DISCLAIMER: I own only the work put into writing this story. The characters and places of the Potterverse belong to JK Rowling, the publishing houses Scholastic and Bloomsbury, and Warner Bros Studios.
AUTHOR NOTE: This story containes spoilers for all seven books, especially OotP and DH. It also contains mentions of death, some mild swear words, and vague hints of slash, if you squint.
What is Family?
What is family? This is a question that haunts us all at one point or another. We all ask ourselves what it means to be a part of this group of people we call family. We ask ourselves this and many other questions throughout the course of our lives. Still the question of family is the one that continues to haunt me even now.
Many people have ideas on what happens after death. I myself contemplated it during the War. I often found myself thinking in the quiet hours of the morning on what would happen to me when I died. Where would I go, what would I do? It just seemed like such a great mystery to me.
The reality is both more and less then what I was expecting. I guess I thought I would go to a peaceful place, a place of rest after the trials of life or perhaps a place where I would see my family once again. In reality death is many things and I think they vary from person to person, circumstance to circumstance. There is indeed a beautiful and peaceful place, it's the breath of eternity and the culmination of all knowledge. There is also a place of adventures and fun, a place where those of restless and benevolent spirit go after they die. There is a place where spirits are recycled and sent back to Earth either as ghosts or as new people. There is another place for those who have done evil things in their lives, in that place they are devoured by the darkness they sought to control or by the darkness hidden inside of them.
All these places and more are hidden behind the veil in the dark between the stars. However the place I found myself in is neither beautiful nor adventurous, it is neither horrible nor peaceful. It is the place where a great many people go, at least for a time. It is sort of a Way Station, like the train station in King's Cross. It's the place where people wait for their loved ones. Its also where people who have unfinished business go until such time as they are ready to move on. This is the place James and I found ourselves in when we died.
Death is the great equalizer; however it's also the great giver of knowledge. In the moment of our death we see ourselves as we truly are for perhaps the very first time in our existence. We see ourselves without the excuses or the justifications. It is a humbling experience to see oneself in such a way. I always thought I was a good person, that I lived my life in such a way as to have no regrets. I was wrong. The more I watch those left behind the more I see that I made mistakes, some large some small. As I look down from the Way Station at those left behind I also see that none of my mistakes are irreversible, that there will come a time where all my mistakes will be forgiven and my regrets banished to distant dreams.
What is my greatest regret you ask? Family, yes my most pressing regret is my family. You know as I have sat here waiting and looking in on those left behind I have had ample time to contemplate the complexities of what it means to be a family. Like most people when I was young thought I knew all about family. Family is those related to you by blood. They are the people that tuck you in at night and whisper "I love you." The people that cry and scream and through tantrums when you take their toys, yet stay by your side when you're stuck in bed sick. These are the people that give you cards and presents on your birthday and Christmas. This and more was the essence of family. My mum, my dad, Petunia, my grandparents these were the people that made up my family when I was a little girl.
Then came the day when I met a little boy with knobby knees and lanky black hair called Severus Snape. Severus' family wasn't all the things that I thought a family should be. He had a mum and a dad but they didn't tuck him in at night or tell him "I love you". His dad shouted and struck his mum and him and his mum was too afraid of his father to help him much as he grew up.
Yet it was Severus who taught me all about magic. He became my best friend when I was little. Later he became my confidante when Petunia turned on me in jealousy and bitterness. As time moved on he too became a member of my family the little lost and bitter boy that I took in out of the cold and welcomed into my heart and home. He was my best friend at Hogwarts. I thought we would always be friends. Sure there were things about Severus that I didn't always like or approve of. The animosity between him and the Marauders or the way he would say Mudblood and Muggle as if they were dirty curse words. Yet under all the pureblood Slytherin posturing I knew there was that little boy who would watch me as I played on the swings or who would sit for hours and talk to me, tell me stories, or show me magic.
I remember the day Sirius and James played the cruel trick on him. Luring him to where Remus was locked away on the night of the full moon. Looking back on that I think that was when his bitterness got out of hand. On reflection I can't blame him, it must have been terrifying to be suddenly confronted with a monster over nothing more then a school boy prank. I think I should have backed him up more on that night. Don't get me wrong I to was furious at James but I felt he hadn't meant any harm in it. Indeed I still don't think either of them really meant for harm to come to Severus.
Nevertheless that was the day our friendship became strained. Then came that fateful day I saw the Dark Mark on his forearm. I am still ashamed of the way I acted, so Gryffindor, so hot headed. I didn't even give him a chance to explain. That I would turn my back so readily on one I once thought of as family is truly a shameful thing.
I've watched him from here at the Way Station. I've watched as all of his choices have been made clear. I watched the guilt he felt at having failed me. The loathing he feels for the Dark Lord and his Mark. I watched as he became a teacher of children. I've watched as he has given so much to protect my little boy. I've watched him risk his life before Voldemort time and time again to bring back information for the side of the Light. I've watched as the little boy who was my dearest friend shines through in the bitter and guilty man he has become. I have watched and been humbled and shamed.
I've watched and learned new words for family. I learned the words honorable, self-less, proud, fearless, and repentant. I have watched and known that he was always my family. He may not have been blood or beloved in the way of a husband, but he was a staunch and unwavering member of my family regardless. He was the friend that would have lain down his life for me, indeed who has dedicated his life to righting the wrong he thinks he has done me. I watch and know that when the time comes I will be waiting for him when he reaches the Way Station. I will welcome him with open arms and teary eyes. I will know that at long last that little lost boy, my dearest friend, as returned home to loving hearts and open arms.
Now who else in my life taught me the meaning of family? Who else do I wait and watch for? The Marauders those pranksters in troublemakers that became as dear as blood to me. My James, even now he sits beside me as we wait for the coming of our loved ones. James the boy who used to drive me to distraction at school with his arrogance, his petty school boy rivalries, and his constant declarations of love. The boy who eventually won my heart through sheer bloody minded stubbornness and persistence. The boy who became the man that fathered my beautiful baby boy and always found a way to put a smile on my face no matter how bad things got. The man who laid down his life so that our son and I could have a chance to live.
James is indeed a beloved member of my family. He's a man I can be proud to call husband, lover, and friend. He has his own regrets I have no doubt. He mourns the mistakes he made that cost his friends, his brothers, so much of their lives and their happiness. Even now he still believes that it will all work out in the end. He waits beside me with bated breath for those lost and broken who were once our dearest friends and family.
I think it was Remus and Sirius who I will wait for the most. Although unlike James I have not given up completely on Peter. How can I when I still hold some hope for my sister as well. Did you know that it was Sirius' idea to become illegal animagi? Yes, he was the one who wanted to make sure that Remus had someone to keep him company on the nights of the full moon. I always did think those two were closer then they let on. Still that was hardly any of my business back in school.
I always used to think that Sirius was just this rebel in school. He was constantly causing trouble and he was the one that came up with the more reckless and dangerous pranks that the Marauder's pulled. Once I got to know him however I realized that there was a reason he was in Gryffindor and it wasn't just because he was rash, impulsive, and arrogant. Sirius is a truly awesome friend. In his own way he reminded me a lot of Severus actually. Although I don't think either of them would ever thank me for the comparison. Both Sirius and Severus are truly fierce friends. Sirius would have laid down his life for his friends just as Severus would have laid down his life for me. Sirius has also suffered for his friendships just as Severus has. Merlin knows I would have never have expected him to last as long as he did in that hell hole Azkaban.
I think it was his love of his chosen family that gave him the strength to withstand Azkaban. Although I know for a fact that his family regularly tormented him when the Dementors came to call and forced him to relive his worst memories and his most painful mistakes. It near broke my heart to see him weeping and begging for forgiveness. I know James would regularly look in on his old friend in Azkaban and come back from the viewings drawn and haunted. Still for all that he was tormented for years he still gathered the strength to break out of Azkaban when he saw that picture of Peter in the Daily Prophet.
I so wanted to shout out to those below when Sirius escaped. I wanted to whisper in Remus' ears that things were not as they seemed. Not to mention how I longed to hold and comfort my poor baby when the Dementors plagued him all that year and how proud I was when my baby learned the Patronus. Although it was nothing to James' face when he saw the form I thought he would burst with love and pride. How I wanted to weep at the lies they told my baby about his godfather. Even now I shudder to think of that night in the Shrieking Shack. How once again Severus tried to protect my son, how Remus and Sirius finally uncovered Peter for the rat he was. The terror I felt when Remus transformed and the horror at the Dementors or the overwhelming pride when my little boy sent 50 of those awful things away. Finally the sorrow at the cruel deck Sirius had been dealt, free only to live as a fugitive on the run.
Still Sirius surprised me, the way he looked after my boy during his time on the run. The way he tried to guide him and keep him from harm. Even the way he cheered him up in those long days at my sister's house. We chose better then we knew when we picked Sirius for Harry's godfather. He would go to the ends of the Earth for my baby and I will always be in his debt for that.
For all that I disdained Sirius in our youth I loved him dearly as the years went by. I love him still and I wait anxiously to welcome him home. I look down on him now and see that Dumbledore has locked him away in his old home. Looking to James I see such anger and sadness in his eyes. I remember what he once told me of Sirius' family. They were worse even then Severus' family. They hated Sirius, loathed him because he refused their Dark pureblood ideals. I look into the house that is to becom Padfoot's prison and I again feel that pull of sorrow. It's a dreary mausoleum. It reeks of darkness even all the way up here. How Sirius must hate staying there. How he must loath being inactive, being trapped so like in Azkaban. Yet he will stay I think, if for no other reason then to watch over my baby.
What's this? His time is coming, soon our shining Grim will join James and I in this endless waiting. I see it clearly he hasn't a year yet to live. Oh how to describe this knowledge? That at last one of our loved ones will join us here in this place of waiting and watching. How awful it is that it must be our brother Sirius, our son's guiding star that comes to join us now. Yet I can't wait to see him again to take him in my arms and weep for all the troubles he suffered at the hands of fate and the cruel deck he was dealt in life.
It comes closer the time when he will join us. Each day I watch as the darkness that surrounds him grows more and more distinct. I watch as the Ministry condones the torture of innocent children. I hope that cow suffers for daring to harm my baby. I watch as my baby leads a revolution and is tormented at night by that bastard Voldemort. I watch as Severus must torment my son in an effort to teach him to guard his mind. I want to shout at them both for their stupidity.
I watch and I wait and I know when the day has arrived. The day of the History OWL, the day when Voldemort finally succeeds in trapping my baby, all for the sake of that thrice-damned prophesy. I watch in terror as my baby battles Death Eaters with only a group of school children at his side. I watch as they are herded into the room of Death. I watch as the Order of the Phoenix arrives at last. I watch and I know the moment has come. I look to my side and I see James striding forward with open arms joy and sorrow on his face. I watch as Sirius falls through the Veil and tumbles onto the platform. I watch as his look of surprise melts to joy at the sight of us.
I watch the first of our reunions with our family. I watch as James weeps on his brother's shoulders. I watch as Sirius closes his eyes and finally for a moment finds peace. I run to him and embrace him and weep for all he has suffered. I look to him and know this is why I am here. This is why James and I wait in this Way Station. So that when the time comes we can welcome all our family with open arms into the glorious dark between the stars. They will come to us each in their own time, they will come and we will rejoice at the coming of each of them.
This is the moment when I learn a new definition of family. Family is the joy you feel when those you thought lost to you finally find their way home. Family is the tears streaming down your face when the ones you have waited for are with you once again. Family is the people that you wait and watch for even after life has done.
Still our family is not complete. Who next taught me of family? It was Remus I think that taught me what I learned next of family. Remus who yearned for family in a way I think few would understand, certainly in my life I would never have understood it. I think in death I might have finally grasped at its meaning. It's the yearning we all feel for our family now, James, Sirius, and I. It's the yearning I see in Sirius' and James' eyes when they look toward Remus and my baby. It's the yearning I have no doubt they see in my eyes as I watch my loved ones on earth.
It's a desperate desire to be with those who love us and understand us best in the world. It's that fierce need for those who have seen us at our best and our worst and yet welcome us still with bright smiles and love in their eyes. It's a yearning for people who push back the darkness in our minds and bring laughter to our hearts. It is a wanting to belong to someone for all the rest of our days. Remus found that in his brothers, his companions, his dear and beloved friends. Remus found that only to have it taken away first by Peter's betrayal, second by our death, third by Sirius imprisonment, and lastly by the sure knowledge that he wouldn't even be allowed around our legacy because of prejudiced laws forbidding werewolves from being able to be around young children. It's no wonder he ran as far and as fast as he could to try to outdistance the pain.
I rejoiced when he was brought back into the fold. Remus was given both his loyal companion and his precious cub back again, only to have them taken away once again by the rat's betrayal. I watch him now as he mourns for Sirius and the last of his true friends. I watch as both Moony and my baby mourn the loss of a loved one. I wish I could tell them not to mourn us. I see Sirius reaching toward them as well, trying to tell them that we are well and not to weep. We are free of the pain of the earth; all that is left is the agony of waiting.
Twice now I have mentioned the Rat, as James and Sirius call him. I think it is time to tell you more of him. You see I look to the earth and I see the ending of another loved one. Dumbledore will not last the year. He is dying in his effort to protect my baby from Tom Riddle's perversion of all that is good and natural in the world. Even here we do not speak of what he has done to himself. It is too horrible a thing to image. The thought that my sweet little boy must face that awfulness if almost too much to bear! Still with Dumbledore gone the War will be climbing to its zenith. It's very likely that after this year our waiting will be nearly over. Although my mother's heart prays that at least one will still be out of our reach.
It is time to tell you what I have learned of family from the traitor known as Peter Pettigrew. I have learned that sometimes family isn't enough that sometimes fear is greater even then the love one feels for their family. I do not hate or disdain Peter for his cowardice, although I think in life I would have. I think Sirius and James still look down upon him but then his crimes against them are more severe. I pity Peter truly I pity him because I know he believes there will be no one waiting for him when he dies. He believes there will be no one to rejoice at his coming, no one to shed tears at the sight of him at the end, no arms to embrace him and hold him close.
I know better, for all that they may distain him now, for all their disappointment and anger at him both Sirius and James will still welcome him when he comes. They still wait for him just as they wait for Remus and Harry. They can see the terror that is Voldemort and the weakness that is Peter. They may disdain but they can hardly blame. As I have said before death is the great revealer of truth. None are without faults and regrets. None who walk the earth are perfect. What I learned from Peter is that family is about loving people unconditionally, like when a parent loves their child. Just because they have fallen short of what we expected doesn't mean we can turn our backs on them. Peter is still family no matter how he or the rest of the Marauders feel on the matter.
It has begun. Dumbledore is dead and Snape has been cast out of Hogwarts for killing him, never mind the old coot asked it of him. Who will look after my boy now? He has gone back to the protection of my sister's house. Dear Petunia, how far we have come from when we were little girls and we used to do everything together. I have watched every year that he was with you.
I kept waiting for you to look past your bitterness and your jealousy and see the beautiful little boy that my Harry is. Instead each year you grew more and more bitter and you neglected my baby more and more. Oh how angry I was when you placed him in that cupboard, a cupboard for Merlin's sake what were you THINKING? I was so angry and so ashamed both of myself and of you Petunia we have both made so many mistakes. Still I wait for you for as I said one never turns one's back on family. Besides I think you have taught me well what bitterness and jealousy and grudges do. They corrupt life and steal joy. No I won't make the same mistakes you have my dear sister. I will wait and watch and when the time comes I will face you once again and perhaps I will see that little girl you once were in the bitter woman you have become.
Oh dear, oh no, oh this can not be. My baby, oh my poor baby boy, he's coming! He's coming home to us! I see it, so many are going to join us Remus, Peter, Severus, and oh my poor sweet Harry. None of them will last the year! I see the darkness circling around them, like a loving embrace in some and like Dementors circling in others. I wonder, perhaps that means some are meant to die and some aren't? Perhaps it's just that some are in too close contact with that bastard Voldemort and he's polluting everything even their deaths. At least I have some consolation in this, the bastard won't last the year either. Good, if my baby must come to me early then the bastard that has stolen so much of my family's happiness can rot forever in darkness as well.
I can't believe it all those horrid lies and all that fear and my poor baby stuck in the middle of it all. I look now to James and Sirius, and I must say I don't think I've seen such expressions on their faces since the day my baby was born. There's pride, anxiousness, fear, sorrow, joy, and so many others. I think part of them is yearning to see my baby and all the others again, yet a part of them wants to spare at least my baby the pain ahead. I look down at my baby as he battles Death Eaters and searches for the darkest of all magical artifacts.
I look to him and I remember his life, what has lead him to this point. I remember his first words, his first broom ride, and the day that Voldemort came, the day James and I died. I remember watching him grow up alone and unloved, forced to sleep in a cupboard and work like a servant because my sister never forgave me for being a witch. I watched as he went to Hogwarts and he faced danger year in and year out. I watched as he had to suffer through adversity yet came out each time stronger than before. I watched as he wept for us in the quiet hours of the morning, how he would sit for hours and look at our pictures. I watched as he slowly grew from my sweet and smiling baby boy to a man I am proud to call my son. I watched and waited for his suffering to be over for him to finally have the life of happiness he so richly deserves.
I watch still. I watch this final year of my baby's life. This year that will see so many come home to us at last. This year that will see nearly the end of our waiting. I watched as Remus found comfort in Tonks, how I proud I was of Sirius' honest joy. I watched as once again Remus tried to run from family and how he finally found his way back to his loved ones again and named my baby young Teddy's godfather.
I watched as Wormtail finally redeemed himself and spared my baby's life. I watched the surprise in his face as he looked up to see all of us waiting with open arms to welcome him home. I watched the tears in their faces as they embraced and forgave past sins. I watched as Severus spent his final days protecting my baby and I was there to welcome my old friend with open arms when he opened his eyes. I watched the guilt and the bitterness be washed away by tears he so seldom let fall in life. I watched as finally at long last Severus and the Marauders came to peace.
I watched with bated breath as the battle raged. I watched the moment the knowledge of what was meant to be sank into my baby's eyes. I watched as at long last all the Marauders were reunited. I watched as tears and apologies and fierce cries of joy filled the Way Station. I watched and I waited and I learned.
The final person to teach me of family was none other then my baby boy. I watched and I was even there for a brief moment. I walked with him when my baby walked toward his death. I watched and I was beyond humbled. I watched and I realized an important part of family. Family is love and acceptance, family is unconditional love and patience. Family is waiting by the Way Station to welcome those left behind. . Family is looking into my baby's eyes and knowing that this is the greatest of all the things I have ever done. This is my shinning contribution to life. Family is gazing upon your baby and seeing a legacy of love that lasts for eternity. Family is being able to realize finally that you don't have to wait and watch because as long as you hold them in your hearts and memories your family is never far from you even in death. Family is watching my baby boy walk into the green light of the killing curse.
Finally family is waking up at the Way Station and realizing that the wait is over. The train has come and that it's okay to climb on board. That even though they may not all be right beside us our loved ones are always in our hearts. They are with us as we finally take the train ride home.
I know now I will never return to the Way Station. That when James, Sirius, Peter, Severus, Remus and I all board this train we will never turn back. That the next we'll see the ones left behind is when they get off the train that takes us all home. It will be many years yet before young Teddy, my Harry, or dear Petunia join us. Still I look at those joining me on the train and I can't help but smile. I look out the window and see the earthly shadows fade as the glorious castle looms up ahead. I think I finally found the simplest definition for family. Family is home. Family is the train ride to the next great adventure with all those you love beside you and held close in your heart. Family is those you carry with you into paradise.