Snape, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
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Does being a Slytherin make me a bad person?

Contributed by
Mar 12, 2019

My entire life was recently thrown into question when the Pottermore quiz revealed that I am Slytherin. For those of you who are not insane Harry Potter fans like me, let me translate this in plain English: I'm evil.

In the Harry Potter books, there are four houses at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Wizards are sorted into each house based on personality, and this information is gleaned from a magical Sorting Hat they wear.

"The Sorting Hat is one of the cleverest enchanted objects most witches and wizards will ever meet," the Pottermore website explains. Thus the sorting hat quiz is double nerve-wracking for a Harry Potter fan: It reveals your truest nature, and it's got the stamp of approval from your favorite author, J.K. Rowling, albeit with internet quiz levels of authority.

Being drafted onto the same team as every bad wizard in the Harry Potter universe threw me into an existential tailspin. Imagine living your life for 35 years, believing that you're a nice person, the kind who helps people move (even if you have weak wrists and can only really unpacks the dishes). Imagine being that person, and then finding out you're a total asshole.

Devastated, I googled "Pottermore sorting hat crisis." I revisited my answers to the quiz. Sure, I answered "black" and "vampires" on every question, but having dark proclivities shouldn't make one bad. I'm the twee kind of goth, like Edward Scissorhands. It is true that I'm fond of true crime shows in which they dissect gruesome murders, like the podcast My Favorite Murder, and yes, I recently stayed at a haunted hotel on purpose. And OK, so my Instagram feed is 90 percent witches. But still.

I might as well give up. I shouldn't even show up to move, I should just rob banks and serve the Dark Lord. Why have I been wasting my time even trying to be good? In a time when American politics are jam-packed with Voldemort-y people, being put on the evil team smarts. This would've been easier to swallow in a time when evil was cool, like right after The Lost Boys came out.

Pottermore House Existential Crisis is a real thing. Just ask the blogs and forums that are bursting with house-sorting melt-downs: Slytherins who've previously pledged themselves to the dark side, only to be sorted into that wussy Hufflepuff. People wishing they were with the popular kids of Gryffindor.

Pottermore has an entire patronizing blog on why Slytherins are actually quite okayish. Much like my parseltongue cohorts, the arguments are half-hearted:

"Having cunning is actually very useful."

If you have to use "actually" in a compliment, it's not really a compliment at all.

"Because Slytherins can be brave, too."

Look at Snape: He was brave enough to be secretly working for Voldemort while betraying the noblest wizard in the magical Universe for years upon years.

"Slytherin teaches students that people are complex."

Thanks for letting us be a lesson that wizardkind has a spectrum that skews all the way to the dumpster fire end. And using Draco Malfoy as an example! Malfoy proves that not all Slytherins are bad people; some are just callous and boastful up front, but turn out to be insecure and ripe for emotional annihilation from the Dark Lord. Just relax about it.

Sure, there's Merlin and Regulus Black, two Slytherins who weren't 100 percent Diagon Alley garbage. Everyone thought Regulus was a Death Eater, but then he stood up to Voldemort. Still, if there is ever praise for Slytherins, it's always with an asterisk. Regulus is in the "Unsung Heroes" section of Pottermore, not the "Sung Heroes." And I'm convinced Merlin only exists in the Potter world so there can be one example of a good Slytherin.

Naturally, I turned to getting drunk and Googling Slytherin celebrities. While the real results of Slytherin celebrities leave much to be desired — Ariana Grande and Lin Manuel-Miranda are cool for normal people, but feel a bit lacking next to Voldemort — this imaginary list of serpent-loving celebrities made my black heart sing (Bill Murray, Johnny Depp, The Giving Tree, and Pizza Rat?!).

Pizza Rat was the turning point for me. Pizza Rat is so ambitious as to be grandiose, so beyond his means that he becomes lovable. After all, isn't that what America is?

If I lived in a magical world where literally anything was possible, I might be tempted to try a touch of the dark stuff. After all, I've tried weed... and I even inhaled. There's a reason I prefer the radical ends of the spectrum of experience, the true crime and the goth metal.

People like me feel most comfortable when the world feels big and scary. That's because it is, and anything else is a lie. I realize that's the gothiest thing I've said all day, but you know it's true. Quidditch is a fine distraction, but we all know we're headed for that wizarding school in the sky, and some of us are trying to make sense of that.

Light shines the brightest in the darkness. Or as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "When it is dark enough, you can see the stars." Or as Dio once famously said, "You're a rainbow in the dark." Yes, my references are 50 percent low art. What would you expect from a Slytherin?

When a nurse hands me a drink in the middle of the night at the hospital where I've been with my son, I can actually feel the warmth radiating from her like I'm sitting by a fire. That's real life to me. During small talk, I'm often aware that more important things are present, sitting there like a gothed-out elephant with sweepy bangs. "Is no one going to address the goth elephant in the room?" I whisper meekly. "No? Okay. Come on, Edward."

Maybe we Slytherins are hard to stomach because we rehash true crime shows with our husbands. This is not because we're actively studying to be serial killers, or at least sociopathically comfortable with the gruesome details of murder. It's because we're trying to use our cunning to outsmart the serial killers. I know, it's just like Pizza Rat — it's never going to happen! But don't you love us for trying?

I was hurtling down the highway with the glittering city of Denver unfolding before me, apocalyptic shoegaze booming from the stereo. As I thought to myself, "I like the feeling of doom all around me," a fuzzy black shudder coursed pleasantly through my chest. Maybe I am a little bit evil, I thought, but in a fun way. At that moment, I decided to embrace my inner Slytherin, and I made this playlist. It's my time to shine, or rather, suck all the light from the heavens until the Earth burns black.

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