As the Christmas holiday drew to a close, the new semester loomed ahead.
Hogwarts students had returned to the castle, ready to embrace the routines of their academic lives once more.
However, despite the seemingly “magnificent” horse riot, the impact on most students had been minimal.
Like the wizards outside the school, they had little to no direct involvement in the incident.
They had been mere spectators, shielded from the brutality of the Centaurs by a swift evacuation from Hogwarts as soon as the riot began.
Consequently, they hadn’t witnessed the devastation wrought by the Centaurs within the castle either.
The remnants of that chaos had been meticulously cleaned up by Mr. Pringle upon his return to the castle, leaving only faint traces for those like Matthew who were seeing them for the first time.
Their knowledge of the horse riots was limited to what they gleaned from the Daily Prophet’s daily headlines and the sight of damaged portraits and sculptures scattered across the campus and within the castle.
Gazing upon these defiled artworks, which had been their constant companions, and reading the sensationalized news in the Daily Prophet, many young students felt a deep sense of righteous indignation toward the Centaurs.
Extreme opinions, such as advocating for the Centaurs’s demise, were not uncommon.
However, despite this undercurrent of discontent, life at Hogwarts continued as usual.
Classes proceeded as scheduled, with no shortage of teachers or students.
Aside from the brief change in leadership during the Christmas holidays, it seemed as though nothing significant had occurred.
As for the whereabouts of the remaining Centaurs, Matthew was genuinely curious.
There had been no trace of them in the Forbidden Forest of Hogwarts or the surrounding Hogsmeade.
Given their centuries-old presence in the Forbidden Forest, longer than Hogwarts itself, it was clear that these creatures had met their end.
The evidence of their demise was visible in the burnt manes, shattered hooves, and crimson stains that marred the castle’s halls.
In contrast to modern wizards armed with magic, the Centaurs, despite their prophetic abilities, were vulnerable and lacked the means to confront the likes of Gellert Grindelwald.
It had undoubtedly been a one-sided massacre at Hogwarts.
Matthew believed that some of the more intelligent Centaurs had wisely refrained from marching into Hogwarts and facing certain death.
Rumors suggested that they might have migrated to the remote depths of the Scottish Highlands.
Attempts by Aurors to track them had proven fruitless, as the horses scattered, outnumbering their pursuers.
The British Isles were vast, and the number of wizards was limited.
The surviving Centaurs had dispersed across thousands of square kilometers of the Scottish Highlands, making it impossible for even a large number of Aurors to apprehend them.
Moreover, the remnants of the Order of the Phoenix might have been accompanying the Centaurs.
Under the superficial peace that had settled over Hogwarts, something sinister was undoubtedly brewing, a feeling Matthew couldn’t shake.
He knew he wasn’t alone in this perception.
On the last day of the Christmas holiday, Matthew had an encounter with Draco.
Rumor had it that Draco had been struck by a horseman’s arrow in the knee, but there was no trace of the injury now.
Treating such “skin wounds” with magic was a simple task, especially for someone from a skilled wizarding family like the Malfoys.
“Hey, Matthew!” Draco greeted him weakly.
“How was your Christmas?” Matthew inquired.
“Fairly ordinary,” Draco shrugged. “Except for spending a day and night in the Centaur’s cave, everything else was uneventful.”
Matthew couldn’t help but smile.
“I’m looking forward to this summer break. I think I’ll ask my father to take me to consult a few experienced old witches,” Draco sighed. “I’ve been rather unlucky since enrolling last September. I’ve had all sorts of injuries. Sometimes I wonder if I’m possessed by something malevolent.”
Matthew blinked and offered a few casual words of agreement as they chatted about their Christmases.
“By the way, Matthew,” Draco suddenly lowered his voice, looking serious. “My father initially didn’t plan to send me back.”
“Didn’t plan to send you back?” Matthew asked, growing cautious.
“Yes,” Draco nodded. “He told me that something significant is going to happen at Hogwarts this year, and many pure-blood wizarding families feel it’s too risky to send their children back to school.”
Matthew furrowed his brow. Even during the tumultuous times of Morgana the Black Witch’s reign last year, no parents had contemplated keeping their children away from Hogwarts.
“So, why did you come back?” Matthew inquired.
“Because Principal Grindelwald didn’t allow it,” Draco sighed. “My father received a notice, as did some of his friends. No student is allowed to drop out during the school year or transfer to Durmstrang or Beauxbatons. Such actions are now strictly forbidden, and severe penalties will be imposed…”
Matthew was taken aback, lost in thought.
“So… my father advised me to be as cautious as possible for the remainder of the school year,” Draco concluded gravely. “If I don’t want to risk my life.”
The next day, the school year began anew.
The students braved the biting cold as they made their way to the greenhouse.
Fortunately, the interior offered respite from the chill. However, the occasional whiff of peculiar plants added an unusual scent to the air.
Their task for the day was one that should have been completed the previous semester: transplanting the Flor flowers from the greenhouse to the garden outside.
Due to an unexpected snowstorm at the end of the previous semester, this assignment had been postponed.
But the Flor flowers couldn’t remain in the greenhouse indefinitely. Professor Sprout had initiated the task with them now.
They donned Dragon leather coats and thick masks, digging up the nearly identical Flor flowers from their pots, sealing them carefully in bags to prevent any pollen from escaping.
These bags needed to be transported to the garden.
However, they soon encountered an issue.
The garden, unlike the greenhouse, had been exposed to the frigid weather, causing the soil to freeze.
The small shovels they had been provided with were ill-suited for the task and quickly broke under the strain. Theodore Knott nearly shattered his.
Matthew devised a solution. He produced his wand and aimed it at the frozen soil.
The soil gradually softened under the influence of the fire.
However, it cooled quickly the soil to reach a workable consistency before planting his Flor flowers.
By the time he had finished, many of his fellow students were still struggling with their shovels.
The long herbal medicine lesson finally concluded, leaving them exhausted.
However, Slytherin students had no time to rest, as their first class of the new semester was “Severus Snape’s” Transfiguration class, scheduled to begin just ten minutes later.
They mustered what energy they had left and gathered in front of the classroom.
A notice was posted on the closed door, and a few students who approached it wore expressions of excitement.
“Professor Snape hasn’t returned to school for some reason…” Draco and his friends celebrated. “The Transfiguration class is postponed—fantastic!”
This was undoubtedly good news, and even Matthew took a moment to catch his breath and rest.
But the absence of “Severus Snape” raised questions in Matthew’s mind.
Could it be related to their previous encounter at St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Injuries? He pondered this as he stood among his classmates, lost in thought.
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