The Sugar Quill
Author: Moon Goddess (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Windows to the Soul: One Day in the Life of Arabella Figg  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.

Windows to the Soul

A/N: The world of Harry Potter and these characters are J. K. Rowling’s creation, I am only borrowing them. This story is for personal enjoyment only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.



Warning: This story is a spoiler up through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It was written prior to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows so does not follow canon.



Much thanks to my Beta Reader at SugarQuill.net, PirateQueen, for her time and expertise.



When I heard that Harry’s Invisibility Cloak was a rich area for speculation, I couldn’t help but, well, speculate. Who had the cloak between James and Harry and why? How did they come by it, and if the cloak could somehow divulge its secrets, what tales would it tell? This short story is a companion piece to “A Breach in the Wall,” as it hints at some of the ideas that I explore there.



===



WINDOWS TO THE SOUL: One Day in the Life of Arabella Figg



If eyes were said to be windows to the soul, and windows were the eyes of a home, then Arabella knew that this house’s soul was in pain. Any one of the four faces that appeared in any one of the windows was a testament to its pitiful condition: The boy who did not belong, the other boy who hadn’t a clue, the woman who was scared of everything, and the man who was out of control.



The front living room window most often framed the man in his easy chair reading The Times. The frustration that punctuated his perpetual scowl when the pages didn’t turn smoothly, and his sudden outbursts of temper at the slightest provocation, belied any appearance of relaxation and control. Demanding that he not be disturbed while reading, he held the paper aloft, shielding himself from the eyes of his family and the chaos around him. But all too often he would catch himself staring blankly out the window. At such times, he would ripple the paper as if to straighten it, mumble a criticism about the market or politics, and glance quickly to make sure no neighbors had seen him. It was then that his eyes revealed a man who knew he had failed and did not know why.



Then there was the face that appeared in the kitchen window and occasionally in one of the upstairs bedroom windows. It belonged to the woman. Pausing in her obsessive work to wipe a stray hair out of the way, an unguarded, lost, or haunted look would briefly grace her expression as she took in her gardens. Whatever else anyone said about her, that woman had a magical way with plants. But then, as if afraid someone would catch her doing something forbidden, her face would harden into a mask of resolute fear and she would scan the neighborhood with a practiced, perceptive eye. Arabella always checked the cloak whenever she saw her to make sure that a toe or an elbow was not accidently poking out.



The windows of any room the clueless boy was in flickered ghastly blue. At home, the television, or the computer, were his constant companions. Arabella had never seen a person more resemble a blob than he did. He had been fed everything, literally and figuratively, since he was a baby and outside stimuli and gratification was all he knew. She had seen the last trace of original thought, personality and effort stamped out of him at the tender age of five. He never looked outside . . . or inside.



The anger in his eyes though was all too familiar, as was the emptiness she saw there the rest of the time. The anger was the only thing that was his, rising from within, as opposed to something imposed on him. Something given to him by his parents. Then again, perhaps it did come from them. Arabella often wondered if his anger was innate, inherited from his father, taught by him, or in response to his parents’ indulgent, ultimately belittling treatment.



Whichever, there were too many times that she had been forced to witness Dudley’s bullying, until a like anger rose within her own eyes and she wanted to throttle him. The emptiness she had also seen in her own eyes, staring in the mirror for long hours after her husband Freddy died.



The last boy, the boy who did not belong, what could she say about him? Having watched them all over these many years, she could honestly say that she did not actually like the Dursleys, but she understood and felt pity for them. But he, she loved as if he were her own. She had kept vigil on him since he was a baby. He was her charge, her assignment, but most of all her reason for going on. For him, she had broken her word to her good friend Albus.



But how could she not? He was Harry, the Boy-Who-Lived, and he had needed her. He did not, until five days ago, have a window of his own for he did not have a room of his own, only a cupboard. She most often saw him peeping out of the small, downstairs bathroom window. When she first saw him there as a young child, she thought, He’s too little. He must be standing on the loo to even reach it. His face, despite the continual emotional abuse was always alert, open, and honest. His emerald green eyes as he gazed out the window, were most often wistful; yearning for freedom, hungry for love. To watch him was both painful and hopeful.



Currently though, the windows opened onto a comedy. Unfolding like a farce, it started for her early one morning last month when Mr. Tibbles had seen an owl circling in the pre-dawn and had awakened her. Not yet dressed (and the hour being way too early to drop in unexpectedly at a neighbor’s house) but too excited to wait, Arabella had gingerly climbed out of her attic dormer and onto the slanted roof to see where the owl descended.



The sun was just sending pink stripes of color over the trees but she was in too much of a hurry to admire it. Holding onto the sill, she twisted around in the direction of Harry’s house. The neighbor’s garret blocked her view. Getting down on all fours she crawled toward Mr. Tibbles who had already perched himself up on the ridge. Merlin’s Beard, my knees will ache tomorrow! she remembered thinking. But that wasn’t important. Mr. Tibbles’s tail was twitching. A sure sign that he saw something. She moved as quickly as she dared until her nightgown caught on a shingle. Turning, she tugged impatiently at the hem.



Suddenly, she fell back as the thread pulled loose, her slipper flying. She may have regained her equilibrium if, she hadn’t lunged forward after the slipper, sending herself into a somersault. The resulting spinning, tumbling descent off of the roof was worse than the vertigo she got when using Floo powder.



The next thing she knew she was surrounded by people in white coats hoisting her onto a trolley, and telling her to be calm, that her leg was broken. She tried to tell them that she was okay. That she could take care of it. That she knew someone who could mend it. But they wouldn’t listen. They simply added probable concussion to her chart.



Later at the hospital she remembered that it was her annual day to watch Harry. She finally got the nurse to bring her a phone so that she could call Harry’s aunt. Petunia Dursley didn’t sound too happy. Arabella wondered whether it was because she had inconvenienced her or because the owl had brought Harry his letter? She spent three unbearable days in the hospital, longing to glimpse Harry’s face, imagining the joy that would be there once he discovered he was a wizard and would be going to Hogwarts. He wouldn’t have to live with the Dursleys anymore. He wouldn’t have to sleep in that bloody cupboard anymore.



Lying in bed with nothing to do but let her mind wander, her mood swung between delirious happiness for Harry and a resigned melancholy as she remembered the long ago approach of her own eleventh birthday.



***



She sat, day after day with her face glued to the window, hopeful and impatient. Her parents, bless their hearts, tried to distract her with activities and outings, but she would have none of it. She refused their efforts, spending instead, endless hours searching the sky. Her birthday came and went and still she watched.



She knew she was slow, that she had not shown the talent of her brother Pete, and her friends, but she told herself over and over again that all she needed was a little training and more time. Pete had explained to her that it was mostly a matter of focus, and she had been trying to practice, she really had, but she had too many stories jammed in her head.

And she was simply too scatter-brained, skipping from one thought to the next at the slightest provocation.



But she could change. She knew she could. The professors at Hogwarts could surely teach her how. Beside, it wasn’t as if she hadn’t shown any abilities. She’d always been a wiz at reading other people’s eyes -- not what they were thinking, but what they were feeling. It was what she always noticed first about people. And then there were those stories in her head, what her parents called her “inclination for speculation,” and what she called her “what ifs.” Often they popped into her head complete and unbidden, or came to her in vivid dreams, while awake or sleeping.



They almost always concerned people she had heard of, but did not know well. For that reason, she had no way of telling if they were true or not, but they felt truer than real life to her. She always had a feeling that, at the very least, if they proved untrue, they would still contain a truth. That if she could decipher them correctly, and if she was privy to the person’s deepest secrets, that the stories would turn out to be allegories of some sort. Much like her gift for understanding what a person was feeling by looking in their eyes, the stories would illustrate, maybe not what the person had actually done, but, who they actually were.



In the end though, it made no difference. The letter never came. Her parents eventually pried her away from the window, sat her down and explained that she was a Squib. They said that they would always love her for who she was, and that what she wasn’t didn’t matter. It was then that she understood that she was now an outsider, looking in. The fact that her parents felt compelled to say that it didn’t matter, was proof enough that it did. It was in their eyes.



That odd mixture of love, concern, sorrow and disappointment would become all too familiar. It showed in the eyes of those wizard friends and family members who did not outright shun her. Or she would glimpse even worse, outright pity.



Her saving grace was that when her parents brought out her birthday presents, that she had up until then completely ignored, they also brought out a basket containing a small grey kitten with honest, almond-shaped, green eyes. Within hours those eyes had filled with uncomplicated love for her. From that moment on, cats became her truest of companions.




***



It was on the morning of the forth day in the hospital when she finally gave up protesting and forced herself to be placid. The doctors eventually agreed that she had regained her senses and released her. By then, she was resigned to her fate -- it was too late to ask Albus if Poppy could fix her leg for her. Muggles didn’t miraculously heal broken bones. Still, she cursed her luck a few days later when impatient to find out if Harry had received his letter, she had hobbled up Privet Drive on her crutches only to be bowled over by Harry’s cousin, Dudley, on his new bike.



That night she pulled out the two-way mirror and called into it. “Albus?”



A moment later his face swam into view. “Ah, Arabella. How nice to hear from you. How are you? How is Harry doing?”



“That’s what I was hoping you could tell me!” Albus’s eyes clouded at her words so she hurried on. “Harry’s fine, if you can call being locked in that blasted cupboard fine. But, I saw an owl in the neighborhood last week and broke my leg attempting to see if it went to his house. Tell you later,” she added as his brow raised in a question and a look of concern crossed his eyes. “Right now, I want to know if Hogwarts sent Harry his letter. See, I’ve been a little out of commission since then, and with Harry locked in that . . . that cupboard, I haven’t been able to determine if that owl was for him or not.”



“No, we haven’t sent it yet. We didn’t want to make him wait too long after he received it for school to start, what with the possibility that the Dursleys may not be totally supportive.” A mischievous gleam sparked his eyes. “Minerva and I have turned the matter over to Hagrid. He plans to have Harry receive his letter on July 24th. I have no idea why he picked that day, but if you don’t mind, I’d love to be kept informed if you have the time.” Albus chuckled. “He said if there’s any resistance from the Dursleys, he’d make them regret it!”



Arabella was as restless as a child at Christmas time. As luck would have it, Mrs. Dursley asked her to watch Harry on the 23rd. Realizing that this was probably the last time he would ever be at her house, she decided she could relax her subterfuge a little. Besides, she wanted him to have a good time. It was her way of saying good-bye.



She blamed her fall on her cats (she would apologize to them later), gave him a piece of cake and let him watch the telly. She sat in her rocking chair pretending to read, but more often than not, taking surreptitious glances at him as she remembered all of his previous visits.



***



The first time his aunt had dropped him off, a month or so short of his sixth birthday, he had entered the house, wrinkled up his nose, and looked around questioningly. She saw the hint of recognition before he spoke. “This place reminds me of something,” he said, scrunching up his eyes in concentration. “Give me a sec.”



Panicking, she hustled him into the kitchen, hissed at her cats and nodded in his direction. While the cats wove around his legs and stretched up on him demanding to be petted, she scanned the room for something to further distract him. Not seeing anything, she yanked open the refrigerator door.



Her gaze landed on some leftover cabbage soup. Perfect. She set it on the stove and turned the fire on high. Soon any scent that might have put him on the trail of a memory was swallowed in the overpowering stink of cooking cabbage. She sighed as she realized she couldn’t show her love, be nice, or even let him enjoy himself while there. She couldn’t chance that he would remember. Plus the Dursleys were more likely to let him come over if he didn’t want to. What’s more, she had to be very careful what she said to him.



“How many cats do you have?” Harry asked, pushing Snowy off.



Pictures and stories of her cats. That’s safe, she thought. Yes, she could trust herself to talk about them without accidently saying the wrong thing. “Here, let me show you.” She reached up into a cupboard and brought down a shoe box. She pulled out the first photo. “This is Grey Skies, my first cat. I got him when I was eleven.



***



Hidden in one of her customary places, she saw the first letter arrive. She had been on perpetual watch since, and in continual contact with Albus by means of the mirror. Over the past few days the single letter had escalated into a flurry of letters and owls and letters in eggs as the view through the window took on the feel of a slapstick comedy. Yesterday, Harry’s Uncle Vernon had boarded up the doors.



It was obvious, even without looking at Albus’s grinning face, that he was enjoying this as much as she was. Apparently, Hagrid had been privy to some of the neglect and abuse Harry had endured at the hand of the Dursleys and now that he could, he was determined to have some fun at their expense. She couldn’t blame him. Quite to the contrary, she would have loved to help.



There had been too many times when she had been forced to watch the abuse, unable to do anything. Well not quite, Arabella smiled. What Albus didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, and she was sure it had helped little Harry. She vaguely wondered if it would ever be proper to tell Harry how she had watched over him and how much she loved him. It didn’t matter, really. She had received her thanks the first time she picked him up, and sang a whispered lullaby in his ear. Cradling him thus, a smile had burst through the subsiding tears.

 


 “Out! OUT!” Vernon’s bellowing drew her attention back to the window. A horde of letters was shooting out of the chimney as Vernon grabbed Harry and they went beyond her view. He soon returned with a trash bag, frantically swinging it through the air, trying to catch as many letters as he could with each swipe. Meanwhile, the letters pecked at his head like angry mockingbirds. When he finally got all of the letters contained, he tied the bag shut, madly tugging at his mustache as he scanned the room for strays.



When he left the kitchen again, Arabella turned the mirror back to face her. She had been holding it up under the invisibility cloak so that Albus could watch the fun as well. The silly grin on his face sent her into a fit of laughter and she had to bury her face in her sleeve to muffle the sound. Finally, still gasping for breath she asked, “Are you sure this is wise? Vernon looks on the verge of a heart attack.”



“It will take much more than this to get rid of an old goat like . . . ”



“Shhh!” Arabella cut him off as she stuck the mirror in her pocket and heaved herself up. She grunted from the effort, but she didn’t have time to worry about it. She was at the back of the house and she could hear someone wrenching away the boards on the front door. Moments later, Vernon was pushing his family out the door and batting Dudley around the head -- something she’d never seen before.



She needed to get close enough to see their eyes. She hoped that their apparent disarray and panic would keep them from noticing that the end of her crutch was showing below the cloak. She managed to hobble just off to the side of the pavement, praying that no one would bump into her. They were by in a flurry, but she was in luck. Both Vernon and Harry looked right at her before piling into the car.



“Ahem!” a muffled voice sounded as she stared after the car. Arabella fished the pink compact Albus had transfigured the two-way mirror into out of her pocket and brought it up to her face.



“They’re gone! They drove away! And Harry hasn’t read his letter yet! His eyes were still confused and angry.” Concern rose in her voice. “How will he get his letter? I don’t think they’re coming back anytime soon by the look in Mr. Dursley’s eyes. He had a mad, fugitive air about him. I think he’s running! I think he’s taking them into hiding!”



“Don’t worry, Arabella. Harry will get his letter. I trust Hagrid will think of something.” Albus’s eyes flickered from amusement to serious, and softened. “Arabella, I want to thank you again for all of your years of constant, loyal service. You have been invaluable in keeping Harry safe up to this point. I know it has been a labor of love. Your small stipend could never compensate you for the hours you’ve spent. I’m not sure that you will welcome your well-deserved rest, but . . . go home, put your leg up and have some tea. Your watch is almost over.”



Tears welled up in her eyes, “Will . . . will I see H-h-harry again?” She choked on the words.



“Of course, my dear. School doesn’t start til September, so he’ll be back. He also has to return to his aunt’s house each summer until he is of age, and, I’m sure there will be other opportunities. However, he will soon be much better equipped to watch out for himself. I will still require your services during summer holiday and . . . from time to time, depending on . . .” A disquiet passed over Albus’s eyes but the shadow was gone when he continued. “But, my dear, it will no longer require the intensity of the last ten years. Hang onto the invisibility cloak for now, but in September, when Harry is safe at Hogwarts I would like you to send it to me. I think, Christmas would be the perfect time to give it to its rightful owner.”



“What about the mirror,” Arabella asked.



“They belonged to Sirius Black.” Albus’s eyes sparked as he spoke the name. “Sirius gave them to Hagrid with instructions to use them to help keep Harry safe, and . . . circumstances kept Hagrid from returning them. Personally, though, I do not think that Harry would want something that belonged to the person who betrayed his parents.



“Why don’t you keep that one, and I’ll keep this one for now. That way we can continue to chat. I’ve grown quite fond of you over the years and would miss regularly hearing from you.”



Albus’s eyes twinkled again and Arabella had to smile. Yes, she would dearly miss those eyes. They were the only wizard eyes that had never shown even a trace of disappointment, discomfort or pity for what she was.



So it was over. She knew it would be, but she had been so excited for Harry that she had only briefly allowed herself to think about it. She sat on the wall, tears streaming down her face. Mr. Tibbles appeared out of the hedge and burrowed under the cloak, snuggling against her chest, purring. She scratched the top of his head. “Remember, Mr. Tibbles?” she whispered. “Remember how it all began?”



***



It began for her in June 1980. The evening of June 9th to be exact. That’s when she heard a knock at the door and opened it to see Albus and another member of the Order of the Phoenix, a woman that she didn’t know very well. She’d only actually talked with her once before, though she had seen her a few times more. Arabella didn’t make many meetings on her own, and when she was with Freddy they usually hung out with Elphias and Caradoc who were good friends of his.



It was at a meeting about four months ago, when Freddy and only a few other members were away on assignment. It was an important meeting, so Albus had agreed to fetch her and bring her along.



After business was taken care of, Alice and Frank announced they were going to have a baby and the woman and her husband chimed in that they too were expecting. An impromptu party broke out. Since so many of the Order were there, Moody insisted on taking a photo. The woman, with her husband, stood near her and Arabella remembered offering her congratulations. The woman was so open and delightful that they immediately struck up a short conversation. Arabella remembered that she had the most exquisite, green eyes, she had ever seen. They were full to the brim with every conceivable human emotion, but shining that night with love and happiness.



Tonight though, the shine was caused by tears.



Arabella didn’t need to hear their words, it showed in their eyes. Freddy was dead. Lily Potter, the woman with Albus, had just barely survived the battle. “Luck comes in threes for me,” she softly murmured. The only thing Arabella remembered thinking was, Why was a woman, obviously pregnant, out fighting You-Know-Who?



After that, her days passed in a haze. Her in-laws helped plan the funeral. Then there was the steady stream of hugs, and hand-holding and people saying how sorry they were. As the days progressed the stream became a trickle then stopped completely. She still had business with the Order, but the fighting continued to escalate and since she was a Squib, and in mourning, they didn’t expect much from her. But, at least, they didn’t desert her.



***



She’d always known that she was accepted mainly in the Wizard world out of respect for her parents’ memory and Freddy’s status. That is how it is with most Squibs. But she didn’t expect to be dropped like the proverbial hot potato once they were all gone. Of course, living where she did, didn’t help. No wizards lived close by, though there were a few Squibs and a few Muggle families of first generation wizards in the neighborhood. That was why they had moved here. Freddy had felt she would be more comfortable. Only she had never bothered to get to know any of them. Perhaps, now that Harry was gone, and she no longer needed to be incognito, she would form that support group for Squibs and Muggle families with Wizard members that she had once thought up.



Harry was gone! Like Freddy, like Petey, like Pete. No, not like them. Harry was alive and she would see him soon and again next summer. Next summer. If she was lucky. If Harry was lucky. Harry was going to Hogwarts to learn magic, and magic she knew had its own dangers. Pete, her brother had died at age sixteen from a botched spell, and Petey, his namesake, . . . and Freddy, of course . . . but no, not Harry. Harry would be like Albus, a natural at magic. She could see it in his eyes.



Arabella studied the house before her. Magic had already exacted a toll from Harry: his parents’ death, his Godfather in Azakban, and living in this house. This house with windows like eyes through which she had glimpsed its soul over the many years.



Number Four Privet Drive was a lonely, sad, isolated soul. She often wondered if this was not the price of protection. Of safety. The windows and doors were often closed and locked, the curtains drawn. And when the people inside looked out, they so often had the vacant stare of prisoners. And then there was Harry, leaning out of the bathroom window as if he would escape.


Albus’s protective spells had always made the house look to her like it was under bubble-wrap. She knew it was her imagination, that no one else could see the difference, at least, she thought it must be just her imagination, but still it seemed to her that there was an unclear, muted quality about the place. It didn’t call attention to itself. All of Petunia’s hard work on her flowers went for not when viewed from the pavement. Inside the hedge, Harry could be crying, Dudley throwing a tantrum, Vernon bellowing. Step beyond the hedge and it receded to a muffle that could easily be mistaken for the telly. The protection, and circumstances, had isolated them. Made them prisoners in their own home.



Something had happened shortly after Harry came to stay with them. Arabella hadn’t been privy to the actual incident, but a seed had been planted and she had witnessed its growth. Then when Petunia lost the baby, the bubble-wrap that was meant to shield them, seemed to hold the grief in, never allowing it to dissipate. She didn’t need her imagination to know how they felt.



***



They were visiting their in-laws. Little Petey was eighteen months and into everything, but all breakables were hovering out of his reach. Her in-laws were considerate that way. They adored Petey. He was squirming. He wanted his freedom. Arabella put him down on the floor and watched as he crawled around pushing a red and gold ball ahead of him. When he tired of it, his grandfather brought out a merry-go-round and with a flick of his wand, set it spinning.



Petey plopped back on his hunches surprised. Arabella laughed at the look in his eyes as he stuck his thumb in his mouth, the better to contemplate this new contraption. The laughter quickly morphed into a scream as the baby fell over.



It happened so fast.



The healers at St. Mungo’s found traces of a poisonous ingredient on his hand. Freddy’s father had been brewing a potion earlier in the day and hadn’t realized that a drop had splattered over. Petey had picked it up on his hand while playing. It was all so innocent, and yet so fatal.



***



“Of course,” Arabella reasoned out loud for the millionth time, “accidents happen to Muggles too.” But Freddy’s death had been no accident. No, You- Know-Who planned it. And Arabella believed that You-Know-Who was not dead. She had seen it in one of her dreams. And if her dream was false, then why had Harry been forced to live with these dreadful relatives, why so much protection that they were virtual prisoners in their own home, and why had she kept a constant vigil these past ten years? No, in that one thing at least, Petunia was right. Magic held danger for Harry.



“Mr. Tibbles, keep watch for me please.” Arabella gently shoved the cat off of her lap and onto the wall. With the invisibility cloak still wrapped around her she went to the edge of the garden and lifted up a rock and removed the spare key. Climbing the front steps, she quickly glanced along the street before unlocking the door and going in. The house felt dark and suffocating.



She walked down the hall and opened the cupboard. The bed was gone, they had moved it, and Harry, upstairs after the first letter. Tracing her fingers over the wall she whispered, “It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I haven’t been in here since Harry was four.”



That was when Vernon found out Harry had an “imaginary” friend and started to punish him for it. Though Harry took it hard to be abandoned by his friend, she couldn’t stand to have him punished on her account. But up until then, from the night they first stuck him in the cupboard and left him to cry himself to sleep, she had been sneaking in to hold and comfort him. The key had been easy to find. Breaking her promise to Albus had been harder.



***



It was after midnight when a loud banging on her door roused her from her reverie.



After the stream of people had dwindled to a trickle, and she was left with nothing to do, she had taken to spending long hours seated on the hamper, staring at her own vacant eyes in the vanity mirror. She was searching for a reason to go on, and so far she hadn’t found one, even though more than a year had passed since Freddy’s death. The only thing that got her through one more day was the thought that maybe tomorrow her soul would reawaken and she would again see a spark in the eyes staring back at her. That, and the fact that her cats started wailing early every morning like clockwork demanding that she feed them.



Another glance in the mirror showed her that her hair was disheveled and she looked pathetic. “Hold onto your dragons!” she muttered. Out of habit, more than any sense of propriety, she splashed water on her face and ran a brush through her hair.



“Who’s there?” she called through the door.



“Arabella, it’s Albus Dumbledore! Can I come in, please? It’s urgent!”



Arabella flung the door open and was surprised by how crisp the air felt. What month is it? she thought, but what she said to the purple cloaked man was, “It’s late, Albus. Why are you here?” Then, as he stepped into the light, she saw his eyes. Albus’s blue eyes were usually easy to read, at least on the surface. There they twinkled when he was in a good mood and flashed when he wasn’t. But underneath that easy-to-read exterior were the deepest, most complicated eyes she had ever seen. Right now they roiled.



“Albus, what’s wrong? What happened?”



“You haven’t heard? Voldemort killed James and Lily Potter and . . .”



Arabella interrupted him, “You mean that nice woman from the Order with those beautiful green eyes? The one who came here with you when . . . ?”



“Yes, yes, of course, you know her, don’t you? Wonderful people the Potters. It’s a tragedy.” Such sorrow in his eyes. Where was the flash that should be there at such times? Well as I was saying, Voldemort killed them and tried to kill their son Harry, but the spell rebounded and hit Voldemort . . .”



Arabella shuddered at the name. “Is he dead?”



“Voldemort? Maybe. Harry? No. He’s why I’m here. I’ve placed him in hiding with some Muggle relatives, but I need him watched in case Voldemort or his Death Eaters come looking for him. At worse it could be dangerous, at best many slow tedious hours observing a child and the Muggle family and reporting back to only me. If you’re willing, you will be one of only a handful in the Wizard world to know exactly where he is. It is of utmost importance that no one else finds out. Are you able and willing to help us or not?” His piercing eyes took in her gaunt, drawn face.



Arabella gazed into his eyes a long moment without answering. She finally saw what she had been searching in the mirror for. “Yes, yes, of course, I’ll help. That poor woman and her husband. Poor child!”



Albus reached into his pocket and handed a fluid, silver-grey cloth that waterfalled from her hand as she took it. “James Potter’s invisibility cloak. He asked me to loan it to the Longbottoms, but they were attacked earlier today, too. I believe you knew them also from the Order?” Arabella nodded.



“Well, they’re in bad shape at St. Mungo’s and have no further need of it. Use it well, and take good care of it. I think the boy would like to have something that belonged to his father some day. The house was destroyed so nothing else is left.



“Oh, and Arabella, this is critical, a matter of life and death for the boy. The Muggles he’s staying with must never suspect that they are under surveillance. You must promise to keep contact to that of an ordinary neighbor. There must be no interference. The only exception being if Harry is in danger, and of course, if Voldemort or Death Eaters appear.




“I understand.”



“Good. Thank you.” Albus smiled for the first time. “He’s at Number Four Privet Drive with the Dursleys. Do you know them?”



“I know of them. They’re a horrible family, Albus, at least for raising a wizard. If you simply want to hide him among Muggles, I could take him in.” She looked up at Albus hopefully, but he shook his head.



“The woman is friendly enough with her more well-to-do neighbors and seems generally happy lately, but whenever I pass by and say ‘good morning’ she pretends not to hear me. Won’t even look up. It’s personal, even though she doesn’t know me. She senses that I’m different and snubs me for it.” Albus raised an eyebrow, as Arabella continued, her voice dropping. “Some Muggles are just like some Wizards when it comes to things like that.”



Suddenly, the surface of his eyes glittered teasingly, though beneath there was still sadness. “Don’t you think it could be the housecoat, Arabella?”



Arabella blushed. “You know Albus, I grew up with Wizards and I’ll never get used to Muggle clothes. Housecoats are the closest thing Muggles wear to robes.”



“Well, then, maybe it’s the slippers?”



“They’re the most comfortable things I’ve ever had on my feet, especially with my bunions. I’ll get you a pair for Christmas. Soon you won’t be wearing anything else, either,” Arabella said as she eyed his high-heeled, buckled boots. “Lots more comfortable than those archaic things.” They both laughed, the mood having lightened considerably.



“Can you stay for tea? Or a nightcap?” Arabella asked.



“I’d love to, but can’t. It’s been a long day and I still have a few more details to attend to. If you can’t sleep and feel the need to stare at something a while longer tonight . . .,” she felt his eyes piercing hers intently until she lowered hers, “. . . I just left Harry, bundled in blankets on the Dursleys’ front step. I’ve placed spells to protect, but still a pair of friendly eyes would make me feel better. And if they put him back out, bring him here and then immediately take him to my office at Hogwarts. You’ll be safe there. You still have some Floo powder?”



“Yes,” Arabella nodded. She squirmed into a coat and threw the cloak over her. She was glad to be invisible, to hide that she had turned red at his earlier comment. Albus often surprised her by saying things he shouldn’t know. Good guess or . . .


“How do I look?” she asked.


“Wonderful!” Albus beamed and his eyes again sported their customary twinkle. “I’ll be seeing you later, then.”



Within three days she received by owl the transfigured mirror and a note to its use. They had been in weekly contact since. On pivotal events, either good or bad, he often asked to borrow the memory and took it back to contemplate in his Pensieve.



***



Who’s to judge what is most dangerous to a child? Arabella reasoned. Surely neglect could scar a child as permanently, if not as visibly as the mark on Harry’s forehead. A child needed to be held, to have soft lullabies sang to him, to have a playmate. Surely it was detrimental to his emotional health to go from having loving, doting parents to having to endure the nightmares of their deaths alone, without comfort.



Her heart broke those first few days and nights listening to his constant crying and knowing there was nothing she could do to comfort him. Why didn’t his aunt hold him and rock him? When they moved him into the cupboard to cry himself to sleep, she knew with the cloak around her that she could sneak in unseen and unnoticed. So how could she not?



And how could she not, go around the corner, or behind a bush, pull off the cloak and reappear to glare at Dudley and his gang with a stern, sour face, scolding them and threatening to call their parents? Surely, as a neighbor she could walk the streets, and show her displeasure when she witnessed such bullying? Wouldn’t anyone? Dudley would never notice the coincidence -- the number of times she happened to appear just when their torturing of Harry went beyond what she could stomach, even on strict orders of no interference.



***



Arabella hobbled back up the pavement toward Wisteria Walk. She had left Mr. Tibbles behind to fetch her in case the Dursleys returned. She still wore the invisibility cloak. She liked wearing it. It was much better to chose to be invisible than to be made invisible by others. How often in both the Muggle and Wizard worlds had someone seen her coming and purposely turned away so that they would not have to acknowledge her existence? Besides, she had a soft spot for magic that you didn’t have to be a wizard to use. Things like the cloak, the mirror, Floo powder, most potions – not the making of them, but their effect, such as the Love Potion – worked the same for Muggles as they did for Wizards. Using them made her feel connected to those wizards that she loved.



Then there were things like wands. She used to play with her cats using Freddy’s. If he had done the same thing, he would have inadvertently caught them on fire or transfigured them, no doubt. Of course, there was the casting of spells. That only Wizards could do.



However, even though it had taken most of her years to come to this conclusion, she was convinced that real magic had nothing to do with spells. It had to do with the transformation of the human heart, and that anyone was capable of -- only you had to do it yourself, for yourself.



As for spells, she mused as she entered her house and flicked on a light, they are mainly a matter of convenience and Muggles have their own mysterious ways. She had yet to figure out what made the telly, computers, telephones, and a million other things work even though she had taken out library books on the subjects. To her, they didn’t seem all that different from magic.




Arabella laid the cloak on her bed, and tenderly ran her hand over it. She sank down next to the cloak and pulled the compact out of her pocket. So the two-way mirrors had belonged to Sirius Black and he had given them to Hagrid. That much of her dream was true. But in her dream the betrayal wasn’t. Should I tell Albus? He had always been willing to listen, when in her duties for the Order, she had said she had a feeling or a theory about something. But this was different.



After she knew she was a Squib, Freddy had been the only other person she had ever confided in. She was sure Albus wouldn’t say anything, but she couldn’t have stood it, if his eyes had even briefly revealed that he was humoring her.

Albus made an appearance in this dream, and he would know right away if that part was true or not. That in itself was odd, for she rarely dreamed of people she actually knew in real life. Then again, who really knew Albus? She laid back on the bed and pulled the cloak over her as a cover. How did it go again? She closed her eyes.



The cloak was very old. It inspired many stories. She had learned over the years that she could run through past dreams and stories as if they were films. Mentally fast-forwarding through the images, she slowed when she caught sight of a young, dark haired boy with three others huddled together under the cloak, trying their best not to giggle. It was James, at about Harry’s age, with his best friends, Sirius, Remus and Peter. She had dreamed a number of adventures for them, so she knew them all quite well. James was the spitting image of Harry, except for the eyes. James’s eyes were laughing and mischievous, and held no knowledge of want or pain in them.



Harry’s eyes were like his mother’s in more ways than just color. Every emotion, every possibility was there, but it seemed as if some emotions were suppressed by others. His eyes rarely had reason to laugh. Instead, want, pain, sorrow and confusion often clouded them. But even in the worst of Dudley’s bullying she was surprised to have never seen hate totally flood them. It was as if hate was just one drop in a sea that contained a million droplets of other emotions, most particularly love. But unlike Albus’s eyes, whose surface often concealed a complex undercurrent, there was no indication of deception or concealment in them. She had never seen a pair of more forthright, honest eyes.



Arabella continued to scroll through the images now at a slower speed that still aged the four boys rapidly into young men. She completely skipped over the sections where the dreams were more fanciful and obviously allegorical, the boys often assuming animal forms. She had been unable to make heads or tails of them after the first viewing, and since she knew that the scenes were not true (she had checked the registrar of animagi), they did not interest her. She slowed again when Albus’s face flickered into view.



Albus, James and Lily were talking. Lily was holding little Harry in her arms and singing softly to him, but her eyes scanned from the baby to James, to Albus, and back to the baby, continually aware of everything in her environment.



“Please give it to Frank and Alice for us,” James was saying as he dropped the silver cloak into Albus’s hands . “I’m afraid they will need it more than we will. We are going into hiding as you suggested. Are you sure they won’t join us?”



“I’ve tried to talk them into it, but they take their Auror’s duties very seriously,” Albus answered. “With so many deaths, the department can’t spare them. Would you like me to be your secret keeper?”



“No, Harry’s Godfather, Sirius will do it,” Lily murmured between clenched teeth because Harry, giggling, was trying to insert his fist into her mouth.



“He’s like a brother to me. I trust him completely,” James added. Albus nodded.



The scene switched. James was kneeling by a window, urgently whispering into a mirror. “I tell you, Sirius, he’s here! What? No, no! Not Peter! Of course I know how Fidelius works! Then they tortured it out of him! Lily? She’s in the bedroom with Harry. Hurry! I’ll try to hold him off!”



Mentally hitting the fast forward button, Arabella skipped over the battle and the killings. She had seen it all before and she didn’t want to have to look into You-Know-Who’s eyes again. They were the most chilling eyes she had ever seen. Inhumane, cold and almost totally evil. They gave her nightmares.



She slowed it again to study a rat running from the demolished house. That scene always puzzled her. Yes, right there, the rat glances back. She was sure even in the dark, and the smoke, and even though it only lasted a moment, that the eyes had hunger, or greed, or was it cruelty swirling in them? Fear also, and – this was what puzzled her – a touch of regret. Regret was not a common emotion for an animal. And she was sure that she had seen those eyes before, but where?



She continued to watch as the dust settled and quiet descended on the scene. But not for long. There was the roar of a descending motorcycle, and as the engine shut off, the anguished howl of a man in pain sliced the silence. The man lit his wand and started sifting through the wreckage, his shoulders shaking with grief and rage. An object sparked dully in the light and he knelt down to examine it.



Hagrid’s huge form lumbered into view out of the darkness, tears streaming down his face. He swiped his eyes with a huge handkerchief and asked uncertainly through great racking sobs, “Sirius? Is that you? What are you doing here? Have you found Harry?”



Sirius looked around from where he was kneeling, a soot- blackened mirror in his hand. “It’s James. He’s dead! They’re all dead! It’s my fault,” he sobbed.



“What?” Hagrid began carefully lifting big hunks of debris. “Dumbledore says Harry is alive. He sent me to fetch him. Told me to get him away from here as quickly as I could. Help me look.”



“Harry? Alive?” There was hope and relief in the man’s voice. “How does Dumbledore know?” Sirius started frantically picking through the rubble.



“Don’t know. But he sounded sure and he’s seldom wrong.”



“Hagrid, over here! I see something!” Sirius was tugging at a huge, charcoaled beam. Hagrid grabbed one end and easily pulled it out of the way. In a hollow, beneath it, was a bundle of blankets. Roughly shoving Sirius back, Hagrid pried on the sides of the hole until he could extract the small bundle. He pushed the blankets aside to see the small, blood-stained face.



“It’s Harry! Just like Dumbledore said.” He held the bundle up to his ear. “ He’s breathing!”



“Give him to me. I’m his Godfather. It was Lily and James’s wish that I take care of him if anything should happen to them.”



“Can’t do. I know you were James’ best friend and all, but I have me orders. Dumbledore said I was to fetch him no matter what and to not let him out of my sight until I delivered little Harry to him personally. We need to get out of here before Death Eaters arrive. Something’s happened to You-Know-Who! See this cut on the little tyke’s head. Dumbledore told me it would be there. Said You-Know-Who tried to kill him but the spell backfired. Said You-Know-Who may even still be around here somewhere.” Hagrid took a quick glance over his shoulder, shuddered, and then started to carefully pick his way out of the destroyed house.



Sirius looked from the cut to the destruction around him. “Peter!” he suddenly yelled.



“What?” Hagrid said startled, looking up from his feet.



“Dumbledore’s right, of course. I have something I must attend to first. Here, take my Vincent, it’s really fast, it’s a Black Lightning.” He fished in his pocket and pulled out the keys and another mirror. “Take these mirrors too,” he said stuffing everything into Hagrid’s huge hand. “They can be used for communicating. Use them to keep little Harry safe, until I come for him. Hurry now. I’ll catch up with you later.”



“Thanks.” Hagrid looked back down at his feet and took another huge step through the debris.



“Wait!”



Hagrid stopped again. Sirius stumbled up beside him. “Let me hold him for just a sec.” Hagrid handed the bundle over to him. Sirius gazed down at Harry then reached in his pocket and bringing out a handkerchief, brought it up to his lips and wetted one end. Tenderly he wiped the blood off of his face and kissed the top of his head. “Don’t worry, Harry, I’ll take care of you and love you. I just got to avenge your Mum and Dad, first. Then I’ll come and get you. I promise.”



The scene shifted once more. It was very early morning, not yet quite dawn. Three Death Eaters stood over the bodies of a man and a woman just inside a house with a huge hole blasted through the wall. One of the men kicked at a body, which made no sound or movement. “I said you two were going too far. They can’t tell us anything now, even if they wanted to. You’ve fried their brains. Bellatrix, how many times have I told you that you have to use a little finesse with the Cruciatus Curse if you want to extract information.”



“But they weren’t talking,” the woman replied. “They obviously had been warned. They had time to send the child away. They may even know something about the Dark Lord’s disappearance.”



“Yes, but now we’ll never know, will we?” the man snarled.



The other man had walked over to where the wall was missing and scanned the horizon. “I hear someone coming. We should leave.”



“Shouldn’t we kill them first?” the woman asked. “It will only take a second.”



They heard a shout, closer now. “What’s the point? Let’s get out of here.” In a blink of an eye all three were gone.



Two men crested the hill and ran in through the hole, wands at ready. Arabella recognized Albus as he knelt beside the still forms, examining them. “We are too late, Severus. They’re still alive, but just barely. They’ve been tortured. I am afraid they are lost to us. There is nothing we can do for them.” Albus looked up into Severus’s eyes.



Arabella had seen Severus Snape before. He had often played counterpoint to the four boys and was the brunt of many of their pranks. Frequently, she had gone off with him on a tangent, for she had an affinity for the outsider, the outcast, the underdog. In his eyes she had too often seen the general neglect, indifference and even abuse that he endured. That is, until he learned to hide it. She also saw him once, in person, on Magnolia Lane, just around the corner from Privet Drive of all places.



It was a week, maybe a week and a half, after Harry came to live there. It was late and she couldn’t sleep and went out for a walk under the invisibility cloak. He was flipping a letter against one hand and pacing back and forth. Curious, she drew close enough to see the pain and grief in his dark eyes. Perhaps she had made a noise, because his momentarily unguarded gaze swiftly transformed into the most inscrutable eyes she had ever seen as he shot a glance in her direction and then Disapparated right in front of her. She never did find out what he was doing there.



Presently, as his eyes looked down at Albus they were filled with guilt and remorse. They were the eyes of a man who knowingly did something that he truly regretted and was now making no attempt to excuse himself. Albus’s blue eyes were brimmed with sorrow, but were kind and full of forgiveness when he spoke. “Severus, we came close just now to sacrificing your cover, but now there is no need. Do what you must do to keep it intact. Find out what you can of Voldemort and the Death Eaters. I will take care of things here.” He indicated the two forms before him.



“As you wish,” Severus replied. “I will go to Godric’s Hollow to see if there is any trace of the Dark Lord there. I . . . I swear . . . if the Dark Lord is not dead, I will finish him off.”



“Do not promise what you cannot fulfill,” Albus said quietly.



Hurt seared across Severus’s eyes. “I thought . . . You said . . . ”



Albus cut him off. “I do. After last night, I trust you completely. Though I do not know why you had a change of heart -- there was never any love lost between you and James -- your remorse is genuine and deep. I only meant to say that if Voldemort survived what we witnessed, then he might not be as easy to kill as we would like. Go now. There is much to be done.”



“What will you do with the Potter child?”



“I will take him to his aunt’s.”



“But . . . but, you can’t!” Arabella saw the flicker of despair in Severus’s eyes.



 Albus raised an eyebrow. “Why?”



“Well . . . because . . . she’s a Muggle!” Albus looked up at him and Serverus’s face melted into anguish. “No, NO! I didn’t mean it that way!”



 “Is there something you wish to tell me?” Albus softly asked.



“No. . . . Nothing.” Severus’s eyes switched like closing window blinds, all emotion suddenly concealed.



Severus Apparated without another word. Albus, now alone, walked to the edge of the blasted wall and searched the littered yard with sad eyes. Putting his hands out in front of him, he slowly pivoted as a blind man might. “Ah, there you are.” He walked over to a bush whose leaves were bright red in the Autumn air, and pulled the invisibility cloak off of a round-faced child immobilized under the bush. The child’s eyes were fearful and full of anguish as Albus unfroze him and tenderly scooped him up. “There, there, don’t cry. It’s over now.” The shivering child grabbed his robe and burrowed his face into Albus’s underarm, too scared to cry.



“Poor thing. You saw it all, didn’t you?” Albus whispered, his own eyes swimming with tears. With a dip of his wand, he put the child to sleep. “Sleep, Neville, sleep and forget if at all possible,” He gently disentangled the small fists from his robe. “Perhaps the healers at St. Mungo’s can help. If not, the love of family and time will heal. Time does heal. I promise.”



***



Mr. Paws jumped on the bed and walked up the length of her body. She opened her eyes to see a pair of slate grey eyes looking down at her. “All right, I’ll get you your dinner. How’s fish sound?”



Opening the refrigerator, she saw the left over cabbage from the last time Harry was over. She took it and threw it in the bin. At least, she could stop making cabbage soup all of the time. Perhaps Harry had forgotten by now anyway. Honest to hippogriffs, she had grown to detest cabbage.

  


After dinner, her gaze drifted back to the silvery fabric on the bed. She had a feeling that she would not need it again. She smoothed the fluid fabric out on the bed, each touch of her fingers a loving caress. She loved the feel, like cool water. Folding it in half, and then again and again, she had to keep her excitement curbed as she straightened the corners. It was the closest she might ever come to giving Harry a present, even if it was already rightfully his and he would never know she had joyously wrapped it for him.



She would miss the cloak. It represented hope to her, saving grace, love. It had saved her, or more precisely Albus and Harry had, but the cloak was the visible, tangible personification -- something she could actually hold onto -- of her rescue. She lifted the silvery, shifting square and gently placed it in a Christmas box she rummaged from her closet. The box was small, like a book, and closing it felt like finishing a chapter of her life, a convenient stopping point to reflect on the story so far. She was eager to know what would happen next, but tomorrow would be soon enough. She wrapped brown paper around the box, securing it with some twine. After addressing the box to Albus Dumbledore at Hogwarts, she placed it on her mantle to await September.



Crossing the room, she gazed out at the houses silhouetted against the night sky. Trapeziums of light glowed softly, muted by curtains and shades. Things look different from up here, she observed. Her stories were like that. They showed selected scenes from another perspective and with previously unconsidered possibilities.



Windows . . . and eyes. She had spent a lot time looking in and out of both, especially over the last ten years. Watching Harry and the Dursleys had taught her much. About them, about herself, about others. Did she know the truth? No. But being open to multiple explanations had softened her. She no longer was quick to judge or criticize.



Perhaps, truth is relative, personal, she mused. If so what of her own truth. Arabella thought of the young girl she once was. She remembered how she had suddenly found herself on the outside looking in. She now understood how damaging that was, even for a child like her who had the benefit of a loving family. How much worse for those without!



How many times had her heart broken while watching Harry, and even young Severus, as they were ostracized because they did not fit in with someone else’s arbitrary criteria? How she wanted to tell them that they were special, and it was their differences that made them unique. How she wanted to say that if they felt unloved, it was not because of their own shortcomings, but because of the shortcomings of others, and people before them, in a long line of abuse, neglect, and indifference.



Watching others had enabled Arabella to contemplate cause and effect. She knew she would not be who she was today if not for her past. She could easily see now, how she had matured into a young woman who denied who she was almost as completely as those around her did. And how later, with such a fractured self-image, it was almost inevitable that having lost her hope, her brother, her child, and her parents, that she would completely lose herself when she lost her husband. Had she not observed like things happening to the Dursleys? She did not know all of their particulars, but she recognized the signs, the emptiness and waste. Perhaps now that Harry was at Hogwarts, she or someone else could offer help, as Albus had done for her. Though the transformation had to ultimately occur within, the fact that one person understood or cared or trusted or expected better from you was a profound catalyst.



Tufty jumped up onto the windowsill and Arabella absentmindedly scratched his cheeks and under his chin. “You know, Tufty, I don’t regret any of it. I’m happy with who I am, even if I may be an old, eccentric and overly reflective, human being. And you know what? I’m not done. I can hardly wait to see how the story ends.”


//
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