Professor Kettleburn seemed almost unbelievable.
With his two leg prostheses, he galloped swiftly across the snow, leaving even the Centaurs far behind. It was like watching a cyborg in action.
Additionally, his prosthetic arm, wielding a magic wand, moved at an incredible speed.
The spell he cast to block a massive oak tree that could have easily held three or four people was executed effortlessly.
This elderly professor, normally reserved, was suddenly showcasing his immense power in the face of these Centaurs.
“Run!” Professor Kettleburn shouted at Matthew and the others, waving with his one remaining hand.
The magic wand in his prosthetic arm continued to fend off the Centaurs attempting to rush forward.
It was a wizard from a mere district pitted against dozens, or perhaps even hundreds of Centaurs.
Matthew and his companions didn’t dare to look back as they fled lifelessly towards the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest.
Fortunately, the footprints on the ground gradually became more defined, ensuring they wouldn’t get lost.
In the distance, the sounds of roars, horses hissing, and howls grew fainter, a glimmer of hope in their desperate escape.
Only Professor Kettleburn’s voice lingered in their ears, faintly heard, urging them, “Quickly inform Professor Rosier of all this!”
Heavy rubber boots trudging through the snow, every step almost exhausting their strength. It was a long and arduous escape.
The five second-year Slytherin students had different paces: Matthew leading the way, followed by Draco, then Theodore, and finally Vincent and Gregory.
The two heavier students struggled to keep up and were clearly out of breath.
As they ran, the edge of the Forbidden Forest drew closer and closer.
“They are getting closer!” Draco suddenly cried out, his voice feeble but filled with dread.
Indeed, the sound of horseshoes crunching through the snow echoed from behind them.
Perhaps Professor Kettleburn had been overcome by the Centaurs or their sheer numbers proved insurmountable.
Even with the assistance of his three prostheses, stopping them would be impossible in a short time.
The students were cornered.
“Don’t use magic!” Matthew warned his companions loudly once again. “Don’t provoke them!”
With another deep breath, Matthew summoned all the strength he had left and continued following the path of their footprints.
The scene ahead seemed more and more familiar. They were close to the edge of the Forbidden Forest.
Maybe if they held on for just two or three more minutes, they would reach Professor Kettleburn’s cabin.
Once there, they might be safe… maybe.
Matthew, however, couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling in his heart.
He knew too well that these Centaurs wouldn’t let them escape easily.
As the sound of horseshoes drew near, Matthew suddenly sensed impending danger.
He reached for his wand, trembling hands clutching it tightly.
“Swish…wish…wish…” A series of sharp sounds emerged from behind them.
“Protego!” Matthew exclaimed without thinking, casting a protective shield around himself.
“Bang…bang…” The sounds of impact echoed, indicating that something had hit the shield.
Arrows, the Centaurs’s arrows.
However, Theodore and Draco were not as fortunate.
Draco’s wand had fallen deep into the Forbidden Forest, and Theodore, in his current state of terror, wouldn’t dare to retrieve it.
The arrows struck their targets accurately, although they did not aim for vital areas.
Draco and Theodore fell in pools of blood, injured but not fatally.
The Centaurs ceased their pursuit for a moment, seizing Draco and Theodore and taking them away.
As for the remaining three, they continued to chase their final target.
Matthew successfully escaped the Forbidden Forest, but he did so at a steep cost.
Four of his companions were either lost or captured by the Centaurs.
Matthew realized that he hadn’t fled towards the castle at all because he understood that he didn’t have the strength left to gallop the hundred yards needed.
Instead, he headed for Professor Kettleburn’s cabin.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw another Centaur once again aiming at him with a bow and arrow.
“Protego!” Matthew shouted again, but this time his voice was weak. The next attack might be fatal one.
Fortunately, Professor Kettleburn’s cabin was within reach. Without hesitation, he darted inside.
“Swish,” an arrow struck the door frame.
Judging by the approaching footsteps, the number of Centaurs exiting the Forbidden Forest had increased, at least seven or eight, maybe even more.
The nearest Centaur, chasing him relentlessly, reached the cabin door and attempted to break in.
Inside, Matthew found what he was looking for on Professor Kettleburn’s round table—an exquisite, antique teapot.
Almost a year ago, before venturing into the Forbidden Forest for the first time, Professor Kettleburn had taught Matthew how to use this device.
Now was the time to use it.
Without hesitation, Matthew hurled the entire teapot towards the cabin door.
Fortunately, Professor Kettleburn had cleared the area of snow.
There was a clear sound as the teapot shattered upon impact, and something akin to a snake suddenly emerged, growing rapidly.
Its body extended nearly 15 feet, resembling a snake but with feathers, wings, and two legs. It was a bird-snake creature, aggressive when provoked.
A battle ensued as it fought against the surrounding Centaurs.
Although the distant Centaurs drew their crossbows and fired arrows, these projectiles seemed ineffective against the creature.
“Saved…” Matthew finally exhaled, but he didn’t place all his hopes on the bird-snake.
His true intention for entering Professor Kettleburn’s cabin had been something else.
After a brief rest, he rushed to the still-burning fireplace.
Then, he reached into a flower pot on the side, scooping out a handful of shiny green powder.
“Headmistress Vinda Rosier’s Office!” Matthew tossed the powder into the fireplace’s flames and spoke clearly.
He stepped into the flames and disappeared.
In St Mungo Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, he regained consciousness after an unknown period.
“Matthew…Matthew…” A voice whispered his name, and he saw Hermione’s face, her bright brown eyes gazing down at him.
“Neville, come here…Matthew’s awake!” Hermione exclaimed.
Matthew blinked and saw Neville. He realized he was in a hospital bed, covered in white linen sheets, with medicine bottles on the bedside table.
“What day is it now?” he asked, then noticed the medicines and bottles. “What happened at Hogwarts? Where are we?”
Hermione explained, “It’s Sunday noon. We’re in St Mungo’s now. Professor Rosier evacuated all of us due to the Centaur rebellion. As for Hogwarts, it’s fallen. Occupied by Centaurs and Dark Wizards.”
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