The Death of Socrates
He had always had a fascination with Muggle paintings. They didn't move. One moment, one scene, caught on canvas. Eternal pain, eternal bliss, eternal truth; truth was a concept that eluded him.
Of course he had heard the adage that there was truth in wine. He just wasn't sure if the wine opened the soul enough for truth to come and take root, or served to protect one from it. Either way, it had finally lost its hold, as any temporary distraction eventually does. What good is the truth if one can't remember what it is?
Others said that truth could be found in love. He had never known love and doubted its actual existence. He had enough to occupy his mind with the truth to consider love. Love was a delusion for the weak. It had long been a delusion that he wished he could share, but it hardly mattered.
This left death as the one virtue he revered. There was a certain beauty in death. There was clarity of mind that flashed through the eyes of the dying. He was convinced they all saw truth in the end. Death was good for that. The virtues are a kind of knowledge.
He brought death. He had brought the truth to more than a few, and not one had seen fit to share their final revelations. Maybe the truth was too terrible? It didn't matter to him if it was. He needed to know. He long ago lost his fear of death. He was marked for death. Why should anyone fear something so lovely?
The Poison-hemlock plant itself was lovely. It grew tall with many, tiny white flowers. Only the smell gave away the promises and secrets that it held. How many had mistaken it for Caraway and found the truth unlooked for? Hemlock was a humane death. It first served as a stimulant, much like nicotine; then it slowly shut down the nervous system causing paralysis. It was a vehicle for truth and beautiful in its simplicity.
Socrates was holding the cup of truth. Death will be an unspeakable gain. There is great reason to hope that death is a good. It pained the others to see him embrace the truth. They couldn't look on the truth as he did, or they wouldn't. No reason to fear the truth.
Holding up the phial of truth, the man gave his salute.
"To you, Philosopher."
"Severus, Socrates also said that he would continue his search for truth in death. He wasn't even sure of what he would find," a man's voice said softly from behind.
Not turning around, Severus still stared at the painting. He lowered the phial slightly.
"He still chose death, Headmaster," he whispered.
"He chose not to renounce his beliefs. He believed in absolutes. There is right and wrong and that must be acted upon once a person comes to that knowledge," the man continued.
Sighing deeply, Severus once more lifted the phial in a salute. Then he closed his eyes in defeat.
"Philosopher, it seems the hour of departure has arrived and we go our ways—I to live, and you to die. Which is better God only knows."
With that, he turned slowly towards the older man and they regarded each other before apparating with a pop. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was left as empty as it had been before their arrival.
Author notes: Everything in itallics is directly from an English translation of The Death of Socrates from Plato's Phaedo. The painting referred to is also titled The Death of Socrates, which was painted in 1787 by a Frenchman named Jacques-Louis David. It is housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This is a fic that I wrote long before J.K.R. revealed anything of importance about Snape. However, I think it still holds up in light of what we all now know. Please read and review.