Sirius Black’s first appearance in the Harry Potter franchise struck fear into the hearts of countless witches, wizards, and even Muggles. He is known in the Wizarding World as the traitor who turned James and Lily Potter over to the Dark Lord, leaving behind little orphan Harry. He is also allegedly the one who ended the lives of twelve innocent Muggle bystanders, along with a friend from school named Peter Pettigrew. When he breaks out of Azkaban, even the Muggle authorities are warned about him and his violent behavior.
However, as the series progresses, we come to learn that Sirius is not at all the violent, merciless figure the Ministry of Magic makes him out to be. On the contrary, he was framed for all of those sinister deeds and wrongfully imprisoned for years. That said, he’s not exactly a perfect angel either, especially as more about his past is revealed throughout the books and movies. In spite of all the history that J.K. Rowling has shown to us, there is still much to unravel about the enigma that is Sirius “Padfoot” Black. The following list contains spoilers for the books and movies, starting from The Prisoner of Azkaban and onward. So, if you’re just starting out with the Wizarding World, you might want to approach the article with caution, much like you would with a hippogriff. The list also includes fun facts from behind the scenes of the movie's sets. Without further ado, here are 20 Weirdest Details About Sirius Black’s Anatomy.
20 He's An Animagus Who Looks Like The Grim
Throughout The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is haunted by a giant black dog wherever he goes, and the enigmatic creature is mistaken for the Grim, an omen that supposedly foreshadows the end of one’s life. As it turns out, the Grim that follows Harry around is really just Sirius in his Animagus form.
Sirius and his buddies James and Peter had secretly become unregistered Animagi during their time at Hogwarts to help Remus Lupin whenever he transformed into a werewolf. Being emaciated and unkempt from years of imprisonment, Sirius’ Animagus form looks a lot more sinister. Plus, Harry is under a lot of stress and encounters a series of unfortunate events, so we can see how some might mistake his transformed godfather for an omen of elimination.
19 He Was Only 22 When Sent To Azkaban
Sirius escapes from Azkaban during Harry’s third year at Hogwarts in 1993 after twelve years of wrongful imprisonment. He comes out seriously affected by the experience, and so it’s easy to forget that he was only around twenty-two years old when he was sent to the notorious prison.
Voldemort started his rise to power when Lily and the Marauders were still students at Hogwarts. Sure, they were all precocious and eager to fight the good fight, joining the Order of the Phoenix upon graduating, but the dire situation of the Wizarding World makes it easy to overestimate their ages. When you remember just how young they were, it really brings into perspective just how difficult the conditions were under Voldemort’s reign.
18 He's Taken In By A Dog Lover In An Early Draft
After Sirius escapes from Azkaban, he gets a hard-won, long overdue chance for justice when he exposes Peter Pettigrew and his treachery. However, Pettigrew manages to get away, and while Sirius is fortunate enough to avoid recapture, he’s forced to become a fugitive along with Buckbeak.
In an early draft of The Goblet of Fire, Sirius has a slightly better fate. An old witch named Mopsy, who takes care of stray dogs in Hogsmeade, would eventually offer Sirius food and shelter while he was still in his Animagus form. He would’ve had plenty of canine company as well, and since he can communicate with Crookshanks, he would’ve been able to have some nice conversations with the other dogs in Mopsy’s care.
17 He's A Pure-Blood, And His Parents Are Second Cousins
The Black family is notorious for being vehement about purity, believing that pure-blood wizards are superior to all other wizards, as well as Muggles. Like many other long-standing pure-blood families, the Black family resorted to marrying their own relatives in order to preserve their bloodline.
As a result, Sirius’ parents, Orion and Walburga Black, are actually second cousins. This relationship also means that Sirius and his brother Regulus aren’t just the couple’s sons, but they are also their second cousins once removed via their spouse. Sirius’ parents weren’t Death Eaters, but they did believe in the views that Voldemort preached, such as getting rid of Muggle-borns. Thankfully, Sirius managed to deviate from his family’s narrow-minded values from an early age.
16 He's Related To A Former Hogwarts Headmaster
The Black family is one of the families listed as part of the “Sacred Twenty-Eight” in a “Pure-Blood Directory” from the 1930s. But, “The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black” goes way back before the 20th century. Sure, some names are taken off the family’s tapestry after bringing embarrassment to the family, but interesting revelations still abound.
Sirius is actually related to a former headmaster of Hogwarts named Phineas Nigellus Black, whose portrait can be found in the headmaster’s office. Phineas’ older brother is also named Sirius, but based on the Black family tree, didn’t survive his childhood. Under the circumstance, Phineas then names his son Sirius, which means the Sirius Black that we are most familiar with is the third of his name.
15 He Has Tattoos In The Movie
Sirius’s first actual appearance is in his Animagus form, repeatedly mistaken for the Grim as he tries to keep tabs on his godson Harry. However, Harry sees his human form plastered all over the news, as Sirius is a wanted man who escaped from Azkaban.
He’s described as looking sunken with waxy skin, yellow teeth, and long, unkempt hair, but there’s no mention of any tattoos in the books. In the movies, though, Sirius is shown with some serious ink. According to this interview with the BBC, director Alfonso Cuarón was the one who came up with the idea. Of course, the books don’t explicitly say Sirius doesn’t have tattoos either, although that would be a weird detail to omit from his physical description.
14 The Tattoos (Possibly) Reference His Animagus Form
Cuarón is a highly-regarded director and critically-acclaimed screenwriter, so it should come as no surprise that his team for The Prisoner of Azkaban is also full of imaginative and detail-oriented minds. As a result, Sirius’ tattoos aren’t just random squiggly lines. Instead, as some eagle-eyed Redditors point out, the tattoos are actually alchemical symbols and might be references to Sirius’ Animagus form.
Redditor thomascgalvin is the one who points out the alchemical symbol for amalgamation, which in turn, is associated with the Gray Wolf and could refer to Sirius’ ability to turn into a dog. Redditor grantimatter also explains several of the runes and symbols in detail, and the elaborate explanation is well worth the read.
13 He Lost So Much Weight He Could Sneak Out Of His Cell
The name Azkaban alone is capable of sending chills down even the most powerful witch’s spine. It’s a prison located on an island in the middle of the North Sea. Originally a fortress in which the wizard Ekrizdis could practice dark magic on Muggle sailors, it’s now a prison notorious for the despair it causes.
Given the enduring conditions of the fortress, it’s not at all surprising that Sirius lost a lot of weight during his time there. Ironically, his extreme weight loss also helped in his eventual escape. Sirius explains that he slipped through his cell door as a dog after seeing Pettigrew’s Animagus form in the Daily Prophet. He then swam across the sea in search of vengeance.
12 Delphini Is His First Cousin, Once Removed
Love it or hate it, the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is here to stay, both in London’s West End and on Broadway in New York City. The most surprising revelation from the show is probably Voldemort and Bellatrix’s daughter, Delphini. And since Bellatrix is Sirius’ cousin, that means Delphini is his first cousin, once removed.
Sure, Bellatrix is legally married to Rodolphus Lestrange, so Voldemort isn’t technically one of Sirius’ relatives. Plus, Sirius had already passed by the events of The Cursed Child, but, we can imagine that if Sirius were still around to witness the revelation, he would not have been happy to learn that yet another of his relatives chose to serve the Dark Lord.
11 Nymphadora Tonks Is His First Cousin, Twice Removed
At this point, it certainly seems as though every witch and wizard in the franchise is related to one another in some way. Plus, coming from a famous and prominent pure-blood family, Sirius has some particularly high-profile relatives. One of those relatives is Nymphadora Tonks, the Auror and Metamorphmagus.
Tonks is Sirius’ first cousin, twice removed via her mother Andromeda Tonks, née Black. Andromeda is actually Bellatrix and Narcissa’s sister, but was removed from the family tapestry and disowned because she married a Muggle-born named Ted Tonks. Tonks would later on marry one of Sirius’ best friends from Hogwarts, Remus Lupin, which makes Sirius and Remus not just best buds and family by choice, but also by law.
10 He's In His 3os, But Oldman Was In His 4os
Given the horrors that Sirius has witnessed and gone through personally, it’s easy to forget just how young he actually is. By the time his life ends in 1996, he’s only 36 years old. Another reason why people tend to think Sirius is older is because Gary Oldman was 46 by the time The Prisoner of Azkaban was released.
Similarly, Geraldine Somerville and Adrian Rawlins (who play Lily and James Potter) are much older than the characters when they first appear in The Philosopher’s Stone. Funnily enough, Rawlins and Oldman were born within a week of each other and would’ve been in the same year at Hogwarts. And if Sirius were real, he’d be one year younger than Oldman.
9 As A Resurrected Ghost, A Veil Separates Him From The Living
In one of the most touching and heart-wrenching scenes in the entire franchise, Harry resurrects Lily, James, Sirius, and Remus as he walks towards his demise. His resurrected family gives young Harry courage as he makes his way to Voldemort.
Even though Beedle the Bard might’ve taken some artistic liberties with “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” the story is based on true events. Cadmus Peverell used the Resurrection Stone to bring back his lover, but felt like a veil was still separating them. It stands to reason then that as a revived shade, Sirius would’ve been encountered by Harry through a veil as well, rather than the solid, corporeal form he took when he was still alive.
8 He Can Withstand Dementors' Attacks (To A Certain Extent)
Apart from the violent history of the fortress itself, another reason why Azkaban is so intimidating is due to the large presence of Dementors. Remus describes them as one of the foulest creatures to exist, draining happiness out of every nook, cranny, and living being. The Dementor’s Kiss, which is the act of capturing one’s soul, is considered worse than perishing.
However, Sirius was able to hold onto his sanity despite spending 12 years on his own in Azkaban and surrounded by Dementors. As he explains it, the knowledge of his innocence sustained him until he could find a chance to escape, since it wasn’t a happy thought that Dementors could take from him.
7 He Fools Dementors By Turning Into A Dog
Sirius’ escape from Azkaban causes chaos in the Wizarding World when the news breaks, not only because he’s mistakenly known for violent crimes, but also because he’s the first known person to break out (Barty Crouch Jr’s escape before Sirius is only revealed later). In addition, Sirius is the only one to escape unaided.
He kept himself sane by transforming into his dog form, and his being an unregistered Animagus meant that no precautions were taken by authorities. As a result, he successfully fooled Dementors into thinking he was losing his mind and they could only sense that his feelings were deteriorating into something less than human. However, they assumed it was simply because Sirius’ mind was wasting away like everyone else’s.
6 Several Dogs Played Sirius In The Movies
Sirius’ Animagus form has been described as “a bearlike black dog” in the books, but the breed has never been specified. Two dogs were used as models for Sirius’ CGI Animagus in The Prisoner of Azkaban. Fern, a Kilbourne deerhound, was given pointed ears and learned to perform stunts. Cleod (another Kilbourne deerhound) had his fur turned black with temporary dye.
Later, rescue dog Quinn took over the role in Order of the Phoenix, turning Sirius into a Scottish deerhound instead. Sirius can be really aggressive while in his Animagus form, using his size and enhanced strength to his advantage. But in real life, all these good boys were well-behaved on set, and helped bring the movie to life.
5 One Doggie Actor Needed A New Home
The German Shepherd Shadowberry, a.k.a Berry, also played Padfoot at one point. He was adopted by a stunt man when he was still a puppy, but unfortunately, his owner couldn’t take care of him anymore and had to put him up for adoption along with his pal Porridge.
The two dogs were settled with a foster family, and multiple headlines sparked a frenzy to help find Berry and Porridge their new forever home. Unfortunately, Porridge soon became ill, and Berry had to say goodbye to his lifelong best bud. Sadly, Berry is no longer with us anymore either, but he will be forever remembered as one of the bestest boys immortalized on the silver screen.
4 Oldman Already Had Long Hair And A Beard
In an interview with the BBC, Oldman also reveals that he contributed to Sirius’ cinematic look just as Cuarón did with the tattoos. Oldman already had long hair and a beard, and figured that it would be a good look for the character. The creative team agreed, and voila: scraggly movie Sirius was born.
That said, he didn’t have much say in the costume department, at least not for the third movie, since Sirius is pretty much in his prison uniform the entire time. For the later movies though, Sirius does get a bit of a wardrobe upgrade, and gets to clean up a bit, all while keeping Oldman’s original vision of the long hair and beard.
3 He Perishes Differently In The Movie Than In The Book
Let’s be honest: there are a ton of differing views in the Harry Potter fandom that cause conflict among fans, but if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Harry deserves a break and all the happiness in the world. That’s why Sirius’ end in Order of the Phoenix is especially heart-breaking.
However, it’s worth noting that the way Sirius perishes is different in the movie than it is in the book. In the book, Bellatrix hits him with an unnamed red spell, knocking him into the Veil in the Department of Mysteries, and it’s the fall through the archway that ends his life. In the movie, Bellatrix straight-up strikes him with Avada Kedavra before he falls into the Veil.
2 He's The Last Of The Male Line
The Black family dates back centuries, and is infamous for their adherence to pure-blood supremacist views. They even adopted “Toujours Pur” as their family motto, which translates to “Always Pure.” The bloodline does continue on through the Malfoys and through Delphini, but the male line ends with Sirius’ passing, as neither he nor his brother Regulus have children to carry on the family name.
…Or do they? Given Rowling’s proclivity for surprising reveals like Delphini’s existence and Nagini’s original identity, maybe Regulus and Sirius have a hidden child that survives the Wizarding War, much like their cousin Bellatrix does. The Potterverse doesn’t show any signs of slowing down just yet, so who knows, maybe there will be a graphic novel about a mysterious Black family heir.
1 Robson Green Almost Played The Role
By now, Oldman’s portrayal of Sirius is pretty much seared into everyone’s minds, but Chris Columbus' first choice was actually English actor Robson Green. Green rose to prominence in the UK thanks to his performance in Soldier Soldier, and would’ve magnified onto the international stage had Cuarón stuck with Columbus’ preference for Green.
Instead, Cuarón handed the part to Oldman when he took over from Columbus, but rumor has it that Oldman wasn’t particularly thrilled about the job. Regardless, he’s now pretty much synonymous with the character of Sirius. Interestingly enough, Sirius’ cousin Bellatrix was originally slated to be played by Helen McCrory, who ended up playing Narcissa instead due to her pregnancy.
What are some other weird facts about Sirius' anatomy? Tell us in the comments!