Disclaimer: Do I own Harry Potter? Hmm... let me think... nope, nope not really. That incredible honour goes to JK Rowling, bless her XD Neither do I own any of the song lyrics you will ever see in this fic, excluding "A Morning Lullaby" in Chapter... 8. Yes, I believe it is 8. I do happen to own those lyrics. But nothing else, so please don't sue me :) Alright, lovelies, read on!


Prologue
Breakable
"And we are just breakable, breakable,
breakable girls and boys."
Ingrid Michaelson


The memories came too easily. They caught her unaware, off guard, when she was least expecting them. They crept to the corners of her thoughts, and when she finally acknowledge them, and they poured into her mind in great tidal waves, crashing around her consciousness, ruining her concentration, and tugging at her sanity. Every once in a while she'd be seized by an awful fit, convulsions that tormented her body as the horrible recollections hurtled through her and stabbed at her very existence. She had to come up with distractions, ideas that would keep them from coming. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was difficult. It depended on the day. And how hard she thought of them before they came. And who she was with.

Harry tried to help. He took her out to dinner every weekend, no matter how busy he became with the Order. He stayed over her flat most nights, sleeping on the other side of her bed so he'd be there if she ever woke up screaming. He cooked most of her meals and carried her around the house, sometimes bridal-style, sometimes on his back, and did her chores when her legs felt like they would collapse beneath her and she'd never be able to walk again. He was a beautiful, beautiful companion, but for all his kindness and attentiveness, most of the time it just kept her teetering on the line between sanity and insanity.

His kindness didn't do any erasing. It just smothered. Smothered the memories with a heavy paste of lovely words and gentle actions, and those memories always managed to break free, roaring at her until her ears seemed to bleed and her vision became spotty and her body began to shake.

First, there was her. It always started that way. The universe would accept no other order. There was Bellatrix, too, whose laugh was threaded with a sort of venom that only the maliciously insane could attain. It was high-pitched and strained, thin and hoarse like putty that had been stretched too far but was too stubborn to snap, and it always made a regular appearance in the dreams. The mad cackle was always followed by the pain. Oh, that pain, the pain that jabbed down her body as if she were being shaken in a jar full of knives, and then drenched with a cauldron of boiling water, and then stabbed in the back over and over again, and then set on fire, and then laid out to toss and turn and scream in a pit of black, smoldering coals. That pain began to pick at her sanity, cracking it open like a hardened scab, and Bellatrix watched, bright eyes and screams of laughter that writhed like snakes from her mouth.

Second, it was her parents. Their eyes, wide and afraid, their skin a terrified shade of grey, their hands shaking in inconsolable fear while they asked her not to worry, and that everything would be fine. Parents aren't supposed to lie to their children. And then there was a pain even worse than the first. There was the malevolent glint in Macnair's eyes as he brandished his wand and tapped the chains that held the last of her family in place. Then, the fire that ignited the cold metal, fueled by his magic and their fear, and the odor that permeated the air, the smell of burning metal, and then burning flesh. The cries that threw themselves from her parent's mouths despite their effort to keep calm and when they fell to their knees, sobbing and shrieking in agony as they Death Eaters watched on, laughing. And Lucius Malfoy stood behind her, holding her arms behind her back, and she was forced to watch, watch her parents being burned alive. She could feel herself losing it, could feel herself slipping away, could feel sanity drifting farther from her.

And finally, there was Ron. Poor, sweet Ron, whose lovely face was dappled with those dark freckles and whose nose was charmingly crooked. Ron, whose hair blazed like candle-light in the sun and whose smile could make her heart stop in its tracks. Ron, who once told her that she was beautiful, and that he would love her forever. Ron, whose tortured, agonized screams resounded through Malfoy Manor as Bellatrix drew a thin dagger oh-so-slowly across his exposed chest and face and arms. She could remember every detail from that night. The half-light that filtered through dark, heavy curtains. The dust on the candelabras that lined the tables in the room. The blood on the white of the table cloths that promised unimaginable horrors. She could picture, painfully clearly, Ron being forced back against the floor, spread-eagle, shirt slashed to tatters around him as Bellatrix tortured him and treated each slow slash with a wicked, torpid kiss, the mad witch's lips hexed so that they burned his skin and blood. Her name—Hermione!—the last word he ever uttered, crawling slowly from between his bloody lips, and his gaze, holding her own, his crystal-blue eyes intense and sad and gorgeous and powerful all at the same time.

And finally, her sanity, stretched so thin that a mere flick would completely destroy it.

There was nothing left for her, it seemed. Food stopped becoming necessary. Her sleep was broken by nightmares and memories that were best left hidden. She would find herself screaming at herself, at God, at Lord Voldemort, at anyone who she thought would listen to her, screaming at the unfairness, the unjustness of it all, how it all sickened her, how she couldn't stand it. Other times, she would lay still for days on end, unable to move a muscle or talk for fear of finally shattering into a million pieces.

Occasionally, she would rifle through her medicine cabinet, searching for left-over potions and elixirs that would kill her with just the right amount. Sometimes Harry would find her on her bed, staring blankly at a razor blade she held cupped in her hand. Once, he recovered a noose made of dental floss under her bed. But she could never bring herself to do it, to sever what little ties she had with the world.

Later, after she'd convinced him that she no longer wanted to kill herself for the umpteenth time, Harry would say, You're a survivor. He would make her look at him, grabbing her chin gently to force their eyes to meet, and murmur, You're a survivor, Hermione, and you should be proud.

And then she would be silent for quite a while. But just as Harry would stand up from the bed and make to leave the room, she would say, How can I be proud? All I've done is suffered, and watched others suffer. I am not proud, Harry. I am breakable. I am broken. And that's all I'll ever be.


A/N:

So... this is my 3RD attempt to write this story, and this time I THINK I'VE REALLY GOTTEN IT! If you're confused on what exactly I'm doing to it because this chapter doesn't look all that different from its original counterpart, I've added a lot of stuff to the later chapters, but not all that much to this one. I apologize to all the lovely people who are sitting there on their computers, having already alerted it, and are just waiting for me to actually get farther instead of stepping back. I WILL FINISH IT THIS TIME. Thanks to everyone who favourites, alerts, reviews... I LOVE YOU ALL, you make my day :)

Thanks for all your patience and happy reading!
~Gen