Matthew paused, his brow furrowing with skepticism.
He had noticed that Professor Slughorn was studying him with an odd expression.
A strange prickling sensation crawled up Matthew’s scalp, and the office’s atmosphere took on an unusual tension.
As the dinner concluded, the remaining Slug Club members made their exits individually.
Among them, only Neville turned to cast a lingering glance at Matthew before departing.
In no time, Matthew and Professor Slughorn were the sole occupants of the office.
“What’s the matter, Professor?” Matthew inquired hesitantly.
Professor Slughorn didn’t respond immediately.
Instead, he leisurely withdrew a cigar from his pocket, lit it, and brought it to his lips with slow deliberation.
Taking a prolonged draw, he exhaled smoke rings into the air.
Matthew waited patiently, uncertainty gnawing at him.
“It seems you’ve developed a rather close bond with Miss Shafiq,” Professor Slughorn mused casually.
“Yes,” Matthew agreed calmly. “She’s a first-year student below me. I’ve taken it upon myself to help her acclimate to Hogwarts and share some information. It’s the right thing to do.”
“Indeed, certainly,” Professor Slughorn concurred, his voice hearty. “You’ve acted commendably, Matthew!”
Matthew couldn’t help but feel surprised at the dean’s “enthusiastic” reaction.
“In a way, I have a bit of a selfish plea,” Professor Slughorn continued, his tone growing somber.
“Please, Professor, feel free to share,” Matthew responded enthusiastically, suppressing his inner confusion.
“Miss Shafik’s father was my most esteemed student during his time at Hogwarts, much like how I hold you in high regard now, Matthew.” Professor Slughorn began to explain, his tone taking on a sluggish cadence.
“Professor, please elaborate,” Matthew encouraged, maintaining his air of “enthusiasm” and concealing his confusion.
“Her father recently faced an unfortunate incident, which must have been quite a blow to poor Miss Shafik,” Professor Slughorn elaborated. “Given that she’s a first-year student, she likely finds herself grappling with the unfamiliarities of Hogwarts. I was hoping you could lend her your support…”
“That’s not a problem at all, Professor Slughorn,” Matthew affirmed, his words laden with agreement.
“Excellent, Matthew,” Professor Slughorn responded, crossing his hands over his chest.
“This is my duty as a fellow student, Professor,” Matthew concluded, inclining his head respectfully.
The situation appeared to be less complex than he had initially thought.
Matthew took several steps toward the exit as the faculty and students exchanged farewells.
Yet, he soon turned back.
“On another note, Professor Slughorn, I have a question I’d like to seek your counsel on,” Matthew declared calmly, locking eyes with the potions teacher.
“What’s the query? I’m all ears,” Professor Slughorn acknowledged, gesturing to a nearby rocking chair. He lowered himself onto it, his countenance serious.
“I came across a mention of it in a book over the summer,” Matthew began unhurriedly. “The book described a form of magic that can rapidly incite overwhelming emotions in a wizard, rendering them unable to control themselves—causing their body to act independently of their mind.”
“It even enables them to cast advanced spells that they would otherwise be incapable of using.”
“Furthermore, their consciousness remains sharp throughout this period, fully aware of their actions,” Matthew continued. “Professor, I’m curious about this particular magic. Could you perhaps shed some light on its nature?”
“That sounds remarkably like the Imperius Curse, one of the Unforgivable Curses and a form of Dark magic banned by the Ministry of Magic,” Professor Slughorn mused.
“Although, hold on… A clear consciousness, combined with the ability to employ more potent spells… Merlin’s beard, even the Imperius Curse, couldn’t achieve such an effect…”
Horace Professor Slughorn appeared taken aback.
He tilted his head, his posture reminiscent of someone afflicted with the Petrification Charm rooted in place…
This state persisted for almost a minute.
Matthew began to ponder if Professor Slughorn was grappling with some sort of mental ailment.
“Professor?” Matthew prompted gently.
“By Merlin’s beard!” The potions teacher jerked as if shaken awake, his features reflecting an edge of fear.
“Matthew, my boy… where did you come across this kind of magic?” he asked hurriedly.
“In Flourish & Blotts Bookstore during the summer,” Matthew answered softly.
“Shush!” Professor Slughorn interjected, placing a finger against his lips, cautioning Matthew to say no more.
“If your description holds true, then this is some truly alarming magic…” Professor Slughorn remarked gravely, his voice slightly trembling.
“It falls within the realm of the most potent forms of dark magic on the obscure side…”
“…If a wizard experiences this, it can only mean that their body has been invaded by another soul!”
“Another soul?” Matthew’s voice wavered, mirroring Professor Slughorn’s own.
“Yes, another soul, akin to a ghost but distinct…” Professor Slughorn explained hand pressed to his chest. “Normally, only exceedingly powerful wizards can perform certain forms of dark magic to wholly extract a soul from a body. If another wizard possessed that soul, they could gradually influence their mind and even manipulate their actions…”
In that moment, a connection formed in Matthew’s mind, linking Quirinus Quirrell and Voldemort from the first book.
Matthew shivered involuntarily as the image of Voldemort’s hideous, malevolent visage suddenly flashed before his head.
Professor Slughorn’s hand landed on Matthew’s shoulder, offering a reassuring pat. “Don’t be frightened. Matters of the obscure side tend to remain distant from us. It’s advisable to steer clear of books related to such subjects; they can only lead to further entanglement.”
“Indeed,” Matthew managed a slightly strained smile, nodding. “Thank you, Professor Slughorn. I’ll take my leave now.”
“Take care on your way,” Professor Slughorn said warmly, waving farewell.
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