On November seventh, the Potter house elves gathered in the kitchen for a meeting.
As was typical of a house whose elves were under stress, Potter Manor was sparkling. Every fixture had been shined, from the taps on the sinks in the basement potions lab to the clasps on the trunks in the attic. Even the chandelier in the entrance hall, which hung at an intimidating twenty feet, had been scrubbed. There wasn’t an inch in the manor that hadn’t been cleaned at least three times.
It had been exactly one week since their bonds to Master James and Mistress Lily had snapped, and there was still no sign of Master Baby Harry.
“He is being under wards,” Mipsy, who had been assigned special care of Master Baby Harry when he was born, told the others. “Heavy, heavy wards.”
“Potter wards?” Falpey, the Head Elf, asked.
Mipsy shook her head, and the other elves muttered unhappily.
“A Potter is belonging under Potter wards,” Jeely said. “Master Henry is always saying so.”
The others nodded in agreement.
“Mister Dumbly-dore is not thinking so,” Rispy pointed out. “He is insisting Master and Mistress be going to the other house.”
The final words were spoken with the usual disgust. All of the house elves had been horrified when they were told their Master and his family would be living alone, without house elves, in a tiny cottage far from the ancestral Potter lands.
Their dislike for the idea had been vindicated, of course, as Master James and Mistress Lily were dead. But house elves never said ‘I told you so’—and even if they did, they’d be in no mood to.
Still, the knowledge that Mister Dumbly-dore’s advice had led Master James and Mistress Lily to their deaths was heavy over the room. Tolby, who had been Master James’ personal elf since he was born, sniffed quietly. He was clutching a bottle of butterbeer, which the other elves heavily disapproved of, but as he’d been getting all his work done, none of them said anything about it. Rispy even ventured to pat him on the shoulder.
“Does Rispy think,” Jeely asked, “that Mister Dumbly-dore is sending Master Baby Harry to another house?”
Rispy tugged on one of his ears. “Mister Dumbly-dore is thinking Potter Manor is not being safe.”
There was general distaste for such an absurd opinion, but it was a thoughtful distaste.
“He is sending Master Baby Harry to another house,” Falpey concluded, resigned.
“Another house is being no place for Master Baby Harry,” said Jeely, aghast. “He is needing us!”
On this, all the elves were in agreement. But what to do about it? Their old Master was dead, and the new Master was too young to give orders—and kept away from them, besides.
“Mipsy is,” Mipsy started, and then hesitated. The other elves looked to her expectantly. “Mipsy is being told to take care of Master Baby Harry when Master and Mistress is being busy packing.” She tugged at the bottom of her official Potter elf toga, straightening the already straight edge. “Mipsy is never really being told to stop taking care of Master Baby Harry.”
Falpey and Jeely, the oldest living Potter elves, met eyes.
“Master and Mistress is not telling you to stop?” Falpey asked.
“No.” Mipsy rocked back and forth on her heels. “Mistress Lily is saying thank you, I’ve got it from here, Mipsy, but she is not saying stop.”
It was a narrow distinction—but a distinction nonetheless. Certainly, it was enough of one for the Potter elves.
“You has orders to take care of Master Baby Harry,” Falpey concluded, and gave her a stern nod. “You should be following yous orders, Mipsy.”
Mipsy bounced a little in place and then disappeared with a pop.
The matter settled, the other elves might have dispersed. But they’d spent a whole week fretting over their Master and his disappearance, and they were eager to see him with their own eyes. They stayed where they were.
(Tolby did go for another bottle of butterbeer, though. Falpey and Jeely shook their heads disapprovingly.)
After three very long minutes, Mipsy reappeared with another pop. In her arms was a sleeping Master Baby Harry—but to the elves’ discontent, his breathing was wet and his face damp, as if he’d recently been crying.
Mipsy was in a state.
“Master Baby Harry was being with Muggles!” she cried as soon as she’d fully appeared. “Muggles is not knowing how to take care of Master Baby Harry!”
The elves were once again in agreement—that was unacceptable.
“He is needing a change,” Mipsy told them. “And a bath. And good food. Is we having any food for Master Baby Harry?”
Jeely spun on her heel. “Jeely is making some right now!”
“Falpey is preparing a bath,” Falpey decided.
“Rispy is—Rispy is cleaning the nursery!” Rispy announced, after a moment of dithering.
Jobs decided, the elves parted, content. Master Baby Harry was home, under Potter wards in Potter Manor with Potter elves, the way he should be.
Three hours later, Master Baby Harry had been changed, bathed, and fed. He was crawling around the nursery under Mipsy’s watchful eye, rediscovering a room he likely didn’t remember, when the other elves met again in the kitchen.
“Mipsy is taking care of Master Baby Harry,” Falpey said, “but baby wizards is needing adult wizards to be teaching them wizard things.”
Jeely pointed out the obvious. “We isn’t having any adult wizards. Unless…?”
As one, the two turned to Rispy, who had been assigned care of Master Sirius when Master Fleamont and Mistress Euphemia adopted him. As Master James’ brother and Master Baby Harry’s dogfather, Master Sirius was the obvious choice for an adult wizard to teach Master Baby Harry wizard things.
“Master Sirius is not being dead,” Rispy said, to their relief. He squinted a little as he focused on the bond tying him to his charge, searching for a general location. When he found one, it wasn’t at all what he expected. “Master Sirius is—Master Sirius is being in Azy-kaban!”
“Azy-kaban?” Tolby, to general surprise, was the first to protest. “Azy-kaban is being for bad wizards! Master Sirius isn’t—” he hiccupped. “—isn’t a bad wizard!”
Rispy wrung his hands in distress.
“Azy-kaban is being bad,” Falpey said, scowling. “Master Henry is spending years trying to change it, and he is never succeeding.”
“Master Sirius is not belonging there,” Jeely agreed.
“Well,” Rispy said. “Rispy is not being ordered not to bring Master Sirius home from Azy-kaban.”
The other elves considered this for a long moment, then agreed.
“Jeely is never being told not to rescue Master Sirius,” Jeely said.
“No Masters is ever telling Falpey not to go to Azy-kaban,” Falpey nodded.
“Tolby is making chocolate for Master Sirius,” Tolby decided, setting his butterbeer aside. “He is always loving Tolby’s chocolate cakes.”
Falpey and Jeely nodded approvingly at him. It was just as they’d thought—he just needed a wizard to take care of so he could work through his grief. It wasn’t good for a house elf to be left without wizards. Nor, for that matter, a wizard to be left without house elves.
Consensus reached, Rispy disappeared at once to retrieve Master Sirius.
Master Sirius’ rescue took much longer than Master Baby Harry’s had—almost a full hour. The other elves were just beginning to be concerned when, finally, Rispy reappeared with a pop, hand in hand with Master Sirius.
He was in terrible shape—dirty and smelly, with days-old blood crusted around a nasty-looking cut on his forehead. His robes were ragged and slightly burnt, his hair a tangled mess, and his eyes full of horrors.
…Horrors that faded a bit when he recognized his surroundings.
“What?” he asked hoarsely.
“Master Sirius,” Falpey said, quite sternly, “you is needing a bath.”
Master Sirius stared at him. “F…Falpey? What?”
Rispy tugged on his hand. “Rispy is rescuing you, Master Sirius.”
“You—what? Why? How?” Master Sirius’ eyes were becoming clearer by the second. “Who ordered you to do that?”
“Nobody.” Rispy sniffed and looked away. “But nobody is ordering Rispy not to rescue Master Sirius.”
Master Sirius stared down at him for a long minute…and then slowly, raspily began to laugh.
“That,” he said, “is bloody hilarious.”
“You is still not using filthy language in Jeely’s kitchen,” Jeely told him sternly. “Even if you is filthy you’s self.”
“Right,” Master Sirius said, still laughing. It was a hoarse, painful sound; Rispy was visibly fretting. “Sorry, Jeely. I forgot.”
“You is needing a bath,” Falpey said again. “Worse than Master Baby Harry was.”
At this, Master Sirius started. “Harry? Harry’s here?”
“Yes,” Rispy said, and finally let go of Master Sirius’ hand. If Master Sirius was looking better—like, perhaps, he’d been given a little boost of house elf magic to aid in his recovery—none of the other elves said anything. “Mipsy is not being told to stop taking care of Master Baby Harry, so she is going and bringing him home from the Muggles.”
“Mug—” Master Sirius scrubbed at his face. “Lily’s sister, I suppose. How in Merlin’s name he ended up there…but he’s here now? He’s all right?”
“Muggles is not knowing how to take care of babies,” Jeely said, while privately wondering just how any Muggles survived to adulthood. Master Baby Harry had been in bad shape after only a week with Muggles; she shuddered to imagine how he’d have been after years. “But we is taking care of Master Baby Harry. He is being in the nursery with Mipsy.”
Master Sirius turned as if to go straight there. Falpey cleared his throat.
“Needing a bath, yeah,” Master Sirius turned back to them, laughing again. “Okay, Falpey, you win. I’ll take a bath before I see Harry. If you’re sure he’s okay?”
“He is being fine,” Jeely said soothingly. “You is bathing and then you is eating some of Tolby’s cake, and then you is seeing Master Baby Harry.”
“Then you is staying here,” Rispy added, “and teaching Master Baby Harry wizard things.”
Master Sirius looked from Rispy to Jeely to Falpey to Tolby, then back to Rispy.
“Well,” he said, “it sounds like you’ve got everything figured out.”
“We is Potter elves,” Falpey reminded him. “It is being our job to take care of Potters.”
“So it is,” Master Sirius said quietly. “So it is.” He took a deep breath, then clapped his hands together. “And an excellent job you lot do, too. Now, I suppose I’d best take that bath.”
The elves nodded happily and ushered him off to his old room, beaming.
Master Baby Harry was safe in Potter Manor, with his Potter elves to take care of him and his dogfather Master Sirius to teach him wizard things.
All was well.