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Aug 10, 2022 10:32 PM
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She is three years old when she begins to remember what she was.  In a past life she was still and silent and equanimous and swift and unmerciful.  Her mind was quiet, intentions and feelings taut like wire and all perfectly aligned toward a solitary purpose that burned bright and sharp like a star, a purpose that she cannot yet recall.  She tries to move like that and think like that, but her body is small and clumsy and her mind is clamorous with no room for the thoughts she is accustomed to thinking and the feelings she is accustomed to feeling, and her mother thinks it is sweet, and she hates her, and she remembers that too.

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She is four years old when she remembers what a child is.  She knows she could lie, once, that she could put on faces like masks and identities like veils, and play her interlocutors like instruments, make them love her even as behind her veils and masks she hated them, and it was beautiful and vindicating, though what exactly she was vindicated of she does not remember yet.  So she stands in front of the bathroom mirror and practices an innocent smile, and points it at her mother, and her mother coos, and she relaxes, inside herself; she is beginning to rebuild what she was.

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She is five years old when another child, a real child, pushes her to the ground and calls her things she does not understand; and she is angry and afraid, and she remembers what to do with anger and fear, and she springs to her feet and she knows her legs are too weak like this to sweep under her foe's so she drives her fist hard into the child's solar plexus instead, and the child doubles over, and they are pulled apart before she can escalate further.

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Her mother is called to the school.  Clover tells her what happened, wearing the most piteous face she can conjure, doing her best to make her voice catch as though she wants to cry.  Her mother nods along firmly and pets her shoulders, and accompanies her to the principal's office.

There is a meeting there, comprising her and the girl she punched and their respective parents and the principal.  She is informed gravely that violence is unacceptable, that this school has a zero-tolerance policy for fighting, that she is going to have to learn better and more mature ways of solving her problems.

It is keenly familiar, and vile, and hateful.  Her past life had once contained people who made her feel like this.

She knows what to do with anger and fear, but she has no weapons in this place.

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But then her mother speaks.

She speaks stridently, at great length, to the principal, to the other girl's parents.  She has heard all the rumors, she says, about the things the other girl says and does, and how her parents look the other way.  The principal informs her that all of the witnesses agree that Clover was unprovoked, and that Clover is a skillful and habitual liar.  Her mother says that all of the witnesses were the other girl's friends, that she can read between the lines, that she knows exactly how these things go.  The principle tells her that that "is enough," which doesn't mean anything, and sentences Clover to detention and lets the other girl off scot-free.

Her mother tells the principal that she is altogether more disappointed in him than in her daughter, and that she will seriously consider withdrawing her to be homeschooled.

 

Clover is quiet.

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Later, as her mother drives her home from detention, she apologizes to Clover that she couldn't do more, and says that she was serious about homeschooling Clover if Clover wants, but that she can have as long as she wants to decide.

Clover says, "I will think about it," in the eerily level tone her voice naturally falls into when she is not trying to lie to anyone, and her mother tells her that's fine.

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Then her mother says this:

"Now, I'm not accusing you of anything.  But, hypothetically, if in the future something else like this happens, and you want to tell me about it, you don't need to worry that I won't believe you because you don't sound upset in the right way, okay?"

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She feels -

 

Something.  Unfamiliar.

She does not remember this from her past life.  She doesn't know what to do with it.

She's not sure if it's the adult who she remembers being, who wants to speak up now, or the child that that adult is trapped inside, or somehow both, or whether there's even really a difference, but she says - 

"I don't like it when you think I'm cute."

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"All right," her mother says.  "I can... try to keep it to myself, if you'd like."

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"Thank you," she says, because it's what you're supposed to say, but also for another reason she can't quite pin down.

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She is six years old when she asks why she and her mother both talk differently than everyone else.

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"Well," she says.  "It's a bit of a story.  You remember that technically I'm your aunt, right?"

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Nod.  She remembers a conversation about this when she was younger, in which her mother assured her that even though Clover might not be her biological daughter, she loved her just as though she were, and she'd do her best to always treat her as her own child.  It struck her as the sort of thing she wouldn't have had to deal with in her past life, but she nodded along patiently enough.

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"My sister is your biological mother.  Her name was Lily.  She was killed when you were very young."

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"We grew up across the Atlantic Ocean, in Britain.  When she was a little older than you, she got involved with - some people who would eventually put her in danger.  Not bad people, I don't think, but - people with bad enemies.  We grew up apart from each other.  I..." she sighs.  "I was jealous of her, and I was cruel to her because of it."

"Once we grew up I started dating a man named Vernon Dursley.  I liked him because - my sister was unusual, which was part of what had drawn her to the people she was tied up with, and Vernon Dursley hated unusual people, and it felt better to hate my sister than to be jealous of her.  That's not something I'm proud of, and not a very good way to handle being jealous of someone."

"But Vernon Dursley turned out to be a very unpleasant person.  He hit me, more than once, and did other things to try to make me afraid of him, and I didn't want to be with a person who made me afraid of him.  But all of our friends were his friends, which means that they all sided with him when I left him.  I had no options left to me except trying to reconcile with my sister."

"I did.  It was hard, and unpleasant, but it was worth it.  I was happier with her as my friend than with Vernon as my boyfriend.  I felt safer sharing my emotions with her, and dealing with upsetting things and problems in my life, and the reason that felt so safe was because we were trying so hard to do right by each other."

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Another nod, even though she doesn't really understand this in the way that her past-life memories sometimes let her understand things.

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"Unfortunately, even though me and my sister were reconciled, that didn't mean everything was better.  My sister still had enemies.  And shortly after we reconciled, she got into some trouble with them.  By then she was pregnant with you, and she knew that you were in danger from her enemies just like she was.  But I wasn't involved with any of these people, except that I was friends with my sister, and her enemies didn't know about me and wouldn't have paid any attention to me if they did.  She asked me if I would take you in if she couldn't keep you safe, and I said yes."

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"And eventually, on your first birthday, one of your mother's enemies came to her house.  There was a fight.  At the end of it, the woman who'd broken into the house - I never knew her name - was dead, and your mother was very badly injured.  She was able to get you to me, but she died on the way to the hospital."

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...That's an odd order for those events to have happened in!  She just nods, though.

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"Before that night, she'd told me that I had two choices, if I had to take you in, two possible ways I could keep you safe.  I could go into hiding, with my mother's friends, or I could leave the country."

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"And you didn't want to go into hiding."

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"No."  She sighs.  "I didn't want enemies.  I - didn't want any part of that world.  And I felt like... nothing really good had ever happened to me in Britain, except maybe a few things from when I was very young.  I wanted to start over somewhere new."

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...She thinks that she felt like that, once, in her past life, as well.  She is not really sure what to do with this weird sensation of having had the same big complicated emotion as someone else, though.

"I think I understand."

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