Chapter 1 : Lighting Their Candles
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It was dimly lit, probably because it was so late at night, but Hermione knew exactly where she needed to go. She smiled fondly at the marble surrounding her and up at the large dome in front of her. She moved passed rows of chairs set up for worshipers until she came to a small frame holding a few dozen lit and unlit white candles.
Many of the lit ones, she knew, had been placed by herself and her children. All for him.
Her husband Ron had disappeared on the job only four months ago. He had been out with a squad of Hit Wizards, rounding up some unruly former Death Eaters. There were so many explosions at the site that it had become covered over in a dense cloud of smoke and ash. Ron had not been found, dead or alive, and he had not been seen since.
Desperate for any sort of help, Hermione had turned to her parents. It was they who had suggested that she rediscover her Catholic beliefs, and it was they who had sent her to St. Paul’s. She brought their children, Hugo and Rose, every other day but showed up by herself every day that she could. She didn’t know if Hugo really understood what was going on. He was only ten years old, after all, and didn’t respond much when his father was talked about. Rose, she knew, understood perfectly that her father had disappeared and begged her mother to take her to the cathedral every day.
It probably isn’t good for them, thought Hermione, gazing into the flickering flame of one of the candles. I shouldn’t bring them here. It only gets their hopes up.
Rose had taken to carrying a prayer card that she had gotten at the entrance to St. Paul’s with her everywhere. “To get on God’s good side” was her reasoning behind this. Whenever she said this, Hermione didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Ron would’ve laughed, she thought bitterly, pulling out a Muggle pound to place in the donation box.
She picked up one of the fat white candles and felt the smooth wax in her hand. Another day, another candle, another wasted prayer, she thought wearily, placing it on the stand.
Just as she was lighting the wick, she felt an overwhelming presence from behind her. She nervously lit the candle and then looked over her shoulder. What she saw almost made her drop the match in surprise.
“You should blow it out before you burn your fingers, Granger,” said Draco Malfoy, nodding at the burning match in her hand.
Hermione hastily puffed out the match before glaring at her old enemy and saying, “It’s Weasley now, Malfoy, as you well know.”
“He’s gone, though, isn’t he?” asked Malfoy, leaning lightly on a walking cane. “Four months, is it? I’m surprised you haven’t filed for divorce.”
“Ron is still my husband,” she said defiantly. “Wherever he may be.”
He sneered slightly at her until Hermione asked him, “What are you even doing here, Malfoy? This is a Muggle church.”
His pale cheeks tinged red, and he no longer looked so disdainful. “None of your business, Mrs. Weasel.,” he muttered.
She rolled her eyes and was about to return to her prayer when her curiosity got the better of her. “We should try to make peace, you know,” she said, over her shoulder. “Your Scorpius is quite taken with Rose from what I hear.”
Malfoy snorted from somewhere behind her, but he didn’t deny it. He approached her little sanctuary and stared down at her. “My mother is ill,” he mumbled finally.
Hermione looked up at him, instantly feeling pity. If she knew nothing else about him, she knew that Malfoy cared very deeply about his parents. “How ill?”
“Mungo’s can’t do anything,” he said, leaning against a pillar. “She’s getting on in her years, and they think it’s some form of cancer. Magic can’t treat it.”
Hermione’s eyes widened slightly as she looked at her former enemy. The flickering light highlighted the white in his blond hair and revealed the bags and wrinkles on his once youthful face. They were both getting on in their years. “So you came to St. Paul’s?” she asked. “Why?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Mother never believed in anything. I guess I just-“
“-Needed one last ray of hope?” finished Hermione, feeling her heart clench painfully.
“Yeah,” said Malfoy, not quite meeting her eyes. “I’m not saying I believe in all this religion crap. I just figure…if there really is…a higher power…maybe there’s something He can do.” He shifted his weight uncomfortably. “I’ve spent my whole life depending on magic. I’m a wizard, damn it. What else was I supposed to do?”
Hermione could think of no response except, “Would you like to light a candle?”
“What?” he asked, raising his eyebrows at her.
“Light a candle,” she repeated, feeling foolish now. “It’s supposed to symbolize your prayer, I suppose. People come and they pray for the prayers that go with the candles.”
“You’ve lit one for…your husband?” asked Malfoy, cautiously kneeling next to her.
“One?” asked Hermione, with a sort of bitter laugh. “I’ve lit one every day for the past two months.”
“That’s useless,” spat Malfoy, getting to his feet again and starting to walk away.
“It’s not!” said Hermione, getting up and following him.
“Oh, yeah?” he said, sneering at her again. “I don’t see the Weasel popping out from behind the altar.”
“At least I’m trying,” she hissed, turning on her heel.
She returned to her spot in front of the candles, refusing to allow hot, frustrated tears to leave her eyes. Her vision blurred as she tried to blink them back, blending all of the lights into one large flame. She knew that he was right in so many ways. What she was doing was probably useless…
“I guess it’s better than doing nothing,” said Malfoy, kneeling down beside her again. “I will do anything for my mother.”
“Here,” said Hermione, pulling another coin out of her purse. “And take a candle.”
“What do I say?” he asked, clumsily taking the candle in his hand.
“I don’t know,” said Hermione honestly. “I just ask….God to bring Ron back to me safely.”
“I don’t know if He’ll listen to me, if I don’t believe in Him,” said Malfoy bluntly. “But I’ll try anyway.”
“You don’t have to say it out loud if you don’t want to,” said Hermione quietly, returning to her own prayers.
After a moment of silence, the two slowly stood and backed away from the light. “I don’t feel any better,” said Malfoy.
“Honestly, I never do either,” said Hermione softly, blinking back her tears again. “But if…when he returns, I’ll know who to thank.” She swung her purse back onto her shoulder. “Wish your mum well. And say ‘hello’ to Scorpius for Rose.”
Malfoy nodded and watched as his former classmate left the cathedral. He looked around for a minute to see if anyone was watching. He then pulled out a gold Galleon and placed it in the donation box. Checking again to see if anyone saw him, he kneeled in front of the stand, lit another candle, and began to pray.