Potter and Black: The Goblet of Fire

The House-Elf Liberation Front

disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, just Arabella. Hope you like it!

The House-Elf Liberation Front

That evening, they all went to the Owlery to find Pigwidgeon so that Arabella and Harry could send a letter to Sirius while Arabella sent another one to Remus. On the way, Harry filled Ron in on everything Sirius and Remus had told them about Karkaroff. Though shocked at first to hear Karkaroff had been a Death Eater, by the time they entered the Owlery Ron was saying that they ought to have suspect it all along.

'Fits, doesn't it?' he said. 'Remember what Malfoy said on the train, about his dad being friends with Karkaroff? Now we know where they knew each other. They were probably running around in masks together at the World Cup…I'll tell you one thing, though, Harry, if it was Karkaroff who put your name in the goblet, he's going to be feeling really stupid now, isn't he? Didn't work, did it? You only got a scratch! Come here - I'll do it -'

Pigwidgeon was so overexcited at the idea of a delivery he was flying all round, hooting incessantly. Ron snatched Pigwidgeon out of the air and held him still while Harry attached the letter to his leg.

'There's no way any of the other tasks are going to be that dangerous, how could they be?' Ron went on as he carried Pigwidgeon to the window. 'You know what? I reckon you could win this tournament, Harry, I'm serious.'

Arabella knew that Ron was saying this to make up for his behaviour for the last couple weeks, but she really didn't care. She had her boys back and nothing get her out of her happy mood. Hermione, however, leaned against the wall, folded her arms, and frowned at Ron.

'Harry's got a long way to go before he finishes this tournament,' she said seriously. 'If that was the first task, I hate to think what's coming next.'

'Right little ray of sunshine, aren't you?' said Ron. 'You and Professor Trelawney should get together sometime.'

'Let's just be grateful the dragon didn't gobble Harry up,' said Arabella.

'Gee, thanks,' said Harry sarcastically.

Ron threw Pigwidgeon out of the window. Pigwidgeon plummeted twelve feet before picking back up again.

'Well, we'd better get downstairs for your surprise party, Harry – Fred and George should have nicked enough food from the kitchens by now,' said Ron.

Sure enough, when they entered the Gryffindor common room it exploded with cheers and yells again. There were mountains of cakes and pumpkin juice and butterbeer on every surface. Lee had let off some fireworks, so that the air was thick with star and sparks. Dean had put up some impressive new banners, which depicted Harry zooming around the Horntail's head on his Firebolt, though a couple showed Cedric with his head on fire.

Arabella, Harry, Ron and Hermione sat down and helped themselves to some food. It felt good that they were all together.

'Blimey, this is heavy,' said Lee, picking up the golden egg, which Harry had left on a table, and weighing it in his hands. 'Open it, Harry, go on! Let's just see what's inside it!'

'He's supposed to work out the clue on his own,' Hermione said swiftly. 'It's in the tournament rules…'

'He was also supposed to work out how to get passed the dragon on his own, too,' whispered Arabella. 'Wonder who helped him out.'

Hermione grinned rather guiltily.

'Yeah, go on, Harry, open it!' several people echoed.

Lee passed Harry the egg, and Harry dug his fingernails into the groove that ran all the way around it and prised it open.

It was hollow and completely empty - but the moment Harry opened it, the most horrible noise, a loud and screechy wailing, filled the room. The nearest thing to it Arabella had ever heard was the ghost orchestra at Nearly Headless Nick's deathday party, who had all been playing the musical saw.

'Shut it!' Fred bellowed, his hands over his ears.

'What was that?' said Seamus, staring at the egg as Harry slammed it shut again. 'Sounded like a banshee… Maybe you've got to get passed one of those next, Harry!'

'It was someone being tortured!' said Neville, who had gone very white and spilled sausage rolls all over the floor. 'You're going to have to fight the Cruciatus Curse!'

'No they won't,' said Arabella hotly. They'll have to get through her if they even think about torturing Harry, or anybody else for that matter. Nobody should ever have to go through that.

'Don't be a prat, Neville, that's illegal,' said George. 'They wouldn't use the Cruciatus Curse on the champions. I thought it sounded a bit like Percy singing…maybe you've got to attack him while he's in the shower. Harry.'

'Want a jam tart, Hermione?' said Fred.

Hermione looked doubtfully at the plate he was offering her. Fred grinned.

'It's all right,' he said. 'I haven't done anything to them. It's the custard creams you've got to watch -'

Neville, who had just bitten into a custard cream, choked and spat it out. Fred laughed.

'Just my little joke, Neville…'

Hermione took a jam tart. Then she said, 'Did you get all this from the kitchens, Fred?'

'Yep,' said Fred, grinning at her. He put on a high-pitched squeak and imitated a house-elf. ''Anything we can get you, sir, anything at all!' They're dead helpful…get me a roast ox if I said I was peckish.'

'How do you get in there?' Hermione said in an innocently casual sort of voice.

'Easy,' said Fred, 'concealed door behind a painting of a bowl of fruit. Just tickle the pear, and it giggles and -' He stopped and looked suspiciously at her. 'Why?'

'Nothing,' said Hermione quickly.

'Going to try and lead the house-elves out on strike now, are you?' said George. 'Going to give up all the leaflet stuff and try and stir them up into rebellion?'

Several people chortled. Hermione didn't answer.

'Don't you go upsetting them and telling them they've got to take clothes and salaries!' said Fred warningly. 'You'll put them off their cooking!'

Just then, Neville caused a slight diversion by turning into a large canary.

'Oh - sorry, Neville!' Fred shouted over all the laughter. 'I forgot - it was the custard creams we hexed -'

Within a minute, however, Neville had molted, and once his feathers had fallen off, he reappeared looking entirely normal. He even joined in laughing.

'Canary Creams!' Fred shouted to the excitable crowd. 'George and I invented them - seven Sickles each, a bargain!'

It was nearly one in the morning when Arabella finally went up to the dormitory with Hermione, Lavender and Parvati. She had a nice dream, sort of. In her dream, Harry was slaying a dragon that looked oddly like Nikola, came to her with roses, and gave her a passionate kiss. If only that really happened…

'Well, well, well… this does look like fun.'

Rita Skeeter was leaning on Hagrid's garden fence, looking at the mayhem the skrewts were causing. It was the starting of December and the weather was starting to become chilly. Arabella really didn't appreciate being outside at this tiime, even if it was Hagrid's class.

'Who're you?' Hagrid asked.

'Rita Skeeter, Daily Prophet reporter,' Rita replied, beaming at him. Her gold teeth glinted.

'Thought Dumbledore said you weren' allowed inside the school anymore,' said Hagrid, frowning slightly as he got off the slightly squashed skrewt and started tugging it over to its fellows.

Rita acted as though she hadn't heard what Hagrid had said.

'What are these fascinating creatures called?' she asked, beaming still more widely.

'Blast-Ended Skrewts,' grunted Hagrid.

'Really?' said Rita, apparently full of lively interest. 'I've never heard of them before…where do they come from?'

Arabella noticed a dull red flush rising up out of Hagrid's beard, and her heart sank. Knowing Hagrid and how he got Norbert, it probably wasn't legal. Hermione was thinking along these lines, and said quickly, 'They're very interesting, aren't they? Aren't they, Harry?'

'What? Oh yeah…ouch…interesting,' said Harry as she stepped on his foot.

'Ah, you're here. Harry!' said Rita as she looked around. 'So you like Care of Magical Creatures, do you? One of your favorite lessons?'

'Yes,' said Harry stoutly. Hagrid beamed at him.

'Lovely,' said Rita. 'Really lovely. Been teaching long?' she added to Hagrid. Arabella noticed her eyes travel over Dean, who had a nasty cut on one of his cheeks, Lavender, whose robes were badly burned, Seamus, who had several scorched fingers, and then to the cabin windows, where most of the class stood, their noses pressed against the glass waiting to see if the coast was clear.

'This is o'ny me second year,' said Hagrid.

'Lovely…I don't suppose you'd like to give an interview, would you? Share some of your experience of magical creatures? The Prophet does a zoological column every Wednesday, as I'm sure you know. We could feature these - er - Bang- Ended Scoots.'

'Blast-Ended Skrewts,' Hagrid said eagerly. 'Er - yeah, why not?'

Hagrid and Rita made arrangements to meet in the Three Broomsticks for a good long interview later that week and Arabella knew that Harry wasn't happy about this. Then the bell rang, signalling the end of the lesson.

'Well, good-bye, Harry!' Rita Skeeter called merrily to him as they set of towards the castle. 'Until Friday night, then, Hagrid!'

'She'll twist everything he says,' Harry said under his breath.

'Just as long as he didn't import those skrewts illegally or anything,' said Hermione desperately.

They looked at one another - it was exactly the sort of thing Hagrid might do.

'Hagrids been in loads of trouble before, and Dumbledores never sacked him,' said Ron consolingly. 'Worst that can happen is Hagrid'll have to get rid of the skrewts. Sorry…did I say worst? I meant best.'

They all laughed, and went off to lunch, feeling more cheerful.

Arabella enjoyed Divination that afternoon. They were still doing star charts and predictions, but now that Harry and Ron were friends again, the whole thing seemed very funny again. Professor Trelawney quickly became irritated as they kept sniggering through her explanation of the various ways in which Pluto could disrupt everyday life.

'I would think,' she said, in a mystical whisper that did not conceal her obvious annoyance, 'that some of us' - she stared very meaningfully at Harry- 'might be a little less frivolous had they seen what I have seen during my crystal gazing last night. As I sat here, absorbed in my needlework, the urge to consult the orb overpowered me. I arose, I settled myself before it, and I gazed into its crystalline depths…and what do you think I saw gazing back at me?'

'An ugly old bat in outsize specs?' Ron muttered under his breath.

Arabella tried to keep her face straight, and when she saw Harry trying the same thing, she burst out laughing. Professor Trelawney scowled at her, but Arabella really didn't care.

'Death, my dears,' Professor Trelawney whispered, making it more dramatic than usual.

Parvati and Lavender both put their hands over their mouths, looking horrified.

'Yes,' said Professor Trelawney, nodding impressively, 'it comes, ever closer, it circles overhead like a vulture, ever lower…ever lower over the castle…' She stared pointedly at Harry, who yawned very widely and obviously.

'It'd be a bit more impressive if she hadn't done it about eighty times before,' Harry said as they finally regained the fresh air of the staircase beneath Professor Trelawney's room. 'But if I'd dropped dead every time she's told me I'm going to, I'd be a medical miracle.'

'You'd be a sort of extra-concentrated ghost,' said Ron, chortling, as they passed the Bloody Baron going in the opposite direction, his wide eyes staring sinisterly.

'At least we didn't get homework. I hope Hermione got loads off Professor Vector, I love not working when she is…'

But Hermione wasn't at dinner, nor was she in the library when they went to look for her afterward. The only people there were Krum and Nikola, who gave Arabella a smirk when he saw her.

'Wonder where she's got to?' Ron said as he and Harry went back to Gryffindor Tower.

'Dunno…balderdash.'

But the Fat Lady had barely begun to swing forward when the sound of racing feet behind them announced Hermione's arrival.

'Arabella!' she panted, skidding to a halt beside her. 'Arabella, you've got to come – you've got to come, the most amazing thing's happened – please –'

'Unless it's a fountain of melted chocolate with Leonardo DiCaprio waiting there for me, I don't –'

Before Arabella could finish her sentence, Hermione seized her arm and started to drag her back along the corridor.

'What's the matter?' said Harry, following them.

'I'll show you when we get there - oh come on, quick -'

Arabella looked around at Ron, who was looking intrigued.

'Fine,' mumbled Arabella, now thinking about chocolate.

'Oh don't mind me!' the Fat Lady called irritably after them. 'Don't apologize for bothering me! I'll just hang here, wide open, until you get back, shall I?'

'Yeah, thanks!' Ron shouted over his shoulder.

'Hermione, where are we going?' Harry asked, after she had led them down through six floors, and started down the marble staircase into the entrance hall.

'You'll see, you'll see in a minute!' said Hermione excitedly.

She turned left at the bottom of the staircase and hurried towards a door. They followed Hermione down a flight of stone steps, but instead of ending up in a gloomy underground passage like the one that led to Snape's dungeon, they found themselves in a broad stone corridor, brightly lit with torches, and decorated with cheerful paintings that were mainly of food.

'Oh hang on…' said Harry slowly, halfway down the corridor. 'Wait a minute, Hermione…'

'What?' She turned around to look at him, anticipation all over her face.

'I know what this is about,' said Harry.

He nudged Ron and pointed to the painting just behind Hermione, which showed a gigantic silver fruit bowl.

'Hermione!' said Ron, cottoning on. 'You're trying to rope us into that spew stuff again!'

'No, no, I'm not!' she said hastily. 'And it's not spew, Ron -'

'Changed the name, have you?' said Ron, frowning at her. 'What are we now, then, the HouseElf Liberation Front? I'm not barging into that kitchen and trying to make them stop work, I'm not doing it -'

'I'm not asking you to!' Hermione said impatiently. 'I came down here just now, to talk to them all, and I found - oh come on, I want to show you!'

She seized Arabella's arm again and pulled her in front of the picture of the fruit bowl, stretched out her forefinger, and tickled the huge green pear. It began to squirm, chuckling, and suddenly turned into a large green door handle. Hermione seized it, pulled the door open, and pushed Arabella hard in the back, forcing her inside with Harry following in soon after her.

'Harry Potter, sir! Harry Potter!' squealed a voice from the middle of the room.

Next second, the squealing lf hit Harry hard in the midriff, hugging him so tightly.

'D-Dobby?' Harry gasped.

'It is Dobby, sir, it is!' squealed the voice from somewhere around his navel. 'Dobby has been hoping and hoping to see Harry Potter, sir, and Harry Potter has come to see him, sir!'

Dobby let go and stepped back a few paces, beaming up at Harry, his enormous, green, tennisball-shaped eyes brimming with tears of happiness. He had a bat-like ears, long fingers and feet. He looked a lot like Kreacher the last time she saw her house-elf, but much younger than Kreacher. Dobby was wearing a tea cozy for a hat, a tie patterned with horseshoes over a bare chest, a pair of what looked like children's soccer shorts and odd socks. One of them was black while the other was pink and orange stripes.

'Dobby, what're you doing here?' Harry said in amazement.

'Dobby has come to work at Hogwarts, sir!' Dobby squealed excitedly. 'Professor Dumbledore gave Dobby and Winky jobs, sir!

'Winky?' said Harry. 'She's here too?'

'Yes, sir, yes!' said Dobby, and he seized Harry's hand and pulled him off into the kitchen between the four long wooden tables that stood there. Each of these tables was positioned exactly beneath the four Houses tables above in the Great Hall.

At least a hundred little elves were standing around the kitchen, beaming, bowing, and curtsying as Dobby led Harry past them. They were all wearing the same uniform: a tea towel stamped with the Hogwarts crest, and tied, as Winky's had been, like a toga.

Dobby stopped in front of the brick fireplace and pointed.

'Winky, sir!' he said.

Winky was sitting on a stool by the fire. Unlike Dobby, she had obviously not foraged for clothes. She was wearing a neat little skirt and blouse with a matching blue hat, which had holes in it for her large ears. However, while every one of Dobby's strange collection of garments was so clean and well cared for that it looked brand-new, Winky was plainly not taking care other clothes at all. There were soup stains all down her blouse and a burn in her skirt.

'Hello, Winky,' said Harry.

Winky's lip quivered. Then she burst into tears, which spilled out of her great brown eyes and splashed down her front, just as they had done at the Quidditch World Cup.

'Oh dear,' said Hermione. 'Winky, don't cry, please don't…'

But Winky cried harder than ever. Dobby, on the other hand, beamed up at Harry.

'Would Harry Potter like a cup of tea?' he squeaked loudly, over Winky's sobs.

'Er - yeah, okay,' said Harry.

Instantly, about six house-elves came trotting up behind him, bearing a large silver tray laden with a teapot, cups for Harry, Ron, Arabella and Hermione, a milk jug, and a large plate of biscuits.

'Good service!' Ron said, in an impressed voice. Hermione frowned at him, but the elves all looked delighted; they bowed very low and retreated.

'How long have you been here, Dobby?' Harry asked as Dobby handed around the tea.

'Only a week, Harry Potter, sir!' said Dobby happily. 'Dobby came to see Professor Dumbledore, sir. You see, sir, it is very difficult for a house-elf who has been dismissed to get a new position, sir, very difficult indeed -'

At this, Winky howled even harder, her squashed-tomato of a nose dribbling all down her front, though she made no effort to stem the flow.

'Dobby has traveled the country for two whole years, sir, trying to find work!' Dobby squeaked. 'But Dobby hasn't found work, sir, because Dobby wants paying now!'

The house-elves all around the kitchen, who had been listening and watching with interest, all looked away at these words, as though Dobby had said something rude and embarrassing. Hermione, however, said, 'Good for you, Dobby!' Arabella kicked her under the table.

'Thank you, miss!' said Dobby, grinning toothily at her. 'But most wizards doesn't want a house-elf who wants paying, miss. 'That's not the point of a house-elf,' they says, and they slammed the door in Dobby's face! Dobby likes work, but he wants to wear clothes and he wants to be paid. Harry Potter…Dobby likes being free!'

The Hogwarts house-elves had now started edging away from Dobby, as though he were carrying something contagious. Winky, however, remained where she was, though there was a definite increase in the volume of her crying.

'And then, Harry Potter, Dobby goes to visit Winky, and finds out Winky has been freed too, sir!' said Dobby delightedly.

At this, Winky flung herself forward off her stool and lay face-down on the flagged stone floor, beating her tiny fists upon it and positively screaming with misery. Hermione hastily dropped down to her knees beside her and tried to comfort her, but nothing she said made the slightest difference. Dobby continued with his story, shouting shrilly over Winky's screeches.

'And then Dobby had the idea. Harry Potter, sir! 'Why doesn't Dobby and Winky find work together?' Dobby says. 'Where is there enough work for two house elves?' says Winky. And Dobby thinks, and it comes to him, sir! Hogwarts! So Dobby and Winky came to see Professor Dumbledore, sir, and Professor Dumbledore took us on!'

Dobby beamed very brightly, and happy tears welled in his eyes again.

'And Professor Dumbledore says he will pay Dobby, sir, if Dobby wants paying! And so Dobby is a free elf, sir, and Dobby gets a Galleon a week and one day off a month!'

'That's not very much!' Hermione shouted indignantly from the floor, over Winky's continued screaming and fist-beating.

'Professor Dumbledore offered Dobby ten Galleons a week, and weekends off,' said Dobby, suddenly giving a little shiver, as though the prospect of so much leisure and riches were frightening, 'but Dobby beat him down, miss… Dobby likes freedom, miss, but he isn't wanting too much, miss, he likes work better.'

'And how much is Professor Dumbledore paying you, Winky?' Hermione asked kindly. If she had thought this would cheer up Winky, she was wildly mistaken. Winky did stop crying, but when she sat up she was glaring at Hermione through her massive brown eyes, her whole face sopping wet and suddenly furious.

'Winky is a disgraced elf, but Winky is not yet getting paid!' she squeaked. 'Winky is not sunk so low as that! Winky is properly ashamed of being freed!'

'Ashamed?' said Hermione blankly. 'But - Winky, come on! It's Mr. Crouch who should be ashamed, not you! You didn't do anything wrong, he was really horrible to you -'

'Oh, Hermione,' moaned Arabella wanted to slap her hands on her face, or Hermione's. House-elves never spoke ill of their families and could barely tolerate it if others did, even if they were free. She saw this with the way Kreacher acted with her grandmother, before and after she died. Even though Kreacher loved her grandmother, he was less than kind to Sirius.

At Hermione's words, Winky clapped her hands over the holes in her hat, flattening her ears so that she couldn't hear a word, and screeched, 'You is not insulting my master, miss! You is not insulting Mr. Crouch! Mr. Crouch is a good wizard, miss! Mr. Crouch is right to sack bad Winky!'

'Winky is having trouble adjusting, Harry Potter,' squeaked Dobby confidentially. 'Winky forgets she is not bound to Mr. Crouch anymore; she is allowed to speak her mind now, but she won't do it.'

'Can't house-elves speak their minds about their masters, then?' Harry asked.

'Oh no, sir, no,' said Dobby, looking suddenly serious. ''Tis part of the house-elf's enslavement, sir. We keeps their secrets and our silence, sir. We upholds the family's honor, and we never speaks ill of them - though Professor Dumbledore told Dobby he does not insist upon this. Professor Dumbledore said we is free to - to-'

Dobby looked suddenly nervous and beckoned Harry closer. Harry bent forward.

Dobby whispered, 'He said we is free to call him a - a barmy old codger if we likes, sir!'

Dobby gave a frightened sort of giggle.

'But Dobby is not wanting to, Harry Potter,' he said, talking normally again, and shaking his head so that his ears flapped. 'Dobby likes Professor Dumbledore very much, sir, and is proud to keep his secrets and our silence for him.'

'But you can say what you like about the Malfoys now?' Harry asked him, grinning. A slightly fearful look came into Dobby's immense eyes.

'Dobby - Dobby could,' he said doubtfully. He squared his small shoulders. 'Dobby could tell Harry Potter that his old masters were - were - bad Dark wizards'.'

Dobby stood for a moment, quivering all over, horror-struck by his own daring - then he rushed over to the nearest table and began banging his head on it very hard, squealing, 'Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby!'

Harry seized Dobby by the back of his tie and pulled him away from the table.

'Thank you. Harry Potter, thank you,' said Dobby breathlessly, rubbing his head.

'You just need a bit of practice,' Harry said.

'Practice!' squealed Winky furiously. 'You is ought to be ashamed of yourself, Dobby, talking that way about your masters!'

'They isn't my masters anymore, Winky!' said Dobby defiantly. 'Dobby doesn't care what they think anymore!'

'Oh you is a bad elf, Dobby!' moaned Winky, tears leaking down her face once more. 'My poor Mr. Crouch, what is he doing without Winky? He is needing me, he is needing my help! I is looking after the Crouches all my life, and my mother is doing it before me, and my grandmother is doing it before her…oh what is they saying if they knew Winky was freed? Oh the shame, the shame!' She buried her face in her skirt again and bawled.

'Winky,' said Hermione firmly, 'I'm quite sure Mr. Crouch is getting along perfectly well without you. We've seen him, you know -'

'You is seeing my master?' said Winky breathlessly, raising her tearstained face out of her skirt once more and goggling at Hermione. 'You is seeing him here at Hogwarts?'

'Yes,' said Hermione, 'he and Mr. Bagman are judges in the Triwizard Tournament.'

'Mr. Bagman comes too?' squeaked Winky, and to Arabella's great surprise, and Harry's, Ron's and Hermione's too, by the look on their faces, she looked angry again. 'Mr. Bagman is a bad wizard! A very bad wizard! My master isn't liking him, oh no, not at all!'

'Bagman - bad?' said Arabella.

'Oh yes,' Winky said, nodding her head furiously, 'My master is telling Winky some things! But Winky is not saying…Winky - Winky keeps her master's secrets…'

She dissolved yet again in tears; they could hear her sobbing into her skirt, 'Poor master, poor master, no Winky to help him no more!'

They couldn't get another sensible word out of Winky. They left her to her crying and finished their tea, while Dobby chatted happily about his life as a free elf and his plans for his wages.

'Dobby is going to buy a sweater next, Harry Potter!' he said happily, pointing at his bare chest.

'Tell you what, Dobby,' said Ron, who seemed to have taken a great liking to the elf, 'I'll give you the one my mum knits me this Christmas, I always get one from her. You don't mind maroon, do you?'

Dobby was delighted.

'We might have to shrink it a bit to fit you,' Ron told him, 'but it'll go well with your tea cozy.'

As they prepared to take their leave, many of the surrounding elves pressed in upon them, offering snacks to take back upstairs. Hermione refused, with a pained look at the way the elves kept bowing and curtsying, but Arabella, Harry and Ron loaded their pockets with cream cakes and pies.

'Thanks a lot!' Harry said to the elves, who had all clustered around the door to say good night. 'See you, Dobby!'

'Harry Potter…can Dobby come and see you sometimes, sir?' Dobby asked tentatively.

''Course you can,' said Harry, and Dobby beamed.

'You know what?' said Ron, once he, Hermione, Harry, and Arabella had left the kitchens behind and were climbing the steps into the entrance hall again. 'All these years I've been really impressed with Fred and George, nicking food from the kitchens - well, it's not exactly difficult, is it? They can't wait to give it away!'

'I think this is the best thing that could have happened to those elves, you know,' said Hermione, leading the way back up the marble staircase. 'Dobby coming to work here, I mean. The other elves will see how happy he is, being free, and slowly it'll dawn on them that they want that too!'

'Let's hope they don't look too closely at Winky,' said Harry.

'Oh she'll cheer up,' said Hermione, though she sounded a bit doubtful. 'Once the shock's worn off, and she's got used to Hogwarts, she'll see how much better off she is without that Crouch man.'

'Kreacher'll probably die of a heart attack if I set him free,' said Arabella, shaking her head. 'House-elves get attached to their families. Kreacher's still taking orders from her, even if she's dead. Winky's obviously still attached to Crouch. That sort of attachment doesn't go away easily.'

'Doesn't think much of Bagman, though, does she?' said Harry. 'Wonder what Crouch says at home about him?' ,

'Probably says he's not a very good Head of Department,' said Hermione, 'and let's face it…he's got a point, hasn't he?'

'I'd still rather work for him than old Crouch,' said Ron. 'At least Bagman's got a sense of humor.'

'Don't let Percy hear you saying that,' Hermione said, smiling slightly.

'Yeah, well, Percy wouldn't want to work for anyone with a sense of humor, would he?' said Ron, now starting on a chocolate eclair. 'Percy wouldn't recognize a joke if it danced naked in front of him wearing Dobby's tea cozy.'

Thank you for reading!

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