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Beyond the Curtain

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November 2000 – Two years after the Battle of Hogwarts

"You cannot imagine how fascinating this is."

"Fascinating? Really!"

Harry Potter lay in the middle of a dark chamber, tied to the cold stones underneath his bare back with invisible chains.

Tom Riddle was there with him, sitting in a comfortable armchair. Floating around him were numerous parchments, with quills scribbling notes down seemingly on their own accord.

"Yes, fascinating! I was doubtful at first, but now... I see the possibilities, now. A wizard's body, with all its instincts, as a Horcrux! It shows so much potential it's almost a shame I'll never share my findings with the public," Riddle remarked without glancing away from his scrolls, an amused smirk playing on his face.

"Oh for Merlin's sake, just admit you screwed up royally! You put a piece of your soul into your enemy, by accident. That's not exactly some scientific achievement!"

"I'm going to make you immortal, Harry. The least you can do is to stay civil. As for your observations—some of the most important discoveries in history were the result of a lucky coincidence. I'm not ashamed to admit mine is one of them."

Harry Potter scoffed at that and then kept silent.

In the absence of a spiteful response, Tom Riddle looked up from his notes, intrigued.

"Ah. You still doubt me," he surmised, seeing the defiance in Potter's face. "Even after all the tests and trials we've been through, you still harbour hope that you'll be able to kill yourself." Riddle glanced sharply at one of his quills and it underlined its last written words with fervour. "How very foolish of you."

Potter grumbled something unintelligible before he spoke up. "You've done a miserable job trying to kill me. You won't do any better trying to keep me alive."

Riddle chuckled. "And that, Harry, is where you are mistaken. Destroying one's Horcrux is no easy feat; you know that by now. After we're done here and I've properly finished the ritual I started nineteen years ago, on that unfortunate Halloween, you'll be, without a doubt, as indestructible as any of my Horcruxes."

"The Horcruxes we've destroyed all?"

The quills stopped writing for a second. In the sudden silence, there was a rattling of his chains, and Harry Potter gasped in pain.

"That ends now. There's no chance you'll ever leave this accommodation, Harry. But I don't intend to underestimate you anymore, or better said, your infamous luck. Even if you managed to escape, you would not be able to end your life. Even now there are but a few ways to destroy a Horcrux, and I plan to eliminate them all."

He paused in his speech, glancing down at his captive. When Potter didn't offer a reply, just a defiant glare, Riddle smirked in face of it.

"Yes, there's always Fiendfyre; but even if you managed to conjure it, or dared to breed yourself a basilisk, the magic of the Horcrux would push you to prevail. Here comes the reason why a human Horcrux is so fascinating; a diadem could hardly ever defend itself against something as raw as Fiendfyre, but a human body with its instinct for self-preservation..."

That finally provoked a reaction. "You doubt I'd be able to kill myself? You have no idea what I'd sacrifice to defeat you, Riddle! My life is the lowest price I'm prepared to pay."

"I don't question your willingness to die, Harry—I realised a long time ago what a fool you are. No, I doubt your ability to fight off one of the most powerful magics ever discovered."

They fell into silence after that, uneasy for one of them, perfectly complacent for the other.

"How does it feel?" asked Harry Potter eventually, his voice lowered. "To have your soul so shattered that a piece peeled off without you ever noticing? Are you even killing people these days, or are you too scared it could happen again? Scared you lose another shard with any of the cold-blooded murders you commit?

"And how does it feel," the young man continued, his body tensed in anticipation of another dose of pain, but taunting his captor anyway, "to have the boy who annoys you the most, be the only thing that keeps you alive?" Potter gave a harsh laugh. "One has to wonder where Trelawney made a mistake…"

The pain never came but when Tom Riddle looked up from his notes, his eyes were on fire. "Do not anger me, Potter. After all, the two of us are going to live side by side for a very long time."

To be continued—19 years later.