Sirius, adulthood and moving on

(The fan art used in this post is by Viria–an artist whose work you can check out here)

In a previous post, I wrote about Sirius Black and how his crazily devout loyalty to his friends signals some very positive, as well as negative things. I wrote about how he might see ‘changes’ in people as a terrible thing, a form of betrayal nearly, a wavering from what he has chosen to devote himself to. It struck me then as it strikes me now that Sirius may not have been a very good adult role model, and it was for this reason among others that Rowling chose to kill him off in Book 5, before Harry had entirely emotionally outpaced him.

siriusI suppose it’s disturbing then that I’ve increasingly grown to identify with Sirius on certain matters. This doesn’t bode well for the emotional health of a seeking-to-be-well-adjusted 26 year old, does it? One of these struck me particularly hard recently, before and shortly after a trip to what was once a stomping ground, Delhi.

I’ve entered that age bracket where my friends are starting to get married. This is at once exciting and alarming.Exciting because who doesn’t love celebrations and excuses to get dressed up (okay, don’t answer that question, I actually know people who would disagree with me quite vociferously) and alarming because it seems to indicate that we’ve gotten…older. We’re no longer gushing about crushes and being excited that a friend is maybe kind of dating someone. Now we’re celebrating the legalization of that relationship, and how life is going to change after that.

Anyway, one of my closest friends is getting married very soon. It is an occasion for celebration, as she and her fiance seem very happy about it. I went to Delhi to spend some time with her, but things had changed already—she was no longer in the old house we once shared, for one thing. For some reason, this upset me greatly, and it was up to another friend to tell me ‘We’re all moving on.’

This reminded me of Snape’s infamous memory, our one glimpse into the dynamics of the Marauders as they were in Hogwarts. When the boys are relaxing near the lake after the exam, James is described as preening and running his hands through his hair, trying to catch the attention of a group of girls seated across from them. It’s understood that he’s trying to snag Lily’s eyes. Remus is buried in a book, attempting to study for the next paper and Peter watches James’s play with a Snitch, wide eyed.

Sirius is bored, and it’s this that sets the bullying of Snivellus in motion.

I should amend that, actually. Sirius is primarily bored. But he betrays another sentiment during this scene that sort of stands out, both in comparison to how he’s usually portrayed, as well as the sort of foresight it seems to indicate—something that most Potterverse characters don’t display. Sirius looks annoyed by James’s attention to Lily.

When I read the scene a couple of years ago I rather romantically saw it as Sirius being jealous because he was, well, attracted to James. Now I see how, while that might be true, there are other, more platonic reasons for his attitude. This may be because I’ve begun to personally understand and experience them.

Sirius, at this moment, sees Lily as what she is, though for no fault of her own: a disruption. Lily signals change for the group. James’s feelings for her, immature though they are, are a break away from his until-now unquestioned devotion to his friends. This is something he cannot share with Sirius, and opens up a whole new world that he is not a part of. Along with ‘growing up’, it’s a ‘growing away’, as Sirius reads it, and if he has to play up James’s immature side to keep him away from Lily a little longer, he will do so.

marauders_viria

Of course, I’m not saying I’m going to break up my friend’s impending marriage, or those of the others who are in line to tie the knot. It’s not part of the plan at all. I do, however, understand why Sirius felt the way he did. Things change, people move on, and you may not be (any longer) one of their first priorities. Evidently Sirius grew up enough to make his peace with James’s infatuation (and extend his devotion to two more people—Lily and Harry), but I’m sort of glad he wasn’t tested by Remus and Tonks’s marriage—that might have been too much for the post-Azkaban Sirius to handle.

As the wise Mindy Kaling says, in her guise as scatterbrained Mindy Lahiri, ‘Being an adult is hard. It’s not all smiley faced emojis wearing sunglasses.’

It’s kind of cool that Rowling, through that brief foray into the past, gives us this little picture of a strangely prescient Sirius. She has all of maybe seven pages to do it, but it’s important enough to his characterization that she slides it in there. It never ceases to amaze me how, with just the lightest of strokes, she adds to a character and gives her readers yet another facet to identify with. Now that’s truly incredible writing.

Ten ways in which reading fantasy screws up your love life

Lo and behold, herein are written the ways in which an overdose of the fantastical can screw up any right thinking, clear headed person. As though the socially accepted form of insanity doesn’t do that well enough anyway.

1) When someone says ‘I can’t be with you’, you automatically assume they are being self-sacrificing and noble and trying to protect you from some darker power.

arwen and aragorn

2) Because of this, you only decide to love them more.

3) You think ‘waiting’ for said person is a wonderful thing and will surely result in a reward, i.e., returned regard.

There is still hope.

                 There is still hope.

4) Even if it doesn’t, literature and the heroes have taught you that unrequited love is the most noble and wonderful thing evah. Just look at all the love Snape got after it was revealed he was crazy about Lily Evans.

5) This is a lie. Unrequited love is a bitch and it would hurt like hell to love like Severus Snape. But you’ve ‘known’ otherwise for so long that it will take you months, maybe even years, to accept that.

snape and lily

‘Always’: Not a word to be uttered lightly.

6) When all your friends tell you that someone is wrong for you, is not giving you what you deserve, you think it’s just because they don’t see the nobility and courage the other person hides so successfully from the rest of the world. Only you are blessed with that vaunted ability because you are not fooled by the mundane world and its standards.

7) Also, fantasy heroes and heroines are always ridiculed at some point in their lives for their beliefs, so you think it’s part of the deal to be considered a complete, blind idiot. At some point, like all those heroes, you’ll have the chance to turn around and say ‘I told you so.’

'Everybody thinks I'm lying. That's okay. I'm used to it.'

‘Everybody thinks I’m lying. That’s okay. I’m used to it.’

8) There is no such thing as bad timing, or coincidence, or, for that matter, all-around unbeatable circumstances. There is only Fate and you, the lone warrior who will defy it in order to be with the one you so desperately love. Bring on the shitstorm, universe!

'I can totes handle this.'

‘I can totes handle this.’

9) The more reasons the person throws at you to stay away, the more drawn you feel to them. Because they are just more demons for you to overcome and prove yourself a worthy champion.

10) Fantasy heroes never give up, you tell yourself. No matter how tough the going gets, no matter how terrible they feel, they don’t ever give up. And neither will you, no matter how much it might kill you to flog yourself on.

'I shall carry on until I collapse and even then I will crawl my way up this damn mountain. You shall not defeat me!'

‘I shall carry on until I collapse and even then I will crawl my way up this damn mountain. You shall not defeat me!’

Ain’t no love like tortured, angsty fantasy love.

 

After all, they lived happily ever after...for a while.

After all, they lived happily ever after…for a while.

Growing up Potter: For the Dog Star

ImageIt’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 hot

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.images

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.