Whether it was Matthew or Hermione, their expressions changed abruptly when they read the message on the note.
“Let’s go there quickly!” Hermione exclaimed, stuffing the note into her pocket.
“Hmm,” Matthew nodded.
The two of them raced towards the garden with urgency.
Due to Valentine’s Day, the garden was adorned with more decorations than the corridors.
The stone path was lined with roses, and fresh rose petals covered the grass. A small heart-shaped sun hung in the center of the garden.
But Matthew and Hermione had no time to admire the scenery. They stopped a couple on the side of the path and inquired about what had happened.
The couple clearly disliked being interrupted.
“We don’t know what happened either,” they replied. “But there was a boy lying by the fountain. He appeared suddenly, and he seemed to be seriously injured.”
Curiosity piqued, Matthew and Hermione maneuvered through low bushes, towering stone statues, and rose bushes. Finally, they arrived at the center of the garden near a large fountain.
Several couples sat on wooden benches, and the sound of water splashing filled the air.
Matthew noticed the couple beside him looking shocked.
He leaned over quickly and asked, “Excuse me, what happened here just now?”
The girl, visibly pale, responded, “There was a… a body. A first-year boy’s body… He had blood on him…”
“A body?” Hermione gasped in disbelief.
“He wasn’t dead,” the girl’s boyfriend interjected. “He appeared suddenly, bitten on the neck. It looked like he had been poisoned. His wound was severe.”
“Could it be Neville?” Hermione anxiously questioned.
The couple appeared confused at Hermione’s words.
“Do you know what the injured boy looks like? Have you seen him before?” Matthew interjected, stopping Hermione from getting too excited.
“We don’t know him,” the couple replied. “Mr. Pringle arrived quickly and forbade us from watching. He took the boy to the school hospital.”
“Neville… What if something happened to him?” Hermione’s words came out rushed as the couple walked away.
Hermione worried that Neville, a Gryffindor student who had the morning off, might have been in the garden when something strange occurred and got attacked.
“Don’t worry. Let’s search the garden first. If we don’t find him, we can head to the school hospital,” Matthew reassured calmly.
Before they could take more than a few steps, the stern Mr. Pringle appeared in front of them.
“You two!” Mr. Pringle pointed at them and shouted, “Get out of here!”
“We just entered and were exploring,” Matthew quickly defended.
“No one is allowed to wander around,” Mr. Pringle declared, establishing a temporary rule. He then expelled the two from the garden, stating, “Lower-grade students are forbidden from entering here!”
Hermione wanted to approach Mr. Pringle and inquire about the attacked boy, but Matthew grabbed her in time, shaking his head to dissuade her.
“Where should we go now? Should we head to the Hospital Wing?” Hermione asked, feeling restless after leaving the garden.
“For now, let’s not worry,” Matthew remained composed. “Gryffindor and Hufflepuff together have at least a dozen boys. Besides, older students often mistake us for second-years. It might not have been Neville who was attacked.”
“So, what do we do then?” Hermione asked.
“Let’s go to the auditorium first. Wait there. If Neville is okay, he’ll come to the auditorium to find us.” Matthew replied calmly.
“But shouldn’t we go to the school hospital…” Hermione asked with concern on her face.
“As I said, Neville might not be the one attacked. And even if we went to the school hospital, Madam Pomfrey might not allow us to visit,” Matthew explained firmly.
In the end, Matthew convinced Hermione to abandon the idea of going to the Hospital Wing.
The two made their way to the auditorium, which was relatively empty since it wasn’t lunchtime.
They sat at the long tables designated for Gryffindor and Slytherin.
Hermione seemed to age with each passing minute while Matthew contemplated something.
Matthew’s intuition proved correct.
Just ten minutes later, Neville entered the auditorium.
Though pale and visibly unwell, he appeared to be alive.
The three of them left the auditorium in unison and found a secluded classroom devoid of other students.
“Neville, what happened?” Hermione asked anxiously as soon as the door closed. “Are you okay?”
“We’ve been discovered,” Neville’s first words were surprising. “Professor Rosier found us.”
“What…” Hermione was taken aback, and her turn to panic arrived.
“Yes, I was caught,” Neville continued. “Professor Rosier called me to her office and warned me. She said if we were caught sneaking around again, she’d expel all of us.”
“That wicked woman!” Hermione clenched her fist, visibly angry.
“Why did you use an owl to contact us then?” Matthew asked seriously. “It can’t be just because of Professor Rosier.”
Matthew couldn’t fathom how Neville sent two letters with an owl while being called to Professor Rosier’s office. There must be something more to the situation.
“Somebody was attacked in the garden!” Neville recalled suddenly and spoke quickly. “No, actually, he disappeared ten days ago.”
“Justin Finch-Fletchley?” Matthew interjected.
“Yes…” Neville nodded, but Hermione interrupted with a horrified cry, “Is he dead?”
“No, no,” Neville shook his head hurriedly. “Justin is alive, but he’s gotten much thinner. Besides that, there’s nothing wrong with him. His body appeared suddenly on the left lawn of the hot spring. It caused quite a commotion.”
“During the commotion, I saw him twitching and blood flowing from his neck… It was a tragic sight similar to when Ron was attacked!” Neville exclaimed.
“What about the wound on his neck?” Matthew continued questioning. “Was it similar to the wound on Weasley’s neck?”
Neville shook his head. “I was too far away. I couldn’t see.”
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