A Conversation with Mrs. Figg
By V Jones
A/N: The idea for this story, a prequel to “A Day with
Mrs. Figg,” actually came to me as I was writing that story, as I asked
myself things like, “How did Mrs. Figg get into this position, and why is she
the way she is?” I like to think of it
as a pre-sequel, and they can be read in any order you like.
pushed the silver hair from her forehead and surveyed her garden. The wisteria that she had planted fourteen
years ago was badly in need of pruning, but the pumpkins had spread so heavily
underneath it that she hadn’t been able to get to it. Well, Halloween was past
now; she’d clear that corner out soon enough.
to watch a butterfly taste a radish flower, then sat down right amongst the
sweet woodruff and began to cry, long, keening sobs, the tears making a puddle
in her lap. When she had finished, she
wiped her face on her apron and began harvesting the onions, breathing in long
gulps of savory air. Then she cut some
lemon balm and tied it into bundles, making sure to rub some of the leaves on
her arms; twilight was coming, and that meant the midges would be out.
until darkness hid all but the white flagstone paths, then went inside where
she made herself a bowl of macaroni, melting a pat of butter on it and
dribbling a little milk over it. She
ate it without tasting it, each gulp less satisfying than the previous one. She went into her cozy sitting room with a
cup of tea, sat down and gazed out the window for an hour while a fat orange
tabby made a nest in her lap.
the knock on the door before she heard it.
She closed her eyes; she’d had her fill of visitors. Maybe whoever it was would go away, but she
had a strange feeling that she knew who it was. The knock came again.
“The door is
open, Professor Dumbledore,” she sighed.
creaked open and in stepped a bearded gentleman wearing shiny midnight blue
robes and a pointed hat. As he hung his
hat on the coat rack he said, “It’s good to see you again, Arabella.”
Albus,” she replied, marveling at how strange his name seemed to her lips,
after so many years. “I was just having
a cup of tea. Would you like one?”
eyes lit up. “Why yes, I would, thank
you. A little peppermint, perhaps?”
and waved to him to follow her into the kitchen.
He sat at
the old wooden table. As the water
heated back up she stuffed two tea balls full of peppermint leaves and rose
hips. When the cups were poured, she
brought them to the table.
did make the most wonderful tea,” Dumbledore said as he sniffed eagerly at his
stared at the old man until he raised his eyes and met her gaze. “What do you want, Albus? You’ve not come here to just give your
condolences. Besides, I’ve had enough
A look of
guilt crossed his face. This might be
one of the most difficult tasks he’d ever attempted, and Mrs. Figg was one of
the few people who could intimidate the Headmaster. He cleared his throat. He
took off his glasses and cleaned them with his napkin. He took another sip of tea. “Yes, I do believe that this is the finest
cuppa I’ve had in many years.” He
glanced up at Mrs. Figg again. She
patiently looked back.
He took a
long breath and seemed to collect himself, then steadied his gaze straight into
her eyes. “I have a favor to ask of you.”
a large favor.”
opinion you’re the best person for the task.”
it, man,” she demanded impatiently.
face softened. “I need to you watch a
stared. “Baby sit?”
a bit more complicated than that, I suppose,” he stammered.
my patience fast, Albus,” she grated.
“I’ve not had a good week.”
of course, I understand that,” Dumbledore nodded. “I am so very sorry for your loss …”
for your sympathy.” She motioned
“more?” at the teapot and Dumbledore eagerly offered his cup. She poured, waiting for him to speak again.
thought about fumbling with something as a distraction; but the only thing left
was his beard and he’d long since forgotten how to braid… and he also knew that
she’d not tolerate his stalling much longer.
the Potters,” he began, hesitantly.
dead, yes,” she said, unsympathetically.
nearly forgot to breathe. “How can that
be?” She wondered aloud.
something we may never know,” Dumbledore admitted. “But the child, Harry, must be protected. Granted, he is safe right now, as far as we
know. I’ve placed him in the home of his aunt and uncle. But we’re both aware of how tenacious
Voldemort and his followers are.
Painfully aware; you in particular, my dear.”
Mrs. Figg cut
to the chase. “You said you needed me
to … to watch a child… that child?”
knew he was on shaky ground. “Now, you
wouldn’t have to raise him, just --”
“How can you
even think to ask me that?” She hissed. She stood up abruptly and headed for the
sitting room. “How can you possibly ask
such a thing?”
went after her. “Arabella, please hear
me out; I must admit, it is very presumptuous of me –”
around. “Presumptuous? Presumptuous? Fourteen years ago today Voldemort killed my
only child. Three days ago one of his
minions killed my only grandchild and my son-in-law.” She stopped to breathe.
“And now you want me to baby sit?” The look of horror on her face held Dumbledore spellbound.
“Arabella, please,” he began.
She whirled away from him,
toward the open window, where she hung her head out. The heady smell of jasmine caressed her face as she fought
against rising memories long buried.
“Kathleen and I had many a row over her marriage. To a muggle. Choosing that backward life, betraying our kind for … Love! I vowed never to speak with her again.” She shook her head shamefully. “Why I chose to hurt myself like that…”
“You don’t have to do this,”
She continued, “And then
Simon was born. I’d heard about it from
mutual acquaintances, and had to see the child for myself.” She paused, closing her eyes tightly as a
bitter smile played about the corner of her mouth. “He was so small, so helpless.
So like his mother…” She turned to Dumbledore. “He was a muggle, did you know? Like his father. But the
instant I saw him, I couldn’t help but love him. How could I not? He was
my own flesh and blood.
“So, on Simon’s first
birthday, I came back into my daughter’s life.
And she treated me as if I had never been gone.” She shook her head in amazement. “All those years I had wasted over … pride …
“And then, she was gone.” She paused as the memories fell into place. “Andrew called me. On the telephone -- I had one, then, for them. It was a foggy morning. Simon’s father, Andrew had taken him out for
a stroll before going to work. Such a
normal thing to do … They came home and found Kathleen, dead. Just dead.
No apparent cause. Andrew was so
confused. As a muggle, he didn’t
understand. But I knew at once;
Voldemort had paid Kathleen a visit, just as he had called on me years before, demanding
that she renounce her muggle-life and join his Death Eaters. It’s rather ironic, you know,” she said
bitterly. “Living as a muggle, the very
thing that I’d hoped would keep her safe was her downfall.”
Dumbledore sympathized sadly,
“Voldemort’s assumption that all Slytherins would unconditionally vow their
allegiance to him has sounded the death knell for many.”
“What he failed to realize is
that we are not all evil,” Mrs. Figg whispered.
“And that is exactly the
reason I chose you, Arabella,” he said calmly. “You are perfectly suited, in my
Mrs. Figg protested, “But
they are saying that Voldemort is dead.”
“You know first hand the power of Voldemort; you are wise enough
to know that simply because some have chosen to believe that he is vanquished
does not make it a certainty.” He held
out his hands and shrugged. “And the
boy needs a secret keeper.”
shook her head. “I can’t raise another
child, Albus. First Kathleen, then
Simon. His father needed so much help; Simon was only a year old when his
mother was taken. I just don’t have the
strength in me anymore.”
Albus put up
his hands in protest, “Oh, no, you wouldn’t be raising him, just… watching
him. Keeping his secret. I doubt that you’ll have much contact with
him at all.”
shook her head again. “It’s only been
three days since I lost them to Sirius Black.”
She stammered her incomprehension.
“They were harmless – Muggles. Simon was only fifteen. He’d grown up so beautiful and strong. Who would think, walking to the post office
. . .and the muggles called it an accident.” Her voice drifted away as she
paused to let the pain pass. “With
people like Black out there, will we even miss Voldemort?”
Dumbledore nodded. “Sirius Black has
been caught and sent to Azkaban.”
“He has received
The Kiss?” she asked, viciously.
decided to hold off on that,” Dumbledore explained. “There is a chance we may learn things from him.”
Figg hissed. “I’d kill him myself, if
you’d only ask. That task I would
“That I do
not doubt,” Dumbledore said earnestly, realizing what a tenuous hold he had of the
conversation. “Arabella, we must
address the reason I am here.”
sat down. “I still don’t understand why
you want me. Why should I care about
the Potter baby? I certainly didn’t
know them well, and I have no opinion about their child one way or the
other. Why should I care if he lives or
dies?” The bitterness in her voice was
see, Arabella, that is one of the reasons I chose you. You have that wonderfully mercenary
spirit. Who would suspect you? You also have other qualities that made you
my first, actually, my only, choice.”
tried not to look interested. “Yes?”
not be able to use a wand for magic,” He began. Mrs. Figg was nonplussed.
“I assume you’ve kept up with the old ways?” Dumbledore guessed.
looked indignant. “Of course I
have. You know I taught ‘Ancient Herb
Lore and Candle Magic’ for seven years at Hogwarts.”
still practice,” Dumbledore said.
confessed uncomfortably, “It’s the only
magic I’ve practiced for years. It… it
can’t be sensed, traced, as a wand can.”
She glanced warily out the window.
Years of avoiding Voldemort’s advances had left their mark on her. “It’s hard work, that magic, and pure. It keeps my mind clear of… other
things. Keeps me busy.”
denied Voldemort.” Dumbledore
stated. “And lived.”
know if I would consider that a triumph; it has cost me so much.” Here, she paused.
The cuckoo clock announced
the hour as Mrs. Figg gathered her courage.
She finally spoke, choosing her words carefully, almost defiantly, “Do
not think that Kathleen and Simon can be replaced so easily, especially by the
child of privileged strangers. That
part of my heart is closed – the Potter boy will never see it.”
watch the child?” Dumbledore ventured.
the answer to that before you came in the door,” Mrs. Figg chided.
thank you most profusely, Arabella.” He
struggled to keep his sigh of relief unheard.
behind him, Dumbledore now became business-like. “Arrangements will have to be
made, of course. It seems that a house
just two streets down from young Potter’s Aunt’s has suddenly become available,”
he said with the tiniest wink. “And the
neighbors, of course, will have a memory charm put on them to believe that
you’ve lived there as long as they can remember.”
shook her head in wonderment. “You’ve
had this planned for some time, haven’t you?
How could you know…? I doubt you
have ever been caught off your guard.”
He got up and pulled his hat from the
rack. “And there you would err, my
dear; as you well know, these past years one could not afford the luxury of
inattentiveness; constant vigilance has become a necessity.”
held the door open for him. “It was
good to see you again, Albus.”
eyes softened. “And you, Arabella.” He
took her hands in his, reassuringly. “I
know the boy will be safe.”
She gave him a small kiss just below his ear.
“I would only do this for you.”
watched him as he made his way down the walk, seeming to evaporate halfway to
the street. She quietly eased the door
shut. “Well, Tabby-boy,” she said to
the cat on the chair, “One door closes and another opens.” She sighed with apprehension and
resignation. “What have I got myself