Phineas Nigellus Black
Biographical information



1925 (aged 78)[1]

Blood status


Marital status


Also known as
Physical information




Hair colour


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Skin colour


Family information
Family members




"My great-great-grandfather, Phineas Nigellus, the least popular headmaster Hogwarts ever had."
Sirius Black[src]

Professor Phineas Nigellus Black (18471925) was a pure-blood wizard, possibly the son of Cygnus and Ella Black, and brother of Sirius, Elladora and Isla Black. He is the ancestor of many wizards in Britain. He attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and was sorted into Slytherin house; he later became Headmaster of the school and was said to be the least popular headmaster Hogwarts ever had. After he died in 1925, his portrait hangs in the Headmaster's office along with the portraits of the other former headmasters, and sometimes offers advice to the current headmaster.


File:Phineas Nigellus.jpg

Early life and HogwartsEdit

Phineas Nigellus was born to the House of Black in 1847, possibly to Cygnus Black I and his wife. He had three siblings; Sirius, Elladora, and Isla Black. Phineas was raised in a household that strongly believed in the importance of blood purity, and as such carried a grudge against Muggle-borns, whom he called Mudbloods, that lasted throughout his life. His brother Sirius died in 1853, at the age of eight, which likely had an effect on young Phineas.

At the age of eleven, c. 1858, Black began his schooling at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he was sorted into Slytherin House.

After HogwartsEdit

Sometime after completing his schooling in c. 1865, Phineas Nigellus married Ursula Flint, and at the age of 30 the two had a son, Sirius Black, named after his deceased brother. Four more children followed the first; Phineas, who did not take his father and namesake's view on the topic of pure-blood supremacy and was disowned by the family for supporting Muggle rights; Cygnus, Belvina, and Arcturus.

As Headmaster of HogwartsEdit

"You know, this is precisely why I loathed being a teacher! Young people are so infernally convinced that they are absolutely right about everything."
—Phineas Nigellus[src]

At some point, Black returned to Hogwarts as Headmaster. His great-great-grandson Sirius Black III later described him as the least popular head the school ever knew. It is unknown what approach Black took towards Muggle-borns in his capacity as Headmaster; whatever it might have been, the Black family did not disown him for it; this may, however, have been because he was the head of the family.


He died in 1925 at age 78. At the time of his death, Phineas Nigellus had five children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren[1], although more would be born after he died.


File:Phineas Nigellus Black.jpg
"We are honour-bound to give service to the present Headmaster of Hogwarts! Shame on you, Phineas!"
Armando Dippet's portrait to a sleepy Phineas.[src]

Phineas Nigellus's portrait does not seem to enjoy the role of offering advice to the current Hogwarts headmaster/headmistress- this is perhaps because the headmaster he currently serves, Dumbledore, is very protective of muggle-borns. When he was headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore addressed the portrait as if it were the man himself.

A second portrait of Black hangs in the House of Black ancestral home at 12 Grimmauld Place, and like other portrait subjects in the wizarding world, Black could travel between his portraits, which he did often. In 1995, Harry Potter stayed in the bedroom where Black's portrait hangs, and Black took him messages from Albus Dumbledore. His voice could sometimes be heard coming from the frame when he was not in it, making sarcastic comments. He also seems to be against people with Muggle parentage.

Phineas Nigellus: "I can't see why the boy should be able to do it better than you, Dumbledore."
Albus Dumbledore: "I wouldn't expect you to, Phineas."
— Phineas Nigellus about Dumbledore's mission to Harry Potter to retrieve the Horcrux memory from Slughorn.

During Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger's quest to destroy Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes, Phineas Nigellus's Grimmauld Place Portrait was hidden in Hermione's magically enlarged beaded bag, to stop him from being able to report their location to Severus Snape, then headmaster of Hogwarts. His portrait was then taken with the trio when they left the house. During this time, he, albeit reluctantly, dropped certain snippets of information on what was going on in Hogwarts to them, and aided them in their quest; he managed to find out where they were camping and informed Snape, who was able to give them Godric Gryffindor's Sword.

Phineas Nigellus possibly watched the Battle of Hogwarts in 1998. After Lord Voldemort's defeat, he saw Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger at the Headmaster's office; like all the headmaster portraits, he looked very happy and brought up the fact that Slytherin House had contributed to the victory.

During the later years, he continued offering help to the current headmaster of Hogwarts, consequently, transforming his reluctance to do so for Albus Dumbledore. It would appear that in assisting Severus Snape, in his time as headmaster, and the "Slytherin contribution" to the defeat of Lord Voldemort, greatly contributed to this change of heart. Furthermore, the emergence of another headmaster, who had been in Slytherin, would have likewise pleased him.

Physical descriptionEdit

Professor Black was a clever looking wizard, with black hair, dark eyes, a pointed beard and thin eyebrows. He was depicted posthumously in his portrait as wearing the green and silver colours associated with Slytherin House[2]. However, seen in the movies he has a quite different appearance, with grey hair and a large beard, wearing, instead of his Slytherin-coloured robes, eccentric headdresses quite common to the wizarding world, such as a pointed red cap with a fur brim and a turban[3].

Personality and traitsEdit

"We Slytherins are brave, yes, but not stupid. For instance, when given the choice, we will always choose to save our own necks."
—Phineas Nigellus' portrait[src]

Phineas is a snide, sarcastic fellow. He has little patience for the feelings and the problems of others, particularly young people, whom he finds tedious and self-absorbed, and has no qualms whatsoever in using demeaning phrases when referring to others. He also seemed to support blood purity since he looked down on Muggle-borns and even used the offensive term Mudblood.



"Probably another message for my worthless great-great-grandson."
—Phineas Nigellus Black commenting on the only member of his family he was known to dislike.[src]

Phineas Nigellus Black's older brother, Sirius, died in childhood. His sisters, Elladora began the family tradition of beheading aged house-elves and Isla was disowned for marrying Bob Hitchens, who was either a Muggle or a Muggle-born wizard.


Phineas Nigellus Black was married to Ursula Flint and they are among the oldest known ancestors of the "Noble and Most Ancient House of Black." They had five children: Sirius, Phineas, Cygnus, Belvina, and Arcturus. Phineas was disowned for supporting Muggle rights.

As the House of Black was numerous and very powerful, many other wizards have ancestral ties to Phineas Nigellus Black, including the Malfoy, Lestrange, Tonks and Weasley families. Additionally, Phineas may have descendants or distant relatives in the Potter and Longbottom clans, as well as in the Crouch, Prewett and Burke families. Furthermore, many other familiar surnames appear among those who married into the Black family tree, which may tie wizarding families. For example, Ursula Flint, Violetta Bulstrode, Melania Macmillan, and Irma Crabbe may be related to individuals in Harry Potter's generation.

Though Black did not get along well with most people, his portrait was upset to learn his great-great-grandson Sirius Black, the last male Black, was dead in 1996, and was visibly upset when he learned that Mundungus Fletcher was stealing Black family heirlooms the following year. This could have been from dynastic or emotional reasons.

Albus DumbledoreEdit

"Professor Snape has more important things on his mind than the many eccentricities of Albus Dumbledore."
—Phineas Nigellus[src]
File:Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.jpg

Black did not seem to hold much with one of his more distant successors as Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. While others, including Harry Potter and Rubeus Hagrid, considered Dumbledore the greatest sorcerer in the world, Phineas considered him to be too eccentric and to be wasting his time by trying to understand the students.

Phineas Nigellus was, along with the other portraits of the dead headmasters of Hogwarts, bound to serve the head of the day, although, with Dumbledore at the very least, he despised doing this.

Black's opinion of the man went on even after Dumbledore's self-planned death at the hands of Severus Snape in 1997, and he proceeded to admire Snape, who later became Headmaster himself, considerably more.

However, after Dumbledore escaped from being arrested by the Ministry of Magic in 1996, Phineas Nigellus commented to Cornelius Fudge that although he disagreed with Dumbledore on many accounts, you couldn't deny that he had style. This may indicate that Phineas Nigellus had a little bit of admiration for Dumbledore.

Severus SnapeEdit

Severus Snape

Severus Snape.

Phineas Nigellus: "Headmaster! They are camping in the Forest of Dean! The Mudblood"
Severus Snape: "Do not use that word!"
— Black revealing the whereabouts of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Muggle-born Hermione Granger to Professor Snape[src]

Any relationship with Phineas before Severus Snape became Headmaster of Hogwarts School is unknown, but by the time that the Snape was appointed to the post in 1997, Black came to greatly admire Snape, who was the first Head of the school to have once been in Slytherin since he himself had presided over the castle. Whenever others would insult Snape, Phineas Nigellus would immediately end the conversation, although this disliking of anyone who insulted the subject of his respect did not carry so far as to stop other factors, such as curiosity, from refusing to speak to them indefinitely. Snape himself, however, resented Phineas' tendency towards slurs directed at Muggle-borns, immediately demanding that Phineas never use the term "Mudblood" after Black let the phrase slip in Snape's presence.

Hogwarts studentsEdit

"You know, this is precisely why I loathed being a teacher! Young people are so infernally convinced that they are right about everything."
—Phineas Nigellus[src]

Phineas Nigellus was known to dislike most of the students of Hogwarts, since he was a Headmaster. This was possibly a reason why Sirius Black believed he was the least popular headmaster Hogwarts ever had. He believed that the young people didn't respect the professors enough, something that he told Albus Dumbledore when Harry Potter wanted to learn why it was so important to take Horace Slughorn's memory. Furthermore, when Harry tried to convince Dumbledore that both Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape were loyal Death Eaters, Phineas said that young people believe that they are right about everything. However, Phineas might have had a good relationship with the Slytherin students, whom he described as brave, but not stupid.


  • Phineas was the Biblical grandson of Aaron and was a controversial high priest who murdered two lovers after they had intercourse on the steps of the Tabernacle. Another reason for the murder was that one was Hebrew and the other was not. His example has been used to justify attacks on interracial couples over the centuries. The Hebrew name Phinehas may also be derived from the Egyptian name Pa-Nehasy, which means "Nubian" or "black man." It may also reference the Greek legend of Phineus who was cursed by Zeus to be attacked by harpies who stole his food.
  • Nigellus is Latin, meaning "little black."
  • Taken altogether, his name appears to mean "Black Black Black," or perhaps the forerunner of all that is Black.

Behind the scenesEdit


Notes and referencesEdit

Hogwarts Castle
Gryffindor Tower · Stone Bridge tower · Grand Staircase Tower · Left Viaduct tower · Training Grounds Tower · Central Tower · Hospital tower · Suspension Bridge towers · North Tower · South Tower · Turris Magnus · Turris Medius · Quidditch tower · Ravenclaw Tower · Right Viaduct tower · Second-floor girls' lavatory tower · Defence Against the Dark Arts tower · Upper Hall tower · Dark Tower · Founders' Tower · Headmaster's Tower · Herbology tower · Astronomy Tower · West Tower · Clock Tower · Bell towers · Hufflepuff Duelling Turrets · The Quad battlements · Catwalks · North battlements
Portraits, statues and other artwork located in the towers
Albus Dumbledore · Armando Dippet · Valeria Myriadd · Dexter Fortescue · Dilys Derwent · Oraclitus Spheer · Fat Lady · Sir Cadogan · Slytherin knight · Hufflepuff lady · Heliotrope Wilkins · Severus Snape · Phineas Nigellus Black · Vulpus · Quintin Trimble · Limebert · Ravenclaw lady · Rowena Ravenclaw · Walter Aragon · Quidditch player · Professor · Female etiquette teacher · Gryffindor lady · Gryffindor man · Gryffindor man · Gryffindor man · Gryffindor seeker · Red-haired witch · Young maiden · Vase with flowers · Group of women in crinolines · Sinister-looking monks

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