It’s been more than a year now since I began posting to this blog. A lot of things have changed in that time, both for me, personally, and the wider world. Some things haven’t, such as the fact that I have scarily intense relationships with characters in fantasy novels. Perhaps the most ‘intense’ of those is the one I share with the man my blog is named after.
I have been planning to write about Sirius Black for a long while, but have been defeated each time by a feeling of inadequacy. It’s hard to write about something even you don’t understand, that many people around you find ridiculous (for good reason), that you expect yourself to grow out of. So I tried to assuage my need to write about this character by channelling it into watertight, specific aspects of his presentation: in a post where I compared him to Jaime Lannister and called him a Poor Little Rich Boy; in connection with the larger theme of slash fanfiction; moaning about how I couldn’t find good Wolfstar fics. I did scrawl a Facebook note on him once, fuelled mostly by adrenaline (my exams had just been postponed and a friend dared me to do it) and called it a ‘Manifesto’, but I have never sat and attempted to write a serious piece on what he means to me.
Yes, I’m sure I’ve a lost a good number of my readers already. ‘Fangirl’, you’re snorting. What on earth is a twenty-four year old doing writing about a silly crush she has on a fictional character? I wonder myself. But I’m hoping, through this post on Sirius, to find something vaguely profound in this whole matter.
Like my beloved Wheel of Time books, the Potter series saw me through high school and into college. Harry and company were as important to me as my closest friends, seeing me through the ups and downs of adolescence and into adulthood. Harry and I probably experienced our first major crushes at the same time. Unlike him, of course, I was a lot more articulate about asking people to go to the ball.
My first ‘love’ in the Potter books was, predictably, Harry himself. I felt that here, at last, was a boy who got it, who knew what a hassle growing up was (I’ve alluded to this cosmic connection between us before). I remember wishing, fervently, that Harry would somehow magically step out of the books and find me and we would have amazing adventures together. It’s embarrassing to admit that I had these daydreams till I was as old as sixteen, but that’s the burden of being a fantasy and book-crazed teenager.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out in the first week of my undergraduate life. The timing was wonderfully symbolic—as Harry died and came back to life, a part of my own journey ended and a new one began. I put him away with some amount of grief and annoyance (he had married Ginny and not me, after all), and didn’t think about him very much until three years later, in the first year of my Masters’.
Postgrad was a tough time for various boring and petty reasons which I will not go into here. Sufficeth to say that what prompted me to pick up the Potter books again was a combination of nostalgia and a desire to escape to what I perceived to be a ‘simpler’ time. When I was living it, of course, school had hardly seemed ‘simple’, but everything looks better from a distance. It is known.
Instead of finding a blandly comforting story, my re-read of The Order of the Phoenix, Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows threw up a bunch of questions which have prompted a number of posts on this blog. Additionally, the re-read showed me that my interests had shifted considerably. I was no longer in love with the Boy Who Lived.
I was in love with Sirius Black.
Now, a number of people have asked me what on earth I find so compelling about a less-than-major character. One friend, on seeing my ‘Sirius Play-list’ stuttered that perhaps an immense amount of fanfiction reading had clouded my perception of Sirius, built him up into something more than canon supports. Another said that Sirius was the stereotypical ‘cool guy’, and that while I was fascinated by the idea of him, I would hardly be able to tolerate him if he were to suddenly appear before me. I will concede points to both friends. True, the amount of fanfiction I’ve read probably has done its bit to bolster Sirius’s image in my eyes. And true, Sirius would probably have been too loud and ‘obnoxious’ for me to consider getting to know (if we had gone to the same school). Post-Azkaban Sirius, however, would have been a completely different person and one that, I think, I might have gotten along with. We could have been broody and angsty together.
But let’s not waste time thinking of what could have been.
Anyone who’s read the books knows why Sirius is eminently crush-worthy, so I won’t go into it here. It’s not any of those immediately apparent things that pull me towards him, though—not his gorgeous looks, his fierce intelligence or his tragic air. Instead, it’s what I like to think of as his defining trait, one that really jarred me out of my slump of despondency when I re-met him.
I’m talking, of course, about his fantastic sense of defiance.
Sirius Black is, above all things, a rebel. Smack him down, and he will surge back up, twice as eager to prove himself. Lock him up in a soul sucking prison for twelve years? He will quietly and inconsiderately refuse to make things easier for you by going mad. Station dementors around the campus and the neighbouring village with the sole aim of catching him? He’ll sneak right past them and make himself at home as a loveable stray. Tell him he can’t come out of house arrest to save his godson? He’ll cavort about in the heart of the Ministry of Magic and duel Voldemort’s ‘lieutenant’.
In a godfather, this sense of defiance is, at times, lamentable. Sirius can’t very well hope to keep a raging Harry in check if he can’t live by the rules himself. Removed from his context and seen as a peer rather than a mentor, however, Sirius’s irrepressible spirit becomes a very attractive quality. And yes, in case you were wondering, it was three years ago that I started seeing him as a peer rather than an older, removed ‘adult’ character.
Now, I never considered myself the kind of girl who liked ‘defiant’ people. At least, not those who are loud about their defiance. Remus Lupin was more my ‘type’, I thought. He was academic, he was insecure and yet sort of quietly steadfast, and he was morally complex. For the record, I don’t subscribe to the ‘opposites attract’ theory either, so my regard for Sirius really was sort of random.
Except it really wasn’t. In the grand ship known as me-Sirius (ha!), context was and is everything. When had I found and latched on to him? When I was in some sort of transition period, when I was at an emotional and personal low. I needed energy and inspiration and he, with his half-crazed sense of freedom and unwillingness to just shut up and live by the rules, gave it to me.
Would I call him a knight in shining armour? Yes and no. Yes because I am a romantic and, despite my enlightened feminist views, I still like to picture a handsome young man sweeping up on a horse (or a flying motorbike) and whisking me away on dull days. No because, let’s face it, Sirius, for the duration of readers’ acquaintance with him, is not in a position to be saving anyone but himself. Also no, because, as we all know (and I assure you, I know as well), he is a fictional character and hence, any inspiration he brings about generate, finally, in me. It’s what I make of him and the way Rowling has presented him, after all, that really matters.
I’ve moved past the drama that drove me to Potter, but my regard for Sirius and what he represents endures. He taught me a very important lesson when I needed it: trust yourself even if you can’t rely on anything else. The world gets dark, it gets depressing and ugly, but screw that, he seems to say. Screw that ‘gentle night’. Sirius rages, always rages, against the dying of the light.