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[Meridian Clinic] Evil Woman / Turn To Stone

Started by Deitha Albron, February 17, 2021, 11:40:50 pm

Deitha Albron

February 17, 2021, 11:40:50 pm Last Edit: February 18, 2021, 12:08:27 am by Arantor
It was past three in the afternoon when Deitha took a stroll along Knockturn Alley. Upon reaching the opening to the street, she smoothed her dress robes - alternating shades of deep purple along its length, puffy shoulders, corset with shining brass clasps on the front. In fact, she took the moment to mentally inventorise her look: wide-brimmed hat at jaunty angle: check. Shoulders ruffled and bristling: check. Figure-hugging bodice: check. Cameo necklace at a provocative location: check. Skirts and petticoats at suitably voluminous distance: check. Finally: dainty boots with enough heel to keep the hem of the dress out of the mud: check. Hair in pigtails: double check.

She didn't make a great show of this checklist, not wanting to show off to everyone that she was showing off, but truth be told, clinging on to such trivialities of order was largely how she kept herself looking this fabulous - and whatever else at bay. There was something to be said for the value of "striking a pose" to ward off the unseemly, for just a little while.

Swinging her parasol as she strode purposefully down the Alley, she breathed in deeply. Then grinned just a little too wide. The air felt good here. No-one would ever suggest that Knockturn Alley's air was wholesome, sweet or delectable; truth be told it was the antithesis of all of these, but it has a familiarity and a taste that reminded Deitha of happier times. Definitely not good times, merely happier ones than the present.

In fact, that was why she was here, strutting down the Alley with purpose: she was looking for a place that a former... acquaintance... had talked about and, somewhat incoherently, babbled that this was the place to go for some light relief from the pressures of the world, such as one has those. She didn't exactly have a business card, but she was informed that the place to go was the "Meridian Clinic for Mind, Memory and Spell Damage". You'd think such a noble sounding venture - and presumably equally noble in practice - would have a less unlikely location, but it occurred to Deitha that not everyone necessarily wanted to be cured, some merely wanted to be able to live with their situation.

Reaching the far end of Knockturn Alley, she found herself facing a... place of unusual proportions. Most of the locations even here in Knockturn were solidly wide and often quite short and squat; this Meridian Clinic - so read the sign - was anything but. It was tall, describable at the very least as narrow, if slender was not too egregious a description, and tucked in between other buildings in a curious way. In her present state of mind, Deitha would only consider it pleasant to look at, but with all her faculties present, she might even regard it as beautiful. The Art Nouveau lines flowed and ebbed around the place, and Deitha found it curiously calming to study it.

She shook her head ever so slightly, and tutted. "But of course, that's entirely the point."

No bell or pull-cord was immediately evident, so with a deep breath and more trepidation than she would ever admit to feeling, she pushed the door open to see its low-key greens and greys, its minimalist and elegant lines forming a sense of neutrality, if not safety.

Taking another deep breath and willing up all the courage she currently possessed, she stepped over the threshold, miraculously not taking some of the paint of the doorframe out with her parasol.

"Ahem," Deitha cleared her throat loudly. "Is Mr Daly in?"

There was a stone-faced glare from across the room; the receptionist seemed none too impressed.

"Ah, I see how it is. Mr Daly is much too important to greet patients on their first visit, thus I must make do with you. I will take the next appointment slot that you have today. I don't care if you have to clear out some fuddy-duddy with a slight memory problem to make way; my problems are more important."

If the intensity of the glare rose from across the room, Deitha wasn't feeling it. She didn't have all day.

Odhrán Ó Dálaigh

The clinic had been quiet for most of the afternoon so far, which allowed Odhrán some time to catch up with the administrative tasks that kept his business running: sending medications and bills to regular patients, ordering in fresh supplies, giving the pensieve a careful maintenance to clear away any unwanted remnants. It was easy to find a steady work rhythm and thankfully his new receptionist Persephone, or Sephy as she liked to be known, was getting the hang of how he expected her to work. Odhrán hated onboarding new staff, but he had been forced to fire his last receptionist after finding out about an inappropriate relationship with a patient. He hoped that the new girl wouldn't fall into the same trap.

Just as a he thought it might be a good time to head down to the basement to finish working on some potion stock needed for treatment, he overheard a questionable interaction in his waiting room. A female patient was making a bit of a scene. The voice didn't belong to anybody he recognised, and he didn't recall having a booking in his schedule for a new patient. He normally took special care to prepare for new appointments. An emergency? Well, it happened occasionally.

Odhrán smoothed over the soft, dark grey fabric of his robes and stepped into the waiting room. "I wouldn't know about being especially important," he commented softly. "But we do have rules here. Each patient must make an appointment and wait to be seen. How would you feel if I prioritised some other patient's treatment over yours, Ms ... I'm sorry I didn't catch the name." He sounded perfectly amiable and composed as if explaining things to a child. No matter how urgent the treatment, he didn't like it went patients didn't stick to the rules of his clinic. However, seeing how the young lady was here for the first time, they would go through the terms and conditions shortly to clear up any source of misunderstanding.

"I'm healer Odhrán Ó Dálaigh. It's my pleasure to meet you." He gave her a reassuring look and held out his hand to shake hers. "And you are in luck that I am not booked this afternoon. If you would like to follow me upstairs to one of my consultation rooms please." It wasn't noticeable in any way, but he was altering his usual script. Under normal circumstances he quite liked seeing patients in his office for their first appointment. Something, about doing that with this one felt wrong and he didn't want to reward her bad behaviour with the instant gratification of getting full access to him. He would hear her case first before making a decision about taking her on as a patient.

He opted for the treatment room on the first floor. A friendly space with cozy armchairs, tall bookshelves, and peach-coloured walls. He directed Deitha towards one of the seats so she would sit down facing one of the peach walls. He settled down opposite her and let a few moments of silence occur before formally opening the conversation.

"Please, do make yourself comfortable. Would you like some tea or maybe a glass of water?" He was speaking calmly and slowly, trying to put this new arrival at ease. "When you're ready, perhaps you would like to start by telling me what brings you here." It was a question he always liked to ask. Lots of witches and wizards lived with all sorts of problems, big or small. Usually, when somebody came to see him something had happened to make them decide to act. That, in his experience, was always the best starting point.

Deitha Albron

Deitha was lost for words. Her whole demeanour, not that she'd ever admit it, was essentially predicated on best foot forward, no matter what it kicked out of the way, and this healer was... unexpected.

Not that Deitha had had much cause to see healers, let alone head doctors. She was, as far as she was concerned, perfectly mentally healthy - it was everyone else that was crazy, thank you very much. But the nightmares needed to stop, and she'd been told to come here.

"Well, I must say, I am used to getting my way, I didn't expect it to happen quite like this. You appeared, pardon the pun, as if by magic."

She allowed herself a moment to prepare. "I suppose tea with something a little stronger in it is out of the question. I'm not sure it would do any good anyway." Deitha's voice grew ever so slightly softer and somehow far away. Instead of maintaining eye contact - trying to stare the man down out of sheer defiance as she normally would - she found this a little harder than usual.

"Something happened to me."

There, that was something concrete. It had been well over a decade and this was the first time she was prepared to admit this had ever happened. Even to herself. Especially to herself.

"Something bad happened to me."

She was waiting for the inevitable questions of what, how, when, why, everything expected, but she got the impression that he wouldn't goad her into talking about this until she was ready to do so. Something about the peach tint of the walls felt familiar and safe somehow.

"Something bad happened to me a long time ago. But I keep having nightmares."

She wasn't watching the healer well enough to notice if he changed his body language in any way, but she figured he would have probably reacted to that - it was a statement of intent, what she'd come here for.

"I want something to make the nightmares stop, just for a while."

Then she, inexplicably, grinned. "I am not entirely without resources; I am a debt collector of sorts, when people ask me to reclaim debt owed, I pay these people a visit and I show them their nightmares made real. There's nothing quite like a shambling skeleton with flesh hanging off it to put the fear of Merlin into people. Oh, and don't worry, I'm not really a necromancer even if I seem to play with dead things; dead is dead, but there's nothing like a bit of theatricality to make it work. I was inspired by my nightmares, and they got a bit less bad for it. And watching people be very scared of things is quite funny really."

She took a deep breath. "I don't see my own creations at night, I don't even really remember the nightmares, I just wake up every night, in a cold sweat. Sometimes I hear laughing and voices and I remember back to the time when I was a kid, being chased around the corridors of Durmstrang Institute, tripping and falling, twisting an ankle. Nothing serious. But I'm sure a capable man can see that I am being troubled by nightmares and I would like them to stop."

She looked at him sidelong. "And of course, if you have patients who don't pay up promptly, or who need something a bit more... extreme... I'm sure we can come to some arrangement."

She looked down at the floor.

Probably the oddest thing to tumble out of her mouth today. "I'm sorry I was rude to your receptionist. I'm just... used to getting my own way, and very used to scaring people into doing what I want."

Odhrán Ó Dálaigh

Odhrán noted that she didn't respond in kind to his introduction. It wasn't a good sign. How was he going to help this young lady if she didn't trust him with something as basic as her name. Then again, who she was and what she did outside of the treatment room didn't really matter to him. He would make her pick a pseudonym later. Part of therapeutic success relied on therapist and patient developing a trusting relationship. He thought having a name helped with creating a relaxed and familiar atmosphere.

She seemed keen to get started and tell him things. Something bad had happened to her. The way she said those words seemed almost ritualistic. He'd seen patients like that before, witches and wizards who had formed some sort of attachment to a special phrase. Sometimes, they felt compelled to repeat it a couple of times before being able to move on. He wondered if this patient was exhibiting some symptoms of this kind.

She was quick to get to the bottom of what she wanted his help with: Nightmares. It was rather uncommon to see these in adults, but of course there were always exceptions. Bad experiences could do horrible things to people. From the sounds of it, the nightmares had been there for a while. What he couldn't quite work out yet was what had pushed her to the point of wanting change. It didn't sound like the nightmares had gotten more frequent or more intense. Her little speech even implied she had found a coping mechanism, unhealthy as it may be.

He nodded to show her that he was still listening, while trying to sort the first impressions he had often the patient in his mind. She was distrustful, frightened and he was sure not entirely truthful. There was no judgement on his part for these things. Starting therapy was hard and opening up to a complete stranger was even harder. He could understand that it was going to take some time before she could tell him more.

As his patient became sidetracked and started to aimlessly brattle along Odhrán interrupted her at last. "Let's look at that at a more appropriate time," he said simply. "For now, let's focus on how to make you feel better and get you a good night's rest." He didn't even consider her business proposal, if one could call it that, in any seriousness. She couldn't be trusted, and even if that weren't the case Odhrán didn't engage in business dealings with his patients. It was an unbelievably bad idea that was almost certainly going to lead to further complications.

"If I may," he began, "there are a couple of questions I would like to ask you to gain a better understanding of how I can help. I'll give you some treatment options after that. But before we start, could you tell me what I should call you? It doesn't have to be your actual name, but I would find it helpful to have something."

"And could you tell me if you are taking any potions or other medications either for the nightmares or for any other condition or purpose?" He didn't think this was the care here, but at the same time Odhrán didn't want to skip on doing his due diligence. Some substances could cause nightmares as a side effect and sometimes patients didn't connect the dots. There was also the matter that any potions she might be imbibing would affect potential treatment options for this patient.

"On a scale from one to ten, how bad would you say your nightmares are? I know you said you can't remember them, and let's not worry about that for now. Just going by the feeling you have when you wake up, how bad is it? Is it always at the same level or is there variation? Do you think that things that happens during the preceding day can make your nightmares either better or worse?"

He was careful not to ask what had happened to her or if she could give him more hints about the content of her nightmares. He didn't think she was ready to talk about that. In all honesty, he probably wouldn't need her to either. In his mind he was weighing different treatment options and his initial instinct was to provide relief for her acute symptoms first, before trying to unpick the underlying cause. It was near impossible to work with a patient who was in pain.

Odhrán thought that some slight alterations to the subconscious memory would likely help this patient. He had a thought that he could pull some of the nightmares from her mind and alter their endings to be more pleasant. Usually, when bad dreams occurred the brain liked to follow a repetitive pattern with them. If he could change the pattern, he could offer her a drug-free option of reducing her symptoms.

Deitha Albron

"My name? Oh gosh," Deitha laughed, "I am sorry about that. My name is Deitha Albron - from the Albrons of Ravensworth in Oxfordshire."

She laughed, slightly nervously, but with a genuine twang of mirth. "Most of the people I... tend to deal with, don't really care to know my name. As the 'Custodian of Incomplete Obligations', my clients want the obligations completed, and don't really care who I am as long as the obligations get met one way or another - and those I meet in that line of work, well, just want me to go away as quickly as possible - being successful at things is that people feel... oddly enthusiastic about completing their obligations when I am around, and I depart once the work is done. So, it's not the line of work where names are important."

She smiled again. The kind of smile a wolf might give a sheep. "Medications? No. The strictly occasional 'medicinal' gimlet, I suppose - made only the more expensive gins, of course - is the nearest I get. Nothing quite like the sourness of the thing to pucker the lips and remind you that life might not be so bad after all."

That comment seemed to wash over her, and she looked into the middle distance and her voice somehow captured that distance with a hollowness. "No, not so bad after all."

With a snap of her head, she turned back to the healer, voice full throated and here fully in the present again. "The nightmares. I hear laughing, joking, voices jeering. They're more distant than they used to be. They used to be nearer. Louder. Time has helped."

She cocked her head slightly. "There are people you are supposed to be able to trust." That wide smile again. "You're clearly distrustful of me, as you should be. And you should know that I am distrustful of you, as I should be."

Deep breath, in, out. "The reason I am here today is the nightmares - but only because one of my... customers... told me about you. As you can imagine, I have already at my family's exhortations been to see the specialists at St Mungo's for my situation, to little avail. In short, I have been told things about you and your methods that, honestly, I can respect more than I could from any of St Mungo's mediwizards. I don't need fixing, because I'm not broken. I just have some symptoms that need some treatment."

"Why do you think I offered my professional services? I was given every impression that you might be the kind of person who might, if it came to it, would make use of such services."

Odhrán Ó Dálaigh

Deitha, huh? Odhrán quirked an eyebrow betraying a vague hint of amusement. What kind of name was that? Probably not real, but he certainly enjoyed the sound of it.  Though he thought maybe he'd heard of the Albrons? He was't sure. He was hopeless around remembering names in wizarding society.

As expected, she mentioned no pre-existing medications. He thought that she'd looked honest when she confirmed it to him, but maybe he should run a diagnostic charm later just in case. Sometimes, meddling family members took it upon themselves to 'help'. Naturally, such interference often did more harm than good.

St. Mungos. Odhrán sighed. He hated to speak ill of colleagues and fellow healers but their treatment protocols around mind and memory damage were too conservative and often not very effective. There were other problems too. Victim blaming. Preserving the status quo in favour of the rich and influential and for the sake of covering up their transgressions. Odhrán had considered working there once, but their clinical environment was too rigid and formalised for his liking. Not enough room for clinical innovation. Too much involvement with politics. Too many regulations.

"You must have seen healer Dankworth or healer Audish then," he commented on her prior treatment. "Both capable for sure, though I wouldn't go as far as to call either an expert. And what treatment was attempted if you'd humour my professional curiosity for a moment? I believe standard protocol is to give with a reduction of valerian and that thestral juice, oh, ..." Odhrán struggled to recall the name. "err, ..., Ellesmere's something or the other. Elixir? Usually a wormwood and woodruff base infused with thestral hair. Tastes like herby lemonade and makes your head feel fuzzy." Though he tried to redact his opinion as best possible, it was not hard to pick up on what he thought of the protocol.

"Just making sure we don't repeat anything that's already been done." Not that there was a big chance of that anyway. As far as Odhrán was concerned, Dankworth and Audish were both hacks who didn't care about their patients' outcomes unless there was the potential to land them on the front page of a medical journal. Their approach to treatment seemed to be to keep the patient 'comfortable' for whatever they meant by that word. Despicable attitude.

It was easy to see that Deitha was rather afraid of treatment. It was an understandable attitude. He gave her a kind look. "I know you don't trust me yet, but we'd never do anything during treatment you don't agree with. Now, I can't promise that I will always keep you comfortable or that it won't hurt, but what I can promise is that I won't try to fix something that's not broken. Witches and wizards are incredibly strong and resilient. At best, things get a little bent out of shape. And I'm not here to judge you. Just to help you get better."

He had an inkling that somebody had probably said her behaviour was unacceptable. That was always a threatening thing to say to a patient. If you implied, you'd take away their coping mechanisms that had served them well, that immediately put them on the defensive. After all, that coping mechanism was the only thing keeping the patient going. Of course, they couldn't picture their life without it. And why take it away anyway, when one could just work towards no longer needing it.

Had the healers told her she was broken during previous treatment? Or had her family and friends? Had someone told her that what she did to get through the day wasn't okay? It was always so discouraging when patients were made to feel bad about their conditions. It was absurd. Nobody blamed the victims of Spattergroit for getting sick.

"I'm afraid I'll have to ask a few more questions before I can give you some options of what we can do. Also, would you consent to a diagnostic charm later? I just want to confirm if there are any magical contaminants in your system or not. Not that I think there are, but it always pays off to make sure."

He laid his wand out on a side table next to his armchair allowing her some time to get comfortable with the idea.

"Can you tell me when the nightmares started? Do they happen every night or just sometimes? And how would you describe your emotional state when waking up? Afraid? Confused? Angry? Sad? Any detail you can give about how you feel in tat moment would be really helpful."

Deitha Albron

"I honestly don't remember which healer I saw. They were too busy telling me about how they were going to 'fix' me. Quite frankly, I'm not broken. I just have nightmares and honestly, everything else is just so much a part of me at this point that 'fixing me' changes who I am. And I quite like who I am. So I left St Mungo's. Not that I had any great belief in their 'fixes'. I wanted to find someone who would just give me something for the nightmares, and someone told me about you - and here I am."

This was the moment in the conversation where Deitha was imagining sitting on a high chair or bench, swinging her legs, care-free, just watching the motion without regards to the world around her.

It was better than imagining being at the top of a waterfall and diving off, which was how she had often imagined therapy to be. This healer put her more at ease than she'd suspected he would, and she found herself saying things she would never have imagined being open to telling anyone. It was, she supposed, some mark of how desperately she wanted the nightmares to end.

"Oh, you can go and poke that wand wherever you like." Deitha laughed, wickedly, suggestively. "And I do mean anywhere."

Before the healer could object - because even Deitha knew this would be deeply unprofessional. "Relax, I'm just joking. You need to examine me, I understand. I understand it will probably be awkward, so better for the both of us that you just do it and be as invasive as you need to, so we can both just get over it and move onto the matter of the nightmares."

She swallowed. The last part was the hardest. "The nightmares have been there a while. A long while. They might have started around the time that I got tangled up in Devil's Snare in third year Herb Lore and my classmates laughed at me. Better than tripping over in the corridors, anyway."

Odhrán Ó Dálaigh

 "Change frightens you." Odhrán commented after her renewed proclamation that she was not broken. He couldn't blame her for the attitude, but he wondered if her expectations would actually allow for her treatment. Taking the nightmares away wasn't a big challenge to him. Doing it without having an impact on her overall situation and disposition was probably impossible. He would have to get a deeper understanding of her requirements and parameters to decide if he could be of any help.

Just as he was trying to puzzle out what he needed to ask her and how to go about it she surprised him with rather crass remark. He was being tested. Odhrán raised an eyebrow but didn't betray much else of a reaction. Uncomfortable as he felt about her remark, it probably paled in comparison to how much she dreaded this examination. Understanding its necessity on an intellectual level was not the same as feeling comfortable with being poked and prodded.

"I'll try to be as careful as I can," he promised her and started casting a simple diagnostic charm. Save a slightly tingling sensation, she shouldn't feel much impact from it.

As expected, he didn't find any evidence of physical injury or medication. While on the one hand this was probably a cause for relief, it made Odhrán feel almost sorry for her. The world was more accepting and understanding of conditions that could be seen, quantified, and treated in a tangible manner. She looked alright, appeared alright on some level and yet wasn't alright. That usually took its tool on the patient and after successive mistreatment and malpractice made it significantly harder to regain the patients trust.

"Could you tell me what you like about yourself and your personality?" he asked. "Treatment of nightmares always comes with some alteration of mental state. The experiences we live through conscious or asleep affect our lives and inform our decisions. If you wake up happier and more relaxed in the mornings that might have a knock-on effect on other things. So, if you wouldn't mind giving me an overview on what exactly it is you would prefer stayed the same, I can make sure to account for that in your treatment plan."

He was curious to hear what would come to light. There was clearly something Deitha knew wasn't quite right on some level but was unwilling to give up. Coping mechanisms often behaved in that way. They allowed patients to function up to a certain level, but then got in the way of further healing. He inclined his head to the side and carefully met her eyes, pausing his spell work for the time being. He wanted to make sure he gave her answer his full attention.

Deitha Albron

Deitha giggled nervously. "Hey, that tickles!" She realised that laughter was probably not the expected social norm in such a situation and adjusted her attitude accordingly.

"I like that I'm outgoing, I have a great sense of humour. I find the humour in a lot of things, even when others don't seem to find it very funny. I guess that's a result of... of... of what happened to me. The whole world's a joke, everyone's the punchline, because better to believe that than to think about..." She paused, uncertainty lined her face. "Some people you should just able to trust. I don't really trust anyone any more. It's easier that way. Easier to boss and push and shove and laugh."

She paused. She swallowed. She spoke slowly as though intoning a deep ritual. Something about her manner indicated this was a deep, dark thing made manifest.

"OK. I'm probably never going to admit this to anyone again. People hurt me. Now I hurt people back. In a controlled, limited and mostly physically harmless way. But I hurt them. I lash out at the world. At the world's injustice. The world's a stage, I am but an agent of chaos in between its players. They have their entrances and their exits, while I wait in the wings for them. I should say that the worst part is that I'm good at hurting people in a specific and not-long-term way, but that's not the worst part."

She swallowed again.

"The worst part is that I enjoy it. Not as revenge. Not the cosmic balance of justice. Those I respect, but that's not it. There is a part of me, deep down, that simply likes hurting people. It's why I'm good at my job. It's why I enjoy my job. And, I think, worst of all, I don't think I could cope without it."

She grew distant. "After... being trapped inside a Vanishing Cupboard for a week with no-one to hear me screaming... I did think about plotting my revenge on those who had betrayed me. I plotted the most heinous and fantastically elaborate revenge for each of them. How they would have suffered. But in the end I didn't go through with it. They're not worth it. Cosmic scales of balance, they're just not worth it. I only... have my way, if you will, with those who deserve it for something they have actually, or have not, done. Those cretins just showed me who I really was."

She looked at him sidelong. Now or never. Never meant the nightmares never ended. Now, it was, then. "I tell myself I'm not broken. I know this isn't normal. But this is who I am. This is who I became, who I am, and I have become... okay... with who I am. I don't have deep dark pits of despair, or even naked shame most of the time, it simply doesn't come up. I have my business, I do my business, I do it well, and until now the only person who knew my... inner monologue on the subject was me."

She sat bolt upright. "I understand that taking away the nightmares will change something. I think if you can leave my desires for justice and... a little creative sadism intact, that'll be fine. I assume the rest of my natural coping bitch persona will reassert itself around whatever you have to do."

If she were a femme fatale, this would be the moment where she'd light a cigarette. "So, what do you have to do?"

Odhrán Ó Dálaigh

March 06, 2021, 02:27:37 pm #9 Last Edit: March 06, 2021, 09:20:34 pm by Royal_Poet
The mood in the room shifted from fairly relaxed to quite uncomfortable. Deitha clued him in on her casual sadism and Odhrán found himself struggling with the notion. It wasn't the fact that she enjoyed hurting people. He could relate to that fairly easily. No, what baffled him was her seeming lack of compassion and empathy. She'd been through something terrible and yet she didn't seem to have much concern for putting others through a similar experience. If there was something broken about her to fix, he supposed this was it.

"Humans are the glory and the scum of the universe," Odhrán commented absently. Something about what she'd said, made it personal for him and he felt reminded of so much that had been wrong in his own life. There were people he would most certainly enjoy hurting. He forced the thought out of his head at the same time as noting a core difference between their darker impulses. Odhrán's hatred was directed, hers seemed to be without an apparent target. That was interesting.

"Enjoying suffering is not a rare trait," Odhrán commented in a neutral tone. "Though perhaps the willingness to admit to is a little bit unusual."

He carefully went through her words again in his mind. Now she hurt people back. In a controlled, limited and mostly physically harmless way. The worst part was that she enjoyed it. There was a lot to unpack in just those three sentences. What did she classify as "mostly physically harmless" and "limited"? He could understand revenge as a motive, but where was her compassion?

Strangest of all, there was a second story as to what had happened to her now. Being chased through corridors or was it being locked up in a cabinet? He let that thought percolate in his mind. There was a red thread that connected both stories: a loss of control; being a victim; being targeted. He wasn't sure what to make of that information yet.

"You were never locked in a vanishing cabinet." A statement, not a question. He wanted to observe her reaction. Would she realise that she had slipped up? Were the cover stories a conscious or subconscious mechanism? He couldn't tell but he was curious to find out.

"How do you hurt people?" he asked, as if was as casual a thing to ask about as her favourite colour or which kind of tea she preferred. At this point, it took effort for him to portray indifference. He was starting to sort and review his thoughts, forcing them along certain pathways with a hint of occlumency. Betraying how he personally felt about things wouldn't help with getting Deitha to trust him.

"And what's the best part of hurting people? Is there a particular moment you enjoy?" It felt macabre to be discussing this, but part of him was simply curious and wanted to understand why. Everybody had a why. He knew from experience that finding out more wasn't always a good thing, and yet in this case he couldn't help it. If he was going to be the means of letting this woman sleep at night, he wanted to be certain that he could live with it too. There was enough on his conscience already, without having set torturer loose and letting them disconnect from whatever remorse they might still be feeling for their actions.

Deitha Albron

"Whoa, let's back up there for a moment. Before we get to what I get out of it, let's start with why I do it." She hadn't meant to sound forthright with it but that was how she felt.

"I don't just randomly or indiscriminately hurt people. Whatever judgement you probably have of me, I'm not a monster." She giggled. "Well, maybe I am just a little bit. The people I... hurt... are people who on some level deserve it. I wouldn't, for example, do anything to you - you seem like a good person. At least..." A head-tilt to the side, a side-long glance. "At least, you're not a bad person. You sometimes do things you don't like but you're doing it to help people. That doesn't make you a bad person."

She swung her legs again, watching her feet. "Me, on the other hand. I deal with bad people. I deal with people who hurt people. I deal with people who don't do what they are supposed to. Things that the Magical Enforcement wizards won't deal with. But things that need dealing with. I deal with the incomplete obligations people have. Unbreakable vows aren't so unbreakable in practice."

She looked back up at the healer. "I mostly just scare people. I make them confront their fears as a reminder to finish what they started - or to move onto something else if that's appropriate. Sometimes I show them themselves. Sometimes I show them as other people see them. Sometimes I show them their nightmares. Sometimes I show them other people's nightmares made real."

Her voice hardened. "But make no mistake, I don't do this to people who don't deserve it. I don't leave marks, I don't leave scars, I don't physically injure them. Even when I really want to. Especially when I really want to. Some of the... people... I encounter deserve none of the mercy they get shown. I let them leave with their bodies intact and any damage their spirit has, that's on them."

She looked at the floor, as if weighing up how to say it. "I don't use... that... curse on them. None of them are worth that. Whatever fate they may deserve, that isn't it."

She took a deep breath, debating whether she was done here or not. She was not certain she liked where this conversation was potentially going. "What I do is summon illusions, phantasms, husks of flesh and bone to animate, or whatever else I feel will scare them. The first time it's a gentle reminder to pay what's owed - and not all debts are monetary. Subsequent visits get more... exquisitely honed. The look of fear amuses me. Their expressions, their fear, their abject terror in the most extreme cases. It pleases me to see people getting a taste of what they deserve. It pleases me in ways that aren't wholesome when people truly experience that moment."

"They never showed me any compassion. Why should I show them and their kind any?" The words almost formed a snarl by the end of the sentence. "When they locked me in that Vanishing Cabinet, of course." She smirked, thinking she had successfully evaded answering that particular question.

She was trying to remember if she'd always liked being this way. With the casual sadism, specifically. She remembered children in her school days that would dismember insects and spiders and the like just because they could, and her having some inner revulsion at the thought. They didn't deserve it, not even the big ugly spiders, they didn't do anything to deserve what their tormentors did. But people? People deserved it. They all deserved it. All of them, even the ones that were more pure about it, so they claimed or thought. She'd get to them, she'd get to all of them eventually.

Odhrán Ó Dálaigh

Odhrán was surprised at the vehemence with which he was being interrupted. The why mattered to her. On some level, that was surprising. It was easy enough to find a justification to do the wrong thing. People did it every day. He wasn't sure that there was reason she could give that would lead him to think differently about her. Still, since she had asked, he was trying to keep an open mind.

Her reasoning, and this part was not surprising at all, left much to be desired. However, he didn't find it unusual in any way. In fact, and it may have alarmed Deitha to hear this, he found her perfectly ordinary in this response. In a way, this was the least strange thing she had presented him with so far. She punished people who deserved it. Oh, how often had he heard those lines misused to justify a great many of things.

It took effort to contain a sigh.

"Dominoes." Odhrán responded to her question. "How do you know that whoever did, well, whatever, to you... How do you know they didn't start the way you did? Lashing out because they're hurt. They have nightmares. Because the world is cruel and unfair and sometimes doesn't make sense?"

He was sure his words would fall on deaf ears and yet he couldn't stop himself for saying them. "Forgiveness is how things can get better, even if some people may not deserve it."

The sigh he had been holding back escaped, just faintly audible. He had to change the trajectory of this conversation.

"What would you say is more serious? Inflicting mental harm upon a person or inflicting physical harm?"

Odhrán wasn't sure this question had a right answer, but he was curious to hear how Deitha would reason through it. What struck him the most about her description of things was that she liked to put people through a similar ordeal than the one she had experienced herself. She didn't seem to realise it herself, but it reeked of helplessness and desperation.

He found himself in front of a strange crossroads. Maybe, the woman in front of him deserved the nightmares she was having. Maybe, those nightmares fulfilled a crucial function in moderating her violent behaviour. If he took them away, maybe that would allow her to act without conscience. And while he might make her life a little easier to bear, who knew what he would be inflicting on others.

Instinct told him that his worries seemed unlikely. The chain of causation could easily be strung the other way. She lashed out because the nightmares bothered her. Still, whatever decision he made on this patient was a gamble.

A vague plan of action formed in his mind. Yes, he was capable of fixing this in one treatment and likely make the solution permanent. But with this patient he didn't want to. He'd make her come back a couple of times, so he could monitor how she developed.

Deitha Albron

She stopped short, listening to the healer. The world is cruel and it sometimes doesn't make sense. And yes, she had to admit that deep down, maybe she was becoming... becoming the visitation of that which visited her. It wasn't a truth she wanted to deal with, certainly wasn't a thought she wanted to entertain but maybe, just maybe it was the truth after all.

There comes a time when truth and lies are all the same and no-one really knows which is which any more. Deitha knew this already, of course, the reinvented story about what happened to her, every single one of them was true - especially the ones she'd made up.

"Physical harm is sometimes more serious - losing an arm or a leg can be pretty permanent. Mental harm lasts longer - if you want it to." Something in her voice dropped a semitone. "Sometimes the memories never go away."

She stared off to one side, as though reliving a memory before snapping back to the present place and time. "What I do is short lived. Those Muggles, they love fear so much, they invented a way to create ... machines ... that take them on a ride. They cry out in fear. Scream in terror, some of them. Some of them even lose control of their..." She giggled awkwardly. "It doesn't hurt them to be scared once in a while - and neither for wizards. I scare my... customers. A bit. Sometimes a lot. But only because they haven't paid their debts. Or because they're bad people and need reminding that there's always someone bigger and scarier."

She paused, as if explaining it to herself first. "There's always a need for people like me - to make sure other people do as told. Pay their dues, keep their promises and the like. The only difference is that part of me enjoys watching them run in fear."

She stared the healer straight in the eyes. "You must think I'm a terrible person, that I do things to people because people did things to me. Maybe you're right - but all I'm really here for are to make the nightmares go away. The nightmares don't own me, they're just the price I've paid so far for my own debts, and I think I've settled that debt by now, with interest."

Odhrán Ó Dálaigh

Odhrán couldn't help a feeling of mild distaste while considering her line of argumentation. She had a point, though he didn't particularly like it. She was probably right that there was a need for people willing to enforce the rules. Clearly not everybody was suited to such a role, but people of that variety were needed for a functioning society. He tried to push his personal feelings on the matter out of his mind in an attempt to consider her request rationally.

She had come to him for help. She was a patient. If he didn't like her, it didn't matter. It was his duty to help. And yet, on becoming a healer he had sworn an oath to not harm others knowingly or intentionally. He wondered if his teachers and past superiors had come across a situation like this. Odhrán wasn't sure that helping this woman wouldn't bring a lot of harm to others. Should he turn her down? But clearly, she was ill and needed help.

"We will try." he said courtly, having decided.

"Let's block those nightmares temporarily. I am not sure I can make this change without changing other things about you. And you said yourself that you do not want any other alterations. So why don't we just try it for a week and see how you do with it? And assuming it works in a way we are both satisfied with we can look at making treatment hold permanently."

No, he still wasn't entirely comfortable, but this was a solution with which he could live. How much harm could she do in the space of a week above and beyond what she was likely to do if he refused her today? In the end it as easy enough to justify things to himself. It gave him pause. He'd come across a great many broken people, but they rarely challenged his sense of right and wrong.

"We should talk about the details. I will have to look into your mind for this - and given how deeply you have displaced certain memories this is likely going to be painful. We can try working with sedation or induced sleep if you would rather not be too aware of it. The advantage of doing it this way is that it's very easily reversible. However, with a bit of luck it won't take me long. Maybe ten minutes or fifteen at most." 

There was a part of him that was keen to just get this session over with. Having Deitha around was exhausting and working through all of her issues in discussion would take a long time. There was also the fact that he had the impression that part of her was shutting down already. It would be better to go in small increments then trying to reason through her condition in one long meeting. 

Deitha Albron

Deitha smiled. Possibly for the first time that session, and for the first time in a long while, it was a completely sincere smile with no hidden agenda and nothing sinister in its motivations. It was simple, humble and grateful.

"That's honestly more than I expected."

She stared at the healer again, trying to puzzle him out. She sensed on some level that she had gotten under his skin; far from everyone was comfortable with her space in the world, and her experience was that people who swore an oath to use their time and talent for good - to do no harm, however knowingly or indirectly - that such people were usually the most uncomfortable with her choices in life. But, she had long since reasoned, from her perspective they had the choice of morality, they'd made the choice to do no harm and morality is a fine thing to debate. People like her just had to get on with it, ethics be damned.

"If you're not sure about time, maybe try just a day or two? A single night's good sleep feels... I don't remember how it feels." She grinned, ever so slightly wickedly, "Who knows, a good night's sleep might even make me a better person, though I wouldn't bet on it."

But she figured she should stop there, lest this offer... this glimmer of salvation be taken away just as surprisingly as it was offered. "I'd like to try having some nights with good sleep again, and doing it in small stages seems like a lovely way to start. As for... whatever it is you have to do... you don't need to knock me out. Not unless you think it's a good idea... the medicine might taste bad but if it makes me better. Do whatever you have to do."

She paused, looked him straight in the eyes, and the tone of her voice dropped in pitch. Whatever sing-song child-like-naivety and playful-ish persona she normally portrayed, it was finally torn down. "One thing: don't lie to me. Just tell me when it'll hurt and how bad you think it'll be. The people that did things to me promised me - promised me hand-on-heart-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye - that it wouldn't hurt." She found herself mimicking - and mocking - the nursery rhyme-like melody accompanying the poem. She muttered to herself a little about being promised it wouldn't hurt, repeating over and over quietly to herself about being promised, before snapping out of it.

"They promised me it wouldn't hurt. I need you to not be like them. Tell me when it will hurt. Tell me how badly it will hurt. And when it does..."

She paused, swallowed.

"When it does... let it be."

Whatever cloud passed over her spirit departed, the persona returned. The smile - not quite as honest as before, but no less charming - returned with it. "So, when do we begin?"