Forums: Index > The Wizengamot archive > Black Family in Slytherin

I have always found it problematic that articles on members of the Black family uniformly use the Slytherin infobox. The first piece of evidence used to support the conclusion that, with the exception of Sirius, the Blacks were all in Slytherin, is a comment made by Professor Slughorn in Half-Blood Prince, Ch. 4:

"The whole Black family had been in my house, but Sirius ended up in Gryffindor! Shame — he was a talented boy. I got his brother Regulus when he came along, but I'd have liked the set."

The second piece of evidence is a statement from Sirius in Ch. 33 of Deathly Hallows:

"My whole family have been in Slytherin," he said.
"Blimey," said James, "and I thought you seemed all right."
Sirius grinned.
"Maybe I'll break the tradition. Where are you heading, if you've got the choice?"

The issue with both of these quotes is that it is unclear whether "whole family" literally refers to every Black from Phineas Nigellus down, excepting Sirius, or just to Sirius' immediate relatives. We can conclude from Slughorn's wish to have a complete "set" that Bellatrix, Andromeda, and Narcissa were in Slytherin (although Bellatrix and Narcissa's Houses were known previously from Goblet of Fire, Ch. 27 and Chamber of Secrets, Ch. 9, respectively). Sirius' comment about "break[ing] the tradition" would seem to indicate that his father Orion and mother Walburga, at least, were in Slytherin. Broadly intepreted, the comment includes both Sirius' grandfathers and great-grandfathers, and possibly all the Blacks in Orion and Walburga's lines (i.e., those descended from Sirius II and Cygnus I).

But I still think it's a stretch to assume that every Black in history, save Sirius, was in Slytherin. After all, Sirius wasn't disowned at 11, when he was sorted into Gryffindor, but at 16, when he ran away from home. No one burnt off the Black family tree was disowned for not being Sorted into Slytherin. I imagine a Black in Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or even Gryffindor would've been fine, as long as they toed the party line on blood purity.

We know for certain that Phineas Nigellus, Regulus, Bellatrix, Andromeda, and Narcissa were Slytherins, and I think we can reasonably say that Orion and Walburga were as well. But I think we should err on the side of caution for all other members of the Black family, and and avoid using the Slytherin infobox. We can note the possibility that these individuals were in Slytherin in "Behind the scenes." Starstuff (Owl me!) 21:32, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

I particularly think we should not be using Slytherin infoboxes for the spouses of members of the Black family, which seems to have been done sporadically -- Ursula Flint, Hester Gamp, Violetta Bulstrode, Lysandra Yaxley, and Druella Rosier all have Slytherin infoboxes, but Melania Macmillan and Irma Crabbe do not. If it's a bit of a stretch to say that every single person born into the Black family save for Sirius was in Slytherin, then it's even more of a stretch to say that they only married Slytherins as well.
A possible standard we could use, in lieu of interpreting what Sirius meant by "my whole family", would be which Blacks Slughorn would have known. Slughorn had taught at Hogwarts for at least 50 years before retiring in 1981, and every Black he knew was in Slytherin. Thus, we could reason that every Black who attended Hogwarts from 1931 onwards was in Slytherin, plus Phineas Nigellus and excluding Sirius. That would get us: Phineas Nigellus, Dorea Black, Orion and Walburga Black, Cygnus Black II, Alphard Black, and Bellatrix, Narcissa, Andromeda, and Regulus. Oread (talk) 22:03, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
You're completely right when it comes to women who married into the Black family. In Order of the Phoenix, Ch. 6, Sirius says, "If you're only going to let your sons and daughters marry pure-bloods your choice is very limited; there are hardly any of us left." I bet it would be even more difficult for the Blacks to find spouses if their requirements were further restricted to Slytherin pure-bloods.
I agree with your logic that the Blacks Slughorn taught would've been in Slytherin. "My house," rather than simply "Slytherin," implies an attitude of possession on Slughorn's part — while he was Head of House, students in Slytherin would have been his, in a sense. Starstuff (Owl me!) 00:04, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
I've changed the infoboxes for the spouses of Blacks. Do you think we should change them for those who would not have been taught by Slughorn? Oread (talk) 15:14, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I do, and I think we should add explanatory footnotes to the ones keeping the infobox — except Bella and Cissy, as they were revealed as Slytherins before Slughorn's comment. Starstuff (Owl me!) 15:46, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
Should we include both the Slughorn and Sirius quotes in the footnote? Here's a possible wording, a bit on the long side, using Orion as an example:
In Half-Blood Prince, Ch. 4, Horace Slughorn states: "The whole Black family had been in my house, but Sirius ended up in Gryffindor!...I got his brother Regulus when he came along, but I'd have liked the set." This implies that all Blacks except Sirius were Sorted into Slytherin while Slughorn was Head of House. Orion, born in 1929, presumably attended Hogwarts c. 1940 to 1947, and thus would've been a student of Slughorn, who taught from at least the beginning of the 1943-1944 school year based on the Pensieve memory in Half-Blood Prince, Ch. 23. Sirius Black also states "My whole family have been in Slytherin" and "Maybe I'll break the tradition" in Deathly Hallows, Ch. 33, confirming that at least those Blacks closely related to Sirius were in Slytherin.
Also, I can't remember exactly where it's stated/implied that Slughorn taught for at least 50 years prior to when Snape took over his job in either 1980 or 1981. From Slughorn's Pensieve memory in HBP23, we can determine he taught from at least the beginning of Tom Riddle's sixth year in 1943, and thus we know he definitely taught the following older Blacks for at least part of their time at Hogwarts: Walburga (Hogwarts years c. 1936-1943), Alphard (first year presumably 1937 to 1939, given that he was a middle child), Cygnus II (c.1940-1947), and Orion (c.1940-1947). The exception is Dorea, who, being born in 1920, would've attended Hogwarts c. 1931-1938. She presumably would've graduated in June 1938, before Tom would've begun at Hogwarts that September, and thus might not have been Slughorn's student if he only began teaching in or after Tom's first year. What do you think? Starstuff (Owl me!) 19:14, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

The wording sounds good to me. I can't remember where it's stated or implied that Slughorn taught for 50 years before retiring in 1981 either, though it says that in his article here. We do know that he started teaching around the same time as Dumbledore (Molly says in Chapter 5 of Half-Blood Prince that Slughorn "taught Arthur and me. He was at Hogwarts for ages, started around the same time as Dumbledore, I think."), but is younger than Dumbledore. The HP Lexicon puts Dumbledore as starting to teach before 1938, when he recruited Tom Riddle. Thus, I think we can reasonably say that Slughorn started teaching sometime in the 1930s; I think Dorea is still covered. Oread (talk) 19:56, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

I've added an explanatory footnote to the appropriate articles. Should we make the infoboxes for the other Blacks ordinary 'wizard individual' ones, then? Oread (talk) 17:02, 18 April 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I agree that we should convert the infoboxes for everyone else to "wizard indidividual." I'll do this shortly. Sorry for the delayed reply. Starstuff (Owl me!) 00:23, 22 April 2009 (UTC)