Disclaimer: You know the drill. I don't own it, JK Rowling does.

Characters: Lisa Turpin, a Ravenclaw in Harry's year, and Bane the centaur

Genre: Drama/Angst

A/N: Wow, this chapter was out a lot sooner than I expected. Enjoy!

. . .

The Lesser of Two Evils

Centaurs did not curse. Highly intelligent creatures, they refused to succumb to the use of such primitive human drivel whenever in the throes of a particularly strong emotion. It was a point of pride in such a noble breed.

Centaurs did not curse.

"Darn Firenze," Bane muttered to himself. "Darn him, he's as stubborn as a mule . . . a darn mule."

It had been a week and his limp still hadn't faded. Even a simple trot through his territories had become a chore, but it was a chore he would entrust to very few others. Hagrid could be very persuasive in his own bumbling way; Hagrid, who had caused this whole mess in the first place. Centaurs did not befriend humans per se, but he had always treated Hagrid cordially; and in return, the man had kept his overly-large self out of centaur business. They had their own way of dealing with things and the humans had their own, bogged down by silly emotions and hang-ups though they might be.

Bane stamped at the ground in irritation, wincing as his foreleg gave a particularly painful twinge. No human could be expected to comprehend the intricacies of centaur culture – their innate superiority, their intelligence and nobility. Firenze was being justly punished and still – still – Hagrid had stepped in. He had treated them like barbarians, bodily throwing Bane off of Firenze's writhing form.

"All he's doin' is helpin' Albus Dumbledore!" Hagrid had shouted, crossbow at the ready and slavering boarhound at his side. "Tha's more than I can say for any of you nags!"

Bane snorted. Humans believed them to be nothing but silly stargazers, never realizing the secrets they held. It was a centaur's job – a centaur's burden – to keep those secrets. Meddling in human affairs could only lead to trouble, as he had tried to tell Firenze.

Darn mule.

Foolishly, Firenze had persisted. And look where it had gotten him – exiled from his home and snug in Albus Dumbledore's pocket. The wizarding world may be content to follow their savior to their doom, but Bane refused to let his people go down with them. Any man who allowed such atrocities as Hagrid's – and he must suspect something, for a human he was not unintelligent – to go on under their very nose was no man at all.

And to be teaching Divination of all things! Humans attributed all manner of events to the supposed alignment of the planets – losing a bet or finding a few Galleons – when it was really only the large ones that mattered.

Bane only wished they could have predicted this.

Because once Firenze had revealed everything, once there was no mystery left without some mundane, all-too human answer, then. . . . Why then, Bane had no doubt, he would be used as nothing more . . . well, nothing more than a darn mule. Perhaps he would pull the carriages alongside the thestrals next term. Hagrid would never raise a hand to stop it; he was as bad as one of them now, just another human to be kept out of the land that was Bane's birthright.

". . . but I stuck with it, not like that Hermione Granger. I mean, she has brains but she's such a drama queen. Defending Potter through all of this, it's obviously just for attention. . . ."

Sidestepping to avoid a steaming pile of hippogriff dung, Bane was surprised to find himself approaching the boundary of the forest. It was no wonder he could overhear the humans' conversation. Peering through the foliage, he could see two humans – female by the look of them – sitting by the lake's edge. The one he had heard initially was still prattling away to her companion, a girl with long, curly red hair, without a care in the world.

". . . Cho would even fall for someone like that, not after Cedric. Do you know if they're still together?"

Another human trait he despised; centaurs prided themselves on few words while humans chattered away inanely, treating silence as if it were a fate worse than death. Rolling his eyes in silent disapproval, Bane made to turn away just as a word caught his attention – one word in all that chatter.

". . . I forget, do you take Divination?"

Divination.

Despite his better judgment, Bane stayed put. What secrets had Firenze already divulged?

The first female laughed, flipping her dark hair over her shoulder. "Of course some of the girls think he's hot, the idiots. Me, I prefer my guys without tails, if you don't mind. Not to mention he's a total bloody nut-job!"

Nut-job? Bane had never heard the term, but could understand the derogatory implications. Nevertheless, he couldn't comprehend it; Firenze was revealing to these ignorant foals the very secrets of the universe itself. How that could possibly be construed as anything close to. . . .

". . . stoned half the time too, I bet. And I asked him today, I asked him, 'Sir, do you really think you're suited to this position?' and half the class stared at me like I was bloody insane first off. Stupid 'Puffs. But then he goes, and I'm telling you this verbatim Marietta, he goes" – she adopted a pseudo-mystical voice – "'Whatever the headmaster thinks is best, Lisa Turpin.' Like, he's not about to question it at all. . . ."

Darn her, darn her and her whole darned kind. Ungrateful foals to be given so much and throw it back in their teacher's face. Bane's fingers twitched toward his quiver. Nothing to physically harm them, just a warning shot. . . .

". . . everyone's acting like she's this horrible despot, but she's got the right idea about things, you know? If we have Dumbledore making the decisions for much longer, who knows what'll happen. Probably have his whole herd up here teaching us." She gestured idly toward the forest and Bane's blood boiled.

Barely controlling the urge to nock an arrow to his bow and let fly, he wheeled to leave, his hooves churning up dirt. Still, the conversation drifted toward him on the wind.

". . . wants to start tagging the centaur population, too. All these half-breeds are really getting out of control. . . ."

Unheeding of the pain in his leg Bane broke into a gallop, the girl's caustic words still echoing in his ears.

. . . his whole herd . . .

. . . tagging the centaur population . . .

. . . half-breeds . . .

Chest heaving, whether from exertion or rage he couldn't tell, Bane finally skidded to a halt, sending pebbles and clods of earth flying. He shot an arrow towards the nearest tree and it stuck there, quivering; a bowtruckle shook its' tiny fists at him in indignation.

Centaurs did not curse.

Centaurs dealt with things logically. Threatening the students would only give this mysterious she more fuel for her fire. This she, whoever she was, that wished to tag centaurs – tag them as if they were human playthings! - this she who considered centaurs – the noblest of creatures – to be nothing more than half-breeds, never to be granted the coveted privilege of humanity.

This she who seemed to despise Albus Dumbledore even more than Bane himself did.

Any man who allowed such atrocities to go on under their very nose was no man at all.

Unless, of course, the man had enough problems of his own.

He was only human.

Centaurs were far superior.

. . .

A/N: So if you didn't understand the implications of the ending, this was basically my take on how the centaurs (very slowly) changed their attitude toward Dumbledore. Bit of an analysis ahead (I have a Bachelor's in English, I have to use it somewhere!) so feel free to skip ahead and review (review, review, review – this is an echo, please do it, I'm running out of creative ways to ask you guys).

Anywhoozles, we first see the centaur herd when Hagrid brings Harry and Hermione into the forest to meet Grawp. They aren't too happy that Hagrid's – because he stopped them from beating Firenze to death – but they let them pass. Then, when Harry and Hermione bring Umbridge into the forest, the centaurs put up a big fuss about how the kids only brought her in there so that they could do the dirty work. But they still do it! And it's Bane who grabs her! The other centaurs are planning on taking Harry and Hermione but they get er . . . distracted, let's say, by Grawp. And the whole time that the six of them are discussing transportation methods, none of the centaurs comes back for them.

After the whole fiasco at the Department of Mysteries, Dumbledore goes into the forest to rescue Umbridge and comes out with her without a scratch on him. The centaurs obviously respect him enough – or they're united against a common enemy – to let him go in peace.

We don't see them much after that, but they fire their arrows to honor Dumbledore at his funeral and fight in the Battle of Hogwarts. True, we only see them fighting after Hagrid goads them when he's carrying the "dead" Harry out of the forest but we don't know what they were doing beforehand. They might have been helping behind the scenes. Maybe I'll write another fan fic about that. Sorry for this ridiculously long analysis, but I just love creating my own fanon when I write these stories. JKR gave us such an amazing world to work with!

And next chapter will feature – drum roll, please – Madam Pomfrey and Lily Potter II! Wow, compared to what I've been writing, that's ridiculously easy! It should (hopefully) be out within the next couple of days.

Allons-y!