As the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour vows to finally do right by Hogwarts’ most maligned house, Stylist’s Kayleigh Dray takes a closer look at what it really means to be a Slytherin.
Confession time: I’m a Hufflepuff, through and through. I’ve done the official test on Pottermore, and I’m not here to dispute the fact that I belong in any other Hogwarts house. I wear my yellow stripes with pride. But, when I starred in – or, fine, fleetingly appeared in the background of – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I was sorted into Slytherin.
During my time as an extra, I sat next to Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) in the Great Hall. I wore a badge of silver-and-green with a serpent twisting across it. And I waved my emerald scarf as I cheered my house on during those first nail-biting Quidditch matches.
And you know what? I really leaned into those Slytherin vibes.
We all know that Slytherin gets a bad rep. And we all know why, too: it begins with ‘V’, it has very little nose to speak of, and it has an unfortunate penchant for pureblood rhetoric.That’s right: Voldemort is probably the most famous student to come out of Slytherin, being the heir and all that, and he’s a notoriously Dark Wizard (caps fully intended).
And, of course, Voldemort isn’t the only bad egg in the Slytherin basket. To quote Hagrid, “There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.”
Now, I love Hagrid as much as the next Potter fan, but I just can’t get on board with this theory. I’m a Hufflepuff, remember, and so am prone to looking for the good in people. So, with that in mind, let’s first consider the bad wizards who weren’t in Slytherin.
There’s Peter Pettigrew, the traitorous Gryffindor who brought death and destruction to James and Lily Potter’s door. Quinius Quirrell (you may remember him from such moments as “is that Voldemort living in the back of your head?”) was a Ravenclaw. Gilderoy Lockhart, also Ravenclaw, wasn’t exactly a nice guy – the only spell he ever mastered was Obliviate. Cornelius Fudge was deemed by many to be a Hufflepuff of the bad sort. And JK Rowling herself has said that there are probably more than a few Death Eater families scattered throughout the rest of the houses.
“You will have people connected with Death Eaters in the other houses, absolutely,” she said.
Echoing this sentiment is Slytherin Prefect Gemma Farley (who loyal fans will know was created especially for the Pottermore website).
“I’m not denying that we’ve produced our share of Dark wizards, but so have the other three houses – they just don’t like admitting it,” she says. “And yes, we have traditionally tended to take students who come from long lines of witches and wizards, but nowadays you’ll find plenty of people in Slytherin house who have at least one Muggle parent.”
Secondly, just because nearly all bad wizards are Slytherins doesn’t mean all Slytherins are bad wizards. Severus Snape, Horace Slughorn, Andromeda Tonks, Narcissa Malfoy and Regulus Black were all Slytherin heroes in their own way, if you think about it. And Merlin – as in, yes, King Arthur’s advisor and the most famous wizard in history – was a Slytherin. In fact, the Order of Merlin’s medal has a green ribbon on it to symbolise his Hogwarts house.
“We’re not bad people,” insists Farley. “We’re like our emblem, the snake: sleek, powerful, and frequently misunderstood.”
Plenty of my friends and colleagues have been sorted into Slytherin on the Pottermore site. Almost all of them were devastated – or, at the very least – pretended to be. And almost all of them (ha) are good people. They weren’t filtered into Hogwarts’ much-maligned house because they’re evil, narcissistic, or discriminatory. In fact, it’s all down to their extraordinarily good traits – traits which, I hasten to add, many of us non-Slytherins ought to be highlighting on our CVs:
Slytherins are also extremely achievement-orientated, making them brilliant students. They set clear goals, and work hard to attain them. They’re good at networking (see Slughorn’s little dinner parties, if you don’t believe me). They’re charismatic. They have unshakable self-confidence. They know when to talk and when to listen. And their highly developed senses of self-preservation means they prefer to weigh all possible outcomes before deciding exactly what should be done – or, to put it in business-speak, they think strategically.
Perhaps this is why – in the words of Albus Dumbledore – Slytherins tend to have “a certain disregard for the rules”. After all, you can’t change the world if you’re too afraid to take risks.
As previously reported by Stylist, we won’t get ahead unless we sit our bosses down to set and discuss our professional career goals. To be honest about where we’d like to be in a year’s time. To document our success – and shout about it, too. To quantify our value and show the impact we’ve had on our company. To display passion, decisiveness and confidence in our decisions. To take charge without fear.
With all of this in mind, is it any wonder that the Sorting Hat believed Harry should wear green and silver, rather than red and gold?
“Not Slytherin, eh?” it whispered in Harry’s ear, as our eponymous hero begged the Hat to reconsider. “Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and ‘Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that’ no? Well, if you’re sure…better be… GRYFFINDOR!”
Later, in The Chamber of Secrets, Harry placed the Sorting Hat back over his ears when he found it in Dumbledore’s office. “You were particularly difficult to place,” the Hat reminds him. “But I stand by what I said last year: You would have done well in Slytherin.”
The Hat wasn’t wrong: Harry probably would have done well in Slytherin. After all, we are the captain of our own fates. And, while the labels and opportunities we are afforded may help to chart a course, it’s all on us to steer our ships home.
It’s a sentiment which is explored in the final book, when Harry’s son turns to his father and whispers his worst fear: that he will be sorted into Slytherin.
“‘Albus Severus,’ Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny could hear, and she was tactful enough to pretend to be waving to Rose, who was now on the train, ‘you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.’”
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