This is chapter two of Never Underestimate a House-Elf. For chapter one click here.
Summary: What if Harry thought of more than just steak and kidney pie, and called Kreacher to them as soon as he realized Hermione had apparated the trio away from Grimmauld Place? A very different camping trip ensues. Inspired by #WizardTeam and the Time Room
Author’s Note: Thanks to the wonderful K. Alexandra for keeping my syntax straight and to Transreal_Clouden for never hesitating to read and give feedback on the many google docs of fanfic I send his way.
Despite the levity of Hermione’s birthday, the constant sharing of the horcrux was wearing down the spirits of the trio. Kreacher would pop by every few days to give them updates, but there was never much of anything to say. The Malfoys were not in high favor with The Dark Lord at the moment, and Kreacher did not have very much liberty, as they were suspicious of him, given that he had a previous role as the House Elf of Harry Potter. Kreacher had originally been brought before Voldemort himself, something that horrified the trio, as it was an outcome they had not considered before asking Kreacher to undertake the task.
Kreacher, however, was not to be underestimated, as the combination of his vows, Harry’s orders, and his own acting prowess was enough to convince Voldemort that Kreacher was of no value or threat, and therefore was dismissed. Kreacher now worked with Milly, the House Elf that the Malfoy’s had acquired after Harry had tricked Lucius into freeing Dobby. Milly, while not desirous of freedom to the same extent as Dobby, was nevertheless a miserable elf, and glad of the help that a second set of hands provided. Kreacher suspected that she might suspect something, but she also hated the Malfoys, Death Eaters, and Voldemort enough that she was conveniently out of the way and capable of doing both of their chores multiple times a week.
Kreacher found that Milly was good company, and he liked working with another house elf that didn’t despise him on sight. Working in the Hogwarts kitchens had been difficult for him, as he had started off on a rather bad foot with the other elves there, many of the elves having found out that he had a role in the death of his master. To an elf, betrayal of one’s master made one an anathema. The only elves who would come close to associating with him were Dobby and Winky, and in Dobby’s case that was only because Dobby and Kreacher were both aiding Harry Potter, albeit for very different reasons.
Kreacher’s relationship with Winky was different. Her longing for Barty Crouch Jr. reminded him of his longing for Regulus, and soon after he started working with Dobby on the project for Harry Potter, he also began to aid Dobby in small ways in his care for Winky. It became an almost natural thing for the two of them to take care of her, and Kreacher found himself liking the other elf despite himself, and the two of them became almost something like friends, despite the very different views they had on the world. It was ironic, then, that Kreacher now served the Malfoys, that family that Dobby had so yearned to be free from. Kreacher wished he could see Dobby now, but going to Hogwarts was too dangerous to do so on a whim. Not with a war on. No, there would have to be extraordinary circumstances to warrant a trip there.
It was a clear evening and the trio were in the Forest of Dean. They sat around a campfire outside their tent in the highest spirits they had been in since Hermione’s birthday, and much of it was thanks to Kreacher. The day previous, during one of his normal reports, the house elf noticed that Harry had been wearing the necklace openly on his chest and suggested that it might be wiser to keep the locket protected in the moleskin pouch Harry wore instead of out in the open. That way, no one would notice the necklace in the rare event they were in a battle, and he would also be immune to the necklace’s malicious effects. It was such a simple solution that the three wixen marveled that they had never thought of it before, but once none of them were carrying the weight of the necklace the atmosphere lightened enough that they had no worries about their folly. What did worry them that night, was the sound of voices. Hermione quickly put out the fire, upon which they had been roasting salmon caught from the nearby river, and they all stood up, wands drawn. Looking worriedly at each other, they cast silencing, disillusionment, and scent-concealing charms on themselves. With extreme tension, Hermione carefully let loose an Extendible Ear, charmed invisible, as they crept to the edge of the enchantments to listen closer.
Harry’s mind raced as he listened to the group by the river go back and forth about the current situation at Hogwarts. There had to be a way to get more information. Surely Ginny, Luna, and Neville would be safe with Hagrid for detention, but what else was going on at the school? And where was the real sword? The sword… the sword would be able to destroy horcruxes! But where was it? And his friends still at school, with Snape as headmaster, and all of those restrictions…. Oh how badly he wanted to talk to those on the riverbank, especially Dean, but no, stick to the task at hand Potter…. He had to focus. But his friends were risking their lives at Hogwarts, still fighting for him, going up against Snape, fighting Death Eaters in their own school. Maybe he could — no, he had to find out how they were doing. If they were okay. Detention with Hagrid would not be the only punishment, not when Snape was involved.
As the assembled group near the river packed up and moved on, the trio returned to their camp site.
“Harry, the sword —” Hermione started.
“I think that’s why he wanted me to have it, yeah. But I have no idea where we’re going to get it. And the others risked Snape and Death Eaters for a fake,” Harry ground out.
Hermione bit her lip. “I think they’ll be okay. Hagrid will keep them safe in the forest, it’s actually a fairly light punishment, though that almost worries me more. Either he doesn’t know how well Hagrid gets on with us in the DA….”
“Or he’s planning something worse,” said Ron darkly. “And the forest is plenty bad itself. I know we’ve been on plenty of adventures, but that’s my baby sister out there.”
“Next time Kreacher reports in,” Harry said firmly. “We’ll ask him to take a letter to Hogwarts, try and pass it through Dobby, if he is still there. Dobby was a free elf, so he’s not bound to the rules of the headmaster, but he’s had access to the castle. We can see how much he can or has been helping the students. I’m sure he is. Why didn’t I think of it before?” Harry cursed himself.
“We’re wixen.” Hermione said hopelessly. “Even as hard as I try, we can’t help but underestimate house elves.”
Kreacher was surprised at his own luck, though he knew that fortune changed at the flip of a coin, especially in war. He was to go to Hogwarts and deliver a letter, unseen, to one Ginny Weasley, and/or (preferably and) make contact with Dobby. Fortunately, this endeavour was met with much success, as he encountered Dobby almost immediately upon arrival.
Kreacher had chosen to appear in the collapsed portion of the secret passageway behind the mirror on the fourth floor. Dementors now guarded all of the secret passages, but only on the outside of the passages, patrolling the exit points and making routine sweeps up and down the lengths of the passages themselves. It was a nightmare for business at Honeydukes. The collapsed passage, however, was a different matter. There were still dementors on the outside, and those who patrolled the outer span of the corridor, but the portion of the passageway that was within Hogwarts was not patrolled by dementors, or really by anyone. The mirror had been locked with the strongest spells that Snape could muster, and it was a well-recognized fact that no one could apparate within Hogwarts. Since the only space between the mirror back and the collapse was within the wards, there was a wide, enclosed passageway that was supposedly nothing but rough dead air, and the perfect place for Kreacher to appear and softly call for Dobby.
This had always been their preferred meeting place in Hogwarts, and they had made it quite comfortable, with cosy chairs, a table, and a cool cupboard where they kept snacks and drinks. A place to truly relax. A sanctuary in this time of madness. Kreacher was surprised by how much he had missed it.
“Kreacher!” Dobby appeared a few minutes later with a small pop and an air of surprise. “Why are you at Hogwarts and not with Mr. Harry Potter, on his mission to defeat The Dark Lord?”
“Dobby,” Kreacher said seriously. “I have been given a very serious mission that I must not speak of. Right now, Mr. Harry Potter needs someone to work with him to communicate with those in Hogwarts, for now, he has asked that I bring this letter to Ginny Weasley. I also have his permission to give to you in trust that you will pass it to her and bring her response back to Mr. Harry Potter. Will you do this Dobby?” Kreacher asked solemnly.
“Dobby would do anything for Mr. Harry Potter!” Dobby snapped. “Kreacher knows this. Dobby is not a traitor!”
Kreacher bit his tongue. Master Sirius had been a bad Master. Kreacher did not regret his dying. Though Kreacher did wish he had not had such a direct part in it. Kreacher thought the locket’s madness might have had something to do with it. He had worn it every night since he had saved it, up until one day he decided it needed a polish, and took it off to clean. When he came back with the polish the thief had stolen away with it. That was how he knew the locket drove people to madness, how he knew Master Harry should not wear it. Still, locket or no, Kreacher was still a traitor, and Master Sirius was a bad master, and Kreacher had to live with the choices he made.
“Please give this to Ginny Weasley. You can see it is not cursed,” Kreacher handed Dobby a letter, and then hesitated before also giving Dobby a ribbon. “Please put your magical signature on this ribbon, so that Ms. Hermione,” Kreacher’s face made an uncomfortable expression at what he was compelled to call the witch out of forced respect, though it was slowly becoming less forced “can allow you past the enchantments once Ginny Weasley has a reply for Mr. Harry Potter. Ms. Hermione has created a charmed coin for you to know when they would like to see you.” Here Kreacher handed Dobby a fake sickle. “This will let you know when to come and where to go.”
“How can I know to trust you, Kreaher?” asked Dobby, suspiciously.
“How can I know to trust you, Dobby?” Kreacher asked in reply.
“Dobby is not —”
“A traitor, except you abandoned your family!”
“Dobby is a free elf! And Kreacher is a traitor!”
“Well maybe Kreacher just wanted to be a free elf too!” Kreacher shouted before gasping and covering his mouth. Admitting to the desire for freedom was a hard thing, for an elf. For centuries they had been enslaved to the wixen, made utterly dependent on them. Before Dobby found work at Hogwarts he was nearly destitute. No one would ever pay an elf in the magical world. And the Statute of Secrecy prevented him from ever working in the Muggle world. Magic did a lot, but it could not disguise him as a human and create an entire fictional background for him. Not without support, and that was something Dobby never had. There were dozens, probably hundreds of house elves who wanted freedom, but instead settled for simply being alive.
“Does Kreacher — I mean — do you mean that? You will ask to be free of Mr. Harry Potter?” Dobby asked, his eyes going even more impossibly wide.
“Kreacher does not know,” Kreacher said slowly. “Kreacher does not want to talk about it. Please Dobby, will you take this letter to Ginny Weasley? Will you bring her reply to Mr. Harry Potter?”
“Of course Kreacher,” Dobby said, with a wide smile. “Dobby is happy to help his friends, and Harry Potter, and Kreacher, are his friends.”
Kreacher froze. “We are friends?”
“Of course, Kreacher. We work together. A team now. Friends.” Kreacher was startled when Dobby pulled him into a hug, and disappeared with a pop. A short time later, perhaps an hour, maybe two, he returned, this time with a different letter. Kreacher, still reeling in his thoughts, was pulled out of them when Dobby gave it to him.
“Dobby thought it odd when he realized Kreacher was still here. You can bring the letter to Mr. Harry Potter yourself now.”
“Yes,” Kreacher croaked. “Thank you Dobby. And thank you… for being my friend.”