Simplifying the whole matter down to fear would have been easy.
It would have been simple to say that he hated Voldemort for everything he'd done, and indeed it was true.
But, even now, even with his heart pounding dizzyingly in his chest, he couldn't shake off everything else. He was, to his own reluctant admission, drawn to Tom. To Voldemort.
The man had fascinated him from the start, just as much as he horrified him. He'd always understood too well and too clearly, for rational views on the matter.
He could remember too vividly the high of the monster's murders in his head. The wild happiness, the rush of absolute power that Voldemort felt when he held somebody's life in his hand.
When his own life and control seemed to be constantly crumbling away, it was blindingly obvious to see why such power and dominion would be alluring. And there was undoubtedly a seductive sort of grace to the way Voldemort killed. He'd seen a lot of crime scenes in his life, and Voldemort had human sacrifice down to an art. Quite literally considering given his worldviews.
Maybe it scared him to go up against a man so persuasive and insidious in his evil - exactly because he knew Voldemort's crime scenes. And it had always been about beauty, and disposing of ugliness in the world. At least to the man's own mind.
There was a reason he had no desire to get into an ideological debate with the man.
And...maybe with the bastard's kiss still branded against his lips, it was impossible to forget everything, even if he wanted to.
The last two years had been a practise of repression, of denial and desperately trying to get the other's face out of his head. To stop himself waking up clammy in his bedsheets, twisted up in phantom touch, pale from murder, with that familiar voice in his ear still.
He supposed obsession never was in the control of the obsessed.
In that way, though he didn't want to, he could understand Tom in that. They mirrored each other in twisted fascination. Voldemort was just open in his, whereas Harry couldn't help but be terrified of feeling so deeply about anyone or anything, especially when the subject of said emotion was such a spectre of fear in himself.
He could go up against hardened killers without flinching. His hand was perfectly steady in battle, steel in his spine. But the second somebody put him in front of Tom Riddle, he couldn't help but feel there was no possible way to win.
Even when, by all rights, he already had.
The cost of victory was a funny thing.
He ignored the flushed, pitying faces and walked straight out of the building.
Tom wasn't remotely surprised to find himself in another 'session.'
And a straightjacket too, but that came with the territory.
It was a familiar, and tedious, power play by now.
The man was constantly trying to get in his head, and Tom would have taken the opportunity to provide himself with some more sadistic amusements to pass the time, but Smethwyck's mind didn't interest him enough for him to gain any true satisfaction toying with it.
Not after two years, certainly.
If any entertainment value was to be obtained from the man, he'd burned through in the first week. Now, he was just a dull fixture of his imprisoned life.
Thinking back over his interactions with Harry was a much better use of his time. The look on his face as he kissed him, lips betraying his projected harmlessness. For all their softness, they were unyielding to him, kissing back just as hard. Deceptively pliant only to bite. A bit like Harry all over, really.
It was an interesting matter, this scenario.
By all rights, if there wasn't an implicit challenge offered up, he would have been more than happy to leave Harry and his Horcrux to it. Live, to some extent, vicariously.
He also...well, he couldn't be sure if this version would kill Harry or not. He understood the appeal of doing so, but his own tendencies were tempered by shared experience and the wisdom of years of psychiatric study.
His horcrux was...rawer. It was obvious in the way he was behaving. He was less refined, less dignified in his approach. Far more arrogant too, and he'd always been a self-confident man.
His horcrux was a Dark Lord parodying the role of a serial killer and an artist. His other self was about as disenchanted with his future, as he himself was with his past and the folly of his youth. It was embarrassing to think about, on hindsight.
He couldn't imagine they would get on well, when they inevitably met.
But Harry might. Indeed, Harry might even prefer the Dark Lord. Whilst he'd always been good at masks, his horcrux was not as...developed in them. He could fool the whole world, but Tom very much doubted that he'd be able to fool Harry again so easily. Not now that the boy knew what to look for.
His past-self had never been obvious or anything, it wasn't that simple. But…well, he wasn't at his current level either. Of course he wasn't. He was, if anything, technicalities aside, Harry's peer as barely out of adolescence.
Harry did gravitate to strong passions as much as he recoiled from them, in fear, though. He really hoped they didn't get on.
"Mr Riddle, you must understand that there are...recuperations of your behaviour earlier today," Smethwyck ventured, eventually. He barely bothered to deign that with a response, simply raising his brows mockingly.
What was the idiot going to do, to punish him further that he hadn't already done and tried? The man had taken away his drawing supplies. His pillows. Any books and viable forms of entertainment for varying degrees of time over the period of his capture.
Smethwyck's jaw tightened at his lack of acknowledgement. He knew it infuriated the man to have him straight-jacketed and restrained in front of him in every possible way, and yet to know he was still so incapable of control.
"You understand, of course, that Mr Potter will not be allowed in your cage again," the healer tried again. At that, a small smile curled the corner of Tom's lips.
"I'd like to see you stop him. You've yet to see him fight for something he really wants."
Smethwyck stared at him, eyes dark. They'd 'talked' about Harry every day of the last two years. My, the healer was almost as obsessed with the boy who lived as he himself was.
"Why didn't you push forwards more? You had him pinned against the wall. You could have done anything to him," the man stated.
"Yes," Tom said. "I could have." He didn't elaborate. He didn't expect the Healer to understand the beautiful complexity of possibility, when both parties were so attuned to the power balance, and to the flow of thought between them.
Harry had probably thought of everything he could have done at the same pace that he came up with them. They could guess each other's actions so well, that they could probably go through a whole battle sequence just looking into each other's eyes.
But that was another matter.
"But that wouldn't be as fun," Smethwyck stated.
"I am stunned by your insight."
"You could make this all a lot easier on yourself, if you co-operated," the healer bit out. As he'd done so many times before.
He gave a wry, vicious sort of smile.
"But that wouldn't be as fun."
"There are more alternative methods of therapy; if it is fun you are after. I do believe, from your academic papers, that you utilized rather a lot of them behind closed doors."
He did wonder they would reach this point, and simply tilted his head. The smile on his lips only broadened.
Smethwyck stiffened, even when he himself was bound and straight-jacketed, prevented from using magic.
He lunged forward as much as could, as quickly as possible, baring his teeth.
…and laughed as the man scrambled back.
"You wouldn't stand a chance, Healer Smethwyck. I'd stay with the book."
He was laughing still when the man snarled and left, hands shaking in his pockets.
"The Boy who Lived. I can't quite put my finger on you."
It was several days later that anything even happened. And when it did, it was absolutely not what he expected.
Harry had spent his time immersed in reading, trying to figure out what Tom had meant. The bastard had said that he had given him everything he needed to figure this out and...well, Harry believed him.
It seemed stupid to do so, but it did. After all, Voldemort would never turn him away and say that, when it meant that he would no longer have any reason to return to the criminal asylum.
Harry stiffened at the words sounded from behind; here, of all places.
There were many places considered appropriate for meetings with murderers and criminal nemesis' - abandoned warehouses, creepy back alleys, in the ministry holding cells if things were going particularly well.
But in all the long list of villainous meeting places, Harry had never expected any of them to be in the middle of his bloody grocery shopping.
He hadn't turned around, but he recognized the voice - the impossible voice - and he spun around, heart seizing in his chest.
It…his hand closed around his wand, even as his brow furrowed in confusion. Those eyes were painfully familiar, but everything was different. Disguised, obviously, but not to the point of physical detriment. It did leave some...curiosity as what he looked like normally, but with the voice and the eyes Harry could make a hysterical sort of guess.
He breathed out slowly, clicking out his neck.
And suddenly the public setting made a lot of sense. It was hardly the best place to get into a fight in. The man gave him a sly smile.
"And what do I call you, seeing as you obviously know me," Harry questioned coolly.
This was surreal. He was clutching a damn shopping basket, with a pint of milk and other items. His muscles coiled, considering attacking. Putting an end to all of this. Just as he was about to, slender fingers reached out and curled around his waist.
"Don't," the bastard said, softly, holding his gaze. "I'd hate to turn a friendly chat into a hostage situation, wouldn't you? You didn't really think I came along, did you? I was lead to believe you were brains as well as beauty. Or was I wrong?" The man's gaze darted down to his wand, pointedly waiting for him to let go of it. Harry's teeth gritted.
"My, you need to work on your social skills if this is friendly." His head was spinning. He spoke with Tom's voice. Was that a simulation like his appearance or...Frankenstein's monster? That was the question.
But he had Tom's mannerisms. The little shifts that he'd picked up on, after spending so long in the man's office. But that didn't answer the question of how this was possible.
Dear god, he really hoped Riddle didn't have an evil twin brother or something.
"I dare say it's friendlier than stabbing you in the stomach. Six months of therapy, wasn't it?" The git gave a thin smile. "Must have been terrible for you."
Hostage situation or not, he was a split second away from punching the twat. Punching him and demanding answers, because he didn't think he'd ever been more confused in his life. His mouth felt dry.
"What exactly did you want to have a friendly chat about?"
The other's head tilted, and there was something unnervingly familiar with that gesture too. It was like Riddle. The man behaved like Voldemort did. To a creepy level that was more than just simple mimicry. He was hyperaware of the warm fingers still burning against his side.
But Harry didn't flinch, he refused to. After facing up to Lord Voldemort, no Frankenstein was going to compare. Even if they did act so uncannily like said killer.
"Well, I say it's a chat...it's more of an offer mixed with a warning."
"What makes you think I'd want anything from you?" Harry spat. The copycat gave another smile.
"Because we both want the man who calls himself Lord Voldemort gone," the man said simply. Harry didn't allow his eyes to widen. Thrown.
"He's in prison. He's not going anywhere," he snapped. His gut lurched.
"You really think Healer Smethwyck and his band of incompetents is going to hold him forever? And we both know who he's going to come after when he gets out." The other's gaze swept up and down him, and Harry suddenly knew exactly what 'undressing someone with your eyes' meant. He bristled a little, starting to feel exposed a way in which he only thought possible standing before Voldemort. "Not that I don't understand why he would..." the other continued, purring. "You are a remarkable impossibility, Harry Potter. How are you not broken yet?"
"I ask myself the same question most days," Harry drawled, forcing his voice to remain even. "But I figure that's more my business than yours."
"You'd think so, wouldn't you? I assume he hasn't told you about me."
"So you're offer is what exactly?" Harry ignored the previous question.
"We get rid of him."
"You mean kill him," Harry countered.
"Something like that."
"You seem to have very little issue with murder, what do you need me for?"
Harry gave an incredulous huff of laughter. He couldn't believe this was actually happening to him. This was…actually getting insulting. He was getting really sick of victimhood.
He wanted people to stop looking at him with such pity, to stop underestimating him when he'd survived. Despite all the odds, he had bloody well survived so far.
He was not weak. He was not a pushover, no matter what Riddle said.
"And the warning?" Harry raised his brows, a mocking sort of indulgence in his tone. The other wizard's eyes flashed, grip tightening a little.
"I'd like to see you join me, Harry," the copycat murmured, eyes still locked on his own. "I think you have a lot of potential, so I'd hate to have to waste it in your death. As beautiful a crime scene as you would undoubtedly ma-"
"-How is it that you know Tom Riddle? This goes beyond simple vendetta against a serial killer. Was he your murderous mentor or something?" Harry interrupted. The man hadn't been answering his question anyway.
"Something like that," the man repeated. The bastard's gaze flicked over him again, pausing on his scar for a moment, before back to his eyes. The other took a step closer. "It is irrelevant to you."
"Nothing to do with Tom Riddle is irrelevant to me," Harry murmured, chin jutting up a bit.
The man stared back at him for a second, expression impassive. But Harry could practically feel the emotions bubbling beneath the surface.
He could feel the emotions bubbling beneath the surface. What the hell was this? He thought he could only do this with Voldemort.
And yet, the mannerisms between the two were uncanny, he'd already noted that. There was something very odd going on here. Even more so than usual.
"What are you?" Harry asked this time, softly. He took a step forward himself, and saw a flicker of surprise in the copycat's eyes. "You're like him. But you're…not cooked properly yet. How about you tell me who and what you are, and why exactly you're so invested in Voldemort, and I'll consider your offer."
The man took a step back, and Harry could feel a grin start to creep onto his own lips. He felt his unease shrink a little, his posture bolstering. His hand shot out, grabbing hold of the copycat's wrist.
"Oh, don't go yet," he continued. "We're just having a friendly chat."
Because maybe he was bloody sick of always playing catch up, and, maybe here…in some way he had the upper hand. And he was not letting go of it so easily.
"I suggest you let go of me," the copycat said haughtily. "Or my Death Eaters-"
"Will what?" Harry cut in again, watching the other's lips pinch with irritation at the second interruption. "You said an offer and a warning. Well, maybe I should give you a warning instead, mate. I have spent my whole life dealing with Tom Riddle, and despite everything I was the one who came out on top. He is in a prison cell because of me. So maybe you should have thought more carefully before you involved me in this little challenge of yours, because I'm getting really sick of Butterflies and murders within."
The copycat stared at him, and – his eyes started to gleam. Those familiar-yet-different eyes.
"I'm starting to see why he's so enamoured with you. You're full of surprises."
"Yeah, he thought so too when the Aurors charged in and arrested him," Harry said coldly. "Maybe you should be more careful that you don't go the same way."
"You can't beat me, Harry," the copycat laughed. "He lost because he got too cosy with his psychiatric servitude. He limited himself too much. Got caught in some silly little game with you."
"And you obviously have much larger aspirations.
"Should I assume you're turning down my offer, Boy who Lived?" The copycat asked instead.
"You assume correctly."
"Curious that you would pass on a chance to see him suffer, humiliated." Those eyes were like shards of broken glass. "Maybe there's something to those other rumours too."
Harry snarled, lunging for the man's throat. The copycat laughed, something wild and not quite human, clutching hold of either side of his face, their lips inches apart as Harry started choking him.
"Consider this your warning, Harry Potter," the other gasped. "You don't want to deny me, or get in my way. You're not the only one with bigger fish to dry."
The second after that the shop exploded around them.
A/N: Chapter in honour (and excitement of) the release of the new Hannibal Season 2 trailer. Definitely not a disappointment, and I hope this chapter isn't either because I quite like it. I had a thousand different ideas for their first meeting, which may still come into play in other later meetings instead. But...well, I personally think this one worked. You may disagree. But anyway. Woo!