Disclaimer: my name is not J.K. Rowling. This means I do not own the characters, spells, locations – heck, anything in this story. This is a purely not-for-profit piece of fan fiction, and should Mrs. Rowling, or any of her associates, request it, I will remove this story from the web. Thank you.

Beautiful Poison

By Random1377

Chapter 1 – Blindside

Harry Potter exited the great hall feeling better than he had in months. The long, dull summer was behind him, and miraculously there had been no sign of Lord Voldemort. Plenty of time for practice, he thought to himself optimistically, yeah, ok, so I couldn't actually DO any of the charms, but I could practice the movements.

He frowned, remembering that the practice sessions had involved his tenth birthday present – the unwound coat hanger the Dursleys had given him.

"Better than nothing, I suppose," he mused to himself, waving as he caught sight of his friend Ron Weasley, just rounding the corner and heading towards the bathrooms. "Oi, Ron!" he called, starting to wave. "Over he-"

"Potter."

At the cold, soft whisper behind him, Harry froze, his hand flying instinctively to his wand.

"There's no need for that, Potter," the voice (woman's voice, Harry's mind corrected) said coolly, "especially not with me behind you."

Harry eased his hand away from his robe pocket, noticing suddenly just how few people were in the great hall. With everyone at the feast, he told himself angrily, why WOULD there be anyone out here? Perfect… the perfect time for an ambush…

"Turn around, won't you?" came a calm instruction, "I do so dislike talking to your backside."

Slowly, Harry did as he was told, cursing himself for being so careless – and on his very first day back, too! He wondered just how fast he could get to his wand… but he knew that unless he was faster than a spell, he had no chance.

He blinked, however, as he found himself face to face with a sixth year Slytherin he recognized quite well. "Parkinson?"

The girl did indeed look like Pansy Parkinson, one of Draco Malfoy's cronies, but her defining features – a hard face and an unpleasantly upturned pug-like nose – had been softened slightly. Harry knew that well-to-do wizarding families, like well-to-do muggle families, often made a gift of cosmetic surgery. Even Harry's friend, Hermoine Granger, had partaken in some slightly underhanded rearranging of her teeth, following an incident with an enlarging curse Draco had cast upon her, so the mild alterations to Pansy's face took a little getting used to, but were not entirely unusual.

"Well," the girl drawled after letting him study her for a moment, "at least I don't have to waste time introducing myself – and before you ask, yes, it was a present for my 17th birthday." She stayed where she was, the tip of her wand – a slender, pale rowan wood staff of eight inches – barely visible against her dark robs, leaning against her left arm as casually as she herself leaned against the wall just outside the doorway to the great hall. "Got a minute, Potter?" she asked, her face twisting into an unpleasant parody of a smile.

"Don't suppose I have much of a choice, do I?" Harry growled, raising his hands to show that he wasn't going for his wand.

Pansy nodded, lowering her arms to her sides, but showing that her wand was still at the ready. "In here, then," she said briskly, nodding to one of the doors just off the hall. "Come on, Potter, step lively."

Scowling openly, Harry led the way into the room, not quite wincing as it snapped closed behind him, plunging them into darkness. Now's my chance.

His hand shot into his robs, but before he could bring his wand out, Pansy whispered, "Lumos petite." Her eyes met his in the dim light coming from the tip of her wand, and Harry could see that she was grinning. "I thought Slytherins were supposed to be the ones willing to do anything to win?" she chided, showing all of her teeth. "Best put it away, Potter, or I'll have to tell everyone that you tried to attack me."

Like anyone would believe YOU! Harry's thoughts screamed. But in the back of his mind, he could see the face of his Potions teacher, Professor Snape, leering over his desk and murmuring, 'I've heard the most unsettling report, Mister Potter… you haven't unpacked yet, have you?'

"Better," Pansy murmured in satisfaction, nodding as Harry's wand disappeared into his robes once more.

With a look of disgust, Harry put his hands defiantly out to his sides – as if offering her a bigger target. "Get on with it then," he dared, meeting her steely blue eyes dead on.

Pansy returned his sneer, clearly considering hitting him with a truly dreadful curse… but instead of raising her wand, she lowered it and cleared her throat. "You… got an 'Outstanding' on your Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L.," she said calmly, "Millicent told me… is it true?"

"That's right," Harry said waspishly, wondering if she was going to say 'let's see you defend yourself without a wand!' or something of the kind.

Instead, the girl's confident smile wavered slightly. "She also said… that you taught some of the other students last semester. Did you?"

Now slightly confused, Harry replied, "Yeah… but I'm not saying who." He grinned, rather nastily, "You'll just have to find out for yourself."

"I couldn't care less," Pansy snorted, shaking her head for emphasis. "But you can teach other people…"

"Yeah," Harry said slowly, wondering where all of this was going.

Taking a very deep breath, Pansy slowly lowered her wand further, plunging her face into shadow as she whispered, "Can you… teach me?"

Harry opened his mouth to say 'what?' but instead found himself blurting, "Why should I?"

Looking disgusted with herself, Pansy retorted, "Because I got a T on the test, alright? I… need to have better grades, Potter – it's simply not an option for me to fail."

"Should've studied harder then," Harry quipped, feeling an enormous sense of satisfaction at the girl's failure. After all, any loss for Slytherin was a win for Gryffindor, as far as he was concerned.

Pansy's face twisted into a sour grimace. "I knew you'd be this way," she hissed, "it's like everyone says – famous Harry Potter can't be bothered with normal students." She looked him up and down, ignoring his look of incredulity. "Well, I wasn't expecting you to do it for nothing," she grumbled, "so… so if you help me… I'll help you with your Potions – I got an Outstanding from that one."

"No thanks," Harry said immediately, trying to forget her comment about him not wanting to help anyone. "I can do fine on my own."

As he moved to step around her, Pansy murmured, "Snape gave me a sneak peek at the syllabus – he's rather fond of me, you know. Our final is the Elixir of Osiris." She allowed this news to settle in for a moment before needlessly clarifying, "It's more complicated than the PolyJuice potion, Potter, do you really think you're going to be able to do it alone? Oh…and something else I forgot to mention." Her eyes were shining as he turned to regard her. "We need to gather our own ingredients for this one."

Harry's jaw dropped open. "You're… you're lying," he grumbled, "trying to make me look stupid – Snape would never make us try to get Heart-"

"Wouldn't he?" Pansy cut in gleefully, bringing her wand up to illuminate her face. "Look me in the eyes, Potter… do I look like I'm lying?"

So, Harry thought grimly, we have to make one of the deadliest potions known to wizardkind – and gather all the ingredients ourselves? No… I don't think she's lying at all; it's exactly the kind of thing Snape would assign as a final.

After a moment of quiet he whispered, "So you'll scratch my back if I'll scratch yours."

Pansy nodded, smiling triumphantly as she sensed the defeat in his voice. "That's right, Potter," she confirmed, "only it won't be your back I'll be scratching when we gather the potion's ingredients – you know what Heartblood is, right?"

Rolling his eyes in irritation, Harry muttered, "I'm not ENTIRELY useless, you know."

"Good," Pansy replied, her voice growing serious as she stuck out her hand. "We have a deal then. Dark Arts for Potions."

Feeling that he was somehow selling his soul, but knowing that even Hermoine's grasp of potions was not quite to Outstanding levels, Harry reached out and seized her hand – and immediately, a shock ran up his arm, making his teeth snap together as he let out a cry of pain.

"Wha?"

"A little insurance," Pansy said, her smile returning as he snatched his hand away. "I learned it over summer break."

Harry rubbed his throbbing hand, feeling the faintest outlines of a snake rising on his palm before fading away. "Take it off," he demanded. "Whatever it is, take it off right now!"

Pansy shook her head. "No," she said flatly, pursing her lips as Harry's hand itched towards his wand. "Oh would you relax," she snapped, "it's just a binding charm."

Scowling, Harry recalled a similar charm Hermoine had used over the last semester to jinx the roll list for Dumbledore's Army. The girl who had broken the charm had ended up with horrible acne across her face, spelling out the word 'sneak,' and no one – to his knowledge – had ever figured out how to remove it

Somehow, though, he surmised that the penalty for breaking Pansy's charm would not be quite that benign.

As if reading his thoughts, the girl added, "Don't worry, it won't kill you, Potter… but I strongly recommend sticking to your end of the deal." Her smile widened. "I really do prefer you looking this way."

"Thanks," Harry muttered acidly.

Still grinning, Pansy extinguished the light from her wand and pushed the door open. "After you, Potter," she murmured, "pleasant dreams."

Throwing her a withering look, Harry stormed out of the room, her high, cruel laughter following him all the way to his bedroom.

Continued… maybe

Author's notes: this is a tendril fic – a brief incursion into an untested fandom to see how the concept is received. If people like it, there might be more. If they don't, well, this is all there'll ever be. I almost never ask if a story should be continued or not, but I'm so 'on the fence' on this one that I just can't make up my mind. It's been sitting, barely worked on, on my USB drive for almost a year. Enthusiasm is contagious. If anyone likes this story, let me know. If it sucks – for Heaven's sake, clue me in! Thanks.

No pre-reader was used on this tendril.

Feedback is definitely welcome on any site with reviewing capabilities, or by e-mailing me directly at random1377(at-sign)yahoo(dot)com.