Chapter 1 : She Will Be Broken
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She adds the eggs one by one, letting the slimy spheres slip from her fingers as she raises her other hand to wipe at her running nose. They fall easily into the liquid brewing before her, releasing steam as they break the surface of the water. It twists and curls around her face like smoke, translucent wisps of swirling matter winding their way to the ceiling.
She reaches haphazardly to the vials stacked neatly on the shelf, tapping them one by one until she finds the one she wants. Her fingers snatch it quickly, uncorking whatever is inside and emptying the entirety of the glass into the stewing potion. It hisses and spits, small bubbles rising to the surface in a fast succession, but she pays it no attention. Her mind is frenzied, not concentrating, as she searches desperately for her next ingredient.
The tears flow freely now, coursing down her cheeks and leaving thin ribbons of pink in their wake. She is careful not to let them drop in the potion itself, but makes no move to stop them. She is too frazzled, too occupied with the situation around her to wipe them away. She grabs at a handful of belladonna leaves and empties them into her cauldron. She doesn't know if they'll work, doesn't entirely care at this moment if they will or won't, but instead reaches for another random ingredient before she dwells on the one she has disposed of.
Porcupine quills, bundimum, scurvy-grass, daisy roots, a sprig of peppermint, all thrown into the cauldron before she can think twice. It's all she can do to keep from breaking down, and so she occupies herself with the potion brewing before her. A stir here, a little more wood on the fire, another stir. Her brain doesn't think, her hands just move, faster and faster so she does not concentrate on what she is doing.
The words echo and swirl around her mind, haunting her, driving her to madness as she tends to the mess in front of her. "Revolting!" "Monstrous!" "Grotesque!" "Foul!" She ignores them until they are too loud for her to push away, until the voices in her head are practically screaming at her. "Disgusting!" "Repulsive!" "Ugly, ugly, ugly!"
She wilts, sagging against the counter as heaves clutch at her chest. She has dealt with these words, these despicable, ugly words, for so long. And suddenly, it has become too much. They plummet straight to her heart, sharp like knifes, digging into what little confidence and integrity she has tried to preserve before she can stop them. She hears them everyday, whenever somebody comes walking to her shop, the words ready on their lips so that they can spring to her ears. "Help me," they gasp. "You must help me!"
They don't need help. She knows the people who need help, and the people waltzing into her shop certainly don't need any. People in hospitals, those who are dying: they are indeed the ones who need tending to. But these... fools who come to buy from her, they don't know what suffering is. They will point to their face, maybe gesture to a hand or foot, insisting that they must be fixed. "I am ugly!" they yelp, clutching at themselves. "Gross! Beastly! Awful!"
Her eyes close. She is tired of this, sick of the people who demand attention. They will pay hundreds of galleons for any elixir that will straighten a crooked nose or erase the wrinkles along the eyes. She pities them, in a sense, but hates them in another. They are not as ugly as they think. None of them are. She finds herself in a world where people with plain faces see those with beauty, and are sick with such an envy, they will grasp at her cloak and demand something to make them look better. She hates it, hates how people are so driven to erase even the simplest of blemishes, they will do anything in their power to make sure that it is removed.
The potion below her sits patiently while tears fall dangerously close to the cauldron it sits in. She has no choice but to continue, has no other option but to keep adding ingredients to the charmed liquid that so many of the vain, desperate women she despises want so dearly. She hates herself for doing it, but she grabs the murtlap essence she knows she needs and empties it into the cauldron. She is only fueling their drive to become luxuriously beautiful, only encouraging their constant need of something to fix what they despise about themselves, but she knows she has no other alternatives.
And so she turns back to her potion, hands again grabbing for the nearest ingredient that she finds handy. Luxweed, ginger roots, lacewing flies, all dumped into the sizzling fluid. It is missing something, she knows, and so she bends to investigate before she can think again.
Yes, definitely a missing ingredient. But what? And then, before she can stop them, teardrops slide from her face and land with soft splashes into the brewing solution she is leaning over, and suddenly she knows she is finished. With the addition of the teardrops, the liquid before her has stopped its bubbling, spitting, and hissing. It sits very still now, a heavenly aroma emitting from it, and she sighs.
The tears have stopped, the last one sliding off her cheek and hitting the wooden counter with a defeated, muffled splatter. She doesn't move, only stares at the potion that she has finally completed, all the while willing her hands to knock it off the counter. The women would live, wouldn't they? Beauty is not a necessity in life. But she knows it is impossible. She knows that the witches waiting impatiently downstairs are craving what she has sitting so close to her. They want it, need it, so much, Merlin knows what they'd do to her if she decided to destroy it.
Defeated, she pours the potion into several small bottles. They'll fetch hundreds of galleons each, and the witches will cry with excitement as they realize that she's done it again. "Sacharissa!" they'll squeal, clutching at the corks as soon as they lay eyes on them. "I will be beautiful!"
"I will be gorgeous."
"I will be lovely."
"I will be breathtaking."
And she? She will be broken, crumbling inside each time the galleons, cold and heavy, hit her hands.
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