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Does Harry giving the locket to Kreacher allow him, Kreacher, to be free?

We've seen in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as well as in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, that presenting a house-elf with any kind of wizarding clothing, even accidentally, grants freedom to a house elf. Harry knows this fact very well.

Yet, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:

Harry had a sudden inspiration. He pulled out Hagrid's purse and took out the fake Horcrux, the substitute locket in which possible_spoiler_character had placed the note to Voldemort.

"Kreacher, I'd, er, like you to have this", he said, pressing the locket into the elf's hand.

Why would Harry do this? We've already seen in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that Kreacher is capable of being very liberal with how he interprets wizarding words, to the detriment of Harry and his associates, so it is entirely possible Harry is risking Kreacher interpreting this action as Harry giving him [Kreacher] an item of clothing (since a locket is meant to be worn, etc...)

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    Suddenly being gifted the locket made Kreacher very happy and is why he becomes relatively nice for the events of Book 7 and beyond, especially to Harry. He may not have had much loyalty before then, but in that moment, he gained some. Bear in mind, also, that Dobby is especially atypical in his desires of freedom. Kreacher may not be as willing to bend the rules of his enslavement as you think he is. – DisturbedNeo Aug 24 '17 at 14:40
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    I doubt it ever occurred to JKR that anyone might think jewelry was the same as clothing. It seems a very unlikely proposition to me. – Harry Johnston Aug 24 '17 at 22:22
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    Isn't it fairly self-explanatory that socks are clothes (hence Dobby was freed) but that lockets/jewelry aren't? I'm confused as to why anyone would consider a locket as an item of clothing rather than an accessory. – The Dark Lord Aug 29 '17 at 19:01
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    @TheDarkLord Isn't that semantic? What if Kreatchers definition of 'clothing' is 'something fancy people usually wear, which is not a rug/pillowcase like our stuff' – user68762 Aug 29 '17 at 19:27
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    @D.O.B.Y2.0 I'm sure that house elves must have a clearly defined concept of what clothing is. This is a law that governs the whole species, after all. I'm sure that Kreacher, like all his job, would have understood that a locket is not an item of clothing. – The Dark Lord Aug 29 '17 at 19:34
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Unknown. As far as I can tell this has never been confirmed in any other sources, and Kreacher's behaviour afterwards is that of a happy-to-serve elf, free or no.

There's some quite weak evidence in the following chapter that he's still magically bound, when Harry gives him an order and he instantly complies, to what is obviously his detriment (emphasis mine):

There was the sound of pattering feet, a blaze of shining copper, an echoing clang, and a shriek of agony: Kreacher had taken a run at Mundungus and hit him over the head with a saucepan.

"Call 'im off, call 'im off, 'e should be locked up!" screamed Mundungus, cowering as Kreacher raised the heavy-bottomed pan again.

"Kreacher, no!" shouted Harry.

Kreacher's thin arms trembled with the weight of the pan, still held aloft.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Chapter 11: "The Bribe"

But we can't be completely certain.

Slightly stronger evidence is that this possibility doesn't seem to occur to anybody. Though the reasons for this oversight aren't stated explicitly, we can easily imagine some:

Jewelry doesn't count as clothes

This seems a sensible assumption, but to my knowledge is not made explicit.

Harry is hoping that loyalty will trump binding magical contracts

It's clear that, magical contract or no, Kreacher will help the people he's loyal to, to whatever extent he's permitted to do so; this is something Hermione points out explicitly:

What do wizard wars mean to an elf like Kreacher? He's loyal to people who are kind to him, and Mrs. Black must have been, and Regulus certainly was, so he served them willingly and parroted their beliefs.

[...]

I'm sure 'Miss Cissy' and 'Miss Bella' were perfectly lovely to Kreacher when he turned up, so he did them a favor and told them everything they wanted to know.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Chapter 10: "Kreacher's Tale"

Treating Kreacher with kindness will induce him to help them, freedom or no. That's the hope, anyway.

It's actually a fairly low-risk plan

This isn't a reason, per se, but consider the costs versus the benefits of giving Kreacher the locket. Having Kreacher bound to Harry's service isn't actually that helpful at the moment, and it's already demonstrably harmful. Setting him free is going to have one of two outcomes:

  • He's disloyal, and runs off to Bellatrix. But, so what? The reason Dumbledore talks Harry out of freeing him in Half-Blood Prince is because of all the sensitive information the elf has been presumably overhearing, but what does any of that matter anymore? The Order has abandoned Grimmauld Place, so he doesn't have any fresh intelligence, and anything he did know is fairly stale.

    This is, of course, presuming that he can't tell the Death Eaters where Grimmauld Place is, but why should they care about that anyway? As far as they know, Snape has already spilled the beans1.

  • He's loyal, and he stays despite being freed. See the previous section for why this seems like a likely outcome.


1 Probably, maybe

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    fwiw - the trio says in that chapter they don't think Snape can reveal the location because of the Tongue-Tying Curse that Moody left – NKCampbell Aug 24 '17 at 17:44
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    @NKCampbell I know – Jason Baker Aug 24 '17 at 17:45
  • "He's disloyal, and runs off to Bellatrix. But, so what?" you see no problem with Kreacher appearing in Malfoy manor, wearing a locket, telling narcissa and bellatrix about the trio asking strange questions about the cave and mr. Regulus...? – user68762 Aug 29 '17 at 19:21
  • @D.O.B.Y2.0 Not unfair, but again consider the risk versus the benefit: they're completely stumped at this point, and have no idea how to proceed. The worst-case scenario (Kreacher's testimony leads Voldemort to beef up security around his remaining horcruxes, and Voldemort wins) is pretty much identical to their (perceived) situation without Kreacher's assistance: they can't find Voldemort's remaining horcruxes, and he wins – Jason Baker Aug 29 '17 at 19:28
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    @D.O.B.Y2.0 I think the locket sealed the deal; he may have willingly helped without it, but giving it to him made it vastly more likely. Without gaining his loyalty, he certainly wouldn't have co-operated willingly, and could have made things more difficult in many subtle ways, based on how he was able to interpret the orders (and this is leaving aside the question of whether it's morally acceptable to, essentially, torture him; not an unimportant one) – Jason Baker Aug 29 '17 at 19:41
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First of all, I doubt the locket counts as clothes. Second, Regulus Arcturus Black had already given Kreacher the locket to keep safe, and yet Kreacher continued to serve those who had inherited the Black house, I.e, Harry, and furthermore, if Kreacher was freed he would be devastated.

‘Kreacher lives to serve the Noble House of Black –’

And yet, when he's given the locket he's clearly delighted to have it.

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    +1 for the point that Kreacher had been given the locket before. – Skooba Aug 29 '17 at 20:19
  • Perhaps it only only counts if the head of the Black family gave him clothes? He served Regulus because he was a member of the black family, but he certainly wasn't the head – user13267 Sep 14 '17 at 13:39

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