The Sugar Quill
Author: Poppy P (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Never Better  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

A/N:  My version of the "Never better" scene from the movie.  Big thanks to Sneakoscope for the inspiration.  For the purposes of this fic, you must assume that Hermione did hug Harry during the "You’re a great wizard" speech.  Cheers!


            Hermione approached Ron cautiously.  He was leaning over the railing of the staircase overlooking the entrance to the hospital wing.  He hadn’t heard her approach.  Before she spoke, she ran a hand over her hair one final time.  She had tried to control her hair by putting a plastic hair band in it.  It had worked somewhat.  She cleared her throat loudly, startling Ron.  He spun around.


            "Is he out yet?"  Hermione inclined her head towards the hospital wing door. 

            Ron grimaced.  "Nope.  I suppose Madam Pomfrey’s giving him the once over," he rolled his eyes, "again.  Hope she lets him out in time for the feast.  Is it almost time?"

            Hermione glanced down at her watch.  "Just about."

            Ron turned back to lean on the railing, placing his chin on his hand.  "Not that it matters if we’re late or not.  Slytherin won anyway," he said gloomily.

            Hermione instinctively reached to pat his back, but stopped herself quickly remembering Harry’s discomfort when she had hugged him before he faced Voldemort.  "Ron," she said, her brisk tone causing him to turn back to her.  "We may have lost the Cup, but just think about what we accomplished!  You helped stop You-Know-Who from returning to power.  You helped save the wizarding world.  And what you did down in the giant chess chamber, that was…that was…" She struggled to find the words that would properly express the enormity of Ron’s deed as his ears flushed scarlet.  "That was amazing!"

            Ron’s face suddenly matched his ears.  "You weren’t so bad yourself," he said gruffly, turning away slightly.

            Hermione felt her face grow hot as well.  "I wasn’t nearly as brave as you.  The way you let yourself get taken so that Harry could go on…" Hermione trailed off and swallowed hard.  Now she turned to lean over the railing, avoiding Ron’s eyes.  "And when the queen walloped you, I…I mean…we thought you were…dead."  She shuddered at the memory.  For a moment, neither of them spoke.

            Ron snickered self-consciously breaking the awkward silence.  "Truth be told, I though I’d had it myself.  Almost told Harry to look after Scabbers for me, just in case."

            Hermione turned towards him with an exasperated sigh.  "Oh Ron, honestly!"  They contemplated each other before looking away quickly.  "Your eye looks much better."

            He touched the bruised skin around his eye gingerly.  "Yeah, I reckon I’ll have a shiner for a while."  He cocked his head to the side, scrutinizing Hermione.  "Say, your hair…"

            "What about it?" snapped Hermione defensively, smoothing her hands over the hair band to make sure it was still in place.

            "Nothing, it’s just…you look different is all."

            A crimson flush crept over Hermione’s face.  "Well I had to restrain it somehow as we have to wear our hats for the feast."  She pulled her own hat from her pocket.  "I suppose you forgot to bring yours didn’t you?" she asked sternly.

            He gave her a withering look.  "No I didn’t, Miss Know-it-all.  I even remembered to bring Harry’s down for him."

            Hermione smiled approvingly.  "Good."

            A sly grin lit Ron’s face.  "Yes, I reckon you’re getting to be a bad influence on me, making me responsible and all."

            Hermione tried to retain a stern look but failed to smother her pleased grin.

            The sound of footsteps and a familiar voice made them tear their gaze from each other.  They looked down to see Harry emerging from the hospital wing.  Harry’s hand was bandaged, there were multiple scratches and wounds on his face, but he contemplated them with concern.  He called up to Ron, “All right?”

Ron answered him with a grin, “All right.  You?”

Harry smiled, some of the tension leaving his anxious face.  “All right.  Hermione?”

A kaleidoscope of scenes flashed before Hermione’s eyes.  Facing Fluffy.  The giant mountain troll.  Setting fire to Snape to save Harry.  The devastation of losing one hundred and fifty points in one night.  Ron, astride a metal horse, determined to help Harry save the Sorcerer’s Stone, even if it cost him his life.  They had faced it all together.  They had come through everything together.  More than all the knowledge she had acquired that year, more than the top marks she had received, she valued the friendship she had gained.  She felt more than ‘all right’.  A small smile started at the corners of her mouth, and she answered Harry’s question, "Never better."

            Hermione started down the staircase with Ron close behind her.  They may have lost the House Cup, but Hermione was eternally grateful for all that she had gained in her first memorable year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  This thought comforted her as she sat down in the Great Hall amid the Slytherin colors and Malfoy’s derisive sneer.  With Ron and Harry at her side, she could even bear that.

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