The Sugar Quill
Author: Arc'teryx  Story: Never Alone  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

NeverAloneFINAL

Never Alone
aka Tea with Mrs. Figg


"Harry! Harry Potter!"

Harry started, jolted out of his reverie. He'd been wandering around Privet Drive for much of the afternoon, and the Dursleys weren't due back from Dudley's birthday celebration for hours yet. But it wasn't Aunt Petunia's voice, and unless the Weasley twins had been playing games with Dudley and Uncle Vernon again, it wasn't them either. None of the other neighbors had ever made much of an effort to be friendly to Harry, which meant it must be...

"Mrs. Figg. Right. Hi." Yes, there she was, waving her cane at him from just outside her front door, a cat circling her ankles. He sighed and crossed the street, knowing it was far too late to escape. Having a conversation with mad old Mrs. Figg about her 'babies' was nearly as terrifying as meeting up with Voldemort, but ignoring her would result in a lecture from his aunt. Harry was pleased that he'd made it through the first weeks of summer without any such talks about his manners—or lack of them.

"Hello, dear!” Mrs. Figg beamed at him, continuing, “How nice to see you home safe and sound! How is that school of yours?"

Huh. That was odd. Harry had rarely seen Mrs. Figg since he had become old enough to be left alone when the Dursleys went out, and he didn't remember ever mentioning going away to school. But he supposed it made sense. Mrs. Figg and Aunt Petunia were known to gossip—"exchanging news" as Aunt Petunia airily put it—about the neighbors. Mrs. Figg might have asked when Aunt Petunia was boasting about Dudley's continued attendance at Smeltings. The true surprise to Harry was that Dudley had managed to remain at Smeltings as long as he had—he certainly didn't have the brains to get through without additional "contributions" to the school by Uncle Vernon. Harry suddenly realized that Mrs. Figg was waiting for an answer and he dug about his memory for the name of the school his uncle used whenever asked about Harry.

"Err....just fine, Mrs. Figg. I'm really enjoying...er...St.Brutus'sSecureCenterforIncurablyCriminalBoys. I've, um...learned quite a lot."

"Well, I'm not surprised! Your uncle has spoken very highly of it." She tipped her head to the side, looking up at him, a tiny woman in a well-worn sweater held together with some sort of cat pin. Harry chose not to look too closely as he knew where such politeness might take him. Mrs. Figg was very fond of her cats—she would take any opportunity to tell him stories and show him photos of all the cats she had owned. "Is that where you met those scofflaws who kidnapped you several years ago?"

Harry nearly fell over. Mrs. Figg was referring to an incident that he was certain would have been covered up by the Dursleys, when the Weasley twins and Harry's best friend Ron had broken him out of his bedroom using a magic flying car. "Umm...." There was absolutely no response that came to mind, and his mouth just kept opening and closing like a fish out of water.

At which point Mrs. Figg truly surprised him. She laughed. She glanced around him as if she were checking for something, and then laughed. "Harry! Just a little joke! I know you had a tough time this last year," at this, she suddenly sobered up, and put an wizened hand on his arm, "but dear, you should feel free to talk to me."

Harry's mind reeled. Just what was Mrs. Figg implying? She couldn't actually be saying what it seemed like she was saying. Harry searched his memory for any stories Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia might have passed along about Harry's 'year at St. Brutus's.' Nothing came to mind. He "umm'ed" as she continued, "Such a horrible affair. When even the TriWizard tournament can't occur without evil getting involved. I remember when Mr. Figg faced," she looked around again, this time more obviously checking to be certain no one was in hearing range, "Voldemort. Those were dark days. I'm so sorry you had to meet up with him again."

Harry stared at her, his jaw dropping. She’d said ‘Voldemort.’ No one said ‘Voldemort.’ Well, almost no one—but certainly not a Muggle! It seemed like hours before he could get actual words out, but it couldn't have been more than a minute.

"Umm...Mrs. Figg?"

"Yes, Harry?"

"Err...um..." Now it was Harry's turn to look about the neighborhood, although he wasn’t certain what he was looking for. Finally, he looked down at the cat, who was looking up at him. "Mr. Figg? Mr. Figg faced Voldemort?" Oh, good one, he thought. Very smooth.

"Oh dear." Her voice quavered a bit more than usual. Harry had never noticed before that she hadn't changed at all since he was a child. Except for the cane, of course, and she'd started using that after breaking her leg a few years back. "It was before you and your parents defeated him." She peered at him over her glasses, brown eyes shining.

Mr. Figg was a wizard? Was Mrs. Figg? She must have been very subtle for the Dursleys and him not to notice. He suddenly realized he was still staring and that she was still talking, "...caught in Diagon Alley buying school supplies. I missed the attack by only a couple of minutes; I'd gone back into Gringotts to exchange more money. Charles and I had tried to live outside the wizarding world, and ignore all the problems, but things never seem to work out as planned, do they?" She fixed him with a surprisingly kind look, and Harry found himself on the spot again.

"Err..."

"Oh, for heavens sake! Where are my manners? There's no sense in standing on the doorstep—would you like a cup of tea, Harry? I think I have some biscuits around here somewhere, too..." The cat stared at Harry. Harry wracked his brain trying to come up with a way to beg off, remembering all too well the smell of cabbage and cats, when his stomach let out a surprisingly loud growl. Being locked out of the house, he hadn't had the opportunity to have lunch from his secret stores. His breakfast at the Dursleys had been all too typical burnt toast and bacon scrapings. He'd still grown almost an inch since getting home from Hogwarts and this made Uncle Vernon angrier than usual with him.

His brain continued to whirl as Mrs. Figg fixed a hand about his wrist and pulled him inside. For a tiny woman who had to be in her seventies, she was surprisingly strong. It was as if a dam burst when all of a sudden he practically shouted, "Arabella Figg? You're Arabella Figg? "

"Well, of course, Harry. You've known me since you were just a little thing being pushed over by that cousin of yours."

"But, Dumble..." Harry paused again, trying to make all the pieces fit. What was it Dumbledore had said? Something about getting all the old crowd, getting in touch with the old crowd? "Si...my godfather was getting in contact with you?"

"He did. He's already been here and left. I'm sorry, Harry—I know you would have liked to see him. But he was gone before you even returned from school, and we can't chance him returning here right now."

Harry's head was spinning. When Mrs. Figg settled him on the plastic-covered sofa and moved towards the kitchen, he didn't protest, just tried to digest what was going on. Mrs. Figg was a witch. Mrs. Figg, the mad old cat lady who used to baby-sit him, was a witch. And not just any witch, but a witch Dumbledore thought highly enough of to trust with Sirius' secret. And she'd been married to a wizard. Actually, Harry thought to himself, he wasn't certain of that part, although it seemed reasonable. Of course, if they'd been living in the Muggle world before Mr. Figg died... This was all much more confusing than Harry had expected. He tried to think back to what Dumbledore had said. Luckily, Hermione had paid close attention and the three of them had talked about it on the train ride home from Hogwarts. Something about Sirius finding Professor Lupin, Arabella Figg and Mundungus Fletcher, while Mr. Weasley was to work within the Ministry. While all three of them knew who Professor Lupin was, and Ron remembered hearing about Mundungus Fletcher at the Quidditch World Cup from his father, none of them had been able to figure out who Arabella Figg was. Hermione had gone as far as to check the school rosters, but the name hadn't come up in any of the records. Now Harry knew why not—Mrs. Figg was far older than they'd expected, and would have attended Hogwarts under another name. Although, and now he was getting confused again, what was Mr. Figg doing buying school supplies during the Diagon Alley attack? Wouldn’t their children be too old for Hogwarts? And never mind all that, but Arabella Figg was Mrs. Figg, the lady who was known for keeping too many cats and sneaking up on the neighbors! Harry leaned back, hearing the plastic crinkle behind him, and tried to keep his mind focused on the facts. The fact that two more cats had joined the first in staring at him seemed to be knocking him a little off-kilter though.

"Here we go. A nice cup of tea, and we can catch up."

Harry gulped. He wasn't really sure Mrs. Figg was someone he wanted to catch up with, although, as he reminded himself, she was clearly someone Dumbledore trusted. "Um...right. Mrs. Figg, I'm a little...confused. Do you mean to tell me that you're Arabella Figg? And that Sirius was here?"

Deep brown eyes, magnified by her glasses, peered over a not-so-delicate mug painted with cats. Harry shuddered—he knew it was his imagination, but it seemed like those cats were staring at him too. He felt compelled to go on, "I mean, you're a witch?"

"Yes, dear. I'm sorry I couldn't tell you sooner, but it was for your own safety. I needed to be certain that the Dursleys wouldn't suspect anything unusual about me. Or, for that matter, anything more unusual about you." She sighed. "It's a bit harder to live as a Muggle when your activities aren't going to be precisely standard to begin with. I had to stop getting owl mail as your uncle was beginning to stare. Luckily, an occasional obliviate spell was able to take care of some of your more, well, unusual activities! You probably don't even remember the time you brought your aunt's fur coat and feather hat to life, but you were nearly the talk of the neighborhood!"

Harry cringed. This he hadn't expected. When he, Hermione & Ron had talked about the sorts of people Dumbledore would rely on, none of them had thought an old woman who remembered all of Harry's worst childhood moments would be one of them. He took the other mug of tea, grateful that it only had an ink-wash of a cat on it, and blew on it—anything to give himself a chance to think a bit more. Suddenly, he set the mug down, splashing tea onto the tray.

"You've known I was a wizard since I was little and you didn't tell me?"

Mrs. Figg sighed. "Harry. Did you really think you weren't being looked after as a child? Of course I couldn't tell you—the only reason I can tell you now is that with Voldemort's being back, we thought it best that you know there was someone on your side nearby. Maybe I should start at the beginning..."

"I think...I think that would be good," Harry coughed. He'd tried a biscuit and found it to be a little drier and crunchier than expected.

"Well, you know the basics, of course. You were left with the Dursleys after the battle at Godric's Hollow and the death of your parents. Such nice young people they were, too." She peered at Harry again. "I'm sure you hear that a lot. They would be pleased to discover you overcame living with that family over there. As you know, Dumbledore never believed that Voldemort had been completely vanquished—he assumed that your life would remain in danger. So in addition to the wards placed around the Dursley's house and this neighborhood, he decided it would be best if there were a wizard in the area as well.

"That, my dear, was me. I moved in soon after you arrived, and since then, I've been here to make sure you remained safe, and that your magic was hidden."

"Hidden from who? I mean, I didn't know, but," and Harry remembered all the times his uncle had yelled about 'those people', "my aunt and uncle knew I wasn't...wasn't like them."

"Oh, they knew all right. And as you know, they were none too happy about it. No, we wanted to keep you hidden from Voldemort's supporters and, of course, from the neighbors. Your aunt and uncle weren't at all inclined to help you manage your magic when you were young, so it was left up to me to make sure things never got too far out of hand. But most importantly, we wanted to make sure you remained safe from Voldemort.

"And that meant putting someone nearby who could make sure the wards remained untested, who wouldn't appear at all suspicious to your family, and who could keep your location a secret. Who better than a crazy old lady who wouldn't know a magic wand if it hit her in the nose? Someone who enjoys spying on her neighbors as much as Petunia does?" Mrs. Figg smiled, and there was a distinct sense that she had enjoyed playing the part of Aunt Petunia's confidant.

Harry stared at her. That was exactly what he had thought, and he was ashamed to realize he had never once thought past that. Or ever even thought there might be other wizards and witches nearby.

"But you are a witch?"

"I am. I have been living in the Muggle world for a long time, but I've kept my hand in. Just making sure things are all right in the neighborhood has been plenty to keep me busy." Another cat jumped from the floor, to the arm of the sofa, and to the back of Mrs. Figg's chair, where it began licking between its claws and staring at Harry. He was beginning to feel as if the cats were testing him but he wasn't sure for what.

"Oh." Harry wanted to ask if there had ever been any problems, but as he tried to figure out how to phrase it, Mrs. Figg continued, "The day those Weasley boys showed up in the flying car was quite a lot of fun! It was a nice change of pace to simply deal with high spirits and good intentions. Oh, your uncle was angry though! I could hear him yelling from here!" She laughed again. Harry was beginning to believe that Mrs. Figg was an excellent actress.

"You've lived as a Muggle for 15 years just to keep an eye on me?"

She placed her mug back on the table, turning it just so, and looked at him. It was a long look, and combined with all the staring cats, put Harry quite on edge. He gulped a little nervously and looked back at her.

"Longer than that. I'm afraid I can't tell you everything, Harry, there's too much going on right now. It's too dangerous. But if you'd like, I can show you some pictures as we finish our tea."

This was familiar ground to Harry. Ever since he was little, he had looked at photos with Mrs. Figg, and he knew the routine. He stood up and headed for the shelf of photo albums, wavering between the thinnest album and the shortest one when her voice, with an undercurrent of humor, interrupted him. "Not those, unless you'd really rather look at pictures of the cats, Harry."

From nowhere, an album Harry had never seen had shown up her lap, and the cats had gathered around her, staring at the picture book. It was ridiculous to think that the cats were interested in looking at the pictures, but that was precisely what it looked like. Although, Harry thought, it did resemble the way Hermione's cat Crookshanks used to look at Ron when Scab—no, Peter Pettigrew— was hiding in his pocket. As if the cats knew something no one else did. A shiver ran down his spine as he sat back down, keeping an eye on the cats.

The album was opened to the first page, where a family of black and white wizards waved at him. Wizard photos—no wonder Mrs. Figg had never showed him this album when he was little! He was as mesmerized as the first time he'd seen moving photos and barely absorbed the words being said. "...and my mum and da. Da was the professor of Muggle studies at Hogwarts for a number of years—he was convinced it was essential for us to maintain good relations with them, and that to do so, we needed to understand their world." The page turned and a group of black-robed Hogwarts students were caught studying. One of the girls looked out at them and waved, then went back to her book and scroll. She had dark curly hair, pulled back much like Mrs. Figg's hair was now.

"You were a Ravenclaw?"

"You have good eyes. Yes, my father was very pleased. My mother, who had been in Gryffindor, was always a little disappointed, but if she knew what I was doing now, I think she'd be pleased that I had taken after her a bit." More photos of students who didn't look all that different from the students Harry spent most of his year with, and then a number of photos featuring a girl and boy. The two kept moving together and apart, as if doing a dance through all the photos.

"That's you, right? Is that Mr. Figg?"

"Well, the future Mr. Figg, yes. He was a year behind me in Ravenclaw—we were the talk of the school. But I didn't care, and he was my father's favorite student." Two pages later, a wedding photo appeared, and there weren't many more photos of the two alone before a baby and then, grown up a bit, a little girl showed up. Mrs. Figg lay her hand on one of the photos of her and her daughter at the seashore, watching the two dash in and out of the sea, laughing as the waves chased them.

"Mrs. Figg?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Harry. It seems like yesterday. That's Catherine. She loved...loves ...the ocean." With a brisk movement, she flipped the page, only to be caught up in more photos of the young Catherine swimming, diving and holding up a large fish. She was a pretty girl; Harry thought she reminded him of Katie Bell and the way she dove into everything she did.

Another page turn, and Catherine was several years older. A photo of her and the older Mr. and Mrs. Figg caught them in the midst of celebrating...Harry wasn't sure what. Catherine was wearing a black robe, but both of the Figgs were wearing old Muggle-style clothing. In fact, Harry thought he recognized the skirt Mrs. Figg was wearing in the picture as one she had worn during his childhood. It was a bit less threadbare in the photo, but he was certain he remembered the plaid as being one his Aunt Petunia had mocked one day. She had never much liked Mrs. Figg, but she appreciated that Harry wouldn't enjoy himself there. Wouldn't she be surprised if she found out Mrs. Figg was a witch! Harry smiled to himself—he wouldn't tell, but he always enjoyed knowing more than his aunt and uncle. He pointed at the picture and asked what the event was.

"Catherine's school leaving." Harry looked at Mrs. Figg in astonishment. She looked back at him, with a touch of defiance. "Yes, Catherine wasn't a witch. Luckily, Charles had been very good at Muggle studies, and his job allowed us to live where we liked, so we settled ourselves into a nice mixed neighborhood and we raised Catherine in both worlds. We didn't feel right about her being surrounded by people who could do things that she couldn't, or not being able to understand the Muggle world when she grew old enough to move around it. She went to a Muggle school, she married a Muggle and they settled down in Little East Weston. Here they are—" Mrs. Figg turned the page to point out a smiling couple, waving from some sort of classic automobile. Harry didn't know much about cars, but he knew that he'd never seen anything like that on Privet Drive.

And as quickly as she'd smiled with love at the first photo, she winced at the next, and flipped the page. Too late—Harry had already glimpsed the picture of the same couple with a small child swinging from their hands. "Is that your grandson?" As soon as the words left his mouth, he wanted to take them back.

Mrs. Figg stood up, laying the book on the table, and Harry felt his stomach flip. He'd upset her. He hadn't meant to, he'd just...he sighed.

"Yes, that's Winston." Harry looked back up in astonishment as Mrs. Figg walked across the room and pulled a small album off the shelf. Another wizarding photo album, this one was just pictures of a baby dressed in the tiniest robes Harry had ever seen. It struck him that he had been about the same size when he'd been left on the Dursley's doorstep and he took the little book with reverence, enraptured with the tiny waving, crying, laughing, yawning and sleeping boy. "Wow. He's...wow."

"He was a charmer, that one." Was. Harry's head snapped up. It was Mrs. Figg's turn to sigh. She touched her mug of tea, turned it around, picked it up and put it down. Harry took a last look at the smiling baby and closed the book. Was.

"Winston." There was a long pause, and two of the cats rubbed against her ankles as a third stepped from the sofa back to the chair arm and into her lap. Without thinking, she began to stroke its head and it began to purr loudly. "Winston was not a Muggle. Luckily, Catherine's husband was an open-minded man, and generally accepting of the fact that his only child was a wizard. We were delighted, but worried a bit." Another pause. "How much do you know about the rise of Voldemort, Harry?"

Harry's mouth twisted. More than he'd like. "He went to Hogwarts about fifty years ago, and then went to study the Dark Arts in Europe. He came back into England about 10 years before I was born. And by the time he killed my parents, he was terrorizing the entire wizarding community."

"No one really believed he could be so evil. It started so small. We were enthralled with our grandson, we were living a good life, and so was Catherine's family. We'd already fought our war—we had both worked...well, let's just say we worked with Dumbledore to defeat Grindelwald. Things had gotten so much better— I had stopped working when Catherine was born and Charles was working in the Muggle Relations Department at the Ministry. We all hoped things would take care of themselves. Things did, as they do tend to do." The photo albums lay forgotten on the table, and Harry realized he was holding his breath. "It didn't take long before we realized things were not good. Charles rejoined his old department, and I..." she stopped and smiled a slightly twisted smile, "I kept busy. And all of a sudden, Winston turned eleven, and the wizarding world was still in turmoil. Mr. Figg and I talked about it, and we went to visit Hogwarts and talk to Dumbledore. It was Catherine and Martin's decision, but after talking to Dumbledore, we encouraged them to send him there. That it would be safer for him there than at home. Too many people still knew about Catherine and that her son was half-Muggle. So they took our advice, and decided that it would be Hogwarts."

"But Hogwarts was safe. There was never an attack there!" Harry's voice raised slightly.

Mrs. Figg just looked at him. "He never made it to Hogwarts, Harry.

"We had taken him for school supplies—there was an attack. In Diagon Alley." She shuddered, and Harry wondered if he should somehow tell her to stop. That he didn't need to hear the story. But she went on before he could figure out what to say. "I was inside Gringotts—Winston had been begging for an ice cream, and Charles and I had thought it would be all right, that we could handle any problems. But when I came out of Gringotts, there were Death Eaters all over and screaming and...well, at the end of it all, they were both dead." She looked down at her hands, still on the top of the cat, and Harry was surprised to see there were no tears, just a glisten to her eyes.

"Catherine never forgave me. She lost her father and her son, and she thought it was my fault. So did I." This time, there was a tear. Harry handed her a tissue (he couldn't help but notice the box was covered with pictures of cats), and she honked her nose into it. Harry jumped—he hadn't expected that from her. Then again, he hadn't expected any of this from her.

"Then what happened?"

"First, I quit. Then I got a cat. We'd always had owls, but I got a cat. I didn't want to get any more messages from the wizarding world, and Catherine wouldn't send them that way. And then I got busy." At that, another cat (this made five, all of whom seemed to keep at least one eye on Harry at all times) sauntered into the room, tail swaying back and forth. "I understand you've had a number of dealings with Bartemious Crouch?"

Harry nodded. The one-time Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, while well-meaning, had ultimately been partially responsible for Voldemort's return last spring.

"Crouch changed the rules the wizarding world had always used in their dealings with wizards gone bad. The new tactics were almost as bad as those we were fighting. I quit, claiming I was too distraught by the death of my family to continue working. The truth is, I felt strongly that our tactics were all wrong and the only way to remove the stigma of my association with the Ministry was to make a fuss of leaving it, of leaving the wizarding world.

"I think we're going to need a little more tea. Do you think your aunt will miss you, Harry?" She pushed the cat off her lap, and stood up to gather the tea tray.

Harry started. He'd been drawn into her story, and had forgotten all about the Dursleys. "Probably not. It's not as if she ever realizes I'm there to start with."

Mrs. Figg paused on her way into the kitchen, "Now, Harry. Your aunt and uncle, admittedly, are not the kind of people your parents were. But they had their reasons for doing what they did."

This, oddly, sounded more like the Mrs. Figg Harry remembered. She had always tried to convince him things weren't so terrible, and that his relatives meant well. Of course, even before he knew he was a wizard, Harry had known this couldn't be the truth. If they had indeed meant well, why would they make him live under the stairs? And wear Dudley's old clothes? All his old resentments came rushing back to him, and he lashed out. "Reasons like what? They knew I was different and they never told me anything! They even tried to keep me from going to Hogwarts!"

"Well, there was that...." Mrs. Figg limped back into view. "I didn't mean that they were reasons you'd like, Harry. But from what I understand, your aunt was devastated to hear that her sister had died. She was understandably afraid that the people who had murdered Lily would come after you, and by extension, her family, next. It seems to me very reasonable that they tried to keep you apart from the wizarding world."

"But Aunt Petunia always hated my mother. She always said so." This wasn't completely true, and Harry knew that as he said it. Aunt Petunia had refused to mention his mother at all, and she had only really talked about Lily when Hagrid had shown up five years ago.

The whistle of a tea-kettle began to shriek, and Mrs. Figg disappeared again. Her voice drifted in from the kitchen, "Love and hate are two sides of the same coin when it comes to siblings, Harry. You can easily feel both, and despite feeling as though your brother or sister is your worst enemy, it still rips your heart out if something happens to them." She came back out, steam from the teapot spout twirling upwards.

Harry leapt from his seat to take the tray from her, suddenly realizing that he had not only been rude not to get it earlier, but also that this was something most wizards wouldn't have done by hand to start. As Mrs. Figg shifted the now sleeping cat in her chair to the side, and settled back in, he decided to ask. "Mrs. Figg, why didn't you use magic to carry the tray? Or to make the tea?"

She smiled, and the wrinkles around her eyes suddenly reminded him of Dumbledore's pleasure when Harry suddenly understood something of importance. "Magic, Harry. Remember how I said we were trying to keep you hidden? Well, it wouldn't have done for magic to be traced back to me. It was safer to not use any magic at all inside, and only to use the essentials in the area. Anyone who tracked you down could expect there was probably at least one wizard in the area, but figuring out who it was would be much trickier that way." She smiled wider, "I had you fooled, didn't I?"

Harry found himself forced to smile back. He was still having a hard time reconciling his childhood memories of Mrs. Figg with the woman he was talking to now. This woman seemed much more aware of things, and much less, well, mad. Although her cooking wasn't any better. Looking around, he took in the house with a new eye. The armchair in the front bay window looked well worn, perhaps from watching him? A chill ran up his spine—all this time and he'd never noticed. What else hadn't he noticed, living on Privet Drive?

"Now, where was I?"

Harry thought. He already felt bad for arguing about Aunt Petunia, so he decided to skip over the topic. "You'd quit...your job?" He paused as he realized she had never said what she did.

Mrs. Figg raised her eyebrow and the wrinkles around her eyes deepened with humor, as confusion raced across his face. "Wait...what did you do?"

"Let's just say I quit and leave it at that. More importantly," she paused to pour the tea, gesturing to Harry that he should have another biscuit before continuing, "I convinced the wizarding world that I was done with things. That despair and depression had done me in."

She sat back and chuckled. "They weren't all that far from the truth. I despaired for the wizarding world, and I was depressed that no one was fighting Voldemort the way I thought he should be fought. Instead, people were keeping their children from Hogwarts, attacks on Muggles were becoming more common, and the Death Eaters were becoming bolder. So I became a spy."

Harry spit tea all over himself. "A spy?!?"

"Here's a napkin, dear. Yes, a spy. I kept my ears open and I was able to pass information to and from those who were working against Voldemort and his supporters. It was a natural fit for my abilities—by that point, no one expected crazy old Arabella Figg to be paying attention. I was prepared to do whatever it took to bring back our world." Her face had hardened, and Harry sensed more than saw the truth behind her words.

She picked up her mug, turning it in her hands so that the cats faced Harry. "And then he attacked your family. There had been whispers that it was coming, and they should have been protected, but...I understand you know what happened?"

"Yes." Harry didn't want to get into the whole story—it seemed as if Sirius had been here and left safely, but he wasn't sure how much had been explained. It was better not to get into it, he thought.

"Well, he was gone, and suddenly, so was the anger that had been driving me for the previous year. And then I truly did become depressed, because while things were getting better, my family was still gone. Catherine wouldn't speak to me, and I was still alone. So when Dumbledore sent an owl, I agreed to talk with him. He explained your situation, and that some...other...wizards were finding it a difficult assignment. Your uncle was apparently very sensitive to any little thing out of the ordinary, and not using magic was harder than they had expected. As it turned out, the very problems they were having were things I had been dealing with for years. So that, Harry, is how I came to be here."

Harry sat back against the plastic. "I never knew. They never knew. I can't believe they never figured it out—they never would have sent me over here otherwise!"

"And they still can't know, Harry. You are still in danger, and I am still undercover. Which means that after this afternoon, you are not to contact me any more than you normally would. Unless, of course, there's an emergency."

"Right. Of course. But what did Sirius have to tell you?"

"He told me what happened at the Third Task. He told me what happened to you and to Cedric Diggory." She paused and brought the tissue to her eyes. "And we discussed quite a number of things that you don't need to worry about right now. Just know that I'm here, and should something come up you need to know, you will."

"Now." She pulled herself back to her feet, unsettling two cats in the process, and reached for her cane. Harry noticed for the first time that it seemed to have a Sneakoscope embedded in the top and wondered how he had not noticed this previously. "Sirius did want you to know that he would try and come back later this summer. There has been no word on that yet, however. In the meantime, you had best be getting back home. We don't want your aunt and uncle to worry, do we?"

Harry grinned wryly. "No, I suppose not. I do still have a lot of questions, though, Mrs. Figg."

"Ah, well, Harry, I'm afraid I can't give you many more answers. Maybe someday. Hopefully someday will be sooner rather than later, of course."

Harry allowed himself to be herded towards the front door, cats trailing behind him. His hand was on the doorknob when he turned. "Mrs. Figg? Can I just ask you one more question?"

She raised an eyebrow. "What is it?"

Harry looked down at the cats arrayed into a line of little sphinxes. "Your cats...are they...well, are they all cats?"

Mrs. Figg smiled. "As opposed to not-cats? That's an interesting question, Harry—oh, they're trouble sometimes, but overall, they're good kitties." Her eyes sparkled as she shooed him outside, blocking the grey and white cat with the tip of her cane. "Now you had best be going—your aunt and uncle will be wondering where you are."

Not likely, thought Harry. They were probably trying to figure out how to keep him out of the house now that they'd gotten home. Pity it wasn't January so he would freeze to death outside.

He waved a final good-bye to Mrs. Figg as he went down the walk, and turned to the street. From the corner of his eye, he saw one of the cats jump into the bay window. Had he continued looking, he would have seen it wink. But nothing could distract him from these latest revelations, not even the sound of Dudley yelling at him from the driveway of 4 Privet Drive. Mrs. Figg was a witch. And Harry was not alone.


Author’s Note: Many thanks to my beta, Honeychurch. She has been a divine help, saving me from myself more than once. All errors are mine alone.

//
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