Neptune

Jupiter I - expansion

Jupiter Expansion


"Pitch black, pale blue,
These wild oceans shake what's left of me lose
Just to hear me cry mercy."


Fifth Year:

Luna looked for her cousin once exiting the train. Students passed by all around and the carriage came and left multiple times but still she didn't see that familiar head of hair.

Meanwhile, Hermione was getting worried about Harry and she knew Ron was too. They exchanged it in looks as they followed Harry to the thestral-drawn carriage that would lead them to the gates of Hogwarts. They were worried about their friend and his increasing anger and mood swings, plus staying at the Dursleys have apparently had gotten worse. His anger was justified, they knew, but at the same time...

The three came to a stop as a carriage pulled off, already full of talkative girls. One of the girls the trio recognized as Cho Chang, smiled back as the carriage drove away, and then she turned back to the others riding beside her.

Hermione tilted her head in the direction of Harry, catching his slow almost longing sigh. Ron didn't miss the look in her eyes, silently getting her message. That's when Neville caught up to them, carrying his Mimbulus Mimbletonia plant.

This night was starting off with too much tension.

The last carriage was parked nearby, and was the last that would be running to Hogwarts this year.

Hermione sighed to herself. This was going to be a tough year, she could already feel, and not just because of the some kind of tension that remained between her and Ron.

Neville was the one who ushered the three to the carriage, after the fact Harry seemed transfixed on something invisible in the air. Hermione asked if Harry was feeling alright, seeing him reach out to empty space. But Neville saw, and agreed with Harry that he saw the thestrals when asked, albeit Neville agreed silently.

The four didn't expect the unfamiliar face that was already seated inside the carriage when they climbed in.

Luna Lovegood lowered The Quibbler magazine she had been reading upside down.

"Don't worry," she spoke to Harry, completely ignoring the other three. "I can see them too. You're just as sane as I am." Somehow, that last sentence didn't make anyone feel as comforting as it was meant.

The four shifted for comfort awkwardly. No one seemed too pleased to be sitting with this girl and Neville was beginning to wonder why, and why her wide eyes seemed to study each one of them. Then Hermione opened her own mouth.

"Everyone this Loony Love—-" She cut herself off, catching her rude introduction. "…This is Luna Lovegood." Her dark eyes cast down at her own correction.

And then everything came to light. Luna smiled at Neville and he returned it sheepishly, automatically.

He had been told that this girl, Luna, had a sort of oddness about her, that she was a very peculiar girl and some felt uncomfortable around her unusual air—but Neville couldn't find any resemblance to Luna and her cousin, at least by looks, and if you don't count the eyes. There was something about their eyes, both of them, that just seemed wide and wondrous that made you want to question them about everything in the world, like they could give you answers to the once unknown—Luna's eyes just seemed forever surprised.

"You're Neville," Luna spoke after everyone was introduced. "I've heard a lot about you. From my cousin, that is. She's quite fond of you, you know."

The three other Gryffindors immediately turned to him.

Neville had simply grinned politely at first, but that second part of Lua's statement had caught him off guard.

Fond of him? Surely he must be mistaken. He and Echo were merely friends—if even that; he wasn't entirely sure himself. His face had changed into one of complete surprise now.

The carriage had already left the train station by now and the five were riding silently to the school grounds.

"She considers you a close friend. She doesn't warm up to many people much," Luna explained and Neville's expression relaxed. "Especially after…that incident, she's more quiet and hasn't exactly been the same."

Neville nodded in agreement. He knew well already.

"I hope she's getting better. Last time she had turned mute again and couldn't remember her own birthday…" Luna looked at her chipping nail polish.

"She's getting much better," he assured, a slight grin tugging on his lips. He spoke up suddenly and Luna looked up at him, eyes still wide and wondrous, but this time with a little hope.

A memory of Echo came to mind, of rolling down hills together and another of dancing to random music in her painting room one night...

She was getting much better indeed.

Echo was the one thing they could bond over.

And then Neville realized the questioning and alarming looks from Ron, Hermione and Harry, and Neville closed up again. Not another word was spoken about Echo or between each other for the rest of the carriage ride.


The night Dolores Umbridge was announced as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Neville looked straight ahead where he had always seen Echo to be at the Hufflefuff table. She usually sat somewhere directly across amongst chatting students though she herself rarely engaged, and unknowing that Neville could watch her. But when he looked, he didn't see her and began to worry. He's gotten used to looking after her for so long now, hoping she hadn't gotten eaten in The Dark Forest or locked somewhere in the castle, that his heart sped up at her absence.

He scratched his wrist nervously.

And there was reason too. Lately, Echo's been missing from class and the few times he's caught her in the halls. She always had paint on her fingers and he'd have to wipe it off her face like a mother to a child, whines of protest to match.

There was a long time since he's seen her last and he no longer felt the same flutter in his chest when he saw her. That temporary feeling back around the Yule Ball had gone. He had now realized that it had been from closeness, but misinterpreted.

When Neville found Echo in the halls, he would ask where she'd been, all in a huff, and she'd ignore him or stare at him like she usually does. He knew he should tell Dumbledore or Sprout or some teacher, but couldn't. Neville was afraid they wouldn't help, that they'd see she was only troubled and send her back to get charmed and hexed. Most times he found her in that painted room again, working on her masterpiece, as she called it. But still he was knew he had no reason to report her, but he was worried nonetheless.

Neville wasn't a fighter—not by a long shot—but he refused to argue, especially with her. Echo was fragile, she was too breakable. Yes, Neville was self-conscious and shy, but she was a butterfly's wing—too much pressure and she'll break.

Not everybody could touch her. Not everybody wanted to. Those who could, were special.

This too was true—Echo didn't seem to warm up to anybody the way she had with her cousin and Neville, and that seemed a bit odd in other's eyes. Once, Ron had caught him: Neville had been wiping something off of Echo's face near the entrance of the courtyard and had thought no one was near.

After the two had departed, Ron frightened Neville by coming from behind and asking, "what was that all about?"

Neville had jumped and stuttered a response that Ron just let the suspicion roll off his shoulder. Besides, they were late for DADA class and they feared Umbridge was probably catching on to them, practicing defense in private. They had heard the story of the first time Harry was ordered to her office and seen the scar on the back of his hand. But Neville had knew that Echo wasn't having the class until much later that day and that she had been up to something, probably in that painted room again. He knew that she needed a once over before heading to class after being up there in that abandoned room again and didn't want her to get caught.

What drawn Neville back to the quirky girl was that he saw progress—there had been increased process with her to the point she was almost as outgoing as she had in the beginning. But there was still that she held her tongue and that little too-placid look on her face. But she was recovering nonetheless. He saw it. Luna did too. That's why Luna made him promise to not leave her cousin, that Echo was getting better by being around him someway, and that Luna trusted him someway. Luna had made Neville promise to protect Echo and he didn't see her again until signing up for Dumbledore's Army.

The Army existed because Umbridge was disrupting Hogwarts in a critical time when this lesson is needed.

Both boys rushed to the DADA classroom at top speed.


Months passed by with their horrid new teacher not exactly molding into the Hogwarts curriculum. Instead, Dolores Umbridge forced herself in, invading each and every crevice and twisting every rule she could. She began taking over and no one was taking fondly of it—maybe besides Filch.

Students had to get accustomed to the stricter curriculum and the constant addition of rules and gathered around the ladder as Filch nailed another plaque day after day.

Normally, Luna would hold her cousin's hand as the two stared up in worry at the clutter of plaques on the wall. Echo asked if there was anything they could do, and Luna did not have an answer. She hadn't even told Echo that she was participating in Dumbledore's Army. It was her own private way of protecting her cousin as well.

Dumbledore's Army had begun and the students kept the secret under lock and key, and those caught using wands in class were never ratted out, amazingly, and neither by those not in The Army.

Echo had found out about it through Neville. They had been out in the courtyard studying since he wanted quiet and Echo had commented about Dolores' uprising.

"There's this plan going on, if you can keep a secret," he revealed. Neville glanced around to make sure no one could overhear. "Harry's started a sort of Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching, you know, in case…we were to meet any death eaters. We call it an Army and… If you want to go, that is, I can take you...?

Echo had just looked at him with a blank stare until speaking after several empty moments. "No. I don't like Harry."

Neville blinked, surprised at her blunt statement. "What do you mean you don't like Harry?"

"Harry doesn't like me. I've talked to him once and he's angry and didn't make me like him much."

She began talking in short answers again, a sign that she was starting to close up into herself again. Neville concluded that it must have been a bad run-in. He didn't push it, luckily.

"Ok."

The wind blew in their faces and Echo rubbed her eyes.

"Well then, would you like to learn?" Neville turned to the blonde head leaned on his shoulder.

Echo lolled her head to the side and her bright eyes turned to him, sparkling.

"…I could teach you…" Neville couldn't help but smile a little.

He had just grown into his front teeth and trimmed his dark hair. Echo ran a hand through it and looked him in the eye, her expression blank and unreadable. Neville forced his lips into another smile. This time she responded back.

"Ok?" he asked.

"Ok."

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