Another ginormous book (but thinner than Book 5, which almost makes this book look quite thin), Book 6 was yet another great travel companion, which I took with me to coffee shops in San Francisco and Palo Alto. I actually breezed through this book—except when I took a break when I was 3/4 through because I didn’t want to
relive the experience of read ing about Dumbledore’s death, which I have never really recovered from.
Given that the Half-Blood Prince is a Slytherin, this (post) is a tribute to my Hogwarts house, Slytherin. I am not going to make excuses for the evil deeds of The Dark Lord here—nothing can ever justify his actions—however, I am going to talk about Slytherin-istic characteristics that I was not able to fully appreciate when I first read the series (and this book in high school) but that I do now.
There is a common misconception that all Slytherins are evil, especially because Voldemort came from this house. It also doesn’t help that Slytherins are snobby and tend to stick to their own. Whatever. Not everyone in the house is a blood-thirsty evil person, but people in this house are not known to be brave either. (Slytherin wasn’t known for his courage as Gryffindor was anyway.)
So I bring to light some Slytherins and their strengths. While not all of them are good, not all of them are entirely evil either. May we all appropriately appreciate the characteristics that makes one a Slytherin.
A necessary evil (if it is even evil), networking is something most people shy away from. The idea of connecting with others for personal or professional gain gives people feelings of shame. I realize, however, that it is important to surround oneself with a support group and to keep in touch with them.
Both Draco and Professor Slughorn are similar in the way they chose to surround themselves with powerful networks. Remember all the way back in Book 1 when Draco offered his friendship to Harry because he recognized the name and then told Harry he should choose his friends because some wizarding families are trash? Well, it didn’t work out because Harry didn’t like Draco’s superiority complex, but that was a telling sign of Draco’s pursuit of notable contacts. Professor Slughorn, on the other hand, was different in his approach: he appreciated good magic regardless of the wizard or witch’s pedigree (Hermione and Lily Evans were Muggle-borns, and Ginny wasn’t exactly from a reputable family) because he could see their potential. Slughorn also avoided making definite political alliances, showing that he was flexible in his networking.
Ever since childhood, Tom Riddle didn’t want to be ordinary. When Dumbledore told young Tom Riddle that he was, in fact, a wizard, Tom’s reaction was that he always knew he was special. Yeah, special was his word, not Dumbledore’s. Tom Riddle refused to be normal to the point that he christened himself Lord Voldemort to rid of his commonplace Muggle name, Tom (and, to add insult to injury, his last name, Riddle, belonged to his Muggle parent).
Aside from his struggle to not be normal, Voldemort also wanted to defy all odds—to conquer death and to achieve immortality. He came quite close. First, he found out about Horcruxes, and then he decided that one Horcrux wasn’t going to cut it, so he decided to make more. Overkill, I’d say, but Voldemort was not going to let anything stop him from becoming the most powerful wizard of all time.
We already know that Voldemort performed great magic. Again, way back in Book 1, Mr. Ollivander acknowledged that Voldemort’s wand did great magic—terrible but great. But not everything is about Voldemort.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate how incredibly smart and talented Severus Snape is. Even as a student at Hogwarts, Snape could already invent spells and improve upon potions instructions. Nope, Snape did not need to go by the book, which is probably why he liked to criticize how Hermione always gave answers taken directly from her schoolbooks.
Other things Slytherins were good at: Legilimency and Occlumency. We’ve already seen Snape demonstrate both abilities in Book 5, and it was known that Voldemort was also a master of both skills. In Book 6, we see that Draco and Bellatrix Lestrange are also accomplished Occlumens because, I guess, Slytherins do not pride themselves in feeling emotions as Gryffindors do and can, instead, compartmentalize them as the need arises.