Sorting Hat Saturday: “Mad Eye” Moody

Continuing the project I started last week of sorting adult Harry Potter characters whose houses are unknown, this week I’m looking at Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody. He was definitely a difficult one, both because he’s so secretive and because he embodies traits of every single house. He’s brave, he’s loyal, he’s intelligent, and he’s cunning. But which house does he fit into best?

Not Hufflepuff. That’s my first thought. While it’s true that he’s hard-working, as well as being loyal to Dumbledore and the Order, he’s so distrustful and paranoid that it’s almost impossible to imagine him among the team players of Hufflepuff. Ravenclaw is also unlikely. While Moody has a brilliant mind and is – like many Ravenclaws – a bit eccentric, he doesn’t seem to value knowledge for its own sake. He’s far too practical for that.

Gryffindor might be the logical choice. And yet, I’m not sure that’s a good fit, either. Moody’s bravery is different from Harry’s or Lily’s or even Dumbledore’s. In Order of the Phoenix, the portrait of a former Hogwarts Headmaster tells Harry, “We Slytherins are brave, yes, but not foolish … Given the choice, we would always choose to save our own skins.” There’s not a lot of evidence of that, though, in the characters’ actions. Many of the Slytherin characters are just cowards, no bravery involved at all, but then you’ve got Regulus Black sacrificing his life for a chance to bring Voldemort down – not exactly saving his own skin. I suppose Snape would describe himself as “brave but not foolish”, but I think it might be an even better description of Moody. For an Order member and an Auror, bravery is pretty much in the job description. But he is not “foolish” – ie. reckless and self-sacrificing in the way Gryffindors tend to be. In fact, he’s kind of paranoid about his own survival. He drinks only from his own flask because he’s afraid of being poisoned, and he trusts nobody, not even his fellow Order members.

What about the other Slytherin traits? He can be ruthless at times, for example suggesting that the Ministry take Karkaroff’s information and then send him back to Azkaban. And he’s cunning, too: while it’s the fake Moody who claims, “It was once my job to think as Dark Wizards do”, the comment seems fairly accurate and is taken in stride by those who know the real Moody well. Having been in the same House as many dark wizards at Hogwarts would only have helped him there. He’s clever and strategic enough not only to lay a false trail as to when Harry will be moved from Privet Drive, but also to realize that they still need to be prepared for battle. Besides, there’s the fact that his house was undisclosed in his Ministry file. That’s definitely something a Slytherin would do; a Hogwarts House gives valuable insight that could easily be used against you, or provide an element of surprise when the enemy doesn’t know exactly what to expect.

Dumbledore seems to trust Moody a great deal. Would he really place that kind of trust in a Slytherin? I think so, under the right circumstances. If Moody was a Slytherin, and if he went to Hogwarts during Voldemort’s rise to power (which he must have), he clearly chose not to associate with his future Death Eater peers, perhaps even gravitating toward Dumbledore as a teacher and role model. Dumbledore did not hesitate to trust Snape, and I strongly suspect that Mundungus Fletcher was also a graduate of Slytherin, so there’s no reason other members of the Order could not be as well.

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What if Helena Ravenclaw was Slytherin’s protégé?

Silly question, I know. She wouldn’t have even been in his house; she was a Ravenclaw, after all. But they have a lot in common. They both played a direct part in the founding of Hogwarts, Slytherin as one of the founders, Helena as a founder’s child and part of the first generation of students. They both grew apart from the other three founders and eventually fled the castle, never to return. They both did something or took something with them that left Hogwarts in a fractured state. And they both played an unknowing role in Voldemort’s rise to power, Slytherin as his ancestor and inspiration, Helena by telling him where to find Ravenclaw’s lost diadem.

Helena didn’t have the greatest relationship with her mother, so perhaps there was another teacher she saw as a role model instead – and there’s not much Gryffindor or Hufflepuff about her. Perhaps she looked up to Slytherin and wanted to be more like him; perhaps he even told her that if she weren’t Rowena’s daughter, he would have picked her for his own house. The lover who comes to find her when she runs away was a Slytherin, so perhaps she associated herself with Slytherin house in other ways as well.

Depending on the timing, her decision to steal the diadem and flee might even have been influenced by Slytherin’s own departure. She didn’t steal it out of longing for the wisdom it could bring, but rather, because she thought it would help her become greater than her mother. That’s pure ambition right there. If she witnessed Slytherin’s fight with Gryffindor and subsequent departure, if she knew what he had left lurking inside the school, if she saw the growing fracture between the houses and perhaps felt torn between her mother and her mentor, she might not have had much reason to want to stay.

Voldemort’s Mistake

When I was writing my Taylor Swift Slytherin playlist, I said this about “Getaway Car”:

It’s not that Slytherins are in any way incapable of loyalty, but they are loyal to themselves first, along with perhaps one or two others. The driver of a getaway car, the rebound boyfriend, or the partner-in-crime doesn’t factor into that.

I’ve always thought that one of Voldemort’s biggest mistakes – second only to underestimating love – was making himself an army of nothing but Slytherins – Slytherins who all had their own reasons for joining him, almost none of which were about loyalty to Voldemort.

Dumbledore describes Tom Riddle’s school friends – and by extension, the Death Eaters – as “the weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory, and the thuggish gravitating toward a leader who could show them more refined forms of cruelty”. That seems pretty accurate from what we see. The Malfoys and Barty Crouch Jr. are of the ambitious type, Wormtail and Snape are definitely the “weak seeking protection”, and Bellatrix Lestrange and Fenrir Greyback are in it out of bloodlust. While they all gravitate toward Voldemort as a leader and are on board with his poisonous rhetoric, in a way, he’s just that getaway car driver.

No, that’s not quite right. For Bellatrix, he’s everything. Maybe for Barty Crouch Jr., too. Their primary loyalty is to Voldemort even more than to themselves. But they’re unusual exceptions among Voldemort’s followers. The Malfoys are loyal to their family first. Wormtail is loyal only to himself. Snape is loyal to the memory of Lily Potter before either Dumbledore or Voldemort. This is a group of people who, when they finally managed to capture Harry and his friends, spent so long arguing over who would summon Voldemort that they ended up escaping. There is basically no unity among them, and a common cause in name only; they’re in it for themselves. Their ambitions clash and their ruthless natures mean a lot of betrayals. In other words, they are all Slytherins and all want to be on top.

In contrast, the Order of the Phoenix is made up of people from all four houses, and Dumbledore’s Army is made up of three. From Hufflepuffs with their work ethics and unfailing loyalty, to Ravenclaws with their wisdom and creative thinking, to Slytherins who spy and work in secret, to Gryffindors burning with passion for a righteous cause, they are far from homogenous, and their members’ strengths complement each other. As the Sorting Hat warns at the beginning of the fifth book, the Houses are stronger together and, divided, don’t stand a chance.

Taylor Swift Playlist: Slytherin

Continuing what I started with Gryffindor earlier today, here are ten Taylor Swift songs that remind me of Slytherin house. Not all of these are necessarily the venom-laced recent ones, but they’re all about things like ambition, revenge, clever schemes and trickery, or simply being guarded and secretive.

Cold as You

It was very hard to find any songs for Slytherin from the earliest albums. The “Old Taylor” was just so sweet and genuine, even her breakup songs are more righteously angry than vengeful. But this one is all about a manipulative relationship with a two-faced person, so I think it fits. “Every smile you fake is so condescending counting all the scars you’ve made”.

I’m Only Me When I’m With You

The other early Taylor Swift song I chose is not a manipulative or vengeful song at all, but rather, an upbeat love song. How does that work? It’s all about being “on my guard for the rest of the world” and careful who she reveals her secrets to. “When I’m with anybody else, it’s so hard to be myself and only you can tell,” Taylor sings. Slytherins are very good at putting on a mask for the world that they only remove around their most trusted loved ones.

Better Than Revenge

From Speak Now, this song is all about … well, revenge. And being underestimated. And that good girl image hiding something powerful and dangerous. “She had to know the pain was beating on me like a drum / She underestimated just who she was stealing from”.

The Lucky One

In hindsight, this song could almost go on reputation, although it dates back to Red. With lines like “And they tell you that you’re lucky, but you’re so confused / ‘Cause you don’t feel pretty, you just feel used,” the song explores ambition, fame, and the pressures of being a celebrity.

Blank Space

Oh my goodness. There is so much that’s Slytherin about “Blank Space” that I don’t even know where to start. Maybe with “screaming, crying, perfect storm / I can make all the tables turn / rose gardens filled with thorns”? The lines like “baby I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”? The repeating idea that love is a game to be played?

Bad Blood

Gryffindors tend to be charitable and forgiving; Slytherins not so much. They are much more likely to take the attitude that “band-aids don’t fix bullet holes” and continue to carry a grudge.

The New Romantics

Part of being cunning and ambitious means being able to take what life gives you and use it for your own ends – or in other words, to “build a castle out of all the bricks they threw at me”. Lines like “We team up / then switch sides like a record changer” and “He can’t see it in my face / but I’m about to play my Ace” just scream Slytherin.

I Did Something Bad

I could have included half the songs from reputation on here, if I wanted to. But how could I not include this one, which talks about playing narcissists “like a violin” and embraces the idea of hurting people before they can hurt you. “This is how the world works”, the singer adds, a sentiment that the “Old Taylor” would never have agreed with.

Look What You Made Me Do

I’ve included a couple of other revenge songs on this list, but this one – wow. “Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time” – this “smarter”, “harder” version of Taylor Swift is not just angry at one person, but rather, angry at the world. You can just see her clawing her way to the top, trying to steal back those “kingdom keys”.

Getaway Car

“Nothing good starts in a getaway car,” at least according to this song. Although the narrator is desperate for an escape, it’s also clear that the metaphorical getaway car driver is just a means to an end who she will eventually leave. “We were jet-set Bonnie and Clyde / until I turned to the other side / It’s no surprise I turned you in / cause us traitors never win”. It’s not that Slytherins are in any way incapable of loyalty, but they are loyal to themselves first, along with perhaps one or two others. The driver of a getaway car, the rebound boyfriend, or the partner-in-crime doesn’t factor into that.

Foil Houses

It occurred to me a while back that, as much as Gryffindor and Slytherin are sometimes portrayed as two sides of the same coin, Slytherin is just as much a foil to Hufflepuff as it is to Gryffindor. After all, ambition and work ethic go hand-in-hand. Both houses are more practical and focused on the real world, whereas Gryffindors and Ravenclaws tend to be more abstract and idealistic. And while Slytherins tend to be ruthless and harsh, whereas Hufflepuffs are kind and selfless, that’s certainly not universal. Zacharias Smith is far from selfless, and there’s nothing harsh or ruthless about Professor Slughorn. Both houses are even defined by their loyalties – or, rather, Hufflepuffs are defined by their loyalty, while Slytherins are the opposite: not necessarily disloyal, but very selectively loyal, fighting amongst themselves to prove themselves to Voldemort or betraying their side for a single person.

Couldn’t we also say, though, that Slytherin is a foil to Ravenclaw? Both houses value intelligence. However, with Ravenclaws it’s creativity, wisdom, and the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake that is valued. Slytherins, on the other hand, are sly and cunning, using their minds as weapons and their knowledge as a tool to help them get what they want. When I did my Divergent Sorting Hat Saturday posts, I found that most Erudite characters fit into Slytherin, even though their Faction aligns more closely with Ravenclaw at first glance. Even the mascots each reflect the other house’s traits if you know your heraldry: the snake was a symbol of wisdom, while the eagle represented power.

Is it fair to say that Ravenclaw and Slytherin represent two ways of valuing intelligence, that Hufflepuff and Slytherin represent two types of hard work and loyalty, and that Gryffindor and Slytherin represent two ways of taking action for what you think is important?

I talk a lot on this blog about how Slytherin doesn’t have to mean evil. I’ve sorted a lot of positive characters there (and a lot of negative ones into other houses). But within the series itself, looking at the contrast between the different houses, does it make sense to say that Slytherin is the “dark side” to all three “good” houses? I would say so.

Christmas at Hogwarts: Year 2

chamber-of-secrets

The Christmas section of Chamber of Secrets has Harry and Ron taking polyjuice potion and entering the Slytherin common room disguised as Crabbe and Goyle; naturally, I wanted to do something Slytherin-related for my drawing. Even though I see myself as more of a Ravenclaw, the windows in the Slytherin common room that look out into the depths of the lake are one of my absolute favorite details of Hogwarts, so I decided to start from there and decorate them for Christmas.

If Hufflepuffs Had Time Travel …

If I handed you a time machine, good for one and only one round trip to the past, what would you go back in time to do? This week’s Sorting Hat Saturday made me think about how those impulses fit into the Hogwarts house system, and that got me thinking about time travel in the Harry Potter series itself, and how characters from different houses would use it. Here’s what I came up with:

Gryffindor: to right a wrong. This is the easiest; Harry and Hermione travel back in time in Prisoner of Azkaban to save an innocent man condemned to a fate worse than death. Their use of the time turner is all about righting a wrong. They barely knew Sirius and had spent the year thinking he was a murderer, but they put themselves at risk to help him escape. It’s the Gryffindors who think about traveling back in time to prevent tragedies, whether that means stopping a war or just saving one person’s life.

Hufflepuff: to help others. I know, that sounds a lot like what I said for Gryffindor. But the approach is different. Gryffindors would be more likely to risk paradoxes to follow their heart, whereas Hufflepuffs would change things for the better in subtler ways, with more focus on the people they’re helping rather than the gut instinct to fix things.

Ravenclaw: to learn the truth. The past is full of unanswered questions, and a Ravenclaw might choose to observe and discover rather than change the past. Much like real-world historians, they would believe that understanding the past is important to make good choices in the future. If they did decide to change things, they would be careful, thinking about the bigger picture and making sure that their actions didn’t cause a paradox.

Slytherin: to get what they want. That sounds harsher than I mean it. A lot of people, given the option to change the past, would probably think of something that benefits them. Maybe they would buy a winning lottery ticket with numbers they memorized in the future, or leave a note to their younger self with advice to help them succeed. Maybe “what they want” is to prove a point, like Albus in Cursed Child. Maybe it’s to see a loved one they’ve lost again. Or maybe it’s world domination. My point is, Slytherins would see time travel as a way to achieve their own goals, with anything coming in second.