Amidst the chaos of the battle, a resounding dragon’s roar filled the sky. Skyler’s Patronus, the silver-white dragon, descended between the warring factions, forcefully separating them.

To the surprise of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, their wands suddenly slipped from their grips, flying towards Skyler, who now wore an expression of icy resolve.

It was a side of him that Hermione had never seen before, and it sent a shiver down her spine, leaving her perturbed by his unfamiliar demeanor.

Skyler’s voice, devoid of sentiment, cut through the tension: “Hermione, did you strike my brother?”

Hermione, now trembling, summoned her courage and replied, “Yes, I did. He insulted Hagrid.”

Skyler’s response sent an even deeper chill down her spine as he retorted, “This is Hogwarts. If he’s in the wrong, the professors will handle it. Striking him in public is akin to attacking the Malfoy family.” He sneered and continued, “Luckily for you, I don’t strike women. But from this day forward, we are no longer friends.”

With a casual toss, Skyler discarded the three wands on the ground as if they were worthless, then turned to Draco’s group and whispered, “Brother, consider this a favor. Can we forget about today? The professors are on their way, and it’s not worth it for them to violate school rules.”

Draco hesitated for a moment, his anger still burning, but Skyler’s cold demeanor gave him pause.

His instincts warned him not to cross his brother now. Finally, he grumbled, “You got lucky this time!” He then led Crabbe and Goyle away, leaving Skyler behind. When the other Slytherin students saw the confrontation had ended, they mumbled amongst themselves and dispersed.

Harry and Ron, finally freed from Skyler’s oppressive aura, retrieved their wands.

Even Ron, known for his quick wit, dared not say anything more about Skyler.

The presence Skyler emanated was so chilling that it seemed to pierce through his soul, leaving him mentally paralyzed.

As Harry handed Hermione her wand back, he noticed two glistening tears that clung to her cheeks.

This sight left Harry, who had just regained his composure, somewhat bewildered. He asked, “Hermione, what’s wrong?”

Hermione, without a word, covered her face, then swiftly retreated to the castle, leaving Harry and Ron looking at each other in confusion.

In the Slytherin common room, Daphne and Meredith anxiously watched Skyler.

They had known him for over two years, during which time he’d always been composed and gentlemanly. This was the first time they had witnessed Skyler’s darker side.

In fact, everyone present had likely sensed it.

The anger Skyler had radiated wasn’t the kind that arose from the Malfoy family’s insults; it was a chilling, calculated anger. At that moment, Skyler had resembled a dementor, void of emotion.

The two girls, being particularly familiar with Skyler, recognized the source of this unsettling feeling. They detected traces of soul magic that had momentarily affected Skyler’s composure—a fear curse that penetrated fear deep into the soul, leaving people devoid of resistance.

Despite the Malfoy family’s prestige, the target was just a young girl and Skyler’s former friend. Skyler’s reaction had indeed caught them all by surprise.

After a moment of silence, it was Daphne who cautiously broached the subject, asking, “Skyler, are you alright?”

Skyler shook his head with a sigh, replying, “I’m fine, I just lost another friend.”

“Again?” Meredith inquired, catching the nuance in Skyler’s words.

Skyler nodded and shook his head simultaneously, a sense of complexity in his eyes. “It’s Gemma; we’ve had a falling out, and now we’re more enemies than friends. You should be careful around her. There’s more to her than meets the eye, and I haven’t discovered who else is backing her.”

Daphne sought clarification, saying, “I still don’t understand. Does Gemma’s situation have anything to do with today’s events?”

Skyler clarified, “The two incidents are unrelated. Gemma and I had differing views on half-blood and Muggle wizards, even though we share a pure-blood heritage and are both Slytherins. A minor conflict was inevitable, but it shouldn’t have escalated into a life-or-death rivalry. As for Hermione…”

Skyler understood the staunch beliefs of the pure-blood diehards, who claimed superiority due to their bloodlines but were now recognizing a half-blood wizard as their leader.

Skyler did not believe these pure-blood diehards would follow him to the end. Hermione, however, was a principled individual, as evidenced by her efforts to free House-elves and her public altercation with Draco.

There was an irreconcilable gap between them in terms of values and principles. This was a stark reminder of the choices he would have to make in the future.

Skyler was not Harry. He hadn’t entered Hogwarts with the aura of a chosen one, nor had he received Dumbledore’s special attention.

He had carefully planned his path, and after two and a half semesters of hard work, he had firmly established his place in Slytherin.

However, this had attracted the attention of the pure-blood diehards and the ghost society, two shadowy factions that considered him a potential adversary. At this point, he could not afford to let any unusual incidents within Slytherin alienate its members.

Skyler briefly fell silent before continuing, “Hermione and I are not the same. There are numerous instances where my path diverges from her love, principles, and values. After three semesters, you will observe it more clearly. Hermione, Harry, and Ron are Dumbledore’s chosen ones. It seems that he intends to mold them into the saviors who will defeat the Dark Lord.”

Meredith responded with a hint of disdain, “Relying on them to defeat the Dark Lord? Is that even possible?”

Skyler fixed his gaze on Meredith, delivering his next words with grave seriousness, “Believe me, under Dumbledore’s carefully orchestrated plan, anything is possible.”

Meredith met Skyler’s gaze and nodded in solemn agreement. Over time, the two girls had developed an almost unwavering trust in Skyler. If he said something was possible, it most likely was.

Skyler elaborated, “The issue lies here: if Harry and the others defeat the Dark Lord as saviors, it’s not difficult to imagine that their backgrounds will drive the next wave of reforms in the wizarding world. One of them is a Muggle-born orphan, one is a Muggle-born wizard, and the other is a pure-blood renegade; the traditional glory of pure-blood families might become a thing of the past…”

Skyler’s thoughts were not random. In a web chat within a fan club, Rowling had mentioned that after the final battle, Kingsley would become the Minister of Magic, Harry would become the head of the Auror Office, and Hermione would initially work in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, significantly improving the lives of House-elves. She would then transfer to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to dismantle laws favoring pure-blood families.

Under this wave of reforms, pure-blood families officially receded into history. While the Malfoy family continued to live comfortably, their days became more discreet, focused on leading a peaceful and undisturbed life.

Social status, fame, and influence were no longer concerns, and their best-case scenario was peaceful living. In the worst cases, families of Death Eaters or fugitive Death Eaters were under constant surveillance and faced the threat of revenge, living in perpetual fear.

(Note: Lucius had revealed his identity as a Death Eater in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries and retained his status as a wanted criminal. He later became a tainted witness, revealing the identities of other Death Eaters in exchange for escaping prison. However, he was considered a traitor by pure-blood families and shunned by Muggle wizards, half-blood wizards, and the Weasleys. It can be said that he was an outcast to both sides.)

Skyler paused before continuing, “Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not a proponent of pure-blood ideology. In my view, bloodline theories are merely excuses for the pedantic, old-fashioned individuals to flaunt their supposed nobility. But I want to preserve the Malfoy family’s prestige. Reformation might be possible in the wizarding world, but the Malfoy family must play a part in it. They should even lead the way rather than fading into obscurity in the annals of history.”

Confidence radiated from Skyler’s eyes. He clenched his right hand, lifting it high as though he aimed to grasp the sun in the sky, and declared with solemn determination, “No matter how challenging the road ahead, I believe I can accomplish it.”

Daphne and Meredith, inspired by Skyler’s resolve, joined in enthusiastically, proclaiming, “We believe in you too.”

Skyler turned to them, a bright smile lighting up his face, and he said, “I knew you would.”

As for Hermione, since their recent disagreements and strained interactions, perhaps they were destined to forget one another.

Does Skyler have feelings for Hermione? He isn’t sure. But one thing he knows is that if he must choose between Hermione and his family, he will always choose his family, where his true bonds lie.

Meanwhile, in Gryffindor, things were equally tumultuous. The “Three Good Students,” Hermione, had rarely skipped class, especially in an essential course such as curses. Fellow Gryffindors were curious about what had caused Hermione’s unusual behavior.

The afternoon’s Divination class brought Hermione back to the fold. In this class, young witches and wizards began learning crystal ball divination, and Professor Trelawney had hinted that the ominous vision in Harry’s crystal ball would play a role in the final exam.

As the class proceeded, Hermione stood up, exclaiming, “Oh, this is simply a matter of fate! Enough of that absurd ominousness!” (Mysterious Voice: Hermione, do you believe in destiny?)

Professor Trelawney first displayed an incredulous expression, which then transformed into anger, but behind the gleaming lenses of her glasses, her eyes revealed a subtle hint of mockery.

Parvati and Lavender whispered to each other. These two girls were avid fans of Professor Trelawney, and they shot disapproving glances at Hermione, feeling that their idol had been insulted.

Professor Trelawney, visibly angered, stood up and addressed Hermione, “I deeply regret to inform you, dear, that from the moment you first entered this class, it has been evident that you lack any inclination for the noble art of divination. In fact, I cannot recall encountering a student with such a mediocre and utterly hopeless intellect.”

The entire class was left stunned. Hermione slung her bag over her shoulder, exclaiming loudly, “Fine, I surrender! I’m leaving!” She then marched toward the trapdoor, kicked it open, and disappeared down the ladder.

Harry and Ron exchanged bewildered glances.

They couldn’t quite put their fingers on what was wrong with Hermione, but they sensed that something was amiss. To complicate matters, Lavender chimed in at an inopportune moment, “Oh, Professor Trelawney, I remember! You foresaw her departure, didn’t you, Professor? ‘Before Easter, one of us will leave us forever!’ You mentioned this prophecy long ago, Professor!”

Lavender and Parvati gazed in admiration at their teacher, and even Ron and Harry found themselves entertaining suspicions about the validity of divination.

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Published On: December 19, 2023

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