The boy who was ostracised from his family of pure-blood Slytherins for the sheer sin of being a Gryffindor. The man who was wrongly thought to have betrayed his best friend to death. The innocent criminal who had to spend twelve years in Azkaban for a crime he had not committed. The godfather who wasn’t equipped to give his godson the fatherly love he craved for.
To put it briefly, Sirius Black’s is a character with many dimensions that has been misunderstood for ages. In this post, I shall take you through a brief journey of his life and try to unveil the different shades of his character.
The eldest son of Orion and Walburga Black, Sirius, from a very young age, started opposing the all-Slytherin Black family’s supremacist ideologies. He was eventually sorted into Gryffindor when he entered Hogwarts and he immediately took to James Potter, a fellow Gryffindor, and they soon became the thickest of friends ( And Hogwarts’ best mischief makers, of course). Sirius, as a teenager, has been described as reckless and arrogant, yet clever and talented at magic. His exceptional magical ability is vouched for by the fact that he managed to become an Animagus at the age of fifteen. He was a handsome young man, with a casual, lazy grace in him. He ran away from the Blacks when he was sixteen and the Potters graciously took him into their family.
When the Potters were facing a threat from Voldemort, Dumbledore suggested that a Fidelius Charm be used on their house. James strongly wanted Sirius to be their Secret-Keeper; however, Dumbledore thought Peter Pettigrew was a better person as Voldemort would suspect him the least. This last minute change in decision proved fatal to the Potters, as Pettigrew yielded to Voldemort’s torture and revealed the Potters’ residence. Sirius was devastated at James and Lily’s deaths, and when he learnt of Peter’s betrayal, he went out in fury to find and kill him. Unfortunately, the wily Wormtail (Pettigrew) managed to frame Sirius for the murder of twelve Muggles and his own faked death. (He killed those Muggles and cut off his own toe, before changing into a rat). Sirius had to serve twelve years in Azkaban before he escaped. That is when we are introduced to him in the series-in the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Having seen Pettigrew (as Scabbers on Ron’s shoulder) in the papers, Sirius, in a rage, sets out to Hogwarts to kill him. His escape triggers panic and fear in the wizarding world. Dementors are stationed at Hogwarts and Hogsmeade for security. However, his power to change form at will and his knowledge of Hogwarts’ secret passages fool all these security measures and he is able to trap Pettigrew in the Shrieking Shack. Just as he is about to kill him, however, Harry, Ron and Hermione enter the scene and Harry demands an explanation from Black (He had no knowledge of his godfather’s innocence). When Harry is satisfied, he requests Sirius not to kill Wormtail, but expose his deceit instead. Sadly, at this very moment, Lupin, who has been accompanying them in the whole scene, turns into a werewolf, and Wormtail seizes this opportunity and escapes into the Forbidden Forest.
Sirius is taken into custody and is about to be administered the deadly Dementor’s kiss, when Harry and Hermione, on Dumbledore’s instructions, use the Time-Turner and save him ( and Buckbeak). He then goes on the run with Buckbeak and parts with Harry, who had been hoping to move into his house and stay with his father’s best-friend.
“We will see each other again,” he said. “You are — truly your father’s son, Harry….”
In the Goblet of Fire, Harry secretly corresponds with Sirius, telling him of all that he was being put through in the Triwizard Tournament. He helps Harry in every way he can.
Sirius has an unconditional love for Harry, partly because he was similar to James in appearance. He looks upon Harry as his lost-friend but not as a son. He stands by Harry throughout his hard times, but as a friend, not as the father Harry wanted him to be.
This becomes clear in the Order of the Phoenix, when he gets into a heated argument with Mrs. Weasley, on whether or not Harry needs to be told some important inside information.
“He’s not a child!” said Sirius impatiently.
“He’s not an adult either!” said Mrs. Weasley, the color rising in her cheeks. “He’s not James, Sirius!”
“I’m perfectly clear who he is, thanks, Molly,” said Sirius coldly.
“I’m not sure you are!” said Mrs. Weasley. “Sometimes, the way you talk about him, it’s as though you think you’ve got your best friend back!”
Hermione also expresses the same feeling.
“Suit yourselves. But I sometimes think Ron’s mum’s right, and Sirius gets confused about whether you’re you or your father, Harry.”
“So you think he’s touched in the head?” said Harry heatedly.
“No, I just think he’s been very lonely for a long time.”
Sirius is shut up for a long time inside Grimmauld Place with his old elf, Kreacher, for reasons of safety. He absolutely hates this, for his twelve years’ service in Azkaban have already frustrated him. His utter dislike for the elf worsens the situation. He badly mistreats the elf, which results in the elf disclosing vital information to ‘Miss Cissy’ (Narcissa Malfoy) and ‘Miss Bella’ (Bellatrix Lestrange), who treat him with care and affection. Voldemort plants fake dreams of Sirius being held hostage in the Department of Mysteries in Harry’s head, and Harry rushes to the Ministry, least aware of the fact that he is being led into a trap.
Realising that Harry is in danger, the Order’s members, including Sirius, dash off to the Ministry and in the ensuing battle, Sirius is killed by his own cousin Bellatrix.
He was laughing at [Bellatrix]. “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.
It seemed to take Sirius an age to fall. His body curved in a graceful arc as he sank backward through the ragged veil hanging from the arch….
And that was how the brave man, the loyal friend, the loving godfather – Sirius Black, met his fall. His own recklessness, his bad treatment of Kreacher indirectly led to his death; atleast that’s what I think. Nonetheless, he was a great wizard with a beautiful heart and a man who valued friendship more than his own life. His death was a great blow to Harry, who could not digest the fact that he had lost another of his close relations.
This excerpt from the Order of the Phoenix tugs at my heartstrings. This is the scene in which Harry unwraps Sirius’ Christmas gift after his death.
He turned the mirror over. There on the reverse side was a scribbled note from Sirius.
This is a two-way mirror, I’ve got the other. If you need to speak to me, just say my name into it; you’ll appear in my mirror and I’ll be able to talk in yours. James and I used to use them when we were in separate detentions.
I can imagine how hard it must have been for Harry then.
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