Saturday, 15 October 2016

On the Vanishing Cabinet in Harry Potter

Vanishing Cabinet
“We forced him headfirst into that Vanishing Cabinet on the first floor.”

The Vanishing Cabinet and its pair are among the many magical objects in the world of Harry Potter. They are well enough described in the series that I do not need to introduced. Where were they located, though? We know that one was in Borgin & Burkes, and eventually even the least observant of us are forced to acknowledge that one is at Hogwarts. But where in Hogwarts? Was it always in the Room of Requirement?

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, after the school year had begun, Peeves very obligingly dropped the Hogwart's Vanishing Cabinet inside the room just above Filch's office. However, observe the wording used to describe the placement of the cabinet.
“Name . . . Harry Potter. Crime . . .” “It was only a bit of mud!” said Harry. “It’s only a bit of mud to you, boy, but to me it’s an extra hour scrubbing!” shouted Filch, a drip shivering unpleasantly at the end of his bulbous nose. “Crime . . . befouling the castle . . . suggested sentence . . .” Dabbing at his streaming nose, Filch squinted unpleasantly at Harry, who waited with bated breath for his sentence to fall. But as Filch lowered his quill, there was a great BANG! on the ceiling of the office, which made the oil lamp rattle. ... Nearly Headless Nick came gliding out of a classroom. Behind him, Harry could see the wreckage of a large black-and-gold cabinet that appeared to have been dropped from a great height. “I persuaded Peeves to crash it right over Filch’s office,” said Nick eagerly. “Thought it might distract him —” “Was that you?” said Harry gratefully. “Yeah, it worked, I didn’t even get detention. Thanks, Nick!
[Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (pp. 126, 129). Scholastic Paperbacks. Kindle Edition.]
Note that the ceiling of Filch's office shook with the impact. I think that had the Vanishing Cabinet been originally located in the room just above Filch's office, there would have been no need to be so specific about requesting Peeves to drop it precisely in that classroom. This is important to my line of thinking because I think that the Mirror of Erised and the Vanishing Cabinet were originally located in the same room before Peeves got his hands on the Vanishing Cabinet and smashed it up. The Mirror of Erised was stashed in an unused classroom that was being used as a storage room. Also located in an unused room was the Vanishing Cabinet that Nearly Headless Nicholas convinced Peeves to drop on the floor of the room just above Filch's office, which itself is on the ground floor.

So far, I am assuming that this room is in the Grand Staircase Tower, a tower that also houses Gryffindor House and Dumbledore's office. This is because, as Harry Potter Wikia explains, "given its location in the books, it can be found in the circular building adjacent to the Entrance Hall." Whilst Harry Potter Wikia shows an image of a stout little building, it is not unimaginable that the Grand Staircase Tower, also located off the Entrance Hall.

I think that the Hogwarts Vanishing Cabinet was located on the fourth floor of whichever building it was in. In his first year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter snuck off to the library. Now, the Harry Potter series is clear that the library itself (the entrance, at least) is on the first floor. Harry Potter Wikia states,"In Chapter 11 of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry leaves the library, walks along this corridor, walks up a staircase, and is then in a corridor around the corner from the headmaster's office. The headmaster's office is, in Chapter 28 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, said to be on the second-floor, placing the library on the first-floor. Additionally, in Chapter 8 of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry heads towards the library, changes his mind, ascends a staircase and is then on the second-floor corridor, outside of Lupin's office."

This is a potential complication. However, the Restricted Section is reported by the Harry Potter Wikia to be on the fourth floor. When Harry entered the library that Christmas night of his first year, he went to the Restricted Section. The book, Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone, describes Harry as stepping over a rope divider in order to enter the Restricted Section. However, the book did not specify that Harry had remained on the first floor. In addition, nearly every (useful) map of Hogwarts shows a possibly contiguous run from the fourth floor of the library to what would be the fourth floor of the Grand Staircase Tower.

Since Hogwarts is full of secret passages with which Filch is intimately familiar, I find it more plausible that he and Snape were able to remain within earshot of a panicking young boy running for his life than that Peeves went all the way off to a corridor off the library entrance to retrieve a Vanishing Cabinet. Given the layout of the castle and other textual clues, I am inclined to thinking that the Vanishing Cabinet and the Mirror of Erised were at one time located in the same room on the fourth floor of the Grand Staircase Tower.

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