Just as Matthew began to speak, the small golden bell on Horace Slughorn’s desk chimed nine times, signaling the late hour.

“Of course, but not for too long!” the potions professor responded with a gentle smile, his mouth still filled with a piece of pineapple compote.

“After all, it’s already quite late. I assume you wouldn’t want to be caught outside when the lights are turned off.” Slughorn added, his tone lighthearted.

“Yes, sir, but the lights won’t be turned off until ten o’clock… So, if you have a moment, I would like to ask you something,” Matthew replied, his voice tinged with eagerness.

“Then ask away, my boy, ask away…” Slughorn encouraged, taking a small sip of wine, the redness of his cheeks more noticeable.

Matthew cast a glance at the relaxed and slightly rotund figure of the professor in the armchair before him, his mind focused on the task at hand. Without hesitation, he spoke softly, choosing his words carefully.

“It’s about my roommate, Draco Malfoy…” Matthew began.

“Draco, oh, poor boy, I remember him well!” Slughorn interrupted, his voice filled with regret. He licked the icing off his fingers and sighed.

“Such bad luck for him. He had that accident right at the beginning of the school year, and he’s been in the school hospital ever since. He hasn’t even had the chance to attend any of our parties… I’m just hoping that Professor Rosier’s acquaintance can help him…” Professor Slughorn said with a sad tone.

“Yes, I’m sorry about that,” Matthew sympathized, “I’m just curious about what happened to him during that time.”

Slughorn, seemingly in a good mood, perhaps due to the delectable pineapple compote or the festivities of the evening, glanced at Matthew, his response holding both rejection and intrigue.

“We usually keep such things under wraps… Professor Rosier doesn’t want the truth to spread throughout Hogwarts, as it could adversely affect our teaching.” Slughorn explained his words hinting at secrecy.

Matthew understood the delicate dance being played. Slughorn’s reluctance was clear, but there was an undercurrent of willingness to share information.

“You’re right, Professor. Such matters mustn’t be disclosed to outsiders,” Matthew agreed quickly, playing his part. “But I’m not an outsider. Draco Malfoy is my roommate.”

He paused for a moment, his voice dropping lower, laced with vulnerability.

“During the time he was attacked, I was the only person in the entire dormitory. My roommates were sent to the hospital, their fate uncertain. I was terrified, fearing that at any moment, like Malfoy and the others, something horrifying would befall me silently.”

As he spoke, Matthew wiped the corner of his eyes, portraying his anguish.

“Professor Slughorn, I implore you to tell me what happened. I swear I won’t breathe a word to anyone. It’s the least I can ask for, to find some peace of mind and be able to sleep at night…”

Slughorn’s gaze softened, and he regarded Matthew with genuine sympathy. “Poor boy, I understand the pressure you’re under. I truly do.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Matthew countered, shaking his head. “I desperately wanted to forget what happened that night, but whenever I entered a crowded place, someone would approach me and ask about it. Being the sole survivor in the dormitory, they were curious, and it frightened me. You have no idea how desperate I felt. There were times I even contemplated climbing to the eighth floor of Hogwarts Castle and jumping out of the window…”

Professor Slughorn quickly interjected; concern evident in his voice. “Oh, you mustn’t entertain such thoughts! If you were to jump, you’d end up in the school hospital for at least a week… Or perhaps even two…”

He paused, observing Matthew closely. “Do you need me to get you a towel, my boy?”

“No, no, that won’t be necessary,” Matthew assured him, quickly wiping his eyes with his sleeve, not forgetting the fact that Slughorn had just licked his finger.

“Very well!” Slughorn sighed softly. “I might as well tell you the truth. It’s not something particularly worth keeping secret…”

Matthew sat down, fully engaged, his ears attuned to every word. If he weren’t in the middle of a conversation, he might have even reached for pen and paper to take notes.

“Matthew, are you familiar with dark magic?” Slughorn asked earnestly.

“Dark magic?” Matthew blinked, caught off guard.

“Of course, that’s the old name for it. Nowadays, it’s referred to as Dark Arts… Professor Rosier should have covered it in her class,” Slughorn clarified, adjusting his wording.

“Yes, but the textbook still uses the term dark magic,” Matthew acknowledged.

Slughorn nodded and proceeded to reveal the information Matthew sought.

“That’s because of the Wizards Examinations Authority, the old guys headed by Griselda Marchbank!” Professor Slughorn shrugged and explained.

“They are very old, very prestigious in the wizarding world… Although they have obeyed the new Ministry of Magic in name, they have never really identified with Gellert Grindelwald. But they can only cause more or less trouble for Hogwarts. After all, the source of textbooks is subject to the control of the Wizarding Examinations Authority…”

“Of course, in the eyes of Professor Grindelwald, they are just clowns dancing by their graves,” Slughorn added, his words carrying a deeper meaning. “However, the entire magical world, after all, is not dictated by Headmaster Grindelwald!” Professor Slughorn explained furiously, before recollecting himself.

Matthew didn’t quite grasp the full significance of Slughorn’s words, but he nodded in vague understanding.

“Okay, let’s get down to business!” Slughorn continued, changing the subject. “Let’s talk about dark magic… Matthew, do you know the scariest form of dark magic?”

Matthew hesitated for a moment and then whispered, “I seem to have read about it in an after-school reading about Defense Against the Dark Arts class. It’s called… the Unforgivable Curses, right?”

Slughorn smiled widely. “It seems I made the right choice in inviting you to join the club. Your extracurricular reading is extensive!”

“I just prefer the quiet atmosphere in the library…” Matthew replied, slightly shy.

“Okay,” Professor Slughorn’s expression turned serious again. “The Unforgivable Curses? They are indeed terrifying, but they are far from being named the ‘most’ terrifying…”

“…In reality, the most fearsome dark magic lies in the oldest and most mysterious spells… They are indescribable, beyond the comprehension of normal wizardry, a realm of mysterious magic!”

As Professor Slughorn’s voice trailed off, his body involuntarily trembled.

“So…” Matthew furrowed his brow and continued softly, “Draco Malfoy was injured because of this mysterious dark magic?”

“Professor Rosier thinks so,” Professor Slughorn replied. “She has extensive experience in dark magic research, so I trust her judgment.”

“Then, was someone using this mysterious dark magic on Malfoy?” Matthew inquired, feigning ignorance.

“That is unlikely. I have great confidence in the safety measures of the Slytherin common room. Therefore, both Professor Rosier and I believe that the occurrence of the attack was likely caused by an object related to the mysterious dark magic…”

“…It’s not uncommon. Draco’s father has always been interested in that sort of thing. It’s a secret, so Draco might have accidentally come into contact with it…” Professor Slughorn said with a hint of regret in his voice.

Matthew felt he was getting closer to the truth.

“But is this object related to the mysterious dark magic still in the Slytherin common room?” Matthew asked cautiously.

“Hahaha!” Slughorn burst into laughter. “You needn’t scare yourself, my child. I thoroughly searched your dormitory and its surroundings. There’s no chance anything slipped through the net!”

“Could it be… the item left the Slytherin common room?” Matthew asked, seeking confirmation.

“What do you think it is, a paper airplane?” Slughorn spread his hands, smiling, “That’s impossible, my child. Hogwarts has a comprehensive system for detecting black magic items. Powerful protective measures prevent anyone from freely carrying around a used black magic item without detection…”

“…Moreover, Hogwarts has strict rules regarding space. Without the headmaster’s consent, any transfer of objects is prohibited. Teachers, including ourselves, are not allowed to apparate within the Hogwarts campus… not to mention transporting a black magic item!” Professor Slughorn explained proudly.

“So, what is happening?” Matthew inquired, his brow furrowing.

“According to our conjecture, the mysterious dark magic item Draco encountered was likely a very weak one… It exhausted all its power after attacking Draco Malfoy, which is why we couldn’t find it,” Slughorn explained. “In fact, that’s the only possibility!”

“Then, if it were a powerful… mysterious dark magic item?” Matthew asked, his voice trembling.

“You can only pray you never encounter something like that unless you’re a powerful wizard like Professor Grindelwald,” Slughorn’s tone grew serious. “It’s not merely scary; the word ‘terrible’ falls short. It’s something a normal wizard should never touch… It slowly erodes you, affects you, and even assimilates you… before you even realize it.”

“So… if I mean, if Draco Malfoy had been exposed to that thing, what would happen?” Matthew asked in a low voice, his voice trembling.

It was only natural for an eleven-year-old child to feel fear when confronted with such horrifying concepts.

“I would have to kill him,” Slughorn said sternly.

“Kill… kill him?” Matthew’s mouth hung open, his words stammering.

“Yes, though it sounds cruel, it would undoubtedly be the best outcome for that boy,” Professor Slughorn continued. “Even if I don’t, Professor Rosier and even Professor Grindelwald would do it!”

“Death is not the most terrifying thing, far from it! If you truly come into contact with the indescribable mysteries, you will face something even more terrifying than death…” Professor Slughorn said in a sorrowful tone

“It sounds terrifying…” Matthew forced a smile. He attempted a light-hearted comment, “So, in the future, if we encounter something like that, should we run away immediately?”

“Run?” Slughorn chuckled mockingly. “You can’t escape from true mystery… because when you stare into it, it’s also staring back at you…”

At that moment, Matthew’s face turned pale.

“Oh, my boy, did I frighten you? I should have comforted you instead!” Slughorn apologized. “Don’t worry, those truly ancient and mysterious things are extremely rare. It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever encounter them…”

“The object Draco Malfoy came into contact with was just a simple form of mysterious dark magic item. It has surely vanished from Hogwarts… Otherwise, we would have found it! So, relax, don’t concern yourself with these mysteries, and focus on more interesting things!”

Professor Slughorn reassured Matthew with a loud voice trying to cheer him up.

Gradually, Matthew’s complexion improved, and he nodded. “Thank you, Professor!”

“Remember what I told you, but keep it to yourself,” Slughorn cautioned, waving his hand.

“I won’t say a word, sir,” Matthew Wickfield replied and left the office.

As he walked away from Horace Slughorn’s office, his face still bore an extremely pale expression.

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Published On: July 19, 2023

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