Wednesday, July 23, 2014

the best of sirius black

I decided it was about time for me to dedicate a post to one of my first loves, Harry Potter. 
Allow me to geek out a little bit with you. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite of the Potter books, I think mostly because I love Sirius Black. I get this weird and wonderful nostalgic feeling every time I look at that original book cover (although really, all of the original book art has that effect on me). 

Sometimes a character touches my soul in a way that's truly lasting, and Sirius Black is absolutely one of the most poignant examples of that. I remember quite vividly meeting him for the first time. 
And by "meet" I mean read, because of course I am a book enthusiast, and the books always win. Especially in the case of Harry Potter. I happen to think that Gary Oldman played a fine Sirius Black, but the real Sirius is so much more than that. He is much deeper and more tragic and complex, and his character in the books gets way more (well-deserved) airtime than the scant movie-version-Sirius. 

(Somewhat obvious disclaimer: SPOILERS ABOUND).

My husband and I were re-watching Goblet of Fire last night, and aside from the ridiculousness of super-angry Dumbledore in that film (which I won't even try to get into here), the most upsetting part of that movie is the great lack of Sirius Black. The movies barely skim the surface of his short epic life, and for those of you who have only watched the movies and haven't read the books (aka people I'm judging harshly), here are my top 5 reasons for loving Sirius Black. 

1. He Escaped from Azkaban

In other words, he is legit. 

I just love a good plot twist. Sirius is a blatantly terrible, malnourished, matted criminal for most of Prisoner of Azkaban and it takes a good amount of blood, sweat and tears for us and Harry to realize that he's actually his long-imprisoned and wrongly-accused godfather. 
Not only did he escape from the darkest wizarding prison of all time, but he did so by secretly being a dog as an Animagus. He was so impassioned by the sight of Peter Pettigrew in the newspaper and the thought of him being near Harry that he gained the strength and resolution to slip by the Dementors and swim all the way to Hogwarts. He is one dedicated hound. 

(Side note: he owns a flying motorcycle, he escaped Azkaban as Padfoot, and he escaped imprisonment again by riding a condemned hippogriff named Buckbeak. Gotta give him props for style.)

2. He Keeps His Promises

He is the epitome of a loyal friend. Avenging the death of his best friend James was the driving force that led him to escape from Azkaban. Once he gets to Harry, he immediately claims his right as Harry's godfather, the way James would have wanted it. He invests himself in Harry's life, befriending his friends and teaching him more about his family than he ever would have known otherwise. He is incredibly protective, a man of great conviction and a man of his word.

Even though he couldn't invite Harry to live with him the way he had originally intended (due to a cowardly rat and a wizard world price on his head), he still maintained constant contact and was always intent on being with Harry whenever he could. 
His friendship is the real deal. 

I love Prisoner of Azkaban for many reasons, but these first scenes with Sirius are at the top of my list. There's a lot of what-the-crappery that goes on in that chapter, and a lot of twists and turns. That quote is one of my favorites, and it always gives me chills. 
His loyalty to those he loved always came before himself -- even to death.

3. He is Broken

One of the most resonating aspects of Sirius's character is that he is just as broken as Harry is. He is flawed, but he is also incredibly strong. He becomes a mixture of father and brother to Harry, which occasionally causes him to lose sight of Harry and instead see James - the friend he can't quite let go of, the one he will forever miss. Rip my heart out.

Some might say that Sirius was perhaps too broken and reckless to be a true father figure to Harry...that maybe he was unable to carry that burden of responsibility. In truth he never really had the chance to grow up -- much of his life was stolen by war, grief and Azkaban. He never had a family of his own. His happiest and strongest memories were of boyhood with James. Maybe there was still a lot of immaturity there. He was too ready to risk himself, and less thoughtful of those he could hurt by putting himself in danger.

But because of their blurred relational line, Sirius is much more honest and open with Harry than any of the other adults, much to their frustration. As an outsider I always trusted Sirius more because he never lied to Harry or tried to hide things from him "for his own good". He may have been a little too eager to replace James in his life, but he also knew, or at least believed, that Harry could handle more than anyone else gave him credit for.

4. He is Brave

This title could also be he is reckless, but the bottom line is that he is a man of action. It makes me want to both cheer and cry that he's the type of person who can't sit still while other people are out there doing things. The risk, the danger, the passion, the living. That is Sirius.

Even from the beginning he broke the mold set forth by his ancestors -- the Ancient House of Black, notoriously noble and wicked, was absolutely ashamed by his goodness. He was the first decent Black in centuries, sorted into Gryffindor at age 11 and committed to shaking loose from his family's legacy. As we know from other dark wizards, breaking free from the Slytherin family tradition isn't an easy task.

He was brave and rebellious enough to risk capture in order to be closer to Harry on several occasions. Even before they met, he would sneak to the Gryffindor Quidditch matches to watch Harry fly. When Harry started having dreams related to Voldemort, and Sirius believed him to be in danger, he moved closer to Hogwarts to be nearer to him.
This wasn't just any ordinary danger, either -- if he would have been caught he would have been given over to the Dementors. As Dumbledore said, a Dementor's Kiss is "a fate worse than death."
He was quite literally risking his soul.

5. His Story is Tragic

As much as I hate the ending to Sirius's story, as much as I despise his life being snatched away (in a curtain, no less), his tragic end is part of the reason why I hold him so dear in my heart.
His reckless desire to act and protect was what ultimately killed him -- and I can't even blame him for it. I can blame Kreacher, and Harry a little bit, but that won't help any of us.

UGH, Order of the Phoenix. That whole book made me want to quit reading altogether to be honest, but I think I've come to the point (15 years later) where I can begrudgingly accept and understand.

His death is a part of the devastating intricacies of Harry's life. It's part of what both propels and comforts Harry in the moments before facing his own death, as he confronts Voldemort for the last time. Sirius was another casualty of war -- and it was a war he believed in.

He is my favorite character. He always has been and always will be.
Long live Moony, Padfoot and Prongs.

The End.

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