I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire -Pablo Neruda
The Egyptian sun reflects hotly off the stones of the pyramid and Hestia can feel another bead of sweat sliding down her spine. She concentrates intently on the notebook in front of her and painstakingly copies the last of the runes that are etched into the surface of the pyramid onto the page.
Letting out a tired sigh, she closes the notebook with a snap and stands. Her knees are stiff from the hours of squatting in the sand and her left hand has cramped from holding a pen for so long. She has been copying runes from this pyramid since before dawn and, by the angle of the sun, Hestia is sure that she has missed lunchtime by several hours at least. Not that that is such a shame; she’s never really gotten used to Egyptian food anyway.
This would have gone so much faster if she had a partner to help. But then, she has a partner. He just isn't there, and soon he wouldn’t be there ever again. Hestia groans, thinking again about how annoying and tedious it is going to be to break in somebody new.
She and Ryan work so well together. They know each other perfectly.
Hestia shakes her head, thinking that they know each other entirely too well. That kind of knowing – the biblical kind – isn’t supposed to happen with work partners – especially when that partner happens to be your sister’s husband.
A gust of hot dry wind blows a cloud of sparkling sand into her face. It is dead quiet and she is alone in the Egyptian desert. It was nice to know that if the heat didn’t kill her, the irony of her situation would.
Hestia often wonders if Hera will ever forgive her. On days like this, when the heat presses in from all sides and the shimmering light that reflects off the sand turns the sky white, she doesn’t think so. Sometimes, Hestia imagines her sister’s voice in the wind whistling over the empty landscape and she cringes, remembering their last conversation.
“I always knew you were a little wild, but I never thought you’d turn out to be a such a whore. I trusted you to be partners with him. I thought that, as my sister, you would have respected my life a little more, respected the commitments I had made. My family is what my life is, and you’ve made everything I do a joke!”
She and Hera have always been different, even in ways that Hestia has never fully been able to understand. Hera herself isn’t awful. She’s just so…so…simple. Deceptively so. On the surface, Hera was all action and edge. One of the first successful female Aurors at the Ministry in history, she had been a leader in her field. But to fall in love and get married – that’s all she had ever really wanted. To be the perfect housewife and mother. Hera had given up her job for that. And now she wears heels and pearls all the time and likes to pick flowers and garden and always smells like bread and cooking. She has always wanted children.
They have always been like the two sides of a coin.
Hestia has always fought tooth and nail against make-up, never cooks (last time she had tried was a total disaster. Ryan had laughed his ass off and she wasn’t really ready for that kind of humiliation again) and she is pretty sure that she has never even owned a vase to put flowers in. She loves the smell of books and libraries and the scratching of a quill on parchment and all she has ever wanted was to research and learn things for the rest of her life. Hestia has never planned an emotional future for herself.
Even if she had, her plan probably would not have included having an affair with the man who is married to her sister. It was funny what people got themselves into without meaning to sometimes.
Hestia can feel the faint headache and nausea of heatstroke beginning to press at the edges of her mind. When she first arrived in Cairo, she had nearly worked herself into the ground in an effort to try and forget everything that she had left back in England. This strategy had actually worked quite well until a bad sunburn and a completely debilitating case of sunstroke had forced her seek out the local magical hospital. After she had been healed and lectured, in several different languages, about the importance of hydration and skin-screening charms, Hestia was in no hurry to repeat the experience.
These days she tries to limit her time out by the pyramids and to keep somewhat normal work hours. Well, what she considers normal work hours, but then, Hestia has always been a bit of a workaholic – especially when it comes to research.
Preparing to Apparate, she closes her eyes and envisions her small apartment back in town. The translation of the runes she has gathered today will take her the best part of the next three days. That is three more days she doesn’t have to go home and face her sister and all of the other stupid mistakes she has made.
She smiles happily down at the notebook in her hands. Her personal life might be shot to hell, but at least work is going well.
A/N: In telling Hestia, Hera and Ryan's story, I found it best to start in the middle rather from the beginning. Because of that, this story has ended up with a rather unique format: the chapters alternate from present to past, and the tenses are shifted accordingly.
Thanks so much to my great beta Rachel (PenguinsWillReignSupreme), my friendies Miranda (FannyPrice), Jake (George Whitman) and everyone else who puts up with my crazy ranting and raving. I couldn't have written this story without you!
Disclaimer: The Potterverse is the property of the wonderful J. K. Rowling. I own nothing you recognize.