[Book Year 4]
Desiree Warbeck strolled through the Hogwarts castle, a container of freshly baked cookies in her hands. She was walking up to the Astronomy tower from the Hogwarts kitchens, where she’d baked the cookies for the first BSU meeting of the school year and met the newest additions to the kitchen staff. Desiree had never met a house elf like Dobby, but he seemed kind and eager, and worried about his friend Winky, who she learned had just recently been let go from her wizarding family.
Wondering if there was something she could do to help Winky get more acclimated to her new life at Hogwarts, she entered Professor Sinistra’s classroom where Blaise Zabini and Dean Thomas were setting up the room.
“Hey Des,” Dean said before turning back to his drawing on the board. It read “Welcome Back BSU” in giant block letters that danced after Dean tapped them with his wand.
“Hey, sorry I’m late,” she said, setting the tin of cookies down and helping Blaise set up the last of the chairs, “I got a late start.”
“It’s okay,” Blaise said with a smile, “You’re not obligated to come early.”
“I know, but I like to anyway,” she said breezily, trying to sound as if the way Blaise had looked at her didn’t make her stomach flutter. “How were your summers?”
Blaise shrugged, “My mum and her new husband made me go to New York. It was hot.”
“At least you got to go abroad,” Dean said, “I was home all summer with my siblings.”
“Those both sound like fun to me,” Desiree said.
“What did you do?” asked Blaise.
“We had a family reunion. My grandma came off tour to attend and everything.”
“Oh yeah, I saw she was on tour when I was in New York. I thought about going,” Blaise said, the corner of his mouth pulling up slightly.
“Nah, I didn’t. But the look on your face is priceless.”
Desiree glared at him as she tried to slow her heartbeat. Blaise only smiled wider at her.
“Hey everyone!” said a voice from the door. Desiree turned to see Lee Jordan, and siblings Angelina and Alex Johnson entering the room.
Folks began trickling in, all looking both refreshed from their summers and a little tired from the first full week of school. Ava Simmons, treasurer of the BSU and a 7th year Slytherin, had a new nose piercing, and Lee was talking at length about his trip to Jamaica to visit his grandparents. Angelina seemed uncharacteristically quiet and Hermione Granger, surprisingly, was the only person who didn’t look even a little excited about being back. She sat between Lavender Brown and Ava, a large tin on her lap. She looked angry, but resolved, and when Desiree passed around the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, she didn’t take one.
“Alright, everyone, let’s settle down,” Blaise said after Desiree passed out the last cookie and sat down next to him. “We should check in. How was the first week...back?” His eyes narrowed at Hermione’s raised hand as he spoke the last word — it had shot up before he had even finished his sentence. “Granger?”
“I’ve learned something very disturbing about our school, and I feel we should take action,” she said, the tin on her lap rattling as she sat up straighter. “In my time in the wizarding world, I have witnessed the gross mistreatment of house elves and was appalled to learn that they are enslaved in this very castle.
“So I’ve done some research and have started the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare,” she hadn’t taken a single breath, but picked a pamphlet out of her tin and passed it to a startled looking Lavender, still talking, “I know a part of club requirements is to throw an event once a term. I say we host a fundraiser for our leaflet campaign to raise awareness on the issue of house elf slavery and our short and long term goals. We really should divert all of our energy towards this cause if we hope to do anything meaningful.”
The room was silent. A few members of the BSU scanned the pamphlet briefly before passing it on, while others didn’t even pretend to look at it. Alex passed it to Desiree, who looked down at the bright purple paper, the writing in an angry red.
Short term goals:
Fair working conditions
Paid vacations and sick leave
Long term goals:
Allow house elves the use of a wand
Elf representation in the Dept. for the Reg. and Cont. of Mag. Creatures
Desiree passed it to Blaise, who immediately passed it on to Dean. “House elves like working for wizards,” he said, “My mum has one herself.”
“No one likes working for free,” Hermione snapped, “Frankly I’m surprised you wouldn’t see that, given our shared history.”
“That’s not fair,” Desiree was surprised to see Lee Jordan standing up for Blaise — their relationship had always been strained as members of rival houses, “House elves aren’t exactly human.”
Desiree frowned at Lee’s defense, but Hermione was quicker to speak up, “Just because they aren’t human doesn’t mean they aren’t people with feelings who should be treated with respect and dignity.”
A few people sucked their teeth and rolled their eyes at her response. This conversation was going off the rails, quickly.
“Hermione,” Desiree said, “Have you ever actually spoken to a house elf before?”
“I met Mr. Crouch’s elf Winky, and the way he treated her was absolutely awful,” Hermione said, indignantly, “And Harry knows an elf named Dobby who used to be owned by the Malfoys before he set him free—“
“Well of course he was mistreated,” Lee said, crossing his arms, “These are the Malfoys you’re talking about.”
“Lack of cruelty doesn’t excuse slavery, Lee.”
“You’re not wrong,” Desiree hedged, “But it seems like you’re making assumptions about what they need. If you’ve never really talked to one—“
“Not all of us have them baking cookies for us on a weekly basis,” Hermione snapped.
“I bake them myself, thank you,” Desiree said, bristling. Blaise tensed up next to her — he’d told her before that she was scary when she got angry, “They allow me in their space because I respect them and their way of life.”
“Their way of life? Don’t you realize they’re clearly brainwashed?”
“How would you know that?” Desiree shouted, “Yes, some families may abuse their power over the elves, but their true nature is to help. I’m not saying their predicament is okay, only that you’re being arrogant in thinking you have to be the one to save them.”
Hermione’s face twisted in anger, but before she could get a word in, Angelina jumped in. “Okay, let’s stop it here,” she said, reasonably. “Everyone may disagree with the house elves position in wizarding society,” someone scoffed, “...or not. But Hermione you can’t just turn us into SPEW. If you want to start your own club and recruit, go ahead. Those who want to join will.”
Hermione scowled and nodded, crossing her arms.
“Okay,” Dean said after a beat of awkward silence, “Maybe we should move on.”
Hermione sat stewing through the rest of the meeting, but when everyone was dismissed she sat up eagerly, her eyes narrowing as people passed her without buying a SPEW badge. Blaise ignored her completely as he started clearing up the classroom, but Dean went over to speak with Hermione for a bit before buying a badge for himself.
“It’s a good cause,” Dean was saying as Desiree walked up.
“He’s right,” Desiree agreed, fishing in her pocket for a few Galleons, “And I’d be happy to take you down to the kitchens, but only if you promise to actually listen and learn from the elves.”
Hermione pursed her lips but nodded, and Desiree fastened the badge to her chest before leaving the classroom with Blaise, who rolled his eyes at her.