Neither Harry Potter nor any of the characters associated with him belong to me. They are JK Rowlings. I'm not in this for the money, just for fun!
A lot of what's in my fic will be based on what's seen in the movies, with some references from the books, hence Firenze will not be blonde, but dark and more beastial like, as will the rest of the Centaurs.
I would like to thank Pensieve Plotter for her ideas, and for her permission to use one of her characters and a scene from her fic. Thank You also goes to InferiorBeing for her help in editing, and to Aesop for co-writing some of the scenes!
This chapter is set during 'Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix'!
2 Years Later:
Professor Dumbledore silently made his way through the dark forest, his wand forever at the ready, in case he needed it. He knew better than anyone that the Forbidden Forest was not forbidden without good reason.
He also knew he was taking a huge chance by coming this far into Centaur territory alone because of the recent hostilities between the herd and the Ministry. But try as he might, he knew he could not just sit idly by and leave Dolores Umbridge to her fate. There was no telling what the Centaurs might do to her for her derisive words to them.
He would have come sooner, but the recent fight with Voldermort at the Ministry had, needless to say, taken up most of his time. Today was the first chance he had got to go get her…assuming she was still alive, of course? The Centaurs were a honourable race, but they were also notoriously fierce, especially when one insulted or belittled them. And from what Harry had told him about the way Umbridge had spoken to them, not to mention what she had done to their leader Magorian, then just finding her alive might be a bit much to wish for.
He didn't doubt that Umbridge, if the situation were reversed, would most likely leave him to the Centaurs' tender mercies and be done with it, but fortunately for her, he was not like her.
"Sometimes, having a conscience can be a real burden," he said to himself, shaking his head.
After walking a little deeper into the woods, the sound of men's angry voices, shouting through the air, reached his ears. The Centaur's herding ground was near. He walked a short distance more, and soon the bright firelights of the herding ground came into view.
Dumbledore knew this was not going to be easy. Once a Centaur sets his mind to something, it was almost impossible to get them to change it. Especially if that decision involved punishing someone who had wronged the herd, like Dolores had. And considering her outrageous behaviour towards them, it was going to take all of his diplomatic skills and cunning to get the herd to even listen to him, let alone release her.
Approaching the edge of the herding ground, he took a deep breath and pushed through the bushes; taking care not to fall down the small bank those bushes concealed, and stepped forth to face the Centaur herd.
The scene that greeted him was typical for the Centaurs, as they were all involved in their usual nightly activities, consisting mainly of drinking, eating and wrestling with one another. The only thing, he noticed, that seemed out of place was a group of four large Centaurs who were standing closely together, side-by-side in a tight circle, their arms folded.
The sight of them reminded him of the Queen's Guards at Buckingham Palace, as they stood where they were, almost perfectly still, giving no response to any of the herd's activities, which was a most un-Centaur trait if ever he saw one. With all the amusement going on around them, it seemed almost unnatural for any Centaur to stand still for so long and not join in.
The only sign of movement they gave was the occasional shift of their weight from one hoof to the other, and when they shuffled their backsides against each other, most likely to scratch themselves.
Ignoring them for the moment, he quickly made his presence known. "Hail Magorian, leader of the Centaurs!" he called out respectfully to the Centaur leader.
The herd immediately ceased their activities, turning in surprise to look upon the intruder in their land. Many of them grew angry at the sight of the human in their midst, but before they could think to act, a lone chestnut-coloured Centaur stepped out from between them. They kept silent in his presence, as he regarded the elderly human for a moment before answering.
"Dumbledore," Magorian greeted the human in a low but respectable tone. "You're a fair way from your castle, are you not?"
The old wizard nodded. "I am afraid I am here on official business, my friend."
Some of the Centaurs took umbrage at the presumption this human showed in referring to their leader as a friend, but a look from Magorian soon quieted them down. Yes, Dumbledore was a human, but he was also a powerful wizard, known and respected for his great wisdom. Even Safyph, their ancient elder, knew of him. As such, he deserved their respect also, and had the right to speak, if nothing else.
"What business, prithee tell, is that?" Magorian asked.
Dumbledore sighed. "I am here to ask for the return of the human woman, Dolores Umbridge."
Magorian's nostrils flared at the mention of the woman's name. "You dare mention that…that toad-woman in my presence! Do you know what she did to me?"
He nodded. "I was made aware before coming here, yes."
"She used one of those blasted wands of yours to conjure up a rope, had me tied up like a common horse, and then proceeded to throttle me with it!" He snorted in rage. "If anything, I should have done the same, and strangled that fat throat of hers long before now!"
"So she's not dead?" the headmaster of Hogwarts asked.
Magorian gave a small smirk. "Not yet, no."
Dumbledore could see no sign of her, and assumed her to be in one of the huts. "Nevertheless, I ask for her return."
Magorian's nostrils were soon flaring again. "Watch yourself, Dumbledore," he said warningly. "Your wisdom and power are known to us, and your name is an honoured one, but that will only get you so far. That woman not only assaulted me, but she insulted my entire race, right in front of us all!"
"I do understand, Magorian. Believe me when I say you are not the only one who has had a bad experience with Miss Um...with the woman in question." He avoided saying Umbridge's name again, for fear of angering Magorian further.
"Ha! What would you know, human?" Bane's angry voice shouted out.
Dumbledore gave the dark Centaur a quiet stare before replying. "I know full well, Bane. Because I welcomed her into my school with open arms, right before she exiled one of my staff, usurped my position and stole my school, and then proceeded to torture my pupils for not obeying her endless list of stupid rules."
Bane mercifully went silent.
"Why then are you here to retrieve her?" Magorian asked, genuinely confused. "If anything, it sounds to me like you should be cheering for her head louder than we."
Dumbledore shrugged. "I have now since been reinstated as the official headmaster of Hogwarts, and as such it is my solemn duty to protect all those under my care, whether they be my students or my staff. The woman, duplicitous as she is, still falls under that category."
Magorian cocked his head thoughtfully. "I understand your commitment to protect those you're responsible for, Dumbledore. As leader of my herd, I understand that all too well. But for her insults, our law demands retaliation!"
The cheers of his herd soon followed, chorusing their approval and agreement.
Dumbledore held up his hand to speak further. "You desire justice for the wrong done onto you, Magorian. That is understandable, and you certainly have the right. But do you desire justice…or simply revenge?"
"There is no difference to our herd," Magorian replied darkly.
"Maybe not. I can certainly understand your preference to it. It is something that Dolores Umbridge herself would gladly attest to, as I imagine she would undoubtedly approve." He risked mentioning Umbridge's name again, in the hope that comparing Magorian's attitude to hers night help him see sense.
It seemed to work, as Magorian's face darkened again, incensed at being compared to the toad-woman in question, but before he could give a reply...
"But if you want this disrespectful woman to be punished for her crimes," he suggested, "then all you need do is release her to me, and allow me to return her to our world outside the forest."
Magorian laughed. "How exactly is that a punishment?"
"Because," he explained, "in our world, this proud and arrogant woman values her political status more than anything. Yet while she has been…away, news of her underhanded activities at Hogwarts, the crimes she committed against not only you but on everyone, has become public knowledge. This has cost her greatly, resulting in the loss of her reputation, and with it her importance in the Ministry. For her, this will be the same as if you, a Centaur, were to lose your honour in front of your whole herd. Something I know you consider a fate worse than any other."
The Centaur leader paused, frowning as he considered the idea of sending the Umbridge woman back to face dishonour and discrimination from her own people. He had to admit, the idea had its merits.
"Not only that," Dumbledore added. "But, frankly, it would also be far less trouble for you."
Magorian looked at him. "How so?"
"You have forgotten the peace treaty between our two races, Magorian. Despite her crimes against you and yours, this woman was not on your land, and by the treaty it is forbidden for you to take any non-consenting humans back to your grounds."
"It would not be the first time," a voice said from among the herd, but whomever it was that spoke was ignored.
"Are you threatening us, Dumbledore?" Magorian said dangerously.
The headmaster shook his head. "Not at all, Magorian. I am merely laying all the options out to you, so that you may know and consider all before making your final decision." He explained. "If the Ministry of Magic were to declare war on you, even for such a meagre thing as this, I have no doubt your race would fight to the bitter end, and ensure a long and bloody battle for us all. But, alas, this war would mean the loss of so many lives, not only for us but for your kind as well. And it seems like such a waste of time and effort for one lowly, and stupid, woman who talks first and thinks later."
Magorian turned his lower lip at Dumbledore's words.
"Ask yourself this, Great Magorian," the aged wizard said finally. "Is this woman really worth all this hassle for you and your herd? Do you really want to risk going to war and losing the lives of your brave warriors…for her?"
Magorian gave a big snort at that, pawing at the ground with his hoof in frustration, and after a few more moments, he made his decision. "You've made your point, Dumbledore," he rumbled. "Your words speak true. You may take the toad-woman, you call Dolores Umbridge, back to your world."
"Thank you, Wise Magorian," Dumbledore said gratefully, bowing before the Centaur leader, while inwardly making a sigh of relief. "You have made a most wise and informed decision. Oh, and incidentally, please give my regards and deepest respects to Safyph when you see him. Tell him I miss our evening debates."
"As I'm sure he does."
The reason Safyph wasn't there was because the elder Centaur sometimes took a little time out from his duties to the herd to do some stargazing. Dumbledore often met him in the forest, late in the evening, and together the two of them had had many talks and debates about various subjects. Most of which usually ended with neither of them winning their polite arguments, whatever the topic. The two of them proved to be just as stubborn and smart as each other, which made their friendship all the more interesting and stronger.
"Now then, if I may ask… " Dumbledore enquired. "Where is Miss Umbridge?"
Magorian then gave a big smirk, and turned toward the circle of four Centaurs who had hardly moved a muscle before or since Dumbledore's arrival. And it was only then, in the silence of that moment, that Dumbledore's ears made out the muffled squeaking sounds coming over from them.
He looked over to them, and his eyes widened a little when he noticed a small but recognisable brown bow sticking out from right in-between all of the Centaur's back-ends. It bobbed up and down frantically between them, like a fly that was trying to escape a trap.
"Brothers!" Magorian called out to them. "Back away and give our guest some air!"
"Awww," one of them said sarcastically, chuckling. "But she's so warm and comfy."
"Couldn't we keep her for the winter season?" one of the others added mockingly. "She and her flabby flesh are better than a warmed bear-skin rug!"
All four of them laughed, while they shuffled their backsides against each other again, eliciting further desperate squeaks from behind them.
Magorian laughed. "Afraid not, friends. She's the human's problem now. Anyway, I'd gladly suffer a whole winter of frostbite than put up with one more minute of that large trap she dares call a mouth!"
The whole herd had to agree with him on that, as the four Centaurs finally broke their circle and moved away.
Dumbledore cocked an eyebrow, as a shaken and distraught Dolores Umbridge stood revealed, only to fall to the ground, gasping for breath, as the Centaurs all moved on.
He looked over at Magorian who merely shrugged. "It was her choice," he said, starting off a round of loud laughter from the rest of the herd. "She said she would rather look at the back-end of a Jackass than stare at us, so we gave her the next best thing."
That was the truth. After being captured and brought to the herding ground, Dolores Umbridge had shouted and bawled non-stop, yelling about the Ministry's laws. She had called the herd countless names, and belittled them with numerous insults. Not even the tip of the Centaurs' arrows at her throat had been enough to silence that over-sized mouth of hers.
The final straw had been when she had refused to look Magorian directly in the eye, when speaking to him, which had been an unforgivable sign of disrespect. When she refused, she had replied, exactly as Magorian had said, "I would rather look at the back-end of a Jackass!"
After Magorian had given a snort of anger, he had then stopped, grinned and replied, "If that is your wish, then allow us to provide you with the next best thing."
Before she had time to stop and consider his words, another Centaur had grabbed and pushed her roughly from behind, sending her straight into the midst of four huge Centaurs, each looking none too kindly down on her.
"How dare you! I demand…" she had started, but before she could finish her sentence, the four Centaurs had gathered around her in a perfect circle, each with their tail turned on her.
"Wha…?" she had begun to say, but the four of them never gave her a chance to finish. They had then quickly backed up, pressing their backsides right into her, squeezing her between them tighter than a tin of sardines, with Dolores screeching the entire time.
The entire herd had all just laughed, as the top of her fat head had stood out from between all the Centaur's buttocks, her cheeks unbelievably swollen up to twice their usual size, as the air was squeezed from her lower body.
Her screams before had been shrill and annoying, but at that moment they were deafening, as she screamed to be released. The herd's only response had been for her four captors to squeeze themselves closer to her, causing her head to sink down until only her little bow could be seen. Since then, it had continuously bobbed up and down from between the Centaur's rear-ends as she tried unsuccessfully to escape. Her screams reduced to muffled squeaks.
As well as being an act of utter humiliation for her, it had also served the herd well by hushing her up, while they had determined what to do with her. By the time Dumbledore had come to them, she had been stuck like that for several hours.
"Well," Dumbledore said, cocking his head slightly. "I suppose that's one way to hold a prisoner in check."
"You are free to take her," Magorian told him. "But do it now before I change my mind!" Dumbledore nodded his thanks to him, and wasted no more time, as he held out his hand to help Dolores to her feet.
"You…disgusting…filthy…" she tried to say, glaring daggers at the whole herd, but Dumbledore held out his wand to her lips.
"Miss Umbridge!" he said warningly. "Take my advice, for once, and keep quiet until after we're back at Hogwarts. Or at the very least until after we're out of Centaur territory!"
That seemed to do the trick, as she ground her teeth in rage, but stayed silent.
Dumbledore gave another sigh of relief. He had managed to convince Magorian to release her, without harm, but he doubted he could do so again, especially if she tried the herd's patience any further. The Centaurs would only need one more excuse to start trampling her to death.
She allowed him to help her up, not even realising yet that he was once again Hogwarts' rightful headmaster, and staggered tiredly beside him as they departed the herding ground.
"See you around, butt-monkey!" one of her four captors called after her, turning around and shaking his entire backside at her, laughing. Dumbledore had to suppress a smile at that, guessing that Hagrid must have been teaching a few of the Centaurs some Muggle words again.
"HA! Butt-monkey? More like a butt-toad!" one of the other three added, also turning around and letting loose an excess of wind at her, followed by the other two who joined him, eliciting a fresh roar of laughter from the whole herd.
Umbridge's face was bright red with fury and humiliation, her fists clenched tightly till her knuckles turned white, but still she said nothing.
"Oh, one more thing, Magorian?" Dumbledore then added, turning back to the Centaur leader. "Forgive me for asking, but I understand you and your herd have been moving out of your territories lately. May I ask why?"
Magorian snarled. "Ask your precious Ministry! They're the ones who have been robbing us of our lands!"
Dumbledore shook his head sadly. "I won't deny the Ministry has been restricting your lands as of late, Magorian, but…from what I understand, I believe you and your herd were seen out of your territory long before the Ministry even began making the restrictions."
Magorian snorted. "We were not moving out of our borders, Dumbledore! We were searching for someone."
"Oh, may I ask who?"
Magorian's face darkened a little more. "Someone who is ours by right, and will be again. Even if we have to gallop all across the globe to find her!"
Dumbledore paused slightly at the Centaur leader's last words, but made no sign of acknowledging them. Umbridge, on the other hand, seemed momentarily distracted from her fear and rage, and looked thoughtful.
"I see," he said simply. "Then I wish you luck in your search, Magorian. Farewell, till we meet again." Without another word, he helped Umbridge by half-carrying her out of the herding ground, and started trekking through the forest on their way back to Hogwarts.
He suspected the identity of the person they referred to, but knew that, for the moment, he could do nothing about it, as the war with Voldermort took precedence over everything. Plus, it was doubtful the Centaurs would ever find her, considering how far she was from the forest.
'Doubtful,' he thought, 'but not impossible.'
He could only hope and pray that the Centaur's search would forever remain a fruitless one.
'My prayers are with you, Miss Rebecca Leicester.'