Disclaimer: The HP series is not mine, it's all J.K. Rowling's. I don't want it, anyhow, especially after HBP. The only thing that's mine is the fic.
Author's Note: Well, an interview, a Wall of Shame, and one disastrous book later, and I still believe in Harry and Hermione. I'll continue to write stories about these two until the end of time - whenever that is. So without further ado, if you're here to read this, enjoy, hopefully.
This goes out to Sandra, one of my best online friends. She's been my inspiration for the past two years, as well as a wonderful friend, so this is my way of saying thank you to her. : ) This also goes out to all my reviewers - thanks so much for your encouraging words and support. I hope you like this.
"He" is Harry, "she" is Hermione.
She thinks she's ugly.
No – she knows she is.
It's the truth – she has faced it her whole life. Seven years full of frustration and never-ending hurt – people don't know she can hear their stifled snickers and whispers. They think she doesn't hear – but she does. She does hear.
Every "got a tail to match that bushy hair, Granger?" and "such a plain Jane – no wonder no one looks at her more than they need to" cuts deep into her slowly, like a knife twisting, making her suffer trudging minute by trudging minute of every day.
She tries not to let it bother her. After all, she has more things to worry about and do. But still it irks her how much society emphasizes on beauty and perfection. And that pressure is turning life into a nightmare. Intelligence is not important anymore – all one should care about is how they look on the outside.
She's seen girls of all figures, colors and lifestyles starve themselves to look and be thin, because being slender is good. And if they are willowy, they will be happy and beautiful, and attract lots of men like bees to nectar. Just like the glamorous models they see on TV. She's even seen girls destroy themselves by cutting or committing suicide because of all the pressure to be skinny. It's an unspoken rule that must be obeyed – You have to be thin. You have to be thin. Even if it costs you your health and your life. You have to be thin.
She's honestly disgusted by it all. To look like a pencil is what makes a person beautiful? Why not judge them by their character, and not what pant size they have to wear?
Because looking like a walking stick does not make a person beautiful.
And to that her classmates would say, "nor would looking ordinary make you beautiful either, Granger!"
But being "plain" is fine with her. She is fine with looking "ordinary and ugly." It's better than starving herself for nothing. She's a girl nobody takes a second look at, with the exception of her friends.
That's all fine with her.
Except it isn't.
It isn't fine with her, never had been. And never will be.
She longs to ask, "what's wrong with being who you are? What's wrong with being happy with yourself and what and how you look like?"
But she knows she'll never get an answer.
And to her – plain is beautiful. If a person was endowed with beauty, eventually, despite all their efforts to keep that from happening, their flawlessness would wither away. And they would look like what they were meant to look like. No Botox, TrimSpa and surgeries. Just themselves and their flaws – which is perfection in itself.
Of course, the rest of the world doesn't think that way.
They think the exact opposite. Obesity is unspeakable, skinniness is not; beauty is unmistakable, ugliness is inexcusable.
Even all this isn't fine with her – she couldn't imagine being anyone else but herself. She's unique, a plain Jane who's quite happy being a plain Jane.
And even though she knows people don't consider her mind-blowingly stunning outwardly, there's one thing that surpasses all beauty. This she knows.
"The one thing" is her personality, the inner things that do count, and that nobody sees. Her true self – that's what makes her striking. It doesn't matter how or what she looks on the outside – how she is inside is important.
And outer beauty is trivial; it's ultimately cast away as time goes on and a person ages. Wrinkles, a symbol of wisdom; scars, telling a story of their own about experiences and birth; laugh lines, showing youthful, eternal happiness; stretch marks, saying of battles won and lost – they're all beautiful. Marred perfection.
At this thought, a memory, not so long ago – a year, to be exact – comes up in her mind.
"I don't think you're ugly." Those bemused words of his would always echo in her mind, soothing and piercing her all at once.
She remembers how he had used to look at her – graceful and enchantingly exotic, like a butterfly. Her namesake.
Her heart squeezes agonizingly, nearly choking her.
And the way he had acted – she could've sensed his awkwardness from a mile away, and how uncomfortable he was around her. Always.
To this day he still acts like that a little – shy and clumsy and unsure, as if he doesn't know exactly what to do.
Which he doesn't. How can he, when he's never known any other female besides his ordinary, not special bookworm best friend and his best mate's younger sister, Ginny, Aunt Petunia and Aunt Marge notwithstanding? And he's had no experience with girls – not before Cho, anyhow – for he's had far more pressing things to do and worry about.
Like saving the world from supreme evil and complete destruction. Like her, only he's the hero, she's his confidante and partner-in-crime.
She sighs heavily. And she knows that she cannot make him feel content and blessed – she is, of course, his best friend. Never will she be more than that. She'll forever be his plain lifesaver and platonic friend. And maybe someday soon he'll realize that beauty is not everything. She can only hope for that.
Maybe he's realizing that already, she muses. He no longer acts tense and on edge around Cho – in fact, it's around her that he's behaving this way. Adorably shy, hesitant, feeling as if he's walking on a delicate surface. She realizes this with a jolt.
As she ponders on this, he slips into a chair beside her. She wonders if maybe, just maybe – he's finally starting to see clearly who he's needed from the very beginning. The one person that understands and knows him through and through – his fears, his weaknesses, his strengths, his flaws. The one person who has been with him through everything, and sees him as the real, not superficial, human he is – as well as a hero.
Her musings are confirmed when he leans over and whispers into her ear – which just so happens to be a sensitive spot – words that she finds herself smiling and blushing delicately at.
"Plain is beautiful."