I just finished rereading the Harry Potter series for the third or fourth time. I love those books, and I learn something different from them each time. I’m nearing the end of the seventh book, and in this reading of that particular book, I’ve put more attention towards the House Elf, Kreacher, than I have in previous readings.
Kreacher from harrypotter.wikia.com
When we meet him, Kreacher is a House Elf belonging to the Black family. The Blacks are an ancient wizarding family who are very strong believers in the importance of pureblood supremacy. Nearly every member of this family hates all wizards who do not share their “pure blood” or their love of that purity. They also hate Muggles. This is the world in which Kreacher has lived, and it is all that he knows. He is loyal to this family and their beliefs. He shares their beliefs and opinions.
By some twist of fate, the Black house becomes the base for the Order of the Phoenix, an organization that works against everything that the Black family believes. He is not kind to the members of the Order. He obeys Sirius Black (his “owner” and the only “good” Black) because he must according to the magic that governs his race/species. But he makes it clear that he doesn’t want to do this and it is offensive to his beliefs.
When Harry Potter, Sirius Black’s godson, inherits Kreacher after Sirius passes away, Kreacher makes it clear that he disdains his new master. And Harry doesn’t seem too pleased to own Kreacher either. He won’t free Kreacher because he and the other members of the Order fear that the House Elf would (out of a sense of loyalty to the Black family) tell the Death Eaters what he has learned from living in the Order’s headquarters. But Harry doesn’t like Kreacher, and he doesn’t want to deal with him.
However, in the seventh book, something changes. Harry, Ron, and Hermione find themselves in the Black home (12 Grimmauld Place) again for a short time. During this stay, Harry gives Kreacher a locket that had belonged to the Black family. suddenly, Kreacher’s demeanor towards Harry changes. He is kind to Harry and his friends. He is even kind to Hermione who he had always treated rudely previously. Hermione had once observed that Kreacher is kind to those who are kind to him, and that is proved to be true.
But when 12 Grimmauld Place ceases to be a safe place for Harry, Ron, and Hermione, Kreacher does not abandon them or their cause. Instead of fleeing to the Death Eaters, he somehow makes his way to Hogwarts, and we next meet him he is leading the House Elves of Hogwarts into battle against Lord Voldemort.
I think that we can learn a lesson about love from Kreacher. Real love isn’t just there when it’s convenient the way that Miss Cissy (Narcissa Black-Malfoy) or Miss Bella (Bellatrix Black-Lestrange) are for Kreacher. Love doesn’t mock us or treat us cruelly like Sirius Black does to Kreacher.
No, love is faithful. Love is persistent. Love keeps coming after us even when we reject it-perhaps because we don’t recognize it as such. Much like Hermione’s treatment of Kreacher, love never stops seeking the ultimate good of the other. Hermione doesn’t necessarily understand Kreacher, but to be honest, he’s a complex little dude.
Eventually, Harry starts to treat Kreacher with kindness, and that kindness is rewarded. Kreacher repays kindness with kindness. And he and Harry start to build some semblance of a relationship. This relationship never fully develops into its full potential largely because of the war.
Regardless, Kreacher shows me an important lesson about love-namely, love (either romantic or platonic) may not always look like we expect, but real love will suffer long. Real love is patient. Real love seeks the highest good of the other. Real love isn’t just there when it is convenient or when it wants something. Real love isn’t just nice to the other when it wants something. No, real love suffers with you and seeks your highest good.
That isn’t necessarily perfectly played out in Kreacher, but his story-and especially the way that Hermione persists in kindness towards him regardless of how he treats her-gives us an unusual but beautiful reminder of what real love is.