Harry noticed her eyes travel over Dean (who had a nasty cut across one cheek).
Lavender (whose robes were badly singed), Seamus (who was nursing several burnt
fingers), and then to the cabin windows, where most of the class stood, their
noses pressed against the glass waiting to see if the coast was clear.
“This is o'ny me second year,” said Hagrid.
“Lovely... I don't suppose you'd like to give an interview, would you? Share
some of your experience of magical creatures? The Prophet does a zoological
column every Wednesday, as I'm sure you know. We could feature these—er—Bang-Ended
“Blast-Ended Skrewts,” Hagrid said eagerly. “Er—yeah, why not?”
Harry had a very bad feeling about this, but there was no way of communicating
it to Hagrid without Rita Skeeter seeing, so he had to stand and watch in silence
as Hagrid and Rita Skeeter made arrangements to meet in the Three Broomsticks
for a good long interview later that week. Then the bell rang up at the castle,
signaling the end of the lesson.
“Well, good-bye, Harry!” Rita Skeeter called merrily to him as he set off
with Ron and Hermione. “Until Friday night, then, Hagrid!”
“She'll twist everything he says,” Harry said under his breath.
“Just as long as he didn't import those skrewts illegally or anything,” said
Hermione desperately. They looked at one another—it was exactly the sort of
thing Hagrid might do.
“Hagrids been in loads of trouble before, and Dumbledores never sacked him,”
said Ron consolingly. “Worst that can happen is Hagrid'll have to get rid of
the skrewts. Sorry... did I say worst? I meant best.”
Harry and Hermione laughed, and, feeling slightly more cheerful, went off
Harry thoroughly enjoyed double Divination that afternoon; they were still
doing star charts and predictions, but now that he and Ron were friends once
more, the whole thing seemed very funny again. Professor Trelawney, who had
been so pleased with the pair of them when they had been predicting their own
horrific deaths, quickly became irritated as they sniggered through her explanation
of the various ways in which Pluto could disrupt everyday life.
“I would think,” she said, in a mystical whisper that did not conceal her
obvious annoyance, “that some of us”—she stared very meaningfully at Harry“might
be a little less frivolous had they seen what I have seen during my crystal
gazing last night. As I sat here, absorbed in my needlework, the urge to consult
the orb overpowered me. I arose, I settled myself before it, and I gazed into
its crystalline depths... and what do you think I saw gazing back at me?”
“An ugly old bat in outsize specs?” Ron muttered under his breath.
Harry fought hard to keep his face straight.
“Death, my dears.”
Parvati and Lavender both put their hands over their mouths, looking horrified.
“Yes,” said Professor Trelawney, nodding impressively, “it comes, ever closer,
it circles overhead like a vulture, ever lower... ever lower over the castle...”
She stared pointedly at Harry, who yawned very widely and obviously.
“It'd be a bit more impressive if she hadn't done it about eighty times before,”
Harry said as they finally regained the fresh air of the staircase beneath Professor
Trelawney's room. “But if I'd dropped dead every time she's told me I'm going
to, I'd be a medical miracle.”
“You'd be a sort of extra-concentrated ghost,” said Ron, chortling, as they
passed the Bloody Baron going in the opposite direction, his wide eyes staring
sinisterly. “At least we didn't get homework. I hope Hermione got loads off
Professor Vector, I love not working when she is...”
But Hermione wasn't at dinner, nor was she in the library when they went
to look for her afterward. The only person in there was Viktor Krum. Ron hovered
behind the bookshelves for a while, watching Krum, debating in whispers with
Harry whether he should ask for an autograph—but then Ron realized that six
or seven girls were lurking in the next row of books, debating exactly the same
thing, and he lost his enthusiasm for the idea.
“Wonder where she's got to?” Ron said as he and Harry went back to Gryffindor
But the Fat Lady had barely begun to swing forward when the sound of racing
feet behind them announced Hermione's arrival.
“Harry!” she panted, skidding to a halt beside him (the Fat Lady stared down
at her, eyebrows raised). “Harry, you've got to come—you've got to come, the
most amazing thing's happenedplease—”
She seized Harry's arm and started to try to drag him back along the corridor.
“What's the matter?” Harry said.
“I'll show you when we get there—oh come on, quick—”
Harry looked around at Ron; he looked back at Harry, intrigued.
“Okay,” Harry said, starting off back down the corridor with Hermione, Ron
hurrying to keep up.
“Oh don't mind me!” the Fat Lady called irritably after them. “Don't apologize
for bothering me! I'll just hang here, wide open, until you get back, shall
“Yeah, thanks!” Ron shouted over his shoulder.
“Hermione, where are we going?” Harry asked, after she had led
them down through six floors, and started down the marble staircase into
the entrance hall.
“You'll see, you'll see in a minute!” said Hermione excitedly.
She turned left at the bottom of the staircase and hurried toward the door
through which Cedric Diggory had gone the night after the Goblet of Fire had
regurgitated his and Harry's names. Harry had never been through here before.
He and Ron followed Hermione down a flight of stone steps, but instead of ending
up in a gloomy underground passage like the one that led to Snape's dungeon,
they found themselves in a broad stone corridor, brightly lit with torches,
and decorated with cheerful paintings that were mainly of food.
“Oh hang on...” said Harry slowly, halfway down the corridor. “Wait a minute,
“What?” She turned around to look at him, anticipation all over her face.
“I know what this is about,” said Harry.
He nudged Ron and pointed to the painting just behind Hermione. It showed
a gigantic silver fruit bowl.
“Hermione!” said Ron, cottoning on. “You're trying to rope us into that spew
“No, no, I'm not!” she said hastily. “And it's not spew, Ron—”
“Changed the name, have you?” said Ron, frowning at her. “What are we now,
then, the House-Elf Liberation Front? I'm not barging into that kitchen and
trying to make them stop work, I'm not doing it—”
“I'm not asking you to!” Hermione said impatiently. “I came down here just
now, to talk to them all, and I found—oh come on, Harry, I want to show you!”
She seized his arm again, pulled him in front of the picture of the giant
fruit bowl, stretched out her forefinger, and tickled the huge green pear. It
began to squirm, chuckling, and suddenly turned into a large green door handle.
Hermione seized it, pulled the door open, and pushed Harry hard in the back,
forcing him inside.
He had one brief glimpse of an enormous, high-ceilinged room, large as the
Great Hall above it, with mounds of glittering brass pots and pans heaped around
the stone walls, and a great brick fireplace at the other end, when something
small hurtled toward him from the middle of the room, squealing, “Harry Potter,
sir! Harry Potter!”
Next second all the wind had been knocked out of him as the squealing elf
hit him hard in the midriff, hugging him so tightly he thought his ribs would
“D-Dobby?” Harry gasped.
“It is Dobby, sir, it is!” squealed the voice from somewhere around his navel.
“Dobby has been hoping and hoping to see Harry Potter, sir, and Harry Potter
has come to see him, sir!”
Dobby let go and stepped back a few paces, beaming up at Harry, his enormous,
green, tennis-ball-shaped eyes brimming with tears of happiness. He looked almost
exactly as Harry remembered him; the pencil-shaped nose, the batlike ears, the
long fingers and feet—all except the clothes, which were very different.
When Dobby had worked for the Malfoys, he had always worn the same filthy
old pillowcase. Now, however, he was wearing the strangest assortment of garments
Harry had ever seen; he had done an even worse job of dressing himself than
the wizards at the World Cup. He was wearing a tea cozy for a hat, on which
he had pinned a number of bright badges; a tie patterned with horseshoes over
a bare chest, a pair of what looked like children's soccer shorts, and odd socks.
One of these, Harry saw, was the black one Harry had removed from his own foot
and tricked Mr. Malfoy into giving Dobby, thereby setting Dobby free. The other
was covered in pink and orange stripes.
“Dobby, what're you doing here?” Harry said in amazement. “Dobby has come
to work at Hogwarts, sir!” Dobby squealed excitedly. “Professor Dumbledore gave
Dobby and Winky jobs, sir!
“Winky?” said Harry. “She's here too?”
“Yes, sir, yes!” said Dobby, and he seized Harry's hand and pulled him off
into the kitchen between the four long wooden tables that stood there. Each
of these tables, Harry noticed as he passed them, was positioned exactly beneath
the four House tables above, in the Great Hall. At the moment, they were clear
of food, dinner having finished, but he supposed that an hour ago they had been
laden with dishes that were then sent up through the ceiling to their counterparts
At least a hundred little elves were standing around the kitchen, beaming,
bowing, and curtsying as Dobby led Harry past them. They were all wearing the
same uniform: a tea towel stamped with the Hogwarts crest, and tied, as Winky's
had been, like a toga.
Dobby stopped in front of the brick fireplace and pointed.
“Winky, sir!” he said.
Winky was sitting on a stool by the fire. Unlike Dobby, she had obviously
not foraged for clothes. She was wearing a neat little skirt and blouse with
a matching blue hat, which had holes in it for her large ears. However, while
every one of Dobby's strange collection of garments was so clean and well cared
for that it looked brand-new, Winky was plainly not taking care other clothes
at all. There were soup stains all down her blouse and a burn in her skirt.
“Hello, Winky,” said Harry.
Winky's lip quivered. Then she burst into tears, which spilled out of her
great brown eyes and splashed down her front, just as they had done at the Quidditch
“Oh dear,” said Hermione. She and Ron had followed Harry and Dobby to the
end of the kitchen. “Winky, don't cry, please don't...”
But Winky cried harder than ever. Dobby, on the other hand, beamed up at
“Would Harry Potter like a cup of tea?” he squeaked loudly, over Winky's
“Er—yeah, okay,” said Harry.
Instantly, about six house-elves came trotting up behind him, bearing a large
silver tray laden with a teapot, cups for Harry, Ron, and Hermione, a milk jug,
and a large plate of biscuits.
“Good service!” Ron said, in an impressed voice. Hermione frowned at him,
but the elves all looked delighted; they bowed very low and retreated.
“How long have you been here, Dobby?” Harry asked as Dobby handed around
“Only a week. Harry Potter, sir!” said Dobby happily. “Dobby came to see
Professor Dumbledore, sir. You see, sir, it is very difficult for a house-elf
who has been dismissed to get a new position, sir, very difficult indeed—”
At this, Winky howled even harder, her squashed-tomato of a nose dribbling
all down her front, though she made no effort to stem the flow.
“Dobby has traveled the country for two whole years, sir, trying to find
work!” Dobby squeaked. “But Dobby hasn't found work, sir, because Dobby wants
The house-elves all around the kitchen, who had been listening and watching
with interest, all looked away at these words, as though Dobby had said something
rude and embarrassing. Hermione, however, said, “Good for you, Dobby!”
“Thank you, miss!” said Dobby, grinning toothily at her. “But most wizards
doesn't want a house-elf who wants paying, miss. 'That's not the point of a
house-elf,' they says, and they slammed the door in Dobby's face! Dobby likes
work, but he wants to wear clothes and he wants to be paid. Harry Potter...
Dobby likes being free!”
The Hogwarts house-elves had now started edging away from Dobby, as though
he were carrying something contagious. Winky, however, remained where she was,
though there was a definite increase in the volume other crying.
“And then, Harry Potter, Dobby goes to visit Winky, and finds out Winky has
been freed too, sir!” said Dobby delightedly.
At this, Winky flung herself forward off her stool and lay face-down on the
flagged stone floor, beating her tiny fists upon it and positively screaming
with misery. Hermione hastily dropped down to her knees beside her and tried
to comfort her, but nothing she said made the slightest difference. Dobby continued
with his story, shouting shrilly over Winky's screeches.
“And then Dobby had the idea. Harry Potter, sir! 'Why doesn't Dobby and Winky
find work together?' Dobby says. 'Where is there enough work for two house-elves?'
says Winky. And Dobby thinks, and it comes to him, sir! Hogwarts! So Dobby and
Winky came to see Professor Dumbledore, sir, and Professor Dumbledore took us
Dobby beamed very brightly, and happy tears welled in his eyes again.
“And Professor Dumbledore says he will pay Dobby, sir, if Dobby wants paying!
And so Dobby is a free elf, sir, and Dobby gets a Galleon a week and one day
off a month!”
“That's not very much!” Hermione shouted indignantly from the floor, over
Winky's continued screaming and fist-beating.
“Professor Dumbledore offered Dobby ten Galleons a week, and weekends off,”
said Dobby, suddenly giving a little shiver, as though the prospect of so much
leisure and riches were frightening, “but Dobby beat him down, miss... Dobby
likes freedom, miss, but he isn't wanting too much, miss, he likes work better.”