On vacation with my family this past weekend (you know, #firstworlddilemmas), I finally hitched a ride on the Hogwarts Express. My sister sent me an invite to J.K Rowling’s Pottermore.com, and I took a quiz and got my WAND (11 ½ inches, beech, unicorn core, slightly springy, if you want to know) and then I submitted to the famed Sorting Hat’s ruthless interrogation so I might be placed in a house. As even the peripherally-into Harry Potter should know, what house you spend time in at Hogwarts is a direct reflection of your dominant personality traits, and the splits are in no way equal: brave kids go to Gryffindor, jolly, forgettable kids go to Hufflepuff, smart weirdoes go to Ravenclaw and diabolical pre-serial killers go to Slytherin.
Before we proceed, it’s important I remind you that I passed the fifth grade with flying colors and I’m reasonably able to separate fantasy from reality on the day-to-day. But this story ends with me getting sorted into Slytherin and being so upset, so surprised, so irrationally scathed and troubled that I couldn’t get over my shame. Post-quiz results I spent an hour on the porch being appropriately teased, then consoled, then fed the same tripe that was supposed to make Harry feel better when he dodged the S bullet in Book One: it is our choices that define us. If you really don’t want to be in Slytherin, you’re not in Slytherin. Now calm the eff down, Britt and come play croquet.
I know how it happened. I almost could have guessed the outcome, mid-quiz. I said I preferred the moon to the stars (oblique) and would rather a love potion than a wisdom potion, though I labored over this answer (wouldn’t really want a POTION for either of these things… my magic would hope to follow some kind of organic law!). In a clincher moment I see now I could have taken more seriously, I said I’d rather be liked over trusted, envied, imitated or feared. It just seems practically easier. And don’t you trust the people you like? I dunno.
Some other things I know are, yes, the bravest man Professor Dumbledore Himself ever encountered was in Slytherin house. This man was Severus Snape, and a wonderful hero, but he actually had the worst bedside manner (and not unrelated, the WORST LIFE) of any wizard in the series. Another thing I know is that J.K Rowling sought to complicate those highly reductive “house qualities” as the series aged; Professor Slughorn, a well-meaning blowhard cum backdoor-braggart/professional coward, is in Slytherin. He’s pretty doofy but not a xenophobic terrorist, which was of course that notorious worst case scenario for we of the green and black. I once spent a whole day in high school (!) locked in a friend’s basement bedroom, sorting everyone a group of us could think of into houses and then sending them giddy confirmation e-mails from a fake e-mail address, so, I also KNOW that Slytherins are not just cut and dry bad kids. They’re the kids who are in it to survive, and get to the top, and they’re clever and crafty and street-smart. Okay. Great. None of this helps. None of these adjectives are in line with the picture of myself that I walk around carrying. In good faith, I took the Pottermore quiz EXPECTING to be Ravenclaw, figuring I’m not the bravest, I’m not quite easy-peasy/boring enough to be a Pufflehuff (sorry, anyone) and I am not a completely solipsistic racist basket case. Being told I even possessed surprise traits by a disputable – but not without clout! – source…well. Well, I never.
So I took the Pottermore quiz again. I made a new e-mail account and made someone send me a secondary invite. I am the captain of my fate, I am the master of my soul. Some time passed and I breathed easy: after a whole different set of questions (SO I WASN’T REALLY CHEATING!), I was neatly placed in Ravenclaw. Some people will say this was a Slytherin thing to do, angling for a certain outcome and not taking no for an answer. And I know there was a moment on thequiz’s precipice, where I was forced to reconsider whether I’d rather be wise or un-lonely. I chose wisdom and I really think that’s true, but I do have a little regret. A smidge of doubt.
Last night at my decidedly un-magical waitress job a moral quandary presented itself: something got fucked up somewhere and one table paid for another table’s dinner. The difference was all of three dollars and the table in question were shit tippers, and this after a night where many loud Fringe Festival fools walked out on checks and well-meaning Euro-travelers left us coin, this a night not too far from the next time rent is due. “I think we should keep it!” I said and believed. My friend and partner disagreed. She said “It wasn’t their fault other people were mean to us this night. It’s three dollars, but it’s unfair.” Her name is Valerie and the sorting hat put her in Gryffindor.
After brooding deeply and again making a bogart out of a Charms quiz (this will catch on, mark my words), I returned the money to the table and explained the mistake. I am convinced I did this out of nothing but a pathological need to feel “in the right,” which is, of course, different from altruism.
Whether vacation with your entire family or in the last miserable hours of your service job, you might be different kinds of You. You might be. And if you too are a Potter fan you oughta know one of the book’s central tenets is that people are complicated and mysterious and not able to be pinned down. I’ve always thought of myself as self-aware. Hyper-self-aware, almost, neurotic, fussy, oft-agitated, guilty. Brainy. And while I know that I know that I know that I know it doesn’t MEAN anything, it’s just three dollars, it’s just a CHILD’S QUIZ ON THE INTERNET, ya ya ya ya, moving forward thoughts include: what does it mean to feel out and explore that of you which isn’t the color of your robes? The sweet, if you’re tough. The cruel, if you’re kind. You very well might contain multitudes in magic country.
And for a rainy day/mapping purposes, some personality quizzes: