The United Confederation of People with Too Much Time on Their Hands
Harry Potter and the Toilet Wars
We present, for your perusal, a strange occurrence in modern wizarding history, where the concerns of the progressives and the agenda of the purebloods came into conflict in an unusual place. The forces of hate and oppression tried to strike a blow and establish a beachhead in an area of that was of ubiquitous concern to all levels of society and government worldwide. Their success, or failure, could forever change the landscape of civilization. So much was riding on the brave souls that fought against the cruel flush of history.
A few things to keep in mind: 1) Assume, unless otherwise mentioned, either here or in the books, that any muggle technology works in a non-magical fashion. 2) A Vanishing Spell does not destroy matter; any given object is disintegrated into a cloud of atoms. 3) Despite the fact that something does not make sense, certain people will still cling to it with religious zeal and make a huge deal out of it.
We are legally obligated to inform you that we have no creative rights to anything we are writing about.
Chapter 1: Tensions Rise
We are often familiar with natural disasters once they reach an interesting size. Many of us have looked on in horror and amusement as avalanches have crushed whole forests and rockslides have made short work of a city. But these cataclysmic events are very late in the whole story of the disaster. Before the rockslide leveled a hapless, poorly located city, before it was millions of tons of rocks and dirt shooting down a mountain, before it was a cascade of rubble tumbling down an incline, the whole thing was started, very far up the mountain, by a pebble that, at the wrong time fell on the wrong place and set off a string of events that ended in catastrophe.
Very rarely can we chronicle a story down to Pebble Zero, and in this case, there's some disagreement about who's pebble set the whole thing off. We start by going as close to the beginning as possible: which is during a Sunday afternoon in Hogwarts Library, at a table next to the Horticulture Section, where two chronic underperformers are trying to do their homework at the last minute.
"Hydropathy in Tentacula is caused by…" Ron said to himself, flipping through pages of the book in front of him. "Temperature…humidity…and one other thing…or maybe seven other things." He closed the book, pushed it to the side and reached for another book from the massive stack that had accumulated in the middle of the table.
"Where's Hermione?" Harry asked as he flipped through his own book. "She went to the bathroom twenty minutes ago."
"It takes as long as it takes," said Ron.
The three of them had developed a routine for school work. Hermione would get her assignments finished early, so early that Ron legitimately suspected she could see the future and finished them before they were assigned, and would help them finish their assignments when they tried to cobble theirs together at the last minute. In exchange for her largesse, Harry and Ron…they hadn't actually worked out a counter-balance, but when the time came, they would owe her bigly.
From down the row of books, they heard the sound of damp, angry footsteps. They looked up from their research to Hermione stalking over to their table, looking like she'd just walked in from the rain. Ron got up and walked over to her. Extracting his wand from his pocket, he started drying.
"What happened?" he asked, trying and failing to dry her hair without making it explosively frizzy.
"Peeves and Moaning Myrtle decided to put aside their differences to combat their mutual enemy," she said, tugging at her now shrunken robes. "People who are dry. I was using the loo down the hall when all the commodes exploded."
"Couldn't work a toilet, Granger?" a cold drawling voice came from behind one of the shelves. The next second, Draco Malfoy appeared around the shelf, followed closely by Pansy Parkinson, Crabbe, and Goyle. Malfoy wore his typical condescending smirk as he looked over the recently dried Hermione.
"Is it just you, Granger, or do all muggles have issues with basic plumbing?" he asked.
"What are you talking about?" asked Hermione, genuinely confused.
This caused Malfoy to come up short. Whatever else he might think about Hermione, he had never had to explain one of his insults to her. It was a strange kind of respect that he withheld from Crabbe and Goyle.
"I mean," he started explaining, "to imply that toilets, sinks, and plumbing in general, is a level of technology beyond what muggles are intellectually capable of using reliably." Then he added, like an afterthought, "And by extension, muggle-borns."
Hermione gave him a flat look and took a deep breath.
"Draco," she started, with the slow intonation of someone trying to explain something complex to a badger, "Plumbing, toilets, sinks, pipes, and the like, are muggle inventions."
"What?" said Draco scowling. "No, they're not. We've got plumbing in Hogwarts Castle, that's over a millennium old."
"Ancient Rome had water pipes two millenniums…millennia?...ago," Hermione said. "And, according to Hogwarts: A History, plumbing was added to the castle in 1740, long after plumbing was widely used in muggle London."
"Can't be!" said Malfoy, scandalized.
"Wait…it can't be," agreed Ron.
Harry and Hermione turned to glare at him. Even if he was right, which he wasn't, you never agreed with Malfoy. Malfoy and his cronies seemed equally surprised by this breach of protocol.
"I mean," Ron started to explain. "If they didn't have bathrooms before…well…what did they do when…you know." He made a vague gesture near his bum.
"Well, they…" Hermione started, and her forehead pinched as she searcher her memories.
"…I don't know," she finally admitted.
A half hour later, their group stood in front of the door to Professor Binns' office. An office thought about so little, they had to ask four other professors, including Dumbledore, before anyone could tell them where his office even was.
Hermione stood in front of the door, working up the courage the knock. She was a bit embarrassed by all of this. She had a close relationship with every teacher she had, excluding him. And she had excluded him intentionally, by reason of finding him boring and creepy. Now, she was here to ask for his help with the strangest question possible.
Pushing down her awkwardness, she knocked.
There was no answer from within, and she knocked again, harder, at which the door swung inward slightly. A puff of stale air exited the room.
"Hello?" Hermione called tentatively, pushing the door open further and stepping inside, the rest following close behind her.
On the far side of the room, light streamed in from a window, illuminating a room that looked like it belonged to a muggle barrister. The room was surrounded by bookshelves, stocked in an orderly fashion. There was a desk with papers arranged on it in neat piles. Two armchairs stood by an unlit fireplace. Hermione hadn't sure what she expected a ghost's office to look like, but this wasn't it. In retrospect, she thought, she should have predicted that the boringness of Professor Binns' would have extended to every area of his life.
"Hello?" a dry voice asked.
Seven heads swiveled around to the fireplace to see the apparition of Professor Binn's get up from one of the armchairs. He surveyed them with a vacant stare. A student hadn't come into his office in living memory, no one had, in fact, save for the occasional house elf who came in to do the dusting.
"Professor Binns," Hermione greeted him, walking over. "Sorry, I did knock. We wanted to ask you."
She broke off when she noticed what was in the armchair he had just got up from. From the other side of the room, what she thought had been a malformed cushion was a desiccated cadaver in a mottled robe.
"Oh, my God!" she started, horrified. "Is that…?"
She was cut off by the feeling of someone behind her grabbing her firmly, but gently on her upper arms.
"Hermione!" Ron hissed sharply. "Don't be rude."
She turned in his grip to stare at him incredulously. To her surprise, his expression was mirrored on the faces of the four Slytherins: the mild condemnation of a faux pas. Harry, no more familiar with ghost etiquette than she was, just shrugged.
"I'm sorry," she said, turning back to Professor Binns, pointedly not looking at what she assumed was his corpse, which he, apparently, had every right to keep in his office. She would later reflect that it made an odd sort of sense. She was allowed to do what she wanted with her body, damn what anyone else thought.
"Professor Binns," she said, trying to recover. "We had a question about the history of Hogwarts."
"Oh?" said Professor Binns, drifting closer.
"Well, we know that Plumbing was installed in Hogwarts in 1740."
"That's right," said Professor Binns. "Up until then, students were responsible for conjuring their own water, or bringing it up from the lake."
"So, the inclusion of muggle technology improved the quality of life at Hogwarts, did it?" asked Hermione smugly and rhetorically.
"Yes, yes, yes," said Malfoy dismissively. "Get on with it, Granger."
"Yes, well," she continued, not sure how she wanted to phrase this. "Before plumbing, how did people…go about…well, doing things we now do in bathrooms?"
"Well, in the pre-plumbing period at Hogwarts," Binns started, sliding into a tone they had all come to associate with his lectures. "Water was brought up from the lake by bucket, by the students who couldn't conjure their own water, anyway. They used the passage the first years use to enter the castle by boat."
"Oh," said Ron. "So that's why that's there."
"Quite," said Binns. "Standing tubs were used for bathing, filled either by magic or multiple bucket trips, and heated with any number of charms. For this reason, regular bathing was infrequent, and less so in winter months."
"By the same dint, handwashing and oral hygiene were similarly circumspect."
He stopped there, apparently finished.
"And?" asked Pansy Parkinson.
He swivled his owlish gaze at her.
"And what?" he asked.
"What about the…you know…other bathroom things?" she tried to clarify.
"Oh, uhm," he said, trying to remember what people actually did in the bathroom. It had been a while for him. "Fingernails were trimmed consistent with the manner they are in the modern day…"
"What did people do when they needed to shit?" asked Malfoy, annoyed.
"Oh yes," said Professor Binns brightly. "Before the advent of the commode, there was no concept of a designated place to relieve one's self. A person wishing to defecate needed only find a place in the castle with a modicum of privacy and vanish the evidence when they were done."
He finished to a room of flabbergasted students. Crabbe and Goyle looked flabbergasted a few seconds after the others, but they got there all the same.
"Um, thank you, sir," said Hermione, and, as if by some invisible signal, they all turned around simultaneously and filed out of the room.
Ron was the last one to leave the room, shutting the door behind them.
"Blimey," said Ron as the lock clicked shut. "The past was horrible."
"Yes," Hermione agreed. "Fortunately, the combined ingenuity of generations of muggles and wizards have made our present more comfortable."
"Yeah," said Ron, as they all started walking down the corridor. "You have to admit, it was convenient though."
"What part?" asked Hermione sarcastically. "Slugging your water up from the lake in buckets skipping your morning shower for a few months?"
"I mean being able to use the bathroom wherever you want," Ron clarified.
"Ron!" Hermione chastised.
"Sure, it's gross," said Ron. "But think of it: No more lines at the bog. You wouldn't have to go anywhere near Moaning Myrtle."
"Ugh, Ron," she said exasperated.
They reached a fork in the corridor where the Slytherins turned left to head down to the dungeons and Ron, Harry, and Hermione turned right to go back to the Library. Just before they parted ways, Hermione got a look at Malfoy and noted he had an oddly pensive reflection, as if deep in thought. As she walked away from him, she felt an odd sensation dancing along her spine; a feeling of dread, seemingly out of nowhere. She couldn't tell you why at the time, and even later on she would doubt it was any kind of premonition. But she often thought of that time in the corridor, that feeling she got, and wished she had killed Malfoy then and there.
But he lived, the pebble started falling, and things got out of hand after that.