Disclaimer for all chapters: I don't and never will own Harry Potter!

Chapter One: At the Dursley's

The sun was setting on Privet Drive, putting an end to what, under any normal circumstances, should have been a very normal and hot summer day. Yet the skies were dark, a chilly mist resided in the air, and, for the first time in many years, an oddly stern tabby cat was sitting on the new car in front of Number Four.

Pleasantly happy voices were filtering out of the house, in stark contrast to the otherwise-gloomy tone of the street. In the smallest bedroom of Number Four, three teenagers sat sharing memories with one another, and, basking in the pleasant atmosphere sat Harry Potter, the prophesized savior of the Wizarding World.

"And then the Centaurs just carried Umbridge away… that was one of the best outcomes of an adventure so far, I'd say," laughed the girl, a best friend of Harry Potter. Harry and the other teenager, Ron Weasley, began to laugh.

"Too bad they couldn't have gotten rid of her permanently!" exclaimed Ron. "Hey, Harry—do these Muggles have any good food? I'm starving, and—"

"Ron!" chided Hermione. "We just ate! Honestly, I think Harry's relatives already think we've worn out our welcome…. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if we weren't even welcome in the first place, but—" Harry snorted.

"Hermione, I haven't been welcome here since before I was even born! But, that doesn't really matter, I suppose. Why not just go down and get a quick snack? Goodness knows Dudley probably's been eating nonstop since he woke up."

"Since he woke up?" asked Ron disbelievingly. "More like since he's been born, by the looks of it," he said, the disgust evident in his voice. Hermione rolled her eyes.

"Please, you know that you haven't stopped eating since you were born either; you're lucky that you've got tall genes in your family." Ron looked outraged, and was about to retort, before Harry interrupted.

"Come on, guys, knock it off. Let's go downstairs before you kill each other." The trio started down the stairs, Harry marveling at all that had happened in the past weeks. After Dumbledore's death, everyone had been quite subdued, and not quite knowing who to turn to. Harry had been almost looking forward for a week alone, but Ron and Hermione had insisted upon accompanying him to Privet Drive. Harry allowed them to come because he was quite certain they'd be turned away, but, to his surprise, his Aunt had allowed them to stay, more out of fear than anything else. Of course, there were rules: No magic, and stay out of sight. As if that had happened. Ron and Hermione were now allowed to use magic out of school, and, remembering what Dumbledore had previously told Harry, he was using magic as well (The Ministry couldn't tell who was casting the magic, they only knew where the magic was being cast).

Harry, Ron, and Hermione had no sooner reached the first floor when the doorbell rang. Harry hesitated, unsure of whether he should simply let his Aunt and Uncle get the door, but upon looks from his friends, shrugged and pulled the door open. To everyone's surprise, none other than Professor McGonagall was standing there, looking quite odd in a Muggle dress.

"Er… hi, Professor," said Harry awkwardly. "Uh, come on in…" McGonagall smiled thinly and entered the room, examining the walls and furniture.

"Dudders? Did you get the door?" asked Aunt Petunia, rushing into the hall from the garden.

"No, Aunt Petunia, I did," said Harry wearily. The horse-like woman stopped in her tracks, eyes darting about and landing on her nephew's Professor.

"Hello," she said suspiciously. "Who are you--? Not… are you one of them?" McGonagall raised her eyebrows.

"If you're asking me if I'm a witch, then your answer is yes." Petunia uttered a small shriek and Harry rolled his eyes.

"Please excuse my relatives, Professor," said Harry, feeling quite annoyed. "Here, come on in… sit down," he said, gesturing towards the sitting room couch and love seat. Petunia backed out of the room and slammed the door of the kitchen. Harry remembered his first year, trying to catch one of his letters as it slipped through that door. He felt an unexplainable rush of anger at his relatives, and sat down next to Ron and Hermione in a huff.

"So," began Professor McGonagall, "Where to start? Much has happened in the aftermath of Dumbledore's death…." Harry exchanged sad glances with his friends and focused his attention back on McGonagall. "And, well, of course, that is to be expected."

"Is Hogwarts going to stay open?" asked Hermione in a small voice. McGonagall smiled at her.

"Yes, Miss Granger… Hermione. The staff has decided that we will indeed remain open, though our numbers are bound to be considerably lower, what with the war going on. That's one of the reasons why I came here. But I'd like to get to that in a few minutes. Right now, I need to discuss with you all Dumbledore's will."

"His will?" asked Ron stupidly.

"Yes, Mr. Weasley, his will. You see, Dumbledore had much more than just physical objects and trinkets to give away, you see. As you are all well aware, he was the leader of the Order of the Phoenix." Hermione gave an audible gasp, as if she knew what was coming. "And, well… not many people can imagine why, exactly, as you are so young, Harry, but… he's left the leadership to you. In the letter he left behind for me, written after that fiasco at the Ministry last year, he said that you knew what was at stake, and that you and perhaps your best friends were the ones with the key to defeat You-Know-Who. And, he said that despite the fact you're so young, you were the most capable of giving everyone orders, once they told you what their jobs were." Harry gaped at her, stunned. Him, run the Order of the Phoenix? He wasn't even of age! Not to mention that he had only even heard one meeting, and that was because he was spying…. He shook his head in shock.

"Well?" asked McGonagall expectantly. Harry looked wordlessly at Ron and Hermione, who were staring at Harry with awe. After what seemed like minutes, Harry spoke.

"I—of course. Of course I'll lead the Order, Professor. But—I mean, I can't even Apparate most of the time," he said, the shock evident in his voice.

McGonagall nodded wisely. "Yes, Potter, I know what you must feel like. And I know not everyone will take kindly to this, someone who hasn't even finished schooling as our leader. But I have faith in you, anyway. You'll find that most people will. You've done some extraordinary things. And, by the way…" She paused for a moment, pulling a large bag out of her purse, "…Dumbledore wanted you to have these, the three of you. I don't exactly know why; dreadful Muggle candies, they are, but… it's what he said, I suppose…." She trailed off, and it was all Harry could do not to burst out laughing as he eyed the bag of lemon drops wearily.

"What, did he reckon Harry would just want to turn into him?" asked Ron disbelievingly. Hermione chuckled.

"They're for all of us, Ronald," she grinned, popping one into his mouth. She then sighed. "You know, I never did accept one of these," she said with regret. She then smiled. "They are pretty extraordinary," she said. "They give off this weird feeling—" Harry gasped.

"You don't think they're something Malfoy managed to poison or—"

"No, no," said Hermione. "It's a happy feeling, you idiot."

"I want one!" said Ron childishly, reaching in and grabbing one of the small yellow candies. He frowned as he sucked on it. "You know, they really do give you a good feeling! Hey, you don't think these could be spiked with—"

"Felix Felicis!" gasped Hermione. McGonagall frowned, confused.

"Surely not, Miss Granger—"

"No, I think Hermione's right!" said Ron, taking a handful and pocketing it. "Dumbledore always offered one to people who came into his office; maybe he wanted it to go well, so people didn't trash his office," he laughed, giving Harry an amused look.

"I already feel guilty enough, do you have to rub it in?" snapped Harry.

"Sorry, I was only—"

"Please!" said McGonagall reprovingly. "Now, it's a possibility, I admit, but don't go telling people that!" Ron and Harry exchanged sheepish looks, but Hermione was frowning pensively. "Back to the reason I came for…. I take it that you three may be considering leaving school this year, and—"

"Look, Professor, you can't talk us out of this," said Harry immediately.

"I agree," said Hermione. "We've made up our minds; we're going to be there to help Harry."

"If you would allow me to finish uninterrupted," continued McGonagall, annoyed, "then you would be told that I quite agree with you." Harry gasped. "Yes, Potter, I agree with you! You'll have to run the Order, will most likely have to attend to business in places such as St. Mungo's, the Ministry, or Diagon Alley, all on top of… well, that is to say, if you are the Chosen One, as the papers claim…"

"Professor, if I was to tell you something, do you swear to keep it secret from everyone? And I mean it, everyone. We might tell a few people, but that's it. Would you swear?"

"Of course, Potter. Anything." She took a deep breath. "Is it—true?" she winced. Harry nodded, closing his eyes.

"It's either me or Voldemort—" Ron and McGonagall shuddered visibly. "I've got to kill him. And Dumbledore found the way, but I'm not going to tell you for all of our protection. I hope you understand—" The old woman sniffed.

"Of course, Harry. Yes. I always had the feeling… I mean, the things you've done." She then looked Harry in the eyes. "Do be careful this year. I want you to know that you're always welcome at Hogwarts. If you ever need to learn how to do something, need Potion ingredients, need a place to relax, need shelter or a meal or need the library…" She nodded at Hermione. "Our doors are always open. Always. I expect you all to make a few visits, do you understand?" Her voice became sad and shaky. Harry nodded slowly. "Now," she said in a suddenly strict voice, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief, "the Order communicates via Patronus. We send them to one another with a message. I trust you all have mastered the spell?" she asked. Hermione and Harry nodded, but Ron looked down.

"I—I haven't gotten mine to be Corporeal quite yet," he said, obviously embarrassed.

"That's quite all right, Mr. Weasley, it's an astonishing feat for someone at your age to even be able to get a mist. I trust Mr. Potter and Miss Granger will work with you on it?" Harry and Hermione nodded. "Good, then that's settled. Now, the Order, the Order… we vacated Grimmauld Place, as you should be aware," she said. Harry nodded, but Ron and Hermione both looked startled. "And we took up Headquarters at another place that's quite magically protected, yet…very sinister," she said, though she seemed to be looking for another word entirely. Harry looked at her expectantly. "Little Hangleton." Harry gasped, yet Hermione and Ron still looked to be very confused.

"Voldemort's old Headquarters?" he demanded angrily.

"Well, he sort of evacuated it when he came into the open, apparently. And Dumbledore believed it to be an unlikely place for him to think our Headquarters were… said he underestimated his opponents. And there we were. But, before you object to harshly, we are in the process of moving everything back to Grimmauld. I'm sorry to say that that house is still our best bet, as you've so kindly allowed us to keep residence there," she continued, nodding to Harry, who was still frowning. "Now, a set of instructions that only you can read is inside Grimmauld Place. You will now be in charge of all applicants to the Order, and what to tell which people, how much information to give, and the like. I would suggest you hold a meeting before you go in search of—whatever it is you're looking for. Now—Oh! Would you look at the time? I've really got to be going; we're running low on staff members once again, see," she laughed.

"Yes," said Hermione. "You need—what is it? Two new teachers? And a Head of Gryffindor, I suppose…" McGonagall smiled.

"Yes, Transfiguration or Herbology, actually, as Professor Sprout is quite good at Transfiguration, which, to say the least, is more difficult than dealing with plants," she said, her dislike of the so-called 'plants' evident in her voice.

"I have a suggestion, Professor," said Hermione excitedly.

"Yes?"

"Well, Neville Longbottom. Isn't he one of the best at Herbology that Professor Sprout's ever taught? I heard her saying it once, and he certainly seems to have a love of the subject… I know he's young and all, but age isn't everything, look at Harry…" Harry blushed at this, and glared at Hermione, who shrugged.

McGonagall looked thoughtful. "I'll consider it. Thank you for the suggestion. Anyway," she said, looking around, "I'd best be on my way. Remember what I said, Hogwarts will always be open to you. Now, you three do try to stay out of trouble. I trust I'll be seeing you soon." Harry, Ron, and Hermione got up and walked McGonagall to the door.

"Thank you, Professor, for telling us all this," said Harry quietly, in thought.

"It's the least I could do, Potter. Now—oh, it will be so different without you three in school this year. Over the years… I… I want you all to know that I respect you very much. I hope you will stay in touch. Some of the bravest, most noble Gryffindors… and Miss Granger, so clever, so clever. Just—it really is getting late, and, well, good-bye. I'll see you—" But before she said another word, Hermione stepped up and enveloped their Professor in a hug. McGonagall looked quite taken aback, as did Ron and Harry, but then laughed softly. She proceeded to hug both Ron, who looked extremely awkward, and Harry, to whom she whispered, "You really do remind me of your parents, Harry. They would've been proud." And then, with a swish of tartan, she was gone. Ron, Harry, and Hermione looked at each other in disbelief, Hermione wiping her own tears away.

"That," said Ron pointedly, "was weird." Harry laughed, and then the two boys tried to cheer up Hermione. It was quite a few minutes before they went back to Harry's bedroom, all thoughts of food gone, as they began discussing the Order. Harry noticed that Ron was still gripping the lemon drops in his hand.

"You know," he said, interrupting Hermione's rant about what a good leader Harry would make, though this was sudden and a complete surprise, "You shouldn't eat too many of those, Ron. If they are spiked with Felix Felicis, won't they cause you to become irritable or something?" he asked, frowning.

Hermione sighed loudly. "No, Harry, that's a side affect of love potions. But still," she said, eyeing Ron apprehensively, "Maybe we should save those for times we need them." Ron nodded slowly.

"Yeah, I guess." He then brought up another subject entirely. "You know, Ginny's really mad she couldn't come with us here. Mum wouldn't let her. But… I think she might insist on coming with us, on the mission, you know…"

"Should we let her?" asked Hermione thoughtfully. "I mean, we can't exactly use the excuse that she's too young anymore, after all we've done. And I'm sure she can be trusted…"

"No," said Harry flatly. "I want to keep her safe, and that's all there is to it."

"That's very noble, Harry, but Hogwarts isn't exactly safer than she'd be with us…. I know we'll be doing some dangerous things, but if Hogwarts is invaded you know she'll be one of the first on the battlefield." Harry thought about this.

"I—I don't know, Hermione. I'll think about it. Will she even be allowed into the Order, though?" Ron and Hermione exchanged humorous looks.

"Er, Harry," began Ron, "That's for you to decide, mate." Harry paused, a look of comprehension on his face.

"Right," he answered. "Forgot about that bit, I suppose. Well, I don't know. I'll talk to Ginny. Maybe… and your Mum would have to say yes, Ron." Ron nodded slowly.

"So, besides that," began Hermione, "Let's start planning our summer." She got up and closed the blinds and the door, pulled out her wand, and cast a silencing charm, before sitting back down on Harry's bed. "The wedding is next week, so I'd say we go to the Burrow about two days before; you know, the Rehearsal dinner and all."

"How do you know more about this wedding than I do?" demanded Ron. Hermione sighed, exasperated.

"I listen, Ron. Anyway," she said, turning to Harry, "After that you wanted to go to Godric's Hollow?"

"Er," began Harry, "Yes. I do. I don't really know why. But I just have this feeling that it's important. You know?"

"Of course," she said kindly. "Now, the horcruxes—you told us that we need to find the locket, the cup, and what was it?"

"Something of Ravenclaw's or Gryffindor's, and the snake. You know, maybe we should keep Gryffindor's sword with us," said Harry slowly. "I've been thinking, and, well, it helped me destroy the book back in second year. It could be helpful, don't you think?"

Ron and Hermione nodded thoughtfully for a moment before Hermione continued. "Of course, that's an excellent idea. Now, we'll need to start thinking of places we can find them, and we'll have to be really careful of course, about all the magical enchantments…"

"It was amazing when Dumbledore did it," said Harry quietly. "He can just feel what the magic is. I didn't understand how he did it. But," he added, "Dumbledore definitely gave me some ideas as to where the other Horcruxes could be. Voldemort, well, he used places that were significant. The ring Dumbledore destroyed was in the house of Voldemort's mother's family, and the locket—originally—was in a cave that he took to children into once, and something really terrible had happened there. I don't really know about the diary, though."

"So do you have any ideas of where to start?" asked Ron.

"Yeah, I think I do, actually. Well, we know where the snake is of course. And I want to look in that old woman's house old Manor for the cup. Well, we know where the snake is."

"Harry, I think that one could be at Headquarters," said Hermione thoughtfully.

"Little Hangleton?" asked Harry. "That's true, definitely. We'll have to go there, too. And I'm sort of uneasy about Hogwarts; after all, Voldemort already definitely had at least one Horcrux made when he was a student; maybe something of Gryffindor's or Ravenclaw's could be there…" Ron and Hermione nodded apprehensively.

"You're absolutely right," said Hermione. "Anyway—" But what Hermione was getting ready to say was never heard, because at that moment, something crashed loudly downstairs.

"Wands out," whispered Harry, alarmed. Ron and Hermione nodded and pulled out their wands as well, following Harry out the door. But Harry hadn't time to be scared for more than a moment, because he suddenly saw Tonks near the kitchen, hopping on one foot, as she had apparently stubbed the other, and behind her, hands bound with ropes, was none other than—

"MALFOY?" yelled Ron angrily. "What the hell is he doing here?"

A/N: Okay, so I decided to make a story about seventh year. Please tell me what you think and review! A new chapter should be out soon. The more reviews, the faster I'll update!