Every time Draco went to work on the vanishing cabinet in the Room of Hidden Things, his hands started shaking. His breathing would come short as he started pacing back and forth in front of the wall and by the time the door appeared, he would grasp the handle between shaking fingers. Because every time he entered the Room of Hidden Things, he knew exactly what he was doing would cause.
But what choice did he have?
Sometimes, when he entered the room, he would wander around for a little while before heading to the Vanishing Cabinet. He just needed to stall for a little while. Needed some time to steel himself. Working on the cabinet was always hell, picturing corpses and bodies twitching in cruicos as a result of what Draco was doing. His fault. So sometimes, he just needed to look around the room a few minutes as if he could pretend that that was what he came in here for.
The room was always changing so every time he looked around, he was presented with new objects to examine.
This time, he turned a corner and stopped short: on the wall was a tall mirror.
Now, Draco wasn't an idiot. When the mirror did not show him himself, he knew what it was. And he knew what the mirror of Erised showed.
Tears running down his face before he could stop them, Draco approached the mirror and knelt before it, his hand gently resting on the reflection.
Opening his eyes, he looked up at the mirror and something unexpected happened:
Instead of showing the image of what Draco wanted, it began changing in front of him, morphing. No, continuing.
In the mirror, he saw his parents. He was with them and they were all sitting outside at the Manor, having tea. His parents were laughing and smiling; the sun was bright and Draco could see the Manor in the background, clearly unhaunted by the presence that plagued it in Draco's life.
Looking closely, Draco could tell that he didn't have a Dark Mark on his arm.
He and his family were happy and they were safe. They looked like they didn't have a care in the world, like they all had before the war. And Draco looked older by a few years.
As he watched, the picture continued to progress and someone else walked out to join them.
He wasn't surprised to see Harry there. But he was surprised that Harry didn't have the scar on his forehead.
So they were all completely untouched by the war.
As Draco continued to stare at the mirror, it continued to change.
He and Harry were sitting together outside at the Manor but everything changed around them and then they were in the Slytherin common room. They were sitting with all of Draco's friends and even Harry's friends.
Harry had his arm around Draco and was in an intense discussion with Blaise and Draco was clearly joking around with Weasley, based on how much they were laughing. And he knew without sound on this vision that from the way Pansy was holding the edge of Hermione's fingertips, that she was giving her tips on nail care, despite the fact that Hermione only appeared to be listening to be polite.
The mirror changed again. Draco was in the Great Hall, prefect badge prominent. Around him sat people with ties of all different colors: the houses weren't separated, but everyone was sitting together, laughing and joking. Or in the case of Pansy, heatedly scolding Finnigan, who had the decency to look chastised while Thomas laughed along beside him.
The next vision: Still in the Great Hall, Draco was much older and was sitting at the professor's table between Longbottom and Harry. And then: all Draco saw was himself kissing Harry, which morphed into them kissing at a wedding and Draco's parents were there and so were Harry's, standing next to Harry's godfather and Professor Lupin.
Back at the Manor. Draco was handing his mother carefully a small, pink-wrapped bundle. She had the largest smile on her face as she cooed down at the baby. Draco saw his parents in their old age. He saw himself on Platform 9 3/4, fixing a child's robes before they boarded the train, waving goodbye to him from a window as the Hogwarts Express pulled away. The mirror changed again to—
Roughly, Draco was yanked away from the mirror, a choked gasp leaving him.
Frantically looking around him, Draco's eyes found Snape.
"What happened?" Draco asked, feeling faint, his mouth dry.
Snape shook his head, sadly. "People can get sucked into looking at the mirror of Erised for long periods of time, but if they touch it...They will never leave it's images until they die for lack of water. Draco, you disappeared about a day and a half ago. I found you here."
Taking him by the hand, Snape pulled Draco to his feet, firmly walking him away from the mirror. Draco tried to turn his head to catch one last glimpse, but Snape stopped him as he tried.
Hanging his head down, Draco let himself be escorted out of the room and to the hospital wing until he was left in Madam Pomfrey's care.
He had been sitting there for a few minutes when the door opened and in stumbled Potter.
He caught Draco's eye as Pomfrey came over to him. She fussed over him for a few minutes before leaving both of the boys alone in the room.
Harry sat down not too far from Draco, glancing over.
"You, uh..." Harry said. "You look rough. Is this where you've been the last few days?"
Draco shook his head. He was too tired, too drained of all energy, to lie. "I touched the Mirror of Erised. If Snape hadn't found me, I'd have stayed there until I died. What happened to you?" Draco nodded, indicating Harry's arm that had been wrapped.
Harry sighed. "Explosion in Slughorn's."
Draco raised an eyebrow.
"Okay, fine," Harry said. "It was my fault. Luckily, no one else got hurt."
Silence passed between them, both of them feeling awkward and waiting for Pomfrey to come back and tell them that they could leave.
But Draco truly was too tired to hold his tongue: "Potter," he started. "Can I tell you something?"
"Um..." Harry glanced around, confused. "Sure?"
Instead of saying anything, Draco pulled up his left sleeve. Harry's jaw dropped, but he stayed quiet.
"Please help me," Draco whispered through his tears, closing his eyes firmly.
He heard Harry get up and Draco assumed he was leaving. Probably running to tell Dumbledore or something. Draco was such an idiot; he was going to get his entire family killed now.
But he felt Harry's hand close around his arm, directly over his Dark Mark.
Shocked, Draco opened his eyes and looked at Harry. What he saw in Harry's eyes scared him a little: the rage, the sadness, the righteousness. But Draco knew without a doubt that there was also a protectiveness there.
Draco dissolved into tears and he felt Harry wrap an arm around him and pull Draco's face to his chest.
"It's going to be okay, Malfoy," Harry said. "It's all going to be okay."