Fifteen minutes later, Matthew arrived promptly at the potions teacher’s office as per the schedule.

Considering Professor Slughorn’s repeated invitations and enthusiastic requests, and the fact that the man was the Head of his house, Matthew felt obliged to comply.

Ignoring his reservations might inadvertently come off as disrespectful.

With these thoughts in mind, he had eventually made the decision to attend.

“Ah, Matthew, my dear boy!” The door swung open, and Professor Slughorn greeted him with exuberance. “I’ve been waiting for you, come in, come in!”

Professor Slughorn’s enthusiastic handshake tugged Matthew into the office. Tl

The grip was almost desperate, as if he feared Matthew might flee.

“Apologies, Professor…” Matthew hastily interjected, “There were certain circumstances that prevented me from attending previously… I was feeling a bit under the weather…”

“Of course, of course, I understand, my lad…” Professor Slughorn interrupted Matthew’s explanation with a knowing smile and a nod. “Step inside quickly… Many people are eager to meet you!”

Matthew felt somewhat puzzled. Who could be waiting for him?

His confusion started to clear as he took in the scene within the office.

Apart from the familiar faces, a few new ones stood out—

Adult wizards in their thirties and forties, perhaps all former Slug Club members from years past.

“Matthew, I’d like you to meet Dirk Creswell. He’s presently with the Fairy Liaison Office of the The Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. You’d do well to forge a connection with him; he can provide valuable insight into Gring’s inner workings.”

Dirk Creswell, a relaxed man in his early thirties, greeted Matthew with a courteous smile, reciprocated with a quick greeting.

“And there’s Mr. Ambrosius Flume from Honeydukes. You should be acquainted with him, at least with his candy.”

Mr. Ambrosius Flume, older than Dirk, was a portly, bald man.

Matthew had crossed paths with him when using the secret passage in Honeydukes’ basement.

“Wendy Slinkhard, author of the ‘Theory of Magical Defense’…”

“Regulus Black, a rather dashing young man…”

“Gwenog Jones, Holyhead Hobby Quidditch’s captain…”

Undoubtedly, these were all former pupils of Professor Slughorn.

Professor Slughorn took the time to introduce Matthew to each of them.

However, save for Creswell, the others seemed uninterested in Matthew.

A knock interrupted the introductions.

Professor Slughorn excused himself to greet the new arrivals, offering Matthew an opportunity to escape.

Spotting a familiar head of long brown hair in the midst of the gathering, Matthew approached.

“Could you lend me some light?” he said, giving Hermione a slight nudge.

“Sure, let’s catch up!” she responded while squeezing back into the corner.

“Good evening, Hermione.”

Hermione seemed visibly excited. “Have you met Wendy Slinkhard? The author of ‘Theory of Defense’… I can’t believe I have a chance to talk to her!”

“Calm down,” Matthew cautioned, guiding her away from the crowd.

“Hermione, I’ve mentioned before, it might be wise to skip Professor Slughorn’s gatherings,” he advised sternly. “They could be risky.”

Agnes Lestrange’s earlier warning had merit.

Professor Slughorn’s behavior had been peculiar, suggesting he might pose a danger, particularly to Muggle-born wizards like them.

He had warned Hermione about this earlier, but it seemed she wasn’t heeding his advice.

“But…” Hermione began to argue softly, “This might be our only opportunity to interact closely with experts like Wendy Slinkhard. I have so many questions for him.”

She added, “And besides, you’re here too…”

Matthew realized he couldn’t dissuade her.

In truth, he couldn’t explain why Professor Slughorn had developed such an intense interest in him.

“I still think caution is in order,” he pressed, though it was an uphill battle.

“I understand,” Hermione replied, appreciative. “Thank you, Matthew.”

“Matthew, Hermione!” Neville arrival interrupted their conversation.

He had arrived a bit later.

“Fantastic, I’m joining you at Professor Slughorn’s dinner again!” Neville beamed. “By the way, why weren’t you at the previous dinners? I felt quite alone then.”

“Apologies, I was occupied,” Matthew quickly fabricated an excuse.

The three of them found a quiet corner to settle into.

Professor Slughorn’s dinner soon commenced, accompanied by several new faces and extra chairs around the round table.

The adult wizards and former Slug Club members in attendance, being accomplished figures in the wizarding world, were highly sought after.

Each was surrounded by eager students vying for their attention.

The meal, as always, was sumptuous and delectable.

“Let’s raise a toast to welcome our distinguished guests!” Professor Slughorn stood up, raising a cup of mead. “To our guests!”

“To our guests!”

The students raised their glasses in unison, Matthew included.

Tonight’s drink seemed to be the imported foreign mead from the Three Broomsticks, distinctly more palatable than previous offerings.

“Before we proceed, a gentle reminder as you depart this office: Keep our conversations discreet,” Professor Slughorn added. “Headmistress Rosier isn’t fond of outsiders being invited into Hogwarts…”

“Thus, I implore you all to maintain our confidentiality!”

“In addition, engaging with successful wizards can be beneficial for young minds, facilitating future successes… So, fret not about speaking freely or feeling constrained…”

Professor Slughorn concluded his brief speech.

A round of applause erupted within the office.

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Published On: November 6, 2023

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