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House rules and literacy.

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Harry was used to shocks. He was used to not questioning them as well (to have a " peaceful" life at the Dursleys the first rule was not to ask questions) but this...

"Dobby what are you doing here?" Harry asked softly despite the shock at seeing Dobby in his bedroom once again. Dudley was in his room and Harry really didn't want Dudley or his parents to find out about the uninvited visitor. Harry could just hear the crude words his uncle would say and the shrill shriek his aunt would let loose at the sight of Dobby who wasn't human which was something wizards were and the Dursleys utterly despised wizards for their abnormality. God forbid how they react to house elf or any other magical creature.

Dobby wide eyes blinked at Harry; his face was easy to read as an open book. Dobby was surprised and confused but why? Harry had freed him and when he asked if Dobby had a place to go Dobby had exclaimed that Harry was far better than he knew before teleporting away even though one couldn't apparate in Hogwarts (something Harry knew because Hermione had told them multiple times since Ron and him had yet to read Hogwarts A History).

Oh no. A feeling of dread washed over Harry. Surely Dobby didn't think... A grimace made itself home on Harry's face. There was no way Dobby could stay here. The Dursleys would surely find out and then - well Harry would rather not think of his punishment for hiding a house elf when his uncle could hardly stand his owl and often threatened the well being of Hedwig.

But telling Dobby this would be like telling a previously abused dog that followed you home because you showed it kindness that it couldn't stay. Which Harry did know what that was like; despite being eight at the time Harry had known exactly what his cousin was like with animals and that was if his aunt (who hated messes almost as much as she hated Harry's magic that back then was referred to a freakness) had allowed the dog to stay.

The thought of telling Dobby no was somehow more difficult than the dog. Harry stared at the elf that had almost killed him in his attempts to save Harry's life but none the less tried to save him. Which, honestly, was a lot more than anyone besides Ron and Hermione had ever done for him.

The feeling of guilt worsened and Harry simply could not do it. He couldn't kick Dobby out since this was apparently the only place he had. Harry had freed him from the Malfoys and despite the good deed Harry would surely be punished for it once the Dursleys found out about the house elf.

"Okay. You can stay here until you find a place but Dobby the Dursleys can never find out about you," Harry's voice was a mix of urgent and desperate as he told Dobby this. "You'll have to stay in my room all the time if you stay here and if my uncle, aunt, or cousin come in here they can not find out about you."

Suddenly Harry felt terribly ill. He was like the Dursleys now. Practically locking up a person that was magical for fear how others (the Dursleys for him and the neighbors for the Dursleys) would react. It wasn't right but what else could Harry until Dobby could find somewhere else to live?

Dobby nodded solemnly as if used to being a dirty secret. "Would master like Dobby to clean the room as well?" It was asked innocently but the question was opposite of that.

Now it was Harry's turn to be shocked. "Master?" He repeated feeling quite dumb for having to do so.

Dobby's eye widen even more than Harry thought possible. Suddenly Harry felt the need to pinch his arm to see if this was a cartoonish nightmare.

"Oh bad Dobby!" The house elf cried out before reaching out to grab the lamp by the bed to surely beat himself with for some reason beyond Harry. Harry, who had witnessed this before, immediately ran across the thankfully small bedroom and manhandled the lamp out of Dobby's surprisingly strong grip.

"Don't do that!" Harry harshly whispered to the house elf. "You're not the Malfoys' house elf Dobby. You don't have to hurt yourself anymore," Harry somewhat gently reminded the house elf.

Dobby sniffled. "But Dobby was a bad house elf," he protested. "Dobby assumed the great Harry Potter needed a house elf instead of begging to serve you."

Harry stared, completely floored. Beg to serve? Even the Dursleys never made Harry beg to do all the work around the house and cooking. Even though once and and a while (or more accurately once a week) muttered or reminded Harry should be more thankful.

"Dobby I freed you so you can be free not because I wanted you to be my slave."

Dobby gave Harry a genuine confused look. "What's a slave?"

"It's a terrible thing-" Harry stopped and tried to think of a way to explain slavery. "It's what house elf are," he finally explained. Because now that Harry was thinking of it, it was exactly what they were.

"But how can it be a terrible thing sir when it is what is done?"

"Sometimes just because something is just done doesn't mean it's right," Harry admitted softly, his mind was not with their conversation but of his earliest memories of staying (trapped) in the cupboard under the stairs; of that being all he knew despite his fear of the dark and small spaces which the cupboard was surely both.

"So don't -no, please don't call me master Dobby. You are a free house elf and you should be happy you are."

Harry put the lamp back of the desk and joined the elf he had freed on the bed. There was silence afterwards. It somehow wasn't awkward though.

"Is there anything you like doing? I can try to get you something to do since you'll be stuck in here."

Dobby glanced sideways at Harry. "Dobby has nothing he likes doing ma-," Dobby stopped before he said something he should not.

Harry's eyes visibly softened at the confession . "Do you like puzzles?" He suggested softly. "Or drawing? Maybe reading? Chess?"

This time Dobby didn't give him a side glance but turned to face Harry. "House elfs don't read kind sir. We are never allowed to do so," Dobby solemnly informed the young wizard.

"It's okay now. You can read how many books you like. They're Dudley's but he hates books."

Dobby unnervingly continued to stare at Harry. "Reading is for wizards. House elfs are never allowed to read or allowed to learn," Dobby confessed.

Harry froze. For the first time since learning that he was wizard did he wish he wasn't one. Wizards, he realized sadly, were worse than his aunt and uncle. They, despite their fear of someone realizing Harry wasn't normal, had allowed Harry to go to school even though they never took it well when Harry did better than Dudley.

Slowly so not to spook the house elf Harry wrapped his fingers into Dobby's. It was small gesture of comfort but it was all Harry could do for now. Later, he would teach Dobby to read Dudley's abandoned books that were in his room that once contained his cousin's broken toys. But for now he would just stay here holding Dobby's hand.