We hate to go against Hagrid, who professed that there was ‘not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin’, but he was kind of wrong. Sorry, Hagrid.
Here are six Slytherin specimens who we’d argue actually were pretty wonderful. Okay, we wouldn’t go ten-pin bowling with Snape or anything, but you can’t deny that there wasn’t extraordinary talent and goodness in their hearts.
To the Dark Lord
I know I will be dead long before you read this but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret. I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can. I face death in the hope that when you meet your match, you will be mortal once more.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The famous ‘R.A.B’ who pipped Harry and Dumbledore to one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes turned out to be the brother of Harry’s godfather Sirius Black: Regulus Arcturus Black.
Regulus was a Death Eater who had second thoughts all too late. Sirius’s memories of his brother seemed to be neither fond nor positive, yet Harry discovered that Regulus died in an act of boundless bravery. He sacrificed himself to steal one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, and replaced Slytherin’s locket with a fake.
It’s one thing trying to be good and noble your whole life, but it’s a whole other thing to turn over a new leaf when Lord Voldemort is your master. Yes, Regulus volunteered Kreacher to Voldemort, but the house-elf’s ordeal seemed to have been a tipping point for Regulus. He defected and was clearly a gifted wizard (Voldemort’s defences were not easily broken). For that, we salute Regulus.
In the beginning, Severus appeared to fit the blueprint of a stereotypical Slytherin. With every flick of his greasy dark hair and every snide remark aimed at Harry, Ron or Hermione you could have been forgiven for thinking Snape was just mean.
And yes he was! But Severus was also trying to do good throughout Harry’s years at Hogwarts. He knew Harry’s mother Lily from childhood and loved her from then until his death.
But Severus wasn’t just a great wizard for his enormous sacrifices; he was also a perfectionist in Potions and an exceptionally talented Legilimens. He was just a bit grumpy, that’s all.
The Sorting Hat never said that Slytherins were a big bunch of baddies – that merely they were cunning and determined to succeed. Just take a look at one of the most famous and most respected wizards of all time, Merlin. Merlin, people! Need we say more?
Horace was tricky to work out in the beginning. Potions master; Slytherin; bit of a social climber; kind of told Voldemort about Horcruxes, hmm. Bit of a wobbly start, in all honesty.
Yet Slughorn did show flashes of brilliance, such as for his turn at the Battle of Hogwarts, and offering himself as an excellent drinking partner for Hagrid after Aragog’s funeral – both were equally commendable actions, even though he was clearly after that Acromantula venom for a little extra spending money.
Sirius’s ‘favourite cousin’ and Nymphadora Tonks’s flamboyantly-named mother didn’t just stick out from the Slytherins, but also from her own family – the ‘Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.’
Her sisters, Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange, married pure-bloods but Andromeda married Muggle-born Ted Tonks, thus earning her a burn mark on the Black family tapestry. Standing up for what you believe in takes a lot of doing; and while we wish we’d seen more of Andromeda in the books, her daughter was a credit to her and Ted.
Honorary mention: Isolt Sayre
Although Isolt was never sorted into Slytherin, she was a descendant of Salazar Slytherin, which is practically a one-way ticket to wearing emerald. Had she ever got her wish to attend Hogwarts, it would have been a close-run race between her Slytherin blood ties and her childhood wish to be sorted into Ravenclaw.
Just as well she created her own school then: the North American wizarding school, Ilvermorny. Despite being brought up by the murderous Gormlaith Gaunt, Isolt did not grow up to desire a pure-blood world or to despise Muggles and No-Majs. In fact, she married one, breaking the purity of the Slytherin bloodline once and for all. If only Tom Riddle Jr knew.