The Harry Potter franchise started in 1997 with the publication of The Philosopher’s Stone (while the U.S. version, The Sorcerer’s Stone, was released a year later). It has since been followed up with 6 more books to wrap up Harry’s saga, and several more tie-in books. The Wizarding World gained even more traction in mainstream media thanks to the countless movie adaptations that have cropped up over the decades, including the main storyline and the Fantastic Beasts spin-off series.
J.K. Rowling’s in-depth world-building is no doubt a major element that has enchanted audiences all over the globe, but another captivating element of her stories is the complex characters.
With the exception of perhaps Voldemort himself, none of the characters are strictly good or evil, despite the story’s classic good vs. bad dynamic. Some of the most obvious examples of these morally ambiguous characters include Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape, but even the slightly less prominent characters have these complexities.
Sirius Black is first introduced in The Prisoner of Azkaban as a criminal who ended numerous lives. It is later revealed that—spoiler alert—he had been framed by a close and trusted friend, Peter Pettigrew. While there’s no doubt that Sirius is fighting for the survival of both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds, he’s done quite a few things that’ll raise some eyebrows
The list below contains spoilers from all core books and movies in the franchise, as well as tie-in material such as the charity short story about Sirius and James.
Here are 20 Things Wrong With Sirius Black We All Choose To Ignore.
20 He's Insensitive With Words
Let’s get this out of the way: Sirius Black is a jerk in his teens. Sure, he’s endured a lot of hardship by the time he starts going to Hogwarts: his family is full of ardent blood-purity fanatics, and they disown anyone who disagrees. But even taking his questionable family life into consideration, that’s no excuse to harm others.
Both Sirius and James call Snape “Snivellus,” making fun of his appearance and general existence.
In the same memory, Sirius remarks that he’s bored and wishes it was a full moon, and seems oblivious to Lupin’s gloominess. Even if they’re usually comfortable joking about it, Sirius doesn’t notice that his throwaway remark has taken it too far.
19 He Often Picks On Snape
In Snape’s worst memory, Harry watches as the Marauders not only verbally bother Snape, but also physically pick on him as well. Or, at least, James and Sirius are the ones who lead the attacks while Lupin and Pettigrew—and plenty of other Hogwarts students—stand idly by.
Harry notes that Snape reacts quickly to the crew’s approach as if he’d been expecting an attack, indicating that this has happened several times before. Sirius hexes Snape twice, impeding his physical mobility as he tries to defend himself from James.
Lily Evans is the only one who intervenes and is met with an anti-Muggle slur from Snape. James does defend Lily against Snape, but only after trying to pressure her into going out with him.
18 He Plays A Dangerous Prank On Snape
During their time at Hogwarts, the Marauders would accompany Lupin in Animagus form to the Shrieking Shack via the Whomping Willow during the full moon. Instead of shunning Lupin after finding out he was a werewolf, they kept him company during his painful transformations.
Sirius is clearly capable of doing admirable and noble things for his good friend but doesn’t hesitate to play a prank on Snape that almost costs him his life. Annoyed by Snape’s snooping, Sirius tells him about the knot on the Whomping Willow, allowing Snape to go after the quartet during a full moon.
Not only does he put Snape’s life in danger, but he also risks exposing Lupin’s secret. James has to rescue Snape because of Sirius’s foolishness.
17 ...And He Shows No Remorse
Sirius and Lupin both show remorse for their mistreatment of Snape when Harry confronts them in The Order of the Phoenix. However, in The Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius still insists that Snape had it coming because he’d been sneaking around trying to get the Marauders expelled.
Of course, people can grow a lot in just two years, but by the time the events of Book 3 roll around, Sirius has been a grown man for a while now. Justifying putting someone’s life in danger just because they tried to get you kicked out of school isn’t a good excuse, especially when you’re already a fully-grown adult. Plus, he says this all in the presence of three teenagers.
16 He Uses Magic In Front Of Muggles
In a charity short story that J.K. Rowling released in 2008, a young Sirius and James are out and about on Sirius’ motorcycle when they’re caught speeding by two Muggle police officers.
However, the light-hearted exchange becomes more serious when three wizards show up on broomsticks. The three unknown wizards attack Sirius and James, who levitate the police car with a spell to defend themselves. Their attackers crash into the car and the duo successfully escape, leaving behind two shaken Muggles.
Sirius and James use magic in front of Muggles in self-defense, but the act still does jeopardize the secrecy of the Wizarding World. We don’t know whether or not the Ministry penalized the two.
15 He Conflates Harry With James
Okay, we know you’re probably about to cringe big time: the most glaring example of Sirius mixing Harry up with James is in the movie version of The Order of the Phoenix. During the battle at the Ministry of Magic, Sirius is so caught up in the fight that he calls Harry “James” and praises him for his spellcasting. That heavy-handed line is nowhere to be found in the books, but Sirius still has a tendency to view Harry as an extension of his best friend James.
It certainly doesn’t help that Sirius lost his best friend so abruptly and traumatically; it’s understandable that he’d see James in his son Harry. But as Harry’s godfather, Sirius owes it to him to see him as an individual.
14 He Guilt-Trips Harry
There is no doubt that Sirius loves Harry and is fiercely protective of him, but he does let his more immature impulses take over sometimes.
In The Order of the Phoenix, Sirius wants to visit his godson in Hogsmeade while disguised in his Animagus form. The trio object, stating that they risk getting caught by authorities. In response, Sirius sulks and guilt-trips Harry like a child. He tells Harry that he’s a lot less like James and that James would have relished the thrill of the risk.
Sirius, you’re a grown man, for crying out loud! Guilt-tripping a teenager who you know longs for his parents is hardly the most mature or healthy response to disappointment.
13 He Can Be Reckless
Sirius is understandably still mourning James’ passing; he lost his best friend and was blamed for it, wrongfully imprisoned for year after year. His time in Azkaban, stuck in an isolated cell and surrounded by depression incarnate, has stalled his maturation.
However, he continues to jeopardize the people around him, including his beloved godson, due to his thoughtlessness.
The comment he made to Harry in Book 5 also points out how Sirius and Harry’s roles get reversed sometimes: instead of Sirius being the mature, responsible guardian, Harry has to ensure their safety. And as a teenager going through a lot of trauma with woefully little psychological support, Harry doesn’t need someone else to take care of.
12 He Damages The Lady's Portrait
Okay, desperate times call for desperate measures and all that, but slicing up the Lady’s portrait is a bit harsh.
Sirius tries to access the Gryffindor common room in his hunt for Pettigrew, aka Scabbers the rat, but without the correct password, the Lady refuses to let him in. She’s literally doing her job to ensure the Gryffindor kids’ safety. Out of frustration, Sirius damages her portrait and barges in anyway, also leaving behind a lot of carnage that terrifies the students.
Of course, Sirius doesn’t have a whole lot of resources to help his plan for vengeance—he is a wanted man, after all. But surely someone as smart as he is could’ve come up with a more tactful approach.
11 He Intended To End Pettigrew's Life
Even though the date marks the first demise of Voldemort, the night of Halloween in 1981 was horrible and traumatic for several people.
First of all, the Dark Lord had taken Lily and James Potters’ lives as they attempted to defend their infant son, leaving Harry an orphan. A fragment of Voldemort’s soul then latched onto Harry, condemning him to a life of pain. Pettigrew then frames Sirius for some massive carnage, leading the Wizarding World to believe Sirius had betrayed his friends.
Sirius finds James and Lily lying lifeless in Godric’s Hollow, and goes after Pettigrew with the intention of ending his life in revenge. His grief and anger are justified, but as Harry would point out years later, James wouldn’t have wanted blood on Sirius’ hands.
10 Years Later, He And Lupin Still Want To End Pettigrew
Sirius spends most of his youth in Azkaban, when he should’ve been out and free, growing as a young man in his prime. To make matters worse, he’s there because Pettigrew betrayed all of his friends, framing Sirius for the crime. Sirius’ desire for vengeance is understandable, but after a decade in Azkaban, he still intends to end Pettigrew’s life.
Sirius is far from the only person who has taken or has intended to take a life in the Harry Potter franchise. That being said, it’s not the best course of action, morality aside. Had Harry not gone after Ron, and Sirius had managed to get Pettigrew alone in the Shack, Harry would still live the rest of his life thinking Sirius betrayed his parents.
9 ...In Front Of Three Scared Teens
To top it all off, Sirius and Lupin corner Pettigrew and threaten his life in front of three scared teenagers. Sure, it’s probably not the worst thing that has happened to our favorite trio: Hermione gets petrified by a basilisk and Ron’s sister Ginny gets possessed by Tom Riddle’s diary. But seeing two men who are supposed to be guiding figures threaten a man’s life isn’t making things better.
It’s also not the most appropriate example to set for a bunch of impressionable thirteen-year-olds. In fact, it’s a little unfair that Harry is the one who has to remind two grown men that taking someone’s life is bad, and not the way James would’ve wanted them to handle the situation.
8 He Drags Ron Under The Willow
Poor Ron. As one of Harry’s best friends, he goes through a lot of harrowing and traumatizing events as well. He gets knocked unconscious by a giant chess piece. His little sister Ginny gets possessed by an evil journal (which turns out to hold one of Voldemort’s horcruxes). He gets attacked by a giant spider, one of his greatest fears. And a year later, he gets dragged under the Whomping Willow by a giant black dog.
Sirius brings Ron to the Shrieking Shack because he’s really after Pettigrew. By then, Ron has spent a good while thinking his pet Scabbers had been eaten, so he holds onto the rat. But good lord, Sirius, the boy is only thirteen!
7 He Drinks Irresponsibly
Sirius has had a hard life, and never gets the chance to learn how to deal with his emotions in a healthy manner. After all, his birth family is toxic and he spends so much of his life in Azkaban. So it’s not entirely his own fault that he resorts to drinking to alleviate the stress of essentially being under house arrest.
To make matters worse, he’s stuck at 12 Grimmauld Place, his childhood home that he hates. Of course the stress would get to him. He can’t even go out in Animagus form for some fresh air.
But while his drinking isn’t entirely his fault, it’s undeniably an unhealthy way for Sirius to deal with his emotions.
6 He Could've Just Used Polyjuice Potion
Sirius gets some serious (pun intended) cabin fever while he’s confined to 12 Grimmauld Place, which he donates to the Order of the Phoenix to use as their headquarters. He’s also dealing with a lot of unpleasant memories about events that occurred in his childhood home.
But the thing is, the Order totally could’ve just made him some Polyjuice Potion to help him out. It’s not a particularly difficult potion to brew, either. Hermione’s super smart and all, but she’s only twelve when she successfully makes the concoction, except for the whole cat hair debacle.
If the idea never occurred to Sirius because of his distress, surely a member of the Order—all of whom are brilliant—would’ve thought of this simple way to help Sirius out.
5 He Isn't A Good Role Model For Harry
Harry’s been deprived of a loving family for all of his life. He’s stuck with his mean Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, and his spoiled cousin, Dudley. He’s stuck living in the cupboard under the stairs for over a decade. So of course he’d look to his godfather for some fatherly love and guidance.
Sirius is more than happy to take Harry under his wing, but unfortunately, he lacks the self-awareness to realize that he’s not quite equipped to be a positive role model for Harry. In fact, many of the negative traits that Harry displays in books 4 and 5 mirror Sirius’, like his poor judgment, impulsiveness, and tendency to lash out in anger.
4 He's An Unregistered Animagus
Instead of abandoning Lupin when they found out about his lycanthropy, Sirius, James, and Pettigrew all became Animagi to support him instead. It’s without a doubt a noble gesture, but they never registered with the Ministry.
Of course, being an unregistered Animagus is what helps Sirius keep his sanity while he’s stuck in Azkaban—the authorities hadn’t taken his transformations into account. He’s also able to slip out of his prison cell in dog form and swim to shore.
But the registry is in place and open to view by the public to make sure Animagi don’t abuse their difficult powers. That said, you have to admit the punishment for not registering—imprisonment in Azkaban—is way too harsh.
3 The Plan To Help Lupin Is Seriously Flawed
Becoming an Animagus is no small task—it takes a long time and is a notoriously difficult skill to acquire. Yet James, Sirius, and Pettigrew take on the task as teenagers to support their friend. The idea is that being animals would help the three youngsters handle their friend during his transformations. James and Sirius’ Animagus forms make them big enough to contain a werewolf, and Pettigrew is agile enough to get the Whomping Willow knot. That’s sweet and loyal, but it’s a seriously flawed plan.
The thing is, you can’t choose your Animagus form, unless you’re playing the Hogwarts Mystery mobile game. So the boys could’ve turned into teensy beetles like Rita Skeeter, which doesn’t sound very useful for accompanying a werewolf.
2 He Suspects Lupin Is A Spy
One of the most pivotal events in Sirius’ young life—and in the course of Wizarding history—is when he transfers his responsibility as the Potters’ Secret-Keeper to Pettigrew. He does so as a precaution, fearing that Voldemort is onto him. He figures that Voldemort wouldn’t suspect weak, cowardly Pettigrew (which, wow, what way to think of your friend).
But after Sirius gets framed, even Lupin is under the impression that Black had betrayed the Potters, which means that Sirius didn’t tell Lupin about the switch. This suggests that Sirius had doubts about Lupin’s loyalty and even suspected him of being the spy who was leaking information to the Dark Lord. And somehow, Sirius trusted Pettigrew, who he already knew was quite spineless.
1 He Gets Pettigrew To Become Secret-Keeper
The whole plan to switch Secret-Keepers doesn’t make any sense in the first place. When someone becomes a Secret-Keeper, they essentially take the secret with them to the grave unless they tell someone. And here’s the kicker: the secret has to be willingly divulged. That means it can’t be forced out of them using cruel measures.
The Potters’ chose Sirius because they knew that he would never betray them. So what if Voldemort suspects Sirius is the Secret-Keeper? The whole point is that Voldemort wouldn’t be able to get the information because of how loyal Sirius is.
So why oh why switch to Pettigrew? He could easily be pressured into giving up the Potters’ whereabouts. Which he did.
What other questionable things has Sirius done? Tell us in the comments!