Title: Of Anger and Absolution

Summary: Hermione was embarrassed. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. But being a war hero didn't ease her conscious apparently. When she develops a dangerous condition, the only option to fix it is to help someone she least expected. Dramione.

Chapter 1: Laying Blame

WordCount: About 4,432

Of Anger and Absolution

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Draco stomped around his room, wishing he could spit fireballs at something just to get all the anger off his chest. It was practically eating him alive, all this tension and fighting and whatnot. He kicked some fragile thing (probably a vase for flowers or whatever), and was satisfied when he heard the glass shatter. It just wasn't fair. Everything was going smoothly till she showed up! Sure, he made a lot of mistakes he had to pay for, but just this once, couldn't he win? He finally tries to do something half-decent for once in his life, and of course, one of the Mighty Musketeers jumps in to steal all his glory!

Gritting his teeth, he reparo'd the decoration back into one piece, after which he sat with a mighty huff on his bed, crossing his arms. Maybe he should have been more careful when retrieving his wand, but just because he wasn't Goody-Two-Shoe Granger, didn't mean he was pure evil. Sure, he was spoiled for most of his life, but that didn't mean he had an perfect life, by all means! A year living with Lord Voldemort with both his life and his parents' lives dangling in the obscenely terrifying balance was enough to cure him of that disease! It was as if she was some shiny perfectly good person with no flaws and he was incapable of doing something good for once! Or incapable of being good at all!

Grey eyes glared at the wall that separated his room from hers. He had a temper, but so did she! Everything was not all his fault. He could claim to riling her up a little, but she had to take some responsibility for her actions as well. He stood up, wishing to burn a hole through the wall, right into the one named Hermione Granger, life disrupting extraordinaire. He took a second to glance back at his bed, wishing for sleep—but it was a useless feat. Whenever he was this pissed off, he couldn't fall asleep to save his life. As a testimony to that, it had been hours since they had fought, probably past midnight. Grrrr, another thing Granger took from him. Sleep.

Draco snapped back to the wall with another glare. She was responsible for everything. He might be difficult to live with, but he wasn't the one forcing her to live here, either. Running a hand through his hair, he contemplated this. Now that he thought about it, he was of a mind to tell her that. Right now. She might be sleeping, but he was almost hoping she would be just so he could ruin her night just as his was ruined. Fair's fair. And, with any luck, she'd get so ticked off that she'd leave them forever.

Good riddance.

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Draco Malfoy always made an entrance. So, without further ado, he used his wand to slam the door inward and smash against the wall. He strode in with an air of arrogance, despite his pajama attire. Or lack thereof—he, of course, slept shirtless. And his boxers had little snitches on them. But let anyone dare make fun of the Great Draco Malfoy for this fact, and you shall face the sting of his wand—because… well, his mother gave them to him. He couldn't exactly say no.

"Granger! I want to tell you…!" He stopped. He took a minute to glance around the room, just in case. Where in the hell was—


Draco stepped back hesitantly as Hermione apparated right in front of him, her back was towards him. As if sensing his presence, she around, and revealed her appearance to be a scratched up, dirt-covered mess. She hastily wiped a couple stray tears. She looked shocked, but it quickly turned to anger. His mouth popped open in surprise, but before he could comment, she said sharply, "What are you doing, breaking into my room, Malfoy?"

Draco looked taken aback and responded in anger, tears deemed inconsequential and thus forgotten, "I can do whatever I want in our house, Mudblood."

Relieved that he was taking the bait, Hermione glared menacingly. "Well this is my room and unless you want Snape to find out that you're up to no good again, then get out!"

Draco pointed a finger at her, "I know what you're trying to do, but it won't work." He lowered his voice as he leaned in to add effect, "You think starting a fight with me will make me forget that you weren't in bed when you were supposed to be. So, know this Granger," His nose crinkled with disgust, "You and everyone else thinks you're so perfect, but you're not. Whatever it is you're doing, I will find out. And when I do, believe me, you'll regret coming here." Lowering his accusing finger, he relaxed into his cocky posture. Turning on his heel he walked out the door calling behind him almost cheerfully, "You have a dirty little secret, Mudblood, and I know how to use secrets to my advantage. Sleep tight, Granger."

When he finally exited, and went back to his bedroom with a click of the door, Hermione sagged against the wall in relief. This was very bad luck. Only Draco Malfoy would be so cocky as to walk in, bold as brass, to her room, ready to start a fight after midnight. Only he would arrive on the very night that she wasn't actually there. Passing a hand over her face, Hermione sighed. How was she going to deal with this? Chances were, Malfoy hadn't been lying about finding out about her "secret." It wasn't a dirty secret, but it was personal enough that she didn't want anyone to find out. She'd only told Snape because it was her only option. Even Harry and Ron didn't know—which was a problem. They would be angry with her if Draco started spouting out about Hermione Know-It-All Granger had sleepwalking issues. She could tell them now to cut the consequences of finding out later, but she wasn't ready yet. Besides, everything had been going fine! Before she came to this house, the sleepwalking had been getting worse and was happening every week. As soon as she moved in to help Snape, the sleepwalking had stopped all together. How was it that it came back? And this was only sleepwalking in its early stages, with running, rather than apparating, into the woods. No tent, no wards. It was as if the sleepwalking had started all over again, instead of relapsing from the same problem.

Which meant that there was a new problem. A new trigger perhaps? Hermione sighed as she waved her wand, healing her scratches. One could never be sure, but she knew she couldn't leave the house, either. Chances were that she would make the sleepwalking get much worse if she left, despite whatever this new trigger was. Glancing toward a door on her back wall, Hermione found that this time, she wanted to take a real bath, so she undressed and stepped into the shower. Luckily, her room had a personal bathroom without needing to venture into other parts of the house late at night. What really sucked was that the timing for sleepwalking was so inconvenient. Now that things had been made worse between her and Draco, he was more than ever ready to make her life a living hell. And yesterday had been a long hard day. Couldn't she just get a break once? Couldn't have started her sleepwalking after nice, relaxing, day? Of course not.

Twenty minutes later, Hermione stepped out of her shower, dressed into another set of pajamas, and sunk into her bed. She wasn't sure if she wanted to sleep, or even if she could if she wanted to. Even so, there wasn't much time before daybreak for her to get any kind of rest. Despite the fear gripping her heart of waking up in a different place, Hermione laid back onto her pillow and closed her eyes.

Hopefully, since her sleepwalking was only just beginning, it would take just as much time to progressively get worse as last time. Hopefully, she wouldn't need to go to bed terrified every night. Hopefully, Draco would never actually find out about her problem. Hopefully no one would. Hopefully all these unexplainable and emotionally draining circumstances didn't make her a complete nutter before the age 21.

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Although his meddling hadn't worked the way he had planned, it was far from a failure. Draco let a wide smile grace his features as he laid back in his chair, totally and confidently at ease. For once, he would get what he wanted. His plans usually went from bad to worse, but this time, it was golden. He was older, wiser, and luckier. He didn't even have to drink a potion to do it. Everything would finally turn out the way he wanted, and Granger would get the shaft this time.

So what was he going to do? Easy. Stalk her. Yes, yes, too simple, but there you are. Surprisingly, the simplest plans were always the ones that worked the best which was another reason for Draco to be more confident about finding out Hermione Granger's secret. If she was apparating all over the place, then all he had to do was find out where she was going. Now, that wasn't exactly the easiest thing to find out. Really, the only way to know would be to read her mind, which he couldn't (well, wouldn't, since it's illegal and he's in enough trouble as it is) do. But there was also side-a-long apparition—if he could catch her in the act, then all he had to do was hold on. Also, there were those scratches to account for. It's possible that whatever illegal thing she's doing has to do with those marks, but it's also possible that it might lead him to wherever she's going. Maybe she has to walk outside for a portkey? Who knew. Whatever the case, it all boiled down to one question. When did she leave? Days, times, places. This time she arrived in her bedroom at night. It might be different at another time.

The only way to find out would be to follow her everywhere and catch her in the act. Thus: stalking. It would be a pain in the butt because now he would actually have to look for excuses to be around her. He already lost the element of surprise, but there were other ways—such as forcing his company on her. In a longsuffering sigh, He got up from his chair to lay back on his bed, arms behind his head in contemplation. He would hate having to put up with her even more after today (… yesterday? It was probably 3 in the morning now. Whatever). It was unfortunate that he walked in on her only now, and not earlier when she would be less pissed at him, but whatever. They didn't have to enjoy each other's company, only tolerate it. Well, he would tolerate it, she would do everything to stop interacting with him. Good thing he was skilled at excuses and persuasion. He would find out, and when he did, Hermione Granger would suffer.

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Over the next couple weeks, it was official. Hermione Granger was suffering. Whatever it was that she did in the past to deserve this, she didn't know. But it was truer than anything that someone out there decided she needed payback.

Obviously, Draco was following her. But she had assumed that's all he would do. She could easily avoid him, so she thought that it was no big deal. And it was working since it had been 2 weeks since the fight and nothing had come of it. Of course, she avoided him like the plague. And she hadn't had anymore sleepwalking nightmares. But, apparently, that wasn't good enough anymore for him as she stood there slack jawed staring at the blonde man in front of her.

"You can't mean what I think you mean, Malfoy." He stood there unyielding, arms crossed. Of course he did. He never said anything he didn't mean. Well… that's a lie too, but in this case, he was serious. He was starting to close in on her schedule, looking for times that he could intrude upon. Force her to stop avoiding him.

"You are buying garbage, Granger. I'll go with you to supervise."

She was at a loss for words. This never happened to her, yet there she stood, slack-jawed. "You are not going grocery shopping with me, Malfoy!"

His arms were crossed obstinately. She watched as a slim finger of his tapped his other arm in annoyance. "I can do what I damn well please, Granger. And it's my money. Besides, you could be stealing or stashing half of it without my notice." He had her there—it was his money. Unfortunately. Not that she ever used it willy-nilly, but he had a right to be there. But she wouldn't go down without a fight!

"You're absolutely crazy! Have you forgotten how much we hate each other?" He glared at her. Of course he hadn't forgotten. It was why he was doing this stupidity. She got the message.

Grasping for straws, Hermione said in a high-pitched voice, "Doesn't Professor Snape need you for potions lessons?" She could see the smirk on his face widen.

Plucking the shopping list from her hand, he started off towards the door, leaving her behind to stare in bewilderment. "You might want to hurry, Granger, or I'll leave you and buy all the foods that you hate." As he strode out he said with clipped words, "Don't worry, it's all been taken care of." He made sure to take care of everything before his plan was put into motion. Stalking 101: Never leave you're prey alone.

Hermione fought back her instincts of running away. He was going to kill her before the end of her stay. But she also knew what he was doing. Following her everywhere to find out her secret. Well, if he followed her everywhere during the day time, he would never find out. She wanted to protest much further—scream her indignation of having to put up with his company! But—this was best. If she protested too much, then he would get more suspicious and do around the clock surveillance. If he wasn't already planning on that now. What to do, what to do, what to do?

Hermione groaned and followed him out the door. Maybe in this one outing, it would prove to him that he couldn't stand to watch over her as he planned. And she gave him no reason to worry over his 'money.' Of course, she knew he didn't get a flying pig about the money. But she could hope. Good thing it was passed lunch time. When they got back, Malfoy would surely have to have his potions lesson with Snape. She knew he hadn't had it yet, so at least it would get him off her back.

Also, she always went to a muggle market—so maybe that would also play to her favor. And she had the keys to the vehicle. Sending a prayer up, she stalked outside to stop Malfoy before he apparated anywhere. She felt like a soldier walking to her death.

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"So, Mudblood, this is what lower people must do to travel?" Despite his degrading words, he seemed chipper in saying them, clearly curious, observing all the little buttons and levers in the car. Hermione wished she could rip out that stupid and cheerful silver tongue. Stupid. Lesser people her ass.

"Hm… seems rather humble of you to count yourself as a lower person since you are using one just as they do, but yes. This is the best mode of transportation for certain circumstances. There are many other ways to travel, Malfoy."

He quirked an eyebrow at her sharp retort. Normally, he'd be beyond pissed. But he had the upper-hand. Hermione was at a disadvantage against him, so it soothed his tender ego. He found that when he was winning, his personality was much more amiable. He sat back in his cushioned passenger seat, arms behind his head in relaxation.

"Also," Hermione wasn't done by a long shot. She gave him the barest glance of contempt before turning her eyes back on the road. "All of the Hogwarts students must travel by train, including you, to get to school. Muggles use trains. Muggles invented trains, Malfoy. If anyone is lower then maybe you should look in the mirror more often, your majesty."

Despite his confident comfortable actions, his form began to tense. There was only so much dignity-trashing he could take before he blew up. In fact, her brown mane was looking close and good enough to pull out hair-by-hair. If she thought he would allow her to—

Tires squealed into an ERRRRRRRRRRK.

Draco was suddenly slammed against the passenger door. "What the he—"Another second later, his face smacked forward into the dashboard. He tried to push himself off, but in another second, he was righted back into his seat, bruised, and shaken up.

"What the hell, Granger!" His voice was high from shock and pain. When he turned to look at her, his jaw lowered. She sat pretty-as-you-please, not in the least bit altered. Her right hand hung onto the handle the vehicle provided in front of the side window. She glanced at him, as if he was half-forgotten. Again, suddenly, she came to a screeching halt into a marked space at some food store, pitching him forward in a hostile manner. Groaning, he peeled his face from the dashboard a second time.

When she turned to him, her eyes were wide in pretend amazement. In a mocking surprise, she unclenched her hand from the handle and held her fingers over her mouth. In a fake girlish voice she started, "Oh, I'm sorry. This lesser being tried to tell you to put your seat-belt on when we first got in the car, but it must have slipped your mind. It must have also slipped my mind to tell you what an awful driver I am. I mean, these cars are so hard to handle." When she glance at him briefly again, her eyes turned hard and her voice turned harder, "Maybe I'll remember next time." Obviously, she didn't plan on a next time.

Granger was out to kill him! His eyes narrowed. He wasn't giving up so easy. She wanted to play hard-ball? Well, fine. No more Mister Nice Guy.

Hissing he leaned toward her, "Fine, Granger. Allow me to help you in a time of need." Before she responded, he clapped a hand on her shoulder and apparated without her consent.

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She forced down the queasy feeling from side-a-long apparition. Immediately, Hermione looked around to make sure of where she was. The forest near Snape's house. The irony was not lost on her that they had come to fight in the exact place where her secret was "hidden," so to speak. She turned toward Draco, seething. How dare he apparate her without her permission? Not only was it rude, but dangerous as well. Full cooperation and trust always supplied the safest traveling conditions. Even if she'd allowed it, they would never have either of those between the two of them. She turned toward him to see his expression beyond anger. Hopefully he wasn't planning on actually killing her—here, where nobody could see or hear her. She reached for her wand to find it missing. Alarmed she glanced up to see that he had already filched it from her before she had even thought to draw it. Stupid, stupid, stupid. The lack of war always lured her into a false sense of security. She knew Draco wasn't her friend, but she hadn't thought that he'd—

He glared at her, realizing her thought process, "Calm down, Granger. I'm not going to attack you or anything. I just want to be where Snape won't hear and interrupt."

It eased her fears, but brought back the rage. "You should have known what it would look like to me—what else could I assume?"

He leaned in, his body tense with unexpressed anger, "Maybe that I'm not pure evil and intent on the destruction of the world would be nice, Mudblood!" As if to prove his point, he dropped both of their wands in the dirt and leaves, several feet from both of them.

She shrieked in disbelief, "Not evil. Not evil." Hermione threw her hands up in the air as she paced. He clenched his teeth. He hated her pacing. –Always drove him up the wall with irritation. "You stalk me—apparate me in the middle of the woods—degrade me constantly—not evil!" With a huff, she went to turn and continue her pacing, but he grabbed her sleeve and tugged harshly to get her to stop.

"Would you—stupid—grrr—stop with the pacing already!" He couldn't think with all her nervous energy!

She snatched her arm away, tearing her cloth out from between his fingers. "You are the most vile, evil, little co—"

"—Cockroach?" He remembered her words from third year. When she slapped him. She seemed taken aback at him finishing her sentence. Although she had remembered the day, she hadn't expected him to remember it.

Though he wasn't using any sort of muscle to hurt her, he grabbed her arm and hissed, "You say I'm bad—that I look down on everyone, treat them like dirt. I sit high and mighty on my throne. And that may or may not be true, but let me tell you something," He snagged her arm higher to look at him eye-to-eye, "If that's true, then you are just as bad as me." Hermione flinched back as if slapped. He let her go. His hold didn't hurt, but the words might as well have been a blade, and she stumbled back from the hit.

"You stand there, sitting high and mighty on your throne, judging me. Deciding who and what I am. Glaring and taunting all the time—" Hermione backed up from him, crunching leaves underfoot. She saw the wind blow Draco's hair back and felt that same wind blow her hair into her face, but she didn't move to fix it. He advanced, but didn't get closer than a foot. She avoided his gaze, breaths becoming shallower. Not in fear of him, but of his words.

Hermione shook her head. He deserved it. He started it. He was always so horrid toward her. He was always to fault—

"—And don't think I don't notice your scar you flash about," spitting out his words unkindly, his expression dangerous.

Hermione choked on her words as she said, "I don't know what—"

"—I'm talking about?" Draco sneered at her ability to be so predictable. "You think you're so clever, burdening me down with your accusing looks, and sharp tongue."

It was Hermione's turn to grab his sleeve in indignation, "You are so much worse—"

He was breathing hard, expressing his anger loudly, "I may make fun of muggles, and non-magical parents of witches, but you always go for the gold. What I've been saying, I've been saying for years. Nobody cares—even I don't care about it anymore! It's just a bad habit of mine—if you were pureblood, I'd make fun of something else! But I've been this way for years! You've never cared about what I ever said about any of it before!" His eyes narrowed, "But you, Granger—you go for where it hurts. Poking and prodding—as soon as you laid eyes on me over a month ago, you were already accusing me. Everyone accuses me. Before and now." As her fingers slipped from his sleeve, he broke the one foot barrier, grabbing her lower arm to stretch out the menacing scar.

"You pull this out before me now, as if it were some sort of talisman to keep away evil beings—with your short sleeves, you flash it about whenever it takes your fancy," Hermione knew it hurt him. She knew it. Yet, she didn't. It wasn't as if Draco was human. She never thought of it in such a way, but he was right. She showed her scar at him as if it were a patronus scaring off dementors. But he couldn't be right—

She glanced up to see his expression trained on her scar. It was strange because she'd never seen him look in such a way. She saw the muscles in his jaw clench and unclench. Whatever he was thinking and feeling, it hurt her to look at him.

When she looked away, hiding her pain, he let go sneering at her.

"I get the blame and accusing stares enough from the rest of the world—why do you think I'm here, Granger?" Hermione looked up surprised. "I don't need it from you." He said this through clenched teeth, glaring at her. She could taste the bitterness in his words—shaming her.

And she was almost going to look at him differently. She was almost going to change her actions, and do better. Try harder. They could never be friends… but civility was worth a shot. She could apologize. She almost did. Then he yanked her arm to look at him again.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again. Whatever secret you're hiding, I'm going to find out. You think you're so clever, but everyone slips. I'm going to get you back, Granger, it's only a matter of time. No compromises or bargains now. And I will make it hurt."

Hermione's eyes hardened along with her heart. As he glared his disdain down on her, she realized that she couldn't now. She was going to, but not now—not after that. If he had no mercy on her, then neither would she. Her eyes hardened on his. If he wanted hurt, then she'd give it to him. Gladly.

They glared at each other, eye-to-eye. Her voice was low and hard as she said, "I treat you the way you are, Malfoy. A selfish, angry, arrogant, prat—no goodness or compassion within. And I won't let you win." Before he could react, she lunged for her wand on the ground and apparated without another word. He was left standing, tired, angry… and alone.

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Author's Note:

Hmm. This was not the direction I was actually planning on. Well, sorta. See, it's still the same plot, but I decided to add in a scene or two. Only because I think my chapters seemed really short with a move in plot, but no relationship. This one is short too-but with interaction. Hmm. The other chapters seemed like less interaction and more narration. And, well, seems wrong to deny our readers some interaction—after all, that's what I look forward to when reading my stories. Of course, I always liked my interactions between pairings to be more… happy. But, nevertheless, this is where the story is. Don't worry! This shall not last forever! Although my intent is for their interactions to be fighting (right now), I'm afraid that each fight is unoriginal and you guys might get bored. Idk. But this is the way it played out in my mind as I was typing it. I was actually planning on you guys finding out about the sleepwalking mystery in this chapter… but, well, I felt it was a bit fast. Well, it would'a been if I had typed it the original way I thought of it (using narration instead of dialogue), but oh, well. We'll see. And thank so much for your encouragement guys (girls so far, actually lol).

Thank you Kariko Emma and Krista04. I may not have a lot of reviews, but you two are loyal to a fault so far, so hopefully I have not disappointed. Now that I think about it, the plot hasn't developed much at all in this chapter (you don't know any more than you did last chapter)… BUT, relationship is just as important (I think for the first two chapters I was too concerned about the plot, rather than the juicy meat of interaction. Hmm.) But I'm working on it—finding a good balance of both. I used to have no plot. Now I have no interaction. I must work on happy medium. :) Adding in these scenes though… I don't know. The fights seem repetitive almost. And I may STILL not have enough interaction between them in one chapter. And the scenes might also be a bit awkward. I'm unsure. Could you please tell me if they are? Maybe I need to put more meat and more plot in each chapter. Not a bigger plot, but condense the chapters to be longer. Idk. I don't have a beta (and I feel like it's a little too much trouble to actually use one), so I'm on my own here, deciding everything within the confines of my brain. I promise, in the next chapter, their relationship will change and progress forward. It has to be fighting now for what's to come. Anyway, I wanted progress to happen in this chapter, but decided not to. We'll see.

No random notes here. At least none I can think of. You can see there are some truths in this chapter being revealed—but these are NOT ones I planned on, really. Well, some of them. Actually, I don't like reading or writing a mean Hermione… well, she's not exactly mean… only misguided. If you or I had to put up with the likes of Malfoy, I think I'd lose my noodle too! But I would be much quicker about it! Lol, but, for the purposes of this story, I must mind my manners. No one should be a doormat for another person, but on the other hand, even "good" people aren't perfect. "Good" people can be just as bad as "bad" people if given the wrong circumstance and opportunity. It's nature. We've all got both good and bad within, but with a tendency toward selfish things. To be "good," it's a choice. Not something you're born into. There were things I did wrong that I didn't even know was wrong. It blew my mind on the day I figured that out. I could be just as bad as anyone else. The point is, in any case, (Christian-wise) that just because you're Christian doesn't mean you're some super-spiritual good person. It's never about YOU. It's always about HIM. And coming before him, realizing you're a sinner (bad and fully capable of being bad in the future) and asking for forgiveness to be saved.

Being Christian doesn't make you righteous. It's when you realize your UN-righteousness that you can come to the point of being saved. It's not the well who need a doctor, but the sick. Yes? Well, it may not seem important to you, but it was a revelation to me. :) And it's important in this story, I think. I know, you're thinking "how can this be important if she never says IN the story Jesus saves or whatever?" Well, in this story, I'm not going to come out and talk about God like in my other story "Finding Faith." But the idea is still important. Hmm. We'll see. Sorry for the long author's note. : ) I always talk to much.

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, I do not own Harry Potter, I do not own Harry Potter… : )

THANK YOU FOR READING AND REVIEWING! You guys rock my socks : ) let me know if I type in the wrong way so that it gets to be distracting from the story—such as the breaks I put in. I thought it helped, but whenever I do a quick scene, it seems awkward to have so much break in between the story. Hmm. Let me know what you think.