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What did wizards do to relieve their bathroom needs before plumbing was a thing? J.K. Rowling answered this question in one of the essays posted to the newly re-launched Harry Potter website. As it turns out, when wizards had to go… they just went.
Rowling dropped this fascinating (and ok, pretty gross) tidbit in the Pottermore essay related to the Chamber of secrets. As fans likely know, the Chamber’s entrance is in one of the Hogwarts bathrooms. While explaining about how that came to be — the entrance actually existed before the bathroom did — Rowling revealed that plumbing was one of the rare things wizards adopted from Muggles:
However, when Hogwarts’ plumbing became more elaborate in the eighteenth century (this was a rare instance of wizards copying Muggles, because hitherto they simply relieved themselves wherever they stood, and vanished the evidence), the entrance to the Chamber was threatened, being located on the site of a proposed bathroom.
As you can see, Rowling buries this nugget of info about wizards evanesco-ing their “evidence” within a sentence explaining Hogwarts’ renovation plans.
So, are we reading this incorrectly, or is she really saying that witches and wizards simply went wherever they happened to be and then did a quick vanishing spell to clean up. Chamber pots and outhouses were pretty crude, but this just seems... odd.
As mentioned, Pottermore re-launched today, delivering a handful of essays about the Harry Potter universe. As JK Rowling explains in the “Chamber of Secrets” writing, when plumbing came into fashion, a bathroom was set over the Chamber of Secrets entrance, and the modification to the entrance is attributed to the presence of Corvinus Gaunt, a direct descendent of Salazar Slytherin, who happened to be attending Hogwarts at the time. He presumably made sure the Chamber was still accessible to Parselmouths to come. That would include Tom Riddle and Harry Potter.
As for what wizards did before toilets were available, this new information has me even more curious about where vanished stuff goes.
On second thought, I’m not so sure I want to hear the answer now.
Other recent reveals made by J.K. Rowling