Author's Notes: Another 10_quotes fic, number four/ten.

Disclaimer: Absolutely none of this belongs to me.


"Its origin and purpose still a total mystery." - 2001: A Space Odyssey

Albus Dumbledore was worried about his deputy headmistress. The appalling news that he had brought his staff earlier that night had taken its toll on all of them, which made sense. Frank and Alice Longbottom had been dear to all of their former teachers; they were both the type of people that one could not help liking. Naturally, the news that they had been tortured to insanity by Bellatrix Lestrange had been quite distressing to the entire Hogwarts staff. However, Albus was particularly concerned about Minerva, for reasons that he was aware that not many others knew.

He climbed the stairs to the astronomy tower, suspecting that he would find her there. He reached the top, and his suspicions were proved to be correct. She was standing towards the edge of the tower, looking down. Upon hearing someone else enter the space, she looked up and saw him.

The look in her eyes matched the sky that night: dark, troubled. Quickly, she looked away. The black sky grumbled above them. Albus suspected that thunder would come shortly. It was cold; a sudden gust of wind caused him to shiver.

"Minerva," his voice broke through the silence that had threatened engulfed her.

She didn't answer.

"Minerva," he said again, putting a hand on his shoulder.

Once again, she did not respond.

"This was not your fault," he told her firmly, "Please, Minerva, you must know that."

"Pardon me if I disagree with that statement, Albus," she said.

He didn't contradict her, knowing full well that now was not the time to argue.

"How long have you been here?" he asked.

She sighed, "Time is rather irrelevant to me tonight."

He nodded. He tried to understand what she felt, tried to know how to comfort her; however, he wasn't coming up with any answers. He stood next to her, determined not to leave his closest friend when she was hurting the way that she was.

Minutes pasted. Minutes turned into hours, but he was there all the while. He stayed there, never leaving her side, despite the fact that she had been silent for quite some time. Eventually, she spoke again. He did not know how long they had been standing there; he had lost track of time, but he listened attentively as she talked to him.

"They were very dear to me," she said in a near-whisper, "Both excellent students, of course…"

"I know," he said softly.

"Albus, do you remember when Alice asked Frank to the Yule Ball?" her voice broke.

"I do," he replied softly, putting an arm on her shoulder, "You couldn't have stopped her, Minerva. You could not have."

She turned to face him.

"My daughter," she said, pain spilling into the words that she spoke, "She was my daughter."

"You didn't raise her. You weren't there to object when he gave her away, when her foster parents put such ideas of hatred and killing into her head. There was no way you could have been there to object to any of it; Tom kidnapped and hid her, Minerva," he emphasized his words, trying to rationalize with her, trying to help her to stop hurting.

"I know that," she snapped back like a rubber band, "I hate him for taking my Belle from me. Don't you think I hate him, Albus? Despise him for it?"

"I didn't mean to suggest otherwise," he replied instantaneously, "I apologize."

"I still feel terrible," she went on, "Absolutely terrible. Albus, she tortured them to insanity. My own flesh and blood tortured Frank and Alice Longbottom…."

Albus stayed silent, his arms still around her.

"Why?" she whispered, "Why would she do such a thing?"

"I believe that -"

"I meant it as a rhetorical question, though I would be interested in any thoughts that you might have on the subject.

"Evil is an indefinite entity, its origin and purpose still a total mystery," Albus began, trying to help her find solace, "It doesn't make…any sense, Minerva. It doesn't have any sense to it. True evil hurts the human mind as we try to make sense of it. It is a parasite that often completely engulfs its victims."

She didn't say anything in response but did not object when he put his hand to her face in order to wipe away her tears.

"We may never understand why people hurt others the way that they do," he continued, "You mustn't blame yourself, my dear Minerva."

"I would have loved her, had he not…"

"I know," Albus assured her, "The two of you were both robbed of that, that precious thing. It is terribly, terribly wrong that she was robbed of her mother's love."

"Evil," she whispered, "My Belle is evil."

She wept, and he held her.

If that didn't make any sense at all, here's some back story: Bellatrix was the daughter of Minerva and Tom Riddle. After their relationship ended, Tom took "Belle" from Minerva and gave her to the Black family. I suppose that really does deserve a fic of its own, doesn't it? *Grins.* I'll get on that...

My next 10_quotes fic will be much more lighthearted, I promise! I'm using a quote from Snow White.