Three O'clock in the Morning

In the real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning. - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Writ in Water (Prologue)

Here lies one whose name was writ in water. - Keats

All was darkness and all was night. He did not want to open his eyes; he didn't want to see the wreckage of what would inevitably lay before him. This was what he had feared - what they had all feared. And it had come to pass. Yet, he felt like he had a concussion - the number of times he had had one when he had been a Beater! - so maybe he had passed out and would not have to see the carnage. That thought seemed rather unlikely, so he decided to remain where he lay for the moment and hope for the best.

He tried to remember what happened last. In his mind's eye he could see the Department of Mysteries, the battle unfolding. He saw Harry fighting with Death Eaters. And his heart broke again. It was his fault. If only he had not told James to make the switch. If only he had killed Peter that next day. If only he had escaped Azkaban earlier. If only he and Moony had killed Peter in the Shrieking Shack. He knew the others thought of Peter as Wormtail - a being not worthy of a human name - but he always thought of the rat as Peter. The name Wormtail held so many memories with it - the night they learned Moony was a werewolf, the time he and Prongs had charmed Snivellus' hair pink, the day the Marauders had finally become Animagi, Prongs and Lily's wedding. So many memories that Peter had long ago forfeited his rights to. He wondered when Peter had sold his soul to Darkness. He wondered how long they had sheltered a traitor in their midst. He clenched his hand into an angry fist. All he wanted was to be with his godson - and his foolish actions, his blindness to betrayal, kept him from Harry. For that there was no forgiveness.

He tried to turn his head to the side, but - unlike his hand - a simple motion shot pain through it like a curse. He winced slightly and wondered just what kind of curse Bellatrix had cast on him. Obviously one meant to cause a great deal of pain. Well, if that was how she wanted to play, why did she not just cast an Unforgivable and get it over with? Whatever thoughts paraded as decisions in his deranged cousin's head, he vowed that he would not move for a long time. If he had his choice, he would stay where he was - probably Hogwarts, come to think of it - for the rest of his natural life.

That decision was not to be, though, because, after a moment, he heard a familiar voice call his name. "Sirius? Sirius! Oh, God, Sirius!"

He cracked open a single blue eye. Remus, dressed in fine Muggle clothing, stood over him, looking worried. "Hello, Moony. Lovely night, isn't it?"

Remus' brow wrinkled. "Moony?" he muttered under his breath, but Sirius didn't hear. "Are you drunk?"

"Ah, that I were, old friend, ah, that I were. It would make me ever so much more comfortable. You wouldn't happen to have any whiskey on you, would you? No, even if you did, you wouldn't give me any. I can't think that Poppy would be pleased with you if you did."

"You are drunk." Remus knelt next to his old friend and examined the fresh bruises that decorated the side of his face. "And you got into a fight."

"I got into a fight? Of course, I got into a fight." Sirius asked incredulously. "I thought you were there.Now that I think of it, I don't remember much."

Remus nodded knowingly. "You were drunk. You got into a fight. You passed out on the sidewalk. You haven't done this in a while, Siri."

"Sidewalk?"

"What do you think you're lying on?"

Sirius propped himself up on his elbows, and, indeed, he was laying flat on his back on a Muggle sidewalk. In the middle of a city. In the dead of night. In a Muggle city. Suddenly he remembered why this was a bad thing - his name was yet to be cleared!

"Moony!" he yelped. "Get me out of here! Fast! How close are we to home?"

'Why does he keep calling me Moony?' Remus thought as he looked down on his best friend. 'That has to be one of the strangest names I've ever heard. Why on earth is he panicking like that?' Out loud he only said, "Calm down, Sirius, we're only a couple blocks from your flat. Lily just sent me out looking for you."

He pulled himself to his feet and instinctively slid into the shadows. "My flat? Lily? Are you feeling like yourself, Remus?"

Remus stared at his old friend oddly for a moment. "Sheesh. And I thought it was only dogs that got like this at the full moon," he said as he reached for Sirius' arm.

Sirius' pale haunted eyes widened and he jerked himself away from the fair- haired man. "What did you say?"

"Don't take offense, Sirius. I just said that only dogs get like this at the full moon." He gestured to the golden moon that was rising above the city.

Sirius tried to run away, he really made a valiant effort, but all he could manage were a few stumbling steps before he fell to his knees. He muttered many things under his breath, all too quickly for Remus to form any full sentences. He did hear: "Deatheater. Harry. full moon.. Peter. Harry.bastards.kill.Harry.Deatheater."

"Boy, you are drunk," Remus said, hoisting his friend up from behind. "Now we're going to get you home. Lily is already having kittens that you stormed out last night. Reminds her of -" Remus suddenly shut up, remembering that Sirius didn't want to be told that.

"No, I'm not drunk," Sirius protested. "Let go of me. Lily is dead. James is dead. By the rights, I should be dead, too. Now, let go of me. I know you're a Deatheater. How did you get Remus Lupin's hair? Capture and torture? Imperius? Even I know at this point that he would not betray us. Not like some friends I've had."

Remus nearly dropped his friend. "Betray you? Oh, Siri, is that what you think happened? Never. You know you're my best friend. Now you're drunk and Lily's worried. Let's get back to the flat and we can work things out when you're sober."

Sirius feebly tried to wrench himself from his friend's firm grasp, but there was no having it. Remus was stronger than he was. Another reason to suspect Polyjuice potion, as if Remus walking as a man under the full moon was not enough. Did the Deatheater and Lord Voldy Pants really think he was that stupid? Sure, he had spent the last couple months drinking himself into a permanent stupor, but, if he was sober, he had his wits about him.

"Here we are," Remus said, holding Sirius in front of a door that said 3B. "Lily," the man called through the door. "Lily! You'll never believe the tramp I found over on Church Street!"

The door opened and there stood Lily Evans. Her hair was pulled back and there were more lines on her face than Sirius remembered, but this was definitely Lily Evans. Relief spilled across the woman's face as she pulled Sirius into a warm bear hug. "Oh, Sirius, Sirius, Sirius!" she whispered into his shoulder. "I thought - oh, I thought you weren't going to come back again!"

When Sirius could pull himself out of his one-time friend's embrace he walked into the apartment. It was purely Muggle. A television, a couch, a table, a full kitchen with all the Muggle gadgets. Sirius couldn't imagine any of them living there. Then he saw Harry, curled up in the corner of a chair, reading a rather large book. His glasses were perched on the end of his nose and he hadn't seen Sirius walk in the door. 'If only things could stay this way,' Sirius thought. Then he smiled.

"Harry!"

Harry jumped in his chair, his green eyes wide and startled. He closed his book and took off for his room. Sirius took a step forward, but Remus grabbed him by the shoulder. "Siri, you're drunk. Don't talk to him now. Calm down first."

Sirius looked at his friend, utterly confused, as Lily puttered about the kitchen making tea. "What are you on about, Moony? I'm not drunk and I don't need to calm down. I just need to see Harry."

Remus bit his lip and exchanged a look with Lily, but let Sirius go. It seemed like the best idea at the moment, but he had the sinking feeling he would be regretting that decision in a minute. Sirius - especially drunk Sirius - was never nice to Harry Potter, his stepson. He physically cringed when he heard Sirius open the door to Harry's bedroom and whisper the words everyone had come to dread: "You look so much like your father."

Sirius opened the door he had seen Harry close only a moment before. It was a nondescript door, painted a flat white, and held no sign of what lay beyond. He wondered why he felt so nervous about opening a single door. Perhaps it was that look on Harry's face when he saw his godfather. If Lily's face had been washed with relief, Harry's had been clouded with fear. But why would he be afraid if Sirius had come back? Had he been scared that Sirius would never come back? He should know by now that if his godfather would face Azkaban for him, a little battle in the Ministry should not be a problem.

He leaned on the doorframe and saw Harry sitting on his bed, the large book open once more. "You look just like your father," Sirius breathed, remembering the number of times he had stumbled down to the Common Room in the middle of the night to find James still awake and studying.

Harry slammed his book shut and scuttled to the other side of the room. He did not look relieved, or happy, or pleased, or even slightly amused by the sudden appearance of his godfather. If anything, Sirius thought, the boy looked rather frightened. Merlin, why would he be afraid? Sirius gave a mental shrug and assumed that he was projecting his own nervousness onto the poor boy.

Sirius moved to sit on the edge of the bed and tried to give Harry a warm smile. Perhaps he had thought that Sirius had died during the battle? Maybe that was why the woman who looked like Lily was looking for him. He could understand Harry's pain, if that were the case. The pain of losing Lily and James - and the ultimate betrayal of Peter - would be forever etched into his mind. "Hello, Harry."

There was a nervous twitch in Harry cheek that the boy tried to hide. "H- hello, Sirius. How are you?"

"As well as can be expected after what I went through. Happy to see me again?"

From the look on Harry's face, his godson was terrified to see him again, but Harry only said, "Of course. Mum was quite worried."

Sirius frowned. Did Harry think that the Lily impersonator was really his mother?

"I missed you, too!" Harry hurried to add, obviously misinterpreting Sirius' expression. "Mum was just worried that - " Harry broke off his sentence half way through, just as Remus had when he found Sirius on the sidewalk.

"What? Lily was worried that what, Harry?"

"Y-you don't like us to talk about it."

Sirius' heart broke. Did his beloved godson think that all parents were just like the Dursleys? He silently cursed himself for not finding Harry sooner. How could he have abandoned the child like that? Hoping to make up for lost time and comfort Harry at the same time, Sirius reached for his godson, hoping to pull him into a hug.

Harry quickly pulled his body away from Sirius' hand and let out a muffled whimper. His green eyes grew large and wet.

Insulted, Sirius yelped, "What the hell was that for?"

Suddenly he heard the door open and then slam behind him. Then Remus stood between Harry and Sirius. Sirius stared at the man in shock for a moment. Moony had never tried to do anything like this before. If anything, since learning of Sirius' innocence, his lover had encouraged more interaction between Padfoot and Prongs, Jr., as they affectionately called him in private. Sirius merely stood up and tried to walk past Remus so that he could start talking to Harry again.

"No, Siri," Remus said firmly, pinning Sirius gently by the shoulders.

"What do you mean, "no"?"

"Not this time. You're drunk and you don't know what you're doing. We are going to leave Harry alone and you are going to sleep off your drinking."

"I'm not drunk, Moony, and I'm not going to leave Harry alone." Sirius stared coldly into Remus' amber eyes.

"No."

"Harry is my godson and I refuse to let him be after this. I have a responsibility. Surely you know what responsibility is."

"Sirius! You can see to you so-called responsibilities later, when you're sober. And who is this Moony you keep referring to?"

"Ceridwen preserve us all, if you don't remember what Moony means!" Sirius replied menacingly. "Or did Peter not tell you about Moony, Padfoot, Prongs, and Wormtail? I will see to my godson. Now. You will leave."

"No. There had been enough problems tonight. You do not need to add to them."

"Do not force me to make you move, old friend. It will not be pleasant. If you leave now, you can save your sorry hide."

Then Sirius heard Harry make a small, frightened squeak. He looked at his godson for a moment, his heart breaking, before he shoved Remus out the door.

Harry looked down at his feet and sighed. Sirius grabbed him by the shoulders; Harry twitched at that, but did not say anything. "What's wrong?"

The green-eyed boy looked up at his guardian, perplexed. "Pardon?"

"What's wrong, Harry?"

"What's wrong with me?"

Harry blinked. This was not the Sirius he knew. "Are you sure you're drunk?"

"I'm most definitely not drunk," Sirius sighed. "In fact, I am more sober than I have been in a very long time."

"Sure," Harry replied warily.

"Now are you going to tell me what's wrong?"

"I do not have anything to complain about," the raven-haired boy said quickly, as if reciting a line from a play.

"Don't lie to me, Harry."

"I'm not lying, Sirius. I do not have anything to complain about."

"Harry," Sirius said. "I know that you don't like to complain and you want to prove that you don't need to rely on others. I even understand that you don't want people to get close to you. But you have to talk to someone, and I'm here for you."

"Did Uncle Remus tell you to say that?"

"Why yes - wait, since when did you call Moony 'uncle'?"

"Ah, Sirius, he's always been Uncle Remus. Ever since - since -" Harry cut his sentence short.

Sirius shot Harry a very dirty, unamused look. "Do you want to finish that sentence?"

"No?" Harry squeaked.

"I think you should finish that sentence."

Harry tried to plead with Sirius with his eyes, but Sirius would have none of that. He wanted to know what was going on and he wanted to know now. "Finish. That. Sentence."

Harry looked at his feet and mumbled something unintelligible.

"What?"

He mumbled something again.

"Harry, it doesn't count as an answer if I can't hear you. Oh, sweet Circe, I sound like a professor. Now answer me."

"He's been Uncle Remus ever since Dad left," the boy whispered.

Sirius furrowed his brow. "Are you doing something you're not supposed to be doing, Harry? If you are, you know you can always talk to me about it, right?"

Harry pulled himself further away from Sirius, if that were possible. "Why are you doing this to me?" he cried.

Slightly affronted by this sudden turn of events, Sirius blinked. "Harry, I'm trying to help you, you know, be compassionate and whatnot. I'm sorry if I don't have much experience, but I only want to help you."

"No, you don't! You're just baiting me, like you always do! Trying to make me say the wrong thing so you can prove to everyone that I'm just like James!" Harry's hands flew to his mouth when he said those words.

"You are just like James," Sirius said evenly.

"How can you say that?" Harry looked incredibly wounded.

"I'm not sure we're on the same page. You always liked it when I compared you to James. You said it made you feel closer to him." Sirius eyed his godson warily.

Harry stared at Sirius as if he had six heads and a scaled tail. "I don't want to be any closer to that man than I already am. You and Mum know that. I wasn't running away to find him the other night."

"Harry, your parents - both of them - are quite dead," Sirius whispered painfully. "I saw the bodies myself. No one ever thought you were running away - even Snape knew about those visions. You have every right to be closer to your father than you are now - he was a great man and a loyal defender of the Light. We need to get back home to Grimmauld Place, and soon."

"Sirius, you are drunk. Or you're mad. James left Mum when I was only a baby. You hate him. You won't let us say his name. We live in this flat and Uncle Remus is my History professor. You're married to Mum. You love her. You hate me. Uncle Remus and Uncle Peter are your best friends. I don't have any visions. I'm home because I tried to run away from school. Do you understand all of that?"

Sirius swore creatively in English, Italian, and Welsh. He called upon the great wizards of the past. "I fell through the fucking Veil didn't I? That bitch."