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In Deathly Hallows, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione are at No. 12, Grimmauld Place, Harry summons Kreacher from the kitchens at Hogwarts where the elf has been working on Harry’s orders given a year previously.

When the trio’s heist in the Ministry of Magic ends with Hermione inadvertently bringing Yaxley inside the perimeter of the Fidelius charm that protects Grimmauld Place, the trio leg it and dare not return there for fear that it’s now crawling with Death Eaters.

Before they leave for the Ministry in the morning, Kreacher is talking about making a stew or pot roast or something for dinner. After the trio go on the run and camp out in the tent, Harry thinks of poor Kreacher preparing a dinner they’ll never return to eat, but they dare not summon him lest a Death Eater tag along (like how Dobby ‘tagged along’ with Kreacher when Harry called him to have him follow Draco in Half-Blood Prince).

The next time we see Kreacher is during the Battle of Hogwarts where he leads the house-elves from the kitchen with battle-cries of “For Master! For Harry Potter!” (or something like that), so he’s clearly lost none of his new-found loyalty to Harry.

Harry is still Kreacher’s master throughout the book, and since he does not communicate at all with Kreacher after their escape from the doorstep, he cannot have ordered Kreacher to return to Hogwarts to work there again.

We know that house-elves can go against their masters’ wishes, but this usually entails them punishing themselves rather brutally, and Kreacher does not seem to have been constantly injuring himself for the better part of a year at Hogwarts.

So when and how does Kreacher leave his master’s house without orders and return to Hogwarts?

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    Good question! It is possible (just a theory, no canon support) that they relayed an order to that effect to Kreacher via Headmaster Nigelius Black's portrait (presumably, one existed at the house). – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 19 '15 at 2:51
  • Strong is the theoretical possibility on this I feel. – RicoRicochet May 19 '15 at 5:46
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    Are House Elves actually bound to a House? I don't recall Harry ever commanding Kreacher to stay in Grimmauld Place, so why would he be unable to leave? – DavidS May 26 '15 at 9:19
  • @DavidS Well, we know that Dobby had to punish himself for leaving Malfoy Manor on several occasions, and that Kreacher apparently had to wait for Sirius to shout “OUT!” over Christmas before he could manage leaving Grimmauld Place. So yes, I’d say their bond to their master is tied in with a bond to their master’s house. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 26 '15 at 15:52
  • Yeah, but they were bound by things other than the house weren't they? Dobby was betraying his master (as much as he could bring himself to) and was punishing himself for that (whenever he's close to revealing secrets he starts to hurt himself more, which doesn't make any sense if he was just punishing himself for leaving the Manor). Kreacher was specifically forbidden to leave Grimmauld Place as it was the Order headquarters and he wasn't trusted to keep their secrets. Note - I don't think many elves WOULD leave a house without orders, but I don't think anything is stopping them. – DavidS May 26 '15 at 16:16
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No canon evidence, and this is purely speculation, but I believe that the standing order for Kreacher (Half-Blood Prince) was to work in the kitchens at Hogwarts. In Deathly Hallows, when Harry called Kreacher to Grimmauld Place, he never explicitly rescinded the order to work in the kitchens at Hogwarts. Harry did, however, give new orders, which at the time took precedence over working in the kitchens (such as finding Mundungus).

Taking this point of view, it seems reasonable to assume that when the trio does not return to Grimmauld Place, and Kreacher is no longer receiving new orders that take precedence over the standing order to work in the Hogwarts kitchens, that he would return to Hogwarts on that standing order.

Again, there is no canon evidence that I know of to support any of this, and it is all speculation.

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    The first bit of your answer is more or less what I’m assuming as well: at some point, he realised that Harry wasn’t coming back, and so he returned to Hogwarts. Your third paragraph, however, is decidedly not possible, because Hermione had the portrait of Nigellus Black with her in her bead bag (to prevent him saying anything to Snape in the Headmaster’s office at Hogwarts), so Nigellus wasn’t there to tell Kreacher anything. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 19 '15 at 15:06
  • Good catch, I had completely forgotten about that. – bz032002 May 19 '15 at 15:08
  • My main issue, I guess, with this scenario is that since Kreacher is now a loyal house-elf (rather than a reluctant one), he would probably have waited till Kingdom come for Harry to return—he must have known, somehow, that Harry was not staying away by his own will, but was kept away by something else. That way, he’d know there was no chance of Harry coming back to Grimmauld Place. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 19 '15 at 15:09
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    When the trio tries to return, Hermionie believes that she brought a death eater with them into the protection of the Fidelus Charm, and that, he could now enter the property at will. If Hermionie was correct, it is possible that Kreacher was indeed interrogated by death eaters as to the whereabouts of the trio, which he honestly did not know. He could assume, at this point, that the house was no longer safe and that the trio would not be returning. – bz032002 May 19 '15 at 15:15
  • Yes, that is true. This could, indirectly, be a piece of evidence that Hermione’s guess was correct that a Secret Keeper physically moving someone within the perimeter of a Fidelius Charm is equivalent to telling them the location of the Fideliussed place. (A point relevant to this answer.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 19 '15 at 15:22

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