Author's Note:

Hello all! So, just as a brief intro, this will be my first Harry Potter - based fanfiction, and it's been a while since I've either read the books or seen the movies, so please keep in mind that not everything may be 100% accurate as far as the details go. I will try my best to improve the story as it goes along though and hopefully do fanfiction justice to J.K. Rowling's masterpiece.

As far as what we need to know story-wise, below are more or less the details readers will need to know for where I'm starting us off in the plot:

1) time-wise, this is more or less going to take place during the events from Deathly Hallows (and for those of you that have only seen the movies, think Deathly Hallows Part 1). It's going to be after Bill and Fleur's wedding and after the infiltration of the Ministry of Magic by Harry, Ron, and Hermione, so more or less picture one of their many times apparating from location to location around Great Britain to keep ahead of Voldemort's Death Eaters.

2) the main characters in this are going to be Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy, and yes, these two will be the pairing that I will support.

3) I might be changing the order of certain events that will be happening, and maybe a bit of the Horcrux details, but otherwise you can consider that all past events and interactions are going to be those from the original book series

And also, though it goes without saying, since this will take place near the end of all the events in the Harry Potter main timeline, huge SPOILER ALERTS for anything like major events, character deaths, plot twists. etc. So, if you haven't yet read the books or seen the movies, I highly recommend getting into those before reading ahead on this.

Otherwise, for all Harry Potter fans, I hope you enjoy this fanfiction. Please review, follow, and favourite if you do, and, as always, I welcome insight and constructive criticism for everything that I write!

Chapter 1 - Lost in the Woods

Although neither Harry nor Ron would admit it, they were definitely lost. One moment they had been at the edge of a field, just about to collect a few tomatoes to keep them going, and then the next moment Ron had apparated all of them to a different location without warning. He claimed that he had seen Death Eaters approaching from the skies, though neither Harry nor Hermione had witnessed the like. Ron had been wearing the locket for over two days though, so neither of them had called him out on it, though it did present the problem that they had left all their camping equipment behind and couldn't exactly apparate back until they first knew where they were. Harry had volunteered to start wearing the locket instead of Ron, and had even conjured a map of Britain to see if they couldn't pinpoint the locations once Ron's mind became clearer and he could tell them what place he had been thinking of when he apparated them.

Meanwhile, Hermione went around in a circle, casting protective charms as she went. They might not be here for very long, but even so, they never knew if there might be Death Eaters about. Ron's sighting of Death Eaters in the sky might have been a hallucination caused by wearing Salazar Slytherin's locket, but that didn't mean that the paranoia on how they were being hunted was any less real. Hermione only wished they could be sure how much of Ron's bad mood was really caused by the locket though, as he seemed to be slightly off almost all the time recently.

It's just the situation, Hermione thought. Now we've got our first Horcrux, but we have no way to destroy it. Anyone would be bad-tempered about it, and Ron was always a hothead to begin with.

She paused. Wait, where had that thought come from? It was a true enough comment, of course, but Hermione couldn't remember ever having so blatant a negative thought about Ron before.

It could just be the tension created by the Horcrux, and yet...recently she couldn't help but notice how Ron wasn't doing his fair share around the campsite. While she and Harry were busy casting charms of protection, packing and unpacking as quickly as possible, and otherwise scrambling down every avenue they could think of for how to destroy their current Horcrux and what the other ones might be, all Ron had been doing was sitting around, glued to that radio that he insisted on carrying around everywhere.

Nowadays, there was only bad news practically every time he turned it on, and even then there were only secret broadcasts sent out by those loyal to the Order of the Phoenix. Voldemort and his followers had effectively taken over the Ministry of Magic now, and there was nowhere to turn to for help or reach out to their friends lest they risk being monitored or put in danger. None of them had the Trace on them anymore though, so at least using magic in the muggle world wouldn't be an issue.

Putting up the last of the plentiful protection spells, Hermione jogged back to where the boys were standing, debating between two locations that Ron thought might be close to where he was thinking.

"I'm telling you, it was either here or here that Dad would take us to go fishing," Ron said, jabbing the points on the map. "I was thinking of that when we left, so I'm positive it's one of these two!"

"Okay, Ron, but they're kind of far off from each other," Harry said, trying to keep his voice level, though from the strain it was obvious that he was a having a hard time being patient with Ron. "If we don't know where we are exactly, then we could end up apparating ourselves even further away from where we started, and then we'd have a fine time of getting back to camp, wouldn't we?"

"I'm trying my best to remember!" Ron snapped, running his hands through his hair. "Just give me a minute to get it together, Harry, okay?!"

He stomped away from them and Harry looked glad to see him go. He handed the map to Hermione and pointed out the two places Ron had indicated. Enlarging the map and zooming in, Hermione tried to see if there was any landmark that might give it away.

"We know that if it's here," she said, pointing to one place, "then the lake would be north of where we're standing, which is that way." She pointed. "It would only be a ten minute hike or so to go and check."

"Yeah, but you think he's going to go?" Harry asked, coldly sarcastic.

Hermione bit her lip, trying to keep herself calm and remind herself that Harry was wearing the locket—and even though he had only been wearing it for a couple of minutes, all things related to Voldemort were harder for him to bear than anyone else. Though he hadn't been ready to talk about it yet, Hermione had heard him whimpering when he slept, seen him shivering and sweating under the covers. He was having those dreams again, like back in their fifth year when Voldemort had breached his mind. On the one hand, it was a way to keep in the know about all of Voldemort's actions and decisions, but on the other hand, it was absolute torture for Harry to have them. If he had found out anything important in them though, Hermione was certain that he'd let them know.

Trust it to time, Hermione. And focus on what needs to be done right now, she thought.

As far as scouting out the territory to ascertain were they were went, it was obvious that Ron was in no fit condition to go. If perchance he should encounter some Death Eaters or even be caught off-guard by a wild animal, there was no telling how he would react and any rash action of his might give away their position. And as for Harry, he was too recognizable anywhere period, and besides which the dark magic from that locket was a calling card to anyone nearby, be they wizard or muggle.

Therefore, much as she didn't know how smart it was to leave the two boys alone, Hermione knew she was the most logical choice to go. Taking the map from Harry, she made a temporary mark for where they were, then mentioned that she'd just be going to scout out for a bit.

"Just stay here and keep calm," Hermione told them. "I'll be back in twenty minutes tops, but if you don't hear from me before then, just stay put, okay? I'll send my Patronus if there's anything you should know." It was their usual agreed setup, and though neither of them had been happy with such a long time period—because, at this stage, even twenty minutes seemed like a long time—of waiting and being full of stress and worry, it was the only setup that made sense.

Casting a slight protective barrier around her body which, while effective, didn't last long, Hermione stepped outside their circle of protection and went out into the woods.

In her years at Hogwarts, Hermione had had too many bad experiences in the forest to ever be comfortable with being alone in one. And although these woods weren't near as dangerous as the Forbidden Forest near Hogwarts, offhand and by looks alone, they were pretty similar.

Keeping her focus on the fact that she was scouting for a reason, Hermione pressed forward, slowing her pace only when she felt the barrier around her body slacken. To anyone nearby, she was now fully visible, although at least from above she had a good canopy of trees covering her. It was chillier in the shade than she was comfortable with, especially now that autumn was well underway, but she wasn't going to exert any energy towards a warming charm. The sooner she found out where they were, the sooner they would be able to get out of there.

As soon as we get back to camp, the first thing I'm doing is making a hot chocolate, Hermione thought.

Several times, her feet down tangled in the roots of trees hidden underneath some of the fallen leaves, but she kept her balance enough for that she didn't tumble over and get herself wet or dirty. The ground was soft and muddy, clearly a sign of recent rainfall, but that didn't distinguish the area from anywhere else in Britain. Map in one hand and wand at the ready in another, Hermione edged forward in a northerly direction, so far convinced that she was totally and completely alone.

However, to have that instinct One was never fully alone, not even in the wilderness, where, after all, there were at least birds flying overhead or wildlife in the trees or underground. But to feel such an emptiness or void, meant...

That there was another wizard nearby and that, somehow or other without noticing it, Hermione had stepped past their barriers of protection and was now inside their area of influence. It was beyond even a fool's hope that they hadn't noticed that she was there already and weren't waiting to attack her.

Assuming the worst and that it was Death Eaters, Hermione put up another barrier around herself, focusing on camouflaging her body and hiding her scent, in case anyone with a sensitive nose like a werewolf was nearby—according to the radio, many of them were part of Voldemort's notorious "Snatchers" now, small teams of Death Eaters specifically tasked with finding runaway witches or wizards. Hermione herself was more than enough of a prize for them, she knew.

After several minutes passed and no one approached or attacked her, Hermione proceeded further, keeping her steps light but quick. How much time had passed since she had left Harry and Ron? Fifteen minutes, maybe? She should already be heading back so they wouldn't worry—because even though the plan was to wait and not charge forward into anything hasty, she had no doubt that if not Harry, then Ron would do just that—but so far she hadn't found out a single thing about where they might be!

Ducking behind a tree and cautiously looking around, Hermione conjured up her Patronus and then whispered her instructions. She told Harry and Ron that she was alright but not to expect her back for a few minutes yet, and that they should keep their heads down since there might be another wizard nearby. "I don't know if they're Death Eaters or friends yet, so don't panic. I'll update you in a few minutes once I get closer to the lake. I think it's here."

Then, once her Patronus was sent, she edged forward again, checking to make sure that her barrier was still in place. A moving barrier was one of the hardest that there was to conjure up, and it took a lot of Hermione's concentration to do so. If she'd had the option, she much would have preferred to have Harry's invisibility cloak with her, but they had left that back at camp, so...

Damn it, Ron, if you ever do something that stupid again—! But it was useless to follow that train of thought anyway, since obviously Ron would.

And there it was, another negative thought about him. Hermione was far enough away from the Horcrux to know that it wasn't the influence of dark magic anymore; she was just really losing her patience as far as Ron was concerned.

And just when things might've gone well for us, had we stayed back at Hogwarts... she thought.

Seeing all they had to deal with following Dumbledore's death though, her love life was literally the last thing she should be worried or complaining about. Nowadays, neither she nor Ron had any time or care to think towards furthering anything between them, nevermind that they practically lived together and even slept in close quarters. At this rate, until the war was over, nothing would ever be normal again, and Harry had it worse than the rest of them, so she had no reason to be whining.

Focus, Hermione! Harry and Ron need you to be you!

So, with this new determination in mind and battling her own sense of unease, Hermione kept easing forward, with no way of knowing that she was closer to stumbling into trouble than she may've thought.

A/N: So far, I'm hoping and trying to get the feel of the characters just right, as I know these are beloved favourites that fans (myself included) don't like to see interpreted the wrong way. What I'm trying to portray is the tension of the relationship between the main threesome as, besides having the Horcrux to worry about, they're also very much stuck on where to go and what to do.

And also, I'd like to take this early opportunity to say that I know a lot of people writing Harry Potter fanfictions prefer to start at some earlier time, especially to make the best use of Hogwarts as a setting—and I've seriously considered doing that, believe meI ultimately believe that for the mature tone I want to set for this story and where I want it to go, it's necessary to start off the main characters away from the school setting and the protection of Dumbledore. Out of anything that happens in the Harry Potter timeline, it's the stuff in Deathly Hallows that I connected to and loved the most; so, much as I loved Hogwarts, it's a location that, for part of this fanfiction at least, I've had to let go.

However, that's not to say that there won't be parts of the story taking place at Hogwartsespecially with the Draco Malfoy chapters and once we move past the Gringotts Bank actionbut, at least as far as the trio is concerned, consider them "in the woods" for a good number of chapters in this story.

Please review, follow, and favourite if you're enjoying this!