Severus looks up and sees the bright green eyes wandering over the dais. He catches them for a moment and, because he can, looks behind them. There is nothing in the boy's outer appearance but bewilderment and that all too cheerful grin the boy's father wore at all times.
There is nothing there to convince Severus that he is not looking into James Potter's mind behind Lily's eyes. Severus had once believed that he would see a true champion in the child, whether for Light or Dark becoming the only question. He had thought the boy might look like Lily, a bit, though that vile Potter hair would be there; it was inescapable. He never expected to see Potter's tiny clone before him, a vapid, green-eyed pseudo-twin, an image so perfect that Snape almost expects to see Sirius Black sitting next to him.
The boy's mind has never tasted power. Quirrell is chattering at him, but Snape waves him off, supremely unconcerned at the opinions of the latest wastrel usurping his position. There is nothing there in Potter's face or in his eyes, or even behind his eyes, inside him, to suggest that he is any different from the 60 other Gryffindors (mindless, heedless barbarians, the lot of them) who surround him.
Severus expected to find some titanic majesty there, some echoing suggestion of the greatness one could feel in the presence of Albus Dumbledore. Or he expected the cloying, sticky morass of evil there, sunk through to the very core with twisted, bitter plots, reminding him for the first time in a decade what it truly felt like to be in the presence of the Dark Lord.
Instead, there are the paltry thoughts of a child, an utterly powerless innocent, cheerily wondering if the new children will be his friends. Neither of the most powerful men Snape knows have friends. Well, Dumbledore has McGonagall, but he doubts he even wants to know what all that is about. He never wanted friends himself - if you didn't trust people, they couldn't betray you, or desert you or, Merlin help you, get you into trouble. But this boy is wondering how to be friends with the boy next to him, who to ask questions, where to get answers.
Snape is shocked at all this. He knows something of the future that awaits this boy, and he can't see how any of this is possible. But he can see, clearly and cleanly, the mirror image of James Potter, whom he hates with a passion that no amount of dying will stop.
He breaks the connection, and his eyes narrow. This vile, filthy, little spawn has been sent to them in lieu of a champion or destroyer and, without even acknowledging how he knows it, Snape is aware that he despises the child.
Then, something else happens. The boy becomes aware of his gaze, and suddenly they are not looking through or around each other, but at each other. The green eyes widened for a second, and Severus has a sudden, terrible epiphany.
He tears his eyes from the child's hated face and looks at Quirrell instead, his usual sneer in place. He is shaken to the foundations of his being, but he will never admit to it to anyone.
That boy is normal, Snape now knows, but it doesn't matter because there is something of the future in his eyes, even now, on his first night in the magic world.
Severus has seen many things in people's eyes over his life time. He has seen fear and hope and pain and sorrow, worry, truth, and shame. He has even seen death there before, but never like this. For this time, Severus has seen his own death, in someone else's eyes. He has never imagined such a thing could happen.
But he knows the truth now. Some day, maybe not too long from now, his death will come to him. Those bright green eyes will bring his death to him, and allow it to gaze upon him in his final moments.
Severus doesn't know whether to kill him or thank him.
With a sharp shake of his head, Snape turns away forever, and forgets the image entirely, until much later when it, and the eyes, come rushing back together.