I’ve been slowly working my way through Pottermore, the Harry Potter companion site that features previously-unreleased thoughts and information from JK Rowling and allows members to proceed through the books performing various tasks. In the first book you get your wand and are sorted into a House.
Today I got my wand–PEAR WITH UNICORN CORE, TEN AND THREE QUARTER INCHES, SURPRISINGLY SWISHY–by taking what seemed to be a very short personality test. The length, being more on the shorter side, implies a less boisterous personality. A unicorn hair core is the most difficult to turn to the Dark Arts and produces the most consistent magic. Wands made of pear wood work best for “the warm-hearted, the generous and the wise” and are very resilient. Their possessors are usually well respected. So all of that seems fine to me (and yes, I realize that none of this is actually real).
A little later I took a somewhat longer personality test. I thought very carefully about my answers, not in terms of what House I wanted (because I wasn’t really sure), but because I wanted it to be “accurate” (whatever that means). And lo and behold, I was Sorted into Slytherin.
I immediately took to Twitter to ponder how and why this might have happened, and then to wonder why I was upset about it. It’s actually bothering me a lot more than I would have expected.
In the books, I can’t remember hearing of a Slytherin character I liked. The ones who did work for Good were usually blackmailed into it–c.f. Snape and Slughorn. (I liked Snape until I discovered he was only good out of guilt–or perhaps selfish, obsessive sadness–over Lily’s death. And even then he still had to be constantly guilt-tripped by Dumbledore. Slughorn, meanwhile, is nothing but a self-serving parasite.) As the books proceeded and the greater wizarding world came into focus, it would have been nice to see more subtlety among the Houses–witches and wizards from Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff who went Dark or from Slytherin who kept to the Light. Of the latter, I can think only of Draco Malfoy’s redemption, but he was always a nasty character and his “redemption” came because he was terrified of the position Voldemort put him in. You could definitely argue that he was a victim of circumstance, beginning with his upbringing. But even so, he’s a singular example. In general, Slytherin might as well equal Death Eater.
The Slytherin welcome page tried to console me by letting me know that Merlin was a Slytherin, that Slytherins are loyal to one another (which may well be true, as I can’t think of an instance of a Slytherin betraying another Slytherin off the top of my head), that there are Muggle-born Slytherins (really?). But I am not finding any of that particularly comforting.
Perhaps someday if there was a series of books written from the perspective of a Slytherin character, I might change my mind, but for now just I feel like the Sorting Hat (which, again, I realize is not real) thinks I’m self-serving.