Minister Scrimgeour’s words left Professor Dumbledore momentarily stunned; his expression appeared as if he had been caught off guard.
Yet, Minister Scrimgeour and Professor Dumbledore simply exchanged glances with one another and maintained silence.
In the midst of this, a sudden rustling of footsteps emerged from the dense forest nearby.
The noise grabbed the attention of all the present wizards.
As one, they turned their heads towards the source of the sound.
Minister Scrimgeour, Professor Dumbledore, and Wentworth, along with the other Aurors, instinctively readied their wands, pointing them in the direction of the disturbance.
Abruptly, a brilliant white light burst forth with a “pop,” casting a stark contrast against the dark night.
Emerging from the shadows was a woman with wildly curled hair, clutching a notebook and pen.
A man, camera slung around his neck, followed closely behind her.
Minister Scrimgeour, Professor Dumbledore, and Wentworth fixed their gaze on the newcomers, with Ms. Skeeter quickly drawing Wentworth’s attention.
The woman’s gaze remained fixed on Professor Dumbledore and Wentworth, while the Aurors, including Minister Scrimgeour, aimed their wands at the unexpected visitors.
Wentworth observed in amazement as Ms. Skeeter’s pen appeared to write automatically within her notebook as if directed by an unseen hand.
Ms. Skeeter’s presence triggered a name to surface in Wentworth’s mind – he was almost certain of her identity.
As Ms. Skeeter’s eyes moved across Minister Scrimgeour and Professor Dumbledore before eventually settling on Wentworth by Professor Dumbledore’s side, Wentworth noticed a glint of intrigue within her gaze.
She swiftly seized the camera from her companion, capturing successive photographs of both Wentworth and Professor Dumbledore.
The blinding flash forced Wentworth to avert his eyes, squinting against the glare.
“Rita Skeeter? What are you doing here? The Ministry has a task underway. I suggest you leave,” Minister Scrimgeour admonished, addressing the woman.
Professor Dumbledore remained silent, allowing Minister Scrimgeour to address Ms. Skeeter first.
The moment Minister Scrimgeour addressed the woman by name, Wentworth’s suspicions were confirmed.
His apprehensions seemed to be well-founded, yet this discovery did not bode well.
Unfazed by Minister Scrimgeour’ warning, Ms. Skeeter exhibited no sign of intimidation, choosing to ignore his queries.
Instead, her unwavering focus remained on Professor Dumbledore and Wentworth.
Approaching Wentworth, Ms. Skeeter addressed him with a facetious tone, “Oh, it’s quite the gathering of illustrious figures here tonight. Who would’ve guessed? Minister Scrimgeour, the fresh head of the Auror Office, and dear Professor Dumbledore, the esteemed Headmaster of Hogwarts. What brings such luminaries to this place at this late hour?”
Her bespectacled gaze swept over Minister Scrimgeour and Professor Dumbledore inquisitively.
Meanwhile, Wentworth took note of the pen in her hand, which had continued to write in her notebook autonomously.
Witnessing this astonishing phenomenon, Wentworth’s mind connected the dots, attributing this to Ms. Skeeter’s Animagus form.
Fixing her gaze on Wentworth, her expression displayed a degree of cunning. “I know you, young man. You’re a Hogwarts student. You were even at the Quidditch World Cup’s final match recently, courtesy of Professor Dumbledore. Now, I’m quite intrigued. Among all the students at Hogwarts, why would Professor Dumbledore personally escort you to the final match? Is there a special connection between you two?”
Responding to Ms. Skeeter’s question, Wentworth adopted an expression of feigned innocence, saying, “Auntie, I’m not sure what you mean.”
The moment he addressed her, Ms. Skeeter’s countenance twisted, and through gritted teeth, she retorted, “Auntie?!”
Professor Dumbledore, however, interceded, stepping forward to shield Wentworth.
His voice carried a weighty tone as he addressed Ms. Skeeter, “Rita, I advise you to keep your distance from my students.”
Though scenes like this seemed familiar to Professor Dumbledore, Ms. Skeeter appeared unaffected by his warning.
A calculated smile lingered on her lips as she studied Professor Dumbledore.
In a meaning-laden manner, she replied, “Naturally, Headmaster Dumbledore. But may I inquire, what prompted you to bring a student into the woods late at night? Your activities and the ruckus you’re causing have piqued my curiosity.”
Professor Dumbledore’s expression grew somber. “I don’t believe I owe you any explanations regarding my whereabouts.”
Ms. Skeeter raised an eyebrow, her tone exaggerated. “So, Headmaster Dumbledore, is there an unspeakable secret hidden within your nocturnal excursions with a student? An answer that defies belief! I’m sure my readers will be positively intrigued.”
As her words struck Wentworth, he realized why Hermione and others in the original books held such disdain for this woman.
Yet, before Wentworth could intervene, Professor Dumbledore gently placed a hand on his shoulder, guiding him to the side while addressing Minister Scrimgeour, “Minister Scrimgeour, I shall return Wentworth to Hogwarts now. If there are any updates, kindly inform me.”
Minister Scrimgeour quickly agreed, “Of course, Headmaster Dumbledore. Furthermore, if I require your assistance during the investigation, I trust you’ll cooperate.”
With a slow nod, Professor Dumbledore acknowledged Minister Scrimgeour.
Meanwhile, Ms. Skeeter’s interest seemed to pique. Evidently, she was well aware that she wouldn’t glean valuable information from Professor Dumbledore.
Turning her attention back to Minister Scrimgeour, she awaited a response from him.
However, Minister Scrimgeour displayed no inclination to engage with Ms. Skeeter. Instead, he proceeded to lead the Aurors in coordinating their tasks.
As Ms. Skeeter’s attention remained focused on Minister Scrimgeour, Professor Dumbledore took the opportunity to usher Wentworth away without hesitation.
In an instant, the two of them vanished, reappearing within the grounds of Hogwarts Castle.
Awaiting them stood Professor Ilona, who had clearly been standing outside for quite some time.
Wentworth couldn’t help but feel touched by her dedication to his safety.
“Professor Ilona, why are you here?” Wentworth inquired, genuinely moved by her presence.
Professor Ilona’s expression softened, and she quickly greeted Wentworth, her concern palpable.
Taking a moment to assess Wentworth and confirm his well-being, she finally breathed a sigh of relief.
“As I mentioned, Professor Ilona, I’ll ensure Wentworth’s safety,” Professor Dumbledore reiterated.
However, Professor Ilona’s frustration was evident in her tone as she stiffly responded, “Professor Dumbledore, I never doubt your capabilities. But the well-being of my students is of utmost importance. I’m unwilling to see them placed in harm’s way.”
While Professor Dumbledore offered no immediate response, he gently ushered Wentworth forward, addressing him, “Go back to your room, Wentworth. Your friends are likely worried about you.”
With these parting words, Wentworth felt a mixture of emotions – a blend of gratitude for Professor Ilona’s concern and lingering questions about the recent encounter.
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