"I have but two certainties: the starry sky above me, and moral law within me" – Immanuel Kant
To us centaurs, the stars are the beginning and the ending to each and every question; our very reason for living is to try to understand the reasons and purposes of the giant fires that hover over and about us. Their meaning, if they even have one, is complex, and we dedicate our lives to their study – always wondering whether there is, after all, a hidden meaning to the pattern they form on the sky, and if our destinies are indeed written up there for us to decipher. But the lack of certainties is part of the game and only adds to the thrill we experience we gaze up to the world around us.
To the pitiful little humans that surround us, and outnumber us, astronomy hardly holds the same rank. Gazing at the stars is something they all do, yet the conclusions they reach could not be more different. They sometime reduce the endless dance of stars and planets to "romance", as if the sole purpose of the night sky was to shine over their outdoor couplings.
They do understand the power of stars, at times. Looking at the night sky is what first made them think about their place on earth, what made them understand a few more facts about how our shared world revolves. Astronomy was used to counteract the pervasive influence of their primitive beliefs and religions, and was the starting point to science in all their different cultures. But look at the place they grant it in their everyday lives – none, or close to none.
The Wizarding folk are slightly better than the rest on that account. Astronomy is a well-respected discipline in most of their schools, and their young do get a basic knowledge of how the sky works. Not that they understand it, or even seek to know more about it – no. Humans, regardless of the magical capacities, are mere babes in that aspect. They look and appreciate the shiny movements like a newborn gazes at a the little merry-go-rounds their parents fix above their cradles. Unfortunately, the deeper meaning of those movements, their implications for all of us, the mysteries they conceal – all this remains too complicated for them. No, they rely on absurd superstitions, astrologists, priests and other quacks to find answers to their mundane little questions and inquiries. Answers that are of course made up for the circumstance, to satisfy the meagre intellects of those who pay for them… No, humans and real reflection go badly together.
You might have understood me by now – I do not hold the human race in much respect. They quarrel and entangle themselves in their mundane lives and loves, and disregard all things that are above them – the stars, the pursuit of knowledge, and the future of the world and the different species that live here. They are so absorbed by their selfish courses that nothing else affects them – not the extinction of other animal species because of them, not the alarming climate changes they are causing, not even the inequalities they create among themselves and strive to maintain through indolence, selfishness, and lack of foresight.
This point of view is not uncommon among Centaurs. We are the Earth's scholars – we observe and analyse and reach brilliant conclusions no other kind of intellect could fathom.
But I am not a worthy representative of my species, no more than you are, dear child. I did not, could not go on looking upon this mess without trying to do my part to help. Doing so was not easy. Centaurs do not act, they think. Centaurs do not consort with inferior species. And, most of all, Centaurs weigh every single possibility of what may happen before they take a decision.
But I thought and thought, like a chess-player would plan moves hours in advance – only chess players need only consider what their opponent has to do. I, on the other hand, had to take many more factors into account.
I finally decided what the best solution was after many months of meditation. It would be difficult for me, and harder even for other people, most of all for you and your mother; but it still remained the best course of actions I could think of.
Thinking about it had come naturally to me, but putting it into action was a lot harder. It included getting shunted away from my equals, with no hope of return, ever – yes, my plan included consorting with humans, and that is not a pardonable offence in my society. But it was for the greater good, and I endured it readily.
Dumbledore was more than understanding. Among humans, he is considered very wise; even we Centaurs recognise him to be a worthy discussion partner at times. He hired me – as a Divination teacher, of all things! As if humans, or even Centaurs, could ever predict events with any accuracy! So I came closer to the vital step of my great plan.
Not that the teaching was to be disregarded. My great plan was something else entirely, but influencing young minds, even from an inferior species, could not be wrong. If only I could ingrain some healthy principles in these young brains – do not trust the apparent facts, look further, never trust your judgement entirely, think ahead,… Yes, my passage in the world of humans was not meant to be in vain.
Then – I moved one more step. I was looking for a woman, a human woman. A magical human woman – a witch. One with sufficient beauty to attract me to her; one with sufficient intellect to understand my plan. One available for me, for the plan. The stars must have had a blessed path for me to tread on, amidst all the incertitude and craziness of my actions. Or was I just lucky? It doesn't really matter. I found one that fit all these criteria to perfection.
Yes, unborn little whelp, I am speaking of your mother here. Are you shocked to hear me describe her in those terms? Or are you just stunned to hear there was a world before your arrival into it? Does it even matter?
I am now writing this parchment in case I die before you are old enough to understand the Plan. Before you are old enough to complete the Plan. For yes, you are the key to it all.
You see, the problem with the world is that humans are too short-sighted to spare it; and centaurs are too far-sighted to help any of it too change. So it appeared to me, after long meditations on the subject, that the only solution was a cross between our two races. If I could make sure that you would inherit the boldness of humans and the intelligence of the Centaurs, there would be a fairly good chance for you to act and save us all.
I know what you are thinking, little unnamed whelp, what you will think if you ever read this parchment. What you will think if I ever tell you so, face to face, father to child.
"A Messiah? Me?"
I know. The Plan is foolhardy at best, doomed to fail in all likelihood.
Yet think about it. What other course of actions did I have? If you had been in my place, would you not have taken the chance?
I do not know you yet – I may never know you, hence this parchment. But you, human Centaur, may become the only hope this world has left. I ask a lot of you. You will be of mixed breed, rejected by both species. You will be feared, pushed away, denied membership of both societies. I know that, and I most humbly beg you to pardon me for this fate I have imposed upon you.
But your double heritage is also a chance. You might be rejected, but your word could make its way to humans if you act with Centaur foresight and intelligence. Humans respect our greater wisdom, after all… A few hints, some examples – just think of it! Think of yourself as an interpreter, as a bridge between two very different cultures. A prophet, if you will. You could be The One textbooks remember. Or you could be the mystical influence nobody remembered, but that nonetheless changed the course of history irrevocably.
I wish I could tell you that it doesn't matter if you become nobody in particular, that you will be my joy and pride nonetheless, but it wouldn't be entirely true, and you know it by now… You would never have been sired if I had had lesser hopes for you than those I have just enumerated.
Does that mean I did not love your mother? Ah… Love is a fickle concept, you know. I was attached to her. I desired her, I looked at her with tenderness, looked at her swollen belly with an emotion I cannot fully describe – it must be the first manifestations of fatherly love, I suppose, coupled with the very same desire that first brought you into existence. But our relationship does not matter much, now that you are on the way, little one.
I do not remember when I first saw her. It was at Hogwarts, certainly; soon after I started teaching there, probably. She would not have impressed me much had I not been looking for a female magical human – tall, lean, wide-eyed and messy-haired, she did not correspond to either Centaur or human criteria of beauty. She also had a knack of passing unnoticed in any circumstance – which doesn't mean that she's a force easily discounted. Her students listened to her when she taught, and, on the rare occasions when she spoke up at staff meetings, all the present listened to her deep, melodious voice in silence.
She came to me one day, two years ago – yes, you read well, she was the one to approach me first – she came to me with a question. Her best telescope didn't reach quite far enough to gaze at Pluto – did I know of a charm to increase its magnitude? That was your mother all right. Knowledgeable, yet curious and always willing to accept suggestion for the improvement of things. Yes, I knew she was destined to be your mother at that very first question.
Magical beings can reproduce with any other magical being, regardless of the species, but the products of such love affairs are frowned upon by all – and for good reason, as you very well know. I only wish you do not think about this too much, and concentrate on the Plan, on your role in the world.
Be proud of your mother. She was an extremely intelligent being. Every time I doubt human understanding, I think of her, so as not to forget that every rule knows exceptions. Your mother would never have been a Centaur, but I did love her nonetheless – and I have reasons to believe that she did not entirely despise my attentions either. For a moment, at least.
Does this decision to stay at my side mean that she loved me? Did she decide to love me? Or was it not a conscious decision? Did it just happen to her? Would she have stayed with me like she did if she had not felt anything for me? Did she realise what shall happen to her when you are born? I suppose I will never know…
We discussed the telescope for a long time that night, all alone in the professors' lounge. When time came to part, an invitation to meet again sprung from her lips. And, of course, I was all too ready to agree. It went on for a long time – seasons came and went – and, at last, we both came to the point where no invitations were needed to spend time together.
The physical attraction between your mother and myself was always there. It changed gradually, from increased perception of our bodies to the subtle tingle of skin at each look the other cast to us. And, of course, to the actual consummation of our love.
It was one of those nights alone in the teacher's lounge… we had pretty much exhausted our present topic, and were relapsing into that comfortable silence two like-minded individuals sometimes share after a long day spent among the yelling and shouting of the student body.
She sat near me, slightly slumped to her side, so that her head rested on my shoulder. I was standing in front of her, and that position gave her a clear view of my back and behind. It was the most intimate touch I had ever suffered from a human, and, from what I know of your mother, a daring move indeed.
You might not want to read this, little whelp. No matter what species they come from, the young do not often relish in the tale of their own conception… But it is all the same too nice a recollection for me to pass.
Our breaths quickened and I proposed a walk outside. I was prepared to live imprisoned within human walls, but not to sire my child there – there are things that are just too important to be done away from their natural setting. We are all nature's children, and outdoors is the only possible place to conceive our own – bodies touching the earth, and the sky above us, around us, all the stars, visible or not, blessing the unborn and unnamed product of our lust with a destiny of its own. Even if it means that the destiny of one of its parents has to end…
It was the first time I had made love to a human; it was her first time with a Centaur. We were both hesitant, but the love dance is one so old no knowledge is needed to accomplish it, even with a representative of another species as a partner, and soon it was over, and our bodies lay on the grass, near the castle where young humans are trained, near the forests where my kin lives; my seed sweeping up inside your mother. Before the long, tender, awkward embrace stopped, I knew you had started to exist. That a new star had appeared on the firmament, as another's glow started to fade already.
Did she know? Did she suspect it? She must have had an inkling, or she would have reacted when learning the truth. When learning that inter-species couplings always lead to a conception – and that no female human had ever survived giving birth to a half-Centaur. Your mother was an extremely intelligent woman, after all. She might even have suspected the Plan, might even have endorsed it with her heart and soul. You will owe your existence to her; the world might also owe her more than it will ever deserve.
Do you think me manipulative, little whelp? Will you inherit your mother's human prejudices about Centaurs being a nasty, conniving bunch? Do you blame me for provoking your birth without asking your mother beforehand? I ask myself those very same questions over and over again. I have no precise excuse, just the firm conviction that it was all for the greater good. But I still have my doubts. It is so difficult to analyse properly what's written in the stars… The injunction I saw there might only have been a product of my imagination. Or a mere coincidence. Or another indication entirely, one my meagre reason is not able to find the answer to.
Will the Plan succeed at all? Will you be able to save us all, to make a difference in today's world? I have doubts. I have always had, and most certainly always will have them. But the success or failure of our great Plan is written in the stars only, and they do not wield their deeper meaning to earthly creatures easily. But our actions are still ours, and the knowledge – or illusion – that we can still impact our destinies is all we have left.
This is the great mystery that rules the universe: our destinies are not ours, but the way we receive and handle them are far more important, and for us only to decide. I have grasped my chance of acting, I have sired you – I have killed your mother. You cannot change that, little whelp, do not embrace my guilt, my burdens. Grasp your own chance to change the world, to make a difference – what comes out of it all is written in the stars.