Long shadows are eclipsed by heavy curtains, a cheery animal print failing to brighten up a dismal room. Andromeda kisses her daughter’s forehead as she tucks her into bed, a sad smile leaving her lips cold. There is so much she wishes she can confide in her young daughter; she has too much to apologise for. She vaguely remembers a time when she was as carefree as the sleeping infant, a time lost to dark skylines and bleeding sunsets.
She fiddles with the letter hidden deep in her pocket, the parchment soft from regular readings. Almost tracing the words with her fingernail, she knows every word in the letter as though she has written it herself. When the sun sets on the last night of the month… The sun is setting now, one week later and yet she remains alone. No knight on his noble steed has swept her away from the dark confines of her marriage; she is trapped in a bed she made herself. It is the most bitter prison of all.
Her fingers trail through Dora’s soft hair and she swallows the urge to wake her just to see her beautiful eyes. It seems impossible that she could have created this small, happy child out of the ashes of her misery. She does not deserve this fortune. She knows it as she folds the letter in her pocket that is the source of all the heartache and betrayal.
How can Ted stand it? She can’t even bear it herself and yet he waits for the day when she will grow into the woman he fell in love with. He sees something in her that she never believed existed. It hurts to break his trust but she knows that he understands. There is one need that he cannot fulfil because it is against his nature to do so. Where Ted is good and kind and loyal, Gideon is addictive and heart-racing and whimsy.
They are opposite ends of the same scale. She needs it all.
“Is she asleep?” She jumps at the sudden noise, even though he speaks barely above a whisper.
Turning to face her husband, she attempts a weak smile. He has caught her mid-thought and she is unprepared. “Yes,” she manages eventually after she has processed the question.
The attraction is incoherent. All Gideon brings her is unhappiness. The man before her, her loyal husband, has only ever treated her with respect and kindness, no matter whether she feels she has deserved it. The parchment crumples in her fist as the disappointment finally sinks in; Gideon is not coming as he promised he would.
Releasing the letter in her fist, she takes Ted’s hand gently in her own and softly squeezes it. Their eyes meet in the glow of the nightlight, an understanding passing between them briefly. Their silence has always said far more than their words ever could, each syllable tumbling over the next until meaning is misrepresented. Her fingers clasp his tighter still as though to remind him that she is still there, her love remains. His thumb strokes the back of her hand slowly until she lets go. The moment is over and she leaves him in the doorway, the intensity dissipating mercifully. The sun finally sinks below the horizon, welcoming another night.
She is irritable, reluctantly forcing herself to stop watching the dimly lit street outside the front door. He is not going to come. The spoiled letter is heavy in her pocket, it presses on her mind as she forces herself to get it. His promises are worth as much as his reliability, she knows she cannot truth them but she wishes she can with all the spirit left in her weary heart. If she believes he has broken his word yet again she will be devastated; it is easier to think that he is merely delayed. With every passing hour she knows she has to admit defeat. It is painful.
She sits on the bottom step opposite the front door until the early hours of the morning, until the candles have burnt out, until she is weary from waiting. Ted joins her briefly, looping an arm around her waist and holding her as she droops, falling asleep on his shoulder. He strokes her hair and kisses her forehead; such fond actions go unnoticed as she dreams of her lover. He takes her in his arms and carries her delicate form to bed.
He has always loved to watch her sleeping; she is tame and calm where the woes of the world cannot reach her. Childlike, her face is relaxed and she offers him an unguarded view of her emotions. He loves her even though he knows that as soon as she’s awake the wall around her will go up, blocking him out. All he wants is for her to let him in.
Gently, he undresses her and tucks her under the covers. Amongst the pile of discarded clothes he finds the letter, screwed up and torn. He does not need to read it to understand his wife’s behaviour. He has seen the pattern so many times before and the anger rises within him once again. He will never let her see how upset he gets, he will never reveal that all he wants is for her to be happy and seeing her so lovesick tears him up from the inside out. If he could take every word Gideon has ever written and burn it he would. But although paper can be destroyed, love cannot. Gideon can rip every shred of hope from her and yet the love will remain. It sickens him to see the effect he has on her.
He takes his wand from the bedside table and reaches for his coat. There is only one person he can turn to for help, someone he knows that Andromeda’s pride forbids her from contacting. There is no room in Ted’s mind for pride; greater things are at stake. Locking the door as he leaves the house, Ted wanders around the corner of the street and is gone with a turn on his heels.
Before him stands a small terraced house, with a smart front door and a shiny silver knocker. Dark curtains cover blank windows and Ted has to supress a shudder. He makes visits to this dwelling few and far between for good reason; he is not and nor will he ever be welcome. Taking the smooth knocker in his hand, he makes his presence known.
As expected, a slim young woman with angular features sticks her head out of the door. She narrows her eyes as she recognises this late visitor, looking from left to right up the street before letting him inside. He knew her husband would not be the one to open the door at this late hour.
“What are you doing here?” the woman hisses sharply. “Have you any idea what the time is?”
His eyes rake over her slight form, from her thin blonde hair to the embroidered slippers on her feet. He can see the family resemblance in her high cheekbones and delicate bone structure, but there the similarities end. Narcissa’s pride eliminates any vulnerable emotion from her pale features, something Andromeda has never hid well. Her face is hidden in the darkness of the hallway and he cannot tell whether his risk has overstepped the mark.
“I need to ask you a favour,” Ted starts apprehensively. He wishes he could see Narcissa’s expression; talking into the darkness feels ominous.
“A favour,” Narcissa repeats slowly, swallowing audibly, a slight scorn on the edge of her voice. “What could I possibly do for a Mudblood?”
She does not need to use that word, but Ted understands that it gives her a sensation of control that she enjoys. His pride is insignificant in this exchange.
“Your family is highly regarded in the wizarding community,” Ted states. “You have information that I need.”
Curiosity has got the better of her, as he knew it would. She cannot resist any involvement in her sister’s life, that has been clear from the very start. She could never deny the ties between her and Andromeda; the history between them is far stronger than any grudge the family holds against the rebellious daughter. He is happy to oblige.
“Do you know the whereabouts of Gideon Prewett?”
Narcissa shifts from one foot to the other. “I have not been keeping tabs on that man,” she mutters eventually. “Blood traitors are of no interest to me.”
Ted tries desperately not to roll his eyes at the obstinacy of this woman. “I know that you have the means to find him. All I’m asking is that you help me contact him.”
Clearing her throat, she takes a step closer to him. “And why would you want to do that? We both know your interest in him isn’t merely professional. What do you think your interference will do in the long scheme of things? You have tried and failed in the past to be rid of him to no avail. What makes you think he’ll stay away this time?”
“I don’t want him to stay away,” Ted counters. “I want him to come back.”
“I’m sorry?” Narcissa whispers uncertainly.
Ted shrugs even though he knows Narcissa cannot see him. “If he comes back he will make Andromeda happy. It’s what she wants.”
There is a silence in which Ted can hear her uneven breathing. “Am I hearing this correctly? You want to ask the man your wife is having affair to come home?”
She snorts derisively. Ted narrows his eyes; he does not need patronising by the woman who stopped supporting her sister when she left home. Neither of them is flawless.
“Grow a backbone,” she says after she has finished laughing. “You could get rid of this man once and for all and end this embarrassing affair. I always said that that man was bad for her but she wouldn’t listen. If you want her to be happy, remove him from her life for good.”
“Do you think she’d be any happier without him?” Ted shakes his head. “She doesn’t stop thinking about him even though he has been gone for months now. Every time he leaves he just strengthens his hold on her. If he stayed with her long enough, she’d see that the attraction isn’t as strong as she thinks.”
“It’s deeper than infatuation, surely you know that?” He senses the pity in her voice. “He was there for her at a difficult time, when she thought none of us cared.”
“I was there for her!” He tries to keep his voice low; it is not advisable to wake Narcissa’s husband. “I’ve always been there for her.”
“And you always will be, that’s the problem,” Narcissa admits.
“That’s because I love her,” he responds angrily. “I refuse to play games like he does. All it does is make her miserable.”
“Do you think convincing him to stay will change that?” she asks scathingly. “He’s a good for nothing blood traitor. The longer he stays away from my sister the better.”
“I have to do something. If you won’t help me at least talk to Andromeda.” He is close to begging; he will stoop that low if he needs to. “Please help me.”
Another silence comes and goes. “I can’t bring him back.”
“Just talk to her,” he says softly.
“Fine,” she concedes quietly after a lengthy pause. “I’ll talk to her. But I don’t approve of this at all, I never have. He isn’t good for her.”
“I just want her to be as happy as she used to be, as happy as she was when he was here,” he mumbles. He doesn’t like admitting it, but he knows he has failed her. He needs to repair the damage Gideon caused when he left Andromeda for the first time all those years ago. He has to make amends.
“I’m not promising anything,” Narcissa reminds him, stepping back from him and approaching the door.
“Thank you,” Ted whispers as she finds the doorknob and ushers him outside.
“Goodbye, Ted,” she mutters as she shuts the door behind him. With a short spin, he is gone.
It is a strange battle to have won. He never would have imagined he would be asking Gideon to come home after so many years of resentment. As he lets himself back into their house he stifles a groan. He only ever wanted to take Andromeda away from her worries and woes but he now realises that Gideon is as much a part of his marriage as she is.