Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Sirius Black
|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character|
|Related Family||Descendent of former Hogwarts Headmaster Phineas Nigellus Black. Mother Walburga Black, father Orion Black, brother Regulus Black, godson Harry Potter|
Overview[edit | edit source]
Sirius Black was sentenced without a trial to life imprisonment in Azkaban for betraying James and Lily Potter to Lord Voldemort, and murdering their friend, Peter Pettigrew and twelve Muggles. In the early stages of Book 3, he has escaped and no one doubts he is trying to kill Harry Potter. His birthday is November 3rd 1959
Role in the Books[edit | edit source]
Sirius Black, a wizard who was imprisoned for murder, has escaped Azkaban Prison. Sirius Black is believed to be so dangerous that even Muggle TV news reports are issuing warnings about a dangerous fugitive. When Harry storms out of the Dursleys' house following an argument, he notices an ominous-looking large black dog watching him in the street. In Diagon Alley, Harry overhears Arthur and Molly Weasley discussing Sirius Black, a suspected Voldemort supporter who escaped solely to find and murder Harry. Later, Mr. Weasley asks a rather bemused Harry to promise not to look for Sirius Black.
Sirius Black breaks into Hogwarts on Halloween, but when The Fat Lady bars him from entering the Gryffindor common room (he does not know the password), he slashes her portrait and escapes. Shortly after, in Potions class, Draco Malfoy taunts Harry about never seeking revenge on Sirius Black, though Harry is confused about what he means.
Just before Christmas, Harry overhears a conversation in the Three Broomsticks pub that Sirius Black betrayed James and Lily Potter to Voldemort, and afterward murdered their friend, Peter Pettigrew, along with twelve Muggle bystanders. Harry is shocked to learn that Sirius Black is also his godfather. Enraged, Harry vows to avenge his parents' deaths. Soon after, Sirius Black slips into the Gryffindor common room using Neville Longbottom's lost password list. He shreds Ron's bed curtains with a knife, but flees when Ron wakes up screaming. It is as yet unclear why Sirius Black attempted to attack Ron rather than Harry.
During the climactic Shrieking Shack scene, Sirius Black's innocence is revealed; it is the very alive Peter Pettigrew who committed the crimes. The relationship between Sirius Black, Professor Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, and Harry's father, James Potter, is also explained: they are the four Marauders who attended school together and created the "Marauder's Map," a magical document that has come into Harry's possession showing Hogwarts Castle and its inhabitants. Harry realizes that the large black dog that has been stalking him is actually Sirius Black in his Animagus form (the ability to transform into an animal at will); Sirius Black has been watching over his godson, Harry. Pettigrew is also an Animagus, disguised for the past twelve years as Ron's pet rat, Scabbers. It was "Scabbers" who Sirius Black was attempting to kill the night he broke into Harry's dorm. When Pettigrew escapes and Sirius Black is captured, Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge insists Sirius Black is guilty and orders a Dementor, an inhuman Azkaban guard, to immediately suck out Sirius Black's soul. Using a Time Turner, Harry and Hermione retrace that night's events and free Sirius Black. Later, Sirius Black sends Harry an owl message saying he is safe—for now. Harry also learns it was Sirius Black who gave him a Firebolt broomstick at Christmas as an anonymous gift. Sirius Black also gives written permission for Harry to visit Hogsmeade Village on school outings, and, as compensation for losing his "pet" rat, he donates the tiny delivery owl to Ron. Ginny Weasley promptly names the owl Pigwidgeon.
Sirius returns to England after Harry writes to him about his throbbing scar and a troubling dream involving Voldemort. Fearing his fugitive godfather may be captured, Harry wanted him to stay away, but Sirius is concerned about Harry's safety. Meanwhile, Harry has been mysteriously chosen to compete in the dangerous Triwizard Tournament being held at Hogwarts. Hermione urges Harry to write to his godfather again, and Sirius arranges to meet him in the Gryffindor common room. the Floo network carries Sirius' head into the fireplace, allowing him to warn Harry about Igor Karkaroff, the competing Durmstrang school's headmaster and a former Death Eater. It was Professor Moody, a retired Auror, who arrested Karkaroff. Sirius believes that an earlier attack on Moody could have been an attempt to scare Moody from taking the Defence Against the Dark Arts post. These events may herald Voldemort's return.
Following the Tournament's Second Task, Sirius meets Harry, Ron, and Hermione during the next Hogsmeade Village weekend. Sirius, half-starved and in his dog form, leads the Trio to a nearby cave where he and Buckbeak are hiding. Harry's letters, plus reports in the Daily Prophet, have made recent events sound suspicious to Sirius. Percy Weasley's boss, Bartemius Crouch, missing work sounds uncharacteristic to Sirius. It was Crouch who sentenced Sirius to Azkaban without a trial. When Crouch headed the Aurors Department, he championed using desperate measures against Death Eaters, achieving some results. He was tapped as the next Minister for Magic until his son, Barty Crouch, Jr., was found with the Death Eaters who tortured Frank and Alice Longbottom, Neville's parents. Crouch presided over his son's trial, convicting him. Crouch lost his son, who died in prison, his wife, who passed away shortly after, and his chance to be the Minister of Magic, eventually getting shunted aside to the Department of International Magical Cooperation. Sirius suspects Crouch wants to capture one last Dark Wizard to revive his career.
Harry believes Snape is a Death Eater, but Sirius says though Snape was associated with Slytherins who became Death Eaters, he was never accused. Sirius also has no idea what the object on Karkaroff's arm could be. Sirius tells Ron to ask Percy about Crouch's illness, and also about Bertha Jorkins' disappearance. Ludo Bagman was quoted in interviews as saying that Bertha has a bad memory, though Sirius recalls she had an excellent one in school, at least for gossip. Sirius also wonders why Bagman has been offering to help Harry win the Tournament.
After Bartemius Crouch mysteriously appears and then disappears at Hogwarts, Harry writes Sirius, but his response only scolds Harry for straying out of bounds with another Triwizard Champion. Other Champions might do anything, including attacking Harry, to win. Hermione agrees with Sirius, saying that Harry is safe inside the school, though Harry is annoyed that his godfather orders him to stay put.
As Harry prepares for the Third Task, Sirius sends messages filled with adjurations to ignore events outside Hogwarts; Harry's only priority should be safely navigating the Third Task maze. Sirius continues sending messages almost entirely filled with tips and tricks for casting charms and jinxes.
Following the Tournament's final event, Barty Crouch, Jr., who has been impersonating the real Professor Moody, is apprehended. After Barty's confession, Dumbledore takes Harry to his office where Sirius, ragged and worried, awaits. Sirius feels Harry should rest, but Dumbledore insists that Harry immediately face what happened. Harry recounts Cedric Diggory's murder and Voldemort's resurrection in the graveyard. Dumbledore then escorts Harry to the Hospital Wing, telling Sirius, back in his dog form, that he can stay with Harry.
After Cornelius Fudge dismisses Dumbledore's and Harry's claims about Voldemort, Dumbledore requests that Snape and Sirius put aside their mutual animosity and maintain a cooperative truce. He assigns both missions; Snape's is unknown, but Sirius, still a fugitive, is to alert "the old crew", then hide out at Remus Lupin's place.
A haggard-looking Sirius greets Harry, who arrives at Number 12, Grimmauld Place, the Black family's ancient home and now the Order of the Phoenix headquarters. Sirius is still a fugitive, and Peter Pettigrew has presumably informed Voldemort about Sirius' Animagus dog shape, effectively confining Sirius to his hated home. Harry and the Weasleys staying there have temporarily lifted Sirius' spirits. At Sirius' suggestion, and over Mrs. Weasley's objections, Harry is permitted to ask questions about Voldemort. Sirius lets slip that the Order is guarding something that Voldemort wants, but Mrs. Weasley abruptly ends the conversation.
Sirius, Mrs. Weasley, and the younger crew work to make the dilapidated house habitable again. Kreacher, the Black family's old and apparently senile House-elf, who only took orders from Walburga Black's mad, shrieking portrait, grudgingly obeys Sirius' commands. Sirius shows Harry a tapestry embroidered with the Ancient and Honorable House of Black. A scorch mark shows where his name was blasted off after he rejected the family's pure-blood ethos and ran away. Sirius points out other relatives, including his brother Regulus, an apparent Death Eater who is rumored to have been killed by Voldemort.
As the students' departure date near, Sirius grows despondent again. Harry suspects Sirius' increased depression actually dates from Harry's Ministry hearing; if convicted, Harry would probably have stayed with Sirius at Grimmauld Place rather than return to Hogwarts. Sirius, in dog form, accompanies the party to King's Cross Station to see the students off. He is evidently recognized by Lucius Malfoy, because shortly after, the Daily Prophet reports Sirius was spotted in London. A story also appears in the Quibbler suggesting Sirius is innocent, though the Quibbler's journalistic standards are considered spurious.
Harry writes to Sirius complaining about Professor Dolores Umbridge, who is also a Ministry spy. Sirius responds that the Order does not believe she is a Death Eater. Cornelius Fudge is paranoid that Dumbledore is building a secret wizard army to overthrow the Ministry, which is why Umbridge banned magic in Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. Both Harry and Hermione veto Sirius' suggestion to meet during the next Hogsmeade Village weekend, claiming it is too dangerous. Sirius chides Harry for being so cautious, unlike his father, James.
Sirius warns Harry that Mrs. Weasley knows about Harry's secret D.A classes, and she forbids Ron to join; she advises Harry and Hermione to forego it, though Sirius approves. While discussing possible meeting locations, Umbridge's hand suddenly appears in the fireplace, grabbing at where Sirius' floating head has just vanished.
Just before Christmas, Harry reports dreamed that Mr. Weasley was attacked at the Ministry of Magic. Dumbledore alerts the Order, and Mr. Weasley is found alive, but seriously injured. To prevent Professor Umbridge's interference, Dumbledore sends Harry, Ron, Ginny, and the Twins to Grimmauld Place. On arrival, Harry whiffs cooking sherry odors clinging to Sirius. Sirius vetoes Fred and George going to the hospital, saying the Order wants Harry's ability to "see" things from hundreds of miles away kept secret. Harry privately tells Sirius that he observed the attack from the snake's point-of-view, and felt intense rage toward Dumbledore when their gazes met. Sirius says he will inform Dumbledore, but Harry should not dwell on it.
Mr. Weasley is expected to make a full recovery, and Sirius is overjoyed that everyone is staying for the holidays. Sirius seems unconcerned when Hermione is unable to find Kreacher, saying a House-elf is prohibited from leaving his master's home without permission. When Kreacher reappears, Harry notices that he is watching him speculatively, making Harry uneasy. Depressed that Harry is soon returning to Hogwarts, Sirius gives him a charmed mirror, saying Harry can contact him anytime with it. Harry privately resolves never to use it, fearing it will risk Sirius being captured.
Back at Hogwarts, a surprisingly (and suspiciously) friendly Professor Umbridge summons Harry to her office. She offers him a drink that Harry suspects contains Veritaserum, and quietly discards it. Umbridge asks about Dumbledore's and Sirius' whereabouts; when Harry responds he does not know, Umbridge mentions that all Hogwarts fireplaces except hers are being monitored.
Harry peers into a Pensieve containing Snape's memories and observes the teen-aged Sirius and James mercilessly bullying Snape. Pettigrew eggs them on, while Remus Lupin, then a Gryffindor prefect, does nothing. Snape returns and discovers Harry viewing his memories; furious and embarrassed, he ejects Harry from his office, ending their Occlumency lessons. Disturbed by what he witnessed, Harry contacts Sirius, who admits that he and James were uncaring, foolish, and reckless youths, but claims Snape was far from innocent. That James matured into a kind and compassionate man, does little to soothe Harry, who could never behave as his father. Both Sirius and Lupin are alarmed that Harry's Occlumency classes with Snape ended, and urge him to restart.
When Harry experiences a vision that Voldemort is torturing Sirius, he, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville, and Luna Lovegood ride Thestrals to the Ministry in London. But the students have been lured into an ambush—a dozen Death Eaters, led by Lucius Malfoy, are lying in wait. They need Harry to retrieve a Prophecy concerning Harry and Voldemort. Sirius, Tonks, Shacklebolt, Lupin, and Moody arrive in time to subdue the Death Eaters. Dumbledore has also arrived and confronts Voldemort. As Sirius duels his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, her spell stuns him, sending his rigid body through a veiled stone archway. Harry rushes after him, but Lupin restrains him, saying it is too late. Sirius is gone.
Dumbledore explains later that when Harry attempted to reach Sirius using the Floo Network, Kreacher lied about his godfather's whereabouts. At Christmas, when Sirius dismissed Kreacher, he manipulated that into permission to leave the house, going to the only Black relative he felt still upheld the family's values: Narcissa Malfoy. Barred from revealing any Order of the Phoenix secrets, he could tell the Malfoys about Harry and Sirius' relationship. This allowed Voldemort to fabricate the false dream that led Harry to the Ministry.
Harry hopes that Sirius has become a ghost, but Nearly Headless Nick dispels that, saying Sirius, not fearing death, would have gone on. Luna Lovegood later tells Harry that the dead are not really gone, just waiting. She asks if Harry heard their whispering voices on the other side of the veiled archway. Harry surprisingly feels better after this conversation.
In the opening chapters, Former Minister For Magic Fudge tells the Muggle prime minister that an investigation into what happened in the Department of Mysteries is underway. Fudge seems to now agree that Sirius was probably innocent.
Harry mourns Sirius' death but gradually is coming to terms with it. Sirius' will leaves all his property to Harry, including the house at Grimmauld Place and its contents, including Kreacher.
Sirius' flying motorcycle makes a reappearance in the Escape from Privet Drive. Arthur Weasley has attached a side-car for Harry to ride to safety; however, a weapon added to the motorcycle, a dragon-fire thrower that acts like a rocket booster, weakens the link and the sidecar breaks off. Harry safely climbs aboard the motorcycle behind Hagrid, and the dragon-fire hastens their escape to the safe house. In their final descent, Hagrid leaps off the seat to attack a Death Eater, and despite Harry's best efforts, the motorcycle crashes and is largely destroyed.
Arthur Weasley later collects the pieces and hides them in the chicken coop at The Burrow, hoping to reassemble them and, if possible, learn how brakes work. In an after-publication interview, the author states that Mr. Weasley has reassembled the motorcycle.
Harry explores Sirius' bedroom at Number 12, Grimmauld Place after the Trio take refuge there following their flight from Death Eaters. Apparently rebelling against his parents, Sirius had fixed many large Gryffindor House posters and students' photos on the wall with Permanent Sticking Charms. Harry finds the room ransacked, but searches the mess for information about his godfather. He finds a letter written by his mother and a torn-off photo of himself at about one-year-of-age riding a toy broom. He is unable to find either the letter's second page or the missing picture portion, which seems to have contained one of his parent's image.
In Severus Snape's memories, Harry relives bits of Snape's school career. Snape is bullied by James Potter and Sirius Black on the Hogwarts Express while heading to the school for their first year. Snape also sees Sirius being Sorted into Gryffindor, as he had wanted to be. Harry witnesses Lily trying to rescue Snape from being tormented by James and Sirius, and much later, Snape in Sirius' bedroom taking the letter's second page, and tearing Lily's image from the picture to take with him as well.
Harry, needing moral support as he goes to face Voldemort, uses the Resurrection Stone that is hidden inside the Golden Snitch. Sirius' spirit appears, along with James, Lily, and Remus Lupin, who keep the Dementors at bay, and encourage Harry to be brave in facing his death. Both Lupin and Sirius' spirits appear to be younger and Sirius seems happy. When Harry reaches the clearing where Voldemort is waiting, he releases the Stone, and the spirits vanish.
Strengths[edit | edit source]
Born into a wealthy and influential Wizarding family, Sirius was intelligent, handsome, charming, and witty. He was also a powerful and talented wizard who apparently acquired considerable magical knowledge. While at Hogwarts, when he and James Potter discovered that Remus Lupin was a Werewolf, they did not shun him as others would. Instead, they supported him by secretly learning to become Animagi, an extremely difficult feat, even with proper training. (They had to coach Peter Pettigrew on how to do this.) Also while at Hogwarts, Sirius helped create the Marauder's Map, a powerful magical document that shows every person within the school and their specific location.
Sirius had rejected his family's pure-blood supremacy beliefs, despite being raised under this ethos. As a consequence, he was stricken from the Black family tree and banished. He sought refuge with the Potter family and later joined the Order of the Phoenix, along with Lily and James Potter. This eventually pitted him against Voldemort and his Death Eaters, which included close relatives, such as his cousins, Bellatrix Black Lestrange and Narcissa Black Malfoy.
Sirius was a loyal, close friend to James and Lily Potter, Remus Lupin, and also Peter Pettigrew, who later betrayed him. After escaping Azkaban prison (where he was incarcerated for crimes he never committed), his first act is to make sure his orphaned godson, Harry, is safe and well. He had great affection for Harry and took his role as godfather seriously, becoming a strong father figure to his godson in the short time they were together. Although Sirius' stunted maturity occasionally resulted in poor parental judgment and made him lax regarding discipline, when he suspected Harry was in danger during the Triwizard Tournament, he firmly ordered him to remain safely inside Hogwarts, much to Harry's displeasure and resentment.
Weaknesses[edit | edit source]
At Hogwarts, Sirius was a handsome and popular student, but he, along with James Potter, was rather arrogant and sometimes bullied weaker classmates—Severus Snape in particular. As an innocent fugitive, believed by many to have remained in Voldemort's service, and to have betrayed James and Lily Potter, Sirius was confined to his own house. While he knew this was necessary, in order to elude the authorities, he still had difficulty coping with the confinement. His inability to actively help the Order of the Phoenix battle Voldemort deeply frustrated him. Sirius was barely a grown man when he was sentenced to Azkaban, and it appears that the long years there stunted his emotional development and maturity, resulting in his occasionally acting more like Harry's peer than mentor. Throughout Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Sirius increasingly grows mentally unstable, resulting in rash decisions and reckless behavior. His impaired mental condition, partially due to his harsh incarceration, was further exacerbated while he was being hunted, and later by his in-house confinement. And though safe and comfortable inside Grimmauld Place, Sirius, often lonely and isolated, numbed his anguish with alcohol. His few pleasures were brief visits with Harry and a few other close friends, and in doing what little he could to assist the Order. It should be noted that insanity and mental instability apparently ran throughout the Black family; Sirius may have been exhibiting symptoms somewhat similar to Bellatrix Lestrange. By the book's conclusion, he had psychologically deteriorated to where his faulty judgment may have contributed to his death.
Sirius, an unregistered Animagus, escaped Azkaban prison by transforming into his dog form, slipping past the Dementors that were unable to detect his canine guise. Though clever, it was twelve years before Sirius utilized this method to escape. Why he was unable to do this earlier is unknown, though his deteriorated physical and mental condition may have been a factor. Another factor was that he felt guilty about James and Lily's deaths, since he had originally been asked to be their secret keeper but instead volunteered Peter Pettigrew.
Relationships with Other Characters[edit | edit source]
Due to his early and long incarceration and premature death a few years after his escape, Sirius never had an opportunity to marry or have children, though his handsome features no doubt attracted many admirers during his youth. Though he was raised with the Black family's deeply-entrenched, pure-blood superiority beliefs, he rejected these views, so much so that he requested that the Sorting Hat place him in Gryffindor House rather than Slytherin, his family's traditional House. This estranged Sirius from his disapproving relatives, except for his cousin, Andromeda Black Tonks, who the family also banished for marrying Muggle-born wizard, Ted Tonks. Sirius is also close to their daughter, Nymphadora Tonks. After his mother disowned him, Sirius fled to the Potter home, staying with James and his parents. Sirius never reconciled with his family, and was forever bitter over their cruel treatment.
Sirius learned that his younger brother, Regulus, had become a Death Eater, but once entering the Dark Lord's service, he was unable to leave after realizing just what it entailed. Although Sirius believed Voldemort or his Death Eaters murdered him, Regulus actually died in the secret sea cave after replacing Voldemort's Locket Horcrux with a fake one.
Sirius was one of the Marauders, along with Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew and James Potter. They created the Marauder's Map while in school together. Of the three Marauders, James was apparently his best friend, and actually named Sirius as godfather to his son Harry. Sirius was also quite close to Remus, and some fans have suggested a romantic entanglement there in their early days at Hogwarts, though nothing exists to support that theory. Peter Pettigrew, who had ingratiated himself into the Marauders, was accepted but apparently not much liked by Sirius. An unlicensed Animagus, Sirius' nickname (Padfoot) is derived from the large, black dog form he assumed when transformed.
Both Sirius and James intensely disliked Severus Snape, and often bullied him when they were all students at Hogwarts. Sirius once tricked Snape into going to the Shrieking Shack while Lupin was confined there during his werewolf transformation, though James intervened, saving Snape's life. Snape never forgave Sirius (or James) for this dangerous prank, and the two remained particularly antagonistic with one another, always at daggers points; once, Harry witnessed a heated encounter between the two at Grimmauld Place that could have erupted into wizard's duel, prevented only by the Weasley family's timely arrival.
Sirius' second closest relationship was with his godson, Harry. Being imprisoned almost immediately after James and Lily Potter were murdered, it was twelve years before Sirius was able to fulfill his godfather role after escaping Azkaban prison. Sirius' then-anonymous gift of the Firebolt was quite obviously an attempt to reclaim this role, though we don't understand it as such until the end of the third book. Initially, Harry, like others, believed Sirius caused his parents' deaths and sought revenge. After Sirius' innocence is proven in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, godfather and godson instantly bonded. Although Sirius deeply loved and protected Harry, his stunted maturity and mental deterioration sometimes impaired his parenting abilities, causing him to sometimes act as Harry's pal rather than his guardian. Harry deeply grieved beloved godfather's death and later christens his first-born son, "James Sirius", to honour his lost father and godfather.
Analysis[edit | edit source]
The first time the "young Sirius Black" is mentioned largely goes unnoticed, as we have no idea who he is. All we know is that he loaned his flying motorcycle to Hagrid. While Sirius himself changes little throughout the series, Harry's understanding about him, and thus ours, gradually evolves as plot twists are revealed. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban it is learned that Sirius is an escaped murderer, then that he is a wizard, and he apparently intends to kill Harry. It is hinted that he has done something that would inspire Harry to seek revenge, but it is not until Christmas that Harry learns that Sirius betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort, then, when confronted by their friend Peter Pettigrew, killed Pettigrew and twelve incidental Muggles. Not only does Black apparently want to kill Harry, but Harry also discovers that Black is also his godfather, the man who is supposed to be his protector.
Sirius up to then had been believed to be in Voldemort's inner circle, and even his second-in-command. The revelation of this "fact" however, as it is made in the Three Broomsticks pub in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, comes as a surprise to Hagrid – his outburst when receiving the news suggests strongly that, although with the rest of the wizarding world, he must have thought he had precisely the role that Peter Pettigrew had in fact (someone whom personal weakness turned traitor, but by no means a Death Eater leader), he had no idea Black was supposedly so high in Voldemort's council. The difficulty to imagine such a Pettigrewish role in Black may, in fact, have been the reason why the Ministry thought he was in the "inner circle": it was entirely implausible for those who knew his character that foolhardy Sirius Black, with no family bonds to restrict his courage except to the family he supposedly helped murder, succumbed to mere personal weakness, cowardice or avarice and thus turned traitor (as in fact Pettigrew did). Failing that, the only other possibility was that he was a Voldemort supporter from the onset and from fierce inner conviction, play-acting all his personality beforehand until the Potter family murders. This would have been quite the accomplishment, as it would have necessarily reached back at least to his Sorting ceremony, even purposely tricking the Sorting Hat into assuming the untruth, but we can doubt the Ministry thought so far. While this may account for the Ministry ascribing him to Voldemort's inner circle, the talk about an actual "second-in-command" must be written off as Ministry hyperbole. We cannot ascribe motives to the Ministry, but this positioning of Sirius may be driven by the desire to exonerate Lucius Malfoy, who seems to have come nearest to an actual second-in-command role in Voldemort's first rise to power. Malfoy, who seems to have ingratiated himself with the Ministry by astute contributions to worthy causes, claimed at Voldemort's initial downfall to have been under the Imperius Curse.
Once Sirius traps Harry in the Shrieking Shack, we learn that Sirius is innocent and it is actually Peter Pettigrew who supported Voldemort; Pettigrew was made the Potters' Secret Keeper and then betrayed them to Voldemort. When Voldemort fell, Pettigrew faked his own murder, framing Sirius, then went into hiding, disguised as the Weasley family's pet rat, Scabbers. When the truth is revealed, proving Sirius' innocence, he assumes a surrogate-father role to Harry. Soon, though, Pettigrew, and the truth, escape, and Sirius becomes a hunted man again.
This revelation is why we choose to withhold Sirius' true fidelity in the information box above. In fact, Sirius is consistently loyal, first to his friends, James Potter, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew, and later to James' son Harry, and Albus Dumbledore. Sirius is initially portrayed as Voldemort's faithful follower, and despite his upbringing in a hotbed of pureblood wizards and anti-Muggle beliefs, Sirius is actually always loyal to Dumbledore's cause. Revealing this information too early would ruin readers' enjoyment of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire the first cracks in Sirius' mental stability begin appearing. While Sirius advises Harry about the Triwizard Tournament, that advice sometimes seems rather odd. In particular, the reader may wonder why Sirius feels that Harry must compete in the Triwizard, as it seems that some malign influence forced his entry. Would it not be better to have him somehow left behind in the Tournament, keeping him safe from the worst risks? Sirius counsels about what may be the most dangerous course, blithely assuming that Dumbledore will catch Harry should he fall. During the cave episode, Sirius seems slightly less than sane, possibly caused by his subsistence on rats and hiding in such harsh conditions. However, when Viktor Krum is attacked, Sirius shows just what a responsible and protective guardian he can be when he scolds Harry for straying outside Hogwarts' grounds with an opponent. He sternly orders Harry to stay inside Hogwarts' safe boundaries, though Harry feels Sirius is employing a double standard, forcing him to stay put when Sirius likely would have ignored the rules if he had been in the same situation.
It is in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that Sirius' character truly begins unraveling. Being a fugitive kept him confined to 12 Grimmauld Place for long periods with only his mad mother's portrait and the irritable and apparently senile House-elf, Kreacher for company. When Harry arrives for Christmas, he smells sherry clinging to Sirius, so we can assume Sirius uses alcohol for solace. Sirius' extreme pleasure at having company over the holidays is sad and also pathetic. Molly having to remind Sirius that Harry is not James returned, early in that book, is dismissed by Sirius, but seems all too valid; Sirius does appear to treat Harry as he would James, as a compatriot rather than as his ward. It is likely that Sirius' emotional development was stalled during his twelve-year incarceration in Azkaban, and it has possibly even regressed. Although Sirius remained tragically flawed by his delayed emotional development, he was still a good influence and acted as a protector and father figure for Harry. It is debatable whether or not more could have been done to help Sirius. Leaving him confined in his house for long periods, isolated, and with little interaction or purpose in life, clearly added to his decline. Perhaps finding him a more active and substantial role within the Order of the Phoenix and providing regular companionship could have helped stabilize his condition.
It should be noted that the House of Black provided many ardent Voldemort supporters, both during his original ascent to power and during his return. The Black family's blood purity ethic would have made Voldemort's beliefs attractive to them. It was probably generally assumed that this belief extended to Sirius and that he was also a Voldemort supporter, though he (like his cousin, Andromeda Black Tonks) had rejected his family and was now loyal only to Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix.
Questions[edit | edit source]
- The author has stated that the two-way mirror Harry received from Sirius will be useful in Book 7. What are some possible ways that it might be, even though it is broken?
- Why did Sirius treat Kreacher the way he did? What it justified?
- What does Harry smell on Sirius? What might this indicate?
- What could have been done to help Sirius' mental condition? Was he beyond help?
- What does Luna Lovegood mean when she tells Harry that the dead are waiting?