Note: Before I get started, there are a few things I want to make clear.

First and foremost, this is my first HP fic. Ever.
Second, I have only ever read MAYBE a half-dozen HP fanfics. Other than that, I've seen the first five movies, and read the first six books. Several times for each.
Third, I have gone out of my way to avoid the spoilers for HP7. I don't know what happens there - the closest I've come to wondering what goes on is reading the MSNBC article on the Harry Potter Dead Pool. That's it.

With those caveats in mind, this story is set shortly after "Half Blood Prince", before "Deathly Hollows" really gets started.


He's gone.

Harry lay back on his bed, staring dully at the ceiling. The desultory summer breeze stirred his curtains through the open window, and he tilted his head back yet again to see if Hedwig had returned, but there was no sign yet of the owl. He sighed and went back to staring at the ceiling, his fingers unconsciously turning the locket he held over and over in his hand.

He's gone.

With a sigh, he rolled over onto his stomach and curled up into a foetal position, cradling his pillow against his chest. Not for the first time since... since IT had happened did he wish that he had someone he could talk to face-to-face, but Ron and Hermione were both elsewhere, the Order was all in London, and Sirius...

That still hurt to think about, so he deliberately blocked it out of his mind, focusing instead on the window as if he could conjure up Hedwig by sheer force of concentration.

Instead of Hedwig, however, he heard a slightly higher pitched hooting, and then like some feathery Snitch, a tiny owl came zooming through the window, nearly bouncing off Hedwig's cage before settling into a holding pattern over Harry's head.

"Pigwidgeon!" Harry said, startled, sitting up and reaching for the owl to retrieve the letter tied to its leg. "What are you doing here?"

Hoot. The owl blinked its wide eyes at him and waited for him to remove the letter. When Harry released him, he flapped his wings a couple of times, fluttered up to sit on Harry's head for a moment as though needing a vantage point to get his bearings, then zoomed out the window again.

"Hey, wait! What if I need to write back?!" Harry shouted after the owl, but Pigwidgeon was long gone, and he sighed. However, at least now he had something new to read, so he unrolled the scroll and turned on his desk lamp.

The parchment was surprisingly short.

"Tomorrow night, 7pm. We'll pick you up. No need to reply, we know you're not doing anything else at the moment."

There was no name, and he wasn't entirely certain he recognized the handwriting, but there was a stylized doodle at the bottom of the parchment that looked almost like a phoenix.

Harry grinned, wondering how many wizards and witches would volunteer to come along this time.

Late the following afternoon, Harry took great pleasure making it clear to Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia that he would most certainly NOT be available to help clean the house before the Dursleys went on vacation.

"And just why not?" Uncle Vernon purred, looking over the top of his paper, ignoring Dudley who was busy playing video games on his new Wii and gesticulating wildly while practicing his golf swing.

"Because I have plans," Harry said smugly, leaning against the doorframe. "I'll be going out this evening."

"Oh, you'll be going out." For a moment, Uncle Vernon smirked, returning to his paper, but then Harry saw his eyes go wide when he realized what this most likely meant. Across the room, he saw the same horrified expression race across Aunt Petunia's face.

"And... does that mean... that... THEY'RE coming to get you?" she asked in a whisper.

Harry grinned and nodded. "Yep."

Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon exchanged the same distressed look, then as one, said, "Dudley, we're going out for dinner this evening."

Dudley turned and looked at his parents, still in mid-swing, and Harry automatically ducked as the controller flew out of his hand. "But my game!"

"You can save your game, Duddikins, but Harry is going to have... company."

Dudley took one look at Harry's slightly smug grin and immediately bolted for the front door, his parents in only barely restrained fashion behind him.

"Try not to burn the place down," was Uncle Vernon's parting shot before the front door slammed, and Harry managed to get to the count of five before almost collapsing from laughter.

At precisely seven o'clock, he was back in his room, stretched out on his bed, awaiting the arrival of whoever his escort would be. He didn't have to wait long, for a moment or two later, he heard a familiar gruff voice call from downstairs, "Escort service for Potter!"

Grinning, Harry grabbed his broom and sprinted downstairs and into the kitchen, where he found Mad-Eye Moody, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, and to his considerable surprise, the Weasley twins.

"Wotcher, Harry!" Tonks called from where she was sitting on the counter, poking at the toaster. Next to her, Lupin was grinning as he came forward to shake Harry's hand.

"Good to see you again, Harry."

"And you," Harry said sincerely, also shaking Moody's hand. He then turned to the twins and clasped their hands as well. "So it's official now, huh?"

"Indeed," Fred said with satisfaction. "The occasional breath of danger keeps us on our toes."

"The Order's got you two doing missions of your own now?"

"Oh, no," George said, looking surprised. "I mean our joke shop. Fred nearly blew out the back store room the other day when he was mixing up the ingredients for our upgraded Wildfire Whizbangs..."

"So we decided a short relaxation period was in order, and so here we are," Fred finished.

"When we should be elsewhere," Moody grumbled, heading for the door. "We don't want to be late."

"Late for what?" Harry asked, following the other five outside and locking up.

"You'll see," Moody replied. A few moments later, they were airborne and on their way to London.

Harry stared up at the front of 12 Grimmauld Place with a strange, sinking feeling in his stomach. Even after a year, he still couldn't shake the feeling that when he walked inside, he'd find Sirius there, his feet propped up on the kitchen table, laughing with the others.

Then he felt a hand on his shoulder and glanced over to see Lupin beside him, his young, lined face slightly somber.

"I know... it's the same for us, too."

Harry managed a weak smile and followed him in, where he was promptly swooped upon by Mrs. Weasley.

"Harry, I'm so glad you were able to make it!"

"Good to see you again, Harry," Mr. Weasley put in, reaching past his wife to shake Harry's hand.

"And you... is everyone else here?"

Mrs. Weasley finally let him go. "Yes, they're all in the kitchen. Everything's set up, so go on in."

"Everything for what?" Harry asked Mr. Weasley, who gave the others a slight frown.

"Didn't you tell him?"

Tonks shook her head, causing her bubblegum-pink hair to fall into her eyes. "No... we wanted everyone around first. Go on, Harry."

More confused than ever, Harry entered the kitchen to find the other members of the Order all gathered there - but even more surprising was the presence of Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Fleur Delacour, Ron, Ginny, and Hermione. Hagrid was over in one corner, trying desperately to pretend he was a butter churn, but he still managed a wave for Harry without knocking over anything.

"'Arry!" Fleur called, moving around the table to embrace him. "It is zo good to zee you!"

"Cheers, mate," Ron called, pulling out a chair next to him.

"What IS all this?" Harry asked again, just as the others all gathered in the kitchen.

For a moment, no one said anything, but then a familiar voice filled the silence.

"It's... a memorial service, Potter."

Harry turned to see Professor McGonagall move to the head of the table, and a moment later, everyone else moved to their seats until the long table was full.

He glanced down, and saw that glasses filled with the drink of choice had appeared before each person. Startled, he looked around and saw Dobby the house elf sheepishly waving at him from the doorway.

Harry forced his attention back to Professor McGonagall. "A... a memorial service?"

She nodded. "The public service that was held at the school was for Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and so forth. This" - she glanced around at all present - "is for Albus Dumbledore, founder of the Order of the Phoenix."

Harry's eyes went to Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Luna, who all gazed back at him calmly. "Then... that means that..."

"Yes. All of you, for services rendered above and beyond the call of all decent wizards and witches... are now members of the Order of the Phoenix. But we will come to that another time. Tonight, this night belongs to Dumbledore."

All of the members sat except for McGonagall, who drew a deep breath as she picked up her glass. Then she squared her shoulders and began.

"I have been instructing at Hogwarts for forty years now. In that time, I served under the finest headmaster ever to grace that institution. And through all of our struggles, our hardships... I can think of no wizard whose presence I could have hoped for more during those times."

Harry swallowed hard. Dumbledore's absence was part of the reason he'd made the decision not to return to Hogwarts for his last year. As much as he admired McGonagall, in Harry's mind, Dumbledore was the true headmaster of Hogwarts.

Slowly, Remus Lupin rose to his feet and lifted his glass. "He was... a man without peer. A man willing to trust, and to see the best in each man or woman."

That was true enough - it had been Dumbledore who'd hired a werewolf as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and had defended his right to lead a normal life just as everyone else could.

Moody pushed himself to his feet with the help of his walking stick, then held up his flask. "A damned fine man, and someone I'd trust to guard my back, all the way to hell and on the return trip, not to mention someone I'd drink with to celebrate our return."

To Harry's surprise, Neville rose to his feet next and held up a bottle of butterbeer. "After... after my parents were... tortured... Dumbledore was the one who came to see me and my gran. And when I entered Hogwarts, I... I remember... him bending down to look at me, and saying, "I know you'll do us proud, Neville. Your parents, and your grandmother, and me."" He looked down at his plate, embarrassed. "I hope so."

Tonks was next, lifting her glass. "I never told anyone before," she said softly, her cheeks going red, "but Dumbledore was my tutor when I was finishing Auror training. No matter how busy he was, he'd always manage to find time to tutor me, so I could pass my tests." Sniffling, she quickly wiped at her eyes.

Arthur and Molly Weasley rose together, but Arthur was the one who spoke. "When Molly and I were married, I remember going over to Albus after the ceremony, all nervous, and saying that surely, a wizard as wise as he would have some sage advice about marriage. He looked at me over his glasses and said, "Arthur, I would be delighted to share some wisdom with you about marriage. When I find some, I'll let you know.""

That startled a laugh out of not only Harry, but Lupin, Tonks, Bill Weasley, and Fleur. Harry knew why - both couples would soon be married themselves.

Luna Lovegood rose and lifted her own bottle of butterbeer, her slightly protuberant eyes on Harry. "I know what a lot of people say about Daddy's magazine," she said simply. "That what we print is a load of rubbish. But Daddy told me the other day that Professor Dumbledore had a lifetime subscription. He was always writing in asking for more articles about Crumple-Horned Snorkacks."

Harry did his best not to laugh, and actually managed to keep a straight face.

Then Ron rose, swallowing hard and his ears slightly red. "Fifth year... when I became a prefect, Dumbledore called me into his office. I asked him why he'd picked me, and not Harry." He gave Harry an apologetic look. "He said it was because he'd figured Harry had enough going on to worry about... and that he'd picked me because if anyone would make sure his friends were going to be okay, he knew it'd be me."

Kingsley Shacklebolt stood up, glass in hand. "Dumbledore was a man of action, never afraid to take risks when he knew it would get the job done."

Hagrid made as though to get up, but a look from McGonagall kept him where he was. Instead, he lifted his enormous tankard, opened his mouth, then closed it again, tears in his eyes. All he managed to get out was, "Great man, Dumbledore..."

And on and on it went, until the only one left was Harry.

All eyes were on him as he slowly got to his feet, but he kept his own eyes on the table as he tried to think of what to say. How on earth could he hope to convey all that Dumbledore taught him... all he had been to him...

Then he caught sight of his own reflection in Ginny's glass, and then he knew what to say.

Harry cleared his throat and looked up to meet the eyes of the other Order members. "When I was a kid, I used to dream about having a 'normal' life. Normal parents, normal friends... all of that. But then... I found myself here. And I found Dumbledore. And he once said to me..." Harry's voice broke for a moment, but he forced back the sudden lump in his throat. "He said, "It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry... and forget to live." And he was right. And I won't forget."

He stood up straighter, ignoring the tears that were slowly sliding down his face as he lifted his glass. "I won't forget."

As one, the Order held up their glasses and echoed Harry's words, then they all drank to the memory of the one they'd lost... and the promise of the future still before them.