centaur Firenze picked his way carefully
through the underbrush, his small torch held aloft. Centaurs were not like
humans; they did not pry into each other’s affairs. Still, they moved in a herd
by nature and his work tonight would not go un-commented upon. The older
members of the herd often offered their wisdom and guidance in observing the
heavens. This was the way of the centaur. They had no formal schooling, they
simply passed on knowledge; enriching each other for the betterment of all.
Tonight, Firenze wished to work alone.
wended his way through the trees, heading towards the castle. There was little
danger of meeting any of the others in that direction; centaurs had little use
for wizards. They existed so close to the school by necessity and did not go
near there without cause. Coming to a small clearing, Firenze
paused and lowered his torch. He stood and listened, taking in the sounds of
the forest. Leaves rustled in the early spring breeze, an owl hooted, and
nature’s soft noises filled the chill night air. Satisfied that he was alone, Firenze
circled the clearing slowly, head upturned.
was a clear night and the stars could be easily read, though he hardly needed
to look to know what they would tell him. For years now the herd had spoken in
detached tones of the rising darkness. This time of peace in the wizarding world was coming to an end, revealing itself to be only a calm between two great storms. The skies
held change, chaos, evil. Sure enough, Mars was shining brightly above as Firenze
stared up into the night. Mars, harbinger of war. That was what had brought him
away from the herd. There were things that he needed to understand.
down on his haunches, Firenze plunged the handle of his torch into the soft
earth and pulled the pack from his back. From it, he removed small bundles of
herbs. He cleared the ground in front of him of leaves and twigs, and used his
hands to make it smooth and even. Selecting a bunch of mallowsweet, Firenze
raised one end to the torch flame and then placed the smoldering herbs on the
cleared ground. He watched the smoke as it rose, seeking to find certain signs
and symbols that would tell him what he wanted to know.
great evil was coming, a darkness that could very well swallow wizard-kind.
Centaurs were not given to involving themselves in the fates of men. It was
theirs to read the planets and not to intervene, they had sworn not to set
themselves against the universe. So Firenze had always been taught. But surely
that was wrong. Surely all magical beings must take a side when good and evil
came to blows. Others in the herd with whom he had spoken did not think so. To
side with humans was beneath them, they would not lower themselves. Still, if
he did not choose to stand against evil, then could it not be said that he
stood with it?
night, years ago, he had put himself in the way of the way of these things,
carrying the boy, Harry Potter, to safety on his back. Bane had never forgiven
him, but it had been the right thing to do. He had been in the position to save
the boy, the fates had put him in that exact place at that exact time, and he
knew in the deepest part of himself that he could have done nothing else. As
Firenze stared into the rising fumes, he knew without a doubt that he would
meet Harry Potter again. It was written in the signs. When they met, would
Firenze stand with him, or stand idly by? The answer came to him with a deep
feeling of sadness. To do the one would mean betraying his herd, but to do the
other would mean betraying himself.
crack of twigs in the distance, Firenze picked up his pack and hauled himself
to his feet. The torch cast a soft light around the clearing, and but the moon
did not penetrate the shadows of the trees. He pulled out his bow and dropped
the pack, retrieving an arrow from the quiver on his back. He squinted into the
shadows, and once he was able to discern a two-legged figure moving his way he
threaded the arrow into the bow and stood poised to attack. The figure moved
closer, either not seeing him or not minding his aggressive stance. When the
dim light revealed dark, flowing robes, a long silver beard and half-moon
glasses, Firenze lowered his weapon.
Firenze,” said the gentle voice of Albus Dumbledore, “It seems that luck is with
me this evening. I have come into the forest to speak with you.”
replaced the arrow in his quiver and turned his face to the sky. Mars glowed
scarlet above him. The faint smell of burning herbs hung in the air. The old
man waited in silence, patiently. After a long moment the centaur turned back
to him and said, very quietly, “So the time has come.”