Mars II - desire


"I don't know how.
No, I don't know how.
I don't know how;
I want to love you but I don't know how…"

Neville didn't try. In fact, he tried very much not to, but he couldn't help but look for a lone head of bleach-blonde every night at dinner. Ever since hearing that Echo was admitted back to the hospital wing, it was like a fear was coming to light and the weight on his conscious grew worse. The more days that passed, it was like he was getting a seat to personally watch a perfectly normal person turn insane. It was almost like watching what had happened to his parents, in an indirect way, and he didn't like it. It was like, if he had just stayed just a bit longer, had shut up and listened to her just a bit longer, than maybe she wouldn't have been so reckless. Maybe she would have said something against those Ravenclaws. And though he was far more self-conscious, maybe she could have done something…?

Though she was odd and weird, maybe she just needed a voice to listen to. Lord knew Neville felt so much better after having others to listen, even a little bit.

He was such a hypocrite, after spilling his guts to her whenever they snuck off, and he hadn't so much as done the same for her, not truly. And Echo could be read like a book. She cared far too much.

He had herbology with her in the afternoon this school year. She would always do as she was told but never spoke up. This was Neville's best subject and he always wanted to show off his skill, but how could he when she shrank away into the back of class and gave off an air of sadness? He couldn't do it with someone that way, knowing that he was somehow the cause.

In early years when Professor Sprout asked for his help with classmates, Neville didn't mind going to help Echo before she caused a catastrophe. They would be partnered together sometime because, well, Echo wasn't exactly one with the greatest attention span. She would brighten up and almost smile, even, when he came over. Her eyes would almost sparkle, which Neville thought would be nonexistent now. It certainly seemed like it now.

Her eyes never shine anymore.

Now, Echo just stood there. He couldn't tell where she was looking and that bothered him even more. Was she paying attention? Was she imagining her own world she would later blurt aloud?

Neville remembered how she would usually come up to him, babbling about some elaborate plan or fantasy and magical creature. Neville had thought it embarrassing and a bit annoying at first but now he missed the shine in her eyes that would peek from behind her pale bangs. He missed her never-ending chatter, her shining attitude...

But when Neville noticed that Echo stopped coming to class, he thought her dead and that hurt the most. Guilt set in, and he had trouble sleeping some nights and got even more distracted in potions class which he suffered for. The friends he newly made must have started noticing by now and Neville would put Echo out of mind to socialize, but she always came back.

The few times he got a hold of the Hannah girl or someone else from Hufflepuff, all had claimed to not have heard or seen the girl.

Echo Bell was dead, and it was all Neville's fault.

The next time Neville saw Echo that year was while on a bathroom break. He had thought it a trick of the mind seeing her passing by at the far end of the hallway. She had been carrying a large can and a brush between her teeth. He had seen from down the long hallway and needed to rub his eyes multiple times to make sure it was real, she was real, and that he wasn't imagining it from worry. By the time Neville caught up to where she was—she was still a fast walker—she was on the moving staircases already a floor above.

That night, he did sleep a little better. But still...

Echo sat there with eyebrows knit and very confused. Earlier in passing, Cedric Diggory mentioned there was a little Gryffindor boy looking for her. Echo hadn't thought much of it until she found out who it was.

So here she was in the courtyard, listening to Neville Longbottom blabbering about one thing or another, probably worrying, probably scolding her, probably boasting; Echo wasn't paying attention anyway. She couldn't understand why Neville would want to speak with her again after what happened last year, of almost getting them in trouble.

Echo's gaze drifted to a butterfly behind him. Her ears swam in and out of his talking. Neville noticed this and waved a hand in front of her face. Echo blinked, turning back to him.

He glanced behind to see where her gaze had gone.

Neville found himself wondering the library increasingly often, partially hoping to find a glance of her. And now hat he had, he wasn't going to hold back what he wanted to say.

"Hey." Neville paused, watching Echo's head slowly turn to his direction. He could faintly see her eyes behind her long hair and licked his lips. His words caught in his throat. "You weren't listening to what I was saying, were you?" he sighed, disappointed.

Echo just blinked.

Neville sighed heavily again. He had been rambling anyway, not sure just how to go about doing this—to apologize. He just sucked in another breath. "You…um…you—-can you even see from behind your hair…?"

Echo blinked. Why was he here? She thought he didn't want to talk to her anymore, for as far as she knew. Neville knew Potter and so many others by now; why her?

She mumbled something as an answer. Wouldn't they get on him for being with her?

"..What if you grew it out in the back. It'd look nice." Neville was just trying to make small talk and didn't expect Echo to flip her hair out of her eyes. He had been so used to seeing her light hair that he almost forgot she even had eyes at times, even more of what her eyes looked like. There was no longer the sparkle as there had been years ago, but Echo still held him with a steady and stern gaze.

"Why?" she stated simply.

Neville looked for the right words.

"Aren't they gonna get at you for sitting here?" She directed at him sitting beside her. She wasn't as clueless as others thought her to be. Just a little dazed and very quiet. "Why're you…" Echo asked, mentioning last year on the night running on the sixth floor corridor. "Are you going to ridicule me too? I know I must have said sorry..."

Neville was at lost for words. "I…I think I should be the one to apologize," he admitted. "I mean, I was the one who told you to stop talking and almost got us caught by Filch."

Echo looked back at him. She stared him in the eyes for a moment, silent. "Okay." Turned back to the quill in her hands.

Neville gapped. If it had been that easy...

"That's it? Just 'okay'?"

"Well what do you want me to say?" She always spoke all too honestly.

This time Neville blinked, not having anything to say.

"So everything was erased just that daily for you?"

"Well it's not much to be there, is it?" Echo asked.

"Well I supposed it depends on the person. But I'd be highly aware, just in case for your sake, Echo," Luna spoke softly, turning over a colored piece of wire that was becoming an earring.

Echo thought about this. She and Luna were talking about a recent trip to the Hogwarts nurses.

"It's not like he's going to come do what I had—he isn't the person who comes to you. He's nice, though.

Luna hummed. "Sounds like a typical boy to me. One who you might have to be gentler with..." She continued brushing her long hair. "My mum would have said something about knowing you're smart and to act on it without fault."

Echo picked at her food. She didn't say any more.

"You should eat, Echo. I don't know the last time you had."

Neville and Echo did continued to talk now and he seemed more willing to, to her surprise. Still, it was only in passing or during class and free period. But after that apology—Echo guessed it was an apology—she began seeing Neville more and more.

She didn't know exactly how to feel about that.

Then again, she didn't really think about things like that much. Echo either had a migraine or her head was too frazzled, and the few times it was clear, she could hold a steady conversation but that was becoming less likely. Most times if she was to be caught wondering the castle, she would be eating chocolate and on the sixth floor.

Caught—as in, the time she would travel to the sixth floor of Hogwarts when most of the castle would have been asleep.

And yes, caught. She had been going on without detection for almost a year until the night Neville was lying awake again. He couldn't fall asleep and that day had been particularly bad after having an anxiety attack in he bathroom after potions class. He had luckily gotten there just before the attack hit its worse. Now, he laid with hands folded on his chest, and wide awake.

"Right here. I found this place last year. No one knows about if except you…I'm going to tell Luna tomorrow."

Neville guessed Luna was Echo's cousin. But what was it she wanted to show? He would wonder sometimes, and tonight was one of them. Neville debated whether to ask Echo about it or continue about his days without second glances and a constant buzz of constant babble in his ear. He and Echo had been talking enough, Neville guessed. And to him, they were still on some level of familiarity and comfort.

He wondered if he could see her, and have a talk he knew he desperately needed from a friendly face and bright smile.

Increasingly, Neville found himself wondering to the library when he couldn't find her during his free period. Neville didn't know exactly why, but Echo was like a breath of fresh air and he found it increasingly pleasurable to talk to her. She had managed to worm her way in his life for two straight years after all, and by third year, he knew it was permanent. They weren't officially friends, but then who really announces being friends often? Maybe that's why Neville had gotten so concern about her absence; maybe that's why he felt the need to apologize and why he was sneaking out of Gryffindor tower well past curfew to the kitchen.

Echo had told him sometime ago that The Great Hall is supposed to be where she would meet him, if they ever had at nightfall. But thanks to a pair of loose lips, Neville found out the entrance to the Hufflepuff common room was through the kitchen. Echo needed a little assistance often and didn't know if her arm would get caught in the door or some catastrophe would happen.

Neville crept down the staircase, socks softly padding the stone into the direction of the kitchen. He never made it, however. He didn't need to—he caught sight of Echo's arm as she was hurrying past him to another moving staircases.

Echo merely turned around and stared at him. And for the first time, Neville noticed she had a spot-like mole under the corner of her left eye.

She stared at him under bright blonde bangs.

"Where are you going this late?" Neville had caught her arm.

"You shouldn't be out of your quarters," she stated.

"That's what I just—never mind." He licked his lips, noticed she was in pajamas. "…Wha-what are you doing up anyway?"

Echo looked off to the side.

"Echo?" He didn't let go of her arm.


Neville searched for the right words. Echo was like a deer—do or say the wrong thing and she would d flee. "Does it have to do with going upstairs last year?"

Echo continued looking down. Neville didn't want to rush her...

She nodded sheepishly.

He hoped she still upheld his apology. "Well let's go then."

Echo looked up, confusion behind her bangs.

"Didn't get a chance to see it last time, right? With Filch trying to catch us and all."

Echo looked up at him and for the first time since the dementors, her eyes seemed to brighten up. Though she didn't crack a smile, she let him hold her arm and lead her up the stairs—tripping less this time—until he was lost.

It was her turn to guide them back up the maze of stairs and into the hall of abandoned portraits.

Neville didn't know how or why he suddenly became so acceptant to go along with this, or so brave to break curfew all of a sudden. For all he knew, this girl was mental. She was crazy and always got involved in odd situations where she could get in big trouble, and sometimes he wondered if her mind shut down as often as people said—Echo was also related to a very odd girl in school, so she did very odd things, according to Neville. Not to mention how she and her cousin dressed. Maybe that was why? Maybe that was why everything Echo did felt new and sent a sort of rush through him? Why she was like a breath of fresh air from everything else crazy going on?

At the top of one staircase and waiting for it to align, Echo's hand dropped. Neville looked from the sleeping portraits to the back of her head. She was in front and much shorter, so he could see the curls of her baby hair at the nape of her neck. Her hair in the back seemed to have changed as well but he couldn't put a finger on what exactly yet.

"Why are you so willing to do this?" Her voice was so low Neville had to ask her to repeat. "You didn't want to talk to me before. You wouldn't do something like this and break curfew. …why?"

Neville thought for a moment, biting his lip. She didn't look back and he was grateful. He didn't know how he would be able to answer with her staring at him.

"Never mind," she interrupted. "The jump is coming. Besides, I trust you're a good choice in character." Echo cautioned him to prepare to jump to the next staircase, as this one wasn't going to stop moving. "You're a good person, Neville. I hope. You're just…a little…"

"A little what?"

"Jump now."

When they got to the long, dimly lit hallway, with a lumos charm from Neville's wand, the two traveled past the sleeping portraits, only receiving a few rude remarks from a handful still awake. They whispered welcoming remarks to Echo, since that she hadn't been up here since being admitted to the hospital wing again. A faint blue hue tinted the walls from the rain reflecting outside and when they came to the fork in the hall, Neville jumped again from the portrait with the baritone voice.

"Ah, so you've returned now, have you? What is it you're going to chicken out about this time?"

Neville gapped. "…I'm not chicken!"

The man in the portrait scoffed.

Echo backtracked to confront him, telling the portrait that Neville was here friend now and the man remarked with sass.

Neville turned to her. "I think we should get out of here." He had thought he had whispered that low enough but apparently not.

Another portrait of a large older man scoffed. "Stop being such a party-ruiner. Start taking a few risks, you sissy." This earning a "I'm not a party-ruiner" and "I'm not a sissy" from Neville to which the man simply responded with a nod of his head: "Then prove it. Go down there and see. She's worked on this for a rather long time already. So get some backbone and when a lady talks, you listen, chap!"

Neville looked to the girl still holding his hand. Her face was downcast and he gave in.

"What is he talking about?" Neville asked when they were away from the two portraits.

Echo hesitated before turning and leading him the last few steps down the hallway. They had never gotten this far and Neville was uneasy with being this deep into a forbidden part of the castle. She dropped his hand upon entering tall double doors, letting it close behind them. It was a room, probably the size of a classroom with two large windows reaching the ceiling along one wall which the rain and moonlight reflected and provided little light. It was a grand room that made Neville's jaw fall and he wondered how had Echo had found it.

"This is cool…!" His body followed his gaze, circling the room.

Echo went to sit somewhat in the middle of the room, watching him silently.

Moonlight streamed in through the tall windows and Echo put out the lumos charm but the moon was enough light for the room.

As Neville finished marveling the place, his eyes caught a bit of color in the moonlight. At the head of the room was a painting of various subjects he could make out a bit. It was a kind of mural stretching to the middle width of the wall with many patterns and complicated pictures that could only be appreciated up close. At the base of the painting seemed to be many weaving lines that were in the process of being made into vines; there were leaves branching out from the vines as well. The painting wasn't completed, he saw. Scattered paint buckets and newspaper littered the floor nearest the wall, and a latter was positioned where Echo must have left off. The painting didn't reach more than she could on the latter.

Neville's feet took him closer to the painting. "Where'd you find this…?" His hand hovered above a large painted leaf. He didn't now if it was dry or not and didn't want to mess it up another way. Traces of finger marks in the paint could be seen up this close and if he were to look, he'd see quotes and phrases written on the wall as well.

"I asked my parents for some paints last summer after I found this place last winter."

Neville turned around as she explained. His eyes fell to the floor. This was what she must have wanted to show him and he felt guilty because it obviously looked grand in the moonlight and obvious that she was woking hard on it. It must have been so important to her, and it truly was marvelous, terrible for him to disregard it.

"Oh, ok." It wasn't the exact answer to his question, but it would have to do.

"I started it last year, third year."

Neville turned from the painting and Echo was still watching him for some kind of approval. He glanced once more between the two and he turned to her with a little smile.

The rain softly pelted the glass of the sixth floor.

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