Prologue: We Lie Best When We Lie To Ourselves

When Hermione Granger was a little girl, someone once told her that life was the best teacher because each lesson it taught, each test it handed out, remained etched in your mind for eternity.

It had sounded like a riddle to the seven-year-old girl with bushy hair and wide brown eyes, but she never forgot those words.

What they meant, however, she didn't know until much later.

Eleven years later, precisely

At eighteen, life taught her all sorts of 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 that year.

Life had also taught Hermione that honesty was a treacherous and fickle thing…so for that reason she eradicated all truthfulness for the next five years of her life. Honesty had never done her any good; not five years ago at eighteen when the war had ended, and certainly not now. Nothing good had ever come from telling the truth.

"Hermione, the truth hurts; remember that," Her mother had always said.

In her youth, Hermione had never fully believed that statement; it was too vague to be considered an infallible truth.

She accepted the fact that her mother was at least 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 a person of their own insignificance in the grand scheme of things.

And she had felt especially trivial and irrelevant as of late.

Okay, so the truth might 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, slit the liar's throat, and punish him or her for their sins and grievances. It seemed that no matter where a liar ran, to whom they ran , or how they tried to clean up their act…lies waited, leering and gleeful, to exact their pound of flesh. Lies always made the liar constantly look over his or her shoulder, paranoid and restless; even when liars thought they were safe, they weren't.

Hermione Granger considered herself smarter than the average liar; she had eluded capture better than the best.

For that and that alone, she was proud of herself…somewhat.

In spite of everything, Hermione had been brought up to be truthful and noble; a champion of all that was good and just in the world. Her actions and decisions five years ago were both a nice, metaphorical "fuck you" to the morals and values instilled in her by her parents and the cause of her broken heart.

But her dishonesty wasn't the only problem.

She was simply exhausted from the charades; it was wearisome to keep up with which lie she'd told to whom. Then there was the simple fact that she was actually lying; she just wasn't used to it. In fact, as a child she had been a very poor liar and everyone could see right through her. Years of experience had eliminated suspicion and even though lying was necessary, 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.

True, it still thumped in her chest and pumped blood through her body, but it felt so damn hollow, drained, and broken beyond repair.

Her heart couldn't feel much, just the hopelessness that attached itself to utter despondency. But she was sort of thankful for her sparse flickers of emotions. She couldn't stomach feeling any sort of remorse for the things she'd done to the people that she had claimed to love and cherish. Hermione didn't need to feel the consequences or repercussions of her actions because she already knew what her lies had cost her.

Everything.

Lies had cost Hermione Granger her life as she had known it and she didn't expect to get back anything that she'd lost.

She never was idealistic or foolish enough to believe in the impossible; after all, it wasn't called 'the impossible' if there were still a possibility…a complicated thought at best.

She found her thoughts digressing and snapped herself back with a thought that would startle the masses: Not only was Hermione Granger a liar, but she lacked the motivation to stop doing so. Well, she figured that liars didn't care about motivations or consequences. They appreciated the quick fix that their lies had furnished and then they promptly moved on. But Hermione knew that quick fixes didn't last, especially not in her case.

It was like using a little small paper tissue to clean an oil spill.

So five years ago she had run; she'd packed up her entire life and run before the entire truth could rear its ugly head – and now, she was back. There was no need to run any longer or any further; all that she needed to do now was to maintain the lies that she had lived and breathed for so long.

However, she did feel almost guilty about running; for taking the easy way out and hurting those she cared about, but there weren't any other options available at that time. She was trapped in a figurative (and also literal) corner like hunted prey – she did what she thought she had to do, and fled.

But that was the way liars lived their lives.

Liars never stuck around to clean the mess they had caused and felt little to no remorse about it because to them it was a necessary evil, conscience be damned.

Hermione supposed that having a conscience wasn't an attribute a liar held in high regard.

With all the lies that she'd told, she was sure her conscience was long gone in a puff of smoke. In fact, she had lied so much in the last five years, she felt that her lies were becoming the truth.

She had lied to conceal and protect everyone from a painful truth and to protect herself: noble reasons, but that didn't matter. The ironic thing was that her lies didn't hurt her victims as badly as they hurt her. They lived happy, blissful, and ignorant lives wherein they hated her, for good reasons, and she was left to suffer alone. They had each other to fall back on and she – she had no one, really. But those lies weren't the worst ones.

Not even close.

There were worse lies than the ones she told the people she cared about; like the ones she told herself.

When Harry refused to speak to her, much less acknowledge her existence, last month in the Ministry, she told herself that it didn't bother her. When Hermione realised that hardly anyone noticed or cared that she'd been back for over seven months, she told herself that it didn't sadden her in the least. Whenever she saw pictures of Ginny with Harry and Ron, Hermione told herself that the fact that she'd been replaced in their lives didn't disconcert her. Ginny didn't make her jealous.

And when she thought of her parents, Hermione told herself that the fact that they died without knowledge of their own child didn't break her heart. It didn't bother her that she would spend her life alone. And no, she wasn't tempted to run away every single day since her return.

Lies. Lies. Lies.

And 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.

Hermione lied best to herself when it counted.

It came as easy to her as changing her socks.

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



Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of JK Rowling. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

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. :)