Prologue: We Lie Best When We Lie To Ourselves

When Hermione was young, someone told her that life was the best teacher. Each lesson it taught, each test it handed out, remained etched in your mind for eternity.

It sounded like a riddle to the seven-year-old, but the words stuck with her. What they meant, however, she wouldn't understand until much later.

Eleven years later, precisely.

By eighteen, life had taught her unforgettable lessons: good triumphed over evil, everything you needed to know could be found in books, not everything was what it seemed, what didn't kill you made you stronger, it was always darkest before the dawn, and not everyone that passed through your life was meant to stay.

But those weren't the only lessons that she learned. Hermione learned that honesty was a treacherous thing. And for that reason, she stopped being honest for the next five years of her life. Nothing good had ever come from telling the truth. "The truth hurts," Her mother had said, but she never fully believed that statement; it was too vague to be considered an infallible truth. But in the end, her mother had been partially right; the truth was a painful thing, but as the years ground on, it seemed that the truth also had an awful way of reminding Hermione of her own insignificance in the grand scheme of things.

Okay, so the truth hurt, but lies…lies could kill.

Lies were like a thief in the night, cloaked in stealth. They waited for the perfect opportunity to pounce and punish someone for their sins. It seemed that no matter how far a liar ran, or how they tried to clean up their mess…lies patiently waited to exact their pound of flesh. Lies had a way of making the liar constantly look over their shoulder, paranoid and restless. Even when they thought they were safe, they weren't.

Hermione considered herself smarter than the average liar; she had eluded capture better than the best. For that and that alone, she was proud. Hermione had been brought up to be truthful and noble; a champion of all that was good and just. Her actions and decisions five years ago had been a metaphorical killing of the morals and values instilled in her by her parents. But her dishonesty wasn't the only problem. Now that she had returned, she was exhausted from the charade; it was wearisome to keep up with which lie she'd told to whom. Hermione couldn't forget the truth: her lies were pleasant to others' ears, but brutal on her heart. And her heart…well, she wasn't sure she had one left. It still thumped in her chest, pumped blood, but it was hollow, drained, and beyond repair. It couldn't feel much, just the hopelessness that attached itself to utter despondency.

She couldn't stomach feeling any sort of remorse for the things she'd done, nor did she need to feel the consequences or repercussions of her actions because she already knew what her lies had cost her.

Everything.

Her life as she had known it.

And she didn't expect to get back what she'd lost.

For that reason, she lacked the motivation to stop. After all, liars didn't care about motivation or consequence. They appreciated the quick fix that their lies furnished and then promptly left. But Hermione knew that quick fixes didn't last, especially not in her case. It was like using tissue to clean an oil spill. Five years ago she'd packed up her entire life and left because she couldn't clean up her mess and now she was back. There was no need to run any longer; all that she had were the lies she'd lived and breathed for so long.

Sometimes, she felt almost guilty. Hermione supposed that a conscience wasn't something a liar had. She was sure her conscience was long gone. The ironic thing was that her lies didn't hurt them as badly. They lived happy, blissful, and ignorant lives wherein they hated her, for good reason, and she was left to carry the burden alone. They had each other and she – she had no one.

But those lies weren't the worst.

No, the worst were the ones she told herself.

No, it didn't bother her when Harry refused to speak to her, much less acknowledge her existence, last month in the Ministry. It was fine that hardly anyone noticed that she'd been back for over seven months. When she saw pictures of Ginny with Harry and Ron, it didn't upset her that she'd been replaced in their lives. And when she thought of her parents, the fact that they'd died not remembering her didn't break her heart. Not at all. It didn't even bother her that she would spend her life alone in the prison of her own creation. She was fine.

Lies. Lies. Lies.

There were countless others lies that she told herself, each just as painful as the previous.

The fact that she had coerced herself into thinking that she was okay, when she really wasn't – now that took talent. What took even more talent was telling herself that life would get better now that she was back in Britain. It was a rather brilliant talent that she'd picked up along the path of destruction she'd been walking down ever since even before the war ended.

She lied best when she lied to herself.

It came as easy to her as breathing.

In any given day, she could lie a hundred times to herself, all the while ignoring the truth that she was dying inside.


A/N: First, thanks to Deliriously Withdrawn, Kate04, and Kazfeist for their beta work! Second, it's a romance, however, if you're expecting them to be together before chapter 5 and if you're expecting smutty scenes, then this isn't the story for you. The romance is gradual, simply because the characters go through a lot - and I do mean a lot - of shit. Again, there is no smut in this story. I rated this story M for violence, language, and uncomfortable themes.

Furthermore, my characterizations may not be something you like. Please don't bother telling me this in a review. People have all sorts of interpretations of these characters, and I feel that as long as I give a good ass explanation for why they're acting the way they do - and I do - there shouldn't be any issue. I should also warn you that things in this story are not always what they appear and characters who may give you a wrong impression at the beginning...well, let's just say your opinion of them might be different at the end. I want that to be clear that everyone in this story is flawed. That's good ol' human nature at it's finest.

Lastly, this is the perfect time to insert Inadaze22's Theory of Change: I believe that when you change something, you alter the events that would have happened in the future...and the growth that they would've had doesn't happen. Or it happens in different ways. Its like throwing a pebble into a lake...the ripples. They affect everything and everyone...and has the potential to alter behaviors. Make sense? Probably not now, but it should as you keep reading. :)