Summary: As Hogwarts's new Head Girl, Hermione has to deal with her new duties all while tolerating the presence of some very unwelcome roommates. Head Boy Draco Malfoy is one of them. Four opinionated portraits and an arrogant ghost who won't leave her alone are the others.

Warnings: AU seventh year, and past partly-AU sixth year. Slight crossover with Meg Cabot's Mediator Series, although its reading is not at all necessary for the understanding of the fic. Non-regular updates.

Rating: T at the moment. Will probably change in future chapters.

Acknowledgements: To EuphoniumGurl0, for the beta work!

A/N: Hey guys. It has been so ridiculously long that I won't even attempt to apologize! This is a new chapter, but the whole story has been revamped, so I recommend that you take a look at the previous chapters even if you've read them already. Now, don't you think the quote below is highly appropriate?

"Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue."

— Ambrose Bierce

Hermione sighed for what felt like the hundredth time that morning.

"I just don't get it, Mione. Why can't you just tell McGonagall to convince Dumbledore to give the Head Boyship to somebody else?"

Ron sat next to her, and his cornflower blue eyes sincere and completely devoid of humour.

Gods, the boy genuinely believed she had the power to influence their Head of House, let alone the Headmaster.

Her eye twitched in mild exasperation, eliciting an amused smirk from the ghostly Founder currently lounging across the seats before her– half of his incorporeal form overlapping with an oblivious Seamus Finnigan, mind you.

"Ron, if Dumbledore picked him, then he must have a reason. He won't change his mind."

That much was true although she could only speculate about the nature of that reason. Malfoy was a decent student, but not the best by any means; and he had never been the sort of person who you would trust to handle responsibility adequately. The whole Inquisitorial Squad business was proof enough of that, in her opinion.

Hermione ignored Ron's disapproving snort, and helped herself to some tea. It was a little strange, now that she thought about it.

She supposed it could all be an attempt to seem impartial and show the Slytherins that Hogwarts's current administration didn't think them all innately evil, but she it seemed unlikely.

Were that the case, Dumbledore could've simply appointed that quiet Nott boy and obtained a similar effect. Although she had barely crossed words with him in their past seven years of schooling, she knew it was him who came after her in the academic line. At least on those years that he managed to beat Ravenclaw's Anthony Goldsmith.

True, Nott seemed to be a bit of a loner and maybe not exactly carved out for a position of leadership, but surely there were better options than Draco Bloody Malfoy. Even Zabini would've been a more diplomatic choice, and she did have the impression that he got better marks than his blond housemate.

She supposed that it wasn't all that important, though. She certainly wouldn't enjoy working with Malfoy, but she would cope. There was too much going on right now; she couldn't afford to waste energy on petty school rivalries.

"Maybe you should still give it a try, Hermione," Harry offered, pulling her from her musings. He bit his lip for a second, as though deciding if he should continue.

He apparently figured he should.

"Malfoy's a right prat, you know? And, well, I reckon you don't need that right now…"

She tensed and surreptitiously glanced around to see if her housemates had noticed Harry's slip of tongue.

Most of them hadn't – Ginny was listening attentively to the trio's conversation, but that wasn't anything new – so she turned back to the concerned-looking Boy-Who-Lived.

"I can handle it," she replied a bit curtly despite her attempts at nonchalance.

She didn't detect a certain ghost's narrowed gaze.

"Sodding hell, Hermione! Do you want to share your living quarters with the slimy bastard all year?" Ron demanded, unsurprisingly failing to keep his temper in check.

Harry closed his eyes in resignation of the inevitable bicker to come.

"No, not particularly, Ronald," she said truthfully in spite of her irritation. Spending time with Malfoy ranked very, very low on her list of preferred activities.

Especially when she remembered to whom he was related to. It wasn't the git's fault, certainly, but it was hard to remain objective.

The redhead scowled and looked unconvinced, though. Hermione frowned to herself, picked up her toast and buttered it with a perhaps a bit more energy than was strictly necessary.

"Ron, look– he's a horrid little ferret, and I don't like him any more than you do, but the fact stands that he hasn't done anything to me yet." She argued as the butchered bread loaf disintegrated in her hands. "Refraining to pick inane fights with a Slytherin doesn't make me a traitor to our kind, you know?"

Mr Salazar Slytherin himself snorted at that. "Of course it does. Didn't you listen to your oh-so-wise House Founder yesterday?"

"Oh, be quiet," Hermione responded hotly with a swift glare in his direction.

And immediately remembered nobody but her could see him.

The Head Girl lifted her eyes guiltily to a stunned Seamus and Dean as she steadfastly tried to ignore the neighbouring students' raised eyebrows.

Slytherin grinned in evil amusement.

Fuck you, you smarmy, overgrown snake!

"I, er..." Hermione brushed the bread crumbles from her hands and blew at her tea, feigning normality. "It's just that I'm a little fed up with all this Quidditch talk, you know. Sorry I snapped."

Seamus blinked. "Hermione, uh... we were talking about our schedules."

Great. Of all the times for boys to talk about something other than Quidditch.

"Oh, I see," she smiled sheepishly and didn't have to fake the blush that already coloured her cheeks. "I'm so sorry. I must be too stressed, first day back and all."

"It's alright, don't worry about it," Dean assured her with a benevolent, if uneasy, smile.

She exhaled a little in relief.

Maybe it was a good thing everyone thought she was such a swot, after all.

Her best friends were being uncharacteristically perceptive, though, and eyed her with evident worry. But then considering what had happened over the summer, they might very well buy her 'stress' excuse, even if not for the reason she had offered.

Maybe it really was the stress, she mused as she closed her eyes and the Gryffindors around her restarted their conversations. Perhaps everything that had happened yesterday night was one big, crazy dream.

A collective hallucination.

A product of her overworked mind.

A whimsical fantasy.

A huge—

"Are you almostdone with your oriental meditation, kid? I was hoping we could clear this up sometime before the next millennia. Maybe I was aiming too high?"

— huge, pain in the arse.


" ... at the Wizard's Council summit of 1793. Nevertheless, Urg the Unclean would not accede to the decrees and—"

"I can't believe that you're delaying this most vital conversation a single second longer," Salazar ascertained as he shook his head in complete incredulity of his mediator's abhorrent lack of manners.

A low growl and a glare in his general direction was all he got from the girl before she fixed her attention back to her notes.

Sweet Circe. She had growled at him. She had actually growled at him!

Maybe he shouldn't have been so quick to dismiss Helga's idea of instituting an Etiquette and Social Decorum class all those years ago. This little chit could've definitely benefited from it.

He exhaled forcefully in an attempt to reign over his exponentially shortening temper.

Fellow ghost Cuthbert Binns wasn't being very helpful.

"... True, such words are reminiscent from Eargit the Ugly's previous propaganda, but we must remember that Eargit was a fervent opposer of violence as a means of persuasion. Urg, on the other hand..."

Salazar snorted. "Fervent opposer of violence, my arse. The bloody goblin had half of the summit poisoned to get his petition passed, for Nimüe's sake."

Granger's curly-haired head slowly turned to face him.

Was the prissy little swot appalled at his swearing? Well, too bad. His irritability was her fault and no one else's.

"Really?" Granger whispered under her breath so as not to be overheard by the Hufflepuffs sitting on the adjacent desk.

Oh, she was actually interested in History of Magic then?

Well, he supposed it shouldn't surprise him if she was, considering that since she'd arrived to Hogwarts he'd seen her spend the greatest part of her free time surrounded by dusty old tomes in the library.

When she wasn't foolishly risking her life to save the world with her two thick-headed friends, that was.

"Yes, really," he replied rather warily as he saw the girl lean a little closer to his translucent person.

"... Even then did Urg refuse to mitigate the extremism of the measure, regardless of his own supporters' opinions on the subject..."

Her lips curved in a faint little self-satisfied smirk. "I did think it was a tad suspicious that the books stopped mentioning Beamish, MacDougal and Leigh-Ackland after the 1340's plebiscite."

"1342's," he corrected immediately and tried to ignore the fact that he felt absurdly pleased by her interest in his story.

He had been alone for way too long, he decided. He hadn't always been able to visit his fellow Founders' portraits and had sorely lacked sufficient human interaction.

Not that Gryffindor made a good conversationalist anyways.

"1342, that's right," Granger corrected herself, still looking at him in surprised appreciation.

"Indeed it was only after his assassination, thirteen years later, that the magical community was able to..."

Quite suddenly, the light faded from the Head Girl's dark eyes, her mouth tightening somewhat bitterly.

He didn't believe he'd seen her wearing that expression last year. Curious that.

"We'll speak after class," she stated, her eyes no longer on him. "I have a free period before lunch."

"I would appreciate that," he responded mechanically but couldn't shake the feeling that there was something seriously wrong with Hermione Granger.

He would find out what.

She was his mediator, after all.