In use for centuries, the Floo Network, while somewhat uncomfortable, has many advantages. Firstly, unlike broomsticks, the Network can be used without fear of breaking the International Statute of Secrecy. Secondly, unlike Apparition, there is little to no danger of serious injury. Thirdly, it can be used to transport children, the elderly and the infirm.
Nearly every witch or wizard home is connected to the Floo Network. While a fireplace may be disconnected by the use of a simple spell, connection requires the permission of the Ministry of Magic, which regulates the Floo service and prevents Muggle fireplaces becoming inadvertently joined up (although temporary connection can be arranged in emergencies).
In addition to domestic fireplaces, there are around a thousand fireplaces across Britain connected to the Floo Network, including those at the Ministry of Magic, and various wizarding shops and inns. The fireplaces of Hogwarts are not generally connected, although there have been occasions when one or more has been tampered with, often without the staff’s knowledge.
Although generally reliable, mistakes can happen. Speaking the name of the destination loudly and clearly upon entering the Floo flames is sometimes difficult, due to ash, heat and panic. The most notorious instance of accidental misdirection happened in 1855 when, after a particularly nasty row with her husband, witch Violet Tillyman leapt into the living room fire and cried, between sobs and hiccups, that she wanted to go to her mother’s house.
Several weeks later, with no clean pots in the house and his socks in urgent need of washing, her husband Albert decided that it was time she came home, and took the Floo Network to his mother-in-law’s. To his surprise, she claimed that Violet had never arrived. Albert, a suspicious man and a bit of a bully, raged, stormed and searched the house, but his mother-in-law appeared to be telling the truth. A poster campaign and a series of articles in The Daily Prophet later, Violet had still not been found. Nobody seemed to know where she was and nobody had seen her come out of any other fireplace. For several months after her disappearance, people were afraid to take the Floo Network, in case it simply vanished them into thin air. However, time passed, memories of Violet faded, and nobody else disappeared, so the wizarding community continued as usual. Albert Tillyman returned grumpily to his house, learned cleaning and darning spells, and never used the Floo Network again for fear of what it had done to his wife.
It was not until twenty years later, after Albert’s death, that Violet Tillyman resurfaced. Due to the incoherent way she had spoken when she had entered the Floo Network, she had not emerged from her mother’s fireplace, but that of Myron Otherhaus, a handsome wizard who lived in Bury St Edmunds. In spite of Violet’s tear-stained, ash-covered and blotchy appearance, it had been love at first sight when she toppled out of his fire, and Myron, Violet and their seven children lived happily ever after.
‘Floo’ came from the flue that you find on a chimney and don’t ask me to tell you exactly what a flue is, because I don’t know. I just know it exists, but I’m not sure what it does exactly. I needed a way for particularly young witches and wizards to travel around because I’d created the International Statute of Secrecy, which was inconvenient, so immediately that made it quite difficult for them to move around, particularly over long distances, by magical means. So I thought they need something very discreet, and that’s how the Floo Network came about, so it was a way of moving from house to house without ever being seen by Muggles. But it was fun and comical to have it a little bit difficult to use, so that you could easily make a mistake in where you ended up.