“Garlic?” Cormac McLaggen’s peculiar remark immediately captured the attention of another student from the Slug Club, who was sitting beside Matthew.
“I despise garlic!” he muttered, frowning.
However, it didn’t take long for him to catch a whiff of the strong garlic odor emanating from McLaggen’s breath, prompting him to quickly retreat his head.
“Hello!” Matthew glanced at the boy sitting next to him and spoke with enthusiasm.
The boy, thin and slightly nervous, forced a strained smile.
“Matthew, this is Marcus Belby, a second-year student from Ravenclaw!” Neville promptly introduced. “Belby, meet Matthew Wickfield, a first-year student from Slytherin.”
“Hello Wickfield, hello Longbottom.” Belby whispered.
“Good evening, Belby.” Neville nodded in response.
After exchanging brief greetings, Neville leaned towards Matthew and whispered in his ear:
“McLaggen’s father, Mr. McLaggen, works in the Ministry of Magic and has a strong connection with Minister Millicent Bagnold. Belby’s uncle, Damocles Belby, is a renowned potion expert and the inventor of the Wolfsbane potion. He even received the Merlin Medal for it…”
Matthew observed that the students around the round table were predominantly children of famous and successful individuals, as well as those from families with influential connections in the wizarding world.
In other words, everyone seemed to have received an invitation due to their close association with influential figures, just like Neville, McLaggen, and Belby. If Draco Malfoy hadn’t been confined to the school hospital due to his injury, he would have been present as well.
It appeared that students with average family backgrounds and exceptional talents were a rare sight here…
For instance, Hermione Granger from Ravenclaw had made quite an impression at Hogwarts over the past month. Almost all the teachers held her in high regard, considering her the best student among the first-years. Of course, this was partly due to her outgoing personality, whereas Matthew tended to keep a lower profile.
There was also Cedric Diggory from Hufflepuff, a third-year student. Although Matthew hadn’t interacted with him personally, based on the evaluations from students in the second and third years, Cedric was regarded as the top student in his grade.
However, neither of them had received an invitation to the Slug Club.
Of course, at another long table where the older students were seated, a few individuals with exceptional talents but average family backgrounds could be spotted. Matthew could identify Percy Weasley, a fifth-year Gryffindor student, among them.
Considering the Weasley family’s financial situation, it was highly unlikely for him to be invited.
Perhaps Professor Slughorn employed completely different criteria when selecting students from different grades to join his exclusive circle.
“I am truly honored to have received this invitation as a first-year student!” Matthew thought, but suddenly he furrowed his brow, deep in thought, “What did Professor Slughorn see in me?”
Was it solely because of Matthew’s excellent performance in Potions class?
“Matthew!” Neville asked with concern. “What’s the matter? You look a bit troubled.”
“It’s nothing,” Matthew quickly smoothed his brow and responded with a smile. “I’m just not used to the Slug Club ambiance.”
Neville’s face brightened with a smile. “Seems like we share the same sentiment!”
One by one, the members of the Slug Club arrived. They settled at two round tables, and the dinner commenced shortly thereafter.
Numerous golden plates adorned the tables, shimmering enticingly, but Matthew noticed that they were empty, except for a small menu placed nearest to him.
Matthew picked up the menu, examining the various dishes listed on it.
As he glanced around the room, he realized there were no waiters present.
Neville leaned in, reminding him in a hushed tone, “You should do this.” He picked up his menu and said, “Hungarian Goulash.”
Almost instantaneously, a serving of succulent beef appeared on his plate.
The refined nature of the food struck Matthew, far surpassing the usual school dinners. It seemed that Slughorn had a discerning palate and a keen eye for culinary excellence. However, the professor’s attention during the dinner was primarily focused on the older students.
At their table, Slughorn merely picked up a glass of mead and made his way over to the lower-grade students, gesturing for them to “Toast to Professor Grindelwald’s health.”
Everyone lifted their glasses in response, and Matthew hesitantly took a sip. The taste of the mead was peculiar, reminiscent of a decaying apple, and he struggled to mask his discomfort.
Seems like the older members have been used to the taste of that peculiar mead.
Meanwhile, the conversation around him consisted mostly of trivial matters. Marcus Belby engaged in a discussion with a fellow student about an amusing incident that occurred in a second-grade magic history class.
Across from Matthew, two girls chatted casually about the recent attacks, “Malfoy will soon be released from the hospital, and Professor Rosier has invited a high wizard whose expertise in the Dark Arts to Hogwarts next week. Seems like Ronald Weasley will be discharged from the hospital together with Malfoy, the two attacks are not much of a big deal after all…”
Cormac McLaggen and Blaise Zabini, on the other hand, had set aside their cutlery and were engaged in a lively conversation.
“My grandfather Thierry, when he was in his prime he could eat two catties of steak for a meal. It’s a shame that his body was injured in the First Wizarding War. His left shoulder got wounded by a dark wizard, and because of that he needs to spend two months in St. Mungo annually.” McLaggen boasted.
Matthew strained to listen, trying to discern McLaggen’s voice amidst the cacophony of music and discussions.
“My grandfather, Thierry, can be considered one of Grindelwald’s first supporters in England,” McLaggen declared proudly.
“Before that, the British magical world was under the control of dark wizards, whether it was Minister Leonard Spencer-Moon or Hogwarts Principal Armando Dippet. Even Albus Dumbledore, the fate of Principal Grindelwald, and the dark wizard were all ruling in their ways. But my grandfather was the first to see their true colors and pledge allegiance to Principal Grindelwald!” McLaggen continued.
Seizing the moment, Matthew leaned toward McLaggen, taking advantage of Neville’s brief absence. “McLaggen, you must have learned a great deal about the first Wizarding War from your grandfather,” he inquired with genuine interest.
McLaggen, seemingly unfazed by the additional audience, responded, “That’s natural! I grew up hearing stories of his youth. These things aren’t in the history books; Bathilda Bagshot’s ‘History of Magic’ only covers until the end of the 19th century.”
Curiosity and admiration filled Matthew’s face, encouraging McLaggen to share more.
McLaggen lower his voice and then continued the story, “Back in 1945, Headmaster Grindelwald was faced with a life-or-death situation. The dark wizards of Britain under the lead of Albus Dumbledore colluded with the Muggles…”
“Not only in Britain, but in the United States, Soviet Union, and many innocent wizards were captivated and followed Dumbledore’s lead. They united into an extremist group with the Muggle government as part of it.”
“Although Headmaster Grindelwald was trying his best, he was not a match for Dumbledore…” He said with a serious expression.
“Finally, November 2, 1945. Headmaster Grindelwald challenged Dumbledore to a legendary duel ever happened! My Grandfather was fortunate to watch the history being recorded in front of his eyes, the duel lasted for the whole day. No one knows what’s happening next, it was beyond their reach with what these two great wizards have in their minds.”
“Did Headmaster Grindelwald win?” Matthew asked.
“Headmaster Grindelwald emerged victorious, turning the tide at the last moment and saving our magical world,” McLaggen proclaimed triumphantly. “With Dumbledore’s defeat, his followers shattered and their forces weakened.”
“Headmaster Grindelwald then announced to the world that he will turn Nurmengarde into a prison and imprison Albus Dumbledore on the highest level. Headmaster then deployed the most powerful magic known to wizards to seal Dumbledore there for good.”
“It’s a shame that our Headmaster’s plan for the Muggle world was bound to fail because of his duel with Dumbledore, his support and his strategy were useless after the duel ended…”
“At the same time, although they were scattered and weakened. Albus Dumbledore’s followers were still all over the world, especially in Hogwarts at the time. You could say Dumbledore had more power than Headmaster Grindelwald…”
“To get rid of Dumbledore’s followers, my grandfather helped Headmaster Grindelwald a lot. Although the Dark Wizard’s influence is deeply rooted everywhere, after almost thirty years they finally get rid of his influence for good!” McLaggen finished his explanation.
Feeling his mouth and throat dry he stopped telling the story, Matthew took the initiative to offer him the pumpkin juice on the table.
He took it from Matthew’s hand, “Thank you, Wickfield.” He proceeds to drink it.
“So, because Dumbledore has been imprisoned in Nurmengarde and the First Wizarding War was around fifty years ago. Did Headmaster Grindelwald has abandoned his plan as well?” Matthew inquired.
“Of course not.” McLaggen said, “What do you think Headmaster Grindelwald has been up to for all these years?”
Neville returned, seeing this Matthew returned to his seat as well.
McLaggen then continued his discussion with Zabini.
The dinner was over soon, but Matthew never had the chance to talk with Professor Slughorn.
He left his watch at the table purposely and left with everyone else.
Then he turned back again because he “forgot” his watch after knowing Professor Slughorn was finally alone.
“Mr. Wickfield, what brings you back here again?” Professor Slughorn asked.
“Sorry Professor, seems like I forgot my watch…” Matthew said softly.
“At your age forgetting something is a bad habit, boy.” Professor Slughorn said with a light chuckle.
After putting on his watch, Matthew hesitantly spoke to Professor Slughorn, “Professor, can I ask you something?”
Read up to 40 Chapters ahead on my Patreon page!