Matthew and Neville, under Hermione’s lead, ascended the hillside.
The weather was favorable, with a gentle breeze rustling the slope’s weeds.
In stark contrast to Hogsmeade’s bustling streets, the hillside appeared desolate, devoid of visible individuals.
This solitude was advantageous for Matthew, ensuring that no one would inadvertently interrupt his eavesdropping on Professor Slughorn’s conversation.
For Neville and Hermione, who stood guard at the front, it provided a window for Matthew to concentrate on his task.
Matthew gently placed the soft little ear Hermione had provided against his ear.
The sound of “tons, tons, tons” emanated from within—the unmistakable sound of Professor Slughorn enjoying his favorite mead.
“Excellent, Rosmerta!” Professor Slughorn exclaimed with excitement. “Today’s mead seems to taste even better than before.”
Following closely, Mr. Rosmerta’s voice said, “Indeed, Horace. This is Cherovina mead imported from Slovakia. It’s never been opened, and you’re the first to savor it…”
“Indeed, indeed,” Professor Slughorn replied with a smile, “I’ll have to take a few bottles back to my office and savor them slowly…”
“Speaking of which, you’ve always been quite astute, Rosmerta. Your business acumen has remained impressive since your student days…”
As he listened, Matthew couldn’t help but frown.
Mr. Rosmerta, the owner of the Three Broomsticks, seemed to be conversing casually with Professor Slughorn, reminiscing and chatting about the past.
This led Matthew to assume that Miss Shafiq had already left the bar.
On the other end of the conversation…
“This young lady is a first-year student; I haven’t seen her before. She appears rather peculiar,” Rosmerta remarked suddenly.
“Yes,” Professor Slughorn introduced, “Miss Shafiq is only eleven years old this year.”
“Quite remarkable to be appreciated by Professor Slughorn at such a young age,” Rosmerta praised. “Miss Shafiq, you surely have a promising future… Come, try the mead—it’s excellent!”
Shafiq’s faint voice responded.
“How’s business, Rosmerta?” Professor Slughorn inquired comfortably.
It seemed that Mr. Rosmerta had indeed passed on the bar business to his wife as he was seen conversing with Professor Slughorn.
At this point, Matthew was fervently hoping for Mr. Rosmerta’s departure, at least before Professor Slughorn completed his mead.
“Nothing worth mentioning,” Mr. Rosmerta sighed, a tinge of indescribable loneliness creeping into his tone.
“Did you know that the Dementors have conducted three searches of my bar in the past month? Many loyal customers were frightened away by those creatures…”
“It’s adversely affecting business, quite terribly… Today’s influx of Hogwarts students allowed into Hogsmeade seems to boost business a bit.”
Though the Dementors that guarded the main pathways leading to the campus were kept at bay by Grindelwald’s “influence,” preventing them from entering Hogwarts Castle, they still struggled to find a stable dwelling.
Eager to feed on the happiness of both wizards and Muggles alike, they were particularly drawn to places like the bustling Three Broomsticks.
“A peculiar time…hiccup,” Professor Slughorn belched slightly embarrassedly.
“Honestly, I don’t care for those fellows. They’re a constant reminder of unpleasant things…”
“…Longbottom informed me that they’re particularly disgruntled with Grindelwald… since the Headmaster bars them from entering the castle…”
“I’m pouring you a glass,” Rosmerta interjected, “Although be aware that this mead is quite potent.”
“It’s fine; I can hold my liquor… While I typically restrict myself to one glass daily, this mead is exceptional!” Professor Slughorn’s speech was interspersed with hiccups. He sounded slightly inebriated.
The sound of water being poured followed.
“Dementors… they’re here to protect everyone from far graver threats… We all know that something extraordinary occurred at Azkaban…” Professor Slughorn continued.
“I truly can’t fathom it,” Mr. Rosmerta continued, sighing. “The escape of three convicts from Azkaban is unheard of… But it doesn’t concern Hogwarts and Hogsmeade in the same way.”
“Those fugitives, no matter how audacious, wouldn’t dare break into Hogwarts with Headmaster Grindelwald and Headmistress Rosier guarding it.”
Matthew eagerly strained to hear more; this was the very question that had been plaguing his mind.
“Because you don’t understand… you don’t understand…” Professor Slughorn’s voice grew hazier, more distant.
“Rosmerta, do you recall the events fifteen years ago?”
Fifteen years ago?
Matthew calculated; that would be 1977, three years prior to Harry Potter’s birth.
In the original book timeline, it was Severus Snape’s and other classmates’ seventh year at Hogwarts.
“Fifteen years ago, such a distant memory; I’m afraid I’ve long forgotten it,” Mr. Rosmerta seemed to shake his head.
“No, you wouldn’t forget… Those Gryffindor students…” Professor Slughorn suddenly lowered his voice:
“James Potter… Sirius Black… and Peter Pettigrew…”
Fortunately, Neville had adroitly positioned the button behind Professor Slughorn’s chair, enabling Matthew to barely hear Professor Slughorn’s words.
Upon hearing this, Mr. Rosmerta’s memory was jogged. “James Potter and Sirius Black; they often came here for butterbeer… It’s quite amusing, still fresh in my mind. Those two young lads never failed to amuse, as if they were putting on a comedy act…”
“…And their close friend, Peter Pettigrew… the pudgy little lad who frequently trailed after them like a loyal hanger-on.”
“Also, James’ rival, Severus Snape, even had a brawl in my bar once. Their group left a lasting impression, I recall!” Mr. Rosmerta’s voice tinged with nostalgia.
Subsequently, his tone shifted to one of mild disappointment. “However, I never saw them again… they must have graduated… They never returned to visit…”
“No,” Professor Slughorn murmured, “They didn’t graduate… The official story was that they were expelled from Hogwarts due to their involvement in extreme magic experimentation…”
“…In truth, they began with a terrible deed and were subsequently forced to flee Hogwarts…” Professor Slughorn’s voice grew more somber:
“James, Sirius, and Peter were on the run for several years, only to be apprehended by Aurors later on…”
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