How many of these facts did you know?
Sirius may have been one of a kind in many respects, but he was not the first – or second – of his name. Born in 1845, the first known Sirius Black was the older brother of Phineas Nigellus Black, former headmaster of Hogwarts. Sadly, according to the Black Family tapestry, Sirius did not survive into adulthood. Phineas later named his own son ‘Sirius’, presumably in honour of his late brother. We’re guessing ‘Sirius the Third’ was not his favourite.
This piece of Potter trivia was revealed on J.K. Rowling’s Twitter account following Scotland’s match against Samoa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The author promised to share Sirius Black’s birthday if enough of her followers showed support for Scotland, staying true to her word by tweeting the date after the game. Believe it or not, Scottish Rugby is quite a big deal in the wizarding world.
Eagle-eyed Potter fans re-reading the first book will notice that familiar name in the opening chapter, ‘The Boy Who Lived’. However, an older version of the story featured an actual appearance from the man himself. In an early draft of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Sirius encountered a wizard named Pyrites in Godric’s Hollow – a follower of Voldemort who wore white silk gloves that would occasionally be ‘artistically’ stained with blood. Pyrites was eventually scrapped, but Sirius kept his brief mention as a helpful motorbike donor.
It’s easy to forget just how young the Marauders were during Voldemort’s first rise to power. They were hardly out of school when Sirius was best man at James and Lily’s wedding (marriage wasn’t for Sirius – he was, according to J.K. Rowling, ‘too busy being a big rebel to get married’). As Sirius was incarcerated at a relatively young age, he emerged from prison in a state of arrested development, explaining why he acted more like a pal than a parent to teenage Harry.
Though most of the details surrounding his arrest were misreported, the fact that Sirius was laughing at the scene of the crime was, indeed, true. Unhinged by the death of his best friend, along with the knowledge that he’d personally recommended the traitorous Secret-Keeper, Sirius snapped and had a hysterical reaction. He’d also made a shocking realisation, as J.K. Rowling confirmed in a 2005 interview:
‘Yes, he laughed. He knew what he’d lost. It was a humourless laugh. Pettigrew... it turned out that he was a better wizard than they knew. Turned out he was better at hiding secrets than they knew.’
J.K. Rowling, Leaky Cauldron/Mugglenet interview, 16 July 2005
In an early draft of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Sirius, in his canine Animagus form, was taken in by an eccentric old witch named Mopsy. ‘Mopsy the dog lover’ couldn’t help caring for all the stray pooches of Hogsmeade (something of a variant on the ‘crazy cat lady’) and provided Sirius with food and shelter along with her many other dogs. During the editing process, Mopsy was dropped and poor old Padfoot ended up hiding in a cave, eating rats. At least he had Buckbeak for company.
It probably goes without saying that the Quibbler article from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was, to put it mildly, ‘factually inaccurate’. According to the magazine, Sirius Black was actually singing sensation Stubby Boardman of The Hobgoblins, who retired after being ‘struck on the ear by a turnip’.
Though few people would have believed the Sirius/Stubby conspiracy, fans later asked J.K. Rowling if Stubby Boardman was really Sirius’s brother, Regulus. She responded on her website, ‘No, he isn’t. Nice idea, though.’
Though she knew all along what lay ahead for Sirius, J.K. Rowling tried to avoid thinking about it until she penned the fateful chapter, ‘Beyond the Veil’. Writing it was enough to drive the author to tears in her own kitchen. When asked if she could have simply changed her mind and let Sirius live, she replied: ‘Well, it just doesn’t work like that. You are writing children’s books, you need to be a ruthless killer.’ Thus, the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black came to an end.
Harry Potter went on to name his first son in memory of his father and godfather. James Sirius Potter was officially sorted into Gryffindor on 1 September 2015, which J.K. Rowling reported on Twitter. He also carried on the tradition of troublemaking by finding and sneaking the Marauder’s Map out of his father’s study. We’re sure James (Sr) and Sirius would have been proud.