Let’s go back in time, before The Cursed Child was released and before Fantastic Beasts, back to 2007 when the last Harry Potter book came out. Some Harry Potter fans may even wish we could go back to 2007 and stay there forever.
Now before I start, I enjoyed reading the Harry Potter series and I can’t deny that it is a good story. It will be one of those series which will be loved by readers for many years to come. The series has many good messages and themes throughout, and there is no doubt that it teaches people about the value of friendship and trust.
I was thinking about great books as I often do, how they have been written, why readers like them so much, and if anything could be changed to make them even better. Harry Potter came into my mind and as I thought about its story and characters, I realised that I could see one plot point which I would have changed. The more I thought about this one plot point though, the more I realised that it actually affects the entire series.
It all comes down to the Hogwarts Houses. I don’t disagree with the idea of having Houses, indeed at my own school we had Houses, but there was little importance placed on these Houses and they only really served as a handy dividing method for Sports Day. In Hogwarts however, we have the House Point System where students from each House can gain points throughout the year by doing good deeds and performing well in their studies. Whichever House gets the most points by the end of the school year, their House colours are hung up in the Hall for the following year. Seems like a good idea and a bit of friendly competition between the Houses, the problem is, it just isn’t necessary. If you want friendly competition between the Houses then you could just do this with sport, like Quidditch, or you could even have an annual spell-casting or potion brewing competition.
My point is, constant competition between the Houses isn’t necessarily a good idea or productive for an educational environment. It becomes completely unnecessary by the end of the first book when Harry, Ron and Hermione are essentially rewarded with House points for breaking the rules. Of course their intentions are good, but it doesn’t change the fact that they did something they weren’t supposed to do, and that the other students from the other Houses who did follow the rules, get absolutely nothing for their obedience. It makes a mockery of the system and the whole House Point System becomes less and less important as the series progresses.
The second issue with the Houses is Slytherin. At various points throughout the series certain characters try to point out that Slytherin is not a House for bad/evil people. Which seems fair, otherwise every person the Sorting Hat puts in Slytherin, would basically be metaphorically stamped with ‘evil’ for their entire schooling. It would cause a prejudice towards that House, when really it isn’t, nor should it be, your House that makes you a bad person, it should be about the individual’s decisions. Unfortunately by the end of the last book, Slytherin is totally made out to be the ‘evil House’, just because Lord Voldemort happened to be in the Slytherin House when he was at Hogwarts. You get this whole Gryffindor = Good and Slytherin = Bad, and the other two Houses may as well not exist by this point. Professor McGonagall even has the entire Slytherin House put under lockdown just before the Battle of Hogwarts.
Rowling does in part, try to fix this issue by turning Professor Snape into a hero, and Harry does name one of his children Albert Severus Potter in honour of Dumbledore and Professor Snape, but Harry himself didn’t want to be associated with the Slytherin initially, and he begged to not be placed in the Slytherin House on his first day. He also hated Professor Snape for most of the series. To fix this properly, you would need a character from House Slytherin to be actively involved with Harry Potter and his friends, and actually help Harry Potter right from the beginning. An interesting spin would have been to have Harry Potter fall in love with a student from Slytherin as opposed to Ginny Weasley.
Next problem; The Other Houses. Where the hell is Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff? The only time we really see anything of the other Houses, is when Harry Potter has a crush on Cho Chang from Ravenclaw and when Cedric Diggory from Hufflepuff decides to help Harry during the Tri-Wizard Tournament. The main focus of the story are mostly students from Gryffindor and a couple of antagonists from Slytherin. My biggest question though; Why wasn’t Hermione placed in Ravenclaw? Her studious character is perfect for the Ravenclaw House and she could have even been friends with Cho Chang. This doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have been able to be close friends with Harry and Ron. It would even make more sense for a student from Ravenclaw to help Harry and Ron with more academical pursuits and problems.
The Harry Potter series would have benefited from stronger friendships between Houses. It would have been more realistic and it would have taken away the ‘Bad House’ versus ‘Good House’ problem. It would have also shown, in greater detail, that not everyone in the Slytherin House is a bad or evil person. I know, to a certain extent, Rowling does try to show Harry’s father, who was also in Gryffindor, wasn’t always a kind or perfect Gryffindor student, but this comes later in the series and it doesn’t make much of a lasting impact or have any real relevance to Harry, other than explaining why Professor Snape doesn’t particularly like him. When it comes to the Slytherin students, Draco is just a typical rich-kid bully and his friends are his sidekicks, the majority of the other Slytherin students are ignored.
In my opinion, regardless of what I think about J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter is a great series. It just could have been even better if the House System had been tweaked and the Characters split more evenly across the different Houses.