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Phoenix Waterford

[1838/1839][EN] What to do when you're not saving the world?

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Wednesday the 24th of October 1838 - in the afternoon - an office on campus

 

Sure, Phoenix thought, let's sign up for this course! It'll be tricky and challenging, but I'm an ambitious young man, I don't mind a challenge and what could possibly go wrong?

 

Well, the fact that this had been the third office he had been assigned to, for once, because the other two had had... unfortunate accidents. All a terrible mistake, of course, ever so sorry, you know how aurors are, they get spooked so easily, especially if you try to ask them a question that's more personal than 'how's the weather?". Phoenix should've known that any professor willing to let first year students deal with aurors, would probably not be the best professor, but ah, he had signed on anyway and his eyebrows had had a little fright but were still intact, and now it was time to meet another one of those lovely aurors.

 

Phoenix felt slightly guilty that his first thought when he saw Malcolm Gallagher was 'handsome', but then again, his second thought was 'how much of a pyromaniac is he', so maybe it was best to stick with the first thought. He nodded to the empty chair, waved his wand so a mug of black coffee would quickly flow into the auror's hand (the risk of giving someone a hot liquid to throw was less than having to deal with an auror without coffee) and then... put away his quill and parchment he was supposed to take notes on.

 

"So!" he started cheerfully. "Read any good books lately?" 

 


 

Private! 

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Good news, Phoenix: the answer to the question ‘how much of a pyromaniac is he’ in the case of Malcolm Gallagher was essentially not, not at all. At least, not insofar as Mal himself was aware. I mean, he’d set the occasional fire, but those had always been pertinently justified and necessary and only ever after getting everybody out. And he didn’t think he’d enjoyed the actual fire part, either. Well, you know. A little bit maybe. Who wouldn’t? It was warm and impressive and all of those things. But anyway. His first thought when he walked in on Phoenix was ‘young’, by the way. He probably wasn’t that much younger than Mal himself, but he was a lot younger than Malcolm’s notion of a therapist. He generally thought that those were gray-haired wise wizards possibly with some kind of drug addiction. And hey, the benefit of their job was that they could prescribe those for themselves!

 

Look at that, Mal, you’re only half wrong. 

 

“Eh, not really. I guess I like reading really crappy books that definitely don’t qualify,” he grinned. “But if you have any recommendations? I’m Mal, by the way. Malcolm.” He took the chair and the coffee, smiled in surprise. “Thanks - damn, this is great service,” he said, chuckling, and had a sip. “What, did some of my colleagues yell at you before? I’m sorry if they’ve been impossible. Therapy for Aurors, you know, they don’t really see the point of interaction with someone they can’t arrest.” Neither did he, he supposed, but then again he had been stuck in physical therapy since the summer and he was kind of okay with it. It beat being comatose. Or not being able to move.

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So far Phoenix' whole idea of 'Let's pretend this isn't therapy for as long as possible' seemed to have worked. Sure, Malcolm wasn't really sticking to the subject of books, but he also wasn't much of a reader, apparently. "Ah, that depends on what you're interested in," Phoenix smiled kindly. "Suggesting someone a book about a herbalist fighting a storm to save his life work only works if one is interested in... well, storms." Or threats on life works. Didn't make for easy reading, for one.

 

Good book, though.

 

"Ah, yelling..." He smiled, a little embarrassed, but he didn't think it would be wise to go into details with what Malcolm's colleagues had done. Might give him ideas, might stretch the idea of 'patient doctor confidentiality'. "But, ah, I'm familiar." He eyed Malcolm a little. "So, which side are you on?" 

 

At least this time he was clever enough to make sure that he was closest to the door. He didn't want to have to jump through the window again. 

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Storms and herbalists and threats to life. These were probably not things that usually came up in therapy. “Well, I can’t say I’ve ever been particularly occupied with storms before, but it’s always good to broaden your horizons, isn’t it? It sounds exciting,” he smiled, taking a sip from his coffee. “I’d love to give it a try. I mostly just can’t find the patience for books where the main character sits around musing and pondering and finding more synonyms for that behaviour... those are typically considered very good, but I just get antsy and start wanting to go for a walk.” Or a chase. Or a duel. Or skydiving off a mountain. Admittedly, he had mostly read those kinds of books over the past months and it probably didn’t help with his feelings about them that he had been entirely powerless to go for said walks, duels or adventures. Maybe he should give the books a reread when he wasn’t on medical leave. But then, when would he find the time? 

 

“Oh, I’m not on the side where I’m going to throw anything at you, I promise,” he chuckled, with possibly a slight sense of pity in his voice. The guy just looked so very nervous; it made him look even younger. “Relax, we’re just having a chat.” That was probably the thing that Phoenix should have said, but Malcolm was only too comfortable turning this session around and interviewing him instead. It seemed like more fun. He already knew everything about himself, anyway. “So, how’d you get the gig? Professor with a grudge? Or underestimating my colleagues a little?”

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Phoenix would've been surprised to find out Malcolm thought him nervous, in all honesty. Oh, he was very familiar with nervous, very familiar with hardly daring to breathe a word, of imagining the countless ways you failed, but he was feeling rather calm today. Well, as calm as you could be after dealing with a few aurors who really didn't want to go to therapy. But that was it, really. And besides, dealing with a few aurors was better than some of the other things he had done.

 

So Phoenix raised his eyebrows in a single moment of surprise when Malcolm tried to grab control of the situation. "It was an extracurricular activity," he said, with a shrug. "Sounded interesting, so I signed up." But hey, why not drop his guard a little, see where it could take them? "I kind of regret it, in all honesty... I don't think anyone could've prepared me for having to deal with aurors." He shook his head. "What do they do to you people?" 

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Mal smiled, took another couple of sips from his coffee. “Well… look at it this way, at least from now on, everything else is up for you? It’s good to get that out of the way so early in your career, don’t you think.” He grinned, as he imagined other things Phoenix might run into when once he was actually done with studying, and reflected that Aurors might not even be so bad. He certainly would rather deal with his colleagues than with people with marital troubles or burnouts. Oh, you know, it was probably uncomfortable how often those categories were very much overlapping. Being an Auror did not preclude you from a work-life balance but it certainly wasn’t as appealing as a doughnut and six espresso’s on the night shift. And it didn’t prevent you from having a healthy relationship, just so long as your significant other had an equally busy and not corresponding schedule, because you couldn’t have marital problems if you never spoke. Ahem.

 

“I don’t know? Well, I mean, all of us have tons of secrecy obligations, of course.” He waved his free hand dismissively. “And you know, in an interrogation, the less you say yourself, the more the other person will. Ha. You’d know all about that, I’m sure.” He grinned. “It’s probably among the first lessons they teach you, too. Right? What are the first lessons you guys get, anyway?"

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Ah, yes, the 'from this very low point on, everything can only be better' argument! He was familiar with that one, thank you very much, and Phoenix wasn't really impressed. It was interesting how low the world could still manage to get. Phoenix was more the kind that would rather have people being honest with him. Yes, the world sucked, it could suck even more, but buckle up!

 

Or you know, start using drugs. Whatever keeps you going.

 

"I don't know about that," he grinned, playing along. "Maybe it turns out that aurors are secretly all softies all along." Well, they were heroes, put their own lives in danger for other people... That was worth something.

 

Maybe, yes, but Phoenix didn't think it was that easy. Not all aurors felt like they were under attack 24/7, right? ... Or perhaps they did, that would actually explain some of the behaviours he had witnessed today. "Do no harm, mostly," he said dryly. "Unless you need to." Phoenix shrugged. "The goal is to help people, after all, even if they don't want to be helped." Like... most of the aurors. "So we got to learn a few lessons about ethics." And then how to ignore those by volunteering in experiments you should not be a part of! 

 

"I'm sure that interrogating a criminal is different from interrogating a patient, though, wouldn't you say?" 

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“Of course, we’re adorable,” Mal said with a smile. “And very low-maintenance, we only require coffee and lots and lots of personal space.” He was a devout believer in ‘what’s the worst that can happen’ and ‘the only way is up’, incidentally, he wasn’t just trying to pacify Phoenix. Optimism was inherent to every pore of his existence. It was how he managed to deal with his work, which was typically pretty dreadful at times. The firm belief that yes, things were bad now, but it was possible to make things better. It was possible, and he could help. Without that core certainty, he would’ve been a mushy puddle of never drying tears two weeks in on the job. Now, whenever he felt hopeless, he knew already that eventually it would pass. He didn’t know how his more cynical colleagues managed. He suspected they regularly were puddley. And other than that, they got by on crass humour.

 

“Ah. Good class.” Do no harm. Did that really take all that much effort? “Are you happy with the lectures so far? With the Aurors we started with a bunch of really dull safety trainings and physicals, and it only picked up about a month into the programme. I think it’s purposefully done, they want to weed out the people who won’t stick at it early.” He would not put that past Nicholas Eversly, and the guy had a heavy hand in the Auror educational programme. Which was good, by the way. It meant that anyone who got in and passed got hired and that the expectations from the programme were quite a match with those from the real world. Except there was no class on ‘how to handle a year-plus coma’. But he couldn’t really fault them for that.

 

“And, gosh, I bet it’s different, but I’m sure there’s a lot of similarities too.” He sipped his coffee. “What you mentioned, for example. Even if the other person doesn’t want to talk, it’s still your job to get them to, and even if they don’t want help, it’s still your job to do it. Ha. We might even both occasionally end up having to use magic.” Not to interrogate, but to restrain definitely. “And you talk about a lot of stuff that’s tangential to the stuff you want to be discussing because it’s easier, and you try to read between the lines to get to the conclusions you need.”

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Yes, lots of personal space and oh, Phoenix was really willing to give them exactly that, but you had to admit it wasn't just about physical personal space. Aurors as a group also seemed to take their mental personal space very serious, which... again, he had learned in several hard ways today. But hey, so far it was going good! Malcolm hadn't cursed him yet, or throw his precious coffee at him, so it went remarkably well. 

 

Probably because Phoenix hadn't asked him about his childhood and his relationship with his parents.

 

"Yes, so far they're very interesting," Phoenix smiled. "I've heard some complaints that we haven't gotten to the fun stuff yet, but it's not bad." The fun stuff being the drugs, of course, but he already had a source and he didn't need to make his own so far. Not that he ever would, he'd just order them from someone else. "You had no problem doing that yourself?" he asked, casually, not even making a note on his paper, just in case Malcolm suddenly suspected Phoenix asked him an actual, oh no, question. 

 

Ah... well, yes. Phoenix' smile twitched a little, because well, yes, that was exactly what he was doing now, wasn't it? He had to! It was his job! "Whatever works, right?" he said, innocently. "So, you have any tips for restricting spells? We haven't had that lesson yet." He could've used it.

 

Though firing back at an auror was probably a really great way to get yourself spectacularly killed. 

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It was true, and Mal would happily cop to it, that Aurors in general liked to maintain as much of a bubble around their minds as they did around their bodies, perhaps sometimes even more - scuffles and handshakes were a part of the job, right, but letting people see your innermost self was nowhere in the description you signed up for. The ways in which they maintained that space differed: some, by and large the most cliche group of private people, would just freeze you out or threaten to arrest you even if you asked them a question more personal than a juice preference. Others were more subtle. You could have an hour’s worth of conversation with them without really finding out very much about them at all, and the realization might never strike you or at least not until they were once again beyond your reach. He himself... well, he was closer to the second approach, certainly but he also wasn’t too private. There wasn’t a lot he was embarrassed about in his life. He just didn’t particularly enjoy talking about himself, because it was a bit dull, but he had no problem engaging in a conversation.

 

Or so he hoped and thought, anyway. Who knew what lay hidden beneath his smiling surface, right?

 

He shook his head. “No, not really. Hufflepuff, you know. We tend to tough things out.” See? Your Hogwarts house, that was surely a disclosure of very personal information? “Which were you in? And why’d you pick this topic to study?” He grinned again, when Phoenix asked the question he might have accidentally talked himself into. “Ehm. I am not sure what they’d recommend in the medical profession,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “What with the whole ‘do no harm’ thing. But ‘Impedimenta’ is brilliant if you just want to stop something from happening right now, wears off by itself after a bit, people remain conscious, they just can’t move and punch you. We use that on the mild nutters and the drunks - ah, pardon my French - unless they’ve been very rude and very drunk and then I may occasionally revert to Aguamenti. Guilty pleasure. Other than that, the heavier work’s Restringo... that makes ropes bind them. But you’ve got to be pretty careful with that, because if you don’t know what you’re doing you can accidentally cause all kinds of mishaps. I can teach you if you’d like? Both, if you want.” He grinned. “After all, we’ve the best part of an hour still to go. And how many follow-ups were mandatory... was it four? We can turn them into tutoring.” He could teach the guy an arsenal with that amount of time allotted.

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Really? Your Hogwarts House very personal information? Wasn't that one of the first things you shared as an adult? Your name, maybe where you were from, and of course your House? Phoenix wasn't the most forthcoming person on the planet, but he always was intrigued by how other people tried to protect themselves. He was starting to find it rather easy to create some sort of image of himself, open enough for people to think he was honest, instead of relying on keeping everything hidden. And his House would be one of the easiest things to surrender.

 

But then again, some aurors didn't even like to talk about their day, paranoid bunch.

 

"Slytherin," he nodded. "Ah, I just like human beings... I've always been fascinated by what makes them tick and what makes them do certain things... Truly Slytherin," he added, with a laugh. "But of course I also want to help people." Wasn't he so charitable? "If I can, that is. But helping someone realize what is wrong, or that there's something wrong in general, is a good start." 

 

Well, the spells sounded good. "Ah, I know Impedimenta," he nodded. "But I've always had to learn to use them on flies and such," so he never truly thought of using them on other people. Wasn't that weird, the way the mind worked like that? Sometimes you just got so stuck in patterns, that it was difficult to break out of them. "Aguamenti I'm familiar with too," he grinned, but again, different circumstances. The last one seemed... well, a bit intense, but he wasn't just going to let this topic go. Whatever he needed to keep Malcolm occupied, right? "Sounds good," he nodded and put away the clipboard he still hadn't written anything down on. 

 

"Do you need to use those spells a lot?" 

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Ah yes. What made people tick. “Tons of ways to help someone,  of course,” Mal happily admitted. He was not so perturbed that the other had been in Slytherin, as might perhaps have been expected. The Houses did not customarily have many friendships between them. It had something to do with most Slytherins thinking that most Hufflepuffs were stupid, tiresome, naive, or easy victims. But Malcolm had never been very bothered by that. He’d never been an easy victim, and he enjoyed being naive. If you attacked him for a joke, he’d probably take you out laughing. It was all good fun, wasn’t it? “Just listening probably often does a lot of good for a person. They’re rarely very lucky, if they’ve ended up with you.” He had some experience with that, all job-related, with the girls and boys and creatures that would go on to find their solace with Phoenix and his jar of pills, and they tended to need someone to listen, someone to be quiet, someone to be safe. 

 

He moved away some of the furniture and grinned. “No time like the present, is there? And yeah, I use them quite a bit. For about half of all arrests - it’s slightly less aggressive than just knocking someone out and you tend to still need information to boot. Unconscious people aren’t so chatty.” He ran a hand through his hair and took off his glasses. “Restringo’s best done non-verbally, I’ll show you that one later, but in the meantime, why don’t you try an Impedimenta. And for effect...” He got up out of his chair and lunged at Phoenix.

 

What? Impedimenta wouldn’t work on him sitting in his chair. And he was aiming to miss, so if the therapist to be couldn’t manage, there would be no harm done whatsoever.

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