Persephone Apolina Pomfrey hated Quidditch. Aside from finding all sports, wizarding and Muggle, frightfully dull, Quidditch led to too many injuries. It made her squirm every time a player crashed into another player's broom, she bit her lip whenever the Ravenclaw Seeker did a nosedive, and Bludgers must have been made by the rueful Salazar Slytherin himself.
Today's game was no different, except with the added pressure of it being the last Quidditch game for her best friend on the Gryffindor team: Minerva McGonagall.
If they weren't in different houses, Minnie (Poppy being the only person who dare call her that) and Poppy would be inseparable; but Minerva's drive, her fiercely competitive nature, and her bold sternness meant she was a Gryffindor through and through, even if Professor Flitwick always argued with Professor Dumbledore over whose house she should truly be in.
Poppy met Minnie on the Hogwarts Express their first year — Minerva, a half-blood witch who grew up in the Muggle world with a pure-blood mother, had spent her first train ride trying to figure out how to stop bleeding after an older Slytherin pushed her for talking back to him. Minnie couldn’t even remember what she’d said — or what he’d said to set her off — but Poppy showed up with a Muggle band-aid and a bar of chocolate.
“Are you a Muggle-born?” Minnie had asked.
“Nah. My parents are both pure-blood, but Muggle stuff is genius,” Poppy replied, shrugging like it was nothing, but looking carefully at Minerva as she slapped on the band-aid.
“Lucky you had one of these.”
“Lucky for you.”
The two spent the entire train ride fussing over their books and imagining Ravenclaw tower, but were severely disappointed to be Sorted into different houses.
“I almost got sorted into Ravenclaw, the Hat told me so, but as my mum says, I have a smart mouth,” Minnie said to Poppy as a simple way of explanation as the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor houses passed each other on the steps of the Entrance Way on their way to their respective towers.
They remained a rare case of inter-house best friends, sharing everything but their class schedule and, of course, Quidditch.
It drove Poppy absolutely mad that her best friend was so enamored with the violent sport. It was the source of nearly all of their fights, mostly because Poppy was who Minnie called when the Gryffindor Quidditch team had rough after-hours practice sessions. Their only non-Quidditch fight was in second year when Minnie got jealous that Poppy was hanging out with some older Ravenclaws. That was also technically about Quidditch (“Well, what else am I supposed to be doing when you're on the pitch practicing every second of the day and night? I’m not your private nurse at your beck and call, Min,” Poppy said angrily), but Minnie just didn't understand that the older Ravenclaws gave Poppy something she couldn't get from anywhere else. “They teach me haircare spells,” Poppy said. Minnie glanced up at Poppy's curly kinky hair — which all the well-known spells and potions did nothing for — ran her hand over her own straight ponytail and said, “oh, right.” It was never an issue again.
Minnie was the only reason Poppy even went to the stupid games. In fifth year, Minnie slammed her arm into a goal post trying to save the Quaffle (success) and Poppy wasn't there. It upset her for a week. “I’m fine,” Minnie said dismissively as they studied together on the lawn, still nursing a sore arm. The Hogwarts doctor was kind of terrible.
“That's not the point! One day you might not be fine! The odds are—”
“Oh hush, don’t tell me the odds.”
So from then on, Poppy went to every Quidditch game and watched with her hands covering her face, peeking through her fingers. Usually, she brought Muggle textbooks that Minnie's mum sent from their Muggle Scottish village that explained biology and medicine.
After the games, Poppy met Minnie on her way back up the castle. “You could have fractured your patella if you had crashed into the goal post.”
“You worry too much.”
“You don't worry enough! You take too many risks on the field, Min. You're gonna get hurt someday.”
“And if I do, I'll have you to tell me which very fragile bone I broke. Come on, my mum sent Muggle biscuits. The ones with cinnamon and sugar you like so much.”
Poppy pursed her lips. Those cookies were delicious.
Poppy sat in her usual seat in the stands with a textbook propped up on her lap. She was studying hard for her NEWTs and a silly Quidditch game wouldn't stand in the way, House Cup or not. She’d almost bailed to hole up in the library, but she never missed a game Minnie played; it was the finals against Slytherin and Minnie would never let her hear the end of it if Poppy missed her trounce Slytherin in her last school game. There were scouts from Appleby Arrows in the crowd; Minnie could make it to the pros if she played her cards right.
Poppy, on the other hand, had eyes to work at St. Mungo's. Years of watching Minnie and the other Quidditch players break bones led Poppy to develop an interest in magical healing. Plus, her fascination with Muggle medicine made her want to study the marriage of the two healing forms. Healing was a useful, but clearly undervalued skill that had saved Poppy herself when she failed her first Apparition test.
Somewhere past the pages of her text, the Gryffindors screamed bloody murder as the Slytherin Beater hit a Bludger toward the opposing Seeker, who'd made a dive for the Snitch. Poppy turned a page. As a Ravenclaw, she had no house to root for here. Ravenclaw was third place in the house championship (the poor Puffs were fourth this year and hadn't even come close to the Quidditch final) and by the points count in the game so far, Slytherin and Gryffindor had solidified the top two spots. It didn't matter, she’d be at St Mungo’s training this summer and would only have to worry about the occasional professional Quidditch player. She'd mostly be helping people who didn't foolishly put themselves in danger. She laughed to herself as she turned another page — who was she kidding? Wizards were born to be foolish no matter what they did.
The crowd screamed again, but this time it was the whole crowd, many of whom had stood to peer down at the grassy pitch below the airfield — a player was down…
Poppy searched the skies for the swooping straight ponytail of Minnie and her heart dropped to her stomach when she didn't see the Chaser fiercely zooming her way to the ref to demand… a redo or some such thing.
No, instead, the remaining Gryffindors were sailing down to the grass to check on a wounded player that Poppy just knew was Minnie. She stashed her books under the bleachers and raced down the steps the Quidditch pitch, squeezing past other concerned students, unable to hear what the referee was announcing about the downed player, but guessing by the roars the of the crowd, it wasn't good.
Poppy swung around a corner from the stairway and onto the field. Professor Dumbledore was staring icily at the referee, who was pointing at the Slytherin Seeker, who was gleefully plucking the feathers from the twitching snitch as his teammates grinned at the frantic Gryffindors on the other side of the field. Headmaster Dippet was near the huddle, speaking softly with the school doctor Rheum who was maybe 142, nearly blind, and, rumor had it, had actually given a student with a broken nose a second nose, causing her to need to stay at St. Mungo’s for an entire term. Fear, fury, and worry rose in Poppy’s chest as she pushed past the Gryffindors to find Minerva sprawled on the ground. She was unconscious.
The scarlet-clad players looked at the short and plump Black girl pushing them to the side with annoyance, until they realized it was Poppy — she was the one they went to when they needed healing off the books, since Rheum was a damned tattle. They knew they wouldn’t get in trouble, she was always discreet, and she got to practice for her NEWTs and St. Mungo’s apprenticeship exam with very adventurous and accident-prone Gryffs who were always up for her experiments.
“What happened?” Poppy asked, staring at her best friend. Minnie’s cheeks were pale, her ponytail was coming out of its holder, and her lips were frightfully dry.
“I saw what happened,” said one of Minnie’s fellow Chasers on the team, Cecily Swann. She had her arms crossed, cheeks flushed, her hand clutched over her wand like she was going to curse the entire Slytherin team when she was done talking. “Greengrass pushed her when he ‘dodged’ that Bludger.”
The other Gryffindors nodded and murmured in agreement.
“Now, now,” Headmaster Dippet interjected, “We don’t know that for sure.”
“Oh, come on,” several Gryffindors roared.
“Minerva’s the best Chaser we’ve got,” said Swann, “She didn’t just fly off her broom! She was pushed!” Though a fifth year, she was next in line to be captain, Minnie had told Poppy a few weeks earlier. Minerva hadn’t been captain officially — because the previous captain didn’t think she could handle it with being Head Girl, head of the Transfiguration Club, and with a full course load (they clearly didn’t know her very well) — but Minnie was basically co-captain with her fellow seventh year Terrance Brick. Everyone knew Minerva did all the work, wrote all the plays, and challenged them the hardest in practice. She was why they were in the finals against Slytherin. And now they’d lost and she was down for the count.
Poppy, though listening during the back and forth, was glaring at Rheum, who was just staring at Minnie. He hadn’t even taken his wand out. Poppy wasn’t even sure he was really thinking, he was so old he was barely breathing.
“Well? What’s wrong with her?” Poppy demanded, snapping the old man out of his daze. He seemed startled to see so many eyes on him.
“We should take her to the hospital wing,” he then reached for his wand, preparing to Wingardium Leviosa Minnie’s prone form, but Poppy shook her head.
“What are you doing? You can’t move her! She fell 50 feet--”
“--pushed!” several Gryffindors shouted.
“She was pushed 50 feet. She could have broken something! She needs a stretcher!”
“I have never needed to conjure a stretcher, that’s a Muggle contraption we have no use for,” he said, clearly offended someone would mention a Muggle idea in his presence.
“Muggles have quite a few perfectly good ideas, and I think we should use them.” Poppy then conjured a crude Muggle stretcher — it didn’t have wheels or anything, but it would get the job done. Several students ooh’d in awe, but she wasn’t second in seventh year for nothing. Only Minnie had her beat.
Poppy and Swann then gently put Minnie on the stretcher, careful not to move her torso much, Poppy was worried she’d broken a rib. Once she was on the thin bedding, Poppy levitated the stretcher and she and Minnie’s floating (but more secure) body led the way back to the castle. Meanwhile, Rheum puffed and puttered and sighed as he walked behind them.
Poppy put all her effort into holding the Levitation spell steady, so as to not bump Minnie against anything, namely the doors of the castle, but she could hear the Quidditch players, and really, the rest of the castle, chattering angrily about the game behind her.
“He definitely pushed her.”
“He totally pretended to dodge that Bludger--”
“I think Perkins beat it his way on purpose--”
“And they won! In all the confusion, they caught the snitch!”
“We can’t tell McGonagall, she’ll be furious.”
Poppy broke into a smile, imagining how red Minnie’s face would be when she found out what happened. Few people could look like a spitting cat the way Minerva McGonagall could. But then Poppy frowned as she entered the hospital wing. She hadn’t spent much time in there, but it was dusty, the drapes were drawn tightly over the windows, and the beds were a mess. It made her feel a bit sick herself. Before settling Minnie down, she asked Swann to clear off the nearest bed, which still had crumpled sheets that Poppy swore had green pus residue still on them. Disgraceful.
Rheum stepped in front of her as she attempted to settle Minnie’s crooked limbs more comfortably on the bed.
“I’ll take it from here. Shoo, all of you.”
The Quidditch team and the 50 or so students who’d crammed in the wing behind them all grumbled on their way out, everyone looking back at the unconscious player forlornly.
Poppy remained resolutely where she was.
“I said out,” Rheum said, annoyed. But Poppy was startled when Professor Dumbledore said softly behind her, “I think she should stay, Doctor Rheum.”
Rheum grumbled some more.
Poppy hadn’t realized Dumbledore had followed the team, but it was no surprise. Minnie was his best and favorite student. Dumbledore was never good at hiding his favoritism.
Rheum stared at Minnie some more, like he’d never had a concussed patient before. It was driving Poppy crazy, to see such incompetence.
Finally, Rheum performed the spell to wake Minnie up and Poppy nearly slapped him. Minerva woke with a start and tried to sit up, before howling in intense pain.
“Why would you wake her up before fixing her other wounds?!” Poppy had never shouted at a teacher or elder before, and she knew she’d probably feel guilty about it later, but now was not the time for weak emotions. “She clearly has a broken rib, why wouldn’t you tend to that first?” Poppy rushed over and held Minnie’s hand and coaxed her back into lying down. “Come on now, don’t be stubborn. We’ll fix these ribs first, and then you can go running off to fight the Slytherins single-handed.”
Minnie smirked through her pained expression and Poppy almost smiled. Her best friend was going to be fine.
Rheum was, however, feeling petty, and stood back. “Well then, if you know so much, you heal her.”
He was clearly expecting Poppy to balk at the offer, but she merely rolled her up sleeves, pointed her wand, and got to work.
She first assessed Minnie’s condition, performing the scanning spell she’d mastered four weeks ago when a third year thought he had dragon pox. Then, seeing three -- three! -- broken ribs, a fractured pelvis and evidence of a concussion, Poppy wave her wand and reset the ribs, hearing them snap back into place. Resetting bones was relatively easy -- for some people, not so much for the senile Rheum -- but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. The pelvic fracture would take some time -- and even then Minnie might have trouble sitting comfortably on a broom. It all would have been much less painful if Minnie had remained unconscious. She then apologized to Minnie and left her side, heading to the vast medical closet in the back room. She stared at the ingredients -- half of the vials were nearly empty, and there was little organization. But Poppy found the ingredients to aid with Minnie’s pain, and to make her go to sleep. If Minnie wasn't tied down and or drugged, it didn’t matter if she’d broken seven ribs and both legs, the Slytherins would be in danger tonight.
She mixed up the ingredients and came back to the main room to give Minnie the droughts. She could hear Rheum muttering loudly, like he was pretending to whisper but didn’t bother -- “really, Dumbledore, letting a student into MY hospital wing like this, she could really injure this student.”
“Like Carlyle’s second nose?” McGonagall muttered equally loudly as she slurped down the potions.
Poppy could see Dumbledore stifle a laugh and Rheum sputtered in reply. There wasn’t anything he could say.
“Come, Doctor Rheum. I think another Muggle invention we could potentially discuss is a word they call ‘retirement.’” Dumbledore led Rheum from the room and gave the girls some space, winking at Poppy as he left.
There was silence as Poppy stared at Minnie and Minnie clenched her eyes tightly, as she waited for the potions to take effect and kill the pain. Poppy counted to five, then:
“This is what I’m talking about!”
“Can I get another minute, Pop? Your spell work is good,” she spat out, “but I can still feel my bones knitting back together.”
Poppy bit her lip, then looked around the room.
She headed over to the dark and dusty drapes and opened them, letting the gray but bright day give light to the hospital wing. She then waved her wand and watched as each messy bed folded and tucked and ripped sheets away, dirty sheets flying into a pile in the middle of the room.
“I’m sorry,” they both said at the same time. Poppy walked over to Minnie’s bedside and pulled up a chair.
“You go first, I still might throw up that last potion.”
“I think some of the ingredients are past their expiration, but you should be fine.” She paused. “I’m sorry to yell. You were hurt and don’t deserve to be yelled at. Today, anyway. But I was really worried. You’re not just my best friend, Min. You’re the closest thing I have to a sister.”
“I get it. My brothers are too young for me to really bond with them. I just have you, too.” The girls smiled at each other softly. “And I’m sorry too. For not taking your warnings into consideration. I mean, this wasn’t my Gryffindor recklessness -- I was pushed! -- but if I’d been listening to you more closely, I might have been more vigilant.”
More silence. Minnie leaned her head all the way back against the pillows.
“You better go mix more of this sleepy potion, Pop.”
“Why, are you still in pain?”
“No, but when I wake up, I’m going to want to burn down the Slytherin common room, and I need you to stop me.”
“Besides,” Minnie said as Poppy walked towards the storeroom, “You look really comfortable here.”
Poppy smiled and looked at the already brighter and cleaner hospital wing. She was.