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Chapter 2 : Two
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secretly, between the shadow and the soul. - Pablo Neruda
Ryan wasn’t married when he and Hestia had first met.
She’d been new to the department, finished with her research internship and just back from a trip abroad in China. That was something Hestia had wanted to do ever since she was a child. She had read about how it took all the magical people in China to cast the protection spells on the Great Wall. People needed to see that kind of thing with their own eyes to really understand what it meant.
She’d just left her new boss, Mr. Edwards’ office and was trying to find the library. Edwards had asked her to look into several subjects, to see what she thought she was best suited for. Hestia only hoped she would be able to find her way through the labyrinth of doors and rotating hallways that made up the Department of Mysteries.
Someone really should have given her a map.
Surprisingly, Hestia only got lost twice before she found the door to the Department of Mysteries library. Edwards had told her that the department had hundreds, thousands of books. Nearly everything that was in print was in their inventory. It was every Ravenclaw’s dream.
It had been a bit of a letdown when the library hadn’t looked as large as she had expected. The room was roughly the size of a Hogwarts classroom, with bookshelves along all four walls and half a dozen more rows of shelves lying opposite the door. It was certainly not large enough to hold thousands of books. Yet it looked big enough to house at least five hundred.
There was a man sitting at the table with his head buried in a book, quill scratching as he quickly made notes on a scrap of parchment. His hair gleamed golden in the torchlight and Hestia hated how her loud her footsteps echoed around the room when she stepped through the door.
Unsure as to why her footsteps were so awfully loud, Hestia looked up towards the ceiling and gasped.
The ceiling was tall, so tall she had to strain her eyes to make it out and the shelves crammed with books extended up to the very top of the room. Hestia had wondered how people were supposed to reach the volumes up near the ceiling, until she spotted an impossibly long ladder resting against the wall to her right.
She scoffed. The ladder was beautifully ornate, with golden swirls covering its sides, but it had a spindly look that she didn’t trust. There was no way in hell she was going to climb that thing to get a book.
Hestia had walked over to the table, which looked like it could seat about a half a dozen people, and set her bag down. Then she had moved over toward the ladder with a dubious look on her face. It looked even more unstable upon closer inspection.
“Don’t worry.” Hestia had jumped at a voice coming from behind her. “No one actually uses that. A summoning spell can get you any books you need.”
She’d turned to look at the speaker. It was the man at the table, staring at her with a small smile on his face. “You must be the new girl Edwards mentioned this morning.” He reached his hand out across the table. “I’m Ryan Campbell.”
Tucking a long strand of hair behind her ear, Hestia shook his hand. His fingers were long, elegant and similar to the feathers on a pelican. “I’m Hestia.”
He was like one of those old oil paintings they displayed in museums: nice to look at first glance, but the longer her eyes were on him, the more beautiful he became. The line of his jaw became more defined, with his scrubby beard glinting in the light. His eyes seemed lighter, more piercing, while the waves of his hair appeared more boyish and angelic – yet somehow also terribly masculine.
Suddenly feeling shy, Hestia had lowered her eyes. They fell on the books lying on the table in front of her.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, shyness fading instantly when she saw the titles. “You’re working on protection magic, aren’t you? That’s what I want to do! I just got back from visiting the Great Wall actually. It was fascinating. I’d love to do more research on that sort of thing.”
“Really?” Leaning forward, Ryan’s eyes shone with interest. “I’ve been wishing I had a partner to work with on this stuff with me. Trying to do this alone has been impossible. There’s just too much.”
Hestia found herself settling into the chair across from him, her chest bubbling with excitement. “I know! There are so many things to study in detail!”
“Tell me about the Great Wall. What’s it like? Can you really see the magic in it when you look at it?” Ryan asked, resting his chin on folded hands.
Hestia laughed lightly. “Well, I more felt it more than anything, but that’s how it’s always been for me. I imagine that if someone were able to connect with magic more visually, they would see it. It’s so strong. The power of a whole people, gathered in one place, for one purpose.”
He smiled and Hestia felt her heart stutter in spite of her ease with their conversation. She knew that she would have to be very careful there. A man like him was so completely out of her league that he was practically playing Quidditch on the moon. Work was the only thing they would ever have in common. Mentally shaking her head, Hestia then asked, “What are you working on now?”
“How a blood relationship affects protection magic.” Sitting back in his chair, Ryan cast a disparaging look at the books before him. “I’ve managed to trace it all the way back to Ancient Egypt, but I’m having a little trouble figuring out exactly when magic was used during the embalming and burial process.
“Most of the texts are direct sources and,” he smiled bashfully, holding up an ancient looking scroll, “my knowledge of hieroglyphs is rudimentary at best, especially the magical characters.”
“Mind if I take a look?” Hestia looked at him slyly, noticing the slight disbelief on his face. “I have a thing for languages.”
He handed her the scroll and she carefully unrolled it. The familiar sight of the tiny paintings in columns on the cypress calmed her slightly and she felt the nervous knot that had been winding tightly in her stomach since she had walked into work that morning began to unravel.
Absently, she grabbed the quill he had been using and began to take notes in the same methodical way she had perfected all throughout her schooling. A strange feeling of rightness settled over Hestia when Ryan moved his chair around the table to read over her shoulder and she let herself sink into the deep contentment of being somewhere she felt she belonged.
A/N: A big big thank you to my beta, Rachel (PenguinsWill ReignSupreme) for saving me from myself and to Miranda(FannyPrice), Jakes(George Whitman) and everyone else for helping me bounce around ideas!
Disclaimer: The Potterverse is the property of the wonderful J. K. Rowling. I own nothing you recognize.
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