The final class on Friday afternoon was still the Herbology class.

As Professor Sprout announced the end of the class, the second-year students from Slytherin and Hufflepuff let out a collective sigh of relief.

They ceased their repetitive task of potting plants with dragon dung as fertilizer and exited the greenhouse.

This marked the conclusion of the week-long courses and the beginning of a short two-day break.

In a frenzy of mud, Draco and his posse rushed back to the castle, their bodies covered in dirt.

Their anxious expressions hinted at some mysterious plans they were concocting.

Meanwhile, Matthew strolled back to the common room at a leisurely pace.

After a quick shower, he made his way to the library.

Since the weekend had begun, the library was relatively empty.

Despite that, familiar faces could still be spotted, such as Hermione, who was diligently working on a paper while lying on a table.

Greeting a few acquaintances, Matthew discreetly slipped behind a bookshelf.

The darkness outside the window had utterly enveloped the sky by the time Matthew looked up from his book.

The library was now devoid of people, and was a suitable time to turn off the lights.

He returned the book to its place and hurried back to the Slytherin common room.

The journey went smoothly, except for a sudden bitter chill that pierced Matthew’s heart as he passed through the castle gate.

The sensation gripped him, infiltrating his skin, penetrating his chest, and settling within his heart.

Quickening his pace, he glared at the gate, his heart racing.

It seemed the Dementors had begun their nocturnal wanderings around the campus, he thought.

However, upon reaching the entrance of the Slytherin common room, another “interesting” incident unfolded.

A young girl, seemingly much younger than the usual students, donned a Slytherin robe.

She sat huddled on the floor by the entrance, her head tilted.

Upon hearing Matthew’s footsteps, she sprang up with a relieved expression.

“What’s going on?” Matthew asked, intrigued by the unexpected sight.

For a moment, he sensed a hint of familiarity about the young girl before him.

“Thank goodness someone’s finally back,” she said with a hint of tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry, I can’t remember the password, and I can’t get in to sleep… Usually, I return with my friends, but this time I’ve been waiting outside for almost half an hour.”

Matthew found this situation rather peculiar—it was the first time he had encountered it.

Though it could be attributed to his earlier-than-usual return.

“The password is ‘Pure Blood,’” Matthew informed her. “Keep an eye on the bulletin board; it’s usually posted there and only changes every two weeks.”

As Matthew uttered the password, the enormous snake on the stone gate began to shift, and the gate creaked open.

“Thank you,” the girl said gratefully. “I’ll make sure to write down the password on a slip of paper and bring it with me from now on…”

Matthew paused for a moment, contemplating his next words. Finally, he said, “Actually, I wouldn’t recommend doing that.”

“Why?” The girl looked puzzled.

“If you carry a note with the password and lose it,” Matthew explained, “the password to the Slytherin common room will become public knowledge. Remember, it’s against the rules to bring students from other houses into our common room and share our password. Our common room hasn’t been accessible to outsiders for 700 years.”

“Additionally, if the password fell into the hands of criminals, it could have serious consequences,” he cautioned.

“Right, I understand,” she nodded quickly. “By the way, sir, what’s your name?”

“Matthew Wickfield,” he replied simply.

“Thank you again, Mr. Wickfield,” she said, waving politely.

“I’m Elaine Shafiq,” she introduced herself before hurrying towards the girls’ dormitory.

Matthew suddenly paused, realization dawning on him.

He now understood why the girl had seemed familiar.

She bore a striking resemblance to Mr. Shafiq, the manager of Flourish & Blotts Bookstore.

While pondering this, Matthew returned to his bedroom.

The following morning, Matthew “coincidentally” encountered Shafiq once more.

She stood by the castle gate, gazing into the distance in a state of contemplation.

Matthew observed his surroundings and noticed several dark figures drifting in the distance.

“Miss Shafiq!” he whispered to get her attention.

Startled, she looked relieved upon seeing Matthew. “Hello, Mr. Wickfield.”

“What’s the matter?” Matthew inquired, feigning deep concern. “You appear quite troubled.”

“I saw a Dementor as I passed by here,” the young girl’s voice held a hint of desolation, “and it reminded me of my dad. He’s probably with the Dementor right now…”

“Your father?” Matthew queried in a composed tone.

Suddenly, he exclaimed excitedly, “Could your father be Mr. Shafiq, the manager of Flourish & Blotts Bookstore?”

“Yes,” Elaine Shafiq replied, her head bowed in embarrassment.

“I’m sorry,” Matthew offered softly.

The girl hesitated before saying uncertainly, “My dad… I believe he’s innocent…”

“Hmm,” Matthew nodded thoughtfully.

“Do you believe in his innocence, Mr. Wickfield?” Shafiq looked elated and hopeful. “All his friends are sure of it; the evidence is solid.”

“It’s possible that someone is framing him,” Matthew commented thoughtfully. “I’ve been to Flourish & Blotts Bookstore and have interacted with your dad. He doesn’t strike me as a bad person.”

“Yeah,” the young girl nodded earnestly, “someone with malicious intent must be accusing him.”

“Then, Miss Shafiq,” Matthew spoke with genuine concern, “if someone is indeed trying to frame him, it might be someone who knows him quite well. Who does your father usually interact with? Perhaps reaching out to those contacts could help clear his name.”

Elaine’s expression turned embarrassed, and she stammered, “Um… I can’t quite recall.”

“That’s okay. Take your time,” Matthew reassured her, patting her shoulder.

“Alright,” the young girl replied, her demeanor a mix of innocence and determination.

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Published On: October 4, 2023

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