TITLE: Poison
CHARACTER: Snape
GENRE: Character Study
Set during The Half-Blood Prince spoilers

Poison

The act of poisoning is a simple matter. Child's play. Even a pathetic half-wit like Longbottom or Weasley with his ineptitude for potions could do it. After all, there are considerably more lethal substances between heaven and earth, than curative ones. Mushrooms and herbs, looks and words… And even the drugs that cure are often harmful in the wrong quantities. Like so many things.

(("How'd the exam go Snivelly?" James Potter says as he advances.

Severus shoots him a venomous stare.

"I was watching him, his nose was touching the parchment," Sirius sneers. "There'll be great grease marks all over it, they won't be able to read a word."))

One part jest, three parts public ridicule, drip…

(("I see London, I see France, I see Snivelly's underpants."))

…drip…

(("Hey, Snape, you should take flying lessons from Potter. But this time make sure you're not flying upside down again, with your legs up in the air…."))

…dripping on bare skin like basilisk's bile. Stir well and leave to simmer, until the concoction curdles into venom - pure and black like ink.

(("Hey, Snape. we heard what happened." Unexpectedly, Severus finds himself surrounded by a small crowd of sullen looking boys: Lestrange, Avery, Evans, and Wilkes. Even though they are Slytherins like him, they aren't his friends. Severus braces himself for more snide remarks, but no insults are forthcoming. Instead, Lestrange squints at him, as if he were appraising a shrivelfig or rat spleen for use in a shrinking potion. "How about it, Severus?" he finally asks. "Want to get even?"))

Oh yes, it's really quite simple.

(("Roll up your sleeve. No, your left arm. Now hold still." The procedure doesn't take long, but the ink stings like acid. Gritting his teeth, Severus forces himself to look unperturbed. It wouldn't do to flinch. Not in this company. Slowly, millimeter by millimeter, the skull and the writhing snake appear on his forearm; they seem to ooze through his pores as though welling up from deep within his flesh – as though coaxed out of hiding by the prick of the needle. Severus allows himself a rare smile.))

Only sometimes things don't stay simple.

The night is drenched in smoke and flames. Hagrid's hut has turned into a blazing funeral pyre. Inside, a dog is yelping madly.

Severus Snape is running. Hagrid's hippogriff, that infernal creature, is screeching in the sky above him, coming round for another attack.

(("Severus, please…." Professor Dumbledore picks up the silver teapot and pours. The distinctive aroma of bergamot oil wafts from the two cups. "I know I'm asking for a lot, but you have to help me." As he pushes a small plate with sweets and biscuits towards the potions teacher, the old headmaster's eyes twinkle with mischief. "I need you to be my antidote."))

Antidote? The idea was ludicrous from start. How can he be a cure when he's nothing more than a murky, watered down seventeen percent solution? If his life were a potion, Snape would give himself a D. For Dreadful. Death Eater. Diluted.

(("Severus, please, no more of that. There's no turning back now," Dumbledore snaps. The murky, overcast sky lends his skin a sickly hue and dulls his silver beard to lead. "You agreed, and that's that."))

No, he's not a cure; a spy and a traitor, yes, a septic weapon; and that's why he's running like he's never run before.

Behind him, Potter is scrambling furiously for his wand to hurl more hexes and Unforgiveable Curses at his back. It doesn't matter, only one thing does: the fact that his mentor and protector, the only man to ever fully trust Severus Snape, former Death Eater, with his life, that Albus Dumbledore lies dead behind him.

(("Severus … please…"))

His lungs are burning, bile rises in his throat, but Snape keeps on running, propelled forward by rage, pain, and purpose…

(("Avada Kedavra!" The words taste vile in his mouth, like poison.))

…running as fast as he can, ready to Apparate to one of the Death Eaters' safe houses as soon as he's crossed Hogwart's boundaries…

One man's cure is another man's bane.