Disclaimer: None of it's mine. It's all J.'s, except the title, which is Badly Drawn Boy's, and the chapter title, which is from by

A/N: I loathe school. A lot. Need I say more? I HATE SCHOOL. And applying to college… and as if the common app essay and various supplements aren't enough, I got selected for National Merit Semi-Finalist. So there is a SLIGHT chance I MIGHT get a scholarship, and in return… that's right. You guessed it. Another essay. But no matter. I have my fanfiction and my wizard rock to distract me- does anyone else subscribe to Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club? I signed up in August and got 9 CDs in the mail the other day. I was SO HAPPY!!! MORE PEEVED!!! And Tonks and the Aurors are excellent too. Well, all of them are excellent. Not sure if Bob Dylan can pull off the Harry and the Potters songs though, even if it is a nice idea… Anyways. Onto the story. Thanks a buttload to scarredprincess, Katie-Lyn Della Robia, Red Blade 3, MoreThenLikelyCrazy, LadySelena.16, MrsBlaCKwIfeY, Silver Apocalypse, ShellyHale, Mrs. Azriel RxDJxB Lestrange, and GabreillaTwilightClaryMI. And everyone who put this on alerts. Y'all keep me going!

By the time Hermione got to Platform 9 ¾, she was feeling well and truly frazzled. All was chaos, as expected, with first-years huddling by their parents, and everyone else running around madly trying to locate friends and get a cabin on the train. Hermione stood off to one side, looking at the scene in front of her through glassy eyes. She remembered the last time she had been here, leaving after 6th year.

She had sat with Mandy and Daphne on the train, since the tension between her and Ron was unbearable. Towards the end, other members of the literature class they had taken had filtered in, and by the time the Hogwarts Express rolled into the station, the whole group was sitting there, content and relaxed, looking forward to a summer off. Hermione had known even then it wouldn't be a fun summer, and had stayed quiet while everyone else joked around and discussed where they planned on going. When they left the train, the eleven of them just stood on the platform, slightly unsure of what to do. They had never been together in a setting outside of Hogwarts. Padma had been the first to leave with her parents, waving goodbye to the group over her shoulder. One by one the rest of the group had gone with their parents, until only Hermione and Draco were left. They had come to respect each other's opinions over the past year, but they would probably never be friendly. They made small talk as they waited for their parents to come, but eventually silence set in. When Hermione's parents finally called to say they were waiting outside, it was somewhat of a relief. She made her excuses and made to pick up her trunk, when the strangest thing happened. Draco Malfoy… hugged her. Sure, most of the girls in the class had hugged everyone before they left, but it had always been the girls initiating the hugs. But now, as Hermione's trunk rested against her leg from where she had been about to hoist onto a cart, Draco wrapped his arms softly around her, as if he was unsure of how to hug someone. Hermione's arms, meanwhile, were trapped between them, propping up her trunk. He murmured something in her ear about having a good summer, then let go. Hermione, slightly flustered and barely able to look at him, nodded and muttered back, flashed him a small smile, and headed towards the barrier, to step into the real world, the Muggle world, her parents' world, again. She didn't look back.

Someone's elbow collided with her shoulder, and Hermione was brought rushing back to the real world. She moved slowly towards the train, reluctant to see Harry and Ron, apprehensive about seeing the members of last year's literature class, and dreading socializing with people in general. Instead of trying to find her friends, she headed to the heads' compartment even though she didn't need to be there for another half hour or so. She was also curious as to who the head boy might be. Anyone but Ron, she prayed silently. Working with him would make for a very unpleasant year. Instead, she was surprised to see Blaise Zabini already there. He clearly hadn't felt like mingling either.

She wouldn't have picked him as her top choice for Head Boy, but she hadn't discounted him either. He was a solid student, smart and well-respected by his peers. And a Slytherin, but over the course of the past year Hermione had realized that wasn't such a bad thing. They greeted each other cordially, chatted mindlessly about their summers for a few minutes, then fell into a comfortable silence as each read a book until they went to brief the prefects. The two heads were required to patrol the train, and Blaise and Hermione agreed to split up so they could get back to their books quicker. Hermione inwardly sighed in relief- Blaise would be a good partner to work with, and even better, low maintenance. He wouldn't expect, or even want, her to work with him on every detail, or spend all her waking moments toiling to make Hogwarts run smoothly. The trust between them was already implicit.

Hermione set off down the train in a decent mood, she really did. She liked the new Head Boy well enough, she had a good book right now, the new prefects weren't too boisterous, Ron hadn't shown up to the meeting, and she was generally content. She was even in a good mood after passing the trolley lady in the aisle and treating herself to a Pumpkin Pasty.

But the good mood was not to last. Hermione had made it down to one end of the train and was heading back to the Head's compartment to gather her books in anticipation of leaving the train, when she saw Harry further up, heading the same direction as her.

"Harry!" she called, thinking him alone and realizing that even if the summer had held a few uncomfortable chats, the fact was, they had a whole year left together and they were friends, after all.

He turned towards her, and seeing who it was, shook his head with a panicked look on his face before continuing away from her. But it was too late- Ron, who Hermione hadn't noticed, had also seen her. He shot her a venomous glance, mouthing "Bitch" over the heads of several first-years, and turned away. Hermione was really alone, she realized. She leaned against the side of the train, feeling a wave of cold wash over her, and just stayed there for a few minutes, until she was sure they were gone. Then she slowly made her way back to the Head's cabin, where Blaise had already arrived. If he noticed that she was close to tears, he was tactful enough not to mention it, for which Hermione was grateful.

The drive up to school was uneventful. Blaise and Hermione parted ways without speaking, and Hermione ended up in a carriage with Lavender and Parvati. They greeted her enthusiastically, and then talked amongst themselves about the latest issue of Witch Weekly, which suited Hermione just fine. She wanted to be alone anyway.

The same with the feast. The sorting passed in a blur, and Hermione spent a subdued meal jammed between a few fifth years and a pair of rather loud and obnoxious third years. She did see Mandy, and they exchanged waves and smiles. Hermione really, really, really hoped that friendship worked out or she might end up having a very lonely year.

Hermione was deep in thought when she heard her name. She heard applause and assumed, correctly, that she had been announced as Head Girl. What she heard next surprised her though- Dumbledore revealed that she and Blaise would be sharing a dorm, as part of improving inter-house unity. It didn't really bother Hermione- Blaise seemed nice enough, and she thought he would probably be as keen to stay out of her way as she would be to stay out of his- but the thought of leaving Gryffindor Tower, her home of six years, saddened her a little. But honestly, with things as they were with Ron- and now Harry, who had apparently sided with Ron- this might be better.

Professor McGonagall brought her and Blaise up to the room after the feast. It was almost exactly halfway between the Slytherin and Gryffindor common rooms, and the password was "unitas"- "unity" in Latin. "Way to be subtle, Dumbledore," Hermione muttered under her breath, and Blaise snorted.

The heads' common room was gorgeous. The walls were dark paneled wood, where there weren't bookshelves. There were several armchairs and a couch in a rich purple shade, surrounding a roaring fire. Three doors led off from the main room- a bathroom the two of them were to share, and two bedrooms, each with purple décor. Looked like Dumbledore was really outdoing himself with the whole inter-house unity bit, not even representing house colors in the heads' room. The bedrooms were large but not unnecessarily so, and each had a king-size four-poster bed, a desk, and a lovely view of the lake and the Forbidden Forest. The matter of who got which room was settled by the trunks already present in each chamber, presumably brought up by house-elves. Hermione bid Blaise a goodnight and went into her room, where she read until she fell asleep. Classes started tomorrow, and she couldn't wait to finally start learning and doing things again.