Leah dropped a tweet into Slack with an “ummmm” affixed beforehand:
Hogwarts didn't always have bathrooms. Before adopting Muggle plumbing methods in the eighteenth century, witches and wizards simply relieved themselves wherever they stood, and vanished the evidence. #NationalTriviaDay
— Pottermore (@pottermore) January 4, 2019
I did some telltale nerdly throat-clearing and gamely told her that this information was not new; it had been published on Pottermore in a larger piece about the history of the Chamber of Secrets several months ago, and I kept avoiding it because of how angry it made me. Because it makes no sense, and also, it ruins one of my favorite headcanons about the Potter series.
See, the thing I always assumed was that the castle magically rearranged around the Chamber as it was reconstructed over the years. Which would be hilarious because nothing is better than the idea of Salazar Slytherin being such a garbage self-important ass, and putting this special spot in the castle all for himself and his descendants… only to have a perfect random act of magical architecture later place the entrance to his Super Secret Clubhouse in a bathroom. But no, we find out that one of his heirs basically had to redo the door when the castle was renovated to include bathrooms, which totally ruins that little piece of cosmic justice.
And then there’s the ridiculous aside about Muggle plumbing methods being adopted by wizards because before the advent of plumbing, they were just going wherever and vanishing the evidence. Which is silly because why would you go from “vanishing” to a sudden need for wizarding waste-treatment plants? Who gets that job? (House-elves, let’s be realistic. So that’s a fun job for them.)
It also calls the term “vanishing” into question. Because it could actually mean several things.
- You literally make it disappear. So it’s still there, but not visible. Maybe every time you think you’ve stepped in dog crap, it’s just a “present” left by a magical neighbor who forgot their manners? [Leah: GAHHH.]
- You vanish it to a different location. Question is, where? Do you have a specific area in mind, or does it just end up anywhere? Because that’s freaking chaos. Unless it’s like Apparating, and you have to have the new location in mind. Which is even more ridiculous because then you’re just visualizing empty fields or rock quarries to send your waste to? Maybe? Do you have a favorite forest or farm where you shuffle it all away? [Leah: No. No No No NO.]
- Space. You vanish it to space. Who knows what sort of trouble that will be down the line.
- You literally magic it into nothing. It ceases to exist. [Leah: This is causing me real, physical pain.]
The fourth option is clearly the neatest and most sensible of the lot. Except it begs about eighteen-thousand more questions about how magic works once you make that decision. Because once you can literally wink something out of existence with magic, you could potentially wink anything else out of existence. A hairbrush. All leftover food on dinner plates. A skyscraper.
Leah: OR A HUMAN BEING WHICH IS ORGANIC MATTER JUST LIKE ITS WASTE PRODUCTS OMG.
And additionally, option four makes the idea of indoor plumbing seem absurd. Why would you move to a complicated Muggle waste system when you could just make it go away? No one would be into this idea. Which makes the other three options more likely, but they’re still terrible and senseless options. They are all bad. This was a bad idea, it could have been so easily avoided by just not telling us about this.
This also means that parents are stuck doing cleanup for their kids until they can gets wands, probably. (Until they are ELEVEN YEARS OLD???) At least in the western wizarding world, since not everyone uses wands. Also, not everywhere has indoor plumbing, so what’s the deal for places that are still without it? Wizards and witches deal the old-fashioned way?
And this is all without getting into the fact that Hogwarts plumbing seems to dump straight into their lake. With the merfolk and the giant squid in it.
Leah: But maybe the giant squid is actually a high-tech water filter Charmed to look like a squid? That way it keeps the water clean…ish and stops the kids from swimming in the, uh, the poo-water. Plus the merfolk maybe won’t die of wizard dysentery? OK. Cool, this is my head canon now, thanks for this.