A Note on Slytherins


You learn a great deal about the other houses if you are NOT sorted into Gryffindor in Pottermore, and in fact, if you are sorted into Gryffindor, you are simply greeted by Percy Weasley and instructed to follow the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Because much of series seems to pit Gryffindors against Slytherins, and also because of Harry’s close shave with the Sorting Hat, we learn more about Slytherin than any other house aside from Gryffindor, and we also know more Slytherin students than we do students of any other house.

My husband was sorted into Slytherin on Pottermore. If we had all actually been Hogwarts students, we would have been an interesting family because we all would have been in different houses. It seems in the series that for the most part, families wind up sorted into the same house—witness the Weasleys and Malfoys. However, if anyone could reasonably be expected to be sorted into the same house, it would be twins, and we know Parvati and Padma Patil are sorted into different houses.

If you are sorted into Slytherin, you are greeted by prefect Gemma Farley. Interestingly enough, of the prefects on Pottermore, Gemma is the only girl who greets first years. We don’t know who her male counterpart is, and we don’t meet Gemma herself in the series. In fact, the only Slytherin prefects the trio ever mentions are Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson, who become prefects in Harry’s fifth year. We do learn in Snape’s memory that Lucius Malfoy was prefect when Snape was sorted into Slytherin, and we also know that Tom Riddle was not just prefect but also Head Boy. How much do you want to bet that Snape was probably a prefect, too? He was a good student: studious and intelligent.

Gemma Farley describes the Slytherin common room windows as being underwater, with a view of the lake. She notes that sometimes you can even see the giant squid swim by. The room, she says, has “the aura of a mysterious, underwater shipwreck.” She says that their ancient four-poster beds are shrouded in green hangings and the coverlets are woven with silver thread. The walls are covered with tapestries and portraits of famous Slytherins. The Head of House when Harry starts is, of course, Severus Snape. Oddly enough, Gemma doesn’t mention him at all. The other prefects all mention their head of house. Well, I can’t remember for certain if Percy Weasley does. I will have to check. After Snape becomes headmaster, Horace Slughorn is once again Head of Slytherin, as he had been before Snape’s arrival at Hogwarts. The house ghost is the Bloody Baron, actually the only scary ghost at Hogwarts, who sports silver bloodstains acquired when he murdered Helena Ravenclaw in a rage.

While Slytherin has turned out more dark wizards than any other house, which has given the house something of a notorious reputation, Gemma counters that the other houses have produced their share of dark wizards, too. She also mentions the anti-Muggle bias, and she acknowledges that it is somewhat true that Slytherins tend to come from pureblood families, but that it is not unusual to find Slytherins with one Muggle parent. While Gemma doesn’t come right out and say so, I think it’s safe to infer that Slytherin house has few Muggle-born students. Obviously, it has had half-blood students (Severus Snape and Tom Riddle being two examples). This raises an interesting question. What does the Sorting Hat do when a Muggle-born student with otherwise Slytherin traits comes to school? Surely, it has happened. Perhaps the student’s secondary characteristics are considered instead. Or, perhaps these students are sorted into Slytherin after all. Purebloods, as we have seen, are not automatically sorted into Slytherin, so perhaps blood status is not as important as other traits.

Gemma also shares that Merlin, the most famous wizard of all-time, was a Slytherin. Leaving aside the fact that Merlin, if he ever lived, likely lived before the founding of Hogwarts, it makes perfect sense that he was a Slytherin. He engineered Arthur’s birth for his own purposes, even though they were, depending on your point of view, noble. He also took Arthur away from his mother and had him fostered with Sir Ector. He has some wily, Slytherin traits, indeed.

Slytherins see themselves as cool and edgy and believe their house is superior to the other houses at Hogwarts. Gemma says that Slytherins have a sort of pack mentality, though she doesn’t use those words. If you are sorted into Slytherin, you can count on the loyalty of the other Slytherins. She indicates Ravenclaws often stab each other in the back as they clamber to earn the highest grades. Besides, she says, the Slytherin reputation can be valuable in that other students will think twice before messing with you. She also mentions that Slytherins are competitive because they care about the honor and traditions of their house.

Gemma claims that what Salazar Slytherin sought in his students was the seeds of greatness. Of course, we know as readers he also prized pureblood status (as he didn’t trust Muggles) and, as Dumbledore once put it, “a certain disregard for the rules.” While it might not always be apparent that Slytherins have the seeds of greatness *coughCrabbeandGoylecough*, Gemma says that if students were sorted into Slytherin, then they have potential. I think this is an interesting point because the Sorting Hat tells Harry: “You could be great, you know, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that.”

As the series unfolds, we learn that Slytherins are more complex than they appear to be at the outset. Their character traits, cunning, resourcefulness, and ambition, are not negative traits except when taken to excess. We also see several Slytherins act nobly. Severus Snape might be the most notable example, but certainly, others do their part for good. Horace Slughorn fights against Voldemort’s forces at the Battle of Hogwarts. Andromeda Black Tonks marries a Muggle-born wizard, Ted Tonks, and helps hide Harry from Voldemort.

In fact, Gemma grudgingly admits that perhaps Gryffindors and Slytherins, while old rivals, might have more in common than they’d like to admit. I would imagine that is one reason why we learn more about Slytherins than we do Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs when we read the series.

Finally, Gemma mentions that no outsider has entered the Slytherin common room in 700 years, which we know is untrue, but it raises an interesting question: who entered the common room 700 years ago and what happened to them?

All of the houses have virtues, but each has its vices as well, and in no other house is this mesh of virtue and vice more complicated than in Slytherin.

The following characters are known Slytherins:

  • Draco Malfoy
  • Vincent Crabbe
  • Gregory Goyle
  • Pansy Parkinson
  • Millicent Bulstrode
  • Marcus Flint
  • Adrian Pucey
  • Montague
  • Terence Higgs
  • Theodore Nott
  • Blaise Zabini
  • Daphne Greengrass (older sister of Draco Malfoy’s wife, Astoria Greengrass)
  • Tom Marvolo Riddle
  • Severus Snape
  • Avery
  • Mulciber
  • Evan Rosier
  • Lucius Malfoy
  • Narcissa Black Malfoy
  • Bellatrix Black Lestrange
  • Rodolphus Lestrange
  • Rabastan Lestrange
  • Regulus Black
  • The entire Black family except for Sirius
  • Horace Slughorn
  • Scabior
  • Dolores Umbridge (J. K. Rowling confirmed this after the fact, but really, was there any doubt?)

Characters I strongly suspect were Slytherins, but whose house has never been confirmed:

  • Rita Skeeter (I mean, come on.)
  • Ludo Bagman (He has the self-preservation of a Slytherin.)
  • Cornelius Fudge (Preserving his role as Minister and the appearance that he was competent at the expense of nearly everyone? Yeah.)
  • Albert Runcorn (He seems to be trusted by the Death Eaters at any rate, and loathed by Arthur Weasley. Seems fair enough.)
  • Rufus Scrimgeour (He is brave, no doubt, but he also throws out justice at the expense of wanting to be thought of as doing something about the Voldemort problem. Cf. Stan Shunpike.)
  • Amycus Carrow (Death Eater. Teaches Dark Arts to students.)
  • Alecto Carrow (Death Eater. Teaches pureblood mania, Muggle hatred in Muggle Studies.)
  • Yaxley (Death Eater.)
  • Caractacus Burke (Owns a Dark Arts shop in Knockturn Alley with Borgin.)
  • Borgin (Owns a Dark Arts shop in Knockturn Alley with Burke.)
  • Thorfinn Rowle (Death Eater.)
  • Walden Macnair (Death Eater.)
  • Jugson (Death Eater.)
  • Travers (Death Eater.)
  • Wilkes (Friend of Snape’s and Death Eater.)
  • Selwyn (Death Eater.)
  • Gibbon (Death Eater, accidentally killed by Rowle.)

Characters I DON”T think were Slytherin, despite later being somewhat Slytherin-y:

  • Barty Crouch, Sr. (He didn’t seem to lord his pureblood status enough for a Slytherin pureblood. I suspect Ravenclaw.)
  • Barty Crouch, Jr. (I think he was also a Ravenclaw. He got 12 O.W.L.s)
  • Gwenog Jones, Quidditch Player for the Holyhead Harpies and Slug Club member (Despite being in the Slug Club, my hunch is Gryffindor. Quite a few Gryffindors were in the Slug Club.)
  • Olive Hornby, who teased Moaning Myrtle about her glasses (Teasing is mean, but all the students engage in that sort of thing.)
  • Gilderoy Lockhart. (He is apparently a Ravenclaw. I don’t get it either. Of course, that is movie canon, but I wonder if, in this instance, Rowling didn’t give it her approval.)
  • Stan Shunpike (He was Imperiused and used by Death Eaters, but he never showed any Slytherin traits himself. More likely Hufflepuff, but I don’t think he made it to N.E.W.T. level at Hogwarts. One suspects he didn’t pass many of his O.W.L.’s.)
  • Pius Thicknesse (Though the puppet Minister of Magic under Voldemort’s control, Yaxley does say it took a lot of effort to Imperius him, so my guess is he doesn’t sympathize much with their world view when not under a curse.)
  • Igor Karkaroff (Not from Britain, likely went to Durmstrang.)
  • Antonin Dolohov (I suspect he also went to Durmstrang.)
  • Fenrir Greyback (I don’t think he was allowed to attend Hogwarts. Of course, I guess that depends on when he became a werewolf; much was made of the exception that Dumbledore allowed for Lupin to attend.)
  • Marvolo, Morfin, and Merope Gaunt (I think I remember that they never went to Hogwarts.)