"We's here, we's here!" Dobby exclaimed excitedly, pulling Winky along as quickly as his tiny legs would carry them as he finally caught sight of the Hogwarts grounds. They had been traveling for days, not daring to use their magic lest they be detected, alone and Masterless, by wizards for whom they would prefer not to work.
"We's here," Winky echoed sadly. "We's far away from my Master, my poor Master, how is he surviving without his Winky to help him?"
"He is not Winky's Master anymore!" Dobby replied, but the excitement still squeaked through in his tiny voice as they crossed the threshold into the Entrance Hall. Classes had not yet begun, and they found the castle to be quite deserted.
"Winky is a good house-elf," she replied, a sob catching in her throat as Dobby pulled her to the marble staircase. "Winky always serves her Master, even when she is given clothes."
"'Scuse me, 'scuse me!" Dobby said, ignoring Winky's now-familiar moans as he saw a black-clad professor cross their path. "We is looking for Headmaster Dumbledore, Sir!"
Dobby's breath caught slightly as the professor turned to him. He had seen this man before, at his old Master's house…it was Severus Snape, and Dobby didn't like him one bit, no he did not.
"It is not for me to direct house-elves to the Headmaster," Snape replied silkily. "Dobby, is it?" he said, narrowing his eyes.
"Yes, Sir," Dobby answered, his eyes cast downward. This bad wizard had been to his old Family's home on several occasions. "We is looking for a job, Sir, we's been freed."
"A job, you say?" Snape said.
"We is free elves!" Dobby exclaimed, unable to keep the triumph from his voice.
"Winky is properly ashamed of being free," the other elf said, casting her eyes downward.
"Severus?" asked a wizened voice from down the hall, and Dobby and Winky both settled into deep bows when they saw the unmistakable form of Albus Dumbledore approaching.
"Professor Dumbledore, Sir," Dobby said, "We is needing jobs!"
"Jobs?" Dumbledore answered, smiling kindly at the elves. "I must admit, with our growing student population, we can always use more qualified help. What are your names?"
"Dobby, sir," Dobby squeaked, jabbing a finger at himself. "And this is Winky."
"Dobby and Winky," Dumbledore said, inclining his head. "Welcome to Hogwarts. I believe you will find everything you need in the kitch - "
"No, Sir," Dobby said boldly, causing Winky to gasp in surprise at his rudeness. "We is wanting to talk to you first."
"Winky isn't," she protested. "Winky is a good house-elf. Winky is properly ashamed…"
"I believe you will find yourself most comfortable in the kitchens, Winky," Dumbledore said in a soothing voice. "If indeed you seek a place at Hogwarts, please consider this your home."
Winky nodded, and with a loud "pop," she disappeared, presumably on her way to the kitchens below the Great Hall.
"Now, Dobby," Dumbledore said. "Shall we go to my office?"
"Yes, Sir," Dobby answered a bit nervously. This was the hardest bit of every job he had tried to obtain.
After Dumbledore had held a short conversation with Snape, he quietly led Dobby to his office, speaking the password with utter ease, not worried for a moment about anyone overhearing.
"What is it you would like to speak to me about, Dobby?" Dumbledore asked politely, taking a seat in one of the chairs in front of his desk and gesturing for Dobby to sit opposite him.
"Sir is so kind to allow Dobby to sit down!" Dobby said excitedly, fairly bouncing into his seat. After he had settled, he leaned forward, trying to put a serious expression on his face (a rather hard feat, considering his tea-cozy hat, bare chest and mismatched socks).
Dumbledore put an equally serious look on his face as Dobby screwed up his courage for what he had to say. "Dobby is a free elf," he said. "Dobby wants paying for his work now." He said the last bit rather quickly, and then hopped off the chair and began to leave the office, his bat-like ears drooping.
"You would like to be paid for your work, Dobby?" Dumbledore said. "Only right and fitting, of course, for a free elf such as yourself."
Dobby stopped and turned, his expression amazed. "Dobby…will be paid at Hogwarts?" he asked, hardly daring to believe his luck.
"Of course," Dumbledore replied, gesturing for Dobby to sit down once again.
Dobby, however, was prostrating himself at Dumbledore's feet. "Oh, Professor Dumbledore, Sir, you is a truly great wizard to agree to pay Dobby for his work! Dobby will serve you well and will keep your secrets and his silence for such a noble wizard as…"
"That will quite do, Dobby," Professor Dumbledore said, and smiled once again as Dobby put his serious, business-like expression back onto his face, his tennis-ball-like eyes narrowing.
"Dobby would like to have days off, too," the elf said quickly, and once again made to leave the room.
"Would weekends and holidays do for that, Dobby?" Dumbledore asked calmly. "And a pay schedule of ten galleons per week?"
Dobby ran back to Professor Dumbledore, kissing the hem of his rob several times before loudly proclaiming, "Harry Potter told Dobby you was a great wizard, but Dobby could hardly believe how great you really, truly is!" He stopped and looked up. "But Dobby does not need ten galleons a week or every weekend off! What kind of elf does Sir think Dobby is?"
"What are your terms?" Dumbledore replied as if he were speaking to a respected colleague. "Please, Dobby, do sit down."
Dobby returned to his chair, his knees wobbling. "Dobby only needs one galleon per month, Sir," he said. "That is enough for any elf."
"I wouldn't dream of it," the Headmaster replied. "Two galleons per week, and Saturdays off."
"No, Sir," Dobby said stubbornly, shaking his head so that the bobbles on his tea-cozy shook back and forth. "Dobby wouldn't dream of it. What would the other elves say? One galleon per week, sir, and Christmas off."
"One galleon per week and one Saturday per month off," Dumbledore countered, and Dobby grinned, his huge eyes filling with tears.
"You is truly a great wizard, Sir," he said, the tears trickling down his wrinkled face. "Dobby accepts!"
"Very well, then, Dobby. Please see me at the end of the week for your wages."
Dobby nodded and, looking as though he were barely restraining himself from throwing his arms around the Headmaster's knees, prepared to go to the kitchens.
"Dobby?" Dumbledore called, and Dobby turned. "Welcome to Hogwarts."
Dobby nodded excitedly, and with a loud "pop," went to take his place in the kitchens.