After a moment of silence, Skyler sighed and confessed, “Professor, you’re absolutely right. I do have the ambition to seek power. But you might find it hard to believe that if I weren’t a member of the Malfoy family, my greatest wish would be to become an adventurer like Professor Lockhart, exploring ancient ruins, embarking on thrilling quests, and perhaps even writing about my experiences…”

Skyler became lost in his own fantasy for a brief moment as he spoke, but soon his eyes regained their sharpness. “However, that’s just an unattainable dream. I was born into the Malfoy family, and I am a Malfoy. That’s an unchangeable fact. So, to protect myself and all those I care about, I must become stronger.”

Dumbledore likely hadn’t anticipated this response, given the expectations surrounding Skyler and the Malfoy family.

After a brief pause, Dumbledore shared a personal story with Skyler, accompanied by a gentle smile.

“A long time ago, there was a young wizard who enjoyed a happy family and a contented life. When he arrived at Hogwarts to study magic, he discovered his talents and cultivated numerous aspirations and ideals…” Dumbledore’s voice was soothing as he recounted the tale, evoking a sense of nostalgia.

The pale blue pupils behind his half-moon glasses emitted a faint radiance.

“Several years later, the young wizard graduated from Hogwarts with top honors… However, during those years, his family experienced a series of misfortunes that compelled him to abandon his dreams. His young sister displayed magic when she was still a child, attracting the attention of three Muggle boys who attacked her for it.” He took a deep breath, letting his story linger in the air.

“The encounter left her with uncontrolled magic and a tormented spirit. Seeking vengeance for his daughter, their father cast a terrible curse upon the Muggle boys. He shouldered all the blame and was sentenced to Azkaban to shield his unfortunate daughter from ending up in St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. In the aftermath, their mother decided to relocate the family…” He continued.

Upon hearing this story, Skyler quickly surmised that the young wizard in the narrative was likely Dumbledore himself.

“Regrettably, the tale doesn’t end there,” Dumbledore continued, raising his gaze ever so slightly as the angle of the light caused his glasses to gleam.

“When the young wizard’s sister reached the age of fourteen, her magic acted up once more… This incident abruptly ended her mother’s life. By then, the young wizard’s younger brother was the only one capable of controlling her sister’s magic. The young wizard was consumed by grief, an intense sorrow. Nevertheless, life went on irrevocably. He shouldered the resentment of his younger brother, provided constant comfort to his self-blaming sister, and bore the burden of sustaining their already fractured family.”

Dumbledore paused, appearing as though he were lost in some distant recollection, before continuing his narrative. “It was during this time that another young wizard with dreams and aspirations akin to his own appeared. They swiftly forged a deep friendship, and the young wizard rekindled his long-abandoned aspirations. Together, they nurtured a resolve to transform the wizarding world, aiming to become leaders in the magical community. It was then that the young wizard’s brother pointed out that having a sister as a concern would make it impossible for the young wizard to ascend to a leadership role. The young wizard’s closest friend was furious about this and cast a curse on the young wizard’s brother, shattering his heart. The young wizard, in defense of his brother, engaged in a chaotic altercation between the three of them. In the midst of the chaos, the young wizard’s sister, trying to assist her brothers, perished due to a spell unleashed by an unidentified source!”

Dumbledore’s long white beard quivered slightly as though he had never fully let go of those memories.

“Since then,” Dumbledore continued, “the young wizard abandoned all his dreams. He was lost, uncertain of his aspirations and ambitions and the meaning of it all. His sister was gone, and his brother harbored eternal resentment. Even his dearest friends became enemies.”

Dumbledore suddenly fixed his gaze on Skyler, his eyes piercing and solemn. “If it were you, what would you do?” he inquired.

Skyler pursed his lips, maintaining a composed demeanor. After a prolonged silence, he finally responded, “The answer to that question is something you must discover for yourself.”

Dumbledore had been closely observing Skyler’s expression.

After a moment, he broke into a smile. “Although you bear a striking resemblance to my old friend, there’s something different about you. You know precisely what you wish to pursue, and you have the courage to face your destiny.”

Skyler suddenly realized he had passed the test in this conversation.

Dumbledore was more approachable than he had initially thought and displayed a degree of tolerance for Skyler’s ambitions and plans.

Just as Skyler was preparing to leave, Dumbledore spoke up again, “Before you go, I want to inform you that when Harry and the others infiltrated the Slytherin common room, they confronted your brother. Yes, I must acknowledge that they violated some very serious school rules. However, I refrained from expelling Harry and the others because they have a reason to remain at Hogwarts…”

Skyler smirked, demonstrating his partiality.

It wasn’t because Harry was the most critical component of his broader strategy against Voldemort.

Simultaneously, Skyler came to recognize Dumbledore’s formidable control over Hogwarts.

If this had been during Armando Dippet’s era, students involved in malicious acts against their peers, like Harry, would have been expelled without hesitation.

Newt Scamander’s case was a prime example.

Even with the protection of the Professors and the Headmaster, the expulsion had still occurred.

In Dumbledore’s time, it was evident that at least one of the twelve school directors supported Dumbledore (the one who reported Lucius’s threat), while the others were reluctant to go against Dumbledore’s faction if not outright aligned with Dumbledore.

The board had essentially become non-essential following Lucius’s expulsion, and it was no exaggeration to say that Dumbledore ruled Hogwarts.

Observing Skyler’s expression, Dumbledore smiled slightly, “You may think I have dealt with this matter unfairly, and I can understand your dissatisfaction with me. I’ve discussed it with Snape, and I plan to offer Slytherin House some compensation…”

As Skyler exited the Headmaster’s office, the school corridor, once bustling, was now deserted.

News of the events in the secret room had clearly leaked, as every student Skyler passed stopped him, eagerly hoping for an account of how he vanquished the Basilisk.

Skyler paid little attention to the portraits and proceeded directly to the school hospital.

Even though he was uninjured, it was wise to have a checkup, just in case.

In the blink of an eye, Dobby, the House-elf, appeared before him with a loud bang.

“Master, Dobby is free. Harry Potter freed Dobby. He asked the master to give Dobby a sock. He is even greater than Dobby knows!” Dobby exclaimed, his eyes wide and teary.

Although Skyler was no longer Dobby’s master in name, the bond they had developed over the years still led Dobby to address him as his little master.

“Congratulations, Dobby!” Skyler replied softly, seeing the House-elf wearing Harry’s slightly odorous sock on his right foot. “Dobby, you are free now. What are your plans for the future?”

“Dobby has thought about it, little master! Dobby values freedom but also enjoys working. Dobby needs a job and wants to earn wages through work,” the House-elf said, a hint of uncertainty creeping into his voice.

“But this may be difficult. People may not be willing to pay wages to Dobby. This doesn’t align with a house-elf’s nature.” Dobby’s voice trailed off, and the initial joy was replaced by doubt.

“Don’t worry, Dobby. You have me! If you still consider me a friend, come and assist me. I need an assistant at Hogwarts, and I can pay you a salary. How does that sound?”

Dobby was overwhelmed with excitement, throwing his arms around Skyler’s waist and embracing him tightly.

Skyler felt immense relief knowing that Dobby had escaped from the Malfoy Manor.

In addition to the cruel treatment he had endured from the Malfoy family, with Voldemort’s impending return, Dobby would likely face further torment and potential death.

Furthermore, Dobby’s ability to Apparatefreely in Hogwarts was a valuable skill for Skyler.

It allowed him to facilitate various external purchases and access certain areas through blocked or concealed passages.

For instance, the Slytherin secret room is now empty and hidden.

Only Harry, who understood Parseltongue, and Dobby could enter through Apparition.

House-elf Dobby acquired!

When Skyler left the school hospital, it was time for the celebratory dinner that evening, marking the conclusion of the Basilisk incident.

The victims of the attacks had all recovered and appeared at the dinner, embracing their friends.

Following that, Professor McGonagall announced the school’s decision to cancel the exams as an entertainment for all the students, except Hermione, which brought joy to everyone.

Simultaneously, Dumbledore made an announcement.

Unfortunately, Professor Lockhart had decided to resign.

The reasons for his resignation were a mystery, but it didn’t seem to concern anyone.

The news was met with cheers, prompting Skyler to ponder the mysterious influence of this world’s events.

The only deviation from the original book was that Dumbledore did award Harry some points, but he didn’t forget to grant Skyler extra points.

Without the involvement in Quidditch, Skyler had contributed 110 points to the house through his involvement in the previous incidents, such as the Fairies and when Ron and Harry sneaked into the Slytherin’s Common Room, making this year’s House Cup an unquestionable victory for Slytherin.

The Slytherin table was a scene of pure festivity.

The young wizards erupted with ecstatic cheers, leaping and cavorting around the dining table.

Even Draco, who was often reserved, was caught up in the festivities and pounded the table with rhythmic enthusiasm.

Pansy and her closest friends sent colorful sparks into the air with their wands, creating a mesmerizing display.

Goyle and Crabbe bellowed their cheers so ardently that their voices grew hoarse.

Hermione, newly recovered and discharged from the hospital, confidently led a somewhat shy Ginny to the Slytherin table.

She walked up to Skyler, surrounded by envious glares from Daphne and Meredith, and congratulated him.

Hermione thanked him profusely for saving Ginny and extended her congratulations for Slytherin’s triumph in the House Cup.

Skyler’s brave feat of defeating the Basilisk had captured the admiration of the entire school, and even the least Slytherin-friendly among the Gryffindors couldn’t deny the merits of this victory.

Hermione had expected her hints to guide Harry and Ron to unravel the mystery of the Heir of Slytherin.

However, she was disheartened to learn that the two of them hadn’t even considered visiting her in the hospital.

She was somewhat perturbed by their apparent indifference, but she rationalized that visiting a petrified patient served no purpose, so she forgave her friends for this omission.

To her surprise, the first piece of news she received upon waking was that the secret room ordeal had been resolved, and it was Skyler, a second-year student, who had accomplished it.

She was in awe as she learned about Skyler’s valor.

He had confronted an unknown peril single-handedly, fearlessly engaged a deadly five-star Basilisk, and saved Ginny despite their previous friction.

In Hermione’s eyes, Skyler had transformed into a courageous, virtuous, and exceptionally powerful heroic figure.

He shone even more brightly than Professor Lockhart.

Beneath her guise of congratulation and gratitude, she had hoped for a private conversation with Skyler to discuss the secret room.

However, she hadn’t anticipated the extent of the hostility she’d encountered at the Slytherin table.

The words she longed to speak hung at the tip of her tongue but were ultimately swallowed back.

The dinner concluded amid a festive atmosphere.

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Published On: December 5, 2023

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