Skyler looked at Nicolas, a sense of discomfort still present, and said, “Sir, I respect you for your extraordinary achievements as an alchemist and your numerous contributions to the wizarding world. However, I must insist that there’s little need to defend our esteemed Headmaster. His actions are a result of his concerns, whether about my allegiance to the mysterious man or the fear that I might become the next Dark Lord. In his eyes, I am no longer his student. Instead, it’s more likely he’s never truly trusted any student at Hogwarts. I dare say that he has probably shown his mind to students before, and I doubt it was the first time!”
Skyler stripped away the hypocritical veneer, revealing the complexities of the adult world that J.K. Rowling often understated.
Professor Dumbledore displayed a hint of remorse, saying, “Child, I meant no harm. If my actions made you uncomfortable, I am willing to offer an apology.”
Skyler’s demeanor softened slightly.
He realized that although he had already decided to face the turbulent times ahead independently, at this moment, forming a positive relationship with Professor Dumbledore, the needle that held the British wizarding world together, would be unwise.
He responded with a cold snort, saying, “I hope you take a lesson from this. My family’s elders have shared the story of the enigmatic man with me. The tale goes that he was lured into Hogwarts by a Professor. Despite your insistence on love, you resorted to locking him in a burning closet to extract a confession. The result was apparent; you may have had the upper hand at the time, but the day he outgrew you was inevitable. Is it necessary for each generation to learn such a bitter lesson?”
Both Professor Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel wore expressions of absolute shock.
These events from the past were seldom known beyond the few involved in that era.
For Skyler to have such a detailed understanding implied a remarkable depth to his intelligence, far exceeding Professor Dumbledore’s and Nicolas Flamel’s expectations.
“No more talk of this,” Skyler continued.
“Let’s discuss the matter of the Philosopher’s Stone. I, Skyler, am not a covetous individual. I have no desire for the Stone’s potential for immortality or riches. I do not want wealth, nor do I wish to watch my loved ones meet their end one after another. My interest lies solely in borrowing Mr. Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone for a duration of three months for research purposes. I aim to use this research to advance my knowledge of alchemy. If Mr. Flamel would be willing to share his alchemical knowledge with me, that would be even more welcome. I’ve heard that Mr. Flamel’s expertise in alchemy has yet to find a suitable successor. The loss of this knowledge would be a grievous one for the entire wizarding world.”
Professor Dumbledore appeared discontented that he was not steering the dialogue.
Interrupting Skyler, he said, “Skyler, you may not be aware that alchemy hinges on the principle of equivalent exchange. To obtain something, you must give something of equal value.”
Skyler smirked and replied, “Dear Headmaster, you seem to have forgotten that I have already paid a hefty price: an Academy Cup. Don’t deny it. Regardless of Slytherin’s lead over Gryffindor, your plan is to ensure that Gryffindor wins the Academy Cup. The more points they lead by, the more points you add at the final dinner, am I correct?”
Professor Dumbledore felt a little embarrassed but still tried to justify, “The points I added—although perhaps a bit generous—were a reward for Harry and his friends’ outstanding performances. As a first-year student, you can’t deny that Harry demonstrated the courage to face Voldemort, right?”
Skyler dismissed Professor Dumbledore’s words with a disdainful snort. “So what? The outcome of the Academy Cup was predetermined by you long ago. Don’t be in a hurry to deny it. When I discovered that first-year students’ checkpoints in the restricted area’s corridor were all solvable, my suspicions were confirmed.”
Professor Dumbledore inquired with interest, “Suspicions about what?”
Skyler continued to unravel the situation, “You instructed the professors to establish these levels. It was not the Dark Lord but the students themselves who set them up! The trap was designed in such a way that Harry was the only one who could access the Mirror of Erised. The three-headed dog is extremely formidable, and Hagrid is the only one capable of subduing it. Moreover, Harry had a special relationship with Hagrid, given that Hagrid gifted him a flute for Christmas. Hagrid is the professor you trust the most. On top of that, he has discovered a way to tame Fluffy flawlessly. These facts are too conspicuous, and I can smell a conspiracy from miles away.”
Professor Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel exchanged glances, realizing they were dealing with a highly perceptive 11-year-old.
Skyler continued, “Your strategy was simple. Ensure that only Harry can reach the Mirror of Erised. By presenting the three obstacles, namely the Cerberus, the flying keys, and the Wizard’s Chess, you cleverly used the strengths and traits of each of Harry, Ron, and Hermione to bypass these trials. If I’m not mistaken, Ron must have fainted during the Wizard’s Chess challenge, and Hermione retreated to aid him. This left Harry facing the Dark Lord alone before the Black Flame.”
Professor Dumbledore had no choice but to acknowledge Skyler’s precise and calculated deduction, sighing, “You have a sharp mind, Skyler.”
Skyler concluded, “This was your setup. You ensured that only Harry could access the Mirror of Erised. The three-headed dog is too mighty, and the only individual capable of subduing it is Hagrid. Moreover, Harry shares a unique bond with Hagrid, who gifted him a flute for Christmas. Hagrid is the professor you trust most, and he has devised a successful method to control Fluffy without error. These are strikingly apparent facts, and I can detect a conspiracy from a mile away.”
Professor Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel found themselves in a speechless impasse, rendered so by the uncannily precise observations of the 11-year-old before them.
“Respected Headmaster, have I not proven that this year’s Academy Cup has been designed for Mr. Potter to become the celebrated savior? Regardless of how hard students from the other three houses work, they are destined to see all their efforts, sweat, and determination rendered meaningless due to your special attention. Under your care, Potter is predestined to overshadow their achievements, leaving them feeling as though their endeavors were in vain.”
The three of them fell into an uncomfortable silence.
Nicolas pretended to avert his gaze to spare his old friend’s embarrassment.
After some time, Professor Dumbledore broke the silence.
“You are quite something,” Professor Dumbledore said softly, “Perhaps even more than he.”
Following his words, Professor Dumbledore appeared to age significantly and sat down, the weariness suddenly etched onto his face.
Skyler noticed the strain he had put on the Headmaster and decided to make amends. “In all fairness, I comprehend your intentions. You aim to maintain the stability and peace of the wizarding world. While I understand and respect that, I cannot endorse your methods. To maintain the world’s stability, to nip any potential threat in the bud, and to maintain control over the situation indefinitely, you are willing to intrude on the privacy of others, deny students the right to earn honors fairly, and I have no doubt that you are willing to sacrifice anyone necessary for the ‘greater good.'”
Nicolas smiled with satisfaction.
He pulled out a thick notebook with a phoenix-embossed cover from his robes and handed it to Skyler, saying, “Young Skyler, you’ve convinced me that you genuinely seek the Philosopher’s Stone for alchemical research. Your disposition, talent, and wisdom have left a strong impression. Immortality and turning base metals into gold are indeed enticing, but you are far better suited for these endeavors than I was at your age. To be honest, I’ve long advocated the destruction of the Philosopher’s Stone. I’ve lived long enough, and it’s time for me to say goodbye to this world. It may seem implausible for a young individual like you, but for Perenelle and me, death is akin to finally resting after a long day. The Philosopher’s Stone is not as marvelous as it seems. With it, you can gain limitless wealth and life, but these are the very desires that humans often make that are least beneficial to them.”
Nicolas then handed over the notebook, saying, “Take this notebook. I call it ‘Flamel’s Address Book.’ Inside, you’ll find numerous notes and insights about alchemy from my youth. The center page is imbued with a Protean Charm, functioning similarly to a two-way mirror, enabling you to reach me through the book at any time. If you have questions about the contents, don’t hesitate to ask. I would be pleased to pass on my knowledge and skills to such a gifted young individual as yourself.”
With the contact list secured from Nicolas, he nodded and said, “Well, gentlemen, I think it’s time for me to depart. Perenelle is waiting for me in Diagon Alley.” With a playful wink, Nicolas Flamel added, “I have stored two years’ worth of the Elixir of Life. Hopefully, that should suffice for you to master my alchemy before I pass away.”
Nicolas then rose from his seat, adjusted his robe, and stepped into the fireplace.
The day of departure arrived.
The dormitories were vacated, and everyone began packing. The Hogwarts Express halted at the platform.
Skyler, seated in a carriage with Daphne and Meredith, discussed their summer plans, but time was limited.
The train eventually reached King’s Cross Station, where parents gathered on the platform to greet their children.
Skyler spotted Lucius and Narcissa in the crowd.
After exchanging greetings with the two girls, he sought out Draco in the adjacent carriage but was suddenly ambushed by Daphne.
She embraced him tightly, planted a fervent kiss on his right cheek, and swiftly said, “Remember to write during the summer,” before rushing off in a fluster. Skyler stood there, bewildered, and turned to look at Daphne, who then faced him with flushed cheeks. Skyler began, “Daphne, she…”
Before he could finish, Meredith’s reaction eclipsed even Daphne’s.
She appeared to stagger and fall towards him.
Skyler extended his arms to catch her, but she pressed her warm body firmly against his.
Her soft, alabaster arms encircled his neck, her fingers lacing behind his head, and her delicate crimson lips met his.
Skyler’s mind felt as if it had been struck by lightning, rendering him momentarily numb.
Time seemed to pass at an irregular pace, and moments later, the two “knocks” jolted them out of their daze.
Startled, Meredith abruptly pushed Skyler away, her face flushed.
Meredith appeared to have lost the courage to speak and merely stammered, “Remember…remember during the summer. I want… I want you to write, a letter…”
Then, without looking back, she opened the door and dashed away.
Draco stood in the corridor outside the carriage, bewildered and impatient. “Hurry up, Skyler! I’ve seen our parents, but they won’t wait for too long.”
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