Disclaimer: Harry Potter, his adventures, and his cohorts are all property of J.K. Rowling. I own nothing.
Bill Weasley's mouth cracked open in a huge yawn as he descended the stairs of Shell Cottage, still trying to tie his dressing gown as he walked. It was barely dawn, but he had always been an early riser. He entered the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee.
Soon, he was leaning against the counter, hands wrapped around a steaming mug, deeply inhaling the rich, earthy, enchanted scent of fresh brewed coffee. As he took his first sip, he glanced out the window over the sink. The countryside was blanketed in deep, silvery fog shot through with rays of early morning sunlight. The fog was not uncommon, living this close to the sea, and gave the morning a stillness and quiet that Bill appreciated. He gazed out at the eerie, blank whiteness, eyes glazed and unfocused, as his mind freely wandered.
He was jolted from his calm meditation by a flash of movement, barely seen through the thick fog. He sat his cup down and watched more attentively, whole body taut, straining his eyes to see through the mist, hoping he had only imagined it.
There. The tiny flicker of a shadow moving through the vapors. Bill sighed deeply and pulled his wand from his pocket. The war had been over for almost a month. All known Death Eaters were either captured or presumed to have fled the country. Life had been returning to normal for the wizarding world, enough so that Bill had even removed most of the defenses around the house. But with a shadow lurking in the early morning fog, he had to be prepared for the worst.
He thought briefly of waking up Fleur, but decided against it. She would only want to come with him, and it might just be a stray dog. Besides, he wasn't a Gringotts cursebreaker for nothing...
Wrapping his dressing gown more tightly around himself, he left the house, easing the door open and closed as quietly as he could, knowing that the low, constant sound of the surf would help hide the noise. He didn't want to give whoever was out there any warning, even if sound was stifled in the dense mist. He crept slowly into the garden, keeping his body low to the ground. He could barely see ten feet in front of himself, but headed in the direction that he had seen the shadow.
He stopped abruptly when he heard a muffled noise. He cocked his head in the direction he thought it was coming from, trying to place the familiar, high-pitched sound. It sounded almost like... crying? The sobs of a small child?
He walked quickly towards the sound, his curiosity overcoming his caution. It was coming from the direction of the small grave that was nestled between two bushes at the end of the garden. As he neared the location, a tiny figure finally began to emerge from the mist.
It was not a child, but a house-elf, with big, round eyes and large, batlike ears. Bill was more than a little surprised to see the elf wearing a fancy doll's dress, smudged with dirt. Other than Dobby, he had never seen a house-elf dressed in clothes. She was crying hard, hands covering her face, kneeling next to the stone marker of the grave.
Bill tucked his wand away. This poor creature was no danger. He stood awkwardly for a moment, unsure what to do. He had just decided to turn around and leave the elf to her grief, when she happened to look up from her sobbing and see him. Her squeaky cries were immediately cut off in a strangled gasp.
"I is s-sorry, s-sir. I is n-not m-meaning to intrude." She wiped at her eyes and tried to steady her gasping breath as she struggled to her feet.
"It's alright," Bill said with a sigh, taking a few steps closer. "And it looks like I'm the one intruding, not you."
She shook her head slowly, wringing her hands nervously. Tears still leaked from her eyes as she replied, "Oh, n-no s-sir. This is b-being your land, a-and Winky did not ask permission to come."
He waived that objection away. "Well, Winky, you're obviously a friend of Dobby's, and his friends are welcome here. My name is Bill, by the way."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Bill Weasley, sir, I is knowing that. And you is right, sir, Dobby was being my very good friend."
"Then stay as long as you like. My wife and I will be over in the house if you need anything, alright?"
Winky's round eyes widened even more at the unexpected offer, and she could only nod. Bill was just about to walk away when she found her voice again. "M-Mr. Bill Weasley, sir?"
"Sir, I is just wondering, sir..."
She made eye contact for only a moment before glancing away self-consciously. "Sir, who is writing such... such terrible things about Dobby?"
Bill blinked, confused. He looked down at the stone marker to check that the message hadn't been changed, but it was the still the same. "What terrible things, Winky?"
"Who is telling everyone that Dobby was," she paused, eyes darting around as though looking for eavesdroppers, and then continued in a barely audible whisper, "a free elf?"
He smiled at the appalled look on the little elf's face. He knelt down on the other side of the grave from her, to put himself at eye level. "Winky, is freedom really such a terrible thing?"
She nodded her head vigorously. "Oh, yes sir, yes sir. House-elves is not supposed to be free. We is supposed to have a family to serve and take care of. Being set free is a shameful thing, sir."
Bill thought carefully before responding. He never knew Dobby, not really. Just stories he had heard from Ron and Harry. Still, though, Dobby had sacrificed himself to save seven people, one of them Harry Potter. He was a hero, and he deserved to be remembered as such, especially by his own kind. Harry, for one, would want nothing less, and neither did Bill.
"Do you know who Harry Potter is, Winky?"
"Of course, Mr. Bill Weasley, sir, Harry Potter is a great wizard! He is saving the world from..." her voice fell to a whisper again, "from He-Who-Is-Not-Named. He is a great, good wizard, sir. Winky was meeting him once, sir, and he was friends with Dobby."
"What if I told you that Harry Potter wrote Dobby's headstone?"
"Harry Potter, sir? B-but I... I is thinking that Harry Potter liked Dobby, sir!"
"Winky, what do you know about how Dobby died?"
"Not much, sir." Tears welled up in her eyes again as she continued. "I only knows that he should have stayed at Hogwarts. I tries to tell him that, sir, the day he left, but he says he has to be going. Too much freedom, sir. If he was being a proper house-elf, he could not be going off to do dangerous things. He would be staying in his place and still be alive, sir, if he was not having ideas above his station."
"Ideas above his station?" Bill tried hard to keep his voice level and calm, to keep the anger from seeping through. It wasn't her fault, not really. It was all that she knew. "Winky, do you have any idea how lucky we all are –you, me, the whole world- that Dobby had ideas above his station?"
She shook her head slowly, obviously confused.
"You see, Winky, when Dobby left Hogwarts that day, it was to help in the war. There were seven people, six humans and a goblin, captured by Death Eaters. They were going to be handed over to Voldemort."
Winky visibly flinched at the name.
"They were going to be killed. They were already being tortured. One of those people was my brother, Ron, so I will always be in Dobby's debt for that. But one of the other people was Harry Potter. Harry had been captured and was going to be killed, but Dobby showed up and saved him, saved them all. Winky, if Dobby hadn't been a free elf, if he hadn't had ideas above his station, then no one would have been able to get to Harry in time to save him. Voldemort would have killed him, and without Harry around, Voldemort would have won the war. No one else could have stopped him"
"At some point during the escape, Dobby was stabbed in the chest with a knife. He was still able to get Harry out, brought him here in fact, but he died shortly after. There was nothing anyone could do. I was there, Winky. Harry was beside himself. And do you know what happened then? Harry Potter, the great, good wizard who would later kill Voldemort and save us all, Harry Potter dug Dobby's grave himself. He didn't use magic, either. He used a spade. And when it was deep enough, he laid him in the grave, as gently as a newborn baby. Afterwards, once he was buried, Harry took that stone and placed it on the grave, and wrote the engraving himself. It was the nicest thing he could think to say, the one thing that summed up Dobby completely, the best memorial he could give him. Dobby lived and died a free elf. He is a hero, Winky, every bit as much as any wizard. More, even. Without him, we would have lost."
He finished speaking, and silence descended on the pair. He waited for her to say something, but she appeared to be deep in thought. Bill decided to leave her to her mourning. He stood and turned towards the house. Before he could take a step though, he was stopped by the House Elf's voice.
"Sir, I is also a..." she hesitated, and Bill thought he even detected a hint of a blush, "... a free elf, sir, and I is getting one day off a month. Can I... can I be coming here and tending to Dobby's grave, sir?"
He couldn't help but smile. "Of course, Winky. You're welcome here any time."
"Thank you, sir."
Bill began walking back to the house again, but Winky still had one more question.
"C-can I be bringing Kreacher, too? He is wanting to see."
"That's fine, Winky. You can bring anyone who wants to come."
"Thank you, sir. Thank you."
Finally, Bill was able to walk back to his house, where he was greeted at the door by his very worried wife. He took Fleur by the hand and led her back into the kitchen, where they made breakfast together. As they cooked and ate, he told her all about his morning, and of the possibility of future visitors.
Every month, without fail, a tiny figure would spend a day at the little grave in the garden on the seaside cliff, tidying up and leaving flowers. It was, perhaps, the most well tended spot of ground in the whole country.
Bill and Fleur got used to the visits, barely noticing them after a while. One morning, though, Bill nudged his wife with an elbow and pointed out the window towards the site. She looked out and saw not one tiny figure, but two. Fleur and Bill shared a smile over their coffee.
A couple of months later, there were three figures in the early morning fog, and five the month after that. Soon enough, on one day of every month, small crowds of House Elves arrived at Shell Cottage; to see the grave and marker made by Harry Potter himself, to hear the story of the war's smallest casualty, and to pay respects to their fallen brother, a hero of their own.
A/N: Yeah, I know, Dobby already had his memorial in the book, but I just couldn't help but wonder how the other House Elves would react to his death. He was always shown as a bit of an oddity among them, always an outsider. I also was a bit disappointed that Winky didn't even get a passing mention in the last book, when Dobby and Kreacher both played such large roles.
And, yeah, house-elf dialect is hard to write. I tried to handle it as best I could. Let me know if it's too terrible, and I will try to tweak it a bit more.
I hope you liked it. I don't have a clue who or what I will do for the next one, so I have no idea as to when I will update again.
Thanks for reading!