The Biggest Bullies on the Playground
by Diana Lopez
Throughout the entire series thus far and, undoubtedly, well into the last two books, Rowling constantly reminds her readers about all the uncanny traits our young Mr. Potter shares with his mortal enemy, Lord Voldemort. So what? That’s nothing new. Many other archetypal heroes are unwittingly linked to their enemies in more ways than mutual spite.
What I am about to say will clench enough fists and crack enough knuckles throughout the world of Harry Potter fandom to wobble the planet out of orbit. Be that as it may, an issue that I have found most intriguing in the series is the comparison not between Harry and Voldemort, but rather the latters peculiar similarities with one of the people Harry holds (or rather held) in the highest regard. Indeed, a certain canine-animagus by the name of Sirius Black shares more qualities in common with the arch-nemesis than does any other character mentioned thus far.
Certainly, Sirius Black is probably the most quintessential of Gryffindors, which is especially visible in his personal choice to rebel and defect from his familys more traditional house, Slytherin. He’s bold, reckless, brave, proud, etc…all the makings of a perfect Gryffindor. But whilst Tom Riddle is so closely associated with the Serpent House, nowhere in canon, interviews, Ms. Rowling’s site, or any of the other meager sources of tangible information does it say he was indeed in Slytherin. In fact, on his award to services in the school, etc., it never described him as cunning, shrewd, or ambitious. Instead, he is regarded as Brave, Loyal, and a few other Gryffindorish attributes. That’s not to say I’m correct – in fact, I’m likely far from it. But it’s a theory that’s still running amok in the quagmires of canon mysteries. While I won’t go into much detail about Tom Riddle the Gryffindor now (maybe in a later essay – Cindy Eric has an excellent one which I agree with in the most part, so I advise using it for reference) it does highlight the perspectives of comparing Sirius Black with Lord Voldemort.
Both these characters having been described to bear similar physical attributes such as tall stature, dark hair, and handsome, youthful features in their primes; and sickly thin and pale in the canon era, they also share similar emotional characteristics. In Book 3, we learn that Sirius has one goal after breaking out of Azkaban: TO KILL SOMEONE. In Book 4, it’s Voldemort who shares this same goal after regaining strength. The only difference is that Sirius did not want to kill the same person Voldemort wanted to kill (namely Harry), but rather, Voldemort’s servant (Peter Pettigrew). It’s no wonder the whole world believed that Sirius was definitely Voldemort’s second-in-command! They even look alike!
Perhaps, even Sirius himself is/was subconsciously aware of his connection with the Dark Lord. Recall that in Prisoner of Azkaban, he accused Wormtail of always tagging along with the “biggest bully on the playground.” Unless hes utterly oblivious to how great a nuisance he was as a kid, I believe he was referring to himself in that comment, foreshadowing the infamous Snape’s Worst Memory scene. When Sirius wasn’t being a bully, Voldemort was, at least as far as Wormtail was concerned.
Sirius appears to know Voldemort more than any other character save Dumbledore, and especially more than his own Death Eaters, who are still ignorant of his general biography. For one thing, both Voldemort and Sirius, being the large and powerful ringleaders of their respective cliques, appear more like “sideline” bullies than their thugs, who perform the actual bullying. Sirius pointed this out, as he explained the Black Family Tapestry, when he told Harry that only in rare instances did Voldemort actually commit his atrocities. But wasn’t it James who hazed Severus, exposing his knickers to the world? He did start the whole ordeal for the simple reason that Sirius was bored. James, like any loyal Death Eater, could not live with himself unless he blindly ensured his masters contentment. And there is no doubt in the mind of any Potter fan blessed with an inkling of brains that James torture style bore a striking similarity with those attacks on the Muggles after the Quidditch World Cup. In fact, Voldemort himself scorned the event as being childish and grossly imprudent. Sirius, however, bore the same odd shame when he informed Harry that he was not proud of what he had done, even though he really didnt do anything besides initiate the attack and egg on his friends.
However long the list of comparable attributes could continue (and I make more and more enemies throughout Fandom), I must clarify that Voldemort and Sirius will never be the same. Why? Because, as Albus Dumbledore stated, it is our choices who make us who we really are. Sirius made the personal choice of straying as far from the dark side as he humanly could, whereas Tom Riddle took the polar opposite route, welcoming evil into his life to the extreme. In the end, Sirius died a hero, in spite of Harry knowing all his faults. We can only speculate what the end of Voldemort will be like, but one can ascertain that it will bear both a likeness and a contrast to everyone’s favourite dogstar. Overall, we must not judge our fellow men/women by their human faults, but by their freewill and the paths they choose with it.