Under all circumstances, being a medic is hard work. Any Muggle doctor at any Muggle hospital bears an immense responsibility for the care of their community, working in a huge team to keep everybody in good shape.
Being singlehandedly responsible for the health and wellbeing of a castle full of headstrong wizard children, who all charge around on broomsticks, use spells on each other and battle murderous Dark wizards is a whole different kind of challenge.
Madam Poppy Pomfrey is highly adept at practising medicine. Part of her genius is simple speed: she can fix broken bones ‘in a second’. Ginny Weasley broke her ankle it was repaired ‘in a trice’. Harry Potter’s cracked skull was mended ‘at once’. Hermione’s teeth were straightened without recourse to a time-consuming brace. When the weather turns chilly her Pepperup Potion works ‘instantly’ on colds – although it leaves the patient smoking from the ears for several hours afterwards.
As you might expect, healthcare in a wizarding context throws up some rather odd ailments. When Bill Weasley was bitten by a werewolf, Pomfrey was on hand to tend to the wound. His younger brother Ron was bitten by a dragon – and although he lied to the matron about it being a dog, Pomfrey showed real professional discretion in choosing to overlook this and heal him anyway. When Eloise Midgen zapped off her nose during an overzealous attempt to battle acne, Pomfrey was able to reattach it. She administered Skele-Gro to help Harry Potter replace 33 of the bones in his arm, following a bizarre and botched repair by Gilderoy Lockhart.
Which isn’t to say Madam Pomfrey is enamoured with the more outlandish aspects of Hogwarts life. Not at all. It’s likely she takes a dim view of Quidditch, which is hardly surprising due to the sheer amount of injuries the risky sport entails. During one match, she had to heal Harry Potter, who’d fallen more than 50 feet to the ground, and one of the times Ron Weasley was laid up in the hospital wing, Pomfrey refused to discharge him even to watch a Quidditch match. Pretty understandable, a game of Quidditch is a tad more dangerous than a round of Tiddlywinks after all.
Similarly, she felt the Triwizard Tournament was too risky and would cause nothing but harm. Even before the tournament began she had to deal with the consequences of Fred and George Weasley and a handful of fellow miscreants trying to ‘age themselves up a little’. She helped them, of course, but only reluctantly. During the Tournament itself, Pomfrey was always on hand to heal the ailed champions – and was clearly outraged a bunch of teenagers were fighting the likes of dragons.
Like all good medics, Madam Pomfrey is caring but capable of strictness and steel when called for. Visiting privileges are tightly controlled and enforced, all the better to help her patients recover in peace. It makes no difference to her if you’re a student, Headmaster or even Minister for Magic. On her ward, it’s her rules.
Compassion for her charges is what makes Poppy Pomfrey a real hero though. She’s frequently called upon in the middle of the night to deal with emergencies, and her skill in making people feel better goes beyond simple medicine. When Albus Dumbledore died she was on hand to console her friend Minerva McGonagall by skilfully conjuring a chair.
Her noble, heroic, self-sacrificing credo is summed up rather beautifully by something she said to Harry Potter in a fraught moment: ‘If I wasn’t worried what would happen to you students without me, I’d resign in protest!’
Each month Pottermore will shine a spotlight on a character from the Harry Potter stories who we feel deserves more credit. Come back next month when we celebrate another.