Jupiter II - optimism
Jupiter ♃ Optimism, abundance
"You have to grip it tightly in your hand," Harry walked around the room, assisting those who needed help and praising those who casted the spell right. He had a slight limp to his walk but no one questioned it. No one really noticed it.
Many in The Army were those who were a year ahead of Luna and knew Harry Potter personally. But every time Luna looked around, she couldn't feel happier. Here, no one judged and everyone helped each other and all worked together for a good purpose. In fact, she loved coming here and has felt the most where she belonged since getting sorted.
Luna looked around, following where her rabbit Patronus ran to, and her eyes caught the sight of a dog Patronus knocking Neville over. The brunette wasn't the best spell caster in the room and hadn't been the most confident either, but he had improved more than anyone else. And because of that, Luna approved of him teaching her cousin.
Luna wasn't as oblivious as perceived. She knew good and well about Neville and Echo's arrangement. If it was anyone else, Luna would have just taught Echo herself, they would meet during free periods and practice. It was a secret the three kept even from Harry himself and his friends, the head of Dumbledore's Army.
At the same time, Luna considered, the more on their side, the better.
And Echo had improved much herself, Luna had been told. Neville now knew how to do apparition, which is how Echo had snuck him out of the fifth floor the night The Fat Lady's portrait was ripped.
All seemed to be going well. The Army was getting stronger and Umbridge couldn't find evidence of it whatsoever and they continued to fool Filch countlessly. Just one thing remained—Echo kept disappearing. And both Luna and Neville knew it would catch the attention of Umbridge soon if she didn't stop.
But Umbridge did find out, sadly. It was Cho Chang who broke and finally told her the secret meet up location for The Army. Cho couldn't entirely be blamed though, after being slipped a truth potion that made her tell. The students knew of the terrors that happened behind those closed office doors, but since Umbridge caught ear of the secret sessions, the tortures had become worse and worse.
But still, it remained that The Army had been found out. And each and every one of those in Dumbledore's Army were sent to one of the extra curriculum halls where they were to spend their punishment. It was where they were to engrave and draw blood on their own hands again and again as a form of punishment. By the time the fourth letter had been written, some were already in tears. Lavender screamed somewhere in the back, the pain too much and was whacked on the back of the head and told to continue. Parvati was also one who finished in tears. Terry Boot, Colin, Dean, and Neville too.
Umbridge sat at the head of the hall, sighing in content and with a cup of tea in one hand. And when it was all over, smiled at her handiwork as the children existed with death glares and whispered curses.
Cho had been standing outside, waiting for them to exit. She had been the only one not punished, as a sort of reward for tattling. She watched with her head down as her classmates pushed past her, all nursing their wrists. She looked for a friendly face, and when finding Harry, approached him.
She had tried to apologize, or at least, she wanted to, but Harry wasn't having any of it. She had betrayed them all, in the end. This is the story that was floating around school, and Neville had heard the story about Cho and Harry soon after.
Ron suggested ditching DADA class once, but with a word from Dean who trudged alongside him and coming from the same class, approved it as an idiotic move. Especially this early.
Ron guessed that Dean was right and the group of boys walked in silence to their next destination: The Study Hall. It was all Harry, Dean, Ron, Seamus, and Neville.
Because of Umbridge, students were afraid to do the simplest things. Many stopped soliciting in the halls and almost no one spoke aloud to each other. No one walked together either, which was why Neville was shocked to feel a hand on his robe sleeve one afternoon. He jumped—mainly from his wound—to Echo wrapping her hand around his fingers. She didn't look his way in acknowledging his presence any further, and merely silently joined him to The Study Hall, her books in hand.
Neville made sure to take a seat at the end, knowing Echo would rather not be caught in between Harry and whatever gossip that would take place of her arrival.
Neville opened a textbook, his cheeks already turning pink with nervousness.
Echo sat next to him and took his hand, staring silently at a flickering candle. Neville shrank back from her hold but Echo held firm and put both their hands out in the open. The words shone on his skin, still red. Echo's eyes didn't widen like Neville thought they would. Instead, she simply ran her fingers across the scar, feeling each stroked carved in his skin. She rubbed her thumbs along his wounds gently. Luckily, the other boys were too deep in their studies to really pay attention.
"Luna says optimism is key."
"What?" The random comment had caught Neville off guard. That she was ready to speak did as well.
"Optimism. It means to stay positive. Luna says that's helped her since her mother died."
"…I...didn't know her mother died." Neville felt a bit awkward, and guilty for a few things he's said about Luna, albeit before knowing the two were cousins.
Echo nodded. "She was nine, I think. Staying optimistic helps in dire times—such as this one. Umbridge is a problem, but I'm sure she won't last."
Echo looked up at him. Neville had frozen with his cheek in his other palm and eyes fixed on her.
"Smile, Luna says, and a kind face will aid the day better."
A tingle of a curve tugged at the ends of her lips.
Neville watched her in awe.
The time Luna Lovegood met Hannah Abbott that year was during another gathering under the plaques weeks later.
"What does it say this time?" Luna asked the upperclassmen.
"That snake! I tell you, this Umbridge...I wish we could do something about her," Hannah snarled. "I hear she staged Dumbledore's whole arrest."
"I agree. Since coming here, her presence has been quite...irritating."
Hannah looked at the shorter blonde at her side, a question and suspicion blooming in her mind.
Both girls watched Filch finish nailing the new plaque and climb down the tall latter. The rest of the students in the crowd were chatting among themselves, keeping the volume to a minimum, and when Umbridge's heels were heard clicking down the hallway, they scattered. The new plaque had said something that Dolores Jane Umbridge was now replacing Dumbledore.
Their next class was starting soon, and Luna ran to The Care of Magical Creatures classroom. It was her cousin, Echo's, favorite class but Luna wasn't entirely into it. Sure, she admired the animals and loved reading about them and finding new ones, but taking care of them weren't something she was into. She wouldn't even pick it as a career. But her cousin surely would, Luna knew without a doubt. Echo has always loved magical creatures and spoke about it very often, almost as often as Luna. Now, Luna was suspecting some of it might be rubbing off on her...
Morag MacDougal watched the young Lovegood and stepped closer.
"You're really good," the fellow Ravenclaw commented with a slight smile.
Luna didn't smile nor look up from the creature. "They're quite easy to care for." That dreamy and sleepy look was present in her eyes and she was very concentrated. "As long as you show no harm or approach their home tree, they're as tame as owls."
Morag smiled in return.
"Now, class," Professor Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank called at the front of the class. "As you finish drawing your bowtruckles, you all are to label each part of it as your remaining homework."
The next and last time Neville saw Echo that year was six weeks after the study hall. It was later in the day after some announcement made by Umbridge in The Great Hall. The demonous woman had smiled the whole time, going on and on about rules that must be abided and those who disobeyed must be punished. By now, most of the school knew what kind of punishment she preferred and wouldn't dare disobey.
"Hogwarts is steadily getting better," she informed with a sweet-looking smile. "Under my guidance, of course."
McGonagall and several professors rolled their eyes.
The Great Hall remained disturbingly calm.
"Now, unfortunately, I'll have to forbid any wondering of the castle and on the sixth floor and above, unaccompanied by an administrator." Umbridge pouted as if she was actually upset of enforcing yet another rule. "A busy bee informed me that there is a very dangerous part of the castle and that some reckless students have been sneaking up there.."
McGonagall spoke up. "Thats preposterous! No students has wondered there unattended for years, other teachers as well as myself have made sure. Besides, it's been forbidden."
Umbridge turned, looking at the professor out of the corner of her eye. "Then explain why we had to hose down all that mess on the walls?" She cracked another shit-eating smile. "...Are you calling me a liar, professor?"
McGonagall sat back down, and not to the surprise of anyone. Surely, any other person in her place would have done the same.
But Neville worried. He hadn't touched his food and was still nursing his scarred hand with aloe jelly, but that statement Umbridge said made him freeze.
The abandoned classroom on the sixth floor...
And he hasn't seen Echo in a really long time now. He looked around, hoping to catch sight of her somewhere. Merlin knew that the girl wouldn't survive five minutes with Umbridge. Neville didn't even know how he made it past that torture that gave him his scar.
Oh god, what if Umbridge found her painting? What would the woman possibly do to her for that?
He knew that the painting was a coping and healing assignment appointed by Professor Lupin before he resigned and Neville and how much it meant to her, just to have it hosed down for being caught at the wrong time.
Neville doubted Echo had even spoke about it to anyone at all, and was probably looking down at her shoes during Umbridge's speech. He hated to imagine her reaction of the news.
He looked around The Great Hall at all the many faces of the houses now bonded in their shared hate for Umbridge. He eventually pinpointed the blonde hair of Luna Lovegood, but the bleach blonde of her cousin was nowhere to be seen.
He did find Echo, eventually.
Ever since Umbridge's announcement at dinner, Neville's had both eyes and ears open for the little Hufflepuff, reporting to Luna whenever he heard or saw a glimmer of her, but sadly with the same sad news Luna had to share.
It was that night right before he decided to go to sleep. He was wondering the halls just once more with a lie ready in his head if he were caught, when a thought occurred to him to travel the staircases.
Echo brought Neville up to the room a number of times since their fourth year and though he hasn't stepped foot inside since last school year, Neville remembers the large room with the high ceilings and windows. It was quite peaceful inside that held a sense of ownership and privacy and openness that wasn't found anywhere else on the grounds, especially this year. Noise from elsewhere in the castle never seemed to penetrate the walls and he saw how Echo liked the place so much. It provided a place to think, a place to relax, and come down from from all the craziness in the world. You could easily get lost in your own world up there, which happened to them very often.
There, they'd already spent multiple nights just gazing at the moon outside, talking or not, forgetting about school and about the trouble in the world. About rogue prison-breakers or mean teachers or nagging grandmothers. Many nights they've woken up on the floors having dozing off in the night by accident and having to rush to class that morning.
Neville would lie if he said the place hadn't grown to be a little special to him by now.
So, when he rose to the stairs, careful to make sure no authorities saw or heard him, he was surprised to see a small, sad figure that looked like it had been thrown on the front of the sixth floor. The wide doorway that would have led into the hallway of sixth floor was boarded up with wooden planks that Neville guessed that only Finch had done.
The wind had gone from Neville's lungs and his hands became cold and clammy. The bundle of white moved rhythmically as the person was asleep.
Neville's eyes lowered to the floor and took in Echo's sad, slumped figure curled on the ground there, still in her nightgown from some night before. He couldn't guess how long she'd been there, when exactly she found out about the room because she wasn't at dinner. Her cheek was to the cold stone and an arm sprawled in front of her, her feet falling to the next step below and face stained from the salt of tears. Her bright hair was wild and she looked like a sad, ruined mess you'd want to step over.
Neville wouldn't suspect anything else.
That painting bad been her years work, literally, going on her third year working on it by now.
Neville took in the sad slump on the steps and wanted to join her.
He crouched down, heard a sniffle, and rubbed her shoulder to wake up. He spoke her name softly, hoping she wouldn't wail. Echo sniffed again and began blubbering onto the stone again.
She was completely heartbroken.
He quieted as she started crying again, praying, wishing in hushed, blubbering words.
"Why? Why did they do that?" she asked once, through the tears.
Neville didn't have an answer.
Her fingernails were broken and chipped and skin red from trying to pull the wood from the doorway. Earlier, she had thrown herself at it with all her might, kicking, pounding until she slid down the boards to the floor, fat tears falling from her eyes from the evil filling this castle. The boards were strong wood and placed by a charm she didn't know how to rid.
"It's gone!" She cried to Neville. "I got to get in there! They made it gone!"
He didn't know what to do beside stare back at her wide, terrified eyes.
Echo ran to the boards again, pounding on them with her small fists. Neville had to run to her side and grab her before she woke the castle. She cried and Neville held her fists from the wood to stop her. He whispered for her to be quiet, since the castle was quiet now and her cries echoed. She fought but not for long. He told her that she couldn't go in, that there was no way of getting the boards down. Echo repeated that it was gone, that it was all gone. She was shaking.
"Why?" she kept repeating.
She tore herself apart trying to get to her work that was already taken from her.
She cried. Neville apologized.
That night, Echo cried the hardest for one of the few times in her life. Echo Bell cried herself almost to passing out. Neville Longbottom apologizing repeatedly for something not his fault or doing, and found himself comforting the one who had been his sun. Echo had been so bright even through her injury and disability, through the belittling and wrongdoing. And now he was the one holding her close and comforting her on the edge of the steps. Echo had been the one who always was able to look on the bright side of things, until the one thing that she had was taken away.
And now, she looked like the small child she was years ago, curled into herself, trembling.
It was now his turn to remind the optimist that optimism was key.