Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Major Events/Sirius' Death

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Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Major Event
Sirius's Death
Location Department of Mysteries, Ministry of Magic
Time Period Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, June
Important Characters Bellatrix Lestrange, Sirius Black, Harry Potter, Professor Dumbledore, Voldemort, Lucius Malfoy

Overview[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Lord Voldemort implants a false vision into Harry's mind to trick Harry into believing Sirius is being tortured at the Department of Mysteries within the Ministry of Magic. Despite Hermione's warnings that the vision may be false and leading him into a trap, Harry, accompanied by Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and Luna Lovegood, rushes to London. Inside the Department of Mysteries, the group is ambushed by Death Eaters. The students fight for their lives and are nearly defeated when Order of the Phoenix reinforcements, including Sirius, arrive to help.

As a battle ensues, Sirius faces off with his Death Eater cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, in a room containing a raised stone dais in the center of a sunken pit. Upon the dais is a stone archway, covered with a tattered black veil. Sirius is hit by Bellatrix's curse, and his stunned body arcs into the air and floats through the archway, disappearing behind the veil. Harry expects Sirius to reappear on the other side, but he never does. Harry attempts to go after him but is restrained by Remus Lupin, who tells him Sirius is dead. Harry is forced to admit that his godfather is gone.

Event Details[edit]

Exhausted from studying for OWL exams, Harry falls asleep during his History of Magic exam. He dreams that Voldemort is in the Ministry of Magic, where he is torturing Sirius Black. Having previously had similar dreams that contained real events, Harry concludes that this dream, also, is real, and demands that Hermione and Ron assist him in rescuing Sirius. Hermione suggests that Voldemort could be setting a trap for Harry, so Harry decides to use the Floo network to see if Sirius is still at Headquarters.

Harry breaks in to Professor Umbridge's office to use her fireplace, the only one unmonitored by the Ministry. There, he talks to the House-Elf, Kreacher, who says that Sirius will never return from the Department of Mysteries. Immediately after this, he is caught by Umbridge, along with Ron, Hermione, Luna Lovegood and Ginny, who had volunteered to help distract Umbridge and the students, and Neville, who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Umbridge summons Professor Snape to provide Veritaserum to determine who Harry was talking to; Snape refuses. Harry, remembering that Snape is a member of the Order of the Phoenix, tries to pass a message to him, but does not seem to be successful. Hermione convinces Umbridge that Harry had been working with Professor Dumbledore and the students to create a weapon, and leads Harry and Umbridge into the Forbidden Forest. Hermione deliberately leads them into Centaur territory, knowing Umbridge's feelings about "half-breeds". When the Centaurs find them, Umbridge insults and attacks them, and as a result is captured and carried away into the woods. Harry and Hermione narrowly avoid the same fate when Grawp, looking for his half-brother Hagrid, stumbles into the clearing, and invites an attack by the Centaurs.

While they are considering their next move, they are met by the other four students who, having overpowered the Inquisitorial Squad that had been holding them, have followed Harry and Hermione. When Harry insists on going to London to save Sirius, Luna suggests flying there on the school's Thestrals (winged horse-like creatures). Though Harry tries to eliminate some of the students, Thestrals keep arriving, attracted by the scent of Grawp's blood on Harry and Hermione. Once there are sufficient Thestrals for all the students, Harry can no longer explain leaving some of them out of the rescue attempt, so all six mount up and fly to London.

Entering through the Visitor's entrance to the Ministry, Harry is alarmed to find the watch-wizard inexplicably absent. Following his recurring dreams through the year, Harry leads the group to the Department of Mysteries, and after several false paths, into a large room filled with many wooden shelves containing glass orbs. Reaching the place where he believed he had seen Sirius and Voldemort, he finds nobody there. Ron notices a glass sphere with Harry's and Voldemort's names on it. Just as Harry grasps it, Death Eaters, led by Lucius Malfoy, appear, demanding he hand over the sphere. On Harry's silent command, the students blast the shelves, shattering many of the orbs. They run from the Death Eaters, but end up separated. Harry, Hermione, and Neville are attacked by four Death Eaters, and Hermione is knocked out, while Neville's wand and nose are broken; in a separate group, Ginny's ankle is broken and Ron is hit with a spell that makes him seem drunk. They re-group, but are attacked again; in the retreat, Ron is attacked by brains floating in a glass tank, and Ginny and Luna are knocked out.

Harry tries to make his stand alone in a room with a stone archway containing a veil. Neville, ineffectively trying to help, is quickly captured and tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange. As Harry is on the verge of surrendering the orb, several members of the Order of the Phoenix, including Sirius Black, arrive and start dueling the Death Eaters. Tonks fights with Bellatrix but is injured. Sirius takes on his cousin Bellatrix, taunting her that she can fight better. Albus Dumbledore arrives and stops most of the fighting, but Bellatrix and Sirius continue. She casts a powerful curse, blasting him in the chest and sending him through the veiled arch. When he fails to reappear on the other side, Harry realizes Sirius is dead.

Notable Consequences[edit]

  • Harry loses another father figure. He has already lost his father and his impression of his father, and has lost contact with Lupin; the reader may be wondering how many times this will happen, especially considering Arthur Weasley's near brush with death in this book.
  • Harry chases Bellatrix Lestrange into the Ministry Atrium. In his battle with Bellatrix, he uses the Cruciatus curse. This marks Harry's first time using an Unforgivable Curse.
  • Voldemort appears and comes to Bellatrix' assistance. Dumbledore also arrives to protect Harry, and duels directly with Voldemort. Many Ministry wizards, summoned by Dumbledore, arrive in time to see Voldemort in person. This is unequivocal proof that Voldemort has returned, vindicating Dumbledore and Harry. This is expected to result in the Ministry finally taking an active stance against Voldemort.
  • The Death Eaters remaining in the Room of the Veil, and presumably the disabled ones who did not take part in that battle, have openly declared themselves and are sent to Azkaban. As one of them is Lucius Malfoy, we can expect this to have some effect on Draco. The reader may wonder how likely they are to stay in Azkaban, given that the Dementors have entered Voldemort's service.
  • During the battle with Dumbledore, Voldemort briefly takes over Harry's mind, challenging Dumbledore to kill him by killing Harry. Harry, seeing death as the only way to re-unite with his parents and particularly Sirius, welcomes death. This desire for death, and the love Harry feels for Sirius in particular, causes Voldemort to leave Harry's mind.
  • Harry blames Dumbledore for Sirius' death and rages at the Headmaster in his office following the battle at the Ministry. However, Harry initially overlooks his own rash behavior and his reluctance to learn Occlumency that allowed Voldemort to penetrate his mind and manipulate him. He also fails to realize that Sirius' unstable mental state and careless actions ultimately contributed to his own death.
  • Harry also blames himself for Sirius' death, however, he directs his anger at Snape and Dumbledore to ease his guilt.
  • Harry's rage at Dumbledore may be part of what allows Dumbledore to realize his mistake in not telling Harry what was going on. Dumbledore had simply informed Harry, through Snape, that he was to learn Occlumency, and had not explained why. It is as part of making amends for that, and other omissions, that Dumbledore now, finally, speaks of the Prophecy and what it means to Harry.
  • Harry will try a number of things to regain contact with Sirius, including the magic mirror that Sirius gave him at Christmas, and hopeful discussions of the nature of ghosts with Nearly Headless Nick. It will be his talking with Luna Lovegood about the Veil that Sirius had fallen through, and how both he and Luna had heard the voices on the other side, that will give him the most peace.

Analysis[edit]

After Sirius' death, Dumbledore and Harry speak in Dumbledore's office for an entire chapter. During that conversation, we learn much, but by no means all, of the background of the battle that is going on.

Dumbledore first explains that the fault for Sirius' death lies with him, as he should have been more forthcoming with Harry as to what was happening. Having heard of Harry's dreams in July and May the previous (school) year, Dumbledore believed there was a link between Harry's mind and Voldemort's, presumably caused by the abortive attempt by Voldemort to kill Harry, but he was then unsure of its precise nature. With Voldemort re-embodied, he now believes that the link would be stronger, and he has taken steps to distance himself from Harry, so as to prevent Voldemort from using the bond between them as a weapon against either or both of them. He never explained to Harry what he was doing, which had left Harry feeling abandoned. When the link became undeniable at Christmas, when Harry perceived Voldemort's attack on Arthur Weasley, Dumbledore, still without explanation, had sent Snape to teach Harry Occlumency, not realizing that the hatred between Harry and Snape was far too deep to allow instruction in something so complex.

Dumbledore also reveals that a prophecy had been made about Harry and Voldemort. Harry has been marked (by Voldemort) to face a final mortal combat with the Dark Lord. This revelation appears to bring Harry and Dumbledore closer. The prophecy's revelation and its effect on Harry hold great importance in the overall picture.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

  1. What does the veiled arch represent?
  2. Who is ultimately responsible for Sirius' death? Is more than one person to blame?
  3. What was the whispering Harry and Luna heard coming from the veil? What could it mean?

Greater Picture[edit]

Sirius' death is a huge loss for Harry, and as we will see in the early part of the next book, he reacts by isolating himself. As he recovers from this blow, Harry realizes that Voldemort used his godfather to get to him, and he fears his friends will always be in mortal danger as long as Voldemort lives. This may be part of the reason Harry allows himself to get closer to Dumbledore: he believes Dumbledore, "the only one he (Voldemort) ever feared," will not be attacked by Voldemort, so friendship with Harry will not imperil him.

It is because he is trying to protect Ginny from this avenue of attack that he will attempt to end their budding romantic relationship at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. More information is available in the articles about Harry's and Ginny's relationships.

Given that this link between Voldemort and Harry exists, we might wonder why Dumbledore feels able to speak so freely with Harry following the battle in the Ministry. It is mentioned above that Voldemort is repelled by Harry's longing for death and love of Sirius when Voldemort occupies his mind during the battle. Dumbledore, recognizing the reason for Voldemort's abrupt departure, now believes that Voldemort will not choose to re-enter Harry's mind, a place that he finds "extremely uncomfortable," as Dumbledore remarks in the next book. It is likely that Dumbledore initially does not know how long Voldemort's reluctance will last, but believes that he has at least long enough to bring Harry fully up to date. He seems guardedly pleased but unsurprised in the next book when Harry confirms that his scar has not been troubling him since these events.

We will learn in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that the link between Harry and Voldemort is actually a shard of Voldemort's soul that had broken off when Voldemort attempted to murder Harry, and adhered to Harry's soul. Given that the link is something other than the exercise of Legilimency, and that it is in fact attached rather directly to Harry's soul, it is quite possible that Occlumency would have no effect. As Occlumency appears to be intended to prevent another from reading one's mind, and the specific issue we are trying to prevent is another impressing his thoughts in one's mind, it is uncertain whether Occlumency would be the appropriate technique in any case.

Harry will use the Resurrection Stone to summon Sirius' shade, as well as Lupin's and his parents' shades, as he leaves Hogwarts to meet his doom in the final book. It seems it is then that he finally reaches closure in his understanding of Sirius' death, as he is then preparing for his own imminent death.