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This always struck me as a weird detail of Goblet of Fire's, is this a normal thing in boarding schools? Or is there a good reason for it at Hogwarts?

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    This is pretty normal in UK boarding schools. Prefects are often given preferential toilets, use of the staffroom, a separate kitchen, the ability to go off-site without permission, special uniform items, etc etc – Valorum Jul 12 at 18:10
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    It did strike me as odd that in a co-ed school they basically have a gigantic hot tub upstairs, convenient for parties. – Valorum Jul 12 at 18:19
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    It's not a bath, it's a swimming pool xd – TheMadHatter Jul 13 at 3:27
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    @TheMadHatter - The implication is that it's a communal bath. Those used to be pretty common in schools and sports facilities. Less so now. – Valorum Jul 13 at 11:21
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    @Valorum Not just Schools and Sports facilities: Within the past 50 years, workers from the trainyard and steelworks near where I live would leave work and march straight into the bathhouse to get clean, lest their wives not let them into the house! (Alas, it was converted to a community centre in the early 90s. Hopefully they have showers on-site instead, for the smaller-scale operations still running...) – Chronocidal Jul 13 at 14:05
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It’s likely just a benefit of being a prefect.

Prefects get certain benefits along with the title and job. For example, prefects have their own carriage on the Hogwarts Express. Having their own bathroom is another benefit.

“We’re – well – Ron and I are supposed to go into the prefect carriage,’ Hermione said awkwardly.”
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 10 (Luna Lovegood)

Additionally, there are a large enough number of prefects to make it feasible for them to be given their own bathroom. It would not be like limiting a bathroom to only three students. There are eight prefects per year, and three years (fifth, sixth, and seventh) that have prefects, so there would be twenty-four prefects in all.

“Well, there are two fifth-year prefects from each house,’ said Hermione, looking thoroughly disgruntled as she took her seat. ‘Boy and girl from each.”
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 10 (Luna Lovegood)

Certain other notable students are also given this set of privileges. When Harry is made Quidditch Captain, he gets equal status with prefects, including use of their bathroom.

“The day after this rather gloomy birthday tea, their letters and book lists arrived from Hogwarts. Harry’s included a surprise: he had been made Quidditch Captain.

‘That gives you equal status with prefects!’ cried Hermione happily. ‘You can use our special bathroom now, and everything!”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 6 (Draco’s Detour)

Use of that bathroom is a privilege that comes with certain positions. However, why the features in the prefects’ bathroom are quite so elaborate as they are is less clear - though it is understandable that prefects are given their own bathroom, it is less so that their bathroom is so ornate.

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    @MatthieuM.Hogwarts was always a school. It was specifically created to be a school by the 4 founders. – user3399 Jul 13 at 9:36
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    @ShadowRanger Actually, I could easly see the initial construction being made to look like a 'normal' castle as a last line of defense against muggles' prying eyes during construction (and possibly against other countries' wizards figuring out what it is, the magical community seems to still be rather insular on a country-by-country basis, so the threat of other countries' wizards attacking a known school seems somewhat legitimate for the time period during which Hogwarts was originally constructed). – Austin Hemmelgarn Jul 13 at 13:32
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    When you have magic at your disposal, a certain degree of extravagance becomes very inexpensive. – EvilSnack Jul 13 at 14:35
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    @ShadowRanger Technically, a "dungeon" (or "donjon") was originally (and, still is in academic circles) a word for a "keep" or "fortified residence" - the meaning did not change to become synonymous with imprisonment and torture until at least 400 years after Hogwarts was constructed. It's basically just a secure, reïnforced basement. (Considering that Gringotts is 500 years younger than Hogwarts, having secure vaults to store objects and money seems sensible) – Chronocidal Jul 14 at 8:54
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    With regards to extravagance: Some modern-day schools will transport entire cohorts of their pupils to theme parks as a reward for good behaviour each year; often at great expense to the school. Giving a few trusted pupils a taste of opulence as a reward seems to be a small cost, especially when building the bathrooms is a one-off and you have an army of magical elves to clean and maintain it for you. – Joe Bloggs Jul 14 at 10:59
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Adding to Mal's excellent answer, it's worth noting that this isn't an exclusively 'Potterverse thing'. JKR evidently did extensive research on UK boarding schools before creating Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and out in (what passes for) the real world, prefects at various prestigious grammar and boarding schools are often given extra privileges very similar to those seen at Hogwarts.

  • Reigate Grammar: Prefects can leave the grounds without permission at lunchtime.
  • Eton: Prefects have preferential seating and uniform items.
  • Sedbergh School: Preferential access to swimming and toileting facilities.
  • Hill House: A prefect's sitting room with separate access.
  • Stockport Grammar School: A fancy badge that says "Prefect"
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    At my grammar school we had various ranks of prefects. Prefects had a special tie, and could use the Prefect Common Room. Observators were a higher ranked prefect who had a gown with a yellow stripe. The School Vice Captain had a gown with a blue stripe, and the School Captain had a gown with a red stripe, and his own room off the Prefect Common Room. They did have certain duties - prefects had to guard various waypoints around the school at breaktimes to check students had the right cards to pass. Observators had special seats during Assemblies, placed sideways on to observe other students. – Showsni Jul 12 at 23:32
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    Adding to this, this kind of arrangement was historically not all that uncommon at various schools throughout the world, not just in the UK, and has been copied in other works of literature as well. It's still seen in a number of graduation ceremonies throughout the world, with honors students and those on the student council often have both special seating and special roles in the ceremony. – Austin Hemmelgarn Jul 13 at 13:36
  • @Showsni: [joke] "placed sideways on to observe other students"? You mean the people giving the speeches in assemblies are so boring that even the prefects prefer to pay attention to students instead of them? [/joke] – user21820 Jul 13 at 16:41
  • See the movie if.... which gives an accurate portrayal of public boarding school life. Especially the part about Prefects administering punishments. – JGNI Jul 14 at 15:28
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From Chapter Twenty-Five of Goblet of Fire:

His immediate reaction was that it would be worth becoming a prefect just to be able to use this bathroom.

Prefects have various responsibilities, and they are not always easy or enjoyable. Many people might not want to become prefects if it would lower their quality of life. Indeed, Fred and George explicitly stated (Chapter Four of Prisoner of Azkaban) that becoming prefects would make their lives less enjoyable:

“What do we want to be prefects for?” said George, looking revolted at the very idea. “It’d take all the fun out of life.”

But, as Harry said above, for some people the bathroom would make it worth it.

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    Noting also that Hogwarts prefects seem to (largely) come from privileged backgrounds. Opulence is only impressive to Harry because he grew up a broom closet. – Valorum Jul 12 at 19:33
  • @Valorum I disagree, and challenge you to find evidence :-) – Rand al'Thor Jul 12 at 19:46
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    @Randal'Thor - Harry is impressed by a tent with a simple extension charm on it; "Harry bent down, ducked under the tent flap, and felt his jaw drop. He had walked into what looked like an old-fashioned, three-roomed flat, complete with bathroom and kitchen." – Valorum Jul 12 at 19:51
  • @Valorum I meant I disagree on the first sentence. Agreed that Harry is indeed easy to impress with opulence, specifically magical opulence, having grown up in a Muggle broom cupboard ("closet"? I see your American side coming out) – Rand al'Thor Jul 12 at 19:54
  • @Randal'Thor - Slytherin's prefects are (exclusively) chosen from the Sacred 28 families. – Valorum Jul 12 at 19:55
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I didn't go to a UK boarding school, but it seems like the same reason teachers in most schools have a staff bathroom, or airports have a first class lounge.

You've got a building where a few hundred kids of various ages live for months at a time - those bathrooms probably see hard use. Beyond sheer traffic, we also know some students (Fred & George) will intentionally sabotage them just to harass the staff. I'd imagine having a bathroom shared by only a few of your (supposedly) most responsible peers would be a pretty good perk. You wouldn't have to wait in line. The floor probably isn't always wet. No miserable ghosts. The TP and soap are always stocked. It's a small thing, but if you've ever had to share a bathroom with numerous people of varied hygiene habits, it suddenly feels very important.

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    No miserable ghosts *Moaning Myrtle entered the chat*. – Möoz Jul 15 at 4:53

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