This story is inspired by a challenge on Potions and Snitches – Potions, Snitches, and Hooves: by Alexannah, Summary: Severus and/or Harry is a centaur. Details up to the author-could be transformation or always was one; could be known by everyone or kept secret.

Sometimes, the smallest plot ideas can inspire an entire story in just a few minutes! I hope you like this! As always, the first chapter is short but they will get longer.

Disclaimer: do not own Harry Potter

He was forever cursed with this affliction. A curse that traced back years in the Prince family ancestry, inflicted upon by a trapped, wild sphinx Severus Snape's great-great-great-grandfather tried to slaughter for trophy money. The Curse of the Hunted – "for he who slays what he calls a monster must beware the monster inside. And he shall be the hunted outcast come each and every night. And all his sons shall be cursed as long as prejudice thrives. When met again, his fate will depend on who he helps revive."

Damn human-cat! Severus always thought. And damn the family curse.

Severus Snape was a normal man from sunrise to sunset. A normal being with medium length black hair, a crooked nose, and a tall, slender build. But by nightfall, he turned into a centaur – a beast. He was covered in black hair all the way down to his hooves, with a long black tail and even a black mane like appearance. His face became long and protruded, more like a horse's than a human's, and his ears grew long and pointy. He was unrecognizable as a centaur.

Just as he was now. Severus walked through the trees of the Forbidden Forest in the moonlight, stretching his four legs out. Even though he could just as easily hide in his quarters, it was good to get out and stretch and even gallop about. He needed to otherwise his muscles would be cramped during the next transformation, which was painful. However, once he was out in the forest, it was harder to sneak back into the castle without being seen. He would have to sleep outside tonight. Which didn't bother him, he had done so many times before. The hair he was covered in kept him warm.

Only two people knew of his transformation – Albus Dumbledore and regrettably, the Dark Lord.

He had already taken the mark just before sundown and had to explain to the Dark Lord what was about to happen to him. He had been afraid he would be rejected from the only group that had accepted him – if not murdered.

The Dark Lord seemed accepting of his curse and had wanted to use it to his advantage and persuade the centaurs to the dark side. Severus didn't bother trying to explain that he wasn't really welcomed by other centaurs.

Albus had known of his transformation since he began Hogwarts and had helped him stay out of sight of other students – like he did for another student with a werewolf affliction. Albus had been a great mentor and even helped him when he begged for help to protect Lily Potter and her family. It was a long story, but Albus claimed he had been a spy for the light side and he would be a spy when the Dark Lord returned. He would do his best.

Severus found a nice patch of grass just at the edge of the trees. He pawed at it and gathered his legs under him to sleep. He would have to rise early and return to the castle.

The curse affected him the moment he was born, though it did not activate until he had turned three, which resulted in his first transformation. His muggle father had been terrified and threw him and his mother out of the house. Eileen Snape, nee Prince, had returned to her parents' home to raise him alone, albeit heartbroken by the divorce. The curse only inflicted the males of the Prince line, so his mother or grandmother never went through any transformation, but his grandfather did, and the man would offer comfort for Severus when the painful shifting began. It hurt everywhere when he changed, especially growing two extra limbs and a tail. Eileen had always been at his side through those moments as well. She adored him as a centaur child, calling his adorable and even nicknaming him Ajax when he transformed. And that was the name he gave anyone who ever asked him, Ajax. It was safer to avoid using Severus Snape.

Severus sighed, slowly closing his eyes. He lowered his torso to the ground, resting his head on his arms, his long hair (which seemed to grow longer and thicker as a centaur) fell around his face. He relaxed on the ground, ready for a long night.

Leaves rustling caught Severus's attention. He snapped his head up and stared in the direction of Hogwarts, the large castle dark against the blue night sky.

There was a student walking towards the forest. No, towards Hagrid's hut. Severus watched as the small child stopped just outside the door and raised a fist to knock. His fist hung in the air for a long moment, before the child lowered it, seemingly sighing, the turned away and began walking slowly back to the castle.

Severus pushed himself up and trotted a bit closer to Hagrid's hut to get a good look at the student. There wasn't anything he could do now but if he could get a good look at the face, he'd find a reason to deduct points from that student tomorrow. Severus softly walked closer and peered through the trees at the small student.

Harry bloody Potter.

Severus snorted angrily, a centaur characteristic. There was one student Severus just couldn't stand. His looks, his personality, his rule breaking – he was just like James Potter, a bully from Severus's past. He hated having to be reminded of that spoiled prince ever day. Recently, the child decided to dive after a Remembrall during his first flying lesson. And instead of taking points like he had done with Draco Malfoy, Minerva decides to put the reckless child on the Quidditch team. The boy was spoiled everywhere he went.

Severus snorted once more and turned away, ready to head back to that soft patch of grass he had found. Harry could find his way back on his own. Maybe Filch was out and about in the castle.

As Severus turned away, he heard a low growling. He looked back toward Harry, then glanced in the trees closest to the child. A large wolf-like animal was stalking the boy, hidden in the trees but inching closer to Harry.

A werewolf! Now?

Severus glanced up at the moon. It was full. How had the werewolf traveled this far so quickly? There hasn't been a werewolf this close to Hogwarts in years. The wolf was inching closer to Harry. Severus spun around and galloped out of the trees and to Harry.

The wolf jumped at Harry, who fell to the ground in surprise with a scream. Severus jumped between the two and kicked at the wolf. The werewolf avoided the sharp hooves and landed on all fours. It turned and snarled at Severus. Severus bared his teeth at it, wishing he had a weapon on him. He never carried his wand on him when he transformed for fear that he may lose it. He also had none of the weapons centaurs usually carried, like the bows and arrows. But he did have hooves.

Severus pawed at the ground aggressively. The wolf snapped its jaws at him as it circled around. Severus charged forward a little, rearing and pawing and stomping. The wolf backed up slightly, but didn't seem too intimidated by the centaur. It kept growling and stalking closer, snapping its jaws at Severus. Severus backed up so he was standing in front of Harry.

Severus glanced down at Harry. The boy was staring wide-eyed at him and the wolf, looking back and forth between them. Their eyes locked and Severus could see the fear in the boy's emerald orbs.

Making up his mind, Severus reached down and lifted Harry onto his back, galloping away with the werewolf chasing after him. He felt Harry wrap his arms around his torso and grip tightly. Severus galloped through the trees as fast as he could, the wolf nipping at his rear hooves. Hoping he didn't throw Harry off, Severus kicked at the wolf, his hooves connecting with the wolf's jaw, creating a loud crack. The wolf whimpered and ceased chasing Severus to paw at its face.

Severus slowly came to a halt a safe distance away to watch the wolf. It stopped pawing at its face and snarled at Severus before turning into the trees and scrambling off.

Severus sighed and trotted back towards Hogwarts, approaching the castle until he was just a few paces away from the steps to the entrance. Of course, he'd be saving Harry Potter already. Not even two months into the school year and he's saving the boy from danger. He reached back and dragged Harry off his back with a grip on the boy's arm, gently setting him down. Then, he turned to retreat back into the trees.

"Wait, sir," Harry's voice stopped him. A hand on his shoulder (the horse's part) caught his attention. He looked down at the small boy.

"Thank you for saving me," Harry smiled up at him. He felt the boy's eyes scan over his body in curiosity. "Umm, what are you?"

Severus side stepped away from Harry's touch, growing uncomfortable with how close the boy was. He gave his tail a flick as he angled himself to face the boy. He sighed for the hundredth time that night, figuring he should answer the child. He softened his voice as much as he could in hopes that Harry wouldn't recognize his voice.

"I am a centaur, child," Severus answered. "And shouldn't you be in bed? It's dangerous being out here at this time."

"I've heard of those before," Harry said, scrunching up his face as he tried to remember where and when. "And I couldn't sleep earlier. I was hoping I could talk to Hagrid real quick but then I thought I shouldn't disturb him because he might already be asleep. Oh, Hagrid is the man who lives in that hut over there. Well, he's more of a half-giant. He has a cool dog named Fang." Harry pointed at Hagrid's hut.

Severus resisted rolling his eyes.

"Wouldn't it have been better to just wait until morning to speak to . . . the half-giant that lives there? What was so urgent that you had to come out now and be attacked by a werewolf?"

Severus was trying hard to keep his voice soft.

"Was that what that was?" Harry shuddered. "I just wanted a friend to talk to."

"You don't have any . . . friends in there?" Severus motioned toward Hogwarts.

"Not many," Harry confirmed. "I met Ron, he's great. The other boys are okay, too, but I don't know them that well still. That's really it. And Hagrid. Besides, they're all asleep. But it's okay. I've never really had friends before. It's all still new to me."

Severus tilted his head at that. Interesting comment, he thought. Harry seemed more open to talking to him than he did "Professor Snape." Or any adult. Severus realized that Harry was staring up at him in awe – like one would stare up at a giraffe they've seen for the first time. Growing more uncomfortable considering he had very little interaction with people during his transformation period, Severus back up a few steps.

"Quit staring at me like I'm some kind of zoo animal," Severus snapped.

Harry winced and quickly looked at his feet. "Sorry," he muttered. "I've never seen a centaur before."

Great, now the boy looked ready to cry. Severus growled under his breath before taking a few steps closer. Harry kept his eyes averted.

"It is alright," Severus reassured. "You meant no harm. You should really be off to bed. I'm sure you have . . . much to do at this school tomorrow."

"Yeah, I guess," Harry agreed, keeping his head down.

"I never said you couldn't look at me. It's just rude to stare."

Harry didn't move for a long moment. He slowly lifted his eyes and then his head. Severus tried to offer a smile but it seemed more like a grimace. It just wasn't in his nature anymore. It seemed to do the trick because Harry slowly offered a smile back.

"What's your name, sir?" the boy asked.

Severus tilted his head, thinking about the question. He might as well as keep his identity a secret for as long as he could. Harry didn't seem to be making any connections between him and one of the boy's most dreaded professors.

"Ajax," Severus said.

"Ajax? That's a really cool name. Does it mean something?"

"Perhaps it is something you could look into. For now, I suggest you go back into the castle and head to bed. Go on."

"But I never told you my name! It's Harry. Harry Potter."

"I'm aware. I don't believe there is a soul who doesn't know you're name."

"I know that now. It's kind of weird having people know more about me than I know about myself. I had no idea I was so famous until I came to Hogwarts."

This was new. And here, Severus had been thinking that Harry was just like his father, growing up with the knowledge of what had happened when he was a baby and how famous he was in the Wizarding World. Clearly, the boy's muggle relatives raised him without exposing such knowledge. Perhaps they didn't want the fame getting to his head. Wise decision on their behalf.

"Well, anyway," Harry continued, "thanks again for saving me, Ajax."

Harry wrapped his arms around what he could reach of Severus's torso. Shocked, Severus froze, unsure of how to respond or how to react. He waited until Harry released him, and with one last smile from the boy, he turned and went back inside the castle. Severus waited until the door closed behind him, though his shocked state may have been cause for most of the delay. Shaking himself out of the stupor, Severus turned and walked back to the forest, disappearing in the trees.

He found the grass patch he had been lying in before and gathered his legs under him once more, resting his head on his arms and closing his eyes.

His thoughts strayed to Harry, and then to another green-eyed person he once knew.

Early sunrise came and Severus slowly felt himself morph back into a human. He grinded his teeth but he was used to the pain now. Once he was fully human, he reached up and snatched a robe from a tree branch; one he always had in the forest for his mornings back to the castle. One problem with shifting into a centaur was that he lost all his clothing. There was no spell to aid him there; he had already searched for one.

Standing and shivering in the cold morning air, he walked back to the castle. He wondered if Harry would tell anyone of his encounter with Ajax. He wasn't sure if he should be concerned or even worried about what that might do for him. Yet, from what he had heard from Harry last night, from what he had learned last night, it sounded as though Harry didn't have many people to confide in other than Ron and Hagrid.

Everything should be fine. Harry will have forgotten him and he could go back to his lonely nights in the forbidden forest. Just like always.

During breakfast the next morning, Harry chatted amiably with Ron.

"Wait," Ron interrupted, "why did you even go outside?"

Harry shrugged and said, "I don't know. I kid of wanted to see Hagrid but I thought better of it. It seemed like a good idea before I went outside."

"And you were rescued from a werewolf by a centaur? That's so cool! That werewolf must have been scary."

"He was a pretty cool centaur, too. He was nice, but I think he's lonely."

"He's probably deep in the forest by now. Centaurs have their own territory they stick to. He may never come back."

"I hope he comes back. I'm going to look for him later. Maybe he's still close by."

"We can go look now before class."

"Okay," Harry downed his milk and followed Ron out the Great Hall.

"And where are you two going?" snapped an ominous voice.

Harry and Ron spun on their feet just in front of the entrance. Behind them stood Severus Snape, all sneering eyes and billowing robes. He glared down at Harry and Ron, waiting for an answer.

"We were just going outside for some fresh air, sir," Harry answered. "And maybe to . . . see Hagrid."

"Classes start in ten minutes," Severus reminded, crossing his arms. "You better be back inside before then."

"Yes, sir," Ron said, urging Harry to hurry out the front door.

The two boys ran down the steps and away from Hogwarts as fast as they could. They walked down to Hagrid's when they made sure Severus was

"Snape's in a foul mood," Ron observed.

"Isn't he always? Look, over here. This is where the werewolf was, just a little ways from Hagrid's hut. And then Ajax came running out and he lifted me on his back. It was so cool! And then he left me up there. I didn't see where he went."

"Hey, there's Hagrid," Ron pointed, "Maybe he knows Ajax."

Hagrid smiled at the two boys as they approached him, Fang barking and wagging his tail. Hagrid set down the chicken feed.

"What can I help yer with, Harry, Ron?"

"Hey, Hagrid," Harry greeted. "Have you ever met a centaur?"

"Why yes, Harry, sev'ral times."

"Have you ever met one named Ajax?"

"Ajax, eh? Hmm, I can't say I have. D'you meet a centaur, Harry?"

"I did. Last night. I was almost . . ." Harry trailed off. Should he really tell an adult what had almost happened? Could he tell Hagrid at least? But Hagrid could always tell another professor – he may be obligated to tell a professor or even the Headmaster. What good would it do to get expelled so soon in the year? He couldn't go back to his aunt's and uncle's on such terms. Besides, Hagrid had already said he didn't know this Ajax.

"Never mind, Hagrid," Harry pulled Ron away. "Class is starting soon. We should really get going."

"Alright then," Hagrid frowned but waved them goodbye. "See yer later."

Harry and Ron walked back to the school in silence, Ron casting Harry concerned glances every so often. Harry was lost in his thoughts. What if he never saw Ajax again? What if Ron thought he was lying about Ajax? Or even worse, what if Ajax wanted to remain hidden and unknown – and here he was, telling all his friends about his late night adventure. Good thing he didn't have many friends.

"Are you okay, Harry?" Ron asked. "Why didn't you tell Hagrid about last night?"

"He could tell the headmaster," Harry answered. "I could be expelled or something. But then I got thinking. What if Ajax didn't want me to tell anyone about him?"

"You only told me," Ron reassured. "And you just gave his name to Hagrid. I'm sure there's no harm done."

"I guess," Harry shrugged. "I hope I see him again soon."

Maybe Ajax only came out at night. Were centaurs nocturnal? Harry would have to find out for himself. He really wanted to see Ajax again. Soon, Harry thought, very soon.

I hope you liked this first chapter! Let me know! I'm wondering how well of a story this will turn out to be.