Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 113

It all goes down in the Death Chamber. So, of course, our question this week focuses on that elusive thing that is death.

After a quick cry… it’s time to think about Sirius’s expression as he fell into the veil. His face is described as full of shock and fear, so how much did Sirius know about the veil and what was happening in that moment? How much did he think about what he was leaving behind and where he was going to on the other side? Also, what is the nature of the veil itself? What happens when you cross to the other side?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and tune in next week to see if your ideas are discussed on the show! Don’t forget that you can also send us an audioBoom by using the green recording button on the right-hand panel!

  • Bill White

    I believe it was shock that bellatrix was able to get a one up on him. I don’t know about the fear because I don’t think sane-people think about their own mortality. Fear maybe that he was losing the friends that he had reestablished connections with and harry. I think seeing as we are later told that he might feel the compulsion to go to save harry again I think being in a war crossed his mind but seeing as he survived the last one. I don’t think his reckless nature allowed him a second thought about his mortality. The nature of the veil could be connected to halloween because the belief is that the separation between the living and the dead which includes fae and other mythical creatures is lessened on halloween. My question is because harry has essentially two souls in him, what would happen if harry stepped into the veil? Would “Harry” have been able to leave the scar crux behind or would it have reasserted itself? If so, would you have the similar reaction as Cos where diary riddle was now encapsulated in harry’s body? As to what happens when you reach the “Other Side” Seeing as we never see jewish religious happenenings (hannuakah,yum kipur), Based on the story, either A) you would see the St. Peter of Christian Mythos that would judge whether you were worthy of entrance into paradise or B) you would simply transcend your physical existence and watch over the living. I don’t think Sirius or any other who passes thru would have a “King’s Cross” Scene because that would imply that they would be allowed to go back and therefore negating the purpose of the void in this instance,.

  • SwishySycamore

    I think Sirius did have an idea about what was happening, as he heard the voices. I can also predict that the order knew what was in the department of mysterious, so Sirius knew about the veil.I think he would only be thinking of Harry and leaving him alone again, than death its self. He seemed like the kind of Gryffindor who would not fear death, but leaving people on the other side. On the other side of the veil, I picture it to just have the souls of the people just swirling around, screaming that they want to be let out or alive again. Sirius didn’t like being kept in one place, so his soul would be screaming the loudest.

    • TickleThePear

      oh that’s awful :(

      I choose not to think that since Sirius says in the 7th book that dying was quicker and easier than falling asleep.

      • SwishySycamore

        Yes, he did say dying was quicker than falling asleep, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t sad leaving Harry or horrible in the veil. Also I guess Sirius wouldn’t be telling Harry how horrible the veil is or death, as Harry was supposed to be sacrificing himself 5 minuets later.

  • WizardorWhat

    I think that the answer to this question lies in the the 7th book, when Harry asks Sirius ‘[d]oes it hurt?’

    ‘”Dying? Not at all,” said Sirius. “Quicker and easier than falling asleep.”‘

    Sirius’ actual experience of death was quick and easy and didn’t hurt. I think that his expression of ‘mingled fear and surprise’ is captured the moment before death, in the instant between realising that Bellatrix was about to hit him with the killing curse, but before he was actually hit and died. His expression is fixed because, having died, he can’t change his expression.

    Actually, I think that Rowling is making a point in juxtaposing Sirius’ expectations of death with his actual experience. It’s the same point that she makes when Dumbledore expresses pity for Voldemort: death is not a scary thing, but people treat it as scary, and some of the things people do to avoid death are scary. As Dumbledore put it ‘[d]o not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.’ Sirius’ expectation of death as something to be feared was incorrect – actually it was easy. The only thing to fear is suffering during life.

    • I was going to answer this week’s question but you pretty much took the words right out of my mouth. Sirius’ look is pre-death. I think he (as Bill White mentions) is shocked by Bellatrix hitting him & possibly afraid because he is worried about what could potentially happen to Harry (& everyone else) now that he is unable to fight .

      • WizardorWhat

        While it’s possible that Sirius’ fear is about the fate of the others, I think it’s more likely to simply be a fear of the unknown and death for two reasons. Firstly, Sirius only has an instant to comprehend that he’s about to die. I don’t think he has time to comprehend what is likely to happen after his death. Secondly, Sirius might well have realised that Dumbledore has arrived and captured all of the Death Eaters other than Bellatrix, which would have alleviated his concern for the kids.

        • I guess I worded the part about the fear wrong. I meant that my thoughts were in addition to yours. I’m sure that anyone that is aware they are suddenly (suddenly being the key) dying has A LOT going on in their mind with shock & fear being star players.

          • WizardorWhat

            This sounds likely, but it isn’t clear what colour the sparks were which hit Sirius. The text reads:

            ‘Harry saw Sirius duck Bellatrix’s jet of red light: he was laughing at her. “Come on, you can do better than that!”” he yelled, his voice echoing around the cavernous room. The second jet of light him square on the chest.’

            We only know the colour of the first jet of light.

          • Excellent point (& thank you for the quote). I guess I just always assumed that if it had been a different color, especially green, it would’ve been mentioned specifically. Harry knows that a killing curse is green & I feel like if green had been the color of the second curse it would’ve been mentioned since we see things from Harry’s perspective.

    • Snatch The Snitch

      Great response, pretty much my exact thoughts

  • DisKid

    That’s too many questions! lol. But I’ll try:

    #1 I think the order knew a fair amount of the department of mysteries and knew at least of the veil. I think he knew he was falling backwards to his death and his face was equal to somebody who knows they are falling to their death off a building.

    #2 As Sirius said in the 7th book “Quicker than falling asleep”. I don’t think Sirius had enough time to think about what was going to happen. It’s like when I got into a terrible car accident when I was younger and people said to me “Oh you must have been scared!” my response was “I didn’t have enough time to be scared!” I think all Sirius had time for was to think “I’m going to die” then when that thought was done he was already dead. Then he did his thinking on the other side. If he did have enough time to think one thing before dying it was probably “Harry”

    #3 I think the nature of the veil has already been explained. It’s a barrier between the living and the land of the dead and is in the ministry for study.

    #4 Only people who have died really know for sure, so I guess us mortals can only speculate! My personal opinion is it’s something that mortals can’t even imagine and therefore I can’t really say! I know what I would like to happen. I would like to think Sirius saw James and Lily quickly and was happily reunited with them. Maybe, for old times sake, they could still transform into their animagus with Lily shaking her head knowing she’d now have to put up with the two of them for all eternity.

  • Tulip Longood

    As opposed to the movie Bellatrix didn’t actually hit Sirius with the killing curse. It’s said that she hit him with a flash of red sparks, not the green ones of Avada Kedavara. The most widely accepted theory is that Bellatrix’s spell hit Sirius off balance while he was laughing and knocked him into the veil. I think that his face of shock was because he was shocked that Bellatrix hit him, after all, he had just been laughing and taunting her. I think he had a face of fear because, this is where it gets controversial, he was afraid for his life. I know a lot other comments have said otherwise, but Sirius is human, even if he had been locked in Azkaban and some might say a tad bit insane, in the last moments of your life who isn’t scared to die? This isn’t to say that I don’t think he wasn’t thinking about Harry and the Order and everything else while he was dueling, but in the last seconds of life, he knew that he was goin go die and felt the natural human instinct of death.

    • WizardorWhat

      It isn’t clear what colour the sparks were which hit Sirius. The text reads:

      ‘Harry saw Sirius duck Bellatrix’s jet of red light: he was laughing at her. “Come on, you can do better than that!”” he yelled, his voice echoing around the cavernous room. The second jet of light him square on the chest.’

      We only know the colour of the first jet of light.

  • ISeeThestrals

    First off, to answer this question, we
    must decide whether or not Bellatrix actually hit him with the killing curse.
    We know with her first strike at Sirius, she used stupefy as the light from her
    wand was red. The book states, “The second jet of light hit him squarely on the
    chest”. Since Rowling does not announce the color, we can either assume that
    Bellatrix attempted to stun him again with stupefy or that Rowling did not want
    to give away the fact that her second jet of light was green and that Sirius
    was about to die. If we don’t assume it is green, we are momentarily left to
    believe that Sirius is simply stunned, until we turn the page. Either way, the
    end result is Sirius’s death through the veil. To answer the question about
    whether or not Sirius knew about the veil, I don’t believe he knew that much
    about the Department of Mysteries. As many times as I’ve read this final
    section of the chapter, I believe Sirius’s expression of shock first stemmed
    from the fact his cousin actually struck him which he did not expect. Before,
    he was under the impression that Bellatrix was a poor opponent, but he quickly
    realized how wrong he was. I don’t get the sense that Sirius was even aware of
    how close he was to the veil as he was so invested in fighting. He didn’t even realize
    Dumbledore had appeared. I think if Sirius did know about the veil, he might
    have shifted their battle away from it. Here, Sirius has become so reckless
    with his battling that he fails to take notice of his surroundings and the
    ability of his opponent which was a huge mistake. In regards to the color of
    the light, I was under the impression that once one was hit with avada kedavra
    they were instantly killed, with no ability to think or react afterwards,
    therefore Sirius’s expression was frozen on his face and he was already dead as
    his body fell into the veil. Even if he was hit with the stunning curse, he
    would still be shocked and surprised, but the focus on his reaction appears to
    tell us he somehow knew he was about to die. Either way, I don’t believe there
    was enough time for Sirius to think about what he was leaving behind. This is
    unlike Lily and James who knew they would meet their ends, so of course Harry
    would be on their minds as they were protecting him at the time. Of course
    Sirius was there to protect Harry, but I still feel his brief thoughts
    concerned himself; that Bellatrix had done better in her dueling and that he
    was about to encounter an unknown fate. It may have taken an age for Sirius to
    fall from Harry’s point of view, but in reality there was not enough time for
    Sirius to think about where he was going. His look of mingled fear and surprise
    stem from him being physically struck as well as his underestimation of
    Bellatrix. Considering how close he was to the veil, Sirius might have actually
    heard the whispers and even sensed his own life slipping away. As soon as he
    touched the veil, he was gone. I like the theory of the veil being part of
    Death’s cloak. I think in some ways it can also be tied to the killing curse
    which is instant death as well. No one knows what happens once you cross over
    into death. The stone archway has become a symbol of the mystery of death which
    is already so intertwined into the series. It is the gateway or portal or
    window into a world where the living will cross into in their own time yet no
    one is able to see past the hanging cloth. Regardless of the many other ways
    that Sirius could have died and what would happen afterwards, as in him
    experiencing some long and great spiritual journey, Sirius might have had an
    immediate encounter with James and Lily who I believe might have been standing
    on the other side of that veil whispering to Harry and ready to greet their old

  • I truly don’t think that Sirius knew what the veil was or what was happening. I feel that a lot of the “shock” had to do with the spell that hit him, which I imagine was like being punched in the stomach and registering the blow a bit after it happened. As for the fear, I think that once SIrius understood that Bellatrix had beat him, he was scared for Harry and the rest of the Dream Team as Dumbledore was not there and the rest of the order were in pretty bad shape.

    Again, I don’t think that Sirius knew what was happening until he went through the veil and into the “other side.” I always imagined him being greeted a bit like in Deathly Hallows when Harry arrives in his misty, white version of King’s Cross. And, being a huge Marauders fan and crying at the death of James/Lily/Sirius every time, I’d like to imagine James and Lily waiting for Sirius.

    *goes and cries*

  • PixieDragon137

    Although it is not specifically stated in the books, I think its safe to assume both Sirius and Bellatrix died by the same curse (and we only know of one curse that causes instant death), because of the parallels Harry draws to Bellatrix’s death scene with Sirius’s. In that case, Sirius would not have spared a thought about the veil behind him, because he knew his fate when he was hit by the second curse.

    Perhaps the archway is sort of like the vanishing cabinet, directly linking the wizarding world to a place where souls go when people die. I think the veil might be a physical representation of the two dimensions. I find it interesting how the veil seems to flutter on its own when Harry first enters the room and also right after Sirius falls through it, after which it falls back into place. I was wondering if like a portkey it gets ‘activated’ when it senses the presence of the living in the room and then deactivated once its purpose has been served.

    Perhaps time momentarily stops or slows down for a person crossing over to the other side so that they can decide whether they want to move on or come back as a ghost.

  • SpectacularlyHypothetical

    My idea of what was going through Sirius’ head has been pretty much summed up by WizardorWhat but I do have some thoughts on the Veil itself.

    First I am curious as to how much anyone knew about the veil. Obviously Lupin has some understanding of it, hence his immediate jumping to stop Harry rushing through. Dumbledore I take as a fount of all knowledge so I assume he knows pretty much all there is to know about it. Bellatrix seems to know a fair amount about it, she screams with triumph immediately, so she knows that Sirius isn’t coming back. I thought this was meant to be the Department of Mysteries, everyone seems to know an a fair amount about it already.

    I think a crucial question about he Veil is whether or not it is man-made. Now the stone steps and possible the arch-way are almost certainly man-made, the Veil itself…well I’m not so sure. It may be that this particular point on the earth is a naturally occurring window to the next world which wizards in the past have built around.

    Halloween is meant to be the time when “the veil” between worlds is thinnest. Whilst I think this is probably a figurative phrase referring to the whole world. However, perhaps this particular spot is a permanent tear in the fabric of reality, from this world, into the next.

    Yes, this thought has been heavily inspired by Doctor Who

    • Mama_Slytherin

      I’m not sure that everyone knows about the veil, actually. The veil seems to inspire a gut reaction in those characters we have the time to see examine it. The reactions seem to be akin to how people react to death in this world – not talking about it, being uncomfortable, wondering about it, etc. So with the exception of Dumbledore (the all knowing), it may just be that each older character is showing their gut reaction of “oh, probably shouldn’t walk through that”. Lupin knows to fear it; Bellatrix is happy to use it (cold blooded killer). The reactions of the Dream Team showed this again – Harry was almost drawn to it (having been surrounded by death and danger since he was a baby), Luna seemed comfortable with it (being spiritual), Hermione seemed uncomfortable (death being something you can’t prepare for or understand).

    • TickleThePear

      Your thoughts on whether the veil is man-made or not are very intriguing.

      the Wiki has a quote from Rowling where she says the veil has been there as long as the Ministry itself. What if the Ministry was purposely built around the veil? As you suggested, perhaps the veil is situated on earth at a naturally occurring window to the next world and the Ministry centered their operations over it to study it and to protect wizards from encountering it.

  • Mama_Slytherin

    I agree with others that in the books, it seems to be that Sirius had been Stunned, not killed. I imagine stunning give a momentary reaction time for the person being hit – sort of like that moment of feeling the air rush out when punched in the stomach, or seeing stars when hit in the head. His face I think is showing how surprised and shocked he is that someone got the upper-hand on him. I don’t think he knows about the veil and I don’t think he was thinking about what he was leaving.

    What happens on the other side is the bigger question. I imagine that it is an empty space. A nothing space. A space that you have to sit while you absorb that you are dead and decide what you want to do – will you stay in the nothing space, whispering and waiting? Will you go on to…whatever is next? I think it is possible there is a moment where you are between the nothing space and the real world – when you IN the veil. I think that if Sirius had not been stunned (and therefore unable to do much) perhaps he could have had an instant to mouth a good bye or something.

  • VoldemortDancingTheTango

    I don´t think Sirius had time to be thinking about what he was leaving behind. For two reasons:
    1- He was at a battle and in that moment the only thing he could probably think was the battle itself. Yes, is true that he was there for and because of Harry, but Harry was “just” the reason why he was fighting, does not necessarily means, that he was always thinking about that. Specially on a scenario as the one we see in the chapter. If we assume that this is true, then he didn´t have the time to star pondering what he was leaving behind.
    2- The fear of death freezes him in that moment, and it does not leave space for any other thought. It is clear to me, at least in the way that I read this scene, that he understood that he was going to die.It is possible that he knew he was going to die because he knew the power of the veil (as Lupin did), or because of Bellatrix ´s curse. Or simply in that fleeting a second he understood what was going to happen. I work in a hospital, and although it never happen to me (luckly) there are a lot of stories like that. Where people got that kind of knowledge just minutes before they die, and even warn the nurses and doctors that is going to happen. And we are not only talking about terminal patients here, it happens outside of that as well. So, he knew. How i can not be sure, but im sure that he had that knowledge.Which brings me to the reason why he shows shock and fear.
    Sirius didn´t fear death, it was not in his core to have that fear, being him the bold man we know. He was indeed a true Gryffindor. But before all that, he was a human being. And there is no more natural reaction, even for a man who lived life without fear of death, to be afraid of it, even if just in the seconds before It happens. That he later refers to it as “easy as falling a sleep” just proves how brave this man was.

    As for what he sees when he gets “to the other side”, i believe (and like to think so) that he sees pretty much what we see in DH. Lilly and James. The old gang together again.
    About the nature of the Veil, im intrigued by one thing. We know that Sirius would never be the kind of guy to became a ghost, that he would always “go on” as Nick tells to Harry. For what we get in the books, and even some of the theories that people were talking here in the comments, lets assume that the veil is indeed a barrier between the living and the land of the dead. If you pass the Veil, can you choose? Can you have your “King´s Cross” moment (sort of), or because of the nature of the Veil, you are obliged to always “go on”? I would like to ear what you guys think of that!


    I do not remember if the spell that hit Sirius was the killing curse or a stunning spell but I am going to think on the happier side of things and so I am going to say it was a stunning spell, therefor I think that Sirius knew at the time what was going on and what was about to happen and so when he fell back into the veil it was the veil that killed him and it wasn’t the spell (unless it was the killing curse) that killed him.

  • Hufflepug

    I think he intuitively knew what was going to happen. Maybe the feeling of approaching the veil is similar to the feeling of being around Dementors for so long. Your soul is trying to leave you body in both cases so he may have even thought it would be something similar to the Dementor’s kiss. I don’t think he was scared of what he saw on the other side just because of all of the thematic elements about death in the series. “It is the unknown that we fear when we look upon death and dying, nothing more.” I always assumed that when you crossed to the other side you entered the afterlife immediately.

  • BadgermoleButterbeer

    My guess about what Sirius thought about at the moment of death (past tense! so sad!) was simply that he was dying. Since this is Sirius, who was possibly the most brash of the Marauders, I doubt that he had ever considered his own mortality much. This man survived Azkaban. It didn’t make him suicidal, or crazy. He had a very strong will to live up until the end. If he hadn’t considered his own death/come to terms with his own mortality, (let’s admit, he still acts like a teenager in this regard), the shock of dying so suddenly when he had plans (living with Harry, probably goodtimes with Lupin, and finally avenging James and Lily by killing Peter/Wormtail), would have been worrisome to say the least. And going into the unknown of death was simply something that he wasn’t mentally prepared for.

    When you’re in shock you often don’t think well or quickly. So no, I don’t think that he was thinking about what he was leaving behind or going toward. His only thought probably would have been “She actually got me! I’m dying! I’m dead! I’m…” *falls through veil*

    As to what would be on the other side of the veil, Rowling doesn’t tell us much. We know from the King’s Cross Station scene that Harry at least is given the option to go forward or go back. I wonder if this same place (which, I believe looks differently to each person that goes into it) is where you make the decision to be a ghost or to “go on”. This would also imply that where or what-ever the afterlife is in this world, would have at least two different levels, (an entry and a beyond) and potentially more. So for the people that go through the veil, whether willingly or not (as in Sirius’ case) I believe that they would go to this entry place (Harry’s King’s Cross) and make decisions as to further journeys into the afterlife from there. And can I just say that I think we should all be grateful that Sirius did not decide to be a ghost. Talk about terrifying.