June 1st, 2000

Maybe if he was stronger, he wouldn't have felt the need to do this. As it was.

Cloaked and hooded despite the gathering heat, glittering eyes darting around as he hurried to one of the newest establishments which had been set up along Diagon Alley. There was a feeling of cautious hope in the air, so fresh and tender that the slightest gesture could exterminate it, but Draco was impervious.

A nondescript shopfront, on a virtually unknown side alley. Dark blue curtains drawn over the window from the inside. Simple white text curving on the glass: 'ANIMUS,' and below it, hours of operation.

The door opened and closed with a gentle tinkle, a gush of cool, scented air greeting him. Draco sniffed. Cinnamon, possibly. This was the lobby of the establishment, designed to calm; muted tones in pastel blue and dull grey on the walls, carpet and ceiling. A Self-Dusting plastic pot plant was positioned in the corner beside an oaken table of magazines and newspapers, flanked on either side by pale cream lounges. Bland, quietly tedious music played, although no speakers were in sight. The only other feature of the room was a large oaken desk, situated on the far wall, to the right of a single door. The desk was manned by a middle-aged witch. One glance around told Draco there was no one else in the room.

Soft steps, and he cleared his throat carefully. A wise choice in their receptionist, Draco pondered, as she glanced up at him with a mild expression. Dark hair pulled into a plain bun, hazel eyes serene behind the silver spectacles perching on her nose, bland clothing in pastel colours. Perfectly normal and perfectly non-threatening.

"Welcome to Animus," she greeted smoothly. "It's a pleasure to have your patronage today. How can I be of assistance to you?"

"I had an appointment," Draco answered. "At 2 o'clock."

"Of course," she nodded. "If you could just take a seat in our waiting area, someone will be with you shortly."

Draco nodded as well, curtly, and spun on his heel and strode to one of the lounges. Slightly dizzy as he sat. Not from any physical ailment, oh no, but just from the sheer knowledge of what he was going to do.

It didn't take long for the door beside the reception desk to open, and another witch entered the room, dressed in robes of a serene sky blue. She spoke quietly to the receptionist for a moment, and then turned to face Draco.

"Mr Malfoy," she greeted him with a calm smile. "It's a pleasure to see you. Come, do follow me." She gestured to him, and Draco stood and swept past the desk, following the specialist into the corridor beyond.

It was bare and plain, with only a few doors scattered along it. Fluorescent lights buzzed quietly overhead. The witch opened a door on the right and held it open for him. He entered, and she followed behind, closing the door firmly behind them.

Baring some resemblance to a Muggle doctor's office and characterised once more by muted colours, the room contained another oaken desk, with one chair behind it and one chair in front. To the side was the kind of bed commonly seen in Muggle hospitals, narrow, fitted with plain white sheets. Quietly simple drawings and paintings adorned the walls, mostly of nature scenes. There were no portraits.

"Please, sit," said the witch, gesturing him to the grey cushioned chair before the desk and taking the chair behind it. She drew up closer to the desk and regarded him mildly for a moment, as though sizing him up.

Draco reached up and pushed the hood of his cloak back, revealing the headful of white-blonde hair that was so well known in the wizarding world. She seemed to take this as a signal to begin the formalities.

"My name is Lucia Hevelle and I am Head Specialist here at Animus. I am here to help you. First of all, as you are a new client, I'm afraid you'll have to fill out some tedious paperwork to begin with." She smiled apologetically at him as she opened a desk drawer, rifled for a moment, and then retrieved a sheet of parchment. Pushing it towards him, she gestured to the quill and inkbottle positioned nearby.

Draco bent over the parchment, glancing up at her every now and then; however, she seemed to pay no attention to him, her serene blue-eyed gaze fixed on another sheet of parchment that was on the desk in front of her as she scribbled on it.

When he was finished, he pushed the form back towards her. She picked it up, scanned it, nodded once and put it back down, looking up at him.

"You are aware, Mr Malfoy, that by undertaking our particular brand of healing you do so at your own risk?"

Draco nodded tersely. "Yes, I am aware."

Lucia smiled at him again. "Lovely. If you could just sign a few things for me before we get started on the analysis…" After a series of long, wordy documents had been read and signed by Draco, she faced him again, her pretty face serious.

"Animus aims to provide our clients with the best possible state of mind following the war with the highest level of discretion," she began, "using a Ministry certified and approved memory elimination method which was created to ensure a minimum of mental and physical harm to all involved." She waved a hand towards a framed certificate that hung on the wall behind her. Draco could see the signature of Kingsley Shacklebolt, the new Minister for Magic, on the bottom.

"Allow me to reassure you, Mr Malfoy, that your safety is of utmost importance to us," she said. "I hope to allay any fears you may have with the assurance that we have serviced numerous clients in the months since the war and, despite the bad press, each has reported a raised level of overall wellbeing since coming to see us."

"Impressive," Draco said mildly, and Lucia bowed her head in acknowledgement. "Thank you," she responded. "As Head Specialist, I also want to make sure you know you are in very capable hands."

"I'm sure I am."

"Now, enough pleasantries, hm? Shall we continue on to the mental profile analysis?"

Her questions were delicately probing, and essentially covered his entire life, save those crucial final months. He felt no need to lie about any detail; the whole truth had emerged since late March anyway.

He endured a physical examination without complaint, while she probed and scrutinized with her wand, tapping and pushing this and that, every now and then pausing to scribble something on the sheet of parchment that was charmed to hover behind her. Finally, she sat back down with him at the desk, and regarded him quietly.

"I'm going to need you to tell me every detail, everything, about the memory you wish to have removed," she said, and Draco sucked in a breath. Brave, be brave, he told himself, imagine that you're Harry. It was a ridiculous notion in itself, of course, but the thought of his lover seemed to instil a sense of courage, however imagined, within him. He began his story.

March 27th, 2000

He had been amongst Group Dragon in the Order-designed offensive groups. Each group had the same job: stick together, move fast, attack swiftly and watch each other's backs. They'd swept through the grounds of Hogwarts doing just that, and while they'd suffered under a few well-aimed curses, no fatalities had occurred.

That changed when they reached the lake on their second sweep. A group of Death Eaters were there, shooting down supporters of the Light, dark silhouettes against a springtime night sky. Calm and serene.

Duelling. Jinxes and hexes and curses singing the fresh air. A strange roaring in Draco's ears, blocking out the sounds of battle that surrounded them. And then, cutting through it all, a shout that made Draco's heart skitter with love and concern.

Harry.

His lover joined them in combat, apparently on his way past. Didn't even notice Draco was there, so focused was he. The sight of the raven-haired former Gryffindor in his full power wasn't one Draco wanted to forget.

And then, a mocking laugh that dropped dread light hot, heavy lead into Draco's stomach, and he turned to the sound.

His father, wand pointed directly at Harry's heaving chest, ten or so metres away, grey eyes glittering with intent to murder. Draco knew that look. Without thinking, clinically, almost, he raised his wand towards his father's heart, picturing as he did the sheet of hair the exact shade of his own hidden beneath the dark hood. Spoke the words as though they scarcely mattered.

'Avada Kedavra!'

Green, brilliant green, blinding green. A thud. Silence.

And then, months and months of agony.

Breathing harsh and erratic, Draco closed his eyes firmly against the pain, and when he spoke, it was the voice of a broken man.

"No child should have to kill their parent." He whispered. "It shouldn't happen."

Lucia looked on from her position on the other side of the desk, her eyes sympathetic. "Certainly not," she agreed. "And that's where Animus comes in. We can help you forget forever."

"Help me," Draco pleaded openly with her. "I don't want to remember."

"You won't have to." She stood and moved smoothly to stand beside him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I need a final confirmation, Mr Malfoy. Do you consent fully to have the memory you described to me removed from your recollection permanently?"

Draco swallowed thickly. "Yes, I do."

"Very well. I have all I need. If you could kindly sit perfectly still for me…"

She drew her wand and closed her eyes, running its tip over his head, murmuring words he couldn't hear.

Forgive me, Harry, Draco thought, as her wand drew to a halt at a particular spot on the side of his head.

I'm not as strong as you.

"Oblivius Partis Legilimens!"

There was the most curious feeling that his head was being slowly split open with an axe, and then darkness.

--

Harry Potter appeared from thin air in an obscure street of London, outside a red-brick department store called Purge and Dowse Ltd, the window displays containing mannequins adorning terribly out-of-date fashions. He blinked briefly into the brilliant sunlight before he was enveloped in near bone-crushing hug and his vision was obscured by very bushy, very familiar brown hair.

"Oh, Harry!"

Hermione was in tears, sobbing openly on his shoulder. He squeezed briefly back and extracted himself from her grasp. He felt heady with the rush of adrenaline and panic surging through him.

"Where is he?" he demanded of her and Ron, who stood nearby, looking awkward. "Where's Draco? What's happened to him?"

"He's…" Ron hesitated. "It's best if you come and see."

Inside a ward on the fourth floor, along the Spell Damage corridor, they found him.

Harry barged in, eyes wide and frantic. There were several beds in the room, although only one had the curtains drawn around it, and it was this one that he made a beeline for, tearing open the curtains upon arrival.

There was a middle-aged, silvery haired Healer beside the bed who whirled around with fury at the intrusion. "How dare you," he began indignantly, but his reprimand died on his lips once he saw who the intruder was. Harry pushed the Healer out of the way, the better to get to the occupant of the bed.

Draco was asleep. He looked completely peaceful and completely heartbreaking, his pale blonde hair fanning gently on the pillow behind him, breathing even and slow.

"What's happened? What the bloody hell happened?" Harry demanded of the Healer, fury lacing his tone.

"Mr Potter," the Healer greeted. "I am Healer Gregorius and I've been assigned to the case of your partner. Mr Malfoy has suffered brain damage as a result of a malfunctioning spell. I assume you have heard of the organisation known as Animus?"

"He wouldn't…" Harry breathed, turning his gaze back to Draco. "He didn't, surely he didn't…"

"Unfortunately, yes." Gregorius' expression darkened. "Mr Malfoy has been confirmed as a patron at that particular establishment from around 2 o'clock onwards this afternoon. From reports and statements given by the Specialist who was assigned to his case, a Lucia Hevell, they entered into standard proceedings, and upon application of the specialised memory removal charm Animus favours, things went terribly wrong."

"How wrong?" Harry demanded, nearly hysterical. "What the hell is wrong with him?"

"The memory charm Animus favours is designed, as you know, to target a specific memory provided by the client for permanent removal, using a combination of Legilimency and sheer magical power," Gregorius said. "The procedure, while unbelievably dangerous and definitely controversial, has been carried out on vast numbers of other wizards and witches who wished to eliminate memories of the war they would rather forget from their minds, to great success. Mr Malfoy wished for the same thing, only his procedure backfired."

"Why?"

"That is, unfortunately, nearly impossible to ascertain," Gregorius said apologetically. "The main point is that it did. Preliminary scans have showed us that his brain is behaving in an irregular pattern. He slipped from unconsciousness into sleep a few hours ago, and we're expecting him to awake shortly. Until he does, there's really no telling what the effects of the spell have been on him."

Gregorius glanced at Draco and made a note on his clipboard before turning back to Harry.

"Mr Potter, I must warn you that possible effects include mild to severe brain damage, and memory loss to an extent that it might turn out permanent. Mr Malfoy may even be paralysed. There is simply no way to know."

Harry nodded grimly and grasped the Healer on the shoulder. "Thank you."

"You," and Gregorius seemed to notice the presence of Ron and Hermione, hovering awkwardly nearby for the first time, and extended the statement to include them, "can stay with him if you like. Visiting hours end at 8 o'clock, and it's entirely possible he may wake up before then."

Gregorius glanced at his wristwatch and grimaced. "I have other patients to attend to, but the moment his condition changes, I will be back. My condolences to you in the face of this accident, Mr Potter." He bowed his head respectfully and left quietly, leaving the trio alone with Draco on the bed.

--

An hour later, Ron and Hermione were watching Harry pace back and forth beside the bed.

"I'm sure he'll be fine, Harry," Hermione soothed for the millionth time. "He's strong, he'll get through this."

"But what if he doesn't?" Harry fired back, silencing his friend yet again with the simply desperate look in his eyes.

Hush descended on the trio once more. Harry resumed his pacing, and Hermione exchanged a worried glance with Ron.

A slight sound from the bed drew all of their attention. Draco was shifting restlessly, his eyelids fluttering, making a strange whimpering noise in the back of his throat.

Harry was by his side in an instant, one hand gently smoothing his lover's hair. "Draco, love, it's me, it's Harry," he murmured, "I'm right here for you."

The delicately sculptured face of Draco Malfoy shifted, and his eyes fluttered open, revealing blank grey orbs. They stared blindly straight ahead for a moment, flickered, and then glanced to the side to see who was stroking his hair.

Draco yelped, pulling away swiftly from Harry as though burned, his expression swiftly turning to an angry snarl that Harry hadn't seen on Draco's face since they were about halfway through their fifth year.

"Get the bloody hell off me, Potter," Draco sneered at him coldly. They stared at each other, one angry, one terribly confused and hurt, and Harry noted absently that his beloved's eyes held no hint of warmth or love.

TBC

AN: OK, yes, you're all going to kill me for this, I know. No, this is not an update for my Veela story. Yes, this is in fact the first chapter of a new fic. No, I have no intentions of updating the Veela fic anytime soon, and come to think of it, I probably won't update this one again either for a long time. This was simply a plot bunny that arrived in my mind one morning during my shower and it simply had to be written.

I am dreadfully, painfully busy with schoolwork, and I should be slapped for writing this instead of my Ext. 2 major work, which is a short story, but as it is. I wrote this in a frenzy across two nights, and now I present it to you to ask what you think of it.

Keeping in mind that no matter how many times you ask me to update it won't change the pile of schoolwork I have to do, until next time, my dears.

bleedingxheart