9

"This is mad," Ron said faintly, moving his free hand gingerly up and down his horse's neck. "Mad...if I could just see it-"
"You'd better hope it stays invisible,"
said Harry darkly. "We all ready, then?"

Order of the Pheonix - page 765 - Bloomsbury - chapter 34, The Department of Mysteries

I know that all of the people who we know can't see Thestrals (Ron, Ginny and Hermione) are incapacitated and in another room when Sirius goes through the veil, but if they were in the room, would seeing him fall through count as seeing death? Would they be able to see Thestrals after that?

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From this JKR interview (thank you, Dason):

In the fifth book, Harry can see the Thestrals. Can you?

Yes, I can, definitely. That is a really good question, because it enables me to clear up a point. The letters that I’ve had about the Thestrals! Everyone has said to me that Harry saw people die before could see the Thestrals. Just to clear this up once and for all, this was not a mistake. I would be the first to say that I have made mistakes in the books, but this was not a mistake. I really thought this one through. Harry did not see his parents die. He was one year old and in a cot at the time. Although you never see that scene, I wrote it and then cut it. He didn’t see it; he was too young to appreciate it. When you find out about the Thestrals, you find that you can see them only when you really understand death in a broader sense, when you really know what it means. Someone said that Harry saw Quirrell die, but that is not true. He was unconscious when Quirrell died, in Philosopher’s Stone. He did not know until he came around that Quirrell had died when Voldemort left his body. Then you have Cedric. With Cedric, fair point. Harry had just seen Cedric die when he got back into the carriages to go back to Hogsmeade station. I thought about that at the end of Goblet, because I have known from the word go what was drawing the carriages. From Chamber of Secrets, in which there are carriages drawn by invisible things, I have known what was there. I decided that it would be an odd thing to do right at the end of a book. Anyone who has suffered a bereavement knows that there is the immediate shock but that it takes a little while to appreciate fully that you will never see that person again. Until that had happened, I did not think that Harry could see the Thestrals. That means that when he goes back, he saw these spooky things. It set the tone for Phoenix, which is a much darker book.

I believe that seeing someone pass through the veil could allow that person to see the thestrals, if they "understand death in a broader sense" and/or "appreciate that they will never see that person again".

  • I'm not sure that your definition of "seeing death" fits with Harry's experience. He wasn't watching Cedric the moment the killing curse hit him. – Dason Aug 9 '12 at 14:19
  • 2
    I found this page and in the question "In the fifth book, Harry can see the Thestrals. Can you?" JKR talks more about what it takes to see thestrals. – Dason Aug 9 '12 at 20:26
  • @Dason oh hey, it's really Dason's merit here! – n611x007 Aug 11 '12 at 12:26

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