Chapter 5: Siege


The Hogwarts staff were all gathered around the table in Dumbledore's office. Snape stood at his seat, looking purposefully at the clipboard he was holding and purposefully avoiding eye contact with his colleagues.

"The third-floor corridor off the unused Charms classroom has collapsed into the second-floor corridor due to eroding masonry caused by…urine," he read out grudgingly. "The fifth landing on the North Tower has collapsed into the fourth landing due to eroding masonry caused by…urine. The third lower passage of the dungeon has caved in due to eroding masonry…caused by urine."

This was Snape's new burden. Since the advent of Vanishing has started in his house, the staff unanimously agreed that he should be the one responsible for reading out reports of damage caused by, among other things, urine.

"The unused fifth corridor Potions lab has been flooded…" staff all blanched, "…due to eroding water pipes…" they all relaxed, "…caused by urine."

The staff all groaned.

"How are they peeing so much?" asked Flitwick. "Seriously, why didn't the pipes all explode when they were using the toilets?"

"At the end of every school year," started McGonagall, "the transfiguration department reinforces all the plumbing magically, along with other repairs."

"Oh," said Flitwick, "like how the Charms department goes around and shores up all the enchantments that keep the building standing?"

"Correct," said Dumbledore. "And now, all forms of magic, be they charms, transfiguration, or optimism, are being slowly eaten away by a tide of piss. We need to find an actionable solution."

"What I don't understand," started Professor Sprout, "is how come this doesn't happen to other castles? There are castles all over the world that predate toilets, and none of them are crumbling."

"Muggle architecture is not the same as magical architecture," said Professor Charity Burbage, the Muggle Studies professor. "The building is prefixed by months of planning and calculation by teams of expert masons. Every pillar, every wall, every brick meticulously placed to bear the weight, time, and elements. In the end, the structure is held together by the immutable laws of physics."

The entire staff stared down the table at her, yet again surprised by how complicated not having magic was.

"Huh," said Professor Vector, "and what about magical architecture?"

Burbage shrugged. "A bunch of wizards and witches randomly slapping rooms together and charming them so the ceiling doesn't fall in."

The staff all nodded at this, silently acknowledging that it was their go-to problem solving method.

"So," continued Sprout, "our choices are find a muggle architect and rebuild the castle, or start charming every surface you can piss on to waterproof it?"

No one answered at first. Then, as if by some invisible signal, they all got up from the table, brandished their wands, and headed out of the office.

Harry waved his wand across the corridor wall, casting a permanent sticking charm. He slapped a poster on the wall, uncaring if it was even right side up.

A picture of a squatting wizard looking scandalized as someone came across him in the hallways stared down at him. The caption at the bottom read 'Don't Get Caught'.

He looked down into the satchel hanging off his shoulder and saw it was empty, he had put up every single poster. He trudged down the corridor towards FLUSH HQ.

He reached a fork in the corridor and saw Ron coming toward us from the other passage. He waited for Ron to approach and saw he had a bubblehead charm cast about his head.

"It reeks down there," Ron said as he met up with harry, his voice a muted echo from within the bubble.

"Yeah," agreed Harry, casting the same charm on himself. Immediately, the air he breathed took on the pleasant aroma of not-shit. "More people forgetting to flush."

As long as there had been toilets, occasionally, people had forgotten to flush after finishing. The problem, while disgusting, was fairly low-grade, because the next person to use the facilities could just flush it for you. The problem in the post-vanishing wizard society was that people were not uniformly relieving themselves in the same place, so if they forgot to vanish, there was no guarantee that anyone would ever find their waste to dispose of it. All the secret passages and hideaways within Hogwarts were now host to unfinished business, just sitting there, outgassing stench that now permeated the castle.

"According to Hermione," said Ron, "It's the Vanishing that's the real problem."

"How so?" asked Harry.

"Well, she says that when you vanish something, it doesn't just stop existing," said Ron, "Gamp's First Principle of Elemental Transfiguration says matter can't be created or destroyed; all is only ever transformed."

"So, what does happen to something that's vanished?" asked Harry, already knowing the answer in his heart.

"She says it either gets transported to some alternate dimension," Ron started hopefully, but then his face fell, "but it most likely gets disintegrated into smaller particles and turns into a fine, unseen, mist of poo."

Harry resolved never to take the bubblehead charm off again, and seriously considered going off breathing.

It was then that they reached the door to FLUSH HQ and pushed the door open. They were greeted by the sight of newspaper articles covering what used to be a row of mirrors over the sinks. Harry knew she'd been keeping press clippings about Flushing/Vanishing news, but he hadn't known it had gotten this much publicity. Upon closer inspection, he could see that some of the articles weren't in English, he saw some papers that looked like they might be German, or Spanish, and some in an Alphabet he loosely associated with Russia.

"You see," came Hermione's voice from across the room, "the fad of Vanishing has reached Europe."

Harry turned around to see her. She had been looking more and more haggard recently, FLUSH taking up more and more time she would otherwise spend sleeping. Today, the circles under her eyes were even darker, her eyes more red. He hair was gathered up on her head in a haphazard fashion.

"I should have gotten ahead of this," she said, self-deprechatingly. "I've taken out ad space in countries it hasn't reached yet. America, Canada, Egypt, Mesopotamia…"

"How'd you afford that?" asked Harry, "Or even learn the language?"

"I helped her," said a frail voice from down the row of sinks.

Harry's and Ron's heads swiveled to see a white-blond putting up more articles on the mirrors.

"Malfoy!" said Harry, "What are you doing here!? This whole thing is your fault."

"I know," he said, turning to look at them. He was also wearing a bubblehead charm, his pale skin was ashen, and his eyes bloodshot. He took a few stumbling steps toward Harry and fell onto his knees, he reached forward and grasped onto Harry's robes.

"I never wanted this!" he cried. "I didn't know it would come to this. The smell!" he whispered sharply, as if afraid a cloud of it would find him if he spoke of it. "The smell! It clings to me! I can't escape it! And it's all my fault! What have I done?"

He broke down sobbing and leaned his face into Harry's belly, muffling his cries. Harry, seeing is genuine regret, couldn't muster any hatred for the man, even if he had been the reason he was spending all his free time putting up embarrassing posters and avoiding breathing.

"It's alright," said Harry, patting him on the shoulder.

"So, yeah," said Hermione, "Draco, welcome to FLUSH! Now, we have a lot to get through, so let's get to it."

She snapped her fingers and a blackboard wheeled itself out from one of the stalls and came to stand behind her.

"I've designed a new toilet we'll being mass producing," she said, "And in some cases, distributing instructions on how people can make their own. It has adjustable height, built in bidet, warmed seats, and has the optional scents of lavender, citrus, or cabbage."

"Cabbage?" asked Ron.

"It's surprisingly big in Russia," clarified Hermione. "Now, according to a Gallup Poll, toilets are falling in popularity, so we all need to start using them more often, even if you don't have to go, to make them appear more popular; see if we can get it trending."

Ron stared at her, then turned to look at Harry for help, but saw that he was still occupied with a sobbing Draco.

"Hermione," he started softly, "Love, when was the last time you slept?"

She looked up, casting about for the answer before: "Oh, who remembers?" she asked.

Ron reached forward and put his hands on her arms, partly to comfort her, partly because he was fairly sure she'd need to be restrained.

"Hermione," he started, with all the surety of a man stepping onto thin ice. "Are you sure it's worth all this? You aren't taking good care of yourself anymore. You're running yourself ragged. It's not worth it to drive yourself into the ground just because of a toilet."

"Yes," said Hermione, her eyes narrowing and the muscles under Ron's touch becoming stiff. "It's just a toilet. It's a toilet that's being used as a way to undermine the importance of muggles in a society that has been, in the past, hunky-dory with killing them."

"He's so evil!" Draco wailed.

That got everyone's attention.

"Who's evil, Draco?" asked Harry, using a gentle tone he had never before associated with talking to Malfoy.

"You Know Who's Evil!" said Malfoy. "I started it, but it was his idea to start with that magazine."

"Ugh, I knew it!" said Hermione, wrenching herself out of Ron's grip to start angrily pacing the room.

"But why?" asked Ron. "What's in it for him? And why are you here if You-Know-Who is for it? Wouldn't he…" Ron trailed off, making a slicing motion across his neck.

"Yes," Draco agreed, "He'd kill me if he knew I was here. But I don't care anymore! There's nothing good in life anymore! Nothing that doesn't smell of sewage! I choose Death!"

"There, there, Draco," soothed Harry, resuming calming strokes of the blonde man's head.

"And he's doing this because he's trying to make hate seem like a normal, everyday thing," said Hermione. "If rejecting toilets on the basis that they're muggle technology is the new normal then hating muggles becomes more acceptable. It's not just a toilet anymore, it's a battle front for civil rights! Vanishing is just an extension of their racism, and being able to practice it freely invigorates them.

And they won't be satisfied! They'll keep pushing the envelope! If the Vanishers aren't cowed here and now they're going to move onto something bigger and worser!"

"Things won't get worser," Ron said, trying to calm the increasingly shrill Hermione with an appeal to grammar.

The door to FLUSH HQ burst open.

"It's worser!" Luna cried, running in, brandishing a copy of the Daily Prophet.

She slapped it down on the desk and the five of them gathered around to read it.

"Vanishing Trend Becomes Worser!" the headline read.

"Oh, come on!" said Ron.

"The practice of vanishing has been trending across Britain and Europe," the article started. "What started as a benign, if disgusting, proclivity to poop anywhere excluding a bathroom, has evolved into a highly developed series hate crimes."

"Series?" said Harry, terrified.

"Highly developed?" said Hermione, terrifiedier.

"Vanishers have developed an Ad Hoc poop redistribution network, similar to the Floo System. However, instead of transporting people through fireplaces, the Poo System will take any waste, vanished using a special incantation, and, instead of reducing it to unseen particles…"

"Oh, God. It's true," moaned Harry.

"…will carry the waste through a network of spells to be redeposited in specific locations."

They all looked up from the paper. Harry saw his look of horror reflected in everyone's faces.

"Redeposit them where?" Ron asked, tentatively.

The Prime Minister sat in his office, going over the speech for the commemoration of queen's tower. He was distracted when something brown and viscous suddenly landed on the paper he was reading off of with a splat.

"What the…!" he jumped back out of his chair. The brown mass sat on his otherwise imaculte desk, looking innoncent. Curious, he leaned forward slightly, and that's when the smell hit him.

"What the…" he said blanching, but was interrupted by another mass falling on his desk, then another, then another. He looked up to see where the excrement might have been coming from. He really shouldn't have, as it provided ample opportunity for one to hit him full in the face, and it was taken advantage of fully.

As he tried to scrape excrement out of his eyes, he heard the sound like rain falling, signaling to him though he couldn't see it, that his office was quickly filling.

Outside the door of the Prime Minister's office, his secretaries and various ministers were hudled in the antechamber, looking on in horror at the door, from whence were coming sounds they couldn't identify: yelling, swearing, something squishy, then something that sounded like wood breaking.

Then, the door to the office burst open, the first thing they noticed was the smell, the second thing was the Prime Minister, wading through a tide of crap that was now pouring out of his office. He was streaked and stained and carried in one arm, a portrait that hand hung in his office and he seemed to have, for some reason, taken off a large chunk of wall the portrait was attached to. The gathered ministers also saw, in some impossible way, that the portrait seemed scared.

With great effort, the Prime Minister pulled the door shut, stoppering the sewage flowing out of his office. He then took a handkerchief that his secretary daintily held out for him and whipped his face as best he could. After taking a deep steadying breath, he held the portrait up in front of him.

"If someone doesn't explain what's going on in five minutes, I'm going to be holding a very important press conference."

The Students of FLUSH stood in front of Dumbledore. He sat at his desk, looking as though he was seriously considering leaving this planet. On the far end of the row, Draco continued quietly sobbing, hoping Dumbledore would take him when he left. Harry gently rubbed Draco's back and wondered, as he did every five minutes 'How did this happen?'

"You're all aware of the recent…attack on the Prime Minister of Muggle Britain?" he asked gravely.

They all nodded.

"Naturally this kind of…obvious incident…occurring at the highest levels of muggle government…in plain view of the muggle public eye… constitutes a breach of the International Statute of Secrecy," he said.

"So," said Hermione, sounding hopeful for the first time in weeks, "the ministry is going to crack down on Vanishers."

"I'm afraid we've gone beyond the ministry," said Dumbledore.

Draco's head shot up. He, Ron, Ginny, and Neville all stared at Dumbledore in horror.

"You don't mean…"

"No…"

"Not that…"

"What?" asked Harry.

"This is now a matter for…" Dumbledore paused, giving them time to brace themselves. "…The International Confederation of Wizards!"

A few of them gasped. Ron fainted.

"So…" said Harry, not comprehending. "Are they, like, the Wizard UN?"

"Yes," said Neville. "Assuming the UN is something that wields unquestionable worldwide power over all wizards, that could declare world war on Wizarding Britain."

"No," said Harry, going pale. "It can't do that."

"To say nothing of the Loa," said Ginny in a small voice. "They can control those, too."

"What's a Loa?" asked Harry, knowing full well he'd regret asking.

"As dragons are to people," said Dumbledore, getting up from his desk. "Loa are to dragons. Magical beings of immense power. Which is why I called you here."

"You want us to fight a Loa?" asked Ginny, horrified. Ron, who had been steadily getting back up with Hermione's help, fainted again.

"Or multiple Loa?" asked Luna, her normally dreamy voice sounding vacant.

"No," said Dumbledore. "You, all of you, have been on the front lines of this problem from the very beginning. One of you even started it," he said looking pointedly at Draco.

Draco started sobbing again and curled himself into Harry's side. Harry put his arm around Draco's shoulders and tried to be a reassuring presence.

"I want all of you," Dumbledore continued, "to come with me to the headquarters of the ICW, to plead our case before the International Wizard HectoDodecaBunal…"

"Like a Tribunal," Ginny whispered to Harry, "but with 112 people instead of 3."

Harry nodded in understanding as Dumbledore continued.

"…show them that there is something in us that is good. That we can still benefit from their support in quashing this…this…this bowel movement!"

Hermione stood up tall and proud, or as tall as she was able while supporting the still-woozy Ron.

"I'm with you, sir," she said.