Kudos to J.K. Rowling, for pretty much everything. She owns it all, so don't even say the word 'legalities' or I'll have a heart attack.
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Chapter One: The worst kind of pain
A small coastal town in Italy.
The latest saying amongst the village women was that the only thing more beautiful than the beach was the boy who walked there. He was a tourist, the gossips said, with his parents on a visit from England.
The 'English' part would earn anyone gawpers in this part of the country, but it was his good looks which interested the women.He was pale as the white sand, they said poetically, and when Maria called out, he turned sea-grey eyes upon her face. "And his body's not half bad either" said those in the know – and there were rather a lot of them, as he'd been staying in the hotel for upwards of two weeks.
He wasted no time, that Draco Malfoy.
Draco sat up. The brunette curled next to him plucked at the blankets and pouted.
He ignored her.
All of the summer holidays, Draco had been brooding over how to get revenge on his enemy. There was a great deal of humiliation and pain that he owed Harry Potter, and this year was his last chance to pay it back. But Draco was looking for something more subtle than an alleyway beating - mind games were better because they left invisible wounds.
He had thought about it on the train back from Hogwarts, on the way to join his parents in Italy, on the walks through sun-baked streets, during the gourmet meals at expensive restaurants, and at night – unless he was otherwise occupied. It was bordering on obsessive; it WAS obsessive. And now he finally had it: a way to get to Perfect Potter without harming a hair on his head.
"Hermione," Draco whispered, a slow grin sliding over his features. The brunette sat up.
"My name isn't Hermione," she said, glaring.
Draco wasn't listening. He twitched the covers off and started to look for his clothes, brain whirring with possibilities.
Kidnap her? No, that was a ridiculous idea, not to mention one that would bring them closer together. He ran a hand through his blond hair by way of a brushing and pulled on his pants. The girl was saying something in an angry babble of Italian as he gave up the search for his shirt and headed for the door.
The hallways connecting the bedrooms opened onto a courtyard. Cool morning air met his bare skin, and he could smell the sea. He needed some coffee and breakfast, which they could presumably produce, in this exclusive hotel, at five in the morning. Draco shut the door behind him and set off towards the stairs.
To his horror, he heard it open again and turned to see the brunette storming towards him, her sleek body wrapped only in a sheet. Oops. Apparently Italian girls had more spunk about these things than their English sisters.
"You should know something."
Lucius bent over his son.
"I do NOT APPRECIATE having to get a breakfast room WITH A DOOR THAT LOCKS so that YOUR FLOOZIE can't get at you with a CARVING KNIFE!"
There was a brief pause.
"It was a steak knife, father."
"Whatever it was, you would have deserved it," said Lucius. "This is appalling conduct Draco; having Muggle girls right left and centre -"
"Yes, I hope you said thank you to her, dear," interjected Mrs. Malfoy. Father and son turned to stare at her.
"Mother, she chased me around the dining room with a knife. Of course I didn't thank her."
"You were lucky there weren't many people about, Draco." Lucius started to count on his fingers. "You will replace the china tea set from your own savings. You will stay away from girls – yes, all girls - until the end of this trip, and you will never, ever, let this happen again. Is that clear?"
"Well, I was happy to see that she wasn't hurt when they got the knife away," said Mrs. Malfoy. "Always remember that a gentleman never hits a lady."
Draco, who had jumped over two tables to avoid getting stabbed, mumbled something about being 'too busy'.
"That will be all, Draco." Lucius said. "Go away. I don't want to see you for the rest of the day."
Draco spent the rest of the day in his room, thinking. By the time he wandered onto the balcony that evening (it was safe by because Maria's brothers had been taken into custody), the plan was fully formed.
Finding the way to inflict the most damage had been a problem until Draco remembered something he had read once, that the worst kind of pain was emotional. He had never been in love, so he had never broken his heart; but he knew what jealousy felt like and how unpleasant it was (not to mention beneath him).
Gryffindors were famed for their bravery and loyalty – poor things got all the worst traits – but Potter was also famous for his pride. If he were to seduce the mudblood under Potter's very nose – even better, if she were a willing prey – that would cause jealousy. And if he played it right he could leave enough of an opening for Potter to fall in love with Granger (it would be unrequited of course; that's where Draco came in), which would cause heartache, and that was supposed to be the worst feeling in the world.
The only thing left was whether his seduction skills were up to the job.
Hermione Granger stepped out of the train bathrooms and directly into Harry Potter.
He steadied her, and grinned. "Hermione!"
She scowled. "Don't mock me. I'm having a bad enough day already."
"What happened?" He glanced down and his eyes widened. "What are you wearing?"
She tugged the skirt down uncomfortably. She liked skirts, but this one was so small she felt like she was flashing everyone her panties - which were a faded green, and not at all the ones she would have picked to be on display.
"Something spilled on my pants. This was the only extra clothing anyone had and I forgot my robe in the compartment."
"Isn't it a little..."
"Short? Yes." She felt his eyes on her and added, "It's only until we get to Hogwarts, Harry."
"Yeah, well, as long as you don't make it a habit, right? I don't want my Hermione getting into trouble."
She bristled at the condescension. "I'll wear what I please, Harry Potter. And I'm not 'yours.'"
Harry shrugged. "No offence, Herm. I was just joking." His eyes strayed down to her skirt again.
"Just go," she said, irritated at Harry, his use of her hated nickname, and calling her 'his' when they were really only friends. Why the last one bothered her in particular, she wasn't quite sure.
"Find Ron and I'll be there in a minute."
"You want me to walk you back?" He slung a placatory arm around her shoulders. It meant nothing to him, she knew, it was just a habit – and that irritated her too. He put his arm around everyone.
"Harry? This is a train. I'm not going to get lost."
He backed away, hands high in mock defeat.
"OK, OK, I'm going. I'll warn – I mean, tell – Ron that you're on your way."
She glared at his retreating back, and immediately felt bad about the whole fiasco. What was wrong with her? It must be coming up on that time of the month , because she wasn't usually this grumpy, especially with her best friends. Maybe that was the problem, she mused. She kept very definite lines around her friendship with the two boys, and Harry kept crossing them – so casually – and confusing her. Or maybe she was just coming down with a cold. Whatever it was, the situation wasn't helped by the miniskirt. She tugged it down again and decided that Harry had just been surprised to see her wearing such a garment since usually she was a very conservative dresser. The sooner she got out of it, preferably without anyone noticing, the better.
"Lost, Granger?" Came a voice behind her, and she turned to see Draco Malfoy watching her from the hallway, arms crossed.
"What are you doing here?" she spat, and then winced because it was a stupid line, really.
"What do you think I'm doing?" He indicated the bathrooms with a tilt of his head. "Is it your new hobby to ambush people at the bathroom door and make sure they really, really have to go?"
"Go stuff it, Malfoy. I was changing."
He smirked. The miniskirt and her obvious discomfort with it hadn't escaped him.
"Really? You've forgotten to put clothing on your lower half." He wrinkled his brow in mock concern. "Would you like my cloak to cover up with?"
She drew herself up, looking rather pretty with her cheeks so pink. Pity about the hair, Draco thought; she might have amounted to something.
"If I had needed a cloak, Malfoy, I would have asked for it. From Harry, who actually cares ."
"Harry just made a nuisance of himself; I saw the whole thing." He leered. "Should I arrange to have him taken care of?"
"Can't you come up with something better than death threats, Malfoy? It's getting a bit lame." She attempted to brush past him, but it's hard to brush by something that won't move out of your way.
"You thought I was threatening him?" He paused and considered. "Well, yes, I suppose I was. But think of all the bother it would save you!"
"Harry wasn't bothering me. Harry never bothers me." Short of beating on his chest, there was no way she could make him move.
He smirked down at her and then twisted his face up and said squeakily:
"Oh, Hermy, what a short skirt you're wearing! You shouldn't be out in it, Hermy! Hermy, I won't stand for it!" And then in a slightly deeper voice,
"Hermy, take it off right now..."
Hermione stared at him. He had unfurled himself and moved closer until he was almost on top of her.
He was not Harry, but... She had to look up to see...The closeness of his body was very...close...
And he stood there for a moment, almost touching her at every point.
With the wall at her back, there was no direction she could move that wouldn't bring her into contact with him; he had her pinned without laying a finger on her. And he knew it:
"What are you going to do now, Granger?" he said quietly.
Hermione's brain was not working very well. She was focused on two things, and everything else was a blur. One was how close he was, and her sudden awareness of his masculinity. The other was the scent of him, which was very difficult to describe but made her think of satin bed sheets. Then the train swayed, making her stagger, and she came to her senses. Draco Malfoy, insulting Harry and then getting into her personal space and making her thoughts run around in idiotic circles? She raised her eyes to his face, which was wearing the patented smirk, and was suddenly furious.
Draco wasn't intending to do anything serious - in fact, what he was doing now wasn't strictly part of his plan - so he wasn't prepared for the knee that she raised. He had a second to contemplate what good aim she had, and then he doubled up in agony.
"I think I like miniskirts," she said, "they allow great freedom of movement." She bared her teeth and then turned and was gone.