The Sugar Quill
Author: Genesse (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Recipient  Chapter: The Third Task
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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.





The Recipient


Part II: The Third Task

Everyday I see these
Same four walls that keep me here
And I want to change the things that hurt
I want to end this constant fear

--Face to Face, Velocity

Hogwarts.

There is hardly a sight in this world more worth seeing than the castle silhouetted against the night sky. Night time was when it was at its best, after all. All the lighted windows, the owls swooping though the sky, the moon, the stars.

Sometimes I – as are many, many others, I’m sure – am hypnotised by those lighted windows. They represent such promise for the future. Hope. Possibilities. And expectations.

Rubeus Hagrid was one of those who was overwhelmed at the sight.

Hagrid would often stop and take in the scene joyfully when he walked about the grounds or to and from the castle or the village. It reminded him of coming to school when he was eleven. How proud his father had been! Hagrid had been both excited and terrified as he had boarded the Hogwarts Express. So many things he would learn, so many people he would come to know! Even though it had been dark times, he knew that Hogwarts was where he was meant to be.

And then he had arrived at Hogwarts. The silhouetted castle and its bright windows were a vision of beauty to his tired eyes.

It’s a pity the students don’t get to see Hogwarts like this often, he thought.

That particular Spring night, Hagrid was standing a ways from the castle doors, gazing at the lit windows when out of the corner of his eye he saw furtive movement and a the sudden flare of lit wands. He squinted until he could just make out who was out of the castle at that time of night. It was one of the Diamond girls leaving Greenhouse Two.

Lovely family, Hagrid thought, you can spot those girls a mile off, their skin’s so pale they seem to glow in the dark. Meredith. Who’s that with her? Ah, Professor Sprout herself!

Hagrid walked over to greet them. ‘All righ’, Professor? Miss Diamon’?’

‘Fine, thanks, Hagrid. And yourself?’ Meredith asked carefully. Out of habit, she scanned the area behind him for Blast-Ended Skrewts. Meredith had received more than one nasty burn and more than one deep cuts during her N.E.W.T.-level Care of Magical Creatures lessons first term. Now that the Skrewts were almost as long as she was tall, she did not want to find out how much damage they could inflict.

‘Jus’ enjoyin’ an evenin’ stroll.’

‘Miss Diamond was just helping me with the hedges,’ Professor Sprout said pointedly.

Hagrid glanced furtively at the Quidditch pitch. As much as he liked Meredith – after all, she was one of his sixth-year students – he wasn’t entirely sure that any of the students should be helping with this last task. But as the champions were to be shown what was to come in the next day or so, it probably wasn’t a bad idea to have Meredith Diamond help. In just a month, those hedges need to be twenty feet tall, he reminded himself. Of all the students at Hogwarts, Meredith Diamond is the one who could help the most. She’s very talented with practical magic. Very talented. Rubbish at theoretical, though. But she has a magical touch, I must say.

‘Then ye’ve got the righ’ girl for the job, Professor, she’s got a magical touch,’ Hagrid said jovially. He nodded to the women and continued on to his hut at the edge of the forest.

At his door, he stopped and took one more look at the castle. He’d experienced a lot of heartache since arriving at Hogwarts all those years ago. A lot of heartache. But the joy so outweighed it, Hagrid knew at that moment he would never, ever trade one moment of it.

~*~

Meredith Diamond was one of the few Ravenclaws who liked the gamekeeper and enjoyed his classes. Even before the derogatory story appeared in The Daily Prophet about his giantess mother earlier that year, Meredith knew that Hagrid was a kindred spirit. Who else could empathise with Meredith on the distinction their heights gave to them? Who else would understand the need to be liked for who he was inside and not for the attribute which unjustly set him apart from the rest of the school. Who else indeed?

And Hagrid was one of the few people, teachers aside, who actually did recognise her talents. Which, beside her hair, were one of the few things about herself that Meredith took pride in.

There were so many things that came naturally to her that Meredith could not help but stand a little straighter and beam a little brighter when someone acknowledged them. And that compliment Hagrid paid her, back when she and Professor Sprout had started growing the hedges for the Third Task, carried Meredith for days and got her through several dreadful Potions lessons.

Not that Potions lessons were normally not dreadful, but ever since Meredith had begun her sixth year, she had noticed that Professor Snape stared at her peculiarly, not often enough that other students noticed, but enough that it unnerved her. That past month, since meeting Hagrid on the grounds while she was helping Professor Sprout, Snape had glanced at her several times and then absently rubbed his left forearm. Meredith did not know what it meant and did not care to.

In all her time at Hogwarts, Professor Snape had never addressed her directly. Her sisters had also, at one time or another, said the same thing of him, almost as if he was unconsciously avoiding the entire family. Her parents were not acquainted with him so they could not proffer any opinions on the matter.

The afternoon of the Third Task, Meredith walked into the Great Hall for lunch and was surprised to see Bill Weasley sitting at the Gryffindor table. Bill and Charlie Weasley were friends of her eldest sister Diana and her husband Greg. Bill waved hello to her, and she spent the rest of the day elated. She wasn’t sure, as she was predisposed, if he would remember her from the wedding three summers before.

Bill was sitting with a woman who was obviously his mother, his little sister, Harry Potter, and his younger brothers. Meredith didn’t really know Ron, but she was in the same year as the twins and knew enough to not get too close to either of them when they were smiling.

Meredith watched the Weasley family through lunch and again at dinner. From what she could tell, the Weasleys were fiercely supportive of one another, but that was hardly surprising as they were family of boys and a girl who was the youngest. Her own family was one that lived to satisfy outward appearances: her parents both came from old pureblood families, although her maternal grandmother was Muggle-born. Her parents were both very successful and couldn’t spend much time away from their jobs, although Alistair’s career as a writer and a journalist meant that his schedule was varied and unpredictable.

Meredith – who felt things so deeply and believed things so easily, almost without question and without hesitation – wondered what it would be like if her family was more like the Weasleys: what would it be like if she didn’t have to guess how her family felt about her. She wouldn’t have to eavesdrop in hallways because it would all be out there in the open.

What would it be like if their outward appearances didn’t matter so very much?

~*~

Later that evening, Meredith sat in the stands of the Quidditch stadium behind her sister Faye and felt a shiver of anticipation sweep through her. She eyed the twenty-foot tall hedge with pride. They were full and verdant. Things of beauty, really. She and Professor Sprout had come out to the Quidditch pitch a few days earlier and had admired them together.

Meredith absentmindedly played with Faye’s dark hair as she watched several of her teachers walk into the stadium and talk to the champions before the Task was to begin.

‘Don’t you think Professor Moody’s creepy, Meredith?’ Faye asked, turning around to face her.

‘He’s very creepy. I’m glad he’s not coming back next year.’

‘Me too. I wish Snape would leave, as well.’

‘That’s not very likely,’ said Eddie Carmichael, who was sitting to Faye’s left.

‘Hmph.’ Meredith felt the same as Faye, but it was useless to argue the point. She could see Professor Snape sitting in the lower stands with the Slytherins. Meredith quickly averted her gaze; she didn’t want to risk Snape catching her staring.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament is about to begin! Let me remind you how the points currently stand! Tied in first place, on eighty-five points each – Mr Cedric Diggory and Mr Harry Potter, both of Hogwarts School!’ Ludo Bagman announced.

Everyone in the stands cheered, some politely, some enthusiastically. The sudden outburst of noise sent birds in the forest into the sky. Cho Chang, who was sitting with all her giggly friends and having her hands squeezed nearby, beamed down at the pitch.

‘In second place, on eighty points – Mr Viktor Krum, of Durmstrang Institute!’

There was more applause.

‘And in third place – Miss Fleur Delacour, of Beauxbatons Academy.’

The boys on either side of Faye started laughing and pointed at Roger Davies sitting some rows below them. Roger pointedly ignored them.

‘So … on my whistle, Harry and Cedric! Three – two – one –’ Bagman whistled sharply and Potter and Cedric ran toward the maze. The whole of Hufflepuff House was sitting together with the yellow-and-black scarves and yellow banners. They cheered enthusiastically for several minutes.

‘On my whistle, Mr Krum! Three – two – one –’ Bagman whistled sharply again and Krum ran toward the entrance of the maze.

The boys sitting with Faye started rehashing Krum’s performance at the Quidditch World Cup the previous summer. Meredith’s friends stole furtive, jealous glances at Hermione Granger, who was sitting with Bill and his mother and one of his brothers.

‘On my whistle, Miss Delacour! Three – two – one –’ Bagman whistled sharply one last time and Fleur ran into the maze.

As McGonagall, Moody, Flitwick and Hagrid paced outside the maze, everyone discussed what kind of obstacles the champions would encounter.

‘I bet the last two Skrewts are in there,’ Eddie Carmichael was saying to Faye when someone in the maze screamed. Everyone looked around uneasily. Meredith had goose pimples on her arms. She watched as the professors hurriedly gathered together. After a huddled discussion, Hagrid disappeared into the maze and reappeared in a few moments carrying a limp and unmoving Fleur Delacour.

Everyone in the stands quieted down as McGonagall revived Fleur and Madame Maxime hovered over her, wringing her hands. Madame Maxime led Fleur to a tent.

The crowd in the stands slowly grew animated and there was some talk of the exams they had just finished that day when red sparks shot up from within the maze. Hagrid again disappeared into the maze and reappeared, this time leading a confused looking Viktor Krum.

‘It’s down to Diggory and Potter,’ the boy on Faye’s right said.

‘Who do you think will take it?’ Eddie asked.

‘Potter, as much as I hate to say it.’

‘Really? I’m still for Diggory.’

There was a brief flash of light that came from the middle of the maze. Everyone sat up straight in their seats expecting the winner to appear before them, triumphantly holding the Cup above his head. But no one appeared. After what seemed like hours, Professor Karkaroff abruptly stood up from his chair at the judges’ table and dashed out of the stadium.

‘He must have had the lentil soup at dinner, too,’ the boy on the right said with a burp.

‘That’s disgusting, Kenneth! Haven’t you any manners?’ Faye said.

The Durmstrang students didn’t take their headmaster’s disappearance as lightly. They all looked very worried. Snape walked down to the judges’ table and pulled Dumbledore away. After several minutes, Dumbledore walked quickly back to the maze and beckoned Professor McGonagall to where Snape stood in the shadows.

They whispered furiously and had just turned their backs to the maze when there was a great whoosh! and Potter and Cedric appeared on the ground at the maze entrance with the Triwizard Cup.

Students in the lower rows of the stands and teachers alike started gasping and exclaiming. There was a rush to get onto the pitch. But Meredith, sitting high in the stands, could not immediately tell why.

Dumbledore rushed back to Cedric and Potter and crouched over them. He gently took the Cup from Potter’s hand. Potter then seized Dumbledore’s wrist. The other judges started to crowd around Dumbledore. Meredith no longer could see what was happening on pitch. But she didn’t need to.

Someone shouted up to the stands, ‘He’s dead!’

‘He’s dead!’

‘Cedric Diggory! Dead!’

Faye burst into tears. Everyone rushed down to the pitch and Meredith alone sat in her seat, not knowing how to react, watching Mr and Mrs Diggory sobbing, watching Moody drag Potter to the castle and then Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape hurry after them.

Meredith numbly sat in the stands for some time, until Professor Flitwick and Flich found her and dragged her back to the castle.

All of Ravenclaw House congregated in the common room, most of them crying. Even the boys had red-rimmed eyes. Even – after seeing the outpouring of emotion for her friend and classmate and schoolgirl crush – Meredith.

That is, all of Ravenclaw House, except one. Cho Chang was crying alone in her dormitory.

~*~

‘The end of another year,’ Dumbledore said. Meredith looked around, surprised to find herself in the Great Hall and that it was decorated in black. She had spent the last week walking around in a daze, alternately crying in the lavatory (when would she stop crying? she wondered) or finding herself in a corridor or a classroom with no recollection on how she arrived there. She wished she could just stay in her dormitory or in the common room but she couldn’t bear to hear Cho’s heart-wrenching sobs. And even now, she wondered at Cho for coming to the Leaving Feast when she was still grieving so deeply.

‘There is much that I would like to say to you all tonight, but first I must acknowledge the loss of a very fine person, who should be sitting here, enjoying our Feast with us. I would like you all, please, to stand, and raise your glasses, to Cedric Diggory.’

‘Cedric Diggory,’ everyone said as they solemnly stood up and raised their goblets.

‘Cedric was a person who exemplified many of the qualities which distinguish Hufflepuff House. He was a good and loyal friend, a hard worker, he valued fair play. His death has affected you all, whether you knew him well or not. I think that you have the right, therefore, to know exactly how it came about.

‘Cedric Diggory was murdered by Lord Voldemort.’

Meredith looked up sharply at Dumbledore. Not only was this the first time she had heard anyone say the name without trembling, but she was shocked by what it meant. Her father had said that their family had suffered because of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and she had spent her life fearful that he would come back and kill the rest of her family.

‘The Ministry of Magic does not wish me to tell you this. It is possible that some of your parents will be horrified that I have done so – either because they will not believe that Lord Voldemort has returned, or because they think I should not tell you so, young as you are. It is my belief, however, that the truth is generally preferable to lies, and that any attempt to pretend that Cedric died as the result of an accident, or some sort of blunder of his own, is an insult to his memory.’

Professor Dumbledore paused. Meredith found that she was morbidly eager for him to go on.

‘There is somebody else who must be mentioned in connection to Cedric’s death. I am talking, of course, about Harry Potter.

‘Harry Potter managed to escape Lord Voldemort. He risked his own life to return Cedric’s body to Hogwarts. He showed, in every respect, the sort of bravery that few wizards have ever shown in facing Lord Voldemort, and for this, I honour him.’

Meredith wasn’t facing the Slytherin table, but she didn’t hear the same rustling as when they had stood for Cedric, meaning they hadn’t raised their goblets to Potter with the rest of the school. She wanted to turn around and steal a glance at them as she sat down, but she resisted. She didn’t know Potter very well, but she knew that he was brave and had risked his life, and had a story even sadder than she thought her own was.

Where much is given, much is required ran through Meredith’s mind and, after thinking about it for a few moments, she did not know why. She turned her attention back to Dumbledore.

‘Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences in habit and language are nothing if our aims are identical and our hearts open.

‘It is my belief – and never have I so hoped that I am mistaken – that we are all facing dark and difficult times. Some of you, in this Hall, have already suffered directly at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Many of your families have been torn asunder. A week ago, a student was taken from our midst.’

Meredith looked up the table at Faye. She couldn’t tell what her sister was thinking. Meredith wasn’t certain that her father had told Faye about his Aunt Ronnie or very much about his sister Meredith and Faye hadn’t been born yet when they had died.

‘Remember Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.’

~*~

Meredith took her time boarding the Hogwarts Express the morning after the black-bannered Leaving Feast. She had not slept that night, full of fear and anxiety over the things Dumbledore had said at the feast, grief over Cedric’s death and sorrow for Harry Potter.

But mostly Meredith was worried about how something horrible like murder could happen to a good person like Cedric. How could Cedric, who had been fair and kind and perfect, fall victim to You-Know-Who – if he really had come back to life?

What did it mean for people, such as Meredith, who felt they could never measure up? The flawed, the pathetic, the hopelessly tall? Even though the Diamonds and the Moxleys were pure-blood families, Meredith knew that she would not go unnoticed. How could You-Know-Who and his followers not notice a six foot tall girl who practically glowed in the dark and whose family had already known grief at the hands of Dark wizards?

It’s a sad fact that I have been compelled to relate – that Meredith had too little confidence in herself. Sometimes that’s how it is: some people are too scared to see themselves the way the world sees them.

But to whose detriment?

There are times when you shouldn’t see yourself through the world’s eyes. Prejudices and ignorance abound in the world and, unfortunately, Meredith felt all of them.

What she felt the most, however, was the constant fear that she could never be better than what she was at the age of seventeen. (And that is never a good measuring stick.)

Meredith was better than she believed herself. After all, she was the right girl for the job, as Hagrid had said. But Hagrid had that way of seeing things in people – in their hearts – which the world chose to ignore, which Meredith herself chose to ignore. Trapped by the limits that she placed on those around her, Meredith needed to learn that she didn’t need to look down or look up, but to look straight ahead.

It’s a painful lesson to learn.

_______________________________________________________________


A/N: Ludo Bagman’s introduction of the Third Task is from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, published by Bloomsbury, page 539.

Dumbledore’s speech is from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, published by Bloomsbury, pages 625-8.

“Much is given” quote is paraphrased from Luke 12:48.

Many, many thanks must be given to my lovely beta reader Chary for making sense out of five month old drivel.

Thank you to everyone who reviewed the first chapter. I know that OC stories are not very popular, especially ones about tall girls who glow in the dark, but I want you to know that I appreciate it and Meredith appreciates it. Stay tuned for the next chapter, in which twins cause a fracas, Smelly Kenneth earns his nickname, and a star dies as Meredith learns to look straight ahead.
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