With the final exams concluded, the challenging second year at Hogwarts was finally at an end.
The exam results were swiftly released, and this year’s scores were commendably high.
However, it was evident that no one cared about these scores.
Everyone’s focus was on the impending start of the holidays and their journey to the train station.
All of them were anxious about what had transpired in the outside world during the months of isolation at Hogwarts.
All channels of communication with the outside world had been severed, and the Professors remained tight-lipped.
Perhaps the Professors themselves were unaware of what had occurred beyond the castle’s walls.
Matthew, Neville, and Hermione lounged by the tranquil Black Lake, basking lazily in the sun.
Tomorrow marked their departure from Hogwarts, and, fortunately, there had been no news of the holiday’s cancellation so far.
“Matthew!” Neville inquired with a serious expression. “Are you absolutely certain you won’t spend the summer break at my place?”
“I’m unsure of the situation outside. The rumors are chaotic, and it might not be safe to be alone out there… Even Hermione has agreed to join me for the summer,” he added, his voice filled with concern.
“Yes,” Hermione chimed in, nodding in agreement.
“No, really…” Matthew whispered.
He gazed at the Black Lake, which shimmered with a dark green glow under the sun’s rays, and his mood suddenly grew somber.
Neville shook his head in exasperation.
This was the seventh time this week he had tried to persuade Matthew, and each attempt had ended in rejection.
Considering that they would be boarding the Hogwarts Express early the following morning, this would likely be the final effort.
“So, you’re set on spending your summer here?” Hermione asked, her concern evident. “Will you be heading to Diagon Alley like last year? Or perhaps to Hogsmeade…”
For Muggle-born Hogwarts students, the options during summer were limited: either stay with a friend, as Neville had kindly offered, or find temporary employment in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade.
Matthew’s eyes hesitated, an expression rarely seen on him.
“I’m not certain,” he hesitated for a moment before finally deciding, “Perhaps I should go to Hogsmeade… I believe Mr. Flume of Honeydukes and Madam Rosmerta of the Three Broomsticks would welcome students as temporary workers.”
“Alright,” Neville and Hermione relented, accepting the outcome.
“Remember to use owls to stay in touch. There’s an owl post in Hogsmeade!” Neville reminded him.
The next morning, Matthew saw off his friends and roommates as they boarded the Hogwarts Express.
Since he had chosen to work temporarily in Hogsmeade, he had no need to take the train.
After all, Hogsmeade was only a few miles away from Hogwarts, and it would be foolish to travel in the opposite direction.
With their departure, the Hogwarts Express whistled loudly, belching thick white smoke into the sky as it chugged away.
The carriages were about to close, and Matthew stepped back…
At that moment, Lestrange passed by Matthew with her luggage, casting him a malevolent glare.
Matthew knew precisely why but chose to ignore it, offering only a helpless smile.
As the train grew smaller and more distant, Matthew retraced his steps and boarded the carriage heading back to the campus.
The campus was eerily quiet, with only a handful of students and Professors remaining.
Matthew wandered through the deserted campus, and with each step, his mood weighed heavier upon him…
Finally, Matthew walked through the empty basement corridor and returned to the desolate Slytherin common room.
His luggage had been prepared long in advance, ready for departure at any moment.
But before that…
Matthew gently opened a drawer, revealing the antique book inside.
For over a year, this book had rested here, undisturbed and seemingly ordinary.
Matthew took a deep breath, then fetched a quill from the side. He dipped it in ink and opened the book.
“Hello, it’s me, Matthew Wickfield!”
The dark green handwriting appeared before him:
This time, the handwriting didn’t carry the same dread and horror as before. Instead, it seemed lighter, more lively.
Perhaps it was all in the mind.
When one harbors fear, the most ordinary things can transform into terrifying monstrosities.
Matthew hesitated for a moment before writing again:
“I don’t know your name?”
This time, the handwriting didn’t appear immediately. It was as if the book was contemplating something, and several seconds passed before the response came:
“You can call me A·B·D.”
A quarter of an hour later, with everything packed, Matthew bid farewell to the Slytherin common room, leaving the castle.
He carried his heavy luggage and walked alone toward Hogsmeade, making a brief stop by the Black Lake.
Ensuring no one was around, Matthew opened his suitcase and took out a bottle of mead.
Madam Rosmerta had sent it, along with the Three Broomsticks, as a token of appreciation for his previous letter.
The mead had been imported from Slovakia, Professor Slughorn’s favorite.
Matthew silently unscrewed the bottle and poured the entire contents into the Black Lake, watching it blend with the dark green water.
“Farewell,” he whispered. “My dear Professor.”
With that, Matthew packed away the mead bottle and embarked on his journey to Hogsmeade, dragging his luggage behind him.