We don't get much of a warm up here: we're right in the thick of all the drama from the get go.
Hermione, Ron, Harry, and their families are all in danger as Lord Voldemort gains power, and there's an additional wrinkle: Harry's about to turn seventeen, which means the magical protections he's enjoyed at his aunt and uncle's house are going bye-bye.
So, the first big adventure of the movie involves the Order of the Phoenix trying to get Harry transported to the Weasleys' house safely. Unfortunately, Voldemort's crew has been tipped off that the transfer is happening, and so they're waiting for Harry and his friends when they fly away from the Dursley home.
There are casualties: Hedwig and Mad-Eye. Oh, and George loses an ear. So, the movie is already off to a roaring start.
Think we're going to get a break from all the violence and sadness at Fleur and Bill's wedding? Guess again. The Ministry of Magic falls to the Death Eaters during the festivities, which means all the magical protections around that event are broken…which means everyone has to run away as Voldemort's crowd arrives looking for Harry.
Hermione, luckily, has been preparing for the worst case, best case, and everything in between ('cause she's Hermione), and so she manages to get Ron, Harry, and herself out of the wedding unscathed (and with a magic bag containing most of their stuff to help with the journey ahead).
So, the kids are safe, but they have no idea what to do next—they just know they need to stay out of sight while they look for these things called Horcruxes, which are objects housing little bits of Voldemort's soul. If they find all those Horcruxes and then kill Voldemort, then maybe life will return to normal for everyone (well, everyone but the Death Eaters).
Step #1 is finding the real version of the locket/Horcrux that Harry and Dumbledore thought they had found at the end of the last movie—but was a fake. Harry and his friends know that some guy named RAB switched out the real locket with a fake one, but they don't know:
1. Who RAB is
2. Whether RAB managed to destroy the locket, and…
3. …if he didn't, where the locket is now.
That's a lot of uncertainty, right? Anyway, when the kids are hiding at 12 Grimmauld Place (headquarters of the Order, and family home of Harry's godfather, Sirius), Harry answers the first question: RAB is Regulus Black, Sirius's brother.
Harry and the others interrogate 12 Grimmauld's resident house elf, Kreacher, to find out more about Regulus and the locket. Turns out, a dude named Mundungus (who's in the Order, but not really the most honorable guy) stole the locket and sold it to—wait for it—Dolores Umbridge.
Yes, that Dolores Umbridge: the horrible, no good, saccharine-tongued-but-also-really-sadistic former teacher and headmaster at Hogwarts from the fifth movie. We're sure Harry and his friends would have been happy never to see her again, but now they have to find her and steal her jewelry.
Since she's pure evil, it's no surprise that Dolores has been allowed to stay on at the Ministry of Magic under Death Eater/Voldemort's leadership. So, Harry, Hermione, and Ron concoct a way to disguise themselves, get into the Ministry, and rip the locket right off of Umbridge's neck. They have some trouble getting out of the Ministry after all those shenanigans, but the bottom line is they accomplish their mission: They have the locket.
Now they have a new problem, though: How do they destroy the locket? They know that the sword of Gryffindor would do the trick, but it's missing. So they are forced to travel around with this evil little dark object until they figure it out.
Unfortunately, this whole ordeal (plus the evil influence of the locket on everyone's moods) leads to a whole boatload of tensions between Harry and his friends. Ron, in particular, is getting really frustrated with how slowly "Project Destroy Voldemort" is going. And he takes it out on Harry, since Harry has kind of been in charge of the whole Horcrux thing.
Things get so bad that Ron leaves the group for a while. Hermione and Harry are devastated, obviously, and the mission doesn't really get much further in Ron's absence.
In fact, it almost has a huge setback: Harry and Hermione almost get killed when they visit Godric's Hollow (Harry's birthplace, Dumbledore's childhood home, and the hometown of a magical historian named Bathilda Bagshot) in search of answers. The upside: Harry gets to visit his parents' grave and they do locate Bathilda. They're hoping that she will have some insights that will be helpful to their whole Horcrux mission.
The downside: turns out that Bathilda is Voldemort's snake disguised in the old woman's corpse. (Yes, that is just as gross as it sounds.) Luckily, they escape. But barely.
Then, one night, things take a much more positive turn. A silver doe appears in the woods while Harry is keeping watch—someone's Patronus—and Harry follows her. Right to the sword of Gryffindor, which is hidden beneath the icy surface of a pond.
When Harry goes in to retrieve the sword, though, there's a little hiccup: the Horcrux (which he's wearing around his neck) tries to strangle him in protest, since it senses the presence of an object that can destroy it. Luckily, Ron is (miracle of miracles!) nearby and saves Harry and the sword from the pond.
Once everyone is back on dry land, Ron destroys the Horcrux with the sword, and the team reunites. (Hermione takes a while to forgive Ron for leaving, though.)
Meanwhile, as all that drama has been unfolding, Hermione has been reading a book that Dumbledore left her in his will, and it has a symbol that keeps popping up. They first saw it at Bill and Fleur's wedding on a necklace that Luna's father, Xenophilius, was wearing, and then it showed up again on a grave in the cemetery at Godric's Hollow. They're pretty sure it must be significant, so the gang decides to go visit the Lovegoods to find out more about the symbol and its meaning.
As with the trip to Godric's Hollow, there is good news…and bad news. We'll start with the good stuff: Xenophilius gives kids get the full scoop about the symbol. Turns out, it represents something called the Deathly Hallows.
The what? Well, we'll give you the (kind of) short version of the "Tale of the Three Brothers" (which is where the Hallows legend got started). According to that story, there are three magical objects floating around the world that, when held together, can make someone the master of death: an invisibility cloak (hmm, where have we seen one of those?), a resurrection stone, and a powerful wand that can beat all others.
Oh, yeah, we should probably mention something right about now: Harry can see into Voldemort's thoughts again, and so he knows that the Dark Lord has actually been looking for a super powerful/legendary wand. Is it the wand mentioned in the tale? Well, we don't know for sure yet, but it's totally possible.
Anyway, that story gives Harry, Hermione, and Ron lots of stuff to think about, in terms of Voldemort's motivations and, perhaps, how to beat him. After all, being master of death seems like it could be more than a little helpful, if the Hallows are legit, right?
So, now for the bad news: The Death Eaters have taken Luna, and when Harry shows up to talk Hallows, Xenophilius decides to alert the Death Eaters in the hopes of arranging an exchange. Harry and his friends manage to escape before the Death Eaters get them, though.
Phew, right? Wrong.
Once escaping, they run straight into a gang of "Snatchers," who apparently go around rounding up people who have been running from the Ministry. Hermione stuns Harry with a spell that disguises his face, but the snatchers are still wise to the fact that they might have Harry Potter.
So, they take the kids to Malfoy Manor, which seems to be Death Eater headquarters these days. Once there, it's pretty much chaos: Bellatrix (remember her?) is all fixated on the fact that the kids have the sword of Gryffindor (which is supposed to be in her vault) and tortures Hermione for more information, and the boys discover Luna and Ollivander in the cellar where they are imprisoned.
In desperation, Harry tries to summon help using a shard of magical mirror that appears to have another face (Dumbledore's?) in it, and suddenly Dobby appears—he can evade all the magical protections on the place, you see. So, through Dobby's help, the kids and Ollivander all manage to get out. Sadly, though, Dobby dies through his efforts.
The kids bury Dobby where they end up (a beach) and prepare for the next stage of the adventure. Oh, and Voldemort sneaks into Dumbledore's grave and steals the wand he was buried with. It seems Dumbledore may have had that super powerful wand…and now Voldemort does. What could go wrong?
And how soon until we can watch the next and final movie?