Severus Snape always liked black.
It was a simple color, calm and sophisticated. Not complicated like yellow (it hurt his eyes like sunshine in winter). Not like purple (the color of his skin—bruised and tainted—at the hands of Voldemort). Not like red (the color of wine, like blood, staining the white carpet of Lucius Malfoy's sitting room, because he was seventeen and his hands were shaking and he never had French Bordeaux before then and he was nervous—the Dark Mark freshly branded into the flesh below his sleeve, gnawing and clawing through ropes of nerves and wrapping like fishing wire around bone—and he was a mess of regrets and excitement, and his hands quaked and he dropped the goblet on the floor with a loud thud).
Green was all right, and gray wasn't too bad either. But black was the best choice.
Colors were meant for foolish people, like Harry Potter. The boy was not cut out for black.
Color was complicated. It did nothing for Snape, absolutely nothing. Black accentuated the shadows beautifully; the ones he carried with him for years, the ones he had earned through knuckles crushing against his body and unrequited love and stabbing grief. The shadows spread underneath his cheekbones like small wings. . .pooled like fallen rainwater in the hollow of his collarbone, a place that had always desired but never knew the soft ghosting of her lips (he imagined her lips moving there, playing his skin like a flute, mouthing an endless stream of 'I love you, I love you, I love you' – music against flesh that smelled of ivory soap). The shadows stretched down the side of his body like jagged teeth, from the edge of his jaw to the crook of his elbow, grazing the skin but never piercing it.
He was forced to wear his mother's oversized clothing as a child ('Nice clothes, Snivellus!' they would taunt). A green smock, a cream jumper, ten year old blue jeans—moth eaten, threads unraveling, hanging from his body like loose skin from bone. The clothing smelled like pipe tobacco and salt (his mother's tears, perhaps?). He looked ridiculous, like some bizarre watercolor splattered with hideous streaks.
He decided at the age of eleven that black would be a much more fitting color for someone like himself. His mother had taken him for his dress robes. They felt like silk in his hands and smelled like the gardenias his grandmother used to grow in her backyard (the day she died, the gardenias began to brown and wilt, slowly descending towards the earth . A week later, they were replaced with dandelions. Yellow fucking dandelions).
All throughout school, his robes were a shield. He savored the scent that each set carried: Gardenias, honeysuckle, ginger, peppermint, and a kiss of cigarette smoke (he spent many nights chain-smoking atop the Astronomy tower, inhaling the cigarette, breathing it in as though it were her — she filled his lungs, traveled through his body, pumped desire and sorrow straight into his veins with needle sharp precision. Just as addictive as nicotine).
She wore perfume — something floral. When she walked beside him, the scent drifted and clung to his robes like gentle fingers curled around a violin bow. In the midnight hours, when everyone had fallen asleep, he would hold that particular set of robes and breathe in the lingering smell, desperately, like a dying man, as the moon turned a shy eye through the window.
When she died, the floral scent evaporated into the silk — a long arm of smoke disappearing into the night (Gone, she was gone… a shoe print in the snow melted away by the birth of a spring sun).
Potter smelled nothing like her. The smell of chocolate and pumpkin juice wafted from the boy as Snape swooped through the dungeons. It sought him out, clutched at his robes, soaking through the many layers. He loathed the smell; it was youth and an innocence he hadn't known since childhood. Time, with its fingers like shards of glass, cut and shredded his skin for twenty plus years, all of the purity inside him bleeding out with each gash.
His own innocence had died long ago.
After each Potions class with Potter, Snape would retire to his chambers and furiously scrub his robes to get rid of the boy's scent. Nothing that innocent belonged on a man like Severus Snape.
His cloaks were just as precious to him as his robes. They kept him well-hidden. The wool felt scratchy in his calloused hands, rubbing against his neck and palms like a blade against stone.
His black attire easily matched his nasty personality. The two melded together to create someone intimidating, dreadful, frightening. The students watched him with wide eyes ('He's nothing but an overgrown bat'). He smiled privately at this. They didn't need to know, no one needed to know. There was a man beneath those robes with layers of scarred flesh and a tired heart that beat slower and slower, year after year.
After Dumbledore's death, Snape's robes and cloaks took on a rather peculiar scent. They smelled slightly musky. A cord of despair and doom twisted around them, mixing with the gardenias and the honeysuckle and the ginger and the peppermint and the light cigarette smoke. They all danced together, a perfect two-step, stomping and jarring his insides. It wasn't right, not at all.
On that day — that very day — his robes were giving off a new smell: Cinnamon. This had puzzled him. They looked darker too, like black ice on pavement. He didn't know why, and this unsettled him.
Morning turned into afternoon. Afternoon turned into evening. Evening turned into night. The air was chillier than usual, and it bit at his face as a war raged around him.
He lay there in the Shrieking Shack, blood seeping from his neck. His blood was red, fucking red. It curled like fresh ink along his skin, sliding down his neck and into his robes. . .his black robes. Red cannot stain black, it only makes it look a touch darker. It would greedily nibble its way through any other color of fabric — orange, pink, blue — leaving visible bloody trails and merlot circles.
But not on his black robes.
Potter was beside him, leaning down, staring at him like a burning fish. Looking into his eyes, Snape smelled floral for one brief second (goddamn impossible; the boy didn't wear perfume). He saw Lily in Potter's eyes, wanted to reach inside of the boy, pull Lily out, watch her red hair spill against his dark robes (she used coconut scented shampoo — lovely). The boy did not wear black. The boy was not as ugly as Severus Snape (he knew he was hideous. . .he avoided the mirror for years). The boy was everything Snape wasn't, and he hated him and admired him in that moment. Potter was an extension of Lily not to be denied. Maybe Snape could've been a friend to him?
He noticed Potter's messy hair and askew glasses, and thought about how he never liked the boy, and how the boy always knew Snape didn't like him.
The cinnamon smell in Snape's robes grew weaker and weaker, and he felt safe and warm tucked away under the layers of black (he hadn't felt safe and warm since he was five years old).
The world caved in around him.