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Black and White

Black and White

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Who and Where: Severus in London.
Warnings: violence, language, inadvisable behavior, probably more.

It is night. Severus surreptitiously creeps from the back of his friend's apartment in London. He had gone to change there before he went out on his personal mission of violence and full-throated darkness. He blends with the shadows in order that no one see him like this. Severus has a secret. The meeting place is in the warehouse district near the docks.

It is primaeval, Dionysian. He goes to share in a ritual of blood, fists and knives, pain and hate. And always the screams that sometimes echo in his head afterwards, his ears ringing, his throat raw. He is anonymous among his fellows. There is not one of them who knows his name, though he is tempted to adopt a cryptic appellation. But even nameless, his garb marks him their kin - the symbols that he bears mark him one of their brotherhood. His participation, his own violence, his own succumbing to the nihilism-born destruction they create - all these grant him acceptance to the degree that it exists in their darkness. When they are together at these times he loses himself, throwing himself away gladly as simply one of a chaotic army. He becomes instinct.

He is wearing black jeans, the cloth thin and almost torn, tucked into steel-toed Doc Martens one lace red, one lace black. His shirt is worn thin too, with the sleeves ripped off and a chipped Clash logo stenciled on the front with spray paint. The back has the words 'Stay Free,' in flat black - the colour of choice - and that is for himself and his friends, not about muggle jails but about Azkaban. The song has come out very recently and the stenciling is new. He wears a red and black handkerchief tied around his forearm, secured at his wrist with a wide studded leather wristband. It protects his mark and he is careful, keeping it close to his chest in the mosh pit. It is August now, but in winter he has an old surplus air force greatcoat, and it is much admired by these muggle boys. His hair swings black, potion-greased around his face, but no one is well-groomed here. Nothing shows he is a wizard but the wand in the pocket along his thigh he has stitched for it.

The others shave their skulls, and mould their hair into spikes and combs with airplane glue, white glue, soap. Blonds dye it with food colouring. Blood red is a favourite, but it washes to pink, sometimes in the rain. Severus has crouched at the quieter side walls of these events holding ice cubes while others have stabbed safety pins through their earlobes. At first this had been considered brave, but now they thrust them nonchalantly through lips, noses, cheeks and sometimes foreheads.

Many sport prison tattoos, but they are not usually from prison. He has similarly crouched as they tattooed each other with cotton thread wrapped around sewing needles holding them at an angle to each other, dipped in india ink. He had at first only watched, but he has done this himself now, to others. But such tattoos are rarely finished. Sometimes symbols form, or outlines of symbols. Sometimes there are unintelligible blotches or the beginnings of lines. Some punks sport initials.

"What does that mean?"

"I don't remember. I was stoned."

One of the rapidly appearing and disappearing bands, Severus assumes. In most such cases the words matching the initials of the bands' names change from day to day. Or these letters could represent some girl or boyfriend cast aside hastily. Sometimes the artists or the recipients are drunk or on drugs and have no idea what they are actually inscribing. Sometimes they crouch there and another careening punk slams into them, knocking everything flying, driving blood from gouges. There are fights then.

Knives are drawn at the least sign of offense or frustration. But it is not only then. Everyone is looking to collect experience. Not reputation, because it does not matter who one is and everybody knows it. A thin dark haired boy, younger than Severus, is offering tonight.

"Want to fight?" And he has a switchblade in his hand. It is not belligerent, though he will become so if he is taken up on his offer. It can become real within the second in which one permits it. And then the danger is a true fact and alertness, speed, courage, balance, prediction and watching one another's eyes count, becoming useful skills. Sometimes Severus indulges. He can easily heal such small wounds and return home as he left. Obviously he cannot change his body, his hair as the muggles do. No airplane glue, no further tattoos, no safety pins. But he gains experience fighting, and stabbing the pins through the other's faces, wielding the ink-covered needles with potion-stained fingers mysterious to them.

Eventually he tells them his name is Sev, and they assume it is short for 'seven,' speculating Seven what? amongst themselves as they debate the meanings of the band names.

The warehouse is unrelieved concrete, and the lights had been fluorescent - too bright, too many until they had been smashed. There is a stage of rough plywood, that someone has attempted to spray-paint and given up halfway through, probably having run out of paint. It is again flat black. At the door Severus pays his two pounds. He doesn't know the kid who peers at him and takes his money. He is large with a humourless blunt face and a red shirt - some colour in this black and white world. They always worry about coppers for there are drugs and guns and no one is quite legitimate. He hadn't quite caught the names of the bands, throwing away the flyer as soon as he acquired it, but it barely matters.

When he arrives it is mostly dark inside. He stands at the back of the room first. That is where the fights are. And tonight it seems to be a general challenge to run at the wall, jump to plant one's feet there and do a backflip, pushing off from the wall. Everyone tries it. Some are too far gone and just run at the wall, crumpling themselves against it, bashing heads, bruising disorganised knees jarring themselves. One boy decides that indeed equals success and simply bangs his head against the cement wall in time to the music, simplifying the procedure. Severus tries to run, plant his feet, push off, backflip. He can't quite do it, but very few of them can. He imagines it is probably practice.

The music pounds like a machine gun, even the vocals. It is deafening and any actual speech is impossible. Someone tries to yell something at him, moving his mouth in exaggerated fashion. Severus can't hear and punches the air above him with his fist. He makes his way to the front where the mosh pit is and it is easier to hear some words when he can see the band and watch their lips. He shouts along, slurring the words when he can't understand them - no need for notes in the noise. The rapid-fire repetition of words breaks into a scream at regular intervals and when it does he gives it full power of his lungs. So do the others - he is one with them, an individual in a sea of individuals, struggling and screaming.

They make themselves anonymous, marring themselves with uniform colour, the same boots, same scarves, shirts, symbols, destroying their hair their faces. They hate themselves, hate the world, hate the chances they have been given. They disappear, melding with one another, deliberately ruining any chance they might grasp because there is no hope of chance choosing them. Any of them. Severus has that chance, but he still feels the fear that he will lose it, the fear that he will be lost too, that he will end up broken by uselessness.

It is violent down here. But that is part of that for which Severus has come. Slam dancing they say, but it is not simply slamming, body-checking. There is that - the attempts, in the midst of vigourous jumping, to shove someone else off-balance and make them fall taking down others with them. But there are fists and feet too. The steel toes are not for nothing. And Severus gives as good as he gets, perhaps better. His fists are pointed and bony, propelled by hate, anger, constriction released - everything that he has never had, everything he has lost, the things he is being bound to that make him cringe. Rage. And he stomps on others feet, slams his fists into ribs and kidneys. They are just muggles anyway, and this is what they are here for. This is what he is here for himself and he comes home with bruises to daub with paste, with cuts and ripped flesh to clean and heal, but they are simple and are gone by morning. It is also crowded and not much momentum can be gathered for this, not much precision. It is not as dangerous as it could be. And he likes the press of warmth against his body too, even if there is no intention, even if there is a smell of cigarettes and unwashed bodies, of mould and dust, of toxic spray paint from clothes, the floor, the walls. People around him, feeling softness of flesh and hardness of bones through his thin clothing. This is what he has for contact. He is never touched and it makes him ache, which makes him resentful and now is the time to release that and he thrusts his knuckles hard and tight against stomachs concave with hunger.

It is vicious and desperate to come here, but there is no self-loathing as there is with his organised mission violence. No illness afterwards at what he has done. He hurts, but these muggles give themselves to it. Everything he feels, they feel. He gives himself to it as well. Almost, almost but not quite loses thought in the melee. Pain expressed as he never can. Pain expressed as they never can. To give it, to receive it mutually. He is thin and hungry as they are. Noooooo Fuuture. Noooooo Fuuuuture. Naaaaaaaoooo Fuuuuuuture for YOU! The fear of Spinner's End rising in his throat. It is an indulgence. Without the Dark Lord, the Death-Eaters, his friends, this would be all he has and a keen edge of his mind feels that, needs this. Strangely he belongs.

He looks down and his eye catches something on the floor, a little square book. Black and white bands, stark black stenciled lettering, familiar. A book from this world? He tries to bend but it is difficult in the press of bodies - there is no way to lean, nowhere to put his head. He watches as they wave and moves into the gap between those in front of him, trying also to bend his knees to crouch and reach it. A little further. Feet and ankles are narrower than torsos and he finds he can stretch out his arm through them, careful - a boot to his head or scissoring legs could give him concussion or snap his thin arm. His fingers touch the spine, try to draw it closer. He moves his body sideways, closer to the floor now. And he looks out at the forest of moving Docs, laces black and red and white, some stencils even here. There are only three colours in this entire world. Hate and blood and death. He extends his other hand behind him, for balance and finally leans to seize the little square book in his left hand, the one with the cloth wrapped carefully around his mark. A Series of Shock Slogans and Mindless Token Tantrums, Exitstencil Press and a CRASS logo.

A boot comes down on his right hand, tendons crushed into bone, knuckles giving under the sharp sudden pulverising weight. These boots hurt on leather and on a naked unprotected hand they do real damage. His presence is tacit acceptance of injury, but this is the reality. Severus screams but it is lost in the general noise, general screaming. AAAAaaaaaahhh! Merlin AAAaaahhh! How many other people's fingers has he broken - muggles, wizards on the wrong side? How many times has he watched implacably while they screamed, then calmly broken another digit? Now it is his turn and he worries about splintered bone ripping his tendons and flesh. He tries to stop breathing, to clench his teeth. He is more heedless staggering to his feet, cradling his right hand this time, tucking the little book into the waistband of his jeans.

"Hurt your hand?" He watches the lips of a grinning muggle say. The young man pushes his head down as he rises, using the flexibility of his neck for leverage to pogo higher. Not a nonverbal curse, but a wandless one. There is no one able hear if he fully shouts. Severus gathers his concentration despite his broken hand and throws the man backwards into those behind him. As the wave of people separates and moves back together, swearing as he can see, Severus stands and extricates himself. It is scarcely revealing magic to muggles. In this crowd, no-one would think twice. But he is careful not to perform the more visible curses he is more fond of. The punk who had shoved him down begins vomiting, but again, that is no more than usual here.

He nurses his hand and retreats to the side wall in the corner where they will just see him bending over his arm and not notice the wand he uses to knit his bones back together. It hurts and he keeps his teeth clenched, his eyes tightened to slits, working the spells though they are painful as well. Neither wandless nor nonverbal now. He takes his shirt off and when he replaces it he tucks his arm inside against his chest, crawling and aching as it heals. Merlin it aches, but he doesn't scream any more. How many times has he lain quietly in pain waiting for his bones to knit at home, at school? It was one of the first spells he had learned from his mother.

But now it is not quiet. He leans against the wall, arching his head back, his eyes wide open now, waiting for the waves to subside. Each time it rises he thuds his feet on the floor and swears himself. No need to hold it in, pain and rage. Each time it ebbs he holds his breath and sets his teeth, willing the easing to last longer, letting magic seep into the bones. Each time it lasts a little longer. The waves crest farther apart and less intensely. Eventually he considers standing, going back to Evan's.

There is another man bending over him who had apparently noticed him with his arm earlier. "What are you shooting, man? I'm doing water. Sure it sounds like nothing, but its the rush of shooting it into a vein. Anything. I'm doing bleach tomorrow. Want to join me? What are you doing man? It must be goooood stuff. You look dazed." He is holding a syringe - empty Severus is relieved to note.

Severus stares. These muggles are crazy. If they will do this to themselves what difference does it make what he and his friends do to them? It simply drives home the need to win the war. Best for everyone. This man is friendly and offers Severus a hand, helps him to stand. The little book falls from his waistband and the man picks it up for him. Peace, Love and Anarchy it says. Crass' greeting, Crass' wish for the world, even for him, even for the wizarding world they did not know. War first, to make peace. Rigid control to gain anarchy? Love, what of love? Hate some that you might love others? He has read something like that before. He can't think clearly. The crazy muggle is still looking at him as he wavers, still partially supporting him. The simple ideals confuse everyone. In unison these muggles sometimes twist the slogan, bitterly but serious, determined, stamping their feet in time to the chant as they march. Peace, Love, and a million dead... No. He cannot quite grasp it now and the music pounds through him, the pain in his knitting hand distracts him from collecting himself. Again, he fits right in, strangely. But it is not so with this kind crazy muggle.

"All right." He says. "All right. I think I need to go home."

"I'll take you to my house. We can do bleach. I haven't tried it yet, but it should be really... different." The man's bare arm has both random almost-tattoos and random needle marks.

Severus pulls back. "I think I have to go home. I feel sick." He backs away and passes the kid in the red shirt at the door who again peers at him and does not move or change expression. He is used to fucked up punks passing him early. Whatever he sees, he has always seen worse. Peace, Love, and...?

Outside he breathes the air deeply. There is paint still in the bag around his shoulder. He turns and chooses the best of the slogan, the best of this world, the best leaving aside tactics and need, even tendencies of stupid people. He chooses as a child would, not really seeing it, not really understanding it but wanting good. Peace, Love and Anarchy. He sprays Crass' symbol on the wall. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows what it means. He is a fucked up punk, but it is a message. Is it hope? Faith? Something of a subconscious better part of him, beyond what his entire life has become?

Severus Snape
Harry Potter
2987 words

With thanks to scytheandroses for kindly beta-ing for me.
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