Author's Notes: The only coherent thoughts I can get out, fic-wise, after Deathly Hallows. Literally written at three o'clock this morning. SPOILERS.
Winky could hear the quiet come and go. It was like the tide, she reasoned, even though she had never seen such a thing; her Master had told her of it once, and she had never forgotten. Winky was a good elf, even if she did not always understand. She would keep her Master's secrets safe; if the tide was his secret, only she herself would revel in its comparison to silence.
Silence. Winky did not like it when there was no sound. It seemed unnatural, since witches or wizards or someone was always creating noise. Even she made noise sometimes, when no one was around to make it for her.
Indeed, that night, there were many times when she clinked her empty butterbeer bottles together and upset the pots and pans that had been set out to dry. Shortly after, however, the silence would disappear, and she would cover her ears and wish that it would come back again. There were some sounds that she never wanted to hear, and yet she heard them again and again when the quiet broke itself.
Winky wished that Dobby were there with her. He always knew how to calm her fears before they rose so that she was never afraid. If he were there, she might have been braver. Yet he was simply gone, vanishing for months with Harry Potter, and neither of them had come to see her.
Winky covered her eyes with her fingers and curled up atop her stool. She was alone in the kitchens, and somehow, making herself smaller seemed to render this more bearable. Still, she wished that the other elves had not left her there when they had gone to fight. Surely, not all of them needed to do so. Surely, someone could have stayed behind with her. But surely, they did not know that if they bound her there with magic, she would be lonely and afraid.
As Winky lay there, she wondered why Dobby had not come back. Dobby—her Forever Friend, as he liked to say—was also similar to the tide. He always came back to her, except for now. Always, always…
Her large eyes closed; she hoped to dream to pass the time, but what she dreamt of was nothingness.
"Winky is here, Mr. Harry Potter, sir."
Winky stretched and yawned at the mention of her name. Her skinny legs were stiff from being clutched against her stomach with as much force as she could muster.
Her protuberant eyes snapped open.
"Harry Potter!" she exclaimed in surprise.
The wizard knelt down beside her stool slowly, as if it required all his strength.
"But you is hurt, sir!" Winky gasped at once. For indeed, there were more cuts and scratches upon him than she had ever seen Even young Master Barty had never suffered so much.
"Nevermind," Harry told her. "I just… well, there's something I thought I ought to tell you."
"Has you found Dobby?" she burst out before she could stop herself. "Is Dobby finding you? He is leaving poor Winky to wonder. He is telling Winky he must help Harry Potter Sir!"
As soon as she had finished, she clapped her hands over her mouth. Winky was a good elf, she knew, but good elves did not behave as such.
"Yeah," Harry said slowly. "Dobby found me. He saved my life."
Winky felt a surge of pride. Dobby was not a good elf, since good elves did not wear knitted hats and socks, but he was certainly a noble elf, and brave.
"Then Dobby is finished doing his work now, and he is coming home!" she cried excitedly.
Harry frowned and shook his head. "No, he's…"
"Dobby is late? Dobby is being late sometimes. I is telling him not to, but Dobby is telling Winky not to worry—"
"Winky." The wizard looked at her grimly, and she stopped. "Winky… Dobby… he's… he died."
Winky's hands flew again to her mouth. "What?" she whispered.
"Bellatrix Lestrange killed him. I'm really sorry, I… He shouldn't have died…"
Terror seized her. "No. No, Harry Potter is mistaken, sir! Dobby is not dead! Dobby is being like the tide! The tide is being like Dobby!"
"Winky, I don't—"
By that time, confusion had clouded Harry's face, and the house elves who had returned to the kitchen had begun to stare.
"Dobby is coming back!" Winky snapped suddenly. "We is being Forever Friends!"
"Winky." Harry's voice was strong, but not harsh. "Dobby isn't coming back. I…" He hesitated. "I can take you to his grave once things have settled down a bit."
Winky stared at him blankly. "Dobby is…?" She let the question go unfinished.
Harry nodded. "I'm really sorry."
She stood there limply for a moment. Then, at length, she murmured, "Dobby is always telling Winky to be free, but Winky is never listening. Winky is never telling Dobby they is friends, when Dobby is always listening to Winky!"
The other house elves looked away from this display, averting their pity, regret, and shame.
"We is never listening!" Winky abruptly cried at them. "We is never wanting to be free!"
"But Dobby is being free," someone protested. "Now Dobby is dead."
"You is not knowing Dobby!" Winky shrieked. "Dobby is not dead because he is having freedom!" She gave a wail and sank onto the floor.
A silence passed over the kitchens, then, as the house elves and Harry watched her weep. And so it was that everyone heard it when Winky's little heart broke.