I claim no ownership to any of the characters included in this story. Harry Potter and all related characters, symbols, and aspects belong to JK Rowling and Warner Bros. Pictures. This story was written for fun and I gain no profit from it.
It was a very nice lollipop, Harry decided, and perfect for Luna.
It was quite enormous, nearly the size of the head of a toddler, but it had been carved into an incomparably flawless circle, its thick kaleidoscopic strings braided into a bewitching, whimsical spiral. Harry was beaming just looking at it.
He glanced surreptitiously over his shoulder, spotting Luna easily amidst the hustle and bustle of the busy Muggle candy store. She was staring fixatedly at a large tube of Neccos, her absurdly colored striped beret perched loosely on her straggly hair, the giant pom-pom sewn on the top of it quivering. She was wearing a bright orange peacoat and a pair of blue galoshes, along with purple floral tights and a fluttering green skirt. A pair of black plastic fake glasses that she'd bought at a cheap joke shop were perched on her pink nose. Her peculiar ensemble garnered many glances from the Muggles crowding around her, but she didn't seem to mind it, far to preoccupied with her engrossed inspection of the candy around her.
Satisfied that she wouldn't notice, Harry held the lollipop close to his chest, sneaking to the cash register as subtly as he could and placing the object on the counter. The cashier glanced derisively at the lollipop and then back at Harry, blowing a large bubble with the gum she'd been chewing loudly a moment before.
"Sure you want that one, love?" she asked, drumming the table to the beat of an exuberant Christmas carol that was playing on one of the speakers behind the register. "It'll take a week to get through it, mark me. Had to throw it away when I bought one; just couldn't finish it."
"Perhaps you weren't trying hard enough," Harry chuckled, surprised at his foolish glee at the prospect of buying Luna the many-colored confection.
The cashier shrugged indifferently as she pushed the lollipop into a small bag. "That'll be two pounds fifty."
Harry pulled two crumpled bills and a dirtied coin from his pocket and placed them on the counter, taking hold of the plastic bag and nodding at her with a smile. "Happy Christmas."
"Yeh," she replied dully.
Harry moved aside to make room for the next in line and made his way over to Luna, who was still rooted to her spot beside the Necco display. When he stopped beside her, she didn't seem to notice him.
"Found anything you like?" he asked, keeping the bag hidden behind his back.
She didn't answer for a moment, placing the tube back amongst the others and readjusting her swelling eggplant earrings.
"Do they use chalk to make these, Harry?" she asked, with genuine interest, turning to gaze expectantly at him, her silvery eyes wide, somewhat resembling large Christmas tree orbs.
"Er, no, not that I'm aware," Harry answered with a slightly snort of good-humored laughter.
"It certainly tastes like they do," Luna spoke thoughtfully, turning to frown in childlike curiosity at the Neccos.
"Oh, have you had them before?"
"Oh, no," she smiled dreamily. "I took one out of one of the tubes. I folded it back up, though, so it looks as though it closed; I do hope I won't get in trouble."
"Yeah, so do I," Harry laughed, more glad than ever to be in her company. "Come on; Hermione and Ron wanted us to meet them at the café down the road in twenty minutes."
"All right," Luna beamed, bouncing alongside Harry as he weaved masterfully around the other customers and their rambunctious children. There was snow padding the streets outside and the sky was an ethereal gray, and the shops and sidewalks were crowded with a multitude of Muggles doing their Christmas shopping. A small choir was on the corner, belting out a joyous version of "The First Noel."
"I rather like the Muggle world," Luna stated simply, a sleepy smile twinkling across her face.
Harry smiled mischievously, his mittened hands still clutching the bag with the gift in it. He paused, his black boots crunching into the snow, and Luna lurched comically to a stop beside him.
"Forget something?" she asked breezily.
"I got you something," he smiled, reaching a hand up to his glasses and rubbing the fog out of them with his thumb. "In the candy shop."
An enormous grin spread across Luna's face. "How very nice of you, Harry!"
"Close your eyes," he told her, and she obeyed, humming happily to herself, her hands folded behind her back as she rocked back and forth in the snow.
He had to practically wrestle the enormous confection out of the far-too-small bag, but when it did emerge, it snatched the attention of passerby in an instant. He took a step forward until he and Luna were facing each other, and smiled warmly.
"All right," he said, extending the hand with the lollipop. "Happy Christmas. Bit early, but…"
Luna's ethereal eyes fluttered serenely open, but it seemed they hadn't been expecting to see the magnificent lollipop, because they bulged with more protuberance than Harry thought he'd ever seen them have, and her tiny mouth fell open in an "o" of wonderment. Slowly, she raised her two pale hands, covered by orange fingerless gloves, and enclosed them gingerly around the stick of the lollipop as though it were a fragile, timeless treasure. She brought it down from Harry's hands until it was at precisely the level of her face, and she ogled in nothing short of incredible shock at it, its colors reflected in her silver irises.
"Er…" Harry shifted uncomfortably. "Do you like it?"
She abruptly held it close to her chest and stood on her tiptoes to stare owlishly up at him, her mouth still wide open. Harry had to try to keep from laughing at how utterly silly the glasses looked on her, magnifying her already rotund eyes to an almost inhuman size.
"Harry, I…" she whispered urgently, her breath steaming out in front of her. "It's beautiful."
"Well, yeah, I suppose," Harry half-smiled in noncommittal agreement, not finding it quite as stunning as she seemed to. "I reckon it'll taste brilliant."
Luna, who had been gazing back at the lollipop, frowned and blinked, looking back up at him in slight confusion.
"Taste?" she repeated, sounding completely baffled.
"Yeah, you eat it," Harry explained, feeling rather odd that he had to tell her what a lollipop was, as he was sure she must have had one before. "It's a lollipop. You just lick and lick at it until it's gone."
Luna let out a sudden and unabashedly loud shriek of utter terror, startling several of the Muggles passing by, and Harry felt himself go red, hoping they wouldn't think he was attacking her.
"Luna, what's the—"
"Harry, I can't possibly eat this!" she exclaimed in consternation. "Oh, no; I most certainly can't! It's…" she looked at the multicolored candy in her hand, touching it gently, as though it were an infant, and then raised her head back up again to regard him almost sadly. "It's art, Harry."
"A…" Harry let out a disbelieving pfff. "Art? Er, no, I don't think that's…" He put a hand to his forehead, rendered completely incredulous by Luna's words. "You can buy them for two quid at any Muggle candy store, Luna; they're really not…"
"Quid?" Luna tilted her head, frowning in slight confusion.
"It's… Muggle money…" Harry shook his head absentmindedly and put a hand on Luna's shoulder, suddenly laughing heartily.
"What on earth is so funny, Harry?" Luna asked with childlike surprise, her light eyebrows perched high on her forehead, lost beneath the folds of her outrageous beret.
"Nothing…" Harry chortled. "Nothing. It's just… it's just a lolly, Luna. You're supposed to eat it. It's candy."
"But Harry," Luna protested, with every level of seriousness she could possibly maintain, "I don't want to ruin something so beautiful. And from you, no less. Why would you give me a gift that I'm supposed to destroy?"
"It's… it's not like destroying, Luna," Harry frowned. "Haven't you ever had a Blood Pop before?"
"Of course I have," Luna nodded lightly.
"Well, this is just like—"
"No, it's not," Luna interrupted seriously. "Blood Pops are not works of art."
Harry sighed in exasperation, slapping a hand to his forehead and running it over his face, staring at the white sky above and watching his breath cloud up before him.
"Oh, dear; I'm not annoying you, am I?" Luna asked worriedly, cocking her head again, her lips pursed.
"No, no," Harry shook his head tiredly. "I suppose you can just keep it, then, and not eat it."
He felt foolish, buying her a piece of candy more magnificent than anything else in the store and then hearing her tell him she wouldn't eat it. Did she perhaps not like lollipops? No, that was a stupid thought; Luna liked everything…
Luna liked everything. Luna had no worries; no fears. Luna, in her cozy, colorful winter regalia, standing like a petite porcelain doll in the snow, the lollipop clutched tightly in her small hands like a pinwheel, was by far the most wonderful person he was sure he'd ever met. Luna was strange, but Luna was beautiful.
He realized he didn't care whether she ate it or not; perhaps some candy was too beautiful to be eaten. Perhaps some candy, though too psychedelic and flamboyant for anyone to take seriously, was simply meant to be placed in a vase like a rare flower, its bright, saccharine colors warming any room it was put in.
Perhaps some candy was like Luna.
"Come on," he heard himself say, and he smiled gently, extending his hand. "We'd best go find Ron and Hermione. It's getting cold out here."
"Oh, no, Harry," Luna beamed, sliding her dreamy fingers into his. "No, I think it's quite warm."
And when she took her step forward and her fingers laced around his, and their steamy puffs of breath molded together in the snowy Christmastime air, Harry found that he felt a bit warmer, too.