Unfortunate Reality

Death Eater. Traitor. Monster. Judas.

The wizarding world has a hundred names for Sirius Black, all of them hissed, spat, sneered in disgust.

And how funny, Emmeline Vance thinks. Not many must think about things as she does, see the cruel and beautiful irony in the whole affair. Emmeline is a planner, always has been, looks at the world as a field of pushpins and string, a chess board.

Bleeding pessimist, Sirius had called her, years ago, with a strange meld of dismissal and affection only he could manage.

Strategist, she'd corrected, smoothing out her pile of reports and briefings, with no patience or tolerance whatsoever. I am forced to see the unfortunate reality of our situation and basically, we're fucked. The unfortunate reality was all there was for a woman who'd buried her husband with their two month old son cradled in his arms.

He'd laughed that obnoxiously confident, fearless nineteen-year-old laugh, as though somehow they were all gifted with invincibility along with their Order membership, and baited her with some nickname she, at thirty-three, was far too old for.

Turncoat, double-crosser, they call him, and Emmeline laughs (as well as she can underneath the weight of the tears she cannot bring herself to cry) as she packs away all remainders of her years of work, all of the painfully constructed plans, all of the death warrants she engineered (she'd burn it all, but people died between her neatly inked lines and it seems callous.)

'For the greater good' is an ugly phrase for her kind now, tainted by the war of so many years ago, but that is her creed and she (secretly, privately, never aloud) calls Sirius Black hero.

Emmeline knew the Potters; they were decent people, but the Prophet, newly loosed from the reigns of censorship, harps on about the 'senseless tragedy' of it all.

And Emmeline simply cannot see it that way. Two lives traded for dozens, for hundreds, for thousands. It seems like a fabulous bargain, really, in a black-and-white world where numbers matter more than friends, where the lives of two strangers aren't any less valuable than two people you look in the eye, where it's easy to recognize that of course the lives of two twenty-one-year-old kids don't even begin to tip the scales.

Emmeline had been tracing her patterns to inevitable defeat at every turn until the dead morning of November the first, when Dedalus Diggle broke her window with an overdone Catapult charm and a rock, trying to rouse her from her bed and then nearly burned her house down with an ill-aimed shooting star. And suddenly they'd won in a sick turning of the wave, and it had been all thanks to Black's breaking.

There are a few times, both in the overwhelming thrum of the countless victory parties everyone's throwing and in her quiet, solitary home in Nottingham, where she thanks Sirius Black for his treachery with a horrifying sincerity and can't quite hate herself for it.