Matthew Wickfield arose from his bed at a quarter past four on Saturday morning.
He donned a long-sleeved wizard robe and slipped on his dragon leather gloves before exiting the Slytherin common room.
The Hogwarts corridors were devoid of any individuals, and even the inhabitants of the portraits slumbered on their canvas perches.
As Matthew’s boots tapped against the marble floor, their reverberations seemed to echo through the air.
However, just as he was about to make his way through the oak gate of Hogwarts Castle, he froze in his tracks.
A large yellow dog, its tongue lolling out, lay half-propped in the castle gate.
“That’s just perfect!” Matthew said to himself.
If Mr. Lou believed him to be the kind of student who flouted school rules by engaging in “night-time activities,” he would be held up and forced to wait for Mr. Pringle.
Even though he had a legitimate reason, Mr. Pringle wouldn’t hesitate to reprimand him. And if he lingered here a little longer, he would undoubtedly be late for Professor Kettleburn’s class.
Matthew glanced at his watch; there were only about ten minutes left until 4:30.
With a forced bravado, he mustered up the courage to pass by Mr. Lou, hoping the ever-observant golden retriever hadn’t fully awakened today.
As he sidled past, he went almost unnoticed by Mr. Lou.
Matthew breathed a sigh of relief, gently pushed open the oak door that was slightly opened, and stepped outside into the fresh morning air.
Leaving the castle behind, Matthew traversed the grounds and headed toward the Forbidden Forest.
The sky was still chilly and bright, but fortunately, Matthew was dressed warmly enough.
The night was gradually fading away, and the surroundings were eerily quiet, enveloped in silence as the dawn began to break.
He reached the edge of the Forbidden Forest swiftly. Suddenly, a piercing shriek rents the air, causing a flock of crows to take flight, cawing loudly as if sensing an impending menace.
Soon, Matthew caught sight of a cottage in his vicinity.
The name “Silvanus Kettleburn” was scrawled haphazardly on the wooden abode door.
This was the current dwelling of the Professor responsible for Care for Magical Creatures classes at Hogwarts, the guardian of the hunting grounds, and the keeper of the Forbidden Forest.
According to the original narrative, this dwelling belonged to Rubeus Hagrid.
But Hagrid, the kind-hearted half-giant, was no longer a castle resident.
“Where could he have gone?” Lost in his thoughts, Matthew finally knocked on the door.
With a creaking sound, the door swung open of its own accord.
A cluster of dark shadows darted out, nearly startling Matthew.
These shadows brushed against his left wrist, and he suddenly realized that his wristwatch had vanished instantly.
“Don’t be a thief!” Professor Kettleburn’s angry voice echoed from within the cottage.
Gradually, the group of dark shadows returned to Matthew, and he could discern their true form.
They were peculiar creatures cloaked in black fur with elongated snouts.
“Return it to its rightful owner!” Professor Kettleburn bellowed once more.
Reluctantly, one of the little dark creatures fished out the missing watch from beneath its fur and handed it back to Matthew.
It was the same watch that had adorned Matthew’s wrist moments ago.
As Matthew reclaimed his watch, Professor Kettleburn’s voice resounded again: “This little one has a habit of pilfering shiny objects. I’ve tried my best to train it otherwise, but it seems to have yielded unsatisfactory results.” Professor Kettleburn remarked.
Matthew glanced at the Professor, who was still lying in bed, and replied, “My name is Matthew Wickfield, Professor.”
To be frank, the appearance of the Professor responsible for the Care of Magical Creatures classes was somewhat unsettling. His prosthetic limbs, three in total, lay on his bed, giving him a rather grotesque resemblance to an animal. The only remaining hand clutched a wand tightly.
“Are you the only Slytherin boy present?” Professor Kettleburn inquired while using his wand to guide the prosthetics into place on his body.
“Yes, Professor,” Matthew explained, “Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and Nott couldn’t join us for this after-school practice due to the incident…”
Professor Kettleburn nodded, evidently aware of the recent attack, and after securing his prosthetics, he began to dress.
Seizing the opportunity, Matthew took a moment to observe his surroundings within the cabin.
The ceiling was adorned with countless hams and pheasants while flames crackled in the fireplace, casting flickering shadows on the iron pot simmering with various ingredients. Adjacent to the fire, a thatched nest held several eggs of different sizes.
Such peculiarities filled the cabin, making Matthew wonder if this was the standard eccentricity exhibited by wizards who had a fondness for Magical Creatures.
“I assume you haven’t had breakfast yet, Matthew Wickfield?” Professor Kettleburn asked, his voice brimming with enthusiasm. “Then, have a taste of my rock cakes!”
He gestured for Matthew to sit at a round table, upon which sat a delicate teapot. As Matthew gazed at it intently, the teapot suddenly began to tremble vigorously, which startled him.
Simultaneously, a plate of rock cakes filled with raisins floated before Matthew.
Were these the infamous Hogwarts delicacies, Hagrid’s tooth-breaking rock cakes?
Curiosity piqued, and Matthew took a small bite. To his surprise, they were slightly crunchy and surprisingly palatable, unlike the tooth-cracking reputation they carried.
Indeed, the problem lies with Hagrid himself, not the rock cakes.
As he continued enjoying his breakfast, Matthew inquired, “Professor, could you enlighten me about today’s after-school practice?”
“A nest of vampires has appeared in the Forbidden Forest, attacking innocent creatures,” Professor Kettleburn responded, his mouth stuffed with rock cakes. “After receiving Professor Rosier’s approval, I will locate their lair, and you will assist me.”
Noting Matthew’s slightly alarmed expression, Professor Kettleburn reassured him, “Fear not, I am intimately familiar with the Forbidden Forest, almost as much as I am with my own wife… though that’s merely a figure of speech.”
He added, “Because I don’t actually have a wife!”
Matthew was bewildered by how Professor Kettleburn finished the sentence with his uncanny laugh.
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