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The Best (And Worst) Slytherin Traits

You might not be familiar as familiar with their redeeming qualities.

In terms of the four Hogwarts houses, Slytherin gets the worst rap by far. While some like to hate on Hufflepuff, most of the ire is directed at Slytherin, thanks to the sheer number of Dark wizards it produces and its somewhat unsavory members. If you're not a fan of this house, that's not entirely unwarranted—it is the house Lord Voldemort belonged to, after all. But when you look at the big picture, those in Slytherin have both good and bad qualities. Read on to find out what the best and worst Slytherin traits really are.

RELATED: The Best (And Worst) Ravenclaw Traits.

What Does It Mean to Be a Slytherin?

alan rickman as severus snape in harry potter and the deathly hallows
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Slytherin was founded by Salazar Slytherin, a wizard regarded as one of the best of his age and one particularly talented in Legilimency (an art similar to mind-reading). Salazar was also a Parselmouth—meaning he was able to speak to snakes—so Slytherin is symbolized by the serpent and has the house colors of silver and green. The common room is located near the Hogwarts dungeons, adorned with green lamps, dark chairs, and leather sofas. The grand room extends underneath the Great Lake, which casts everything in a green hue.

Those who end up in Slytherin are the "cunning folk," according to the Sorting Hat, willing to "use any means to achieve their ends." However, there is a bit of a shadow cast over this house thanks to Salazar's stance on Muggle-born students. The founder distrusted these students and argued that they shouldn't be admitted to Hogwarts or taught the magical arts. His views set him at odds with the other three Hogwarts founders, and prompted him to leave the school for good.

While this may leave a bit of a bad taste in your mouth, Salazar's stance isn't necessarily representative of his house as a whole.

RELATED: The Best (And Worst) Hufflepuff Traits.

The Best Slytherin Traits

jim broadbent as horace slughorn in harry potter and the half-blood prince
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Slytherins are ambitious.

Perhaps the best-known Slytherin trait is ambition. Slytherins are willing to do what it takes to meet their goals, even if it means skirting the rules a bit.

Several Slytherins have gone on to become headmasters of Hogwarts, including Phineas Nigellus Black and Severus Snape. But ambitiousness isn't synonymous with power: Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Draco Malfoy featured in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is particularly representative of this.

Scorpius' ambition doesn't compel him to seek the highest rank—he just wants to excel academically and learn as much as he can. As the Wizarding World website puts it, Scorpius proves that just because his goals seem "smaller," it doesn't mean they're less important.

Slytherins are cunning.

Like it or not, having a cunning nature can get you ahead in life—and Slytherins use this to their advantage. They show skill in finding ways to get what they want, even if it means disregarding the rules. (This is something Harry Potter, who was sorted into Gryffindor, certainly represents—and it's one of the reasons the Sorting Hat nearly deemed him a Slytherin.)

Horace Slughorn is one of the more cunning characters, using his many connections to get what he wants. A known "collector" of students, Slughorn seeks out the most talented Hogwarts students whom he can influence and later associate himself with.

As Dumbledore puts it in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Slughorn "has never wanted to occupy the throne himself." He instead prefers the "back-seat," where "there is more room to spread out."

RELATED: The Best (And Worst) Gryffindor Traits.

Slytherins can be brave.

One of the most redeeming Slytherin traits is bravery. We often associate this with the daring Gryffindors, but Snape, Regulus Black, and even Draco exhibit their bravery throughout the series.

Snape serves as a double agent for the entirety of the series. While he did opt to become a Death Eater early on, he realizes the error of his ways after Lily Potter—whom he'd loved as long as he'd known her—ends up murdered by Voldemort. He then risks his life time and time again to protect Harry and save the wizarding world at large.

Regulus, the brother of Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, also demonstrates bravery in betraying Voldemort and stealing one of his Horcruxes with plans to destroy it. And while you could argue that Draco is acting out of fear, when he decides not to reveal Harry's identity at Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it may also be Draco's way of rebelling against Voldemort and even his own family.

Slytherins can be loving.

When you look at characters like Voldemort and Dolores Umbridge, it's easy to say that Slytherins don't really have the ability to love. But that's not the truth.

Several Slytherins demonstrate their devotion to others throughout the Harry Potter series. Narcissa Malfoy, Draco's mother, is willing to do anything to protect her son. She's far from perfect, but Narcissa is a key player in the Battle of Hogwarts. Due to her devotion and love for her son, she betrays Voldemort by lying and saying Harry is dead.

Andromeda Tonks (née Black) gave up her family due to her love for Ted Tonks—a Muggle-born wizard. She defies the negative Slytherin stereotypes in this sense, instead representing the kindness, compassion, and devotion those in this house can have.

Everything in Snape's life is also tied back entirely to his unconditional love for Lily, including his role in keeping Harry safe during his time at Hogwarts.

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Slytherins are smart.

While no one is signing Gregory Goyle or Vincent Crabbe up for an academic competition, those in Slytherin house are often known for their intelligence. Snape, of course, is a brilliant potions master and skilled in different areas of magic, including Legillimency. Slughorn, too, was talented at potions—able to brew the tricky Felix Felicis potion and smart when using his connections to his advantage. We'd also be remiss not to mention Salazar Slytherin himself: While flawed, his intelligence and talent shouldn't be overlooked.

Slytherins are resourceful.

Complementing their cunning and ambitious nature, Slytherins are resourceful. When Draco is tasked by Voldemort to kill Dumbledore, he figures out how to get Death Eaters into Hogwarts castle. He repairs a damaged Vanishing Cabinet that ends up in the Room of Requirement, which has a twin at Borgin and Burkes, allowing Dark wizards to bypass Hogwarts' restrictions on apparating.

When looking at Snape's timeline, it's clear that he is quick and clever while working as a spy. Right before his death, he is able to communicate his story to Harry through his tears, which are later used in the Pensieve.

Slytherins can take charge.

While we don't commend Voldemort for his leadership skills, he certainly has them, gaining a large and loyal following on his quest for ultimate power. Draco, too, is a natural leader, serving as the head of his trio with Crabbe and Goyle, and later being made a Prefect.

As the head of the Slug Club, Slughorn is one of the more positive leaders to come out of Slytherin. Slughorn seeks out talented students to mentor (albeit to foster connections that will also benefit him).

Slytherins have a sense of humor.

Rounding out the list of positive Slytherin traits is the fact that they generally have a sense of humor. Some members of this house believe "humor" is associated with bullying and belittling others, but that's certainly not always the case.

Albus Potter, Harry's second oldest son, is quick with a joke, especially when he's with his best friend, Scorpius. Albus leans toward sarcasm in The Cursed Child, specifically when Scorpius recommends sending a message to baby Harry Potter and shouting, "HELP." Scorpius concedes that the plan "might traumatize the baby slightly"—and exemplifying his dry sense of humor, Albus responds, "Only slightly."

RELATED: 38 Harry Potter Spells Every Wizard and Witch Should Know.

The Worst Slytherin Traits

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Slytherins can be unkind.

One detriment of Slytherins is that they aren't always the nicest (and that can be an understatement). Draco is a well-known bully during his years at Hogwarts, and his father, Lucius Malfoy, is no different. Lucius is actively cruel to Harry and constantly belittles the Weasley family for their financial situation. Even worse, Lucius' treatment of his house-elf, Dobby, is clearly abusive.

Dolores Umbridge is another cruel and sadistic character, completely unafraid of torturing students as punishment. She places blind faith in authority, first to Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge and then to those who later took charge, all while trying to gain power for herself. While Harry ends up revering Snape at the conclusion of the series, it's also fair to say that the potions master was incredibly cruel at times, both to Harry and to other students who weren't in his house.

In addition, there are Slytherins who are inarguably evil—not just unkind: Voldemort and his devoted follower and paramour Bellatrix Lestrange immediately spring to mind.

Slytherins are manipulative.

Slytherins' shrewd nature and ambition also means they can be somewhat manipulative. Lucius Malfoy displays this trait quite often, networking with his contacts at the Ministry of Magic to gain control and advance his own social standing.

After Voldemort falls from power the first time, Malfoy is quick to appeal to the side that he feels will better serve him, claiming to have seen the light and regretting his time as a Death Eater. (Later on, he ends up rejoining Voldermort, further illustrating his "fair weather" approach to life.)

Slytherins can be cowardly.

Unfortunately, Slytherins don't always stand up for what's right. At the Battle of Hogwarts, a majority of this house decides not to fight against Voldemort, with only a select few (led by Slughorn) staying behind to defend the school. Pansy Parkinson is particularly cowardly, calling for those at Hogwarts to surrender Harry to Voldemort in exchange for mercy.

Umbridge, too, shows her cards when Harry and Hermione lead her on a false trail in the Forbidden Forest. While hurling hurtful slurs at the centaurs who inhabit the forest, she also whimpers and cowers before she's carried off.

Slytherins can be arrogant.

Those in Slytherin house are respected for their self-assuredness, even if it's to a fault (cough cough, Tom Riddle). But this often borders on arrogance and a false sense of superiority. Umbridge's haughtiness isn't in short supply, and Bellatrix Lestrange loves to taunt others due to her stance on blood purity.

Draco, too, is exceedingly arrogant, openly bragging about his wealth. His father Lucius even gifts every member of the Slytherin team a new Nimbus 2001s, which "earns" Draco the spot of Seeker.

And Voldemort is the picture of arrogance. Throughout his life, he is on a neverending quest for immortality—and this desire ends up being his downfall.

helena bonham carter as bellatrix lestrange in harry potter and the deathly hallows
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Slytherins can be insecure.

On the flip side, not all Slytherins are arrogant—they can also be quite insecure. Once Draco is enlisted by Voldemort to kill Dumbledore, he's truly shaken and realizes he's in over his head with the task. His son Scorpius inherits some of these insecurities, but Scorpius' are mostly due to speculation that he could be the son of Voldemort.

Snape was also fairly insecure as a child and lived a solitary life. This lack of confidence and desire to avoid being ordinary is likely what drew him to Voldemort.

Slytherins are not the best with rejection.

Because Slytherins can be full of themselves, they don't handle rejection well. Take the Bloody Baron, the Slytherin house ghost, who killed Helena Ravenclaw when she didn't return his affections. Slughorn, too, is baffled when he can't immediately "collect" Harry in The Half-Blood Prince. He's so perturbed that he gives in to Dumbledore's request to return to Hogwarts as a teacher.

Slytherins can have bad tempers.

Bellatrix Lestrange is a Slytherin with few—if any—positive traits. Instead, she's known for her dangerous temper, which often leads to violence. When she believes Harry, Hermione, and Ron may have stolen something from her vault at Gringotts, she flies off the handle and tortures Hermione for answers.

Snape is known to lose his temper from time to time, especially when Harry or other Gryffindors are involved. One of the prime examples of this occurs in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix during Harry's Occlumency lessons. Harry accidentally views one of Snape's memories, leaving Snape is "white with rage." Snape ends up throwing Harry to the ground before kicking him out of his office.

One of the most formidable Slytherin tempers, of course, is that of Voldemort. His violent outbursts can be so extreme that they often culminate in murder—and at that point, even those loyal to him aren't safe.

Slytherins are sometimes prejudiced.

Salazar Slytherin set a precedent with his views on Muggle-born witches and wizards—and that prejudice carried on to many members of his house. The Malfoys, Lestranges, and of course, Voldemort, believe they're superior to Muggles and Muggle-borns.

However, this is not always the case, as Slughorn has an affinity for Lily Potter, who is Muggle-born. At the same time, Slughorn does point out to Harry that he was surprised at her abilities in The Half-Blood Prince. Thankfully, he catches himself and confirms that he's not prejudiced, rattling off other Muggle-borns who were some of his "favorites."

RELATED: These Harry Potter Trivia Questions Will Test Your Wizard Knowledge.

Notable Slytherins

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  • Draco Malfoy: Harry's nemesis at Hogwarts. Draco is fond of bullying other students, particularly those who are Muggle-born.
  • Lord Voldemort (Tom Riddle): The powerful Dark wizard Harry fights against to save the magical world. Voldemort is the direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin.
  • Horace Slughorn: Potions master at Hogwarts. Slughorn is known to handpick students to be members of the "Slug Club."
  • Severus Snape: Potions master and Head of Slytherin at Hogwarts. Snape is later revealed to be a double agent, working as a spy for Dumbledore.
  • Albus Severus Potter: Harry's son who ends up being sorted into Slytherin in The Cursed Child.
  • Salazar Slytherin: The founder of Slytherin house. A talented wizard who favored cunning and ambitious students.


tom felton as draco malfoy in harry potter and the chamber of secrets
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Slytherin may have its fair share of Dark witches and wizards, but it also showcases some of the bravest and most intelligent. Author J.K. Rowling has even stated that Slytherins aren't "all bad," and "Slughorn galloping back with the Slytherins" during the Battle of Hogwarts makes her smile.

'They'd gone off to get reinforcements first … But yes, they came back, they came back to fight," Rowling said, adding that this might actually have been a wise move. "I'm sure that many people would say 'Well, that's common sense, isn't it? Isn't that smart, to get out, get more people and come back with them?"'

So, if you're a member of Slytherin, wear your green and silver proudly. Those in this house will stop at nothing when it comes to achieving their goals—and at the end of the day, that's a defining trait we can't help but admire.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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