This is chapter six 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
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Harry Potter, my fanfiction is for recreational purposes.
Author’s Note: Many apologies for the delay in posting! This is the first chapter I didn’t have completely pre-written beforehand and with the holidays writing it escaped me. (I celebrate multiple winter holidays, so it can get pretty hectic this time of year!) I hope that you enjoy this update. Thanks as always to Transreal_Clouden.
“This plan is insane,” Ron said flatly.
“It will work,” Hermione wrung her hands.
“He didn’t say it wouldn’t work, ‘Mione, he just said it was insane,” Harry grinned.
“All will be well, you’ll see,” Luna said airily. Hermione rolled her eyes and Luna winked at them. They were all filled with nervous jitters, standing around their campsite in the chilly, early hours of January dawn. Everything had been packed away in Hermione’s beaded bag, today disguised in black, because it was not to be Hermione’s bag, but Bellatrix’s.
The previous night had been Draco Malfoy’s birthday, and at the celebratory dinner, Kreacher had laced the wine with a delayed-release potion that would ensure all of those who consumed it would sleep — and sleep deeply — for at least 24 hours. Lucius got an extra little something that nudged him in the direction of freeing Milly, the other house elf that worked for the Malfoys. He was not under the imperious curse — her freedom would not stick if he had been — but his inhibitions were loosened, and the idea was planted just enough that he was careless enough to free her. Once she had obtained her freedom, Kreacher informed Milly where Dobby was at Hogwarts and, overjoyed at the idea of being reunited with the elf she had once considered her brother, Milly left at once.
Once Kreacher was certain that all the wixen were unconscious, and that they were the only sentient beings on the premises, he quickly went from room to room stealing all the wands and other magical foci he could find in the manor, both those that were currently at the beside of their owners, and the spare wands the Malfoys kept in their armory. He made sure that each of them was in their own bedroom, and sealed them inside, with silencing charms. Thoughtfully, he left them each enough non-perishable food and water for 2 days and made sure that those in bedrooms without attached bathrooms had chamber pots. He stole all the floo powder, and used Narcissa’s wand to manipulate the wards, imitating her magical signature, to completely seal the manor against all apparition and portkeys, disabling the allowances for death eaters and Voldemort. He then activated the siege wards, which would put the entire manor on lockdown, before he left, taking ample amounts of hair from Bellatrix, Rodolphus, and Narcissa, as well as a shiny gold key, with him.
Now Kreacher stood with the quartet, handing Hermione, Ron, and Luna each a goblet filled with one of those hairs — and Polyjuice potion.
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It was surprising how well the plan worked. They arrived at Gringotts — Hermione as Bellatrix, Luna as Narcissa, Ron as Rodolphus, and Harry under his invisibility cloak with Kreacher on his shoulders — with no issue. Having the correct key, and correct wands, they were allowed past the lobby and into a cart with no issue. Something, however, still made the goblins suspicious because as the cart rushed through the tunnels they were taken through the thief’s downfall, the water pouring over them, their cart going off the rails and tossing them out. As the cart smashed, the five of them fell softly to the ground, saved by Hermione’s cushioning charm. The Polyjuice potion had fallen away, and the goblin that had been guiding them looked as though he was going to shout.
“Imperio!” Harry cast quickly. There was a heady sensation that came over him. Harry realized that this must be part of the allure that some of his books spoke about, when they talked about how people fell prey to the dark arts. He shook his head to try and rid himself of the sensation.
“Right,” said Ron. “We need to take more Polyjuice potion. Then Bella, you obliviate Bogrod and remove what we really look like. Alpha, Beta, you get back under the cloak. I’ll grab the clankers.”
While it had been decided earlier that they would only refer to each other by the names of the people whose bodies they were possessing, referring to Harry as Alpha and Kreacher as Beta, it was still strange for all of them to assume those roles. Hastily the three imposters drank their Polyjuice potion, before Harry instructed Bogrod to take them to the Lestrange vault. It was with sadness that they all saw the blinded, injured dragon, though it was with fear that they jumped back at its roar. Harry issued a quick command to Bogrod in addition to his order to take them to the Lestrange vault.
“Rod, take out the clankers!” Harry reminded, and Ron pulled out metal tools from the leather bag he had been carrying. Kreacher, who as a Black elf had been down to these vaults before, had warned them about the dragon and what was needed to subdue its wrath, but they did not like it. The dragon shrunk back at the expectation of pain, and each of them winced in compassion for the dragon. As he did so, Harry started to get an idea about their new exit strategy.
Once they got to the vault and Bogrod had opened it for them, Harry commanded the goblin to turn away so that he would not see what they were doing. Harry took off the cloak and Kreacher hopped down. Staying silent and communicating with gestures in case the memories of the imperioed goblin were ever recovered, Kreacher entered the vault.
This was what they were counting on. Kreacher, as an elf accepted by Bellatrix, should be able to retrieve items from her vault. He had been able to do so previously for other members of the house of Black and knew that those who were part of the family would be subject to curses on the objects. They scanned the vault, looking for the cup, and hoping that it was not the unknown horcrux that was hiding there. “There!” Harry dared to whisper, hoping that if this were remembered his voice or movement would not give anything away. Kreacher quickly grabbed the cup, leaving a duplicate in its place. He brought the original to Hermione, who tucked it, and the fake sword of Gryffindor (for which they left no duplicate), in her beaded bag, soon secured in an inner pocket of her robes. It was not a moment too soon, as they heard the clanking sound that indicated someone was subduing the dragon — and that it was time to enact Harry’s exit strategy.
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“I can’t believe we did that!” Ron shouted, as they clung to the dragon that was currently flying them out of London. Hermione, who was either laughing or crying, did not respond with words, but the relief she felt at being free of Gringotts was being slightly mitigated by the fact that she was on top of a flying dragon going who knows where.
“We need to disguise the dragon!” Luna yelled over the wind. “She’s a big target if they come after us on brooms.”
“Disillusionment charms on three?” Harry shouted. All five of them were themselves under disillusionment charms, a simple addition to their escape plan, and so while he could not see their nods, he did hear each person’s noises of assent.
Hermione whimpered at the idea of only clinging to the dragon with one hand, but she was not a Gryffindor for nothing. And if she dropped the wand, at least she was using Bellatrix’s at that moment and not hers.
Flying on the back of a semi-invisible dragon was even worse than before, but finally, what felt like hours later, especially in the cold, bitter, January skies, the dragon started to descend. They toyed with the idea of jumping in the water but given that the lake the dragon was approaching seemed to be filled with ice they decided instead to chance the ground using cushioning charms.
“Arresto momentum!” They each shouted as they jumped off. Having removed their personal disillusionment charms, they were able to cast at each other, Hermione pointing at Luna, Luna at Harry, Harry at Ron, Ron at Kreacher, and Kreacher using a house elf spell on Hermione. Their landing on the mossy ground was rough, but none of them broke anything, and at least they were not in an icy lake in January. Despite the warming charms that they had cast on each other while they were on the dragon, they were each relieved to be drinking the warm butterbeers that Kreacher had purchased for them on his last grocery trip before he would have to go underground. While his sealing up of Malfoy manor would perhaps finally teach those wixen not to underestimate house elves, it also meant that he was now a house elf on the run.
After apparating away from the dragon to find a place to destroy the horcrux, they changed location again to find themselves a new campsite, not wanting to settle near where the dark object had been destroyed, lest the magic of it linger. The five of them had a small celebration over having retrieved yet another horcrux, though Kreacher felt slightly out of place, and after a time asked if he could be excused to go to Hogwarts, as he would like to see Dobby, and check on Milly.
“You… didn’t have to stay with us, Kreacher,” said Harry, slightly awkwardly. “I apologize if you thought you did. You’re free to see Dobby or Milly any time you like, it’s no problem to me, it’s not like I —” Harry paused.
“You own me, Master Harry,” said Kreacher. “I did not feel I could leave without your permission. You are a good master, but you are still a master.” Kreacher disappeared with a pop, and Harry, thoroughly uncomfortable, did not know where to look. The celebratory mood had been soured, as the four wixen looked at each other.
“I’m not going to say I told you so—” began Hermione.
“Don’t you start —” said Ron.
“Well, isn’t she right?” said Harry.
“But she did it all wrong!” snapped Ron.
“Excuse me?” Hermione asked.
“When did you ever ask a house elf what they wanted, eh?” said Ron fiercely. “When did you ever really listen to a house elf instead of just assuming you knew best?”
“What is that supposed to mean? I’ve done more for house elves than —”
“What like knitting hats so that Dobby —”
“Ron,” Harry hissed.
“No, Harry! She should know!”
“I should know what exactly?” Hermione snapped.
Ron suddenly hesitated. He did not actually want to hurt her, but she should know. “When you were knitting all those hats and leaving them all over the place in the common room. The house elves got so offended about you trying to free them without their consent that they stopped cleaning it, so Dobby had to clean the entire common room by himself for most of that term,” he said finally.
Hermione gasped in slight horror. “Why on Earth did neither of you tell me?” Hermione demanded. “Why would you —”
“You were so stressed, and knitting seemed to help,” said Harry hesitantly. “And I knew Umbridge made you feel powerless, like you couldn’t do anything. Once we started the DA you stopped knitting them as much, and I only found out a little bit before then,” Harry continued sounding awkward.
“I can’t believe you never told me,” Hermione whispered. “And I’ve been so foolish about this whole thing, haven’t I?” She could tell that tears wanted to well up in her eyes, but she refused to let them fall, starting to sound angry now. “We wixen are awful, simply awful in how we treat house elves and I’m hardly different if I spend all my time ignoring them and trying to tell them who they are and not listening. Of course, what we feel is important, but it matters more what we do about it.”
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To say that Voldemort was upset would be an understatement. Due to a series of events that he would call unfortunate and the quartet would call fortuitous, he did not learn that his horcrux had been stolen for almost two weeks.
The night of January 5th nearly all his senior Death Eaters were drugged and trapped in Malfoy Manor, under siege wards, most of them not to wake up until the wee hours of January 6th/7th and unable to escape despite their best efforts. Additionally, just before this happened, Lucius Malfoy freed both house elves attached to the family, Milly and Kreacher, who had previously belonged to Harry Potter.
In the early morning of January 6th, when Gringotts was barely open, 3-4 people, 3 bearing the faces of Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Rodolphus, and potentially one under an invisibility cloak or advanced disillusionment charm, arrived at Gringotts with their wands and the key to the Lestrange Vault. They failed the test of the Thief’s downfall, but successfully obliviated the goblin who escorted them such that they could not be identified because they soon after took more Polyjuice potion. Continuing on foot they broke into the vault and seemingly took only Gryffindor’s Sword without inciting any gemino or flagrante curses. This would indicate that someone with permission to enter the vault had helped them — adding to his theory that someone in his inner circle was betraying him, as only a Black, Lestrange, or Malfoy could have entered that vault, and they were all conveniently locked up in Malfoy Manor, under siege wards, something that could have only been put up by a member of the family.
The group then escaped on the back of a dragon. The goblins were unable to trace the dragon, as they did not have the support needed to follow it, the dragon itself having crashed through and destroyed its repository of brooms during its escape. By the time they got someone on a broom to chase after it, the dragon had long since departed London.
The details of this break in were kept secret as Gringotts tried to reach the Lestranges, and their emergency contacts, the Malfoys, with increasing alarm that they were not able to do so. While it was true that people had seen a dragon escape from their vaults — they could not hide that — the fact that its passengers were invisible meant that the fact a vault had been robbed was something the goblins could keep secret for now. That said, their policy dictated that those who had been subject to a break-in needed to be notified within 24-hours, and when it got to the 23rd hour, on the morning of the 7th, they attempted to contact the emergency contact of the Malfoys, one Severus Snape, headmaster of Hogwarts.
Unfortunately, Snape was otherwise engaged at the time. One of the Carrows had issued a detention to a Ravenclaw student where that student was subject to the cruciatus curse. Alecto had been under the impression that the student was a half-blood, but in truth they were a pureblood student whose parent was on the wizengamot, and in fact a fellow death eater. When the goblins sent their initial correspondence, it went directly into his inbox, to be read later, as he attempted to meditate the conversation.
Unfortunately, this was a day on which Snape received a great deal of correspondence and had to mediate several other issues, and so did not read the missive from Gringotts until the afternoon of the 8th, at which time he received a second missive that prompted him to read the first, and thus he left at once. The Gringotts goblins told him nothing directly, but instead instructed him to contact the Malfoys and the Lestranges for them, since that was the point of an emergency contact.
Snape went to Malfoy Manor, intending to contact his fellow death eaters, and was surprised to find the house under siege wards, which he knew himself to be incapable of penetrating. After no small amount of thought, and realizing that, given that Gringotts had been robbed on the 6th and it was now the night of the 8th, Voldemort had to be informed. He had no easy way of contacting the Dark Lord, other than through the Dark Mark, and he knew that was only to be used if they had found Potter. Instead, he returned to Hogwarts and sourced the fastest owl that he was not personally attached to, lest Voldemort literally shoot the messenger, and wrote to the Dark Lord, letting him know the barest details of the case.
The poor owl was in for an unfortunate trip. When Headmaster Snape sent the letter, Voldemort was over 1,800 miles away in Belarus. But she had to constantly change course, because in the week it took her to reach him, via her magical tracking skills, he also visited Germany, Poland, and Romania. To say that she was very tired, and very cross, when she finally reached him in France, a week and a half later, is an understatement. All the same, she was a very smart owl, and despite how much she desired to rest on the back of the chair in the room where she finally found the dark lord, she exited through the window immediately after he took her letter, having listened carefully to the headmaster, who warned her to leave as soon as the letter had been delivered, lest she want to suffer an unfortunate fate.
It was a simple matter for Voldemort to apparate from France to England on January 20th, 1998, and he tore down the wards at Malfoy Manor within half a day. There he found his half-starved and dehydrated Death Eaters. After impatiently letting Snape nurse them back to health enough that at least Bellatrix could visit Gringotts, two days later she was able to return to him, presenting a cup that, though she dreaded the thought of it, she was almost certain was a fake.
Judging by his reaction, she was right.