Dear Luna, Neville began to write but as hard as he tried nothing of any consequence would be written next. I'm having a marvelous summer wasn't exactly true. His grandmother had roped him in to a lot of chores, like planting up her new vegetable garden and going on multiple shopping trips to Diagon Alley for school supplies. He tried to write the three words he knew were true, but his quill won't scratch over the paper. He just ended up writing I miss you instead, but he couldn't just send a letter saying I miss you. Could he?
Luna had written many times in the past week, outlining all her latest adventures, investigating the woods by her house. She said she had proof that Dandiwurkles existed and couldn't wait to show him when they met up at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor. That letter was dated a week ago, meaning they were meeting that day. Neville had sent a hasty reply saying that he would meet her at 2 o'clock but said little else. Luna knew not to worry, she was perfectly happy in her own little world.
He worried about what he would wear. What would look best? His striped sweater seemed like the best option, even though it was mildly warm outside. Still, they would be eating ice cream. That will cool me down, he thought as he pulled the sweater over his head, ruffling his hair at the same time. His grandmother believed he was meeting with Seamus Finnigan, as she wouldn't have allowed him to go out alone with a girl. Neville had rolled his eyes at her logic, but agreed to her terms, saying he'd be back by 5 o'clock at the latest.
"Say hello to his mother for me, dear," she said as she hustled Neville into the fireplace, placing a handful of black ash into his palm. "Speak clearly," were her final words before he through the ash into the grate and shouted "Diagon Alley".
The journey took mere seconds, leaving him in the fireplace in one of the changing rooms at Madam Malkin's. He dusted off his clothes and combed through his hair with his fingers. Little could be done to stop it sticking up out of place, but Luna wouldn't hurried down the stairs and out the door of the shop, carefully to leave whilst Madam Malkin was busy with customers, re-fitting a fifth year Slytherin with longer robes. She didn't mind students dropping in through her fireplace, but Neville knew if she saw the state of his clothes, she'd demand he change at once.
The Ice Cream Parlor was located on the North side of Diagon Alley. It only took a minute for Neville to reach the pastel coloured shop, trying not to barge into too many people on his way. The streets were crowded that afternoon, corresponding with the new shipment of broomsticks that had just arrived, causing people of all ages to crowd around the shop window, marveling at the new Firebolt.
As soon as he entered the door, Neville spotted Luna. She was perched on a window seat, perusing the ice cream menu. She wore pink dungarees and had her hair tied up in a ponytail. Her radish earrings had been swapped in favour of little ice cream cones. She looked up when the bell rang, signalling his entrance.
"Neville, over here." She waved and pointed to the seat adjacent to hers.
He smiled as he approached the table. "How are you, Luna?"
"I'm doing well, thank you," she bowed her head politely. "My sweet tooth and I were just deciding what to order."
"How about Everything?" Neville suggested, pointing to the last option on the menu.
"Yes, that sounds perfect. I didn't really feel in the mood for making decisions," she laughed. "Would you like to share it with me? I doubt I could eat it all by myself."
"As a brave, young Gryffindor it is my duty to help damsels in distress, especially when it comes to frozen desserts." Neville waved the waiter over. It was Florean Fortescue himself.
"What can I get for you marvelous children, this afternoon?" He bent down to their table, his notepad in hand.
"We'll have Everything, Florean. With two spoons," Neville ordered.
"An excellent choice, if I may say so. Everything happens to be a favourite of mine. I'll have it ready for you in a flick of a cat's tail." He hopped from their table to the serving area, and began to add scoops of every ice cream flavour to a dish.
"So," Luna said, folding her hands under her chin, her elbows resting on the table. "What does it feel like to be a fourth year?"
"No different than being in third," Neville replied, fiddling with the sachets of sugar on the table. "Of course, school doesn't start for another three weeks, so I have plenty of time to adapt."
"Yes. Three weeks sounds like an awfully long time. I don't know what I shall do with myself. Father has another trip scheduled for the last week of the summer, and says that I'm more than welcome to accompany him."
"That sounds exciting. You do love adventures."
Luna grinned. "But I've discovered everything there is to discover around my house, how will I fill the other two weeks?"
"With ice cream," Neville said as Florean set down the massive dish of ice cream. "This will take you two weeks to finish."
"Can I get you any toppings? Every flavour beans, chocolate tadpoles?"
"No thank you," Luna said, taking one of the long sundae spoons at dipping it into the Strawberry and Peach flavoured scoop. "Delicious!" she declared.
"Enjoy!" Florean doffed his cap to the children, and then returned to the serving desk, taking a sneaky handful of every flavour beans for himself.
Neville tasted the White Chocolate Yoghurt scoop. That was his favourite. Then he tested out the Blueberry scoop. No, that was his favourite. Luna was right. Decisions, especially when it comes to ice cream, were hard.
The pair continued to talk over their ice cream. It was like they were creating a bubble around themselves, forgetting the other people in the shop and drowning out the murmur of conversation. Things were going perfectly. Just as Neville began to debate the best Quidditch team in the current trials, a sneering face peered in through the window. Draco Malfoy.
"Well, well, look what we have here," he cackled as soon as he entered the shop, Crabbe ad Goyle standing loyally behind him. "Two little love birds is it?" He elbowed Goyle in the shoulder, which meant he wanted ice cream. Without hesitation, he drew up to Luna and Neville's table, leering at them both, while Goyle got a triple scoop sundae for his boss.
"Wh-what do you want, Malfoy?" Neville said, putting his spoon on his napkin and turning to face Draco. Ever since the end of the first year, when it had been his ten points that caused Slytherin to loose the House Cup, Draco had had it in for Neville.
Think bravery, Neville reminded himself. I have to protect Luna.
"Oh don't stop what you're doing on my account." Draco laughed. "Tell me, what were you taking about whilst staring into each others' eyes?" He snapped a pink wafer out of Luna's scoop of ice cream and ate it, daring Neville to do something about.
"Just leave us alone, Malfoy," Neville tried to add more volume to his voice. He wasn't Neville Longbottom, the loser. He was Neville Longbottom, the hero. "At least I have friends that are actually interested in what I have to say." He pointed to Crabbe and Goyle, who were both pressing their noses up to the ice cream counter, drooling over the multiple flavours.
"Shut up, you little toad." Malfoy narrowed his eyes at Neville. "You'll pay for that one!" He shoved his hand into his trimmed cloak and drew out his wand.
"Don't you dare hurt him!" Luna's voice seemed to calm the crowd. Draco even put his wand down.
"Look here, Longbottom, got yourself a girlfriend," he snorted. "Why can no-one stand up for themselves anymore?"
Neville grabbed Luna's hand. "I guess you wouldn't know a thing about friendship would you, Malfoy?"
"Oh, go and cry to your grandmother, Longbottom." He pressed the tip of his wand to Neville's chest. "This isn't over." He turned to the counter. "Crabbe! Goyle! We're leaving."
The two goons lumbered to the door.
"See you at school," Draco hissed, before slithering out of the shop.
"You were so brave back there, Neville!" Luna squeezed his hand as they walked down Diagon Alley, blending in to all the cloaked witches and wizards out to enjoy the sunshine. Passers by looked at the couple of school children and smiled, remembering the warm feelings of their youth, and the fresh flowers of young love.
"I had a reason to be." He smiled at Luna. He wanted to remember the exact shape of her face, the way blonde hair fell around her face, the way her earrings twinkled in the sunlight. Her eyes gleamed. She was beautiful.
Luna held Neville's gaze. They stopped, standing outside a small square, filled with green grass and blooming daisies. She wanted to remember the way his face looked when he smiled, and the awkward cowlick on the top of his head. "Now when we go back to school, you can brag to anyone that will listen that you took on Draco Malfoy and won!" Luna cheered.
"I don't think I won. He's just a coward, afraid to fight without back up."
"You didn't have back up, it was fair and one-on-one."
"I had you, though."
"But I didn't do anything!"
Neville bent down and plucked a daisy from its stem, placing it in her beautiful hair, shining like spun gold. "You did more than you know."
Luna blushed. The pink colour lit her face, making her look like she was glowing. She tilted her face up to his. He tried not to let nerves get the better of him. She leaned in just slightly. Neville blinked.
"Oh no is that the time?" he panicked. "I have to get to a fireplace!"
Luna gasped and shook her head. She caught his hand. "We'll make it if we run!"