Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.

Heir

Chapter Nineteen-

The older girl that had been with Martin Anderson actually wound up being his older Slytherin target, Anna Traegar, so Harry didn't feel nearly so guilty about getting her accidentally with the basilisk. Lucius Malfoy had given the report over dinner, his face sour and unamused as he glowered at Harry. As a result of that sour unamusement, Harry had been very careful to check his meal over with a subtle spell used to detect poisons before he'd taken a bite, to Tom's quiet amusement. Bezoars or no, he didn't necessarily think that his first poisoning was a right of passage that he really needed to try out. Although Tom had assured him that Narcissa would never allow him to be poisoned while at her table. Looking at the distant, regal pureblooded witch, Harry couldn't quite believe that. She looked like poison was her main weapon.

And now, he found himself sitting in Voldemort's study once more, both the book and the diadem out on the table. The Dark Lord was studying them, a small and somewhat approving... Harry hesitated to call it a smile, but if the expression fit, a small and approving smile on his face.

"Nicely done, child," the Dark Lord murmured. "And three of your victims done, though I do believe that I requested they be spread out a bit more?"

"Actually, sir, the girl was an accident," Harry confessed, staring down at his hands. "I mean, she was on my list but I hadn't intended to take her until after Christmas break. It was more a crime of opportunity than anything else."

Voldemort nodded once, sharply. "I suppose if she was a target anyway then it isn't too frustrating," he murmured. "Although, I do confess, I was expecting you to begin with somebody from your own year, as I had thought they would be most familiar to you. I suppose it doesn't particularly matter one way or another, but I find your decision to begin with a third year intriguing."

Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly, grateful in a way for the chance to speak his mind. On the other hand, he was a little scared of bringing this particular subject up to the Dark Lord. He could see this going very poorly. ~Do you think we've got enough hard cover for this conversation?~ Harry asked, a little nervously.

~I don't think there's enough hard cover in the world for this particular conversation,~ Tom murmured back, filled with just as much trepidation if Harry was reading him correctly. Harry was relatively sure that he was.

There was no real way not to be nervous about this conversation, so Harry just took another deep breath and threw himself right into it, to Tom's mental accusation of ~Gryffindor,~ spoken fondly. "Sir, I was wondering if maybe we could discuss your requirements for victims of the basilisk? Because I was thinking that maybe I don't necessarily agree with your decisions as to what makes a proper victim."

Voldemort's eyebrows arched. "Are you actually questioning my orders, child?" the Dark Lord asked, sounding amused. Harry supposed that amusement was a better reaction than fury.

He nodded once. "It's just that you're right. I originally chose a Muggle-born student in my year by the name of Hermione Granger. And the thing is, I was going to take her as my first victim, so to do that I would have to know her patterns and everything, right? But when I followed her for a day, I found that... well, Tom even agreed that the girl is brilliant. So I submit that it isn't necessarily all Muggle-born that are the problem. Respectfully," Harry rushed out, not really even wanting to pause for breath because that would only give the Dark Lord a chance to interject his own opinion.

"Respectfully, Mr. Potter, I actually do agree with you," the Dark Lord murmured, his amusement only growing by the tone of his voice. "It would be terribly hypocritical of me not to, considering that I was born a half-blood and raised in a Muggle orphanage. However, in this particular matter, I've found that targeting the Muggle-born is an excellent way of guaranteeing pureblood support."

Harry took another deep breath and let it out slowly. That was half the battle done, right there. Voldemort agreed with him. "Surely you can acknowledge that's at least a little bit unfair, to present your ideas one way when what you actually intend is entirely different?" he asked quietly. He still couldn't quite bring himself to look up from his hands. He was far too nervous to do so.

"I can certainly understand how that would be considered unfair," Voldemort murmured. "Would you at least do me the decency of looking up at me when you're challenging the way that I do things?" Voldemort asked suddenly, exasperation coloring his tone.

Harry flushed and looked up. Voldemort was watching him, a smirk on his face, and Harry had to fight the urge to duck his head again. "It's just that I think there must be a better way to do things. Like, I don't know, lobbying to introduce a new wizard-studies class to the Hogwarts curriculum. Or something. Not necessarily keeping them out of the wizarding world, because that will only lead to more accidental magic being done where Muggles can see it."

"Again, I agree with you. Once we've won the war, I don't see any reason why we wouldn't introduce a wizard-studies course to the Hogwarts curriculum. It's just a matter of winning the war, first."

"But I'm saying maybe there doesn't need to be a war," Harry offered quietly. "If you were willing to compromise, and if Dumbledore was willing to compromise, then we would be able to figure out a more peaceful solution than just murdering each other."

"Dumbledore won't compromise. From the very beginning he was quite determined to hate me. And, quite honestly, I don't care enough to compromise with him. Not to mention the fact that our government, the Ministry itself, is fundamentally broken. I'd like to try and fix that. Which requires an overhaul of the system, which the vast majority of the current government would resist wholeheartedly. Which, again, leads us back to war." Voldemort let out a small sigh.

"Isn't that a little bit fatalistic?" Harry asked before he could stop himself. He heard Tom hiss in his head, and realized that maybe insulting the Dark Lord might not be the best method to not getting hexed. Or, more dangerously, cursed. He fell silent just as the Dark Lord raised one hand in a pausing gesture.

"You must understand, Harry, I spent a little under a decade as nothing but a spirit. As such, I had quite a lot of time to think as there isn't much else to do when one wanders the astral plane. I considered a peaceful solution to our difficulties, but I genuinely don't see one. If one were to present itself, then yes, I would consider it, but in today's political climate I just don't see it."

"So you're reduced to terrorism in the name of ideals that you don't truly believe. That doesn't sound like much of a choice to me," Harry muttered.

"We do what we must to get the job done," Voldemort murmured. "And we wouldn't get very far without the pureblood support."

"Yeah, but you can't tell me that you don't have funding of your own, being Slytherin's heir," Harry accused. "And you have me, now, and I could provide the Potter family vaults for your use. So you don't necessarily need to depend as much on not pissing of the purebloods."

Voldemort's eyebrow quirked. "I take it that you're pushing for a reason, other than just annoying me. Because, Harry, as much as I may be amused by your declaring yourself my heir in red paint on the walls of Hogwarts, I still won't tolerate you questioning me simply for the joy of questioning."

"I can understand how maybe changing the way that you do things right off the bat might not be the wisest of tactical moves. But I was thinking that maybe we could start small. Make a little change to my targets, rather than just attacking Muggle-borns." Harry was relaxed, now, and wondering why he'd been so tense about this in the first place. Voldemort agreed with him, and hadn't hexed him for speaking his mind. ~Why did you think this wasn't going to go so well?~ he asked Tom, who'd been silent for most of the conversation. Too quiet, so maybe he was just paying close attention?

~I hadn't realized that Voldemort would have mellowed while being trapped as a spirit. I suppose I should have, but I didn't,~ Tom said quietly. ~Although I'm not a hundred percent sure that this is all real, and that he isn't just using you for now.~

Harry had considered that very thing himself. While he hoped that wasn't the case, he didn't see what he could do if it was. It wasn't like he had another option to fall back on. He'd already pretty thoroughly alienated the Headmaster, and there wasn't exactly a third side to this war. Well, other than siding with the Ministry and Harry wasn't really going to do that. He'd rather be killed by Voldemort, he thought, than live under the Ministry's thumb.

~I think I've influenced that opinion of yours,~ Tom said cheerfully. ~It's nice to know that you aren't the only one out there influencing opinions.~

Voldemort cleared his throat. "You were going to make a suggestion regarding your victims?" he prompted, quiet and calm and not at all the way that Harry would have thought he would have taken being ignored.

"Sorry. Tom and I were talking. It was just that maybe we should take out one of the more worthless purebloods on Dumbledore's side? Not permanently, of course. But Neville Longbottom is pretty useless, and he's a pureblood. He'd be a good place to start if we were going to subtly change directions. After all, you can never go wrong by trimming the fat, if you will."

"It certainly isn't a bad idea," Voldemort allowed with a nod of his head. "Was that who you were thinking of changing your final victim to?" he asked, gentle curiosity coloring his tone.

Harry hesitated. He could back off here, could say yes. But... "Actually, I was thinking that maybe Professor Lockhart could be my final victim. Could I feed him to Saliss?" he asked, as innocently as he could.

Voldemort stared at him, then burst into startled laughter. "I... I don't see why not, Harry," he finally managed to choke out. "That would certainly be a fitting end for the waste of space that is Gilderoy Lockhart. Just make sure that you do it after exams so that the school year isn't cut so short." Voldemort glared severely at Harry. "I really do need the Headmaster to be very distracted for the coming few months."

"I can do this," Harry said with an agreeable nod.

"Then, if that's all that you had to discuss, I have a meeting for you to attend."

Voldemort said this so matter-of-factly that Harry thought for a moment that he'd misheard. And then the words caught up and Harry asked, startled, "Wait, a meeting for me?"

"I'm not enamored of the idea of you merging with the part of my soul inside of you. I'd like to see about transferring it to an inanimate object. To that end, you'll be seeing an asset of mine that I never had the opportunity to use during the first war. He's going to see if there's any way to separate you from my horcrux without damaging either of you."

~No.~ Tom rejected the idea as flatly as he'd initially rejected the idea of Harry setting loose the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets. It was a tone that left no room for negotiation, no room for compromise. It was a flat refusal.

Harry was intrigued. "Tom says no, and he said it in that tone that indicated that he wasn't willing to budge," Harry offered.

Voldemort chuckled. "He shouldn't worry. You won't be meeting with Malfoy alone. His partner, Collin Rosiver, will be there."

"Malfoy?" Harry asked. Somehow he was getting the image that the Dark Lord wasn't speaking of either Lucius or Draco. Or even Mrs. Malfoy, for that matter.

~He isn't. He's talking about a monster, that's who he's talking about. Lethfyren Malfoy comes from an offshoot of the Malfoy line that isn't often seen in England. Do keep in mind that the Malfoys began as a French family. And I thought that the Rosiver line was a Light line,~ Tom said, sounding irritated.

"Tom says that he thought the Rosiver line was a Light line. He also really doesn't like the idea of my meeting with this other Malfoy," Harry reported dutifully.

"The Rosiver line is a Light line. But Collin is a bit... different from the rest of his family. He goes where he's needed, and as the only Mind Healer who has successfully worked with Lethfyren Malfoy, he's needed here. He's never ascribed to Dumbledore's 'for the greater good' policy. Plus, I think he has delusions of getting his hands on my own mind, which isn't happening." Voldemort smirked at the notion.

Tom let out a small sigh in Harry's head. ~I suppose that he wouldn't actually hurt you while he's got me in your head, and he wouldn't want to risk damaging either of us by forcing me out. Fine. But if you're damaged in any way by the bloodthirsty little monster, I'll kill him.~

"Tom's threatening death if I'm hurt in any way by the 'bloodthirsty little monster'. And I'm not too confident when it comes to seeing somebody that Tom is calling a bloodthirsty monster," Harry confessed.

"If you'll follow me?" was all that Voldemort said. He stood, then, and left the room before Harry could say anything else regarding the matter.

Harry had a bad feeling about this.

ooOOooOOoo

Tom was sulking in his head and Harry's bad feeling grew as he settled at the small table across from a very creepy looking blond.

He had the signature Malfoy pale blond hair that looked to go down to his back coupled with bright, golden hawk's eyes and a set of shadows surrounding said eyes that made him look all the more sinister. He had a particularly nasty scowl on his pixie-like face which only deepened when Harry was settled across from him.

"I don't do children," the blond said, his voice surprisingly light and clear. He didn't look old enough to have known Voldemort before his first fall, but yet he was glaring at Voldemort as though he expected the Dark Lord to know what he was talking about. If Tom did, he was remaining stubbornly silent.

Voldemort apparently did. "I'm not asking you to hurt him. I'm not asking you to extract information. I'm not even asking you to act now. What I'm asking you to do is find out if it would be possible to extract my horcrux without damaging either the horcrux or Harry. Would you at least look?" he asked, voice surprisingly polite for having just been snapped at by a subordinate.

~It's bad policy to piss off people that can scramble brains with just a meeting of the eyes. Lethfyren is a very powerful, very unstable Legilimens. It's his primary talent. I don't even know that I've ever seen the boy with a wand,~ Tom murmured within Harry's mind. ~But Voldemort is right. If anybody could separate us, Lethfyren could. I just don't think that he can.~

The other person in the room, Tom was apparently less familiar with, judging by his total silence when Harry glanced in his direction. This man looked to be around Professor Snape's age and Harry had almost overlooked him. He was of medium height, medium weight, with a mild expression and warm brown eyes. He looked entirely unassuming. And yet, this mild and unassuming in appearance person reached out and patted one of Malfoy's hands and leaned over to whisper something in the other's ear.

Lethfyren deflated almost instantly. "Fine. Whatever. I'll have a look," the young man bit out. "Just don't blink, kid," he advised, and before Harry had a chance to prepare, they were within the familiar blankness of his mindscape. "Not bad, kid, not bad at all," the blond said, looking around. "Considering how young you are, these are some impressive mental shields. I'd imagine the horcrux within you helps. But, as impressive as they are, we'll just be doing away with those for now. They're only getting in my way" the man murmured, and with a flick of his wrist Harry felt his mental walls crumble.

He flinched as he was laid bare before the man, the space they occupied going from dark and calm to bright and chaotic as his innermost thoughts were broadcast to the man invading his mind. Apparently his mind actually looked a bit like the Chamber of Secrets. Who knew? It was likely Tom's influence that did it. "Do you have to be so rough about it?" Tom asked, appearing beside Harry. The once-Dark Lord wrapped a supporting arm around Harry's shoulders and glowered at Lethfyren.

Lethfyren shrugged. "I'm here to do a job, not hold hands. But if it bothers you..." With another flick of his wrist, they were standing in the much more familiar setting of Tom's sitting room, and Harry felt himself relaxing just a bit. "It's easier if you're both relaxed, anyway. So just chill out here while I go and take a look around, yeah?" the other suggested, and then before Harry could think to protest, he'd left the room via the door back to Harry's mind.

Harry went to go after him and froze. The handle, when he turned it, wouldn't move. "Tom?" he asked, uncertain, "Were we just locked in a room within my own mind?"

Tom let out a heavy sigh. "Yes, we were," the ex-Dark Lord said irritably. "I suppose it's better this way. At least if we're stuck in here Lethfyren won't be irritated by our mere presence and won't be tempted to scramble us just for fun. Because he would, if we pissed him off enough. Whether you're a child or not."

Harry got the sense of something, like Tom didn't really mean what he was saying and was only saying it because he was mildly irritated. "No, he wouldn't," Harry murmured, perfectly confident in his statement. The man might be annoyed enough to lock him into a room within his own mind, but he clearly wasn't going to hurt him. Tom didn't even think it was a remote possibility.

"I don't like that you know that," Tom grumbled. "Cards, then?" he offered, and a deck of cards that materialized from nowhere.

"Cards, really? We could practice duelling, instead. Since, you know, I'm back with the Malfoys and Lucius has something coming to him in a big way." Harry pulled his wand; he was never entirely certain of how he had his wand within his mindscape, but somehow he always did.

"We could, I suppose, but I'm rather attached to my sitting room," Tom said with a small sigh. "Let's check and see if he locked us just into this room, or if we can actually leave and go to areas of your mind that he wouldn't be interested in." Tom wandered over to the door that led to the bare room within Harry's mind that they'd used for duelling practice over the summer, but it was locked.

Harry let out a mournful little sigh. "I guess it's cards, then?" he asked.

"Or chess. But you actually stand a chance at beating me at a card game," Tom said with a smirk.

"I stand more than a chance!" Harry objected, and then they were playing cards as though Harry hadn't just been locked within his mind by a Legilimens of questionable morals. What more could he do, anyway?

ooOOooOOoo

When Harry was forcibly withdrawn from his mind once more it was a jarring and sudden thing. One minute he was busy winning a card game with Tom, the next he was sitting in the small room at the small table, and the blond had his head in his hands. The other, unassuming man that Harry could only assume was Rosiver, had a supporting arm around his shoulders and was murmuring gently, but urgently into Lethfyren's ear. Harry couldn't quite catch what was being said.

Voldemort had settled into the fourth chair at the table at some point in time, and from the shadows deepening throughout the room, Harry could assume that they'd been inside of his mind for quite some time. It was disconcerting to have no idea how much time had passed, but there was nothing he could do about it now. Aside from casting tempus, of course, but Tom had already mentioned over the last summer how bad an idea it would be to draw his wand in Voldemort's presence. Harry had no desire to appear as a threat to the Dark Lord.

"Did you find what you were looking for?" he asked. He hoped that the Legilimens had found a way to separate the two of them. He didn't want to lose Tom, after all, even if once they were separated they would no longer hear each other's thoughts. At least Tom would still be alive in that instance.

Lethfyren shook his head once, sharply, and lifted black-rimmed eyes to glare at Harry. "No, I did not find a way to separate you. The two of you are... more closely joined together than anything I'd ever be able to separate. Not without causing severe damage to both of your psyches, at any rate."

"Just to be perfectly clear, if we were to sacrifice the mind of one, would we be able to keep the other in its present state?" Voldemort asked softly, his voice low and thoughtful.

Harry could feel Tom tense within him. ~I won't let him destroy you to remove me,~ Tom hissed, vicious and violent and entirely overprotective.

The emotions made Harry shudder and he closed his eyes against the tide of fury. ~I don't know that's what he wants to do,~ Harry murmured as soothingly as he could. It didn't help that he wasn't entirely sure that he believed that wasn't Voldemort's intention himself.

~It is. He's going to try and take you from me,~ Tom snarled, and Harry could feel the mounting fury in every word that Tom said.

"It isn't possible," Lethfyren said suddenly, flatly, thankfully interrupting before Harry could lose control of his temper. Tom made it almost impossible for Harry to keep his wits about him when he was getting that angry.

Voldemort's eyebrow raised. "You? Admitting that something is impossible when it comes to the mind?" he asked, tone gently mocking.

Lethfyren's lip curled in a sneer. "It doesn't happen often. Don't get used to it. But their minds are already entirely too close to merging for me to be able to separate one from the other. If we tore them apart now, we'd wind up with two halves of a whole no matter how much of the other was sacrificed. As much as it pains me to admit it, separating the two of them simply cannot be done."

"Hmm," Voldemort murmured, then said thoughtfully, "But could it work if-"

He cut off quite abruptly when Lethfyren stood, his chair hitting the ground with a clatter due to the speed of the moment. "Remember my promise to you, Lord Voldemort," the blond snarled. "I will work for you so long as you do not ask me to overstep my own personal boundary. The moment you cross that line, I will end you." Lethfyren paused for a moment, as though to allow the threat to sink in, then said quietly, gently, "You are perilously close to crossing that line as we speak."

He swept from the room, then, his robes billowing and dwarfing his slender frame. "Collin, come," he added over his shoulder, and the unassuming man followed immediately with nothing but a pitying glance in Voldemort's direction.

"That... could have gone better," Voldemort murmured, as though he'd forgotten Harry was in the room.

Before Harry could stop to think about what he was saying he blurted out, "Well don't ask me for sympathy. You were going to have him rip apart my mind!"

Voldemort started, then glowered at him. "You impudent little..." Then he stopped, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "Surely you could understand why I would want the part of my soul to remain in this world as opposed to you, a relatively unknown quantity?"

Harry let out a small snort. "Of course I understand, my Lord. But the fact of the matter is that I'm what you've got. And with all due respect, I don't think I'm that much of an unknown quantity. After all, half of me will be made up of part of your soul. And if you don't agree with yourself, well, then you've got more of a problem than any Legilimens can help you with."

Voldemort stared at him from under raised eyebrows, then a smile curled at just the edges of his lips. "You raise an excellent point, child." He nodded once in Harry's direction, then left the room.

"I'm not even entirely sure of what just happened," Harry complained aloud to Tom as they stood alone in the unfamiliar room.

~You just lost your temper with the Dark Lord and won two arguments with him all in one day. I'm not sure what they're calling it these days, but back in my day, we called that a success,~ Tom answered, all trace of anger gone from his tone.

Harry grinned. "It was a success, wasn't it?" he asked, even as he headed off in the general direction of where he hoped his room was. Maybe he would find Draco and see if the other wanted to play some Quidditch or something. It was shaping up to be a lovely day, after all.


A/N: Okay, so this story was going to have another scene, but it was just gratuitous nonsense between Voldemort and Severus, so I cut it. As for review responses, guys, you all know that I love you by now, but I've found that it's just too overwhelming to respond personally to every review and still try to write and still try to maintain my grades. One of these things has to go. I've decided that it should probably be the review responses since I doubt you all want me to stop writing. Which isn't to say that you shouldn't expect to hear from me, because if you have questions I certainly plan on answering them still to the best of my ability. And if I have time I'll definitely respond. But just know that if I don't respond to you, I do still love you all and all of your reviews.