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The bad: Hermione's patronizing attitude towards house-elves and continued efforts to liberate them are, at best, comic relief. She's supposed to be a smart girl; can't she learn?

I don't know about that. I wouldn't be surprised if something major does happen with the house elves in the next couple books. Maybe Hermione's onto something that no one else realizes.

I'm impressed that we've gotten to know three house elves and they're each very different.

I was thinking of Sirius's statement in Book 4 regarding Crouch's treatment of Winky: If you want to take the measure of a man, look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.

And then in Book 5 we see Sirius disregard Kreacher, despite Dumbledore's pleas for kindness. And then Kreacher lies to Harry and that leads to Sirius' death. Would the story have turned out differently if Sirius had listened to Dumbledore (and himself) and taken Kreacher seriously? Treated him with mercy rather than as an object? Maybe not. Maybe he'd been too warped by living his whole life at 12 Grimmauld Place. But maybe it would have made a difference ...

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