A/N: I have been sitting on this idea for many, many months. It has consumed my completely, but I did not want to start something I would not complete, so I have outlined the entire story and have the first few chapters completely written. I am very proud of it, but I must warn my readers that this is a rather dark piece for me. And very non-canon. I did attempt to keep the characters as canon as possible, but I did change much of their histories. The majority of Minerva and Tom Riddle's past could possibly be squeezed into canon since much of their early life (especially Minerva) is unknown and I did not change any of those canon dates. This begins after Book 6, and all of Harry's life (i.e. the first six books) is canon till the beginning of the story. The rest is mine. This first chapter is rather short, but I needed an introduction, and when you read the last chapter, this beginning will make sense.

And I should put a side note that Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall's relationship is quite complicated. And the fact the words 'I love you' or some variation of them does not necessarily have a romantic inclination. So please do not stop reading this story because you think they are in a relationship. Because that is not quite the case. However, if you are a MMAD fan, don't not read this story because I have said they don't have a "real" relationship, for that is not exactly the case either. Now that I've confused you enough, please enjoy and leave any complaints, compliments, or comments.

Chapter 1: Doing the Right Thing

It was simply a piece of wood. A beautifully polished stick with an exquisite dark handle. Very simple in elegance and yet it fit her perfectly. The wood was Mahogany (particularly good at transfiguration she had been told as a child). On the outside it looked as proper and dependable as she; the long slender slice of tree reflected its owner down to her tall severe figure. Even its unique beauty displayed the woman's graceful, timeless, underestimated fair looks.

As for the core, people were always curious for what a mere Transfiguration professor could use the power of not one, but two dragon heartstrings for. The man who had sold her the wand had been mildly surprised- he himself had plucked the strings from the young female and male Hebridean Black Dragons, slain before their time. He said when he entwined them together, he had not expected the wand to work, yet here it was, choosing a child of eleven. A girl, no less.

For Minerva McGonagall, it was the core she had always feared. When she had held it for the first time, it had left her breathless. And after a fair bit of research, she had found that this unique and rare quality had too much potential for a young witch. Spells came much easier to her than her frustrated classmates. This did not go unnoticed by her professors either; they marveled at her unique talent and praised her exquisite mind. Yet no one knew how much she scared herself; how in the future, she would use that wand to explore magic most dare not to touch; how she would use that wand to duel; how she would use that wand to teach a child to kill a man.

Pale slender fingers wrapped around the wand. For that was all it was right? Just a wand at her control. Minerva McGonagall had never feared anything but herself. It was a ghastly sin for a Gryffindor, however, now her courage was finally coming to pass. With a final glance at Albus Dumbledore's somber portrait, she raised the wand to her temple where her ebony hair met the pale, wrinkled skin of her worn face. A sliver of mist came out as she pulled it away; her own memory floated in the air as she guided it to rest in one of the dozen bottles she had on the desk in front of her.

"You are doing the right thing." The deceased Headmaster's words meant nothing to her as she continued her daunting task. Once she was finished, Minerva brought her eyes back to him.

"You keep saying that, and yet I still feel none of this will help in the end." Sinking into his-no her-chair behind the grand desk, she gave him her attention. It would be foolish to say it was her full attention, for it had never been her personality to concentrate on just one thing.

"Are you worried of what they will think of you?"

"Does it even matter? I shall die either way." She clasped her fingers together. Talking to a portrait was no easier than facing him in person. "As for my good name, I cursed it the day I fell in love with him."

"Love is not a curse." In the painting, they had been unable to capture the distinctive twinkle that would have normally rested in his eyes after a comment like that.

"And yet, I remain the single exception to the rule. I am cursed, whether it is in the name of love or that of my own foolishness. Do not patronize me, Albus, I haven't the time. Those girls could die or be dead at this very moment." Minerva reached pass the bottles to a small black box. She tried not to notice the shake in her hand as she opened it. There was a single ring inside, untouched by the number of years it had not only been worn, but stowed away as well. It was as beautiful as the day he had given it to her and just as much of a burden as the day she had removed it from her finger.

"You are doing the right thing, my dear." This caused the cross woman to leap to her feet.

"The right thing? I have stood behind you all these years without a question, Albus Dumbledore, and you send me back to him? I am tired of serving men; tired of being the behind-the-scenes woman; tired of being ignored. Don't you forget exactly what I am capable of! I will stand up for what I believe, but I am tired of playing the dedicated wife!"

"The vows of marriage never bound you before. Is that all you see yourself as? His domestic wife? Cursed or not Minerva, he did not marry you for your cooking. For better or worse, every man who has ever loved you, loved you for your power and for your soul." The pain in her chest tightened at his words. Swallowing hard she slipped the silver ring on the fourth finger of her left hand. She stared long and hard at the vision of her married hand. Finally, she spoke again, barely whispering two words.

"Even you?"

"Even I, Minerva. No one shall love you like I do. Not even him. I am not worried about your heart. You will do this for your children's lives." Minerva did not reply right away, instead she scooped the bottles into a dark blue bag and reached for her cloak. Before leaving the dreary office, she paused with her hand on the doorknob.

"I have never worried for my heart. It is merely an organ. I fear for my soul. I wonder sometimes if I ever had one to begin with."