A Patchwork Quilt
(or Arabella's Grand Adventure)
Disclaimer: I don't own anything in the Harry Potter world or anything else that may seem familiar. I don't own anything at all.
Author: written by DracaDelirus
Dedication: for 'Mom' aka 'Mrs. Arabella Doreen Figg', for all you've done for me. It doesn't even begin to repay but it's a start, a HP version of our bicycle adventure. I'll always remember, and thank you from the bottom of my heart and Happy Mother's Day!
Explanation: Mrs. Figg said all the little stories were quite nice but that it was just too bad Arabella wasn't in any of them. Mrs. Figg likes Arabella a lot :) So since I wanted to write something for Mrs. Figg for Mother's Day, and Mrs. Figg was wishing for Arabella, and I didn't think it would fit to do Arabella after the other ones, I set this one in the Spring before the Christmas Angel one – so when Harry was eight instead of nine. So since this story is really a prequel to the rest that I already posted, I put it first instead of last. And I know the poem isn't a wish like the other ones, but in its own way, it is. (Apologies again if I posted this the wrong way, and if this is against any FF rules please let me know so that I can fix it.)
Special Message: thank you annajesse65230 for your suggestions! :)
She taught me as much as she could cram
into my head, until it swam.
She taught me that there is more to me
than I ever thought there could ever be.
Upon her model, I just have to look
to learn more than from a "How-To" book.
She showed me through her example
"How-To-Survive-Life" lessons ample.
She taught me that where empathy blooms
in your heart you can always find room.
She taught me that if you just believe
there is hope for even someone like me.
She taught me that family is defined
by your heart and not by your mind.
My teacher, my confidant, my friend,
She taught me that a broken soul can mend.
She taught me lessons I needed to learn
with kindness, gentleness, and concern
and with her loving strength of will,
my Mom is teaching me ever still
- Happy Mother's Day!-
Patchwork Quilt Patchwork QuiltliuQ krowhctaP tliuQ krowhctaP
"Ugh! Gerroff me!" Harry's muffled shouts could be heard coming from underneath the hulking lump that was his cousin Dudley. Dudley, grinning from ear to ear, totally ignored the plea until his mother poked her head out his upstairs bedroom window.
"Dudley! What's keeping you?" Petunia Dursley called down to her son. Then taking in the scene unfolding in the garden below, she screeched in horror.
"You! You ungrateful little freak! Get back to work and let go of my precious angel! Diddydums get away from him right now, or he might make you ill! You never know where he might have been," she added disdainfully. "You don't want to catch something right as we are leaving for Holiday. Now come up and see if I left anything out. I can run to the store and buy you another suitcase if you want to take anything else."
"It's Harry's fault! He was trying to touch my bike," Dudley answered back automatically, thumping Harry one last time on the head before doing as his mother asked.
"Too bad you can't come too freak. I could've had a lot of fun burying you in the sand. I might have even left your head out if you begged me real nice."
"Yeah, I'm sure you would have Dud ... if you could have figured out how to use the shovel." Harry retorted under his breath behind Dudley's retreating back.
He found out long ago that if he was going to talk back to any of the Dursleys that it was much better to do it quietly enough so that they couldn't hear him, and calling Dudley 'Dud' was about as rebellious as Harry felt it safe enough to go, still being within arms reach. However, it was not without its own small satisfaction when he did, as Dudley hated being called 'a dud'. He took it as a personal affront to his intelligence. He hated it even more than all the sickening sweet babyish knick names his mother called him.
"Whad' you call me?" Dudley looked back threateningly.
"I didn't call you anything. I said … I'm sure you'll have fun. And I'm sorry if I caused you any trouble."
"Okay then, just quit touching my stuff." Dudley begrudgingly accepted the apology and then at his mother's repeated calls, went into the house slamming the screen door behind him, leaving Harry alone in the garden.
"And you –," Aunt Petunia stuck her head back out and yelled shrilly at Harry. "Why haven't you finished cutting the grass boy?"
Harry didn't bother to answer, as he knew his aunt would supply her own. She did.
"You're a worthless layabout that's why! You've had an hour! And pack the suitcases in the boot! What are you waiting for? Hurry up now! You're making us late! And don't forget to bring my precious angel a snack. He's looking a might peckish. You've probably contaminated him."
"Yes, Ma'am. Right now, Ma'am. Sorry, Ma'am. Didn't mean to breath, Ma'am." Harry muttered as he started rolling the push mower over the lawn. His relatives were getting ready to leave on a family holiday to the seashore, and one thing after another had delayed them. With the blame for all the delays placed squarely on his thin shoulders.
Apparently, he had super powers of which he knew not, because according to his uncle he had the super power to redirect electricity with mere thought, causing all the alarm clocks to malfunction while he remained locked in his cupboard under the stairs. Also according to his aunt, he had the super strength of ten men because he was able to hold Dudley down, and so preventing him from helping with the packing, while Dudley was sitting on top of him.
However right now Harry just wished he had the super power to make them finish packing and then go. Go far, far, away, and not come back. It wasn't that he didn't want a family. He wished more than anything in the world that he had one, but the Dursleys had made it abundantly clear that they would never welcome him as part of theirs.
Harry didn't think it was too much to ask for at least one person in the world to care about him just a little. He supposed that he did have that, though not in the normal way, but then when had his life ever been normal? He did have to admit that his aunt was terribly concerned about him. Only Harry knew it was that wasn't his welfare about which she was terribly concerned.
She wasn't worried that he might starve, locked up in his cupboard alone while they were gone on holiday, or that if the house burned down that he wouldn't be able to escape to safety. If that were a worry at all, she wouldn't have let Uncle Vernon repeatedly lock him in before while they were out. No, she was worried that he would use his super powers to somehow free himself, and be set loose to rifle through her dainties, break all of Dudley's toys, well the ones that Dudley hadn't already broken his self, and then run amok in the pantry eating them out of house and home. Oh yes, she was terribly concerned about him.
Harry was just grateful that all this terrible concern made his Aunt finally decided against her usual remedy for his unruliness, of a second lock on his cupboard door, in favour of pressing him upon an unsuspecting neighbour to look after instead.
From experience, he knew he could handle one or two days in his cupboard when forced to. But a whole week? One of his greatest fears was being locked in his cupboard and then forgotten and left to die, and the option of actually taking him with them to the seashore had never even crossed the Dursley's minds. Therefore, in Harry's book, staying at Mrs. Figg's was a million times better that the only other alternative - even if Mrs. Figg was a little strange, and even if her house smelled of cats.
After Harry finished cutting the grass, he pushed the mower back into the shed and looked longingly one more time at the shiny red bicycle hanging from hooks high up on the wall. It was calling to him, almost as if it were alive. It needed a rider as much as he needed to ride it. It wanted him to ride it. It was almost demanding that he ride it. When he jumped real high, he could touch the tires.
Sadly, he turned his back on it. Trying to shut its pleading calls out of his mind, he firmly closed the shed door. Going round to the front, he started loading the Dursley's suitcases into the boot of the car. When he ran out of room, he tied the remainder on top. The way they packed you'd have thought they were going to be gone a month instead of just a week. Dudley had five suitcases just for his toys.
Up two streets and around the corner Arabella Doreen Figg put down her teacup. Stroking her cat Tufty, who had curled up comfortably in her lap, she sighed to herself. She had been stuck in Little Whinging for seven and a half years now, three quarters of a decade. Not that she really minded, after all it was a super secret important job she was doing for Albus Dumbledore, she just wished it were a little less super secret so that she could brag about it a little. Every spring when she went home for a visit, her brothers were all 'poor little Arabella this' and 'poor little Arabella that'. Poor little mousy Arabella, the squib who received barely enough magic to see what she was missing out on, but not enough to do anything about it.
Since they were children, her brothers would go off on grand magical adventures that never included her. After they grew into adults, their bragging was even worse. They were so full of themselves that it was a wonder she wasn't as bitter as Petunia Dursley.
Petunia and Arabella shared similar childhood experiences only in Petunia's case it was her younger sister Lily born with magic into a previously all muggle home, instead of, as in Arabella's case, the only one born virtually without magic into an all magic household. She and Petunia, so similar, and yet complete opposites in every way possible.
This year when Arabella went home for her visit, she wanted it to be different. She didn't want to spend her visit, listening to stories of their adventures while they gave her condescending looks of pity. She wanted an adventure of her own of which to brag. However once again, all she had done was raise her cats, and spy on her neighbours.
The first activity, cross breeding Kneazles, her brothers could care less about. The last, being a spy for Albus Dumbledore - Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorcerer, Supreme Mugwump, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Founder of the Order of the Phoenix, and best of all Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the prestigious school her brothers had attended, a person that they both admired with reverence and awe, her 'boss' to whom she had sworn to keep the secret – would make her brothers drop dead jealous of her, but she couldn't say a word.
Normally every year during this week of May, Arabella went back to Hogsmeade for her family visit. Only this year, not so regrettably considering her current mood, she had to postpone. Instead, she was going to be watching the Dursley's nephew, Harry Potter, while they took their son Dudley to the seashore for holiday.
The Dursleys had said that they didn't want to ruin 'ickle' Dudley's trip by having his ill-tempered cousin tagging along. They further claimed that Harry had fussed that he refused to go with them, and had pleaded for them to leave him with the crazy cat lady.
There wasn't a lot for an eight-almost-nine-year-old to do at her house, other than look at photo albums of her cats, so to choose staying with her - over a holiday at the seashore, made Arabella shake her head in wonder. What sane child would do that?
However, when she really thought about it she couldn't blame Harry for his choice. His relatives really were the worst sort of muggles imaginable, and weren't terribly terrific to have as neighbours either. They were always complaining about something, usually about either Harry or about her cats.
But as watching out for Harry was the super secret mission she was doing for Dumbledore, she couldn't very well say 'no' to any opportunity to watch him up close and personal, however unexpected it might be. And unexpected it was, as the Dursleys had never left Harry with her for an entire week before.
In fact, it was only once a year on Dudley's birthday, that they ever left him with anyone. Petunia said she only left him on those occasions because Harry was a very jealous boy, and she didn't want him throwing a fit over the attention Dudley received and spoiling the party for her son.
However, Arabella had little doubt in her mind that Dudley would throw the temper tantrum, if his cousin were to be included, not the other way around. It seemed as if Petunia had passed on the prejudice she felt for her younger sister Lily to her son, and now Dudley treated his younger cousin in the same contemptuous manner.
Arabella also realized that Petunia had little respect for her personally, and that she considered making Harry stay with her, instead of including him in Dudley's birthday party, as a punishment for the little boy. From the few hours each year that she had Harry alone, and could observe him in an unguarded moment, she also suspected that Petunia feared leaving him with anyone else in case he 'talked' about how they were neglecting him to someone that the muggle authorities would actually take seriously.
Petunia needn't have worried in that regard. Even though Arabella prodded and pushed, and gave Harry every opportunity, she couldn't get him to admit a thing. He never complained - not once. Besides, Arabella also knew that she had the reputation around the neighbourhood of being a trifle barmy. She even prided herself on the eccentric 'cover' she had built for her per secret mission.
Growing up she had noticed people tended to purposely ignore those who were 'different', so she went out of her way to appear daft and peculiar at every opportunity, even to the point of wearing her carpet slippers to shop at the corner store.
What better cover to nose about, than to be someone that everyone avoided? It was no wonder that now Petunia considered her little threat to the Dursley's reputation and good standing in the community. If it came down to it, with Harry not talking, it would be her word against theirs, and they would win.
No one would believe it if the neighbourhood-crazy-cat-lady claimed that Harry was being mistreated. That was one thing that she hadn't considered when choosing her super secret cover story, because it never occurred to her at the time that Harry Potter's relatives would be anything but loving to such a sweet baby.
Arabella had thought it was just the threats from outside Number 4 Privet Drive from which she would need to be on guard. She never thought the greater threat might be from within. Only that was before she moved into the neighbourhood and got to know them for the truly dreadful people they were.
Therefore, when the Dursley's called her at the last minute to ask if she could watch Harry for them, even though they must have known for weeks ahead of time that they would need a sitter, she set aside her own plans and prepared the guest room for him. It wasn't very lavish, but she gave it a quick once over with the duster and fluffed up a pillow. Taking an appraising look around her at the somewhat spartan room, she noted that there was still a slight chill to the air.
Harry would need a quilt. She sighed and pulled a quilt out of the trunk to air out on the clothesline before putting it on the bed. It was a pretty patchwork quilt, a simple nine-patch pattern set on point, sewn together of delicate cotton prints.
Fingering the stitching she thought back to when she they had first given it to her many years ago. It had been almost a decade, and she had never used it. At the time, the reason for it had made her angry, even though she knew they had meant to do the exact opposite.
Ten years ago, her husband, her Angus had died in the war against the Dark Lord. He was a muggle, not even part of the war, but Death Eaters had slaughtered him anyway. He had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. She lost her strong, gentle, loving Angus, and in his place, they had given her a quilt - as if it could keep her warm in his place.
Arabella had kept it only because several of the members of the fledgling Order of the Phoenix had made it at Molly Weasley's suggestion. She could tell that they had constructed it with the very best of intentions, and with abundant love - proof being that to honour Angus, they had pieced the quilt together entirely by hand, in the muggle way.
Among the ones who helped Molly worked on it, was a lovely young newlywed named Lily Potter. It was ironic that Lily had been part of its creation so long ago to help her through her grief, and now instead, it would keep Lily's own son warm under her roof.
Finishing up the room, Arabella poured another cup of tea to calm her nerves. She and Angus had never had children and now she was wondering what in the world to do with the little boy for an entire week to keep him entertained. Petunia had assured her that Harry didn't need entertained, that he was to do chores for her to pay her for her kindness. Arabella snorted to herself, it was more because Petunia was too cheap to pay her real money for babysitting.
While Petunia expounded on the virtues of having children work hard, Arabella nodded but silently disagreed. She thought about going out and buying some games or toys for him. However, she was afraid to make it too much fun, for fear Petunia may decide that staying with her was no longer a punishment and so never let him do it again.
Even though it was only for a few hours once a year, Arabella always felt relieved when Harry showed up at her door. As it was the only time that she was reasonably sure that he was still in one piece. And during those few hours she did her best to undo the three hundred and sixty four days and eighteen hours of damage that living with the Dursley's had done the since the last time she had him.
Getting up, Arabella went to the sink to wash out her teacup, but as she reached to turn on the tap, she noticed the unusual pattern in the bottom. The tea leaves formed spokes radiating out from the centre. Mesmerized by the image it almost looked as though the wheel was starting to turn when the doorbell rang.
Startled, Arabella almost dropped the fragile cup. Her heart beating fast she put it down and went to answer the door. Her young houseguest had finally arrived on her doorstep, out of breath, sweaty, grass stains on his knees, and with a small brown paper bag clutched in his hands.
"Sorry I'm late Mrs. Figg! Dudley sneezed so Aunt Petunia had to take him to the doctor before they left," he explained in a rush.
"Was he sick?" she opened the door to let him in as the beat of her heart slowed down.
"No." Harry smirked a little before trying to hide it, "I put pepper on his biscuits and he inhaled them so fast he didn't notice. Ha-ha! Except for the sneezing fit that is."
"You know that was wrong, don't you?"
"Yes Ma'am." Harry nodded guiltily.
"Don't you remember what I told you last year?"
"The pepper goes in the tea."
"That's my boy. Get it right the next time. Any prank worth doing, is worth being noticed."
"Yes Ma'am!" Harry grinned, a warm feeling washing over him at the words 'my boy'.
"Did you bring your pyjamas and toothbrush? I don't see a suitcase. Is it on the porch?"
"No, Ma'am!" Harry laughed at the thought of owning a suitcase, let alone owning anything to pack in it. "I have it all right here," he said holding up the small grease stained sack. He had packed a second overly large t-shirt castoff of Dudley's to sleep in, and a used toothbrush salvaged from the trash bin.
"Well, that's alright then I suppose. Why don't you put your things away in the guest room, while I heat us up a bite to eat? It's the second door on the right."
Arabella smiled at Harry as he scampered off to find the room and then glowered at an imaginary Petunia the second he was out of sight. Returning to the kitchen she rinsed the cup, set it to dry, and made a fateful decision.
"It's just not right how they treat him," she told her audience of cats with an edge of determination in her voice.
They chorused meows of agreement.
"And it's not right they didn't take him on Holiday. What that boy needs is an adventure."
When Harry came back a scant few minutes later, his big green eyes were glowing brightly behind his thick glasses.
"Do I really get to stay in that wonderful room?" Harry breathed in awe.
It was a nice enough guest room, a little small and a little plain perhaps, but clean. For the life of her Arabella couldn't remember anything especially 'wonderful' about it except for the pretty quilt. However, it was doubtful that a little boy would notice such a thing.
"Yes you do, consider it yours for the week, and any other time you stay here as well." Arabella added. Her reward was to see the boy's eyes grow even brighter.
"You know Harry, I've been thinking. We have a whole week stretching out in front of us, a week just itching for something exciting to happen. On one hand, I do have a ton of chores I should be doing that your aunt said you would help me with - dusting, cleaning, sorting, organizing, vacuuming, and all the cats need a bath. However, on the other hand, your family is off on a holiday adventure. It seems to me that you deserve one too. I need help deciding what to do, and since you're going to be here for a while I think you should have a vote."
"Yes, really. So, what do you think we should do about it? Should we be responsible, and do chores - or should we be carefree, and have an adventure?"
"Well…" Harry considered the options carefully, "…dusting and all that stuff could wait, and after all if we do it now, we'll just have to do it again. Dust just keeps coming back you know," he observed wisely from obvious experience, "and I don't think those cats really like taking baths. I think they would prefer it if we skipped that chore all together."
"Carefree adventure it is!" Arabella gleefully swept her cat Tibbles off the table and picking up the local newspaper. Flipping through it for inspiration of an adventure worthy of their playing hooky from responsibility, a small ad caught her eye and Arabella chuckled with delight. It was as if the tea leaves had left her a sign prophesying that fate was about to knock at her door in the guise of an eight-almost-nine-year-old boy and then told her what to do with him.
"This is just the ticket! I believe my boss owes me at least one bonus after seven almost eight years without a pay raise. Poor man, so busy, so forgetful - tsk, tsk, it's utterly shameful. Well, I'll just help him out and send him the bill without bothering him."
"What is it?" Harry asked, standing on tiptoe while trying to peer over her shoulder.
"Tell me Harry, do you know how to ride a bicycle?"
"No… not really. But I've watched Dudley and I think I can do it. Dudley got a bicycle last Christmas from Father Christmas! A red one, it was really nice." Harry said wistfully. "He even said I could have a turn after he got tired of it, but when Uncle Vernon was teaching him how to ride it, the wheel bent, so I never got to try it."
"A bent wheel? That ought to have been fixable."
"Oh it is, but Dudley said he didn't care to ride it anymore, so Uncle Vernon didn't have it fixed. I look at it sometimes, and I asked if I could try and fix it myself, but Uncle Vernon said I already did enough damage."
"Yeah... you see it was my fault it got bent to begin with. Uncle Vernon said I looked at Dudley funny when he was riding on it and made him tumble. So now it just hangs on the shed wall above the mower, where Dudley can see it if he wants too."
"Hrumph!" Arabella gave out an unladylike snort. She knew from her spying that Dudley seldom, if ever, went into the garden shed. It was only Harry who ever did, whenever he cut the Dursley's grass. Vernon probably mounted it there on purpose, just to taunt Harry, as he would have to see it every time he got out the mower.
"Odds are it was Dudley's own weight that bent it. Nonetheless, it's of little matter how it happened as I think we can remedy it first thing in the morning. Right now however, it is getting late. It's time for supper and bed."
After a nice supper of tomato soup and cheese sandwiches, Arabella showed Harry all the new cat pictures she had taken during the past months before sending him off to take a bath and go to bed.
Even talking into account it would be avoiding looking at more cat pictures, Arabella thought that Harry seemed too excited about going to bed for an eight-almost-nine-year-old. Didn't they normally fight to stay up past their bedtime? What in the world could be so exciting about the old four-poster bed, with its lumpy old mattress, for a boy his age?
Arabella was still wondering about it when she got up the next morning.
Harry was already up and greeted her with a big grin. He had fed the cats and had breakfast well in hand before she had even shuffled out to the kitchen. The sound of happy whistling and the smell of bacon sizzling had roused her out of her slumbers, but when she asked Harry why he was up at six a.m., all he did was apologize for having a sleep in, claiming that the bed was way too comfortable to get up at five.
Arabella pried her eyelids open while sipping on some hot tea and tried to process that information. No, open eyelids still didn't help it make sense. Neither did seeing a young boy cooking breakfast by himself. However, she supposed it was just one of the things, his aunt had told him he was to do, to make himself useful while he stayed with her. Not entirely a bad thing, as Arabella disliked cooking early in morning, only he seemed so darn proficient at it.
She shook her head at the troubling thought and focused on Harry instead. Now that she was up, she was intent on starting their adventure. Even though it was so early that not even the stray cats were out, Arabella braved the trek to her ramshackle shed. Once there she enlisted Harry's help to hold the sputtering flashlight and started searching the rafters. In a dark desolate corner behind a stack of discarded tiki torches, and several boxes of abandoned home improvement projects, she finally spotted what she was looking for.
In her haste to capture her quarry before it slipped away once more into the darkness, Arabella built a makeshift ladder out of boards that she laid across a few suspiciously un-ladder-worthy old boxes. Stupidly proud of her ingenuity, Arabella balanced precariously atop the pile on tiptoe, and reached out for her treasure, while Harry watched her acrobatics with amazement.
"Careful, Mrs. Figg! Be careful!"
"Don't worry Harry, I got it!" Arabella made a grasp for the prize and caught hold just as the makeshift ladder did just that - shifted. With pure dumb luck, Arabella landed on both feet still clutching her prize - the handlebars attached to a beautiful sparkling baby blue bicycle …well what used to be beautiful, sparkling, and baby blue …it was now more rusty, dusty and musty.
"Ooo, I guess three quarters of a decade in the rafters didn't exactly keep Baby Blue in tip-top condition." Undeterred from her adventure plans Arabella lowered the bicycle down for closer inspection with Harry's help.
"It look's kind of old…" Harry said doubtfully.
"Okay so the tires might have dry rot, and the chain is a bit rusted. The basket is falling apart, the reflectors are missing, and hm….overall it seems to be a little… bent. Well as I said before Harry, bent can be fixed. It just needs a little patching back together, but all in all, not too bad! So what do you really think?"
"Er…" Harry looked back and forth between the rusted lump of metal and Arabella's hopeful face and finally choked out a "…it's brilliant."
"Yes it is, isn't it?" she agreed with immense satisfaction.
Harry was just glad Mrs. Figg's question was rhetorical, and that she really wasn't expecting any further agreement on his part, because right now he was having serious doubts about her sanity. After Harry helped her load the bicycle into the back of her derelict station wagon, Arabella went back inside her cottage and ripped the ad out of the paper that she had spotted the night before.
"This looks promising," she mused out loud. "Bob's Bike Shop is having a spring tune-up special. Bob also says he works on all makes and models of bikes and has been in business for quite a while. Look Harry - a coupon! I just hope Bob's is open early!"
Harry followed the dotty woman back outside shaking his head. He had a hunch Bob never expected a customer quite like her to show up in his shop.
Forever the optimist Arabella herded Harry into the wagon. After a quick stop at the Dursley's to add the bent red bicycle to the boot, with an encore performance of her acrobatics, they headed to the outskirts of Little Whinging to find Bob. Pulling up in front of the address listed in the ad, Arabella rechecked the street number, and then rechecked again.
"Well Harry this is it. And Bob seems to be open."
"Are you sure this is the right address Mrs. Figg?" Harry asked a bit doubtfully looking at the seedy establishment with concern.
"Yes, I'm sure. This is definitely it. Come on. Help me get the bicycles out of the boot."
As she and Harry were trying to wrestle the obstinate formerly blue bicycle out of the boot, a couple of scary looking bikers came up behind them. They took over and hefted out the decrepit rusty bicycle, setting it down on its two very flat tires, leaving Harry speechless and Arabella enchanted.
"There you go Miss, have a nice day," one of them addressed Arabella.
Then with a not too subtle roar from their dual exhausts, her two knights in black leather and chains, with skulls emblazoned across the back of their jackets, revved their engines, saluted their fellow adventure seekers and headed off into the rising sun.
Pushing the bicycles past the rows of gleaming motorcycles lined up in front of the shop, Arabella and Harry entered the propped open front door and searched until they found Bob. Bob was engrossed with taking apart an engine while entertaining a few biker buddies with some colourful anecdotes. They knew it was Bob because he had 'Bad Boy Bob' tattooed in flames on his well-muscled bicep.
Bob was an imposing looking man. He was very tall, wide, bald, and with not just a few tattoos - his took body art to a whole new level. Noticing the new customers, Bob stopped what he was doing and stared at Arabella as if she was an escapee from a mental sanatorium. Harry could see why, she did look extremely out of place in her housecoat and carpet slippers.
Finally, Bob found his voice and asked, "What'cha want?"
"I have a coupon from your ad in the daily paper. It says you work on all makes and models. We were wondering - can you fix our bicycles?"
Harry backed up a step just in case Bob construed the 'we' to include him. However, Arabella wasn't concerned at all and just stood there ginning inanely at Bad Boy Bob. After a few moments of disbelief, Bad Boy Bob grinned back at the ridiculous request.
"Sure, why not?" he laughed, "come back tomorrow. They should be done."
Arabella was confident that Bob certainly looked like he knew his way around a bike, so she left Baby Blue and Ruby Red in his tender loving care, and anticipating the 'morrow, left the shop with a dazed Harry in tow as she hummed the Cindy Lauper tune 'I've got a brand new pair of roller skates…'
The next morning dawned fraught with the promise of adventure - beautiful blue skies, fluffy white clouds, a gentle breeze and a balmy warm temperature. Arabella was practically giddy as she and Harry headed for Bob's to pick up Baby Blue and Ruby Red.
True to his word, Bob had unbent Ruby Red's wheel, and had unbent, de-rusted, oiled, lubricated, and then not only installed new tires, but also replaced the seat, peddles, reflectors, basket, and polished up Baby Blue until he gleamed. All that was missing was a jaunty bell and a playing card pinned to the spokes. He was again the sparkling baby blue bicycle Arabella remembered from long ago. Baby Blue fairly shone as he stood proudly next to Ruby Red, in the midst of all the black and chrome Harleys.
"'oughter to wear a helmet." Bob said hefting the bikes into the boot of Arabella's wagon. "'course I don't sell bicycle helmets here. But you two definitely 'oughter get 'em." He nodded after giving Arabella and Harry a speculative glance.
"Don't you worry Bob, I'll make sure Harry has one, and I'll be fine." Arabella assured him as she loving stroked the now shiny bicycle. "I'm not going to ride it far and I don't plan on any spills."
"Just takes one to make it worth it." Bob replied sagely.
Back at home, they left the bicycles on the car park and went into the kitchen for an early lunch. As they munched on bacon and tomato sandwiches Arabella could see the bikes beckoning them from where they left them parked on the drive. Their gleaming spokes sparkling in the late morning sun.
"I have laundry to do but as you said about dusting, if I do it now, it will just get dirty and need to be done again. I suppose just one little spin down the lane wouldn't take too much time. Shall we go?"
"YES MA'AM!" Harry shouted happily, jumping up and starting for the door. He couldn't wait to ride the beautiful red bicycle. It was what he had asked Father Christmas for the prior year, and had been so disappointed when Father Christmas gave it to Dudley instead. Father Christmas never gave him what he asked for. In fact, Father Christmas never gave him anything at all. Dudley said it was because Father Christmas didn't like him very much.
"Wait just a minute young man!" Arabella called him back with authority. "You can't ride the bike!"
Harry's heart leapt into his throat with disappointment. Mrs. Figg wasn't going to let him ride it! She was just like all the rest of the adults in his life, who only let him look and never touch. She had it fixed for Dudley not him. Just when he was just beginning to like her - cats and all.
"I- I- I can't?"
"No. Definitely not. You heard what Bob said. You can't ride the bike until you put on your helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and pads for anything else that can bend or can break."
Arabella handed him the large sack of protective gear that she had picked up at the twenty-four hour SuperMart the night before after she put him to bed.
"Oh!" he laughed relieved and stopped to gear up. By the time that the last pad was in place, Harry seriously doubted he would be able to move let alone ride a bicycle. However, if that's what it took to be allowed to get on Ruby Red, he was certainly willing to give it a try! Once again, he headed out the door, this time with Arabella close behind.
With a spring in her step, Arabella left all her responsibilities behind on the doorstep and hopped on the beautiful blue bicycle. Sure, she hadn't ridden a bike in forty some years, but they do say you never really forget how to ride a bike once you've learned.
"Now watch me closely Harry. I'll show you how to do it."
Feeling all of eight-years-old herself, Arabella plopped Mr. Paws in the basket and pushed off. Baby Blue fairly jumped down the tarmac in eagerness to be off. Too long Baby Blue had felt abandoned, too long he been left to rot in the rafters, too long had he been ignored. Well not anymore! He would show his ungrateful owner a thing or two!
Totally oblivious to the scheming sentient entity stealthily embodied in the sleek blue frame below her, Arabella was revelling in the wind blowing through her hair. Down the drive she went, around in a slow lazy circle and then up the lane, her housecoat flapping in the breeze.
"Whee!" Arabella cried out in delight, "I forgot how much fun this was! I really shouldn't have left my bicycle neglected for so long."
No, you really shouldn't have, smirked Baby Blue, and now it's time to make sure you don't ever forget me again...
"This has been fun, but I should be getting back to Harry now," Arabella thought as she tried to turn the bicycle around.
Baby Blue wouldn't turn.
"Oh no! The main road is up ahead and there's a lot of traffic!" Arabella started to panic in earnest. Seeing the danger ahead, Mr. Paws began to yowl in protest over giving up one of his nine lives over such out and out foolishness. When the bike kept going anyway, Mr. Paws leapt for safety.
Baby Blue sped up.
"I better head for that little car park at the corner market and stop." Arabella decided and angled the bicycle as much as she could in that direction. The change was slight but enough so that it wobbled into the lot, narrowly missing hitting the fire hydrant.
"I didn't forget how to ride, but I did forget how to make it stop! Stop! Please STOP!"
Baby Blue didn't stop.
"Stop! Stop! Stop!" Arabella commanded Baby Blue.
However since Arabella still hadn't had the presence of mind to use the hand breaks, and was just resorting to shouting 'Stop' as if that would somehow do something, Baby Blue decided it was his prerogative to ignore her entirely. Only on second thought, none of the alternatives to not stopping was all that great either…crash into parked cars, crash into moving cars, or…wait! …crash into that soft looking bush dead ahead.
Baby Blue laughed evilly and did just that. After all, his new best friend Bad Boy Bob had just tenderly put him back together, and he really didn't want to crash into some unforgiving hunk of metal and undo all that hard work, any more that Arabella did. He came to a stop with his front tire embedded in the large green arborvitae bush.
Arabella breathed a momentary sigh of relief until with chagrin she felt the world shifting under her in a déjà vu moment.
In slow motion, Baby Blue toppled over to the left.
"Hm…a little late to think of this but I should have put my foot down." Arabella ruefully limped back down the road nursing her pride and her bruises, pushing the still unscratched Baby Blue slowly back to the cottage.
"Wow! Mrs. Figg! That was something! I thought you were a goner for sure!" Harry pointed out with all the subtly of the eight-almost-nine-year-old he was.
"I was just illustrating why it is important to always wear your helmet. I hope you were taking notes." Mrs. Figg said primly coming to a stop in front of him and dusting herself off, just as Mr. Paws walked stiffly by with all the dignity of a very miffed cat, snubbing them both with his nose and tail held high in the air.
"Thanks - got it! Is it my turn now?" Harry asked hopefully. He was hardly able to contain himself from excitement.
"Just remember what not to do." Arabella advised, and stayed alongside steadying the red bicycle, as Harry started wobbly down the pavement slowly picking up speed.
As the wheels turned faster and faster, Harry got steadier and steadier, until Arabella finally let go and he was on his own…
… gliding smoothly down the tarmac…
… right towards the busy highway…
Ruby Red wasn't turning either. Harry hadn't been the only one taking notes from Arabella and Baby Blue's demonstration.
"Merlin! What have I done? He'll be killed!"
Arabella ran down the tarmac after the shiny red bicycle yelling "Up! Harry! Up!"
Ruby Red sped up.
Harry clung to the handlebars, closed his eyes tight, and tentatively whispered… 'Up?'
At the command, Ruby Red's tires lifted gently off the tarmac and flew over the speeding cars, to land lightly on the far side. One shiny red bicycle and one small well padded boy all thankfully still intact.
"Harry! Harry? Are you alright?" Arabella panted as she jogged up with a limp, her housecoat askew and one carpet slipper missing. She found Harry in one piece with his eyes still tightly closed.
"Wow! That was brilliant!" Harry giggled, opening his big green eyes in astonishment. "It felt for a minute as if I were really flying! Can I go again? Please?"
"Um… how about tomorrow? Right now I think I need to do something less dangerous, like bathing the cats." Arabella answered as the two started walking companionably back to the cottage, Ruby Red wheeling proudly between them.
After putting antiseptic on the multiple scratches courtesy of an even more miffed, and now wet Mr. Paws, they had a hamburger dinner, and then Arabella tucked a very tired Harry Potter into the four-poster bed and pulled the quilt up to his chin. Snowy, another one of her cats, made herself at home on his pillow, with her tail playfully tickling his ear.
"Did you have a good day?"
"Oh YES Mrs. Figg! I had the best day ever! Thank you!"
"For everything! For the food, for the bicycle ride, and for this wonderful bed to sleep in."
"You know that still puzzles me. Nearly everyone who stays in here when visiting with me complains that the mattress is lumpy. They all say they never get a wink of sleep on it. I've thought about replacing it, only it does keep their visits short so I haven't bothered. Just what do you think is so nice about it?"
Harry hesitated before answering. There were two reasons. The first was because it was a bed, simply a bed. All he ever had to sleep on at home was an old cot with a thin mattress and threadbare blanket, so this one felt luxurious to him. He couldn't think of any word big enough to describe it except for wonderful.
Mrs. Figg looked as if she really wanted to know the answer, and she looked as though she would believe him and not say he was making it all up, as his teachers at school always did.
However, Harry knew he wasn't supposed to talk about how things were at home. It would make Aunt Petunia very unhappy if she found out that he had, and if Aunt Petunia were unhappy, then so would be Uncle Vernon, and if Uncle Vernon were unhappy, he would make sure that Harry was in turn. He always got along much better with his relatives if he kept his mouth shut.
Somehow telling that to Mrs. Figg, no matter how nice she was to him, was something he just couldn't do. He was too ashamed because he felt like he deserved it. Instead, he told her the second reason, the one that made him feel all warm and cosy inside.
"Er… it's the quilt," Harry said tracing the pattern of seams with his finger.
"The quilt?" she repeated startled that he had noticed it.
"Yeah… it smells like – like…" he faltered as he searched for the right words.
"Yes?" she asked gently. "What does it smell like?"
"It smells like a mum. Like – like sunshine, sunshine and flowers… and I had really wonderful dreams sleeping under it last night. I dreamt that I had a real mummy, a real daddy, and even a real baby sister. It seemed so… real, that I didn't want to wake up."
"And you think the quilt gave you these dreams?"
Harry nodded and then shrugged. "I don't know why… it's hard to explain. But… it felt just like I was being hugged all night long. So, thank you for letting me use it."
"Oh Harry child, you are so very, very welcome."
Arabella wished so much that she could tell him why it made him feel that way. However, her orders were to watch only. As she tucked him in, she patted the patch that lay over his heart. It was an especially pretty block of light greens, white, and creamy yellow with delicate lilies printed in the floral pattern of the cotton. In one corner, tiny lettering had been painstakingly stitched with fine thread.
'With love, L.E.P. - November '79'
Arabella did some quick mental arithmetic and realized with a start that the little boy who snuggled happily under it now would have barely been a twinkle in his mother's eyes when she embroidered that.
"Do you have any kids? I mean you're a 'misses' and all, so maybe you do… but I haven't seen any around."
"No Harry," she replied sadly, "I wasn't blessed with children."
"That too bad. I think you would have made a great mum."
"Thank you Harry," Arabella laughed. "Most people say it's a good thing I wasn't one because I'm so scatterbrained that if I'd ever had a baby, I would have misplaced it somewhere and then forgot where I put it."
"You mean like my parents did me?"
"I wish I had a real family." Harry said so softly that she almost didn't hear him.
'I wish you did too Harry, I wish you did too.' Arabella thought as she tenderly placed a kiss on his forehead. "Now go to sleep."
"Sweet dreams," she whispered and as she turned out the lights, she could hear the little boy humming fragments of a lullaby to himself...
…if I close my little eyes now and… da da da
dada da dada da da in my …sleep …sleep …sleep
Arabella wondered what the words were as they brought a smile to the child's face as another wonderful dream enveloped him in sleep.
The rest of the week literally flew by with Arabella and Harry managing by the end of the week to bathe each one of her cats, defeat the dust bunnies, and take daily bicycle rides on much better behaved Baby Blue and Ruby Red. All too soon, it was Sunday evening on Mother's day and Petunia Dursley was ringing her doorbell, shouting for Harry and admonishing him for keeping them waiting.
"Hurry up lazy! We're going home and you need to unpack the car when we get there."
The little boy sadly said goodbye, as he stood on Arabella's stoop clutching the same paper bag that he had come with.
"Thank you again Mrs. Figg." Harry said politely trying to ignore his aunt shouting at him from the car while his uncle repeatedly honked the horn at him to hurry. Meanwhile, Dudley was occupying himself by pressing his face against the glass of the back window to make grotesque faces at his cousin.
"You're welcome Harry," Arabella wanted to tell the Dursleys to stuff it and pull Harry back inside with her.
"I had a really nice time. It was almost - almost like having a real mummy."
"Anytime Harry, anytime," Arabella told him, touched beyond belief. "Say… why don't I keep Ruby here for you? I think she will be better off out of Dudley's sight, and I doubt if he'll even notice she's missing."
"Thanks." Harry said with a smile as he started towards the car.
"What do you think you're doing?" Petunia screeched at him as he opened the back door to slide in next to Dudley. "There isn't room for you in the car! Run home lazybones, it's not that far. And you better be there when we get there!"
"Yes Ma'am." Harry acknowledged dutifully got back out. However, before he got very far, he remembered something and he ran back to where Arabella was standing and pressed a small piece of cardboard into her hand.
"Goodbye Mrs. Figg! Happy Mother's Day and thanks again for the holiday!" Harry then took off, running down the pavement towards Privet Drive as fast as he could, his uncle narrowly missing running him down as he passed by. As Vernon gunned the motor and roared down the lane in a cloud of exhaust, Harry turned and waived once more before he disappeared around the corner following the car.
"I think Albus and I need to have a little chat," Arabella thought to herself as she closed the door, picking up her own suitcase just as the fireplace turned green and her eldest brother's head appeared in the flames.
"You ready to go Ara?"
"Yes Aaron, I'm ready," she answered taking a deep breath as he stepped through the flames into her living room.
Her brother had come to escort her back to Hogsmeade. As a squib, while she could see magic, she didn't have enough of it herself to make it work for her. Therefore, to use the floo network someone with the ability had to take her. As Arabella took his arm and stepped into the flames, she gritted her teeth.
She loved her brothers. She truly did. She just wished they didn't have to rub their magic in her face all the time. She didn't want to drive that far in her old decrepit station wagon by herself, but she would have been perfectly happy taking the night bus to Hogsmeade instead. But no, they insisted one of them would come and get her.
Arabella derisively thought that they probably just didn't want to waste any time to start regaling her with their tales and making her feel like wallpaper – something that just hung around her house, and did very little.
And she was right – darn it.
The minute she walked in the door, it was 'poor little Arabella this' and 'poor little Arabella that', too bad you can't do magic poor, poor, little Arabella. It was the same as every other year… with one small dark haired exception.
This year it didn't bother Arabella quite so much because even if she could talk about it, her brothers would never believe that she, Arabella Doreen Figg, squib extraordinaire, had taught the saviour of the wizarding world how to fly.
When asked why she was limping, she just smiled and said she had tripped over a cat. After her knee swelled up to the size of a cantaloupe, she went to see the doctor, fortunately the x-ray did not show any breaks. She just had a slightly dislocated kneecap. However, with enough pain pills, it hadn't stopped her from riding along side Harry on daily bike treks all over Little Whinging and into the surrounding countryside. Even the bruises down the left side of her body were beginning to fade.
Sitting at the scrubbed wood table, her leg up on a neighbouring chair encased in ice packs courtesy of her overly protective brothers, who were once again convinced she didn't have the brains to look after herself.
Arabella put a vacant look on her face and zoned out of listening to them trying to out-brag each other. Calmly sipping her tea, she idly reflected instead on sentient beings disguised as bicycles.
Baby Blue had been a gift from her brothers as a substitute for the broom that she couldn't make work. She should have known that they would have imbedded a small bit of magic into it, however illegal that might have been. Therefore, she wasn't entirely surprised when the magic woke up and tried to exact revenge on her, for her impertinent use. However, what surprised her was Ruby Red. She wondered if Father Christmas got the gift tags mixed up. Perhaps he hadn't left it for Dudley after all.
The thought of gift tags made her remember the small round piece of cardboard Harry had pressed into her hand when he left. She had dropped it in her pocket when her brother had showed up so suddenly and she hadn't looked to see what it was.
Fishing it out now, she noticed that Harry had coloured the front with a gold marker and affixed a safety pin to the back with sellotape to make it into a badge. On the front, written in small lettering, was the sentiment 'Best Mum for a Day'.
Arabella smiled. Harry had made her a medal.
"I guess Bad Boy Bob was right," she mused pinning it on her blouse proudly. "It does just take one to make it worth it."