Disclaimer - Guess what: They're all JKR's! I didn't invent anyone! I don't own anyone!

A/N - So here it is: The first chapter of my new series. It isn't funny! You've been warned. The chapters will be a lot shorter than they were in my other fic, because each of them is dedicated to Harry's meeting with one person from his past. The whole thing is set ten years after Hogwarts. Voldemort has been defeated. But by whom? It wasn't Harry.

Chapter 1: Neville

27 year old Harry Potter got out of a muggle taxi at Kings Cross station and paid the driver. He frowned slightly when he realised that he had only about three pounds left after that, but muggle money wouldn't get him far anyway once he was back in the wizarding world.

He wouldn't need any money at Hogwarts, he reminded himself as he quickly crossed the station and slipped secretly onto platform 93/4. He knew that he was very early, but he hadn't had enough money to spare to eat at a restaurant while waiting and he wasn't feeling like waiting around all the people in the muggle part of the station. With any luck there wouldn't be anybody at the hidden platform yet.

Indeed the platform turned out to be empty and to Harry's surprise the train was already there puffing steam happily as ever and seeming to be just waiting for him to climb aboard. Harry decided to follow this invitation. He pushed his small trunk inside and walked through the empty train remembering having to push past hordes of laughing children on his last journey over ten years ago.

How many times had he ridden this train chatting happily with Ron and Hermione? Six ... No, eleven. He had after all gone back from school on it as well. No, wait! It had been only ten times. He and Ron had flown the Weasleys' car to school instead at the beginning of their second year. Harry smiled. Snape hadn't been pleased.

He wondered if Snape was still at Hogwarts as he got into a small compartment in the front of the train and stored away his luggage.

'I hope not.' he thought. 'He'd be so disappointed in me.'

Strange how he'd come to respect the sarcastic potions master so much after hating and despising him for over four years. Now he truly admired him. It would be hard to face him. Hopefully he wouldn't have to. But facing Professor McGonagall and headmaster Dumbledore would be even harder. They'd all had such high expectations from him.

He knew Dumbledore was still at Hogwarts. He'd been the one who'd hired him after all. Even though they'd only corresponded by owl it had been hard for Harry to accept Dumbledore's offer, but he'd had nowhere else to go. He had been forced to return to the magical world and face his old teachers. Well, a large part of the staff would have to have been replaced by strangers by now as many changes had occurred in the magical world after the fall of Voldemort.

Harry of course hadn't been around to witness these changes, but he knew that many must have died in that last battle. Others might have changed jobs in order to replace them and others again would have wanted a change of scenery after the horrible things that must have happened at Hogwarts.

Harry had never wanted to find out what exactly had happened, but he had heard that the school had been the site of the final confrontation between Voldemort and Dumbledore.

With a heavy sigh Harry nestled back comfortably into his seat and closed his eyes. He had only just flown over from New York and jumped straight into that taxi as soon as he'd gotten through customs. The time difference would probably keep him awake the whole night. Maybe he could catch up on some sleep until they reached Hogwarts.

He was however woken only about two hours later by the hustle and bustle of excited students and their parents all over the platform and on the train. Second to seventh years were running up and down inside and outside the train yelling out loud greetings to friends they hadn't seen since the end of the last school year ... or maybe just since yesterday in Diagon Alley. Nervous first years were clinging to worried parents reluctant to say good bye until Christmas. Others were trying to get away as quickly as possible from overprotective parents and join their new friends on the train.

Harry watched three suspiciously red headed girls of different sizes quarrel about where to get onto the train and wondered what had become of the Weasleys. Those three looked too old to be the daughters of Ron or Ginny, but they might well be Bill's or Charlie's kids.

He smiled sadly as he watched an older boy helping a small boy to heave his heavy trunk onto the train. Just like Fred and George had helped him so many years ago. He'd been so alone and frightened, but at the same time so excited at going off towards a new life and he'd met Ron and they'd become friends and then they'd made friends with Hermione ...

Where were they now? And what did they think of him? Harry sighed again and tore his mind away from the painful memories. He'd known they would come back once he returned to the magical world, but he had nowhere else to go. He'd have to try and forget the past as much as possible.

He returned to watching the parents and children through the window.

Some of the pupils peered into his compartment, but seeing an adult in there they quickly walked on. They probably thought that he must be a new teacher. As the minutes ticked on and it got closer to the train's departure Harry realised that there weren't as many pupils as there had been in his days. Obviously the magical population of England was still badly shaken and diminished from the war.

As much as that thought worried him Harry was also glad about the fact that the train wasn't as full as it used to be. He had the compartment all to himself and didn't have to worry about answering any unwelcome questions about his past.

As the train took off Harry once again settled back into his seat, watching the scenery streak past and again fighting off unwelcome memories.

The witch with the food trolley came past about an hour later asking if he wanted anything. Harry's stomach growled slightly and his mouth watered at the memory of chocolate frogs and pumpkin pastries, but all he had was three pounds and the which didn't take muggle money. So Harry declined and she walked on.

Harry returned to staring miserably out of the window trying to console himself with the thought of the feast that was waiting for them at Hogwarts. Ah, but he'd have to eat it at the staff table under the eyes of Dumbledore, most likely McGonagall, maybe even Snape and who knew how many others.

Students walked past the compartment chatting. The which had obviously forgotten to close the door completely, but Harry felt too depressed to get up and close it. None of the students bothered him anyway.

He listened to their talk with half an ear. Chit chat about pupils he didn't know, quiddich teams he'd nearly forgotten and what they'd done in their holidays.

"Oh, I so hope to get into Slytherin!" he heard a first year exclaim anxiously.

"Yes, Slytherin is the best." agreed several others.

Harry shuddered at that, but the group soon walked past and he couldn't hear them anymore.

A while later a large toad hopped into his compartment and under his seat.

With a smile Harry got up and bent to capture the little explorer. He suddenly remembered Neville Longbottom and his constantly missing toad. What had been his name again?

"Trevor?" a man's voice called behind him. "Trevor, where are you? Do you have to embarrass me in front of the pupils before we even reach the school?"

That wasn't a pupil's voice and the name of the toad ... Harry shot around with Trevor grasped tightly in his hand and stared at the stout man in the door.

"Oh, you've found my toad, thank you." said the stranger reaching out to take the animal out of his hands. "He keeps runn..."

He looked up into Harry's face and suddenly noticed the scar on his forehead.

"Neville?" gasped Harry.

"Harry!" exclaimed Neville Longbottom obviously overjoyed. "It's been so long since I last saw you. We've all missed you so much. How are you? I really expected to meet you at Hagrid's wedding."

"Hagrid's married?" Harry asked in surprise. He'd had no idea.

"Oh, yes! He married Madame Maxime three years ago. Their first son was born last spring."

"Why I have to run over and congratulate him as soon as we get to Hogwarts." Harry decided.

"Hagrid's no longer at Hogwarts, Harry." Neville told him gently. "He's teaching at Beauxbattons now to be closer to his wife."

"Oh. I'd have loved to come to his wedding, but he must have forgotten to send me an invitation." said Harry staring at the floor. "No wonder after I stayed away for so long and with all the preparations for the wedding..."

"Oh no, he didn't. Hagrid told me himself that you were one of the first people he sent an invitation to." replied Neville shaking his head. "But we didn't know where you were at the time. I guess the owl must have gotten lost."

Harry thought back to the many owls he'd gotten, but refused to accept after he'd decided to leave the magical world for good.

"I've been travelling about a lot ever since Askaban. You know, getting to know the world. Exploring it the muggle way. The owl probably didn't find me, because I never stayed in one place for very long." he explained quickly. It wasn't entirely a lie. He really had travelled the muggle world a lot. Running from his past. Running from himself.

Neville too stared at his feet for a moment at the mention of Askaban, but he recovered quickly.

"So you're going to be a teacher too?" he asked Harry. "What subject will you be teaching?"

"No, Neville. I couldn't be a teacher if I wanted to. I never finished my sixth year, remember." answered Harry sadly.

"Ah yes, I almost forgot. So you're coming back to finish your education?"

"No." said Harry desperately trying not to show how ashamed he felt. "Mr. Filch retired at the end of the last school year and Dumbledore couldn't find a suitable replacement so he asked me. And since I didn't really have anything better to do and ..." Harry decided that a little lie couldn't hurt. "... I really missed the castle and all I accepted. It's time I came home after all."

Neville smiled happily at that. Harry couldn't tell how much of the truth Neville had guessed from that story.

"That's great. We're going to be colleges then. I'm the new herbology teacher." Neville explained. "Professor Sprout has retired too and she recommended me as her successor."

"Congratulations Neville. You must have made quite an impression on her. I always knew you had a knack for herbology of course, but being made a professor at 27 sure is something."

"Oh, most of the staff are about our age. I'm not even the youngest. That would be Ginny."

"Not Ginny Weasley!" exclaimed Harry. "Don't tell me our Ginny is teaching at Hogwarts."

"Yes she is." grinned Neville. "I know she seemed much to shy and soft spoken back when you knew her, but she's changed a lot since then. She's also missed you a lot. I bet she'll be happy to see you back."

Harry's thoughts once again drifted off into the past as the train slowly rolled into Hogsmeade station. He and Neville who was still holding Trevor in his hand tightly got off amongst excited students happy to be back and nervous first years unsure what to expect.

Harry expected to see Hagrid's giant form looming over him shouting "Fist years over here!" at any moment, but of course Hagrid was no longer here. He wondered who had taken his place.

In the next chapter: we find out who Hagrid's successor is, learn more about the battle at Hogwarts and it's heroes and meet a first year who wants to be a Slytherin.

A/N - So what do you think of this? I hope I didn't shock you too much yet as worse will be coming in later chapters. Please R/R.