So a while ago there was this post going around about the houses in Harry Potter and how it makes no sense for Slytherin- the house that’s supposed to be all about personal ambition- to be the house full of people who support an evil overlord, and how it’d make way more sense for Gryffindor to be the one full of zealots who are willing to serve their master to the end. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it, or I would have made this comment there: I realized there’s a very simple in-universe way to explain this.
It’s the Sorting Hat.
It’s said several times that the Sorting Hat’s first priority is that if a student badly wants to be in a certain house, it puts them there. Now consider- what was Salazar Slytherin’s reputation?
Even the Hat itself goes back and forth a bit about whether he intended for his house to be about ambition (which is how the song describes it in the first book) or about bloodlines (which is how it describes it in its new song later). What if Salazar told the Hat to sort to his house based on ambition (probably because Helga Hufflepuff was giving him this look like, “I respect you as a colleague but I swear to Merlin if you get your shitty opinions in my school I will fucking end you" and Godric Gryffindor had this big fake "I will hold her coat while she ends you" smile), but because he was a noted pureblood supremacist, a ton of people assumed that that was what his house was about?
Sirius says it was taken as a granted that all Blacks were to be in Slytherin, and Draco has a similar “well duh” attitude about Malfoys and Slytherin that got him sorted so quickly the Hat barely even touched his head. If it was basing it off the traits it’s supposed to be focusing on, this wouldn’t make any sense- different people, even ones growing up in the same household with very similar circumstances, will have different personalities. Which means that if being in Slytherin is a family tradition, then a lot of them aren’t there because of their personality, they’re there because, well, it’s a family tradition, and they chose to be.
(BTW: see also: Weasleys all being Gryffindors. I wouldn’t be surprised if Percy, for instance, was a bit more of a Slytherin, but put himself in Gryffindor because that’s what his parents expected.)
Somebody like Bellatrix Lestrange is, honestly, pure Gryffindor. She endures a decade and a half of Azkaban on behalf of her lord, respects and loves him above all else, and will put herself in harm’s way in any manner she needs to to aid him. She doesn’t seem to have any particular ambition on her own behalf; it’s all for Voldy. Sure, she’s a horrifically cruel monster, but there’s nothing against that in the Gryffindor charter, and nothing for it in the Slytherin one. But because she has always believed firmly in the (bigoted, racist) ideals of Salazar Slytherin, she asked to be put in his house, so she was.
And that goes a long way to explaining why so many Death Eaters and similar assholes are in Slytherin. It’s not that it’s inherently the asshole house, it’s that the assholes all think it’s the asshole house, so it’s… well, full of assholes who wouldn’t otherwise be there.
Which means there are probably a lot of Slytherins who followed the family tradition, but then, a few years in, abruptly realized, “…My god. Most of these people are terrible. And everyone probably thinks I’m just like them.”
sorry my tags were too long and weren’t showing up so i’m just posting them soz!!
this also means that there are a lot of nice slytherins, who just happen to be v ambitious and lil below-board, but not like, EVIL, who are then like, ‘fuck’, ‘i’m basically a member of the wizard kkk what the fuck’, b/c y’all know that at least some slytherins have to be half bloods or muggle born. like i’d probs be sorted into slytherin and if i was surrounded by people like pansy and draco all the time, i’d probably slap their bitch asses silly. I WILL NOT STAND FOR WIZARD RACISTS IN MY HOUSE, NO SIREE. b/c i think what people forget is that ambition does not equal evil, and neither does slytherin equal racist. i mean if you think about it it’s probably LESS likely that the purebloods would be the one who are thinking “omfg ppl think i’m just like them” b/c like. i am ambitious and conniving and a little bit mean and a lot bit manipulative but am i evil?? no. am i a horrible racist?? well i was born into a lot of privilege but i’m doing my best not to be. so if i was thrown into a house of people spitting out propaganda like draco and yelling slurs at completely innocent students in the hallways i’d be like what the fuck? what the fuck? and then i’d take them the fuck down.
which sheds light about how the whole ‘draco is king of slytherin and everybody worships him’ thing is so unrealistic?? like there is no WAY any one person would be social king or queen or monarch of slytherin for a WEEK, much less 6 years. yeah ok your family is respected and rich and shit, but you are literally in a house full of ambitious people who are not afraid to get their hands dirty in their mad scramble to the top. in slytherin, more that any other house, everything would be constantly SHIFTING and CHANGING. there is no static hierarchy, there is no one ruler. there are no rules, no loyalty except to those you choose to be loyal too. no one is better than anyone else because everyone believes that they are the best. there are no sniveling minions like pansy, or idiotic henchmen like crabbe and goyle. maybe ppl kiss up to you for a while, but that’s only so they can learn enough about you to throw you out on your ass when the time comes.
which is WHY it always sort of rubbed me wrong that all these slytherins were so fucking loyal to voldemort like. sorry. if anyone’s gonna go on a crusade for what they believe to be the greater good it’s gonna be gryffidors. if anyone’s gonna follow someone blindly it’s gonna be hufflepuffs. if anyone’s gonna not care about upward mobility it’s gonna be ravenclaw (b/c who is smartest is who is on top, which means that who is on top cannot be changed). people always seem to forget that peter pettigrew was sorted into gryffindor. it wasn’t a mistake, or a wrong call made by the hat. peter is what any gryffindor could become. people are always talking in harry potter about how everyone has good in them, but people seem to forget that everyone has evil in them too. even the gryffindors. even the hufflepuffs. even the ravenclaws. not just the slytherins.
if it was truly purely JUST SLYTHERINS in slytherin, they wouldn’t necessarily be evil or cruel. they wouldn’t section themselves off from other houses, from other peoples. how can you get people to follow you if you treat them like dogs? (you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, after all.) how can you become the best if you do not learn everything you can from the current best, and then take their place? how can you bear to only be on top of one tiny fiefdom when there are thousands of kingdoms out there that you could conquer? pure slytherin should be a house of ambition, a house of change, a house of people getting what they want, with the help of others or alone, maybe for the worse but probably for the better. it’s not our fault we had a shitty racist pureblood founder.
lots of feelings about slytherin today. is that a change from everyday? no.