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

Death (Epilogue)

Think not disdainfully of death, but look on it with favor; for even death is one of the things that Nature wills.Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

There was a picture in the paper. He was smiling, showing large white teeth, and his hair, dark as his name, was pulled off his neck. He looked respectable and utterly normal. The photograph was taken some months before a magical accident changed his life forever.

Severus hated the picture. His friend never grinned like that. His eyes were never that clear. Sirius hated wearing his hair back, so much so that Severus always remembered him with his hair in his face.

Sirius Leonis Black, a well-respected member of our community, passed away two days ago while on a family holidays in Wales. He was fishing with his son, brother, and cousin when he fell off the boat...

Severus stared at the words and phrases that formed the obituary of his friend. When Severus awoke in the hospital, he learned that Sirius had called the hospital half in hysterics after exploding his fountain. He had tried to contact his friend, but when he called the flat, Lily angrily informed him that Sirius no longer lived there. Not knowing what else to do, Severus waited, assuming that Sirius would come to visit him.

Then the nurse had given him the newspaper and Severus found Sirius's obituary. It wounded him deeply that the last interaction he had with his friend was an angry fight. It was not right that Sirius should die, when he was only just learning to live and to have a family. And what a torturous way to die!

"Severus?"

The raven haired counselor looked up from his newspaper only to see his colleague, Remus Lupin, standing in the doorway to his hospital room. "What do you want?"

"I know you and Sirius were close, especially these past few months." The dusty haired teacher paused. "I hate to tell you this, but he died the other day."

"I know," Severus paused heavily. "It's terrible."

Remus nodded slowly. "Lily's taking it hard. They were in the middle of a row when he left for Wales."

"I know."

Remus's eyes flashed darkly for a moment. "Sasha was hysterical when she learned."

"Understandable."

"And Dr. Mabhubani told Lily it was fascinating. And Sasha says that Wolfgang has been having fits since he heard about it, begging to go to Wales."

"Understandable."

"What is understandable?" Remus cried, obviously at the end of his rope. "What's going on? What do you know that I don't?"

"I don't think it's my place to tell Sirius's secrets, Lupin."

"He isn't here to tell me," Remus exclaimed, his voice betraying his grief. "He isn't here anymore and I know that you know what was going on. You know why he was acting like a stranger to his best friend."

"He had his reasons to keep you at arm's length. He was not trying to hurt you, but he refused to hurt himself as well."

"What are you on about?"

Severus sighed and buried his face in his hands. He felt as though he were betraying Sirius's trust, even though Sirius was gone. "He would have killed me."

"What? Speak up."

"He would have killed me if I told you. He never even told Harry, and Sasha didn't want to hear about it."

Remus looked as though Severus had just struck him. "What? What did I do to him?"

"You didn't do anything, Lupin. He did something."

"What?"

"He lived. He was here. And you were here. And you were young and happy. That's all that happened."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"He loved you, you dolt."

Remus blinked. He had not been expecting that particular answer. "Of course, he did. We were best friends."

Severus rolled his eyes. "Moron. He loved you."

"As a brother."

"As a lover."

"Is this some kind of sick joke, Snape?" Remus snapped. "You know as well as I do how Sirius felt about homosexuals. He would never love me like that. He had Lily, the girl he would have died for."

"Black loved Lily. Sirius loved you."

"I see no difference."

Severus wanted to scream at his colleague for being so thick-headed, but he knew that would be counter-productive. "There is one. It's the same difference between Sullivan and Wolfgang."

"I don't know what's wrong with you, but there was only one Sirius Black and one Wolfgang Sullivan."

"Have you talked to Harry about this?"

"I'm not that callous, Snape. Harry is beside himself; he watched his stepfather drown. And Sasha won't breathe a word."

"Sirius wasn't Sirius. Isn't." Severus paused to gather his thoughts. "Sirius was not the same person this summer as he was in school. Or even last winter."

"What are you talking about?"

"He wasn't Sirius." Severus realised that he was only further confusing Remus. "It's as if Sirius were a rubber duck replaced by a different rubber duck. It would be a different rubber duck, but still a rubber duck."

"But Sirius isn't a rubber duck."

"No, he was a Sirius who was replaced by a different Sirius. Therefore, he was a different Sirius, but still a Sirius."

Remus was about to open his mouth, clearly to once more protest the confusing analogy, when Lily, newly widowed, stepped into Severus's hospital room. Normally, Severus would say something disparaging, but the redhead was clearly mourning the loss of her beloved. Clothed head to toe in somber black and grey, her eyes were miserably swollen and red. This was no time for his trademark sarcasm.

"You believed him, Dr. Snape?" Lily asked quietly. "He told you and you believed him?"

Severus shook his head. "I didn't believe him at first, Mrs. Black. I thought he was mad. But, yes, I know he was speaking the truth."

"How?" The widow sounded exasperated. "It was madness."

"When you are given concrete proof-" at this Severus allowed himself a smile "- one can hardly ignore the facts."

"Proof?" Lily and Severus seemed to have forgotten that Remus was still in the room. Remus was quite content with this fact and had quietly retreated to the corner by the window. "What sort of proof could he have? He said he was a wizard, Snape! That's delusional."

"I watched the man turn into a dog, Mrs. Black. He changed my hair and clothing with a flick of his wand and a quick incantation. He lit fires in the air and accidentally shattered fragile objects with mere emotion. It would be delusional to disbelieve the man."

"What about the other things?" Lily questioned brokenly, eying her husband's best friend in the corner. "The things you were telling Remus."

"If you're asking if Sirius loved Remus, then the answer is yes. He loved you dearly, but not as a wife." When he saw tears pooling in Lily's eyes, Severus quickly hurried onward. "The man you married undoubtedly loved you very much, but this was not the same man. He lived a very different life before he found us."

"What do you mean?" Remus broke in. "How was his life different?"

Severus sighed. He did not want to discuss this, not now, not when Sirius's death was so fresh and painful. "Sirius had a troubled childhood and ran away from home at the age of sixteen. He was disowned by his family. As a teenager he fought in a war that was dividing his world, and fought his own family. When the war was won, it ended with the death of his best friend and his wife. Sirius was accused of homicide and treason, and then he was sentenced to life in prison, despite being innocent, without a trial. Your counterpart, Remus, had been his lover since they were in school, but the man turned his back on Sirius and believed he was guilty. After twelve years, Sirius broke out of prison and lived as a wanted fugitive for three years. The war was beginning to pick up again after his escape and he desperately wanted to fight again. In the first battle, something happened and he landed himself here."

"I don't know what to say," Lily admitted. "I never thought of it that way."

Remus frowned. "That would explain his strange behavior."

"How is Harry doing?" Severus asked.

Both Lily and Remus's faces darkened.

"He's not taking Sirius's death very well. He's taken to hiding in his room for most of the day and is not eating well. I'm worried about sending him back to Hogwarts at the start of term. He grew exceptionally close to Sirius in the past few months and, then, to watch him die – Harry's hurting."

Severus nodded. This was to be expected. "Why don't you have him talk to the other people who were there? Lucius has not visited, but I can not imagine that he and his son are taking this lightly. Or that Sirius's brother is untroubled by our friend's untimely death, either."

Remus smiled bitterly. "That's a good idea, Snape. We may well try that. On the other hand, I promised to take Harry out today. I think he needs to leave the flat and breathe some fresh air. We aren't going to talk about Sirius's death; it will just be some time for the two of us."

Severus shrugged as if to say, 'I'm not stopping you.'

Lily quietly watched her friend leave. "Do you know what the worst part is, now, Dr. Snape?"

"What?"

"I didn't believe him." A tear slipped from her eye. "I threw the bloody china vase at him when he told me the story. I told him to leave and not come back until he was willing to tell me the truth. I kicked him out of our home. OUR home, Snape! I was unimaginably cruel to him because he thought he could trust me."

Severus did not know what to say to that. "He loved you, Ms. Black, even if it wasn't the way you wanted it."

"Somehow that doesn't help." Lily left the hospital room.

The dark-eyed counselor frowned at his stark room. He was trapped in a disgustingly sanitary hospital room, captured in a sea of icy white, while his friend lay in a casket, undoubtedly of his brother's choice. Severus had been quite ill while Sirius was away in Wales. His friend, his dearest friend, had died alone, estranged from two of the people to whom he was closest: Severus Snape and Sasha Black.

The newspaper called him a pillar of the community. The fool who wrote Sirius's biography called him a family man, a devoted husband, a man who looked after his aging mother and took his stepson under his wing. He continued the family business and lived a perfectly normal life.

The idiot, Severus decided, did not know Sirius at all. Sirius was a deviant in most manners conceivable. The man was a wizard, a thief, an escaped convict, an abused child, slightly unstable, sometimes a dog, a godfather, a lover, a friend, and a self-conscious aristocrat. The two portraits of one man seemed to be mutually exclusive.

Looking at the obituary, Severus admitted that he would miss his friend. He would miss the tea and the pubs, the conversations on law and magic, the man's surprisingly biting wit, his innocent confusion, and his presence. He saw nothing wrong with breaking down and crying in his hospital bed, soaking the newspaper and his best friend's photograph with tears.

That is the end of Three O'clock in the Morning. Thank you to everyone who reviewed or even just read. This was a great pleasure to write and I hope you enjoyed it. The sequel of sorts, Dark Night of the Soul, is already in the works, but will not be making an appearance until winter at the earliest. I insist it be the best it can be.

I offer my thanks to Hillary (Toasterlicious) who has been my beta for the past months and is probably the only reason the grammar here is readable.

My reviewers:

Siri Kat, Jeanne2: Sirius is dead.

Hekate101, Kazaera: Sirius died. He drowned when he fell off the boat in Wales.

A Happy Little Bumblebee: I'm sorry I saddened you, but Sirius had to die. I am happy you liked it. Perhaps you will like the sequel as well.

Weatherwax: I adored your review by the way. It was wonderful to read. Yes, Sirius died, but everything that happened will not be explained for some time yet. I'm hoping that people will read Dark Night of the Soul because there are so many loose ends in this story. I'm not promising an understanding read, but if you liked this, you would probably like DNoS. And I was afraid people would figure out what was going on when I posted that on FictionAlley.

chevalier Ryu: He died. But Severus has only kind feelings toward him, so that isn't so bad, is it? As I told Weatherwax, there are a lot of loose ends in this story (and you seem to find them all) that will be explained in Dark Night of the Soul.

Samara-Morgan-101: Yes, I killed Sirius.

purplemonky: No joke, Sirius is dead.

Alynna Lis Eachann: So that last line wasn't so cheesy after all? Thank you.

eruve tinwen: Sh! Be quiet about that!

sgtharrison46: This isn't the end of the plot! Yes, Sirius is dead, but so much has yet to be explained. This is an end unto itself, but your questions will eventually be answered.

nimbio: The plot isn't over! ToM is, though, and I'm happy you like it.

Pam Briggs: The epilogue isn't so much a finale as a quiet close. The prologue of Dark Night of the Soul is something of a finale, but I refused to post it as a chapter in this fic. (Yes, DNoS is in the works.) I'm happy you enjoyed my ToM and hope you continue with my Fitzgeralds (my personal nickname for this set of novel-lengths).

merato: The answer lies here: this is not the end. This is the end of this segment, but the story continues. If I wrote the whole story in one go, it would have more than 100 chapters, which I think is absurd. It makes more sense to cut it into palatable sizes.

LittleGreenPerson: I'm happy you liked this fic (and Niffled me, I can't thank you enough, it was quite exciting). This is the epilogue, but most of your questions will be answered in Dark Night of the Soul, including how a sequel can exist.

Mars-Alfgonzo: No, that wasn't sarcasm. Well, that particular comment was, but he really is dead. And this world is still very real: if you die in this world, you're dead.

The Voice of Reason: I'm dead serious. (Ha, ha, I made a pun.) In any case, this is not the end. There will be a sequel. I promise.

sunnysparkles: I killed my Sirius. I was very upset about it myself, actually. The people who live with me are sick of me saying, "What's the best way to kill someone?" They were scared the first time I asked, and now they just tell me to shut up and write.

ShortySC2: Thank you! I liked how I killed my Sirius: rather painless, no? In any case, here is the much awaited epilogue.