Intricate, beautiful and obviously old, it hung over the doorway. From a distance, it would have been easy to assume it was a simple wreath belonging to any Muggle family. Green, it was made up of interwoven leaves with a large golden ribbon tied in a bow decorating the top. It wouldn't have seemed extra-ordinary.
However, there was nothing normal about the wreath. To start with, no Muggle would have even been able to see the doorway, as charms would have repelled them before they even got close. Secondly, if one were to look closer, the decoration was obviously magical. Small wooden birds sung from their miniature nests in the leaves, while little, brightly coloured fairies flitted around like planets orbiting a star. Yet, the wreath's complexity had nothing on the thoughts of the young man standing on the doorstep.
Clutching the scrunched address in his hands, Ted continued to stare at the wreath. He'd been planning this day for weeks, the moment that he had discovered the address, but for some reason he couldn't take the final step.
The wreath was so different to what he was used to; so blatantly magical. It was though it was telling him that he didn't belong. His own family would never own anything even similar. The owners of the wreath were obliviously great witches and wizards.
But I'm magical too, he reminded himself, raising his hand to the door. As his hand reached for the knocker, the wreath flickered in the corner of his eye. The golden ribbon was not a ribbon at all, but a flame shaped like a bow. It was clearly a warning, behind the beautiful danger lurks. Not for the first time that day, he considered turning his back and walking back into the snow. Perhaps if he turned his back forever he would eventually be able to forget. That way everyone would be better off.
No, he thought to himself. He wouldn't let himself be intimidated again; he had to do what was right. Straightening his shoulders, he knocked on the door.
The door swung open immediately. A girl stood in the frame, her soft brown hair billowing over her shoulders. For a moment she stood there in silence, her wide eyes reflecting utter shock. Whatever she had expected when she opened the door it was not him.
Ted let out his breath, even though he hadn't expected Andromeda, he was beyond relieved. He'd told himself he was prepared if a member of her family opened the door. But even though he'd gone through all the situations in his head, he was very glad it was her shadowing the entrance. It would make things that much easier.
Letting out a sigh, he realised how tense he had been the last few weeks. A part of him had been afraid he would never see her again. He smiled, letting the sight of her sink in. It was bliss.
She, on the other hand, was furious, "What on earth are you doing here?" Her brown eyes flashed in anger and her hands balled up into fists. "I told you to leave me alone!"
Ted grinned, his confidence sweeping back to him. It had been a long time since he had seen Andromeda, but the moment he saw her face, he knew why he was there. "So sweeping you into a kiss would be a bad idea then?" he joked. He looked beyond into the room. It was as dark as she had once described. "It's a good thing your family doesn't like mistletoe."
Andromeda bit her lip, the anger vanishing from her face. Ted knew that whatever she had said last time they had met, she still cared about him. There was a glimmer of hope and it was then he knew that he had a chance. But he would have to fight for it. Ted wasn't going to let is slip through his fingers, he was going to grasp it with both hands.
"Andromeda…" he started.
"No," she cut him off. "I can't hear this today. You have to go before someone sees you, or we'll both …," she trailed off, her eyes widening in horror.
"Stop there, boy!" Ted turned to see an elderly man pointing his cane at his chest. "Don't even think about moving, or I'll hex you to oblivion. It may be Christmas, but this is no Candy Cane."
Ted remained silent. He remembered back to when he and Andromeda had laid together one morning, arms wrapped around each other. She had kept him entertained with stories about her crazy family. It didn't seem the least bit funny now.
"Who are you, boy?" demanded the old man, prodding Ted with his cane.
"He's nobody, Grandfather," Andromeda covered, pushing the cane aside and stepping gracefully in front of Ted. "He's just come to the wrong house."
"I doubt that, Andromeda. It is impossible to arrive at this house by accident. I bet he's a Mudblood, their lot are sneaky."
The old man didn't notice Andromeda flinch on the word Mudblood, but Ted did. Instinctively wanting to comfort her, he reached out to grab her hand, but she shook her head and moved away. Ted let his hand drift back to his side. Even after two months apart, he still wanted to hold her in his arms.
The old man continued rambling, "He has the same sort of looks as those idiot Muggles who I hex as they roll down my hill on sleds."
Ted looked up at Andromeda, but she wouldn't look him in the eye. Is she ashamed of me, he thought, or does she think of me the same way?
"Boy!" The man yelled, jabbing Ted in the back. "Get inside, where you can explain to the whole family why you are here."
"No, Grandfather!" Andromeda cried; he gave her a suspicious look. "I mean," she said, feigning calm. "Why ruin Christmas? Just let the stranger be on his way and we can analyse the present stockings."
The old man looked torn, as though the idea really appealed to him. The snow continued to fall as they stood immobile outside. "You're right, Andromeda. I would like to see if I received the appropriate amounts of gifts this year."
But Ted wasn't going to give up his chance. "Excuse me," said Ted clearly. "I want to see the whole family."
"Are you insane!" Andromeda cried. "They'll hurt you!"
The old man stared at her. "I thought you didn't know who he was? Why does it matter to you what happens to him?" Not waiting for an answer, he grabbed Ted's arm and pulled him through the doorway. "I'll get to the bottom of this."
Stepping into the gloom, Ted took in his surroundings. The house looked more like an expensive, gothic castle then an actual home. His thoughts flickered back to his own house. Right now, his family would be sitting in the bright living room by the fire. His father would be laughing as his uncle told some silly cracker joke, while his mother fussed in the kitchen and his cousins and sister ran from room to room. After the initial chaos, everyone would then settle down for a large family dinner.
It was his favourite day of the year, something he always looked forward to. This year, he had given it all up for one more chance. She'd told him never to come to his house again. However, Andromeda had told her that she was spending Christmas at her uncle and aunts place. It was a technicality, but one he was ready to abuse. After finding out the location, he knew he had one opportunity to convince her. He wouldn't trade that chance for anything.
The old man pulled Ted into the living room. It seemed the whole family had gathered there for Christmas day, yet in Ted's opinion, cheer seemed to be thin on the ground. They didn't even have a Christmas tree.
"Does anyone know this boy?" asked the man, shoving Ted to the middle of the room. "I found him on our doorstep."
"I do," spat a dark haired girl from the corner. Ted recognised her as Andromeda's sister Bellatrix. Ted shuddered, in the two years since she had graduated, he'd almost forgotten her cruel stare. Almost.
"He's a Mudblood," she continued, her lips curling. "Tonks, I think his name is."
"What are you doing here you, Mudblood?" sneered a woman. She looked very similar to Andromeda, save for her long blonde tresses. Her hair was pulled back, extenuating her eyes, which although were the same colour, seemed hollow. Ted knew this was Andromeda's mother.
"How dare you show your unworthy face on our doorstep?" snarled a middle aged man, sitting next to the mother. From what Andromeda had told him, her father said very little, unless it was a comment on the 'impurity' being allowed into the wizarding world.
"Answer us, filth," said another women, venom filling every syllable, "before we hex you."
Ted looked from face to face, every single one was filled with hate. For someone who had lived his whole life smiling, the feeling was very odd. Sighing, he looked back at Andromeda who was standing in the doorway, a tear sliding down her cheek. She had given up hope, accepted that her duty was to be one of them. But he was here to show her she was wrong. He straitened his shoulders and spoke, "I am here because I have fallen in love with an angel."
"Oh, isn't this funny," laughed the same women who had called him filth. "The mudblood has fallen for Andromeda."
Everyone in the room laughed, the candlelight flickering unnaturally across their grins in the darkness, making them seem almost inhuman.
"Tell him what you think of him, Andromeda," someone called. "It will make my Christmas to see his face when his supposed love tells him how worthless he is."
Suddenly the laughter stopped. Andromeda had gone pale white, and was staring at the floor. It seemed her family had noticed her aversion. They were beginning to add the pieces, and the resulting image was one they did not want to see.
Bellatrix was first to react. She crossed the room quickly, and lifted Andromeda's chin so they were nose to nose. "Tell him he means nothing to you," she whispered in a deadly voice. Andromeda didn't reply.
Bellatrix slapped her, the sound echoing in the stunned silence of the room. 'TELL HIM!" she screeched.
"No," Andromeda replied in a small voice.
"What did you say?" Bellatrix whispered.
"No, I won't lie." She turned to Ted. "You mean the world to me."
Someone cheered in the doorway. Andromeda's eleven year old cousin, Sirius, had arrived with an armful of tinsel wearing a Santa hat. Silver streaked through the air as he threw it in celebration. "Merry Christmas! Ho Ho Ho!"
"STOP THAT YOU INFURIATING CHILD!" yelled a woman, sending sparks at the young boy. "CAN'T YOU ACT AS THOUGH YOU ARE ACTULLY MY OWN FLESH AND BLOOD FOR ONCE!" Ted found it hard to believe that she was a mother. Sirius simply laughed in a jolly sort of way and ran from the room, still yelling at the top of his lungs.
"AND YOU, BLOOD TRAITOR!" The woman turned on Andromeda. "You have one chance to take back what you said, or you can leave this house, and family, forever."
Andromeda stayed silent. Ted squeezed her hand tighter. "I know you, and you don't want to be like them. I want you to be who you are." Finally, she nodded.
Before Ted even knew what was happening, Bellatrix had whipped out her wand and pointed it at his heart. However, before he even had a chance to slow his heart, he realised his panic was in vain. Fast her sister may be, but Andromeda was faster. Bellatrix's wand clattered to the ground, as Andromeda pressed her wand into her neck. No body moved as the two women stood face to face in silence, as though looking in a mirror.
"Don't you ever dare try and hurt him, sister," Andromeda sneered.
"You're no sister of mine," spat Bellatrix.
Andromeda blinked once, but otherwise made no reaction. "So be it," she said, before turning to Ted, her wand unmoving. "Do you have any room at your house?"
Ted's face cracked into a grin as moved towards him. "I love you," he murmured into her hair, as they turned to face her family one final time, wands raised.
"I'll see you around… well actually, I probably won't," Andromeda said with a smile. Wrapping her arm around Ted's waist, they began to back away to the exit.
"Nice meeting you," Ted called, before flicking his wand, causing Bellatix's long black robes to turn into an elf costume. Her furious cries echoed around them as they spirited outside, crying with laughter. Free of the house they clasped each others hands and appeared into the night.
"I love you," whispered Andromeda in his ear as they came back to there orientation. "I'm sorry I ever doubted that."
On his home street, Ted realised could here some Muggles singing, 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas.' Wrapping his arms around Andromeda, he kissed her as the snow fell.
It was then he knew that Christmas couldn't get any merrier.