Fireplaces: Cozy Study Aid or Major Security Risk?

by Rob P. 

As Hermione would remind us for the billionth time, “You can’t apparate at Hogwarts,” it strikes me as curious that she, being the cleverest witch of her age, has never noticed the gaping hole in Hogwarts security . . . fireplaces. What’s harmful about a fireplace you ask? Only that in the course of five books we have never heard any mention of preventing people from using one. We are given a glimpse of fireplaces being regulated in Goblet of Fire when Mr. Weasley mentions that he had the Dursley’s fireplace put on the Floo network temporarily, and further yet in Order of the Phoenixwe are told that fireplaces are being monitored. Is it enough?

Sirius Black uses the Gryffindor fire to talk to Harry in Goblet of Fire several times. One would think that the house common rooms’ fires would not be connected to the Floo network. Apparently they are, and apparently they went unmonitored.

This begs the question, why didn’t Sirius just use a fireplace to get into Gryffindor tower in Prisoner of Azkaban? Why aren’t people sneaking in if it’s so readily available? Perhaps only a member of that House can use the fireplace in such a manner? If that were true however, Umbridge (whom I doubt ever belonged to Gryffindor) wasn’t likely to have access to almost catch Sirius in Order of the Phoenix when he’s talking with our lovable trio, although it is likely she’s arranged to have that sort of power with her connections at the Ministry. It’s hard to imagine Sirius maintaining alumni privileges after being sent away for mass murder as well, although if the Ministry works with a similar amount of red tape as the real world, I guess it’s feasible. He did, after all, break into a wizarding home to use their fire to contact Harry, so it’s pretty clear that they don’t even consider monitoring fires for escaped convicts to be a priority.

Teachers’ offices are also apparently vulnerable. Umbridge’s office was the target of Harry and the DA’s rule-breaking. This leads to limitless possibilities of mischief and danger. It would be easy for students or evil-doers to sneak into offices after hours, bypassing all forms of outer security. Do wizards not realize that they’ve left the back door unlocked?

It is clear to this reader that fireplaces are a major security flaw at Hogwarts, allowing access to what are believed to be secure areas. It would be all too easy for Voldemort to simply step into a fireplace and appear in the midst of the Gryffindor common room.