As Skyler prepared to depart, Professor McGonagall remarked, “You’re welcome. I also hope that you can secure victory for the school.”

Skyler smiled and replied, “Professor, thank you for your encouragement. While I can’t guarantee a win, I can assure you that I will give it my all!”

“You!” A rare smile flickered in Professor McGonagall’s eyes. “Daring to say that! How audacious of you to defy the established rules and participate in the Triwizard Tournament without authorization. I really don’t know what to make of you!”

“However,” Professor McGonagall softened her expression, “the Goblet of Fire is discerning. If it has chosen you as a champion, it indicates that you are qualified for the competition.” She couldn’t help but recall another champion from Hogwarts. “I don’t know about Potter though… This tournament is challenging, and perilous elements are involved. I advise you to exercise caution and avoid unnecessary risks, understand?”

When McGonagall learned that Skyler had entered the Triwizard Tournament on his own, she was initially furious. She never expected Skyler, who consistently adhered to the rules, to act so recklessly.

Yet, she found relief in the realization that, given Skyler’s fourth-year status, he wouldn’t have another opportunity to participate, considering the tournament’s five-year cycle. Furthermore, his formidable skills were evident to all; in McGonagall’s estimation, he could hold his own against seventh-year participants.

“Thank you for the concern, Professor!” Skyler smiled before continuing, “I understand, Professor. I’ll be cautious,” Skyler replied obediently.

Professor McGonagall added, “Additionally, I believe it would be wise to seek Professor Dumbledore’s advice. It’s beneficial for a lower-grade student participating in an upper-grade competition. He is currently in his office, probably piled under all the work that he’s been avoiding like the plague. Won’t even be surprised if he is currently slumbering with cockroaches…”

Hearing this kind of reply that he would never get from watching the movie or reading the book made Skyler chuckle at Professor McGonagall’s response.

“Professor Dumbledore? Might not be a bad idea to get an advice or two from him,” Skyler thought, skeptic look was visible on his face. “Alright, Professor, I’ll go see him,” he replied.

Skyler wasn’t naive enough to believe that meeting Dumbledore was solely for the reasons Professor McGonagall mentioned.

He could discern from her tone and expression that there was more to it. Professor McGonagall might be an exceptional witch and a master of transfiguration, but she was not a proficient liar.

What could Dumbledore want with him? Various possibilities raced through Skyler’s mind, with the most prominent being his participation in the Triwizard Tournament. Reflecting on recent events, he was confident that he hadn’t left any discernible traces. Whether establishing the Serpentis Vigil or dealing with Kingsley’s demise, there seemed to be minimal risk of exposure.

Dumbledore’s request likely had a purpose. Skyler considered that the inevitable might be catching up to him. Furthermore, with the revelations about Meredith and Morgan Le Fay, he had valid reasons to seek Dumbledore’s counsel.

Entering the principal’s office, the portraits of the former headmasters feigned slumber on the wall, yet their half-open eyes attentively observed Skyler.

Seated at the desk, Professor Dumbledore wore a friendly smile that barely concealed the depth of his scrutinizing gaze.

“It’s been quite a while, Skyler. How was your summer vacation and your experience in fourth-grade campus life?” Dumbledore inquired with genuine warmth.

Skyler, no stranger to the seemingly amiable elder who was, in reality, a master chess player with brilliant strategic moves, was well aware of Dumbledore’s astuteness.

No matter how discreetly executed, every action at Hogwarts was challenging to conceal from the principal’s discerning gaze. If Dumbledore’s attention was allocated on a scale of 10 points, five were on Harry, two on Ron and Hermione, and the majority of the remaining 3 focused on Skyler.

Understanding Dumbledore’s strategic priorities, Skyler had strategically positioned himself by having Daphne spearhead the establishment of the Serpentis Vigil.

With Harry and himself attracting attention and additional support from characters like Mad-Eye Moody and Draco, Skyler doubted Dumbledore’s omnipotence. After all, the principal wasn’t a deity, no matter how powerful he was.

Foregoing any pleasantries, Skyler addressed Dumbledore directly, “Dear Professor, let’s not beat around the bush! Did you call me here just to exchange greetings?”

For the first time, Dumbledore found himself momentarily taken aback. Despite his easygoing demeanor, his longstanding role as principal and the authority he wielded naturally instilled awe and, at times, trepidation in students. It was an unprecedented occurrence for a student to confront him so unabashedly.

Responding with a smile, Dumbledore remarked, “My dear child, there is truly no malice in my summoning you. As the headmaster, it is my duty to care for each student. Today, I simply wish to know if there’s anything you’d like to discuss with me—perhaps about Meredith?”

Indeed, Skyler’s insight proved accurate; Dumbledore had summoned him to the principal’s office with the explicit intention of addressing matters related to Meredith. The moment Dumbledore broached the subject, Skyler’s emotional vulnerability became evident.

Skyler’s pupils contracted slightly, and the mention of Meredith struck a chord deep within him. The pain associated with his perceived failures weighed heavily, as he grappled with an unwavering commitment to safeguard those close to him.

“As you brought up Meredith’s situation, you must be aware that she has fallen into the clutches of the ‘Shadow Dragon,'” Skyler’s gaze bore a sharp intensity. “I swear—I will rescue her, but…”

Skyler’s tone resonated with unequivocal determination, “Before that, I need more strength. No one can impede me.” His eyes locked onto Dumbledore, conveying a clear message, “Professor, please understand, I no longer want anyone close to me to suffer harm!”

By the time he said that the fragments of nightmares that have been haunting him for the last few weeks were resurging inside his head…

Skyler’s declaration left no room for ambiguity—he sought strength, and anyone daring to obstruct his path was deemed an adversary.

Dumbledore maintained a thoughtful silence, scrutinizing Skyler as if unraveling a complex puzzle.

“I am sorry child… I don’t know how hard it has been for you lately, listen to what’ I am about to say closely.” Admitting to a discomforting lack of control, Dumbledore sensed an otherworldly power emanating from Skyler.

Though seemingly implausible, he entertained the notion that Skyler had transcended conventional boundaries.

At this moment, Skyler wasn’t the only source of disquiet challenging Dumbledore’s sense of control. Recent events weighed heavily on his mind, creating a confluence of uncertainties.

His intelligence network relayed disturbing information: in the small British town of Hangleton, a Muggle named Bryce, tasked with guarding Riddle’s House, had mysteriously vanished. Dumbledore had a strong intuition that this incident was undeniably connected to that individual.

Compounding his concerns, news arrived from the Order of the Phoenix revealing the demise of Kingsley Shacklebolt, a trusted ally.

Despite the official narrative of his death during a mission against five werewolves, Dumbledore found the account implausible. How could three skilled Aurors falter against a handful of werewolves? Something felt amiss.

The unsettling reports didn’t end there. The International Wizarding Federation delivered disconcerting intelligence— a dark wizard had forcefully breached the Indonesian Ministry of Magic, exploiting the International Floo Network to escape to Europe.

While the Indonesian Ministry might not be the most formidable, its breach by an ordinary dark wizard raised eyebrows.

Closer to home, Hogwarts itself had become a hotbed of peculiar incidents. Hagrid’s report disclosed extensive burns discovered in the Forbidden Forest.

Dumbledore personally investigated the scene, confirming it to be the aftermath of a potent curse. The presence of suspected dark wizards in the Forbidden Forest raised alarming questions.

Individuals proficient in casting powerful fire spells without facing significant backlash are typically formidable and not likely to pose a direct threat to the safety of Hogwarts students.

Moreover, the caster of the intense fire curse in the Forbidden Forest seemed to possess extensive knowledge of such curses. The extensive destruction, particularly the decimation of eight-eyed spiders, showcased a mastery of fire curses rarely witnessed.

Reflecting on recent events, Dumbledore recalled Minerva’s report of a confrontation between the Malfoy twins and Alastor Moody on the first day of school. Investigating further, he discovered that Draco had successfully blocked Moody’s attack.

Subsequently, Draco and Skyler collaborated to unleash a formidable magical assault, compelling Moody to resort to an unfamiliar spell similar to Protego for defense.

The entire incident raised numerous red flags for Dumbledore. Whether it was Draco’s ability to block Moody’s attack, the potent combination of Draco and Skyler posing a genuine threat to Moody, or Moody’s utilization of an unfamiliar Barrier Spell, all aspects left Dumbledore deeply concerned.

As if these challenges weren’t enough, Dumbledore harbored suspicions about all four Triwizard Tournament contestants. The nature of the competition between Skyler and Harry seemed peculiar, and Dumbledore could only speculate about the underlying motives.

Additionally, he had reservations about Skyler’s participation, suspecting that Skyler had surpassed a realm that defied clear explanation.

In Harry’s case, Dumbledore speculated that he was coerced into the tournament and manipulated by an enigmatic figure, though the orchestrator’s connection to Hogwarts remained unclear.

The unexpected participation of the Moreau and Hohenheim families left Dumbledore perplexed, as he was aware that these families concealed deeper complexities beyond their reputation as prominent pure-blood families.

The alchemy school associated with the Hohenheim family hinted at potential involvement in dark necromantic alchemy concerning the manipulation of the human body—a realm considered taboo within the field of alchemy.

Moreover, the presence of “Grindelwald” in the Moreau family’s lineage raised further concerns, the reasons for which were self-evident.

Balancing these considerations became mentally taxing for Dumbledore, especially with Harry concurrently developing a plan that demanded his exhaustive attention.

Consequently, Daphne successfully concealed her establishment of the Serpentis Vigil, as Dumbledore found himself incapable of diverting more attention to the other young wizards at Hogwarts.

Breaking the silence, Dumbledore spoke in his most gentle tone, “My child, remember that you are not alone. Meredith, too, is a student of Hogwarts. As the principal, I am responsible if there’s anything troubling a student. Feel free to seek my help anytime.”

Skyler maintained an expressionless demeanor, but inwardly, he questioned whether this old man intended to show him favoritism.

Dumbledore decided not to dwell on the topic further and continued, “The pursuit of power is not inherently wrong. I only caution you not to lose yourself and to remember your original intentions. I have seen many students as talented and ambitious as you, more…” Dumbledore’s words trailed off, and he lapsed into silence. His expression reflected a weariness that seemed to transcend his age, harking back to times long past.

For Skyler, the weight of Dumbledore’s burdens became palpable. Despite Dumbledore’s outward display of power and wisdom, he couldn’t escape the reality of being a 113-year-old man, burdened by the weight of his past.

A life devoted to facing two generations of the Dark Lord now seemed to extend its worries to the potential emergence of a third Dark Lord.

Aware of his own predicament, Skyler recognized that he had antagonized at least two formidable adversaries—the Shadow Dragon and the Ghost Society.

After careful consideration, even though he was reluctant to owe Dumbledore any favors, he acknowledged the impracticality of building a comprehensive intelligence network from scratch quickly.

Relying on Dumbledore’s established network appeared to be the more sensible choice. Yet, an internal struggle persisted between adhering to his plan, commitment to his destiny, and the potential need for compromise.

The image of Meredith’s face flickered in Skyler’s mind, bringing with it memories of a poignant kiss in the teahouse and the lifelong commitment she had expressed.

His heart ached, torn between conflicting emotions. The pain he felt was profound, as if his very being was being pulled apart. In this struggle, he realized that he couldn’t be indifferent.

While he had been willing to sacrifice his friendship with Hermione for the sake of family and ambition, Meredith held a distinct place in his heart, surpassing even Hermione.

With a resolution formed in his mind, Skyler decided to address the unspoken concerns lingering between him and Dumbledore.

“Professor, let’s not play coy with veiled hints,” Skyler asserted. “I’m aware that you’ve harbored suspicions and concerns about me. Ultimately, isn’t it because I belong to the Malfoy family, and you fear I might align with the Death Eaters, following the path of those other pure-blood families?”

He continued emphatically, “I can assure you now that your concerns are unfounded! I have no intention of joining the Death Eaters. In fact, everything I’ve done so far has been aimed at distancing my family from the Death Eaters, sparing you from being entangled in the war between Death Eaters and your side.”

Dumbledore responded with a smile. “To be honest, I never worried that you would become Voldemort’s subordinate,” he remarked, his eyes gleaming. “It’s simply because he is not worthy!”

“I must admit that living for as long as I have provides a certain advantage in understanding people. I’ve encountered countless individuals, and I can confidently say—you cannot be swayed, even if that person is Voldemort,” Dumbledore added with a positive tone.

Certainly, this sentence can be interpreted in various ways, such as implying that Skyler might become a new Dark Lord.

Skyler let out a sigh and spoke slowly, “Professor, my pursuit is simple—to attain enough power to protect those close to me and lead a life with dignity.”

Continuing, Skyler said, “Professor, you’re likely aware that over the summer, I gained some knowledge of wizarding law from Mrs. Amielia. I’ve come to realize that, although the wizarding world appears to be governed by laws, there are evident loopholes in these laws and regulations. For instance, certain Muggle products like radios and sports cars are deemed legal, while others like TV sets and blankets are not. And let’s not even mention the Minister of Magic, who, as part of the administration, holds the authority to alter laws at will and even possesses the capability to exempt individuals from jurisdiction—the power of the Wizengamot members within the system.”

“No matter how appealing the slogans may be, they can’t mask the harsh reality that power reigns supreme in the wizarding world,” Skyler spoke eloquently, “Professor, you wield power and can choose to use it benevolently, but it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to follow your example. Power has a corrupting influence, as evidenced by the officials at the Ministry of Magic. Despite their claims of authority, during the last Wizarding War, they crumbled like dry leaves in front of the Dark Lord, persecuting Muggles and the innocent. Their actions spoke louder than words…”

Skyler maintained a firm tone as he concluded, “In the wizarding world, those without power are deemed unworthy of wealth and status. This is the brutal reality!”

Coming out of a fourth-year student’s mouth, the words that Skyler uttered bring forth more than just a weight of responsibility laid across the intention of his actions.

Dumbledore leaned in, showing a more serious expression on his face as he listened attentively to what Skyler was about to say.

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Published On: February 9, 2024

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