PotterTime 5: Harry Potter and the Boy Who Had No Choice (Part 3)

January 13, 2021

Lydia+Engel

Lydia Engel

Warning: Please note that this peice contains mentions of depression, abuse, and suicide.

 

Draco Malfoy’s redemption -or rather, his nonexistent redemption- is one of the most debated arcs in the series. He has been one of the most hated and loved characters since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first came out in 1997. In the past two PotterTime segments, I discussed Draco’s character development in books one through five. Draco’s character is one of the most complex in the series, and nowhere is this clearer than the sixth book: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

The sixth book is a complex mixture of Draco’s anger, pride, frustrations, and greatest fears. The upcoming war tries him in ways a teenager should never have to go through. Instead of his later years at Hogwarts being a time to mature, grow, and find out his true identity, he is forced to fear for his and his families lives as his world settles on the brink of war. After his father is arrested in the Death Eater attack at the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Draco and his mother Narcissa are left to uphold the Malfoy name and survive in the rising war on their own. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince story starts off with Narcissa Malfoy and her sister Bellatrix Lestrang going to Severus Snape for help. Narcissa has found out the task that Lord Voldemort assigned Draco: kill Albus Dumbledore. While Bellatrix is completely fine with the idea of her nephew committing manslaughter, Narcissa is obviously upset. Page 33 describes the event, “’Draco should be proud,” said Bellatrix indifferently. “The Dark Lord is granting him a great honor. And I will say this for Draco: He isn’t shrinking away from his duty, he seems glad of a chance to prove himself, excited at the prospect-” Narcaissa began to cry in earnest, gazing beseechingly all the while at Snape. “That’s because he is sixteen and has no idea what lies in store! Why, Severus? Why my son? It is too dangerous! This is vengeance for Lucius’s mistake, I know it!” Snape said nothing. He looked away from the sight of her tears as though they were indecent, but he could not pretend not to hear her. “That’s why he’s chosen Draco, isn’t it?” she persisted. “To punish Lucius?” “If Draco succeeds,” said Snape, still looking away from her, “he will be honored above all others.” “But he won’t succeed!” sobbed Narcissa. “How can he, when the Dark Lord himself-?’” Firstly, I’d like to start with the part of the passage many people get stuck on. Bellatrix shares that Draco seems ready to prove himself to Voldemort and “excited at the prospect”. Many failed to look at the bigger picture than this little snippet that Bellatrix shares. Bellatrix Lestrange finds pleasure in torturing innocent people, killing those who oppose her, and tearing apart people’s lives. On countless occasions, she has shown sociopathic and/or psychopathic tendencies. I’m no psychology expert, but personally I wouldn’t think that socio/psychopaths aren’t typically the best judging emotions in general. Had Bellatrix been given the task to kill Dumbledore, she’d be positively delighted. She may have been projecting herself onto Draco and assumed that he truly felt happy to be tasked with such a crime. Giving Bellatrix the benefit of the doubt, assuming she had no sociopathic or psychotic tendencies whatsoever, perhaps Draco really did seem glad for the opportunity. You have to remember that Draco’s father means everything to the Malfoy family. Without Lucius Malfoy, the family loses their source of income, leadership (or rather, dictator in my opinion), and respectable public figure. Suddenly the Malfoys are not respected and feared, instead looked down upon and shunned. A Pottermore article about Draco reads, “Draco’s existence had been cloistered and protected until this point; he had been a privileged boy with little to trouble him, assured of his status in the world and with his head full of petty concerns. Now, with his father gone and his mother distraught and afraid, he had to assume a man’s responsibilities.” Lucius had failed Voldemort, and because he could not face Voldemort’s punishment because he had been placed in Azkaban (aka wizard prison), the Malfoy family must face the Dark Wizard’s wrath. Voldemort had killed hundreds of people over the course of his reign, so it wouldn’t be surprising for him to punish Lucius by murdering his wife and son. In fact, it was to be expected. Instead of death, Draco was set up on a suicide mission to deliver death to his headmaster. Perhaps Bellatrix was right, perhaps Draco really did look excited to prove himself. Why wouldn’t a young boy be excited at the prospect of saving him and his mother’s lives instead of being killed? Of course Draco would be ready for a chance to prove himself if it meant not facing the furious wrath of Voldemort. Besides, the dark arts is what he had been brainwashed to believe was right his entire life, and his life has been suddenly turned upside down. It’s only natural for him to cling on to the things that he has been taught to value the most when his world is changing: dark magic and family. Pottermore shares, “At this early stage, full of the desire for revenge and to return his father to Voldemort’s favour, Draco barely comprehended what he was being asked to do. All he knew was that Dumbledore represented everything his imprisoned father disliked; Draco managed, quite easily, to convince himself that he, too, thought the world would be a better place without the Hogwarts Headmaster, around whom opposition to Voldemort had always rallied.” If Draco and his family were not in grave danger, he would have never dreamed of killing Dumbledore. But he had no choice, it was kill or be killed, so Draco tried his best to pretend that what he was doing was right and necessary. The human mind often resorts to strange measures to deal with trauma and make it fit into the reality surrounding it. Draco dealt with the horrid trauma of suddenly being thrust into a world of war and death where he was to be the assassin by succumbing to his family’s and Voldemort’s desires. Only 16, Draco Malfoy was forced to join the Death Eaters and replace his father as punishment for the Malfoys’ failures. If Draco did not join, he would bring torture, pain, and death to his family and disgrace their name. Furthermore, Voldemort tasked Draco with something even the greatest dark wizard before his time, Gellert Grindelwald, could not do. It was a suicide mission and everyone knew it. Killing Dumbledore is a horrible task, but ever more horrible for Draco. Dumbledore was regarded as one of the most powerful wizards of that age. To send a teenage boy who hasn’t even finished his schooling to murder a fully trained, extremely powerful wizard was setting Draco up for failure. Additionally, Dumbledore was Draco’s headmaster at school. Draco has grown, consciously or unconsciously, to trust Dumbledore to keep him and his peers safe at Hogwarts. Suddenly he has been forced to murder him. If Draco fails his task, his family will be murdered. Draco has no choice but to join the Death Eater’s ranks and begin his plot to murder his headmaster. Snape and Narcissa exchange an extremely strong bit of magic when discussing Draco’s unfortunate task: an unbreakable vow. An unbreakable vow is a magical contract where one person promises another something that, obviously, cannot be broken. The punishment for breaking such a vow is death. Snape makes an unbreakable vow to Narcissa Malfoy. He promises her that he will watch over and protect Draco on page 36 and kill Dumbledore if Draco fails to do so. Draco’s story takes off in Diagon Alley in Madam Malkin’s Robes For All Occasions in chapter six.

Page 112 starts off with Harry, Ron, and Hermione running into Draco and his mother shopping for his school supplies. Draco tells his mother, “…not a child, in case you haven’t noticed, Mother. I am perfectly capable of doing my shopping alone.” While this may seem like a rather unimportant and unnecessary line, it’s actually packed with information. Draco’s insistence on not being a child leads to several revelations about his character. For one, Draco has been forced to grow up too fast. With the loss of the man that held his family and the ever threatening looming war, Draco had to leave his childhood and teenage years behind to assume the position of his father. He is obviously struggling with the transition. By dying his youth, he tries to overcome the unbalanced chaos his life has become. The fact that he says “in case you haven’t noticed” leads me to believe that Narcissa is trying to deny the truth of Draco’s unfortunate task and is treating him as such. This contributes to the unsteadiness that Draco is trying to balance, making it harder to hold on to the boy he was before he was forced to become a Death Eater. Even though he has been forced to take on an adult role, Draco is still being treated like a child. This causes him even more confusion and frustrations than he is already feeling. His use of the word “Mother” in regards to Narcissus instead of “Mum” once again suggests the distance between the pair. Although it is obvious throughout the series that Draco cares deeply about his family, especially his mother, it never seems as if the two were particularly close. In fact, growing up away from everyone deemed unworthy, Draco grew up majorly alone until Hogwarts. It’s no surprise that he wishes to do his tasks, whether it be shopping or murder, on his own. Draco just wants to keep his family and his pride in tact and is doing everything he can to do it. He insists on doing things alone because that is exactly how he feels. Isolated with no peers who can relate to his struggles, Draco’s actions reflect his inner feelings. He tries to bear the weight of this enormous responsibility by himself as not to damage his pride and his family, and eventually it will take its toll. Draco’s Pottermore article put it best, “The ideas that Draco had about himself, and his place in the world, were disintegrating. All his life, he had idolised a father who advocated violence and was not afraid to use it himself, and now that his son discovered in himself a distaste for murder, he felt it to be a shameful failing.”

Per usual, Harry, Ron, and Hermione get into a fight with the Malfoys before they can leave the store. Page 112-113 says, “’If you’re wondering what the smell is, Mother, a Mudblood just walked in,” said Draco Malfoy. “I don’t think there’s any need for language like that!” said Madam Malkin, scurrying out from behind the clothes rack holding a tape measure and a wand. “And I don’t want wands drawn in my shop either!” she added hastily, for a glance toward the door had shown her Harry and Ron both standing there with their wands out and pointing at Malfoy.” The fact that Draco so openly uses the slur for muggle-born with his mother tells us that his behavior is most likely encouraged by his family, further skewing his knowledge of right and wrong. The fact that Harry and Ron immediately drew their wands shows not only their loyalty to Hermione, but how much they despised Draco and how willing they were to get in a fight with him. I’m not saying Draco should be excused from his actions as he is 100% aware of what his words mean and should be held accountable for them, but I am saying that I personally don’t feel that it’s a good enough reason to pull out magic death sticks and point them at a teenage boy. Using language like Draco did is not okay; neither is publicly threatening someone. Draco comments about Hermione’s black eye, wishing to compliment the person who made it (sidenote: the black eye came from one of Fred and George’s prank items: a punching telescope). Along the lines of publicly threatening people, Narcissa tells Harry, “If you attack my son again, I shall ensure that it is the last thing you ever do.” To which Harry responds a few lines later, “Going to get a few Death Eater pals to do us in, are you?” Though Harry doesn’t know it at the time, he is extremely close to the truth. In fact, Narcissa and Draco head to a meeting regarding Death Eater matters soon after this encounter. Perhaps that’s why on page 113, it says, “But Harry did not lower his wand. Narcissa Malfoy smiled unpleasantly. “I see that being Dumbledore’s favorite has given you a false sense of security, Harry Potter. But Dumbledore won’t always be there to protect you.” Harry looked mockingly all around the shop. “Wow… look at that… he’s not here now! So why not have a go? They might be able to find you a double cell in Azkaban with your loser of a husband!’” There are three main points I really want to drive home regarding this fragment of the page. Number one: Harry Potter is a literal sass god in the books, but the movies downgraded his character. Number two: Harry was deliberately taking cheap shots at the Malfoys based off of their recent traumas, which, in my opinion, is a no go and gives them a right to be upset. The Malfoys aren’t good people, that’s non-negotiable. But the fact remains that Harry, the one who is supposed to take the high road, makes it worse by retaliating and taunting those he knows has the power to seriously injure and kill his friends. Number three: Narcissa tells Harry that Dumbledore is going to die and that he should be prepared for it. Calling Harry “Dumbledore’s favorite” may seem like an insult, but in actuality, it’s the truth. From giving him points when he breaks the rules to personally overseeing his education and not necessarily the others, Dumbledore favors Harry in ways he doesn’t with other students. Narcissa knows that the one person Voldemort ever truly feared was Dumbledore, and she also knows that Harry’s been sheltered by Dumbledore from many of the dangers he could face. She warns him not to get too comfortable and to be ready, and she tells him straight up that Dumbledore will not always be there. Narcissa knows this for a fact because her son is the one meant to cause the loss of Dumbledore. Even so, she still warns Harry in the slick, wily way the Malfoys can. It’s on page 114 that Draco gives Harry the first clue of his Death Eater status. As Madam Malkin goes to pin up his robe on his left arm, the very same arm that holds the dark mark (A skull with a serpent slithering out of its mouth, the symbol sits on the inner left forearm. It burns when the Death Eaters are summoned to Voldemort and the Death Eaters can call Voldemort to them through the mark as well), Draco jumps, slaps her hand, and promptly exits the store with his mother. However, this isn’t the last time the three would see Draco on their Diagon Alley trip.

Draco’s trip in Diagon Alley soon turns into a trip to Knockturn Alley, one of the rougher, black markets if you will, parts of the wizarding world. He is spotted sneaking around alone by Harry on page 122. Harry promptly hides himself with Ron and Hermione under the invisibility cloak and begins to follow Draco as he travels into Knockturn Alley on page 123. Malfoy enters Borgin and Burkes, a store “…which sold a wide variety of sinister objects,” according to page 124. In the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie, Draco hesitates at 00:21:21 before entering the shop, showcasing his fear and unwillingness to complete the task he is about to begin. The trio spies on Draco as he talks to the owner, Borgin, about fixing an object we later find out to be a Vanishing Cabinet. Page 125 describes, “’Well, without seeing it, I must say it will be a very difficult job, perhaps impossible. I couldn’t guarantee anything.” “No?” said Malfoy, and Harry knew, just by the tone of his voice, that Malfoy was sneering. “Perhaps this will make you more confident.” He moved toward Borgin and was blocked from view by the cabinet. Harry, Ron, and Hermione shuffled sideways to try and keep him in sight, but all they could see was Borgin, looking very frightened. “Tell anyone,” said Malfoy, “and there will be retribution. You know Fenrir Greyback? He’s a family friend. He’ll be dropping in from time to time to make sure you’re giving the problem your full attention.’” Draco leaves the shop soon after, leaving his intentions shrouded in mystery. This scene is important because it’s the first time we see Draco actively working towards the task he’s been forced to comply with. We see just how hard he is working to protect his family and just how impossible his task really is. Assuming that the Vanishing Cabinets are his only plan (and we can assume such as Hermione sees a cursed necklace in the store on page 127 which she later confirms on page 254 to be the same necklace that makes an appearance in chapter 12 on page), Draco’s plan is faulty and high risk. Draco shows Borgin his Dark Mark tattoo to threaten Borgin into helping him. Although Borgin had been dealing with the Malfoy’s illegal magical supplies for years (see PotterTime 3 (part 1)), revealing his Death Eater status to the man was extremely risky. There was no sure way to know that Borgin wouldn’t tell of the Death Eater’s plans. He must have realized his mistake, because he quickly shares that notorious, murderous werewolf Fenrir Greyback would frequent the store now that he knew. It seems odd that Draco would mention Greyback as a family friend when he had just shown Borgin his Dark Mark, in a way sharing that Voldemort was also a family friend. What does Greyback have on Voldemort? Or for that matter, Draco’s cousin Bellatrix Lestrange, his friend’s fathers, his own father? Perhaps the answer lies that in the back of his mind, Draco wanted to be found out so he wouldn’t have to go through with the assassination plot. That is why he showed Borgin his mark and then quickly covered it up with the threat of Greyback. After witnessing this event, Harry is positive that Draco is a Death Eater.

When Harry shares his findings with his friends, he is met with disbelief. On page 130, when Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he thinks Draco is a Death Eater, it says, “There was a silence; then Ron erupted in laughter. “Malfoy? He’s sixteen, Harry! You think You-Know-Who would let Malfoy join?” “It seems very unlikely, Harry,” said Hermione in a repressive sort of voice.” Ron and Hermione know better than anyone that Draco is a terrible person. He called Hermione slurs since their second year at Hogwarts and constantly belittled Ron for his family’s financial status. In fact, Ron was convinced that Draco was the heir of Slytherin in their second year. Even still, Hermione and Ron don’t believe that Draco has what it takes to be a Death Eater. And they’re right, he would never have been a Death Eater at this point in his life (admittedly, he was heading down that path to follow in daddy dearest’s footsteps, but he still had two years to grow into his own opinions rather than be forced into them) if his family were not under threat. Are Ron and Hermione subconsciously dismissing Harry’s theory because ignorance is bliss and they don’t truly wish to believe that this is the beginning of a war? Perhaps. The fact remains that even with all of the terrible things Draco had done, Hermione and Ron still don’t believe Draco to do such a thing, which says a lot about his character. Even when Harry tells Mr. Weasley about Draco being a Death Eater on page 135, he is dismissed. Mr. Weasley knows the Malfoy family and their evil deeds like the back of his hand. He himself had raided their manor on multiple occasions and found all sorts of items of dark magic. He was also part of the Order of the Phoenix and fought against the Malfoys in the first wizarding war. If anyone knew what the Malfoys were capable of, it was Mr. Weasley; Harry still wasn’t believed by him. So -in a very typical Harry Potter fashion- Harry decides to take matters into his own hands.

Once again, the trio finds themselves on the Hogwarts Express, journeying on to their sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry and Draco’s countless train ride encounters are no coincidence. The writing tip website Slap Happy Larry shares, “Trains are the perfect fatalistic symbol; there’s only one path for a train — its pre-laid tracks. A fatalistic view of the world means you’re all about destiny, and subscription to the idea that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do.” We know that Harry has a destined path- the prophecy told us that. But the fact that Draco and Harry frequently encounter each other on a train suggests that Draco’s path was laid out for him too. Just as Harry had no choice but to be the one to try and defeat Voldemort, Draco had no choice but to save his family.

Harry sneaks into the Slytherin compartment on the Hogwarts Express with his invisibility cloak on page 149. Eavesdropping on the conversation, Harry hears Draco upset that he wasn’t invited to the slug club. The slug club is run by the new potions professor (Snape being moved to Defence Against the Dark Arts) Horace Slughorn, who loves to “collect” people with good connections or promising futures, befriend them, and then reap the benefits of that friendship. When Draco, who was used to the Malfoy family being treated like royalty, didn’t get an invite, his pride was hurt. This is the beginning of him realizing that this year at Hogwarts was going to be one of the most difficult he’d yet to face. On page 151, Draco denies caring about the slug club, then the book reads, “’Well, you never know,” said Malfoy with the ghost of a smile. “I might have -er- moved on to bigger and better things.’” Draco knows that his friends would be impressed by working for Voldemort, and after the blow to his pride he had just suffered, he felt the need to regain his superior status. A few lines later, the book says, “’Do you mean- Him?” Malfoy shrugged. “Mother wants me to complete my education, but personally, I don’t see it as that important these days. I mean, think about it… When the Dark Lord takes over, is he going to care how many O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s anyone’s got? Of course he isn’t… It’ll be all about the kind of service he received, the level of devotion he was shown.’” Technically, Draco’s not wrong. Draco has to murder Dumbledore, and like most people, probably believed that without Dumbledore the war would be lost to Voldemort. Education isn’t important to Voldemort, but loyal service is. Lets just say that if Voldemort could love, his love language would be acts of service, and Draco knew it. He later mentions on page 152, “Maybe the job he wants me to do isn’t something that you need to be qualified for.” Harry hears all of this, and Draco’s not being shy with all of the hints he’s giving to his friends. Of course, Draco wouldn’t have said any of that if he had known Harry was under the invisibility cloak listening… or would he (dun dun duh!)? On page 149, before Harry was all nice and snug under the coat eavesdropping, the book says, “It was fortunate that Goyle and Zabini were snarling at each other, drawing all eyes onto them, for Harry was quite sure his feet and ankles had been revealed as the cloak had flapped around them; indeed, for one horrible moment he thought he saw Malfoy’s eyes follow his trainer as it whipped upward out of sight.” If Harry was sure that his ankles were revealed and then saw Draco notice his feet, then it’s safe to say Draco most definitely knew that Harry was listening in on his conversation. Why would he talk about his mission, which we know from chapter two, is forbidden to speak of? Draco must have wanted Harry to hear so that Harry could be on guard and ready for anything that was going to happen that year. Draco, like his mother, was warning Harry of what the year would come to and trying to make sure he was prepared. Draco knew that Harry and Dumbledore were close, so he might have been telling Harry because he thought Harry would tell Dumbledore of Draco’s new allegiance to Voldemort. This way, Dumbledore’s life would be spared and Draco could have possibly gotten the help he needed to get him and his mom out of the situation they were in. We know Draco knows Harry is there the whole time, but Draco wants Harry to know as well. On page 153, Draco paralyzes Harry with Petrificus Totalus and then the page reads, “’I thought so,” he said jubilantly. “I heard Goyle’s trunk hit you. And I thought I saw something white flash through the air after Zabini came back…’” Draco purposefully said all the things he did knowing Harry was there, and told Harry, “You didn’t hear anything I care about, Potter.” Some read this as Draco doesn’t care if Harry knows or not, but I read this as the things he was speaking about isn’t anything he truly cares about. He may have been trying to tell Harry in the most low key way possible that he didn’t care or want to do the tasks that he was talking about earlier. Of course, Draco being Draco, he stomps on Harry’s face, breaks his nose, and leaves him on the floor of the compartment paralyzed on the next page, ruining the whole thing.

As the year progressed, so did Draco’s desperation to complete his task. Katie Bell enters the girls bathroom at the Three Broomsticks during a Hogsmeade trip in chapter 12 to change and returns dazed with a strange package. She had the imperious curse placed upon her and no longer had control over her mind. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were walking behind Katie and her friend, Leanne, when they heard them arguing. On page 248-249, when Leanne reaches for the package, Katie yanks it back and before they knew it, Katie was floating in the air, shrieking, and then seizing on the ground. They later found out that the package contained a cursed necklace. In fact, it was the very same necklace that had been in Borgin and Burkes. On page 253, Harry tells Professor McGonagall that he believes Draco gave the cursed necklace to Katie Bell. Harry has no proof and McGonagall reveals on page 255 that Draco wasn’t even at Hogsmeade because he was doing detention with her. Harry is right; Draco did give Katie the cursed necklace, intending for her to give it to Dumbledore. This is Draco’s first assassination attempt and an extremely important one. The way Draco planned on pulling off this murder was hands off, and I mean extremely hands off. Not only was he not going to be the one giving the cursed item to Dumbledore, but he didn’t even go into Hogsmeade to deliver it. Additionally, this particular Hogsmeade visit was in the winter. Draco had several other Hogsmeade trip opportunities as they had been at Hogwarts since September first. Why did he pick the one Hogsmeade trip that he couldn’t even go to for his plan? Draco did not want to kill Dumbledore; he distanced himself from the crime as much as he possibly could. Some may argue that he did this to cover his tracks. This idea can easily be shut down because the cursed necklace had been in Borgin and Burkes for years and could have been easily identified. All the ministry would have to do is track the purchase and find the buyer, which would lead them straight to Draco or his Death Eater buddies. Adding to this rebuttal, once Dumbledore was dead, Draco wouldn’t need to distance himself from the crime. In fact, he would be honored, celebrated, and praised for it. There was no need for him to be so hands off about the situation. Draco actually would have gotten more recognition and admiration if he had been more hands on. The cursed necklace plan admittedly wasn’t very thought out, but he was desperate to secede and get his family back with as little responsibility to Dumbledore’s death as possible. It was very possible that Dumbledore could have recognized the necklace for what it was and Draco’s life would be in grave danger from Voldemort and the Death Eaters for the failure. The fact that he used a method so out of his control reflects the way that Draco felt in that moment. Ironically enough, the way that he planned to kill Dumbledore proves how much he did not wish to do so.

In chapter fifteen, Draco is caught sneaking around the castle by the caretaker, Argus Filch. He then claims he was gatecrashing Slughorn’s party and leaves with Snape (and a nosy Harry Potter under the invisibility cloak) soon after. On page 322-324, Harry overhears their conversation. Draco claims to have nothing to do with Katie, but we know he’s lying as Dumbledore confronts him about it on page 585. When Snape tries to read Draco’s mind on page 322, he fails as Draco has learnt Occlumency (the ability to block your mind from others, kind of like Bella Swan in Twilight). This is a hard skill to learn and maintain, especially because Snape is skilled at Legilimency (the act of interpreting other’s minds, similar to Edward Cullen from Twilight but more complex). J.K. Rowling wrote in a article on Draco in Pottermore, “I argued that it was perfectly consistent with Draco’s character that he would find it easy to shut down emotion, to compartmentalise, and to deny essential parts of himself.” This means that J.K. Rowling reveals that Draco never wanted to do the tasks he was being tried with, and had to literally shut down the parts of himself that were good. Considering Snape tried to teach Harry this in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry failed miserably, it’s incredible that Draco has managed to do. One could go as far to say that shows not only that Draco is more powerful of a wizard than Harry Potter, but even more so dedicated to protecting the ones he loves. On page 324, it reads, “’I know what you’re up to! You want to steal my glory!” There was another pause, then Snape said coldly, “You are speaking like a child. I quite understand that your father’s capture and imprisonment has upset you, but-‘” At this point in the story, Draco storms off. This reveals how much Lucius Malfoy’s absence truly affected Draco. While they most likely didn’t have the best relationship due to evidence of minor emotional and/or physical abuse (if you can consider any abuse minor, that is), Lucius was his family’s rock and Draco’s one person he looked up to. Draco is trying his best to uphold his fathers name and restore the Malfoy name to its former glory (by the way, stealing the credit for Draco’s work is absolutely something Snape would do, we even see an example where he attempts to do something similar in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, see PotterTime 1 for further details). After overhearing this conversation, Harry becomes obsessed with revealing Draco to his friends. On page 387, Harry begins stalking Draco on the Marauder’s Map (a magical map that shows all of Hogwarts and its inhabitants) and even searching the school for him on page 388. Later in the book on page 421, Harry even orders the two house-elves, Dobby and Kreacher, to trail Draco’s every move. Harry hadn’t had much luck with Draco and Harry’s obsession seemed to be dying down… until Ron accidentally consumed a love potion meant for Harry.

In chapter 18, Harry has to take Ron to Professor Slughorn to see if Slughorn can reverse the potion, and Slughorn whips up a solution in no time. As a celebration of Ron’s birthday and getting over the love potion, Slughorn offers Harry and Ron a glass of mead (by the way, if I’m not mistaken, at this time you could not buy or sell alcohol until you were 18 years old, but could drink it depending on the place if you were 16/17 years old, so while it seems really weird that this adult teaching is giving 16 year old alcohol, it’s not as weird considering the Scottish and UK culture, although still pretty weird in my opinion). Unfortunately for Ron, who downed the cup of mead almost as soon as he got it, the bottle of mead was poisoned. If it wasn’t for Harry’s quick thinking on page 397-398, Ron likely would have died. On page 396-397, Slughorn says, “I’ve got one last bottle of this oak-matured mead… hmm… meant to give that to Dumbledore for Christmas… ah well…” When Harry and his friends were debating over whether or not Slughorn wanted to poison Harry or not on page 401-402, Hermione raises an interesting point. The book reads, “’But you said Slughorn had been planning to give that bottle to Dumbledore for Christmas,” Ginny reminded him. “So the poison could just have easily been after Dumbledore.” “Then the poisoner didn’t know Slughorn very well,” said Hermione, speaking for the first time in hours and sounding as though she had a bad head cold. “Anyone who knew Slughorn would have known there was a good chance he’d keep something that tasty for himself.’” Draco had poisoned the mead and passed it onto Slughorn, likely magically planting the idea of gifting it to Dumbledore in his mind. Hermione was right, he should’ve known that Slughorn would keep the mead instead of giving it. But the thing is, Draco did know. His father had been a student under Slughorn, one of his favorites too. Draco had been a student under Slughorn all year and had friends in the Slug Club loyalty reporting to him. Draco may have given Slughorn the mead in hopes that he would recognize it for what it truly was. Who better to discover something has been poisoned than the potions professor? He may have been hoping that the mead wouldn’t be passed to Dumbledore in the first place. Once again, his assassination attempt is extremely impersonal and hands off, further driving my point that Draco doesn’t want to kill Dumbledore, but rather is doing it out of extreme necessity. 

In the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Draco seems almost naive to what his year at Hogwarts will bring. But throughout the book, it’s clear that everything has been laying heavily on his mind. Draco has experienced some extreme stressors. His father’s arrest, the fall of his family and personal pride, and being tasked as an assassin at age 16 are just a few of them. This extreme stress he had suddenly been put under was enough to make him crack. Throughout the story, Draco exhibits signs of depression that can be easily overlooked. Article “Depression In Teens: How To Recognize Symptoms, Seek Treatment, And Prevent Teen Depression” on betterhelp describes multiple symptoms of depression that Draco exhibits. As Draco was never diagnosed or treated and I am definitely no professional, I cannot say that Draco had depression or was facing a depressive episode. However, I can point out the occasions where he exhibits the signs. On page 255, McGonagall tells Harry that Draco was in detention with her because he had “now failed to complete his Transfiguration homework twice in a row.” Often times, when one is facing depression, their work/schoolwork suffers. We know from past books that Draco is an excellent student who is very ambitious in his school work, just behind Hermione, the “brightest witch of her age”, in grades. Draco has great pride in his work and it’s very unlike him to suddenly not care about it anymore. Between the time that his new project took and likely some sort of depressive episode, he begins to fall behind in his work. Then on page 294, Harry and his friends find out that Draco is skipping the Quidditch game. The page reads, “Malfoy had once before claimed he could not play due to injury, but on that occasion he had made sure the whole match was rescheduled for a time that suited the Slytherins better. Why was he now happy to let a substitute go on? Was he really ill, or was he faking?” Harry is right to question Draco’s absence. I’ve discussed Draco’s love for Quidditch in my past PotterTimes and it’s a common theme throughout the books. Another symptom of depression is giving up activities that you used to enjoy. Draco loved Quidditch and he loved house pride, two things he was throwing out the window at this point in time. Before his sixth year, Draco wouldn’t have missed a Quidditch match for the world. When Draco gatecrashes Slughorn’s party on page 321, it says, “This was the first time he had seen Malfoy up close for ages; he now saw that Malfoy had dark shadows under his eyes and a distinctly grayish tinge to his skin.” Another sign of depression is irregular sleep, which very well could contribute to the ghoulish look Draco is sporting in this scene. Looking physically drained could be a hint to what is trapping Draco in his mind. Finally, on page 462, Moaning Myrtle (the ghost who typically haunts a girls bathroom, but wanders around the pipes if she pleases) shares some new information with Ron and Harry. Myrtle seemed to be waiting for someone who said they would visit, but hadn’t shown. The book says, “’But I thought he liked me,” she said plaintively. “Maybe if you two left, he’d come back again…. We had lots in common…. I’m sure he felt it….” And she looked hopefully toward the door. “When you say you had lots in common,” said Ron, sounding rather amused now, “d’you mean he lives in an S-bend too?” “No,” said Myrtle defiantly, her voice echoing loudly around the old tiled bathroom. “I mean he’s sensitive, people bully him too, and he feels lonely and hasn’t got anybody to talk to, and he’s not afraid to show his feelings and cry!’” Later on page 521, we find out that the boy Myrtle was talking about was Draco Malfoy. Myrtle reveals a few things about Draco in her few sentences. Firstly, you have to understand that Moaning Myrtle is one of the most easily brought to tears and easily offended ghosts at Hogwarts. Secondly, you have to understand that Draco Malfoy is one of the rudest, most likely to bring someone to tears, students at Hogwarts. You can probably see how this combination typically would not end up well. It’s obvious that Myrtle really likes Draco and wants to see him again, which she wouldn’t wish if he had been unkind to her. In his vulnerability, he discovered how to be kind to others. Myrtle shares how alone he feels and that he’s been crying, likely frequently, in her presence. Another sign of depression is abnormal amounts of crying. The Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie reveals even more signs to the audience. On the train ride to Hogwarts, Draco tells his friends at 00:24:50, “Hogwarts- what a pathetic excuse for a school. I think I’ll pitch myself off the astronomy tower before I have to continue for another two years.” Although he starts the sentence off about Hogwarts, he might be hinting that he doesn’t know how long he can last being a student and a Death Eater as it all seems so pointless. He knows he’s on a suicide mission and is doing everything he can to not let that happen. Then later in the movie at 00:06:10, we see Draco gripping the railing in the cold, snowy weather of presumably the astronomy tower. While he could have been enjoying the frigid weather swirling around the cold, stone tower along whist looking out over the edge, I fear he is doing much more than that. After his statement from the train and his recent depression development, it could be very likely that he was contemplating suicide. Draco is trying to repair the Vanishing Cabinet in the Room of Requirement that sisters the one in Borgin and Burkes to get the Death Eaters inside of Hogwarts, but to test it he needs to send something alive. Draco takes a small bird and attempts to make it vanish to Borgin’s. When he hears the bird has been transported back, he opens the cabinet to find his little bird dead. You can see the exact moment that Draco looks genuinely disgusted with himself at 01:35:13. Seconds later, at 01:35:20, you can hear Draco softly sobbing alone in the Room of Requirement, horrified at what he had caused. If Draco can hardly bear to harm a bird, then you must understand how hard it is for him to be okay with murdering his headmaster, no matter how hard he tries to convince himself that it will solve all his problems. Katie Bell, the girl who had been cursed by the necklace, returned to Hogwarts from St. Mungos (the wizard hospital) and Draco sees her at 01:37:26; He looked terrified and guilt stricken and then quickly ran off, Harry following close behind to partake in one of the book and films most notable moments. 

As Draco rushes down the hall, you can see him at 01:37:44 on the verge of tears, anxiously losing his tie as if it were suffocating him. This could allude to an invisible noose tightening around his neck as he feels he is failing his job and how trapped he feels in this moment. Once in the bathroom, he heads straight for the sinks. One look at himself in the bathroom mirror 01:38:00 sends him in a downward spiral as he begins to sob. In the book, Moaning Myrtle is attempting to comfort Draco. Page 522 describes, “’No one can help me,” said Malfoy. His whole body was shaking. “I can’t do it…. I can’t…. It won’t work…. And unless I do it soon…. He says he’ll kill me….” And Harry realized, with a shock so huge it seemed to root him to the spot, that Malfoy was crying -actually crying- tears streaming down his pale face into the grimy basin. Malfoy gasped and gulped and then, with a great shudder, looked up into the cracked mirror and saw Harry staring at him over his shoulder.” There is much that can be taken from the segment of the book. Firstly, Draco shows two signs of depression: feelings of hopelessness and crying. Draco seems as if he has given up. He never wanted any of this. His only choices were death (of himself) or death (of another). Draco didn’t have a choice, he had to go through with the plan to kill Dumbledore and it was weighing on him greatly. Even far from Voldemort, the ever looming threat was always hanging over his head, causing his tough exterior to crack. Speaking of crack, notice how the mirror Draco looks into is cracked. A cracked mirror or cracking a mirror is widely regarded as a symbol of misfortune and bad luck. With J.K. Rowling’s love of symbols and prophecy, it can be assumed that this is not a coincidence. Another thing that can be taken from this section is that Harry is shocked to see Draco displaying emotions. This goes to show that without reading further into context, our view on Draco Malfoy is skewed. While the series is in a third person narrative, it is told from the perspective of Harry’s mind. Harry is very stubborn and hates Draco with a passion. If Harry sees Draco one way, we read it that way, even if Harry isn’t right. You have to be careful that you truly understand and comprehend the characters you are reading about and not just skimming the surface that his perspective gives you. It shouldn’t be a huge shock that a teenage boy is crying, especially because said teenage boy is under a death threat. When Draco sees Harry in the mirror at 01:38:19, it’s easy to spot the bags under Draco’s eyes and how scared he looks, his chin beginning to quiver. Caught off guard by his enemy during a mental breakdown, Draco reacts irrationally and fires a hex at Harry, starting a duel in the bathroom. The duel ends when Draco nearly fires the unforgivable torture curse, Crucio, but Harry fires a spell in which he has no idea the outcome and hits Draco. Harry has cast the curse Sectumsempra, causing a gash to open on Draco’s chest. Draco began slowly bleeding out on the bathroom floor. The book describes on page 523, “Harry did not know what he was saying; he fell to his knees beside Malfoy, who was shaking uncontrollably in a pool of his own blood.” While the Cruciatus Curse is a terrible torture spell, the spell Harry cast is arguably just as bad. Of course, Harry did not know what the spell would do as he had found it written in his potions textbook, but that arguably makes it worse. The spell could have been nothing, or it could have killed Draco. Harry had no qualms over Draco being his test subject. We do not know and will never no if Draco’s curse would have had any affect on Harry (in order to perform an unforgivable curse, you have to really mean it), but either way, mentally unstable and scared of being caught or not, he should never have attempted it, just as Harry should have never used Sectumsempra on Draco. Lucky for Draco, Snape came into the bathroom and healed his wounds in time for them not to become long term, serious issues. Draco soon continues on with his unfortunate quest. 

The night of Draco’s final assassination attempt, he lies in bed wide awake, swallowing a down a lump in his throat (02:28:26). He is obviously scared and when he sneaks into the Room of Requirement to let in the Death Eaters at 02:09:22, Draco looks scared and unsure, physically backing away from the vanishing cabinet as if putting as much distance between him and it as possible. Its clear Draco wants nothing to do with the murder, but has no choice in the matter but to safe his family and his life. 

That night, Draco disarmed Dumbledore with ease, effectively transferring the power of the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand of all time, to himself (though he doesn’t know it). As the Death Eaters fought members of the Order below them, Draco was supposed to end Dumbledore’s life. His wand raised and pointing at Dumbledore at 02:11:50, Draco’s hand was shaking whilst pointing his wand, his whole body trembling in fear. His lip shakes as if he is about to cry. Page 585 says, “’Well, then, you must get on and do it, my dear boy,” said Dumbledore softly. There was silence. Harry stood imprisoned within his own invisible, paralyzed body, staring at the two of them, his ears straining to hear sounds of the Death Eaters’ distant fights, and in front of him, Draco Malfoy did nothing but stare at Albus Dumbledore, who, incredibly, smiled. “Draco, Draco, you are not a killer.’” Even when Dumbledore gives Draco a completely open shot and practically permission to kill him, Draco can’t bring himself to do it. When Dumbledore points out the fact that he is defenseless, Draco simply stares at him. The book says, “Malfoy looked as though he was fighting the urge to vomit.” This act of murder went against everything Draco wanted, but it was what he needed to do, making his body physically react in protest. When Dumbledore asked Draco to explain how he had gotten the Death Eaters in the building, Draco obliged and told him everything. Page 587 reads, “’Very good,” murmured Dumbledore. “So the Death Eaters were able to pass from Borgin and Burkes into the school to help you…. A clever plan, a very clever plan… and, as you say, right under my nose.” “Yeah,” said Malfoy, who bizarrely seemed to draw courage and comfort from Dumbledore’s praise. “Yeah, it was!’” Draco is so starved for approval that he clings to the words of the man who he is about to murder for comfort, showing just how broken this boy truly is. Moresoever, Draco tells Dumbledore exactly how he did everything to set up the murder, both stalling the killing, perhasps so memebers of the Order of the Pheniox come in, and telling Dumbledore all the mistakes he needed to fix. When Dumbledore starts discussing the options Draco has, he breaks. Pages 591-592 reads, “’I haven’t any options!” said Malfoy, and he was suddenly white as Dumbledore. “I’ve got to do it! He’ll kill me! He’ll kill my whole family!” “I appreciate the difficulty of your position,” said Dumbledore. “Why else do you think I have not confronted you before now? Because I knew that you would have been murdered if Lord Voldemort realized that I suspected you.’” Up until this point, Draco had no choice but to conform to Voldemort and his family’s wishes. Suddenly, his world is shaken once again. Dumbledore offers Draco help, and the book continues, “No you can’t,” said Malfoy, his wand shaking very badly indeed. “Nobody can. He told me to do it or he’ll kill me. I’ve got no choice.” “He cannot kill you if you are already dead. Come over to the right side, Draco, and we can hide you more completely than you can possibly imagine. What is more, I can send members of the Order to your mother tonight and hide her likewise. Nobody would be surprised that you had died in your attempt to kill me- forgive me, but Lord Voldemort probably expects it. Nor would the Death Eaters be surprised that we had captured and killed your mother- it is what they would do themselves, after all. Your father is safe at the moment in Azkaban…. When the time comes, we can protect him too. Come over to the right side, Draco… you are not a killer….” Draco stared at Dumbledore. “But I got this far, didn’t I?” he said slowly. “They thought I’d die in the attempt, but I’m here… and you’re in my power…. I’m the one with the wand…. You’re at my mercy….” “No, Draco,” said Dumbledore quietly. “It is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now.” Malfoy did not speak. His mouth was open, his wand hand still trembling. Harry thought he saw it drop by a fraction-

This passage is particularly heavy. Here is the moment that I decided if I would forgive Draco Malfoy for all of his wrongdoings and deem him worthy of redemption, or if his character was truly meant to be evil. Draco feels totally alone. He’s terrified that his family and him will be killed, he’s terrified of what he will become if he does kill Dumbledore, and he’s terrified of having to make that decision. Draco recognizes the fact that he’s gotten everything he had grown up dreaming of in this moment: power, superiority, and soon coming praise. He recognizes it, and consciously rejects it by beginning to drop his wand. In the film, you can see exactly at 02:12:41 his wand dropping; Draco was ready to accept Dumbledore’s offer. Seconds later at 02:12:42-43, he has no choice but to raise his wand again as Death Eater’s parade themselves into the tower. Just as Draco finally had a choice, it was taken from him before he even had the chance to do the right thing. Among the Death Eaters was the child maiming and eating werewolf, Fenrir Greyback. The book says on page 593, “’And, yes, I am a little shocked that Draco here invited you, of all people, into the school where his friends live….” “I didn’t,” breathed Malfoy. He was not looking at Fenrir; he did not seem to want to even glance at him. “I didn’t know he was going to come-‘” Even in a room of Death Eaters, Draco is trying to prove to Dumbledore that he truly didn’t want anybody to get hurt. The Death Eaters surrounding Draco egged him on, yelling and whispering things to push him past the tipping point, but Draco cannot and will not kill Dumbledore. In the end, it is Snape who steps forwards and completes the job. Draco watches mortified at 02:14:12 as his headmaster was just killed in front of him, toppling off of the tower. Leaving the tower at 02:14:31, Draco appears very much in shock and upset whilst marching with his pleased counterparts. Bellatrix Lestrange did her absolute best to wreak havoc on Hogwarts before they had to flee. Draco watches in horror as his aunt destroys his second home at 02:14:45, knowing that he can now never return. With no choice other than death, Draco leaves with the other Death Eaters off into the night, his life changed forever.

Draco’s role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in miniscule, but weighty. The book starts off at Malfoy Manor, which had become the Death Eaters base of operations. Both Draco’s home at Hogwarts and at the Manor has been taken over by Voldemort. Draco now has nowhere he can be safe, with his life and parents lives constantly under threat now. His father has been released from Azkaban as the Ministry of Magic was taken under Voldemort’s control, but the release of his father did not bring the normalcy and protection that Draco hoped it would. Chapter one starts with a Death Eater meeting in the Malfoy’s dining room, and Voldemort asks, “Why do the Malfoys look so unhappy with their lot? Is my return, my rise to power, not the very thing they professed to desire for so many years?” Lucius rushing to assure Voldemort that they are happy, but even Voldemort sees the truth; as much as the Malfoys are prejudiced, horrible people, they do not want to be under Voldemort’s control. No longer considered the top of the ranks, the Malfoys were failures among the Death Eaters. At one point on page 10, Voldemort addresses this directly in an almost jaunty, jeering manor. The book says, “The hilarity mounted; Draco Malfoy looked in terror at his father, who was staring down into his own lap, then caught his mother’s eye. She shook her head almost imperceptibly, then resumed her own deadpan stare at the opposite wall.” Draco can find no one to help him and give him the sense of security he needs, not even his own parents. He is truly on his own with no choice but to continue on, despite his terror. At the table, Voldemort brings out a kidnapped prisoner: Charity Burbage, Muggle Studies professor at Hogwarts. At 00:08:50 in the film, you can spot Draco staring at her, likely horrified. On page 11, Voldemort asks Draco if he knows who she is. The page reads, “Draco shook his head jerkily. Now that the woman had woken, he seemed unable to look at her anymore.” Draco’s parents would never have aloud Draco to take a Muggle Studies class even if he wanted to. Despite that, Draco couldn’t bring himself to look at the suffering that he knew he had a part in making. His jerky movements reveal how uncomfortable and frightened he is. Then, right in front of him on page 12, Charity Burbage is murdered. In the movie you can see Draco’s look of horror at 00:09:16; in the book, Draco falls out of his seat in shock and terror. The former professor was then swallowed by Voldemort’s snake, Nagini, on Draco’s dining room table.

Draco is largely absent from the film and books due to Harry, Ron, and Hermione being on a quest to destroy Horcruxes. In chapter 23, the three end up at the Malfoy Manor after being caught by snatchers (people who hunt down muggleborns and want witches and wizards in return for rewards). Hermione strikes Harry in the face with a jinx that makes his face swell disproportionately, causing him to be unrecognizable. They bring him to Draco so he can tell the Death Eaters if it is really Harry or not. At 02:02:12 in the movies, Lucius grips the back of a reluctant Draco’s neck, urging him to give up Harry’s identity. On page 458, it says, “’Well, Draco?” said Lucius Malfoy. He sounded avid. “Is it? Is it Harry Potter?” “I- I can’t be sure,” said Draco. He was keeping his distance from Greyback, and seemed as scared of looking at Harry as Harry was of looking at him.” Draco and Harry had been enemies for years. He should have been able to tell if the person in front of him was Harry no matter how puffy the face. Draco blatantly lied to protect Harry and seems terrified at the prospect of actually finding him. Why would he be scared of finding Harry Potter? After all, Lucius tells him, “Draco, if we are the ones who hand Potter over to the Dark Lord, everything will be forgi-” Family and loyalty are two of the most important things to Draco, and he can save his family a lot of trouble by revealing Harry. Still, he hardly even looks at Harry, trying his best to save him. The event carries onto page 459, saying, “’There’s something,” [Lucius] whispered, “it could be the scar, stretched tight… Draco, come here, look properly! What do you think?” Harry saw Draco’s face up close now, right beside his father’s. They were extraordinarily alike, except that while his father looked beside himself with excitement, Draco’s expression was full of reluctance, even fear. “I don’t know,” he said, and he walked away toward the fireplace where his mother stood waiting.” At 02:03:05, you can see the exact moment that Draco’s face flickers, realizing that he would not give up Harry’s identity. There was no way that Draco didn’t recognize Harry. You could even see Harry’s famous lightning shaped scar on his forehead. Draco and Harry had practically grown up in school together, Draco knew that it was Harry. Still, he tried as much as he could without being obvious to save Harry from what Voldemort had in store. You can see that Draco was truly scared, not for himself but for Harry and his friends. It’s clear that Draco did not want them to be caught. Despite all of the hatred and struggle Harry and Draco had faced together, he still was trying to protect him. Then the Death Eaters ask Draco if Hermione was indeed who they thought she was. Draco answers, “I… maybe… yeah.” Hermione had no jinx to hide her face; Draco should have known exactly who exactly who she was, no hesitation. Instead, he tries to make his answer seem vaguely uncertain. Narcissa said earlier that they must be certain who they had caught before they called Voldemort, or they would be punished. Even though all his life, Draco had practiced the brainwashed ways of his parents and hated Hermione because of her bloodstatus, he tried to protect her from facing Voldemort. He knows that if he isn’t certain, Voldemort will not be called to his house. Without drawing attention to it, Draco successfully answers in a way that makes him seem uncertain and hesitant in her identity, successfully protecting her from Voldemort’s wrath. When asked about Ron, the book says, “’Yeah,” said Draco again, his back to the prisoners, “It could be.’” Draco can afford to be more certain in Ron’s case due to his blood status. Ron would not be killed. Voldemort doesn’t kill purebloods unless he has too, and Ron’s life would most likely be spared. Even still, he manages to make his response sound as if he wasn’t sure if Ron’s identity was sure. Draco effectively saved the trio’s lives that night. If he had confirmed Harry, Hermione, and Ron’s identities, Voldemort would have been immediately called to the Manor and they would have been murdered for certain. After Bellatrix tortures Hermione, you can see Draco in the corner of the room sitting with his head bowed, turned away from Hermione, next to his mother at 02:07:06. You can tell from his body language that he is obviously distressed, but had no choice but to do nothing or be tortured alongside Hermione. Luckily Harry and Ron rush in to save the day moments after, dueling Narcissa and Draco.

Harry begins to duel Draco at 02:07:34, but if you watch carefully you’ll notice something particularly odd. Draco doesn’t fire a single spell, only blocks the ones Harry throws at him. Draco has no qualms against dueling. Even in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, he challenges Harry to a duel (and he wouldn’t have done so unless he believed he could win, meaning he thought himself good at it). Fights, whether by first or wand, between Draco and Harry were numerous throughout the series, and he never held back before. Why now? Draco only deflected Harry’s spells because Draco wanted him to win. When Harry and Ron drop their wands because Bellatrix was holding Hermione with a dagger to her throat, Harry looks at Draco at 02:08:07 as if he was searching for help. This shows that Harry knows deep down that Draco wishes to aid them. Draco looks helplessly at Harry and then at his father at 02:08:09 as if silently telling him there was nothing he could do. As the three fought to escape the Manor on page 474, they had to get Ron and Hermione’s wands back from Draco, who had been instructed to hold them. The text reads, “He leapt over an armchair and wrestled the three wands out of Draco’s grip…” He also takes Draco’s wand from him in this scene. We know from previous books that Draco was not opposed to a fist fight, or a “muggle duel” as the wizarding community call them, but the book hardly describes much of a fight at all. Draco practically let Harry take the wands, only weakly protesting the retrieval. While this moment seems small, it actually leads to something incredibly bigger than anyone ever imagined. When Draco disarmed Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the power of the Elder Wand shifted to him. Once Harry took Draco’s wand, the power of the Elder Wand was Harry’s. If the Elder Wand’s power hadn’t been transferred to Draco, Harry would have likely never been able to defeat Voldemort. Although Draco is unaware of the power he was able to give Harry, without him the story would have never had a happy ending. While that is the biggest thing that the scene brings to the story, there is a bit more. Wandlore is one of the more complex arts of the wizarding world, but one of the most important. Draco’s wand was Hawthorn wood, unicorn hair core, 10 inches in length, and “reasonably springy”. Different materials in wands give them different characteristics. According to Pottermore’s “Wand Woods” article, “Hawthorn wands may be particularly suited to healing magic, but they are also adept at curses, and I have generally observed that the hawthorn wand seems most at home with a conflicted nature, or with a witch or wizard passing through a period of turmoil.” As wands often reflect the holder, it is revealed that Draco’s wand fits him perfectly. Draco is a healer who has been molded overtime to hide that part of himself and push forward the darker side instead. The wand wood reflects the terrible choices and trials he must face in his life and shares how conflicted he feels. Even at 11 years old wand his wand chose him, Draco was facing great inner turmoil. Article “Wand Cores” on Pottermore shares, “Wands with unicorn cores are generally the most difficult to turn to the Dark Arts. They are the most faithful of all wands, and usually remain strongly attached to their first owner, irrespective of whether he or she was an accomplished witch or wizard.” Draco’s wand chose him because he sensed that he would be one of the least likely wizards to practice dark magic. This means that at his core, Draco had to override everything he felt to join the Death Eaters. Furthermore, wands with this core are extremely loyal to their keeper. Harry sensed that Draco’s wand had changed its allegiance to him. This means one of two things: Either the wand sensed that Harry was very much alike to his past owner, or it sensed that Draco would be willing for its allegiance to change. Either way, this reveals much about Draco’s character. While Harry and Draco may seem like extreme opposites, they’re actually very similar. They both care deeply about family (although Harry’s care for family is not by blood relations, but through those such as Sirius Black, the Weasleys, possibly even Hagrid), they have extremely loyal friendships, and are stubborn in their beliefs. Their main difference is that Harry could escape his toxic household and was surrounded by positive, healthy influences, while Draco was stuck in his toxic home and force fed lies since the time he could walk. Draco could not be Harry, he could not leave the Death Eaters and cause his and his family’s deaths, and he could not give Voldemort any signs that he did not want to work for him. But, he could let Harry take his wand during the fight to help his so called opponent, so that is what he did.

Harry meets Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle face to face in the Room of Requirement as Harry, Ron, and Hermione are looking for the lost diadem of Ravenclaw in chapter 31. Crabbe tells Harry that they are there to bring him to Voldemort to be rewarded, but that may not exactly be Draco’s intention. Harry doesn’t realize Draco is there until Draco lets him know. If Draco really wanted to bring Harry to Voldemort, he could have easily taken him by surprise used a body binding curse. Page 628 even notes that Hermione and Ron were too far away to hear the commotion, so the job would have been even easier. Instead, Draco decides to have a little chat. My theory is that Draco left to see what he could do to help Harry, but had to bring along Crabbe and Goyle as to not cause suspicion. Unfortunately for Draco, things never seem to end up very well for him. At 00:59:40, Crabbe is egging Draco on to hex Harry, but it is clear from Draco’s face that he doesn’t wish too. When Harry reaches for his wand at 00:59:45, Draco says, “Easy.” This alludes to the fact that Draco doesn’t want to hurt him. Crabbe begins to destroy the room when he hears Ron and Draco stops him on page 629. The book reads, “’If you wreck the room you might bury this diadem thing!” “What’s the matter?” said Crabbe, tugging himself free. “It’s Potter the Dark Lord wants, who cares about a die-dum?” “Potter came in here to get it,” said Malfoy with ill-disguised impatience at the slow-wittedness of his colleagues, “so that must mean-” “Must mean?” Crabbe turned on Malfoy with undisguised ferocity. “Who cares what you think? I don’t take your orders no more, Draco. You an’ your dad are finished.’” Perhaps Draco’s voice wasn’t illy disguising impatience because of his friends’ stupidity, but rather because he is trying to help Harry, but can’t let his friends know what he’s up to. Despite their below average intelligence and general sucky personalities, Crabbe and Goyle had been Draco’s friend since they were children. Draco values loyalty to family and friends, so having his childhood friend insult him and his father must have been very painful. When Crabbe tries to cast the cruciatus curse at Harry, page 630 says, “’STOP!” Malfoy shouted at Crabbe, his voice echoing through the enormous room. “The Dark Lord wants him alive-” “So? I’m not killing him, am I?” yelled Crabbe, throwing off Malfoy’s restraining arm. “But if I can, I will, the Dark Lord wants him dead anyway, what’s the diff-‘” Crabbe is right; torturing Harry isn’t killing him, and wouldn’t hinder their mission. Still, Draco fights for Harry’s protection against his friends. Later on the same page, as Crabbe and Goyle hold their wands up to Harry, Draco yells, “Don’t kill him! DON’T KILL HIM!” Draco needn’t worry about Harry dying if he were not the one to kill him. Voldemort wished to be the one to kill Harry, and if Crabbe did so then he would punish Crabbe. He likely wouldn’t punish Draco for doing nothing, especially no one even knew Draco was there (which would be the case if everyone at the incident was killed). He still stresses to his friends the importance of not killing Harry. Draco wants Harry to win the war and wants to see Voldemort’s defeat. He knows without Harry that it would be impossible. Crabbe uses a curse to set the whole room on fire, effectively trapping himself, Goyle, and Draco on top of a burning pile of junk. At 01:01:43, Draco watches as his friends fall backwards and is swallowed by the flames. Hermione, Harry, and Ron found broomsticks that they could fly to safety on, but Harry decided to save Draco and Co. on page 633. The page reads, “’IF WE DIE FOR THEM, I’LL KILL YOU, HARRY!” roared Ron’s voice, and, as a great flaming chimaera bore down upon them, he and Hermione dragged Goyle onto their broom and rose, rolling and pitching, into the air once more as Malfoy clambered up behind Harry.” Crabbe was not with them, so Harry could not rescue him. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Goyle, and Draco managed to escape the flames and exit the Room of Requirement just in time. However on page 634, it says, “’C-Crabbe,” choked Malfoy as soon as he could speak. “C-Crabbe…” “He’s dead,” said Ron harshly.” Draco’s childhood friend had been burned alive right after Crabbe had dismissed their friendship, leaving Draco to mourn the broken pieces of the past.

Harry saves Draco again on page 645. The page describes, “’I’m Draco Malfoy, I’m Draco, I’m on your side!” Draco was on the upper landing, pleading with another masked Death Eater. Harry Stunned the Death Eater as they passed: Malfoy looked around, beaming, for his savior, and Ron punched him from under the cloak. Malfoy fell backward on top of the Death Eater, his mouth bleeding, utterly bemused.” Draco is doing everything he can to keep from dying during the battle. When Draco lets the Death Eater know who he is, the Death Eater doesn’t back down. Why? Death Eaters typically avoid spilling blood they consider pure; the Malfoy name was an extremely well known pureblood name, too. Additionally, they wouldn’t kill each other, especially a battle where they need all the numbers they can. The Death Eater was going to attack Draco because he knew that his allegiance had changed. They knew that Draco didn’t want to fight with the Death Eaters and that is why they didn’t back down.

When Voldemort shows up to Hogwarts with Harry “dead” in his arms, he is standing on the students of Hogwarts side. Only when his parents call him over does he leave those who he wishes to fight with to be with the ones he feels most drawn to protect. Draco is 17 and he knows his parents would be greatly punished for such a betrayal. He believes Harry is dead, and without Harry there would be no way to win against Voldemort. He would rather protect his parents and live than be slaughtered and bring pain on his family. When his father calls him over at 01:40:23, he doesn’t budge. It’s only when his mother calls him forward does he bow his head and rejoin the Death Eaters (receiving the world’s most awkward hug from Voldemort at 01:40:48). When Harry fell out of Hagrid’s arms alive at 01:42:44, an extremely important scene was deleted. In the scene, when Harry reveals himself to be alive Draco leaves the Death Eaters to fight for Hogwarts. He yells, “Potter!” and runs past Voldemort, throwing his wand at Harry and rushing into the battle on the side he truly belongs to. This scene is game changing and leaves no doubt in Draco’s redemption arc. Without this scene, we lose how Harry gets a wand to fight Voldemort (he wouldn’t be carrying it if he was supposed to be dead) and Draco finally has a choice between two sides that doesn’t undoubtedly lead to death, and he chooses the right one. Unfortunately, the scene was deleted from the movie. Instead, at 01:43:21, Draco and his mother walk hand in hand away from the violence of the battle, followed by his father, leaving the Death Eaters for good. While this scene hints at a better future for the Malfoys, it doesn’t actually convey Draco’s redemption, leading to dispute among fans.

After the war, Draco married Astoria Greengrass and had one son, Scorpius Malfoy. You can see the family on Platform 9¾ at 01:55:28 and they appear shortly on page 756. An article on Pottermore shares, “After the events of the second wizarding war, Lucius found his son as affectionate as ever, but refusing to follow the same old pure-blood line. Draco married the younger sister of a fellow Slytherin. Astoria Greengrass, who had gone through a similar (though less violent and frightening) conversion from pure-blood ideals to a more tolerant life view, was felt by Narcissa and Lucius to be something of a disappointment as a daughter-in-law. They had had high hopes of a girl whose family featured on the ‘Sacred Twenty-Eight’, but as Astoria refused to raise their grandson Scorpius in the belief that Muggles were scum, family gatherings were often fraught with tension.” Draco goes against his parents’ beliefs because he grows as a person, learning that what he had been doing and believing was wrong. In the same article, J.K. Rowling writes, “The collection of Dark artifacts harks back to family history, even though he keeps them in glass cases and does not use them. However, his strange interest in alchemical manuscripts, from which he never attempts to make a Philosopher’s Stone, hints at a wish for something other than wealth, perhaps even the wish to be a better man. I have high hopes that he will raise Scorpius to be a much kinder and more tolerant Malfoy than he was in his own youth.” This is proof that Draco has learned from his mistakes and truly tried to live the rest of his life redeemed in the light instead of the darkness. The fact that he clearly tries to teach his son all the things his father never taught him is spectacular. It is very easy for hurt people to hurt people and for the abused to become the abuser as that is what they know. Draco overcomes his past struggles to make life better and, as Rowling wrote, become “a better man”.

I am often asked why I believe Draco Malfoy deserves redemption while Severus Snape does not. To me the answer is very clear. Snape joined the Death Eaters voluntarily after he was friendzoned by his crush and went on to devoting his life to Voldemort with no problems except for when his crush was in danger. Draco was groomed to practice the Dark Arts and brainwashed in pureblood supremacist ideals, and still only joined the Death Eaters to save his and his families lives. Snape had a choice on whether or not he would join the terrorist organization, but Draco’s hand was forced. Snape only regretted joining the Death Eaters when his crush was threatened and only turned to Dumbldore’s side once she was dead, and did so for completely selfish purposes. Draco was clearly never okay with the things he was forced to do while being a Death Eater and tried throughout the series to try to help Harry, turning away from the Death Eaters in the end because he knew it was the right thing to do. I feel as if there is no competition between them. 

As disputed as Draco Malfoy’s character is, I believe he deserved redemption and is unjustly hated on. Draco was a terrible person and a bully, make no mistake, yet despite the awful things he had done, helped Harry Potter to the best of his abilities throughout the series. Just as Harry is regarded as the Boy Who Lived, Draco is widely regarded by fans as the Boy Who Had No Choice, and the title could not be truer. In the end, Draco rose above the awful person he had been in the past and clearly denied Voldemort. He never wanted to be part of a murder plot or a terrorist organization, but he did so to save his family. In the end, Draco stood against Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Draco Malfoy was an incredibly complex character who in the end fought for what he had learned to believe in, making him one of the most redemption deserving characters in Harry Potter.

Sources:

  • “National Trust Film Locations.” VisitBritain, www.visitbritainshop.com/world/articles/national-trust-film-locations/.
  • Wizardingworld.com. 2020. Wizarding World – The Official Home Of Harry Potter. [online] Available at: <https://www.wizardingworld.com/>
  • Rowling, J. (2015). Harry Potter: The complete collection (1-7). Pottermore Publishing.
  • Rowling, J. (2017). The Hogwarts library collection. Pottermore Publishing.
  • Thorne, J., Rowling, J. K., & Tiffany, J. (2016). Harry Potter and the Cursed Child parts one and two: Special rehearsal edition script–. Farmington Hills, Mich: Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning.
  • Lynley. “The Symbolism of Trains in Literature.” Slap Happy Larry, https://www.slaphappylarry.com/trains-symbolism-literature/#:~:text=Trains%20are%20the%20perfect%20fatalistic,than%20what%20we%20actually%20do 
  • Yates, D. (Director), Heyman, D., & Barron, D. (Producers), & Kloves, S. (Writer). (2009). Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures.
  • Yates, D. (Director), Heyman, D., & Barron, D. (Producers), & Kloves, S. (Writer). (2010). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures.
  • Yates, D. (Director), Heyman, D., & Barron, D. (Producers), & Kloves, S. (Writer). (2011). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures.

 

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