A/N - - This story was my entry for the recent "Hoggywartyxmas" fest on Live Journal. My recipient asked for professors, femmeslash, house-elves, and plants.
Disclaimer: The HP world belongs to JRK; the title belongs to Clement Moore.
What to My Wondering Eyes Should Appear
By Kelly Chambliss
Dobby the house-elf stood in the darkened Great Hall of Hogwarts and gazed upward. Not that gazing upward was anything unusual for Dobby: when an elf was two feet tall and lived in a world designed for people nearly three times his size, he rarely had a reason to look down.
But this time, Dobby was gazing upward by his own choice. He wasn't often having the chance to enjoy the Great Hall's Christmas decorations at his leisure. Usually the room was filled with humans, or else Dobby had cleaning duties that absorbed his attention. To just stand by himself, with no one else around, and do nothing but look - - this was a luxury indeed.
The trees and ornaments were well worth looking at. This Yuletide season was Dobby's fifth at the castle, and he'd never seen the Great Hall look so lovely. Dobby had been worried that the decorations might not be allowed this year - - Headmaster Potions Master said "no" to so many things - - but the trees had been set up after all.
Some of the teachers had been surprised, and one or two even thought that maybe it wasn't right to be festive when the wizarding world was having so much suffering. Dark times, these were. Oh, very dark times.
"Fairy lights and good will towards men," Professor V had said. "It hardly seems the thing this year, does it?"
But Mr Professor Filius had Levitated himself until he was the same tallness as the other teachers and looked Professor V in her eyes and said firmly, "This year more than any other, Septima, my dear."
Dobby was never opposed to a little good will, whether towards men or women or elves. He was glad when Bigman Hagrid brought the trees in and Mr Professor Filius charmed them all beautiful, hung them about with twists of silver and orbs of gold and made the glittery snow fall all around, snow that never was cold or wet or needed to be swept up.
The trees were glowing now as Dobby stood in the darkness of the pre-dawn Christmas morning. Their light came from inside them, moving from red to green to blue to red again. Dobby was holding out his hands to watch the colours bathe them, his fingers green, now red, now. . .
"Dobby is ready?"
The other elf had approached without Dobby hearing him, but Dobby was not startled. House-elves almost always moved silently.
"Dobby is at Grimpen's disposal," Dobby said, enjoying the expression he'd often heard Headmaster Potions Master say back in the days when he'd not been "Headmaster Potions Master" but had just been "Professor Potions Master." Professor Potions Master had often said "I am at disposal" to the other Headmaster, the one Dobby liked to call Great Wizard Dumbledore.
Professor Potions Master always used a special tone of voice when he spoke the words, a tone that said Professor Potions Master knew he had no choice about being at disposal. But Dobby didn't use that tone of voice to Grimpen. Dobby was a free elf. Dobby had a choice.
He chose to say "yes" when Grimpen asked him to help deliver the Christmas presents to the staff's bedrooms, the way the elves had done since. . .well, Dobby wasn't sure since when, but since a long time. Grimpen had inherited the job from his father, and his father had been a Hogwarts elf when Dippet Headmaster had been a student. So, a long time.
Usually Grimpen's son Gabbo was the one to help with the presents, but Gabbo had been away for a month or more. Grimpen would say not a word about where Gabbo was, but the other elves said he was on a secret mission. Dobby thought it could be true; he knew Gabbo was friendly with Bigman Hagrid, and Bigman Hagrid had once gone on a secret mission for Great Wizard Dumbledore. Dobby hoped Gabbo's mission was one to help get rid of the Darkness.
But wherever Gabbo was, he wasn't here at Hogwarts to help his father with the Christmas presents, so Grimpen had asked Dobby.
And of course Dobby had said "yes." Such an honour Dobby had rarely received. Not just because Dobby would be visiting the professors' personal rooms, though of course there was that pleasure to look forward to. But the request also meant the other elves were starting to accept Dobby. He adjusted the layers of hats and socks upon his person and beamed.
"At Grimpen's disposal," he repeated.
Grimpen gave a nod and clapped his hands sharply. At once, the staff table was filled with packages of all kinds, Summoned by elven magic from whoever was giving them so that they could be taken to whoever was getting them. For humans, to have a have a present delivered by an elf in person was considered good luck.
With dignity, as was suitable for the head elf, Grimpen climbed upon a chair and then stepped onto the staff table. "Dobby will help sort," Grimpen said, motioning toward the piles of presents. He waited until Dobby joined him and said, "Just touch and see."
He picked up a flat red box tied with white ribbon, and immediately a small picture of Professor Lady Pomona appeared above it. Grimpen waved the red box to a spot on the Slytherin House table, where the image of Professor Lady Pomona continued to hover over it.
The next box was blue with a bronze ribbon, so Dobby was not surprised to see Mr Professor Filius's face appear. There was a slip of parchment on the box, too, with writing on it, to tell Mr Professor Filius who had sent the present. Someday, Dobby thought, he would be able to read that writing. Hermione Granger said it was not right to keep elves ignorant of reading. She had promised to teach him.
That's how he knew he would see her again. And would see dear, dear Harry Potter, sir. Because Hermione Granger had promised him.
But that would happen some other day. Just now, Dobby and Grimpen had their work to be doing, if work it was. More like a treat, in Dobby's view.
Dobby loved Christmas Eve, loved standing here in the silent Great Hall. The coloured light lay soft upon everything, and the world, for tonight, was at peace. Not even the Evil Carrow Ones could change that.
To the presents Dobby turned. He and Grimpen touched package after package, red boxes and green, some with silver ribbon, some with gold, some charmed shut with little bells, some that sang a snatch of holiday song. Soon the Slytherin table was filled with goodly piles for every teacher.
There were being no presents for the Evil Carrow Ones, though. The Evil Ones had left the castle yesterday for a holiday, and Dobby was glad. He did not want to have to punish himself if he forgot - quite by accident, of course - - to deliver them any tokens of good cheer.
But Headmaster Potions Master had no gifts, either, and for that Dobby was sad. Headmaster Potions Master was a hard man, Dobby could not deny it, and harsh at times. Harry Potter, sir, hated the headmaster - - oh, yes, he did. Yet Headmaster Potions Master had harmed no elf that Dobby knew of, and sometimes - - when he had been just Potions Master and not yet Headmaster - - he had given Dobby potions to help Winky when she'd had too much butterbeer.
"There is being no more presents to sort, Dobby," Grimpen said at last. "It is the time to begin."
He reached towards the first pile of gifts and motioned Dobby to do the same. As soon as both their hands touched a ribbon, Dobby felt the crack that Apparated them. It sent a tingle through the tips of Dobby's ears and to the end of his toes, and the tingle did not stop until Dobby and Grimpen stood, the presents between them, in a place aglow with golden trees.
Dobby's first thought was that Grimpen had made a mistake and taken them to the Forbidden Forest, or at least unto a grove of charmed Christmas trees. There were five, six, seven trees - - more than Dobby could count.
"Where has Gri - - " he began, but Grimpen was speaking, too.
"The Sprouting Witch's room," he said, and Dobby realised that they were still in the castle, in a sitting room filled with small trees and ferns and bushes that were all twinkling with yellow fairy lights. And then Dobby understood: they were in Professor Lady Pomona's chambers, a place of plants and Hufflepuff contentment.
"Dobby will come this way," said Grimpen, Levitating the presents toward a door on the opposite wall.
But when they reached Professor Lady Pomona's bed, she was not in it. The quilt was tucked neatly, the pillows were plumped, but no Professor Lady was to be seen.
"With her family, she is," Grimpen said, seeing Dobby be surprised. "Until the Day of Boxes."
And Dobby remembered - - he had never seen Professor Lady Pomona at any of the Christmas dinners since he'd been at Hogwarts.
"Her family?" Dobby asked, a little ashamed that he was not knowing she had one. Elves did not pry - - that was a point of honour - - but they still took care to know as much about the humans as they could - - that was a point of self-preservation. Dobby feared he had been too inattentive.
"Professor Lady had a mate, years past," Grimpen said. "Died in the time of the other war. Her child that was young then is grown now and is being a mother herself. They have Christmas together."
Dobby felt happiness at knowing of this life for Professor Lady Pomona, and when they put the presents at the end of her pillow-strewn bed, he sneaked a look at the photograph on her bedside table. It showed a man hugging the shoulder of young, smiling woman, and in her arms was a very little girl with dark curls and cheeks like apples. The little girl was waving a tiny plant in a bright yellow pot.
Dobby knew he should not be peeking, since elves do not spy unless they need to, so he pinched himself as a punishment. But only just a little bit. Not enough to keep Dobby from being glad he'd seen the little family.
They were back in the Great Hall before Dobby even realised that Grimpen was ready to move them there. But the silent night would not last forever, Dobby knew, and there was much to do.
"Mr Professor Filius is being next," Grimpen said, charming the pile of mostly-blue packages to follow him. "Grimpen will put the presents on the bed. Dobby will look."
Dobby felt his ears droop a bit. Why wouldn't he be helping? Was he not making a proper job of the deliveries? "What is Grimpen wanting Dobby to look at?" Dobby asked, feeling fearful.
But Grimpen only put his finger on his nose and acted mysterious. "Dobby will see," he said.
And see Dobby did. In fact, Dobby stared with delight, for Mr Professor Filius lived like an elf.
To be an elf in a world of humans was to live among table legs and chair bottoms, with cupboards out of reach and windows that showed nothing but sill. Of the humans, only Mr Professor Filius lived in a world that looked the way Dobby wished the whole world would look, a world where Dobby could gaze down upon the table tops and straight into the very-tidy cubbyholes in Mr Professor Filius's desk. Dobby liked Mr Professor Filius's desk with its rolled top and its surface of spotless blotting parchment and the silver ink pot that Dobby was sure Mr Professor Filius would have charmed to be never empty.
Then there was the sofa, made of bronze-coloured leather that gleamed in the low firelight. The sofa that made Dobby yearn to. . .
"Sit," said Grimpen. "Dobby should sit on the sofa."
"Oh, no, Grimpen, sir," Dobby heard himself squeak. "Dobby can't - - "
"Mr Professor Filius is always inviting Gabbo to sit in his elf chairs," Grimpen interrupted. "Dobby is having Grimpen's permission."
Dobby pushed his many hats further back on his head, just in case their woolliness was interfering with his hearing. Even free elves lived lives of restriction, and although Dobby was not minding breaking the rules in service of Harry Potter, sir, and Great Wizard Dumbledore, he did not like taking liberties with the people who were good to him and who did not take liberties with Dobby.
"Did Grimpen say," he ventured, "that Dobby. . .?"
"Has permission. To be sitting, yes. But Dobby had better be doing it soon. Christmas Eve waits for no elf." So saying, Grimpen started for Mr Professor Filius's bedroom, the presents following him.
Dobby hesitated no longer. He walked over to the sofa to sit. To put his back against the soft, cool leather.
And to reach his feet all the way to the floor.
The next few deliveries they were making quickly, lingering in the bedrooms only long enough to make certain that the presents were not near the edges of the beds to be kicked off accidentally.
But even in these short visits, Dobby learnt much that was interesting. Dobby learnt that Lady Irma of the Books wore unicorn bedroom slippers (they sat neatly next to her bed). That Poor Seer Sybill had a charmed mirror on the ceiling over her bed that made her look like she was sleeping in a sea of rose petals. That Mr Squib Filch tied red Christmas ribbons on Mrs Norris's sleeping basket.
At last only two piles of packages remained in the Great Hall: for Madam Broom and Mistressy Deputy. Dobby felt this was as it should be.
He realised he was not knowing where Madam Broom had her chambers, but now Dobby thought about it, it seemed very likely she would live in the little Quidditch house near the pitch, where there were (to him) large rooms full of showers and equipment and blackboards where captains could draw pictures out of their wands to show the team what to do in a match. No doubt Madam Broom had quarters upstairs.
Grimpen was smart to keep the outside-the-Castle stop for almost-last. They could have delivered Bigman Hagrid's presents at the same time, except that he preferred to collect his from under the trees before dinner.
And of course the very last visit should be to Mistressy Deputy, as befit her position, so they could take their time and make everything nice. Perhaps Grimpen would be letting Dobby arrange the presents in the prettiest pile. Dobby liked making things pretty; Hermione Granger said Dobby was "creative."
Dobby was thinking that probably in a normal year, the very last person they visited would be the Headmaster himself. But this year was not normal. Not normal at all.
This thought made Dobby feel a little sad and scared. So much was different. Dobby missed Harry Potter, sir, and was afraid for him. Even Mistressy Deputy didn't know where he was, for Dobby had heard her say so to Professor Lady Pomona. Dobby could tell that Mistressy Deputy was afraid for Harry Potter, sir, too, but of course she didn't say so out loud.
Out loud she said she had no doubt that Harry Potter, sir, was safe and that the Darkness would never find him. Mistressy had said it clear enough so that the Evil Carrow Ones could hear her, and Dobby had felt proud of her and of Harry Potter, sir.
But deep down, he admitted that they were not knowing if Harry Potter, sir, was all right.
Dobby was saved from his worried thoughts by the sight of Grimpen raising his hand to Levitate Madam Broom's packages. But to his surprise, Mistressy Deputy's gifts rose, too, so that two piles hovered in front of Grimpen.
"Why is Grimpen taking them together?" he asked, but Grimpen offered something close to a scowl.
"Free elves be asking many questions," was all he said, and he jerked his head to tell Dobby to touch the presents.
The crack took them to a room glowing softly with firelight and with candles on the mantel - - a library, he thought at first, seeing many towering bookshelves against the walls. And a bedroom, too, he realised, as his eyes took in a large four-poster bed with velvet hangings tied back. There were pine boughs on the mantel that filled the room with fragrance, and the candles amid the greenery were welcoming.
It would be Mistressy Deputy's room, he was thinking, even before he saw the small charmed statue of a lion that walked over to stand against a door. The lion rose high on its hind legs and lifted its front paws to hold open the door so that the firelight from the sitting room could spill into the bedroom.
Dobby would have liked to look around a little more, and he was just about to decide that this time, he could give himself some permission - - because it was Christmas, and Dobby was a free elf, and he wouldn't really be prying, not too much - - when he saw Grimpen already at the foot of the bed, stacking boxes.
Not wanting to miss the chance for pretty arranging, Dobby joined him. The room would wait.
It was warm atop the bed; Mistressy would be using a charm, of course. She was there, asleep, and Dobby could not resist taking a quick look at her. She was never unkind to him, but she was stern and had a way of asking questions that made Dobby stand up straight and immediately start to tell the whole truth. He'd never seen her without her hat and robes and spectacles, and though he was fairly sure she wouldn't wear any of them to bed, Dobby was wondering about her hair, whether it ever came down. . .
Dobby looked - - and was being glad the bed was soft and his legs were short, because Dobby did the unthinkable. Dobby dropped the package he was holding.
Yes, Dobby dropped it. Oh, how he would have been hurting himself, if he had been standing on the stone floor and had been breaking Mistressy Deputy's Christmas present!
But Dobby truly couldn't help himself. How could he be controlling his fingers when he was looking at Mistressy Deputy asleep in her bed with her arms around Madam Broom?
"Is they being. . .?" he said to Grimpen and was not even sure what he asking.
"Dobby the free elf is asking more questions?" But Grimpen wasn't sounding annoyed; Dobby was almost thinking he was laughing.
"Yes," Grimpen said. "They is being together in this bed for many Christmases now. Dobby is not judging them?"
"No!" Dobby was indignant. Did Grimpen think Dobby was not knowing the ways of the world, wizard and elf? Did Grimpen think Dobby was so ignorant?
No, Dobby could be telling Grimpen a thing or two. Dobby was living many years with Malfoys. Dobby was knowing kink.
Not that two witches abed was kink, of course. It was. . .just surprising, that's all. Dobby was not an innocent; he knew that males and females could love their own kind just as much as the other kind. Hadn't he been knowing Bunko and Boffin, who had worked in the Manor gardens when Dobby was a lad? Quiet about it, they had been, but the elves had been aware of their relationship, and they had not judged then.
And Dobby was not judging now. Dobby was still looking.
Mistressy, he saw, did let her hair down in bed. It trailed long and dark across the snowy pillow, like the charmed banner that streamed from the staff held by the suit of armour on the fourth floor. Madam Broom's hair, of course, was short, and Dobby liked the sight of their two heads side-by-side. Mistressy's face wore a faint smile, and Dobby was thinking that it was the first time in this long year that he had been seeing her without worry frowns.
They were tucked together like spoons in a drawer, their legs bent snug against each other, Mistressy's arm around Madam Broom's middle. The arm, Dobby was thinking, didn't seem to be wearing any nightclothes, but he couldn't be sure. He wasn't wanting to look as close as all that! Some things was being private.
Mistressy Deputy and Madam Broom had been private together for "many Christmases now," so Grimpen had said, and Dobby felt a warmth in his bones that he didn't think was caused by Mistressy's heating charm. He busied himself with arranging the packages, making sure to be keeping the two piles closely side-by-side.
Grimpen had already climbed off the bed, and soon he called from the other side of the room, "Dobby will be coming to Mistressy Deputy's desk when he is finished. Dobby will be wanting to see this."
Dobby wasn't sure what else there could be for him to be seeing after everything that he'd already clapped his eyes on tonight, but if there was something more, then Dobby didn't want to be missing it. So he hopped down and went over to join Grimpen at the desk.
It had a roll-y top just like Mr Professor Filius's, but it was much larger, and some of the cubbyholes had twinkling fairy lights within. At the edge of the blotting parchment sat two teacups.
The cups looked ordinary, so Dobby at first was not realising that they were small - - elf-sized, in fact - - until Grimpen said, "Dobby will be drinking his tea before we go."
"Tea?" Dobby couldn't quite believe his ears, large though they were. "For Grimpen and Dobby?"
"Is Dobby seeing any other elves nearby?" asked Grimpen, smiling and then downing half his cup in one swallow. "Every year, the Mistresses leave us tea. They are knowing it's thirsty work, bringing the presents. A tiny wee dram in it, too."
Dobby let his ears droop in disappointment, and for a moment, visions of Winky danced in his head. Elves could not be handling spirits.
Grimpen seemed to sense Dobby's thoughts. "Only the tiniest wee drop, and it will not be hurting anything," he said. "Tis fortifying on a long, cold night. Mistressy says so herself."
Dobby felt better in his mind, and took a sample sip. It was hot and full of bite, and it tasted good. Grimpen was right; it was fortifying.
But just as he was about to replace the cup in its saucer, Dobby noticed a glow coming from a small box on the far edge of the desk. The box was wrapped in green paper with a silver ribbon, and as Dobby watched, the glow formed itself into the likeness of Headmaster Potions Master. The little head bobbed above the box just the way the faces had done with the presents in the Great Hall.
Nudging Grimpen, Dobby nodded toward the box, and Grimpen reached out to touch it.
"How are you, Grimpen?" said Mistressy Deputy's voice as soon as Grimpen's fingers brushed against the silver ribbon. "If you wouldn't mind delivering this one last package, I would be obliged. A happy Christmas to you."
A present for Headmaster Potions Master after all. But before Dobby was having time to be surprised - - for Dobby had been believing all the teachers hated the Headmaster - - Grimpen was holding out the box to him, and they Apparated away.
Headmaster Potion Master's room was dark. Grimpen had to use magic to light their way to the bed, which seemed much too large for the thin man lying in it. He'd barely mussed the covers.
Grimpen put the box on the bed and jumped to the floor. "There," he said. "This night's work is done. Dobby and Grimpen will be leaving now."
"Dobby is coming," Dobby said. But he thought the small green present looked lonely by itself. Quickly, before Grimpen could see, Dobby slipped one of the hats from his head and put it next to the box.
Now there were being two.
This time when they popped into the Great Hall, the long Slytherin table was empty. Not a package had been missed; Dobby and Grimpen had delivered them all.
"Grim - -" Grimpen was beginning, but then he yawned so wide that his jaw cracked. Dobby was understanding how he felt.
"Grimpen is thanking Dobby," the head elf said, when he could talk again, "and is going to his bed." And Grimpen disappeared almost before the last word was out of his mouth.
Dobby was being alone in the Great Hall once more, watching the enchanted snow drift downward, soft and dry. Part of Dobby was wanting his bed, too, but another part of him was not feeling sleepy.
There was so much to be thinking of. In his head, Dobby was seeing Professor Lady Pomona's photograph and Mr Professor Filius's lovely elf-sized furniture and Headmaster Potions Master's green-and-silver present.
And he was seeing the small smile on Mistressy Deputy's face as she held on to Madam Broom. Dobby was sometimes holding Winky like that, keeping her close so they could be safe and warm together.
It was not a safe and warm world, Dobby was understanding that. But sometimes with Winky in his arms, it felt like it was. Dobby was glad that Mistressy Deputy could feel the safe and warm, and Dobby was hoping that maybe somewhere on this Christmas, Harry Potter, sir, was feeling it, too.
But it was being late. There would be work to do tomorrow, preparing the holiday meal before the elves retired to their own Christmas dinner in the kitchen, and Dobby should be getting some sleep.
Dobby touched his hats and thought of his bed. Soon he would climb under the quilt to join Winky, and they would spoon and be warm.
And Dobby would be feeling good to know that up in the Great Hall, the charmed trees would still be shimmering, and the charmed snow would still be falling, and Hogwarts would be awaiting the Christmas dawn.