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Sirius, I need you to set off at once. You are to alert Remus Lupin, Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher... the old crowd. - Albus Dumbledore

The above quote (from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) refers to members of the original Order of the Phoenix, from the wizarding war against Voldemort.

The name which particularly interests me is Arabella Figg, also known as the Dursleys' elderly neighbour with a house that smells like cats.

It's later revealed that:

She's actually a Squib (wizard-born, but no magic) instead of a Muggle

after she

Helps Harry and Dudley escape from the dementors.

I fully realise why this would offend Voldemort and the Death Eaters, and why Mrs Figg would be at risk during the first war. I just don't know how she'd be able to participate in active resistance against a merciless magic-wielding army.

Wouldn't she actually be a liability to this group? She'd have no means of defending herself if she were to be tortured, or subject to legilimency, to reveal the whereabouts of the rest of the Order.

Why was Mrs Figg allowed to be in the Order of the Phoenix? What was her role in resisting the rise of Voldemort? Are there any sources for this?

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    Squibs aren't registered by the Ministry of Magic. They are overlooked, and hence they could act as spies in a limited capacity – Simpleton Jul 26 '18 at 16:00
  • @Simpleton That only makes a difference if Voldemort had access to the Ministry of Magic records during the first war. – AJFaraday Jul 26 '18 at 16:01
  • Oh so your question is only about the First War? My answer could use editing then, as for now it mainly tackles the interwar period. Then again, Dumbledore is a foresighted man. – Jenayah Jul 26 '18 at 16:04
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    Since Rookwood (a known deatheater) was an Unspeakable in the top-secret Department of Mysteries, I think it's safe to assume that he had access to mere records in the Ministry – Simpleton Jul 26 '18 at 16:08
  • Technically she doesn't help Harry escape from the Dementors at all. How would she be able to? No. She makes sure he doesn't put his wand away and helps get Dudley and Harry back inside. That's after the attack isn't it? – Pryftan Jul 27 '18 at 1:28
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Not every resistance is active.

Think of her as an undercover, passive agent.

Squibs aren't as much registered as wizards: (quote courtesy of this answer and this one)

"We have no record of any witch or wizard living in Little Whinging, other than Harry Potter," said Madam Bones at once. "That situation has always been closely monitored, given ... given past events."

"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."
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 8, The Hearing).

So that means Death Eaters probably don't have the means to track her - they might not even care to look for Squibs who might be involved in this fight, if they consider the possibility.

She's also a protection against the Dursleys. A boring one, indeed (crazy cat lady), but better a role-playing ally of Dumbledore's than an actual awful Muggle. (again, quote snatched here)

"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 ... but oh my word," she said tragically.

(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 2, A Peck of Owls).


Dumbledore also includes people from various horizons in the Order. Think of Mundungus, spy among the crooks: (quote courtesy of this answer)

“How come he’s in the Order?’ Harry said, very quietly. ‘He’s useful,’ Sirius muttered. ‘Knows all the crooks – well, he would, seeing as he’s one himself. But he’s also very loyal to Dumbledore, who helped him out of a tight spot once. It pays to have someone like Dung around, he hears things we don’t. But Molly thinks inviting him to stay for dinner is going too far. She hasn’t forgiven him for slipping off duty when he was supposed to be tailing you.” (Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 5, The Order of the Phoenix).

Really, resistance is not just about being able to go in there guns wands blazing. There are logistics to consider, and Arabella Figg falls under that category, even if she would indeed probably not be able to hold her own in an actual fight.

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    I don’t know about that last bit. When Dung reappears after the Dementor attack, Mrs Figg seems to be doing all right against a trained wizard, despite being armed only with a shopping net full of cat food. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 26 '18 at 16:04
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    @JanusBahsJacquet I'm not sure Dung counts as much as a "trained wizard" than Death Eaters, but that's another debate, right? :D – Jenayah Jul 26 '18 at 16:06
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    Side comment: Mrs Figg breeds cats. One Death Eater can transform into a rat. Cats eat rats. Off-chance of having one less Death Eater around :) – Jenayah Jul 26 '18 at 16:22
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    I think it would have been great to see a squib, any squib, pull out an assault rifle and go down in a blaze of glory taking a dozen death eaters with them. – Jun Kang Jul 26 '18 at 20:39
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    @JunKang It'd be even better without the "go down" part. ;) – jpmc26 Jul 26 '18 at 23:48
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The previous answer made it clear that resistance does not necessarily have to be active. There were many tasks that Mrs. Figg may have had. I'd like to add some points :

'Why was Mrs Figg allowed to be in the Order of the Phoenix?'

  • The Order could not pretend to fight Voldemort and the Death Eaters and discriminate people who were not "true wizards". It would be quite a lack of consistency.
  • Even if they didn't care for consistency, it was not Dumbledore's style to do such things : to stay in the Squib theme, he employed Filch (also a Squib) for years (and despite the fact that his competences are questionable, but that's another subject^^) ; he also hired a Werewolf teacher for instance, or took Mundungus in the Order.
  • On a pragmatic line, the Order needed every good will person it could hire, whatever their talents were :

    • People were terrified and there were probably not so many willing to put themselves and their families at risk

      Dark days, Harry. Didn't know who ter trust, didn't dare get friendly with strange wizards or witches... terrible things happened. He was takin' over. 'Course, some stood up to him -- an' he killed 'em. Horribly. Philosopher's Stone

    • Many members of the Orders died (or were made unable of anything).

      Harry took the photograph. [...]

      ‘There’s me,’ said Moody, [...] ‘And there’s Dumbledore beside me, Dedalus Diggle on the other side ... that’s Marlene McKinnon, she was killed two weeks after this was taken, they got her whole family. That’s Frank and Alice Longbottom –’> [...]

      ‘– poor devils,’ growled Moody. ‘Better dead than what happened to them ... and that’s Emmeline Vance, you’ve met her, and that there’s Lupin, obviously ... Benjy Fenwick, he copped it too, we only ever found bits of him ... [...]

      ‘That’s Edgar Bones ... brother of Amelia Bones, they got him and his family, too, he was a great wizard ... Sturgis Podmore, blimey, he looks young ... Caradoc Dearborn, vanished six months after this, we never found his body ... Hagrid, of course, looks exactly the same as ever ... Elphias Doge, you’ve met him, I’d forgotten he used to wear that stupid hat ... Gideon Prewett, it took five Death Eaters to kill him and his brother Fabian, they fought like heroes ... [...]

      ‘That’s Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth, only time I ever met him, strange bloke ... that’s Dorcas Meadowes, Voldemort killed her personally ... Sirius, when he still had short hair ... Order of the Phoenix

I think that's why she had to be "allowed" in the Order.

'Wouldn't she actually be a liability to this group? She'd have no means of defending herself if she were to be tortured, or subject to legilimency, to reveal the whereabouts of the rest of the Order.'

And yes she was less able to magically defend herself, but she was also probably more discreet and less likely to be a direct target. And anyhow, being a wizard, and even a great one didn't protect from torture, legilimency or death (so many examples there : the Longbottoms, the Potters, Mad'Eye, Sirius aso aso). I think anyone who entered the Order knew the risks.

'What was her role in resisting the rise of Voldemort?'

Concerning her tasks in the Order during the first war (I understand it's the first war you're interested into), I don't know. It's not told in the 4 first books of course, and I don't recall anything in the others... I think we can only guess, and like Jenayah said, two obvious options are spying and logistics (helping at Grimmauld Place, communication between the members, transport, medical attention, there are many possibilities).

  • Good catch on the "not many people were willing to fight". Of course there are risks, but even in our world, you'd find that it's not always the more "inherently powerful" who enroll into the fight/activism. +1! – Jenayah Jul 27 '18 at 14:55
  • @jenayah it's our choices that make us who we are ! ^^ – LilyM Aug 8 '18 at 9:05
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She was probably a spy. We know that during the First Wizarding War, the Ministry used McGonagall as a spy because she was an Animagus (with a cat form). Mrs. Figg would have the perfect cover, a Squib, living almost as a Muggle, would not be on Voldemort's top suspect list. Her home could also serve as a secret Order safe house.

But evidence from this scene, when Moody shows Harry a photo of the original Order of the Phoenix points me in a different direction:

'Poor devils,' growled Moody. 'Better dead than what happened to them ... and that's Emmeline Vance, you've met her, and that there's Lupin, obviously ... Benjy Fenwick, he copped it too, we only ever found bits of him ... shift aside there,' he added, poking the picture, and the little photographic people edged sideways, so that those who were partially obscured could move to the front. 'That's Edgar Bones ... brother of Amelia Bones, they got him and his family, too, he was a great wizard ... Sturgis Podmore, blimey, he looks young ... Caradoc Dearborn, vanished six months after this, we never found his body ... Hagrid, of course, looks exactly the same as ever ... Elphias Doge, you've met him, I'd forgotten he used to wear that stupid hat ... Gideon Prewett, it took five Death Eaters to kill him and his brother Fabian, they fought like heroes ... budge along, budge along ...'

The little people in the photograph jostled among themselves and those hidden right at the back appeared at the forefront of the picture.

'That's Dumbledore's brother Aberforth, only time I ever met him, strange bloke ... That's Dorcas Meadowes, Voldemort killed her personally ... Sirius, when he still had short hair ... and ... there you go, thought that would interest you!'

Arabella Figgs is never mentioned, so maybe she was only in the Order in the 2nd war. But it is entirely possible that she joined after the photo was taken. During the Second War she had a crucial part to play, making sure that someone in the Order was always tailing Harry, so maybe she wasn't actually in the Order during the first war although she was friendly with them.

And if Arabella Figg wanted to join during the 1st War, I don't think the Order would refuse her entry, although they might advise her against it.

  • It might be worth registering your account if you're interested in participating on the site! – TheLethalCarrot Jul 30 '18 at 16:10
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As others have pointed out, there are plenty of aspects of wars that don't involve active fighting. For reference, the U. S. Department of Defense has 742,000 civilian employees (compared to 1.3 million active duty troops and 826,000 National Guard members), meaning that over a quarter of its employees are non-combat.

For example, Dumbledore evidently had a large number of confidential informants during both wars (who by definition didn't fight for him, but still played a critical role in giving him actionable intelligence), most notably

Severus Snape, who told Dumbledore that Voldemort intended to kill the Potters (among other things).

Arabella Figg would, in many ways, be an ideal individual for a wide variety of non-combat roles given that Voldemort would probably look down on - and therefore ignore - Squibs. Voldemort's arrogance made him blind to the fact that non-Wizards (e.g. House Elves) could significantly harm his cause.

  • It is established that squibs are looked down on by the wizarding community, even those who accept muggle-born wizards. They're thought to shame pure-blood wizarding families (the Dumbledors, for instance). I feel like squibs would be at more risk from the Death Eaters, not less. – AJFaraday Jul 27 '18 at 14:59
  • @AJFaraday Voldemort wouldn't have thought that she was a threat, though - by way of example, consider the fact that he didn't realize that Kreacher might survive his experience in the cave (and therefore be able to steal his Horcrux and give the Trio critical information). – EJS Jul 27 '18 at 15:00
  • They would have under-valued her, no doubt, but I see no reason that would save her life. – AJFaraday Jul 27 '18 at 15:04
  • @AJFaraday I think the "saving her life" part comes from her life not being threatened to begin with, since Death Eaters just overlook Squibs. They probably don't know she even exists, and for them to learn her role, they'd have to fetch it from someone else in the Order - who won't rat, or just be killed if Voldemort's not in the mood for torture. Hiding in plain sight. – Jenayah Jul 27 '18 at 15:08
  • In addition, I'd add that Squibs are not "more at risk from the Death Eaters" during the war. Afterwards, probably, but during the war, main concern's the Muggle-borns (see the expulsions from Hogwarts, the roundups, etc) and getting rid of the front line of the resistance (i.e. what you called "active resistance", wands blazing etc). – Jenayah Jul 27 '18 at 15:13

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