Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Places/Hospital Wing

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Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Place
Hospital Wing of Hogwarts School
Location Hogwarts school
Permanent Residents Madam Pomfrey
First Appearance Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

General Overview[edit]

The Hospital Wing at Hogwarts is not precisely a wing of the school, but a section of one floor of the school, similar to an infirmary in a Muggle residential or boarding school, where students (and sometimes teachers) who have been taken ill or suffered an accident can be treated. At Hogwarts, the hospital wing is in the able charge of Madam Pomfrey, who stolidly treats the various injuries that possibly a thousand young wizards receive while learning their craft without apparently turning an eyebrow at the bizarre explanations, or lack of explanations, she receives.

Extended Description[edit]

Beginner warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Our first introduction to the Hospital Wing is in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, when Ron suffers a dragon bite. Dragons being heavily proscribed magically, Ron does not feel able to explain what bit him, but Madam Pomfrey simply treats the injury as best she can.

At the end of that same book, Harry wakes up in the Hospital Wing following his duel with Professor Quirrell and Voldemort, and has a long discussion there with Professor Dumbledore. Madam Pomfrey seems upset that Dumbledore has overridden her instructions, and is requiring Harry to be present at the Leaving Feast; she had wanted to keep Harry a little longer for observation.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry again overnights in the Hospital Wing, this time because Professor Lockhart has, while trying to mend his broken arm, completely removed his arm bones. He is joined there by Colin Creevey, who has apparently been Petrified by the monster from the chamber. Later in that book, Hermione ends up in the Hospital Wing because of a failed transformation using Polyjuice Potion; again, because this is a restricted potion, Hermione cannot say what caused her to halfway transform into a cat, but Madam Pomfrey simply treats her. Over the course of the book, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Nearly Headless Nick, Penelope Clearwater and Hermione end up Petrified and are moved to the Hospital Wing. And at the end of that book, Professor Lockhart, who has destroyed his own memory, is also taken to the Hospital Wing.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the presence of Dementors, and the effect they have on Harry, makes him a repeat visitor to Madam Pomfrey's. Early in the story, he avoids a stay in the Hospital Wing solely because of Professor Lupin's quick action with an antidote. A flock of Dementors on the Quidditch pitch a bit later on results in a fall from an extreme height, resulting in a Hospital Wing stay for Harry. And events in the Shrieking Shack result in hospital wing visits for Harry, Ron, and Hermione at the end of the book. There is a great deal of discussion that takes place in the Hospital Wing at the end of that book, with Professor Dumbledore arranging for Harry and Hermione to rescue Buckbeak and Sirius Black, and Professor Snape's outrage at his escape.

Early in that book, Draco is also injured, by a Hippogriff, in Care of Magical Creatures class, and while his wound is quickly healed, he malingers, using "continuing pain" from the injury as an excuse for getting others to do his work for him. In the course of the book, Professor Lupin appears ill several times, and is absent several times; but while the reader would suspect that he ought to be in the Hospital Wing, no mention is made of his presence there. It turns out later that his "illness" is not one that Madam Pomfrey can treat, and he is staying in his apartment during those times.

Surprisingly, as the major plot arc of the book involves a magical competition between three Wizarding schools, relatively little use of the Hospital Wing occurs during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. All four wizard champions receive injuries from their dragons in the First Task, but are treated by Madam Pomfrey on the scene. Similarly, while all four champions, and their "treasures," are somewhat chilled by long immersion in the Lake during the Second Task, Madam Pomfrey treats them on the lake shore. The first Hospital Wing visit we know of is Viktor Krum, the Durmstrang champion, who is stunned while guarding Bartemius Crouch, and is sent to Madam Pomfrey to recuperate. Harry does end up in the Hospital Wing following the Third Task, but rather than being related to the Tournament, that is due to the effects of the duel at the Cemetery. We note that a great deal of discussion occurs late in this book in the Hospital Wing, with Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge denying Voldemort's return, and Professor Dumbledore assigning missions to people to deal with his return. It is in the Hospital Wing that Sirius reveals himself, and is forced into grudging alliance with Professor Snape.

We see relatively little of the Hospital Wing in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, though we suspect it is a busy place once Professor Dumbledore has been forced out of the school. It is mentioned that Skiving Snackboxes from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, notably Puking Pastilles and Fever Fudge, are used repeatedly by students to escape Professor Umbridge's class, and as these cause projectile vomiting and raging fever, respectively, we would expect that students using them would end up, at least temporarily, in the Hospital Wing. There are a few explicit mentions, however. Early in the year, Katie Bell catches a Quaffle in the face during practice, and in an attempt to heal the resulting nosebleed, Fred accidentally gives her a Blood Blisterpod. Fred and George shortly escort her to the Hospital Wing. Another student who ends up in the Hospital Wing is Montague, who had been forced into an old, broken Vanishing Cabinet and reappeared jammed into a toilet a day later. The first time we actually see the Hospital Wing in the book is a very brief visit: Harry is trying to find Professor McGonagall, who had been hit with multiple Stunners as Professor Umbridge was attempting to dismiss Hagrid. Madam Pomfrey, while spooning some blue potion into Montague, tells Harry that Professor McGonagall had been transferred to St. Mungo's. We do see the Hospital Wing again, following the battle at the Ministry of Magic, which results in Hermione, Ron, Neville, Ginny, and Luna being sufficiently injured to require Madam Pomfrey's ministrations. By the time we rejoin the story, all save Ron and Hermione have been released, and Professor Umbridge has been brought in for treatment. There is some discussion of Umbridge's condition at the time.

The Hospital Wing is a busy place again in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The first person we see in the Hospital Wing is Katie Bell, this time because she accidentally handled a cursed necklace. Her stay is brief; she is beyond Madam Pomfrey's skill and is quickly sent to St. Mungo's. Later in the year, Ron is accidentally poisoned and ends up in the Hospital Wing for several days; it is here that he begins to realize that his romantic entanglement with Lavender is becoming onerous. We learn about this from Lavender, who complains that Ron is always asleep when she visits, and Ron's later admission to Harry that he's doing it on purpose. Harry also ends up in the hospital wing at the same time, having received a skull fracture from a poorly aimed Bludger in a Quidditch match. It is while he is in the Hospital Wing that Harry realizes he can set Kreacher the job of tailing Draco, something he's been trying to do himself with limited success. Still later, Professor Snape takes Draco to the Hospital Wing after Harry, to avoid being hit with the Cruciatus curse, injures Draco with the Sectumsempra curse.

Much of the denouement of the sixth book happens in the Hospital Wing, in fact. Following the attack on the school that left Professor Dumbledore dead and saw Severus Snape run away, the injured Aurors and members of the Order of the Phoenix, along with those students who had been involved, are brought to the Hospital Wing. Harry hears news of the battle from Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Luna, and Neville, the five members of Dumbledore's Army who had responded to Harry's call. It is there that Harry explains why Dumbledore trusted Snape, as he then understands it. It is there that Fleur Delacour affirms that her planned wedding to Bill Weasley will not be derailed by anything as trivial as a disfiguring injury, and so heals the potential rift between herself and Mrs. Weasley. And it is there that we see Remus Lupin's objections to marrying Tonks begin to dissolve.

While there are a number of injuries that the Trio suffer in the course of the final book, they are not at Hogwarts and so we don't see what's happening in the Hospital Wing. In the end, they know this place well.

Analysis[edit]

We note in passing that for nominally healthy young men and women, the Trio seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time in the Hospital Wing. Of course, all of that seems to be due to injuries suffered in extracurricular activities of one sort or another, and very little due to normal illness; still, if Madam Pomfrey is keeping track of visits, she must be wondering a little exactly what is happening to this Potter child.

There is never any clear exposition of how large the Hospital Wing is; there have been times in the books that that Madam Pomfrey has been treating as many as six young wizards at once, but we don't have any indication of its available bed count. It is possible that it can magically expand in times of need, but if that were to happen we suspect that Madam Pomfrey would either need to employ help, or would send the worst cases off to St. Mungo's in London.

Most institutions that have residences, such as boarding schools and universities, will also have some sort of local infirmary, so the presence of the Hospital Wing is only to be expected. We note that a typical example, a 5,000-student university in the United States, has an infirmary with one 10-bed ward, and a two-bed isolation wards for infectious diseases. With a school population of either about 280 or 840 students, one would think that 6 beds would be ample; but there is the complication that this is a school of wizards and witches, so injuries requiring treatment will be magically induced, and likely to require both longer and more involved care. We do find it curious that there seems to be only a single ward for the use of both boys and girls, especially as the Founders seem to have taken steps to prevent male students from entering the girl's dormitories.

We would suggest that Madam Pomfrey is rather overworked in any event. Any infirmary visit that requires an overnight stay should, by rights, have a night nurse in attendance. Madam Pomfrey is an extremely dedicated healer, but we should not expect her, and Dumbledore should not expect her, to remain on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our suspicion is that the author felt that introducing a subsidiary healer might prove slightly confusing for the intended readership of the series. All the same, we quietly wish that Ms. Rowling had provided someone to take over for Madam Pomfrey so she could take an occasional well-earned rest.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

The entire Wizarding injury and illness treatment mechanism seems, at first look, somewhat poorly thought out. As mentioned in the article on St. Mungo's, the entire hospital, with very little in the way of longer-term care, would seem to be one large A&E ward (US: Emergency department). Given that, it is somewhat worrying that there doesn't seem to be either an emergency ambulance broom landing pad, or an array of fireplaces for transporting incapacitated patients. Additionally, there is no mention of a surgery (US: doctor's office) in Hogsmeade, though we assume there must be one for the residents, who can't use the Hospital Wing. Clearly, with no way of handling getting critically injured patients to any other treatment facility, a hospital within Hogwarts is vital. While it does make the Hospital Wing indispensable, the lack of medical infrastructure is not important to the story. As this is a book series nominally for children, a fully developed medical services infrastructure is not necessary; most readers will have a child's understanding of the medical system, a local infirmary will be much closer to their experience. What medical experience most readers will have had will be with the school nurse, and so a school nurse and dispensary will match their experience.

In fact, having an actual hospital area in the school is a narrative necessity in the first book. Ron's dragon bite, and the associated Hospital Wing stay, is the mechanism by which Draco learns the details of Norbert's pending departure. If Ron had been resting in Gryffindor Tower, there is no way Draco could have visited him; entrance to the common rooms remains a closely guarded secret. If Ron had been sent off to St. Mungo's, or to an infirmary in town, it would similarly have been difficult for Draco to arrange a visit. The Hospital Wing is an ideal place for Draco to use the information he already has, in order to gain more.

Also in the first book, a fairly large chunk of exposition takes place in the Hospital Wing following Harry's recovery from the events surrounding the recovery of the Stone. By forcing Harry into a hospital bed, we make it possible for Dumbledore to provide the necessary exposition without it seeming tedious. This pattern is repeated in several other books; the Hospital Wing provides a place for conversation, either with or over a recovering character, in a way that allows the story to progress without requiring that the characters be doing anything.

As a side note, we should mention the author's skill in providing exposition as conversation. While this is a basic skill, many authors do not consider it important; this author clearly provides a counter to that view.