said in such a strained manner and then he cleared his throat. "Carry on, Major."
The Fiendfyre was loudly malevolent. It spoke with promises
of dreadful death. Draco felt its reaching heat, and pondered
that he was going to die in the middle of this vast room, alone
and abandoned. His parents would mourn him, their only son.
In his mind's eye, he could see his mother weeping, his father
with his head bowed in distress.
He looked from one side the other, panic clawing at the back
of his throat, his breath falling from his lips in quiet sobs.
"Help me," he whispered, terror breaking his shout down into
a weak whisper. "Help me."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a bright branch of flame
reach for him. Draco spun around and stared at his own
reflection caught in a tall mirror. The top of the mirror's
ornate frame was melting from the heat, dripping like hot wax.
There was a large fracture like trapped lightning in the shining
Around him, the Room of Hidden Things writhed under the heat.
Concealed objects popped and groaned as they were
consumed by the Fiendfyre. Sweat transformed his hair from
platinum to a dirty-blond, and droplets slipped down his
"Help me," he told his own reflection, and his voice broke at the
desolation reflected in those wide, red-rimmed eyes. He coughed
as the smoke swarmed around him, grasping at his sorry figure with
greedy, choking hands. The slash of lips in that pale face parted;
behind him, hurtling towards him far above the flames, a small
figure sped towards him. He spun around, and it was not just a
wish made real in the depths of the Mirror; someone was coming
back to save him. He reached up, waving, weeping.
Around him, the Room of Hidden Things growled in warning, and
a harsh crack resounded from the nearby Mirror. Tears streamed
from his eyes and he could barely see who grabbed his hand and
hauled him, with a show of desperate strength, onto the back of
As he was flown up out of certain conflagrant death, he wrapped
his arms tightly around the waist of his saviour and pressed his face
against the riot of soft, damp curls. He peered down out of the corner
of one eye, and saw the fiery landscape below.
Then, they were out, out into the wonderful air of Hogwarts.
Hogwarts was damned. The proud towers and rolling fields within were nearly completely obscured by a thick, rolling shadow. Draco stood at the closed gate, casting a critical eye on the massive bubble which held firmly against the unchecked sentient magic. Within the barrier, Hogwarts tilted and heaved in a stomach-turning manner. It might have been just an effect on the eyes caused by the sentient magic, but Draco didn't feel like taking any chances right then.
"I'm at the gates, Control," he murmured.
"Acknowledged," Control replied, their bland tone underlain with a crackling sound. "How does it look, Major?"
"Not good," he answered. "Doesn't seem like solid ground in there. Control, I'm going to initiate the Salamander."
"Mission Commander wonders if you shouldn't activate the Sleipnir as well," Control returned quickly and Draco shook his head very slowly. It was just past noon, but the roiling gloom caught within the barrier cast a dusk-like pall all around.
"Sleipnir is an attack manifestation," Draco said, half under his breath; this was something they all knew. "Don't think I need that quite yet."
Control hummed and then murmured, "Whatever you think is best, Major."
Draco looked down on his left palm; inscribed on the dark material were faintly glowing symbols, tiny characters residing at the base of each finger. He pressed the one right under the second finger and the Salamander flared around him in a burst of sleek lines and light. It was all so dazzling that for a moment, the shadows which overcame Hogwarts seemed to retreat for a moment. The Salamander was a forceful spell, actually an extension of his protective suit. The lines and light solidified, until the familiar curving grey interior encased him in its protective hull. The small ship, shaped like an elongated, snub-nosed bullet, floated a few feet off the ground: a spell made substantial; a Patronus given solid form; sheer magic packed into a pocket-dimension until ready for use.
"Going in," he informed Control. He gripped the steering column and pushed. The Salamander eased forward, its sharp nose piercing the translucent surface of the barrier charm which kept the malevolent forces in check. The barrier resisted, rightly so, until Draco retrieved his wand from his boot and murmured the spell which would let the barrier draw the Salamander in.
He glanced up at the delineation of the massive barrier sliding over the overhead window of his sturdy little craft. In a moment, he was inside, watching the oily shadows prance ooze over the front lawns. They didn't seem to notice that he had entered their newly claimed territory, and he coaxed the Salamander on further, towards the doors which stood open and waiting.
Harry stood with his back to the tapestry of Barnabas the
Barmy, barely noting the growling music of the trolls learning
to dance. After a few years, Hogwarts had nearly been
returned to normal (or rather, as normal as a school of magic
could get). The Room of Requirement and the Mirror of Erised
were one of the last to be worked on, for there had been so
many things concealed inside that impossible space, each of them
needing to be removed, cleaned, checked if their magic was
intact and then either returned to the Room or to a special holding
chamber in Gringotts.
Harry personally oversaw the work on the Mirror, carefully
ignoring the sultry, scattered images from within the cracked surface.
At the moment, most of the other members of the reconstruction
team had gone home, and the students were downstairs at dinner.
This was his time. He closed his eyes and thought very hard
about what he wanted.
"Potter," a low voice called from his left. He spun around, his eyes
opened wide again to drink in the sight in front of him. Draco Malfoy
stood there, dressed in the dark grey uniform of the newly formed
Magical Strike Force; Harry had not expected him to be a part of
that, but there were surprises everywhere these days. Surprises
like eruptions of self-aware magic; surprises like the way his heart
felt like it was too large to fit in his chest when when he gazed at
Malfoy's narrow face and icy eyes.
"Malfoy," he murmured and felt heat climb his cheeks at the throaty
quality of his voice. He hoped that Malfoy wouldn't look into his face
and discover the truth.
"Hard at work as usual. How are you?" Malfoy asked and his lips twisted
when Harry blinked at him rapidly. His sharp gaze rested on Harry's face
with narrow focus.
"I--" Harry swallowed and then cleared his throat. "I'm fine. You?"
Malfoy inclined his head. "I thought you'd be training with the Strike
Force by now," he said, his expression cool and fixed. Harry shrugged.
"I'll be there in a few weeks," he said. "Just wanted to finish up here."
He kept his attention on Malfoy even though he really wanted to go
into the Room of Requirement right now, and ask his boon of the Mirror.
Yet, how could he stand for an admittedly clever replication, when he
had the real thing in front of him right now?
"You'll probably outrank the rest of the trainees as soon as you arrive,"
Malfoy told him, his tone flat even as one side of his mouth lifted into a
smirk. Harry found the overall effect to be mocking and comforting at
the same time.
In response, he shrugged once more. Malfoy stared right into his eyes
for a few long beats, and Harry felt a cold sweat trickle down the back
of his neck. Snape could have trained him to be a proficient Legilimens,
and Malfoy was probably laying out every racy desire of Harry's the way
one of those Muggle magicians spread out their cards before a fancy
trick. If that was the case, Harry should probably brace himself for
a neat left hook to the jaw.
Malfoy stepped forward and held out his hand, but it was not to
strike. He did not speak, but his gaze held on to Harry's with a sort
of fervor. Slowly but without hesitation, Harry reached out his
own hand and grasped the longer, paler fingers. This was the first time.
Harry mused, that he touched Malfoy's skin without a fight or a rescue
involved...or the result of his own mind's feverish contrivance.
Against his palm, Malfoy's was drier and warmer than Harry had
expected, and his fingers folded over Harry's with a surprising strength
and speed. To top it off, Malfoy's face was an interesting study: a quiet
sort of stunned at first, which melted into a surprisingly open pleasure.
Harry felt his breath catch in the back of his throat. This was similar
to the expression he saw four years ago when the Wizengamot had
announced its leniency to Malfoy; he could safely say that was when
he began to really look at the pale young man, to speak with him
with ever decreasing animosity and a cautious friendliness.
Malfoy's response had been wonderful. He thawed, he opened like
a flower in the sunlight and he moved past the disapproving whispers
and hard looks with strides made long by his imposing height; with polite
determination; with, to the shock of nearly everyone, apologies. He was
still so very Malfoy, so proud and prone to receiving innocuous
comments as insults, but he learned to discern and to accept.
...and Harry, with very little fanfare and even awareness until long
after the fact, fell in love. It was a secret, and he shared it only with
the Mirror and the Room.
He let go of Malfoy's hand with some regret. Malfoy nodded at
him, curling his fingers against the outside of his thigh in what
appeared to be a purely unconscious act.
"Good day, Potter," Malfoy told him and stepped back, turning on
his heel without a backwards glance. Harry watched until he turned
the corner, and then turned back towards the Room.
“I need to know what I want,” Harry said, and the room let him in.
He stepped into a space filled with a thick, waiting darkness and
gazed at the solemn gleam of a mirror.
Deep within its reflection, something pale glimmered. A pair of finely
made hands reached out and Harry closed his eyes.
From behind him, someone touched his shoulders and slid their hands
down his arms, squeezing his wrists gently.
"I've been waiting," a soft voice whispered in his ear.
"Control," Draco murmured as the Salamander drifted through the great entrance doors which stood ajar. They had a forlorn, lopsided look, and he wondered where the house-ghosts had gone off to. They were bound to this place, unlike the students who had been sent to a hastily constructed educational facility as the sentient magic altered the reality of their school around them. Were those spirits trapped somewhere in this drifting, quiet world? The wide corridor in front of him seemed to twist, nauseatingly, as he floated through it. The frame of the Salamander creaked and groaned, the fibres of its spell-generated structure tested under the pressure and weight of the spreading magic. The heads-up display told him that the air outside was nigh unbreathable, a noxious mix of spells which seemed aimed at crushing one's lungs without proper protection.
At the end of the corridor, six grand staircases which climbed around each other like a giant helix as they went from level to level. They remained disturbingly quiet, fixed in place as Draco steered towards the huge space around which they all wrapped. Carefully, the Salamander rose up this stairwell.
"Control, come in," Draco called and his brow furrowed slightly when there was no response to his hail. He heard the soft beeps of the Salamander's internal charm maintenance systems, and then detected a very slight sputtering hiss right in his ear...as if from a pet snake warning its human that it wasn't in the mood to be petted at the moment. The hiss was the communication spell, failing to connect to the other end.
Draco was on his own.
He halted the Salamander in its ascent through the stairwell, and bent his head, thinking as he floated. In a situation like this, he was free to make his own decision; he could choose to turn around and make his report to the Mission Commander. Harry Potter's tired, soft voice echoed around his mind.
I don't know what I left behind.
Taking a deep breath, Draco said, "Control, I hope you can hear me: I'm continuing with the mission. I'm on my way to the left-hand corridor now."
The Salamander began its deliberate climb once more; at the seventh floor, he directed the sleek nose towards the left corridor and pushed on.
With much effort, Harry hardened his heart and tried to
pull away. He was cold and warm all at once, and he
struggled through the many planes in which he had already
lived in this place. He could not stay here.
"Where are you going?" his heart's desire murmured, but there
was a fiery threat in the melodious tones. "Are you trying to leave?"
The incredulity was deep and astounded.
"Yes," Harry told him, his voice breaking as he pushed
at the wispy solidity of this world. This place had given him so
much, and he was sad to leave it, but he had to. "I must."
"Then leave," his companion and lover spat, and that was right.
That was how he might be, wasn't it? Cool and yet hot all at once.
"You came here with all your wants and I gave you all
your heart wanted to see. Therefore, here is my fee:
you will never see anything else again."
The oily shadows seemed to bubble out from the door of the Room of Hidden Things, and the Salamander withstood the force admirably. Draco reminded himself to thank Granger and her team for their superb casting, and he would savour the bewildered expression which always appeared on her face when he did so.
"Control," he reported, not knowing if he was being heard. "I've arrived at the source point for the sentient magic. There's a lot of activity up here." He cleared his throat, wondered if he should say more, and then pressed his lips tightly together. Without another word, he directed the Salamander right past the sagging doors.
As soon as the Salamander crossed the threshold of the Room, it shuddered and flickered around him. Panicked beeps increased in volume and speed around him, and he grunted as the faithful spell popped like a balloon. He landed right in the midst of the churning shadows, and stumbled in surprise to encounter a hard floor. He could feel the sentient magic press against him, but the defensive spells snapped and bit like miserable little Crups. At least his bubble-head charm held.
He grasped his left hand without looking down, and pressed the slight bump in his glove, under his smallest finger. His wand slipped out of a small compartment out of the back of his left glove and and around it the Sleipnir erupted, a massive sword-like shape made of sizzling, zapping lightning. Draco felt a repetitive wash of energy after the sword emerged: his skin bloomed gooseflesh in that first wake, and the bones in his hand and arm reverberated slightly under a subsonic pulsation. This wasn't his magic at all; Harry Potter's power was woven into the Sleipnir in many layers. Draco had been exceedingly surprised to have it assigned for this mission, but the Mission Commander had insisted.
The magic murmured comfortingly to him, and he swallowed past a lump in his throat that he hadn't known was there. Sleipnir's light shoved forcibly at the shadows which loomed all around, and Draco turned slowly, trying to get a grasp of where he was. He couldn't see anything except for Sleipnir's brilliance sliding over the billowing darkness, holding it back without piercing it.
"Ah," someone said and Draco spun around. A Mirror stood there directly behind him, where one hadn't been as he had walked that path just a few moments ago. Within it, gazing out at Draco, was himself.
Not his reflection; he saw the Draco he had been so many years ago.
He made a face, lips twisting into a half-hearted sneer. In the Mirror, the grimace was repeated across sharp features, eyes glittering in the light of the lightning sword. Draco felt a little jab of resentment. Of all the forms the sentient magic could have chosen to take, of all the people who had gazed within its depths, of course it would have taken his.
"Ah. It's you," the reflection said with a low voice, its disdainful mien melting into a cool smile. In the depths of those eyes, something bright flickered for a moment, like a flame so hot it could melt someone before they knew they were burning. Then, the strange light disappeared and Draco focused on the other's clothing. He wore the Slytherin uniform, the dark material hanging neatly over shoulders which had not quite attained the broadness Draco had now. The blond hair was cut short and lay close to his head, not like the soft, loose style Draco wore these days.
Draco said, "You sound as if you were expecting someone else." The smile of his counterpart in the Mirror widened but gained no warmth.
"I was expecting Harry," he murmured, wrapping his lips and teeth and tongue around that name with such proprietary ardour that Draco blinked. He blinked again, rapidly, for his past reflection was gone, and he saw two figures writhing together on a rumpled bed: limbs sliding in slow abandon; lips pressing promises and pleas against sweaty skin; hips undulating. It was himself and Harry Potter, as they were fifteen years ago, but not to Draco's memory.
His lips parted and his breath quicken as he watched the lovemaking. Potter, his gaze locked on Draco's face, gripped Draco's shoulders tightly and writhed. The smaller, browner hands slipped up Draco's pale neck and fingers combed through Draco's sweat-dark hair, pulling him close for a kiss.
Draco, standing outside the Mirror, understood many things in a very short moment. He fought to keep his stance as his head spun with the rush of comprehension.
"I gave him what he asked for," a disembodied voice murmured from the Mirror as the lovers' movements became faster and more erratic. There was no other sound, even though Potter's lips moved and his hair spilled like ink over the soft-looking pillow. "I gave him a whole world."
"But he left," Draco said, trying and failing not to stare at this...this fantasy. This utterly lovely fantasy. "He returned to reality."
"He was cruel and faithless to me!" The Mirror's cry was both sulky and proud even as the images faded back into a formless fog. Draco closed his eyes, heartworn at this reminder of who he had been. Would no-one ever forget? He shook his head and squared his shoulders.
"And you are a faithless and cruel version of me," Draco said, his tone even as he slowly began to raise the Sleipnir. Mentally, he began to arrange a particular charm used to dismantle sentient magic.
"Faithless?" The Mirror chuckled, mockingly. "Your name is the very rendition of faithless. And if I am cruel to take his sight, then you are more so to take his heart."
The Sleipnir trembled in Draco's hand and he wrapped his other around the hilt, steadying his grasp. "I did not know it was mine to take."
"He used you," the Mirror said in a voice that sounded like roaring bonfires. "He used you to create me and now I am everywhere. He isn't a hero at all. He's a coward!"
A wave of surprising anger rushed through Draco. He swept the Sleipnir up in a swift arc, tracing light through the shadows, and brought it down with all his power towards the Mirror, mouthing the first words of the dismantling charm. A massive jolt rattled his arm; the Sleipnir had been stopped, quite abruptly, by a whirling thread of smoky shadows.
"Do you think you're the only one who has something of his?" The Mirror laughed as the shadows swirled into a sword of much the same size and shape of the Sleipnir, but made of the thick darkness which surrounded them. Snarling, his reflection shoved forward the stygian sword; Draco grunted as he turned on one heel, letting the blade of the Sleipnir point towards the floor. The sword of his counterpart slid down the Sleipnir, and Draco's younger self stumbled past him. Immediately, Draco spun around again, raising the Sleipnir once more to slash at his opponent's back but he hesitated; there was something in the line of that pale neck, an air of complete vulnerability. He stayed his hand, for just a single heartbeat, but it was his undoing.
He should have known; he was that person, once. The reflection turned around with an expression so vicious that it altered that narrow face nearly beyond recognition. The shadowy sword sped towards Draco's chest, rumbling ominously as it advanced; he tried to move up the Sleipnir to block the strike, but he knew he wouldn't be fast enough to stop it.
A gloved hand shot out of the darkness which towered around the triumphant reflection and grabbed onto the arm which held the gloom-filled sword. This new arm and hand was covered in the same grey material which Draco wore. The hand tightened its grip and the cloudy sword wisped away into nothingness. The reflection, this Draco-who-was, released a heaving sob that was wrenching to hear and seemed to sway in place.
"I am so sorry," a voice murmured from within the thick gloom, which had begun to break apart like the sword of shadows. Draco could see the Room resolve into straight lines of the ancient stone walls, the curved surface of the ceiling and the innumerable shapes of the other objects held within; he could sense the wavering power of the Room and the Mirror, feeding back on each other with the force of a fire once malicious and mighty. He could also make out the person holding onto the reflection's arm: a slighter figure, the faint arc of a bubble-head charm protecting a head of messy, dark curls.
Mission Commander Potter's gaze was fixed but soft as he said, "I hope you can forgive me."
"I won't," the reflection insisted, even though tears streamed down hollowed cheeks and the voice was faint, almost helpless.
"You could, one day," Draco said and pointed the Sleipnir towards his past. The sword glowed even brighter in the presence of the person who generated its existence, chasing away the last of the lingering shades. "You'll just start with yourself."
The dismantling spell did not take long, for Draco had murmured it numerous times. The reflection turned towards Potter even as it faded, reaching out with shaking hands but never touching before it disappeared. The Mirror stood in the corner and the Room was quiet around it. The boiling, oily shadows were gone; the sconces on the wall sputtered a few times and then glowed weakly, barely lighting the stone walls. Harry Potter stood a few feet away from Draco, his head bent slightly. Draco turned his wrist in a particular manner; the Sleipnir folded in on itself, returning into its storage place within the pocket-space on his glove.
The glowing display in front of Draco's face indicated that the air around them had returned to normal, but he decided to wait a few more moments just to be sure. He opened his mouth to say something to Potter, but a thin whine in his ear indicated that the communication spell had managed to connect once more.
"--jor Malfoy!" Control yelled. "Come in! Commander, can you hear me?"
"We're fine," Potter said, gaze still angled downwards. "The sentient magic is under control now. Please mobilize the Beta Team."
Draco smiled as Control huffed in a mixture of annoyance and relief. "Yes, sir," was the wry response. He watched as Potter reached up and held his hand near to the curve of the bubble-head charm, murmuring; the nearly translucent arc disappeared. He slowly turned his head from side to side, a habit that Draco had recently learned was related to an imperceptible but continuously running spell which helped him to 'see'; it worked by throwing out very small waves of Potter's own magic, and with a well-balanced Arithmancy formula, used the echoes to create some sort of hazy outline in Potter's brain. Granger had once spent four hours explaining it to Draco, who had simultaneously regretted and enjoyed the experience.
Draco cancelled his own bubble-head charm and took a deep inhale of stale but breathable air.
"How did you know," he asked, and Harry Potter held himself very still, "that you held onto the right one?"
"I just knew," was Potter's quiet answer and like everything else about him, Draco found himself accepting it without doubt or rancour. Draco took a step towards him, and then another when Potter didn't seem inclined to flee. Yet, the expression on Potter's face was a very clear mixture of resignation and regret: old, deep pain tightened the skin at the corners of his eyes and his lips.
"Major Malfoy, I'm--" Potter began but Draco didn't need to hear any more apologies.
"Can you see anything yet? With your own vision, I mean," he asked. Potter stared just over the left of Draco's shoulder. Even in this low light, Draco could see that the green of those eyes was drastically faded from the brilliant jade he remembered from their youth. Draco wondered if the absence of the glasses affected his own perception. Potter's lips lifted into a wry smile.
"No," he answered. "I didn't expect to have my vision returned afterwards, in any case." Potter paused, pursing his lips, and then went on: "He was very hurt. And very angry. And… very strong. Where is the Mirror?" he asked, changing gears with practiced smoothness. "I'm not picking it up, for some reason."
"It's to your right," Draco told him, and when Potter made an uncertain step in that direction, Draco stepped forward and without thinking, placed his hand on Potter's shoulder in order to guide him, aligning him fully face on with the Mirror. Under his fingers, he felt Potter's body take on a tense immobility; it was not the calm stillness that Draco had come to associate with the Mission Commander. Belatedly, it occurred to him that this well-meaning but unasked-for act of help was likely offensive.
His hand twitched and he was about to slide it away; but Potter's hand was atop his before he could, his grip so tight that it was nigh painful. Standing behind and slightly to the left of Potter, Draco gazed into the peaceful depths of the Mirror, into Harry's face.
Harry looked directly at him, the green of his eyes blooming brilliantly once more.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Harry's vision swirled
and resolved without the help of the magical feedback
charm. It was all very foggy, as if he wore some sort of
veil, but it was there. The first face he saw was Draco's,
right in front of him. He was different; older yet softer around
the edges, the haughtiness mostly gone from the lines of
his cheekbones and brow, leaving a settled sort of pride.
There was no blaze deep within Draco's eyes, but they did
warm considerably when he appeared to realise that Harry
looked right at him.
This was not the Draco he had last seen; yet, Harry thought
he was more beautiful than ever.
In the Mirror, Draco smiled.