- "He had the strangest feeling that there was someone standing right behind the veil on the other side of the archway. Gripping his wand very tightly, he edged around the dais, but there was nobody there; all that could be seen was the other side of the tattered black veil."
- —Harry Potter encountering the Veil.[src]
The Veil is the barrier between the land of the living and the land of the dead. One cannot travel freely between the two worlds, as it is a one-way trip. Inexperienced wizards know nothing about it, but the much more experienced wizards may have heard about it, and the Unspeakables who work in the Department of Mysteries have likely studied it closely.
Ministry of Magic
A physical manifestation of the barrier was somehow kept in the Ministry of Magic's Department of Mysteries; in the Death Chamber, a room large and echoing, dimly lit and rectangular, and kept in the centre of a raised stone dais in a sunken, great stone pit some twenty feet deep, with benches running all around the room and descending in steep steps like an amphitheatre (or like the Wizengamot Courtroom 10) and surrounded by a cold air and complete stillness.
On the dais stood the Veil, which was represented as a tall stone pointed archway that looked so ancient, cracked and crumbling it seemed amazing the thing was still standing (especially by the fact it was unsupported by any surrounding wall), and the archway was hung with the Veil; which appeared as a tattered black curtain, and gently fluttering and swaying very slightly "as though it had just been touched" (due to the souls of the dying passing unseen into the next life). Communication through the Veil appears to be impossible, though when a living person approaches it, the souls of the dead, recognising a loved one nearby, attempt to communicate.
Though the living could have the strangest feeling that there was someone standing right behind the Veil on the otherside of the archway, their words are inaudible except for "faint whispering and murmuring noises" coming from the other side of the Veil. When the living person attempts communication themselves, the dead try harder and their whispering and murmuring becomes louder. If those who hear the whispering stare at the archway long enough, they shortly become entranced and mesmerised by it, believing it had a kind of beauty about (old though it was), unknowingly walking towards it, intrigued by the gently rippling Veil, and feeling a very strong inclination to climb up on the dais and walk through it.
However, this would prove fatal, as passing through the Veil would cause instant death. The Veil reacts to the passage of a living person by fluttering for a moment "as though in a high wind," then falling back into place. It is impossible for others to pull whoever passes through out without passing through and dying themselves, and it was already too late for those passing through to be saved (despite only a few seconds passing), as they were already dead.
Battle of the Department of Mysteries
When Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom, and Luna Lovegood travelled to the Ministry in 1996, they found themselves in the Death Chamber and strangely drawn to the Veil. Hermione, however, urged caution and eventually to leave the room altogether. She was scared of the Veil and considered it unnatural. Even though she did not have any idea what it was, she felt that it was dangerous. Her advice proved difficult to follow as Harry, Luna, Ginny, and Neville were all entranced by the Veil, with Harry and Luna hearing the voices of their deceased loved ones from beyond.
It is possible that Hermione who, in 1995, did not have the ability to see Thestrals, could not hear any voices behind the Veil either because she had never witnessed death; whereas Harry, Luna and Neville, known to be able to see Thestrals, could hear the whisperings of their loved ones.
At the height of the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, most of the fighting was set in the Death Chamber; and Bellatrix Lestrange hit her cousin Sirius Black squarely on the chest with a curse, throwing him off balance and sending him through the Veil and to his death. Harry did not believe that Sirius had died at first, and kept saying that he would come out of the archway from the other side of the curtains, much like how he thought his parents would get up after being hit with the Killing Curse.
Behind the scenes
- In the film, the arch is very tall and narrow, and the Veil is what appears to be some kind of mist instead of a curtain.
- The Veil is a reference to an English phrase, "beyond the veil." The term originates from Hebrew tradition as a veil or curtain that separates the main body of the Temple from the tabernacle. In modern English, passing away or having a near-death experience is sometimes called "going beyond the veil."
- When Harry and Luna approach the arch claiming to hear voices, Hermione exclaims that it's just an empty archway; even though the Veil can be clearly seen by the viewers, and, presumably, Luna and Harry. This could reference the similar way in which Thestrals can only be seen by those who have witnessed and accepted a death. Though it is likely Hermione could also see the Veil, but was still calling it empty; meaning there was nothing substantial in it.
- In the film, Bellatrix hit Sirius with the Killing Curse, Avada Kedavra, killing him before he passes through the Veil. In the book, the curse that hits Sirius is not identified, and his being knocked through the Veil is what causes his death.
- In the sixth book, it is stated that Dumbledore's funeral is the first Harry Potter ever attended. It is explained that no funeral was ever held for Sirius Black because his body was never recovered. This presumably indicates that the body left the world of the living entirely when it fell through the veil.
- J. K. Rowling has said that the reactions of Harry and his friends to the veil vary about how much belief or doubt they had about what lies beyond.
- In the video game, a cutscene shows Bellatrix casting a spell similar to how Stupefy is depicted in the video game - a red bolt of spikes - to knock Sirius through the Veil.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Mentioned only)
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard (The Tale of the Three Brothers)