Ghost of a Memory
by Phoenix Boy
Disclaimer: Nothing in this story is intended to infringe the copyright belonging to JKR and Warner Brothers and anyone else who's got lucky. In other words, none of this is mine except the plot, Aberforth Dumbledore and Claudius.
A/N: this was posted before. It is being posted again. Someone reported it for having too low a rating (though I thought P13 was perfectly reasonable for the first few chapters). If anyone has any thoughts on where I mucked up, please tell me. Anyway, read it, enjoy it and review it please
James Evans was sitting opposite Albus Dumbledore in the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He was a young man, only twenty-four, and a new graduate of Griffin University, Europe's wizarding university. His face showed nothing of his feelings while Albus read through the letter he had brought with him, but inwardly he was quaking. His mentor and primary teacher had been Aberforth Dumbledore, brother to the Headmaster, and he had no idea what had been written.
"You majored in Defense Against the Dark Arts?" Albus said at last.
"Yet you didn't choose to become an Auror. Why?"
"I didn't think I wanted to take orders from incompetents," James said, smiling sheepishly. "I don't really trust politicians." Albus smiled, his eyes twinkling merrily at the sally.
"I can tell my brother taught you, you have his strange sense of humour. Do you believe that you have the kind of experience necessary for this job?"
"I did a fair amount of coaching at Uni of the younger students and I've covered a number of classes in other schools. No one's complained yet."
"You know about the so-called curse on the position? I'm afraid it has defeated everyone for these many years."
"Of course, sir, it's common knowledge and Aberforth briefed me thoroughly. I'm happy to risk it; someone has to. From what I've heard, you haven't had any outstanding candidates anyway, bar a few notable exceptions, only inept idiots who let themselves be convinced of failure from the start."
"A most sensible view, would you like a sherbet lemon?"
"Um . . . what?"
"A Muggle sweet; I'm addicted, I'm afraid."
"No, thank you, then. It's a bit close to lunch for me."
"Of course, of course."
"Ah yes, the job. I'm sorry, I must have been distracted, age is advancing on me, you know. Welcome to the staff; you're hired. Did Aberforth happen to confide in you what he wrote in his letter?"
"Mm, very well, how like him," Albus said with a smile. Indeed Aberforth Dumbledore was quite the character: an agent for the Order of the Phoenix and a dedicated academic, he also owned the Hog's Head in Hogsmeade, one of their major intelligence gathering locations. "You were in Merlin House, so he tells me, and an exceptional student at that."
"I did my best."
"Yes, well, Professor Snape has requested an assistant in his work as Head of Slytherin House, would you be agreeable to the post? With two of you sharing the work, it should not be too arduous."
"He can brief you on your responsibilities himself later. You can take the suite next to his in the dungeons, one corridor along from the Slytherin common room, behind the portrait of Salazar Slytherin. That will mean you're on hand if you're needed, not that it's likely you will be. Slytherins tend to be very self-sufficient. Hufflepuffs, however . . . I can summon a house-elf to show you the way."
"That won't be necessary, thank you, sir," James said, then added quickly, "I was given a map."
"Fascinating, there are very few in existence. May I see?"
James reluctantly passed over a neatly folded piece of parchment, its true identity carefully concealed by a charm. It was a very handy charm that a friend from Uni had taught him that caused the Marauder's Map to highlight certain individuals. He was sure that the Marauders themselves would have used it to locate figures of authority; he believed he had come up with a more useful adaptation given his circumstances.
"Amazing, I've only ever seen one map remotely like it and that one was lost eight years ago when Harry Potter died. Tell me, why is Professor Snape highlighted?"
"Uh . . . He's a Slytherin teacher," James said quickly.
"Yes, but so am I."
"Really, sir? Everyone says you were in Gryffindor. I'm sorry, I'll correct it when I can," James said, knowing that, actually, the man had been in Ravenclaw in his long-distant schooldays. It was amazing the things he'd learned when he was still following Hermione around the library.
"Sometimes you'll find it's wisest not to contradict rumour if it is beneficial to yourself. Off you go now."
James walked out, closed the door and ducked into the nearest student's bathroom. He pulled out a small mirror from his pocket and Muggle make-up. Carefully, he examined his face: long, red-streaked raven hair, silver eyes and pale skin and, appearing as a shadow as he carefully rubbed his forehead, a lightning shaped scar, a mark borne only by a boy presumed dead for eight years. Harry James Potter deftly reapplied the concealing make-up with long practiced ease and continued on towards his new quarters, revelling in the homey feeling that came with returning to Hogwarts at last. Since the defeat of Voldemort eight years ago, he had been able to live without the associations of the name for the first time in his life and while he had had to sever himself from his former life, he had found that he was very content with his lot in life.
It was strange that simple Muggle make-up worked so well at hiding the scar. As he'd discovered, no magical potion, charm, spell, glamour or even self-transfiguration was able to eradicate even the smallest part of it. It was so simple that he was sure no one, not even Hermione Granger, would have thought of it. Indeed, only desperation had led him to attempt it.
Halfway to his quarters, as he turned the corner in to a dungeon corridor, he bumped into a black-robed man, Professor Snape: former bane of James' existence, spy, warrior and, according to the map, the only other gay man at Hogwarts. Just his luck.
"Who are you?" he demanded sharply. He looked much healthier than James remembered. His hair was silky, neat and recently washed, his skin was clean and slightly tanned and his face no longer showed the strain of living a double existence, where a single error could cause countless deaths.
" James Evans," he replied smoothly. "I'm the new Defense Professor."
" Severus Snape, Potions. I suppose we can only hope you are somewhat better than the incompetents we usually get. Good morning."
James watched as he swept away, smiling slightly at the departing back. No, he hadn't changed one bit. He was the same as ever, reassuringly constant, a sarcastic bastard but one who had always done more than his share for the war effort and who Harry, in later years, had come to respect. He continued on to his rooms without a second glance.
Salazar Slytherin's portrait, a grand affair, eyed him suspiciously.
"I'm the new Defence Professor, James Evans," he said cheerfully, introducing himself.
"Very well. You will need to set a password."
Is 'Open' acceptable to you? James hissed fluently, in his best Parseltongue. Salazar arched an eyebrow in a way that tugged at James' memory, then nodded curtly. The portrait swung inwards and James set about creating his new home.