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In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Malfoy tries to get Death Eaters into Hogwarts through the Vanishing Cabinet. Couldn't the Death Eaters use an elf instead? We know they can teleport in and out of Hogwarts - Harry sends Kreacher to Hogwarts at the beginning of the book:

"Kreacher--I want you to go to Hogwarts and work in the kitchens there with the other house-elves."

Kreacher, who was now lying flat on his back with his arms and legs in the air, gave Harry one upside-down look of deepest loathing and, with another loud crack, vanished.

So why not save the effort and use a house-elf?

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    There's another possibility, although I'll admit this is speculation, and might not make a good answer. Maybe the elfs can't Disapparate and Apparate with other people in magically protected grounds. For instance, Kreacher left the cave without his beloved Regulus. Isn't it a bit weird? If he could, why not Disapparating with Regulus, saving him from an horrible death at the hand of Inferis? – Roberto Jul 31 at 9:33
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    @Roberto the best explanation regarding Regulus is that he wanted to die. He wanted to quit from being a Death Eater but he didn’t want his family to be in danger. So what were his options? We know that elves can apparate with other people in magically protected grounds, as that’s precisely what Dobby did with Luna and Ollivander in Malfoy Manor. – Holger Jul 31 at 9:37
  • I've been thinking along similar lines. For example, nobody considers if Sirius compromised an elf to enter Hogwarts in Prisoner of Azkaban and the plot for getting Harry's blood in Goblet of Fire could be simplified greatly if you can use an elf to teleport him off of the grounds. Just go to the kitchen, imperious one, and continue throughout your day with full access to unstoppable teleportation. – J. Mini Jul 31 at 22:00
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A house-elf?

Those inferior beings that do your laundry?

It is beneath the dignity of a Dark Wizard to make an attack that depends on such a lowly being. It's as if your own magic were not enough, and worse, could be supplemented by such a creature.

No Death Eater would think of such a thing.

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    They are his followers, there's a certain commonality of outlook. – Mary Jul 30 at 23:32
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    @Valorum That Kreacher was able to waltz casually out of his intricately designed cave-trap (so casually, in fact, that he couldn't comprehend why anyone found it surprising, or why they might have their own difficulties) suggests that Voldemort may also have overlooked the applications of house elves – Chronocidal Jul 31 at 7:51
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    @Valorum mind that as early as with The Prisoner of Askaban, the mantra of the impossibility to apparate into Hogwarts, as well as the obvious contradiction (Dobby did it the year before, multiple times) has been introduced. This blind spot applies to Dumbledore and all teachers, as well as our main protagonists who witnessed Dobby and his capabilities personally. So if they all have that blind spot, and Voldemort has it too, which becomes a plot point, why should the other Death Eaters be better? Well, letting that one former Death Eater aside… – Holger Jul 31 at 9:17
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    I'm not sure this answer is correct. They used Kreacher to lure Harry to the Ministry. – Ben Jul 31 at 12:42
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    It's like a whole group of supposedly motivated people that just refuse to think outside the box or use the tools available to them, even when their survival depends on it. – Mad Physicist Jul 31 at 17:56
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There are a lot of possible explanations:

  • We don't know whether Kreacher apparated directly to Hogwarts in the scene you mention. He might have been apparating to Hogsmeade in order to walk to Hogwarts.

  • There might not have been a house-elf available to them; Dobby had been freed, Kreacher was no longer available to the Death Eaters, and we don't know for certain that any of the other Death Eaters actually owned a house-elf.

  • Draco in particular did not have access to Dobby any more, and as a pure-blood of a noble house, asking to borrow someone else's house-elf would have been humiliating to him. It would not be an option he would willingly consider unless he had no other alternative.

  • Kreacher had Dumbledore's permission to enter and no ill intent towards Hogwarts. We can't be sure whether a house-elf would be able to apparate to Hogwarts under other conditions.

  • Specifically, it is likely that there are magically-enforced laws preventing house-elves from using magic against wizards. That's why the Hogwarts house-elves did not use magic in the Battle of Hogwarts, and would presumably also prevent the use of house-elf apparition for aggressive purposes. (Dobby was able to use magic aggressively because he was a free elf.)

But all that said, if you asked JKR, the most likely answer would be that it was for the same reason Voldemort didn't realize that Kreacher would be able to escape the Horcrux cave - the Death Eaters consider house-elf magic to be beneath them, and simply aren't aware of what it can do. In particular, the idea that a house-elf might be able to do magic that they can't would be unthinkable to them.

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    When Dobby apparated into Hogwarts in The Chamber of Secrets, he was not a free elf. We can also preclude that the capabilities are restricted by permissions or “no ill intend”, as Dobby stealing Gillyweed surely does not fall under these conditions. Given that the other way round, Dobby helping his friends to escape from the protected Malfoy Manor prison worked, we can assume that using elves to get into Hogwarts would have worked too. Lack of knowledge and arrogance sure is the most plausible explanation (especially as all wizards have it, regardless of which side they are standing). – Holger Jul 31 at 9:33
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    @Holger, to the best of my recollection we don't actually know how Dobby got into Hogwarts in Chamber of Secrets, but even if we assume that he used apparition, he wasn't acting under orders and had no malicious intent. When he stole the Gillyweed he was already working for Hogwarts, there's no reason to think he needed magic to do that, and it wasn't malicious either. Nor is sneaking into Malfoy Manor to rescue his friends an aggressive act in and of itself - I was thinking of his attacks on Lucius and Bellatrix when I added that side note about him being a free elf. – Harry Johnston Jul 31 at 9:52
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    ... out of universe, of course, the answer is "it wouldn't make as good a story, and hopefully the reader won't think about it too hard". :-) – Harry Johnston Jul 31 at 10:48
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    @Holger It is also possible that Dobby was permitted to visit Hogwarts by dint of Draco Malfoy being in residence, in order to continue serving his family during the school term. – Chronocidal Jul 31 at 10:52
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    I don’t think that the explanation that all wizards share this carelessness regarding house elves is bad. In the books, this has been explored much deeper than in the movies, considering, how Hermione tries to put a focus on the house elves and how they are treated and basically no-one cares. It’s simple and consistent: house elves can do that, but most wizards do not know and even those who noticed, tend to forget about it, because they don’t care about house elves. – Holger Jul 31 at 11:04
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Just because you are a house elf does not mean you know Hogwarts inside out. The fandom wiki also says:

Apparition was by far the fastest way to get to a desired destination, but was tricky to pull off correctly and disastrous if botched.

Using elves meant might cause the Death Eaters to appear in random locations, and might require lots of round trips if they had more people than elves (I don't remember how many Death Eaters made their way to Hogwarts like that).

Whereas the vanishing cabinet in the Room of Requirement was guaranteed to work (after being repaired) and would place the Death Eaters in a known location within Hogwarts.

Strategy wise, if I had to invade a place in order to kill someone, I would choose the latter form of travel.

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    They were lucky that no one realised the significance of the vanishing cabinet otherwise someone might have used a powerful reductor curse on it – SpacePhoenix Jul 30 at 23:58
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    I don't think this answer makes a lot of sense given that we have plenty of examples of house elves and wizards apparating, but it's only ever wizards that fail at it (and even then, seemingly only less experienced ones). – Cubic Jul 31 at 10:23

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