14

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the main trio meet the Crouches' house-elf Winky. Winky indicates that not only does she know Dobby, she also knows of his freedom as well as his 'wanting payment' for work.

Assuming that Winky led a somewhat cloistered life, how would she, even accounting for knowing Dobby previously, have learned of his new life?

Possibilities:

  1. The Ministry knows, thus Crouch Sr. knows and has spoken of it

  2. Dobby is going around asking wizarding families for paid work

  3. House-elf Facebook

  • I assume everyone knows about how he outsmarted Malfoy Sr. That would certainly get back to the Hogwarts elves. – Valorum Jun 18 '16 at 17:23
  • Maybe, but at that time, Winky wasn't at Hogwarts. My question is how did she learn of Dobby's freedom while still w/ Barty Crouch – NKCampbell Jun 18 '16 at 17:25
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    Probably while out shopping. – Valorum Jun 18 '16 at 17:26
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    +1 for the House-elf facebook thought!! – Sir. Hedgehog Jun 21 '16 at 8:34
12

In canon, we don't know. However, there are several possibilities which seem reasonable.

1. Socialising among house-elves.

House-elves can Apparate, unfettered by the restrictions on wizard Apparition, so meetings between house-elves working for different wizarding families would be easy to arrange, even without their masters knowing about it. But given the servile nature of most house-elves, it seems unlikely that they'd do this without their masters' permission, or indeed at all unless it was on their masters' business. However, visiting each other on their master's business would be entirely reasonable. If the Crouches were visiting the Malfoys for dinner, for instance, Winky might nip over to tell Dobby about their eating habits and so on beforehand.

2. Socialising among wizards, with house-elves tagging along.

We saw at the end of HP and the Chamber of Secrets that Lucius Malfoy takes his house-elf with him when he goes to Hogwarts on business. If he, or for that matter Crouch, makes a habit of this, it would make a good opportunity for Winky and Dobby to have met and got to know each other. Whatever their opinions of each other may have been, the Malfoys and the Crouches probably had to interact a good deal in the course of their work at the Ministry. Lucius Malfoy and Barty Crouch Jr. may also have met through Death Eater circles at some point.

3. Dobby's adventures and unemployment.

After his escape from the Malfoys and subsequent unemployment, Dobby is likely to have become something of a legend (or more likely infamous) among house-elves. If any of them have any social contact with each other whatsoever, he's likely to have been a hot topic, especially after he began to have some more self-respect and look for paid work. It may even be that the Crouch family was one of the places he applied for work - with Winky tied up looking after Jr. most of the time, Sr. might well have wanted more elf labour in his house.

...

For more discussion of this issue, see this Reddit thread or this lengthy CoS Forums thread.

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    ‘Dobby has travelled the country for two whole years, sir, trying to find work!’ Dobby squeaked. (…) ‘And then, Harry Potter, Dobby goes to visit Winky, and finds out Winky has been freed, too, sir!’ said Dobby delightedly. (GoF, The House-Elf Liberation Front) – So it seems elfs do visit each other occasionally, without waiting for the master’s consent (Dobby didn’t know Winky had been freed before he met her). – chirlu Jun 18 '16 at 19:13
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    @chirlu Strange. How would he know where to find Winky to visit her, especially if he didn't know she'd been freed? Presumably she was living with the Crouches before getting the sack, but Dobby wouldn't have been able to find her there afterwards. – Rand al'Thor Jun 18 '16 at 19:27
  • @Randal'Thor - I'm fairly certain I'll tag yours as the answer (well done - thanks) - but I'll leave it open over the weekend just in case – NKCampbell Jun 18 '16 at 20:48
  • @Randal'Thor "goes to visit" doesn't imply that he visited her, only that he tried to visit her. If he turned up at the Crouch house looking for Winky it would probably become apparent pretty quickly that she was no longer living and working there, so it's not a huge jump to her being freed. – Anthony Grist Jun 18 '16 at 21:04
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    In terms of option 1, there might also be socializing among house-elves during household errands, shopping and the like. This kind of open venue for interaction would give a lot more scope to informal gossip even between elves whose families didn't have a lot to do with each other, or didn't get along. – Megha Jun 19 '16 at 4:30

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