Too Bad You're Beautiful
Chapter 1: Beneath the Leaves
"We know, Harry,"
"We were there, mate,"
"Those foul gits won, and all because of that evil old hag!"
Hermione looked up from her homework for the first time in the past hour. "How is it Umbridge's fault you lost to Slytherin?" she said.
"Because," –Harry tore in half his third attempt at his potions essay, "She wouldn't let us reform! We lost weeks of practice time because of her! She wanted them to win over us!"
"Harry," Hermione said, "I think Umbridge is concerned with more than just the outcome of the quidditch season,"
"Yeah, well, it's still her fault," Harry grumbled, "I'm going for a walk,"
Ron rose to follow him as he stalked towards to portrait hole, but Hermione caught his arm. "Don't," she said, "You know how he gets sometimes,"
Harry was livid, and the dark corridors only magnified his rage. Umbridge! That vile woman was the essence of pure evil! Her sour influence seemed to be seeping through the entire castle, keeping everyone on a razor's edge. She was almost as bad as those ever-favoured Slytherins. He shuddered to think what would happen if they teamed up…then again, he seethed, they probably already had.
"Potter!" he jumped. It had taken him until now – ¾ of the way to the entrance hall – to realize that he'd forgotten his invisibility cloak. And now someone was approaching, shouting his name.
"Potter!" the voice said again, "That cocky little bastard, did you hear what he said after the match? Like it's never even occurred to him that maybe he's not the best thing this world has ever beheld…"
Ah. Malfoy. Harry squeezed himself into a crevice behind a statue of a gnarled old goblin and watched as his adversary rounded the corner, closely followed by his two cronies.
"Go back to the common room," he snapped at them suddenly. They tried to protest, but he rounded on them, he pale face with unpleasant colour of overripe grapefruit. "Go!" he shouted. Despite the fact that they were both at the very least twice his size, fear crossed their faces, and they ran in the opposite direction.
"Bumbling morons," Malfoy muttered. He whirled back around and continued in the direction of the entrance hall. Malfoy, out of bed after hours? This had to be interesting. As soon as he'd gone around the next corner, Harry darted out and followed him, keeping to the shadows on the far wall. Malfoy's anger intrigued him. What could have motivated him to slam open doors and curse objects out of his way in the middle of the night, risking being caught?
It didn't take Harry long to realize they were headed for the Forbidden Forest. And Malfoy seemed to know exactly where he was going, cutting a concise path through the thick, leafy underbrush. He seemed to relax as they went on, calming in the shelter of the dark, twisting trees. Before long, he stopped, and sat on the stump of a tree, examining his nails. Harry slipped into a nearby tangle of shrubs and waited. And waited. And waited and waited and waited. He grew impatient; the noises of the forest fed on his agitation, but Malfoy remained unperturbed. Nearly two hours passed before a dark shape emerged from the spot on which Malfoy had fixed his gaze.
"You're late," he said. His nearly white hair glittered in slim patches of moonlight that found their way through the canopy above.
"I am not late, Mr Malfoy, you are early," the throaty voice murmured. His – the voice was definitely male – cloak swished ominously.
"Well, then?" Malfoy said, "What is it that's so dreadfully important?"
"You have a task," the figure said, remaining partially hidden in the shadows, "From the Dark Lord,"
Malfoy shrugged as though such news was entirely commonplace. The figure stepped forward and blocked Harry's view, "Do not take this lightly, Malfoy," he said. Something in Harry's mind clicked – it was Snape! "Though it should hardly be a challenge for you," Snape stopped and whirled around.
"Well?" Malfoy drawled.
"Well, what?" Snape muttered.
"What am I supposed to be doing?"
Snape muttered something indiscernible.
"What?" Malfoy said.
"You were followed!" he hissed, edging closer to Harry, "There is someone here, you fool! Back to the castle, I will inform you of your duty tomorrow!"
"I said leave!"
Malfoy, obviously ill-disposed towards being ordered around, crashed back through the bushes and trees like a sullen child, while Snape's sallow fingers searched the darkness, ever edging closer and closer to Harry where he hid.
"AAGH!" he shrieked when he felt the cold tips of those spidery fingers brushing his nose.
"POTTER!" Snape roared, but Harry was already gone, following Malfoy's path through the dense underbrush. His feet pounded mercilessly upon the dark earth, then the grass of the lawn, the stairs, the stone of the corridors. Sweat snaked down his forehead, his loud and ragged breathing echoing.
"Mimbulus Mimbletonia!" he panted at the fat lady, at long last.
"Well, well, well," she smirked at him, "You were…merely out for an evening run, I suppose?"
"Let me in!" he grumbled.
"Alright, alright, there you are!" she said, in a highly miffed tone as she swung forward to admit him.
Immediately upon entering the common room, he was accosted by Hermione, who nearly choked him in a mammoth embrace.
"Harry!" she said, "Oh, thank gods, you've been gone for nearly three hours! Where were you?"
"Forbidden Forest," he said breathlessly, and recounted the past hours as quickly as he could for his friends.
"So…so Malfoy's working for…for you-know-who?" Ron said incredulously, "Blimey…what's he doing?"
"That's the problem," Harry said grimly, "We don't know,"