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Mysteries Unveiled: Speculating on the Veil

by Brandon Ford

Ahoy all!! I trust everybody had a good Thanksgiving. Come to think of it, do people in foreign countries even have Thanksgiving? I never thought about that. So everybody that does: Happy Thanksgiving; everybody that doesn’t well… happy Thursday. I apologize for the tardiness of this editorial, but I hope you will forgive me when you read what this week’s rant concerns. But, as usual… let’s start with old business.

Folks, for the last time: HARRY POTTER KNEW HE COULD TALK TO SNAKES IN BOOK ONE!!! Therefore, that is not a Chamber of Secrets discovery. If you choose to argue then that he discovered the significance of Parseltongue in Book Two, well, my friends, that falls squarely under the rather large umbrella that is the Harry/Voldemort Connection (if you have no clue what I am talking about, read my last editorial). The Harry/Voldemort Connection encompasses so many things: the half-blood connection, resemblances in behavior, similarities in appearance, and the transference of power from Voldemort to Harry that nearly made him a Slytherin. Whew… that was taxing. Surprisingly, that was all the old business I have for last week’s article. Again, I loved all the emails, except the one that wished that JKR would kill off Ron because, apparently, he is annoying. But I digress… NEW BUSINESS!

I would like to say that the reason this editorial was late was because I have been exhaustively researching the topic. That’s about 30% true. The real reason was that my friend Liz came back from la universidad with the complete first season of The O.C. (it’s sad, but I am an addict and I don’t know why), and I got caught up in the teen melodrama that I can so effortlessly live my life vicariously through. Sorry. It shouldn’t happen again (though it probably will).

There is a topic in the Harry Potter Universe that I have ducked and avoided and generally been fearful of since I read it the first time: the veil. The veil is scary. What’s up with all the weird voices and the tattered stone and the creepy curtain? Oh yeah, and then the tiny detail of Sirius falling through it into oblivion. This thing is so mysterious (probably because it’s in the Department of Mysteries, smart one!) that I seldom speculate on it. But as most of you know (if you are keeping score at home), I am rereading Goblet of Fire and I came across something that forced me out of my silence on the subject. Something that makes me question the foundation of everything that I have believed to be true. Something that, yes, even makes me question whether Sirius is really dead or not!! So let us move ever so cautiously into the realm of the beyond. For your consideration and entertainment, I give you: MYSTERIES UNVEILED!!!

The Flukes

The subject of the veil has had me and so many others puzzled since we were first introduced to it. Harry hears voices from inside it, as does Luna (though Luna isn’t exactly what I like to call normal). Neville and Ginny are strangely attracted to it. Hermione is terrified from the moment they enter the room to the moment they leave it, constantly trying to shunt every one out of it. And Ron is… well Ron. The great battle ensues and, *gasp* and *shock*, Sirius falls gracefully yet tragically inside of it, presumably dead. Lupin and all the adults say that Sirius is gone. But is he? I still think so. I have spent a great deal of time trying to convince a certain friend of mine that Sirius Black is quite and irreversibly dead. But what if there is a chance he is not so dead?

In order for us to examine this veil, we must get a lot of the other theories out of the way. We must eliminate the flukes. The first fluke that started me on this article three weeks ago was a quote by our favorite teacher, Sybil P. Trelawney. When we are first introduced to her, she said something that I totally missed the first two times I read PoA:

“Many witches and wizards, talented though they are in the area of loud bangs and smells and sudden disappearings, are yet unable to penetrate the veiled mysteries of the future.”
– page 103, “Talons and Tea Leaves,” Prisoner of Azkaban

JKR chooses her words carefully and for a fraction of a second I actually thought that perhaps the veil had nothing to do with death. Perhaps it was about the future. Perhaps the Department of Mysteries somehow unlocked some portal to another dimension, another time and place. But then I thought, EVIDENCE!! Where is the evidence?? And I realized I had none. But this was the first time I ever actually stopped to think about the veil, the implication of the veil being of course, the sole reason I thought Sirius was dead.

Then in English class, I was not paying attention as usual and flipping through my Literature book, when quite by chance I landed on a poem titled, oddly enough, “Beyond the Veil.” Well, imagine my gasp and shock when I read the following:

How great unto the living seem the dead,
How sacred, solemn; how heroic grown;
How vast and vague, as they obscurely tread
The shadowy confines of the dim unknown!
For they have met the monster that we dread,
Have learned the secret not to mortal shown.
E’en as gigantic shadows on the wall
The spirit of the daunted child amaze,
So on us thoughts of the departed fall,
And with phantasma fill our gloomy gaze.
Awe and deep wonder lend the living lines,
And hope and ecstasy the borrowed beams;
While fitful fancy the full form divines,
And all is what imagination dreams.
– Charles Heavysege

Fun poem. Such imagery. Now I didn’t see when the poem was written, and our book is fairly new, but still I was intrigued. But I put that into the back of my mind, until something else happened.

The Avada Kedavra Hypothesis

As I said, I am rereading GoF. So I get to the part of the book where we are talking with our favorite DADA teacher/Voldemort Spy, Imposter Moody a.k.a. Bartemius Crouch, Jr. In the chapter on the Unforgivable Curses, Imposter Moody AKs (Avada Kedavras) the spider. Here is what JKR says:

“There was a flash of green light and a rushing sound as though a vast invisible something was soaring through the air-instantaneously the spider rolled over on its back, unmarked, but unmistakably dead.”
– page 216, “The Unforgivable Curses,” Goblet of Fire

VAST INVISIBLE SOMETHING SOARING THROUGH THE AIR?!? I take that little nugget (again, one of those things that you breeze by), and I look at OotP when the DA is in the presence of the veil:

“…upon this dais stood a stone archway that looked so ancient, cracked, and crumbling that Harry was amazed it was still standing. Unsupported by any surrounding wall, the archway was hung with a tattered black curtain or veil which, despite the complete stillness of the cold surrounding air, was fluttering slightly as though it had just been touched.”
– p.773, “The Department of Mysteries,” Order of the Phoenix

We then get the constant repetition of Harry hearing voices and getting the feeling that there was someone standing right behind the veil. Also, we get the reiteration that the veil sways “as though someone had walked through it. So, while at home, I took advantage of the new curtains my mother has and I did a test. The day after it snowed here, I open the window and noted what happened to the curtains. I then shut the window and stood on the other side of the curtains and walked through them. There is a definite difference between when wind moves a curtain and when a body moves a curtain. The wind caused the curtain to whip and pulsate back and forth, but when I walked through the curtain, there is a pull backward. The curtain goes with my body then returns precisely where it was left and there is little vibration. Then it hit me (and all the readers go FINALLY!!).

What do we know about Avada Kedavra? Here are a few quick facts:

– jet of GREEN light
– leaves no marks (see the Riddles, the spider, and Cedric)
– no countercurse
– needs a powerful bit of magic behind it

Oh, how I wish JKR had let us in on the notes the class had to take after the demonstration! Then maybe this would not require so much guesswork. But here’s where I’m going. Here’s the order of operations: AK is used on the spider, flash of green light, then a “vast invisible something soars through the air.” Then we have this veil that everyone seems rather wary of and when Sirius falls in, Lupin immediately says that he is dead. Here’s my Avada Kedavra theory:

I believe that there is a Department of Experimental Charms, though for the life of me I can’t remember where I read it. I would imagine at some time zero when the first wizards were first learning to use magic, certain spells were created, namely the Unforgivables. When whoever hit upon the concept of Avada Kedavra did so, they had to define what exactly Avada Kedavra does. My theory is that the “jet of green light” hits you and forcibly extracts your “life essence.” Now what is the life essence? This is not the soul, because as our good friends the Dementors have taught us, a person can still be technically alive without a soul. The life essence is, not to put religion into it, a divine spark. It’s that aura and essence that makes everything work within all living creatures. A person dies when their life essence is extinguished. So when these magical theorists were doing their research, I imagine that they hit upon the same problem I did.

We know that Muggles are susceptible to AK just like wizards and spiders are. Now assuming the whole heaven/hell thing works, is that the same place that wizards go? Remember people in the real world have different religious beliefs as to what happens when you die. I believe that the veil is the doorway into the unknown afterlife. Think of it like Ghostbusters. You trap the ghosts and then you need some place to put them. So they created a special “storage facility” to house the ghosts. Well, I think that when Avada Kedavra made its auspicious debut, people used it and – for obvious reasons – trouble ensued. People are dying and you have all these life essences floating about. This ties into Voldemort, but we’ll get to that later. A place needed to be made to house all these unnaturally ejected life essences. Cue the veil. Now we know that when a wizard is not ready to die because of fear, they become a ghost (according to Sir Nicholas). And also according to Sir Nick, Sirius will have “gone on.” It is my opinion that when a living creature is hit with Avada Kedavra, their life essence is ejected from their body and travels from it into the veil. Unfortunately, for my theory, the only other people we have seen AKed were Cedric and Frank Bryce and since Harry was not present at one and not paying attention at the other, I can’t know for certain whether the rushing invisible something was the life essence.

Are You In The Beyond?

What I do know is that I’m pretty sure this is plausible. It would explain why Harry and Luna hear voices from beyond. And it also makes me think a little higher of Divination. Trelawney is constantly talking about the “beyond.” What is this “beyond”? Then it hit me: I think that when someone dies and enters into the veil, they are in “the beyond.” The “beyond” is what is on the other side of the veil. The rules of time and space no longer apply. I believe these life essences have the ability to transcend the rules of our world and see the future and the past but they cannot interfere with our world. But what if someone possessed the ability to tap into the beyond… a seer perhaps? Suppose people possessed of the Inner Eye have the ability to channel these life essences. Or suppose these life essences have the ability to forcibly inhabit these seers. Think about it: both of Trelawney’s prophecies happened unbeknownst to her. I think Trelawney has the gift, but she cannot control it… it controls her.

When one is in “the beyond,” what exactly is there to do? You have unlimited access to information about the past and the future because normal rules of time and space don’t apply to you. Let’s say for kicks that Lily and James’ life essences are in the beyond. They go into the past to find out how they were betrayed and discover that it was Pettigrew and not Sirius that did it (of course, since they made the switch they knew it could only be Peter, especially if he was in the room like I think he was). But now they are sure in any case. Add to that the fact they know that Pettigrew is Ron’s rat. How can they warn him? So they go into the future and discover that Pettigrew will be instrumental in bringing Voldemort back to power. Answer me this question: Of all the times for Trelawney to make that particular prophecy, why did it happen in a time where Harry and Trelawney would be together ALONE and Harry in a position to do something about it? And then answer me why it is that there is ALWAYS someone around to hear a prophecy and that person is always in a position to act on what they hear?

This goes back to one of my previous editorials about prophecies. Why are they always so vague? Why couldn’t Trelawney’s prophecy say, “Yo Harry! Peter Pettigrew’s alive and he is an Animagus and is disguised as Ron’s rat. HE betrayed your parents to Voldemort, NOT Sirius. Tonight, he is going to be forced to reveal himself and he will escape and help Voldemort return. Thought you oughtta know. Peace out!” Well frankly, I think if Trelawney said that, Harry would have REALLY freaked out. But would he have believed it? I’m not so sure. Remember what I said last week: THE WHEELS ARE IN MOTION!!! This applies to the future as well. I think prophecies are so vague because the wheels are constantly in motion. Remember, Harry and Hermione went back in time. They could have tried to stop Pettigrew or do something other than what they did to stop the prophecy from coming true. But they didn’t. I also seem to remember somebody else hearing a prophecy (at least part of it) and trying to stop it from coming true and we know how that one turned out.

The vagueness of prophecies goes right into something that always bugged me about Star Wars. Every time Yoda looks into the future, it’s always “difficult to see” because in his words, “always in motion the future is.” But when the baddies look into the future, they see it quite clearly, yet they always screw up and end up losing. Yoda’s acceptance that so many factors contribute to the shaping of the future ties right into this argument. So many things happened the night Pettigrew came back. How could anyone possible have looked into the future and recounted every little detail? What did Dumbledore tell us? “It is our choices that show us…” If Harry, Ron, or Hermione had done any one thing differently it could have totally changed how that night went down. Prophecies are so special and rare and vague because they take into account that the wheels are constantly in motion. That’s why they only give you the basic meat of what is supposed to happen.

The Harry/Voldemort Connection

Now why this sudden aside to prophecies? JKR told us that we should ask ourselves why Voldemort didn’t die. Now what do we know? We know that Voldemort killed James and Lily, presumably with Avada Kedavra, and then used the same spell on Harry. But the curse, thanks to the Evans Blood Charm, rebounded on Voldemort and did its job: ejected the life essence of Voldemort from its body. But remember that Voldemort did many, many things to prevent himself from dying. Here’s what I think: these magical transformations were to prevent Voldemort’s life essence from passing through the veil into the beyond. I think once you’re in the beyond, that’s it. So based on that, sorry to get your hopes up, but if Sirius’s essence (along with the rest of him) is in the veil, he is in fact dead.

Voldemort realized that as long as his essence remained here in this world, he had a chance. His “loyal” death eaters would find the essence and do as he instructed and help create a new body. Of course, that didn’t happen. His essence was ejected, his old body useless. So he floated away, still of conscious mind. But none of his faithful DE’s came. He found that he could possess animals and creatures. And we know the rest, he happened upon Quirrell and the rest is ancient history.

But what does this mean for Harry? How did this transfer of power occur? And why the scar? Imposter Moody said that AK required a powerful bit of magic. I think that in order to power an AK incantation, a person needs to tap into a bit of their own life essence in order to forcibly remove the essence of another. I arrived at this theory because of Quirrell. If my whole “life essence” idea is true, then it explains several things. A living creature can only hold ONE life essence, so when Voldemort’s essence inhabited those of other creatures, their bodies rejected both and began to wither and die, which explains why he had to keep body-hopping. When Voldemort possessed Quirrell, he had access then to the unicorn’s blood, which was able to sustain the body of Quirrell and the life essence of both men until the Sorcerer’s Stone could be found. It was Quirrell that led me to the idea that a person needs to be able to tap into his or her own life essence and use just a smidge of it to eject the essence of another living creature.

So, what I think happened that fateful Halloween was that the Evans’ Blood Charm saved Harry and was what caused the spell to backfire. But the scar… the scar is another matter. You see Voldemort’s little bit of essence used to power the AK hit Harry, I believe, in the head. But the baby’s body was shielded from Voldemort’s spell by the protection his mother gave him. A magical effect took place. That little bit of essence lingered on the boy and etched a scar onto Harry’s head, forever linking him with the Dark Lord. What I think happened was that some (but by no means all) of the Lily Evans Protection did a quick swap with some of that Voldemort essence and rebounded the spell. So now you have an Avada Kedavra with a little bit of Lily charm and a little bit of Voldemort himself heading straight for the spell’s originator. Voldemort didn’t stand a chance.

Well, in any case, that’s my theory. It could very well change next week, but there you go. Folks, let’s also remember that this is solely my theory and I used just a little bit of book evidence. I expect to be wrong in some aspects, but as always, I love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, remember that the wheels are in motion. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!!!