The Christmas holiday was approaching day by day, and the entire Hogwarts was filled with enthusiasm and anticipation for the festivities.
Christmas not only marked the beginning of the holidays and carefree days, but it also promised a sumptuous Christmas feast and a variety of interesting gifts.
However, for Matthew and the second-year Slytherin students, there was one more thing to do before the Christmas break – the final “after-school practice” of the semester.
Unfortunately, this practice was being led by Professor Kettleburn, which was not great news.
It meant they had to venture into the Forbidden Forest for their last lesson of the semester.
In the midst of the cold winter, they would have much preferred to spend their time by the cozy castle’s firesides rather than braving the frigid outdoors.
On the last Saturday before the Christmas holiday, most students considered their semester effectively over.
Many had already left Hogwarts to celebrate Christmas at home, leaving the school feeling emptier than usual.
A thick silence, akin to the snow-covered grounds, enveloped the entire castle.
Early Saturday morning, the five second-year Slytherin boys left their common room fully bundled up.
They wore thick, padded jackets, gloves, scarves, bearskin caps, and rubber boots.
These preparations were necessary because once they stepped outside, they found themselves in a winter wonderland.
Under the silvery light, the world was blanketed in white, and a biting cold wind swept across the landscape.
No matter how many layers they wore, the cold still crept in, making Matthew shiver.
But Professor Kettleburn, had specific requirements. They pressed on through the snow.
The journey from the castle to the Forbidden Forest, just a few hundred yards, took nearly twenty minutes to traverse.
Every step had to be taken through thick snow, leaving them bruised and chilled to the bone.
Finally, they reached Professor Kettleburn’s cabin, which looked as if it could be buried in snow at any moment.
Matthew knocked on the door, and soon, the teacher opened it, revealing his aged face as he limped into view.
“You’re punctual, kid,” Professor Kettleburn exclaimed, “Come in!”
Inside the cabin, a roaring fire greeted them, bringing some much-needed warmth to this harsh winter.
The single-room cabin had various meats hanging from the ceiling, a large kettle boiling in the fireplace, and the aroma of cooked food in the air.
Professor Kettleburn had been busy and finally prepared a cup of steaming tea for each of them to help ward off the cold.
“What would you like us to do, Professor?” Draco asked, eager to get started and enjoy the two-week Christmas break.
“Don’t fret, kid,” Professor Kettleburn replied, unhurried. “I suppose you haven’t had breakfast yet?”
Considering the early hour and the fact that the Hogwarts Great Hall hadn’t opened for breakfast, this was indeed the case.
They spent about half an hour in Professor Kettleburn’s cabin, enjoying some “rock cake” and hot tea.
Gradually, their bodies, which had been almost frozen, began to regain warmth.
During this time, Professor Kettleburn also prepared himself.
He donned his three prosthetic limbs, a thick moleskin coat, a helmet-style wool cap, and, of course, his wand at his waist.
“Alright, kids!” Professor Kettleburn declared, “I think you’ve warmed up enough. Let’s head to the Forbidden Forest!”
“Are we really going into the Forbidden Forest…” Theodore whispered anxiously, gazing at the vast white expanse in the distance. “We might freeze to death out there…”
“Don’t be afraid, boy,” Professor Kettleburn responded nonchalantly, appearing untroubled by the weather. “The temperature in the Forbidden Forest is much higher than it is out here. It’s not that cold. Besides, you’re with me…”
“But, Professor, have you forgotten…” Vincent interjected, looking somewhat naive, “There are dangerous creatures in the Forbidden Forest, like that monstrous dog that appeared once…”
“Are you questioning me, young man?” Professor Kettleburn appeared slightly irritated. “I know the Forbidden Forest almost as well as I know my own wife. As long as you follow me, you won’t encounter any danger!”
The students quickly closed their mouths, no longer raising objections.
Professor Kettleburn’s words seemed to lift their dampened spirits somewhat.
With that, they followed Professor Kettleburn and embarked on their journey.
Six individuals, bundled up tightly, left the cabin and headed towards the Forbidden Forest.
Their steps left a trail of footprints in the snow that stretched into the distance.
Among the five Slytherin students, Matthew was the only one who had experienced Professor Kettleburn’s after-school practice before.
Last year, when Professor Kettleburn had led them on a similar excursion, the other four were confined to the hospital wing.
Consequently, Matthew was the most familiar with this somewhat unconventional professor.
“Professor Kettleburn,” Matthew, walking at the front, inquired softly, “what exactly will we be doing during today’s after-school practice?”
“It has to do with the Hippogriffs,” Professor Kettleburn replied, his voice carrying a hint of difficulty due to the cold wind. “They’ve been rather agitated lately, and I plan to venture deep into the Forbidden Forest to find evidence of their deliberate departure from their habitat. I’ll then report it to Headmistress Rosier. We must
ensure that the creatures living in the Forbidden Forest settle down…”
“Hippogriffs…agitated,” Matthew mused, his brow furrowing.
For some reason, thoughts of recent events at Hogwarts filled him with a sense of foreboding.
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