Hermione and Neville, who were responsible for observing, immediately noticed Matthew’s peculiar behaviour and hurriedly approached him.
“What’s wrong, Matthew?” Neville asked with concern.
“Could it be that Professor Slughorn and Shafiq said something secretly?” Hermione inquired, her curiosity piqued.
“No, it’s not that…” Matthew quickly denied, “I just dropped the earpiece…”
Bending down, he picked up the tiny earpiece and placed it back into his ear.
However, amid the bar’s bustling noise, the voices of Professor Slughorn and Rosmerta remained audible. Neither of them had vanished.
It seemed Slughorn and Shafiq had left the Two Broomsticks.
But at that moment, Matthew’s mind was preoccupied with the words Shafiq had spoken before departing:
“He’s in Hogsmeade!”
Without a doubt, the “he” in that sentence referred to the individual who had been communicating with Shafiq about the contraband from Italy, a person whose name she had never disclosed.
Before her father’s imprisonment in Azkaban, Mr. Shafiq had been in contact with two people. One was Lucius Malfoy and the other—
It could only be the name that appeared on the Flourish and Blotts Bookstore ledger.
Whether it was “Tom Gaunt” or “Tom Riddle.”
Ever since school began, Matthew had scoured the library repeatedly for information related to both names.
However, the findings were disappointingly sparse.
To this day, all he knew about Tom Riddle was that he was a Slytherin student who entered Hogwarts in 1938, based on records from fifty years ago.
In 1943, he was awarded the Special Award of Merit for his significant contributions to Hogwarts.
The medal still remained on display in the trophy room.
Furthermore, 1945 marked the time Gellert Grindelwald had just arrived at Hogwarts.
Tom Riddle successfully graduated, earning an “Outstanding” grade.
But beyond that, the trail of Mr. Riddle went cold.
In records post-1945, Matthew couldn’t find any information regarding Mr. Riddle.
He couldn’t find any trace of him, not in any book or newspaper in the library…
As if Voldemort, loomed large in another world, had vanished after graduating from Hogwarts.
Perhaps something had happened to him, or maybe he had always concealed his identity…
But now… Matthew realized that he had reappeared in Hogsmeade!
Why had he returned to Hogsmeade?
Was it a mere coincidence?
Was he seeking information about the book?
The original “owner” of the book he had acquired over a year ago was likely “Tom Gaunt.”
The reason he had come back to Hogsmeade might have been to locate Matthew and retrieve the book from his possession…
“Matthew… Matthew… Matthew…”
A series of calls brought Matthew back to reality.
Neville and Hermione were by his side, both looking concerned and repeating his name softly.
“What’s the matter, Matthew? You’re so pale… Are you feeling unwell?” Hermione inquired, simultaneously placing a hand on Matthew’s forehead.
Matthew, roused from his thoughts, surveyed his surroundings.
There was no one around, just silence.
A decrepit shack appeared slightly taller than the neighbouring houses up the hillside.
Its windows were tightly shut, and weeds grew nearby.
“Where are we?” Matthew asked in a hushed voice.
“That’s the Shrieking Shack, the UK’s most haunted house according to legend,” Hermione explained.
“No one would usually come near this hillside due to that. You mentioned finding a quiet place, so I brought you here…”
“…Even Hogwarts ghosts avoid it,” Hermione continued after a brief pause. “I heard the Grey Lady used to haunt it, and there’s a rumor of a rough bloke…”
“Alright, I get it!” Matthew nodded, then seated himself on a nearby stone step, taking a deep breath.
After a moment’s hesitation, he glanced at Neville and Hermione, then decided to speak up. “It’s nothing… Professor Slughorn didn’t say anything significant… I’m just feeling a bit tired suddenly…”
“Should we take you to the school infirmary?” Neville quickly offered. “You don’t look too good right now, Matthew.”
“No, I’m fine, really…” Matthew shook his head. “You guys go ahead. Head back to Hogsmeade, to Honeydukes… I’ll rest here for a while and catch up with you later, or I’ll rest and return to Hogwarts.”
Matthew’s speech was slightly disjointed.
Hermione regarded him with a suspicious look and a hint of worry in her questioning gaze.
“You can’t be serious!” Neville protested immediately. “If you’re not well enough to walk, I’ll carry you down the hill…”
“Matthew,” Hermione crouched down beside him and asked gently, “Is something…”
“It’s nothing, I told you to go!” Matthew’s voice was tinged with frustration as he snapped, “Leave, both of you!”
“Matthew…” Neville’s concern remained evident.
However, after a moment’s thought, Hermione nodded in agreement.
She tugged at Neville’s sleeve, indicating they should leave together.
“Then we’ll head back to the village, Matthew. We’ll be waiting for you at Honeydukes.”
“Sure.” Matthew nodded weakly.
Neville and Hermione descended the hillside slowly, their figures eventually disappearing from Matthew’s view.
His pallor quickly turned into a mask of alertness.
He needed to leave Hogsmeade swiftly, as fast as possible…
Once he returned to Hogwarts, he would be safe.
With the fear of Professor Grindelwald’s reprisal, that “Tom Gaunt” might not dare to infiltrate the castle… Matthew deduced.
He stood up, glancing towards the top of the hillside.
Without hesitation, he sprinted towards the dilapidated, eerie “Shrieking Shack.”
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