The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.
Disclaimer: As much I would like to, I do not own anything that you would recognize in this story.
A/N: Thanks, as always, to my lovely beta reader Chary for making sense out of nonsense.
This one’s for Brad and Jen who starred in the dream that inspired the dinner table scene.
A Prologue of sorts to Witnessings and Warnings
Ronaldinette Fawcett had always been known to talk. She could talk to anyone, anywhere. Wizards, Muggles, animals, giants, goblins, centaurs, merpeople, ghosts, house-elves, trolls—beast, being or ghost, Ronnie Fawcett spoke their language. The trouble was that not everyone wanted to listen.
Giants were scarce in Britain. The goblins were curt and ignored her. Centaurs just stared blankly back, which really unnerved her. The merpeople chased her with spears and set their pet Grindylows after her. All ghosts would float up and away when they saw her. Wizards wouldn’t let their house-elves speak to Ronnie. Trolls slung clubs at her. The Muggles in St. Ottery thought she was eccentric, which was true, as she sometimes—sometimes—talked to trees, but only when she needed to pour her heart out to someone.
More than anything, she wanted to own a pet that would speak to her. Acromantulas were out of the question, but she could own a Jarvey even if all she could expect were rude words and insults. She had gone to Diagon Alley several times, but every time she bought a new Jarvey from the Magical Menagerie, it would escape from her within a matter of days. And a week later, Ronnie would get a fine from the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, as the Jarvey would inevitably be found by Muggle school children.
But wizards were the worst. Ronnie had had her reputation long before she left for Hogwarts, no doubt exaggerated by her family. Her much older sister Adelphianna had been jealous of the attention Ronnie had received for the big words she used at family functions—at her parents’ biding—and started to derisively tell stories about Ronnie not being able to be still. The Blacks, to whom the Diamonds were distantly related, promptly took advantage of Adelphianna’s reports and often tried to use Ronnie to bait Muggles. When that didn’t work, they turned their attentions to other amusements, such as beheading elderly house-elves and the like.
Ronnie’s older brother Linus was the only one who didn’t take advantage of her. He wouldn’t leave her side when the Blacks were trying to get her to distract the Muggles. He accepted Ronnie as she was.
It was a miserable day when he died.
The circumstances of his death were not known for certain. All the Diamonds had to go on was that he was brewing a potion out in the cook house. A cauldron was set up and a fire was burning beneath it, but there was nothing in the cauldron. Elise, Linus’ wife, grieved deeply and Ronnie did all she could to help but to no avail. No one thought that she did too little. They hadn’t realized that she had done too much. They only thought that Elise Diamond was succumbing to madness in her grief.
A few months after Linus’ death, Ronnie was married to Raymond Fawcett, an older wizard who enjoyed Ronnie’s chatter. They lived in Cornwall, but not for long. He really was quite old and the Fawcetts were surprised that he had held on so long.
Ronnie wasn’t surprised. She knew things that no one else knew, old family secrets passed on to her from her father. Ronnie was the last to know this secret: Adelphianna had been skipped and so had Linus. Ronnie had no children. It would be she who would share the secret, this gift, with Linus’ daughter Meredith. His son Alistair would be left knowing nothing.
The day finally came when Ronnie was to tell Meredith. Ronnie, who was never much for Apparating, had Floo’d Meredith several times that day, trying to slowly lead up to the potentially dangerous revelation. Ronnie was no Seer, but she felt she desperately needed to tell Meredith today.
But Meredith Diamond had no time to chitchat with her Aunt Ronnie today. She was busy preparing dinner, so she cut short her time at the Floo and returned her attention to the task at hand. Dinner tonight had to be just right, because she was having her new boyfriend, a Muggle, over for the first time to introduce him to Alistair and his wife Nephele. Meredith was extremely nervous.
The Diamonds were a pure-blooded family, although they were not obsessed by it like the Black branch of the family. Nephele’s family was more closely related to the Blacks and knew their ways. That Elladora—the brain child behind the house-elf beheadings—had a not-so-kind way of making her views known, and had been the first to use Ronnie in Muggle baiting to entertain herself at the old family functions. The Diamonds were no longer invited to Black family functions, even the large events which were occasionally held to verify that the Black family was still “the royalty” of the wizarding world, as the invitations proudly stated.
The Diamonds, on the other hand, were not known for mingling much with the Muggles in their tiny Welsh village outside of Caernarfod. When the family still lived in London, Meredith and Alistair had been privately tutored by recent graduates of Hogwarts. Summers were spent holidaying at a private villa in Corsica. It was rather a surprise that Meredith had become involved with Stephen at all.
Meredith had a thick mutton stew beginning to boil over a purple fire, and was busy cutting up potatoes while listening to the wireless. Davina Whisper was wailing her latest tune. Meredith hummed along as she dumped the potatoes in the cauldron and sent the cutting board and knife to the sink with a flick of her wand.
I hope they like him, Meredith worried. She didn’t hear the song end and barely registered the newest report of mysterious deaths in Nottinghamshire. These deaths were becoming more and more frequent and no one really knew what to make of it. And it wasn’t something she could talk to Stephen about, since all the news he seemed to care about was a Muggle musical group breaking up over a Japanese woman.
Another flick of Meredith’s wand set the dishes washing themselves.
Meredith sighed and stared about the room. Since the Statute of Secrecy declared that Stephen should not know she was a witch, she would have to disguise all the signs of magic. The problem was that she didn’t know what all the signs were. She banished the sweets—they were bought in Diagon Alley and would most likely be something that Stephen had never heard of. She banished the supply of quills and bottles of ink on the desk. She transfigured all of her spell books into books on gardening and knitting. She threw Elephant, her old barn owl, out the window with instructions not to come back until the morning. She hid the wireless.
Nephele and Alistair came over a little early to appraise her Muggle-fication efforts. And to bring a bouquet of—
“Lilies!” Meredith exclaimed.
“Everything looks lovely!” Nephele gushed. Nephele’s mother was Muggle-born. She was a little familiar with how Muggle households should look, more than the Diamonds, at least. The Moxleys were also no longer invited to Black family functions. She conjured a vase and set the bouquet on the dining room table.
“Thanks, Nephele. Aunt Ronnie has been Flooing every half hour. It’s amazing that I was able to get anything prepared at all.”
Alistair picked up a candle from the table. “Are these from that fancy store in Diagon Alley? Do they burn blue and smell of the evening sky?” he teased.
“No. Stephen gave them to me. Perfectly harmless.”
“Aren’t candles an odd gift?” Alistair asked, making a face.
“Oh, no, Alistair! Candles are romantic!” Nephele interjected.
“And practical.” Meredith smirked. She had mentioned that she went through candles faster than, well, just about everything. The next day, Stephen unceremoniously handed her several packages of long white tapers.
“Don’t mind Alistair, Meredith, he’s playing the over-dramatic, overprotective elder brother tonight.” Nephele and Meredith shared a laugh but both cast uneasy glances at him. Alistair was five years older than Meredith and still thought of her as eleven with the Sorting Hat falling over her eyes. Alistair was a very loving elder brother but could be a bit unpredictable. Meredith was always the stable one of the family, even more so since their parents died when she was just of age.
“Do we need to get our stories straight?” Alistair asked to take the attention away from himself.
“Yes, what have you told him?”
Meredith thought for a moment. “I’ve told him that Alistair covers the Welsh rugby teams for The Times and that Nephele has an art gallery in Liverpool.”
“Well, that’s not too much of a lie,” Alistair said thoughtfully. Nephele did have an art gallery in Liverpool, where they lived, and Meredith was one of the more in-demand portrait painters. But Alistair didn’t cover Welsh rugby for The Times, he covered Welsh Quidditch for The Daily Prophet. “What if he wonders if he’s read anything I’ve written?”
“I told him that you mostly do statistics for the teams.”
“Well, then.” Alistair looked a little put out. He could hold an intelligent conversation about rugby, but he infinitely preferred Quidditch, especially if it included obscure Harpies history.
“Alistair dear, at least you won’t have to discuss The Cannons and other natural disasters.”
Alistair chuckled to himself.
There was a confident knock on the door. Meredith lit up. “That’s him!” She flew to the door and threw it open. There stood Stephen, six foot tall and dark-haired, his appearance complemented Meredith’s pale skin and dark brown hair nicely. She nearly dragged him into the house and made the introductions.
“What happened to your face?” Alistair asked rudely. Both Meredith and Nephele shot him dark looks.
Stephen merely harrumphed and touched the rather large bloody-black scab on his temple. “I fell off a mountain,” he said good-naturedly.
Alistair’s eyes narrowed. “Which mountain?” he demanded, obviously thinking of the nearby foothills of Snowdon which provided the local youth private places to snog—and other things—during the summer months.
Stephen looked more than a little uncomfortable. “Uh,” he started, because it had been precisely those foothills he’d been climbing with Meredith the previous day.
“Alistair,” Nephele said in warning.
Alistair merely turned toward the dining room and mumbled something that sounded like, “We’re the architects of our own misery.”
Nephele gave Stephen an apologetic smile and rolled her eyes.
I’m sorry, Meredith mouthed to him. He nodded in acknowledgement. “I think dinner’s ready now, so let’s go and sit down,” she said a bit forcefully. She led the way to the table.
Alistair was already seated at the head of the table, and he refused to look at Stephen as the others walked in. After Meredith served up the stew, Alistair broke the steadily mounting tension by asking Stephen what he did for a living.
While Stephen launched into a nervous monologue about his research at the university in Bangor on the geological differences between Anglesey and the mainland, Nephele noticed Meredith’s face momentarily turn a violent shade of red. Nephele glanced at the fire behind Alistair where Meredith was staring. Nothing was there, but Nephele guessed that Ronnie’s head had appeared there seconds before but thankfully did not call out to her niece. Meredith and Nephele shared an uneasy glance.
“Nephele, that’s an interesting name, that is.”
“Ah, yes, my father’s family has a tradition of naming children after stars,” she answered after a moment. Nephele had not realized that the conversation had moved on.
“That’s brilliant! Are you and Alistair going to keep up the tradition?”
“Oh, no, I’ve lost touch with my London relatives.”
“Are you from London? Brilliant. I’ve never actually been to London.” Stephen proceeded into another nervous monologue about a trip to Cardiff he took as part of his research when he first was at university. “Thought I was so important, then, I did. Thought I could move mountains.”
He laughed, and the others took it as a sign that they were to laugh, too, although Alistair muttered something like, “Humility, like darkness, reveals the heavenly lights.”
When the laughter subsided, there was another uncomfortable silence.
“So you’re from London? How did you two meet then?”
“Um, we were all at school in Scotland,” Alistair said after glancing at Meredith, who nodded discreetly.
“Stephen, how did you and Meredith meet?” Nephele politely asked.
“At a local Eisteddfod a few weeks ago,” Stephen answered immediately. “She was there singing, and I had never heard anything so beautiful.”
“When we moved to Caernarvon from London, Meredith was asked to join the choir straight away, and she was only six.” Alistair grinned at the memory. “Treat us to a song, Meredith, I haven’t heard you sing in ages.”
Taking a moment to search her memory for a non-wizarding song and only coming up with the song Stephen had first heard her sing, Meredith launched into a flattering version of “Ar Hyd y Nos”. The others clapped in appreciation, deservedly so, when she finished.
“So where was this Eisteddfod?” Alistair asked, as he took a drink of water.
“In Holyhead,” Stephen said, eager to get on Alistair’s good side.
This was not the right way, as Alistair choked on the water in his mouth. “When were you in Holyhead?” he demanded of Meredith.
“I was in Holyhead with you! You were… working so I stopped in at the Eisteddfod and they asked me to sing—”
“There’s a head in the fire!” Stephen suddenly shouted.
Three heads whipped around. There was no head in the fire anymore, no doubt startled by Stephen’s shouting, but his eyes were alight and he was still pointing a shaking finger at the fire behind Alistair. The three of them silently agreed that Stephen needed a Memory Charm put on him.
Alistair stood up, walked around the table, and gently nudged Stephen out of his chair and into the living room, saying, “Let’s see if Meredith’s got anything stronger than water…”
When Stephen was safely out of the room, the two women rushed to the fire. Meredith frowned and shook her head. “I bet it was Ronnie. I don’t know what she’s on about.”
“I’m sure that it’s important, somehow. Did you tell her that Stephen’s a Mugg—Ronnie!”
Ronnie Fawcett’s head was indeed in the fire now. The two women rushed to the fire. Ronnie turned toward Meredith. “Deary, I need a word.”
“Aunt Ronnie, now is a bad time.”
“No, Meredith, it needs to be now,” Ronnie pleaded.
“I have a guest, a Muggle, who’s already seen you in the fire. Alistair’s putting a Memory Charm on him right—”
“There’s a head in the fire!” Stephen and Alistair had come back into the dining room. Meredith jumped up and rushed to Stephen. She grabbed his hands and forced him to face her, but his head kept turning toward the fire.
“Stephen! Stephen, look at me!”
“Meredith, I need a moment. NOW!”
Meredith turned her head sharply toward the fire. Her eyes locked with her aunt’s for a moment. In that moment, Meredith felt different, her shoulders heavier, a wave of energy building inside of her, the like of which she had never known but it felt familiar, like sunshine.
“Out of the mouths of babes hast thou ordained strength,” Ronnie whispered.
Meredith’s attention turned back to Stephen. She forced his gaze to hers and instinctively released his hands and brought them up to his face. But she was not expecting what happened next.
Stephen’s face was quite warm and continued to get warmer. He blinked and suddenly his face became rounder, his cheeks and lips plumping, his five o’clock shadow disappearing, his hair becoming finer. Meredith was no longer looking into Stephen’s 24 year old eyes, but into Stephen’s one year old eyes.
“Augh!” Alistair, Nephele, and Meredith screamed in unison.
“Blast it all, fix it, Meredith!” Ronnie shouted at her.
“I can’t! I can’t! I don’t know how I did this!”
Tears were streaming down Stephen’s face. Meredith tried to drop her hands, but could not. Nephele and Alistair gripped each other tightly.
“Fix it! Fix it, Meredith! Concentrate on releasing him! The Accidental Magic Reversal Squad will be here any second! We can’t let Elladora’s family know! Concentrate!” Ronnie continued shouting.
“I can’t!” Meredith started crying. “I can’t fix it! Tell me how, Aunt Ronnie!”
Two members of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad unceremoniously burst through the door. “Drop your hands, miss!” one shouted at Meredith.
Ronnie swore under her breath. “No no no no no! No!”
“I can’t move my hands,” Meredith whimpered. The two squad members took hold of her arms and ripped them away from Stephen’s face. The baby’s head started wailing at the top of his 24 year old lungs. Meredith caught herself from falling face forward into the table.
The squad members were finally able to take a good look at Stephen. “Merlin…” said one of them in wonder. He looked at his partner, who nodded, raised his wand and shot a gold dart through the open door, which closed quietly behind it.
“What did you just do?” Ronnie demanded. Nephele and Alistair, who had been warily watching Meredith catch her breath, turned toward the squad members.
Meredith turned her head toward them as well, still supporting herself on the table, and, after taking a ragged breath, asked in a low but earnest voice, “What did you do?”
The next moment, they all knew the answer, as two Unspeakables violently burst through the door, breaking it in the process. The female Unspeakable pointed to Stephen and shouted, “Undo that!” The other Unspeakable started taking notes.
The squad members reversed the magic and put a Memory Charm on Stephen. They led him outside.
The female Unspeakable jerked a thumb toward the door. “Who’s responsible for that?” she asked aggressively.
Ronnie then did all that she thought she could do in the situation. “Never has the Prewett family been treated like this! Never! This is outrageous. There was a time when the Prewett name meant something in the world. It’s people like you, Miss Department of Mysteries, who are bringing the wizarding world down. Down, I say!” With a small pop, she was gone.
Everyone turned toward Meredith. “It was you,” the female Unspeakable said to her.
“Yes, but—but I don’t know how…”
“We need you to come with us.” She took hold of Meredith’s arm and led her to the fire. She reached into a satchel at her side and threw a handful of Floo powder into the fire. She guided Meredith into the fire and shouted, “Ministry for Magic.” With a whirl of green, Meredith was gone.
The two Unspeakables nodded at each other and Disapparated, leaving Alistair and Nephele Diamond wondering what exactly was happening to their family.
Twenty minutes later, Ronnie Fawcett silently Apparated outside the house her beloved brother Linus had once lived in. Such happy memories this house had once held, but now it reeked of old magic and sadness. She opened the repaired door, without knocking, and found her nephew and his wife sitting at the dining room table looking flabbergasted. Alistair noticed her first.
“Aunt Ronnie, what happened here?”
“Nothing happened here, Alistair deary. Nephele, you had better put a Memory Charm on him and then have him put one on you.”
“But, why?” Nephele asked, her voice shaking slightly.
“Yes, you said that nothing happened here.”
“Dearies, it’s for your own protection. You will probably never see Meredith as you know her again. The Ministry will take her essence and she will be driven mad, just like your mother, just like…” Ronnie’s voice caught. “Just like my Raymond.”
Alistair and Nephele exchanged worried glances.
“Ronnie, we don’t understand,” Nephele said helplessly.
Ronnie shifted her weight. She looked Nephele in the eye. “I’ll tell you only once, and only what you need to know. The Black family can never know what happened here. They’ve always been jealous of the Diamonds, especially Elladora, because of this power. But they can NEVER know! Never! They won’t know how to use it properly. And… and if they know that we still have it, it will be the death of us.” She turned to Alistair, pleadingly. “Please, don’t let them find out,” she whispered.
“We won’t, Aunt Ronnie,” Alistair agreed, feigning as much agreeableness as he could muster. He cast a sideways glance at Nephele. She gave him a small smile and a tentative nod.
A/N II: The Misery quote I originally heard from my "betrothed" Martin, only to find out later it's from Alcoholics' Anonymous. Not that Martin's an alcoholic. The Humility quote is by Henry David Thoreau in Walden. The “Out of the mouths of babes” quote is paraphrased from Psalms 8:2. This a prologue of sorts to Witnessings and Warnings. Also see Owls In the Night to see the whole picture.
With apologies to Sylvia Plath.