I’d be willing to bet that Slytherin’s reputation prior to Voldemort going there was at least okay, that nobody thought that house was any eviler than any of the other houses despite Salazar’s little falling out and subsequent temporary insanity. (Yeah, he raised a basilisk, but he never used it, and he locked it away. I think he changed his mind about it but couldn’t bring himself to kill the basilisk.) So basically, it was just another Hogwarts House.
Then along comes Voldemort, who is a Slytherin, and he is charming and clever. He uses his charm and brains to warp the students of Slytherin so they will bend to his will. He’s like a cancer, turning healthy cells cancerous by proximity. Through seven years of charm, cleverness, and hard work, Voldemort puts the whole house of Slytherin under his thrall.
This process is so potent that even after he leaves, the infection lingers. Just because the largest tumor leaves, doesn’t mean the cancer is cured. It continues to work in his favor, warping the Slytherins for decades to come, so that by the time Harry arrives, the taint of Voldemort has indeed turned it into a bad place. The living ghost of Voldemort haunts Slytherin, and it has been that way so long, it’s gained a reputation for evil. But since most people don’t connect Voldemort to handsome, charming Tom Riddle, it doesn’t occur to most people that Slytherin got that way because of Tom/Voldemort.
I think this is why Rowling included the story of how Frank Bryce went from the neighborhood’s lovable old curmudgeon to “I always knew he had a nasty look about him.” She wanted to show, I think, how people see a change in someone and retroactively apply that change to their whole life, because most people don’t seem capable of understanding the concept of “change” properly. This is evident by the fact that when new information comes up about a person, they apply that new information retroactively. Assume for a moment that Frank Bryce really had been guilty. He probably was a nice guy back in the day. And maybe even after the war. But maybe one day he just snapped from the pressure and his entire personality changed.
I wonder, in fact, if this retroactive application of new data might be, on some level, deliberate. Most people do everything they can to deny the capricious and mercurial nature of the world. They ascribe permanence to things that are inherently the opposite of permanent, stability to things inherently volatile, like the human mind, because it terrifies them to think that what makes them who they are is every bit as ephemeral and volatile as the data in a computer. That one damaged neuron or one emergent glitch in the self-programming software that is our mind, or just a few wrong choices, can completely transform the entire operating system of our mind into something completely different. And so, when a change of this nature occurs, they assume it’s merely a secret fact that made their previous judgments of the person in error. Which can be true, but not always. And so you get this tendency, when someone does something bad, or even just accused of doing something bad, that they become bad people because people just don’t want to consider the fact that sometimes good people do bad things. And even when they do, like for a loved one, they go to the opposite extreme, and excuse the bad thing as a mistake, something on the order of “whoops accidentally dropped the glass plate, my bad.” I kind of understand this; it’s not easy to tell who the incurable criminals are, and who the one-time offenders are. But I think this goes a long way towards explaining both the excusing of rape AND the “villagers with pitchforks” reaction to someone accused of, say, molesting a child, even if they didn’t actually do anything. Because humans don’t want to think too much about change, so they make a fuckton of assumptions.
Anyway, got off track. I also wanted to say, it would be interesting to hear about cases of dark wizards and witches from other houses (especially dark witches!), because with as long a history as Hogwarts has had, I think that even if most dark wizards and witches were just basically ordinary people who went dark, there’s bound to be at least a couple who temporarily infected their House with their presence. Nowhere near on the order of Voldemort, probably, but what if Ravenclaw was once viewed as the “evil” House for a time? Clever and evil tend to go farther into the history books than stupid and evil. Or Hufflepuff? It wouldn’t take a lot for a dark witch with a little charm and some good looks to inspire loyalty and hard work in a House known for those things anyway. Hell, even Griffindor may have had its Dark Era. All you have to do is look at history to see how chivalry and bravery can be warped to do evil. Evil very rarely thinks of itself as such, and a dark wizard/witch in Griffindor could easily rally their House under the banner of some noble cause that, viewed by history later, is viewed as evil.
The point is, I think Slytherin was still being infected by Voldemort’s cancer even after his initial disappearance, and the same thing could happen to other Houses. Hopefully, with his “mundane thud” death, that cancer will start to die. Maybe not by Albus Severus’s time, but some time after that, Slytherin will be just another school House again.
I was thinking about this again in the bathroom just a bit ago, and thought, I call myself a Storm of Change; if I ever get around to legally changing my name, I've known for some time I'll go with Tempest Alexandria Arts. But from there I realized, we are ALL storms of change. We are ALL constantly in flux. All of us are a sort of mini hurricane of constantly moving electrons, protons, and neutrons, blood and fluids and matter/gas exchanges, and our minds are swirling masses of thoughts, feelings, and choices that only give the appearance of calm stability, like the Red Spot on Jupiter. It's just that this was more obvious to me, when I think back on the utter chaos and constant frustrated bewilderment I went through for decades before I finally figured out that I was a Multiple. Which reminds me of something else from Tumblr I need to repost here.
This was cross-posted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org/1245908.html
You can comment either here or there.