Chapter 1 : Of Clarity and Curiosity
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As always, it's JK Rowling's, excluding the plot and OCs.
What struck him first was the brightness. He couldn’t recall any other time where he could see so clearly the infinitesimal specks of dust and pollen that floated through the air, the individual grains of sand and soil beneath his bare feet. He could even see an assemblage of neat, white houses on the horizon, cropped by classic picket fences and tidy, manicured lawns of the brightest greens. Even in the sky; he could bring into focus the individual drops of water that condensed into clouds. The world had never been so crisp, like each object was outline in bold charcoal; the clarity took his breath away.
What struck him second was the girl. He couldn’t fathom how he had missed her at first – a slight, boyish figure with thick mahogany hair and enormous doe eyes. She was silent, watching him with a curious expression, the hem of her white dress swaying though there was no breeze. He couldn’t place the way she looked at him, recognition clear on her face though he could have sworn he’d never seen her in his life.
And although there was a little voice nagging him that she was decidedly plain, he couldn’t stop himself from staring as though she was Aphrodite; risen from the foam herself. And now that he established her presence, he found himself struggling to look away.
A moment later she cleared her throat, and Sirius looked up to find that she was an embarrassed shade of pink. He blinked, wondering how long he’d been staring quite unceremoniously at the girl, only to find that he hadn’t a sense of time at all. And although he had yet to find out precisely where he was, he couldn’t help but wonder how or even when he’d arrived. Who’d brought him? He hadn’t the slightest idea.
“Sorry,” he mumbled lamely, only succeeding in causing his mouth to drop open in unadulterated awe. His voice was like silk; and though his common sense declared that he didn’t know anything but English, Sirius was convinced that he’d spoken something else entirely. Dear god, this place – whatever place it might be – was certainly a strange one.
“No worries,” the girl said suddenly, and Sirius nearly jumped. “This is how they all are at first. The curiosity should subside in a wink.”
It should have sounded ominous, that much Sirius knew, but the casual way in which this stranger spoke to him did nothing but aid in comforting him. She was right, too. His subconscious, previously obligatory and irritating, had seemed to drift from his mind completely, leaving nothing but a blank canvas void of any thought. And, by god, he figured he should have been scared that he couldn’t think about anything besides this girl in front of him, but something kept him from caring entirely.
Sirius, albeit hesitantly, smiled.
“Oh, there we are,” she confirmed, not looking the least bit surprised. “Quicker than most too. Now aren’t you special, Sirius Black?”
And although he was expecting not to care how this complete stranger knew him, something jolted in his chest at the sound of hearing his name. Instinctively, his eyebrows furrowed into a look of suspicion.
“How do you know my name?” he demanded, feeling temporarily alarmed that his wand was nowhere to be found. These ridiculously soft white trousers he was sporting had no pockets, and he hadn’t given a second thought to the wand’s whereabouts.
Not that he thought he would need it. The girl, who had been walking towards him, stopped the moment the question left his lips. She froze, looking at him in astonishment.
“Did you just ask a question?” she murmured, eyes widening. And though he couldn’t precisely place the look in her eyes, there was certainly some lingering interest.
He cleared his throat. “Er, yes. I’d appreciate an answer, please. Now.”
She ignored him, stepping forward and placing him under a scrutinizing glare. “I’m going to ignore your tone. A question, really? By god, that’s strange. It should all be gone by now.”
Sirius bristled. “What should all be gone?”
The girl rolled her wide eyes. “The curiosity. It’s usually gone by now, but hey, you’re Sirius Black. Who are you to follow the rules of Epiphany?”
Sirius had a slight inkling that this girl had it in for him. This, frankly, was a mystery and only served to cause his curiosity to rage through him once more. And what was it she said? Epiphany. She said it like a title, and so Sirius was left to assume that’s what they called this strange place. He thought it was rather fitting of such a peculiar location.
“Epiphany,” he repeated slowly. “Is that what this place is called?”
She rolled her eyes again, something he reckoned was customary for her. “Does it really matter where you are right now? We have bigger problems. Starting with your curiosity…apparently it hasn’t gone.”
"My curiosity? What are you going on about-"
She ignored him. "I'll have to ask about it. Bad, really bad that is."
"What?! How can curiosity be bad?"
She smilged wryly at him. "Killed the cat, it did."
He glanced at her, unamused. The look on his face must have triggered something, because her face melted from smugness into one of annoyance.
“This,” she snapped, “means that you’re already a freak of nature. Actually, I wonder. Say, answer this truthfully, alright?”
Sirius couldn’t even begin to describe this girl. What she intellectually challenged? Any person would realize that being in an unfamiliar place, harassed by a complete stranger, and having your pressing questions go unanswered is not the most comfortable of situations.
“Wait a minute,” Sirius retorted. “I’m not answering anything until you tell me where the bloody hell I am this instant.” He tried to keep back the nagging little voice that told him he sounded like his late mother.
She blinked once, eyes shifting so that the hopeful glint in them was more of a vicious red beam now, and crossed her arms in front of her.
“Oh, for god’s sake, turn around.”
He did as she said, and so he was met with a neatly painted white sign that was blank except for a simple sentence; Welcome to Epiphany. It was painted in ink so gold that it nearly shone, and Sirius could do nothing but stand awkwardly and let his curiosity – which according to the girl, should have been gone by now – consume him. He wasn’t so sure that he liked this Epiphany place after all.
“Happy?” she sniffed.
He turned towards her once more, shrugging his shoulders in aggravation. Was it commonplace for inhabitants of Epiphany to be sarcastic, not at all hospitable and generally inconsiderate of other's emotions? He hoped not. Something in his mind told him his visit to Epiphany would turn out to be a longer stay than he thought, and having to deal with multiple personalities like this girl would drive him thoroughly up the wall. "Perfectly peachy, thanks."
She glared at him, stopping herself from her signature eye roll, and mumbled something that sounded suspiciously close to Just the same as always, the arse. "Now that you're content - and who am I to ever keep you from whatever your heart desires? - will you buck up and answer me, please?"
The please was added in as an afterthought, but Sirius took one look at the unhidden glint of hopefulness in her eyes and grudgingly obliged. He watched, in slight perplexity, as her face practically lit up. She took a deep, slightly shaky breath.
"Do you remember me?" she asked cautiously, and all traces of sarcasm and rudeness drained from her. Doe brown eyes twinkling, a slight smile blooming on her lips, she gazed up at him in anticipation. It was then that Sirius noticed she had moved from her frozen spot, and that she was now standing directly in front of him. Her hand, cool to the touch, was placed delicately on his shoulder.
He shuddered, although as to why he didn't know. "Remember you?"
The smile stayed in place, though the light in her eyes dimmed a fraction. She nodded slowly.
"Do we know each other?" he asked, and in the moment the last syllable fell from his lips, her hand retracted. The light drained from her eyes and a sullen frown replaced the remnants of the slight smile.
"Yes," she said morosely. "Or, rather, I knew you."
"And how could that be? You knowing me when I don't know you?"
Her head snapped up, brown eyes changing into blazing amber. Sirius watched as she gathered herself up to her full height, which was still a foot and a half less than he. "I was one of them, alright? I'm not proud of it."
For god's sake, this girl was a headache. What in the blazes was she even talking about?
"Oh, stop it," she snapped, catching sight of the look on his face. "It doesn't matter if you don't know what I mean, alright? I only asked because your curiosity..."
"Didn't go away?" Sirius guessed.
She raised her eyebrows at him. "Yes. I was half expecting to find out that not only did your curiosity remain intact, but your memories as well. That would've been something. But, alas, Sirius Black, you're not as fantastic as we all thought you were. You're not above the rules, are you? You can't remember a thing."
Sirius opened his mouth, ready to let fly a tirade laced with profanities, when he took the time to consider the girl's words. With a jolt in his stomach, he realized, she was absolutely, frighteningly and entirely correct.
Of course, he'd been curious as to where and how he'd gotten to Epiphany, that much was true. But he'd arrived in such a flurry that he hadn't given any thought as to why or when, or even whom sent him here. And as much as he wanted to rack his mind, filter and sort through memories and loose thoughts that soared through his head with tails like kites, he found himself unable to bring anything to his mind besides three facts: his name was Sirius Orion Black, there was a strange girl in front of him, and he was in a strange land called Epiphany where strange seemed to be the norm.
A chill ran down his spine. "Why? Why is this happening to me?"
The girl smiled grimly. "Wouldn't we all like to know?"
"Could you please stop being so damn cryptic?" Sirius boomed, waving his hands frantically in the air.
She laughed. Head thrown back, eyes closed, tears of mirth spilling laughed until he was nearly spouting steam from his ears. She was infuriating, and she seemed perfectly aware of it, reveling in her uncanny ability to drive him mad. And all this, mere minutes after seeing each other. "Sometimes, Sirius Black, I can understand why I ever felt the way I did back then."
He rubbed his temples, his eyes fluttering closed. "You're speaking in riddles again. I have no idea-"
"I know, I know," she interrupted. "I can't help myself, really. It's just seeing you after all this time..."
Sirius frowned. All this talk of time was unsettling, as was the constant talk about how this girl knew him. It was high time someone explain something to him for once, and not leave him gaping like a fish out of water. The girl paused, suddenly looking up at the sky.
"Fiddlesticks," she said. "We've been talking too long."
"Oh, now, do we have somewhere vitally important to be?" Sirius snorted sarcastically. He only half expected her response. After all, she was from Epiphany, where he assumed everyone was chock-full of quirks. Including peculiarity.
She nodded, all seriousness. "Yes, the Watching Room."
As if he should know what that was. Sirius sighed, hesitantly clasping her outreached hand, and was nearly knocked off his feet as she began to run like he'd never seen anyone run before. Her white dress billowed behind her, her hair whipping backwards as they practically glided across a neat little path that drew them closer into what looked like the heart of Epiphany.
A medieval-esque tower pierced the clear blue sky in the distance.
Questions burned on Sirius' tongue like fire, his mind reeling as they ran. The girl, whose name was still unbeknown to him, ran with what seemed like no care in the world, her face a picture of mingled peace and determination. He had so much to ask, and yet there was still a nagging feeling in his brain that told him everything would fall into place sooner or later.
They had run a clean mile before he settled on one inquiry. He was only half-surprised that he wasn't out of breath.
"What's your name?" he said at last.
The girl turned her head, grinning at him like a Chesire cat.
"Ruby Welsh," she told him. "Oh, and Sirius?"
He looked at her, her eyes sparkling with renewed hopefulness.
"Welcome to Epiphany."
AN: I can't thank each and every one of you for leaving such encouraging, lovely reviews! Though it's been a bit since I've updated, and though you may encounter some random little one-shots or WIPs I post, Epiphany is first and foremost my priority. The first draft of the second chapter is being written, and I hope to have it finished for you all soon!
Thank you all, again, for everything!