Kreacher's Hiding Place
An original editorial by Jason Drake
Note: This editorial assumes R.A.B. is Regulus Black.
Locket, locket, who has the locket? For a building that happens to be protected by a Fidelius Charm, number twelve Grimmauld Place is accessible to some rather unsavory characters. Two of these Kreacher and Mundungus Fletcher are already known to have done some pilferage.
It's not hard to guess that one of them might have removed Slytherin's locket. In fact, we can say with certainty that at least one must be a red herring in that regard.
But which one? Or are they both false leads?
There are three good reasons to identify Kreacher as the culprit:
First, Mundungus did not begin plundering the house until after Kreacher was gone. I doubt this is a coincidence. Kreacher has his elvish magic and would certainly want to protect the family treasures from an outside thief. Furthermore, whether he helped Regulus get the locket or not, there is a good chance Kreacher knew it was something important.
Second, Deathly Hallows is likely to return to Grimmauld Place for other reasons. As long as Harry's there, it may as well be interesting.
Third, there are a number of subtle clues pointing to a secret hiding spot within the house.
These clues which pinpoint the location of Kreacher's hidden stash are the subject of this essay.
(All page numbers are from U.S. paperback edition. All boldface and underlines have been added to quotes.)
The Cupboard Under the Stairs... er, Under the Pipes.
We begin with Kreacher's not-so-secret hiding spot, which is revealed when Harry, Ron and Hermione pay a visit at Christmas. Here, they discover a number of stashed objects:
in the foot's space underneath the pipes Kreacher had made himself something that looked like a nest....
In a far corner glinted small objects and coins that Harry guessed Kreacher had saved, magpie-like, from Sirius' purge of the house...
(OotP, page 503-504)
Notice first: This cupboard is tiny. Kreacher is only able to save "small objects in the foot's space." This is not a good spot to hide everything (he only squeezes in the photographs for sentimental reasons).
Next: Why does a house-elf need coins? He has no place to spend them. And, being coins, they certainly aren't Black family artifacts! Kreacher may be crazy, but he isn't stupid. He's very clever, in fact, because he must have put the coins here to make people think this was his only hiding spot.
But - it isn't.
Next, notice the exceptionally rare term magpie-like. It appears twice twice! in the entire Harry Potter series. Here's the other reference:
"...the young Tom Riddle liked to collect trophies.... Bear in mind this magpie-like tendency, for this, particularly, will be important later on."
(Dumbledore, HBP, page 277)
Dumbledore was referring to Horcruxes. Horcruxes in the plural, which I believe could end up in some strange and unusual places.
Okay, so what? We already knew a Horcrux had been at Grimmauld Place -- what does this prove? Well, the magpie-like concordance is yet another point in favor of Kreacher over Mundungus. More importantly, the items under the pipes suggest that Kreacher has another hiding spot, a real hiding spot, and that is where he put the locket.
We can locate this hiding spot because Kreacher already got caught trying to put something there:
[Ron] crossed to the door and bolted it.
"What're you doing that for?"
"Kreacher," said Ron as he turned off the light. "First night I was here he came wandering in at three in the morning. Trust me, you don't want to wake up and find him prowling around your room."
(OotP, page 99)
At three in the morning, Ron isn't likely to notice what Kreacher is carrying. In fact, Kreacher might've already stowed it. So this "other" hiding spot may be somewhere in the bedroom that Harry and Ron shared.
(Note: They found the locket in the drawing room after Ron started locking the door, of course. But Kreacher had many months of free access to the bedroom after summer vacation was over, and he would've put away the locket then.)
Narrowing the Search
Can we be more specific within the bedroom? You bet! To get there, let's first look at another concordance of terminology: moth-eaten.
Pressing her finger to her lips, she led him on tiptoes past a pair of long, moth-eaten curtains, behind which Harry supposed there must be another door...
(OotP, page 61)
The moth-eaten velvet curtains Harry had passed earlier had flown apart, but there was no door behind them.
(OotP, page 77)
These are the curtains over Mrs. Black's portrait. We can say that they cover and hide something unusual. We can also note that the fabric is not fixed, but is sometimes pulled away and drawn back.
A concordance happens nineteen chapters later (can't make it too easy, right?), at Christmas, when the term moth-eaten is finally used again:
Fuming, Harry dragged his trunk back to the foot of his bed, then threw himself facedown upon the moth-eaten covers, his eyes shut, his body heavy and aching....
(OotP, page 496)
No need to argue that these are covers, because that's what they are. Again, the (moth-eaten) covers are not fixed, but are regularly pulled away and drawn back (when Harry uses the bed).
Best of all, the "payoff" occurs in this next scene during Christmas at Grimmauld Place. This is precisely when the clue becomes meaningful, because there is yet one more piece of moth-eaten fabric:
... said Harry tersely, tugging the trunk over a patch of... moth-eaten carpet.
(OotP, page 495)
I'll give the rest of the quote later. But for now, we have a good suspect. If the pattern holds, this patch of (moth-eaten) carpet not only covers something interesting, it is frequently pulled away and drawn back (by Kreacher, of course).
Hence, I guess: The locket is hidden below the carpet, underneath the floorboards.
We have a tutorial (dare I say, another concordance? perhaps foreshadowing?) in Prisoner of Azkaban to teach us that, yes, Rowling will sometimes have a character take things that are supposed to be in a downstairs cupboard and hide them underneath the floorboards of Harry's bedroom:
Harry had crept downstairs, picked the lock on the cupboard under the stairs, grabbed some of his books, and hidden them in his bedroom.
(PoA, page 3)
...and hid the lot under a loose floorboard under his bed.
(PoA, page 5)
Narrowing Things Further: Creaky Floorboards
The following occurs in that same bedroom:
Hedwig hooted glumly from the top of the wardrobe. There was a long pause, broken only by the mournful creak of the floorboards below Harry's feet.
(OotP, page 66)
In the scene above, Harry is pacing so it's not possible to identify the exact spot. But we hear creaking again two chapters later:
A few seconds later and they heard the floorboard creak outside their door; Mrs. Weasley was plainly listening to see whether they were talking or not. Hedwig and Pigwidgeon hooted dolefully. The floorboard creaked again and they heard her heading upstairs...
(OotP, page 101)
It's the same bedroom and the creaking is right outside the door. Naturally, we would expect floorboards to be creaky if they cover a hollow spot.
Let's consider these two clues carefully in terms of a hiding spot: Because Kreacher was sneaking into the bedroom, the loose floorboard (the access point) must be somewhere inside. But the floorboards are definitely creaking just outside the door in the hallway. That leaves only one possible location for the alleged access point: Inside the bedroom, right in front of the door (the hollow spot can easily extend beneath the hallway).
If the creaking of floorboards and moth-eaten fabric seem like a coincidence, look through the rest of the chapters at Grimmauld Place. Being a grim old place, we might expect such things everywhere. But I listed every reference I could find.
The Witness in the Canvas
Next, we have a possible witness (aside from the owls) to Kreacher's nighttime magpie-like activities: namely, the portrait of Phineas Nigellus. I'm not sure if he's trying to give Harry a clue or if the author is simply using him to give the reader a clue. It works either way, but he's definitely handing out some clues:
"We Slytherins are brave, yes, but not stupid. For instance, given the choice, we will always choose to save our own necks."
"It's not my own neck I'm saving," said Harry tersely...
(OotP, page 495)
Slytherin... neck... Slytherin... neck... Hmm....Does that make anyone else think of the locket? Later in the conversation, Phineas even seems to be thinking of Regulus (while talking about Harry):
"No, like all young people, you are quite sure that you alone feel and think, you alone recognize danger, you alone are the only one clever enough to realize what the Dark Lord may be planning...."
(OotP, page 496)
No doubt Phineas has met Regulus. This might have been his bedroom. The usage of the term "Dark Lord" is telling, too. Phineas was in his portrait before Voldemort was even born (and despite his snide manner, Phineas is loyal to Dumbledore as the current Headmaster).
Putting It All Together
Finally, here is the rest of the quote where Harry encounters the moth-eaten carpet. It is important to note that it takes place immediately after Phineas's comment on Slytherin necks:
"It's not my own neck I'm saving," said Harry tersely, tugging the trunk over a patch of particularly uneven, moth-eaten carpet right in front of the door.
(OotP, page 495)
There is the "moth-eaten" carpet to match the other moveable "moth-eaten" covers.
It is right in front of the door, right where the floorboards creak, right where we expected it to be.
The dead giveaway is that it is particularly uneven. Of course it is! Kreacher has been yanking it back to get to his hiding spot.
Best of all, our snide former Headmaster gives Harry some excellent Horcrux-finding advice while Harry is standing on that exact spot:
"Stay where you are."
(Phineas, OotP, page 495)
Thank you, Phineas.
The Rest of the Stash
As long as the plot is hustling right along during a visit to Grimmauld Place, why not hide a few more items with the locket? Here are some other things which Kreacher might've stolen:
The two-way mirror: On her website's FAQ, Rowling gives the following answer:
Q: Why did Harry have to forget the mirror he had been given by Sirius in Order of the Phoenix?
A: I cant give a full answer to this, because it is relevant to books six and seven....
So the mirror is ready to make another appearance. The FAQ answer continues:
The mirror might not have helped as much as you think, but on the other hand, will help more than you think.
On the surface, this makes no sense. Harry could've used the mirror to contact Sirius and learned he was safe. From what we know of Sirius' character and his feelings toward Harry, Sirius would always, always choose to carry that mirror in case his godson needed him.
There is only one possible explanation for the mirror being useless, then: Sirius wasn't carrying the mirror because he couldn't carry the mirror. Somebody had stolen it.
Scraps of Percy's letter: In Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 14, Ron gets an irritating letter from Percy. He tears it to pieces and throws them in the fire (page 299). So it's all burned up, right?
Maybe. Maybe not. We learn a bit later that Floo powder has been used several times that same evening:
"I was starting to think you'd go to bed before everyone else had disappeared," [Sirius] said. "I've been checking every hour."
"You've been popping into the fire every hour?"
(OotP, page 301)
We know that Kreacher liked to lurk near the fire. That's how he beguiled Harry into going to the Department of Mysteries, after all. And it's easy to imagine that Kreacher would notice Sirius checking the fire every hour.
The Floo connection in this case seems to be "talking head only", but that doesn't prohibit objects from being passed through. In Goblet of Fire, Chapter 11, Amos Diggory talks to Mr. Weasley with this kind of connection and Molly is still able to pass him some toast (page 160).
The importance of Percy's letter is connected to a separate and much longer theory which I hope you're already familiar with (in brief: the letter is a coded message from the real Percy because he's been replaced by an imposter who's taken Polyjuice Potion).
Orion Black's Trousers Kreacher fondly snogged these once (OotP, page 117) and would certainly like to keep them. They could be useful in book seven if Neville continues to have trouser-burning encounters with Peeves the Poltergeist (HBP, page 387-388).
Just kidding about the trousers. But the rest of the items, as well as the Horcrux, could easily be there. There might be some treasures I haven't listed too. The portrait of Phineas is most likely the key to Harry's discovery; and if Regulus's story is important beyond simply finding the locket, we can expect Phineas to have an interesting role in book seven.
Posted by: Amy