Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 116

For our final Question of the Week for Order of the Phoenix, we’re taking a closer look at one known ghost and another ghost Harry hoped for.

We learn from Nearly Headless Nick that he stayed behind as a ghost because he was too afraid to move on from life. But was there more to it? Was there a more specific reason that might have kept him behind: a love, a purpose in life, or something else? Take it a step further: if Sirius had stayed behind, what might have been the single biggest motivating factor to keep him behind – being a godfather to Harry, his growing friendship with Harry, or something else?

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!


    I think that if Sirius has stayed behind it would only be for Harry. I think that he would stay to help Harry though life itself and to give him a last piece of the people that he loves because we know that Lupin dies in the Deathly Hallows.

  • RoseLumos

    I think that a reason Nick may have stayed back was not just because he was afraid of death – he might have never experienced the death of a close friend of family member. I can see how someone who has never lost a loved one would view death as scary and lonely. It would mean leaving everything behind. However, someone who has experienced a loss can realize how much there is in death and can imagine being reunited in the afterlife. If Nick only had living loved ones it would be scary to leave everything behind for the unknown. When we put Sirius into this situation, we can see why he would have “moved on.” He had lost so many people he knew that moving on would bring him closer to them. Besides…

    I think that Sirius has lived quite a sad adult life. He has either been a prisoner in Azkaban or a prisoner in his house since he was a young man. He hasn’t had real freedom in 14 years. The idea of Sirius coming back to be a “prisoner” of life would not be appealing to him. Sure, he could have spent time with Harry and Remus, but in the whole history of life that time he spent with them would only seem like a moment. The idea of being stuck in life long after everyone has passed on would probably seem like torture to him.

    • ISeeThestrals

      Good point about not having the experience of losing someone. I think it would make death scarier. As for Sirius, I can only think of two people he would want to reunite with and that’s the Potters. And yes, he wouldn’t want to come back as a ghost if it would keep him trapped. When Harry asked Nick about Sirius coming back as a ghost, I was hoping he wouldn’t, and I think it was for that reason of entrapment.

  • Nearly Headless Nick is nearly headless for a reason. He was executed. Whatever the reason was, his death came to him knowingly. He had to walk to the executioner, possibly watch the world around him as he lay his head down and wait for it to be chopped off. Gruesome, disturbing, out of his control. The fear of death must be incredibly strong in anyone facing execution, and perhaps the reason behind his execution made Nick ever more fearful. Was he wrongly blamed for a crime? Have a quest that still needed completing? It’s all guess work from here, but walking into your death unwilling and in wanting must make death pretty scary.

    • ISeeThestrals

      We learned the reason is for accidentally transforming Lady Grieve’s teeth into tusks. I think it was stated on Pottermore.

  • ISeeThestrals

    I think if Nearly Headless Nick had stayed behind for a loved one, he knew he would
    eventually have to accept her moving on from life if she didn’t make an imprint to stick
    around as a ghost. This is the risk ghosts take. They are extending their time on earth
    for an everlasting false life, yet they must know that they will find themselves alone if their
    relations chose not to make the same choice. If not solely for the fear of death, Nick may
    have chosen to remain behind to become of better assistance to others. He was sentenced
    to death for accidentally causing Lady Grieve to grow tusks when he tried to fix her teeth.
    His desire to remain behind may stem from a need to make a better name for himself
    among young wizards who might have considered him something of a failure. In the case
    of Sirius, I do believe he would want to stay behind for Harry if he made such a choice, but
    also for himself as well. His life was cut short when he was sentenced to Azkaban, and once
    he escape he was still forced to live like a prisoner with no freedom. As a ghost, I think Sirius
    would have felt freer than he had in his current life, believing he could, in a sense, relive his
    life for the better even though life as a ghost could become a kind of prison. Depending on
    when a wizard must make an imprint, if they must do so before they die or if it occurs
    somewhere afterwards, Sirius might have been caught in the moment of wanting to participate
    in the war if it’s the latter. Knowing the trouble ahead, he would want to be there to help stop it,
    as he tried to do for the Order. Like Nearly Headless Nick, he wants to be of help. For much of
    his early life he was considered worthless by his own family, and since gaining a family of his
    own in Harry and Lupin, he would want to fight along with them and help in any way he could.

  • I Found Harry’s Firebolt

    I don’t think there was more to Nearly Headless Nick staying behind. I think we see with Voldemort how the fear of death will drive a person to find any way to stay among the living. An example that comes to mind is Voldemort choosing to drink the unicorn blood. It’s interesting to recall what Firenze says about this act: it causes someone to live “a half-life”. Compare that to what Nick says about being neither here nor there, halfway between life and death. Choosing to remain a ghost was the act of someone who was so afraid of dying, they chose a “feeble imitation” of life.

  • SpinnersEnd

    Nearly Headless Nick may have been ready to face Death right up until the very end. With a botched beheading, he may have panicked in those last moments, full of pain, misery and fear, and chosen to stay behind then.

    However, I sincerely believe he simply feared the unknown and was not willing to take the chance of what might lie beyond the veil. We see that he haunts Hogwarts, a place with which he would have been intimately familiar with from his school days. This says to me that Nick likes the known, the solid and the comforting.

  • SpinnersEnd

    I have a question: Do ghosts get to choose the place the haunt? Or is it randomly assigned to them?

    • I feel like I read somewhere that they don’t but I can’t recall where.

    • RoseLumos

      If I remember correctly ghosts aren’t assigned anywhere. They choose where they want to stay. I think one exception is Moaning Myrtle who was scaring Olive Hornby too much and was ordered by the Ministry to return to Hogwarts.

      • Silverdoe25

        Totally correct.

  • I don’t feel like I know enough about Nick to assume what may have caused him to stay behind. It could be as simple as he knew he would miss being alive. As for Sirius…his motivation would most certainly been Harry. I think it would’ve been everything to do with Harry though not just the growing friendship or being a godfather to him. In fact I’d say in Sirius’ eyes those things would not be mutually exclusive.

  • DisKid

    I definitely think there’s more to it as Moaning Myrtle said that she was alive one second then the next second she was floating over her body. She didn’t have enough time to think about the fact that she was going to die and therefore not enough time to be scared. Now perhaps she was scared of dying while she was alive in the back of her head, but I think more people are scared of that than the amount of ghosts that are in the wizarding world. So if that’s all there was to it, there should be more ghosts. Nick also said not many wizards “choose” that path, implying there is choice involved. But Moaning Myrtle didn’t have enough time to decide “No! I’m going to come back as a ghost!” It happened in, literally, one second. I don’t think she had a choice. I think there’s more to becoming a ghost than just being scared and choosing to stay behind. I wish we had more information behind why Myrtle became a ghost cause her becoming a ghost doesn’t make sense if there’s choice involved. Too quick.

    I definitely think that if Sirius had stayed behind it would be for Harry, but in the end I think Sirius was wise enough to know that it would be better to move on. There was no guarantee Harry would become a ghost when dying and if he hadn’t he would not have seen Sirius in the afterlife.

  • CentaurSeeker121

    I have often heard that ghosts stick around is because they have some sort of “unfinished business.” Maybe they didn’t want to leave their loved ones behind, or their property, or maybe they are like Nick said he was: afraid to go on.

    As for Sirius, I think that, had he chosen to stay, his biggest motivation would have been watching over Harry. However, as much as he loved Harry, one also has to remember that he spent the first thirteen years of Harry’s life in a cell in Azkaban and the rest of his own trapped inside Grimmauld place having to be around the constant reminders of the things he hated. Nick says that not many wizards or witches don’t choose to remain which does imply that there is a choice involved. We may never know what exactly was going through Sirius’s mind, but he must have thought that this would be the only way he could have ever truly be free (as sad as that sounds).

  • I never thought that becoming a ghost was a conscious decision. Some of the ghosts we know, Myrtle, Nick, and Helena, all are implied to have become ghosts for different reasons and emotions. But I always perceived that the split second that one registers that they have died, if they are scared of death or have a purpose to fulfill. Therefore, I think that Nick stayed behind simply because he was scared of death – so scared he had to remain tethered to life.

    As for Sirius, assuming for the time being there was an option given, I think that Sirius would’ve stayed behind to protect Harry.

    Lastly, I have a question. What is the difference between ghosts and the “shadows” recalled from death with the resurrection stone?