Chapter 29 : Easy Skanking
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Also, ‘Ciao bella’ means “Hello beautiful’ in Italian. Chapter image by me!
“Excuse me while I light my spliff, good God I gotta take a lift, from reality I just can't drift.” – Bob Marley, 1978
It was 2 o’clock in the morning; Gemma Rawnsley’s swollen eyes fluttered open. She sighed heavily, closed them, and immediately fell back asleep.
An hour later, she opened her eyes again and finally adjusted to her surroundings. The spare Divination classroom was still dark but the flickering candle in front of her allowed her to see the faded psychedelic designs she had painted on the walls. As the dwindling brook in the corner lazily dripped onto the stones below, she took in a deep breath. Her heavy lids threatened to close, but she fought the urge to sleep for another 2 hours and sat up against her mountain of blankets and pillows.
Gemma rubbed her temples in an attempt to settle the pestering sting inside her head. The last thing she remembered was smoking a cigarette the day before, which meant she must have dozed off shortly afterwards. She shifted her head in order to read her watch and calculated that it was early Sunday morning. She had slept for 12 straight hours.
“Ugh,” Gemma muttered to herself. “Not again.”
Once her tiredness subsided, she lazily wrapped one of her quilts around her shoulders and staggered to the other side of the room. She carelessly switched one sitting position for another and flopped onto a faded yellow couch, apathetically staring at the tapestry-covered ceiling as she let out another unenergetic huff.
She rubbed her puffy eyelids with the back of her hands and blinked several times; the scented candle’s vapors tickled her nostrils and she sneezed loudly. Gemma groaned, wiped away her snot with the corner of her quilt, reached into her baggy jeans, and pulled out her cigarettes. After placing one in her mouth, she lit the end with her wand and inhaled deeply.
She exhaled a stream of smoke.
As the Sixth Year slumped back onto the couch, the emptiness inside her continued to throb brutally. Nothing excited her anymore – not even the impulsive decision the dye her hair dark red. Her long locks were spread out across her bare shoulders and Gemma frowned as she lifted a strand and inspected it closely. In order to get a better sense of her current appearance, she lethargically waved her wand and conjured a small mirror to float right in front of her face.
The drastic change failed to provoke her normal zestiness. She huffed and waved the mirror away … however, just before it disappeared completely, Gemma caught her fleeting, dejected expression and paused. She waved her wand again and as the mirror fully materialized, the Hufflepuff blankly stared at her reflection. The candlelight flickered ominously, illuminating her red hair, and Gemma’s eyes narrowed.
Her hair wasn’t red, she decided … it was crimson, the same shade that adorned the Gryffindor Seventh Year male dormitory.
The unwanted comparison brought about a flurry of subconscious connections and Gemma’s eyes slowly filled with tears. On the outside, she began to break down; a heartbroken wail squeaked between her lips and soon, she was gasping for air between her large sobs of pain and misery. On the inside, however, she was numb and lifeless. Gemma didn’t understand why she was automatically associating her hair color with her ex-boyfriend, but she knew there was no point in fighting it anymore.
It wasn’t worth the effort. It was inevitable.
After several minutes, the taxing ordeal was over. Gemma sniveled softly and once again, used the corner of the quilt to wipe the mess off her face. She took a deep breath, lifted her eyes towards the mirror, and muttered a spell under her breath; her hair fell to the ground and the remaining bits configured into a messy pixie cut. Gemma ran her fingers through her short hairstyle, still feeling nothing.
She grimaced, waved the mirror away, rose from the couch, and decided to venture to the kitchens.
After making her bloated face look somewhat presentable, Gemma threw on a pair of black combat boots and pulled a large jumper over her head. She buzzed with anxiety but eventually swallowed her fear and meandered down towards the basement; when she reached the right portrait, she tickled the pear and stumbled inside. The normally bustling kitchen was quiet and dark but in the corner, a small house elf stopped tending to the fireplace and noticed her arrival. Gemma collapsed onto one of the chairs, flopped across the large banquet table, and groaned softly.
“What would you like, Miss?” the house elf cooed.
“Do you have any treacle tart?” she replied as she lifted her head.
“Would you like clotted cream, Miss?”
“Several dollops, please.” She noticed her shaking fingers and decided to switch destinations. “Could you possibly put it in a box?”
“Yes, Miss. I will have it for you soon, Miss.”
Minutes later, Gemma received her order and thanked the elf for giving her such a generous serving. After affectionately patting him on the head, she waved goodbye and made her way to one of the smaller courtyards for some peace and quiet. The stone bench she eventually settled on was a well-known landmark among the stoners of Hogwarts but she knew no one would be there due to the early hour.
Gemma eventually set her tart aside and pulled some supplies from her purse; she faltered only once but still managed to roll a perfect spliff between her fingertips. She placed it in her mouth, deciding that it was necessary to finish before she devoured the decadent dessert at her side, and lit the end with her wand. The Hufflepuff inhaled deeply, tilted her head backwards, and closed her eyes.
“Ciao, bella! You wouldn’t happen to have a light, wo – wait – no - is that you, sprite?”
“Fucking – ahhhh!” she gasped in surprise as she choked on the smoke in her lungs. She flew forwards, her head landing between her knees, and a mysterious hand patted her back in support. After a couple of hacking coughs, Gemma’s heart rate and breathing returned to their normal rhythms but the tranquility was short lived; her initial surprise quickly morphed into an extreme nervousness when someone lifted the burning object from her fingers. She took a deep breath, not wanting to lift her head to see who was next to her.
“Please,” she mumbled inaudibly, “don’t be him. Please don’t be him.”
“The Italian should have tipped you off,” the male voice joked.
“Yeah, it’s me,” Giovanni Costa grinned when they finally locked eyes. She noticed a cigarette was already between his lips. “Now I meant what I said – I need a light.”
“You have a wand,” the Sixth Year retorted as she rolled her eyes and handed him her smoke. “It’s mixed, save your cigarette … so what are you doing up this early in the morning?”
“Well that kills two birds with one stone,” the Seventh Year laughed just before he pocked his cigarette and put the spliff to his lips. “Haven’t gone to sleep yet. I’ve been up completing a practice NEWT essay – don’t know why, since I’m not going to need to know Untransfiguration to professionally play music – and I lost my wand so I needed someone to help me out. My turn for a question … what’s with the hair? I almost didn’t recognize you.”
“Needed a change,” Gemma muttered.
“Well I’m going to have to call you ‘sprite’ more often. The pixie suits you.”
“Thanks,” she murmured as she took the spliff from him, inhaled slowly, and then handed it back.
Instead of asking her why she needed a change, Gio took another puff, savored the smoke in his lungs, and exhaled ghostly traces of his inhale. He then launched into a completely ridiculous and random observation and Gemma spied the goofy grin that always came about when he was stoned.
“Do you ever stop and think about how cool broomsticks are? I mean, flying itself is fascinating, but we magical folk have manipulated a piece of wood to do the work for us. We could levitate our bodies but we’ve chosen to ride around on a broomstick, like riding a horse. But Muggles do it to, I suppose. They’ve got airplanes and turbine engines that propel them into the air – but that’s probably because they don’t have access to magic. Shit, that negates my original point. It’s not a good comparison, my mistake.”
Gio’s commentary reawakened her earlier insecurities and Gemma automatically associated broomsticks with the final match between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor for the Cup … which eventually lead her back to thinking about Sirius again. A geyser of emotions erupted from deep inside her chest and as a result, water started leaking out of her swollen eyes. The familiar feeling of crying but still feeling insensitive washed over her and soon, she was wailing in Gio’s arms without hesitation.
Instead of asking any questions, the guitarist wrapped his hands around her shoulders. Gemma’s sobs quivered her entire body as she howled with agony for several minutes; she thought she’d already released her inner torment, but apparently, the mere mention of an everyday object led her to think about her broken heart. She cried harder, hoping to drop her depressed demeanor, but knew that it would never leave entirely.
“What’s going on, love?” Gio asked softly when she finally started to calm down. “What’s wrong?”
“Can’t you guess?” she mumbled as she sat up, put the discarded spliff in her mouth, and relit the end. She inhaled deeply and welcomed the tingling feeling in her head. It distracted her emptiness.
“Of course I can,” her best friend said, “but you never want to talk about it. How was I supposed to know you’re still not over him? I barely ever see you anymore, ‘cos you’re always sleeping in that personal room of yours. When’s the last time you ate a meal in the Great Hall?”
“I’m not starving myself, if that’s what you’re getting after. See this next to me? It’s a treacle tart covered in clotted cream and it’s delicious. In fact, I may eat the whole thing in one sitting,” Gemma sassed as she took another puff. “And for your information, I go to bed shortly after I finish my last lesson and wake up in the early morning to finish my homework. My schedule has shifted, that’s all.”
“Yeah, but you’re still ignoring the main point of my question – you don’t eat in the Great Hall anymore. You’re isolating yourself.”
Gemma handed the spliff back to him, turned away, and watched the invisible wind whip through the trees.
“I don’t like it,” she finally answered. “I always feel like everyone is staring at me. I just want to be left alone. I want things to go back to the way they were before Sirius … I never wanted the spotlight he cast on me.”
“Well your new haircut isn’t going to help with any of that,” Gio chuckled.
“It will give me a little anonymity,” Gemma replied. “If you didn’t recognize me, then hopefully most of the Hogwarts population will do the same.”
“I hate to break it to you, but you’re not really a huge topic of conversation anymore,” he responded. “You’re old news. Everyone’s more interested in Walter Davies’ fling with Cassiopeia Plath, the Fifth Year.”
“Well good,” she muttered. “Finally I’ll be able to have some privacy.”
“But like I said,” he smiled as he took the spliff from her, “the hair isn’t going to help. You’ll be on the tip of everyone’s tongue when you show up to class tomorrow.”
The Seventh Year exhaled a line of smoke rings and Gemma grimaced as she continued to avoid his stare.
“He is sorry, you know,” Gio mumbled. “He’s asked me how you’re doing.”
“And you said?” Gemma snarled.
“That I didn’t know.”
“Well good,” she repeated.
“Good? I don’t know how my best friend is feeling. That’s not good at all.”
Gemma remained silent as he took several quick puffs before exhaling a large stream of smoke. He took a moment to gather his thoughts.
“You know, there’s this song written by a fantastic Muggle cat that has this line – this brilliant line – that says ‘She aches like a woman, but she breaks like a little girl’. And honestly, that’s the only way I can describe you. You’re independent and strong and all you want to do is be free. You act like someone who’s much older than she really is, you know? But now you’re retreating into your cave and shielding yourself from the world. You’re acting like a bloody child – a ‘woe is me’ tween who thinks no one else understands her pain.”
Smoke curled into the air as Gio passed the spliff towards her; Gemma was too entranced to take it from him.
“You need to let the bad energy out every once and awhile,” he said. “It’s eating you up inside – that’s why you burst into tears all the time. Just tell me what’s wrong and I promise things will be better.”
Gemma gulped. She wanted to fight back – to tell him he was being a misogynist arse for cutting her that way - but she knew Gio’s analysis of her behavior was spot on. She wasn’t her normal self; in fact, she hadn’t been her normal self for months now. She thought about it harder, making more subconscious connections in her brain, and realized that she was acting just like Remus did the night he came over to share her smoke many Moons ago.
Life is a blessing, not a curse. Sometimes we outcasts need to let people who care about us into our hearts because they make our lives exponentially better.
Her brain replayed her own advice over and over again and she suddenly ached for the werewolf’s compassionate company and understanding gaze. And so, the overwhelming urge to get everything off her chest finally forced Gemma to open up about her break up with Sirius Black.
“It’s all my fault,” she confessed as she took the spliff. “I drove him into the arms of another woman.”
“No you didn’t,” Gio countered.
“But I did,” she huffed sadly. “I couldn’t contain my gift so I had to pull away.”
“I don’t think your gift sets you apart, love,” he laughed. “Everyone has mood swings from time to time. He should have recognized that.”
“No,” Gemma said mournfully, “this time, I’m excluded.” She swallowed contritely. “I kept having prophetic dreams last term, but I never knew what they meant.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“But then they started coming true. I let things slip, because I would be distracted or some shit, so I started being tight lipped about the whole thing … because I didn’t know if I was part of the cosmic line – that I was supposed to let it slip, because that was the only way it was ever going to happen – or if I was altering the future.”
Gio shrugged his shoulders in a way that said, “I have no bloody clue, either”. Gemma inhaled and exhaled again.
“I got desperate and -”
“Ordered the Vipertooth venom from me,” he finished as he snatched the spliff.
Gemma’s jaw dropped astonishingly. How did he make that connection so fast?
“I knew you were lying to me when you said you needed to get it for one of Sirius’ pranks – he would never use something so rare and dangerous. So I did some research and figured you were using it for your dreams. That’s why you couldn’t talk about it.”
“Yeah,” she confirmed. “I kept reading The Dream Oracle … one thing lead to another and I found Tiberius Morrigan’s notes about his controversial potions that were supposed to have all the answers. I don’t know that the fuck it did, but it showed me three different events: a town being attacked by black wisps, someone forcing a potion down my throat, and a surfer bloke on some coastline who’s apparently waiting for me.”
“Odd,” Gio said offhandedly.
“That’s what I thought. I kept making the potion over and over again, kept going into this trippy sleepy dream place, and kept seeing those three things. I made all these notes and tried to put them together to make a timeline – to connect the dots. I wanted to take a weekend away to finish the puzzle, but that’s when Sirius cornered me and told me I was acting irrational. And I was. I was going completely bonkers.”
“When did this insanity start?”
“Just after the Hogsmeade attack.”
“Well, there you go,” Gio said matter-of-factly.
“See, this is why you need a fresh pair of eyes sometimes. Your ‘timeline’ as you call it, it’s literal. You literally saw the attack in your dreams, but you didn’t know it.”
“So that means it all comes true,” Gemma responded glumly. “But why did the dream show me those three events? What do they mean?”
“Fuck if I know,” Gio shrugged.
“It would have been nice to see Sirius’ betrayal,” she muttered.
“Apparently the cosmos didn’t think it was that important,” he chuckled. “Or maybe it thought something else was more essential, dunno. But would you really want to know? If all of the events come true, then you couldn’t have changed the night of James’ birthday.”
“I suppose you’re right,” she grumbled. “So … someone is going to jam a metallic potion down my throat and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Merlin, I don’t even know when it’s coming – it could be when I’m 60 fucking years old. This sucks.”
“You’ll deal with it,” Gio said with a comforting hand on her shoulder, “just like everyone else does.”
“Not everyone is a Seer, you dolt.”
“That doesn’t mean everyone is perfect. Everyone has his or her demons,” he whispered softly as he jammed the end of the spliff against the stone bench.
Gemma frowned and thought of his constant battle with his sexuality; the industry loved an oversexed frontman, but no one really accepted a sexually curious guitarist … well, maybe the frontman of the British rock group, Queen, but that was in the Muggle world, she silently lamented. The Wizarding world was certainly more archaic, conservative, stubborn, and intolerant.
“But the important thing is that you talk about them,” he said, switching directions with a playfully raised brow and smile. “Don’t bullshit and tell me you’re still feeling completely blue.”
“Don’t sound so pleased,” Gemma answered with a cheeky grin and Gio pointed at her face with a wag of his finger.
“See? Smiles are infectious. So are therapeutic talking-it-all-out sessions. We should schedule them more often.”
Gemma couldn’t help but let her smile grow as she reached out and hugged him compassionately. She didn’t have very many close friends, but she couldn’t bear to be without the ones she had … which was why she took Sirius’ absence so horribly. Nevertheless, the two Hufflepuffs sat in silence for a moment, communicating through their friendly embrace that everything was going to be alright – that the future wasn’t as dark as it seemed.
“Thank you,” she muttered just before they let go. “I’d be lost without you, mate. Now help me finish this tart so I don't gain more weight than I already have.”
Author’s Note: Ohhhhh, this chapter. It’s been a thorn in my side for a while, but now it’s done and I can move onto Lily’s POV. Then we have another group chapter and you know what that means – drama!!
Thanks for all the reads and reviews, I really appreciate it!
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