Matthew always felt that he wasn’t fully prepared for what was happening.Matthew always felt that he wasn’t fully prepared for what was happening.

Everything had occurred suddenly and unexpectedly.

Two years ago, when he learned that this world was Grindelwald’s domain of victory, he harbored a certain level of caution.

But as he gradually delved into the wizarding world, he began to believe that it wasn’t as dreadful as he had initially thought.

However, just as his caution waned, the situation took a sharp turn.

Grindelwald had revealed his terrifying power overnight, unleashing unforeseen chaos.

The past few months had seen numerous major events and earth-shattering changes.

Matthew could only confirm that this world was spinning into a frightening vortex of uncertainty.

What was even more terrifying was that he appeared to be inexorably drawn into this horrifying whirlpool.

Before the battered wooden signboard, he paused.

The Hog’s Head Bar, a place most upstanding wizards in Hogsmeade would dismiss, yet frequented by people from all walks of life.

Aberforth Dumbledore was undoubtedly adept at concealing himself.

He had seamlessly integrated into this place, while simultaneously cutting off ties with the outside world.

So well had he hidden himself that neither Voldemort nor Grindelwald had noticed that their greatest adversary, Albus Dumbledore’s younger brother, had been residing so close to Hogwarts, eluding them for over fifty years.

To be honest, Matthew felt a profound gratitude towards Aberforth, also known as Mr. Percival.

When he had nearly fallen into the clutches of “Tom Gaunt,” there was no doubt that Aberforth had saved his life.

Of course, certain conditions had to be met, but he had indeed saved him.

However, the Order of the Phoenix had disintegrated, and Grindelwald’s forces had seized complete control.

Even if Aberforth were to rejoin the fight alongside Albus, it was doubtful whether they could reverse the tide.

There seemed to be no chance of a comeback, unless a miracle occurred.

In all honesty, the most rational course of action for him would be to follow Professor Slughorn’s other loathsome request – to destroy the piece of soul in that book and avoid contact with the bartender at the Hog’s Head.

In essence, to act as though nothing had transpired and to pledge allegiance to Grindelwald.

But choosing that path felt excessively cruel, given the multitude of events that had unfolded.

After all, he, like even the most unfeeling Slytherin, had been touched by these experiences.

Moreover, could it genuinely be as though nothing had happened?

Every action left its mark, especially when your adversary was a formidable wizard like Grindelwald.

His perception extended farther than most could imagine. Matthew had witnessed his fearsome power first hand when he confronted the ancient dark witch Morgana.

Professor Slughorn had hidden well before his demise, but traces would inevitably remain.

Even if they were minuscule, Grindelwald would eventually become aware…

Grindelwald was a ruthless individual.

Anyone who dared obstruct his plans would likely be “eliminated” by him, even someone as young as Elaine Shafiq.

He would not hesitate to throw her into Azkaban.

Matthew doubted that even after two years of life, he would escape Grindelwald’s grasp.

Especially when he had unwittingly become so deeply embroiled in this web of intrigue.

Therefore, for Matthew, it seemed there was no choice.

He had already been inexorably drawn into this terrifying whirlpool.

Under the colossal waves, feigning death on the deck would not suffice.

However, upon arriving in Hogsmeade and taking up residence at Honeyduke, Matthew decided not to hastily contact “Mr. Percival” as a precaution.

Aberforth and his Hog’s Head Bar remained undiscovered.

Matthew was almost certain Grindelwald would not idly tolerate Dumbledore’s brother lurking in such proximity to his domain, especially given Aberforth’s status as a former high-ranking member of the Order of the Phoenix.

Nonetheless, caution was paramount at this juncture.

In this world, Grindelwald’s agents were everywhere.

Matthew believed that Hogsmeade, as the largest wizarding village, was not exempt from their presence.

Hence, he had developed the habit of taking nightly walks.

He would jog back and forth along Hogsmeade’s central avenue for nearly an hour.

After sweating profusely, just before the Tree Broomsticks Bar closed, he would hurry over and order a butterbeer from Madam Rosmerta.

Following that delightful beverage, he would return to Honeyduke to eat, bathe, and sleep.

This routine had been consistently maintained for over a week.

Wizards who frequently ventured out in Hogsmeade during the evening had grown familiar with this young wizard, who was employed temporarily at Honeyduke and engaged in peculiar “exercise” routines each night.

And so, on this night –

Matthew did not halt his pace but continued to trot along Central Avenue.

Along the way, he encountered Mr. Devis, the magical equipment repairman.

He maintained a discreet shop in Hogsmeade. Then he ran into Madam Puddifoot who operated a small, snug, and somewhat kitschy teahouse primarily frequented by lovers.

Afterward, he encountered the Sindice family, who resided in the southernmost part of Hogsmeade.

Smiling appreciatively, Matthew thanked them as he ran.

But this time, he arrived at the Three Broomsticks a little later than usual.

Panting heavily, he observed that the Rosmertas had just locked the pub’s door.

“I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Wickfield,” Madam Rosmerta gestured apologetically to Matthew, regretfully explaining, “We waited for you an extra five minutes, but since you hadn’t arrived by then, we assumed you wouldn’t be coming tonight, so we closed up.”

“It’s alright… madam,” Matthew’s expression carried a hint of disappointment.

“You could try the Hog’s Head Bar over there; they also serve butterbeer and stay open later than we do,” Madam Rosmerta kindly suggested, adding with a grin, “Provided you can tolerate the peculiar temperament of the bartender.”

“Alright, I’ll go take a look,” Matthew nodded, his energy seemingly drained.

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Published On: December 6, 2023

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