Within just two days, two extraordinary events jolted Hogwarts.
The vandalized statue outside the principal’s office and the sudden appearance of the enigmatic dog in the Forbidden Forest.
By the following morning, enhanced security measures were visible everywhere.
Professor Flitwick began to post warnings at the castle gate, instructing students to promptly report suspicious individuals.
Mr. Pringle was kept busy blocking every conceivable gap in the corridors.
Aurors patrolled Hogwarts Castle around the clock.
The underlying reason behind these actions was a missing boy.
Though not Slytherin students, they were all affected to varying degrees.
Draco merely lost his way in the Forbidden Forest, emerging quickly due to his limited penetration.
Likely only minutes after Matthew’s departure from Professor Kettleburn’s cabin.
Vincent and Gregory encountered a thicket of wild devil snares, nearly strangling them to death had Professor Snape not intervened.
Theodore managed to escape to the forest’s depths and enter the territory of the Centaurs.
Despite the strained relationship between Centaurs and wizards, the latter posed no harm to the former’s horses.
The Centaurs, wary of Grindelwald’s influence, opted to expel Knott from their domain rather than cause a commotion on campus.
As for Evans, he remained the missing link.
Despite exhaustive searches involving a hundred dementors, a dozen Aurors, and several teachers, he remained elusive.
The enigmatic dog too managed to evade detection.
The vast expanse of the Hogwarts Forbidden Forest and its treacherous depths made approach difficult for inexperienced Aurors and Professors.
Should the three Azkaban escapees choose the forest’s heart as their hideout, it would indeed be a wise decision.
The method by which the fugitives survived within the forest was an intriguing puzzle…
Matthew and his companions remained unaffected.
Aside from Vincent and Gregory’s brief stay at the school hospital, the other three Slytherin sophomores emerged unscathed.
They had become Hogwarts’ “celebrities,” frequently questioned about the mysterious dog.
During Sunday breakfast at Slytherin’s long table—
Miss Gemma exclaimed, “Could it be an omen? You know, the worst omens… Those creatures of death…”
Lestrange retorted, “There’s nothing mysterious about it! Those creatures are merely the stuff of wizarding imagination… Maybe it’s just a stray dog wandering the Forbidden Forest…”
“How could a stray dog survive there?” Miss Gemma shook her head. “The Forbidden Forest is teeming with fearsome creatures, like werewolves… Poor Mr. Evans. If he didn’t vanish due to the unknown, he likely met a gruesome end at the hands of those monsters… We might have lost him forever…”
As Miss Gemma concluded, news spread throughout the hall—
Evans had returned, unconscious, found beneath an English oak.
Although unharmed, he was taken to the school hospital.
Miss Gemma face reddened, and she promptly left.
Lestrange sported a triumphant smile.
It appeared all seven students who ventured into the Forbidden Forest were accounted for.
Professor Snape had attracted the ire of Professor Rosier and been sternly reprimanded.
Likely for his perceived negligence in safeguarding the students.
Well into the afternoon, the discussions persisted as Matthew joined the Dueling Club.
However, only Professor Flitwick, guided the session this time.
Professor Flitwick explained that most Dueling Club members were now acquainted with the Disarming Charm.
As a result, he introduced a new spell for the day—
The Shield Charm!
This spell conjured a magical shield capable of deflecting and dispersing objects or spells, protecting both the caster and a certain radius around them.
Known as “Protego,” it was frequently employed in wizarding combat, serving as an effective form of self-defense.
During practice, a minor incident occurred.
Both Draco and Theodore declined to partner with Matthew, still haunted by their first Dueling Club experience.
Over a month had passed, and while their relationship with Matthew had gradually “mended,” reverberations from the initial practice still lingered.
Instead, a third-year Gryffindor named Alia Spinnet paired with Matthew.
“By the way, how is Evans?” Matthew inquired while honing the spell.
“I’m not sure,” Miss Spinnett responded. “He seems to be in the hospital, and we’re planning to visit him tonight… We’re hoping Madam Pomfrey allows it—”
“If Evans recovers, could you let us know? We’re genuinely concerned.”
“No problem. Ready… On guard!”
The Dueling Club practice spanned hours.
Learning the Shield Charm wasn’t as smooth as mastering the Disarming Charm, unsurprising given its greater complexity.
As Matthew stored his wand, ready to return to Slytherin’s common room, Draco approached.
“Matthew!” he whispered. “Professor Slughorn reminded me to tell you not to forget tonight’s Slug Club dinner…”
Professor Slughorn’s persistence was notable… The invitation had become quite insistent!
Matthew frowned, then nodded.
“Fine, I’ll attend,” he replied.
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