Mars I - action


"I'm only honest when it rains,
An open book with a torn out page
And my ink's run out, I want to love you but I don't know how."

Fourth Year:

When it was announced that Professor Lupin was resigning, it was not received well with the students. Some were devastated even—Lord knew Harry was. Hermione had looked over at him during the announcement after Lupin left. They both had been hoping for the best, but when Harry told her the news that morning, she knew it was only a matter of time.

Neither nor Dumbledore gave any indication of their little adventure to save Buckbeak and the time turner necklace.

Even across the table Hermione could tell how tense and heartbroken Harry was even though there wasn't a tear in his eye. His jaw was tight and he was swallowing a lot, constantly clearing his throat. He had hoped that, even though Sirius would be off with Buckbeak, he had imagined how great it would be to have someone here, how relieving it would be after all that has happened. How relieving to have someone close to family, finally.

It was all snatched away in one night.

And the hardest part was that no one knew.

Hermione had tried to reassure him that night, she and Ron had, tried to distract him some kind of way besides using words—wizards chess, gossip, zonkers, food. None of it worked and Harry went to bed early that night. But who could blame him? He sulked for the remaining few days at Hogwarts, barely leaving his room other than for food, restroom, and classes. In his free time, he just stared at his map all day. Hermione and Ron tried to get him out each day, doing their best to cheer him up to remind him that all was fine—Hermione recalled when Ron wasn't around and that now everyone was safe, at least. But though Harry wasn't back to normal and happy, he did feel better by the time a Firebolt came in the mail one morning. It was almost like a piece of the final reassurance he needed, and had the time of his life going for a ride on it before summer began.

Now, school was over and everyone was home now. Ron Weasley was home with his brothers and sister; Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas departed at the station; Katie Bell, Oliver Wood, and all others too. Hermione Granger must have went back to the Muggle world, and Harry Potter wherever he went. Neville wouldn't know anyway; it's not like he really talked to them much except when necessary. Kinda ironic really, after everything that had happen—he thought that he would have gotten more confidence to even try to speak up and talk to them by now, but he didn't. Not by a long shot.

And as Neville sat next to his grandmother, he supposed that he never would. He and his grandmother were currently at St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries for another visit and he was rubbing his hands nervously. Constantly, his eyes would dart around, hoping to not to catch sight of someone he knew or a sickening injury.

"Smile. Stop looking so upset," Augusta Longbottom scolded. "And sit up straight; look more proper. It's gloomy enough here."

Neville straightened his posture as he was told. He watched a woman bleeding from a bubbling green gash in her arm being wheeled to another room and felt his food rising up his stomach.

There was a sound of a bell somewhere to signal and his grandmother immediately stood.

"Come," she ordered.

He needn't be told instructions by now. By this time, this—these visits—it were like routine now. Passing through the muggle building to get here, he could handle; seeing the patients, some wheeled in with blood, others with outrageous injuries, he could stomach. He knew every floor and memorized the doctors and nurses by now. Neville knew the Mungo's Hospital all too well. But what he couldn't handle—what he could never handle was when his grandmother guided him in front of her to the third floor and to the beds with the frail, glassy-eyed couple who never left their beds.

"Well," Augusta ordered, giving him a jolted push to the shoulder, "say something!"

In her push Neville stumbled and whirled. He turned forward, curling his fingers around the cold metal side bars of the bed, and found his voice. "H…Hi Mother…"

The woman on the bed frowned. She looked at him almost angrily and Neville wanted to take a step back but knew his grandmother, Augusta, would stop him.

"Who are you? I don't…don't have a son!"

Neville's grip tightened. His lip trembled; he hadn't even spoken to his father yet and he already wanted to leave.

Augusta stepped up next to him. She smoothed down the stray hairs from Alice Longbottom's head that the doctors continued not caring for. "Yes you do, hun. This is Neville. Your boy." Augusta cooed.

The frail woman—his mother—turned her frown back to him. "No I don't." The look in her eyes were beginning to turn to panic.

With an addressed look from his grandmother, Neville forced a smile.

Augusta rummaged in her handbag and pulled out a hair brush. She began brushing her daughter-in-law's hair. It belonged to Alice, and Augusta kept in untouched and safe back home, only for her daughter-in-law to use. "Yes you do, hun. His name is Neville and your name is Alice, darling. I'm your mother-in-law, remember?"

"Alice…" she tasted the name. "Neville…?" Her brows twisted.

"Yes, and he's in his fourth year. At Hogwarts. Tell them about your marks, dear."

Neville stammered.

"Your marks, dear. …Tell us; how're you doing in Astronomy class?"

Neville mumbled something.

Augusta gave him a warning glare as she continued brushing Alice's hair. "And how are you doing in Potions and Charms, Neville?"

Again, he mumbled something about "didn't want to."

"Speak up, boy. We can't hear you."

"It's f-fine." His voice remained low.

"Tell your parents what you told me at home," Augusta ordered, a more edge to her voice.

"I'm failing it," he corrected feebly.

"And what about Transfiguration," Augusta sighed.

"I don't like that stupid-figuration class," he breathed.

"Speak up, Neville!"

"I'm failing that too."

His grandmother just sighed and continued brushing Alice's hair, leaving a silence in the air. He had told her about how he was literally afraid of his potions teacher, and how he just couldn't get the Transfigurations right, and Augusta had just brushed it off.

Neville eyes focussed on a random scratch on the floor. "I'm passing Herbology and my electives though—-"

Especially The Care of Magical Creatures for the passed year, is what he was also going to add when his grandmother interrupted.

"Those classes don't really matter, dear. You know that," Augusta cut him down. She merely sighed and added, "You have to work better, Neville." She said something to his mother before ordering to bring his father into the conversation, who was in the next bed, silently watching them.

Visits to St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries had been a routine thing all his life, but Neville didn't mind it. He just didn't like being forced. His grandmother always brought him here to learn to be grateful for the sacrifices his parents did for him. But to him, all he saw were weak, frail people who he guessed used to be his parents, who couldn't remember their own names. What he saw made him nervous and a little scared; what he saw was something he'd rather not. He wished he could make them better. These two adults—his parents—were those his grandmother spoke of so much in her stories and praised. These two, shells of who they were used to be much livelier than they were…And for some reasons struck a hint of familiarity.

They were shells, echoes of who they once were.

A part of him wondered, as he watched them, a part of him pictured the possibility of Echo Bell taking their place in the perhaps future. He hoped that wouldn't. Neville remembered when she was more lively and happy, and wouldn't let that happen if he could.

Then his mother screamed in hysterics, shaking the bed in another mad fit.

"Hogwarts has been chosen to host a legendary tournament: The Triward Tournaments!"

That's what was spoken at dinner three weeks ago. Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and Durmstrang Institute were the two other neighboring wizard schools who were chosen to participate this year. Neville's heard of them just like anyone had. Beauxbatons Academy of Magic was a school in France who had nice rumps on many of the females, who this year were to represent. Durmstrang this year was all male and made quite an opening ceremony which was very entertaining though, Neville had to agree and had been looking forward to seeing it since he had not been able to go to the Quidditch Cup with the rest of them. His grandmother didn't believe it was worth the money and took him to St Mungo's instead, and that visiting his insane parents were more important. So while the rest of his peers were gushing over the Quidditch Cup and the Death Eaters that disturbed it, Neville was left to fawn over Ron's action figure of Viktor Krum, who was what he was really excited to see that evening. Neville was very jealous and would lean against a wall or sit and indulged more in a herbology textbook or some other distraction rather than include in the Quidditch conversations. He wouldn't have anything to contribute anyway.

But all at Hogwarts had been going normally well, nothing abnormal so far. So when he caught sight of abnormally white blonde hair out in the crowd, he had to do a double-take.

Echo was walking down the hall, head down and hair in her eyes as always. A textbook and magazine was held to her chest and her robe contrasted with her hair greatly, per usual. She seemed to be mumbling to herself and as she passed, still not looking up, and Neville jumped to his feet and called her almost instantly.

He was with Ron and Seamus and Harry, and Neville's jump caused their chatter to pause and see the blonde.

Echo merely stopped in her tracks and didn't look up from the floor.

The tiny curl of Neville's lips died when she didn't look to him and Neville remembered the last time he saw her was last year, which was two days after that night on the sixth floor. He couldn't understand why he had so quickly jumped to his feet right now anyway. Echo stood still for a few moments before hurrying around him and down the hall, soon blending in with fellow students and Neville just looked away in embarrassment.

"What you doing talking to her for?" Ron blurted.

Echo was the snow white weirdo and Neville knew why Ron had asked.

Neville shook his head, not able to come up with an answer. The confusion on his face must have been evident because he was given a friendly nudge by Harry and for the rest of the free period, Neville acted like he had gotten back in the conversation.

Draco Malfoy was a boy with a tongue that didn't seem to know when to hold itself. He spoke badly about anything and everyone who wasn't deemed satisfying or worthy in his spoiled eyes. He liked to start fights too, particularly with a boy wearing glasses and bright green eyes and a strange scar across his forehead. There always seemed to be a permanent scowl or smirk adorning Draco's face, Echo notices, watching the way he stood with pride and answered Snape's question.

But in all honesty, she didn't much care for the blonde boy. Neither in the way of how some Slytherin girls would swoon for him—or those not Slytherin, for that matter—or praise him whenever he needed it to fuel his ego, which was quite often.

Draco makes fun of her and her cousin sometimes, many of his words having to do with his belief that "those dementors unscrewed more than her head." Luna made sure to talk over him so Echo wouldn't hear, but she did. And in Echo's mind, there was no need to try and argue with him.

Needless to say, she didn't care much about Draco Malfoy.

Echo flips through her book as Snape awards points to Slytherin for Draco's answer and she doesn't look up purposely so she doesn't catch Draco's shit-eating smirk. His height had increased but his forehead and smirk had definitely not changed.

Draco seemed to like Snape the most.

Echo knew that smirk would be directed to the entire class but mostly to Potter if he was here. Potter always sat next to Miss Granger when she had classes with Gryffindor—Echo remembers her name since it was the first called during sorting first year—she didn't know how she remembered it though. Draco was always in some sort of self-induced competition against Potter and Echo would usually catch Harry rolling his eyes the other way. .

...Eyes, his large, bright, forest green eyes.

Potter had pretty eyes, like jewels.

He always sat near Granger in his class.

Hermione was a very pretty girl.

Echo was jealous.

She brushed her bangs aside out of her view and marks a passage in the book with her finger, dipping her quill and readying to take notes.

Echo had tried to smile at Granger before, but she thinks it came out more as a sort of grimace; she had tried to talk to her, once, but the brunette had merely grimaced back, giving Echo a look as if there was something wrong with her—as if Hermione was beyond better than she ever could be. Once was enough times for trying.

Echo had been told that she should be more social, and that time was enough for trying.

There is a group of students whispering somewhere behind her but she doesn't care for it much. Echo didn't want to know if they were talking about her or wait to see what it was or that rumors about her were starting already, and stands up with her books in hand as class ends. She's one of the first out the door, quickly blending into the sea of students.

In the beginning, she had constantly been compared to Harry for some reason she couldn't understand, just because they both encountered dementors up close. She didn't like remembering the dark incident even though it has mostly faded from memory. Echo wasn't fond of being known as something like, "that odd girl who had encountered several dementors," or "the one who went crazy from many dementors rather than one dementor and fainted, like Potter."

Funny enough, he was far from innocent as far as Echo could tell, Harry was. Echo had her suspicions about him—rather, and she had seen him with a girl with long caramel waves one time. It had been before the swimming competition for the Triward Competition as she passed a dark corridor. She had seen them kiss. The hallway had been empty so Echo was certain that whatever it was, was secret. But either way, Echo was sure they hadn't seen her. No one really sees her. This did raise her curiosity though, as she had been sure she had caught Potter daydreaming about some boy once, surely like a crush, just the year before.

But that too was something beyond than she would know. It's not like she would speak about it; she kept away from others much anyhow.

She didn't like Potter very much either.

Like Hermione Granger, it only took one time to turn her off.

Echo had spoken to him once sometime after The First Task of The Triwizard Tournaments. It had been a question really, one she thought was rather innocent. He had been grumpy and had snapped at her, embarrassing her in front of a gathering of students. She skipped class for a week afterwards.

That "immature" act had gotten her called to the headmaster's office where she was scolded even more, and even after she told her reason why. Dumbledore had mumbled to himself a regret for allowing Lupin to retire when she had been there, as if he had briefly forgotten she was still in there. He then ordered her to the hospital wing after catching a scar on her forehead and Echo didn't miss the flicker of fear across his face when he saw it.

The scar was caused by some Ravenclaw students who had saw her "talking to herself" one day. She had been elbowed in the temple, and by the time she came to, it was night. She had lost the knarl she had been hiding in her robe then, and now with nothing to do, went to bed. Her brain was fuzzy and she was shaking, and the migraines she got days after were just brushed to the side.

Upon finding this out, she was ordered to the hospital wing and is where she stayed now.

The nurses were beginning to know Echo by name and it was something rather unfamiliar and unpleasant to Echo. She usually just sat cross-legged on her bed sheets, placid faced, watching students coming in and out, the nurses ask her questions and tending to her scars and memory loss. They performed more charms on her many times a week. That was when she put going the nurses off for the first time. Echo was the quiet girl who always had a blank look, and when they held a wand to her skull is when she showed the first signs of fear.

Echo didn't like having a wand pointed in her face. She's had enough of that.

So she started sneaking out before they could apply more charms on her already scrambled mind and do more damage.

The year after the Fat Lady's painting was fixed and after the announcement of The First Task was the next time Neville saw her. It was at dinner and she was pushing her food around with a fork. Students reached over her and talked around her like no one noticed the slight frown on her face. Yes, her expression had been mostly blank but some must have noticed she kept sniffling. He had heard from a Hufflepuff named Hannah that Echo had started going back to the hospital wing and he was somehow bothered by this.

And Neville felt awful. He truly did. Echo didn't speak to many in fear of being ridiculed more and the fact that she had came to him that one time, risking getting caught and showing him something that must have been important to her started weighing on his conscious.

He watched a girl in pigtails sit beside Echo. She was the only person who spoke to her that he saw and this did make him feel a little better. He didn't know she was with the students who had gave her the bruise on her temple and scratch on her cheek.

Echo scratched the same cheek as the girl seemed to be talking to her, but Echo showed no signs of listening, eyes still on her plate. The small smile on the girl in pigtail's face soon faded and Neville imagined her speaking to Echo in a more harsher tone of voice.

That night, he did lie awake, wondering just what she wanted to tell him that night a year ago if he had allowed her.

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