Undoubtedly, the small wooden stick remained unchanged.

This wasn’t surprising, of course.

Matthew didn’t expect to master this technique so quickly.

Lifting his wand once more, he recalled what Professor Trocar had taught them in their first Transfiguration class over a year ago—

Visualize a needle’s blueprint in your mind, then imagine the process of turning a match into a needle; align your mental intent with reality…

This was what Professor Snape referred to as “personal reality”!

“Accus!” he called out again.

But once again, nothing happened.

Others were also practicing… but apart from Matthew, their attempts seemed rather half-hearted.

“Evans!” Professor Snape suddenly scowled, his anger evident in his voice.

Evans had momentarily lost focus, roused by Professor Snape’s irritation.

“Professor… I mean… sir,” he stammered.

“If you’re not interested in studying diligently, you might as well leave!” Professor Snape rebuked with a touch of disdain.

Evans lowered his head and fell silent.

In all fairness, this wasn’t equitable. In his heart, Matthew began to advocate for Evans…

He wasn’t the only one slacking off; Draco and Theodore had been pretending to practice while engrossed in discussions about the Holyhead Harpies’ match against the Tatehill Tornado…

However, Professor Snape appeared particularly irked by this, reprimanding Evans for about five minutes.

Though not harsh or cruel, his words carried a noticeable impact.

“Accus!” Matthew muttered, raising his wand again with a slight smirk.

Still, there was no response.

But they couldn’t linger here for too long.

Professor Snape swiftly ushered them to move once more, prompting Draco and Theodore to discontinue their Quidditch discourse.

After about five minutes, they ventured deeper into the forbidden forest.

Finally, they paused by a babbling stream.

The water flowed gently, its clarity allowing the pebbles at the bottom to be discerned.

Professor Snape bent down, selecting a translucent pebble from the shore.

This was to be their next challenge—

They commenced the task of transfiguring these variously shaped pebbles into standardized-sized tennis balls.

Frankly speaking, this endeavor appeared more arduous than transfiguring a small wooden stick into a needle!

The likelihood of success seemed increasingly remote.

With patience, Professor Snape provided them with finer points on Transfiguration…

Matthew listened attentively, sensing an oddity.

Perhaps it was a tinge of concern…

Nonetheless, he couldn’t shake off the feeling that these teachings alone didn’t warrant their excursion into the Forbidden Forest!

Dry branches and smooth pebbles hardly warranted such an elaborate exercise!

House-elves could easily procure these items, and they could have conducted their lessons within the castle.

This expedition to the Forbidden Forest felt, by all accounts, somewhat “excessive.”

Suppressing his inner perplexity, Matthew focused his attention as best he could, absorbing Professor Snape’s insights on Transfiguration.

Time seemed to fly by rapidly, at least in Matthew’s perspective.

Naturally, his companions might beg to differ, as they possibly found the elapsed time to be quite lengthy…

Almost unconsciously, noon had nearly arrived.

With a loud call, Professor Snape roused them from their pebble-engrossed state.

Reluctantly, Matthew averted his gaze from the pebbles.

Draco and the others were showing signs of impatience.

To them, the after-school practice wasn’t overly taxing, but facing dead branches and pebbles all morning felt excessively dull.

However, Evans wasn’t as “fortunate” as Draco and his ilk.

He had faced Professor Snape’s reprimands several times that morning…

The typically composed and amiable Professor Snape had suddenly displayed irascibility when dealing with him.

The rumors seemed accurate; Professor Snape was indeed singling out Evans for critique.

At this juncture, Professor Snape didn’t dismiss them, indicating that the practice wasn’t concluding.

Rather, he instructed them to gather for lunch.

The seven individuals seated on the ground, while Professor Snape rapped his suitcase with his wand.

A massive tablecloth appeared before them.

On the tablecloth, an array of food materialized one by one.

However, it was predominantly dry sustenance… including a packet of cold quail, a few boxes of biscuits, a pouch of dried beef, and a couple of bottles of pumpkin juice…

Observing Professor Snape’s thorough preparation, it was evident that he intended to keep the students within the forbidden forest for the entire day.

However, the spread wasn’t a grand lunch, particularly for a “spoiled” student like Draco.

He began nibbling on the cold quail with a mournful countenance, simultaneously expressing his dissatisfaction.

“Perhaps I should have arranged for some warm food.” Noticing the students’ tepid reaction to his meal, Professor Snape commented softly. “Since you’ll be here for a while, I’ll fetch some warm food from Professor Kettleburn’s cabin…”

“But, Professor,” Matthew furrowed his brow, placing down the dried beef in his hand, “we’re in the Forbidden Forest.”

“Fear not, Mr. Wickfield,” Professor Snape assured as he rose to his feet, “this is only the forest’s outskirts. I won’t be gone for long…”

With that, he turned and set off toward Professor Kettleburn’s cabin.

Professor Snape’s statement was accurate.

This area truly only marked the forest’s periphery.

Throughout the morning, they had remained close by and encountered neither peculiar nor menacing magical creatures.

However, Matthew’s brows knitted, a gnawing sense of unease descending upon him…

Perhaps the others hadn’t picked up on it…

Vincent and Gregory were devouring cold quail, while Evans was quietly munching on biscuits.

“Merlin, what’s that…” Theodore’s cry was tinged with bewilderment.

He recoiled somewhat, his expression awash with trepidation.

At the same time, a faint sound of large claws making contact with the ground reached them, indicating that something was drawing near.

Swiftly, Matthew looked in the direction that had captured Theodore’s attention—

A creature, as ethereal as a shadow!

It was an enormous black dog with gray eyes.

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Published On: November 1, 2023

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