The Swan and the Doe
Bella Swan staggered out of her room, gripping the banister as tightly as her fatigue would allow while climbing down the stairs. She needed to pass the boundary of the Fidelius Charm in order to meet up with whoever her patronus had managed to contact. There was a very real possibility that her swan hadn't made it or found someone who couldn't help.
Still, the protective wards wouldn't keep Victoria out, so there really wasn't a point in holding herself up in the house.
Bella threw open the door and kept walking until she reached the tree line, breathing a sigh of relief when she felt the wards shimmer around her. Her knees buckled then, but she didn't bother trying to prevent her fall.
The sun barely lit the sky now, giving way to the in-between time—Twilight. Bella didn't need a Foe glass to know Victoria was close.
Severus Snape appeared inside the forest, the portkey held firmly in his grasp. He surveyed his surroundings, noting which direction the trees began to thin. He quickly moved closer, his stride purposeful.
Although Albus had been annoyingly vague in his directions, Severus knew that there were only precious seconds left and it would not do for him to waste it.
The sun had already begun to set, but after spending so many years as a spy, Severus was always aware of his surroundings. Therefore, it wasn't difficult for him to spot the girl, who currently seemed to be lying unconscious on the floor.
He turned her over, casting a cursory look over her body for any injuries. There weren't any surface wounds, but then, he suspected that her current state was a result of that patronus she had conjured earlier, rather than a hex.
Severus didn't know how she had managed that. The girl seemed so very young and frail as he lifted her into his arms—hardly what he would imagine as Albus' kin. The fact that Albus had a granddaughter to speak of was surprising enough.
Severus seriously doubted that many wizards knew of her existence, least of all the Dark Lord. Information like this would be undeniably valuable to both sides.
With that thought in mind, Severus reactivated the portkey, wondering what the puppeteer's next move would be.
Victoria remained in her perch, watching silently.
Severus Snape deposited the young woman in his quarters, thankful that the room had remained blessedly free of Death Eaters—apart from himself—since the former Headmaster's death. Bringing her here was undeniably unwise considering the state of things, but he had little choice.
Now that the Order considered him a traitor, he could hardly ask any of them to offer the girl sanctuary. He might have brought her to Grimmauld Place if he thought he would be permitted to enter, but knowing Lupin, there would be a plethora of wards now meant to harm him specifically.
Using several spells that Severus knew very well, he began an in depth survey of the girl, checking for any hidden injuries. While hunched over her form, Severus couldn't help but note the distinct lack of resemblance he found to Albus.
From his current position, she appeared to be nothing more than a normal muggle girl. Her clothing was decidedly casual and loose-fitting, and after a quick search through her pockets, he also noted that she didn't even have a wand.
Although, he supposed that was hardly surprising, considering the patronus he had received. It was no wonder that the girl was in her current state after such a feat. The magical drain would be enough to leave some bedridden for weeks, hardly able to stand, let alone cast even the simplest spells.
If Severus could conclude one thing about this strange occurrence, it would be that the girl had either been overwhelmingly thick to risk her magic in such a way, or extremely desperate.
Neither option bode particularly well for him.
Bella Swan slowly roused, blinking blearily at her hazy surroundings. Her eyes seemed to have trouble focusing, only able to discern the color and dimension of the objects around her. The distinctly dark tones of black and green were the most evident, covering nearly every piece of furniture in the room.
The general dreariness reminded her more of a dungeon, which set alarm bells ringing in her head. While it was obvious that Victoria hadn't gotten her hands on her, that hardly meant that she was safe. She wouldn't merely lie helplessly and wait for the return of whoever had found her.
An overwhelming exhaustion settled over Bella as she tried to leave the bed, causing her to sink to the floor. Even her grunt of pain at her impact with the floor felt like it took too much energy. It was through a result of her own stubborn will and desperation that she began to pull herself across the cold stone beneath her. Bella's progress was halted however, when she was suddenly met with a pair of dragon-skin boots.
Bella slowly tilted her head back, scanning the figure from toe to head. She tried to blink away the residual haziness, but still found it difficult to focus. From the height and build, she thought it was a man, but that was as far as she had gotten in determining his identity.
Despite her fatigue, Bella tried to cast a wandless jinx, hoping to incapacitate him, even if only briefly. The gesture proved entirely fruitless a moment later when he remained standing. The only change to the quiet scene was the painful gasp that emerged from the back of her throat at the sharp jab her attempt caused inside her chest.
"If you are quite...finished," the man drawled, peering down at her, "I would prefer that you remove yourself from my floor."
Bella frowned, her brows drawn together as she tried to make out his face.
"Who are you?" she asked breathlessly, still feeling the effects of her failed jinx.
"I am the man that you accosted with your patronus," he answered curtly.
"Oh..." Bella breathed, trying not to think about what that could mean for her grandfather. "I suppose that means I should thank you," she continued, though her thoughts were already far away.
"I don't care for your platitudes. Now get off the floor, you wretched girl," he replied snidely.
Bella stared up at the man in disbelief. How could he be her savior one moment and such a jerk the next? What had she done to incur his wrath?
Perhaps it had been the burden of coming to rescue her. After all, he might have been doing something important before her patronus chose to disturb him. Although, she knew her swan wouldn't have gone to him unless he was the right person to ask, perhaps this was her neglected patronus' way of getting revenge.
"Sorry," she mumbled.
Bella slowly sat back on her heels, reaching for the bed as she began to pull herself up. She was having trouble getting her legs to exert the necessary force to propel her upwards and her hands were shaky. Her breath grew ragged as she huffed with the effort of trying to do something as simple as climb back onto the bed.
She squeaked when her body was suddenly off the ground, rising to hover over the bed. Glancing back, she could see the mysterious man pointing his wand at her. She grunted when her body was dropped onto the bed.
"Not that your pathetic attempts weren't amusing..." he allowed the sentence to trail off, smirking.
Bella blushed, embarrassed as well as uneasy over her current lack of strength. She hadn't felt this weak since Edward left her, although that had been less about being magically drained and more about her emotional state.
"Where are we?" she asked, determined to focus on her current situation and keep the memories at bay.
"I'm surprised you haven't figured it out," he replied, peering down his nose at her. "I expected a lot more of the granddaughter of Albus Dumbledore."
Bella stiffened, wondering how he could possibly know that. There were few people who knew such information and despite the rescue, she didn't feel comfortable with the idea that this man had spoken with any of them. For all she knew, he had tortured it out of them and intercepted her patronus. After all, his entire demeanor hadn't been very pleasant toward her so far.
"I-I don't know what you're talking about," she lied, though she doubted she had been very effective when he simply raised an eyebrow at her.
"Well, the former Headmaster's portrait would disagree."
"Former..." Bella repeated, suddenly finding it hard to swallow.
Despite their intentionally estranged relationship, Bella knew how devoted her grandfather was to Hogwarts. He would never abandon his students, least of all with Tom so close to reaching full power once again. No, he would die before he left them behind...
"Is-Is he...?" she gasped as realization struck her.
Her patronus would have gone to her grandfather if it could. There is only one reason why it wouldn't and that was if he was no longer...accessible.
The man stared down at her, the sneer he had been sporting during their conversation suddenly gone.
"Albus Dumbledore is dead."