Mars III - aggression

Mars ♂ Aggression

"I don't know how...
I want to love you but I don't know how
I want to love you but I don't know how
I want to love you…"

"I hate my classes. My grandmother wants me to be good at Transfiguration and stuff but I can't stand them—-"

"Is that why you don't like Potions and Charms class?"

Neville hesitated, lifting his head from leaning on hers and looked at the dim white hair of Echo's. "…yes…how—-"

"I heard from Edward during Astronomy. He's in your class, you know."

"No, I didn't."

Echo paused, watching the rain reflect off the walls and across their skin, her head still on Neville's shoulder. They were still in pajamas in the abandoned classroom on the sixth floor. As far as they knew the rest of Hogwarts was asleep. But the castle was quiet and the sound of rain brought a calming atmosphere that made their confessions that night spill out easily.

"Is your grandmother always so demanding? I think that's kind of unfair and counterproductive if she is."

Neville hesitated again before answering, "yes."

"I'm sorry."

That's how that night ended. Neither knew how long they spent curled up together on the stone floor, just talking. Neither knew how much time passed but both did know each needed it. The night and sixth floor was only used for venting—for once, Neville got everything off his chest about his family and school and his little social life. Echo admitted that sometimes she felt that she's probably losing her mind, especially with what others repetitively tell her and the constant charms the nurses perform on her.

Neville looked at Echo again. Before he asked "for what?" Echo continued.

"I'm odd, aren't I?" she had asked and Neville didn't know how to respond. "I mean, that's why Professor Lupin kept watching over me, right? I mean, I know that stuff's changed after…after…after that time. She meant the incident with the dement ors during third year. It still was a soar spot for her. "But I'm trying to get better. ...The other kids, they talk about me—I know it even though Luna doesn't want me to and though no one thinks I do. What did I ever do? Why did my brain break…?" Her voice cracked and her lip had begun to quiver.

Neville let her talk.

Echo let him vent and Neville did the same. It was a mess, it was a train wreck and he realized that she really wasn't as weird as others made her out to be. Sure, Echo thought differently and wasn't as careful as most others and she would rather do and say things that others probably wouldn't...

"I don't know," Neville had remarked.

The rain reflected around the abandoned room and on the painting on the wall.

Around the castle, Ron, Harry, and Seamus readied for bed, joking amongst each other.

The Yule Ball was coming up and students were already asking each other to the dance.

Wen both students returned to their quarters, Neville laid on his back, staring at the ceiling until someone turned out the light and he couldn't see anymore.

The Yule Ball has been a tradition of The Triwizard Tournament since it's inception," Assistant Headmaster Mcgonagall explained to the room full of Gryffindors. "On Christmas Eve night, we and our guests gather in The Great Hall for a night of well mannered frivolity." She turned, looking each student in the eye. "As representatives of the host school, I expect each and every one of you to put your best foot forward, and I mean this literally because…The Yule Ball is first and for most…a dance."

Chatter erupted among the students.

"Silence! The house of Godric Gryffindor has commanded in respect of the wizard world for nearly ten centuries. …I will not have you in the course of a single evening besmirching that name by behaving like a babbling bumbling band of baboons!" she calmed.

In the crowd, George and Fred Weasley mocked her, trying to say "babbling band of baboons" five times fast.

Mcgonagall then went into trying to encourage the students with metaphors of boldness and grace. It didn't work, however, and she chose to make an example by picking one of the boys on the first row to demonstrate.

"Now, place your right hand on my waist."

Ron looked to the crowd of giggling males. "Where?"

Someone wolf whistled and the room erupted into snickers. It was a harmless anyway, that neither of the students realized the influence it would cause on the headmasters.

Really, The Yule Ball was a sort of formal to make the school look proper and just some tradition that had become their own personal prom during The Tournament. To the students, no one wanted to go alone. It would be embarrassing and a bit disgraceful if one couldn't get asked. That's why they started practicing dancing. And by the third week, everybody who was anybody had gotten a date or partner.

But still Harry and Ron could not. They had been turned down at every corner by every girl and it was looking pretty grim for the boys. Hermione had gotten one, but that wasn't very surprising. She was a pretty girl as well as intelligent. It left Ron with a scowl and Harry with a tinge of jealousy. Neville saw this in their bedroom but it wasn't like he was going to say anything. In fact, he was quite curious. He had seen Harry talking with another Gryffindor several times before, some girl with long, light brown curly waves just a year under them and Neville had thought that surely Harry would have asked her to The Ball.

Speaking of which...there was someone he had been wanting to talk to, someone that's been on his mind lately...

Luna saw Ron Weasley go up to that Fleur Decalour girl from Beauxbatons. She guessed he was asking Fleur to The Ball, but the beautiful French Triwizard competitor turned him down. Luna was quite envious to be honest. She didn't exactly have a date for The Ball. She would have loved to be asked to such things but she was a year under, and had to be asked by an upperclassmen in order to go.

She guessed her little chat to Ginny Weasley few days before must have not helped. But that was her loss. When Potter starts dating that other Gryffindor girl, the one in Ginny's year with the long wavy hair, it would be Ginny's loss. Many would probably catch on late anyways. Luna could swear they already were, they seemed mysteriously close already.

What was that girl's name again...?

Oh well, it was none of her business or concern.

Luna skipped down one of Hogwart's many expansive halls alone, on her way to who-knows-where. On the way, she passed the open door of a classroom where her cousin was for one of her classes—or where her cousin should be. Instead, the girl was in the library, forgotten she had a class to get to.

Echo was engrossed in a book for the past hour and a half. She had been so into the book that she didn't notice the footsteps coming up behind her until someone cleared their throat in her ear.

Echo calmly turned, expecting to see a group ready to tease her or one of the school's ghosts to scold her like they usually did when she was forgetful. Instead, it was awkward, bucktoothed Neville.

He shyly greeted her with a hushed voice like he usually did, afraid they would get caught or teased for being seen together. Echo hadn't seen him for some time and was quite pleased for his presence—it always made her relaxed and smile

Echo started to say something about some magical creature again when Neville beat her to talking, speaking her name again. "Um, you know about The Ball coming up?"

He was met by a blank stare. He stuttered on.

"W-well, I wanted to see if you've been asked by anyone..."

No one would ask her, that he already knew. No one had asked her but still, Neville was nervous of rejection. He waited for a response and noticed Echo had spaced out again and he snapped his fingers in front of her face to get it back on him.

"Hey! Echo, I was talking to you, remember?!"

She hadn't seen Neville in so long and she was thinking about the last time she had. He had wanted to return the favor and show her his "secret place" Neville liked to go to, which was at an edge of the Black Lake under a willow tree. It had been a pleasant day that ended in a small splashing fight and they returned to Hogwarts full of giggles and wet shirts. They were almost immediately ridiculed, "that clumsy, wimpy Gryffindor and that dumb, nutcase girl whom all the dementors loved."

"Of course stupid would attract stupid," one had spat.

"What do you think they were doing by the lake," another added with a suggestive raise of an eyebrow.

Echo had practically ran from them as Neville attempted to talk them down but had stammered too much. He had been pushed on the chest, knocking the water ferns from his hands and almost knocking him to the floor.

"I feel so bad for Potter, that he has to room with such a nitwit."

It had been such a peaceful day... But like most things, it didn't stay with Echo for too long and was back to normal in no time. This was a perfect time for Neville to come.

He took a breath and repeated his question, this time, with even more stuttering.

The day The Ball was announced, Echo had been the one who came to Neville's mind almost right away. Other girls were so pretty but had already been asked—they were quite intimidating as well. But Echo—she was weird, odd, and she was familiar. And hopefully, it would be easy for Neville to ask her. No one would want to ask her and she never tried to boast and gossip like so many other he knew.

Echo had been the one Neville wanted to ask from the start and his palms were sweating in anticipation and nervousness.

When he finished repeating his question, Echo hadn't blinked. Neville held his breath.

"Oh, Neville…no one's…asked me because I'm not going."

His brows crinkled. "Why not?"

Echo shrugged. Her hand had brushed her bangs to the side earlier. "I'm not very fond of parties. They…I…" She frowned looking for the right words. "They make me all jittery and very uncomfortable and..." She shrugged again, this time forcing a small smile. It was an empty smile—she was trying, he saw. "I don't really like them."

Well, Neville thought, this was a turn of events. A confession was on the edge of his tongue but he swallowed it instead. He wasn't going to force her; she said she didn't like parties, so there must be a good reason for that.

Noticing his frown, Echo's eyes widened. "What's the matter?"

Neville shook his head, ready to walk off.

"You're—-?" Echo caught herself.

She wasn't going to ask him why was he leaving. She wasn't going to stop him. He was obviously disappointed in something and he had never questioned her, so why should she?

Echo looked around frantically. "I found something!" she exclaimed, pulling out a book from her bag.

But Neville had already left the section of tables in the library.

After running after and catching up to him, she shoved the book in Neville's arms, forcing him to stop.

"I found that book you left behind. The one you said Professor Moody gave you." She didn't have that carefree expression Neville saw when he first met her, a look he just about forgot. She didn't have that, but something did shine, faintly, behind her heterochromic eyes. He took the book quietly, Echo's eyes still trained on him. There still was a pit of regret in his stomach and bitter taste of rejection in the back of his throat.

Neville didn't know why he had grown to feel so comfortable around this girl, or so fond of either. Why—it had been a girl, an outcast that was willing to stay up and hear everything he had to say, opposed to those who were his own friends. But her, who was twisting in a sort of nonchalant side to side dance with clasped fingers standing in front of him—Neville couldn't be more relaxed with anyone else.

And as she looked up, she smiled, and for the first time since her attack, in the library's dim light, her eyes seemed to hold a sort of sparkle.

Echo smiled a little. Neville forced one in return.

Later, Ginny would be the one who went to The Yule Ball with him instead.

It took Neville some time to get over it. He had been very bitter about that calm rejection, honestly, and Ginny had told him yo try to loosen up several times that night of The Yule Ball, but he couldn't quite. He just couldn't. He felt so…so...

He didn't know.

While The Ball had been a memorable event and he continued to enjoy himself even after Ginny departed to watch the band and he fell asleep happy that night, but it wasn't until the second day after that he saw Echo and the feeling returned. But after all that and all this time, Neville felt like he had been punched in the gut. He had been rejected by the one he had felt the most comfortable around, whom knew his secrets, and he had been so sure it would have worked. He had been so sure before.

It did hurt, honestly, and Neville spend the next few weeks avoiding the halls and corridors he had seen her walk the most. He didn't want to run into her, not right now.

He felt hurt. He had thought that after all this time, that they would have been passed that stage already. It slipped his mind that Echo was still mentally healing.

"I'm not really someone who likes parties," she had said. "They make me feel…uncomfortable."

Neville breathed a hopeless sigh. His cheek was pressed onto a page of an open book somewhere in the library. His sigh was full of remorse and regret and longing.

Books of plants and spells stacked next to him but he was rereading the one given to him by Moody for the fourth time now. His fingers trailed across the page. He thought that maybe he was picking up this bad habit from Echo, hence noticing a few pages were starting to fall out.

He sat back up and wondered had he really been reading it that much?

The Second Task was coming up and Neville prayed for some kind of distraction to come to him. All he could see was almost white blonde hair and heterochromic eyes.

Once, he had started becoming anxious when he thought he caught her hair in the hallway, but didn't want to see her for the time being and sped forward down a different hall. It's been some time since Neville has spent time with his friends, afraid that Echo would come up when he was with them and he wouldn't know how he would respond in the possibility. So, he kept to himself once more, studying for tests and feeding his hobbies and keeping to himself.

He wouldn't talk to Echo again for a long time.

The Second Task was coming up and Neville was hoping for some kind of distraction with his head lying on his open book when Professor Moody showed up.

"Get your head up, Mister Longbottom. I've got a task for your little head."

She's heard of what happened at The Second Task. Her cousin hadn't been able to go watch but they've heard of it from others. They heard that Mister Harry Potter had saved two contestants instead of one, that Mister Harry Potter had risked his sacred life again, that Harry Potter had saved the day once more. Luna spoke of it and about the possibility of it having to do with liquid luck as she did Echo's hair.

Luna admired how courageous Potter seemed to be, that she hasn't stopped hearing about him since she arrived at Hogwarts and even before, as everyone had. Luna asked if Echo had ever spoken with him and Echo expressed how she didn't particularly like him very much and that he was very moody. Echo didn't explain how she had walked in on him in a closet with someone else on accident, once, before The Second Task. The time before, she thought she had heard Potter with what sounded like another deep voice in the second floor broom closet.

Luna hadn't asked much from her after that.

Now it's been several weeks since Cedric Diggory's murder. There were still some skeptics about The Dark Lord returning and that was bound to happen, but there was no avoiding that there was now an innocent boy dead under some circumstances. Some still pointed their finger to Harry and that was expected.

And Echo hasn't seen spoken to Neville since before The Yule Ball. The few times she saw him, he seemed to have something troubling him and on a quick walking speeding. Luna suggested that he had probably came in contact with some magical creature in an attempt to cheer Echo up. But she didn't press it. More so, Luna was afraid to be lashed out at if she did.

It was weeks until Echo saw him again. This time, when she was looking out on the lake from some balcony. He had been passing by, asking if anyone had seen Trevor, his toad, and Echo had been eating chocolate, looking out at the view. When she turned around, he noticed that her fingers were covered in paint again and he licked his lips, not knowing what to say. He simply dipped his head and proceeded to continue his search.

"I interrupted something again, didn't I? I can see you're more bothered now," Echo spoke up. She looked down.

"No…that wasn't it…"

"How was The Yule Ball? I heard it was very loud."

She spoke as if Cedric's death wasn't still in the air. She took another bite of chocolate before looking at him and breaking off a piece to offer.

"How can you be so calm about this?" Neville's voice rose. "Someone died, and you're here eating chocolate and asking about a silly dance?"

Echo's offering arm fell.

"How…?" He was frustrated and running out of steam.

Echo saw this and waited until he was calm.

"Well if I got as upset as everyone else, that wouldn't help the situation at all, now would it?" Her lips curled up in a smile. "Hysteria doesn't help solve the problem."

Neville's brows crinkled.

She ate the rejected piece of chocolate. "And this helps because Professor Lupin gave it me and helps. Like when I can't think straight." She started to smile, but just a little before it vanished. "It's getting better."

He thought she was being extremely ridiculous but wondered about saying it. Echo frustrated him, she frustrated him very much but at the same time he couldn't really be mad at something that wasn't her fault. She didn't ask to be attacked, she didn't want to be this way, she didn't wish to be teased, like he was. She was small, weak, and vulnerable and hurt.

"Are you still mad at me?"

Neville stood silent for some time. He finally shook his head, rubbed his mouth, and admitted he wasn't anymore.

"I can help you look for Trevor if you want."

Echo was steadily growing more talkative by the year, but still if the wrong thing said or she saw the right person, she'd go mute again. She was brightening more too, and in the wake of Voldemort's return and Cedric's death, and though everyone in the castle were in hysteria and worry, beside Echo was where Neville would be if it all became too much. She liked to go to the outskirt of The Dark Forest and see the thestrals and speak with Nearly Headless Nick, and sometimes they'd dose off by accident watching the sky in her painted room.

That time she told him why she didn't like going to the hospital wing and of the spells constantly performed on her there instead of taking her to St Mungo's. Since then, Neville has grown and began stepping up even a little when some would down talk her, putting up with whatever jinx or tease was thrown at him.

In the library, he would push back her bangs if she grew tired and she helped if he ever forgot something important. They had gotten back in the routine of walking the halls and Neville couldn't deny that there was beginning to be some improvement with her, but knew that there was still much more damage under the surface that she didn't acknowledge. There seemed to be something going on at home too because she always grew quiet whenever it was mentioned.

Neville had his problems and the two expressed them late at night while wondering the school, and Echo was still very much scatterbrained. Even though his chest fluttered just the tiniest bit when she laughed, it wasn't worth it. Echo was a wild, free and innocent soul that couldn't be held down. No matter what he felt, Neville knew he could never tell her how he felt, and Echo was like was an open book.

That winter break after fourth year couldn't pass quick enough.

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