Chapter 2 Ė Voice of the Dead

His blue eyes groggily opened to take in a large, worried face looming over him. He blinked a few times to clear his blurry vision and that was all it took for the worry to fade from his grandfatherís face. By the time he was actually aware that he was awake the old wizard was frowning down at him.

"Thought I told you not to go into the forest, boy," he growled in annoyance.

Nyles didnít even have the sense to think of apologizing. He groaned, his entire body hurt. His eyes felt dry and stung no matter how many times he blinked them and his throat was dry and aching.

"You think I make my rules for no reason, do you?" The old wizard continued angrily, "Think you can go gallivanting around a dangerous forest and not get hurt? Dammit boy, donít be stupid! You saw what kind of creatures live in there, you ought to have known better! Of all the idiotic things..." the man continued muttering to himself with irritation but Nyles stopped listening.

At length he tried to speak, but he didnít even get his first word out before he dissolved into a harsh coughing fit. When the racking coughs finally subsided his grandfather handed him a glass of water, an unreadable expression on his face as he frowned down at the blood spattered on Nylesí blanket from the coughs.

Nyles drank the water greedily, then started coughing again. Blood was flying from his mouth again but he hardly noticed, completely consumed by the irrepressible coughs. He felt a glass being pressed into his hand again and drank it without a thought. He gasped when the foul liquid touched his tongue and coughed again, this time from disgust, almost choking on the liquid.

"Come on, now, drink it all," Nyles felt the cup pressed against his lips again, and the foul liquid forced into his open mouth. He swallowed it instinctually, almost choking once or twice, but after he finished it his coughs slowly subsided, though his throat still burned.

"Better?" His grandfather asked gruffly.

Nyles nodded, a little breathless from his coughing fit. Still, his eyes stung and his vision was slightly blurry no matter how he tried to blink the haze away.

"I didnít mean to," he croaked at last, the words grating out of his throat and his voice thick on the edge of tears, "I thought I heard someone calling me."

"Donít be stupid, boy," the man chastised gruffly, "Youíre dozens of miles from civilization, who did you think would be calling you?"

Nyles shrugged miserably, still trying to blink some moisture onto his dry eyes. "It was that wolf," he remembered at last.

"What?" His grandfather asked, looking at him sharply, "Wolves canít talk, boy."

"But this one did," Nyles argued, "It said my name, then called me a foolish little wizard."

His grandfather turned away, grumbling, but Nyles raised his voice to continue over him. "And then there was a green flash," he remembered, "And something left the wolf, like a ghost except not. It was long and green, and it had the face of a man." He shivered slightly at the memory.

"Donít be foolish, boy," his grandfather snapped, "You were probably seeing things, your imagination playing tricks on you when the wolf attacked."

Nyles pondered this silently. Could he have just imagined the green thing? He supposed it was possible, even if he doubted it.

"I guess that could have happened," he admitted reluctantly. After all, seeing a green... spirit leaving a wolf didnít make much sense.

"Better men than you have had their eyes play tricks on them in a moment of fear," the man said gruffly, "Youíll stay in bed today. Weíll see how you feel tomorrow."

Nyles nodded, laying back in bed. The potion his grandfather gave him must have had something to put him to sleep in it because he was feeling tired again already. He gave in to the magic and drifted into a deep sleep.

Nyles woke as he broke into harsh coughing again, the force of the coughs making his whole body shake. He doubled over, sitting up in his bed, and the blood draining from his mouth splattered his blanket again. In the next several minutes his coughs only increased in violence, ripping up his throat and pouring blood from his mouth.

He didnít see his grandfather enter, but felt the glass pushed against his lips and tried to choke down another potion around his coughs. When heíd finished his coughs finally subsided and he was able to catch his breath.

Nyles chanced a glance up as his breathing finally became easier. He wanted to know what was wrong with him. He wanted to know why he was coughing up blood. All the unknowns reminded him of his parents.

"Still not gone," his grandfather said with a deep frown, "Weíll visit St. Mungoís tomorrow if it hasnít cleared up.

Nyles stumbled out of the fireplace and was joined a second later by his grandfather, imposing in a dark blue robe. The manís large hand on his shoulder directed him over to the counter where a line of about a dozen witches, wizards, and their children stood waiting. His grandfather deftly moved through all of them, glaring and grumbling if anyone dared try to stop him.

"Werewolf attack," the man grumbled when he reached the desk, glaring down at the perky young witch who sat there. Immediately the others in the line stepped back, whispering among themselves.

"Creature Induced Injuries, first floor," the witch said, not even phased by his comment, "Dai Llewellyn ward." She handed him a form over the counter, "Youíll need to fill these out during your stay," she glanced down at something on her desk, "Go to room 3, Dr. Smethwyck will meet you there."

Nyles followed his grandfather further into the hospital, and up the stairs to the first floor. The "Dangerous" Dai Llewellyn ward was small and a bit grimy. All the portraits they passed on the way looked at them as if it would be the last time theyíd see them. Nylesí grandfather led him back past rooms 2, 5, and 14 until they found room 3 in apparently no order.

Inside Nyles was directed to the bed and he sat down on it nervously. He hadnít been in the hospital since his parents were there. The mediwitches had never found a cure, which left him questioning their competency.

"Good morning," a loud voice said behind them and Nyles looked over towards the door as a wizard in a lime green robe stepped in. "Werewolf attack, Iím told, get a good bite at you, did he?" Another wizard was following him, a younger man who was looking over Nyles with interested, almost eager eyes. Nyles had a bad feeling that he had never seen a werewolf victim before.

"None that I could find," Nylesí grandfather replied, "And the boy didnít remember getting bit. I said he was attacked, not bitten." The younger mediwizard looked disappointed.

"Alright," the older mediwizard said, taking this in stride, "A werewolf attack. What seems to be the problem?"

"The boyís been coughing up blood ever since the attack," Nylesí grandfather explained, "Been giving him a potion for internal bleeding and soothing, but it only keeps him quiet for a few hours then heís at it again."

The mediwizard frowned and with a wave of his wand a wide range of medical supplies were suddenly examining him everywhere from his ears to his suddenly bare toes. "When was he attacked?"

"Two days ago," the old wizard replied gruffly, glaring at his equipment.

The mediwizard frowned deeper, "You should have brought him in immediately." He said. "Weíll see what we can find. Please wait in the waiting room and fill out the forms the receptionist gave to you."

Nylesí grandfather left the room grumbling and Nyles was alone with the two mediwizards. "Youíre sure thereís no bite, boy?" The middle aged healer asked.

Nyles shook his head, "I donít remember the wolf even attacking me." He admitted.

Nyles found himself on his feet as the healers examined him, and he was suddenly robeless and feeling slightly chilled. He bore it silently as the healer asked him another question. "Was it a male or a female werewolf, do you recall?"

Nyles frowned, he hadnít the slightest idea what the difference between the two of them was. "My grandfather said he was the spawn of a werewolf," he said uncertainly.

"A werewolf spawn!" The healer repeated, pausing in his search, "Well, then it wouldnít matter if it did bite you. Werewolf spawns are nasty buggers but generally canít transfer the disease. So, whatís this cough about?"

Nyles shrugged helplessly as the younger healer covered him in a hospital robe. "I donít know. I was fine before I saw the wolf."

The healers at St. Mungoís couldnít find anything wrong with Nyles. They admitted that there was something wrong after he suffered from another coughing fit or two, almost suffocating in the process. He was sent home and advised to take a potion that seemed to work fairly well to keep the coughing at bay twice a day.

Life slowly began to fall back into the normal routine Nyles had already begun to accept. Mornings he would eat some overdone oatmeal that only grew worse every time he ate it, then chop wood and take a shower. Heíd start his school work after that in the living room while his grandfather read his paper. Heíd clean the house a little in the afternoon and read another chapter of his book before dinner.

This morning, though, Nyles really didnít want to get out of bed. He felt awful. His head was pounding and his throat was burning. He rolled over in bed, hoping he could get back to sleep and forget how awful he felt.

"Nyles..."

Nyles started in bed at the hissed voice, looking around wildly with wide eyes. His vision seemed a little blurry but he couldnít make anyone out. Forcing himself to stop shaking, he lay back down in bed, telling himself he was hearing things.

"Nyles," the voice repeated, a soft hissing that seemed to be coming from right next to his ear.

Whimpering a little, Nyles drew the covers over his head, telling himself again there wasnít anyone in the room. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and clamped his arms around his ears.

"Nyles..."

His efforts didnít seem to have any affect on the voice that he was trying desperately to ignore. His head was throbbing worse than ever, though, and he was close to tears as it was.

"What?" He whimpered, pulling the blankets closer to himself.

"Is that anyway to speak to a friend, Nyles," the voice hissed softly.

"There isnít anyone here," Nyles muttered miserably, trying again to block out the noise by stopping up his ears.

"Do you know who I am?" The voice was apparently ignoring Nylesí comment.

Nyles shook his head miserably.

"I think you do," the voice said.

Reluctantly Nyles offered, "Youíre that voice from the wolf. That green thing that came out of him."

"My, you are a clever little wizard," the voice said in an amused tone, "Would you like to know my name?"

Nyles shook his head. He wanted nothing to do with the voice.

"My name is Voldemort, Nyles," the voice ignored him, "Lord Voldemort," he added, "You can call me master, if you wish."

Nyles whimpered. Heíd heard of Voldemort. "You arenít," he whispered, "He... he was killed... three years ago by the Potter baby."

Nyles screamed as his head exploded in a world of pain. He clutched at it futilely, trying to ebb the pain that was coming from inside.

"Donít mention that name to me, Nyles," the voice said in a coldly calm tone.

Nyles whimpered as the pain finally began to subside, and was vaguely aware of the door to his room slamming open. The blankets were pulled off his head and his grandfatherís face looked stuck somewhere between anger and worry.

"What is it?" The man asked at length, taking in his grandsonís sweaty forehead and slightly pained expression.

"Tell him about me," the voice suggested in a haughty sort of hiss.

Nyles bit his lower lip and cautiously replied, "Nothing."

The boy was suddenly wracked with coughs again, and his grandfather cursed, hurrying back out of the room. When he returned Nyles was covering his mouth, blood seeping between his fingers despite his effort to contain it. He moved the boyís hand away and placed a glass to his lips which Nyles obligingly drank.

"Should have taken this an hour ago," the old wizard grumbled with annoyance as Nyles finished off the foul tasting potion. "Better?"

Nyles nodded miserably.

"Good," his grandfather said, "Now go start your chores. Canít lay in bed all day like some lazy invalid. Remember to take your potion next time, you arenít a baby..." He continued grumbling as he left the room and Nyles sank back down onto his bed.

He held his breath for a moment, waiting for the voice he heard earlier to say something again. But there was nothing and Nyles shakily got out of bed and dressed. He silently went downstairs to breakfast and then out to his chores, trying to convince himself that what he thought heíd heard was really just his imagination.

"Grandfather?" Nyles asked meekly, sitting with his grandfather after dinner about a week after heíd first heard the voice that claimed to be the dead Lord Voldemort.

The man grunted in reply and didnít look up.

Nyles bit his lower lip lightly, "I... can I tell you something?"

At last the man folded his paper back up. Nyles suddenly wondered if he always read the same paper, heíd never seen an owl deliver a new one. He wasnít even sure if an owl would be able to make it past the woods.

"Well, what is it?" The man snapped when Nyles was less than forthcoming.

"I... I just wanted to ask you about something that... that I thought I heard this morning," Nyles said cautiously.

His grandfather glared at him, clearly not appreciating his beating around the bush.

Hesitantly, Nyles continued. "Itís just that I thought I heard someone calling my name," he said reluctantly.

His grandfather snorted, "Imagination." He said, "I didnít say anything."

"And... and then I thought I heard him talking to me," Nyles reluctantly admitted, ignoring his grandfatherís interruption.

"Boy, you donít have some creature hid up in your room, do you?" He asked.

Nyles shook his head.

"Then you were probably still dreaming," the man declared, snatching up his paper again.

"But, Iíve heard it before!" Nyles interrupted desperately, and the man stopped before he opened his paper. He frowned.

"What have you heard before, boy?" He asked gruffly.

"The voice," Nyles replied miserably, "At least I think Iíve heard it... but, I donít know."

"What voice?" His grandfather asked.

"The voice... the voice of..." Nyles lowered his voice to a fearful whisper, "Lord Voldemort."

The man stared at the boy for a long moment, his gray eyes sharp and piercing. Then he growled something unintelligible and opened his paper, shaking it out noisily.

"Grandfather?" Nyles asked hesitantly.

"Waste your ghost stories on someone else," the man grumbled, "Maybe youíll find someone at the Leaky Cauldron who wants to have a good scare. Boy, that man is dead."

"I know," Nyles agreed miserably, "But I still heard him... or something that claimed to be him."

His grandfather made a noncommittal noise of disbelief but otherwise ignored him.

Nyles sighed and went up to his room, suddenly not feeling like his grandfatherís company anymore.

Nyles was lazily eating his breakfast, that mushy oatmeal that he hated so much, when the fire suddenly sparked up. It started slow, a few green sparks jumping out of the orange flames, and then it suddenly jumped to life with roaring green flames. Nyles watched it intently and after a few moments of burning green an envelope flew out of it. A few more sparks escaped it and it lolled back down to the normal orange of fire.

Curious, Nyles walked over to pick up the envelope. It bore the seal of St. Mungoís, Nyles recognized the wand crossing with the bone. He opened it, wondering what it could be, and took out the thick parchment.

Nyles blinked and read it over a second time, tears slowly gathering in his eyes. He threw down the parchment and ran out of the room to the stairs.

"Hold it, boy," the deep voice of his grandfather stopped him before he could dash upstairs. "Where do you think youíre going? You havenít finished your chore."

"I donít care!" Nyles said, fighting to keep his voice even.

The old wizard frowned, crossing over to him and putting a large hand on his shoulder before he could run upstairs again. "Whatís wrong, boy?" He asked.

"Theyíre dead," Nyles said bitterly, his voice shaking and tears beginning to stream down his face. "Just like that. Just like..."

The man frowned, "Theyíve been as good as dead for months, boy," he said gruffly, "You knew the healers couldnít fix them. Youíve known for a while now they were going to die. Thatís more than most people get, you should be grateful."

Nyles glared up at his grandfather through his tears, "How can you be so uncaring?" He shouted, "Leave me alone!" He ran up the stairs and this time his grandfather let him go.

Nyles slammed his door shut and collapsed onto his bed, crying. So what if he had known for months that they were going to die? It didnít make it any easier when they finally did. And he hadnít even seen them before they left. He hadnít seen them in a long time and now heíd never see them again. And his grandfather didnít even care!

He had been in his room for a long time before he heard it. His tears had slowed and left him with a dull emptiness inside. At that moment, nothing really seemed to matter and he thought he could never feel anything but miserable again.

"What are you crying about, Nyles?" The question sounded reluctant and the tone was slightly condescending.

Nyles wiped his red eyes and realized that he wanted someone to care, and didnít care if that someone was a voice claiming to be the darkest wizard in a hundred years.

"My mum and dad are dead," Nyles replied forlornly. "Grandfather doesnít even care," he added bitterly, "Dad was his son, too, you know. He doesnít care about anyone."

"To care is for the weak, Nyles," the voice said coldly.

Nyles rubbed his nose, "Didnít you ever have a mum and dad?"

There was a long silence before the voice replied, frigid and uncaring, "No. My mother died when I was an infant and my father I killed, when I found him."

"You killed your father?" Nyles blurted in surprise, appalled by the thought.

"He was an insult to my name," the voice replied bitterly, and Nyles felt a headache forming again. Not that he was ever without one, these days, but it was worsening.

Nyles settled down onto his pillow, determined to ignore the headache. "Grandfather hated my dad," he muttered bitterly, "Well, I hate him, too." His blue eyes took on a slightly red shine, not that anyone was looking to notice.

"Your Grandfather hurt you," the voice said in what Nyles supposed was meant to be a placating tone, "It is only natural to want to hurt him back."

Nyles shrugged and picked up his book, intending to take his mind away from his horrible morning. "I couldnít hurt him even if I did want to," he said, "Heís the toughest wizard I know."

"Not on your own, naturally," the voice replied, unusually high-pitched in its glee, "But with assistance from someone who is even more powerful than him..."

"Who?" Nyles asked, curious despite himself.

"Me," the voice answered.

Nyles frowned, "Why would you want to help me?" He asked, "Youíre... well, at least, you said... you know..." He trailed off uncomfortably.

"Maybe I like you," the voice responded mysteriously. Nyles did not think that was the case.

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