The waiting room was expensive and elegant. He was sitting on a dark leather sofa, trying not to fidget, his hands clenching and unfurling in his lap.
Harry couldn't believe Hermione had talked him into this.
It took everything he had, every scrap of effort and will, not to simply bolt out of the quiet room, and from the door – most particularly from the man behind the door, and all the implications therein.
The Wizarding World didn't normally have psychiatrists, and if they did, they tended to be called 'Mind Healers', working at St Mungo's.
Tom Riddle was an unprecedented case.
He was famous throughout the country for his knowledge of the human mind and all fields of psychiatry, including criminology, which allowed the Aurors to consult with him in an almost muggle fashion on cases.
Maybe that was why he was here too. He didn't know.
All he knew was that he was crumbling along the edges like burnt paper, his health slowly shriveling up to a charred crisp of ruin.
He wetted his lips, glanced at the ticking clock, then down at his knees.
He'd never liked the thought of psychiatric care of any kind, muggle or magical – but Hermione had assured him that Riddle wasn't the type to shove pills at him across a table. She said he was just someone to talk to. Someone who would help sort out his thoughts, an unjudging ear.
He thought it was a load of crap, like he was some sort of broken toy that needed to be wound up and fixed.
But it had become mandatory, in the light of recent events, that he attend and at least try.
The waiting room was empty outside of him, meticulously tidy and clean. It was too sterile for his personal enjoyment, though he was sure some would find the white space soothing and calm.
His nails dug into his palms, drawing thin scarlet crescents of blood. His throat bobbed.
The clock ticked on.
An unjudging ear aside, he still didn't like this. But he had to sit through six months of these sessions if he wanted to maintain his position as an Auror, and he certainly wanted to catch Voldemort. The man had gone quiet since his last murder and attack, but Harry just knew he was still out there. Somewhere.
Six months was more than enough – hell, as far as he was concerned, one session was enough. Riddle charged fucking exorbitant prices anyway.
He was pretty sure he could ramble at a drunk on the street and it would have the same bloody effect, and the indifference of an unjudging ear.
His insides twisted.
He was on his feet the second the door opened, mouth a little dry.
Tom Riddle was everything he'd expected from the photos and things he'd heard about the man. He came highly recommended of course, and he had an excellent track record – but that did absolutely nothing to ease Harry's qualms and doubts. Maybe it only strengthened them.
He didn't like the thought of people psychoanalysing him, of trying to get into his head. Hell, he wasn't really one for introspection at all nowadays. He was pretty sure that there were a few things not right up there, and maybe that was just another reason he didn't want to touch it. He didn't know what he would find, what he might rouse from the darkness lurking at the back of his mind.
But he was Harry Potter; he wasn't allowed to quietly crack and splinter around the edges.
Riddle was infuriatingly well dressed and polished, just like his waiting room. It all seemed like a trap to him, this conscious effort to give a certain image. The waiting room was designed to put people at ease, and Riddle … he didn't know what Riddle was aiming for, but he didn't like the thought that the man was probably aiming for something.
He was, however, younger than expected.
Harry stared uncomfortably at the floor as the man's last patient left after many a "thank you" and fervent wringing of Riddle's hand.
"Mr Potter, if you could come in and take a seat."
Riddle's voice was like liquid velvet; he didn't trust it.
This was it. If he was going to bolt, he should definitely do so now.
Hermione would be so disappointed; Ron too. Maybe it was with that bad taste in his mouth that he stiffly entered the other room, much like a man walking into battle, or perhaps even to his execution. He shook Riddle's hand, jaw tight, and looked for a –
A sofa. This had to be some kind of joke.
He immediately moved to take the only chair – which was obviously Riddle's – only for the man to calmly but firmly grab his arm and steer him into sitting on the sofa.
His eyes flashed.
Yeah, no way was he putting up with this; the man was like a bad cliché.
He definitely wasn't doing the whole lying down thing, that was just ridiculous, and he didn't see how it would help with anything.
He shifted to be poised on the very edge of the seat instead, ready to spring. Riddle calmly pulled his chair around and sat in front of him, his hands folded in his lap. He didn't have a notebook, at least that was something.
There was a long, uncomfortable silence, wherein Riddle just stared at him – and he was pretty damn sure that was not the way these things were supposed to go! Staring was rude, besides.
He glared back flatly, refusing to be the first to yield, to break eye contact or flinch.
Finally, Riddle spoke, after five minutes must have gone past where they just eyed each other up.
"Why are you here, Harry?"
"Oh, so we're on a first-name basis already? That's not very professional," Harry returned. To his surprise, a small smile crossed Riddle's lips.
"On the contrary, considering the nature of my line of work I see no reason for such stifling formalities whilst within this room."
"You think calling me Harry is going to make me open up to you? You have my file, why don't you just read the answer to your question? You – you know perfectly well why I'm here."
Voldemort. The murders. The attack. Everything.
"I don't look at files." Riddle waved an almost dismissive hand. "I prefer to come to my own conclusions and observations, and – as shocking as it might be – to talk to my clients, rather than relying on the judgements made by other people."
Despite himself, Harry snorted at the dry tone of voice. He was suspicious that Riddle should make him want to crack a smile so quickly. It wasn't the at-ease-with-this-situation type of smile, but it was one nonetheless.
"Clients? Not patients?"
"Yes, clients," Riddle said calmly. "'Patient' would indicate that I am going to treat you."
Harry's brow raised, and he studied the other with a sceptical curiosity. This … wasn't what he expected. Hermione had said the man was different from others in his field, but he hadn't quite believed it. He thought she was just trying to make sure he went to the appointment.
"You're not?" he questioned.
"No. I'm going to inspire you to treat yourself. It is more than clear that your concerns are within your mind, or you would not have been referred to me, but your concerns are not clinical in the sense of a psychological disorder, which would be treated differently – such as schizophrenia or bipolar, which are partially caused by chemical imbalances within the brain," Riddle said. "Hence, you are the primary person able to treat yourself, with assistance. Your concern is not genetic either. Why are you here?" he asked again.
"Must be interesting doing your job," Harry replied after a moment. "One of the few professions in our world where people spill their secrets out so freely on the first meeting." As if; did people really spill their guts out to a stranger? Maybe it was therapeutic? It probably was, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"You misunderstand my question, Harry," Riddle said. "Right now I am not interested in the specific details concerning why you need or want my help, I'm more preoccupied with the fact that you are visiting me when you clearly don't want to – why you are here. Friend?"
Harry didn't quite gape at the man, though his eyes might have widened briefly.
"Yeah," he said, after a moment. "Friend. I don't like psychiatrists."
"You tell me, you're the psychiatrist."
"You don't like the feeling of being psychoanalyzed and picked apart, and you don't want to know whatever's in your own head, not in the least because this is going to be a painful process, forcing you to confront issues you'd rather ignore. You also don't like the implication that you are in need of help, and so, in your mind, somehow weak or broken. In need of fixing."
"Good guess," Harry sneered.
"It wasn't a guess. It's quite common a response, actually."
"Aren't you supposed to be telling me I'm a special snowflake?" His tone tightened. "Not trivializing my issues with seeking psychiatric help?"
"Just because something is common, does not mean it's trivial. Death is the most common thing in existence and the only thing every creature in existence shares, yet I would hardly call that trivial when our lives are ruled by it, its impacts, and our fear of it," Riddle returned, not missing a beat. Harry paused at the thought, before finally looking away and around the room.
Much like the waiting room, it was clean and tidy. There was the sofa, the chair, a desk, and a large cabinet. There was also another door.
"Where does that go to?" he asked instead.
"I'm sure you'll find out during the course of our sessions."
"You seem so damn sure I'm going to come back, when I just said that I don't like psychiatrists."
Riddle laughed lightly. "I'm not your average mind healer."
"Clearly," Harry muttered. "Your professionalism leaves much to be desired."
"Where would professionalism get me on such a personal matter? I fully intend to push you out of your comfort zone, Harry. I am going to get inside of your head, and I'm going to drag you there too, however much you would rather run away from your problems."
"Not if I don't come back, you won't."
"Well, you haven't left yet, have you?" Riddle smirked. Harry scowled at that, immediately getting to his feet, and the other held his hands up in a placating gesture. "One session. Isn't that what you promised your friend? Hermione?"
"I don't need to read your file to recognise the Ministry's Golden Boy Auror, and to know who he keeps company with. From there it is a matter of logical deduction as to who sent you when you so obviously didn't send yourself. Moreover, I had a feeling someone would refer you to me sooner or later. It was only a matter of time."
Harry's scowl deepened, and he clenched his jaw. Riddle continued to survey him evenly, only making a polite gesture for him to sit down. The look in his eyes was very different however – challenging, daring him to run like a coward. It was that look that stopped him; there was something there, which he couldn't put his finger on. And, of course, the challenge against cowardice.
Sometimes he hated being a Gryffindor.
He sat down.
Many people turned to psychiatry, mind healing, and such professions out of a desire to help people, to make them better.
Tom could safely say he wasn't like that at all, and maybe that was what made him exceed at his job. He didn't follow the conventional norms of his trade, he refused the traditional methods, and his motivations were purely selfish.
Simply put, he liked secrets, and he liked puzzles, and he could quite easily put on a different face tailored for the requirements of his current projects – official or otherwise. He could play the gentle listener, he could give people exactly what they wanted, he knew what they expected.
Harry was no different – his points on the matter remained valid, and he hadn't lied about his methodology.
Most of the people who came to him were dull. Interesting in their own way, in the complexity of their emotions, which he simply couldn't understand but devoured eagerly anyway to feed his own appetites for power and control, for trophies, for the hearts and souls he consumed for his own ends – but he was excited for this one.
It was … perfect. He really had been hoping someone would refer the 'Boy Who Lived' to him.
Harry Potter. Just perfect.
Of course, the boy wouldn't remember him, and didn't know all that he'd done, which just brought a delicious irony to the situation.
Especially because they would inevitably be talking about Voldemort. His eyes gleamed for a split second, as Harry settled on the sofa again.
Although his knowledge could, conveniently, be attributed to Harry's fame, really there was a much more personal history here. This was going to be so much fun. The best in his collection, and he always collected them in the end. They were his, all his pets, and he would claim and treasure them.
He always had been more selective with his clients once he had the acclaim to do so.
He would fix Harry, certainly – never let it be said he wasn't good at his job. The interesting thing would be what he fixed him into, what he uncovered, how he could use the knowledge to keep his own secrets and agendas safer, how he shaped Harry and would, with time, possess him too.
Harry was the one who'd got away from him once before. No longer.
He offered the younger a man a brilliant smile.
Let the games begin.
He'd always had a very good idea of what he wanted.
A/N: Inspired by Hannibal/Silence of the Lambs. Yay for new stories. Also got into Screenwriting now, which has proved very shiny. Nonetheless, hope you liked this first chapter/teaser, and enjoy the story to come :)
Also, no, it's not going to be exactly the same as Hannibal/Silence of the Lambs, just taking the premise and letting my imagination run away with me...wish me luck! Feedback would be much appreciated, as always.
You'll find out more about their backstory and everything going on in the AU as we go along...and no, I'm not saying Tom's going to be a Cannibal...but, well, you'll see ;)