Running Backwards Chapter Six (2015-04-06)

The Hufflepuff dorms are the only ones that have an active defense. Slytherins prefer absolute stealth–their entrance is a blank stone wall indistinguishable from the rest of the castle–and the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw dorms have semi-sentient guardians in the form of a portrait and an enchanted door-knocker. But the Hufflepuff entrance? It will drench any would-be invaders with vinegar should they make any wrong move. One of the prefects, Danica Delano, cheerfully informs us that it used to be bubotuber pus up until 1837, when the Board of Governors had the Head of House change it to something less… drastic.

“That was the year when all the other Houses made it a challenge to get into our common room–the number of visits to the infirmary was ridiculous. Even to this day, only Hufflepuffs have ever been inside,” Danica continued, as she led the group to a room next to the kitchen stuffed full of barrels. The nine of us first years looked around in puzzlement but remained silent–Danica was an engaging speaker, and generous with her Hufflepuff knowledge, she’d tell us soon enough.

“Inside first, it’s more secure,” She whispered conspiratorially, knuckles rapping against one of the barrels until it revealed a tunnel. It was dimly lit, but not so dark that I couldn’t still spot the prefect’s magically colored purple hair.

The tunnel opened up into the common room and I could only describe it as, “It’s like a hobbit hole,” I read a lot, both in this life and my previous one, and certain books in both. The magical raised children that had heard me looked confused, but one of the other Hufflepuff girls, one I vaguely recognized from the Diagon Alley trip, grinned at me in agreement.

It really was like a hobbit hole–or at least what I imagined one looked like, and what images of the Lord of the Rings films I could fathom from the depths of my mind. The common room was all curved frames and comfortable fabrics and warm colors. The furniture was pressed along the walls leaving, the center of the room was raised slightly like a low stage, empty and available. It was open, but somehow cozy.

“All of what I told you outside is true, but it’s knowledge easily available in Hogwarts: A History. What is only known to Hufflepuffs–and can only be known to Hufflepuffs–is that we have another layer of defense. One little bit of history that people like to brush over is that our founder, Helga Hufflepuff, made Hogwarts available as a refuge for House Elves. Those who were abused could come and work here without fear of injury. Most of the House Elves work in the kitchens, though some of them do work in other parts of the castle. We passed the kitchen on our way here. Does anyone know where I’m leading with this?” Danica had a passion for history, at least history relating to Hufflepuff, and would undoubtedly be a better teacher than Binns.

“The House Elves protect the Hufflepuff dorms,” Farold concluded, rightly so as our prefect guide nodded.

“Yes, exactly! Those other barrels? Well, some of them do contain projectile vinegar, but others are actually where some of the House Elves sleep,”

“You make them sleep in barrels?” My fellow muggleborn interjected, brow furrowed in displeasure. I couldn’t say I didn’t feel the same.

“Ah, muggleborn. Tara Kahn, right?”

“Yes,” Tara bit out through grit teeth.

“My friend had a similar reaction. I’ll tell you what we were told by our prefect: House Elves are different from humans. Wizards and witches? Our magic is within us. But House Elves draw power from a building–a house, a castle–any structure whose foundation is magic. If anything, the Hogwarts elves are much stronger than any elves serving in some family’s ancient and noble manor…” The nine of us were riveted, even Tara who still had a frown on her face.

“… But it’s the serving part that gets to you, the sleeping in barrels. House Elves are more like poltergeists than you’d think–not physically–but while poltergeist magic manifests itself as mischief and mayhem, House Elf magic is for improving and preserving their House and its inhabitants. As for sleeping in barrels, well… technically House Elves don’t need to sleep. They can sustain themselves indefinitely on magic alone. Hogwarts elves have mandatory break times–because if Helga Hufflepuff hadn’t specified that, then they wouldn’t take any. As for the barrels? Well, they are fairly large and they’re cushioned inside. Considering most House Elves are at most three feet tall, it’s about as comfortable for them as your beds will be for you,” At the mention of beds, most of us remembered how weary we were; some even yawned.

“I still don’t like it,” Tara grumbled around her yawn.

“That’s okay. I have some issues with it too, but House Elves… sometimes change has to come from within. We can’t force liberty on them, because that would be worse than letting them do what they want. And according to Mimsy, a lot of them feel honored that their sleeping quarters are so close to our entrance–that they can help protect us at all times. Now then–”

“Oh, Danica… why are the first years not in bed yet?” Professor Sprout, who had been pointed out to us at the staff table, lightly chided from behind us. “Were you lecturing them on history?” She asked, amused.

Danica blushed, unable to deny it.

“Your passion is admirable, but you’re prefect for a reason. I’ll let you do your duties. Remember, tomorrow morning we have a House meeting,” With that, Professor Sprout made her way towards one of the many tunnel offshoots of the common room, presumably to her own quarters.

“Right then. For you first years, your rooms are down the tunnels furthest from the entrance; the left are the boys’ dorms, the right are the girls’,” She gestured appropriately while she spoke, “While you can go into other tunnels, you won’t be able to get into the rooms unless you are an inhabitant. Bedrooms should be safe spaces and it’s not fair to have others barge in whenever they want–it doesn’t matter what gender. The only exceptions to this are Professor Sprout, and the seventh year prefects. For the boys that’s Leonard Montgomery, and for the girls it’ll be me. As Professor Sprout said, there’ll be a House meeting tomorrow morning eight o’ clock. A prefect will knock on your door at half seven, but it’s your responsibility to get yourselves ready. Your luggage should be in your room–feel free to switch beds around, if you don’t like the one your trunk is in front of. Now off with you, just looking at all of your sleepy faces makes me feel sleepy,” She shooed us away and we trudged into our respective tunnels.

A/N: Still no plot, just some House Elf head-canons! Hermione’s SPEW was well-intended but without getting the opinion of the “victims” was just as high-handed as any master. Hogwarts is a safe haven for House Elves, you think muggleborn Hufflepuffs haven’t had a similar reaction to what is tantamount to slavery? SPEW really should have focused on getting abused House Elves out of their households and into Hogwarts, not taking them out of Hogwarts and into the streets. Like… where would they have gone if SPEW had successfully liberated them? There was no next step, which is highly problematic.