A/N: A One-Shot for my 50th story. ~Nyah~
Oh, and AU in the sense that Voldemort never happened.
Quality over Quantity
Hermione sighed as she looked down at the paper in her hands, which was a paper that had been copied and handed to every girl in the seventh year. Apparently this piece of paper was a tradition held in Hogwarts for every seventh year and had been done for well over two centuries straight.
On the paper was a list of every girl's name along with a number next to it. The number was the amount of votes the girl had received from the boys, who were voting based on who they thought the cutest girl in the school was.
Hermione's name, of course, was at the very bottom of the page. The only tiny surprise included was that there was a 1 instead of 0 next to her name.
It was probably somebody who was joking around or something.
While Hermione didn't much care about her looks or whether or not she was sexually attractive, the fact that only one guy in their entire class thought she was cute, and that was probably a joke, didn't feel good. Even Eloise Midgen, second from the bottom, received seven votes, and everyone in their year had thought she was the ugliest thing to ever walk the halls of this school back in fourth year.
Lavender Brown, of course, was at the top, just squeaking past Pansy Parkinson, who had undoubtedly received all of the Slytherin votes. Ron had to have been pleased about that since he was going out with Lavender.
"Look at Hermione at the bottom," Hermione heard another student chuckle quietly. "What a loser."
Hermione sighed again. Even though this stuff never really bothered her, when it was presented like this it was a little disconcerting. It wasn't as if she was super unpopular; she was one of two best friends of possibly the most popular person at the school: Harry Potter. Maybe she was being narcissistic, but she wouldn't have put herself at the very bottom of the page. She was prettier than Eloise Midgen and Hannah Abbott...wasn't she?
"What's the matter, Hermione?" asked a voice from beside her as the owner of the voice took his seat next to her.
Hermione couldn't help her cold tone of voice as she crumpled up the paper and said, "Nothing, Harry."
There was no doubt Harry was one of the ones who had voted for Lavender Brown. While Hermione had never seen him actively checking her out and he had never mentioned liking her, she was definitely his type. Good-looking, desirable, confident in herself...she reminded Hermione of Cho Chang, Harry's first girlfriend. He wouldn't understand or even care about her predicament.
"Well it doesn't seem like nothing, Hermione," Harry said. "You know you can tell me anything."
Hermione ignored him as she took out her notes in preparation for class, which passed relatively slowly. People in the class kept snickering and looking up at her with humor dancing in their eyes throughout the entire period. Hermione did her best to stay indifferent, but after a while it began to seriously affect her. She wasn't some sideshow freak that deserved their laughter; she was a strong, independent human being. The attention she was receiving was seriously disproportionate compared to the relative seriousness of the situation. She was kind of surprised people even paid so much attention to the stupid, skewed rankings that were presented on that piece of paper.
At the end of the class Hermione quickly gathered up her belongings to avoid another interrogation from Harry. She didn't want to snap at him again when he was trying to be nice, but she couldn't help it when she was angry like that.
Harry caught up to her pretty quickly anyway and grabbed her wrist to stop her, panting and bending over as he caught his breath. "Geez, you're fast," he said. "Was afraid I wasn't going to catch you for a moment."
Hermione sighed. "I don't want to talk about it, Harry," she said.
"Talk about what?" Harry asked, looking up at her. She knew he knew what she was talking about, and was grateful that he chose to stop pestering her about it. "I just wanted to hang out with you."
A smile found its way onto Hermione's face for the first time since she saw the paper. Even if nothing else was going her way, she could always count on Harry. "Well then," she said, "what do you want to do while we hang out?"
Harry shrugged and finally stood up to his full height. "Well, we could go do our homework down by the lake. It's pretty nice out today."
Hermione nodded her consent and couldn't help but think that Harry was right about the weather when they finally got outside. It really was a fine spring day.
The two of them made their way down to the lake and claimed the best spot, which was right under the big tree, by transfiguring Harry's cloak into a blanket and setting up on it. Harry leaned back against the trunk of the tree while he did his homework, and Hermione ended up laying down on her stomach, her feet up in the air.
She finished all of her work relatively quickly and sneaked a glimpse at Harry's progress to find that he wasn't even halfway done yet. Hermione turned her attention over to the lake as she rested her head on her arms right next to Harry's left leg, wondering how he managed to finish any exams at that pace while the soft sounds of the rustling leaves and the soothing rays of the sun lulled her to sleep.
It was a while later when she finally woke up, her head resting on something considerably softer than her arms. It was a little cooler, and when Hermione opened her eyes, she had to guess by the streaks of pink and red in the sky that the sun was currently in the process of setting.
When her eyes finally adjusted, though, it wasn't the sky she found directly above her. It was Harry. Which meant that her head was on...his lap?! How had that happened?
She went to sit up, her cheeks a little red at the thought of sleeping using his lap as a pillow the entire time, but Harry gently caught her shoulder and made her lay back down.
"I thought it was more comfortable than your arms," Harry explained as he smiled down at her. "You looked like you really needed the rest."
Resigned to the fact that Harry's lap had officially become her pillow, she smiled up at him and said, "Thanks. You're definitely right about that."
Harry went back to what Hermione had assumed he had been doing before she had woken up - staring over the lake. The wind was playing with his messy hair just a tiny bit; just enough to make Hermione notice how good it looked when it was moving, even if almost imperceptibly.
Harry sighed long and loud, attracting Hermione's attention. She knew that sigh. That was the sigh he used before he was going to confess something.
"You know Hermione, you really shouldn't let that list affect you like it did today," he said, immediately making her cheeks turn red. "It's stupid anyway." He looked down at her, and at the questioning look on her face, he said, "I was looking at it over your shoulder before I sat down for class earlier."
Hermione sighed in return. "I was just a little disappointed is all," she admitted quietly. "I know it isn't very humble of me to be thinking like this, but I really think I deserved more than what I got."
Harry smiled softly as he looked back over the lake. "Yeah..." he said. "Definitely."
There was a long moment of silence that followed Harry's proclamation in which Hermione couldn't help but marvel at how comfortable his lap was. Finally, he said, "A number on a piece of paper doesn't dictate how good anybody looks, Hermione."
"I know that," she said defensively, starting to feel a little stupid about her reaction from earlier. He was right.
"And if it really did matter, would it be the amount of votes somebody received that dictated how cute they are?" he looked back down at her, his eyes piercing hers to the point that she swore he could see the cogs turning in her brain. "Or would it be who voted for somebody that dictated how cute they were?"
Harry allowed Hermione to sit up this time, and she turned so she could face him. "What do you mean by that?" she asked.
Harry shrugged, now avoiding her eyes. An especially strong gust of wind made his hair flutter again. "It would all be relative to the person who received the votes, of course," he said, not helping much in the way of the explanation Hermione was looking for. "For instance," he said. He paused in thought for a moment before continuing. "Relative to you, what would be the worth of Draco Malfoy voting for you compared to somebody like Dean Thomas?"
Hermione blinked, somewhat caught by surprise. Harry was just full of perfectly logical insights at the moment. "Well, Dean would count more I suppose. Malfoy isn't a very good person."
"Exactly," Harry said, eagerness bursting forth as he leaned toward her in excitement. "That's how you should look at it."
Hermione frowned. "Well, I would need to know who voted for me to properly assess the worth of their vote."
"Obviously it was somebody who thought you were the cutest girl in the entire school," Harry said. "The girls were serious about this. We weren't allowed to lie about who we thought was the cutest. There was a spell on the parchment that restricted us from lying."
"So somebody really thinks I'm the cutest girl in seventh year?" Hermione asked, now thoroughly surprised. "Who?"
Harry smiled at her like he had some sort of secret, and he said, "You know, for someone so smart sometimes you can be really, really slow."
Hermione pouted. "I know I'm not smart when it comes to things like this. That's why I finished at the bottom of the page," she said.
Harry's smile grew a little. "I really want to know the answer to this, Hermione. Whose vote would be worth the most to you out of any boy at this entire school?"
"Well, yours of course," Hermione said without thinking. "You're my best friend."
Harry's smile grew even further. "I'm really going to have to tell you outright who voted for you, aren't I? I thought you would have figured it out by now."
Hermione was getting impatient at this point. "Just tell me already, Harry. I need to know."
Harry considered it for a moment. His smile turned into a grin and he said, "Only under one condition." Hermione quickly nodded. "You say 'yes' to the next question I ask, no matter what it is."
Hermione chewed her lip in thought. What if he asked her to do something embarrassing? But it was worth it if she knew who liked her, right? "I agree to your condition," Hermione confirmed.
And the most amazing smile Hermione had ever seen graced Harry's face at that moment. Her heart skipped a beat, she was sure of it, and the beautiful, blood-red sky directly behind Harry did nothing to help that feeling. Neither did the way the wind decided to make his hair even messier right at that moment.
And Hermione suddenly knew who it was who thought she was the cutest girl in the school. Why else would he allow her to use his lap as a pillow like that or smile in such a way at her that she knew that smile was reserved for her and her alone?
"It was you," Hermione mumbled before Harry could confess it himself. She looked up into his eyes for confirmation and wasn't disappointed by what she saw.
"Is it alright if I kiss you right now, Hermione?" he asked, his eyes locked on hers.
And even though Hermione was no longer bound by the promise she had made to Harry, she still found herself, even through the shock that the surrealism of this moment was causing, saying,