The Farther Shore
tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris amore
Reaching out their hands to the further shore in longing
(Vergil. Aeneid. 6. 314)
Said of the living and the dead trying to reach each other across the Styx. It's impossible.
You won't 'get' the title until the end, never mind. I love the quote.
This is the first part of a long story about Andrea Wood, who walked into my head one day last summer and demanded to be written about. Some of our old friends are here as well, but it is primarily a story about Andrea and – well, you'll have to wait and see. Here goes!
We open just after 'A Snake in the Grass.'
And the disclaimer: Everything that isn't mine belongs to J K Rowling and her publishers. You'll be able to tell which is which. No breach of copyright intended.
Part I – The Healer
Dear Dr Wood,
First of all, allow me to congratulate you on your recent appointment, and on your fascinating and useful invention. In the light of these things, and on the advice of one of my colleagues, I would like to ask you to join the League Against Voldemort. As you will no doubt already be aware, the League is a Government-funded initiative with the aim of destroying the threat of Voldemort forever. Our members are both full and part time; I would only expect you to be a part time member, considering your other work.
I hope you will give this offer due consideration. You cannot but realise the importance of our work, and I believe your help would be very valuable.
Professor Albus Dumbledore.
Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Head of the League Against Voldemort.
Dr Andrea Wood re-read the letter as she sat in her new office. She wondered who 'one of my colleagues' could be. Probably Minerva, who had helped her a great deal after her accident and remained in touch even now. It surprised her that Dumbledore was interested in her invention. It had happened completely by chance, and she didn't like to think about it much.
So, should she join this League? For a while she sat and thought. In her heart of hearts, she wondered if anything at all could be done about Voldemort. She had seen so many deaths, so much suffering, all caused by one man. If he was human at all. The rumours that flew around concerning him grew wilder every day. Perhaps even Professor Dumbledore, that man almost as legendary as Voldemort himself, might be unable to defeat him.
She picked up her quill and dipped it in the inkwell.
Dear Professor Dumbledore,
With regret I must inform you that I shall not be able to join the League Against Voldemort.
A small bell that hung from her girdle jangled, and she sprang from her desk, glad for her thoughts to be interrupted. It only rang when there was some emergency, to summon her. She raced from the office.
In the left wing of the Halls, one of her staff, Dr Priam Pergamon, was bending over a patient with undisguised horror, two nurses wide-eyed beside him. The Halls of Healing could cope with many things, and the staff were all talented witches and wizards, but there were some things that most wizards could not do.
'You-Know-Who attacked him … they brought him in five minutes ago … I don't know what-' gasped Dr Pergamon. Andrea cut him off with a nod. She looked at the man lying quietly, almost as if he were asleep save for the greyish hue of his skin.
'Right then,' she said in a calm voice that belied her concern. She bent down beside the man, and put a hand lightly on his chest. Half-closing her eyes, she could feel that the aura which surrounded him was thin and tattered. A line furrowed in her forehead. She took out her wand and began to perform a complicated resuscitating charm. But even as she worked, the man gave a little sigh, and his eyes turned up.
Slowly, she drew away, shaking her head. 'There was nothing I could do,' she said sadly. 'The curse was too strong.' She pulled the sheet over the man's face. His unseeing eyes seemed to reproach her, and she flinched a little.
She was the new head of the Halls of Healing for two reasons: her hard-learned skill in curse-breaking and potions, as well as the other areas of Healing, and for her special talent that enabled her to sense through her fingers the auras that were so important in Healing. But not even that was enough sometimes.
Dr Pergamon was looking to her for leadership. 'The Ministry will have to be notified, and his family. Priam, if you could send the Minister an owl, and give me the details,' she said, steadying her voice.
'His family – his wife, I think – is in my office,' said Dr Pergamon. 'His name is – was - Francis Bone. He was working against You-Know-Who for the Ministry.' His tone was both admiring and regretful. Andrea nodded slowly.
'I'll speak to her,' she said heavily. It would not be easy; it never was easy, but she had to do it.
Back in her office some time later, Andrea tried not to dwell on it. There was nothing she could have done; if she wallowed in guilt over this death, she would be less use to the Hall. Her duty was first to the living. The argument was not consoling, but she knew it was true from long years of experience.
Looking at a register, she saw that Francis Bone had worked for the League. And she was asked to become one of them, one of these undoubtedly admired people, who spent their lives in terrible danger from Voldemort. Who died, and nothing could be done for them. Who gave their lives for a cause that seemed doomed to failure. She remembered what Mrs Bone had said. He was working to protect us all. She looked down at the half-written letter on her desk, and flung it into the fire.
Then she picked up her quill and began to write again.
Dear Professor Dumbledore,
Thank you for asking me to join the League Against Voldemort. I would be proud to become a member. Please send me the necessary details. I will work part-time, as my commitments to the Halls of Healing are great.
Dr Andrea Wood.
Head of the Halls of Healing.
She folded the parchment neatly and put it in the 'external owl' tray, addressed to Hogwarts. She wondered for a moment whether it was wise of her. But she had nobody depending upon her, few ties or things to trouble her. It was the right thing to do.
Three days later as she flew in the dark just before dawn to Hogwarts, she was having doubts. The Pegasus' strong wings beat the air, and she stroked the winged horse's neck pensively. Perhaps she should just turn and go back.
'I'm not brave enough, Altair,' she said aloud. The horse snuffled comfortingly. Below her she could just make out the lights from the towering castle of Hogwarts. Without waiting for her instructions, Altair circled lower and lower, and landed gracefully on the lawn leading up to the castle.
Andrea sprang lightly from his back and produced an apple from in her robes. He ate it with much crunching and slobbering of apple on her worn travelling cloak. With a laugh, Andrea rubbed his forehead.
'Well, I never!' A booming voice behind her made her jump violently, and Altair's head went up. 'Is that a Pegasus?' Now she could see the speaker, a huge man with a tangled black beard.
'I've never seen one of 'em so close,' he went on, in what was evidently intended to be a quieter voice. Before she could speak, the man was extending a huge hand to Altair, who sniffed him and slobbered apple all over his great overcoat. The giant chuckled.
'Oh, 'e's a beauty! Aren't yeh, me lovely? What's 'e called?' He looked at Andrea for the first time.
'Altair. Who are you?'
'Oh, sorry. I'm Rubeus Hagrid. Keeper of Keys and Grounds 'ere. 'Ave yeh come up fer the League meetin'?'
'Yes, that's right. I'm Andrea Wood.' She extended a hand to the man, who all but crushed hers in his grip.
'Pleased ter meet yeh. If yer goin' up to the castle, can I keep an eye on Altair 'ere for yeh?' His expression was almost comical in its eagerness.
'That would be very kind of you,' Andrea replied after a fractional hesitation. He couldn't do Altair any harm, and if he wanted to so much…. She knew Pegasi were very rare, and was quite used to the reactions of amazement and disbelief of the people who saw Altair with her.
'Is that the main entrance to the castle?' she asked, pointing up to the doors that were dimly visible through the half-light.
'That's righ'. Yeh go on up there, an' someone'll meet yeh an' show yeh up.'
'Great. Thank you.' Rubeus Hagrid was patting Altair's neck and crooning over him like a mother over a young child.
Andrea went up the lawn, her shoes damp with dew. Minerva McGonagall was waiting by the door.
'Good morning, Andrea,' she said. 'I'll show you up. You haven't been to Hogwarts before, have you?'
Minerva nodded, remembering. 'Well, then, I'll show you up.'
As they walked through endless complicated passageways, Andrea thought of something. 'Was it you who recommended me for the League?'
'That's right. I heard about you being asked to take over the Halls of Healing, and I thought you'd be a good member, and Albus agreed with me.'
Andrea looked with fascination at the pictures on the walls, some smiling and nodding as she passed, others fast asleep. A crash behind them made them both jump, and evil cackles of laughter filled the passage.
'Peeves!' shouted Minerva. 'Stop it!' Looking over her shoulder, Andrea could see that one of the coats of armour that lined the passage had fallen over, and a thunderous-faced man was muttering something under his breath to the cat that snaked around his ankles. Minerva snorted, and led Andrea on.
At last they climbed a steep spiral staircase, and Minerva opened the door at the top. Inside was an extremely cluttered office, full of papers and books. On the wall were hundreds of photos and paintings, of old headmasters and of the students who had left. Perched on the window ledge was a flame-coloured bird that Andrea, amazed, recognised as a phoenix. And standing behind the desk was Professor Dumbledore. Andrea had seen pictures of him before, of course, but never had she met him in the flesh. Now he was beaming down at her, looking very alert and awake although it was only just after dawn.
'Good morning, Dr Wood. Come in, take a seat.' Behind his white moustache and deeply lined face, Professor Dumbledore's eyes twinkled down at her. 'I'm very pleased that you could join us.'
He opened the door to a much larger office. There was a long table, and around it were sitting a number of people, none of whom Andrea recognised.
'Let me introduce our most recent member,' announced Dumbledore from behind her. 'Dr Andrea Wood is the head of the Halls of Healing, the youngest person ever to take that difficult post, and a very talented witch. We are pleased to welcome her to the League.' Many pairs of eyes were turned to her.
She smiled weakly, feeling inexplicably shy, and slipped into an empty seat.
'Now, let us begin.' Professor Dumbledore took the seat at the head of the table, and Minerva sat at his right hand. 'Of course, you have all heard by now of the murder of Francis Bone.' Andrea tensed slightly. 'Our greatest sympathies go out to Ellie and the children.' He sighed, and looked down for a moment, the twinkle gone from his eyes. 'His death reminds us all of what we are trying to end. Voldemort's tyranny must not go on. You all are here because you believe this; let us remember Francis in our work.
'Now, Francis was working on our latest project – trying to find Voldemort's headquarters. I would like a volunteer to take over his work.' A man sitting two places down from Andrea raised his hand at once.
'Thank you, Sirius.' A few of the younger women at the table looked at him in concern. Looking at the man's dark good looks, Andrea was not surprised. He seemed oblivious of them, however.
Professor Dumbledore continued to talk, reporting on the progress of some parts of the League, as Andrea scanned the faces of her new colleagues. In every pair of eyes she saw decision and strength, and she felt uncertain again. Was she really suitable for this? They all seemed so strong, so sure of themselves.
Professor Dumbledore was coming to an end. 'So, I will ask those of you already working on projects to carry on. Sirius, I'll give you the details if you hang around afterwards. And Dr Wood, I'd like a word with you as well, if you don't mind. Thank you, everyone.'
Everyone rose and began to file out of the room. Dr Wood followed Dumbledore and the man called Sirius into the cluttered office. 'Right, now. Sirius, I'll just give you the file on Voldemort's possible hiding places quickly, and then you can go. Now, what have I done with it…?' He began to shift through the oceans of papers that swamped his desk. Sirius rolled his eyes and looked at Andrea.
'I'm Sirius Black,' he said, extending his hand.
'Andrea Wood.' His grip was firm, but not too strong. She smiled at him.
'You weren't at Hogwarts, were you?' he asked, measuring her up with his eyes.
'No, I – I studied at home.'
He nodded understandingly. 'So, you're joining our little band of nutters, eh? Well, I hope you enjoy the ride.'
'Ah,' interrupted Professor Dumbledore, lifting up a sack of Phail's Patent Phoenix Phood and pulling out a file. 'Here you go.' Sirius Black took the crumpled file and nodded.
'Thanks. I'll get started right away.'
'Wonderful. And do take care, Sirius.'
The man laughed, and went from the room.
'A very brave young man, Sirius Black,' observed Dumbledore. 'Now, what shall we do with you, Dr Wood? I have a few ideas.'
'Well, I don't really know much about the whole thing,' Andrea said, rather apologetically. 'What did you have in mind? I'm sure you already know what I can and can't do.'
'Hmm, well, in view of your skills with auras, I'd like to put you on the Achilles Project.'
'It's our newest project – the idea of one of my more talented members. And that reminds me … yes.' Andrea looked at him with a puzzled frown, but he carried on. 'Anyhow, the aim of the Achilles Project is to find Voldemort's weak points. You would be particularly useful to them, I think.'
'So long as it doesn't take too much of my time – I'm afraid that my duties to the Hall come first.' Andrea considered it important that this was understood.
'Of course they do. Well, then, if you're willing, I'll put you in touch with William Prewett – he's in charge of it. And the second thing I was going to ask you – would you take a few classes on some of the basic aspects of healing injuries and attacks by Voldemort?' He furrowed his brow and sighed. 'I think it might have helped save some lives, if people had known about healing in the past.'
'Oh, that would be fine. Yes, of course I will.' Though she was shy, Andrea had always found it easy to explain and teach.
'And now for the third thing. I'm rather interested in your invention.'
Andrea winced a little. 'I haven't done anything with it,' she said. 'I'm rather surprised you found out about it.'
'You did write it up in the Healer's Handbook and I noticed it. It is rather impressive; certainly not an area there's been much research on.'
'Oh, I wasn't researching it. I was trying to do something quite different, but – well, one of my subjects reported this effect. I certainly hadn't expected it, but I felt I ought to write it up.' She looked at him in confusion. What on earth could he want with it?
'Hmm. Well, one of the members of the League would be very interested in it.'
Andrea started violently. 'What!' One of the League was – was…? She gave a little shudder.
'Oh, most people don't know. I suppose he prefers it that way. But still, the – what did you call it? – the Wolfsbane Potion would be very handy, if you could repeat it.'
Andrea took a deep breath. 'I can try, if you want,' she said tonelessly. 'I suppose you want it for the week before the full moon?'
'That's right. I know he'll really appreciate it. The full moon is on the last day of the month, so there's plenty of time.'
'Yes, I suppose so. If you want.'
'That would be great. Thank you, Andrea. I'll send someone over to collect it.'
She rose to leave.
As she puzzled her way back through the castle, listening to the voices of many students, she shook her head in disbelief. A werewolf! A shiver ran over her spine. But she had promised Dumbledore now. But how, how could any person working against the Dark Arts be a werewolf? She thought of the faces around the table and shivered again. One of them had been a monster, and she hadn't even known.
'Is Remus still here?' asked Dumbledore when Andrea had gone. The room was empty, but the gargoyle on the door answered him in a bass voice.
'He's downstairs, talking to his friends.'
'Good, send him word to come up here, will you?'
He waited. About five minutes later, there was a knock on the door.
'Come in, Remus!'
He did so.
'Nearly Headless Nick said you wanted to see me?'
'That's right. There's something I need to tell you about.'
Remus stood behind the desk, feeling like he was a student again as Dumbledore smiled at him.
'Have you ever heard about the Wolfsbane Potion?'
Remus' eyes widened. 'The what Potion? What does it do?'
'It will alter your transformations, so that you keep your mind. It's a very recent invention.'
'I – I didn't know about it,' Remus said, stupefied, sinking onto a chair. 'What – how does it work?'
'Ah, for that you'll have to ask the inventor. I'm no Healer. The lady I introduced to the League today invented it – Dr Wood. She says she would be willing to make some for you.'
Remus sat silently for a moment. 'Thank you,' he said, his voice shaking a little. 'Thank you so much.'
Okay, the next part will be up fairly soon. It's called 'Wolfsbane.' I hope you liked Andrea.
I know I'm working on more than one thing at a time; please don't get angry with me. I promise the second chapter of 'The League Against Voldemort' will come up soon as well. I just post things once I'm finished with them.
Feedback, please? If you want me to reply to anything, leave your e-mail address.
30th January 2000