The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black were not known throughout the Wizarding World for their charity or kindness. They were known for their status, their wealth, their fanatical devotion to pure-blood philosophy. They did not suffer ‘traitors’ gladly. This was plain to see in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Harry first saw the Black tapestry: a big and immensely old document of the Black family tree which, notably, featured several members burned out.
The most famous of these members, of course, was Harry’s godfather Sirius Black, who barely made it to adulthood before he was disowned by the family for rejecting the Blacks’ pure-blood ideals and running away from home. But he was not the only one. Sirius was merely one of many Blacks who had been exiled from the family for not following their tyrannical rules. Some rebelled, some fell in love, some were just born to the wrong parents...
Here’s a look at the other Black ‘traitors’, why they got burned out, and who we believe got the most unfair deal of the lot...
Iola was one of the very first family members to be burnt out from the Black family tree. Sister of Phineas Nigellus, the unpopular former Hogwarts headmaster, Iola was rejected from her own brethren for marrying a Muggle called Bob Hitchens. Sadly, it’s not surprising to hear this based on what we know of the Black family’s closed-minded views on Muggles and Muggle-borns – and anyone daring to marry one. We definitely know that her brother Phineas wasn’t a fan, as his portrait was known to use phrases like ‘mangy old half-blood’ from time to time. It’s even possible that Phineas – otherwise known as Sirius’s great-great-grandfather – had something to do with his sister’s expulsion.
Phineas Jr was another Black family member who fraternised with Muggles. He was the son of Phineas Nigellus, but unlike his father, did not seem to follow his beliefs about Muggles; in fact, he was rejected from the family for supporting Muggle rights. Phineas Jr’s branch of the family tree were born around the late 1800s, not too long after the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy became effective in 1692. It is fair to say that anti-Muggle sentiment would still have been high during this time. As such, Phineas’s exile stings particularly badly seeing as he was not only rebelling against his father, but trying to do something for the good of Muggle-kind in general.
Not much is known of Marius Black, who was burnt out from the family tree for a very cruel reason indeed: being a Squib. Judging by the Black family’s pure-blood pride, being non-magical in any sense would presumably be deemed shameful – even if the person couldn’t help it. We’ve seen the word ‘Squib’ used in a derogatory sense in the past, and the stigma still seemed very much alive in Harry’s days; chances are it would have been even worse in the early 1900s. Poor Marius’s only crime was being born without magic – which makes this rejection all the crueller.
Cedrella Black was the grandchild of Phineas Nigellus Black, along with two siblings, Callidora and Charis. While both of her siblings married into pure-blood families, however, Cedrella married a wizard called Septimus Weasley, and we think you’ll recognise that last name. Yes, the Weasleys were one of the oldest and most wholesome wizarding families, but they were by no means ‘pure’ – hence Kreacher once flying into a frenzy of ‘blood traitors’ and ‘children of filth’ when the current generation came to stay at Grimmauld Place. Cedrella was subsequently burnt out. But this connection would subsequently mean that Sirius and Molly Weasley were technically cousins.
Alphard was Sirius’s uncle and was cast out of the family tree for helping his young nephew when Sirius ran away from home. Alphard left Sirius the ‘decent bit of gold’ he needed to get started in a new life, but his relatives were clearly not impressed when they found out. Kudos to Alphard for being one figure in Sirius’s life who actually supported him.
Poor Andromeda lost her place in the family tree for simply marrying a Muggle-born, Ted Tonks. Undeterred, Andromeda led a proud life without her cut-off family, and simply focused on her own: including her daughter Nymphadora, who soon became an Auror and a fighter of Dark forces. Alas, Andromeda couldn’t quite escape her family: she was known to look a lot like her sister, Bellatrix, only ‘kinder’, and her husband Ted led a troubled life being a Muggle-born, especially once Voldemort and his followers began to ascend for the second time. He lost his Ministry job for refusing to join the newly-formed ‘Muggle-Born Registration Commission’, and was later killed when he went on the run. Being a member of the Black family can be a cruel life.