As September drew to a close, a sudden cold snap hit Hogwarts Castle. Teachers and students alike caught a cold, keeping Madam Pomfrey busy attending to the sick.

To combat the cold, she entrusted Professor Slughorn, the potions teacher, to create a refreshing elixir that would prevent further illnesses and distribute it to the students.

However, there was a side effect to the potion: students who consumed it would have smoke emanating from their ears and noses, resulting in the Slytherin common room being shrouded in smoke and mist throughout the day.

Meanwhile, Matthew’s bedroom saw an influx of people. First, Theodore Nott was discharged from the school hospital, followed by the return of Crabbe and Goyle. Matthew deliberately kept his distance from them, afraid that the incident involving Knott would resurface, causing them to retreat to the hospital once more.

If this pattern is repeated too often, it might raise suspicions about him. Fortunately, Crabbe and Goyle showed no interest in confronting Matthew, and even Nott seemed to have forgotten about that night.

Time passed day by day, until another Saturday arrived. This time, it was the second “After-School Practice” for the first-year Slytherin boys with Professor Slughorn. Except for Matthew, the other three were attending for the first time.

At 8:30 on Saturday morning, the four boys, having just finished breakfast, arrived at the door of the potions classroom punctually. Nott knocked on the door, but there was no response.

Crabbe and Goyle took turns pounding on the door, causing the poor iron door to become slightly deformed. Still, Professor Slughorn did not emerge, leaving them waiting outside.

After nearly ten minutes, Slytherin prefect Miss Gemma Farley arrived, braving the storm from the auditorium, “Professor Slughorn has caught a cold,” she gasped, explaining the situation, “He asked me to inform you…”

Nott’s face suddenly lit up with a smile, “So, does that mean our after-class practice is canceled? Can we go back?”

Regrettably, Miss Farley shook her head, “No, I’m afraid not. Mr. Pringle is short-staffed, so you have been temporarily reassigned to his group.”

The news was undeniably disheartening. After all, Mr. Pringle was disliked by almost everyone in Hogwarts Castle, including the Slytherin boys.

Raindrops pelted against the castle’s windows, accompanied by continuous sounds of thunder. Dark clouds filled the sky, and heavy rain poured outside.

Reluctantly, the four boys trudged towards Mr. Pringle’s office on the fourth floor of the castle. The office was a small, low hut with an oil lamp hanging from the ceiling, emitting a foul odor.

The most prominent feature in the room was a doghouse, which served as Mr. Donald’s dwelling. Contrary to the rumors, the doghouse lacked chains, handcuffs, and whips.

Several boys, all first-year Gryffindors, were already waiting there. The relationship between Slytherin and Gryffindor had always been strained, and they mostly ignored each other. Only Matthew and Neville exchanged greetings.

As the boys waited, a distant bark resounded, and a golden retriever named Mr. Donald charged toward the first-year students, barking menacingly. Shortly after, Mr. Pringle appeared, feeding Mr. Donald some dog food before assessing the students in front of him.

“Mmm, nearly enough people…” he muttered to himself.

“You three big guys,” he ordered Crabbe, Goyle, and Ron. “Go to the prize showroom and clean the trophies there! Mr. Donald will accompany you.”

The golden retriever, still munching on his dog food, wagged his tail enthusiastically.

“There are three of you left,” Mr. Pringle continued, addressing Matthew, Neville Longbottom, and Harry Evans, another Gryffindor student. “Professor Rozier needs some help cleaning up her office.”

He glanced sternly at the trio and added, “Don’t you dare be lazy! I’ll be watching you, mind you, Professor Rosier doesn’t like it when her room is chaotic. Consider yourselves warned!”

With that, he pointed to a corner of the room where a pile of cleaning supplies sat.

The three boys picked up brooms, mops, and buckets before exiting Mr. Pringle’s cabin.

“Matthew, why are you here too?” Neville approached Matthew, speaking softly.

“We were supposed to have ‘after-school practice’ with Professor Slughorn,” Matthew explained, shrugging, “But since he’s sick, and Mr. Pringle needed extra help, here we are.”

Neville sighed sympathetically, “You’ve got some rotten luck, mate.”

“By the way,” Matthew inquired curiously, “Don’t wizards use magic to clean? Why the need for manual labor?”

Neville nodded, understanding the question. “Technically, they could use magic, but it’s more troublesome. Most wizards prefer to avoid this kind of work and delegate it to house-Elves. However, Professor Rosier is said to be against having house-Elves in her office.”

“I see…” Matthew acknowledged, casting a glance at Harry Evans, who walked with his head down.

Truth be told, he was quite intrigued by the “protagonist” of this original book. However, he hadn’t found an opportunity to strike up a conversation with him.

After some hesitation, Matthew took the initiative. “Hello, Evans!”

Evans timidly raised his head, glancing at Matthew before responding in a barely audible voice, “U—um… hello there…”

He quickly lowered his head again.

Coughing softly, Neville explained, “Evans tends to be introverted… not much of a talker.”

“I see…” Matthew acknowledged.

Matthew thought to himself, “If it’s the same protagonist as in the story, wouldn’t he be much more of an outgoing and active student? Why is he so timid? Is he not the son of James Potter, but Severus Snape and Lilly Evans?”

Meanwhile, they reached the second-floor bathroom, filling wooden barrels and basins with water before making their way to the Headmistress Rosier’s office.

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Published On: July 8, 2023

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