Unlike James Potter, neither Sirius nor Harry were raised by loving parents. Harry was brought up – very begrudgingly – by his aunt and uncle and suffered years of neglect and bullying before finally escaping to Hogwarts. Sirius was brought up by his own parents, but never fitted in with the Black family stereotype – he was sorted into Gryffindor, which didn’t get him many Black family brownie points, and refused to accept their ‘pure-blood mania’.
Although Harry was an only child like his father, he didn’t really grow up as one. More in common with Sirius, Harry was constantly reminded of how he didn’t measure up to Dudley, just as Sirius was told that his brother, Regulus, was a much better son. Sirius and Harry’s home lives were so unhappy at points that they both ran away from home. Harry ran away after he blew up his Aunt Marge and Sirius left home for good at sixteen. And where did he go? The Potters’.
James Potter and Sirius Black weren’t exactly model students at Hogwarts. For starters, they created a map that was effectively a tool to help them make mischief without getting caught. Arguably Sirius was the biggest rebel of them all – he owned a flying motorbike for goodness sake! When Harry was given the Marauder’s Map by Fred and George in his third year, he was already breaking rules left, right and centre, thanks to his very own rule-breaking tool – his father’s Invisibility Cloak.
Sirius was delighted to find a fellow rebel in Harry, and Sirius lived vicariously through Harry’s exploits at Hogwarts. Padfoot thoroughly approved of the underground Defence against the Dark Arts group – Dumbledore’s Army – delighted that Harry was taking a stand against Umbridge. We’ll never know whether James Potter would have encouraged the same kind of rule breaking in his son, but Sirius and Harry definitely shared a certain disregard for toeing the line.
The very first time we met Sirius Black he was in a murderous rage, determined to kill Peter Pettigrew – disguised as Ron’s rat – who had betrayed Lily and James Potter. But this wasn’t the only time we saw Sirius lose his temper. Snape, Kreacher and even Mrs Weasley all felt the heat of his temper. And Harry isn’t exactly cool-headed either. Remember that time when he shouted – in glorious capital letters – at Ron and Hermione for keeping him in the dark all summer when they’d been hanging out with the Order? And he just couldn’t keep his anger for Umbridge under control at all – even after Professor McGonagall warned him of the danger.
We don’t know much about James Potter’s temper, but we do know that he was the Marauder who rescued Snape from a potential run-in with Lupin in werewolf form, even though the two hated each other. Perhaps he had a more rational head on his shoulders than Sirius or Harry?
James Potter was popular at Hogwarts – a great Quidditch player and head boy – but he wasn’t more widely known until after his devastating death at the hands of Lord Voldemort. His son though, experienced fame throughout Hogwarts and beyond, and his best friend Sirius Black’s name was familiar to witches and wizards everywhere – he even made it onto Muggle TV. Harry and Sirius both suffered for their fame at one time or another.
For most of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry was accused of lying about Voldemort’s return in the Daily Prophet, and later he was targeted as Undesirable Number One by the Ministry of Magic. Like Sirius, Harry had to go into hiding when a price was put on his head by the Ministry in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As a result, Harry and Sirius most likely learned to distrust the authority of the Ministry in a way that James never did.
Perhaps as a result of their unhappy upbringings, both Sirius and Harry’s friendships run deeper than your average playground pals. Arguably, James and Sirius acted like brothers, as well as best friends, emphasised particularly by the fact that Sirius actually moved in with the Potters when he ran away from the Black family home. Sirius was also best man at James and Lily’s wedding, a place often taken up by the groom’s brother.
Harry is similar in this way, and through his friendship with Ron, was adopted into the Weasley family to such an extent that Ron’s mother sent him Christmas presents and thought of him like a son. Sirius and Harry’s relationship is an interesting mix of friends and family too: Sirius is Harry’s godfather and sometimes treats him like a son, but at other times he seems to forget Harry isn’t his best friend, James Potter. ‘You’re less like your father than I thought’ Sirius told Harry when he refused to risk Sirius’ safety and meet his godfather in Hogsmeade. A harsh put-down that muddies the family-friend boundary between them.
Along with James, Harry and Sirius showed unimaginable courage in the face of evil. Sirius, still a wanted man, didn’t hesitate to leave Grimmauld Place and go after Harry at the Ministry of Magic. Sirius was also determined to give Harry help and advice via owl and in the Gryffindor fireplace throughout his time at Hogwarts, risking being thrown back into Azkaban if caught.
Harry stood up to bullies, fought dragons, and faced Lord Voldemort whilst still trying to attend classes at Hogwarts. And in the end, just like James and Sirius, Harry was willing to give up his life to protect the people – and wizarding world – that he loved.