The days unfolded in a routine manner for Skyler, revolving around attending classes, delving into academic pursuits, and actively participating in the Dragon Club’s activities.

While he gained a basic understanding of the “Book of Ancient Dragon Language,” the absence of ancient “Dragon Power” in his bloodline made him realistic about the feasibility of casting spells in the Ancient Dragon language.

Recognizing the wisdom of avoiding biting off more than he could chew, Skyler abandoned the study of black magic, redirecting his focus toward transfiguration. Leveraging his Disguise Magus bloodline power and the Black family’s secrets, including the “Taboo Transfiguration” and “Hundred Change Thousands of Magic Secret Art,” he secured a unique advantage in the realm of transformation art.

Not to be forgotten was his commitment to assisting Chang Qiu with the Chang Family’s secret transfiguration technique. Additionally, Skyler remained dedicated to the study of space magic and Gurunis spells, although scarce learning resources hindered notable progress in these areas.

Amidst these academic pursuits, Serpentis Vigil, the clandestine organization he led, flourished with four successful exchange activities. Under Skyler’s guidance, members showed substantial improvement in academic performance and practical skills.

Astoria and Carlo emerged as formidable second-grade students, contributing significantly to Slytherin College’s points tally.

As the calendar flipped to October 23, a notable event loomed on the horizon: a lesson in the protection of magical animals at Hagrid’s Hut. Standing tall with his characteristic hound-tooth collar, Hagrid awaited his students, wooden boxes emitting curious sounds and faint explosions beside him.

This semester, Hagrid has undertaken the fascinating task of instructing students about a magical creature he fondly refers to as “fried snails.” This unique species is a result of Hagrid’s artificial cultivation, achieved through the intricate crossbreeding of manticores and fire crabs.

These creatures resemble deformed, shelled, large lobsters, presenting a rather grotesque appearance. Colored in a dull gray, they exude a slimy texture and possess a disorganized arrangement of limbs, making it challenging to discern their heads.

The air around them is tainted with a potent odor reminiscent of stinky fish and shrimp. Periodically, sparks emanate from their tails, followed by a faint pop, propelling them forward a few inches.

Despite nearly two months having passed since the commencement of the school year, the students remain puzzled about the dietary preferences of these peculiar beings.

Hagrid, however, is pleased about his involvement in this “project.” He encourages students to visit his cabin every other day to observe the snails and document their unconventional behaviors meticulously.

Draco, expressing clear reluctance, declines Hagrid’s suggestion, stating, “I’ve seen enough of these unpleasant things in class, thank you.”

Hagrid’s initial smile fades as he insists, “Follow my instructions! This is part of your homework, and everyone must participate. What makes you think you have the privilege to exempt yourselves?”

Blaise responds with a disdainful sneer, recalling the trouble he caused Headmaster Dumbledore last semester. Hagrid, feeling the surge of anger, glares at Blaise and demands an explanation, “What do you mean?”

Draco supports Blaise’s skepticism, questioning the purpose of raising these creatures. Blaise adds, “You had no choice but to answer as a professor. It’s already a dereliction of duty. At the time, you claimed it was the content of the next class…”

“We’ve been in school for almost two months, and despite these creatures having grown considerably, you still haven’t figured out the answer. How did you even become a professor? Are you embarrassed?” Blaise remarked.

“Just because they don’t look appealing doesn’t mean they’re useless,” Hermione couldn’t hold back and retorted, standing up. “Fire dragon blood has magical effects, but would you keep a fire dragon as a pet?”

Draco responded coldly, “Granger, I let you go last time because of my brother. Are you still picking fights? You can call Potter and Wesley whatever you want. Let’s find a time; I’ll take on the three of you one by one!”

Once again, the familiar scene unfolded, causing Skyler a headache. He couldn’t discern Draco’s motives in deliberately bringing up events from the last semester.

The passage of time had made those incidents seem distant, and Skyler doubted Draco’s sincerity, suspecting an attempt to tarnish his reputation.

Before Skyler could respond, Harry and the others grew restless.

Ron, particularly sensitive about his perceived inferiority, felt insulted. His face flushed with anger as he drew out his wand, declaring, “If you want to fight, I’m not afraid of anyone! No need to delay it; draw your wands now!”

“Only you?” Draco sneered coldly, slowly drawing out his wand. “Let Potter join you; I wouldn’t want to be accused of bullying the weak.”

In the midst of the tension, Hermione felt a pang of panic, torn between her loyalty to Ron and Harry and the memory of the previous semester’s events.

Draco and Blaise were clearly provoking a confrontation, but her recollection of past incidents restrained her from making a hasty decision.

She bit her lower lip, casting a glance at Harry and Ron who awaited her response, a bitter feeling welling up within her.

The words Skyler uttered in Defense Against the Dark Arts class resonated in her heart. His familiar and resonant voice echoed, as if speaking directly to her soul: “In order to protect those around her, she had to give up a friendship…”

“I wonder if I truly have become enemies with Slytherin,” she mused, a sense of irretrievability settling in her heart.

“It’s nothing. This whole mess started because of me. My excessive talking caused all of this, and I’ll bear the consequences,” she thought, a pang of remorse coursing through her.

Fueled by this realization, Hermione positioned herself in front of Harry and Ron, drawing her wand.

“Malfoy! This has nothing to do with Harry and Ron. If you want a fight, I’ll face you alone!” Her words projected dominance, but her trembling wand betrayed the uncertainty of a duelist.

Draco wore a contemptuous expression, his gaze fixed on Hermione’s wand. Slowly, almost in slow motion, he raised his own wand.

Skyler frowned, sensing Draco’s scrutiny. Though Draco seemed to be looking at the trio in front, he was, in fact, peering at Skyler himself.

The once-arrogant Draco now appeared hesitant, refraining from initiating the attack as he had in the past. He seemed to be waiting for the opponent to make the first move.

Examining Hermione’s stance, it became evident that Draco was compelling her to take the lead, likely intending to overpower her effortlessly.

Hagrid’s loud roar echoed, “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you recognize me as your professor?” He attempted to stride forward and intervene, but an imposing figure obstructed his path.

Blaise toyed with the magic wand in his hand, speaking in a soft tone, “Professor Hagrid, while we address you as a professor, it seems our confidence in your knowledge and teaching prowess is under scrutiny. How about…” A mysterious glint shone in Blaise’s eyes, and a wry smile played on the corners of his mouth. “I want to challenge you, Professor, to ascertain if you’re truly formidable enough to hold this title.”

“It’s Professor Hagrid for you, you jerk!” Hagrid blurted out in frustration. Being questioned about his professorial qualifications was the last thing he wanted to deal with, especially given the potential consequences for Harry and the others.

The Malfoy brothers were formidable adversaries, and in his anger and impatience, Hagrid struggled to find a solution.

“Let’s not quarrel. Regardless of what Professor Hagrid may have said, they are all professors, legitimately hired professors,” Skyler interjected. “Brother, Blaise, I believe we should maintain a more respectful tone. When a professor speaks, it compromises the nobility of our family.”

Skyler paused to take a bite and then continued, “Regarding the matter at hand, Miss Granger’s words do carry some weight. I’ve learned some insider information from Professor Dumbledore. The Ministry of Magic bred the snails for magical animal purposes, and the license issued by the Control Department indicates their use in the Triwizard Tournament. So, they’re not entirely useless. I suggest we heed Professor Hagrid’s instructions and raise them diligently.”

Indeed, as soon as the mention of the Triwizard Tournament’s inside story surfaced, the attention of the young wizards immediately shifted.

Several individuals began expressing interest in the snails, engaging in hushed conversations. Their curiosity was piqued, eager to uncover the role of the snails in the Triwizard Tournament and speculate on the events in which these magical creatures might be involved.

Draco’s eyes betrayed a mix of emotions, briefly displaying a complex look. He feigned a touch of dissatisfaction with a cold snort before turning away.

Wearing a mischievous smile, Blaise said, “Certainly, Skyler, we’re all ears.”

The other Slytherin students cast glances between Draco and Skyler, perplexed by the unspoken tension, rendering them momentarily silent.

Skyler shook his head, directing the Slytherin wizards to employ the floating spell to separate half of the snails into individual boxes. This method aimed to minimize the risk of injury by allowing them to focus on feeding one snail at a time.

Recalling the original book, Skyler noted that they had grown up to a substantial length of ten feet despite not discovering the preferred diet of fried snails.

Observing Slytherin’s approach, Gryffindor’s students attempted to replicate the method. However, their floating spells proved less proficient.

Dean Thomas suffered a few stings, and Seamus Finnigan nearly triggered an explosive reaction from a fried snail. Quickly reacting, Hagrid intervened swiftly, grabbing the creature and tossing it away.

After much hesitation, Hermione summoned the courage to approach Skyler, expressing gratitude, “Mr. Malfoy, thank you.”

Skyler sighed, meeting Hermione’s gaze, and responded, “No need to thank me. I don’t hold you responsible for this… I need to apologize for my brother. Let’s not dwell on it.” Skyler recognized the situation well; Draco initiated the provocation, ostensibly targeting Hagrid but likely aiming for the Potter trio or even himself.

“If there’s nothing else,” Skyler heard Daphne’s call and promptly excused himself, saying, “My companions are calling me; I’ll head over.”

Observing Skyler’s departing figure, Hermione pursed her lips. Not one to overlook her own actions, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she had once again caused trouble for Skyler, even if the specifics eluded her.

“Why do I always end up causing problems?” Hermione’s mood shifted to irritability in an instant.

Recalling the last falling-out with Skyler, she acknowledged her inability to control her emotions. Despite Skyler’s seeming lack of sympathy at the time, she realized he had no obligation to protect her.

Biting her lower lip tightly, Hermione internally vowed, “There will be no next time! Absolutely!”

“I’ve relied on you so much. Every time I’m in danger or hurt, you’re there to help and comfort me,” Hermione resolved silently. “I’ve had enough. Next time, I’ll handle it on my own. You owe me that!”

After the magical animal protection class concluded, the young wizards made their way back to the castle, where the hall buzzed with activity. A prominent notice caught their attention at the base of the marble staircase.

“What are they looking at?” Daphne inquired curiously.

Seeing the announcement, Skyler could clearly discern its contents and explained, “It’s about the Triwizard Tournament. Let me read it for you. The representatives of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will arrive at 6 o’clock in the evening on Friday, October 30. Afternoon classes will conclude half an hour earlier. Students are expected to return their school bags and textbooks to the dormitory, assemble in front of the castle, greet our guests, and then attend the welcome banquet.”

“Only a week!” Daphne’s eyes sparkled. “Skyler, do you plan to participate in the competition?”

Skyler couldn’t deny it. “Let’s see first. I need to understand how Dumbledore plans to select adult wizards. Honestly, I’m not confident about breaking the barrier set by the strongest wizards of our time.”

Will this going to be the right step for Skyler to take to prevent the nightmarish vision he just dreamt of? Or will this contribute to another step toward the destruction that he has been fighting hard to avoid of…

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Published On: January 30, 2024

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