Title: Gross Infringement|
Author: Juxian Tang
Pairing: very slight SS/Firenze, SS/AD
Disclaimer: These characters and places belong to JK Rowling. I am making no profit.
Summary: Snape has a bit of run-in with unexpected consequences
Notes: Part of the Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest (Scenario # 14: Snape goes too far
and someone loses their patience)
Spoilers: Contains spoilers for book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the
Archiving: The Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest Archive and my site - http://juxian.slashcity.net
THANKS: A million thanks to Tango for being such a caring and strict beta and
for giving me help when I needed it so much
by Juxian Tang
It was a stupid situation, and only he was stupid enough to get into it. He
didn't even get far: just far enough to regret it. There was a little fear and
a lot of anger in what he felt; under his teeth, blood from his lip was salty
and hot and stinging. With vindictive pleasure he deepened the little wound. He
deserved this pain - he deserved worse.
Well. There was a good chance he would get worse.
The sun, rolling down towards the horizon, was turning the treetops into
orange fireballs. Thin clouds looked violent pink and seemed to be drawn in
watercolors while the branches were done in ink - so immobile everything was.
Severus Snape looked at the sky unhappily. Not a single breath of wind. His
hair, seeming even more limp than always, clung to his cheeks. He didn't feel
hot, though; sweat trickling down his back was cold as he pressed tighter
against a trunk of a big oak.
He wished there was a way out. He wished he could just walk away, admitting
to himself what a damned loser he was - and that would take care of the
situation, and no one will have been the wiser. But he didn't think it was an
Not when three pairs of narrowed eyes looked at him from the height well
above his head.
"We told Albus Dumbledore it was the last time." The voice was beautiful
and strangely cultured but the cadence was somewhat odd... the same oddness
he'd grown used to hearing over the last few months at Hogwarts.
"We let the woman go because he asked us. We told him we wouldn't
tolerate another incursion."
Damn Umbridge and the whole Ministry with her! He didn't want to be so much
as mentioned in the same sentence as her. Only the thing was that now he was
following in her footsteps... and he had only himself to thank for it. At least
Dolores hadn't known what she was getting herself into. He had.
"You humans think the whole world belongs to you," the centaur
with the face of frightening beauty and flowing auburn hair said in a voice
that rang with contempt. "You think you can just tramp wherever you like,
overstep all the boundaries."
Severus's upper lip curled in a sneer. He didn't answer; not for want of
something to say - fortunately, he'd never had that problem. It was just that
arguing with them would be a waste of his breath; and he hated doing something
in vain - hated making his position even more humiliating than it already was.
His right arm throbbed very hot and heavy, curled awkwardly against his
side. He felt an half-conscious wish to shield it, even if only with his own
body; but of course is made no sense - the damage had already been done.
Severus grimaced slightly at the memory of a careless movement he'd made - and
the massive chest of the rearing centaur breaking him down on the ground... and
shattering pain of a hoof landing on his hand, smashing fingers into the
At least they had not broken his wand... Oh yes, it was a lot of use to him
where it was now: twelve feet away, under the right front hoof of a younger
man-horse... no 'accio wand' for him. In any case, he couldn't even hold it.
Well, so be it.
Perhaps this wand on the ground would be the only trace left of his being
there. How embarrassing; he'd never live it down. No, he most certainly would
"We have put up with your kind long enough - your arrogance and
pettiness. Now our patience has run out, human. You should not have
He had not underestimated them; he had known there would be danger. Centaurs
could be beautiful and alluring - but their tempers were notoriously short, and
they were terribly easy to insult. Terribly easy - the mere fact of one's
existence could be quite enough...
//"I do miss my people, Professor."// A beautiful voice came to
his mind, speaking as through a thin crust of ice even in its warmth..
//"But I know them well enough not to expect their forgiveness."//
Smooth palomino body, great muscles rolling under the sleek skin... blue
eyes and long curls of white hair... wide chest and strong arms...
Severus swallowed; it was a bad idea to think about it now. With an effort he
raised his face defiantly, meeting the eyes of the elder centaur. The sun had
moved even further down and a shadow passed over the beautiful face.
Severus's gaze wandered, preferring to focus on nothing. He wished he could
run; but he knew he wouldn't.
Running, being caught - he was too old for that. His dignity was a farce but
he still clung to it. Besides, did he have all that much to lose? There was not
much to him to begin with; nothing, really - between his duties and his dreams.
Duties of teaching, brewing potions and spying - and dreams of being someone
else, having something.
This summer he'd almost come to believe that it was possible - in a
classroom turned into a bit of a forest, under a starry sky, looking up into
the startling blue eyes that seemed to see something no one else could. He
almost came to believe something could change.
Too bad it would all go to waste now.
The centaur's brows were driven together - and the circle of three around
Severus seemed to tighten. He braced himself against the trunk.
What would they do? The thought made him sick and at the same time created
some cold, painful, surgical interest. Umbridge had returned unscathed, just
damaged in her mind - and he was not afraid of that. He'd been through enough
mind games that these foals had no idea about. Would they resign to
something so crude as a murder? They might; he recalled how Firenze's face
quivered slightly as his bones started aching at bad weather.
He didn't want to die; he would never have lasted this long in his double
game against the Dark Lord if he didn't want to live. But there was another
throat-gripping thought that upset him much more - what Albus would think when
he found out.
Blood in Severus's mouth tasted exactly like his shame, hot and bitter.
It had been a bad summer as it was; the last thing he wanted was to become
to Albus what Sirius Black had become - another loss in his long list of
//"...and I'll need to wring the yellow stingers of their
venom,"// he remembered saying when the discussion of potions for the
Order was nearly over.
Albus seemed so frail in his ridiculous hat and in the chair that seemed too
big and deep for him. The stupid bird perched on the back of the chair looked
cranky, too, but while with Fawkes you could always be sure he would come back,
with Albus it wasn't so.
How could Black have done it to him? The man had never had any idea of
responsibilities, Severus thought.
Another of Albus's favorite children, gone forever. And in their place, he
stayed. He, Severus Snape, ugly and weak and flawed and faltering - someone who
always brought Albus more worry than use. Albus had never said anything about
it - but he didn't need to put it into words for Severus to know... how could
Albus feel otherwise?
Tired, kind eyes rose to him; the hat swayed gently as Albus nodded - and
Severus felt a harsh, burning wish at that moment, as he often did: to remold
Albus to his liking, without this silly hat and without the weight stooping his
shoulders, and so that he belonged only to him.
//"Yes, do it, Severus. But please be careful in the Forbidden Forest.
I set a frontier there, divided our domain and centaurs', so to say - your wand
will inform you when you approach it. You must not cross it under any
He was not foolish enough not to heed the warning. But what could he do if
the stingers had moved deeper into the forest and he couldn't find enough - and
he wouldn't come back without a full batch... and Albus was surely
overreacting... and who would care if something happened to him, anyway... not
in the way everyone mourned for Sirius Black.
Yes, that was it, wasn't it. He was jealous of Black - and did the very same
thing he'd hated Black for.
And at this moment, standing in the circle of men-horses, he knew very
clearly that it wasn't worth it. He wasn't worth of Albus's sadness, not a
single moment of it.
Now the phial with the stingers' venom lay uncorked in the grass, yellow
viscous liquid trailing slowly into the ground. Good riddance, indeed.
"You are going to reap what you've sown, human," the centaur said
rather pompously. "You deserve everything you get."
Severus knew his smile was rather a rictus, making his face even uglier than
it usually was; but centaurs probably couldn't see him well in the darkness
anyway. Oh yes, he agreed - he deserved it. And really, he wasn't nearly as
afraid of whatever they could do as of being saved; saved like Umbridge had
been saved by Albus. He'd rather die than have Albus coming for him into the
forest, rescuing him from the consequences of his stupidity, of his absurd
jealousy of someone who was dead.
He'd rather never leave this forest at all than would leave it with Albus's
//"Why did you not leave Hogwarts for the summer, Professor?"//
the soft voice of the new Divination teacher asked; Severus's head whipped up.
Albus had requested Firenze to give Severus a quick overview of less known
species and plants of the forest that could be useful in the making of his
He looked up at Firenze, his eyes customarily narrowed, checking whether
there was derision in this question - whether the centaur knew the answer very
well and just asked to have a laugh at his expense. Firenze's handsome face was
placid and politely interested.
//"Hmm... Could it be because I have nowhere else to go?"//
Severus didn't know why he'd said that; maybe, because throwing the truth at
someone's face gave him a pang of bitter pleasure sometimes. Firenze's
expression didn't change; blonde eyelashes fell down slowly, giving his face
languid and sultry look.
//"I do understand it. After all, I have nowhere else to go,
He was not going to discuss this with the centaur - discuss anything with
him - just as he never discussed things with other teachers. But somehow...
they started talking. It just happened, time and time again, even when Albus
didn't request anything and there was no justification.
Severus was awkward at simply talking, he had grown too used to jabbing and
stinging and defending himself. But there was some stunning calm in Firenze, as
though nothing mundane mattered to him much - and it was so strangely
And then there was that place where marble skin of Firenze's belly changed
into the finest smooth piebald fur...
Those with their eyes light blue and their hair white always did make
Severus helpless, because he was so little like them - a huddled crow with his
messed up tangled hair and beady black eyes. And there were fantasies that
Severus wouldn't admit to anyone, even under Crucio - that made him feel even
more ashamed and freakish than always.
But he thought he would never forget how one late evening in the
classroom-made-into-the-wood Firenze's strong long-fingered hands lay around
his face suddenly, plaited through the strands of his nasty hair - and a strong
grip tilted his face up.
//"You're an interesting creature, Professor,"// he said, and
Severus felt something falling in him, deep and bottomless fall, and he felt
afraid but he also felt something that astonishingly resembled hope. //"I
would like to know you better."//
He would have agreed... to anything - but he kept himself from dreaming
about it. He knew everything would end too soon, once he let himself think
Well, it looked like everything was going to end even sooner.
"Make him follow me," the centaur with auburn hair ordered. The
others shifted in the lilac twilight, their smooth bodies gleaming very
"Don't you touch me."
The younger centaur reached for him and Severus swatted the hand away in
fury. How he disliked being touched without his permission; if it never
happened again in his life, it still would be too soon.
The older centaur's voice distorted to almost a hiss as he reared - and
there was a heavy, numbing blow at his thigh that suddenly made Severus feel
like his leg was gone altogether. The earth rolled under him; he ended up on
his fours, resting his palms against the grass and panting. The pain in his
right hand was so bad his vision blurred.
It was not... too bad... he could stand it.
The centaur still pranced on his rear legs, and from his kneeling position
Severus could see just a dark shadow hovering over him, and the soft lighter
fur on the centaur's belly. An odd thought flashed through his mind, that
Firenze would be just as big and strong. Something clenched inside him.
Stop thinking about it. Or you'll never walk out of here at all.
But perhaps walking out of here was not a priority.
"So, do you find the touch of a centaur disgusting?" The voice was
derisive, and Severus hesitated, debating whether to react.
"Good for you. Get up, human."
He gave himself a few moments more, taking deep breaths, and then got onto
his feet. A grip on his shoulder was violent and unexpected, throwing him
forward. The bark of the trunk, hard and rough, scraped against his side,
wrenching a broken cry from him when his right arm hit against it. There was
some more damage as well, his ribs cracking.
Blood from his bitten-through lip trailed on his chin a little as he
There was strange unrealistic quality in their movement. The darkness was
nearly full by now and the strong silhouettes of the centaurs slid among the
trees silently and adroitly. He knew he wouldn't stand a chance against them if
he tried to escape - every little twig under his feet crunched deafeningly.
But it was not the only reason why he didn't try to run. He felt compelled
somehow - to go to the very end, to live out his idiocy - to received meted out
punishment for his transgression.
Some people were just too stupid to live - and Severus Snape was among them.
Albus... he bit his tongue and forbade himself to pronounce this name. He
always called for Albus, silently, when things became too much for him. But not
Albus had better not think of trying to save him! No matter how attractive
the thought was... Severus Snape as 'damsel in distress' and Albus Dumbledore
rescuing him. How pathetic... But if he were rescued, he would be able to throw
himself at Albus's chest and be held...
Oh, if he could have Albus - he wouldn't even think... not even about
All right. So, what have we here? A person who doesn't know what he wants -
or whom he wants - one. Angry centaurs - three... damn, he'd just noticed -
there were more now, five of them. Let us consider the possible outcome...
How about some hot animal sex?
This thought made him snort hysterically and quickly stifle the sound. You
really should get laid more, Severus, then you wouldn't think about sex so
He clenched his teeth and felt blood filling his mouth again.
The clearing appeared suddenly; the lights of fires there scalded his
retinas. Severus blinked like a blinded owl, his eyes watering.
"You will be judged now, human."
A push forward made him stumble but he straightened almost at once. There
were more sleek, big shapes around him.
So many of them... he hadn't known the Forbidden Forest was home to so many.
Had anyone seen them before, apart from Albus? And had anyone who'd seen them
ever come out alive...
Strangely, the thought didn't scare him. The picture before his eyes was so
beautiful - so unbearably, destructively, lethally beautiful - that he almost
wanted to die to make it stay with him. He wondered if it was what Dolores had
seen before her mind had snapped - if this was the reason for her withdrawal.
Strong stallion bodies - black and bay and white and dappled - and
sculptured human torsos on them, long bare arms glistening slightly in orange
light, hair falling nearly to their waists. The bodies slid against each other
casually and smoothly.
He almost wanted to be a part of... but of course he couldn't, it was absurd
even to think about it... now he knew it was absurd even to think about Firenze
- absurd for him, weak and imperfect.
Firenze must have wanted so much to return to his folk, he thought.
"Leave him, Keitane."
A hand touched his face, forcing him look up at the lined face above him.
The eyes were blue and the hair nearly white... Severus shivered; he almost
looked like Albus, this one... no, it was a perverted thought, he couldn't
"I see Firenze in your eyes. You're thinking about the traitor. No,
don't answer me. I don't want to hear your lies."
There were so many things to blame on him - that he'd overstepped their
boundaries; that he was getting friendly with their apostate; that he was the
servant of the murderer of unicorns - could this old one see the Dark Mark on
his arm as clearly as he could read his thoughts of Firenze?
"He's taken a human lover," Keitane hissed.
They were not lovers... He wanted to say it but suddenly his lips felt
sealed. It was such a helpless feeling that he was really frightened for the
"So, you spoke the truth: you do not find the touch of a centaur
disgusting," Keitane added.
You bastard... Severus's nostrils flared in an effort to talk but he still
"Can we kill him, and be done with it?" another centaur asked.
The grip of the withered hand on Severus's face was surprisingly strong, it
was impossible to break free from it. The old centaur kept looking at him,
"There are things that frighten humans more than death. I see the
darkness inside him." Severus wanted to sneer at that but something in the
creature's voice sent cold shivers through him, despite his feverish attempts
of self-control. "I see what he wants and what he is afraid of."
Did he? Wasn't it ridiculous? All of a sudden Severus felt his spit turn
viscous and stick in his throat. He couldn't breathe.
"We won't need to break him. His own darkness will do it."
Oh come, did the old one really think this would frighten him? He knew all
about darkness... Faded blue eyes observed Severus - and he hated those eyes,
hated that the face of the centaur looked so much like Albus's. He hated
himself for being so weak and falling under what the old one was using on him -
hypnosis or whatever it was.
"It'll teach you humans a lesson," the centaur said.
Severus swallowed loudly and blinked his inflamed eyes. The centaurs,
starting from Keitane and to the old one, had identical blank expression on
Fuck you, he thought, you think that will break me. I won't let you break
me. I won't go down, like Umbridge.
But he didn't know how long his stubbornness would last.
"You can scream if you hurt, human."
He came round to someone's fingers sorting the strands of hair away from his
face. His eyelids were heavy and seemed sticky and he moaned and coughed,
trying to open his eyes. His lungs felt clogged and it took an effort to
breathe in. He saw the orange flickering lights of fires at first - and then,
white long hair and blue eyes.
The word never left his lips - and he had no voice left anyway. His throat
felt sore and scraped so much it was agony even to swallow. The old centaur lay
with his legs folded next to him and stroked his hair.
"You did well, human."
The voice was so soft and slightly cracked - and he could have almost
believed it was Albus's voice, were it not for the icy note of distant interest
in it - the interest of an explorer.
It had not been what he'd expected; how ironic... They hadn't even touched
him - not beyond what Keitane had done. Everything that happened, had happened
in his mind. It must have been the same with Dolores... And he had broken, too.
He clenched his teeth to stay quiet.
"Easy, easy," the centaur said. "You got your punishment. Now
you may go. Go and warn others against trespassing."
A soft paper-dry hand turned his face for the centaur to have a better look,
and he felt an enormous surge of fear going through him. Not again, Severus
thought, please no, he couldn't take it. Not from this one, with Albus's face
and faded blue eyes...
The ground was rough and cold under him - and the impact jarred through his
body, making him clamp his teeth on the ragged lip. He didn't cry out but his
eyes opened hopelessly. The air was grey with the coming down. There was
someone next to him.
"Give the traitor our best regards," Keitane said.
The ground reverberated under his cheek with the sound of hooves going away.
Severus curled tighter, the fingers of his good hand clenching on the textured
cloth of his robes absently. There was something comforting in it.
The greyness was getting thinner but he didn't know how much time passed.
Sometimes he felt as though he was not on the ground anymore but hovering
somewhere higher - and it didn't scare him much. His thoughts were so distant,
names coming and going - Firenze, Dolores...
This voice made something shatter inside him, electrifying - and suddenly
there was no repose but the urge to move, to force himself into getting up and
"Severus, where are you?"
Quickly, before he was found like this... The tall trees swayed around him
as he got onto his knees - and blurred when he rose to his feet - and his steps
seemed strangely unstable. But he forced himself to stop thinking about it,
just walk, one step after another.
Finally he saw him; a tall man in a funny hat walking through the forest.
Oh, how stupid he was thinking that the old centaur looked like Albus...
nothing of the sort. Kind blue eyes looked at him and widened suddenly.
"Severus, thanks Merlin, I thought..." and: "Are you all
He didn't know if he could talk - but he had to, when this man asked.
"Yes, perfectly," he said.
He remembered how Albus had sat at his bed, smoothing strands of hair away
from his face - and he didn't want to flinch away, he didn't want to think
about another time when he'd felt cool fingers stroking his face.
It was all over. No more Poppy's wand going over his body, her eyes widening
at whatever she was reading; he wasn't hurt badly - although he should've been,
just look the way he was falling apart... He bit his lip through because he
needed something to distract himself from the fear that now she'd start
discussing it, with Albus, she'd say something that would destroy that
desperately tenuous control he had.
Still, it was not as though he could hate himself any more than he did
already - as though he didn't know how pathetic he was.
Yet there was something hollow and distorted inside him and it felt like it
wouldn't be whole ever again.
"They use your own mind against you," Albus said quietly,
apparently addressing Poppy, "turning it inside out. It's quite cruel,
really... sometimes more cruel than physical destruction."
The words had little meaning to Severus. Albus's fingers were gentle and
pleasantly cool as he pushed away the greasy curtain of hair away from his
face. Severus wanted to turn his face and press it into the soft, careful hand
- but of course he didn't dare. Albus was kind but even his patience was not
limitless, and that would surely nauseate him.
Instead, Severus just tried to memorize how it felt when Albus was touching
him, sat close to him - so nice and kind as if he, Severus, was a sick child.
Well, when he had been a child, no one had sat with him like this.
And he wasn't all that sick now - not really...
"Shh." Albus's voice was as light as the touch of his fingers, and
Severus felt his lips trembling. "Sleep now, dear boy, you're safe."
He didn't want to but there was little he wouldn't do at Albus's request,
so, he closed his eyes obediently and tried not to see the flickering orange
lights and black shapes of trees around him.
Would you look at that, now he was starting to panic at the mere thought of
the Forbidden Forest. How foolish.
Then mercilessly sharp edges or reality blurred somewhat into dim but
wonderful oblivion - and Severus heard how the sad, suddenly frail voice
"I'll take care of you."
It took him a day to heal the broken bones and a little while longer for his
body to stop reminding him about some non-existent damage it had suffered. He
ignored any discomfort best he could and finally it worked: he stopped wincing
involuntarily at any awkward movement.
Fighting his pathetic, self-pitying mind was more difficult. A pensieve
might've helped but Severus had lost his fascination with pensieves when he'd
realized how easy it was to dip into his memories without permission. And
indeed, even the Potter boy didn't deserve to have something like that dumped
onto him. So, Severus would just have to rely on his own mental capacities.
Too bad he'd never been able to let anything go; now he regretted it for the
first time in his life.
At least outwardly his behavior was satisfactory. He faced Poppy two days
later after leaving the infirmary - and they together checked the stores for
missing potions, and he felt like the vessels in his temples were going to
burst, so hard did the blood thud in them, but his face stayed carefully blank
the entire time. Fortunately, Poppy didn't say anything - and he refused to
wonder whether she looked at him in any special way. He preferred to be blind
to everything apart from the transparent colored bottles of the potions.
But it was a good move to meet Poppy so early - and next times came easier.
Soon he could do it with just a small twinge of unwillingness - the same as he
felt when meeting anyone else. There was only one weakness, though, that
Severus couldn't deal with - and finally he gave up, too tired of
self-loathing. Sparing himself was better at least than shutting himself up in
his quarters, lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, the way he wished he
could spend the rest of his life anyway.
He heard the soft thumping of hooves on the stone floor of the corridor, and
this noise seemed to reside in his chest, becoming his heartbeat. He told
himself he should've faced it - that his cowardice was outrageous - but he
He stopped on his way and leaned against the wall, letting the steps in the
parallel corridor pass.
His heart seemed so swollen and beat so hard it was hurting his ribcage. The
wall was cold and damp and he felt trickles of moisture gathering on the old
stone and sliding down under his cheek.
"I understand, my dear friend, the difficulty of the situation."
It wasn't Firenze's voice; but the other one, soft and wistful and familiar.
Behind the sound of the hooves he hadn't noticed human steps.
"I know he avoids you." Oh Albus... always talking about him
behind his back... always concerned. Severus's face distorted in something that
was not a smile at all. "And I'm somewhat confused. Perhaps in this case
it would do good if you try to push things a little and force him... force him
to talk to you - to clear everything up. Weren't you getting friendly?"
N-no... no... he caught himself on shaking his head as if Albus could see
him - and hated himself for this weakness. He should've done it; Albus was
right, Albus knew what was best - look what happened the last time he'd
"I don't want you to misunderstand me, Headmaster." Firenze's
voice was beautiful and still send little twinges through Severus's body -
especially if he carefully left his mind blank. "There were no profound
feelings between me and your human friend. I was just fascinated with mentality
of a different species."
Albus must've made a gesture of protest because Firenze's tone, accompanied
with soft thumping of the hooves, sharpened a little.
"Don't think worse of me because of it. You know how we centaurs are.
There was nothing - just exploration of possibilities, quenching my thirst for
knowledge. So, I don't think there is any sense in trying to 'clear things up,
as you put it."
Strange... Severus knew he should have felt anger and disappointment, at
finding out that his only not-quite-friendship in years had ended this way,
with the other having so little interest in him. But instead all he felt was
He didn't need to talk to Firenze - didn't need to tell himself that Firenze
was not to blame, that it was cruel and unfair to desert him like that. He
could get back to his solitude where he was so comfortable and safe alone, to
his dreams and his duties.
He could keep dreaming about Albus...
"So, I will have nothing to do with it, Albus," Firenze continued
in his beautiful, distant voice where you could hear stars talking and leaves
rustling. "If you care for him so much, you can have him."
They were leaving, steps fading away - and the pause was so long Severus
thought he could probably no longer hear them, when Albus's voice came, quiet
"I care for him so much."
His hand flew up, covering his mouth to shush any sound he could make. His
mind struggled feverishly, telling him it was nothing, it was just what Albus
would say about any one of his former students. But he couldn't help it - the
words still sounded in his mind.
Care for him so much... just how much exactly? Could it be that Albus... he
wanted to believe it, no matter how stupid it was, no matter how difficult to
For that he would give everything, would even rejoice at his foolish
downfall in the Forbidden Forest. Maybe, that was what he had really
Maybe, it had been worth it, after all.