So, the reason behind Professor Slughorn’s fervor must be his own self-invitation to tonight’s event—

Just because some of his former students were attending?

This explanation left Matthew perplexed. It seemed an unrealistic answer, too hard to believe.

From every angle, this banquet appeared odd and out of place.

Nonetheless, despite his reservations, he had no choice but to bear with it and take his seat.

With the addition of these accomplished wizards, the atmosphere in the Slug Club gathering had become even more vibrant.

People were no longer confined to their tables as before; they flocked around the new arrivals—

Hermione rushed to find Ms. Wendy Slinkhard, apparently armed with countless questions for the author of “Theory of Defensive Magic”…

Neville and a few Quidditch enthusiasts huddled near Gwenog Jones, the captain of the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch team, starry-eyed in admiration…

Regulus Black, the handsome young man, was surrounded by a group of girls, their curiosity and excitement evident…

Based on the current circumstances, Regulus Black in this world didn’t appear to be aligned with Voldemort.

Yet, Matthew couldn’t help but wonder if he had come to Hogwarts this year along with his brother Sirius Black.

Just as he contemplated his next move, a laid-back young man approached and took a seat next to him.

It was Dirk Creswell, the promising Ministry of Magic official.

Matthew recognized the name from somewhere in his memory, possibly as someone who had led a life on the run after Voldemort’s rise to power in the original timeline.

It would suggest that Mr. Creswell might be a Muggle-born wizard.

This shared background gave him a certain degree of satisfaction.

“Hello, Mr. Creswell!” Matthew greeted him enthusiastically.

“I recall your name, Wick…” Mr. Creswell looked at Matthew and remarked.

“Wickfield, sir!” Matthew corrected promptly.

“Yes, Wickfield, that’s right…” Mr. Creswell nodded, “Professor Slughorn mentioned this name… He seems to hold you in high regard…”

“Yes, he did regard me highly, but it’s doubtful that his value of me aligns with my values,” Matthew thought wryly.

“Working at the Fairy Liaison Office, you must interact with Fairies regularly. Is that true?” Matthew inquired, putting on an intrigued expression.

“Yes,” Mr. Creswell affirmed. “Though the fairies at Gringotts aren’t the easiest to handle. They retain magical ability but lack wands… They maintain they’re on par with wizards, though we don’t share that view… This sentiment has persisted since the various goblin uprisings…”

Mr. Creswell continued, “Fairies can be greedy, shrewd, and conceited. Dealing with them can be tricky; they’re masters of deception if you’re not careful… To be honest, it’s not the most comfortable job…”

“I see,” Matthew said, the pieces falling into place.

They continued to chat amiably.

A few minutes later, Matthew asked casually, “By the way, Mr. Creswell, are you familiar with our Transfiguration Professor, Professor Snape…”

Given Matthew’s hypothesis, there shouldn’t be much of an age gap between Mr. Creswell and the real Snape.

“You mean Severus? Of course, he’s a year older than me…” Mr. Creswell answered nonchalantly. “He was in Gryffindor while I was in Hufflepuff…”

Gryffindor… Matthew couldn’t help but frown.

“…I haven’t really seen him much since leaving Hogwarts. Wait, did you say he’s teaching at Hogwarts now, handling Transfiguration? Unbelievable, I had no idea about that…” Mr. Creswell appeared somewhat surprised.

The two continued their conversation for a few more minutes.

At that moment, Matthew spotted Shafiq approaching.

Having intentionally kept his distance from Professor Slughorn, he felt the need to maintain a degree of separation from Miss Shafiq as well.

Slughorn was shrouded in mystery, and Shafiq, though seemingly innocent, might be inadvertently used against him.

Ever since “Tom Gaunt” had been exposed, she appeared to have no more need for their conversations.

With a hasty goodbye to Mr. Creswell, Matthew swiftly made his exit.

“Neville!” He approached Neville.

Miss Gwenog Jones, the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch team captain, stood tall with dark skin.

She spoke animatedly about her experience representing the Welsh team as a Beater at the Quidditch World Cup two years ago, eliciting cheers from the boys around her.

“Neville… Neville…” Matthew finally managed to divert Neville’s attention.

“What’s up, Matthew?” Neville inquired eagerly.

“I suddenly have a stomachache. If Professor Slughorn asks, just tell him I went to the bathroom,” Matthew explained calmly.

“Got it.” Neville responded quickly, then shifted his gaze back to Miss Gwenog Jones.

It seemed trying to get Neville and Hermione to leave the dinner early was quite unrealistic.

But as for himself, he was ready to slip away…

Pretending to pour more mead, Matthew made his way to the Potions office door.

Once he was sure Professor Slughorn and the familiar faces weren’t looking—

Without hesitation, he opened the office door and stepped outside, quickly leaving the room.

The corridor was chilly, but it was also a breath of fresh air.

He’d decided that if anyone asked, he would simply say he needed to use the bathroom.

The “early leave” plan proceeded smoothly.

It appeared that no one had noticed, and no one was chasing him.

From the teachers to the students in Professor Slughorn’s office, it seemed none had realized one of them was missing.

Walking alone through the Hogwarts corridor, he felt a wave of relief

wash over him.

Suddenly, he heard the sound of high heels clacking on the floor up ahead—

The familiar sound of footsteps altered Matthew’s expression slightly.

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Published On: November 8, 2023

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