Young Ms. Figg, Chapter 18: The Final Reckoning.

Thankfully, the fireplace at the Hogsmeade station was quite large. One didn't have to stoop over and turn oneself into a pretzel to get in and out of it. Ella stood inside it for a brief moment before emerging to join Severus, Ron, Harry, and Hermione.

With the return to Hogsmeade, Severus seemed to have returned to his old self. He stood glowering over the students with his arms crossed. For their part, Harry and his friends seemed paler and a bit more anxious than they had been at the Dursleys.

"Good," Ella thought, "Let them stew about it for a bit." With that, she stepped out, gave her robes a firm shake, and said, "I Flooed Dumbledore from the ministry. I would expect the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall will be waiting for us at the castle. So lets move."

Ella walked quickly toward the doors and Severus moved immediately to walk with her out of the station. The students, however, seemed to be moving a bit more slowly than usual. This walk was going to be very long for them. Ella quickened her step so that she and Severus were several paces ahead.

Ella jerked her head slightly in the students' direction. "I daresay those three aren't looking forward to seeing the castle as much as I am."

"I'm not sure I'm looking as much forward to it as I might," Severus noted grimly.

"Well, yes, I don't imagine either of us will feel very competent when we explain how we came to spend two nights at the Little Whinging Ritz Carleton," Ella admitted, "But I expect the embarrassment will be made more bearable by the chance to sleep in my own bed."

"Exactly how much might we look forward to explaining?" Snape asked in a voice that made it clear he was most certainly not looking forward to it.

"Well, I had to tell the ministry what went on so they could send a couple of obliviators to do some tidying up. I did NOT provide details, however. As for Dumbledore, I told him the Dursleys were safe and that you and I had the "terrible trio" in hand and would be returning shortly."

"That's all?"

"Well, yes. I didn't fancy having a go at it shouting the details at Dumbledore's head in a fireplace grate with Fudge hanging over my shoulder."

"Perfectly understandable," Snape said darkly.

"Listen, Severus, I think Dumbledore will be content to let us go light on the details of HOW we wound up in jail with the students there. But, we're going to have to address it."

"Yes," Snape said sourly, "No doubt Potter, Weasley, and Granger will expect their assistance to us to mitigate their punishment. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they don't hope it will erase it."

"Oh, no, my friend," Ella said, "That's NOT going to happen. Getting us out of jail may provide the needed excuse to keep from expelling them; but they WILL be punished for running off like that, I promise you."

"You are obviously not familiar with Potter's record of rule-breaking without punishment." Snape said dryly.

"Actually, I've read his file quite carefully. Still, I don't think either Dumbledore or McGonagall will take them running off lightly. Even if Harry, Ron, and Hermione don't know how potentially disastrous that was, Albus and Minerva do. Besides, I'll wager Minerva's nearly apoplectic with anger."

"Still..." Snape said darkly.

"Still, nothing! I've already come up with a punishment that might actually make an impression."

"Really?" Snape said, sounding both hopeful and curious, "What?"

"Oh, you'll see."

Several paces back Harry, Ron, and Hermione trudged slowly and methodically in Figg and Snape's wake. For the first bit they said nothing to one another. After a time, however, Ron finally spoke.

"You don't reckon they'd expel us, do you?"

"They probably should," Hermione said miserably.

"Yes, but they probably won't. Let's face it, the three of us have earned a lot of points for ourselves, as it were. We've got some credit built up." Harry said.

"Well, I just hope we have enough credit to cash in on." Hermione said.

"I expect we've got just enough to keep ourselves in school," Harry said, "Dumbledore may FEEL like expelling us, but I don't think he wants the three of us out of Hogwarts. Not now."

"I wish I felt as confident as you do," Ron said

Harry laughed, "Oh, I don't FEEL confident, I'm just trying to convince MYSELF."

"Spiffing." Ron said dully.

"Harry's right," Hermione sighed, "I think Dumbledore will be very angry but he'll want to keep us here, even if it's just to keep us safe. I shudder to think of the punishment, though."

"Really!" Ron agreed, "I mean, those two up there have been pretty sour with us even after we rescued them from jail! If THEY'RE this angry..."

"I know." Harry said.

Hermione looked up at the Hogwarts castle which was drawing steadily closer. "This isn't going to be pretty," she said.

As the five figures approached the stone steps to the castle's large oak doors, one of them swung open and Minerva McGonagall stepped out of it and stood, fairly quivering with rage. Harry and Ron had seen her mouth go very thin with anger in the past. Right then her mouth was so thin it seemed to have disappeared. Snape and Figg said nothing to her, simply mounting the steps and standing beside her to wait for the students to follow.

"Stop dragging your feet and move smartly!" McGonagall hissed turning and sweeping swiftly inside with Snape and Figg right behind. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had to run to catch up. Never had the walk to McGonagall's office seemed so long... or so short.

When they arrived McGonagall opened the door and tersely said, "Inside."

The first thing Harry saw upon entering McGonagall's office was an extremely stern-looking Dumbledore. Ron, however, noticed something entirely different.

"DAD!" he exclaimed, "What are you doing here?"

A rather upset Mr. Weasley was standing... or rather pacing... beside Dumbledore. At Ron's words he stopped moving and placed his hands on his hips.

"Where, exactly, would you expect me to be when one of my children goes missing... again?"

Ron's ears bypassed pink and went a very bright red. Hermione, on the other hand, went quite pale.

"Oh, my word, MY parents!" She exclaimed.

"Your parents, Miss Granger," said McGonagall as she swept into the room, "were so upset at the news of your disappearance that we felt it unwise for them to undertake the journey here."

"Oh," Hermione breathed.

"Naturally, we have since informed them that you are safe." With that, McGonagall turned her attention to Snape and Figg. "Severus, Ella, do sit down."

Snape and Figg were only too glad to do so as Dumbledore cleared his throat and spoke in a soft, disappointed voice that made Harry, Ron, and Hermione's hearts drop.

"Ella, Severus, I am gratified to see you returned to us and I am relieved to find our students safe. I feel, however, that some explanations are most definitely in order."

"Yes!" Mr. Weasley agreed rather emphatically. McGonagall just glowered. Harry shifted from foot to foot, noticing that Ron was now so red that heat was coming off him. Hermione, on the other had seemed to have developed a slight tremor. Harry didn't know where to start.

It was Dumbledore who began, "Professor Moody returned to us yesterday with the news that Harry's Aunt and Uncle had not been kidnapped or harmed in anyway but, rather, had been on holiday."

"In Majorca," Ella supplied dryly.

"Indeed," Dumbledore said, "alas, that clears up only one of the mysteries concerning the whereabouts of persons connected to our school."

Ella sighed and looked at Severus. He nodded grimly.

"Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, Professor Snape and Myself were deprived of our wands and detained by Muggle law enforcement authorities."

McGonagall actually gasped and her expression was one of frank surprise for a moment. Then she caught sight of the students and her mouth disappeared again.

Mr. Weasley moaned, "Oh, no. They're likely beside themselves at the ministry."

"Actually, Arthur," Ella said, "We cleaned up pretty well after ourselves at the Muggle jail. They sent out Obliviators to do the rest."

Dumbledore's gaze moved from Ella to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, "During this time the three of you were where?"

Harry cleared his throat, "Ah, mostly traveling to Surrey, Sir."

"We had to use muggle transportation because of the Decree, of course," Hermione said in a voice that was a bit more squeaky than normal.

"We went straight to my Aunt and Uncles, Sir, and found them there."

"Then, why, Potter, did you not return to us or send word?" McGonagall asked in an aggrieved voice.

"Mr. Dursley was in quite a state," Hermione said, "He was going on about a disf- About a wizard that had been there. He thought this was Harry's fault and he was also angry with Harry for coming home -and for bringing us."

Mr. Weasley made a small noise of disgust at this. Ron looked up hopefully at this, but Arthur Weasley saw this, crossed his arms, and looked stern.

"He locked all three of us in my room," Harry said with a hint of anger.

"The window was bolted shut and we didn't think it a good idea to use our wands," Ron supplied.

"We realized that it must have been Moody who came and that the Dursleys hadn't said anything about Madam Figg or Professor Snape which seemed odd," Hermione said, warming to the telling of the tale in spite of herself. Hermione, Ron, and Harry went on to describe the events from their perspective. Ella merely sat back and listened with interest. Snape was grim.

When Hermione mentioned Ella taking the arrest records, Ella sat up. "Ah, yes," she said, as she rose and strolled over to the fireplace. Once there, she proceeded to pull the files out of her robes and toss them on the flames. She did this and returned to her chair without a further word. There was the merest hint of a smile on her face when she turned slightly to wink at Severus.

Ron explained how they had taken off on foot from the police station but he faltered when he came to the part where they emerged onto the deserted street with the two cars. He looked helplessly at Harry and Hermione who were both also at a loss. Should they reveal that a staff person had hot-wired and stolen a car?

"At this point," Ella said, looking at Dumbledore with a most innocent expression, "I stole a muggle vehicle to take us to the Dursleys."

"Ella!" McGonagall breathed, shocked.

"Really!" Arthur Weasley asked, clearly fascinated, "How did you get it to start?".

"Muggle magic," Ella said simply.

"We then returned here from the Dursleys" Snape added rather quickly.

"Indeed?" Dumbledore said, the first hint of a twinkle in his eye, "I don't suppose you'd care to explain what happened to the car?"

Snape looked sharply at Ella. Had she told the ministry to clear the car away?

"You know," Ella said in a voice that made it clear she knew she sounded unconvincing, "I think I forgot to tell the ministry about the car."

"You didn't!" McGonagall said.

"Afraid so," Ella said, sounding not the least bit regretful. "I rather expect that the muggle police have located it by now. I'm sure the Dursleys were happy to explain how they wound up with a stolen car in their drive."

Snape's fist flew to his mouth and he looked down suddenly quite absorbed in the carpet. To his credit his shoulders only twitched very slightly. McGonagall and the Students were agape. Arthur Weasley looked non-plussed. For his part, Dumbledore was suddenly overcome with a cough. When he looked up at Ella his face was grave. "Madam Figg, it appears you have left Harry's relatives in a difficult situation." Ella wasn't fooled by Dumbledore's serious expression or manner. She knew that hadn't been a real cough.

"Well, as they didn't actually steal the car, their fingerprints won't be on it. Ours will, but the muggles no longer have a record of them," Ella said with a meaningful look at the fireplace. "When the police don't find any evidence against the Dursleys, I'm sure the matter will clear itself up."

"Most likely," Dumbledore agreed. Shifting his gaze to Harry, Ron, and Hermione he said, "This leaves us with only one other matter to clear up."

"Begging your pardon, sir," Hermione said, "But I'm still confused about something."

"Yes, Miss Granger?"

"The Dursleys were on vacation and never had any contact with Death Eaters, correct?" Dumbledore nodded. "Well, if Death Eaters weren't there, who killed Mr. Perkins?"

"Just because the Dursleys weren't there does not necessarily mean that Death Eaters were not, Miss Granger." Dumbledore pointed out. "However, your assumption that they were not involved is correct."

"Then how?" Harry asked.

"Yes, well," Mr. Weasley said, "It seems the ministry jumped to a bit of a conclusion. Unfortunately, determination of poor Perkins' exact cause of death waited a little longer than it should have."

"And that cause of death would have been?" Ella asked, an edge to her voice.

"Coronary arrest."

"I see," Snape hissed. Ella said nothing. Harry, Ron, and Hermione just goggled at Mr. Weasley.

"You mean, all this? All this worry and panic and trouble...?" Harry finally said.

"Totally unnecessary." Snape said sharply.

"However," McGonagall, said quite severely, "The Ministry's mistake does not excuse your mistakes. Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, and Miss Granger, I cannot tell you how very disappointed I am in all three of you. I understand that the apparent disappearance of Mr. Potter's relatives was upsetting and your desire to help was commendable. This, however, does not excuse your thoughtless, inconsiderate and reckless actions! I don't think you can appreciate what you put our staff and your parents through!" McGonagall's lip twitched and she turned away for a brief moment.

"I am afraid," Dumbledore continued in a grave voice and without the merest trace of a twinkle in his eye, "that professor McGonagall is quite correct. I fear you have underestimated the seriousness of what you've done. It is our sad duty, however, to make you aware of the consequences."

All three faces paled suddenly as they each of them focused on the same thought: "He's going to expel us!"

"You are most fortunate, children," McGonagall said, "that the Headmaster is inclined to take extenuating circumstances into account. You will, therefore, not be expelled."

All three students and Mr. Weasley let out a breath.

"Miss Granger, it will not be appropriate for you to continue as a prefect."

Hermione nodded, her now over-bright eyes on the carpet.

"Of course, all three of you will not be permitted to visit Hogsmeade for the remainder of the year. In addition, you have EACH lost seventy-five points from Gryffindor."

All three students winced at this.

"Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley," McGonagall continued relentlessly, "I would keep each of you from participation in Quidditch were that not unfair to your housemates - as they are already burdened with a two-hundred twenty-five point deduction on your account. We have not yet agreed on the number of detentions you must each serve but rest assured-"

"Minerva," Ella interrupted, "if Snape and I could have a brief word, we might be able to settle the matter very quickly."

McGonagall looked a bit taken aback but quickly recovered, barking, "Children, wait in the corridor!"

Harry, Ron, and Hermione did as they were told, walking numbly to the corridor and shutting the office door behind them.

"You don't suppose she's pleading for mercy do you?" Ron asked glumly.

"Not with Snape on the team," Harry said.

"It doesn't really matter anyway, detention," Hermione said grimly, "when Gryffindor finds out we've lost all those points..."

"They're going to kill us, that's all," Ron moaned, " Fred and George will hold us down and they'll kill us."

"No they won't," Harry said grimly, "They need us to earn points at Quidditch. Aside from that, though, we're pretty much done for."

"Well," Hermione offered weakly, "they got over it the last time..."

"Yeah, but then we'd only done it once." Ron pointed out.

"What was I thinking?" Harry moaned, "The Dursley's aren't worth this!"

To both Harry and Hermione's surprise Ron began to chuckle.

"This isn't funny Ron!" Hermione insisted.

"I know," Ron said, between laughs, "I was just thinking that the Dursleys might not be worth it, but I'm not sure seeing Snape in jail wasn't!"

Harry and Hermione just stared at him for a minute, then Harry let out a snort of laughter and even Hermione started sputtering with giggles.

"I just wish we'd gotten our hands on those arrest records!" Ron lamented, "That police photo of Snape would probably have gone a long way towards getting us back in Gryffindor's good books... or Fred and George's at any rate!"

Hermione smiled at this, her face bearing a look very similar to the one that had been on Ella's face when she mentioned the likelihood of the muggle police finding a stolen car in the Dursley's driveway.

"Oh, I think I can help us there," she said.

"How?" Harry asked, skeptical.

"With this," she said, reaching into her pocket and withdrew a folded page of newspaper.

"It's not!" Ron said with a grin.

"Oh, but it is!" Hermione said, unfolding the page to reveal the article topped with Snape and Figg's mug shots.

Before any of them could say anything further the door began to open and Hermione hastily refolded the article and shoved it in her pocket. All three students re-entered McGonagall's office feeling a bit better than they had upon leaving moments earlier.

"Well, Children," McGonagall said, "much though we might enjoy seeing you scrub hospital-wing bedpans & school trophies without magic, and as dearly as we had hoped to send you out to the Forbidden Forest at midnight, we have found something more constructive for you to do."

"Some of your fellow fifth year students are having difficulty in preparing to take their O.W.L.s this year," Ella picked up, "Each of you, therefore, will be assigned a student to tutor until the exams are given."

Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked at each other. This didn't sound like tremendous fun, but it really wasn't that bad. Still, if they were getting off lightly, why was Snape looking so happy?

"Both Professor Snape and I will be expecting regular reports on your progress. You three will report to me. Professor Snape will hear from the three students you are tutoring." Ella said in a matter of fact tone.

At that moment Dumbledore was seized with another sudden cough and McGonagall wore a look of grim satisfaction.

"Yes," Snape said, smiling, "I think we can look forward to a great deal of progress from Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle. Don't you, Ella?"



Author's Note:

Well, you didn't expect Harry, Ron, and Hermione to keep getting off without punishment, did you?

There are two loose ends I'd like to tie up or snip... First, the magical pendant Figg gave Harry at the beginning: No, he didn't remember to put it on before leaving Hogwarts and probably wouldn't have used it, anyway. That pendant/talisman is a fragment from the original "I don't intend to finish this" story. I'll probably go back and delete that bit at a later date. As for Ron and Quidditch: I figure he'll have tried out for the vacant Keeper spot on the Gryffindor team. Hermione losing her prefect's position? Well, you know they wouldn't have let her keep it. Besides, it probably wouldn't have been good for her to stay a prefect, anyway. She still needs to loosen up.

A very, very, very large "thank you" to my faithful beta reader for all of his help, suggestions, and for brainstorming on the plot!

So, now that you've read the whole thing I would ask you to please review it. After all the work I would very much appreciate it. You can even send flames... it's supposed to be an extra cold winter, and I could use them! :-)