**A/N- Two things- one this chapter will deal with the topic of addiction in a different way than I’ve written about before, and two, this chapter is entirely from Ava’s POV. When I set out to write these one off stories following James and Charlotte post-Hogwarts, I intended to keep it all from Charlotte’s POV, but as I’ve gotten into it, I realized that there are a few moments that will have more impact coming from other people. Also, the song lyrics below belong to Evanescence.**
If I smile and don't believe
Soon I know I'll wake from this dream
Don't try to fix me I'm not broken
Hello I'm the lie living for you so you can hide
Have you ever wanted something so much it hurt you?
I wanted so much not to be a bitch. I wanted to rise above the anger that had carried me through the last few years, to let go of that tether, and see what a new life could be. To be broken, but pasting the pieces of myself together with something like forgiveness and a desire to be better than what hurt me.
That anger though, it was like quicksand. I’d pull myself out of it, falling into misery instead, and try so hard to follow the light, but everytime I was faced with anything, it was like the quicksand appeared beneath my feet, and I sunk down deep.
I really wanted to be better.
I wanted to be … happy. Whole. Clean. I wanted to be brave like my sisters, and others that I knew that decided their demons didn’t own them, they just existed alongside their soul.
I wanted to be better than the worst that everyone thought of me, that I proved over and over again to be true. I wanted to look at myself in the mirror and be content with the person that stared back. I wanted to see … me. That girl I should have been before my childhood twisted and changed me forever.
I lost that person so long ago, so long that I barely remembered when I’d first lost myself. When had I first made that turn onto the thorn covered road through dark woods? When had my ability to read people turned into snapping their weakness at them, when I was the weakest of them all?
I failed all the time. I failed at being stronger, for my sisters, for my friends, for myself most of all. I failed to try harder.
Fail. Fail. Fail.
The words that chased the broken.
Not good enough. Not strong enough. Not lovable.
I couldn’t tell you if those thoughts first wormed into my mind because of my mother or father, but I knew it started with one of them. I’d tried to make my older sister believe that so much of what was wrong with me was her fault, but the truth was, she’d been my north star for a while. I pushed her away because I wanted our parents first, I didn’t want her to be the one reaching for me when I cried.
She did, for a long time, until I pushed her away too many times that she stayed back. A child herself, she thought she was doing what I wanted. I wanted my mother to soothe my tears, to hug me and tell me that I was her darling love. I wanted my father to pick me up and make me laugh, make me forget about whatever I’d cried about. It was always nanny, and I pushed her away too.
I always pushed people away, too afraid to let them in. Too afraid to give others space when I still so desperately wanted it to be them- mother and father. They were supposed to be the guiding light, the people that showed me how to be. They created me, and my sisters, but they wanted nothing of us but to leave another few notches in their families lines.
I was broken because of it, the demons in my mind telling me that I didn’t deserve happiness, or to be loved. That I didn’t deserve to love myself, or be proud of who I was. Those demons were so easily quieted by other demons- white powders, inky vials of potion that tasted of licorice, green buds, and liquid that burned. The demons quieted when I was stripped of clothing, and letting someone else crawl over me and in me.
Not falling into those demons was the hardest fight I’d ever had. I wanted that release every moment of every day. That release from my pain, because all those things took it away. Until it didn’t and everything came rushing back, so I found new drugs that lasted longer, that made me lose myself even more.
I loved and missed that feeling — floating on a warm wind far away from myself, and my pain. My trauma. That’s what it was, I learned, from a therapist at Ridgeview. Trauma, to be born, but not raised. To exist, but not to be celebrated and loved. It was human nature, I was told, to look to your parents to know how to model yourself. It was pure biology, and when that mirror wasn’t there, it had soul altering effects on a person.
In my young mind, I’d started thinking that there was a cure for all of this. I wanted to know why — why was I born to people who didn’t want to be parents? It was the only thing strong enough to keep me from finding Avery, or anyone, that could supply me with those powders and vials. Needing answers, turning thoughts and feelings over and over in my mind until I gave myself a headache, too afraid to even take anything that could help with that, in case I found that quieted my demons too.
I needed to live with them, turn the light on them, and fight them. Tell them I was stronger than they were, and I would win the battle. I imagined myself as an avenging warrior, wearing battle armor and wielding a fiery sword, slicing them down with a stare and a belief that I was good, and worthy, and they would not win.
Usually that beautiful image fell apart, and I imagined that same warrior tucked in the corner of a dark room, crying and screaming to be left alone. She was the essence of me, so much potential to be strong, but letting it all get to her instead.
I hated myself, I thought, feeling the sunshine peeking through the leaves of the tree I sat under, the wrought iron bench digging into my bare back, my cotton dress cut low in the back. I was waiting, in a small park, across the street from a boutique hotel. Where I’d tracked my mother down.
Yup. My mother. In London, for months, who hadn’t reached out to a single one of her daughters. Who had still left our family manor boarded up and unaccessible, keeping her children from anything that helped them stay connected to who they’d been and where they belonged.
I’d been here, on this bench, for the past few days. I’d seen her before, but lacked the drive to follow her. I regretted it afterwards, and came back, promising myself that today- I’d do it. I’d make her face me, and I’d ask her that single burning question.
It was all that mattered to me anymore. Why give birth to three girls that you wanted nothing to do with? Why, over the span of our childhood, did you mostly ignore us, and seem angry that we even existed? You can prevent children from becoming even little tiny cells, if you’re careful, so why not try harder if you were so desperate to not be a mother? Why, after all of that, did you still show brief moments of kindness, that made it all that much harder?
I could see into the front of the hotel, where there was a little tea shop affiliated with said hotel, and saw her sitting by herself at a table for two. It was such a cute little shop, what I could see of it from here. Dainty chairs painted in beautiful pastels, wallpaper with budding flowers and crawling vines, and fresh flowers in hand blown glass vases on every table.
There she sat, her hair the same dark, dark brown as Charlotte’s, tied into a low bun, a wide brimmed pale hat on her head. Her nails were painted dark red, her lips the same color. She held that tiny tea cup so delicately, but I couldn’t see what was within. She always reminded me a bit of Audrey Hepburn — in style at least, never in personality. She wore slim black pants with a white blouse, and a simple pair of black flats. I studied every bit of her I could see through that window. Yesterday she’d worn a dress and heels. The day before, a long skirt with a simple shirt and jacket with rolled up sleeves.
I’d followed her the past few days, saw her routine. She had tea in the morning at the cafe, always with a scone, of which she only ever ate half. Then she’d walk out of the hotel, and head to the market around the corner. I’d been too scared to follow her inside, but could always see a baguette sticking out of her bag when she left. Then she’d walk to the river, and sit down on the same bench, where she’d read for about an hour before heading back to the hotel. I never stuck around after she went back in.
I was terrified to talk to my own mother, and my heart squeezed, my brain flashing to my childhood. When it was late at night, and I was awake in bed, scared and crying, I always told myself a story with my eyes clenched tight. When no one came, night after night, my tears silent, I fell into that dream and used it like a warm blanket, an idea that gave me comfort.
I dreamed that we were one happy family. That my sisters and I were thick as thieves and happy, and our parents were always there, telling us they loved us and encouraging us to be better. It was always on a warm summer day, and we were always going on a picnic underneath a giant oak tree. I dreamed that I tripped over a tree root, and was caught by my father, who threw me up on his shoulder.
That same dream had carried me through many bad nights, and in all of them, I remained a little girl, though Charlotte and Harper were always their current age.
My heart skipped a beat, squeezing in panic as my mother stood up, and prepared to leave.
Talk to her.
Make her answer you.
I stood up, wavering, gripping the arms of the bench I sat on. My feet moved, the stone solid underneath my own pair of flats and then I was past the gate, and standing on the sidewalk. I was there as she left the hotel, in bright sunlight, squinting cause I’d left my sunglasses behind.
Like moving though molasses, her face lifted, looking around. I saw her eyes sweep over me, moving to the next person, continuing her walk. I wanted to crumple, and scream, thinking that she’d seen me and hadn’t even known who I was. That her daughter was so close to her.
Until, she stopped mid-step, her head turning. She turned a half step, and found me again, staring me down, her brows pulled in confusion.
Move. Go to her.
Talk to her.
I couldn’t move, frozen in time and space. Tears spilled down my face, and I struggled to find the words I wanted to speak quietly and calmly. Instead, I found, all that built up energy could come out in a scream. A single word.
I screamed, scaring the person walking behind me, and the birds in the trees.
“WHY?!” I shouted at her, rushing across the street, nearly colliding with a young woman on a bike. She had peonies in the bike basket, I noticed, my favorite flower.
I stopped in front of her, caring, but not, how I must look to her. The daughter she hadn’t seen in more than a year, sober for the first time in a while, and bawling her eyes out on the street. She’d never been fond of any type of public displays of emotions.
She said my name, quiet, sounding like it had to be torn from her throat.
“Why?” I asked again, shuddering as I struggled to breath. She still wasn’t smiling, or reaching out for me.
I knew then, she thought my question was about why she was in London without telling us. She didn’t know what I was really asking. The why that cracked out of me was about so much more than the past few weeks, it encompassed my entire life. How do you convey that with a word?
She said my name again, the sound ending in a question, and I couldn’t take it anymore. My hand flew to my mouth, and I ran, shoving past her to barrel down the street, my small purse bouncing against my side. Charlie’s house was in an entirely different neighborhood, but I’d run there if I had to, to get away. I couldn’t look at her anymore, and see anything other than what she’d been.
Eventually I stopped, and hailed a cab, ignoring the drivers’ questions about my sanity. He really didn’t want to know. I cried the whole way to my sisters, shoving a wad of bills at the driver, then barreling up the stairs, and through the front door. It crashed open, to a sight that broke me a little bit more than I was already broken in that moment.
Another thing I’d run from. A friend, that might have been so much more, if I hadn’t been, well … me. I’d seen them around school, sure, but had mostly been able to avoid the sight of their blossoming romance.
Albus and Saoirse, wrapped around each other in a passionate embrace on my sister’s couch. They flew apart the moment after the door hit the wall, and I saw Al’s eyes widen in concern when he saw me.
I croaked out my sisters name, rushing up the stairs when she pointed. She was halfway out the door by the time I made it halfway up the stairs and I rushed into my room, my hand slapped over my mouth in a pitiful attempt to stop the sobs. First, I’d failed at unleashing on my mother. I’d failed to get a real reaction out of her, she really hadn’t seemed to care that her middle daughter found her.
I failed to be a good enough person to date Albus, and now he was starting that journey with someone else. Someone that deserved him.
The covers of my bed were a welcome cave, but I didn’t stay in there long. The moment Charlotte came into my room, I found her, let her hold me while I bawled. Her shirt was damp with my tears before long, but she held on tight, her hand rubbing up and down my back.
I cried for all the things I’d never gotten from my parents as child, as a teenager. I cried for all the times I pushed my sisters away. I cried for the sight of my lost friend with someone else. I cried, I cried, I cried. All that I’d been holding back came out, but the words that echoed in my mind stayed.
They sunk in deeper.
I’m not worthy.
I’ll never be loved.
I’m so pointless my own mother doesn’t want me.
My breath stilled, and I pulled out of my sisters arm, turning away from her to grab a pillow and pull it close against my body. Her hand rested on my shoulder, and she called my name. She asked what was wrong, but I said nothing.
It was one thing to let the words trampling through my mind continue, but to voice them? I couldn’t do that, not now. Not until I was strong enough to handle it. If I’d ever be strong enough to handle it.
She tried to get me to open up, to reach out for her again, like she did when I was a child. I did the same thing I’d always done, pushed her away because it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I cried again when she left, shutting the door behind her. My hand reached back for the door before I could pull it back, the sad part of me still wanting her.
Come back. Hold me. Make me better.
She did love me, I knew that. Honestly, she was probably the only person in my life besides Al that tried to look beyond all my awfulness to see what was true. Harper always just kind of followed me because I was older, and bossy, and she was kind of drawn to intense people.
Charlotte had tried, and tried again. Could I really fault her for keeping her distance when all I did was throw all my anger at her? Tell her to go away? She was just doing what I asked.
I spent the entire day in my desk chair, writing in my journal all the things I couldn’t say out loud. Apology letters to my sisters, and Al, just to get the words out. Hateful, angry letters to my parents blaming them for everything that was wrong with me so I didn’t have to take any responsibility for what I’d done, what I’d become. An addict.
Finally, I fell asleep, and dreamed. Nightmares twisted my body, trapping me in my sheets, more tears staining my pillow. Until I woke up, and shattered. All that control I’d so tightly wound turned to dust at my feet. I couldn’t do it anymore, living with all of this. There was a reason I sought out drugs, and then sex. I needed that constant escape from all of this unrelenting pain.
Sleep addled, and wrung out from my nightmares, I sent off a message before I could think about it, before I could catch myself, and then I changed into an all black outfit, and slipped out of the house. I could hear Harper and Lily watching something in her room, and wanted to see her, to be like we’d been before I’d broken that relationship up too. When she looked up to me, when she was always there.
I wanted to crawl into Charlotte’s dark room, and wake her up, tell her to stop me from what I was about to do, what I was going to seek out. But she was asleep, and I didn’t want to wake her. She’d handled enough where I was concerned.
I tried to stop myself from walking out the door, and winding my way through town until I found Diagon Alley, turning down a narrow passage into the darker world of Knockturn Alley. The part of myself that believe I could be so much more screamed at me to not walk through the door of the dirty inn, to turn back from the stairs, to not knock on door number 3.
Don’t Ava. Don’t do it.
I said it over and over again, but the moment the door opened, and I saw that familiar, grinning face holding a vial of that inky, black potion, I was lost to reason. I stepped inside, and the door thudded behind me, feeling like the door was shutting on any chance I had of being a good person. I was beyond caring, needing it all to go away. It had to go away, I couldn’t take it anymore.
I downed the vial he gave me in a goblet of cold pumpkin juice, and the second one. Already, I felt better, those nasty monsters in my head quieting as I floated above it all, away from myself. I was air, and clouds, bathed in the soft glow of sunrise. That’s how it had always felt, like I was free flying in the morning sky, my favorite time of day, though it was deep midnight outside.
His mouth was on mine, and detached from myself, I let him do whatever. I gave him my body, and took whatever he gave me, riding higher and higher until I was about to float into space, and float away forever.
I don’t feel good.
This isn’t right.
Nothing was working right. Not my lungs, or my heart, or my eyes, but somehow, I pushed him away and left the room. Left the gritty inn, falling headfirst into the stones outside, the sky just beginning to lighten outside.
He followed me, sneering and begging for more of me, offering more of what made me float. I couldn’t take anymore, already feeling like I didn’t belong to any part of myself anymore. I had floated too far away this time, and was terrified. I grabbed his arm, and uttered a single name, begging him to ask for help from that name I’d given him.
I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, and fell against the wall of the building, falling head over feet into fathomless depths I hadn’t encountered before. I felt arms around me, fading in and out, things coming in short bursts.
Stars blinking out of the sky, warm arms holding me tight, the scent of something familiar. Then bright lights and shouting, my body being poked and prodded by Healers. I assumed they were healers, but they’d never fix me.
I was broken, so untethered from myself that the Earth was already a pale blue dot as I drifted further through the stars, towards a bright, warm light. I wanted to go there, because it seemed safe. It told me that if I passed through it, it would all be over, all the pain and sadness. I would be welcome there, every part of me.
I heard familiar voices, following me in space, and screaming, someone begging me to wake up, to come back. I didn’t want to wake up, but I didn’t want to leave either. I heard more begging and pleading, and the three little words that I’d heard too little in my life. It followed me as I spun through the stars, the same two phrases over and over again.
I love you.
I love you.
Something held my hand, warm and smelling of white flowers, I was aware of that. I could hear her begging the Healers to fix me, asking what she could do. It’s what she wanted to do- fix people. It must be why she tried so hard with me. That voice, cracking with tears, begged them to fix me, to bring me back.
I heard them say they didn’t know what to do, that I’d taken too much, and the potions weren’t working. In space, I reached back and blinked, suddenly floating above myself on a bed, sheets stained around me with spilled drops of different potions meant to bring me back to life.
It hit me then, what was happening, and I panicked, trying to peddle through the air to go back into my body. Oh Gods, what had I done to myself?
Pale as a silver ghost, my closed eyes ringed with wet mascara and dark circles, I was … I was an unholy mess. My hair was tangled with dirt, and specks of what I could only assume were spittle or vomit, the same flecks around my mouth. Next to me sat my sister, holding my hand, tears streaming down her face.
She was alone, and I wondered where Harper was, still staring down at myself. Pain lanced through my body, and I watched as I convulsed on the bed, hearing my teeth chattering from the force of the tremors. People swarmed around my body, trying to shove my sister out of the way, but she held on.
She held on, repeating the same phrases over and over again.
I love you.
I reached for my body, but my fingers passed through my solid form like I was nothing. I was nothing, and screamed into the room, begging for anyone to hear me, to help me back. I sought anything that could tether me to myself, not quite wanting to give up.
Until I felt a warm breath on the back of my neck, and the world smelled like all the things I loved. Chocolate, campfires, and honeysuckle. It smelled of cozy kitchens, and backyard parties. It smelled like home, the home I wanted. It smelled like Charlotte’s house, the one I’d been too blind to see.
My body convulsed on the table again, and I saw the Healers looking to each other, trying not to look at Charlotte lest they see what was on their faces. They couldn’t heal me. It was up to me. My spirit had to fight for life back in that world.
I turned and looked into that warm, bright light that floated behind me, blurring out that sight of the back of the room. It offered everything I’d ever wanted, and I looked down at myself. I could see the years in front of me, the fight it would take every day to stay sober, to not be angry, to repair fences.
I wanted it … but I didn’t.
I was broken, and this was my way out.
I closed my eyes, and reached out my hand, feeling bright sunlight and a soft breeze. It enveloped me, and I heard the sounds of laughter, felt grass beneath my feet. I felt no pain, no fear, only love. Somewhere, far behind me, in that circle of darkness closing from the world I’d just left, I heard a gut wrenching scream.
I looked around, and felt that last tether snap as soon as that circle closed, leaving a grassy field dotted with wildflowers everywhere I looked. A large house sat in a valley, surrounded by gardens, sunlight blinking off of endless glass windows. Birds flew overhead, singing and calling for each others.
A large oak tree stood at the edge of a field, a stream running underneath it, winding all the way back down to the hosue. In front of me were my sisters, laughing, and holding out their hands for me. I grabbed onto Charlotte, and she pulled me along, together we collapsed onto a soft flannel blanket, a woven picnic basket on the corner, bread and grapes peeking out, along with a bottle of wine. I heard laughter behind me and looked, my heart aching as I saw my dream.
A small boy ran between my parents, my mother and father, glowing and happy. My fathers arm around hers, and her voice sweet as she called after all of us, beaming with pride and love. The small body of my brother slammed into my legs, and more laughter sounded, familiar teasing.
My father winked as he passed by me, laying his large hand on my shoulder before tackling my brother with tickles, his giggles filling the air. Another hand laid on my shoulder, and I turned, to see my mother as she’d never been in life. Full face bright with color and joy, she laid her hand on my face and smiled.
My darling Ava, I’m so glad you’re here.
We love you so.
**A/N. Two of these in one chapter. When I restarted Risen (now Shatter Me), and decided to continue the post Hogwarts world, I struggled a lot with what to do about Ava. In the original post world I wrote (formerly called Arise), she lost her fight with addiction and died. Part of me wanted to change that, to give her and her sisters a happy ending where Ava was concerned. But one of the bigger changes I made between Risen and Shatter Me was changing the tone of the story. Risen was more comedic (I thought), and Shatter Me is a bit more serious. Plus, as you might have guessed from reading these two stories- addiction is a matter very close to my heart. It’s a terrifying disease that has woven in and out of my own life personally- through people very close to me. My brother is an addict, who recently relapsed after many years of sobriety. My cousins are addicts. I’ve had friends and co-workers, and bosses, that were addicts. It’s a never ending battle, and far too many people lose their fight. I’m very fortunate that the people close to me are still alive, and fighting, but for Ava … I decided to keep her original ending, and hope you all don’t hate me for it. One thing I’ve learned as I’ve worked to improve my writing skills is that there are moments where it’s important to suspend reality and give into fantasy, and others where reality is needed. This felt like one of those times. If you’ve struggled with addiction yourself, or have loved ones that have, you have all of my love and sympathy. It’s a brutal battle. Whatever you’re fighting- stay strong.
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