After a prolonged silence, Professor Dumbledore cleared his throat twice, effectively breaking the silence.
However, before Professor Dumbledore could utter a word, the wizards encircling him and Wentworth instantaneously withdrew their wands from their robes, being on guard with the surroundings.
“Everyone, you’ve gone to considerable lengths to bring my students and me here using the door, but you’ve maintained complete silence. And now, you’re pointing wands at us. This doesn’t seem like the most hospitable manner,” Professor Dumbledore commented in a measured tone, surveying the scene.
Upon hearing Professor Dumbledore’s query, the surrounding wizards involuntarily shifted their attention toward the short, cloaked figure.
After a pause, the cloaked wizard spoke with an air of melancholy.
“Albus Dumbledore? Let me explain; this is all a misunderstanding. Can you believe that?”
Dumbledore slowly shook his head in response, raising an eyebrow as he retorted.
“While I may not comprehend the intricacies of your methodology, placing the door key on my student’s bed hardly qualifies as a misunderstanding.”
A sardonic smile tugged at the lips of the cloaked wizard as they replied, causing their cloak to lower slightly.
“That’s true. Originally, our target was a Hogwarts freshman. But to our surprise, the Headmaster of Hogwarts took the bait. Given the circumstances, let’s make the best of it.”
With a swift wave of their hand, the cloaked wizard revealed a wand concealed within the folds of their dark cloak, directing it toward Professor Dumbledore and Wentworth.
Concurrently, an unknown incantation was cast, hurtling toward its intended targets.
“Silent casting? Really?” Wentworth exclaimed incredulously at the seemingly effortless spellcasting.
He couldn’t fathom how those he encountered always managed to cast spells with such ease.
However, already prepared for such contingencies, Wentworth swiftly seized his wand and took cover behind Dumbledore.
Meanwhile, Professor Dumbledore responded quickly.
At some point, his wand was raised, and just as the cloaked wizard’s spell neared him, it abruptly halted, blossomed momentarily, and then disintegrated.
Before Professor Dumbledore stood a nearly transparent barrier, shrouded in a reddish hue, obscuring precise visibility.
Yet, it was apparent that the barrier, centered around Dumbledore’s wand, assumed a half-oval shape, enshrouding both Professor Dumbledore and Wentworth.
“Remarkable, Professor! Is this a protective spell? You seem to have overlooked something behind you. Allow me to compliment the spell!” Wentworth, however, was not left idle but instead filled in the gap without delay.
Dumbledore’s breath came in short bursts as he explained, “Wentworth, take heed. Normally, such a protective enchantment would only shield its caster. I’ve extended its range to protect you, but being old has taken its toll on me. I can’t fully protect you.”
“Your responsibility is to guard that opening behind me. Failing to do so might mean we won’t make it through the night.”
Wentworth’s smile faltered upon hearing this, but he mused a wry grin and retorted, “Headmaster, are you jesting? Is this a test? Don’t make light of them. How can a few rogue wizards be a match for you?”
Dumbledore, his robes still rumpled from their earlier rush, stated with conviction, “These are not mere rogues; they are likely wizard hunters, the cream of the dark wizard crop.”
Simultaneously, the cloaked wizard from the opposing side sneered, “As expected of Dumbledore. You’ve discerned our identity with ease. Yes, indeed, we are wizard hunters. In the realm of bounty hunting, the bounty on your head is one of a kind, Albus Dumbledore!”
“Under normal circumstances, we’d leave quietly if only you were present. Yet today, you bear such a burden and are determined to save his life. Perhaps this battle will make our name known.”
During this exchange, the cloaked wizard hunter raised their hand, signaling their companions to advance together and aim their wands at Professor Dumbledore.
Unexpectedly, none of their companions budged after the cloaked wizard hunter issued their command.
Observing this, the cloaked wizard hunter faltered, glancing behind them.
The bald wizard at their side then squared their shoulders, bellowing loudly to the surrounding vicinity.
“Are you all deaf? The head’s orders are clear. There are only two of them. We charge together. Whoever ensures the duo remains tonight will earn a handsome reward!”
The wizards exchanged glances, clearly considering their course of action.
Yet, at this juncture, one wizard hunter chose retreat over advance, backpedaling toward the dense forest behind them.
Simultaneously, they offered an explanation.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here for profit, not for my demise! Attacking Albus Dumbledore? In today’s wizarding world, if Dumbledore is second, no one dares claim first! Farewell, all!”
Without a word, the blond-haired wizard darted into the dense underbrush.
Seeing their comrade’s retreat appeared to sow doubt among the remaining wizard hunters.
Meanwhile, Professor Dumbledore’s voice rang out once more, “Ah, Wentworth, that fellow chose flight over an instant transformation. Evidently, they possess countermeasures against shape-shifting. My initial plan of escape is foiled!”
Wentworth responded, a trace of exasperation in his voice, “Professor Dumbledore, you needn’t broadcast our intentions to them! It hardly bolsters our strategic advantage.”
Overhearing the exchange, the cloaked wizard hunter across from them jeered, “If death terrifies you, perhaps wizard hunting is ill-suited. We trade life for money!”
Before they could finish, the cloaked wizard raised their wand again, targeting Professor Dumbledore.
Meanwhile, their compatriots mirrored the action, focusing their wands on Dumbledore and Wentworth.
Witnessing this, Dumbledore mustered his strength.
The Protego he just cast suddenly glows, and Professor Dumbledore’s magical energy surges.
Yet, a portion behind him remained unguarded, exposed to potential danger.
Professor Dumbledore commanded, “Wentworth, this old man leaves his back to you!”
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