Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns all the characters in this story (there are no OCs). I'm only writing this in pure frustration for having to wait so long for book six...

Chapter one

On the Hogwarts Express Again

It was the last day of the summer holidays and Harry Potter was on his way to platform 9 3/4. Not surprisingly, this had been his worst summer so far since he'd started going to Hogwarts. It had been OK at first - he had spent a month with Kingsley Shacklebolt, who had taught him some useful spells and jinxes. That had been all right, he hadn't had any time for brooding then, and it had been nice not to be with the Dursleys for a change.

The Dursleys hadn't been so bad this year anyway, but after he'd come back to them from Kingsley's place, Harry hadn't been able to avoid thinking about Sirius and the horrible fate he had met in the Department of Mysteries. He had dreamt, over and over again, that he was back there, in the room with the mysterious veil, and that he looked behind it. Sometimes he had found Sirius there, alive and well, but sometimes he'd found Voldemort there instead, his terrible, high-pitched laughter ringing in Harry's ears even after he woke up.

Whether he had a nightmare or a good dream, it was always the same dreadful feeling when he woke up, realising, for the umpteenth time, that Sirius was dead. As he was pushing his trolley, he hoped that returning to Hogwarts would make him feel better, that it would take his mind off things a little bit at least.

The passage through the barrier that led to the platform was routine by now and Harry didn't think twice about it. Over on the other side, he felt at home. This was his world, and he was glad to be back once again. He had been too depressed to write any letters to his friends during the summer, but he was glad to see them now. He was rather late, Harry noticed, hurrying past the scarlet steam engine; almost everyone had boarded the train already. Luckily, he found Luna and Neville in one of the first compartments he looked into and quickly crammed all his stuff in there and entered just as the train began to move.

'Sure you didn't leave anything on the platform, Harry? Neville asked.

'Nope,' Harry said with a quick glance out of the window. He sat down with a sigh. 'Good to see you again!'

'I expect Ron, Ginny and Hermione will be along soon, once they've finished whatever they're doing in the prefects' compartment,' Neville went on.

'What, Ginny's a prefect?' Harry said. He realised that he hadn't even had the energy to read Ron's letters properly during the summer.

'Didn't you know?' Luna asked, looking at Harry for the first time since he'd come aboard.

'Well, Ron must have written it in one of his letters,' Harry mumbled, feeling ashamed, 'But I suppose I just didn't take it in.'

Luna smiled but said nothing. She went on reading the Quibbler, still smiling.

'You look kind of different, by the way, Harry,' Neville said after a while. 'Have you done something to your hair...?'

Harry looked at Neville, feeling puzzled, then ran his hand through his hair. It did feel strange, he noticed. Since he didn't have a mirror at the Dursleys', and wasn't allowed to use the same bathroom as the rest of the family, he hadn't seen what he looked like all summer. Now he noticed that his hair wasn't as messy as it used to be. Instead, it felt kind of - greasy.

'Well, no,' Harry replied, 'I haven't done anything... But now that you mention it, it feels a bit strange.'

'Yes, you do look different,' Luna said in a dreamy voice. 'More mature, more grown up. You remind me of someone, I just can't think who...'

At that moment the witch who sold snacks and sweets came along with her trolley, and Harry, who hadn't had any breakfast, bought a large stack of cauldron cakes and some pumpkin pasties. Neville got some Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans and passed them around.

After a while Ron, Hermione and Ginny came along. Harry noticed that Ron eyed him kind of strangely as he said hello, but then they started talking and he didn't think about it any more.

'Guess who's back as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher!' Ron exclaimed as soon as he'd sat down.

'No! You're not serious!' Harry laughed. 'Not Lupin?'

'Yes, he's the very man!'

'Now we'll have some real Defence against the dark arts,' Hermione said, smiling.

'About time, too,' Ron said. 'We haven't had anyone decent for ages... although Moody was kind of... interesting.'

'So, what's up with you Harry?' Hermione asked, looking intently at him. 'You look...'

'Oh, don't tell me I look different,' Harry sighed.

'Well, I was going to say that your hair... Well, it looks kind of - don't get all upset now - it just looks a little greasy.'

'But I washed it yesterday! Late at night!' Harry said. Then, running his hand through his hair again, he added, 'But you're right, it does feel greasy.'

'My hair goes greasy really soon after I've washed it too,' Hermione said soothingly. 'At least you don't have acne like poor Eloise Midgen!' She gave Ron a dirty look.

'But it isn't just the hair,' Ron said slowly, 'You... you look different.'

'Oh no!' Harry sighed, looking at Hermione for reassurance. She looked worried too, though. 'Hermione? Tell me it's just my greasy hair, please!'

'I think it is, yes,' Hermione said, far too quickly. She didn't look at him.

Harry decided that he'd have to look in a mirror as soon as ha got the chance when they came to Hogwarts, and then started asking the others about the new books they'd had to get for the sixth year to change the subject.