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.
The Recipient is the second part of The Specimen and is about a few things referred to at the end of Consequences. It is not necessary to have read either.
A/N: This story is dedicated to my volleyball playing cousin Andrea; to my college friends Carrie, Sandy, Melanie, Gretchen and Mandy – who loved themselves in spite of appearances; to all the tall girls in the world who ever suffered the indignity of shopping in the Men’s Department for jeans long enough to cover their ankles; and, especially, to my “sister” Alisha, who sees not as man seeth, but looketh on the heart.
Part I: The Dress Robes
I know that you might never understand the way I feel
I made a promise to myself that I would never let it show
--Face to Face, Velocity
At the age of 12, Meredith Diamond was five foot nine inches tall and rather hoped that she had stopped growing. (After all, five foot nine inches was a respectable height, although one she had reached rather early in her life.)
She was wrong.
At the age of 15, Meredith Diamond was five foot eleven and one half inches tall and hoped to Morgana that she would stop growing soon. After all, five foot eleven inches was quite tall, particularly for a girl who hated to stand out in a crowd.
She, indeed, did soon stop growing.
But ‘soon’, like ‘romantic’ and ‘beautiful’ and ‘large dog’, is a relative term. Your ‘soon’ may be much shorter than my ‘soon’. And it is safe to say that Meredith Diamond’s ‘soon’ is infinitely shorter than either of our ‘soons’.
At the delicate age of 16, Meredith Diamond was six foot tall and in no danger of growing any taller. This was a relief in many ways. Meredith was already taller than her friends and her sisters, and her sisters’ friends and her friends’ sisters. In short, Meredith was by far the tallest girl at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and she hated it.
Meredith’s height received a lot of attention from her fellow students during her first five years at Hogwarts. She hated that attention and did all that she could to avoid it. She slouched, for one, and she walked around the castle, head bent, looking at the floor. She was always the first to sit and the last to stand.
Meredith was the tallest among the First Years – the only one whose feet touched the ground as they sat on the stool being Sorted. She was the tallest among the Second and Third Years as well. Her fourth year, some of the boys caught up to her and the students finally stopped noticing how tall she really was.
Her fifth year, the students had forgotten about her for the most part. Meredith was glad that the (in her opinion) unwarranted attention had ceased but she began to be sorry that no one seemed to remember her at all. She wasn’t a bad person. She was nice and intelligent and generous and talented. The students of Hogwarts would all know this if they would just take a little time to get to know her instead of gape at her awkward height, when they bothered to notice her at all.
Her sixth year, Meredith was very sorry that the attention she had hated could not to be recovered, as it was the first time in many, many years that Hogwarts was hosting the Triwizard Tournament and she was losing hope of ever being asked to the Yule Ball. As it was, the only people who knew Meredith were her Ravenclaw housemates and a few Hufflepuffs in her year who received her help in Potions.
Meredith knew with whom with she would like attend the Ball, but it was too much to hope that Cedric Diggory – they had always been on very good terms – would think to ask her, especially as he was a Triwizard Champion. Indeed, it was too much to wish for, even for Morgana, who probably didn’t interfere with school girl crushes.
Meredith’s Yule Ball dreams were dashed one evening in December when Cho Chang came into the Ravenclaw common room and loudly announced her good fortune to her large group of giggly friends. The fifth-year girl was all smiles for several days. Meredith was sick to her stomach and sick in her heart, and cried herself to sleep three nights in a row. There was no use to hope to Morgana any longer.
As Meredith was neither asked by anyone to the Yule Ball, nor could bring herself to do the asking, she carefully rewrapped her new gauzy bronze dress robes in tissue and put them away in a box at the bottom of her trunk.
She hoped that she would never have to see those dress robes ever again. That hope was the most she could muster in her disappointed state.
Meredith had balked when she saw ‘Dress Robes’ among the N.E.W.T.-level course books on her book list for the coming term. She had two sets of perfectly serviceable dress robes already, as she often had to attend openings at her mother’s art gallery in Liverpool. She didn’t need new dress robes. But Nephele Diamond, sensing that this could be a much needed boost to Meredith’s waning self-esteem, had set her foot down and had taken her two youngest daughters to Diagon Alley at the earliest opportunity.
Madam Malkin was delighted, as always, to see the Diamond family. The Diamonds were a photogenic family of tall girls. The two eldest – Diana and Elizabeth – were bright and popular. Diana had been Head Girl at Hogwarts and Elizabeth had been a prefect for three years. Faye – the youngest – was just as bright and just as popular as her eldest sisters, but had one material advantage over them: she was very pretty. Madam Malkin had a secret desire of contracting Faye Diamond to model her designs in the print adverts she frequently put in The Daily Prophet and Young Witch Magazine. She would offer Faye a contract the moment she left Hogwarts. In the meantime, she made sure to cater to every need of Faye and all her family.
As much as Madam Malkin coveted Faye’s services as a model, the Diamond daughter Madam Malkin admired most was Meredith. While Diana, Elizabeth and Faye were all grey-eyed and dark-haired, Meredith was blonde and brown-eyed and so very tall. She was a challenge to dress and a challenge to dress well, as all but the Hogwarts-required black work robes had to be custom-made for Meredith; Madam Malkin simply did not stock women’s dress robes long enough.
Madam Malkin had spent two hours that afternoon personally displaying fabrics in varying hues and textures for Nephele and her daughters. After much discussion and rolling of eyes and stony glances, an iridescent aubergine organza had been selected for Faye and a gauzy, shimmery bronze georgette for Meredith. ‘The robes will be ready in a week,’ Madam Malkin had promised.
A week later, Nephele suppressed a smile as she silently handed Meredith a box containing her new dress robes. Nephele knew that Meredith would look wonderful in the new robes but also knew that Meredith needed to come to that conclusion herself. And that might take some time.
Ten minutes after trying on her new robes, Meredith did indeed come to that conclusion herself.
And that is why, after not receiving a longed-for invitation to the Yule Ball, Meredith decided to take that box at the bottom of her trunk home and to leave it there.
She informed Professor Flitwick of her intention of going home, outside Liverpool, for the holidays three days before the Hogwarts Express was to depart. Meredith looked forward to the train ride, but with a heavy heart. She wanted the comfort of being at home with her parents for the holidays but knew that she would be riding on the train alone since the other Ravenclaws in her year were all going to the Ball. Her sister Faye, a third year, had been asked to the Ball as well.
Meredith lounged comfortably in her own compartment on the train, reading the recipes column in Witch Weekly. Perhaps her mother would allow her to do the cooking for Christmas dinner. She had tasted the most wonderful goulash at the Feast the night that the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang arrived, and wanted to make it for her parents. There was also a recipe for raspberry cordial in the magazine she wanted to try. And a cheese ball!
Suddenly the prospect of spending the holidays at home was more than just for comfort and more than just a second-choice option for the partnerless and the hopelessly tall. Christmas dinner with just her parents was something Meredith had never had before as she always had at least two sisters at home the same time as she, and that thought was quite pleasing.
For Christmas dinner, Nephele Diamond insisted on dress robes.
There were many reasons why Nephele was insisting on dress robes, but when pressed, ‘It’s Christmas dinner!’ was her only defence.
Her husband, Alistair, raised an eyebrow at her, ready to argue the point: It was Christmas Day and for the first time in a very long time, he didn’t have a Quidditch match to report on. (Alistair had for many years reported on Welsh Quidditch for The Daily Prophet, but the past summer had finally published a book of obscure Holyhead Harpies trivia, statistics, and a detailed account of that famous 1953 game against the Heidelberg Harriers, which he had been writing for ten years, entitled Winged Women and Winged Snitches: Glynnis Griffiths and the Sennight-long Game.) All Alistair wanted this holiday was to rest and enjoy this time with his wife and daughter. But he saw that look in Nephele’s eyes and knew that it would be easier to just quietly comply.
Meredith spent the whole of the morning in the kitchen preparing the meal. As she peeled and cut potatoes, she hummed. She was surprised to hear the sound coming from her mouth. She listened carefully to herself. It took several moments to place the tune. O Come All Ye Faithful. She laughed, delighted that Dumbledore thought to enchant the Hogwarts suits of armour to sing carols this year. The thoughtfulness made this holiday all the more pleasing.
After carefully dressing and arranging her hair in long waves down her back, Meredith stood up to properly see herself in her full-length mirror. She was pleased with what she saw. The colour of the robes set off her hair (her most beloved asset) and made her skin seem less pale, if that was possible. All in all, Meredith believed that she would have made some boy a very pretty partner indeed, if a boy had asked her to the Ball, and she was only just a bit sorry that she hadn’t had the mirror’s final confirmation before she had come home.
The mirror had once belonged to her aunt Meredith, her father’s younger sister and her namesake, who had died when she was almost three years old after suffering from madness for ten years. By all accounts, her aunt had been a pleasant, talented girl. Her father missed her terribly. Meredith wondered briefly if she was very like her aunt, but then decided that she probably wasn’t. Her father had never commented on it and he never seemed to have sullen fits when she was around. Then she remembered there were so few blondes in her family that is was very likely that Aunt Meredith had had dark hair like Diana, Elizabeth and Faye.
There was a loud, echoing knock on the front door. Who could that be? Meredith thought as she left her bedroom to see to the door. She found her elder sister Elizabeth, who was holding up her left hand for her mother to see her new engagement ring, and her boyfriend – no, her fiancé – Rick Bessel.
Meredith’s spirits fell.
Meredith felt very bad that she could not be more enthusiastic for her sister. She loved Elizabeth dearly but found it very hard to be happy with and for her. The engagement – while not wholly surprising, as the family had been awaiting its announcement for weeks – just served as a reminder to Meredith that there were things in this world she might never experience.
To be in love at Christmastime – like Elizabeth and Rick – however fleeting or typical, was destined to be one of them, no matter how often or how earnestly Morgana was applied to.
Meredith sat in the parlour with her parents and her sister and future brother-in-law much longer than she wanted to. All aspects of the wedding were discussed at least twice – from the date of the wedding to the location of the ceremony to the flowers in the bouquet of each of the three (or four) bridesmaids and the matron of honour.
Nothing was decided on.
And only as Elizabeth and Rick were putting on their cloaks as they were leaving did Elizabeth ask about Faye’s absence. ‘Did she decide to stay at school for the holiday?’
Meredith quickly left the room, but stood at the top of the stairs to listen as Nephele told Elizabeth about the Yule Ball.
‘Faye was asked by a Seventh Year?’ Elizabeth asked, surprised. ‘And Meredith wasn’t asked?’
‘No,’ Nephele said quietly. ‘I think she’s quite upset about it, too, but she’s putting on a good face for us.’
‘Poor Meredith. Were those the dress robes she was going to wear to the Ball? She looked lovely in them. A real head-turner.’
‘Ah, yes. I had Madam Malkin make them up for her and was quite pleased with how they came off. And I had hoped that Meredith would love them too.’
‘I’m sure she does, Mum. She wouldn’t have worn them tonight if she hadn’t.’
Nephele sighed. ‘I’m just sorry that more people couldn’t see her in them.’
Meredith hurried to her bedroom. She did not want to hear her mother and sister pity her any more. She would rather pity herself in the privacy of her own room. Which she did. And I am sorry to say that she cried herself to sleep again that night.
A/N II: I feel that there are somethings that I need to explain. The Recipient is a story that I've thought about for several months. Yes, Meredith is not in top form in this chapter, but we've found her at her lowest point. Things will get better for her, but better, like attractive and formidable and huge spider, is a relative term. ;)
Thanks need to go to kelleypen, Honeybee, and alphabet for naming Meredith's sisters. Bessel was the last name of the first person to suggest that the star Sirius was affected by a second star, later found to be Sirius B. (That will make sense at the end of this story.) Thanks to magicaljules, grover53, Coquillage, Kit the Brave, Echo, Pineapple Queen, and MissDaisy for reading parts of this in the early stages and encouragement. Thanks, as always, to my lovely beta reader Chary for making sense out of nonsense.