The depth of emotion that exists during that explosive yet wondrous time nestled between childhood and adulthood never ceases to amaze me. Teenagers are so volatile, so very reactive to the world around them, and yet they're also endearingly expressive, and with an earnestness that will be lost, I'm afraid, all-too-soon to the jadedness of experience.
How refreshing life would be if we all maintained that magical moment within youth, when love was new, passions intense, and life could be made or broken by the small things we adults value far too little: a smile, a nod, hand holding, tentative caresses, incessant kisses, and the first, fantastic fumbling with unadulterated lust.
As the school nurse of Hogwarts it's my job to mend wounds and fix foils, to soothe their aches and pains, but it's never enough. For they, impulsive and rashly interdependent though they may be, are too often hurt, and I don't mean in terms of skin, bones or body - things so easily repaired.
Take little Harry Potter for example.
As an adult in a position of authority at Hogwarts it is against my own staunch integrity to play favorites amongst the students here, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that the man-child, far too weary for one his age, didn't pull on just about every heartstring I own.
Life had dealt that particular child a very unfortunate hand. There wasn't a professor at Hogwarts (Severus Snape notwithstanding) who would argue that claim, and yet the he never gives up. People around him have died. He's been deprived of love and affection; deprived of material possessions, and deprived, through the restrictive laws of a prophecy, of freewill. He's witnessed violence and destruction annually, since his very first year here at Hogwarts it would seem, and yet he awakes every morning revving to face a new day, treading on unmercifully. As if he it hasn't dawned on him that he could, feasibly, give up - as if it hasn't dawned on him that life wasn't his for the shaping.
He is a lesson in perseverance that would do any seasoned veteran proud and I'll admit I've taken a rather maternal delight in watching him grow - in watching that starkly honest, driven, emotive youth fight kicking and screaming to become a man.
Though goodness knows that little Harry, despite the very adult circumstances that exist within his life, isn't immune to the adolescent confusion that runs rampart in his demographic. He is, for all his battle-weary knowledge, a lost and lonely little boy. One so unfamiliar with the many facets of love that he wouldn't recognize the blatant duality of it if it were handed to him written in large, bold script along with an English to Teen-speak translator.
But then, what human, great or small, young or old, could claim with all honesty that they do?
The volatile nature of his relationship with Draco Malfoy is a constant source of amusement to my colleagues and myself. For it has not escaped our notice that the first place either of them look, when walking into a room, is towards the other. Nor has it escaped our notice that this persistent pursuit of each other's incessant attention is fired by a boundless energy we all wished they devoted with equal fervor to their studies. And honestly, the ceaseless show of one-upmanship has gotten wildly out of hand, at this rate the walls of the impenetrable Hogwarts may very fall before they've displayed for each other all that needs to be proven (in their eyes at any rate).
But it's heartwarming nonetheless. Especially to those of us who have put forth an honest effort to hold unto a small degree of the idealism of youth amongst the wisdom of age.
So convinced that they have all the answers. Naively assessing that love can be shelved, contained or controlled through overtly vehement displays in the opposite direction.
Unwisely thinking that love is categorical, and that it cannot or wont or shouldn't exist beyond the boundaries each have been taught to believe - in regards to good and evil, right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable.
Ignorantly judging that the impossibility of their attraction by societal standards translates to it not existing at all.
As if willing it away will make it stop. As if any man, creature or animal could ignore the drive of nature, the desire stemmed in the wild rush of pheromones, or the socialistic tendencies of sexual beings: to partner, to mate, to love.
As if they could honestly ignore the raging inferno that has built upon itself every year since that first initial day Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy met and decided each other's focus was an ambition worth being pursued at all costs.
I wonder if they will ever realize this for themselves, or if they'll succumb to the pressures of society, passing their passion off as hatred forevermore?
Nature vs. nurture, if you will.
Quidditch is really an unpardonable sport, too reckless, wild and kamikaze for my tastes. But my most vehement opposition to the sport is the potential harm it places on its players.
I have had more students come in and out of my ward in the aftermath of that poorly regulated monstrosity than any two viruses combined.
And it just breaks my heart to see my darlings in pain, any of them, but especially my little warrior, who, arguably, spends more time in my ward than he does in his own dorm room.
And while this occasion finds him in no worse a state than I've seen him in before, the cause for it is truly distressing.
By all accounts Mr. Malfoy had pushed Mr. Potter from his broom, resulting in his fall, seconds after Mr. Potter had beat him to the snitch, once again.
This antagonism between them had gone entirely too far, in fact, I've been told there is to be a staff meeting discussing the topic first thing in the morning and for once I might have something other than an exasperated snort and a shared look with Minerva to contribute. For as ghastly as the deed undoubtedly was, it doesn't explain why Draco Malfoy has snuck into my ward, well after curfew, to stand at the foot of the sleeping Harry's bed, utterly transfixed by the sight of him, and otherwise looking to the world both repentant and guilty.
I hesitate to approach them, to alert Mr. Malfoy to my presence and disturb his moment of introspection, but I'm obligated to do so, both in light of recent events and because I have a thing to two to say.
I've devoted my life to healing, and I do not like it, at all, when the sacredness of life is so carelessly endangered by something so trivial as the winning of a game, or in this case, the winning of a cock fight. And Mr. Malfoy was far too like a damn peacock displaying his feathers, and therefore far too ridiculously male for me to hold my tongue.
Yet before I can speak he senses me, his eyes never leaving the sleeping form of Harry Potter as he softly acknowledges my presence.
"You may not believe me but I swear I didn't mean to hurt him. I mean, I know I've threatened to hurt him plenty of times, but I've never actually meant it. Not truly. He's knows that. Ask him," Draco was so earnest, probably the most heartfelt I've ever seen him, especially as he continued to speak, seemingly seeking my absolution.
" I mean, he's not afraid of anything, why on earth would he be afraid of me? It's just how it is with us. And tonight I just wanted to win. I wanted it so badly. And when he got the snitch, again, I was so mad. I didn't think. I just sort of reacted. I was instantly sorry about it. I even tried to catch him. He'll be all right, wont he? He always is. He survives everything."
Try as I might it was hard to hold on to my righteousness when confronted with genuine remorse, which wasn't to say, however, that I felt Mr. Malfoy should go unpunished, or that the time for watching this particular mating dance with nothing more than distant amusement had long passed. As much as I felt that these boys needed to evolve and accept certain truths on their own, if that were even possible, it had gone too far, and perhaps a little push towards enlightenment wouldn't be amiss.
"The last time I checked, Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Potter was indeed human, and therefore just as capable of dying from a fall of that height, and at that speed, as anyone else. However, he was very fortunate to survive this time with nothing more than a few broken bones, cuts, and bruises; all of which were treated with the proper potions and spells. He'll be right as rain in a day or two."
Relief was clearly evident on the young Malfoy's face as I relayed this news, his shoulders visibly sagging from the release of tension. I decided to use this newly relaxed state of his to my advantage, asking the one question that everyone but these two boys knew the answer to.
"I am curious to know why it is that winning is so important to you? Why the loss of a game can result you in physically harming someone you claim you didn't want to hurt?"
The question clearly caught him off guard, which was exactly what I wanted. True moments of stark honesty were sometimes only found when the mind was hugely distracted and couldn't censor speech.
"Because I want to show him that I'm just as good as he is, that he doesn't have the monopoly in everything. That he's not as untouchable as everyone believes. I just want a little respect around here, that's all. And Potter's stuck so firmly on his high horse that he can't see beyond the little band of merry men he surrounds himself with to give me much of anything, let alone respect."
There was bitterness to Mr. Malfoy's words, but there was also pain, thinly veiled. It was the cry of a hurt, rejected child lashing out in the only way guaranteed to get the attention of he-who-had-originally-spurned.
"Interesting," I reply, calculating my response to pack the most punch without being completely obvious. I've learned through the years that teenagers seem to react best to that form of persuasion rather than having things spelled out for them directly, "so what you're saying is that you compete against Potter, for Potter? So that he'll see you? So that he may, perhaps, perceive you as an equal? Why is that so important to you, I wonder?"
I left him to that introspection just as the first dawning of realization spread across his face, feeling proud of myself yet also, surprisingly, sad.
Love itself is such a genuine, natural thing; it is our own psychological fumbling, our own fears and prejudices, which complicate it.
These two precious beings exemplified that almost too severely.
Six years ago a new type of atmosphere swept across the castle, one that hadn't been here before, but one that has been here every year since: profound worry for a driven little orphan with eyes like spring leaves, a wild mop of ebony hair, and a heart large enough to crush the stone and mortar that together make Hogwarts.
And every day since that far too undernourished little fireball entered the castle doors, the prevalent anxiety has always been when: not who, or what, or where, that much we knew, but when was this little child, an eleven-year-old with the demeanor of someone far closer to forty, going to face the strongest paradigm of evil the wizarding world had seen in centuries.
One cannot possibly imagine what it was like, as a caregiver and nurturer, to watch this sweet little boy stumble around the school making friends, and worrying over assignments, while thinking, 'my god, what's in store for you? My poor, poor lad. Are you strong enough to triumph? Are we, your instructors and counselors, strong enough to support and guide you through it?'
I can honestly say that on several occasions these past few years we've all thought the worst: Harry Potter has disappeared to go after Quirrell and the stone, Harry Potter has vanished to face God knows what in the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter has gone missing amongst the ongoing search for escaped murderer Sirius Black, Harry Potter made it to the end of the third task only to evaporate via portkey in front of our very eyes, and so on and so forth right on down the line.
And each time Harry Potter came back, a little bit more beaten down, a little bit more weary, but still blessedly alive, and still maintaining that brilliant inner fire - one that kept him moving forward fiercely and wildly.
Yet despite the fact that he had lived through all that, and despite the fact that the ongoing joke in the staff room is that little Harry has more lives than a cat, I don't think any of us were prepared for the sight that would greet us just two days before what would be his seventh year here at Hogwarts…. The day we heard a crash outside the main entrance and were met with the sight of a sobbing Draco Malfoy clinging desperately to a battered and bruised Harry Potter, demanding incessantly that I 'make him better! Please. PLEASE. Fix him!'
I didn't get to hear the first story until later, since my first priority was to do exactly as Mr. Malfoy had asked and start on mending Mr. Potter. Apparently the story went that Mr. Malfoy had helped Mr. Potter flee the captivity of a band of recently escaped Death Eaters actively seeking their revenge - not against Potter's threat to the Dark Lord, mind, but for their own time spent in Azkaban.
There was dissention in the ranks; Voldemort and his camp had now split in two. This was very good news for us all; clearly Voldemort's support, even amongst his own men, was waning.
Details on how exactly the Death Eater's were able to penetrate the Dursley home through Albus' wards were discussed, but I was still too shocked by the fact that Draco Malfoy had broken out of his shell and taken a proactive step in embracing his true feelings for Harry Potter to really pay the rest of the post-excitement meeting much mind, my brain recycling one thought…
One of the escaped Death Eaters had been Lucius Malfoy; Draco had actively turned against his own father in order to save the life of the boy whose attention he had always sought.
I remember thinking at the time that I heard never heard of anything more romantic. Boy raised to believe a certain set of ideals, boy spurns said ideals when faced with the potential demise of the one he holds dear, who just happens to be the pillar opposite of the aforementioned ideals the boy was originally taught to believe… why, the whole thing was positively Shakespearian!
But I was wrong; there was something more romantic.
Romantic was returning my medical ward to find Draco Malfoy sitting beside Harry Potter's bed, holding his hand.
Romantic was Mr. Potter waking from a meditated slumber to seek out Mr. Malfoy eyes with his own, smile, and say…
And romantic was watching Draco squeeze Harry's hand, smile back, and reply, "Anytime."
Love, it seemed, had crossed the valley of hate, and triumphed smiling.
My next encounter with Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter left me breathless and giddy, like a weary traveler returning the warm comfort of home.
I don't think they ever knew I was there, monitoring the halls that night, or that I had a clear view of them. And honestly, that's more to my benefit than theirs; as an adult I should have reprimanded them, public displays of affection were never warranted in a school, nor should they be, but I was too caught up in the rapid beating of my heart, and the warmth that spread through me like pulsing fire at the awareness the sight of them elicited within me.
Love. Young love. Free, open, and unkempt. Oh, how I've missed the sight of you.
"Draco, stop it, we'll get caught."
"Since when do you care about getting caught, Harry?"
"Well, I don't, not really. But I don't want anyone to catch us like this, half undressed; it would be embarrassing."
"I'll make it worth your while if we keep going, right now, just as we are. Here, let me show you."
gasp "Oh god, I take it back, don't stop!"
"Never Harry, never. We'll just do this and nothing else forever."
groan "Love you, Harry. Merlin, how I love you."
"I love you, too."
I've heard it said that the first love is always the deepest, strongest, most profound. Could it be because the first time is the only time we love freely, newly, without past hurts and broken hearts to shadow our better judgment? Could it be because everything is fresh, and exciting… a dizzying experience that can never be duplicated in the same way again?
Or could it be because first love is the one poignant moment in time when we realize that we're not alone in the universe and that little pieces of ourselves can be found in the warm embrace of another, whose heart beats in near tangent with our own?
There is something youthful and spry within me that wants to believe that Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter will indeed love each other, like that, forever. Perhaps because I know that each of them have already, at their tender ages, seen the worst of humanity and still came out loving each other silly. Or perhaps because their love has fought near unfathomable odds and won.
The world would be such a magical place if all love were like that. If everyone realized, as they have, that love is seldom convenient. It can't be controlled, manufactured, or defined. It doesn't have an on and off switch, and wont fit tidily into a box. Many have tried to place boundaries on it, to limit its power and delude its purity, and all who have tried have lost something of themselves in the process.
It, quite simply, just is.