Author's Note: This is the first piece of fan-fiction I've ever written, but I won't ask you to be gentle. If there's anything wrong, let me know. All criticism is welcome as long as it's constructive.

Disclaimer – I do not, have never, and never plan to own Harry Potter or any of J.K. Rowling's characters.

Chapter 1 – Journey's End

Harry James Potter was no stranger to intense unease. He had dealt with a permanently queasy feeling for weeks in his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, before dispelling such anxiety by outmanoeuvring a vicious dragon. He had stood in a darkened Ministry of Magic library and contemplated the best way for him and his five magically-underage friends to escape from a posse of sadistic and unfeeling Death Eaters. He had even suffered the soul-sucking, stomach-wrenching horror of allowing a love rival to take his place on his own Quidditch team. Presenting him (at least in Harry's effortlessly pessimistic eyes) with a perfect opportunity to steal back Harry's beau-to-be.

But he felt that this particular bout of unease – the knowledge that his best friend was about to tempt the wrath of his mother on his account – filled him with a kind of hollow dread. At such a time when he knew his relations with the Weasley family would be strained – he had just effectively ended the happiest few weeks of his life with his ex-girlfriend Ginny, the youngest Weasley child and only girl, and would therefore have to expect a rather unpleasant backlash from her obnoxiously overprotective brothers – he was about to let Ron convince his mother that Harry needed his presence on a perilous, danger-fraught mission to destroy the soul of the greatest Dark Wizard to ever live, and such a reckless demand on Ron's account would no doubt be partially his fault for even coming up with the particular adventure in the first place.

Sighing, Harry heaved his trunk from the rack above his head as Neville Longbottom lugged his to the floor beside him, accidentally dropping it on his own foot with a loud yelp. Harry shot him a sympathetic smile and allowed him to squeeze out of the compartment through the tangle of people sitting there. Neville smiled shakily at everyone before muttering to them with a quaver in his voice, "See you all in September… I hope…"

"Hope to see you too Neville…" Ginny answered him with a sad smile. Everyone else nodded their agreement, although Harry did so rather half-heartedly. Neville smiled sadly again and walked out of the compartment, as Harry contemplated the fact that he might never see Neville alive again. He was a good friend and had been there for Harry on countless occasions, taking some serious injuries in the process. Neville had fought at the Department of Mysteries and at Hogwarts not even a week ago alongside Harry, and that simple fact made him one of the few people Harry could trust immovably. But now he might not see him again.

He turned his attention to the rest of carriage, his eyes immediately seeking out Ginny. She didn't meet his gaze, although she coloured slightly under his scrutiny. Harry admired her soft beauty, her hazel eyes glinting in the electric light, her wavy red hair dancing on her shoulders around her loose-fitting yet endearingly sexy black robes. Harry sighed for what might have been as Ginny whispered allowed Luna Lovegood to clamber out past her, shooting everyone in the compartment a dreamy smile and a relaxed "goodbye!" before leaving without much aplomb.

That just left Harry with Ginny – his former girlfriend who he desperately wanted to slam against the door and kiss her senseless – Ron – his best friend, and who might soon be responsible for his premature death – and Hermione Granger – the brightest witch in his year at Hogwarts and also a loyal and uncommonly pretty best friend. Each was special to Harry in a way his respect for Neville and Luna wasn't, in that he loved them all dearly and would happily give his life to save theirs.

"Well, Harry, mate, I reckon we'd better get this over with" Ron grumbled, recognising the imminent danger for what it was. Harry wondered if he'd gave much thought to what this would do to his own relationship with Mrs Weasley.

Hermione smiled sympathetically at Ron and said bracingly, "Well, I have to try and convince my parents too, Ron; at least yours know what we're getting ourselves into, my parents won't have a clue what Voldemort or Death Eaters or Hor…" Hermione instantly fell silent at a glare from Harry, and cast a glance at a thoroughly distracted Ginny, who nonetheless had picked up on Hermione's sudden hesitation. "Hor… rible things he might do to us if we should… should fail…" she finished lamely.

Harry frowned at what that implied, and Ginny, unsurprisingly, was very quick off the mark. "Fail at what?" she asked immediately, earning a warning look from Ron.

"Ginny…" he cautioned.

"No, what are you lot talking about? Hor-what? What might you fail at?" Her eyes were smouldering as she glared at a slightly embarrassed but defiant Hermione, a snarling Ron and a thoroughly guilty-looking Harry.

"It's… I'm sorry Ginny, but we can't tell you…" Hermione managed to squeak out, aware of what she was provoking.

"Oh I see! Am I too young, is that it Hermione? Is it too sensitive for little baby Ginny's ears?"

"No, Ginny…"

"Or is it some kind of secret Order mission that you have to be 17 or Harry-fucking-Potter to hear about?" Ginny was suddenly hysterical with rage, as though she'd been brimming all day and this was her suddenly bubbling over. Hermione looked thoroughly shocked at Ginny's sudden ferocity, and Ron looked furious, but before he could shout at Ginny, Harry stepped in.

"The less people who know, the safer the secret is. And if you don't know, then you're a lot safer than us, Gin…" He had a sudden feeling that this was the wrong thing to say, because Ginny's eyes suddenly flashed and Harry caught a strong blast of hurt emanating from her hazel orbs, before she became instantly enraged again.

"Oh, this is to protect me, is it Potter? See, you seem to have my very best interests at heart these days, don't you? First you dump me in the middle of a funeral to 'protect me'…"

"Hey, wait, you said…"

"… and now I'm to be kept in the dark YET AGAIN over some secret mission that only the fabulous "Golden Trio" can know about…"

"Golden Trio?" Hermione muttered to herself, clearly steeling herself for something.

"… once again to protect me. Well thanks very much, Boy-Who-Fucking-Lived, but in case you haven't yet noticed, I perfectly capable of protecting myself! I don't need any of you to watch out for me! I'll be 16 before the summer's out, the same age as you are now, so don't give me any crap about 'the less you know'. In one day, I've had my heart broken, my pride insulted and my unimportance confirmed by the one guy I think I truly love… well Harry, from one broken heart to another, here's a present to remember this!"

Ginny plunged her hand into her robes, and before Ron, Hermione or Harry could act – before any of them could even contemplate the fact that Ginny was drawing her wand on Harry, she screeched "Pipinostrelles!" The Bat-Bogey Hex hit Harry squarely between the eyes and he shrieked in pain as huge flying bogies in the shape of small bats erupted from his nose. Ginny gave a wrenching sob and lugged her trunk behind her, storming from the compartment with tears of fury in her eyes as Harry drew his want to blast the small flying mucus-bats out of the air with some well-placed Reductor Curses. His attempts, however, only left the three of them covered in Harry's mucus and Hermione was forced to cast a complex Freezing Charm – "Immobilus!"- before they could be Vanished with a wave of Ron's wand.

Hermione and Ron were now staring incredulously at Harry, who felt as if he'd just been kicked hard in the groin. Ginny had just revealed to them that they'd broken up, and worse, she'd made it sound as though he was completely heartless about it. Ron would surely be furious and Hermione would definitely have questions, but would Harry be able to answer them satisfactorily, or would his two greatest friends be so angry at him that he'd have to face yet another spell at the Dursley household all alone?

This is an incantation I invented. I tried to create a word that had something to do with Bats and the nose, so I merged the word "Pipistrelle" which is a small bat, and "nostril" to create "pipinostrelles!" It's the invented incantation for the Bat-Bogey Hex.

All reviews welcome, of course. This is just a short chapter to ease you in, if there's potential then I'll post the second.