Let’s be real: over the years, J.K. Rowling has seriously shafted the Slytherins. In Harry Potter, the world may not be divided into good people and Death Eaters, but it pretty much has always been divided into good people and Slytherins.
When I got sorted into Slytherin on Pottermore a few years ago, I basically threw a hissy fit. I know, I know — my reaction alone should have been clue enough that the Sorting Hat knew what it was doing, but still I went into a brief state of depression, insisting that there must have been some kind of mistake. I WAS A NICE PERSON, DAMMIT!
After seven books, we’d learned that Slytherins are the worst of the worst of wizarding kind. Selfish and cruel, J.K. Rowling never bothered to present the dungeon-dwellers with any real redeeming qualities. After all: they were the ones who left in the end, right? When the world was falling apart around them, they chose to get up and leave, instead of staying back to fight.
And yet… if you look at it from a different perspective, their choice to leave the battle was in and of itself, a different, less obvious kind of virtue. First and foremost, Slytherins are survivors. Their cunning insists that they don’t bet against the odds, and their unrelenting loyalty to family means that they certainly don’t bet against themselves. La familia is ride or die, man, so no, it doesn’t matter what kind of grand speech their hippie professor gives them: they are not going to turn around and start killing their parents.
So, besides cunning and loyalty, that single act of leaving the Great Hall also showed bravery.
It’s easy to stay behind and go with the flow, listen to your teachers, follow the crowd. It’s hard to stand up, walk out, and make a choice to break away. When the pressure is on, making a definitive choice like that is difficult. To make that choice is brave — it may not be the best choice, or even the morally correct one, but it is brave.
Since my traumatic Sorting experience, I’ve since made peace with my Slytherin fate. Now, instead of whining about my Pottermore injustice, I’ve learned to embrace my newfound house to the fullest, insisting that Slytherins are more than the sum of their parts. In fact, if I’m perfectly honest, I truly believe that Slytherins do, in their own way, represent the very BEST of what the other three houses have to offer.
Because sure, Ravenclaws are witty, but Slytherins are cunning. They’re each their own kind of brilliant, but the difference is that Slytherins use that brilliance to understand how the world works, and then work it to their advantage. Meanwhile, Hufflepuffs don’t have the monopoly on hard work. Slytherins are determined, and they work hard because their inner drive makes them strive for success. So yes, Ravenclaws may succeed in the end because they’re smart, and Gryffindors because they’re charming, but Slytherins succeed because they put forth the effort. They are, in effect, the ones who deserve it because they work for it.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Slytherins are the yin to the Gryffindor yang; the other side of the more popular Gryffindor coin. The defining qualities of both houses are strikingly similar, and yet the difference lies in their motives and follow-through. A Gryffindor would die for you. A Slytherin would just blackmail everyone involved so neither one of you has to die.
Neither one of these options is wrong or better. We live in a dog eat dog world, and the truth is that we need Slytherins. We need people who are willing to do what it takes to get the job done. We need people who want to lead — people who will stick by you through thick or thin no matter what, even when you’re acting crazy.
Both Gryffindors and Slytherins can be defined by their loyalty, but rather than placing their loyalty in ideals, Slytherins choose to place their loyalty in people. They do crazy, ludicrous, at times unimaginably risky things for the people they love. It’s incredibly selfish to love in such a single-minded way, but it’s also incredibly brave.
Loyalty to human beings rather than ideological concepts is a quality we admire and celebrate in real life, because it’s a quality that we as human beings can relate to. It’s incredibly primal to want to take care of one’s own, and Slytherins operate on the most basic of human instincts — for them, selfishness and ambition are just facets of survival; loyalty and bravery are just a part of love.
I’m proud to be a Slytherin, and I don’t think that we need to continue to be defined by petty playground bullies and power-hungry cat ladies. Ravenclaws get Luna. Hufflepuffs get Cedric, Tonks, and now Newt Scamander. Gryffindors get pretty much everyone else.
We deserve the little green-eyed kid with the terrible name.
As the middle child growing up in his father’s shadow, sorting Albus Severus into Slytherin makes the most sense in terms of both plot and character development for a play that will follow the Harry Potter series. As a Slytherin, Albus Severus would instantly be an outsider in his family of Gryffindors, and it would be dramatically satisfying to watch him learn to navigate his own way in the Wizarding World outside of his father’s legacy.
As a Slytherin, Albus Severus would be confronted with children whose parents were killed and imprisoned by his own family members, and he would be forced to adapt in reaction to differing points of view. We would have the opportunity to watch him come of age as he adjusts to a new perspective — the kind of points of view his own family has never bothered to try and understand. Most importantly, we as an audience would be forced to confront our humanity by adjusting our perspective, and learning to see life through the enemy’s point of view.
Do you think Albus Severus should be in Slytherin?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child hits London’s West End next summer.