For most of Harry’s childhood and adolescence, Arabella Figg was just the peculiar cat-obsessed old lady who looked after him once a year or so. It wasn’t until the Order of the Phoenix that he (and we) realised Mrs Figg was so much more than a neighbourly figure. She turned out to be one of Harry’s fiercest protectors and one of Dumbledore’s most trusted confidants. We may even go so far as to say that without Arabella Doreen Figg, Harry’s life could have taken a turn for the worse after the summer of 1995. Here’s our celebration of all things Figg, and how she saved Harry by a whisker.
Squibs, those caught in a limbo between Muggles and wizards, were often treated as second-class citizens and faced high levels of prejudice for not inheriting any magic. It would have been easy to hold grudges against and bring misery upon the magical community with that kind of mistreatment (case in point: Argus Filch). But despite the slurs and the historically limited rights Squibs faced, and despite her lack of magical ability, Arabella Figg decided to be the better woman and aligned herself with wizardkind, even taking on the dangerous task of keeping watch over the Boy Who Lived.
Her awareness and defiance of the stigma surrounding her kind was apparent during her testimony at Harry’s disciplinary hearing. Though she was a little nervous (well, who wouldn’t be when facing the entire Wizengamot?), Mrs Figg voiced her outrage that she wasn’t in the Ministry of Magic’s records, stood by her statement that she saw the Dementors, and was the sole testifier who helped clear Harry of the charges against him. Without her (and Dumbledore’s keen thinking, of course), Harry might not have been able to return to Hogwarts or keep his wand – and if that had happened, who knows how Voldemort’s return would have played out.
‘I’m a Squib,’ said Mrs Figg. ‘So you wouldn’t have me registered, would you?’
‘A Squib, eh?’ said Fudge, eyeing her suspiciously. ‘We’ll be checking that. You’ll leave details of your parentage with my assistant Weasley. Incidentally, can Squibs see Dementors?’ he added, looking left and right along the bench.
‘Yes, we can!’ said Mrs Figg indignantly.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Arabella Figg’s bravery shone bright when she appeared during one of Harry’s darkest moments. He had felt neglected by the magical community for a while and had just faced two Dementors singlehandedly when Mrs Figg showed up in a dark alleyway with nothing to protect her but her shopping bag.
The clever neighbour had the foresight to station her cat, Mr. Tibbles, under a car and immediately went to find Harry when she knew something was wrong. In Mundungus Fletcher’s absence, Mrs Figg fulfilled her promise to Dumbledore to look after Harry and even escorted Harry and Dudley all the way to the Dursleys’ front door, just in case there were more soul-sucking Dementors around. Did we mention that she ‘never so much as Transfigured a teabag’? Talk about guts.
In what was arguably one of the best undercover operations the wizarding world had ever seen, the talented Arabella Figg watched over Harry and kept her secret identity under wraps for years.
While Squibs tended to lead Muggle lifestyles, Mrs Figg went above and beyond by assuming a completely different personality from her true feisty self. The Little Whinging resident even pretended to be the right amount of dreadful to Harry so the Dursleys would let her watch him. Making Harry look at endless photographs of all her cats (which doesn’t sound that bad to us admittedly, but that’s by the by) in a house that smelled like cabbage or feeding him what should be the best food on earth in the worst condition (i.e. the ‘chocolate cake that tasted as though she’d had it for several years’) were genius moves in hindsight.
‘Dumbledore’s orders. I was to keep an eye on you but not say anything, you were too young. I’m sorry I gave you such a miserable time, Harry, but the Dursleys would never have let you come if they’d thought you enjoyed it. It wasn’t easy, you know… ’
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Makes us wonder, did Mrs Figg really break her leg by tripping over her cat in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone?
Though we knew little about Arabella Figg, her faith in and respect of Albus Dumbledore spoke volumes. After the Dementors incident, she immediately thought of notifying Dumbledore, and after delivering Harry safely to the Dursleys, she went straight home to await instructions. Clearly, Mrs Figg’s loyalty was not with the Ministry but with the leader of the Order of the Phoenix, whose death she would eventually mourn.
There were several hints that Mrs Figg had a history with Dumbledore and the Order. For instance, at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, after Voldemort’s return, Dumbledore told Sirius to alert ‘the old crowd,’ and included Arabella Figg’s name specifically. He trusted her – so much so that he had tasked her with watching Harry – and didn’t see a powerless Squib but an important ally. And who wouldn’t want to invite Figgy to the party? She sounded like great company.
When she finally got to put that shopping bag to good use, we realised Arabella Figg was someone we wouldn’t want to cross. We admit, we may have lived vicariously through her in this moment, especially since Fletcher would later commit a few more unscrupulous acts that brought about grave consequences. The woman meant business, even while donning a loose hairnet and tartan carpet slippers.