I was as surprised as anyone when the head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures asked me to take over this case. To say that I was unpopular around the office would be an understatement. I must admit that some of my work had been a bit too "liberal" in the past. I was passionate about my work and in my passion I may have pushed the envelope too far.
However, this was the biggest case in the ministry since the end of the second war. If we blotched this up, the media would have a field day. There was a lot of pressure to do this thing right. As I left for my destination that morning I took pride in knowing that I was the best person for the job.
The scene of the crime was baffling to say the least. There were no signs of breaking and entering, the body was found undamaged in it's bed with it's right hand resting on his chest with a wand in it. There were no major suspects (besides half the wizarding world), and only one witness who happened to be in a state of denial and refused to talk to anyone about the death. The witness was a house-elf by the name of Dobby.
Despite my obvious talent in my field, the identity of the witness was probably the main reason I had been picked for this assignment. I had had previous experiences with Dobby during my school days and I used to be very close friends with his master. There was a time when we were inseparable, but we fell apart after the war. Seeing him always reminded me of the past… and some things are just too painful to remember.
Upon entering his house I found it to be almost exactly the same as I had remembered it in the past. Seeing everything in the exact place they had been years before was unsettling in a way. Everywhere else the world had moved on, but in this dingy, near-deserted house very little had changed. The only notable difference was that there was a chunk of the wall missing where a portrait of a dead woman had once been. Even with the removal of the painting, I felt quite uneasy as I exited the entranceway and made my way towards the kitchen where I was told the "creature-in-question" would be waiting for me.
As I approached the kitchen I heard the sound of loud voices coming from behind the door.
"—and your refusal to help is only making the situation worse!" came the voice of a highly angered Auror. He was standing next to his partner as they "interrogated" the house-elf.
"Dobby must ask you Sirs to keep your voices down!" said the house-elf in a frantic whisper, as he sat at the table with his head in his small, frail hands. "Master is sleeping and he does not like to be disturbed!"
"He is not sleeping!" yelled a second Auror. It seemed as if they had been down this road before. "Your master is dead! Do you hear me Elf? He's Dead!"
"Do not say such things!" yelled the house-elf as his head shot up from his hands to face the Auror. Then in a much quieter voice he said, "master is sleeping!"
At this point I walked into the room. It was clear that these two men were getting nowhere and possibly ruining what little chances I may have had at getting some information out of the disbelieving elf.
"Thank you gentlemen," I said acidly. "But the Department for Regulations of Magical Creatures will take over from here."
"I'm not sure if you noticed, I Miss /I ," said the second Auror with a tone of superiority that I did not appreciate. "But this is a high profile murder scene. It's the Aurors' jurisdiction."
"I have no objections to that, but if I'm not mistaken the murder was committed in the master bedroom and not the kitchen."
"We are aware of that," said the first Auror slowly through clenched teeth. "But this elf is a witness of that murder which we are fully entitled to question."
"Then I am sure that you are also aware that this witness has a name." I was irritated at this point and my voice was beginning to increase in volume. "And that by being an elf it is my department's right to question him first!"
Neither men had an answer for this and with a few evil glances at me, then Dobby, the two men silently left the room. This left me alone with the house-elf and I was ready to begin my questioning.
"I'm sorry about those two," I said reassuringly to the house-elf. "Some wizards have no manners at all."
"It's quite alright, Miss. Dobby is used to it."
"Yes I imagine you would be."
His previous masters, the Malfoys, had been horribly cruel to him. I would have them thrown in Azkaban, if most of them weren't already there for other crimes.
"But right now Dobby I have to ask you some serious questions concerning your master."
"Master is not dead! Do not say Master is dead!" said the elf in a new rush of emotion. I instantly felt sorry for him. But I had a job to do and I would do it, one way or the other.
"I know Dobby, I know. No one is saying he's dead, but he could be in trouble. Any information you have might help him. Don't you want to help your master?"
Dobby's face instantly lightened.
"Yes, Dobby will do anything for master. You are kind, Miss. Dobby will help master, for that is what house-elves is for."
"Thank You Dobby," I said with a slight frown. It was sad to see how much his life revolved around the man that I had once called my best friend.
"How long have you been in the service of Harry James Potter?"
"For exactly five years and thirty-eight days, Miss." I was not at all shocked that he knew the precise date.
"Would you say he has been a good master?"
"Oh yes, Miss. He has been wonderful to Dobby. Master pays Dobby far more than Dobby will ever know what to do with. And master even gives Dobby vacation time, but Dobby never takes vacations because master would be lonely without him."
The elf finished that last statement with a look of sadness in his eyes. I could not help but feel a pain of guilt. After the war I was the only true friend Harry had left. Naturally he wanted to hold onto this relationship, but slowly and unconsciously it slipped away.
Despite my guilt, I pressed on. There were much more important questions that had to be answered. I decided to dive into the big ones. There was little point to beating around the bush in a situation such as this.
"Recently, have you noticed anything odd about Mr. Potter?"
I could see Dobby was hesitant to answer. His hands clenched tightly to the armrest of his chair.
"It's ok to answer truthfully Dobby." I said reassuringly. "Me and Harry are friends."
I wanted to wince at my own proclamation of friendship, to slap myself for lying. I wanted even more for my words to be true. I wanted the right to call him my friend and to grieve at his loss. But I denied myself that right five years ago and now there was no way to get it back. While my words were untruthful, they did serve their desired purpose.
"Yes Miss, Dobby remembers. Master talks of you often. He'll be happy to see you when he wakes up… he'd want you to know." Dobby paused as if considering if he should continue. He blinked slowly once and continued on.
"Master has been very sad for a very long time. Very sad and very alone. Even with Dobby he is lonely." He paused and lowered his voice as if saying something that was forbidden. "Master misses his Wheezy."
The mispronounced name alone hurt me more than any curse or enchantment could ever have, but I could not let myself be affected by such things. I knew this assignment would bring up feelings such as these. I'd have never forgiven myself if my emotions had gotten the better of me.
"Are you perhaps referring to Mr. Ron Weasley?" I asked in a calm voice that had an unmistakable quiver.
"Yes Miss, his Wheezy. Master… he blames himself for what happened. He never talks about it with Dobby, Miss. But Dobby knows. Master calls out to his Wheezy at night. Master has never been one who sleeps well."
"I see," I said in what I hoped was a professional tone.
"Has Harry been leaving the house a lot lately?"
"Oh no, Miss. Master never leaves the house. He used to years ago. He took Dobby with him. Dobby's old master would not take Dobby anywhere. Harry Potter is good master."
"Yes he was."
I paused for a second.
"When he used take you out where did you to go?"
"We went to see his Wheezy… in the very sad place were theys puts dead wizards. We always went to see his Wheezy. Harry Potter would be very sad when we came back. He would do bad things…" But the elf trailed off. I could see a sudden flash of fear in his eyes.
Without warning he grabbed a rolling pin and began to hit himself in the head repeatedly.
"Bad Dobby, Bad Dobby!" he said over and over again until I was able to stop him. This sort of self-punishment was often seen among house-elves that had once been abused. Masters would command their elves to commit acts of violence on themselves in order to establish a sense of dominance even when they were not present.
"It's ok Dobby, it's Ok!" I said reassuringly as I grabbed the rolling pin from his hands. "Harry would want me to know, remember? I'm his friend."
"Dobby is sorry, kind Miss, but there are some things master did not want even Dobby to know."
"I understand Dobby," I said sympathetically. "But if you want to help Harry you have to tell me. It's the only way."
The house elf let out a sigh, but continued.
"Master would… hurt himself." As soon as he said the words his hands automatically reached for the rolling pin that was no longer there. It would have been comical had it not been so sad.
"How would he hurt himself?" I asked softly.
"He would use curses," he said oblivious that his hand was still reaching for the rolling pin. "Dark, painful curses."
"Do you know what type of curses Dobby?"
"Dobby thinks he knows one, Miss. Dobby thinks it is…" Once again he breaks off. The fear is back in his eyes and his arm ceases its crazy gesture.
"It is Unforgivable."
"Crucio," I said more to myself than to the elf.
"Yes… Dobby thinks so."
I thought about this information for a while and let it digest. There had been many cases of self-torture among witches and wizards in the past. It was not a difficult brand of magic, as all one needed to know was what spell to use and have an honest desire to hurt one's self. I would have asked the elf for details but I was afraid that I may have lost his co-operation completely if I pressed the issue.
"Did anyone ever come to visit Harry?" I asked in an attempt to change the subject.
"Lots of people Miss. But Dobby never lets them in the house. They is nosey people that always is asking master questions."
"What type of questions would they ask?"
The house-elf visibly shrank in front of me in anxious anticipation as to what he knew he'd have to say.
"They wants to ask master terrible questions. Dark questions about the fall of the dark lord. Master has told no one of it. Not even Dobby. But Dobby knows… house-elves always knows."
I think I understood the elf's fear more than he did himself. I was there when it happened. I took part of it and it stole part of me. I was with Harry when he came back to Grimmauld Place holding Ron's dead body as he had once held Cedric's three years ago. I saw the look of anguish in his eyes through my tear-distorted vision. The wizarding world rejoiced. But it was not a victory. At least not for Harry and me. We had saved the world… and murdered our best friend.
But those were things of the past. I could not dwell upon them if I wished to uncover the truth. I don't know how I did it at the time, but I managed to maintained my composure. I contributed all the elf said as facts and nothing more. He was a means to an end and I would exploit any means necessary.
"Did your master dream often of these events?" I asked in a calm voice that seemed eerie to my own ears. Given Harry's past I was not surprised to find out that he had. Dobby told me of the long nights he spent catering to his master and comforting him until he went back to sleep. He said that they had both gone days without sleeping in order to avoid them.
"But why didn't you sleep Dobby? Surely, he didn't require you to stay up all that time."
"No miss, Master did not ask Dobby to stay up with him. Dobby just did. When a master needs help, a house elf gives it. Freed or enslaved, paid or unpaid. If you love your master you will do anything to help him."
I was touched by his devotion, which so fully and easily put me to shame, yet it still disturbed me in a small sense. I wondered if there was a limit to an elf's servitude. It was a question that had been on my mind for quite a while. Elves have done both great and terrible things for their masters, but was there a point where they wouldn't follow orders? I didn't think I could answer that question by asking Dobby, "what wouldn't you do for your master", so I continued with my investigation.
"Now Dobby," I said in a kind, understanding voice. "I'm going to start asking you some questions that may be a little disturbing to you, but I need you to answer the best you can." I gave him what I hoped was an encouraging look. "Can you do that for me, Dobby?"
"Dobby will try Miss."
"That's all I can ask." I favored him with a smile. "Could you recall the events that occurred on the day that your master fell asleep?"
In all of our conversation thus far I had never seen the elf look so downtrodden. His face made his earlier appearance when the Aurors were questioning him seem cheerful. My heart ached for Dobby. I wanted to tell him he didn't have to tell me. I wanted to tell him it'd all be ok. I had joined the Department to help elves and other creatures, not reduce them to this. The worst part of it all was that I knew I would continue, even if it were not my job to do so. I had to discover the truth because I was too involved not to.
Despite the elf's obvious discomfort, he began to tell the events of the day. It started out normal, Dobby explained. He had awakened an hour earlier than Harry in order to make breakfast. (I didn't have the nerve to ask him how he'd know when Harry would wake up). He then prepared the table for his master to eat. They both sat down to eat together as was their custom. The elf seemed particularly proud that Harry allowed him to eat with him. After seeing the way most wizards treat their elves, I completely understand why. They had no real conversation. Harry had inquired about the weather. Dobby said that it was raining and that Harry seemed pleased by this fact. The two of them retired to the living room where Harry showed Dobby photographs from an album. The elf particularly remembered a photograph of Ron that Harry kept turning back to. It was the first time Harry had (consciously) mentioned Ron in over a year. After they were done viewing the photographs Harry got up and put on his coat. When asked, Harry said that they were going to visit an old friend.
"Dobby knew something was wrong then, Miss," said the elf in his sad, squeaky voice. "We had not gone to see Master's Wheezy for years. Master said we would not go again. Said it was too painful. But still master took me there that day. The same day his Wheezy died."
He went on to explain their visit at the cemetery. How Harry conjured flowers for the grave. How he reminisced about the good times. How he apologized for living when Ron clearly could not. But Dobby then told me something that surprised me to no end. Harry James Potter fell on his knees and began to cry.
In all my years of knowing Harry I had never seen him break down like that. Not when Sirius died. Not after Dumbledore was murdered. Not even when he was cradling Ron's unconscious body in his arms did he cry. It was a fact that was disturbing and comforting at the same time. I was glad that in his last hours he was not the savior of the world, but a living, feeling, human being.
I did not, however, disturb the elf's tale with any notion of my feelings. He continued on with no pause, as if he had planned this story ahead of time. It later occurred to me that he probably had.
They stayed an hour in the graveyard, Harry sobbing weakly while rocking back and forth and Dobby doing his best to comfort his miserable master. But one cannot cry forever. They apperated back to Grimauld Place. Harry confined himself to his room and Dobby began to cook that night's dinner. He was making Harry's favorite: roast beef, corn, and mashed potatoes, all topped off with a heaping serving of Yorkshire pudding. I noticed that even while telling the sad tale of his master the house elf took much pride in his work. He did not smile and his voice was not cheerful, but you could see it in his eyes.
After he had finished cooking, he made his way upstairs to inform Harry of the dinner's completion. But once he arrived at Harry's door, he found it to be locked from the inside. Dobby said he could hear loud, high-pitched screaming sounds coming from the inside the room.
"But Dobby," I asked as gently as I could. "How could there possibly have been such loud noises coming from the room? Even with all the protections of Grimmauld Place sounds can be heard from the streets. Surely a muggle or someone would have heard it."
"Dobby has thought of this Miss," stated the elf in a pensive tone. "Dobby thinks master used a spell to make the room quiet. But house-elves would not be fooled. House-elves have excellent hearing."
This seemed possible if not probable. Contrary to what most wizards and witches are lead to believe, a "silencing charm" does not in fact silence sound. It merely raises the pitch of the sound produced beyond the realm of human hearing. An exceptionally talented wizard can raise the frequency to such heights that even a creature of the most acute hearing abilities could not properly hear. I sincerely doubt that Harry had that ability in his distraught state of mind. The reports of barking dogs throughout the neighborhood confirmed my doubts.
"So you heard screaming coming from Harry's bedroom. What did you do next?"
"Well Miss, Dobby was frightened. Very frightened. Master would not answer the door. Master would not even answer Dobby's calls. The screaming was terrible Miss." The house-elf shuddered violently. "But then… then the screaming stopped."
"You mean it just stopped?" I asked incredibly. "There were no words, no incantations, no voices of an intruder?"
Dobby's head dropped to the table and his hands clenched the back of his cranium, yet his voice did not waver.
"Dobby was scared Miss. Dobby broke open the door. There were no intruders… there was only master. Master pointed his wand at himself and said two words. Before Dobby could do anything… Master fell asleep."
"Dobby, if you want me to help Harry you'll have to tell me what words your master said."
"Dobby will not Miss!"
But his refusal did not make a difference. I knew what the words were and I whispered them aloud.
"Avada Kedavra "
Dobby shook more violently than before and he began to weep. I felt that my investigation was over. The rest was left for the Aurors.
Harry James Potter had chosen to take his life instead of living in constant pain. It was a tragic, cowardly, and maybe even pathetic end for such an accomplished and admired individual. I rose from the kitchen table to leave, but I realized there was one more thing that needed to be done. I could not leave Dobby in his current state, waiting for a dead man to awake.
"Dobby," I said softly with tears of my own brimming my eyes. "Harry won't wake up."
"Yes he will!" said the elf defiantly.
"I'm sorry Dobby, but your master is dead. The curse he cast upon himself was the killing curse. There is no way to reverse it and no way to defend against it. He was dead from the moment his wand flashed green."
Dobby raised his head from the table to reveal a shockingly tearless demeanor. His face was contorted in anger.
"That cannot be true Miss!" he yelled forcefully. "Master said he would sleep! Master said he would wake up when the pain was gone! Master is not dead!"
I was shocked and confused. Something besides the obvious was definitely wrong.
"When did he tell you that? I thought you walked in on him right before he cast the curse. Dobby I don't understand unless…" Realization dawned upon me, yet I didn't want to accept the truth.
"Dobby… you didn't. Y-you couldn't have…"
All the anger fell out of Dobby's face and was instantly replaced by a look of utmost guilt. His head dropped once again into his hands.
"But… but why Dobby?"
"Dobby did not know Miss. Master was hurting… master had been hurting for a long time. He said I could end it all… with just two words. He said he'd sleep! Miss, you have to believe Dobby! Dobby did not know!"
I looked at him and felt nothing but sincere sympathy and pain.
"But that can't be true Dobby," I said sadly as I shook my head. "You had to know… House-elves always know ."
The look Dobby gave me then will forever be imprinted upon the pages of my mind. His mouth contorted into the most heart-wrenching smile my two eyes have ever witnessed. A single tear leaked from his right eye.
"Miss… If you love your master, you would do anything to help him. Wouldn't you?"
A new day dawned upon the neighborhood surrounding Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
The headline of every wizarding newspaper in London was the same: Harry James Potter Found Mysteriously Dead.
No one ever knew of his pain, yet many still tell the tale of the boy-who-lived, the man-who-conquered.
Dobby the House-elf was arrested and released based on lack of evidence. This is not to say he was not punished. He lived the rest of his sad, miserable life awaiting the awakening of his forever-sleeping master.