I never really loved the colour blue. For me, growing up, blue was associated with all the things that I felt I was not: masculine, sporty, Thomas the Tank Engine. In fact, it was purple, that majestic and mysterious colour, that I was drawn to. I loved how it stood somewhere between the binaries of pink and blue and everything those two colours have come to represent in modern society.
When I was sorted into a Hogwarts house, I was convinced I would be in Hufflepuff. At school I had never really excelled in anything beyond English, and I felt it inevitable that when it came to the theories and practicalities of subjects like Potions and Transfiguration, I would be left floundering. Like Seamus Finnigan or Neville Longbottom, I felt the practicalities of those subjects would escape me. Neither did I have the brawn needed for Defence Against the Dark Arts. Instead, I believed something like Muggle Studies or even History of Magic would be my forté. I might, perhaps, be competent at Charms.
Life, however, is unpredictable, and it seems that the Sorting Hat had other plans for me. I was placed in Ravenclaw. Blue. I felt a searing sense of disappointment, the kind you get when you’re a kid and instead of getting that toy you’ve been obsessing over for months, you receive juggling balls – or, as my mother was wont to do, deodorant. You smile and say how wonderful it is, while internally you wonder whether the people giving you the gift really know you at all. It’s spoilt perhaps, but that feeling can leave you isolated and alone. That’s what I felt when I was sorted into Ravenclaw.
Traditionally, Ravenclaw has been overshadowed by the titans that are Gryffindor and Slytherin. The former seems to embody the traits that most people strive for: intelligence, wit, bravery and kindness, even if, when combined, they can graze arrogance. The latter, despite its predilection towards darkness, also feels emblematic of greatness, even if it is so often wrought with terror. Even Hufflepuffs, despite their foppishness, seem to have heart. Ravenclaw house, to me at least, always felt so utilitarian. Intelligence is important, yes, but in my mind, there were blinders on, preventing those who enter its hallowed halls from seeing beyond their own intellect.
While we all love Dumbledore, I’m not sure that I could live with a brain that complicated. Likewise, Hermione’s smarts intimidate me a little (honestly, who can read that many books in such a short space of time and also do homework while simultaneously helping to overthrow Voldemort? Jeez). However, what I didn’t realise was that I had misunderstood entirely what it meant to be wise and intelligent.
I think Luna Lovegood is a good example of this. Loony Lovegood, they called her, but in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix she provides more than just a funny aside. Her creativity has opened her up to the kind of wisdom that Hermione lacks. Take, for example, when she speaks candidly to Harry about grief and loss. Her comments about life after death of course come from the loss of her mother, but also a belief in something intangible and ethereal. Even Gilderoy Lockhart, bless his cottons, utilised his (overactive) imagination to carve out a space for himself. Yes, he was a charlatan, but he was a mighty imaginative one. What both these characters have in common, however, is that they’re anything but utilitarian or boring. The opposite, in fact.
Growing up as a gay person, I think I always felt like I had to somehow fit into some mould. I put restraints on myself out of shame about who I was. I dampened who I wanted to be because I was fearful of retribution and bullying. In essence, I became lesser, chipping away at the person I wanted to be.
My life is no longer like that. It’s filled with colour and variety and excitement. But when I was placed in Ravenclaw house, I believed, for a moment, that vibrant person I thought I’d become was overcast with the restrictions of the blue coat of arms. But I’ve realised that while being a Ravenclaw doesn’t necessarily come with the glory or gravitas of the other Hogwarts houses, it does offer up something that the other three cannot: a space to incubate and celebrate your uniqueness.
As a writer, being creative is something I feel personifies who I am. I create worlds and stories through words. When I play music, too, I feel like I’m partaking in some kind of ancient magic far more powerful than we truly know. Both of these things require intelligence. After all, isn’t that what being creative is? Being intellectual?
I question, however, whether I’m wise. Luna’s wisdom came from her beliefs. I’m not sure I’m that open. I also don’t feel I have the life experience of someone like Dumbledore or even Mrs Weasley to provide wisdom. Yet, sometimes I do feel wise. I feel wise because I’ve taken the experiences of my past, the pain and repression, and applied that to how I live now, without restrictions and with the realisation that who I am is someone worth being.
I’ve also realised that the person who muddled their way through school and university is actually someone who works diligently and relentlessly, especially when that work is something I love. Hours may pass, but when I’m writing it doesn’t matter; it feels like the first time Harry held his wand, brimming with possibilities. I’m also – dare I say it – competitive, too.
The biggest change of all? As I sit here writing this, I’m wearing blue. Being a Ravenclaw, however much I felt like it didn’t represent me, now fits like a glove. Also, blue is actually quite a nice colour.