A/N: Okay, I know you can never have too much editing, but I've been using the spare time I would normally use to write to edit the Painting Knows, and it's beginning to drive me insane. I've figured out before that I need to have more than one story going at once so I have something to turn to if I need a break from one of them, so here's yet another story... As it frequently seems to happen, the idea for the main part of this one came while I was on the edge of sleep, which was annoying because I had to get up and write it down before I forgot.
Thanks to GreekGirl for betaing and for the encouragement!
Note: Draco is NOT a vampire... Just in case you read the sunlight thing and think he is.
Disclaimer: Not. Mine. Writing disclaimers annoy me, and I have a habit of forgetting them, so the characters, etc. will continue to not belong to me for the entirety of this story... And all the other ones.
Draco looked down at his hand and frowned; something was seriously wrong with him. Sure, he had been affiliated with the dark side during the war, but this was getting ridiculous.
His problems all started when he began to feel uncomfortable in direct sunlight. This hadn't been a big deal because he'd always done his best to avoid the sunlight – pale complexion and all that. When his head started to hurt him though, he'd begun to get concerned.
The moronic Healers at St. Mungos had been clueless as to what could possibly be causing his discomfort in sunlight, they'd even gone as far as suggesting that it could possibly be a psychological problem to do with his involvement in the war. The incompetence they allowed to fester inside the walls of that hospital of late was astounding.
It wasn't long after his trip to the hospital that his hands and feet had started to darken and blend in with the shadows before fading back to their normal pale white. Soon after that, the spots of shadow on his skin were traveling gradually up his arms and legs until he could completely blend into darkness. Around this time, he noticed that he was developing the same sensitivity to all light which only added to the severity of his situation.
It was with an almost resigned acceptance that he noticed that he was starting to turn transparent when he was in dark spaces. It was like he was starting to become a shadow, and still the Healers didn't believe him. Draco was pretty sure that if he showed up at the hospital one more time, they were going to institutionalize him. Sure, the padded walls would be entertaining for about five minutes, but then the mind-numbing boredom would set in and he'd run the risk of actually going insane.
Despite his... affliction, Draco was still a Malfoy, and as such, wasn't about to let some strange illness stop him from taking care of the Malfoy estate and companies. As the last remaining Malfoy –both of his parents hadn't survived the war- it fell to Draco to make sure he stayed as filthy rich as he had become used to before the whole Voldemort mess had even started. Sure he could –and did- pay people to take care of those things for him, but occasionally he had to oversee a meeting or sign something in person. It was an annoying job, but it was worth the piles of gold in his multiple family vaults.
He snapped out of his thoughts when the annoying little man that handled most of the Malfoy accounts cleared his throat.
"Mr. Malfoy, I'm sure your hand is fascinating, but we're on a schedule today." The mousy man said briskly. Draco's eyebrow rose. Did this man actually think he could get away with talking to him like that?
He watched as the man paled and started stuttering his apologies. That was better. The man, Henderson? Michelson? Was a minion, and as such, should never speak to him with anything other than respect – and possibly some variation of awe and worship.
The meeting continued uneventfully and Draco managed to escape after a reasonable period of time. He glared up at the sun as he exited the building. If his "condition" continued to get worse, he was going to have to get one of his minions... employees to follow him around with a black umbrella to block out the light. He cringed just thinking of the teasing that would result from that.
"Draco!" Someone in the crowd called. The blond sidestepped under an awning to keep him out of the sun while he turned to face Greg. The large man was shoving shoppers out of his way to reach his friend.
"What're you doing here?" Draco asked, with a little more accusation in his tone than he'd intended. He was more snappish than normal because of the burning feeling lingering on his skin from the sun exposure he'd just been through.
Goyle was used to Draco's mood swings and was completely unruffled by the tone the blond was using. He knew that Draco could be bitchier than a hormonal hippogriff when something was bothering him, so he didn't take it personally.
"Part of my parole is to go to the Muggle world every three months." He held up a flyer. "I want you to come with me to see this."
The eyebrow was raised again. "Greg, why would I want to go to the Muggle world?"
"Because part of the reason you got off without parole was that I spoke at your trial, you owe me."
Draco sighed; he almost missed the days when Greg was a minion who just followed him around. Almost. It was nice to have a friend sometimes instead of a minion, but the insolence could get annoying. "Fine. When are we going to this-" he snatched the flyer and frowned at the advertisement "-what the hell is a 'dog show'?"
Greg shrugged his broad shoulders. "I don't know, but she only gave me three options and this one seemed better than 'guided bus tour' or 'florist convention'."
Before Draco could even properly sneer at the options, Greg continued. "Meet me at the Leaky Cauldron tomorrow at noon." Goyle knew his blonde friend well, so didn't give Draco any time to object to the plan. He turned and left, leaving Draco stranded under the awning.
Now he was going to have to pretend nothing was wrong while Muggles and dogs surrounded him! Wasn't that just grand? His sharp grey eyes scowled at the retreating back of his friend.
Hermione sat down at her kitchen table and flipped open her paper. She nearly spit out her mouthful of coffee when she noticed the headline.
Malfoy Heir Disappears While Attending Dog Show
While attending a Muggle dog show with friend Gregory Goyle three days ago, Draco Malfoy disappeared. Goyle stated, "he was there one minute, then when I looked back, he was nowhere to be seen". Could it be that Malfoy has discovered a new love for pet shows and run away to fulfill his dream of winning a blue ribbon, or could something more devious be afoot? Should we all be concerned that Malfoy's disappearance is a warning that the Dark Lord is going to rise again?
Turn to page A3 to find out more.
She rolled her brown eyes to the ceiling. The press was really desperate for a story, who would ever believe that Malfoy would want to disappear into the Muggle world? Harry was about as likely to join a Voldemort sympathizer group, as Draco Malfoy was to run away and hide in the Muggle world.
The phone rang, distracting Hermione from an internal rant about what a pureblooded prat the "Malfoy heir" was.
"Hermione, your cousin needs your help."
Hermione heaved a silent sigh. Her cousin Chris had always been kind of useless, he was the type of person who threw everything into stupid schemes that never worked out and landed him with no money on his parents couch.
"What's he done this time?" Hermione asked in a resigned voice. It seemed like the family was taking turns trying to make him get a real job, and her number seemed to have come up.
"He's got it into his mind that he's a 'paranormal researcher'. I thought maybe you could go talk some sense into him."
"You're asking the only witch in the family to go convince Chris that there's no such thing as magic?" Somewhere in her mother's mind, that had probably made sense at some point. Hermione was hoping that saying it out loud would make the woman realize how poorly thought out the whole thing was.
"Maybe you could help him catch a ghost or something?" Hermione suddenly regretted explaining some of the things witches could do that most Muggles couldn't, such as see ghosts.
"Mum, I can't just take time off work! You know I'm training to be a Healer, it takes a lot of time!"
"You also told me you have a week of vacation starting today. Help your cousin, for me?" her mother pleaded.
Another silent sigh escaped her. Ever since she'd erased their memories and sent them to Australia, her parents had been able to guilt-trip her into almost anything.
"Fine. I'll go see him today. Where is he?"
She looked up at the dilapidated looking building in front of her. Chris had landed himself in some strange situations before, but this was the first time she'd been seriously concerned for his safety, the place looked like it was about to fall over any second now.
She'd been contemplating whether the frame was sturdy enough to hold the door up if she were to knock when the door opened and Chris came up to her giving her a big hug.
She pasted a fake smile on her face, feeling her cheeks stretch into an unnatural expression. Judging from the look Chris gave her, it looked unnatural too.
"Hermione, are you all right?"
"Fine. Mum said you could use an assistant and I had some vacation time, so here I am."
Chris ran a hand through his hair as he looked at his cousin. Unfortunately, the Granger hair was something that many people in their family suffered with, and Chris wasn't excluded. The short length made his unruly hair stand up at random angles, adding to the crazy scientist look he seemed to prefer, with the long lab-coat and thick glasses.
"You picked a great time!" He announced, having obviously decided she wasn't as insane as her expression led him to believe.
She was almost afraid to ask. "Why is it a great time?"
"Because I've caught something! Come see."
He waved her forward and led her into what had once been the sitting room of the house. There was no furniture in the room, and large spotlights were wired to the ceiling, lighting everything in blinding light. There was a small tent-like structure in the middle of the floor, the only spot of darkness in the otherwise, brightly lit room. It didn't look like its thick canvas walls would hold up against the rain, but they easily blocked the light. Hermione raised a skeptical eyebrow at the whole thing; what kind of monster would fit in a tent that would barely hold three people standing up?
Hermione gave him a skeptical look, she couldn't think of anything that could be caught by some lights and a tent. She was also doubtful that whatever was in there was actually a magical creature. The poor guy had probably found a draft and thought he had a ghost in there because there was a cold spot.
"Chris... What've you caught?"
Instead of answering her, he made a shushing motion and dragged her into the tent by her sleeve.
The inside of the tent was pitch-black. It seemed even darker because they'd just come from the well-lit room into the dingy darkness inside the tent. She crossed her arms and waited for her eyes to adjust enough to see, or for something supernatural to make itself known.
"I don't think there's anything here..." She said hesitantly after what felt like an hour, but was probably closer to five minutes. When the only thing you have to listen to is your cousins wheezing breaths while you try to penetrate through almost complete darkness in an enclosed space, it can get a little uncomfortable.
"There is! Maybe it only comes out when there's only one person here." Chris looked around the tent. "Close your eyes so you don't lose your night-vision, I'm going to go wait in the other room until something appears to you, be careful! I still don't know what its capable of!"
Hermione sighed but nodded. It didn't seem like she'd be able to get out of this without humoring him.
"Might as well make myself comfortable," she muttered as she sank down to the floor.
A small scream tore from her lips when something grabbed her by the arm and hauled her to her feet. Her wand was out and pointed in the direction of her assailant before she'd even consciously registered that there was something else in the tent with her. Whatever was there was holding her arm in a death-grip as she tried to squirm away.
"Tell me you can see me!" A frantic voice said.
"I can't see anything, it's too dark in here!" She snapped. The voice sounded too frantic to intend her harm. Hermione had become relatively adept at determining when someone wanted to hurt her and when someone was just panicking - it took practice, but between the war and her Healer training, she'd had plenty of it.
Hermione lit her wand and stared in disbelief at the frantic grey eyes looking back at her. "Malfoy?" She asked in shock. Wasn't he supposed to be missing?
He actually sagged to the floor in relief, refusing to loosen his grip on her arm, she was dragged to the ground with him. It was like he was afraid that if he let go of her, he'd disappear.
"Granger, something's wrong with me. You're an annoyingly righteous Gryffindor, so you have to help me." He tightened his grip on her arm to accentuate his point.
Hermione yanked her arm out of his grasp, she wasn't going to just sit there and let him order her around while he threw insults. She watched in horror as Malfoy faded back into the shadows that immersed the both of them.
"Malfoy?" She asked again, slightly worried that she'd done something to make him disappear. Though she didn't want anything to do with him, she also didn't actively wish him harm. He was a horrible, rotten git, but he didn't deserve to hide out in a tent with only Chris and his asthmatic breathing and dubious paranormal tests to keep him company.
The hand grabbed her arm again, with less urgency this time. Curiously, she watched closely as first the hand that was touching her and then the rest of him appeared before her eyes.
"Can you see me now?" At her nod, he looked relieved, but didn't drag her to the floor again. He must have reached his limit for physical expressions of his emotions for the day.
"Granger, could you... please get me out of this bloody tent?" He said the word 'please' like it physically hurt him - she didn't think it was something that came from his mouth all that frequently.
She couldn't just leave him there at the mercy of Chris and his array of Muggle ghost-hunting technology.
"Fine," she sighed. The gentle squeeze she felt was all the thanks she was going to get and she knew it. "Why couldn't you get out of here yourself?"
"Don't you think I would've done that if I could've?" He snarled. "When I'm not touching you, I fade into a shadow, and I can't go out in the lights."
Hermione mentally ran through every spell and potion she could think of that would cause something like that to happen, but couldn't seem to think of anything.
"Chris!" She yelled, startling Malfoy into dropping her arm and disappearing. It was kind of ironic that he had once considered himself too good to soil his pureblood skin by touching her and now he needed to touch her in order to solidify.
Chris ripped open the flaps of the tent frantically, causing Hermione to wince a little. She probably should have called for him more calmly so he didn't think whatever monster was lurking in the tent had harmed her.
"Are you okay?" He demanded, brandishing his flashlight around the tent like it would banish the monsters.
"I'm fine, but I need you to turn off the lights out there. And your flashlight while you're at it."
Chris looked at her like she'd lost her mind. "I can't do that, it'll escape." His eyes widened and he grabbed her shoulders in a death-grip. "It's possessed you!"
He turned and ran from the tent again, probably to go get holy water or something. A mental image suddenly appeared of Malfoy cringing away from the holy water and sneering as her misguided cousin threw water at him in an attempt to protect her.
"Is he always like that?" Malfoy asked a second after his large hand closed around her wrist.
Now that he was standing so close to her, it really hit her how tall he was. When did Malfoy get so big? What happened to the little boy she'd slapped in third year? He'd been the same size as her back then...
"Yes." She sighed. Chris wasn't going to be much help with the lights, so she was going to have to do something about them herself. "How does he even know you're here?"
Malfoy frowned. "If there's enough light to cast a shadow, then I show up as a shadow on the walls, otherwise, I just blend into the darkness. He figured out how to use the angles of his giant lights to trap me in this bloody tent."
Wow. Maybe Chris wasn't as bad at the supernatural hunting as the whole family seemed to think. He'd successfully trapped Malfoy when he had no idea what he was, and it had taken serious thought and preparation.
She made sure her cousin was nowhere to be seen before poking her wand out of the tent and blacking-out the glass covering the lights. The room was plunged into darkness. Chris' distressed yelp at the sudden darkness could be heard from the next room as she pulled the flap aside and Malfoy followed her out, still holding her wrist.