A good elf

Winky does her duty as a loyal servant. This plot was suggested by Marauder at fictionalley-dot-org. Characters belong to Rowling.

The night was steadily drawing closer and the new moon was shining over the Forbidden Forrest, streaks of pale clouds occasionally veiling its brightly smiling face and giving the scenery an almost ethereal feeling. In the cosy hut in the edge of the forest, some friends had gathered for an evening cup of tea. Harry and Ron sat on the floor, playing with Fang and trying to avoid being too much drooled at. In a corner Tonks and Remus sat engaged in that self-absorbed and giggling pair-activity that is called 'courting'. Hermione was reading by the fireplace, while 'Mad-eye' Moody sat by the table, doing disgusting things with his eye. Hagrid sat next to him, gnawing on a rock-hard piece of cake and beaming at his guests. The tea had filled everyone with warmth and content, and they were slowly getting more and more drowsy.

"Say, Harry!" Hagrid rumbled. The boy looked up, and therefore didn't see that Fang was taking the opportunity to lick him in the face.

"Yuck!" he cried as the dog-slime dribbled down his face. "Get a breath mint or something. What was it, Hagrid?"

"I was only wonderin' summat'," the giant went on, smiling fondly at the boy. "That house-elf of yers. The one belongin' to the Malfoys. How's he these days?"

"Dobby? Just fine," Harry said, getting to his feet to avoid further slime-related incidents. "He and McGonagall had pay talk the other day. It was hard negotiations, but in the end he managed to get a full week of vacation each year and a sickle's rise."

"I can't really see Dobby bother much to get a pay rise," Ron objected, trying to keep away from Fang's attention, that was now directed towards him alone.

"He didn't," Harry smiled. "McGonagall started off with offering him the same payment and vacation plan as the rest of the Hogwarts staff, which nearly made him faint with fright. She went downwards from there, and it wasn't until she was down on a week and a sickle that he stopped banging his head to her desk, so she told me."

"Poor duped Dobby, eh, Hermione?" Ron teased. Hermione only snorted and buried herself even deeper in the book.

"Why did you ask?" Harry wondered. Hagrid rubbed his nose thoughtfully.

"Well, yeh see, I ran into his girlfriend or whatever she is the other day. That other elf oddball they got themselves some time back."

"Winky you mean? She who belonged to Barty Crouch?"

"Dunno 'bout that. She sneaked around in the forest a few nights ago anyway. Scared as anythin' by the look of it, but when I asked if she wanted any help, she just squealed and ran of. At first I was thinkin' that she looked for some herb or summat for the kitchen, but when I saw her returnin' some time later she carried a bone."

"A bone?" Harry asked intrigued. The others looked up as well, clearly interested of the story.

"Yeah," Hagrid confirmed. "An' a big one's well. Can't really say from what beast, and I've no idea at all what she'd want that for. Maybe Snape or Pomfrey sent her to get it for some potion or summat."

"She's mental," Ron said matter-of-factly, getting a scornful look from Hermione. "No wonder, serving that weird family. Dad is a dark-wizard-hunter, son is a death eater, mum goes willingly to Azkaban. Nice and cosy, isn't it."

"She really was devoted all they way to the end," Harry agreed, remembering the devastated look in Winky's face when she had witnessed the testimony of the younger of her masters. "Dobby at least managed to get over the Malfoys, but she still feels like she serves her family and has failed them."

"Poor duped Winky, eh, Hermione?" Ron taunted. Hermione snorted again, louder this time, but didn't comment. She had a frown in her face, and by the look of it she was trying to recall something. Ron, who had disturbed her while being in that mood previously, wisely chose not to bother her further.

"It's a sad case," Remus agreed with concerned voice. "House elves whole existence is about serving, like it or not, and when she was rejected from her family it was like a part of her was torn away. I only hope Dobby can help her get over it. But it will take time, if she ever will stop regarding herself as a servant to the Crouch family."

"Would it be the sneaky little drunkard of an elf we're talking about?" Moody grunted, putting back his eye into its socket with a laud pop.

"She is a bit hard on the butter beer," Harry agreed, shaking his head. Moody leered nastily.

"A bit hard is only the beginning of it, lad. When I saw her this morning she was so drunk that she could hardly stand. I met her in the great hall while she was trying to clean off the table. The whole bloody elf was shaking, and when she saw me she nearly wet herself in fright."

Tonks stifled a laugh, and no one in the room needed any particular skill in legilimency to understand that she was thinking that Winky's reaction wasn't very unusual for those encountering 'Mad-eye' Moody's quite singular appearance for the first time. Hermione, however, was frowning deeper now. She looked questioningly at Moody.

"What happened then?" she asked, quite slowly. Moody scratched his head.

"Well, I went over to help her, she was all but collapsing where she stood, but when I approached her, the little creep bit me."

"Bit you?" Hermione asked, her voice filled by uneasiness, and strangely enough, fear.

"Yeah, she bit me," the man replied with a sneer. "She even tore a hole in my robes. If there are any diseases transmitted by house elves, I have them all by now. Then she scurried off somewhere."

"Weird." Harry said and shook his head. Tonks leaned closer and examined the hole in Moody's robes.

"Seems like she even drew blood from you," she said as she noticed the stains on the fabric. "Nasty bite mark. House elves have sharp teeth."

"Only thing about them that's sharp," Ron joked, but then he, as well as the rest of the friends, was startled by a sudden bang. Hermione's book had dropped to the floor, and she herself had jumped to her feet, suddenly white in her face.

"...no..." she whispered, trembling. The others found themselves taking a step back from her. Ron hastily got to his feet, and Moody had produced his wand.

"What? Speak out girly," he snapped, his eye spinning wildly in its socket, trying to locate whatever danger had made the girl react.

"No..." Hermione went on, her voice filled by disbelief and a horror more and more pronounced for every second, her wide opened eyes travelling from Harry to Moody to Hagrid.

"...Oh no, it can't be... she can't be..." And suddenly she started to run, throwing the door to the hut open and racing as fast as she could towards the castle. The others stood as stunned for a moment, but then they followed. Harry caught up with her at the main gates.

"What?" he panted, running alongside with his friend, who had turned sharply down the stairs that lead towards the dungeons.

"Oh Harry!" Hermione panted The bone... Moody... I think... Winky..." Her voice was filled by fear, and there were tears in her eyes. Harry felt a cold lump in his stomach. He had no idea what Hermione was trying to say, but if it made her react like this, it definitely was something bad. They reached the painting of the fruit basket that marked the entrance to the kitchen. Hermione ran right into it, violently and desperately tickling the pear until the painting slid to the side, admitting entrance to the stairs behind it. In the meanwhile the others had caught up. Hermione started to run again with the others in trail.

"Are you mad or something?" Moody growled. "What has gotten into you?"

"Winky," the panicking girl shouted over her shoulder between panting strokes of breath. "I think... still serves... Crouch." And they poured out in the kitchen where the house elves, dressed in the official Hogwarts pillowcase, watched them in confusion.

"Winky!" Hermione yelled, looking desperately around. "Where... is Winky?"

"Can we help miss Granger and her friends with something?" one of the older elves asked quite snippy. Hermione stared at him.

"Please, we must find Winky," she pleaded. "You must tell me where she is." The elf looked as if it had suddenly bitten in something sour, but it nodded.

"If madam really must know," he said reluctantly, "Winky has her day off today. We have no interest or knowledge in what she might do with her spare time. But I assure you that we can help you just as well as she can," the elf added with professional pride. Hermione let out a gasp of frustration and fear. Moody's large fist landed on her shoulder.

"Now you stop up for a moment and tell us what's going on, young lady," he said, both his eyes focusing on her, which was a rare sight indeed. She nodded shakily, her eyes still travelling over the assembled elves.

"The bone..." she begun, swallowing hard before going on. "Crouch said that he had transformed his father into a bone and dug it down in the forest..."

"Hey, You're right," Ron panted. "You don't think it was THAT bone Winky dug up, do you? Creepy."

"So what?" Moody interrupted with frustration in his voice. "Winky finally finds the remains of her old master, is that what you're going on about? Who cares?" But by now Hermione had spotted a familiar face in the crowd.

"Dobby!" she cried, something of relief in her voice. Immediately the elves parted, showing a quite embarrassed looking elf, dressed in a multitude of hats, socks and other randomly assembled pieces of clothing.

"Madam?" he squeaking said, trying to avoid looking at both her and the other elves at the same time, coming to rest his large eyes at Harry instead.

"Dobby!" Hermione pleaded. "You must take us to Winky. We must stop her!"

"It's Winky's day off..." the elf begun, but Harry cut in.

"Tell her Dobby," he said anxiously. The elf shot a single, scared glance around and then went on.

"...she's in the old cellar. The one we don't use any more... She's drinking a lot more then she should, master Harry... we usually leave her alone but..."

Hermione was already on her way, running through the kitchen, throwing open the door Dobby had indicated and running down the stairs. The other followed in various stages of shock, fright and bewilderment. From the cellar below, they could see the flickering light of a fire, hear the squeaking voice of Winky. It trembled with fear, but there was also strength in it, the kind of strength that comes with unquestionable devotion beyond reason or doubt.

"Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son," the voice squeaked, and they could see the shadow of the elf among the other dancing shadows on the wall, holding in her hands what clearly was a bone, many times larger then a normal human bone should be. She shadow dropped the bone, and they heard a splashing sound.

They were all running down the narrow staircase now, as fast as they could. Panic spread among them as ripples in a pond, as their brains grasped the meaning of the scene they were witnessing. Remus and Tonks were both very pale in their faces. Moody cursed under his breath as he forced himself down the staircase faster then anyone should have thought his peg leg admitted. Ron and Harry exchanged a single, frightened glance and drew their wands, even if they not for their lives could figure what use they would be.

"Flesh of the servant, willingly given, you will revive your master," Winky went on, a strange pride in her voice, and then she screamed, a fearfully, abruptly cut off scream that would come to hunt their nightmares for a long time to come. Harry's felt a quick and intensive stab of pain in his scar. Hermione was all but leaping down the staircase.

Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you will resurrect your foe," the elf finished the incantation, her shaky voice reaching a climax, and they entered the cellar at last. They were met by a fearful sight. In the middle of the room stood an enormous cauldron, boiling and emitting a terrible stench. Next to it stood Winky, just throwing something that looked like a piece of cloth with brown stains on it in the cauldron. Her left hand was cut off, quite messily by the look of the fresh stump which was still pumping out blood. On the floor next to her was a large, blood stained kitchen knife. She spun around when she heard them coming, staring at them with large, mad eyes.

"Winky!" Hermione cried, rushing forth and scoping up the elf, holding her as a child. "What have you done?" The elf met her eyes, and when she spoke her voice was unnervingly calm.

"Winky does her duty," she said, smiling an insane smile. "Winky has brought her master back. Winky is a good elf."

And behind her the cauldron boiled over. The steam that resulted when its content met the fire blinded them for a moment. They could hear Moody shout a curse but they had no idea whether or not it had hit. The next thing they could see was Barty Crouch junior standing naked in the cauldron, an expression of cruel satisfaction on his face. For just a moment he looked at them, and smiled. Then he was gone in a flash of floo powder. They stared unbelievingly at the place where he had been, and suddenly the bleeding house elf in Hermione's arms started to laugh. A high pitched laugh with no sanity in it.

"Winky is a GOOD elf!" she sang.