"Where is it?"
"Who are you?"
"What does it mean?"
"Why are you here?"
Two voices muttered, alternating, pressing quickly upon one
another in the darkness.
"If I tell you why I'm here, will you tell me what it
The first voice, high and nervous, catapulted against the
rustling trees with a unnatural loudness that echoed harshly in the closed
"Who are you to ask anything of me?"
The second voice, both soft and low, nevertheless seemed to
breathe a power that stirred the beech leaves below and tugged on the branches
arching high overhead.
"I am nobody..." said the first voice. "I am
nothing really. A young man. A young man from... from the school if you must
know the truth. I am about to leave..."
"You are about to go
on a long journey," said the second voice with a mock sigh,
dripping with sarcasm.
"Yes. No, you are correct. And I need to know
"Who are you?"
"My... my name is Quirrell. Professor Quirrell. I
teach... up at the school. I am going on a long journey."
"You are not helping your case."
"Should I lie, then?"
"I would know."
"Then who should I say I am?"
"Step into the light."
Professor Quirrell obeyed the order, taking one long stride
into the moonlit clearing. The milky light bleached his face, and his eyes
blinked in the sudden illumination. All around him nested the shadows of the
Forbidden Forest, towering oaks, slender sycamores, and beeches reaching for
the heavens. He felt alone and vulnerable.
"You are a small man," came the second voice,
rumbling out of the depths. "But I do believe you could be
"You mock me. I saved your life."
"And it is no honor for me."
"Bane, you know I respect your ways --" His voice
cracked with nervousness and exasperation. "Always! But I did save you,
and now I'm here. I've come, for the service you owe me."
"lt is arrogance," Bane countered, cantering into
the clearing, "that drives you humans. Arrogance and ambition! You do
not listen, but long only to speak and to be heard."
"Help me find Saturn and tell me what it means!"
"Even now you do not listen to me."
Bane stood directly before the young wizard, and as his eyes
adjusted, he couldn't help but tremble as the centaur glowered down upon him.
Bane, himself, was long and dark, his muscles supple and
relaxed. A permanent crease divided his brow. He clenched his teeth.
"You do not listen," he said, "even now, when
what I tell you is so important."
"I don't care! I want you to find Saturn for me."
"You live in castles and houses, you fly, you build
machines and contraptions and devices that talk or run or explode. All these
things you do, yet you are unwilling, too impatient, to listen for the silent
things that propel your future."
"I found you Bane!" Quirrell burst. "I
found you! Remember?! You were lying in a cobwebby clearing with spiders all
over you! You were green with poison. You couldn't breathe or speak. I was
the one who chased them away. I was the one who brought you herbs. Are you listening?!"
"You must listen."
"I do listen! But now I am going away, and what am I
going to find?! That's all I want to know."
"And I'm telling you now, even though I hate you, but
you are too arrogant to listen. You must listen."
"Bane! My name is Professor Quirrell and I am going to
Albania to find my future. Will you listen? Listen! My future! And all
those diviners, those fortunetellers, those cracks, they go on and on about
Saturn... I have to be patient, I have to be careful. Why? And for what?
'Because,' they say, 'Saturn hangs low on the horizon, out east, by Albania.'
Sadness, gloom, death, dread. 'Tread carefully. Look intently. Wait. And be
silent,' they say. I'm sick of silence!" Sweat glistened on the
professor's brow and fell into his eyes, but he did not blink as he glared up
at the centaur. "My whole life I've been silent, and where has it gotten
me? They treat me like a confused child. Up at the school... I've wanted to
save the world, but I can't seem to keep my own classroom. And since I lack the
competence to do good, I'm going to... go... find the competence to do good,
even if I must wring it from the world!"
Bane placed his arm upon Quirrell's shoulder, and the
professor jumped. The centaur's eyes seems to shine, to grow soft, for only a
"You must listen," said Bane softly.
For long moments they stood, and Quirrell's eyes gradually
acclimated to the contours of shadow, to the lustral dusting of dew at his
feet, and the cool breeze exhaled, seemingly, from the thousands of trees on
At last, Bane spoke. "Listen. Because I will never
speak this to a human again. Saturn is real. It is more real than you can
imagine. Do not go. Saturn is not a frown or a grimace to you, professor,
Saturn is a skull. You must knead confidence from your students and friends,
from your duties, and from the time you have here. But Saturn will kill you if
you leave. You will find what you seek, and it will destroy you. You will be
his stepchild. I have read this."
Quirrell looked toward the ground, and for several minutes,
they stood still beneath the turning stars.
"It's not enough!" Quirrell cried. "I will
face the darkness and win. I'm not afraid of you or them, or any
planet!" He turned on his heel. "You are a liar, and I will be more
than I am. You can die next time. Alone."
He strode from the clearing.
"You must listen," Bane whispered. "You are