The Sorting of Neville Longbottom

The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account, but it doesn’t always give you what you want. Harry was able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin, but Neville was put in Gryffindor despite his preference for Hufflepuff.

In Neville’s case, the Hat was determined to place him in Gryffindor: Neville, intimidated by that house’s reputation for bravery, requested a placing in Hufflepuff. Their silent wrangling resulted in triumph for the Hat. – Pottermore

It’s easy to imagine Neville as a Hufflepuff. Even aside from the fact that Helga Hufflepuff took all the students the other founders rejected, and would have accepted him regardless, he’s a pretty good embodiment of Hufflepuff traits. He is down-to-earth, humble, and generous. He’s hard-working and always seems to try his best despite not doing very well in his classes. He certainly values fairness and justice, and he’s less-inclined to break the rules than some of his Gryffindor peers. Meanwhile, he spends the first six books as a timid, awkward, easily-overlooked kid who seems utterly out-of-place in Gryffindor. While he does show some signs of bravery, such as standing up to the trio in Sorcerer’s Stone and joining Dumbledore’s Army in Order of the Phoenix, it’s hard to say at that point that Neville is defined by his bravery. It’s not until Deathly Hallows, a full seven years after the sorting ceremony, that his true heroism begins to show.

So why, then, did the hat refuse to put him in Hufflepuff when it’s honored similar requests before? His preference was different from Harry’s in one very important way. While Harry asked not to be a Slytherin because he knew of their reputation for dark magic and evil, Neville was just intimidated by Gryffindor, not repulsed by it. He didn’t think he was good enough for Gryffindor and thought he would have to settle for Hufflepuff in order to avoid embarrassing himself. Putting Harry in Slytherin would have meant dismissing his values and denying him a choice. Putting Neville in Gryffindor, on the other hand, was a vote of confidence.

In many cases where a character doesn’t quite live up to what their house is supposed to stand for, I think we can assume the hat was trying to give them a chance for growth. For instance, Peter Pettigrew is a cowardly Gryffindor, but he was almost certainly placed there because the hat saw his admiration of his more heroic friends and hoped he could become more like them. Gilderoy Lockhart is an incompetent Ravenclaw, but his skill as a writer indicates intelligence and creativity that could have been put to better use. On a more positive note, Hermione grows from a stuck-up know-it-all to a courageous young woman as a result of her time in Gryffindor. It’s as if the sorting hat can see not just a person’s potential but where they’ll have the best chance of reaching their full potential as well.

Neville didn’t truly want to be a Hufflepuff or value Hufflepuff work ethic and fairness over Gryffindor bravery. He simply wasn’t ready yet to accept his own potential, and as a Hufflepuff, might never have embraced it. Being placed there would only have confirmed his fears of inadequacy, while being sorted into Gryffindor gave him a chance to grow in confidence and courage.

Or, in other words, the Sorting Hat takes your choice into account if you want it for the right reasons. It takes your choice into account if your value system doesn’t match up to a house you’re suited for, if you have a deep personal reason for what you want, or if your choice will give you a chance to grow into a better person. It doesn’t take your choice into account if your choice would limit you. Neville did value bravery and heroism and was simply afraid he’d never be capable of them, so by putting him in Gryffindor, the hat made sure that he would.


More Thoughts on Daphne Greengrass

A few minutes ago, I posted a poem from Daphne Greengrass’s point of view. Since she’s really kind of a blank slate of a character, I thought it was worth explaining a bit of my thought process.

Sometimes I like to imagine what a “good Slytherin” from Harry’s generation might have looked like. Not a Draco Malfoy type who turns out to be less evil than he’d like to be, but more of a Professor Slughorn: someone consciously choosing to “live within the light” despite their housemates’ decision to do the opposite. The problem is that all Harry’s Slytherin classmates are so unpleasant, and unlike the adult characters, they all seem to be unquestioningly pro-Voldemort. So when my mind drifts down that route, I have only a few very minor characters to choose from. My ideas usually center around Daphne and Astoria Greengrass.

The two sisters make only one appearance each in the actual Harry Potter books, but Astoria has a major off-screen role in Cursed Child as Scorpius Malfoy’s deceased mother, and is given most of the credit for what a decent person he’s grown up to be. Daphne is there in the background throughout the series as a member of Pansy Parkinson’s giggling gang of Slytherin girls. Neither of them plays any role in the conflict between Harry and Voldemort, so it’s hard to say what they would have thought or who they would have supported. At the very least, they weren’t actively working for Voldemort, and it’s not too much of a stretch to think they might have privately disagreed with their fellow Slytherins who were.

But, then again, what kind of conflict would that have led to with friends and classmates, relatives, future in-laws, etc. who were all either Death Eaters or at least in support of Voldemort? How could you be a decent, “live within the light” sort of person and be able to tolerate being constantly surrounded by evil? Hence, the poem I wrote.

You can read it here:

Hate: a Poem about Daphne Greengrass

Read my thought process here:

Some people hate the Death Eaters
I don’t have that luxury
In this dimly-lit world of silver and green
My home for seven years
There are too many people
Who forgot somewhere along the way
About cunning and ambition
And let themselves become pawns
Easily sacrificed
That should not be the Slytherin way

Some people hate the Death Eaters
I don’t have that luxury
When my best friend whispers in my ear
That her life’s ambition
Is to serve a man I hate
And my little sister
Sighs and doodles hearts on her parchment
Yearning for a boy already lost
To the darkness

Some people hate the Death Eaters
I don’t have that luxury
They come over in the summer to have tea with my parents
And praise my high marks in school
And whisper offers to bring me into
Their inner circle
But I shake my head
I cannot hate these pawns of the Dark Lord
If I did, I would hate nearly everyone I know
And become a bitter shell of hatred
No better than them
I can hate what they stand for

Some people hate the Death Eaters
I don’t have that luxury
Even many years later
When I have left the dimly-lit common room behind
And the war has faded to memory
A fake coin that belonged to my husband rusting in a box on the dresser
Even now, every weekend
I go to my brother-in-law’s house for tea
We talk about the weather
About quidditch
About his son and my daughter
But we don’t mention her
His wife, my sister
Just a memory now, too – a memory we both loved
And where there was love, I cannot hate

Credence Lestrange?

One Fantastic Beasts theory I’ve seen going around is that Credence Barebone and Leta Lestrange are half-siblings. Apparently there’s a family tree from one of the trailers and it looks like they’re related? Just recently, the part of Leta’s mother was cast, and she was described as “Corvus Lestrange’s first wife”, so it’s definitely a possibility. I would like to know how a child from a British family of wizards ended up with a magic-hating group in America, but hey, it’s not impossible.

We don’t know a whole lot about the Fantastic Beasts-era Lestranges yet, but their descendants are pure evil. Queenie immediately recognizes the name when she hears it in Newt’s thoughts and mentions their reputation for dark magic. Leta, a former friend of Newt’s, has been described as “complicated” and “misunderstood”, but even she is probably a Grindelwald supporter and certainly a murky, morally ambiguous type. I think, if Credence comes from the Lestrange family, it’s safe to assume that Mary Lou was actually right about his mother being a “wicked woman”.

It’s strongly implied in Fantastic Beasts that Mary Lou knew Credence’s mother. Given the strict laws meant to keep magic hidden in America, it could very well be that Credence’s parents are the only actual wizards/witches she’s encountered. While of course it doesn’t in any way justify child abuse, it’s easy to understand how someone who had history with the Lestranges, but had never met a good witch or wizard, might have a low opinion of magic-users.

And what about Credence now? Would the Lestranges accept a family member who was raised by muggles? Somehow I doubt it. Would they, like Grindelwald, want to use him as a weapon? I suspect so, especially since Leta seems to be working for Grindelwald.

Would Credence want anything to do with a family that really is every horrible thing he was taught to see magic as? I’d like to think no, but then again, he seemed so desperate to belong and be accepted that, with the right manipulation, he might.

One of the fascinating things about Credence is that he’s at the same time one of the most pitiful and sympathetic Harry Potter characters, and one of the most dangerous. He’s a lonely child desperate for affection and fiercely protective of others, but at the same time, he’s so desperate and so full of pent-up anguish that he’s vulnerable to being manipulated by those with less sympathetic intentions. And, of course, at his worst, he’s literally an uncontrollable dark cloud of anger and despair, destroying everything it comes in contact with. It’s really almost impossible to predict what he’ll do in future movies, because being conflicted and easily misled is one of his defining traits.

Who are Grindelwald’s Supporters?

I just finished reading a Pottermore article that included this synopsis of The Crimes of Grindelwald:

We don’t want to give too much away, of course, but here is a snapshot of what is in store. At the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald was captured in New York with the help of Newt Scamander. But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escapes custody and sets about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings.

Read the full article here:

Most of this is nothing new, but I was very interested to see one detail in particular: most of Grindelwald’s followers do not know about his true agenda. That raises the question of what, exactly, they think he’s doing.

To be fair, most of the Death Eaters didn’t know Voldemort’s true agenda, either. They did not know the full extent of his attempts at immortality, which he kept carefully secret, and Dumbledore made it clear that Voldemort did not trust or confide in his followers. However, they did know he hated muggles and muggle-born wizards, and they knew about his plans to take over the magical world. They were there because they agreed and wanted those things, too.

Grindelwald seems to have a very similar agenda (even the pure-blood obsession, it seems like, although that has only been mentioned in promos for the upcoming movie and was not explored in Deathly Hallows or Fantastic Beasts). And, like Voldemort, he has an even deeper agenda that involves mastering death and making himself invincible. The difference is that, according to Pottermore, Grindelwald is even more secretive about his true goals. So, who exactly are Grindelwald’s followers?

There’s almost certainly in inner circle that knows his true goals – at least the world domination part if not the Deathly Hallows part. But there are many others who his surface-level message might appeal to. Depending on just how vague Grindelwald is being about his agenda, many different groups might see him as a positive force for change, from to pure-bloods who believe they’re superior, to muggle-borns and squibs who feel frustrated living double lives, to anyone who has trouble blending in. I would not be surprised if he has a very large American following, given the ultra-strict Rappaport’s Law, which bans even casual friendship between wizards and muggles. His actions so far seem to be mostly focused on terrorist-style attacks and violent attempts to reveal the magical world, so I would guess that his followers are mostly driven by anger and frustration. The one thing they have in common might be that they’re sick of the status quo.

The synopsis makes it sound like Grindelwald is actively recruiting in the upcoming movie. This could just be in a general, off-screen sense; Voldemort was theoretically recruiting in books 5-6, but the only character to join the Death Eaters was Draco Malfoy. However, I wonder if Grindelwald will try to recruit any of the main cast. Here are my thoughts:

  • Newt is already working with Dumbledore and knows too much about Grindelwald to join him. Tina is an auror for MACUSA, seems to believe in Rappaport’s Law, and would have no reason to support him. They’re probably out.
  • Grindelwald has already tried to recruit Credence once and may try again.
  • Leta Lestrange is probably already working for him. Theseus Scamander is working against him, but they’re engaged. There’s definitely some potential for an interesting storyline there.
  • Queenie and Jacob are in love, but were forced apart in the last movie. Under Rappaport’s Law, they will never be allowed to get married, and he will never be allowed to even remember her. They just might become desperate enough to see Grindelwald as an appealing alternative. The synopsis goes on to say: “Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family”. Is there a reason it was so important to mention that Queenie has trouble reading minds that don’t think in American English?
  • There’s a new character called the Maledictus, who is under some kind of a curse. A lot of people have been speculating that she’s enchanted to turn into a snake, and might become Nagini. If she can’t control her transformations, a curse like that would be very hard to hide and make it impossible for her to blend in in the muggle world. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her working for Grindelwald, if the theories are true.

Sadly, it seems like the people who are most vulnerable to Grindelwald’s influence are the ones who ultimately stand to lose the most if he succeeds. While Voldemort recruited mostly pure-blood wizards who agreed with his goals, Grindelwald is clearly good at marketing his movement to people who probably wouldn’t support him if they knew everything. It will be interesting to see to what extent the series chooses to explore this, because it’s one of the most significant contrasts between Grindelwald and Voldemort.

The Sorting of Regulus Black

Using the Hogwarts Houses as a basis for character analysis is pretty much my favorite hobby. I guess I’m just weird like that. And while I spend a lot of time thinking about what Houses characters from other stories might be in, I also have a lot of thoughts about the Harry Potter characters themselves, especially those that break House stereotypes. I’ve written about why Luna Lovegood belongs in Ravenclaw and how Peter Pettigrew – one of the most cowardly characters – ended up a Gryffindor. I’ve talked about the ways in which Dumbledore shows traits of all four houses, and I’ve got a growing list in my head of characters I think were probably given the same Gryffindor or Slytherin choice as Harry: Albus Severus Potter, Barty Crouch Sr., Rufus Scrimgeour, and Regulus Black.

Unlike his brother, Sirius, Regulus Black was not a rebel – at least, not at first. He was a Slytherin, like his parents and his cousins, and he later went on to become a Death Eater.  He is characterized only through secondhand information from those who knew him and never appears in the story or the flashbacks, but based on Sirius and Kreacher’s descriptions, we can get some idea of his personality.

Dumbledore describes Voldemort’s school friends, and by extension the Death Eaters, as “the weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory, and the thuggish gravitating towards a leader who could show them more refined forms of cruelty” – and that’s a pattern that proves fairly true. Regulus, who was certainly courageous and is never described as being particularly cruel, almost certainly joined out of ambition. He seems to have been eager for his parents’ approval and eager to do great things, but without much discernment or ability to think for himself about who to follow. Ambition is a Slytherin trait, and Voldemort was an expert at tapping into Slytherins’ personal ambitions in order to win their support.

Along with ambition, Slytherins are also supposed to be cunning, which is something Regulus definitely demonstrates. Nobody really knew until decades after his death how he had died or why – not even Voldemort or his own family. He came up with his plan in secret and made sure that it stayed that way, revealing himself only in a hidden note that was set up to not be found until after Voldemort discovered what he had done. That sort of careful planning fits well in Slytherin house. Then again, he planned carefully and executed flawlessly a plan that he knew would result in his own death, and he went through with it because he believed it was the right thing to do. Is that really a Slytherin move, or is it more Gryffindor?

Slytherins are supposed to be “brave … but not foolish” and have strong self-preservation instincts. They put themselves and their own safety first, along with sometimes that of their loved ones. It is Gryffindors who are known for showing selfless courage. They are willing to put themselves at risk, stand up for what they believe in, and lay down their own lives for their cause. A Slytherin who had second thoughts about working for Voldemort might have tried to disappear, changed sides, become a spy, or simply ignored their conscience, but few would have thrown their own lives away in the hopes of making it easier for someone else to defeat him. That’s Gryffindor courage, even if it’s Slytherin ambition that got him there in the first place. The star Regulus is named for is even located in the constellation Leo, and is nicknamed “the lion’s heart” – surely not a coincidence!

But Regulus was not a Gryffindor. Why not? Because Sirius was. Not only did the two brothers not get along, but Sirius was the elder, and his parents did not take it well when he was sorted into Gryffindor. Having seen how furious they were could easily have increased Regulus’ determination to be the “good” son and restore the family honor, leading him to choose Slytherin in much the same way that Harry chose Gryffindor. You could even say that Regulus Black is one of Harry’s foils, a Dark Side character with a huge self-sacrificial streak and a ton of Gryffindor bravery to contrast with Harry’s own secret: that he was almost put in Slytherin house.

Thoughts on the Crimes of Grindelwald Trailer

One of the first things I noticed watching the new Crimes of Grindelwald trailer was how heavily Hogwarts and Dumbledore feature into it. The very first shots show the familiar castle from  distance, before going inside and introducing the younger Dumbledore. But even aside from the little glimpses of the school and future headmaster, traces of their presence appear throughout the trailer. For instance:

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The Deluminator: this one was hard to get a screencap of, but the Deluminator was one-of-a-kind, invented by Dumbledore himself. It only occasionally appears in the Harry Potter books, up until Deathly Hallows, when it’s revealed that he left it to Ron in his will and that its powers go considerably beyond simply turning off the lights. Its first appearance, however, is in the very first chapter of Sorcerer’s Stone, when Dumbledore arrives at Privet Drive to drop off baby Harry. The scene in the trailer is highly reminiscent of the Sorcerer’s Stone movie, complete with lantern-shaped streetlights.

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Thestrals: these skeletal flying horses are creepy, but they turn out to be gentle creatures. The Ministry of Magic gives them a XXXX rating, meaning that they are dangerous and should only be approached by an expert. However, Hogwarts has a herd of tamed thestrals that live in the Forbidden Forest and pull the school’s carriages. It’s highly likely that whoever is riding in that carriage got it – and the thestrals – from Hogwarts.

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This brief glance at Dumbledore and Newt caught my attention because it reminded me a little bit of this:


The similarities are obvious. Both pairs have a sort of mentor/student relationship: Dumbledore was Newt’s teacher at Hogwarts and “Graves” presented himself as a mentor and protector for Credence. Their voices are soft, whispering, and what they are talking about is private. Grindelwald is asking Credence to find the obscurial, and Dumbledore is asking Newt to fight Grindelwald for him. They even show similar body language: standing close together, heads tilted toward each other, as if sharing a secret. But there’s one huge difference: Newt and Dumbledore are looking each other in the eye. That changes the whole dynamic. Not that Dumbledore was ever 100% open with anyone about everything he knew, but the shot of him with Newt implies a level of trust and respect for each other that is not present with Grindelwald and Credence.

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Finally, there’s this. The sign of the Deathly Hallows. The obvious link here is with Grindelwald, but remember, Dumbledore was after the Hallows, too. However, aside from the wand, none of the Deathly Hallows should come into play at this point in the timeline. Only the Potters know about the cloak, while the ring is passed down from the Peverells to the Gaunts. Dumbledore does not find them until many years later, as an old man, and Grindelwald never achieves his goal of uniting the Hallows.