Slytherin’s reputation for turning out ‘bad eggs’ dogged the house for centuries. And it didn’t exactly help that the founder of Slytherin was a Muggle-loathing, Chamber of Secrets-creating, Basilisk-owning… well, the list goes on. But Slytherin was just as important and necessary at Hogwarts as Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Here is why Slytherin will always be needed…
Despite the fact that some Slytherins – not naming any names – weren’t exactly chivalrous, there were some members of this house whose bravery could arguably match that of your average Gryffindor. Severus Snape is one of the best examples; a man who played a very long game, bravely suppressing his own feelings and working for both Dumbledore and Voldemort – a truly unique feat.
And there were other examples of Slytherin bravery, such as Regulus Black, who turned his back on Lord Voldemort, and would later even help destroy one of his Horcruxes. Then there’s Professor Slughorn, who returned to join the Battle of Hogwarts despite previous hesitations; a big step up from pretending to be an armchair.
The Sorting Hat frequently sang of Slytherin’s desire to succeed, so it’s no surprise that a family like the Malfoys were incredibly wealthy, probably as a result of their ambitions. But material wealth isn’t everything and, as a house, Slytherin has done quite well for itself.
Before Harry enrolled at Hogwarts, they had a six-year streak of House Cup victories, which, for a house that Harry described as ‘an unpleasant lot’, was a huge accomplishment. Slytherins could be boastful, but without ambition, where would many Hogwarts students be?
Yes, Slytherins could be snide and cruel, as Harry Potter can vouch. But we think being a Slytherin does not necessarily make someone a bad person.
Draco Malfoy was the prime example of this. Very boastful and callous upfront, but as we saw in Half-Blood Prince, really just a young, insecure boy who hid behind bullying before being emotionally destroyed by Lord Voldemort. To us, Draco is proof that Slytherin was not a breeding ground for evil and Dark wizards, but wizards full of flaws and desires just like anyone else.
This goes hand-in-hand with Slytherins being defiant. Most Slytherins were pretty cunning people – the snake emblem is a bit of a giveaway – and so they usually got far in the world. Even people like Dolores Umbridge, a rather nasty piece of work, managed to become both Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic and Headmistress of Hogwarts using very underhand ways. How more people didn’t see her true colours sooner beats us.
On a more positive note, Merlin, perhaps the most famous wizard of all time, was sorted into Slytherin house. His strong advocacy of Muggle rights clashed with the anti-Muggle position Slytherin house commonly takes. So the fame and success of Merlin is yet another feather in Slytherin’s cap.
One of the biggest and most sweeping assumptions anyone can make when it comes to Slytherin house is that everyone in it is unreservedly evil. And that’s pretty unfair for the majority of people who actually get sorted into Slytherin when they’re innocent, wide-eyed 11-year olds.
Take these three Slytherins: Malfoy, Snape and Slughorn. Three wizards not without their flaws. Malfoy appeared mean, Snape appeared cruel and Slughorn appeared elitist – but each one, at some point or another, unveiled a different side of themselves. Draco showed a glimmer of compassion, Snape shockingly revealed his eternal love and Slughorn offered companionship.
Of course, Slytherins like Tom Riddle and Dolores Umbridge didn’t exactly help with the house’s PR.
Salazar’s opinions made him a terror of a man, but his ambition and wisdom did indeed contribute to the creation of Hogwarts in the first place – which is something that should never be forgotten. Although Salazar eventually drifted away from his fellow founders due to his discrimination against Muggle-borns, the Sorting Hat told of the four ‘working in harmony for several happy years’. What happened to those years?