Hello and welcome to "Harry Potter and the Tropes of Fanfiction."
First, a bit of explanation as to what this story is and is not.
Each chapter will be a oneshot, a completely independent story. Each one will examine one or more literary tropes common to Harry Potter fanfiction. Some will be very short. Some may be very long. Don't expect a common thread between the stories, except for an examination of tropes. All stories may contain AU elements.
What is a trope? According to Wikipedia, it is "a commonly recurring literary or rhetorical device, motif, or cliché." It can be a type of character, for example, the "Dark Lord." Voldemort joins Sauron, Morgoth, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, Skeletor, Ganon, and countless others in this trope. It can be a type of setting, such as the hero's secret hideout. The Batcave, the Fortress of Solitude, the Avengers' Mansion, Xavier's School, and many others fall into this trope. Plot tropes include: Accidental hero, Alternate Universe, The Con, Deadly Road Trip, End of an Age, "Groundhog Day" Loop, Time Travel Romance... you get the picture.
"Above all, a trope is a convention. It can be a plot trick, a setup, a narrative structure, a character type, a linguistic idiom... you know it when you see it. Tropes are not inherently disruptive to a story; however, when the trope itself becomes intrusive, distracting the viewer rather than serving as shorthand, it has become a cliché." - tvtropes
Beware, tvtropes will ruin your life. (By the way, tvtropes is responsible for making me a fan of Harry Potter)
Some of these stories will be comedy, some tragedy, some serious, some silly. I will also play some of the tropes seriously, mock some, subvert others, invert others. A lot of them, I will skewer mercilessly.
Also, some tropes will be general tropes found in many examples of fiction. Others will be tropes specific to fanfiction in general and Potter fanfiction in particular.
This is mostly affectionate parody and it is not to be taken personally.
I don't own Harry Potter
Everyone knows Harry is going to treat his Elves superawesomemegaverywell to show just how superawesomemegaverygood he is. Some people don't stop to consider how elves consider that treatment. Maybe they'll like it, maybe they won't. Maybe there's a good reason why.
Harry Potter looked at Kreacher, the house-elf he had inherited from his late godfather, Sirius Black. Kreacher had once been bitter and nasty toward Harry and his friends because of the conditioning he had received during his years of service to the Black family. The Black family were blood purists, the racial bigots of the Wizarding world. Needless to say, the old elf did not enjoy having a half-blood Master.
That all changed when Kreacher learned that Harry Potter was seeking to destroy a certain cursed locket. In fact, this task was part of the final set of orders given to Kreacher by his beloved former master, the late Regulus Black.
Since then, Kreacher had been steadily improving, in both skill and demeanour. Harry was thrilled.
One day, Harry decided to reward Kreacher even further.
"Kreacher," Harry told the elf, "I would like you to eat with me tonight."
Kreacher froze. After a moment, he replied: "Kreacher does not need to eat with Master."
"It's all right, Kreacher. I want you to eat with me."
"Kreacher would rather not eat with Master," replied the elf.
Harry was getting frustrated. "No, Kreacher, I want you to," he replied. "I order you to eat with me tonight. Make sure you get a good-sized portion, too."
Harry was shocked when the old elf burst into tears. He was even more shocked when he heard what the elf was saying through the wails and sobs.
"How has Kreacher angered Master? What has Kreacher done? Master must tell Kreacher so Kreacher never does it again."
"I don't understand," said a very confused Harry Potter. "You haven't done anything to anger me or displease me."
"Then why does Master order Kreacher to punish himself?"
"Kreacher," Harry answered, "I have ordered you never to punish yourself. What are you talking about?"
"Master ordered Kreacher to eat with him. Master ordered Kreacher to eat much human food."
The elf's speech became incomprehensible between the sobs. Harry moved over to comfort his ancient elf.
"Kreacher, it's fine. You don't have to eat with me. I'm sorry, I didn't know that you would be offended by that."
Kreacher sniffed and looked up at his Master who was kneeling next to him.
"Master apologizes to Kreacher. Harry Potter is the best Master to Kreacher."
Harry blushed at the elf's praise. "Thank you, Kreacher. You can - you can go about your regular duties now."
Harry ate the dinner that Kreacher had prepared and silently vowed to discover just what had made the elf so upset.
The next day, during a break in Auror training, Harry mentioned the incident to his best mate and fellow Auror trainee, Ron Weasley.
"I'm telling you, Ron. It was weird. No, it was bizarre. I've been treating Kreacher well and it's worked wonders. This... I didn't expect him to do that at all."
"I don't know, mate, "Ron replied. "We could never afford to have a house-elf. If anyone knows, it would be Hermione."
"I'd planned on asking her after we got off for the day," Harry said to that.
When the day's training was over, the two friends headed over to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, where Hermione Granger worked. During their time in school, Hermione had been passionate about the rights of house-elves.
When she saw the two wizards, Hermione got up from her desk and rushed over to them. She gave Ron a kiss and Harry a hug.
"What brings you two by here?" she asked.
"What?" Ron interjected. "Can't a bloke come see his girlfriend after work?"
"Of course you can," Hermione said, "but you two have that look in your eyes, the look that you always had when you wanted help with your homework."
"Never could fool you, could we?" Harry said with a chuckle.
Harry quickly explained what had happened with Kreacher the previous night. He was quite surprised to find Hermione stumped.
"It may have something to do with their eating habits or dietary needs, but I can't be certain," she said. "I've read every book on elves the Ministry has and nothing was mentioned about either topic. Best thing I can think of is to go to Hogwarts. With all the elves working there, someone should know something."
Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger were walking towards the gates of Hogwarts when they heard a very familiar voice.
"What're yeh three doin' here?"
They turned around and saw Hagrid, the half-giant groundskeeper smiling at them.
"Yeh come to see Ginny?" Hagrid asked, looking pointedly at Harry.
"No," Harry answered, "but I wouldn't mind... actually, you might be able to help us. How much do you know about house-elves?"
"Well, I don' know everythin' about house-elves, not as much as about some other creatures. Wha're yeh lookin' for? Is Kreacher sick?"
"No," Harry replied, "I'm just confused by something he did. I've been trying to treat him well and he seems to be responding to the kindness."
"Of course he is. Every livin' thing responds to respect."
"But, Hagrid, when I asked him to eat dinner with me, he refused. I thought he was just being shy or something, but when I insisted, he got upset - really upset."
"Well of course he got upset," Hagrid responded, somewhat angrily. "House-elves can't eat human food. It makes them sick."
Seeing their confused faces, Hagrid tried another approach.
"Did none of yeh ever wonder where house-elves came from? I know I taugh' this in class. It musta been when yeh weren' here. House-elves were origin'ly forest elves. I don' know if there're any forest elves left in the world, but they were scavengers. Forest elves ate dead things, mostly. A house elf's fav'rite food is partly rotten meat."
"So," interjected Hermione, "They can't digest food that isn't at least partially rotten? It makes them ill?"
"Exac'ly!" said Hagrid. "Their little stomachs can' handle human food. Plus, I doubt mos' people could stomach watchin' the elves eat."
"Or smell it, either," added Ron. "But how do they cook human food, if they can't eat it? Can they even taste the food to see if it is right?"
Hagrid didn't get a chance to answer.
"Poor Kreacher," interjected Harry. "I was trying to be kind to him, but I was torturing him. No wonder he was crying."
"Don' feel bad , Harry," Hagrid said as he laid his huge hand on Harry's shoulder. "Yeh were jus' tryin' to help."
Ron and Hermione clapped Harry on the back and expressed their agreement with Hagrid.
Later that night Harry called Kreacher to himself.
"Kreacher," he asked, "Is it true that house-elves have to eat partially-rotten food?"
"Yes, Master. Elves eat food that wizards call spoiled. Kreacher knows that wizards cannot eat it that way, but elves must or we get sick. Kreacher did not want to disturb Master with elf food, but Kreacher cannot eat wizard food."
"Kreacher, I'm sorry. I didn't know. I won't ask again."
Kreacher beamed. In his croaky little voice he thanked Harry.
"Thank you, Master. Harry Potter is so good to Kreacher."
There you go. I've seen so many fics where Harry insists that his elf/elves eat with him and take large amounts of time off. Based on what we know of elven psychology, I assume that house-elves get incredibly bored when they're given time off. I though about writing that instead, or in addition to this one, but decided against it, at least for now.
For the record, I think that house-elf magic lets them know when food is cooked right and tastes good to humans. Then they don't have to eat it. They can probably handle small amounts of human food, but large amounts make them sick. I'm moderately lactose intolerant, so I imagine it's something like that.
I'll be back, at some point, with another story examining another trope of Harry Potter fanfiction.