Under the stairs stood Neville and Hermione, Matthew’s two good friends at Hogwarts.
They each held a large bookcase in their hands.
Neville’s face was beaming with excitement as he waved at Matthew enthusiastically.
Meanwhile, Hermione seemed a little sun-kissed and didn’t appear as thrilled.
“Finally found you, Matthew!” Neville greeted with a smile.
“I met Hermione at the Flourish & Blotts Bookstore entrance, only to find out that it was sealed for some reason. So, under her guidance, we went to another Bookstore together and finally bought textbooks there!”
He gestured toward the big cardboard box he was holding. “Should we take you to that Bookstore?”
“In the first week of summer vacation, I got everything I needed for the next semester. Flourish & Blotts Bookstore hadn’t been closed at that time,” Matthew explained.
“That’s it. After all, you spent the whole summer vacation here,” Neville remarked. “How was your summer vacation, Matthew?”
“It’s okay,” Matthew answered casually. “What about you?”
“Awesome!” Neville’s excitement was palpable.
“I bet you will regret not coming to my house. Both my parents took time off, and then we went to Iceland with Uncle Algie’s family. The scenery is amazing, and the climate is so comfortable.” Neville recounted excitedly.
“Sounds great,” Matthew nodded, then turned to Hermione. “What about you, Hermione?”
Miss Hermione Granger pouted, her face reflecting her dissatisfaction.
“If Padma had told me in advance that she and her sister would return to their hometown in India during the summer vacation and stay there for a month and a half, I would never have joined them,” Hermione lamented.
“It’s been terrible this summer vacation in every way you can’t imagine… Look, you see what I was exposed to…” Hermione raised her arms, showing them her burnt skin.
“Hahaha!” Matthew and Neville couldn’t hold back their laughter.
Hermione and Neville had booked rooms at the Leaky Cauldron, and they would stay with Matthew for two days.
Then, they would wait until September 1st to go to King’s Cross Station together and take the express train back to Hogwarts.
As Matthew waited for them to put their luggage away, he was about to ask them where they wanted to eat lunch when Hermione suddenly emerged from the room, holding a sickly-looking big cat named Crookshanks in her arms.
“Sorry, you guys go to eat first. I have to take Crookshanks to check on him,” Hermione explained.
“He seems to have been a little uncomfortable since returning from India,” Hermione said with a sad expression.
Curiously, Matthew glanced at the semi-magical creature on Hermione’s chest.
Matthew’s thoughts swirled as he noticed the poor cat’s condition, its fluffy and soft hair appearing dull, and its legs and feet showing signs of weakness.
He wondered if it had something to do with India.
Perhaps the poor little guy accidentally drank two sips of Ganges water, and that’s why he was in this state.
Realizing the situation, Matthew came to a conclusion in his heart.
“Then let’s go with you!” Neville offered enthusiastically. “I will also buy some rations for Inch!”
The three of them decided to go to the backyard of the Leaky Cauldron, with Matthew leading the way into Diagon Alley.
Crossing the noisy road, they arrived at a shop called “Magical Menagerie.”
The shop was small, and cages were densely hung on the wall, emitting a distinct smell of animal feces.
The little creatures in the cages were making loud noises, and the witch behind the counter was teaching a wizard how to care for an owl.
Matthew faintly recalled the witch as the mistress of the “Magical Menagerie,” where he had bought two toads a year ago.
The trio could only stay aside and observe the animals in the cages next to them.
Among the animals, Matthew noticed a big tortoise with gems inlaid on its hard shell, two giant purple toads gorging on flies, and a hovering cobra that suddenly vomited a letter at Hermione, startling her.
A wizard who had just bought an owl left the shop.
Hermione quickly moved away from her previous position and avoided the surrounding cages.
“Madam, my cat…” She hugged Crookshanks close, addressing the witch, “I went to India before, but after I brought him back from there, his condition has been a bit off.”
The witch pulled a pair of thick black glasses from her pocket and carefully inspected the big cat.
“It’s Crookshanks!” The witch recognized the cat quickly. “Poor fellow, it must have suffered a lot recently…” She touched the cat’s paw.
Hermione was ashamed, realizing she had neglected her pet during their time in India.
The witch used a bunch of strange instruments to examine Crookshanks, who lazily lay before her, barely moving.
“The cat is healthy, and there is nothing wrong with its body. Its condition might be a stress response after a long journey,” the witch concluded.
Hermione asked, eager to help, “Then what should I do, madam?”
The witch advised, “Feed it more dried fish; Crookshanks likes this… And don’t disturb it during this time; it needs to rest!”
Hermione nodded swiftly, and they purchased dried fish and owl rations before returning together to the Leaky Cauldron.
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