The Next Great Adventure
Albus Dumbledore sat serenely at his desk, awaiting the imminent arrival of his adopted daughter. "Death is but the next great adventure" was what he had told Harry once, but that was explaining the death of a stranger to an eleven year old child. Now, he had to explain the death of himself to the one person who would, perhaps, mourn him the most.
Despite his resolve to tell her, Albus shuddered slightly when he heard her knock gently on his door.
'Come in,' he said quietly, knowing full well she would hear him.
'Hey, Albus,' Elizabeth said plainly, coming smoothly through the door.
'Elizabeth, please sit down. I have to speak to you about something.' His voice sounded grave, and though Elizabeth did as she was told, it was with wary trepidation of what was to come. 'Do not look so grave, Elizabeth.'
'What did you want to see me for, Albus?' she asked softly, her hands clasped in her lap.
'Do I need a reason to see the girl I raised for almost fourteen years?' he said, standing and coming to rest in the chair beside hers.
'No,' she replied, 'but you look worried. Or, at least, more so than usual.'
Albus chuckled, and took her hands in his uninjured one. Her eyes fleeted away from him for a moment, but came back to his, which were twinkling unwaveringly. 'Elizabeth, I need to tell you something. And I must admit I'm afraid to tell you, because I promised myself I would not let you suffer any more than you already have.' Dumbledore paused, and Elizabeth let out a small squeak of terror, and her face went pale. 'I'm not quite sure how to tell you this, Elizabeth, but… tonight, I am going to die.' Her mouth dropped, and her grip on his hand increased tenfold. 'I am going to die,' he continued calmly, 'and Severus is going to kill me.'
Elizabeth was speechless. Her mouth opened and closed several times, but no words escaped her lips. Finally, she managed to squeak out, 'S-severus? As in, my Severus? Severus Snape, Severus?'
'Yes. You see, over the summer, he was approached by Narcissa Malfoy to ask his aide. Voldemort, as you know, charged Draco to kill me.'
'Yes, but what does that –'
'Bellatrix Lestrange was there. The only way she would trust Severus, and the only way he could keep secure his place as Voldemort's faithful servant, was to make an Unbreakable Vow that said if Draco looked as if he would fail in killing me, that Severus would do it. As luck would have it, I had already make Severus promise to kill me to ensure Draco didn't have to, and so he vowed to kill me if it looked as if Draco would fail.
'Tonight there is to be an ambush on the castle, I believe, as I am leaving to find a Horcrux. I do now know how, but it is tonight that Draco's plan is to be put into effect. And it is tonight that Severus will have to fulfil his vow, and his promise to me.' He finished by saying quietly, 'Elizabeth, please understand the reasons for this choice. There are many, but – '
'Oh, Albus…' she cried, throwing her arms around his neck and sobbing into his long, silver hair. His arms wrapped around her small shoulders and he cradled her head with his hand.
'Elizabeth, dear, you can see it is for the best?' he asked, rocking her gently back and forth as her wailing subsided somewhat.
He heard her sniff, and she muttered forlornly, 'Yes… but… I'd rather not lose either of you!' Her hold tightened, and her breathing grew sporadic.
'Elizabeth, breathe, please.' He rubbed her back gently, and told her, 'I want you to know how proud I am of you, and I want you to promise me that tonight you will not come into the castle. No matter what you hear or see.'
Her panic subsided, and she backed up to stare into his eyes. 'What?'
'I do not want you to get hurt,' he said, wiping stray tears from her cheeks. 'I want you to go somewhere safe; anywhere but here. Transform into something and keep hidden, but be sure you take no form that a Death Eater could recognize you for.'
'But… but I have to… to protect Harry! And the students! I will not stay shut up like a… an invalid, Albus! I have to help the Order!'
'You have my express permission – no, you have a direct order – to not fight tonight. As your guardian, employer, elder, and friend, that is my final request to you. Tonight, Harry will not need you as much as he will need you later. Once I am gone.'
'Can I see Severus beforehand?'
'Not now. He does not know I am telling you this, and I would rather allow him the chance to tell you himself. And we cannot risk Draco or any other Slytherins seeing you down there tonight. They may think Severus' loyalties are wavering to you, and to me.'
'Will… will the Order know he is not guilty? That you are… sacrificing yourself for him?'
'Yes. In time, they will know. Which is another thing I must burden you with.' Out of his pocket, he drew a small vial containing a single memory. 'In this is the conversation between myself and Severus on the night he told me what the vow entailed. This will exonerate him. If all goes according to plan, Harry will see this, too. And to prove that this is real, and I did in fact give you this memory, I will also give you the memory of tonight, of right now.'
'Oh, this is Sirius all over again!' she cried out in dismay. 'They won't believe me because they'll think that I want to keep Severus with me.'
'Yes, but what you are forgetting is everyone believes you honest, and believes that you love me above all others.'
'But… I do love you above all others. You've been like my own father all these years.'
'You've not spent any more time with me than you have with Severus, Elizabeth. Less, even. He taught you much of what you know about the Dark Arts, and all of Potions. I know how much he means to you.' He pressed the vial into her hand, and pulled out his wand. Drawing another vial out of his robes, he pulled a long, silver memory out from his mind and let it rest within. Capping the bottle, he said quietly, 'Now, I want you to go. Go to the place where you will be most safe. And remember that death-'
'-is but the next great adventure for one as old as you,' she finished for him, tears glistening on her cheeks. 'That doesn't make it any easier for those of us you're leaving behind.'
Dumbledore stood, and led Elizabeth to the window. 'I know. But there is nothing more important than stopping Voldemort. And only Harry can to that.'
'Yes, I know,' she replied, a fire rekindling behind her tears. Smiling some, she asked, 'What am I supposed to tell Harry?'
'Ensure he doesn't do anything… rash to Severus or Draco. I believe I convinced Draco to come over to the Order. Make sure he survives. He could be useful one day.'
Elizabeth sighed, and wrapped her arms tightly around Dumbledore's shoulders once more. 'I love you, Albus… and I'll miss you so much.'
'I know,' Dumbledore muttered into her hair. 'I love you, dear Elizabeth.'
With that, he pulled her gently away, kissed her forehead, and opened the window.
'Goodbye, Albus.' She didn't take her eyes off his as she transformed into an owl and flew off into the darkening sky.And as she disappeared behind the mountains surrounding the castle, he called gently, 'Farewell, Elizabeth,' into the wind.