The students gathered by the statue in front of the Headmistress’s office were promptly directed back to the Great Hall by Mr. Pringle.
Inside the Great Hall, Mr. Pringle conveyed Professor Rosier’s orders for all students to assemble there.
Matthew didn’t have to “wait” for long.
Soon, senior students from various houses began to stream in.
The Great Hall swiftly filled, everyone’s face etched with confusion.
The entire student body was now present.
“Headmistress Rosier, professors, and Aurors are conducting a thorough search of the entire castle,” Mr. Pringle informed the assembly. “For your safety, no one is to leave the Great Hall until the search is complete… Prefects, please guard the entrance to the Great Hall. In case of any unusual situations, send a ghost to deliver the message.”
“Bark!” Mr. Donald loud bark echoed through the room, as if in response.
Mr. Pringle and Mr. Donald left the Great Hall in a hurry, apparently joining the search effort.
As Mr. Pringle departed, the hall erupted into chaos.
Noises, one after another, filled the air.
The chairpersons of the Boys’ and Girls’ Student Unions, along with several prefects, attempted to maintain order, but their efforts seemed somewhat futile.
The room buzzed with eager discussion.
Someone had broken into Hogwarts and attempted to breach the Headmistress’s office.
They had even damaged the statue in front of her office—no small matter.
The students were abuzz, and those who had been near the Headmistress’s office began recounting their experiences.
“It must’ve been extremely powerful dark magic!” someone asserted.
“That griffin-headed statue in front of Principal Grindelwald’s office… It’s said to have a history spanning centuries. Several principals have used magic on it to safeguard the office’s sanctity. The statue’s appearance was probably due to this…”
“It’s likely a powerful dark wizard!” another speculated.
“It must be the three Azkaban escapees. Remember, they’ve been on the loose for months,” yet another chimed in. “There’s hardly anyone more sinister than them in Britain.”
In the Great Hall, discussions continued fervently—
Simultaneously, a sense of unease began to permeate the room.
Every young wizard, be it Muggle-born or pure-blood, was well aware of Azkaban’s notoriety.
The three escaped convicts had become a prevalent topic since their successful breakout.
Yet, when mere talk turned into the realization that the “notoriously malicious” criminals were in their midst, fear began to grip the students.
Worries about personal safety started to take precedence over speculation.
At Slytherin’s long table, the second-year students engaged in their own discussion.
Almost unanimously, they agreed that the individuals who had tried to infiltrate the Headmistress’s office were likely connected to the Azkaban escapees.
After all, considering the heightened vigilance due to the presence of Aurors and Dementors around Hogwarts for over a month, anyone with common sense could deduce something was amiss.
Normal wizards wouldn’t attempt to infiltrate Hogwarts, let alone breach the Headmistress’s office.
The castle’s extensive magical defenses were far too formidable.
“You think those escapees might still be within Hogwarts?” Theodore inquired nervously.
“At least that’s what Professor Rosier believes,” Draco replied.
Around them, several first-year students exchanged the same topic: “How did they manage to break into Hogwarts?”
“Maybe they flew in on broomsticks,” Draco conjectured.
“It could’ve been through Apparate, or perhaps the Floo Network,” Nott suggested.
“Maybe they snuck in while disguised,” Crabbe contributed, his chubby chin supported by his hand.
Clearly, their speculations were all off the mark.
Hogwarts was rigorously safeguarded, boasting an array of protective enchantments.
Apparate and Disapparate were strictly forbidden, and access to the Floo Network and Portkeys was tightly controlled.
Furthermore, Dementors loyal to the Ministry patrolled the entrance and outer airspace, making ordinary means of infiltration impossible.
However, if one were to take Professor Slughorn’s words as truth—that the Azkaban escapees were James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew…
Matthew could easily piece together how they might have entered the castle.
These three were familiar with the secrets of Hogwarts and were all Animagi.
Through this form of Transfiguration, they could effectively deceive Dementors.
By transforming themselves into animals, they could simplify their consciousness to evade detection.
The Dementors could only affect the consciousness of witches and wizards, not animals.
However, after Slughorn’s assertions, Matthew couldn’t wholeheartedly believe them.
Now, he fervently hoped that Slughorn’s words held truth…
For if only James, Sirius, and Peter were within Hogwarts, there’d be little cause for worry.
Members of the Order of the Phoenix would have their sights set on Gellert Grindelwald; their struggle wouldn’t impact the safety of ordinary Hogwarts students.
Every hour, a teacher appeared in the Great Hall to ensure everyone’s safety.
It wasn’t until ten o’clock in the evening that restlessness grew.
Many students began to doze off at their tables…
Finally, Professor Rosier, the Headmistress, stepped before the assembly once more.
“The castle is secure, everything’s back to normal,” she informed them. “You may now return to your common rooms and rest.”
With the prospect of leaving the Great Hall at last, a collective sigh of relief swept through the students.
Matthew glanced up at the enchanted ceiling, where countless stars twinkled, mimicking the night sky.
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