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.
"I don't believe she is perfectly innocent," Albus says. "Children are more than capable of careless or intentional cruelty, we both know that. But whatever she may have inherited from Maledict Gaunt, I believe she is a child, with a child's cruelty and a child's kindness and a child's potential to grow and change and decide what she will be. And the accounts I have heard, not only from her young friends, do not suggest to me that you treated her like a child."
"Do they suggest I treated her like a nascent bully, ringleader, and skilled and habitual liar? Because that is what I believe she is."
"They suggest you treated her like a threat, Severus."
"The Weasley twins threatened to violently hex a student two years their junior, Headmaster. Leaving aside our other - disagreements - that is not acceptable behavior."
He sighs a little. "Yes. I am sure Taggart will want to speak with them about deescalation."
"Morgan is altogether too fond of them."
"That does not need to be a vice, when dealing with wayward children."
Are you calling me a child, he does not say.
"Thank you for your report, Severus. You may go."
Snape winds up suspended for a month. He doesn't actually leave the grounds, but whenever he's out of his office or his quarters he's to be treated as a visitor, accompanied by a member of the faculty to keep an eye on him. That, according to Whitlock, was what Dumbledore had done on his own recognizance, without going through official channels, when he'd been told everything that had happened.
She'd asked Whitlock if she could still file a formal complaint with the board of governors. Whitlock had said yes, that was her right. She'd tried to dissemble about not being sure if she wanted to go through with it or not. She needed time to - recenter herself, and consider her next move.
In bed, that night, in the dark with the curtains of her four-poster drawn - she is recentered.
How had Snape done that.
Well, what precisely had he done?
I am sure you are quite impressed with your own ability to gather followers about yourself, and cause them to hang on to your every word, and throw their weight around in lieu of your own in petty preadolescent squabbles. But there are people in the world who have seen all of the games you play and all of the masks you wear before, and are not much moved to be impressed by them. These were his exact words.
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
She remembers thinking that. It's a thought she'd come back to over and over, every time she'd felt like she was slotting another piece of her old self back into place.
Aside from Snape's contempt, they are alarmingly parallel thoughts.
And hearing him say it had felt like - like the day she'd got her first wand, in Ollivander's shop, the feeling of being perceived, of someone drawing back the cloaks and curtains and shadows she'd drawn around herself - except a hundred times worse. Ollivander had just picked up trifling hints, examined them. Snape's speech made it seem like he already knew her, like he'd known her better and before she'd known herself.
What is she to conclude. That Snape has been reading her mind? No, she knows a little bit about Legilimency from her reading - it's an invasive and imprecise process. You can't come to know someone that well with Legilimency in a single week and without them knowing you're doing anything, she doesn't think. That Snape has been watching her all her life, Legilimizing her subtly - it's conceivable but it rings false.
No, the obvious, the glaringly obvious conclusion is that Snape knows her because Snape knew Maledict Gaunt. And it doesn't sound like they'd been allies.
After less than two months, she has her first enemy, her first real enemy, in Magical Britain.