"Professor?" Hermione suddenly put down her teacup.

"Hermione, how many times have I told you to call me Minerva? We are collogues now." Minerva smiled at her new Transfiguration Professor.

"Of course…" Hermione let one finger trail the rim of the teacup as she thought. Minerva waited patiently, realizing that the girl needed some time to gather her thoughts.

"Minerva, Harry showed me a picture of the original Order the other day." Hermione stopped, unsure of how to proceed.

"And you were wondering why I was not in it?" Minerva asked gently. Hermione nodded.

"Well, it is quite a story—"

"I have time." Hermione smiled, leaning back in her chair.

"Yes. Well then." Minerva paused before starting her story, nearly fifty years before the photograph was taken… right around the time when pictures were becoming available to the Wizarding public.

"I first met Tom in school. We were like-minded people, both very studious, top of our year. It was only natural that we go out. It was heaven, those three years we were in school. He proposed to me with a ring that had been in his family for generations, so he told me. I believed him.

"After school, things changed. We had to face the big bad world, which seemed to be trying it's hardest to tear us apart. I was apprenticed under Dumbledore, learning transfiguration beyond what wildest dreams could do. Tom was working in a dead-end shop, serving some of the darkest men known to man.

"Naturally, what with my being so close to Dumbledore, I got involved with the War against Grindelwald. Unfortunately, Tom got involved, on the opposite side. He told me nothing of this, so when I saw him in the only battle there was, I was unprepared. I miscarried; I was only two months along, and hadn't even known that I was carrying a child. Tom and I parted ways after that." Minerva's hands shook slightly as she set her now-empty teacup down.

"The next I heard of Tom was that he was out killing Muggle-borns, leading young, pureblood men and women. Dumbledore tried to get me to join the Order of the Phoenix, a group dedicated to bringing down the only man I ever loved. I could not do it." She sighed, and fiddled with the hem of her gown.

"What changed?" Hermione breathed, ever having guessed.

"He killed my friends. All of them, gone forever. He picked them off systematically, at first only killing one of my friendly acquaintances here or there. When it became clear whom he was targeting, I tried to tell them to go into hiding. Not all of them listened, and he wiped them out in one fell swoop. The rest… he found them."

Hermione's eyes were shining with unshed tears. She regretted asking now.