November 1, 1981
When Emmeline Vance went to bed on Halloween night, she didn't think anything unusual about it. Sure, it was early to be crawling into bed on Halloween, but she was alone and had no real reason to stay awake. She hadn't seen Sirius in a few days, and James and Lily had been in hiding for ages. Emmeline hadn't even been told where their home was, but Lily had promised in a letter that she would know as soon as the danger had passed. She might have stayed up late with Remus on that night, but Halloween had very unfortunately coincided with the full moon, and he was indisposed.
She was a tall young woman, thin and regal in appearance. She had grown up around money, and it occasionally showed. She was extremely close to her friends, but had no real use for small talk with strangers. As such, she had been called a bitch more than once by those who didn't know her well. It didn't bother her. She had her friends: James, Lily, Sirius, Remus, and Peter. And though she had gone to bed alone on Halloween night, she didn't feel lonely.
She woke up the following morning up to fry some bacon for breakfast, completely unaware that, in one single night, everything had changed.
The door to her flat slammed open, making her jump in fright and drop the pan of hot bacon grease right onto the kitchen floor.
"ARGH!" she screamed, drops of hot oil burning her legs.
"Emmeline!" cried a voice.
Remus Lupin rushed into the kitchen. His face was haggard and exhausted, prematurely lined. She hadn't seen him in a few weeks; Sirius had been a bit cold toward Remus lately for some reason that he'd never chosen to share with her. Remus's wand was at the ready when he entered, as though he had thought a Dark wizard was in Emmeline's kitchen, but upon looking around at the scene, he cast a quick Vanishing spell to get rid of the grease on the floor and dropped to his knees beside her. Emmeline had tears stinging her eyes at the pain from the sizzling oil. The bacon was lying on the tile floor.
"I'm rubbish at these spells," murmured Remus as he cast something at her burned legs.
The feeling of relief was immediate, though her shins were still red and inflamed. Emmeline found herself glaring at Remus.
"What is so important that you had to barge in here and ruin my morning?" she said with a half-hearted scowl.
Remus straightened and looked at her, his face ashen. It was then that Emmeline's heart plummeted into her stomach.
There was a very real war going on. News of someone's death came once a week at least. The news almost didn't affect her anymore. It was like she was numb to death. Sometimes Emmeline wondered if something was wrong with her.
But this look. The look on Remus's face at this moment. It didn't mean that a nameless Auror had been killed, or even that a new recruit for the Order had died a senseless death. This look was haunted, pained. Someone they knew had died, and Emmeline couldn't help but gasp and cover her mouth with her hand. She fought the urge to squeeze her eyes shut and beg him not to tell her. But Remus shook his head and stepped toward her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"Emmeline," he said slowly. "It's over."
"It's over? What's over?" said Emmeline, confused, the hand at her mouth dropping to her side. For a terrifying moment, she thought he meant the resistance was over: that the Order of the Phoenix had crumbled and You-Know-Who had won.
"The war," croaked Remus. "The war is over. Voldemort is gone."
Emmeline staggered backward, leaning against the counter for support. A thousand thoughts flew through her head as the full impact of Remus's words hit her.
"But there's more . . ." Remus said, choking on the end of his sentence. His gaze dropped to his shoes.
"Oh, Merlin, Remus, what happened?" said Emmeline, her heart pounding heavily in her chest.
Remus closed his eyes as though he were steeling himself for the words he was about to speak. After one measured breath, he told her.
"James and Lily are dead," said Remus.
She felt as though someone had punched her in the stomach. Dear Merlin, not Lily and James. Lily, who'd been her best friend in the world since their first year at Hogwarts. And James, the arrogant, lovable bastard. The last thing she'd said to him was that his new haircut looked like shite.
The last thing she would ever say to James Potter was that his new haircut looked like shite.
Her jaw quivered and she bit her lip, fighting back the tears. Her eyes were burning and there was a sizeable lump in her throat. She swallowed thickly and took a hitched breath.
"Harry?" she whispered, unable to force sound from her throat.
"He's . . . he's alive, Emmeline. I don't really know what happened," said Remus. "Somehow it's because of Harry that Voldemort is gone . . ."
"How do you mean?" asked Emmeline, her voice gaining strength now that she had something to dwell on besides James and Lily's deaths.
"I don't know," said Remus, shaking his head and collapsing into a chair in the kitchen, burying his face in his hands. "I don't know."
Emmeline stared at Remus, who was ever the calm and collected one, as he struggled to maintain control. She wished she could just go back a bit. Just go back to this morning, before she knew that everything was different. Go back to last night, stay up a bit later, send Lily an owl saying that she loved her and that James's haircut really wasn't so bad. But then, no one even knew where James and Lily were living-
"Remus," said Emmeline cautiously, her eyes brimming with tears again.
Remus looked up at her.
"Remus," she continued, her voice wavering, "Sirius was their Secret Keeper."
He nodded solemnly.
"Is he . . . is he . . ." she whispered, unable to utter the words as tears spilled from her eyes. She had visions of Sirius tormented to death or insanity by Death Eaters in their search for the Potters. Losing James and Lily was devastating enough, but to find that in one night, nearly everyone she loved had been taken from her. . .
At that moment, a loud pounding on her front door rang through the flat. She looked at Remus, who shrugged, looking stunned. Emmeline went to the front door and pulled it open only to find three burly looking wizards with wands at the ready.
"Emmeline Vance?" said one gruff voice.
"You're wanted for questioning," he continued, waving his wand so that a badge identifying him as an Auror appeared in the air next to him.
"Questioning?" demanded Remus. "On what charge?"
"There's no charge," said the Auror. "We're questioning all known associates of Sirius Black."
The Auror narrowed his eyes at Remus for a moment.
"Are you Remus Lupin?" he asked.
"Yes," said Remus defiantly.
"We'll need you to come as well," said the Auror.
The Auror grabbed Emmeline's upper arm, and a second Auror went to Remus's side. Remus spun out of his reach, furious.
"What's all this about? Why are you questioning us about Sirius?" said Remus.
The Auror looked at Remus for a moment with a very serious expression, as though he were trying to figure out whether Remus actually didn't know or whether he was bluffing.
"Sirius Black has been arrested and is currently in custody at the Ministry of Magic," said the Auror.
"Arrested?" cried Remus, his face hard and the wrinkles etched deep in his furrowed brow. "For what?"
"For the murder of a young man named Peter Pettigrew, along with twelve Muggles at the scene," said the Auror, and Emmeline gasped. "We think he's been passing information to You-Know-Who for months."
Emmeline and Remus were staring with open mouths. She was shaking her head, willing it not to be true, but the Auror continued.
"He's the reason that James and Lily Potter are dead."
The questioning didn't take long. She and Remus were shoved into separate rooms, and an Auror flew into the room. He asked about three questions in total.
"I just don't think Sirius could do something like-"
"We've got witnesses," said the Auror.
"But I'm a character witness," said Emmeline, grasping at the last straws of hope. "Have you considered that-"
He waved her off and zipped out of the room. The trial was scheduled for first thing in the afternoon. Somehow this had to be some sort of mistake. She and Remus talked in circles, trying to imagine some way that Sirius was innocent. They asked to speak to his solicitor. Sirius hadn't been allowed one.
Emmeline knew she had to say something at the trial. Something. There had to be some other explanation. Sitting next to Remus, she steeled herself, her heart hammering nervously in her chest as she mentally prepared a speech.
Nothing could have prepared her for the sight of Sirius Black being dragged into the chamber and strapped into the interrogation chair with thick, leather straps. His expression was blank with only a slight tension in his jaw to reveal his inner state of mind. His face had no emotion: no fear, no indignation, no remorse.
"And so begins the trial for Sirius Black, who was witnessed murdering Peter Pettigrew and twelve Muggles in broad daylight this morning at 7:00am," began Barty Crouch.
Emmeline cleared her throat, preparing to raise her hand when he called for comments and witnesses, but Crouch barreled on.
"Black is sentenced to life in Azkaban without possibility of parole," said Crouch with a tone of finality.