The old man was rushed into Princeton Plainsboro emergency room surrounded by a swarm of doctors and nurses. One held up the man’s hand and checked his pulse.
“Pulse 120 over 60 … He’s white as a sheet. Let’s get some blankets on him.”
Another nurse rushed over to check the man’s pupils. Pulling back his eyelid and shining a light, she jumped back with a scream.
“Have you seen his eyes?!”
The staff crowded round for a look and each person thought the same thing; surely eyes like that … eyes that resembled a snake’s … red eyes, with slits for pupils … couldn’t exist on an actual human man, could they?
Trying to ignore this, one nurse started to peel away a bandage that covered the lower half of the man’s face. Unwrapping the last few inches, she gave a sudden scream and fell to the ground in a dead faint.
The old man had no nose.
Looking anywhere but at the scary sight on the examination table, the chief nurse walked backwards to the doors of the ER.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. Someone call House.”
Greg House did not appreciate being paged while in the middle of a chess game with James Wilson. True, House was awful at the game and so Wilson always won but House liked to think that he let Wilson win because he had terminal cancer. The game was interrupted by Wilson’s cell phone ringing.
“Hello? … What? … Hold on.” Covering the mouthpiece, Wilson looked suspiciously at House. “It’s Chase. He wants to know if I’m with you.”
House grinned. “I always knew he was into me.”
“He’s got a patient,” Wilson sighed. “An old guy with snake eyes and no nose. You want it?”
House shrugged. “Why would I want it? Chase is the new me. If he wants to be the head of diagnostics, he can deal with the weird crap now.”
“House, come on. Snake eyes? You know Chase can’t handle this. He needs you.”
Playing for time, House picked up his rook and knocked over each of Wilson’s pieces methodically. Finally he threw the rook down and picked up his cane. “Fine. The guy’s from a country with man-eating spiders but he can’t handle one old man.”
In a private room in the ER department, Chase was taking a patient history from the old man in question.
“Sir, do you have any family we can contact?”
The man wheezed. He was clearly not well. When he spoke, his voice was quiet and surprisingly high pitched.
“No. My family are dead.”
Chase was immediately apologetic. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“I’m not. They were never any good to me when they were alive,” the old man coughed.
Chase flipped through the notes he had so far. There was one obvious burning question everyone wanted to ask but nobody had had the nerve. He decided to go for it.
“Can I ask what happened to your nose?”
The man coughed again before taking a deep breath. “I was born to a Squib mother and a Muggle father. After being abandoned in a Muggle orphanage, I was visited by Albus Dumbledore who offered me a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Despite being the most powerful wizard in my year, death loomed when I attempted to kill a baby boy. The attempt was unsuccessful and I fled. I tried various times after that but to no avail. The most recent attempt cost me my life … or so they thought.
“It’s surprisingly easy to stop your pulse for long enough to convince people that you’re dead. A tennis ball under the armpit will do the trick. Combine it with a hint of magic and you can stop your pulse indefinitely and yet not die. Perhaps my confidence got the best of me; once you’ve “killed” yourself in front of 600 spectators and waited for them to leave, it’s significantly harder to reenergise yourself from the spell. I stumbled into the Forbidden Forest and a centaur, not realising my identity, magicked me away to here, apparently the best hospital in the world.”
As House limped into the room, Chase got up and walked over to him. “The guy’s delusional. Talking complete rubbish about magic and wizards. Send him to Plastics, get him a new nose and get him out.”
House tutted. “Now, now, young Chase. Where’s our patient care?”
Limping over to the patient, House pulled across a stool and sat down, leaving Chase to gape in astonishment. House flipped through the notes and looked up at the old man.
“So, Noseless, what’s the story? Heroine? Vodka? Premium Russian cigars made from the finest plutonium?”
The old man coughed again. “Excuse me?”
House sighed; clearly this was going to be harder than he thought. “Okay, let’s start with the basics. Can you confirm your name?”
House looked at the notes and shook his head. “Nope. Not what I’ve got here. I’ve got the much more normal Tom Riddle.”
“No. NO.” The man tried his best to scream but it gave out as a hacking cough. “Don’t call me by my Muggle father’s name! I AM VOLDEMORT!”
Back in the diagnostics office, Chase and House sat at the table, House tossing a small orange ball between his hand and his cane. “Right, Kylie Minogue, let’s think things through. Tell me things.”
Frowning, Chase looked at the door. “You know, I’m pretty sure that this is my office … I’m the head of diagnostics, not you … remind me why you’re taking charge of this? You’re not even supposed to be here. The ER team panicked and called you.”
“But let’s be honest, it was only a matter of time before you called me asking for a date anyway. So,” House limped over to his trusty whiteboard, uncapped a pen and started to write. “What do we know about No Nose apart from the fact that’s the cheese slid off his cracker a while ago?”
Chase thought hard. “He’s lonely. The way he talks about his parents … And I get the feeling that he hasn’t had much luck in relationships.”
House nodded, thoughtfully. “So, love. Okay. We can work with that. I mean, you can’t, Chase, but I can for a second or two. Right. Love. Is that enough to land a person in hospital?”
“We know why he’s here, House. He faked his own death, went too far and ended up in the ER.”
“But why fake your death? He said he’s tried to kill this boy several times before. So aside from calling the cops, what do we have? A man who got into a fight with a much younger foe and faked his own death. What was he embarrassed of? Failing to kill the boy yet again? Anyone would be. Or maybe there was someone else there he wanted to impress and failed to. Maybe this was the one and only time he’d had feelings for someone. Maybe …” He tailed off as a thought struck him. Grabbing his cane from the back of a chair, he limped excitedly from the room.
“Mr Voldemort, finish this song lyric: all you need is …?”
Voldemort coughed. “Love?”
“Correct.” House nodded. “And a bit of trivia for you. What is a battlefield?”
“I believed that would be ‘love is a battlefield’. Please don’t question my knowledge of Pat Benatar, Dr. House. I may be a powerful wizard but I still know a good tune when I hear it. And I know where you’re going with this. I suffer from a lack of love.”
“Not quite,” said House. “You, sir, are in love and haven’t been able to admit it. Who’s the unlucky specimen?”
Voldemort sighed. House crossed his fingers. He hadn’t expected it to be so easy but sometimes it really was horses when you assumed it was zebras.
“Twelve or so years after I first tried to kill that boy, I used my good-looking younger self from the past to draw him to his death through a diary. However, that diary fell into the wrong hands and was picked up by a young, flame-haired temptress called Ginny Weasley. Oh, how I rejoiced! All my plans for the boy’s death went out the window in the face of this new discovery. I enticed Ginny into my Chamber of Secrets, showed her my basilisk – which is not a euphemism, by the way – but my plans were continually thwarted by the boy. And then, in what I thought was going to be the ultimate victory for me, I was hit by the boy’s ‘Avada Kedavra’ curse – a killing curse. It failed to kill me and instead left me unconscious. I came to and realised this so slipped a tennis ball under my armpit, said a ‘Julietus’ spell and feigned my death for rather longer than I should have done. I couldn’t face Ginny’s laughing, her mocking of me now that I’d failed again.”
With that, the man broke into terrible gut-wrenching sobs. House put his hand on Voldemort’s shoulder. Chase, still watching from the door, was agape.
“You see, Tom … I think your love for another human being saved your life. You’re not as bitter as you like to pretend you are. And I should know. Do yourself a favour; admit you’re human. You’ll save yourself more pain in the long run.”
With that, House hauled himself to his feet and limped towards the door. Chase grabbed him just before he left.
“What was that all about? ‘You’re not as biter as you think you are’? ‘Admit you’re human’? House, did you just confess your deep-seated feelings to a patient?”
House winked at him. “Come on, Chase. You should know by now. Everybody lies.”