Sirius Black came from a long line of wizards — and it turns out there’s a ton of extra history lurking on the dusty vines covering the film version of 12 Grimmauld Place’s walls.
Black’s expansive magical family may have originated in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, but the Black family’s extensive history isn’t limited to the book version of The Order of the Phoenix.
In the 2003 novel Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the musty atmosphere of the titular resistance group’s headquarters is rendered with masterful precision by Rowling. Among the more prominent details is the decor of an unused upstairs room in which the Black family tree tapestry has been enchanted, telling the story of the family visually. Sirius spends a few moments in the book detailing for Harry the stories of a couple relatives, but the majority of the tapestry is left to the imagination.
But, for film director David Yates, who adapted Order of the Phoenix in 2007, leaving the Black family tree up to viewers’ imaginations wasn’t really an option. Speaking from the set of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the director explained that the solution was remarkably simple: ask Rowling if it was cool for them to add to the Black family tree.
Rowling is one of those authors who writes way more than she publishes, so it was a simple matter of sending an email to the author to procure six full generations of Black family history. The result is the most complete portrait of one of the wizarding worlds most famous — and formidable — families.
This extra dose of background information highlights several intriguing connections between the pure blood Blacks and the rest of Rowling’s wizarding world. The film reveals, for example, that James Potter and Sirius Black are actually related through marriage (they’re second cousins). Apparently, Sirius was far from the only rebel in his family tree, as Rowling’s history explains that Sirius’s great-great-uncle, Arcturus, raised children who married into the Muggle-loving Longbottom and Weasley families. A close inspection of the names and dates that make up the House of Black even casts some doubt as to the true nature of the family. There are enough heroes scattered throughout the lineage that perhaps Sirius Black’s disgust at his origins wasn’t as warranted as he believed.
In many ways, the Harry Potter films represent a moment when the original books are condensed, which means certain canonical information is lost. It’s tricky to catch all the details of the Black tapestry, but it’s totally worth spending a few moments looking past the grime to see the deeper magic lurking underneath.