The boy has never set foot inside my hospital wing, but I know exactly who he is, as does everyone at Hogwarts. He leans against the wall whilst everyone else sits, as though reclining on a sofa would be too plebeian for one of his importance. He observes the proceedings of the prefect meeting I am supervising with an expression of practiced indifference on his pale, pointed face, although his light eyes seem to sparkle with a quiet malice. I watch as he reaches up a long-fingered hand to carelessly brush his blond hair—worn stylishly long—off his forehead.
‘…such curses cannot be tolerated.’ The voice of the Head Girl jerks my attention back to the meeting. She sits in a straight-backed armchair nearby to me, addressing her small army of prefects. ‘That’s why I propose the instigation of harsher punishment for the use of spells considered…Dark.’ Her eyes flicker over to the imperious Lucius Malfoy with obvious irritation. Then, she shakes her head and continues briskly, ‘Any comments on the matter?’
She is met with stares that vary from approving to uneasy to openly defiant. Gryffindor prefects Hestia Jones and Benjamin Fenwick nod enthusiastically in the Head Girl’s favour, but from the others there are many wary glances cast toward Malfoy. Indeed, the delegates from Slytherin House are regarding the Head Girl with something like open hostility. I notice that the exception to this is Andromeda Black, who looks distinctly uncomfortable.
‘Well?’ the Head Girl prompts, choosing to ignore the range of reactions her suggestion has provoked. She shakes back flaxen curls and folds her arms, clearly determined to remain unfazed. I have to admire Alice Caldwell’s nerve. It can be no easy feat to try and sell the idea of persecuting Dark Magic to a bunch of unfriendly Slytherins, especially when it’s only your third week on the job.
‘I disagree,’ puts in seventh year prefect Alec Jugson, smoothing his Slytherin tie. He regards Alice Caldwell smugly. ‘Your idea is both foolish and impractical.’
I am impressed by the way Miss Caldwell somehow manages to simultaneously convey scorn, disgust and an utter calm in the look she gives Jugson. ‘Is it, now?’
‘Try to ignore Jugson.’ This comment comes from Benjamin Fenwick. He lounges on a sofa, eyeing the Slytherin prefect with obvious dislike. ‘If we outlawed Dark Magic, he wouldn’t have much use for his wand anymore.’
‘That’s a lie,’ spits Jugson, eyes flashing at Fenwick. ‘I never—’
‘Sure you haven’t,’ retorts Fenwick, coolly sarcastic, but I can see his hands curling into fists.
‘Benjy,’ murmurs Caldwell warningly, as Jugson splutters with indignation. Lucius Malfoy’s pale face twists into a sneer.
‘Prefects,’ I cut in sharply. All faces turn to me, startled, having momentarily forgotten the presence of a staff member in the room.
‘Sorry, Madam Pomfrey,’ says Miss Caldwell quickly, but the tension between Fenwick and Jugson remains thick as Polyjuice Potion as they regard each other through narrowed eyes. The Head Girl notices this. She rises to her feet and crosses briskly to the fire. On the way, she passes Fenwick and gives him a sharp tap on the shoulder. Still scowling, the boy ends his silent row and instead raises his eyebrows at fellow prefect Hestia Jones, who smiles at him sympathetically.
Having reached the opposite end of the room, Alice Caldwell stations herself beside the fireplace, facing the group. She is now standing directly opposite Malfoy. ‘Now then,’ she recommences, as though nothing at all has occurred. ‘If no one has anything useful to say, I maintain the opinion that coming down hard on Dark Magic would be both prudent and highly practical.’ She glances at Jugson with raised brows. ‘Tomorrow morning I will—’
‘Pardon me.’ Lucius Malfoy has finally pushed away from the wall to interrupt Caldwell. He takes a few steps closer to the group, an easy smirk playing around his thin lips. ‘Alice.’ He gives her a slightly mocking bow. ‘If I might clarify what I believe Alec was trying to get at.’
Caldwell inclines her head warily.
‘Your idea is impractical,’ he informs her, ‘because, although you may not have noticed it, times are changing.’
‘Times are changing,’ repeats Caldwell, with the air of one humouring a small child. Again, I have to hand it to the girl.
‘Yes,’ the dangerous glint in Malfoy’s eyes is now more pronounced than ever. ‘To eschew Dark Magic would be to deny the very fact: Dark Magic is no longer a thing of the past. Its use has become widespread in the Wizarding Community, practically commonplace—,’
Benjamin Fenwick clears his throat loudly, ‘It’s only commonplace among scum like y—,’
‘Benjy!’ snaps Caldwell, while Malfoy leans back against the wall and sneers. Alice Caldwell crosses back to her armchair and sits down heavily. She shoots a glare towards the Head Boy, John Perkins, who has been fairly useless so far. After apparently thinking for a moment, she addresses Malfoy again, this time with a bit of a smirk, ‘Lucius,’ she says in that patronising voice. ‘If I might clarify what I believe Benjy was trying to get at…’ She pauses so everyone can register that fact that she is mimicking Malfoy’s earlier choice of words. She carries on, ‘You’re right. Dark Magic has become more commonplace among people of, shall we say, lesser virtue.’ Here, many Slytherins shift around and fidget. ‘It is a deeply unfortunate fact,’ states Caldwell firmly, glaring around the room. ‘Therefore, I would have us do all we can to discourage Hogwarts students from following in their example. As I say, this shall be accomplished by severely punishing all those found to be using spells considered Dark. The full list of which I have here.’ She holds up a roll of parchment. ‘Are there any further comments?’
Silence. Lucius Malfoy’s face flushes red, but even he can recognise defeat. Alec Jugson scowls heavily, and Benjamin Fenwick offers Caldwell a brief thumbs-up.
‘Good,’ snaps Alice Caldwell, rising to her feet again. ‘Then I will see the headmaster about this tomorrow morning. Thank you, Madam Pomfrey.’ The Head Girl turns her back on the silent war she has unwittingly created among the prefects.
Now that it is nearing the end of September, a bitter cold has clamped down decisively on the Hogwarts grounds. In the distance, you can already discern snow on the mountaintops beyond Hogsmeade. The icy wind bites piercingly into my exposed neck as I struggle up the sloping lawn towards the castle, crunching frozen blades of grass beneath my boots. Longingly, I think of the woolen scarf left behind in my room.
Although it is lunchtime, only a few students have ventured out into the unforgiving temperatures. Most remain huddled in the warmth of the castle—the house-elves have been working overtime to keep all the fires blazing. Regardless of their efforts, I have found myself dealing with a steady flow of sneezing, red-nosed pupils. Without fail, several dozen of them queue up outside the hospital wing each break for a dose of my highly effective Pepper-Up Potion. It is not surprising that my stock of the stuff has nearly run dry, necessitating my journey down to the greenhouses to collect ingredients from Pomona Sprout. A large bag of bottles and vials now hangs from my shoulder.
‘Poppy, Poppy!’ comes a wheezy holler from just behind me. I shorten my steps to allow Silvanus Kettleburn to catch up. I am fairly alarmed to see the elderly Care of Magical Creatures professor out in this weather—it cannot be good for his health.
‘Silvanus,’ I manage to force out his name through chattering teeth. ‘You should be indoors.’
He beams at me toothlessly as we continue battling our way against the fierce wind, and he mumbles some garbled, incoherent words. I’m afraid that since Silvanus Kettleburn hit one hundred and sixty, he has been quite unintelligible. Indeed, he continues to grin inexplicably, robes flapping around his frail frame.
‘Silvanus!’ I say more sharply, placing a hand on his bony shoulder. ‘Where in Merlin’s name is your cloak?’
He does not reply. Instead, the old teacher lurches away from me and begins to hobble in the opposite direction, continuing to chatter meaninglessly to himself As I grudgingly prepare to chase down and drag the poor old chap back to the castle, a new sound rises above the howl of the wind: gleeful shouts, coming from across the grounds. I glance over in that direction and find myself standing stock-still, frozen in shock.
Over where the Whomping Willow towers above the lawn is clustered a small group of students, heavily bundled in cloaks and hats. They are congregated at a safe distance from the thrashing branches, but even as I watch, one small boy darts forward. He makes straight for the fearsome tree. Transfixed with horror, I see him nimbly dodge one branch after another as they swoop down to intercept him. The other children shriek and cheer with excitement, but I can hardly breathe for cold dread. I am certain that any second now he will be struck, mortally injured. But after the sixth monstrous arm narrowly misses his nose, the boy seems to abruptly lose his nerve. He turns tail and scurries away, back to the safety of his friends.
‘Pathetic,’ I hear one of the other children laugh, ‘you weren’t even within reach of the trunk!’
As I watch the next boy take a turn, I realise that this is their aim: to get close enough to the Whomping Willow to touch its trunk. Along with this realisation, I suddenly recover my ability to move. Unbidden panic floods me. I tear across the grounds, straight towards the foolish children, preparing myself to bellow in rage. It is now an easy feat to ignore the wild wind whipping my face, and the bag of ingredients bouncing painfully against my side. When I notice the hulking figure of Rubeus Hagrid standing near his cabin, observing them calmly in his moleskin coat, I head in that direction instead—his voice is far louder and more ferocious than mine.
‘Hagrid!’ I cry, skidding to a before him, gasping for breath. Merlin, I’m getting too old for these things.
I point towards the tree, panting. ‘Those children need to be stopped!’
Hagrid glances over at the Whomping Willow. ‘Them?’ he shrugs his massive shoulders. ‘Nah. They’re jus’ havin’ a laugh is all.’ He himself chuckles as one young man comes within several inches of having his skull crushed by one of the tree’s more vicious limbs. I jerk back in horror whilst the children scream with excitement.
‘They are placing themselves in severe risk of bodily harm!’ I exclaim, staggering slightly as a brutal gust of wind almost blows me off my feet. ‘Hagrid, would you go and do something?’
But the gamekeeper only shakes his shaggy head, unperturbed. ‘If I stopped ’em, they’d on’y go off an’ do somethin’ even more risky,’ he informs me.
‘Like what?’ I shriek, loosing my head, red-faced with terror and fury. ‘Drown themselves in the lake?’
Hagrid smiles beneath his wild black beard. ‘Don’ worry ’bout it, Madam Pomfrey,’ he tells me easily. ‘They’ll be fine.’
But as I prepare to race over to the troublemakers and put an end to this myself, I hear a distant girl’s voice call out from far across the grounds: ‘Madam Pomfrey! Madam Pomfrey!’
‘Somebody needs you help,’ remarks Hagrid, squinting across the grounds.
I pivot to see a small figure hurtling down the stone castle steps. Slipping and sliding on the uneven ground, she cries out my name again. For a second, I cynically muse that nobody’s cold can constitute that much of an emergency. But the fact that she doesn’t seem to be wearing a cloak is enough to indicate that something is seriously wrong. Hesitating, I glance from the raucous scene beneath the Whomping Willow to the unconcerned gamekeeper. I make up my mind.
‘Hagrid,’ I growl at him in a low voice. ‘It is your responsibility to ensure those children don’t get killed.’
I fly across the frozen lawn to intercept the girl, and although she spots me coming, she does not cease to run. As we draw near to each other, and I spot her long sheet of blond hair flying like a banner, my sense of puzzlement increases: it is third year Narcissa Black. The Blacks are not known for engaging in activities such as madcap dashes across the Hogwarts grounds in sub-zero temperatures whilst calling out staff members’ names. This is peculiar. By the time we reach each other, we are both breathing heavily, and I am alarmed to see that Miss Black’s pale skin and lips are practically blue.
‘M-Madam Pomfrey,’ she gasps, teeth chattering violently. ‘It’s m-my sister. Sh- she needs y-your help.’
All things considered, it is a definite case of anticlimax.
Narcissa Black seemed too harried to explain things, so as she and I made our frantic way up to the hospital wing, numerous possible scenarios occurred to me: a Dark curse gone horribly wrong, the ingestion of some gruesome potion, or at the very least, a grisly wound with plenty of blood. In the end, all it seemed was that Bellatrix Black had found herself the victim of a relatively harmless prank.
‘You must be able to do something,’ snarls the seventh year, spitting dark hair out of her face. She is sitting restlessly on the edge of a bed—it took quite a few sharp words to make her stop pacing.
I run a critical eye over her disfigured features while an anxious Narcissa hovers around in the background, making distraught sniffling noises—really quite irritating as I try to assess the damage. From forehead to chin, Bellatrix Black is covered in a multitude of ugly green warts. Indeed, it is difficult to make out her nose beneath all those lumps of distorted flesh.
‘Quite the predicament,’ I remark calmly, unflinching beneath her venomous gaze. I find there is nothing like the familiar scenery of my hospital wing to calm me down. Thoughtfully, I reach out a finger and experimentally poke one of the warts. Black recoils with a hiss. ‘Was it a hex?’ I inquire, folding my arms.
‘From one of my enemies, no doubt,’ spits Miss Black. The young lady is certainly known to possess quite a collection of enemies, most being residents of Gryffindor House.
‘Hmm,’ I reply sternly. From my potions shelf I fetch a jar of diluted Bubotuber Pus, which I hand to the younger Black sister, along with a cloth. ‘Apply that to her face,’ I instruct firmly, ‘while I go and find a countercurse.’
‘At least they’re the right colour,’ comments Andromeda Black. The middle Black sister has been sitting in silence nearby, observing the scene with an almost impassive expression. Now, we all turn to her questioningly. She shrugs, ‘Green, you know. The Slytherin House colour.’
Whilst Bellatrix splutters in outrage, I hurry into my office to mask my own snorts of laughter. The right colour indeed. I haul one of my largest books off the shelf—The Complete Lexicon of Curses and Countercurses—and thumb through it rapidly, searching for the section on pimple-inducing hexes. It is certainly a popular ailment to cast on one’s enemies—there must be at least three hundred curses and hexes in this category. Nevertheless, my well-practiced eye swiftly locates the correct one: an obscure but highly effective little spell, with an even lesser known countercurse. Satisfied, I stow the volume back in its place, and exit my office just as I hear someone else enter the ward.
By the time I push my way back through the curtains surrounding Miss Black’s bed, Lucius Malfoy is already there, standing over his fellow Slytherin in a towering rage. My patient’s warts have receded slightly from the Bubotuber Pus, but still present a sufficiently ghastly spectacle to behold.
‘Who did this to you?’ growls Malfoy, teeth bared.
‘Mr. Malfoy!’ I snap. As I’ve said before, I do not appreciate the intrusion of uninvited people into the ward.
Malfoy, however, ignores me. ‘Was it Fenwick?’ he demands, voice pulsating with fury. ‘Or that Podmore?’
Bellatrix Black grimaces. ‘I do not know,’ she admits resentfully. Narcissa stands by her side, gazing at Malfoy with something like reverence. In the corner, Andromeda remains silent, but there is a certain hardness to her eyes as she regards Malfoy.
‘They’re going to pay,’ promises Malfoy threateningly, hands curling into fists. I can somewhat understand his outrage; it is a rare occurrence for Bellatrix Black to be struck down—she is both highly skilled and rather paranoid. The perpetrator, whoever he is, must be unusually crafty. I can only hope that they are crafty enough to elude the entire Slytherin pureblood force.
Malfoy continues to scowl as I perform the countercurse, ridding Miss Black of all warts in a trice. Narcissa makes quite a theatrical scene of tearfully embracing her older sister, but I notice Andromeda rolling her eyes. ‘That’s enough,’ I snap at the sniffling Narcissa. ‘I have quite enough to do without—’
I hear the door of the hospital wing fly open again, and footsteps hurrying toward us. ‘Merlin’s beard!’ I bark as Severus Snape bursts through the curtains. ‘You do not enter the ward without permission!’
But the breathless young Slytherin heads straight for Lucius Malfoy. His pale face is flushed and his scraggly hair is in disarray as he addresses the prefect, ‘I know who did it,’ he announces with obvious glee.
‘Who?’ demands Bellatrix, hand twitching unmistakably toward her wand.
‘I saw them hiding behind the statue of Urg the Uncouth,’ reports Snape triumphantly. ‘James Potter and Sirius Black.’
It is, of course, my standard protocol not to involve myself in the inter-student warfare which plagues Hogwarts. However, on the occasion that I feel a student’s safety is in severe danger, I have been known to stage an intervention.
The Slytherin pureblood faction at Hogwarts is known to operate rather like the Muggle mafia—you mess with one of them, you mess with all of them. They are all cunning, cruel, and possess quite a remarkable—if not somewhat suspicious—knowledge of archaic Dark and otherwise nasty curses. Ever since the prefect meeting I supervised last week, the staff has become aware of increased activity amongst them. They flit through the castle in packs. They cast dark looks around the Great Hall and converse in low, secretive tones. And of course, they lash out most violently at any who oppose them.
Three days ago, the notice boards were plastered with the updated school rules: the usage of Dark Magic is now punishable by immediate expulsion. Needless to say, the Slytherins have not been happy. We staff members have been waiting with bated breath for an explosion, for someone to provoke the purebloods’ rage. And the purebloods’ rage is not something I will permit anyone to be subjected to.
This is how James Potter and Sirius Black come to be standing inside the hospital wing at six o’clock, Sunday evening—to report for their detention.
‘It could be much worse, you know,’ I inform them.
After I had relayed their prank to Minerva, I believe these boys received quite a thorough telling-off from the associate headmistress. In addition, Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Black were warned not to reciprocate on threat of expulsion. The two young Gryffindors probably know that their detention is down to me. What they probably do not know is that I likely saved their lives.
‘I did give you a fair warning,’ I add as I lead the two troublemakers into the ward to clean out the bedpans. However, to me they look far from abashed at this punishment. In fact, they seem to fancy themselves martyrs. It is a traditional Gryffindor reaction to receiving a detention.
Frowning, I watch as they roll up their sleeves with a swagger worthy of war heroes. For them, a detention is nothing more than a stamp of approval: their trouble-making efforts were successful.
Potter grabs a sponge. ‘How we suffer for justice,’ I hear him lament to Black as he sets to work on the first bedpan.
‘Indeed,’ murmurs Black.
I have a feeling that this exchange was for my benefit. Shaking my head in exasperation, I march away to dole out Sleeping Potions to my patients. But by the time I return to check on their progress, they no longer appear to be enjoying the detention. From what I overhear, they seem to be plotting some form of revenge on a character by the name of ‘Snivellus’.
‘That foul, large-nosed…’ snarls Potter, scrubbing a bed-pan vigorously.
‘Greasy-haired…’ growls Black, plunging his sponge rather violently into the tub of soapy water.
‘Slimeball,’ finishes Potter with relish. He lobs a clean bedpan away from himself with a clang.
‘Boys!’ I snap, darting forward. ‘You do not throw bedpans.’
Potter snatches up the bedpan and places it firmly on the table. He then lets out a long, mournful sigh, running a hand through his hair so he ends up with a soapy fringe. ‘How we suffer for justice,’ he repeats to Black.
‘I am going to get that slimeball,’ grumbles the other boy.
‘He could definitely use some of this soap,’ remarks Potter with a smirk.
Oddly enough, I think I know who they are referring to.
A/N: Heheh, someone's in trouble....you can probably guess who they're referring to as well. Anyways, there's another full moon coming up too...
Write a Review Anecdotes from the Hospital Wing : Chapter Eight