This will age me but, when the first book in the Harry Potter series was published, I lived in Scotland and, intrigued by the description, bought a copy of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to read to my firstborn. (The book was later published titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US.)
My children grew up with Harry, Hermione, Ronald, Neville, and Draco. Even my husband jumped aboard the Potterhead bandwagon eagerly reading the books, and insisted on being the first in the family to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. (Usually, he was the last. We are cheap and bought one copy of each book to share.) He even stood in line at midnight for the release.
Of course, I’ve taken the Sorting Hat Quiz—numerous times. As Inigo Montoya said, “Let me explain.” As I took the test for the first time, I was often torn between answers and was so conflicted. I knew that, depending on interpretation and mood, my choices would be different. Was I really in this House? Feelings of ambivalence hectored me.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken that test and many others to discover my true House nor can I tell you if there was one House I was sorted in the most. I can tell you that the most recent, official Pottermore test pegs me a Slytherin.
Regardless of which House one is sorted to, the biggest thrill, I suppose, would be actually getting to attend Hogwarts and study magic. I have, however, always found it fascinating that only one House was deemed evil. I think that all Houses have their good and bad individuals. I believe that their defining, overt passion to succeed at all costs—and I do mean all—marks Slytherins unfairly.
It makes me wonder what secrets the other Houses have. Perhaps, Slytherin House is just more likely to reveal their bad side. Then again—bad is subject to interpretation.
I found Rowling’s treatment of Severus Snape, one of the most prevalent Slytherin in the books, intriguing. He’s a very unpleasant person through most of the series, and yet, the author reveals parts of his past showing the main character’s most beloved godfather and father in an unfavorable light. By the time of his death, Snape is a sympathetic character. When his treatment by popular Gryffindors and his loss of Lily to one of the worst offenders is exposed, one can understand his behavior. Despite the fact that Harry so resembles his father, Snape fights to protect him. Additionally, it is possible he fights to resist caring about Harry, seeing hints of his mother, Snape’s love, in the boy. Considering the behavior of the Marauders, Gryffindors didn’t always behave honorably.
Harry was almost sorted in Slytherin. Now, some may argue that because he contained a Horcrux, this affected the Sorting Hat’s decision, but I choose to agree with the Hat, he would have done well there. I also find it hard to believe that Severus didn’t want to be in the same House as Lily. Did he neglect to tell the Hat his desire?
Another Slytherin, Draco Malfoy, is also revealed to have a softer, vulnerable side. He spends time with Moaning Myrtle sharing his feelings of fear and loneliness and his inadequacies with her.
Like Gryffindors, Ravenclaws also had their not-so-nice moments. Luna had to search for her belongings at the end of school because fellow Ravenclaws would steal and hide them. Gilderoy Lockhart was a vain, cowardly fraud who used Memory Charms to become famous. Quirinus Quirrell did the Dark Lord’s bidding until his death.
The Hufflepuff House contains the fewest badly acting individuals. The worst thing any Hufflepuff did was to blame Harry unfairly for being the second Hogwarts champion in the Triwizard Tournament.
Look at the most infamous Slytherin, Tom Riddle. One could ask if he accurately reflected the spirit of Slytherin House. He hid his true self and deceived all. Slytherin are sly—it’s in the name, but they don’t tend to lie about who they are. They revel in it and admit to the baser traits that most hide. Was Tom always irredeemable? He certainly revealed the antisocial tendencies of a sociopath even as a child and hated and sought to destroy Muggle-born—even though he was one. I would argue that though he is one of the most well-known, Lord Voldemort isn’t the best representative of Slytherin.