Change and Choice
As he entered the shadows of the great
trees, tension eased from his massive shoulders. Hogwarts was home, but he
never truly felt comfortable indoors. It was tiring, constantly ducking through
low doorways, always standing, since there was rarely a chair that would
support his weight. His hut was a retreat, but the Forest was welcoming; beside
its ancient trees he was not awkwardly oversized. He sat beside a trunk as
large around as his hut, pulled a sausage from his pocket and took a bite.
He didn’t have long to wait. At the sound of
hoofbeats Hagrid stood, inclining his head respectfully, but with a broad
"Lo,Firenze. How’s things in the
The centaur nodded gravely. Both knew there
might not be many more conversations like this one. Hagrid would soon leave
Hogwarts again, perhaps forever. Ominous signs in the sky spoke of change, of a
great convulsion in the forces of the world.
"Things are as they have been, my friend.
But not for much longer. You will be traveling soon."
Hagrid grinned. "I’d ask how yeh knew
that, but you centaurs know what’s goin’ on afore anyone. Professor Dumbledore’s
asked me to go on a mission fer him. Things is gettin’ bad, and gonna get worse
afore it’s over."
"If I read the stars rightly, a great
evil has awoken from sleep," Firenze replied. "We have much to
discuss. My people do not wish to hear, but your world and ours cannot be
separated, and ignorance is no shield."
"Wish more of our lot knew that,"
responded Hagrid, his smile fading. The two began to walk, Hagrid noticing
again the pleasure of conversing with someone whose head was level with his
Firenze listened thoughtfully to the story
of the recently concluded Triwizard Tournament. Hagrid was a useful source of
information, and though some considered him stupid, Firenze knew this was not
the case. He was not learned, like Dumbledore, and had none of the elderly wizard’s
subtlety. But his instinctive understanding of the natural world, his empathy
with all living creatures, had earned Firenze’s respect.
"This Harry Potter has proven himself
worthy," he said. "Bane still despises me for allowing him upon my
back, but his courage deserves our regard."
"Harry’s a good kid," Hagrid
agreed. "I kinda feel like him an’ me, we’re alike, yeh know? Got no real
family, got to make our own way in the world." He paused, turning to
Firenze. "An’ speakin’ o’family, I got to ask…" He took a deep
breath. "Yeh ever know any giants, Firenze? Cause I’m lookin’fer ‘em,
that’s what Dumbledore wants me ta do, an’ I dunno…."
He trailed off, looking at his boots.
"Me mum…she wen’ off when I was jus’ little. Well, young anyways." He
gave a small laugh. "Dunno that I was ever little. But I don’ remember
her. I knows what folks say about giants, and I knows what they say ‘bout me.
An’….what if they’re right?" His eyes did not meet Firenze’s.
The centaur pawed restlessly with one hoof, pondering
his response. He never spoke hastily, and now, especially, he wanted to answer
"I never knew your mother," he
began, "but the centaurs have many tales of the giants. From what you have
said, she was unusual among her kind. She tried to learn of those unlike her,
rather than fearing and shunning them. Not an easy task."
"Yeh’d know bout that, eh
Firenze?" said Hagrid. "Not many centaurs are willin’ to talk to
wizards, or help ‘em, ‘cept you."
"A wise observation," Firenze
said, with one of his rare smiles. "Your mother was probably more
intelligent than most giants. But not all that is said of their nature is
false. Violence is part of the giants, their strength is dangerously
uncontrolled. Perhaps her leaving was a gift to you; she knew your best chance
at happiness and safety lay within your father’s world."
"Yeh think?" Hagrid’s tone was
hopeful. "If she’s still…anyway, even if I don’ find her, Dumbledore
thinks I kin talk to ‘em, try an’ keep ‘em from joinin’ You-Know-Who. That
could be real trouble. Dumbledore says everybody’s gonna have ta choose, now.
Even the giants." He looked up into Firenze’s eyes. "Even the
Tail swishing, Firenze considered this, once
again impressed by the old wizard’s wisdom. Choice and change ahead, said the
skies, and the outcome still in shadow. "My people wish only to walk in
the forest as we always have. The fights between wizardkind are not our
battles. And yet, I foresee that we shall be drawn in, against our will. For
myself, I will stand with Albus Dumbledore, and will ask my herd to do the
same. But whether they will hear me…that is hidden. I have dreamed that I must
leave the forest, but whether it is truth or merely fear that speaks to me in
sleep, I know not."
They spoke a little longer, of Aragog and
his family, of unicorns and thestrals, and then were silent. The light fell in
shifting patterns of green as they strolled, feet and hooves cushioned by the
fallen leaves of autumns past. The Forest was peaceful, but both felt its peace
was a fragile, threatened thing.
"Well, I’d best be gettin’ back,"
Hagrid said, as the earliest stars emerged beyond the canopy of leaves.
"G’bye Firenze. An’ thanks."
"I wish you good fortune, my
friend," replied the centaur. He took the half-giant’s wide shoulders in
his hands, and bent to touch his forehead to Hagrid’s. Firenze had never
bestowed this salute on anyone outside his herd, and Hagrid knew enough of
centaurs’ ways to recognize it. "May you find what you seek, and return to
the forest again."
Hagrid did not speak, merely looked at
Firenze with glistening eyes before turning away. Firenze cantered off in the
opposite direction, his heart heavy with the weight of change to come, as the
silence of night closed over him and the ancient trees.