When I say I like a character in a book, chances are it’s someone with a story arc that involves growth and especially redemption. The more significant the change the better. If you read last month’s installment of this series, you know that’s how I see Draco Malfoy. He starts out as a spoilt brat who has to grow and face the world he took for granted being turned upside down. Still, there are some qualities that he has which are good qualities even at his bad stages in life. I guess you might say that I never see a two-dimensional black and white person, and sometimes I force myself to find a positive in people I’d rather dislike in full (that goes for real life too). It helps me to remember I am also not perfect and I have hurt others. I am someone’s enemy that they are called to love and forgive like someone else is mine. In the case of Draco Malfoy, here’s what I like about him:
He is loyal to his family and to his friends. Many will dismiss this because he was loyal to something bad, but as I’ve argued the last time he was more loyal to his family than the cause his father imposed on them all. The situation began to unravel when his father fell from grace and he found himself having to pick up the pieces. I’d go as far as saying he was loyal to a fault, because he could have walked away sooner. The events following the ending of Order of the Phoenix seem to me to give away a lot more doubts than J.K. Rowling had the space and willingness to explore beyond a few comments by Harry Potter in passing.
Some might say that Harry was wrong in his perception and just explain it away with Draco obviously supporting the things he had always supported, but there are plenty of examples both in fiction and in history of people who bowed to the pressure of what their name meant. And given how often he threw around that his father would know about this or that, it seems to me to be definitely that kind of family. That level of privilege rarely comes without the weight of expectations, and someone as self-serving as many interpret him to be would have done something to save his skin sooner.
He also grieved his friends lost in the Battle of Hogwarts despite years of being depicted as patronising and belittling them. Rowling’s ambivalence towards most Slytherin figures is somewhat fascinating. They never reflect the portrayal as purely evil that she seemed intent on creating. She has often said he has no ability to be compassionate and shut down his emotions and is a moral coward and yet the final two books in the series show someone who knows the pain of realising he lived a lie all along.
Alright, I have become everything that I loathe, as I’m now judging someone for the very thing I have hated to be judged all my life, but too often people look at Draco as someone who is going ahead in live just on the back of his name when, in fact, he is a capable wizard. In some ways he was ahead of the golden trio, partly because he learnt some bad stuff in the family, but just because someone tries to teach you something it doesn’t mean you’ll learn it (see the difference between his ability with occlumency compared to Harry’s). I know I criticise Rowling a lot for her cardboard representation of Slytherins, but in this case she has done well in creating a character who did not just have a powerful name like many who seem to go to the best schools in the country just because they can buy their way in.
Resilience and the ability to change
We know by the point of the epilogue and The Cursed Child that he has, at the very least, lost some of his animosity towards Harry over the years. He could have held onto rancour for the part he played in the downfall of his family, who narrowly avoided Azkaban, but he doesn’t. Even before we get to the “After” years, Draco has been through a lot that would have made anyone bitter but instead of making him worse than the bad guy he was at the start, completely molded by his father, he changes for the better. Fans have always seen this potential, as fan fictions have abounded over the years in which he was a better character and redeemed himself through various circumstances (my favourite? Dramione’s love stories).
Despite Rowling saying over and over again that she thought it was unhealthy and worrying just how much people loved Draco, especially after the films came out, none of us cared. He was a favourite with us all because he wasn’t boring. It’s easier to write multi-faceted characters that are bad compared to good, I guess, and it’s a problem we’ve seen over and over. Rarely the good guys are iconic (I mean, take Dr Cullen in Twilight, even he was a vampire), so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we like bad boys. Especially bad boys who change.
So, these are the 3 things I love about Draco. Let me know if you have any of your own. You can find Rory’s 3 things here.