Matthew skimmed through the news, finding it somewhat amusing—

Azkaban experiencing prison breaks was not uncommon; what kind of news was this to make headlines?

Furthermore, the news provided no names or information about the escaped criminals.

It was merely mentioned that the Ministry of Magic had severely punished the night watch personnel at Azkaban…

What was the difference between this and no report at all?

But speaking of tonight, Matthew was supposed to be involved in a “smuggling” job with Mr. Shafiq.

If luck was not on his side, he might end up residing in Azkaban for a while.

Matthew tossed the newspaper aside and left Flourish and Blotts Bookstore.

He made his way to the Leaky Cauldron, not far away, where he had a simple breakfast and attended to some personal matters.

Nightfall was approaching.

As darkness settled, Mr. Shafiq instructed the clerk to close the bookstore early—a rare occurrence.

Simultaneously, he exchanged a meaningful glance with Matthew.

Quickly understanding the unspoken message, Matthew returned an “I understand” expression to Mr. Shafiq before retreating to the basement and his dim, damp cabin.

He changed out of the Flourish and Blotts Bookstore clerk uniform and donned a plain wizard robe without any logos.

Additionally, he put on his dragon leather gloves, although he regretted not having Theodore Knott’s dragon leather protective suit at hand—otherwise, he would have certainly worn it.

Sitting on the bed, he flipped through the second-grade textbooks, such as “The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2,” which Matthew had taken with him from Flourish and Blotts Bookstore on his first day.

He patiently waited, and so he waited…

Until the watch on his wrist displayed 11 o’clock at night—

Soft knocks echoed at the door of the cabin.

Matthew swiftly set aside the book, grasped his wand, and stepped outside.

Mr. Shafiq awaited him by the door, accompanied by another Flourish and Blotts Bookstore clerk.

Matthew couldn’t recall the name of the clerk at that moment.

From his recollection, the clerk seemed to be a reserved adult wizard who worked in the bookstore.

Only three individuals, fewer participants than Matthew had anticipated, were involved in this smuggling “operation.”

“Quiet, Wickfield,” Mr. Shafiq reminded him. “Try not to make too much noise.”

“Hmm,” Matthew nodded.

The trio left Flourish and Blotts Bookstore together and ventured into the dark night of Diagon Alley.

Given the late hour, most of the shops on Diagon Alley were closed.

The long cobblestone street lay empty, devoid of pedestrians.

Mr. Shafiq, clearly an experienced individual in such matters, proceeded cautiously, carefully surveying the absence of wizards in the vicinity.

Once assured of the lack of witnesses, he signaled Matthew and the other wizard to follow

both inexperienced in such operations.

Matthew and the other clues hurried to keep up, feeling somewhat lost. They followed closely behind.

“Mr. Shafiq, why don’t we use Apparate or the Floo Network?” Matthew curiously asked, struggling to keep pace with Mr. Shafiq.

“Of course, we can’t use them,” Mr. Shafiq replied in a hushed tone while cautiously observing their surroundings.

“The Ministry of Magic strictly monitors the Apparition, Floo Network, and Portkey usage. Every instance is recorded, and if discovered, it will expose the operation. They must not be used. Quick, keep up!” he urged.

Matthew noted that Mr. Shafiq’s chosen path did not lead to the Leaky Cauldron.

They walked for approximately five minutes, circumventing Gringotts to avoid detection from the goblins within.

“Here, hurry!” Mr. Shafiq waved at them once again.

Matthew observed as Mr. Shafiq guided them into a side alley.

It appeared to be Knockturn Alley!

Matthew had learned a year ago that the Dark Magic item shop in this alley had been forcibly closed by the Ministry of Magic, rendering the entire alley desolate.

Despite this, eerie sights could still be glimpsed through windows as they progressed along the filthy path.

For example, in a massive display window across from them, a few shrunken heads were positioned hauntingly…

The night was dark, the alley was quiet and foreboding, and the chilling wind rustled leaves and echoed the cries of stray cats—

Matthew remained composed, but his companion, the reserved adult clerk, trembled.

“Don’t be afraid; hold on a little longer!” Mr. Shafiq encouraged them.

“This road leads to an exit from Diagon Alley. We can only take this path because we cannot use the Leaky Cauldron exit. It’s crowded with a mixed assortment of people and easily spotted.” Mr. Shafiq urged once again.

“Hmm,” Matthew nodded.

The terrified companion remained speechless.

Fortunately, Mr. Shafiq’s words held true.

After nearly ten minutes, they passed through a fence, finally leaving behind the grimy, dark, and desolate alley.

Matthew noticed that the three of them had arrived on the streets of London.

“Should we walk from here?” Matthew asked, slightly perplexed.

“No, we’ll fly,” Mr. Shafiq shook his head, explaining, “Follow me.”

They crossed a Muggle street and discovered a remote, seemingly abandoned phone booth.

The surrounding Muggles appeared oblivious to its presence, their attention diverted from the “cityscape.”

Mr. Shafiq opened the phone booth door, revealing several concealed broomsticks inside.

“Wickfield, can you ride a broom?” Mr. Shafiq inquired.

Matthew shrugged. Clearly, he had never experienced this mode of transportation before.

“No worries, sit behind me,” Mr. Shafiq responded without hesitation, retrieving two broomsticks from the phone booth.

One he mounted himself, and the other he handed to the other clerk.

Matthew noticed that the broomstick in Mr. Shafiq’s hand lacked logos or numbers, unlike the ones he had seen in the Quality Quidditch Supplies…

“Let’s go!”

Once Matthew and the other clerk settled on the broomstick, Mr. Shafiq immediately gave the order.

Two broomsticks ascended into the air, disappearing into the night of London.

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Published On: September 17, 2023

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