Chapter 35 of The Order of the Phoenix describing the Battle of the Department of Mysteries is certainly one of the most action-filled passages in any of the books.Rowling takes us on a wild ride indeed.
When the book first came out, we fans read it with quite a bit of trepidation. Rowling had revealed ahead of publication that a character would die in the book but gave no clue as to who it would be. She didn’t rule out anyone, not even the Trio. For a little while it seemed like the victim was Arthur Weasley but he pulled through. McGonagall had been seriously injured but didn’t seem to be dying. The further along we got in the book, the closer we were getting to that fateful death.
So as members of Dumbledore’s Army fell in battle, we honestly wondered if they were going to survive. WAS Hermione still alive? We didn’t know until the others found a pulse. Bellatrix’s threat to torture Neville to death felt a lot more deadly that first time we read it. When Tonks was hit and fell in the Death Chamber, we wondered if she would be getting back up again. Then finally it happened. As Lupin said, “There’s nothing you can do. He’s gone.”
When I first wrote the entry in the Lexicon’s timeline for the death of Sirius, I said that he was murdered in battle by a Killing Curse from Bellatrix Lestrange. A fan corrected me on that, telling me that Sirius was hit by a jet of red light in the books, which wouldn’t have been Avada Kedavra, but that it was shown as a green light in the film.
That wasn’t exactly correct, however. To clarify, I wrote this commentary for that entry:
But what spell does Bellatrix use to kill Sirius? Some have assumed that it’s the Killing Curse. However, that curse appears as a jet of green light. The text doesn’t actually say the color of the jet of light which hits Sirius, just says “the second jet of light”:
Only one pair was still battling, apparently unaware of the new arrival. 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 hit him squarely on the chest.
The laughter had not quite died from his face, but his eyes widened in shock.
Harry released Neville, though he was unaware of doing so. He was jumping down the steps again, pulling out his wand, as Dumbledore, too, turned towards the dais.
It seemed to take Sirius an age to fall: his body curved in a graceful arc as he sank backwards through the ragged veil hanging from the arch (OP35).
Since it’s the “second” jet, fans assume that it’s the same color as the first and therefore also red. If so, then it’s clearly not Avada Kedavra, which would be green. If the second jet was actually green — just not mentioned as such — then it’s safe to assume that it was a Killing Curse.
This brings up the question of what, then, actually caused Sirius’ death. If it’s not a Killing Curse, does that mean that the archway and veil are in fact a gateway to the afterlife and that simply passing through them result in death? We simply don’t know.
After the release of book five in 2003, this was a big topic of speculation and good-natured argument among fans. We never did come to a definitive answer, I don’t believe.
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