After leaving the Headmaster’s Office:

 Harry, Ron and Hermione climbed the stairs to their respective dormitories, all yawning as they hadn’t slept in almost a day and a half.

 His stomach rumbling, Harry called “Kreacher!” upon entering the seventh-year boys’ dormitory.  Kreacher appeared immediately (the fake locket still bouncing on his chest), bowing low to Harry and Ron.

 “Kreacher, I must say that I am enormously proud of you today for your acts of bravery in leading your fellow house-elves to the battle.” Harry told him, fondly.

 “Oh, Master Harry, we was very honored to fight amongst you and your friends.  Master is so brave and carried out the work of Master Regulus in defeating the Dark Lord.  Kreacher is proud to serve his Master.” Kreacher replied, beaming proudly. “Master Weasley and Mistress Granger, his two greatest friends, Kreacher is also happy to serve.  Did Master Harry need something, sir?  We is busy in the kitchens helping to feed those that fought.”

 Harry was now sadly reminded of poor Dobby with the words that Kreacher spoke, and his eyes welled once more with tears.  He remembered how grateful Dobby had been and how reverently he had treated him, Ron and Hermione.

 “Thank you, Kreacher.  I appreciate your help.”  Harry replied.

 “Yeah, Kreacher, you were great tonight.”  Ron added.

 “If it isn’t too much trouble, do you think you could grab some sandwiches for Ron and I?”  Harry asked the elf.

 “Of course!  Of course, Master Harry.  You is probably hungry and tired.”  Kreacher croaked, looking at his master tearfully, remembering the events that had transpired earlier.  He disappeared immediately. 

 “You know, Hermione might be hungry too.” Ron suggested.  He bellowed her name and she came running up the stairs.

 “We just asked Kreacher to bring us some sandwiches if you’re hungry.” Ron said when she entered the room.

 “Thanks, Ron.” she replied, clearly surprised at Ron’s thoughtfulness.  She conjured a small table and a few chairs for them.

 A few moments later, the elf returned with aheaping tray.  It held a variety of sandwiches, a large flagon of pumpkin juice, a few bottles of butterbeer, a bottle of firewhiskey, some glasses and napkins.

 “Thanks, Kreacher, you’re the best house-elf ever!”  Ron exclaimed gratefully to the elf, taking in the tray of food and immediately helping himself to a sandwich and sitting at the table.

 “You’re very welcome, sir.  Kreacher is happy to help.  Would Master and his friends like some clean clothes to wear?  Kreacher believes that there is still some at Master’s home.” Kreacher responded, beaming at the trio in front of him.

 “Wow, Kreacher, that would be really great…” Harry began, but before Harry could finish his sentence the elf was gone again.  Harry had wanted to tell him that it wasn’t necessary and that the elf should sit down and eat himself.

 “Harry, that elf has been through a great deal today.  How could you send him off on yet another errand?” Hermione asked, sounding surly.

 “Harry didn’t suggest it, Hermione!  The elf did!”  Ron replied indignantly.

 “Hermione, Kreacher didn’t let me finish my sentence.  I was going to tell him it could wait until tomorrow.”  Harry told his friend, Kreacher reappearing in their midst under a pile of clothes that he had been laundering when the trio were unable to return to Grimmauld Place.  He placed them on one of the unoccupied beds.

 “Wow, thank you, Kreacher.  That was really nice of you.”  Harry said to the elf, with a smile on his face.  Kreacher bowed low, beaming once again at the praise.

 “Is there anything else at all that Kreacher can help Master with?”  Kreacher asked, eager to please.

 “Yes,” said Harry, “sit down, eat and talk with us.”

 Kreacher’s eyes widened at the prospect but did as he was bidden.  He smiled suddenly, looking around at Harry, Ron and Hermione.

Harry handed him a plate with a few sandwiches, poured him a small glass of butterbeer (remembering that Dobby had said it was strong for house-elves, but thinking that Kreacher could probably do with a bit of a drink), and poured Ron, Hermione and himself each a large glass of pumpkin juice as well as a healthy dose of the firewhiskey (passing the glasses around the table).

They all looked at eachother and Ron said “To victory, and to those who fought bravely, and to those who died for the cause….” his voice breaking slightly upon the last line.

With tears in the four sets of eyes, they all drank to Ron’s toast.

 They all dug into the food, eating ravenously.  “Kreacher, I would like you to tell us what happened when we didn’t return to Grimmauld Place after our trip to the ministry, if it’s not too difficult a story for you to tell.”  Harry informed the elf, looking sadly at him.

 “Of course, Master Harry.  Kreacher knew that Master would be returning soon with his friends.  He set the table and had lunch all ready.  Then this ministry man came to Master’s house.  Kreacher thought he saw his Master too, but Master disappeared.”  The elf paused, looking confused, but continued “The man screamed very loud.  Kreacher covered his ears, it was too loud!  The man looked at Kreacher and asked him where Harry Potter was.  Kreacher said he didn’t know.  Kreacher knew where his Master was but he could not tell this man, for he did not know who he was.  The man ran through the house with his wand in the air.  Kreacher was not afraid because he knew that Master was not there.”  Kreacher stopped for a moment to take another sip of his butterbeer and looked as though he was lost in thought.

 Harry reached out his hand, and patted Kreacher on the shoulder.  Almost afraid of what he would hear next, but knowing that he must know the truth (the weight of his responsibility to Kreacher’s safety weighing heavily upon him) Harry asked “Then what happened, Kreacher?”

 “Then he came back to the kitchen and shook Kreacher, and said Kreacher must tell him where Harry Potter was.  Kreacher was afraid now.  What would he do to Kreacher if he did not answer?”  Kreacher thought aloud.  His eyes were wide with fear at the thought, but he continued, “But the man believed Kreacher and left Master’s house.  And so Kreacher waited for his masters to return.  Kreacher worried that his masters’ dinner would be ruined if they did not come home soon.  Kreacher waited for two days.  He knew then that Master Harry could not come home and Kreacher worried his masters were dead.  He didn’t know what to do now.  He had no new orders.”  Kreacher finished lamely.  He stopped to take a breath.

 “Oh, Kreacher, we were so worried that you would be tortured by the Death Eaters!  We wanted to call you to us, but we didn’t know what to do.  When we left the ministry that man that showed up at Grimmauld Place grabbed on to us.  That’s why you saw us for a moment.  We were afraid that if we called you, a Death Eater might come with you.”  Hermione explained to the elf.

 Although the elf had stopped showing Hermione the utter contempt and hatred as he had when Sirius was still alive, he still hadn’t quite shown her the respect that he did to Harry and Ron while they were at Grimmauld Place.

 Now, Kreacher bowed his head to her saying “Thank you, Mistress Hermione.  Kreacher decided to come back to Hogwarts as Master Harry had told him to do before.  He knew too, that he might find out what happened to his masters if he returned there.  But Kreacher was not welcomed by the other elves, oh no.  They were angry at Kreacher for leaving Hogwarts where he was sworn to serve.  But Kreacher tried to tell them that he had to help Master Harry.  He tried to ask them if they new what happened to his masters.  Kreacher was surprised when Dobby came to him, for Dobby hates Kreacher!  But Dobby said that Kreacher was a good elf now to serve his Master well.  Kreacher asked Dobby if he knew what happened to Master Harry.  Dobby helped Kreacher to learn that his masters were still alive, but Kreacher didn’t know where to look.  So he waited, waited until his Master called Kreacher to him.  Kreacher and Dobby worked together every day.  Dobby told Kreacher of the bad things that happened when he served Mistress Cissy and told him that things would be bad again with the Dark Lord strong.  Kreacher remembered what Mistress Hermione said at Master’s house and he and Dobby talked very much about it.  The Dark Lord is bad for elves.  One day Mr. Dumbledore came into the kitchen all crazy and asked Dobby to help him.  But Dobby did not return to the kitchens that day.  Kreacher was very sad because he didn’t know what happened to his new friend.  Kreacher heard the Dark Lord call to his Master today and wanted to fight for his Master. Kreacher wanted to make sure that his Master would live, for he thought of the pain of losing Master Regulus.  The other house-elves were now happy to fight with Kreacher.”  Kreacher finished.  He looked at Harry as though afraid that Harry would yell at him for not staying at Grimmauld Place where he belonged.

 Harry looked down at his house-elf and said “Kreacher, you did very well.  I’m glad that you got to know Dobby before he died.  I miss him too.”  Harry’s eyes welled with tears again and held his arms out to Kreacher.  Kreacher, although a bit wary of being embraced by his Master, went into Harry’s arms.  The two hugged for a moment before pulling back.

 There was silence for a few moments before Ron said “Ok, enough mushy stuff, let’s get going on this food.”

 No one had eaten while they were enraptured by Kreacher’s tale.  They all smiled slightly and attacked their meal.  It was awhile later that Kreacher yawned.  “Kreacher needs to get back to the kitchens to help.” He said.

 “No, Kreacher, my next order to you is to get some rest.  You look very tired.”  Harry told him, not unkindly.

 “Yes, Master Harry, Master looks tired as well.”  the elf replied, unsure if he was being disrespectful he hit his head on the table.  Harry grabbed Kreacher’s pillowcase from behind and stopped Kreacher from doing so again.

 “You will not punish yourself.  Go and sleep now.”  Harry simply said.  He decided that a direct order would be best now, after seeing how tired the elf was.

 Harry knew Kreacher was right and as he looked at his friends he knew that he probably looked as exhausted as they did.

 They all slept for a long time before waking.  It was late afternoon by the time they all felt able to rise from their beds.  Hermione climbed the steps back up to the boys’ dormitory.

 “You know, Harry, there’s no reason that Kreacher should still be enslaved.”  Hermione told Harry once they all had gotten up and changed into the freshly laundered clothes that the elf had brought earlier.

 “Yes, Hermione, but I confess that I don’t wonder if Sirius was right.”  Harry replied.

 Hermione gave him a confused and quizzical look.  “Sirius said that we couldn’t free him because he knew too much.  But then he said that the shock of being handed clothes would kill him.”  Harry explained.

 Hermione actually raised her eyebrows at this.  Kreacher was not a young elf, and Harry could see Hermione’s contemplation of the idea that Kreacher could be very upset by being set free.

 “Well, maybe you should give him an option.”  Ron interjected, drawing surprised looks from Harry and Hermione.

 “That might work!”  Harry said.  “Kreacher!”

 The elf appeared immediately, bowing low.  “Yes, Master Harry?”  the elf asked.

 “Kreacher, please sit down,” as Harry indicated the vacated seats from the night before, with Ron and Hermione sitting down as well.  Harry continued “I would like to talk to you about your future.  I want to give you the option to either stay with me as your Master or to take your freedom.  It is entirely up to you.”

 Kreacher fell off his seat and lay on the ground at Harry’s feet.

 “Master Harry, oh Master, what did Kreacher do wrong?”  the elf sobbed piteously.  “Kreacher was a bad elf last year.  He knows it.  He is sorry.  Kreacher is trying to be a good elf now.  Please, Master, don’t make Kreacher go.”

 Harry looked at Hermione desperately, looking for advice.

 As much as she didn’t approve of the enslavement Harry knew that she also didn’t like to see someone so obviously distressed.  “I think he would prefer to stay with you, Harry.”  she finally said.

 “Kreacher, I am more than happy to have you continue to help me.  I just want you to be happy.”  Harry told the elf, after kneeling beside him.  “Please don’t cry.”

 The elf stopped sobbing and looked up at Harry happily.

 “Thank you, Master Harry, thank you.  Kreacher is his devoted servant always.”  he intoned.  “Does Master need anything this morning?”

 Figuring he’d better give the elf something to do, Harry asked him to go and check on the Weasleys to make sure that they were okay and to report back to him.  The elf smiled widely and disapparated. 

 "Great advice, Hermione.”  Harry said, not too sarcastically.  She had the grace to look a bit sheepish.

A few years later:

 Kreacher and Winky had an elf that they named Dobby, in honor of the elf that saved everyone from Malfoy Manor.  Winky joined Kreacher to serve Harry as the new Headmistress of Hogwarts released the elf from her duties so that she could be with her husband.  Winky died shortly thereafter.  Harry couldn’t help but think that perhaps she would be happier where she was now.  She had never gotten over what she saw as her humiliation from being handed clothes by her Master (Barty Crouch Sr.).

 Harry wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to live in Grimmauld Place full time.  He also couldn’t bear to part with the property either.  It was his reminder of Sirius.  Perhaps he could transform the place to make it welcoming.  So, with Kreacher’s help they restored the old Black manor to its former glory.  Ginny helped to redecorate the house.  Hermione had remembered about soundproof walls from her muggle childhood and suggested that as a part of the solution to the Mrs. Black portrait problem.  At first Harry was wary, because he was afraid that Kreacher would object.  Although the elf was happy to serve his new Master and no longer spoke to the portrait, Harry wasn’t sure how he would react to this new development in the restoration work.  But Kreacher was content to see Harry happy and so didn’t raise any objections to this idea.  So with the help of a few wizarding carpenters and muggle soundproofing Mrs. Black became a very distant echo.  As she could no longer hear what was happening in the house she didn’t awaken often.  When she did and remembered what had happened to her beloved house, one could barely hear her.

 When Harry and Ginny were married they were both still working full time.  Harry was at the ministry still redefining the Auror Department and she was still playing chaser for the Cannons.  Having a devoted house-elf was certainly helpful.  But Kreacher was aging and had slowed down considerably.  Dobby, eager to follow in his parents footsteps, however, learned everything he could from his father and at a young age began to take on more and more of his father’s duties.  Harry (although he knew he should, so that he could break the cycle of enslavement) couldn’t bear to free him as he knew that this would break Kreacher’s heart.

 Kreacher was overjoyed when James Harry Potter was born and was frantic to help Ginny to take care of him.  She took to ordering the elf to go and take a break or to lie down. 

 One morning, the Potters awoke to find the kitchen empty.  Worried, Harry and Ginny raced to the room that Kreacher had made for himself all those years ago.  It was clean and furnished now.  Kreacher lay in his bed unmoving.  Harry kneeled beside the elf, with Ginny bending over him (her hand on his shoulder).

 “Kreacher.”  Harry muttered, his eyes watering over.  The young Dobby, who had been sleeping on a cot not far from his father stirred.  He sat up and ran to his father, landing next to Kreacher on the opposite side of Harry.

 “Master Harry.”  the elf said, looking up.  “Please, Master Harry, please place my head beside my mother’s.”

 “Of course, Kreacher.”  Harry responded.  “Your mother would be very proud of you.  We will care for Dobby with everything that we have.” 

 Harry looked at Dobby and saw the terror in his eyes.

But Kreacher looked up at Harry’s face and smiled.

 “Thank you, Master Harry.  Serve your Master well, son.”  Kreacher said, addressing Harry and Dobby respectively. 

 Kreacher collapsed back onto the tiny bed (with a contented smile still upon his face) and moved no more.  Harry scooped Dobby up from the other side of Kreacher and held him close.

 “I’m so sorry.”  Harry said to the tiny elf, knowing the pain and sadness associated with losing one’s parents.

 The three of them sat there for a few moments with Kreacher before Harry (still crouched down from the low ceiling), still holding Dobby in his arms, and Ginny left the room.  They all had tears running down their cheeks as Ginny began to prepare breakfast.

 The next day the Potters and the Weasleys gathered in the drawing room for a small service for the elf.  Ginny held James in her arms.  James kept trying to get Kreacher to talk to him, and he couldn’t understand why the elf wasn’t answering him.  Kreacher was big part of James’ life and always told him marvelous tales.  Hermione held the 4-year old Dobby in her arms while Ron put his arm around her.  In the front of the room Harry explained the wishes of the elf.  He had carefully removed the elf’s head from his body using a spell that he and Hermione had found earlier.  The rest of the body had been cremated as per Harry’s wishes (although he would have preferred to bury it…they had no garden).  Harry then mounted the head onto the plaque that he had conjured earlier.

 Below it he decided to place an inscription:


Forever a beloved and devoted servant

He knew that Hermione not might fully approve of it, but it wasn’t for her.  It was to honor the elf in the way that Harry knew he would appreciate.

Harry then levitated the plaque to the spot in the hall next to Kreacher's mother.  He placed a Permanent Sticking Charm on it so that it would remain there forever.

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