“Elaine Shafiq, a new member of the Slug Club?” Matthew furrowed his brow in disbelief.

Although the moniker “Slug Club” might sound somewhat unflattering, the club’s entry requirements were quite high.

Not just anyone could become a member.

At this time last year, among the first-year students, the only individuals who received Slughorn’s invitation were Draco Malfoy and Neville Longbottom, two young boys hailing from prestigious families.

To join the Slug Club, one typically had to be a scion of a well-known and successful lineage or have a family with influential connections in the magical world.

It could also be a student with remarkable talents.

For first-year students, the latter criterion wasn’t exactly a reliable route.

Even though Matthew didn’t have any extensive interactions with Miss Shafiq, a student who could easily forget the password to the common room wouldn’t be one. He’d classify as exceptionally talented.

That Professor Slughorn would choose Elaine Shafiq as a member at the start of the school year seemed ludicrous.

As for the prior criterion, it might have been valid two months ago.

After all, Mr. Shafiq, who managed Flourish & Blotts Bookstore, could have been considered successful back then.

But now, he was residing in Azkaban, dining on prison fare due to his alleged involvement in a “smuggling” incident.

No matter how Matthew tried to fathom it, he couldn’t quite grasp why Professor Slughorn would extend his favor to Shafiq.


Matthew eyed the Potions Professor and Slytherin house head suspiciously.

Once again, applause echoed, although it was noticeably less robust this time.

After all, the name Hermione Granger was well-known around Hogwarts, while Elaine Shafiq was an unfamiliar first-year student.

Behind Professor Slughorn, Shafiq cast a timid glance at the assembly before her.

“Feel free to find a seat at that table, Miss Shafiq,” Slughorn’s enthusiasm remained undeterred.

Shafiq’s gaze swept across the room and soon alighted on a familiar face.

“Mr. Wickfield!”

She hurried over and sat on the other side of Matthew, facing Neville and Hermione.

“Matthew, are you acquainted with Miss Shafiq?” Hermione regarded the two of them suspiciously.

“Not very much, but we’ve crossed paths at school,” Matthew replied.

Then, he turned to Shafiq. “Congratulations, Miss Shafiq.”

“Thank you… Actually… I didn’t expect…” Elaine’s words came out in a jumble. “Miss Farley told me that our dean is quite selective… Yet, out of the blue, he extended an invitation to me yesterday afternoon. He mentioned that my father was his praiseworthy student at school…”

It was clear that Miss Shafiq was quite exhilarated, her disbelief palpable as she tried to process the unfolding events.

Matthew swiftly engaged her in conversation.

The two soon found themselves engaged in a lively exchange.

Matthew wasn’t naïve.

He understood the value of establishing a rapport with Miss Shafiq while the opportunity presented itself, a rarity in a lifetime.

Dinner commenced shortly after that.

Elaborate golden plates materialized before each guest, yet they remained empty, accompanied only by a small menu.

Shafiq received instructions from Miss Farley on using the menu to order dishes, a procedure Neville had taught Matthew nearly a year prior.

On the other hand, Hermione appeared displeased, her joy from joining the Slug Club visibly dampening.

“Well, it’s all thanks to my father,” Hermione muttered disdainfully, glancing at Shafiq.

“I, too… relied on my parents to secure this spot in the club,” Neville admitted, somewhat embarrassed.

“Apologies, Neville, I didn’t mean you,” Hermione retorted, casting another glance at Matthew.

Observing the smile on Matthew’s face, she seemed increasingly irritable.

In the end, the dinner didn’t live up to the anticipated enjoyment.

While the fare surpassed the auditorium’s offerings in terms of quality, Professor Slughorn’s focus remained centered on the senior students’ table.

Nonetheless, he made several appearances at the junior table, mainly to raise a toast with the new members, Hermione and Shafiq.

His enthusiasm was palpable.

Hermione imbibed half a glass of mead, and her cheeks took on a rosy hue.

At that moment, Matthew tapped her on the shoulder. “Hermione! Hermione!”

“What is it?” Her response carried a touch of hostility.

Matthew seemed to recall something and addressed her earnestly. “By the way, Hermione, has anything been unusual with your pet, Crookshanks, lately?”

Under the influence of alcohol, Hermione’s irritation intensified.

Not even half an hour into the banquet, Matthew was finally initiating a conversation with her about her cat, of all things?

“No, and it’s none of your concern!” she snapped.

Unfortunately, due to the boisterous atmosphere of the banquet, Matthew was somewhat distracted and failed to catch the emotion in her voice.

“I encountered a cat resembling Crookshanks on the second-floor landing before I arrived at Professor Slughorn’s office. Thought it best to alert you…” Matthew continued, his tone serious. “It might be a good idea to keep an eye on it.”

“I can handle my pets just fine, Mr. Wickfield!” Hermione responded frostily. “You needn’t trouble yourself.”

“Understood,” Matthew nodded.

He then turned his attention back to Elaine Shafiq. “Miss Shafiq,” he said kindly, “you might want to try the lamb chop; it’s quite delicious.”

Hermione raised her goblet and emptied it swiftly, her irritation plain for all to see.

Beside her, Neville stared wide-eyed, taking in the astonishing scene.

The dinner stretched on for nearly two hours.

With appetites satisfied, the guests began to depart.

Hermione, in particular, wasted no time in making her exit. Eager to leave the gathering behind.

Just as Matthew prepared to leave for the Slytherin common room with Shafiq.

“Matthew, hold on a moment!” Professor Slughorn’s voice rang out, halting him in his tracks.

“What’s the matter, Professor?” Matthew raised an eyebrow in puzzlement.

“There’s something I’d like to discuss with you,” Professor Slughorn stated, his tone holding a measure of gravity.

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Published On: October 9, 2023

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