Ginny snickered into her sandwich from where she was sitting across from them.
“What? What’s so funny?” Harry frowned, sure he had something on his face.
The redhead’s cheeks pinked slightly. “I can’t decide if you’re like an old married couple, or merely platonic friends who have been together forever and are everything but romantically involved, or if you’re platonic friends who are swimming deep in the river denial and haven’t yet come up for air.”
Harry and Hermione stopped mid-bite to exchange a horrified look. “What? NO! Hermione’s as much my sister as – as you are!”
Ginny blinked. “Well, that certainly put me in my place, didn’t it?” She muttered under her breath.
“You don’t have to sound quite so horrified,” Hermione mock scowled at him, ignoring the redhead. “I’d probably be insulted – if I didn’t feel the exact same way.” She snorted. “Gin, Harry and I are more like cousins than siblings, truth be told; we don’t argue nearly as much as you and Ron do.”
“Mmm, I don’t know. I think Ginny’s last reasoning is more plausible.” Lavender mused, poking her nose into the conversation.
“Oh, honestly – “
The sharp call of an owl caught everyone’s attention, distracting them from Hermione’s outrage as the bird flew above their heads to drop a long, heavy parcel on Harry’s head.
“OY!” he yelped as it flew away. “Ruddy bird, that hurt!”
His Housemates were more interested in the package than his pain. “It looks like a broom. Maybe McGonagall replaced your Nimbus?” Neville suggested, looking up to the high table, but their Head of House wasn’t there.
“There’s no note…” Harry pointed out, still rubbing his skull. Knowing that they would give him no peace, he unwrapped the item, eliciting gasps all around.
“Hey! That’s a Firebolt!”
“Potter’s got himself a Firebolt!”
“Harry, can I have a go? After you, of course!”
The excited voices of his companions tripped over each other in the background as Harry stared at the broom in his hands. He remembered salivating over the prototype in the window when he had visited Diagon Alley with Hagrid, that summer before his first year at Hogwarts. It was even more gorgeous now, all sleek lines and gleaming wood and bristles.
“Who?” he wondered aloud, even as he fought to remain his seat. He knew exactly who had sent the broom, and what it meant.
“Dunno.” Hermione murmured under the ruckus of their friends. “But this came with it.”
He followed her gaze down to just below the table, where she held a large dappled grey feather. Tied to the feather was a tag that had two sets of paw prints and a pair of cloven hoof tracks. He laughed out loud, scrambling from his seat and taking off for the front courtyard with Hermione hot on his heels. Their Housemates yelped in surprise and took off in pursuit, bursting out of the Great Hall.
“And where do you think you’re going, Mister Potter?”
The entire group skidded abruptly to a halt, Neville mumbling apologies to whomever he had stumbled into.
Professor Snape loomed closer, his dark eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“We had a bit of time left before lunch was over, so I was going to try out my new broom. Sir.” Harry answered warily.