The ward at St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Injuries buzzed with festive cheer.
Holly adorned the doorway, and a magnificent Christmas tree, covered in glistening white snow and magic, illuminated every corner of the room with its twinkling gold stars.
Matthew had been here for a week, although strictly speaking, he wasn’t severely injured, just a bit drained.
In normal circumstances, a visit to the school hospital under the care of Madam Pomfrey would suffice, but due to the “incident” at Hogwarts, he had to be sent to St. Mungo’s for a more thorough diagnosis by the green-robed therapists.
“We must conduct comprehensive and systematic testing,” said the blond therapist overseeing Matthew’s treatment. “To avoid any issues, I recommend you stay here for observation for one or two weeks, as Professor Rosier suggested.”
So, it appeared that he’d be spending Christmas here.
All things considered, given the tumultuous state of Hogwarts, he was, in a way, already “homeless.”
Where else could he spend Christmas? He mused on the irony of enjoying “public medical care” while feeling guilty about wasting resources.
Matthew strolled through the corridor, lined with portraits of renowned therapists and crystal bubbles with candles suspended from the ceiling, resembling gigantic soap bubbles.
Alongside, therapists in their standard green robes bustled in and out of doors.
He couldn’t help but notice a row of witches and wizards seated on rickety wooden chairs.
The rooms weren’t much quieter than the corridor, as many patients made strange and unsettling noises.
Matthew couldn’t help but think that while it might seem fun initially, such a life would become tedious and frustrating if endured for an extended period.
As he walked, he reached a staircase with a grotesque portrait of a healer hanging on the wall. Climbing the stairs, he was met with calls from the therapists within the frames.
“Her resentful spirits!” one therapist shouted, brandishing six frames and pushing the others aside.
Intrigued, Matthew asked, “What’s that?”
“A female ghost full of resentment, entangled with you,” the eerie healer explained mysteriously. “Only the liver of a toad attached to the throat can expel her when she’s naked, standing in a bucket of eels.”
Matthew was about to inquire further when a friendly therapist, adorned with a garland of gold and silver, intervened.
She shooed away the therapists in the portraits, assuring Matthew that they were nothing more than restless spirits.
She then asked, “Where would you like to go, dear?”
“I’d like to go to the roof for some fresh air,” Matthew replied.
“Come with me; I’ll take you there,” the kind therapist said, leading him through more double doors and up a flight of stairs.
“Is there anything else I can assist you with, dear?” she inquired.
“No, ma’am,” Matthew responded.
On the rooftop, he finally savored the scent of fresh air. The hospital environment had grown stifling.
Although the rooftop was chilly, he could endure it for a while.
Pulling a folded “Daily Prophet” from his pocket, Matthew began perusing it in the winter sun.
The news of the horse rebellion was unsurprisingly present, given the scale of evacuations at Hogwarts.
However, the details of the “fall” of Hogwarts remained vague in the newspaper.
While Matthew enjoyed the fresh air, he pondered the events at Hogwarts.
The rebellion, while significant, seemed implausible as the sole cause for the school’s fall.
Hogwarts boasted experienced teachers, formidable protective magic, and even support from the Ministry of Magic.
Additionally, it was fortified as a fortress, with countless secret passages and defenses.
This led Matthew to question whether there was a deeper conspiracy.
What role did Grindelwald play in the Centaur rebellion? Why did the Order of the Phoenix incite the uprising?
The Order had been in contact with the Centaurs for over a year, and Professor Kettleburn had even mentioned their connection.
However, the chaotic and seemingly pointless nature of the rebellion did not align with the Order’s usual strategic approach.
Deep in thought, Matthew’s clarity grew as the chilly wind blew.
Yet, with limited information, he couldn’t discern the truth.
As he retraced his steps back into the hospital, the therapists in the portrait wall once again accosted him, diagnosing him with strange ailments and offering peculiar remedies.
Ignoring their antics, he proceeded to his ward.
Nearby, he spotted a familiar figure from behind. “Professor Snape?” Matthew exclaimed.
Turning around, the thin-faced and slightly pale man confirmed his identity.
They exchanged a few words before discussing Hogwarts. “How is the situation at Hogwarts now, Professor?” Matthew inquired.
Professor Snape replied with reassurance, mentioning that Hogwarts was still in the hands of the Centaurs but that Draco and the others had been released.
“Draco was also sent to St. Mungo?” Matthew asked.
“No, he was not injured, so he went home to rest,” Snape clarified before hastily leaving.
Shortly after, Matthew’s ward therapist reappeared, signaling the end of visiting hours.
The therapist returned, and her presence ended his musings.
It seemed she had more work to do, and Matthew was relieved. “Thank you very much for your concern, Professor Slughorn,” he said sincerely.
Then, the therapist informed him that someone had come to visit. Intrigued, he wondered if it was Hermione or Neville, but to his surprise, a portly old man, Professor Slughorn, rushed in.
Overjoyed, Slughorn presented him with an array of delicious treats, clearly trying to make Matthew’s stay at St. Mungo’s more comfortable.
Their conversation touched on Hogwarts, and Matthew learned that the entire campus was occupied by the horsemen, and the return date remained uncertain.
However, Slughorn mentioned that Draco and others had been released, which slightly differed from what Snape had conveyed.
As the visiting hours ended and the therapist returned, Matthew began to ponder the strange behavior of his professors and the enigmatic situation at Hogwarts.
A few minutes later, back in his hospital bed, Matthew contemplated Professor Snape’s peculiar behavior and conflicting reports about Hogwarts.
Nevertheless, he had too little information to discern the truth.
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