There was a distant crash of a new wave hitting the shore and a thud of body rolling over in the sand. Sirius turned to see the figure emerge from the mist of spray.
As he walked toward them he grew younger, and held himself taller. He slowed when he saw the people he was approaching and where they were standing. He turned back, a brief, familiar twist of the shoulders, that caused Sirius's greeting to stick in his throat. Sirius reached blindly beside him and found the sleeve of James's robes.
James shook his arm free, concentrating on watching Harry through the veil. Sirius grabbed again, almost pulling him over in his insistence that James see.
James glanced back behind him, as though he should be able to see Remus's death and prevent it.
Remus climbed the steps to the dais slowly. He looked sheepish, peering at them through his fringe like he had done after every full moon at school, asking if they were still his friends. Sirius reached for him, wrapping his hands around Remus's arm and pulling him close on instinct.
Remus smelled the same as always.
Sirius hugged him, one hand on the back of Remus's head and his cheek pressed against Remus shoulder. He felt torn; despair at Remus's death, joy at having him here, anger at anything he could think of. Remus hugged him back, holding him together.
"What happened, mate?" James asked.
Remus didn't completely let go of Sirius to answer, but James didn't notice; he was still casting glances at the veil over his shoulder.
"What can you see?" Remus asked.
James turned back to look through the veil and Remus stepped beside him as James pointed out Harry, talking with Ron and Hermione.
"Hi, Remus," another voice said.
Remus looked up, startled to see Lily on the other side of James. Except, of course, where else would she be?
"Hi," he said, uneasy.
She didn't take her eyes off her son. Her look of desperate attention did not suit her. Remus preferred the Lily he had known, who had laughed at everything and never hesitated to hand Harry to him.
Remus glanced back at Sirius, who was watching him in a familiar, calculating way that made Remus want to smooth his hair down and straighten his robes. Sirius must have learnt it from his father, although it would not do to say so, even to this Sirius, looked about twenty, and more carefree than ever.
"What are you doing here?" Sirius asked.
"I died," Remus said. He spoke like a teacher, in the tone he had carefully practiced to counter Sirius's haughtiness.
"What were you doing out there?"
"You have a son!" Sirius yelled, waving his hand at the veil, fluttering softly in the breeze.
Remus felt suddenly ill, or like he wanted to cry. Sirius had been allowed to die fighting, leaving him and Harry alone to deal with each other and Dumbledore and Dumbledore's death. Harry hadn't trusted him, in the end, but that didn't mean Remus could stop fighting for him, when he was the last Marauder left.
"And did you sit quietly when Harry was in danger?" Remus demanded, his voice harsh enough to cut through Sirius's rage. "My son will live better in a world without either me or Voldemort, than in my care under the Death Eaters. He has Dora."
Sirius was still with anger, staring at Remus, trying to think of anything he could that would send Remus back. The tension between them was broken by soft, certain, sad voice saying, "No, he doesn't."
Remus and Sirius both whirled to face Tonks. She smiled at them. Her hair was now slightly darker brown than her mother's, and her eyes were the same clear blue as her father's. But she looked the same.
"Hello, Tonks," Sirius said, shocked. "Didn't expect to see you so soon."
"Me neither," Tonks said.
She glanced at Remus, who was staring at her like—well, like she was a ghost.
James turned, distracted by the sudden silence. Tonks started at him for a beat in horror, before recognition made her grin.
Remus spluttered, not sure that James should be "Mister" to anyone, let alone Remus's wife. Tonks winked at him, teasing him about how old he thought himself, even now. She looked older than he did, here. Remus shook his head and clenched his fists to keep from shaking her.
"Call me James," James said, politely. "This is Lily."
Lily turned away from the veil long enough to look Tonks over and nod in welcome.
Remus finally stepped forward. He touched her shoulder. Tonks turned to look at him properly. His expression was caught between desire and anger. He opened and closed his mouth twice before he finally managed to speak.
"How?" he said.
"Avada Kedavra. I was duelling Alecto. Dolohov got me from behind."
"Where is Teddy?"
Remus's voice was calm, measured. As controlled as anything he had ever said. But his hand on her shoulder was bruising, and kept Tonks from tears.
"He's with my mother."
Remus stepped back and stared up at the sky, blinking back tears.
"I couldn't not fight, Remus," Tonk said. "I—" She sounded defensive even to her own ears, but she was not going to continue pleading her case with James and Lily Potter looking at her.
Then Remus smiled. Tonks had never understood how he was so reassured by the disappointments in the world, as though being right was better than being happy. He looked surprised, and even pleased.
"I know," he said. And Tonks knew that he had never expected less of her, even if he had hoped for it.
"Look, he's sleeping." Remus pointed beyond the veil and Tonks approached carefully to stand beside him and look. Sirius moved aside, maybe half a step, enough to keep an eye on Harry with James, and to give them some privacy.
Andromeda stands over a cradle, which is rocking gently on her dining room table. She sings, a lullaby Tonks can hear in her memory, although no sound penetrates the barrier between them. The baby's hair is yellow, like custard.
Tonks smiled. The image faded as she stepped back. Remus turned to face her. He looked younger here than he was than when Tonks had first met him, but he was still carrying all the disappointment and self-recriminations from the last sixteen years—more than Tonks could ever see all at once.
"My dad went through there, didn't he?" she asked.
Sirius nodded and made an affirming noise, but he did not look away from the veil. Remus couldn't look at her for long, either, without glancing at his friends or what they were watching.
Tonks made up her mind and felt happy, like stepping into the sunshine.
"Goodbye, Sirius," she said.
"Bye," Sirius said. "It was good, having you around out there."
Tonks grinned, genuinely pleased to hear that. "Thanks."
She waved to James and Lily, who nodded vaguely in farewell.
Remus reached for her again, slipping his fingers through her hair and drawing her close for a kiss. Tonks grabbed him, holding on and kissing back fiercely. Slowly the feeling drained away like the last handful of sand through an hourglass and she pulled back.
"I loved you," he said. "More than my life."
Tonks smiled up at him through the prickle of tears.
"You were brilliant." She pressed a kiss to his cheek, then turned and walked down the steps off the dais and past the veil. Then she was gone, where they were all bound to go.
Remus stood staring blankly at where she had disappeared, until Sirius reached out and curled his fingers around Remus's wrist. Remus breathed out and crossed the space between them. The four of them stood in a line together, watching Harry tread his path.
When Harry reached the hall where Tonks's body was laid out beside Remus's own, Lily gasped. She immediately looked at Remus, eyes wide with shock and embarrassment. But Remus wasn't looking at her, he was looking at George Weasley, bent over his brother's body.
Sirius wrapped his arm around Remus's shoulder and hugged him close. Remus gave into the unsteadiness of his knees and his heart and leaned against Sirius, trusting him to hold him up. And Sirius did.
Harry walks, resolute, to the edge of forest and steels himself. He is holding a ring.
James grabbed Lily's hand, entwining their fingers. Lily looked at him, smiling with such pride in their son, that James had no choice but to kiss her. Sirius released Remus and clapped on the back.
"This is it," he said, standing up on the ball of his feet.
Harry twists the ring.
Lily, James, Sirius and Remus stepped forward. As they did, the dais and the arch faded, leaving just the veil and the sound of the surf. The veil parted for these guardians, and they stepped through.
Another figure rolled onto the sand in a crash of water. He climbed onto his feet, pushed his hair of his face and looked around. He glared darkly at the sand and dunes, but when he took a step forward and the wounds in his side began to heal, he smiled and took another.
A woman walked down the beach toward him. Her long hair was coming out of its braid, and her robes were stained with sea water.
"My name is Selene, what is yours?" she asked.
She was definitely human, or had been. And Severus was definitely dead. So he answered.
"Severus Snape," he said. And then he asked, "How long have you been here?" without thinking to ask where 'here' was.
"Has… is Lily Evans here?"
"She's gone through already."
She turned away from the waves and Severus followed her gaze up the rise to the arch and veil.
"Why have you not gone?" he asked.
"I am waiting," Selene said. "For Xenophilius, or my Luna."
Severus paused a moment, watched her looking out to sea. Then he turned his back on the waves again, and walked straight across the sand, up the steps and through the veil, following the memory of Lily Evans.
Selene's voice carried to him as he walked.
"I hope to wait a long time."