Since it was an odd-numbered week, there was no “after-school practice” class on Saturday, which Matthew found somewhat fortunate.
There were a few accidents the previous two times he participated in the practice
It was futile for a first-year student like him to inquire about the attack incident. Even if there was another attack, his role was to protect himself as best as possible.
Matthew always remembered that he was a student, and his primary duty was to study. He understood that becoming a powerful wizard was crucial in the wizarding world.
The realm of magic was far more profound than depicted on the surface—more than just waving a wand and reciting spells.
Mastering any spell was no easy task. That’s why even adult wizards, including those working at the Ministry of Magic, struggled with advanced curses.
Matthew chose to focus on mastering the basic spells, such as transfiguration, levitation, and unlocking, in order to build a solid foundation.
In many ways, Matthew Wickfield was one of the most diligent students at Hogwarts, surpassing even Hermione Granger of Ravenclaw.
On Sunday evening, just after six o’clock, Matthew finished his studies and left the House of All Requests.
He was preparing to attend Professor Slughorn’s dinner. As he walked past an empty bookshelf, he waved his hand.
Leaving the Room of Requirements behind, the door transformed into a white wall, while the tapestry opposite displayed the ongoing struggle of Barnabas the Barmy still trying to teach the trolls ballet.
Unaware of Matthew’s departure, they continued their dance with a wooden stick.
As Matthew turned the first corner, he heard someone calling his name from the left fork. It was Neville Longbottom.
“Matthew!” Neville called out.
“Hello, Neville!” Matthew greeted him.
Curious about Matthew’s presence on the eighth floor, Neville asked, “Why are you here?”
“I came to speak with Professor Flitwick.” Matthew replied calmly, omitting any mention of the Room of Requirement.
Coincidentally, Professor Flitwick’s office was located on the eighth floor, near the thirteenth window on the right side of the West Tower.
“Okay!” Neville nodded. “I’m heading to Professor Slughorn’s office for tonight’s party. He invited you too, right?”
“Yes,” Matthew confirmed. “Shall we go together?”
“Of course, let’s go!”
Side by side, Matthew and Neville descended the marble steps until they reached Professor Slughorn’s office in the basement.
Whether it was due to magic or design, Slughorn’s office was more significant than the average teacher’s room, exuding an air of grandeur.
The emerald green, crimson, and gold curtains adorned the walls, while a golden lantern hung from the ceiling, casting a warm red glow throughout the room.
Compared to Professor Rosier’s office, seeing this room is such a magnificent sight.
In the distance, the faint sound of a man singing, accompanied by the strumming of an instrument, could be heard.
“Neville, Matthew!” Professor Slughorn’s voice rang out as they entered, “Welcome, very welcome!” Professor Slughorn wore a tasseled mink hat that complemented his velvet coat, emphasizing his prosperous appearance.
Matthew noticed that Professor Slughorn had switched from using his last name to addressing him by his first name.
After ushering them inside, Professor Slughorn continued conversing with a senior girl. The office, despite its spaciousness, held fewer than twenty students.
Among the hundreds of students at Hogwarts, only a select few caught his attention.
Two round tables were arranged in the room. The first table was occupied by senior students, while the second was filled with younger students.
Neville led Matthew to an empty seat at the junior students’ table, where they settled down.
Most of the faces around them were unfamiliar to Matthew, except for one student—a dark-skinned Hufflepuff boy in the same year as him.
“To be honest, I’m not a fan of this party’s style,” Neville whispered to Matthew, leaning closer. “But I had to come.”
“That’s Blaise Zabini over there.” He nodded toward the Hufflepuff student. “His family is loaded, and his mother is a notorious witch. She’s been widowed six times. Every time her current husband died, they would leave her a hefty inheritance.”
“Guess I’m here for my parents’ reputation, too,” Neville added with a hint of self-deprecation. “They’re both well-known Aurors at the Ministry of Magic. Professor Slughorn couldn’t resist inviting me.”
“Good evening, Longbottom!” a jovial voice greeted them from behind.
They turned to find a tall, robust boy with unruly hair, a couple of years older than them.
“Hello, Cormac,” Neville greeted him before introducing Matthew. “This is Cormac McLaggen, a second-year Gryffindor.”
Matthew vaguely recognized the name. McLaggen’s father held a high-ranking position in the Ministry of Magic.
“Hello there!” Matthew extended his hand, shaking it with McLaggen.
“It’s not every day we get a first-year joining the club,” McLaggen commented, sounding impressed.
However, as he spoke, Matthew and the others caught a strong whiff of garlic emanating from McLaggen’s breath.
Neville instinctively covered his nose, and Matthew furrowed his brow in response.
McLaggen said mischievously, “I’d suggest you start eating more garlic yourself, or else…”
He hummed a few notes, then sat on the opposite side of Neville.
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