The Other Side of Slytherin

Slytherin is a founding Hogwarts house whose students are known for many things: their cunning, their ambition, and their prejudice. Salazar Slytherin, the founder of the house, was in particular known for his hatred of non-magical people or “muggles”. When Hogwarts was first formed he proposed to the other pure-blood founders that muggle-born students shouldn’t be allowed entry into the school, and when the other founders voted against his policy he left. Throughout the course of history Slytherins were known more by their negative traits and the infamous dark wizards who found their home in Slytherin like Dolores Umbridge, Tom Riddle (Voldemort), Bellatrix Lestrange, and various other Death Eaters. While it’s true that Slytherin has more dark wizards than any other house it is unfair not to recognize the bravery and loyalty of the more noble house members that are often overshadowed.

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In Slytherin there is true bravery Of a kind unseen in the other houses. Severus Snape, for all his flaws and shortcomings, accomplished one of the most impressive feats: lying to the Dark Lord himself for decades. Snape managed to play the role of double-agent so perfectly that even those in the Order of the Phoenix thought he was a true dark wizard loyal to Voldemort. Even after his death Voldemort didn’t realize that Snape played a crucial role in his downfall and the finding of the horcruxes. While his bravery isn’t recognized in his lifetime, Harry comes to refer to Snape as “the bravest man I’ve ever known” and eventually names his son after him.

Narcissa Malfoy’s bravery came from a place of desperation. She had witnessed firsthand what Voldemort was capable of, but throughout the series one thing was made abundantly clear about her: nothing mattered more to her than her son Draco. During the Battle of Hogwarts, she was tasked with making sure Harry Potter was dead after Voldemort used the killing curse on him. Instead of telling Voldemort the truth she used the opportunity to ask Harry if Draco was still alive. After confirming her son was still out there she lied to Voldemort, an action that potentially changed the course of the battle.

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Andromeda Tonks of one of the most prestigious Slytherin families, House Black, was brave in her love. She grew up a Slytherin, maintained the prejudiced beliefs of her family for a time, but eventually fell in love with a muggle-born, or “mudblood”, as her family would call them. Although it is not expounded on in the books, Andromeda had to have faced great opposition and even threats from her family and peers over this relationship. She was outcast after marrying Ted Tonks and was henceforth known as a “blood traitor”. Still, she decided love was more important and forsook her family’s blind hatred. It is said that once she married Ted she never saw her sisters again; their hatred for her only grew when her daughter Tonks married Remus Lupin, a wizard with lycanthropy. Andromeda continued to side with love and family and became a known ally of the Order of the Phoenix.

Slytherins show the strongest loyalty. Regardless of their intentions, they have an “all or nothing” attitude. The Death Eaters remained loyal to Voldemort for decades, even after his surprising defeat during the First Wizarding War. Even after years of silence from their Dark Lord they waited for his return and continued his crusade – most from the cells of the infamous Azkaban. Severus Snape, while not remaining truly loyal to Voldemort or Dumbledore, showed the greatest loyalty to Lily Potter. Lily was always a driving force in Snape’s life. It’s only after their falling out and the harassment Snape faced from the Marauders that Snape was driven to eventually become a Death Eater. Years later, when Lily’s death came by the hand of Voldemort, Snape switched sides and became a spy for Dumbledore. Even though he held a deep hatred for James Potter that transferred to Harry due to their strong resemblance, Snape always worked behind the scenes to protect the boy. Although Snape and Harry did not get along he cared for the boy deeply, even if he himself did not see it. When it was revealed Harry would have to die for Voldemort to be defeated he got angry with Dumbledore for using Harry as a pawn. This behavior shocked Dumbledore because not even he knew how deep Snape’s devotion to Lily ran, not until Snape revealed that his Patronus had taken the form of Lily’s Patronus, a doe. In Snape’s last living moment, he revealed his love for Lily to Harry and told him, “You have your mother’s eyes.”

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While Slytherins do have an infamous track record we should not ignore the more heroic moments of the house. There is more to their house than just hatred. Just like how we should not judge Gryffindor solely on Peter Pettingrew’s betrayal of the Order of the Phoenix, we cannot judge the whole house solely on Voldemort and his dark wizards. Slytherins are always dismissed even in-story and the first to be blamed for any evil. During the Battle of Hogwarts, the Slytherin students are cast off and aren’t given much of a chance to make the right choice. JK Rowling didn’t give enough credit to the good traits they have. It’s not until Harry’s son Albus becomes a Slytherin that we start to really see the house for what it truly can be. It is because of the love of a mother, a prestigious Slytherin, that Harry was able to “fake” his death in the final battle. It is because of a brave and loyal man that the Order was ahead of Voldemort’s plans from the very beginning. Snape even delivered a horcrux to Harry under the guise of his Patronus.

In the future films and books I hope Slytherin, along with the other overlooked houses of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, are more deeply explored in the way Gryffindor is. The greatest wizard to ever live was a Slytherin – Merlin. He altered history over various universes and he found his home among the cunning and the ambitious. There is more to the great house than their hate.

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