Harry whirled around. The other witches and wizards in the building turned around curiously.
No… thought Harry, feeling as if he had just been punched in the gut. Not here. Not here!
A young wizard—younger than Harry by a few years—threw open the doors of the Apparition building. His face was red with panic. “Dementors!” he cried. “Dementors! Here! Get OUT!” He didn’t wait for a reaction, instead turning to run.
“Go!” shrieked Mrs. Weasley. The room they were in and the alley outside had gotten significantly darker. Screams and cries echoed down the street.
Harry turned around. Ginny looked sick—pale, as if she were going to puke. Ron looked squeamish and stunned, along with Hermione. Mrs. Weasley pushed all of them into movement, including Harry. Others around them had already started to move, sprinting out of the doors.
The cold assaulted them as soon as they got outside. It was an unnatural chill—one Harry knew all two well. He looked up… and his heart dropped.
There had to be hundreds of them. Their black, torn cloaks swayed eerily in an invisible breeze. All ambient light evaporated; people screamed and children cried. Loud cracks! resounded throughout the entire alley as younger wizards—the ones who couldn’t yet Apparate—made their way hastily to the fireplaces to travel by Floo powder. People were shoved and trampled.
Diagon Alley was in a state of complete chaos.
The Dementors had not yet touched ground. They floated threateningly above—a few dipped lower than the others, but they seemed to be waiting.
Harry found out that they weren’t very patient creatures.
A stubborn one dipped just feet above the heads of the wizards. A blonde witch screamed out in terrified pain and fainted there on the spot. A clean-shaven wizard flicked his wand. The woman floated over to him. Harry watched as he scooped her onto his shoulder and Disapparated.
“RON!” screamed Mrs. Weasley over the hectic noise around them. “HARRY! HERMIONE! THE BURROW!” She grabbed Ginny’s arm. “NOW!”
Hermione gulped but nodded. She stepped and turned, disappearing with a pop. Mrs. Weasley followed, Ginny holding firmly onto her arm.
Ron turned to Harry. “Can we make it?” he yelled.
Harry nodded in response. “GO!”
“YOU HAVE TO COME BACK!” Ron knew Harry much too long to not know what he was thinking.
Harry didn’t reply. This was his fault; he knew it.
“I’LL GO, JUST GO!”
Ron shook his head.
There was no time for this! Didn’t Ron understand these things were here because of Harry?
“WE’ll GO AT THE SAME TIME!” cried Ron. Harry nodded. “READY?” he hollered.
Ron took a step and spun on the spot, disappearing. Harry followed suit, taking a step, turning… and stumbled.
As he later looked back on it, Harry wasn’t sure if he had failed at Apparating then because of his lack of experience, because of the chaos enveloping him, or even as a result of some subconscious decision he had already made.
At the time, he figured it was because of the craziness around him. Desperately, he gave it another hasty shot. Failing again—frustrated—he took a breath to take in his surroundings. Although the number of wizards in the alley now had been drastically reduced, there were still a good amount of people running about him in every direction. Witches and wizards dashed madly for the fireplaces used for Floo Travel. People were pushed, shoved, and in a few cases, stepped on and kicked.
Harry saw only one wizard raise a wand high. “EXPECTO PATRONUM!” he cried. A silvery hawk leaped out of the wand, taking off after one of the Dementors. Harry wondered briefly why no other person was making an attempt at warding off the attacking creatures. Was it because they didn’t know the spell, or were they just too scared?
The darkness was beginning to make the alley seem to shrink. Just as he was feeling a touch of claustrophobia, the sound of a crying child reached his ears. Whirling around, he could just make out a small blonde girl sitting in ball on the stoop of a store near the deserted end of the alley. It was hard to see through the black haze, but Harry realized that a Dementor had begun a dive straight for the helpless girl.
Instincts kicked in and Harry flicked out his wand. “EXPECTO PATRONUM!” he cried, hastily summoning a joyous memory. A white stag burst from the wand, radiating an air of both light and strength. The young girl shrieked in a high-pitched yell, coiling back from the brilliance as if she didn’t know what was happening.
Harry’s patronus collided with the threatening Dementor, bringing it painfully down to earth. He rushed over to the girl.
“You’ll be okay!” he shouted. She didn’t stop screaming, nor did she even acknowledge him. Instead, she cried out even louder, rocking on the cobble-stone street. Harry turned, wondering what he should do.
Without another chance to think, a brazen Dementor swooped down towards Harry and the girl. His silver stag leaped at the attacking Dementor. It crashed head on, thrashing its antlers about. The Dementor backed away hastily, trying desperately to get away from the patronus. The glimmering stag charged into the fleeing Dementor, ramming it into the ground. Harry watched. The patronus he had conjured seemed to be especially determined to take down the vicious creature that now lay in a motionless heap on the ground.
Is it because of me? he wondered briefly about the patronus’s odd attitude, but then felt a cold stab of pain lance through his body.
A Dementor was gliding eerily over to him, ready to attack. “Here!” he yelled at his patronus, but he soon realized with a sickening pang that it had already disappeared.
Harry raised his wand. The all-too familiar feeling of the world being silenced enclosed his body. A woman—he knew her—was already screaming in his mind. His mother cried loudly, her anguish ringing clear. He had to get the Dementor away…
He held out his wand feebly. He knew he would pass out, but if he could just get…
There was a burst of white light and something shimmering crashed into the attacking Dementor. Harry fell to the ground. Desperate, he rolled over onto his side, immediately recognizing the attacker. It was Arthur Weasley, along with a number of other wizards and witches.
“Harry! Harry, is that you?” yelled Mr. Weasley. Just as Harry was about to answer, what seemed to him to be a million blasts of silvery light burst from outstretched wands. Shimmering creatures of all sizes fought against the onslaught of Dementors.
Gradually, the Dementors fled, until all of them had gone. The darkness they had brought evaporated, leaving a sun-filled Diagon Alley.
“Harry! What are you doing here?” asked Mr. Weasley, rushing over and helping Harry stand.
“They were here…” started Harry. He looked at Mr. Weasley’s worried face, who seemed as if he expected Harry to continue. “They were here because of me,” he finished.
Mr. Weasley gazed at Harry for a second, silent in thought, and then furrowed his brow. “Harry, you can’t think like that.”
He didn’t answer.
A burly, dark-skinned wizard from somewhere behind called out, “We’ll need to make sure they’ve gone!”
The Aurors acknowledged his order, but Mr. Weasley turned back to Harry. “Where did the others go?”
Harry responded, “The Burrow.”
“Listen to me; you need to go back there. The other members of the Order will have already arrived.”
Harry nodded, gulping. He felt stupid and childish. He should have been able to Apparate out of the alley.
He knew he was lucky to have the Aurors rescue him in time.
“I shouldn’t really be here, as I’m not an Auror, but he wanted—the minister, that is—wanted me to come. Just tell Molly I’ll be home soon.” Mr. Weasley averted his gaze from Harry’s eyes. Suddenly he seemed uncomfortable, but Harry didn’t waste much time thinking of this fact. He remembered the girl he had saved.
“Her.” Harry turned and pointed to the blonde. Now that he saw her in the light, she seemed to be no older than ten or eleven years old.
“Ah, okay,” replied Mr. Weasley. He strode over to the crying girl. “Are you okay?” he asked softly. The girl didn’t reply. Slowly, Mr. Weasley held out his arm to help her stand.
The girl screamed shrilly—sobbing—and batted away Mr. Weasley’s arm.
“We’ll handle it, Harry. Just get to the Burrow. Will you be alright?” asked Mr. Weasley.
Harry nodded in response, turned around on the spot and took a step forward, the leaning house pictured clearly in his mind. He felt the normal sensation, and then his feet hit the ground.
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