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In Chapter Ten of Deathly Hallows we are presented with the story of Kreacher's escape from Voldemort's cave:

“How did you get away?” Harry asked, and he was not surprised to hear himself whispering.

Kreacher raised his ugly head and looked Harry with his great, bloodshot eyes.

“Master Regulus told Kreacher to come back,” he said.

“I know – but how did you escape the Inferi?”

Kreacher did not seem to understand.

“Master Regulus told Kreacher to come back,” he repeated.

“I know, but – ”

“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it, Harry?” said Ron. “He Disapparated!”

“But... you couldn’t Apparate in and out of that cave,” said Harry, “otherwise Dumbledore – ”

“Elf magic isn’t like wizard’s magic, is it?” said Ron, “I mean, they can Apparate and Disapparate in and out of Hogwarts when we can’t.”

There was a silence as Harry digested this. How could Voldemort have made such a mistake? But even as he thought this, Hermione spoke, and her voice was icy.

“Of course, Voldemort would have considered the ways of house-elves far beneath his notice... It would never have occurred to him that they might have magic that he didn’t.”

“The house-elf’s highest law is his Master’s bidding,” intoned Kreacher. “Kreacher was told to come home, so Kreacher came home... ”

This passage seems to be hammering home the point that Kreacher was able to escape because Regulus had ordered him to come home. But wouldn't Kreacher have been able to escape anyway? Regulus's order did not create his ability to Apparate. So when Kreacher realized that he was being dragged underwater by Inferi he could have simply decided to Disapparate on his own to save his life. So why is it relevant that he was following his master's orders?

I understand that that's what the actual case was, but the passage seems to imply that he was only able to escape because he was following orders. But why should that be?

  • @marcellothearcane It's in the question (twice) as well as a few paragraphs earlier in the book. My question is why that is necessary. If Regulus had not told Kreacher to come back, would Kreacher have been unable to Apparate? – Alex Sep 15 at 22:28
  • Depends if the Dark Lord told him to stay there or not. – marcellothearcane Sep 16 at 5:04
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    I don't have enough real information for a reply, but I feel like block on Dissapparation is a compulsion rather than a real (physical or otherwise) barrier. An order from a house elf's master is a stronger compulsion, This would also explain how they get in and out of Hogwarts – GordonBennett Sep 16 at 11:25
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You are correct that his master's order didn't create his ability to apparate away, so maybe it provided the motivation.

The potion seems to affect the mind, here some quotes from Dumbledore when he drank the potion:

“It’s all my fault, all my fault,” he sobbed. “Please make it stop, I know I did wrong, oh please make it stop and I’ll never, never again …”

“Don’t hurt them, don’t hurt them, please, please, it’s my fault, hurt me instead …”

“Please, please, please, no … not that, not that, I’ll do any­thing …”

“I want to die! I want to die! Make it stop, make it stop, I want to die!”

Dumbledore drank, and no sooner had he finished than he yelled, “KILL ME!”

So it is possible that Kreacher also just wanted to die after drinking that potion, but he had orders to return, so he did.

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    The question is about the time Voldemort made Kreacher drink the potion. – QuestionAuthority Sep 15 at 19:04
  • Indeed, sorry, misread that. – Graipher Sep 15 at 19:05
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    You're kind of leaving it unsaid that the "Master Regulus told Kreacher to come back” quote isn't an explanation from Kreacher. It's a response, but it doesn't answer the question Harry was trying to ask. Kreacher's mind is too messed up at that point to realize what Harry is missing and explain it. – Peter Cordes Sep 15 at 23:15
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I don't think there is a specific canon-based resolution for this one way or the other, but it is entirely possible for a Master's order to be a supremely high and over-riding form of magic, allowing house elves to do otherwise "impossible" magical things without even meaning or willing themselves to.

At least one example of an overriding form of "deeper magic" has been established in the HP universe. The power of a loving self-sacrifice has been repeatedly invoked to protect the beneficiary from any magical harm, and it is noteworthy in that it doesn't require any special incantation whatsoever (just like a Master's order to a house elf). Only the will of the wielder is needed along with the circumstances.

So: you cannot rule out the possibility that the simple fact that a Master has ordered his/her house elf to do something may allow that elf to do otherwise "impossible" or "unthinkable" magical things. The elf may not even know how to do these things without being so ordered and be unable to do them again without a subsequent order.

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    @Alex It's the fact that one was able to Disapparate from a cave enchanted to prevent it by Voldemort (an almost perfect wizard) that is remarkable, and what I consider "over-ridingly deep magic." I'm saying that kind of power may stem simply from their Master's order. – Deepak Sep 15 at 17:55
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    Hogwarts and Malfoy Manor both had anti-Apparition enchantments, yet house elves were able to Apparate in and out of both without any orders to do so. – Alex Sep 15 at 18:03
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    I doubt there were standing orders for Dobby to Apparate into Malfoy Manor in Deathly Hallows. – Alex Sep 15 at 19:15
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    Rather than overriding magic, I think elf magic is a different type, which Voldemort forgot to enchant against. It is said he didn't consider elf magic, love magic, or the magical 'weight' of underage wizards. The chances are he simply cast the 'stop wizards apparating in or out of this area' spell and got on with making inferi. – marcellothearcane Sep 15 at 22:12
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    @Deepak there probably weren't standing orders to apparate to 4 Privet Drive to warn Harry of his master's machinations. – marcellothearcane Sep 15 at 22:14
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As it was already stated in other answers, the magic of the elves differs from wizards' and it doesn't obey the same rules. House elves can bypass the Anti-Apparition charm as we have seen at Hogwarts and Malfoys Manor. So we can safely assume that Kreacher was technically able to Disapparate from the cave as well.

What is also characteristic of the elves is that they must strictly obey their masters' orders. Basing on the example of Dobby we can discuss if it is a magical or psychological effect, but anyway its impact on the elves (and namely the Kreacher) is extremely strong.

A few lines above the quote given by @Alex we read (emphasis mine):

“And Master Regulus had volunteered Kreacher. It was an honor, said Master Regulus, an honor for him and for Kreacher, who must be sure to do whatever the Dark Lord ordered him to do... and then to c-come home.”

Kreacher rocked still faster, his breath coming in sobs.

“So Kreacher went to the Dark Lord. The Dark Lord did not tell Kreacher what they were to do, but took Kreacher with him to a cave beside the sea. And beyond the cave there was a cavern, and in the cavern was a great black lake...”

(...)

“And then the Dark Lord sailed away, leaving Kreacher on the island...”

Regulus had ordered Kreacher to obey every command of Voldemort and return home when Dark Lord doesn't need the house elf anymore. But Voldemort didn't explain to Kreacher the purpose of their trip, he just gave specific orders (to come with him, to drink the potion, etc.) and then sailed away without a word. At that time Kreacher couldn't have known if his task is already completed or being left to die in the cave is a part of his horrific mission. So he was obediently following the last order from his master, aware that would cost him his life.

Luckily Regulus called Kreacher back just in time before he would be drowned by the Inferi. Being given new order Kreacher could safely Disapparate.

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