Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. Depressing, but true.

This is my very first story! Eep!

I'm having a fun time writing it. I felt the need to get a really strong Hermione character in there, and she's not the only female character who's going to totally kick ass... Just you wait. I'll be updating once a week at least, and most of it is written. It's looking pretty long so far, but I'm not sure how many chapters I'll have in the end. There is quite a bit of sexy stuff later - the M rating is not just for fun. Also, if you don't like profanity... Well... I've got the mouth of a trucker, and so do some of the characters. So it goes.

Thanks for reading... I would love to read your reviews!

Run faster, run faster, run faster...

Hermione ran as though her life depended on it, because at this particular moment in time, it did. She couldn't afford to be caught, not now, not ever.

The tent was a lost cause. It was left back at their camp, back with Harry and Ron, she hoped. She hoped more than anything they wouldn't get taken… That they would stay inside the protective barrier until the snatchers were gone. Hermione only wished she had been that sensible - it had been over a day and a half since they had found food, and in a moment of desperation, she had left the safe confines of the tent to find something to eat. The boys were inside sleeping. Maybe they had yet to wake. She could only hope.

Idiot. Bloody well walked into an entire group of snatchers, of course. The one time you take a chance.

The second she saw the snatchers, menacing and sneering, and in larger numbers than she would have expected, she ran in the opposite direction of the boys. It was sheer instinct, and she was glad for it. Harry and Ron couldn't be caught. They were worth more than she was. She ran through the cramp that had embedded itself in her side. She ran beyond the point of knowing how to get back. But it had to be on foot... She knew if she disapparated, she would never find the boys again. If she could only outrun them...

She chanced a look over her shoulder as her feet propelled her forward. At least twenty of them, all following closely, shooting hexes at her. It was a miracle she hadn't been hit yet, saved by the thick brush and the speed of her own exhausted legs.

Run faster, run faster, run faster...

But really, there was no chance. With every stride, it was becoming clearer. There was no losing them in numbers like this. She would have to leave. She would have to be separated from Harry and Ron or she would die, and so would they.

Her chest constricted with panic as the realization hit her. It was only a matter of time until they would wake up and notice her absence. They would go looking for her. She had to get the snatchers to leave this forest, and they would only do so if it seemed there was nothing here for them. After all, it certainly looked like she was alone.

Her muscles were shaking as she ran. Her long hair had come loose and was streaming behind her.

A quick mental inventory reminded her that she still had her bag, although most of its contents were back in the tent. It held a few useful things - mostly medical supplies, random camping gear, books, a blanket and one measly hammock. Thank God she had her wand.

Another peek over her shoulder told her they were gaining. She picked up speed, her lungs burning and her eyes tearing up. The stitch in her side was screaming with pain. There was really no other choice, was there?

I can't believe I'm going to be separated from them. After all this. How could I be so stupid?

Up ahead, she caught a flicker of movement, and realized that the snatchers were surrounding her. A hex whizzed by her ear, barely missing her. It was now or never.

I'm so sorry Harry, Ron.

With a sudden stop, a choked sob and a quick turn of her feet, she was gone.

She reappeared in another forest at nightfall, swallowing a shaky cry and clutching her side. It was done. They were on their own now, unless she could find a way back to them before they ran for it. She didn't dare go back anytime soon with that many snatchers keeping a look out for her.

Please don't get caught. Don't let this be in vain.

Dropping to her knees, Hermione noticed for the first time that her cheeks were soaked with tears. She brushed them distractedly, managing only to smear them with dirt from her dusty, trembling hands.

"Fuck," she muttered into the darkness.

The three of them had talked about what would happen if they were separated, of course. They knew it was a possibility, and it had nearly happened so many times... But they all prayed they could manage to stay together. They were a team; they each fulfilled different parts of a whole. She didn't know how to function without them.

The whole was broken now. Scattered parts of a puzzle. Her Harry, her Ron, all alone. She loved them both so much it hurt.

Another sob escaped her lips, and her mouth shook with the effort of holding in the impending flood of grief.

Suck it up Hermione. You got yourself into this mess, now get yourself out.

The least she could do was survive. Survive and not fall apart while she worked on a plan. She looked around cautiously.

This forest was damper than the last one. The smell of rot hung heavily in the air, and the dark branches creaked overhead. Slippery rocks and slimy moss squished under her fingers as she righted herself. She would need to find shelter of some sort, especially since the convenience of her tent was gone. One hammock and a few supplies. She snorted at the stupidity of the situation. She'd be lucky not to starve out here, and it was already so dark out... Not to mention the chill...

Best get the lay of the land, check for snatchers. Don't set up camp until you know you're safe.

Steadying herself and taking a big breath, she straightened her shoulders and began to walk.

Safe was a relative term; she had learned that over the past year and a half. A year and a half of scrounging for food, living in a tent, and managing her relationships with the two people who meant more to her than anything. They had eventually found a good rhythm, she and her boys. They had nearly killed each other a few times, but living in tight quarters with very little to eat will do that to you.

They still had their tense moments, but now they were easier to avoid. At this point, they all knew each other so well they could spot a bad mood from a mile away. It was a little unnerving, how easily they read each other's thoughts.

I miss them already.

Hermione was beginning to realize that she really didn't like this forest at all. It had popped into her mind when she needed to disapparate, but now she was wondering if she should cut her losses and think of another location. Something here felt... Wrong. Too much darkness. Too much of that heavy feeling one gets around dark magic. It felt suffocating. It no longer felt like the woods she visited on a school trip as a child.

Just give it another few minutes before you decide.

Trudging up a slippery hill, Hermione momentarily leaned against an oak tree for support. With her feet no longer moving, and her breath calming again, she was able to listen more closely to the sounds of the forest. It was eerily quiet.

That's when she heard it. A muffled cry. Two angry voices. She sucked in a breath and froze.

There it was again! It was coming from somewhere up ahead. The angry voices were getting louder, and there was a muted scuffling sound, like someone trying to get away.

Who is it? Death Eaters? Snatchers? Muggles? Please let them be Muggles...

Swallowing her panic, she cast a silencing spell on herself and an extra charm to camouflage her body. She had to know who the voices belonged to. If these woods weren't safe, it was time to move on, and quickly.

Hermione crept towards the noise, being careful to stay hidden in the brush, regardless of the spells that protected her. She didn't believe in being too careful, not after tonight. A little foresight like this might have saved her earlier. Damn the hunger for making her sloppy.

Rounding a corner, she saw them, and felt her stomach drop. Two Death Eaters, big hulking men, kicking the life out of someone on the ground. The victim had stopped fighting back, either because they were knocked unconscious or because they were hoping that the next blow would finish them. Hermione heard them whimper and saw their hand twitch in the darkness, the paleness of their skin the only thing she could see clearly.

Not quite unconscious, then. Just in too much pain to react. I… I think that's actually worse.

The person's face was covered by the hood of their jumper, but they seemed to be wearing Muggle jeans and sneakers. The fabric of their clothes was stained deeply with blood, their chest area a dripping mess. They convulsed briefly on the ground.

One of the Death Eaters kicked them in the stomach and Hermione heard a crunch.

The second Death Eater kicked them in the face and there was a definitive crack.

Another crunching kick to the side.

They won't have any ribs left at this rate! They won't live through this!

Her stomach turned.

She noticed that the person's left foot was jutting out at a strange angle. They weren't going to last much longer if the Death Eater's didn't let up.

Shit shit shit. I can't just leave them.

Hermione's brain kicked into overdrive. What did she have to lose? She was on the run anyway, always inches from death, it seemed. Maybe this was worth a gamble. She wouldn't be Hermione Granger if she walked away from this situation without at least trying to help the person who was a few well-aimed kicks from the grave.

The sound of the beating was interrupted when one of the attackers spoke.

"Think you were clever, hey boy?" sneered a Death Eater. "Think you could betray the Dark Lord and get away with it?"

He spat on the victim before breaking another rib with his foot.

Hermione's eyes bugged out. Say what?

"Too bad you wouldn't tell us what you did with what you stole. It's rather stupid to play noble at this point, don't you think?" growled the second Death Eater. "Nobody's gonna save you out here. Nobody thinks you're a hero here. You can't serve the Dark Lord and then suddenly decide to play good guy." He laughed, a deranged cackle, and his colleague joined in.

The boy on the ground gurgled something in response.

"What was that, traitor?" yelled the first Death Eater.

A ragged breath came up from the body.

"Just kill me," came the quiet response. "I won't tell you where it is."

Hermione couldn't see the faces of the attackers, but she was willing to bet they were sneering.

"You want to die, do you? Well, we'll get there eventually," the Death Eater chuckled, strutting up to the boy. He leaned down to the boy's ear, and whispered just loud enough for Hermione to hear: "But first, I think I'd like to break a few more bones. Maybe hang you by your feet a bit. Cut off a limb. Bleed you until you're screaming for mercy. Then, then maybe I'll be kind enough to kill you."

Bile rose in Hermione's throat.

Disgusting animals. Filthy, cowardly, bloody animals.

She made a few last-minute calculations in her head before getting ready to leave the safety of her hiding place.

It's now or never.

As the second Death Eater approached the boy's broken body, Hermione shot a spell off into the distance, and heard a satisfying popping sound that was loud enough to make both Death Eater's jump.

"What in the hell was that?" shouted one, stepping back. "These woods are supposed to be deserted!"

In their concern, they started to move away from the boy, looking out for intruders. They had turned completely away from Hermione and the victim, straining to find the source of the sound.

Another loud POP in the distance, thanks to Hermione's spell.

The Death Eater's tensed and pointed their wands into the darkness. "Who goes there?" shouted one of them.


Two quick but powerful stunning spells to their backs, and in six short steps, she reached the body. She grasped the thin, pale hand of the victim, slippery with blood. Focusing with all her strength, she apparated them both far away to a place she knew they wouldn't be followed.