“Have we reached Hogsmeade?” Neville’s excited cry echoed through the compartment.
“Don’t be ridiculous; it’s only three o’clock in the afternoon,” Matthew retorted, glancing at his watch and shaking his head. “I told you before, it’ll take at least four hours to get there.”
Neville cast an annoyed look out of the rain-blurred window, his anticipation dampened by the weather and Matthew’s response.
The train’s pace gradually slowed, its wheels producing a sharper sound against the tracks while the pelting of wind and rain on the windows grew louder.
Hermione craned her neck to peer down the aisle, observing countless heads popping up as passengers seemed curious about the sudden change.
The entire cabin was buzzing with a sense of curiosity and concern.
In an instant, a chuckle sounded, followed by an unexpected lurch that sent everyone leaning to one side as the train abruptly stopped.
The distant sound of items falling suggested luggage had tumbled from racks.
The unfamiliar teacher nearly toppled from his seat to the floor, a surprised expression finally breaking through his stoic demeanor.
He removed his earplugs and blindfold, revealing a puzzled frown on his pale face.
While not openly expressing his emotions, the strange teacher’s reaction was apparent.
With a calm demeanor, Matthew wiped a clear spot on the window, allowing him to glimpse the dark figures floating in the sky outside.
The shapeless, black figures caused him to furrow his brows in apprehension.
“Could it be…” his voice trailed off, his thoughts uncertain.
Before he could ponder further, a soft cracking sound resonated through the compartment as the door was forced open.
Yet, the figure that burst in was not what Matthew had expected: instead of a cloaked, ominous presence, a small, round-faced wizard stood before them.
“Dad!” Neville’s astonished shout filled the air.
This marked the first time Matthew had laid eyes on Mr. Frank Longbottom.
Standing at an average height with thinning hair and a somewhat youthful countenance, he didn’t emanate the aura of an Auror.
“I’m here on official business,” Mr. Longbottom coldly responded to his son’s exclamation. “On behalf of the Ministry of Magic, I’m conducting a check to ensure no Azkaban escapees have infiltrated.”
Neville’s excitement was swiftly replaced by obedience as he lowered his head.
Matthew noticed that Mr. Longbottom didn’t step into the compartment, maintaining a distance from the occupants.
His right hand remained hidden in his robe, a gesture that suggested he was armed with a wand.
“One by one, step forward,” he ordered, pointing at Matthew.
Matthew complied and approached Mr. Longbottom, who withdrew an instrument resembling an alarm clock from his pocket.
After a brief, roughly ten-second scan, Mr. Longbottom pronounced, “You’re clear,” allowing Matthew to return to his seat.
Hermione and Neville underwent the same process, during which Mr. Longbottom maintained distance from his son, their interaction minimal.
“Come here,” Mr. Longbottom’s gaze fixed on the only adult wizard in the compartment, commanding him to spread his hands beside him.
The reserved stranger complied, his actions devoid of hesitation.
As Mr. Longbottom conducted the examination, an unexpected occurrence disrupted the process—
A high-pitched ringing emanated from the alarm-like instrument in the Auror’s hand.
Mr. Longbottom’s expression shifted abruptly; he drew his wand with remarkable speed, aiming it at the mysterious wizard.
Even the stranger seemed taken aback by the sudden development.
“May I inquire as to your identity?” Frank Longbottom’s voice was cold and questioning as he addressed the stranger.
“I am the new teacher at Hogwarts,” came the reply, but before the stranger could elaborate, Mr. Longbottom interjected, “Fine, we can set truth aside for now. Before that, I’d appreciate your cooperation for a more thorough examination. Are you willing?”
Although the tone held a hint of skepticism, Mr. Longbottom’s wand gestured towards the compartment in a manner that brooked no refusal.
The stranger displayed continued cooperation, stepping out of the compartment without hesitation.
“Spread your hands and stand aside,” Mr. Longbottom’s stern voice accompanied his warning.
Soon, both figures disappeared into the aisle.
Whether they exited the train or moved to another car was unclear.
“What just happened?” The three companions exchanged bewildered glances, the recent event leaving them stunned as if caught in a dream.
“This can’t be real!” Hermione’s voice trembled with disbelief. “What if that person claiming to be a new teacher is one of the Azkaban escapees?”
Her face had paled, and fear lingered in her eyes.
“Don’t jump to conclusions; it might be a misunderstanding. Let’s wait and see,” Matthew suggested calmly, hoping to dispel the mounting tension.
Neville craned his neck to peer down the aisle, searching for any sign of his father’s presence.
Outside, raindrops fell more heavily, and shadowy forms in the sky seemed poised for movement, though they kept their distance from the train.
Matthew hoped the examination wouldn’t consume too much time, but it proved otherwise.
The train remained stalled for almost an hour, testing their patience.
Finally, the Hogwarts Express resumed its journey, and its siren wailed.
Yet, the enigmatic wizard who’d claimed to be the new teacher never returned.
This unexpected turn left the compartment’s occupants uneasy.
The jovial atmosphere from earlier had vanished, replaced by silence and apprehension.
Neville looked anxious, Hermione uneasy, both struggling with their emotions.
The remainder of the journey passed without much conversation.
As darkness enveloped the landscape, the Hogwarts Express gradually slowed and came to a stop at Hogsmeade station, shrouded in obscurity.
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