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Emmeline Vance: The Future Rosetta Stone

Beyond Hogwarts Guest Article
by Louis CasaBianca

[Excerpt from the book "Defogging The Future" by Louis CasaBianca, an unauthorized speculation about book 7 of the Harry Potter series]

For centuries, one of the great mysteries in human civilization was Hieroglyphics, a form of ancient Egyptian writing that was used only for sacred purposes. Hieroglyphics were written with pictures and symbols that could stand either for letters, syllables or the actual object they depicted. Throughout Egypt there were (and are today) hundreds of temples, and almost all of them had (and have) entire walls covered with this beautiful sacred text. Scholars struggled for centuries to decipher the symbols with almost no progress, until a French military officer found a large piece of stone that had the same words written upon it in Greek, ordinary Egyptian script, and Hieroglyphics. That one artifact, a piece of stone the size of a large suitcase, was probably the single most important cultural relic ever found, and unlocked a thousand mysteries that would otherwise still be unsolved. (British readers, especially those in London, can see the Rosetta Stone for themselves. The Stone is one of the prize exhibits of the British Museum.)

While it may not be as difficult a problem as Hieroglyphics, we've got a thorny little mystery of our own in Severus Snape. Fortunately, we also have our own Rosetta Stone as well, in the form of Emmeline Vance.

Emmeline Vance appears in "Order of the Phoenix" for exactly 42 words, and yet she may very well be the key to understanding Snape, and therefore the key to understanding all seven books. This is all we ever see of Emmeline:

"Emmeline Vance -- a stately looking witch in an emerald green shawl inclined her head" (OotP pg 49)

"Now Emmeline Vance was on his right, her wand out, her head turning left and right...then she too swooped over him, to be replaced by Sturgis Podmore..." (OotP pg 57)

The next time we hear of poor Emmeline she's , ed around the corner from the Muggle Prime Minister's office. (HBP pg 14) Sixteen pages later Snape tells Bellatrix that he provided the information that led to her :

"It led, as perhaps you have guessed, to the recent capture and of Emmeline Vance, and it certainly helped dispose of Sirius Black, though I give you full credit for finishing him off." (HBP pg 30)

So, where does this leave us? Well, according to both Snape and the Muggle Prime Minister, it sounds very much like Emmeline Vance is , and we actually hear Snape claim to have provided the information that led to her "capture and ." Note that what Snape says is much harder to explain away than if he claimed that he ed Emmeline all by himself. If Snape had said: "I alone ed Emmeline Vance," it would be much easier to believe he faked her to keep his Eater credibility intact. Instead, he says that he passed information to Voldemort himself, and that Emmeline Vance was captured before she was ed. If Snape really did provide information to Voldemort and Emmeline Vance was ed as a result, that is very, very hard for the "Snape is fighting Voldemort" side to explain. Since I'm definitely on that side, let's see how I do in explaining it. I see only two possibilities:

1. Playing at Draughts

Re-read the questions Snape asks Harry in their first-ever Potions lesson. (PS pgs 137-138) Snape asks about Wolfsbane, bezoars and the Draught of Living . As we've seen from the books, and as we'll discuss later, both Wolfsbane and bezoars are very important in later volumes of the series. Given that, I think it's almost certain that we'll see the Draught of Living in Book Seven.

Snape mentions the Draught in that first lesson, and gives the (very simple) recipe as well. Do we ever see it used? No, we're still waiting for that. Are we ever reminded of its existence? Why, bless my soul, we are. Not only does Harry brew it in a very long scene in HBP, but we just casually find out that it can be brewed up in an hour or so, and we also learn that Snape has found a number of improvements to the recipe that allow him to brew it perfectly. (HBP pgs 189-191) Well, as I have said before: Hmmm... We simply have to see the Draught again in Book Seven, and I think it's possible if not probable that we'll find out it was used by Emmeline Vance to fake her own .

The major objection to this theory is simple and rather good: Emmeline Vance was captured before she was ed. Now consider the following passage from HBP. This passage was very different in the British and American editions of the book, with all of the bold text added later for the American version.

"He cannot you if you are already . Come over to the right side, Draco, and we can hide you more completely than you can possibly imagine. What is more, I can send members of the Order to your mother tonight to hide her likewise. Nobody would be surprised that you had d in your attempt to me--forgive me, but Lord Voldemort probably expects it. Nor would the Eaters be surprised that we had captured and ed your mother--it is what they would do themselves, after all. Your father is safe at the moment in Azkaban...When the time comes, we can protect him too. Come over to the right side, are not a er..." (HBP pgs 591-592)

Once again, the British version included only the second, third and the last two lines. Everything else was added to the American edition. There were other changes between the British and American versions, but the vast majority of them were tiny, a word here and there, or a "Britishism" altered. For some reason, JKR felt it was essential to emphasize what is said by the bold text: that Dumbledore was offering to protect Draco and Narcissa by faking their s. And take note of the following curious phrase:

"Nor would the Eaters be surprised that we had captured and ed your mother..." (HBP pg 592)

That's a rather strange choice of words, isn't it? A close echo to how Snape described the of Emmeline Vance:

"It led, as perhaps you may have guessed, to the recent capture and of Emmeline Vance." (HBP pg 30)

After spending the time I have reading the Potter series, I don't believe in coincidences. I honestly don't see how Snape could possibly get out of this one, or how Emmeline Vance can still be alive, but if I had to bet, I'd bet he was going to, and I'd bet she is.

2. Sacrifice, Willing or Not

There is another, much more unpleasant explanation for the of Emmeline Vance, one that is very hard to imagine appearing in the Harry Potter series. As I have said repeatedly, I think we can dismiss the idea that Snape is a loyal Eater. Despite this, it's possible that Snape did indeed provide the information that led to Emmeline Vance's , as a way of maintaining his cover and "proving" his loyalty to Voldemort. And he may have done that in an effort to protect Harry, since he knows Harry is the only person who can Voldemort, and Snape is best able to protect Harry from within the Eater camp. How's that for twisted?

In the real world, when undercover agents infiltrate a criminal or terrorist organization, such a situation is the worst scenario they might have to face: the possibility that they might have to or fail to save an innocent in order to keep their cover or save their own lives. While such a situation has happened in the real world, I think that sort of scenario is just too harsh and adult for a children's book. That's just my opinion, however, and I don't get to make that call. Whether or not such a cold-blooded act appears in Harry Potter is up to JKR, and dependent on how dark a character she wants to create. It's possible, but I think having Harry helped and protected by a ing er is really pushing the line.

Emmeline, Part Deux

I'm sure that understanding Snape's role in the of Emmeline Vance explain a great deal about Snape, and just might allow us to determine his loyalties once and for all. Unfortunately, the evidence we have now is insufficient to make any conclusions, and we'll just have to wait until Book Seven to obtain the truth. I'd like to believe Emmeline's was faked, (and there's the whole Draught of Living issue in favor of that), but there's no real evidence that might point to her being alive. And just as Snape could have an evil motive for hating Voldemort, and just as Pettigrew could have had an evil motive for wanting to save Lily Potter, Snape could have deliberately caused the of Emmeline Vance to deflect suspicion from him so he could continue to protect Harry and thereby Voldemort. As JKR no doubt intended, there's no way to determine what Snape did or didn't do.

Whatever the answer may be, I know (and I'm very glad) we're going to find out in Book Seven. Our Rosetta Stone is going to be read sooner or later, and I'm certain we haven't seen the last of Emmeline. Despite her tiny role the previous six books, Emmeline Vance is going to be enormously important in Book Seven. How she d, and who ed her and why, might be a mystery now, but at the end of the day the of Emmeline Vance must and be explained.

Louis CasaBianca is author of Defogging The Future, an extensively researched and wonderfully written book. You might not agree with every conclusion, but you will enjoy reading every word. To read more by Louis CasaBianca, visit The Official Defogging The Future site (or click here if you have a high-bandwidth connection).

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Published December 25, 2006

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