The Burning Question of Emmeline
When Snape went and killed Dumbledore, the resulting shock in the fandom world kind of pushed this one little detail out of sight: he had already confessed to murder, more than five hundred pages prior to that.
The Dark Lord is satisfied with the information I have passed him on the Order. It led, as perhaps you have guessed, to the recent capture and murder of Emmeline Vance.
(ch. 2, p.30)
(Before I go on, I should mention that Snape goes on to take some credit for Sirius’ death, but I’m leaving that out of this discussion since Sirius went into battle of his own free will, against Snape’s advice, and was killed fair and square in single combat with Bellatrix. Definitely a different story from capture and murder.)
As a diehard Snape is a good guy theorist, it is Emmeline, not Dumbledore, whose death is really troublesome to me. I can believe very easily that Dumbledore would order Snape to kill him, far more easily than I could believe in Dumbledore begging for his life. But I cannot believe that Dumbledore would permit Snape to kill Emmeline Vance, even to maintain his cover. If Snape really got Emmeline Vance murdered, then he did it on his own without Dumbledore’s permission, and that points to Evil Snape.
And even if I wasn’t such a theorist, I think this incident would raise a red flag, purely from a dramatic standpoint. Remember, the central character is Harry, so we have to look at how everything affects him. Harry doesn’t know that Snape killed Emmeline, so it would have no effect on Harry’s actions unless he finds out later. But what on Earth is the point of Harry finding out that Snape killed Emmeline, when he already holds Snape responsible for Lily, James and Dumbledore? Not to sound callous or anything, but Emmeline is a background character, and she doesn’t even have a wacky little Boba Fett sub-fandom like Blaise Zabini. In terms of its effect on Harry, her death is peanuts compared to Dumbledore and his parents.
So I have to wonder… did Snape get Emmeline murdered? Obviously he had something to do with it, I’m not questioning that. What I mean is… is she really dead?
We know extremely little about her death, but I think there are a number of tantalizing clues. First, we have the Prime Minister’s conversation with Fudge:
And then there was Emmeline Vance, maybe you didn’t hear about that one-“Oh yes I did!” said the Prime Minister. ”It happened just around the corner from here, as a matter of fact .”
– (ch.1, p.14)
Interesting that Emmeline died in the Prime Minister’s vicinity… when we already know that the Prime Minister has a personal Auror assigned to him. Not just any Auror, though: Kingsley Shacklebolt, a fellow member of the Advance Guard, and an extremely accomplished sleight-of-hand operator, as we saw in OotP. Why was Emmeline so close to Kingsley and the Prime Minister? Was she assigned to the PM as well? Or was it important for her to be near Shacklebolt? And why does Fudge think the PM may not have heard about it? Could it be that the body was not found by the Muggle police (as Bones’ body was), but merely a trashed house?
Harry certainly has heard about Emmeline’s death: Look at Madam Bones, look at Emmeline Vance, it could be me next (Ch. 4, p.77). Yet Harry and Slughorn seem to talk a lot more about Madam Bones’ death than about Emmeline’s death. The PM describes the Bones murder as nasty, but we get no details on the Vance murder. Almost as if Vance’s body was never found in a nasty state that would make death absolutely certain, as it was in Madam Bones’ case.
After Harry mentions her, I don’t think Vance is mentioned again for the rest of the book. But we do get another clue, when Dumbledore is talking to Draco on the AstronomyTower:
He cannot kill you if you are already dead… nor would the Death Eaters be surprised that we had captured and killed your mother
(ch. 27, p.591-2)
Notice the phrase, capture and kill. Almost identical to Snape’s curious use of the phrase capture and murder. And Dumbledore seems very comfortable proposing a staged death. You’d think they had done it before… With Emmeline Vance, perhaps they did.
My theory is that Snape needed some extra proof of loyalty for Voldemort. Snape and Dumbledore consulted about it, and Emmeline Vance volunteered to help stage her own death, perhaps with the assistance of the clever Kingsley Shacklebolt. Snape made a pretense of abducting her and killing her, possibly by manipulating a Priori Incantatem spell or giving Emmeline a Draught of Living Death (a la Juliet), and now she’s safely stashed away somewhere, perhaps living as a Muggle. I’m guessing most of the Order doesn’t know about the plan, because too many people knowing would risk Snape’s cover. Perhaps even Shacklebolt doesn’t know; maybe Emmeline and Snape did this entirely on their own and Shacklebolt’s proximity served as a convenient way of getting an Auror on the spot early to report the death.
We will all be watching for many things in Book 7. Myself, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a tall, stately witch in an emerald shawl. She could be the key to proving Snape is on the Order’s side.