The Sugar Quill
Author: IsabelA113 (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Under the Stars  Chapter: Default
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The centaur Firenze picked his way carefully through the underbrush, his small torch held aloft

The 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.


He 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.


            It 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.


Settling 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.


The 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?


One 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.


At the 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.


“Ah, 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.”


Firenze 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.”

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