CHAPTER FIVE

CORNELIUS'S CRISIS

The scene that Harry saw before his own eyes, came as a shocking surprise.

The front wall of The Leaky Cauldron had vanished completely, making the street beyond it clearly visible, and standing where the solid wall had been seconds earlier, were many black hooded figures with slits in their hoods for the eyes, each holding out their wand at the ready, and the hooded person that stood in front of them all was unmistakably a woman, whom Harry had a horrible sickening feeling that he knew perfectly well who she was.

There were more hooded figures visible in the streets, some of which were holding their wands up while screaming terrified muggles hovered upside down above them. Harry discovered immediately where the explosion sound had come from, as he saw a burning car that was sending dense black clouds of smoke into the air, lying upside down on the street behind the many Death Eaters that stood in the huge hole that had once been The Leaky Cauldron's wall, but the thing that terrified him most was the scene of at least three pairs of gigantic bare feet that were stomping alongside the Death Eaters in the streets, and which Harry recognized immediately as Giants' feet, having seen before, Hagrid's Giant brother, Grawp.

"AVADA KEDAVRA!" yelled Bellatrix Lestrange's ruthless voice.

"Locomotor Table!" Lupin yelled almost at the same moment, and the table that Moody, Tonks, and himself were taking cover behind, soared into the air and placed itself in the way of the green jet of light that had issued from Bellatrix's wand tip and was streaking toward Harry. The jet hit the table and it exploded immediately into a hundred pieces sending chunks of wood in every direction.

It was like the sign everyone was waiting for; Lupin, Moody and Tonks leapt to their feet and started sending different curses at the Death Eaters, several other witches and wizards started dueling with Death Eaters as well.

A hooded wizard in brown cloak was fighting quite fiercely; he was able to stun three Death Eaters almost immediately.

Harry was gazing up at the battling group. Members of the Order and the other few witches and wizards who were supporting them, were outnumbered Three to one by Death Eaters. His brain was working frantically, should he help them? But what if his interference made things worse like what had happened in the Department of Mysteries? Would he stand to risk another loss of somebody he loved?

But before he could answer any of these questions, he found himself leaping hastily to his feet and aiming his wand at a Death Eater, who was standing right behind Lupin's back with his wand aimed at his head.

"Stupefy!" Harry yelled, and a jet of red light streaked out of the tip of his wand, hitting the Death Eater squarely on the back, and causing him to stagger dangerously sideways for a few moments, before hitting the Floor.

Harry's action seemed to provide motive for the others; he soon heard Ron, Ginny, and Hermione, all yelling different curses.

"NO!" cried Lupin alarmingly, as he dueled with a particularly vicious Death Eater, "GET TO THE PORTKEY! GET BACK TO THE BURROW!"

"But you're - " Harry began.

"WE'LL BE FINE - JUST LEAVE!"

Harry could hear occasional cracks around the pub as witches and wizards who were not part of the action, and were taking cover under tables, behind chairs, or behind the bar, disapparated.

Wishing that Lupin and the other members of the Order would disapparate immediately after making sure that he and the others were safe, Harry scanned the pub frantically for the empty bottle.

He spotted it right behind the wooden leg of Moody, who was busy dueling with two Death Eaters at once, evidently not taking the slightest note that he was about to smash, at any moment, the Portkey that was the last hope for Harry and the others to get back unharmed to the Burrow.

"THERE!" Harry indicated the bottle to Hermione and Ginny, who were nearest him, "TELL THE OTHERS - PROTEGO!" He yelled causing a stray jet of red light to bounce off him.

After making sure that Hermione and Ginny had conveyed the message to the others, he sprinted feverishly toward the bottle, but before he could reach it, a black shape appeared out of thin air in front of him, causing his stomach to plummet sharply. He skidded to a halt so abruptly that he almost lost his balance. It was standing only feet away from him.

"Going somewhere, Potter?" said Bellatrix Lestrange's harsh voice from beneath her hood, as she pointed her wand between Harry's eyes.

Harry stood there for a moment, with his wand pointed at Bellatrix's heart. His mind was racing, his heart was hammering somewhere behind his Adam's apple. He felt a surge of mingled hatred and fury flow forcibly through his veins like venom, poisoning his mind, rousing vengeance inside him…he wished he knew how to perform the Unforgivable Curses properly so that he could cause Bellatrix as much pain as possible…though he doubted he would be faster with his wand than she was with hers.

"Stu - " but before Harry could even complete the word, Bellatrix had acted.

"Expelliarmus!" She yelled, and Harry's wand flew immediately out of his hand, leaving him totally unarmed in front of Bellatrix's murderous wand.

"The Dark Lord will be thrilled," said Bellatrix triumphantly, her eyes glinted behind her mask.

"AVADA KEDAVRA!" she cried.

But just then, the large box that George had given to Harry back at the joke shop, appeared out of thin air, placing itself between Harry and Bellatrix.

The jet of green light that had issued from the tip of Bellatrix's wand, collided with the box, which was blasted immediately into a hundred pieces.

Muddy water burst instantly like fountains out of the blasted box, turning the pub into a swamp, as magical fireworks exploded noisily in every direction at the same moment.

Pink Catherine wheels whizzed dangerously through the air. Dragons that were made of green-and-gold sparks soared in the air emitting fiery blasts and loud bangs as they went. Rockets with tails of brilliant silver stars ricochetted off what remained of the pub walls. Firecrackers exploded loudly. Sparklers wrote swearwords in midair.

Bellatrix and Harry both staggered hastily backward to avoid being hit by any of the rampaging fireworks.

The fight seemed to halt for a moment as everybody waded heavily through the newly formed swamp while their eyes followed the progress of the many whizzing and banging magical fireworks that almost blocked vision in the pub.

Harry, who was now spattered from head to foot with mud, felt someone grasp his forearm firmly and drag him forcefully backward. He turned sharply to see who it was and saw, for his surprise, a familiar face that he had seen only once before.

It was the black wizard he had seen back in Hogsmeade, the one who had fought off dementors rather fiercely and had saved Harry's life with his patronus. He was wearing a brown cloak with a hood that had obviously slid back while he was busy dueling with Death Eaters.

"Quick, Harry, touch the Portkey!" croaked the wizard indicating the empty bottle that was floating nearby on the muddy water. The Weasleys and the Grangers were already huddled around it, watching Harry apprehensively.

"But, my wand - " Harry began, ducking a speeding rocket.

"I've got it!" Hermione held up his wand.

"YOU IDIOTS - GET POTTER!" Harry heard Bellatrix shriek somewhere to his left.

He waded hurriedly across to the empty bottle.

"OK, NOW!" Hermione yelled, and everybody touched the bottle simultaneously.

"One…two…" muttered hermione in a shaking voice.

"There he is! AVADA - " came Bellatrix's voice from somewhere behind him, exactly at the same moment that Hermione said, "three…"

Bellatrix's voice was suddenly cut off as Harry felt the familiar sensation of a hook being jerked behind his navel, his feet left the ground, and he was speeding forward in a whirlwind of color and sound, banging into Ron and Hermione who were on either side of him, while his finger felt as if it was glued to the empty bottle.

And then, his feet hit solid ground again, so forcibly that he staggered sideways a little bit, but stayed on his feet all the same.

They were in the Weasleys' tiny kitchen again; Ron and Ginny collapsed onto the ground, as Hermione launched herself at her father and mother, who were both on the ground looking windswept and utterly appalled, and held them both in a very tight watery hug, while Mrs. Weasley's eyes darted from one to another, as though making sure they were all there.

"Can I have my wand back, Hermione?" croaked Harry the moment that he could find his voice again. His mouth felt very dry.

"Oh - sorry - of course - " squeaked Hermione, wiping her eyes on her sleeve, and sniffling loudly, as she tossed Harry's wand back to him.

Several silent but nervous minutes passed, in which Ron, Ginny, and the Grangers sat mutely at the table, and Harry paced the kitchen restlessly, while Mrs. Weasley made a pot of tea, and was in the process of pouring tea into Mr. Granger's cup when it happened.

A series of loud cracks, echoed around the silent kitchen, causing everybody, especially the Grangers, to jump badly - Harry actually pulled out his wand. Next moment, Mr. Weasley, Lupin, Fred, and George, were all standing in the tiny kitchen with them.

Lupin was carrying a stack of muddy books.

"You forgot those, Molly," he said in a casual voice, placing the stack on the table.

There was a silent moment, in witch almost everybody in the kitchen gaped at Lupin.

"Did you - I mean, have the Death Eaters been captured?" asked Harry hopefully.

"I'm afraid not, Harry," said Lupin calmly, looking into Harry's eyes, "they've fled just before the Ministry Wizards have arrived."

Harry felt a bit crestfallen, though he knew perfectly well that a huge group of Death Eaters like that would not be captured so easily, especially if they had Bellatrix Lestrange as leader.

"But what was the point of all that?" asked Harry, his temper rising, "did they do all that to - to kill me?"

"No, Harry," said Lupin, frowning, "I'm afraid that was an unexpected bonus."

Harry raised his eyebrows.

"You see, Harry, the Death Eaters don't need a reason to attack muggles, they do it for fun," said Lupin thoughtfully, "however, knowing that Hogwarts students received their letters a few days ago, I'm guessing they decided to attack The Leaky Cauldron, in case they found you there, Harry."

Something suddenly came to Harry's attention.

"Where's Tonks and Moody?" asked Harry nervously.

"Nymphadora's been injured, Harry…she's been taken to St. Mungo's by Mad-Eye Moody" Mr. Weasley, who was looking quite gloomy, spoke for the first time, "nothing serious - she'll be out in a few days, most likely," he added hastily, seeing the horrified look in Harry's eyes.

"But - but if they attacked The Leaky Cauldron…why wouldn't they attack us here?" Harry said slowly, as the thought dawned on him.

"I can't stay here - " Harry began nervously, but he was cut off promptly by Lupin.

"Relax, Harry, Dumbledore had taken care of that," Lupin spoke calmly, "Haven't you wondered why we brought you here instead of number twelve. Grimmauld Place?"

Harry gazed, with his mouth half open, at Lupin, but did not utter a word.

"Number twelve. Grimmauld Place does no longer serve as Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix," said Mr. Weasley, and Harry turned to face him, "it's too risky with Kreacher answering to Narcissa"

"But, if I stayed in this place, I'd endanger - " Harry began, but Lupin cut him off again.

"Let's say Dumbledore had taken the necessary precautions to make this place immune to possible Death Eaters' attacks." He said, as Harry turned back to face him.

"Looks like we've missed the fun again!" Fred spoke for the first time, smirking, as every face in the kitchen turned toward the twins.

"Glad our little present came in handy, though," said George, grinning at Harry.

Harry couldn't help smiling at these words.

"Thanks, it really was a lifesaver," he said, grinning broadly.

"That bloke in the brown cloak was really good, though! He sent the box between you and that mad woman, Harry," said Ron enthusiastically, looking suddenly excited.

"He's saved my life before - that day in Hogsmeade!" said Harry, puzzled, remembering suddenly the mysterious tall black man.

Harry hadn't thought about that man before, not until this moment. He had thought that the man was a stranger who had found himself in the middle of a group of a thousand dementors, and so, had been forced to fight for his life. But now, however, he couldn't ignore anymore the fact that this man's showing up every time Harry was in serious danger, was an unlikely coincidence.

"I saw him," Lupin said thoughtfully, interrupting Harry's train of thought, "He was fighting quite fiercely, like an Auror - I know most of the Ministry Aurors and I don't think he's one of them though - "

He turned to face Harry, a concerned look on his face.

"I must ask you, Harry, not to trust him simply because he looks friendly," he said earnestly.

Harry raised his eyebrows; though Lupin's words made perfect sense, as Harry had learned to his cost, he didn't want to believe that the man who had saved his life twice was untrustworthy.

"Well," said Mr. Granger shakily, and everybody turned to face him, "I'm afraid we'll have to leave now."

"Mum, please, can Hermione stay?" said Ginny hopefully.

"I think Hermione would rather be with her parents right now, dear" said Mrs. Weasley, reading the expression on Hermione's face.

"But before you go, there's one thing - " Mrs. Weasley pulled out her wand. Mr. And Mrs. Granger flinched.

"Oh, don't worry, I'm only going to clean you up - don't suppose you'd rather be walking in the streets like this!" said Mrs. Weasley, smiling, and pointing her wand at the Grangers.

"Scourgify!" she muttered, and the mud that covered the three Grangers vanished at once.

Harry, Ron, Ginny, Fred, and George, all left the kitchen after being cleaned up in turn by Mrs. Weasley, while Lupin and Mr. Weasley escorted the Grangers to the Underground station.

"You know, Harry, when Dad arrived at our joke shop and told us what's just happened, we couldn't believe what we've heard!" said George cheerfully, as they walked up the narrow passageway toward the stairs.

"Yeah, and when we got to The Leaky Cauldron, the wall was back in place, but nobody seemed to have found out how to subdue our merchandise!" snickered Fred.

"But we've been kind enough to clean everything up for them, and for free!" said George, smirking.

"But how did your Dad know in the first place?" asked Harry.

"The whole Ministry knows!" said George, looking amazed at Harry's question.

"And the Daily Prophet knows too," added Fred in the same amazement.

"Many wizards and witches have escaped from the pub while the battle's been on - " said George.

"And some of them have gone straight to the Ministry to report what they've witnessed - " said Fred.

"But others - as it seems - have gone to the Prophet instead - " said George.

"Dad says some reporters have arrived even before Aurors and Obliviators have - " said Fred.

"Which means this is not going to be good for old Fudge," said George, smirking.

Harry, Ron, Ginny, Fred, and George, spent the rest of the day up in Ron's room, debating about the events of the day. Fred and George actually took the rest of the day off, as the Ministry had given orders to every store in Diagon Alley to close for the rest of the day as an extra precaution.

"It's useless, I tell you!" said Fred, shaking his head, "that git, Fudge, thinks he'd cover up for being so stupid and letting the Death Eaters attack The Leaky Cauldron so easily, by evacuating Diagon Alley!"

"Dad says he won't last more than a month - " sneered George.

"You mean there's going to be a new Minister of Magic?" asked Harry, raising his eyebrows; although Fudge had been acting very stupidly since the return of Lord Voldemort, Harry had never considered that he might be sacked, though, come to think of it, that was the only thing Fudge had been dreading since the day that Harry had emerged from that maze in his fourth year, telling everyone that he had witnessed the rebirth of Lord Voldemort.

"Of course!" said George in amazement, goggling at Harry, "You don't suppose after everything that had happened he's still going to be Minister, do you? The git not only had let those Death Eaters escape, but he let them attack muggles in broad daylight and failed to lay a finger on them as well!"

Incomplete chapter - To be continued....