Leaving Professor Slughorn’s office, an eerie quiet engulfed the room.
The remnants of the banquet had led to an inevitable disarray among the two round tables.
Nonetheless, Professor Slughorn showed no hurry in tidying up his space.
In fact, his expression abruptly shifted from the earlier amalgamation of smiles and unease to something altogether different.
Seated with a chilling composure, the air surrounding Professor Slughorn grew heavy, somber, and a deep, labored breath seemed to fill the atmosphere.
He pondered momentarily, then produced a piece of parchment and dipped his quill into an inkwell.
Bent over, he started recording meticulously on the parchment.
Throughout the office, the sole sound was the quill rustling across the paper.
After nearly a quarter of an hour, Professor Slughorn finally set down the quill and exhaled a heavy sigh.
Carefully enclosing the parchment in an envelope, he sealed it shut.
Next, he fumbled in his pocket for a while before extracting an odd-looking “lighter.”
The nozzle of the lighter twisted and curved like a small, uncoiling serpent.
Its surface bore an engraving of a sinuous snake pattern.
With a slight twist, Professor Slughorn ignited a pale green flame that flickered before him.
The eerie green flames held a certain inexplicable quality.
Unhesitatingly, Professor Slughorn extended the envelope and its contents toward the flame.
As the bright flame danced, the entire “letter” rapidly consumed, leaving nothing behind—not even a trace of ash.
A smile finally graced the corner of Professor Slughorn’s lips.
He stretched luxuriously, reclining in the armchair with a newfound ease, engaging in his usual “enjoyment of life.”
Meanwhile, as Matthew traversed the corridors from Professor Slughorn’s office back to the Slytherin common room, the office became cloaked in silence.
The hour grew late, and the night sky was engulfed in darkness.
The pale blue moon outside the window glimmered, suspended like a jewel against the black expanse.
Outside the scope of moonlight, the subterranean hallways of Hogwarts were draped in shadows.
The wall torches offered feeble illumination, preventing the darkness from becoming too overwhelming.
Matthew strolled, his countenance reflecting a sense of seriousness.
His thoughts continued to mull over the conversation he’d shared with Professor Slughorn a few minutes earlier.
“Is it truly possible for a powerful soul to be attached to someone?” he pondered aloud.
As he neared a corner, the sound of hurried footsteps echoed from the other side.
Accompanying the footsteps was an unusual noise, resembling a hoarse voice appealing for assistance.
A flicker of alarm crossed Matthew’s face.
He took a few steps backward, simultaneously drawing his wand and training it on the corner ahead.
Within seconds, a contorted face emerged from the corner.
In the torchlight’s glow, the face appeared abnormally red, its features distorted.
The man staggered as if barely able to maintain his balance, struggling to advance from the corner’s confines.
“Dawlish!” A familiar voice followed, sounding from behind the man.
It was Mr. Longbottom who followed not far behind.
Matthew finally recognized the individual behind the distorted visage.
Similar to Mr. Longbottom, the man was an Auror stationed at Hogwarts.
The Aurors often patrolled the school grounds and were a common sight at meals in the Great Hall.
Dawlish wavered and collapsed into Mr. Longbottom’s support, emitting a faint snore.
“Dawlish has taken quite a liking to alcohol lately, often overindulging,” Mr. Longbottom explained as he assisted the man.
“I see,” Matthew nodded, understanding. “It’s no issue.”
“I recall you, Matthew Wickfield, correct?” Mr. Longbottom scrutinized Matthew, recognizing him as Neville’s close friend. “You’re a good friend of Neville’s.”
“Yes,” Matthew affirmed. “Neville is my closest friend.”
“Head back now,” Mr. Longbottom gestured to the corridor behind him. “It’s getting late, and they’ll extinguish the torches soon.”
Matthew continued on his way past the two Aurors.
He’d taken just a few steps when he heard footsteps and the curious noise resume from behind.
A strange sensation gnawed at him.
It wasn’t until he found himself once again within the warmth of the Slytherin common room, the crackling fire providing comfort, that Matthew released a relieved breath.
Tonight had been a series of unexpected occurrences.
Heading directly to his dormitory, Matthew opened the door only to find it unoccupied.
Draco, who was injured, was the sole presence in the room.
The others were all absent as well, their whereabouts unknown.
This was unusual… Given the lateness of the hour, most students would be settling in for the night, and it was almost time for the torches to be extinguished.
Matthew frowned, a faint sense of unease creeping over him.
However, his focus needed to be on confirming one specific matter.
Seated in his armchair, he contemplated for a moment before carefully opening the drawer.
The old, enigmatic book lay within the drawer, still resting in silence.
Matthew withdrew it and opened its pages, the paper feeling slightly warm to the touch.
Turning to a blank page, he picked up a quill and dipped it in ink.
He penned a query on the page:
“Is it you?”
The ink seemed to shimmer brightly for a brief moment before vanishing into the page as though absorbed.
Subsequently, the ink seeped from the paper, forming uneven green letters:
Matthew’s brow furrowed.
He wrote again:
“Why did you compel me to attack Draco Malfoy?”
Almost immediately, the book offered its response:
“Because he deserved it!”
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