Chapter 1 : Unpaid Leave
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Arthur felt his blood boil as he shoved his collection of plugs into his large box of assorted muggle artefacts, including a telephone, an electric fan, a pair of tap-dancing shoes, a two-way radio and large microwave that was quietly humming an unrecognisable tune. “It hasn’t been shut down,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Oh, that’s right” Lucius Malfoy, his silver hair falling down around his sneering face drew his words out slowly, enjoying Arthurs discomfort. “You are just so disposable they have temporarily closed you down. While people with more important jobs get on with the real work.”
Arthur folded the top of his box over, and glared at Malfoy.
“And after your blunder with Rita Skeeter at the World cup, it’s no wonder is it?” Malfoys mocking voice made Arthur want to hit him with something, something hard.
“You know I don’t know how you are going to afford to send all your offspring to school this year Weasley,” Lucius said softly, still blocking the doorway so that Arthur could not leave. “Four of them isn’t it? And they’ll all need dress robes for the Tri-Wizard tournament. Not that you’d know much about that. They don’t include you in the important things at the ministry do they?”
“Move out of the way Lucius,” grated Arthur, his box in his arms.
“Of course, I have just been having lunch with the minister, who has been telling me all about the Tri-Wizard tournament, and who will be involved.” Lucius stepped aside only enough so that Arthur would have to squeeze past him to get through the door.
“I am aware of who will be there” Arthur retorted as he squeezed past Lucius. “My son, for example will be helping with the dragons!” As he squeezed through the doorway, Malfoy elbowed him hard in the ribs. Arthur stumbled slightly as he stepped into the hallway, then tripped over something small that he couldn’t see over the box in his arms, and found himself sprawled on the hallway, the contents of his box flying everywhere. Arthur heard Lucius laughing softly above him.
“Dobby is sorry sir!” squeaked a small voice and Arthur realised he had tripped over the diminutive house elf of which he had heard so much from his son Ron.
Malfoy’s laughter stopped abruptly and he suddenly sounded nasty. “Don’t get up Weasley” he said as he stepped over him and deliberately stepped on the electric fan, crushing its blades under his foot. “Blood traitors like you belong on the ground with traitors like that house-elf. I hope you enjoy your unemployment.” Malfoy took a swinging kick at Dobby, but Dobby jumped out of the way. Malfoy cursed and strode off down the hall way.
“You is a … a … bad Wizard!” shrieked Dobby after him, before bursting into tears and running at the wall, banging his head against it.
“Dobby!” said Mr Weasley, scooping up the elf and placing him on the ground. Large, green, tennis ball eyes blinked up at him woozily.
“I is sorry sir. I is not meaning to make you fall and break your treasures.”
Arthur sighed, glancing around him at the shattered fan, the microwave that was still humming and the other assortment of muggle artefacts scattered across the hallway.
“It’s alright Dobby” he said and began gathering his things.
“Dobby does not mean to pry sir, but did … did Dobby hear you was unemployed, sir?” squeaked Dobby, hesitantly as he helped load the electrical plugs back into the box.
Arthur Weasley sighed, sitting back on his heels and wiping a hand across his forehead. “Yes Dobby, I suppose it seems I am. At least until the Tri-Wizard Tournament at Hogwarts is over.”
Dobby nodded, “Dobby is unemployed too sir! That’s why Dobby is here sir! Dobby is asking the minister to pay him to work sir!”
Arthur just stared at him. “You want to be paid, did you say Dobby?” he asked in surprise.
“Yes sir. Dobby is a free elf now sir. Harry Potter freed Dobby, and now Dobby is wanting paying sir.” Dobby went to pick up the pair of tap-dancing shoes that had been flung down the hallway.
“And what did the minister say?” asked Arthur, slightly bemused.
“He is saying no sir. He is saying house elves do not need paying. He is saying Dobby is a bad elf, sir.” Dobby hesitated, then added “Do – do you need a house elf, sir? Dobby is not a bad house elf sir. Dobby is not!”
“I know you aren’t a bad house-elf Dobby. In fact you helped Harry Potter save my daughter’s life a few years ago. Harry told us all about you.” Arthur resumed packing the box, gathering up the bits of broken fan in his hands, and dumping them onto the tangle of electrical plugs.
“You is friends with Harry Potter, sir? You knows Harry Potter!” Dobbys voice was filled with awe, and he stood, a pair of tap-dancing shoes in his hands, staring at Mr Weasley with something bordering on reverence. “Harry Potter is a great wizard sir! A great wizard. Dobby would be honoured to work for a wizard like you, sir, a friend of Harry Potter!”
Mr Weasley sighed a little wistfully.“I’m sure we would love to have you work for us too Dobby, but as you heard, I have no employment. I cannot afford to feed my family next week, let alone employ a house elf.”
“Oh,” said Dobby, his ears drooping, and his large tennis ball eyes looking so crestfallen that Mr Weasley felt a pang of sympathy. Dobby was a forlorn creature, tap-dancing shoes held in one hand, a single, mouldy sock on one of his feet, wearing a dirty, torn pillowcase that was so worn it was almost threadbare. What hope was there for a creature like Dobby? Dobby was kind-hearted, good, generous and brave - just a little eccentric when it came to his methods. In a world where people like Lucius Malfoy had the ear of the Minister for Magic, how did the good but odd people get along? Like himself? When everyone was too busy organising events such as the Quidditch World Cup, or the Tri-Wizard Tournament, no-one had any time for the eccentric people. Arthur suddenly caught his breath as an idea hit him.
“Dobby, Hogwarts is going to be very busy this year, did you know that?”
“No sir, I is not knowing what is happening in the wizard world sir. I is too busy looking for work sir.”
“Well Hogwarts is run by Professor Dumbledore, Dobby, and I have a feeling Professor Dumbledore will be looking for more help to cope with the extra visitors the school will be having this year.”
“Really Dobby” Arthur smiled at the way Dobby’s ears had started to lift. “Professor Dumbledore is a good, kind-hearted wizard, just a little bit eccentric. He may even be looking for extra house-elves. He is a good friend of Harry Potter’s too. I think he might even be willing to pay house-elves, Dobby.”
“Really sir? A friend of Harry Potter’s sir?” Dobby threw the tap dancing shoes in the air and ran at Arthur, throwing his skinny arms around his neck.
“Dobby will ask him right away. Dobby will go now sir!” Dobby paused momentarily a thought seeming to hit him.. “If Sir Dumbledore is looking for extra help, perhaps you, Sir Weasley, can ask for work with him sir?”
Arthur smiled ruefully. “I don’t think so Dobby. It will only be a few months till I get my job back. I’ll just have to make do until then. I was planning on selling some of these artefacts in the mean-time, to try and get the children to school.”
Dobby looked doubtfully at the pile of odds and ends I the basket “You is not selling these things for much money” he said sadly.
“No” Arthur said a little shortly. “Well, good luck Dobby. Tell Dumbledore I said hello, would you?”
Arthur gathered up his box of belongings and hurriedly walked down the hallway, feeling the large, green tennis ball orbs gazing after him as he did.