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Beyond the Grave and Back Again by Apothecaria [Reviews - 16]

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For fun, not profit.

They got to the staff room sooner than I had expected, and I barely had time to vanish my plate of cheese and crackers and cup of tea before they saw me. To have the students see me eating will not do. It is easy enough to bewitch a plate when one is seated at a remove from the students; none of them has seen me eating in the Great Hall in years. But that sort of deception is a lot more difficult at close quarters. Not that I eat much at the best of times; left to my own devices, I become engrossed in my work, and forget to eat. Dumbledore's been on about how pale and gaunt I am getting; how I'll not be prepared for the war if I'm half-starved. That is how I ended up sitting in the staff room, staring at a plate of cheese and crackers, instead of doing something useful. I was more than pleased to make the plate disappear.

The wardrobe wobbled slightly as the students filed in, reminding me why they are here instead of in a proper classroom, where any competent teacher could manage to teach them anything they need to know. It was a bit of a shock yesterday, when I went to fetch my spare cloak, only to see my father stepping from the wardrobe. The students only find me frightening because they never met my dad.

I was about to ridicule the creature to oblivion when Moony showed up and asked if we could instead force it back into the wardrobe so he could demonstrate it to his third years. I agreed only after he promised to let me teach his classes when it's that time of the month.

I glared at the students as they entered, and they responded with their customary dismay. Extraordinary how the other teachers still steadfastly refuse to acknowledge what a powerful teaching tool fear and intimidation can be.

Moony was starting to close the door. I said, "Leave it open, Lupin, I'd rather not witness this." I get enough of the insolent brats in my own classes. It would be interesting to see their Boggarts, though. Knowing their worst fears is information I can use. But if I stayed, Lupin would probably try and get me to help him.

I left, billowing my robes as impressively as one can manage in an entirely windless room. I cast about in my mind for a parting statement, something to be ringing in their ears just before they faced their worst nightmares, and said, "Possibly no one's warned you, Lupin, but this class contains one Neville Longbottom. I would advise you not to entrust him with anything difficult. Not unless Miss Granger is hissing instructions in his ear." Potter glared at me. He doesn't understand how I act as a necessary corrective to all those people who pamper and indulge Longbottom out of pity, leaving him with that lazy brain I try to bash into shape. He doesn't know the kind of people he may face someday. I do, and they don't play fair, either.

Moony is one of those people who are nice because they lack the backbone to stand up to people like me. Desperate to avoid a confrontation, he countered me in his usual bland way, saying, "I was hoping that Neville would help me in the first stage of the operation, and I am sure he will perform it admirably."

I knew that response was the biggest reaction I could get from him, and decided not to waste any more of my free time in trying to goad a spineless werewolf. I closed the door decisively, but careful not to slam it. No need to appear petulant.

Though I would be especially curious to see Longbottom's Boggart. Which one scared him the most? If he had any sense, and that's doubtful, it would be Bellatrix. Lucius Malfoy thought I fancied her. I only commented that she was a beautiful woman, but I have enough psychopaths in my own family, thanks.

I'm sure I'll hear about Longbottom's Boggart soon enough. They're all very excited about this, even the teachers.

Musing on fear, I thought of Longbottom's grandmother, who certainly dresses scarily. I keep running into her at the apothecary's in Diagon Alley when I'm replenishing my supplies. Her fashion statement is screaming, especially that hat. Fortunately, she avoids looking at me as much as I avoid looking at her, and I usually don't have to talk to her. Dressing in anything like such vulgar frippery—I'd rather be back in the Dark Lord's torture chamber.

Speaking of clothing, I hope they vanish the Boggart properly today so I can fetch my spare cloak. If they haven't, I'm vanishing it anyway, educational opportunity be damned; my supply of robes is getting perilously low. No chance I'm wearing the one that got chewed on by that dog.

Walking down to the cool quiet of the dungeons, I recalled that I hadn't purchased any new robes since I first started at Hogwarts.

"Now that you're a teacher, you can afford to dress better than a house elf," said Lucius Malfoy. "Those moth-eaten green robes are a disgrace."

I said, "Lucius, I don't give a damn, you see?"

He replied, "People judge you by your grooming, and I know how stupid you think that is, but there you are. So buy several robes and cloaks of all the same colour, and you won't have to think about what to wear. Be indifferent to your appearance if you must, but at least be clean and tidy."

Every morning I get up and think, which robe am I going to wear? Oh yes, the black one. For I chose black, of course, because it encourages the rumours.

These rumours started shortly after I came to Hogwarts. Dumbledore said my demeanor was too vicious, and asked me to adopt "a more diplomatic approach." He said he would not prevent me from finding my own teaching style, but wouldn't a little subtlety set a better example? Did I want students wetting themselves in my classes every day? I said, subtlety is the last thing teenagers need or understand. But he is my boss, and I've made bigger concessions to worse people.

Then one day I heard some students whispering, "Do you ever see him eat?" They scattered like cockroaches when they saw me, but I thought, whatever could they mean? Then I heard some other students saying, "Have you ever seen his reflection?" and I put it all together. Really, have they seen the other teachers' reflections? It's not like there are mirrors hanging all over the school, or that other teachers stand behind the students when they are brushing their teeth in the morning. Though I do make sure there's nobody in the men's toilet before I go in.

Around that same time, Lucius chided me about my shabbiness, and was intimating that if I didn't do anything about it, he would make me go shopping with Narcissa, so I pre-emptively went out and bought all those black robes. Also, rubber-soled shoes, so comfortable on these stone floors, help me make those near-silent entrances that scare the students half out of their wits.

One would think the students would guess the truth when they see me outside on sunny days, at the Quidditch matches. But now some of them are saying that I concocted a potion I apply to all exposed skin, preventing me from turning into dust. The imaginative lengths people will go to so that they can continue to cling to their outlandish theories.

All I know is, as long as many of the students believe I'm an undead demon who wants to drink their blood, it helps in maintaining classroom discipline.

Beyond the Grave and Back Again by Apothecaria [Reviews - 16]

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