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Why Draco Malfoy wasn’t a typical villain

When we first met Draco Malfoy, he was arrogant, prejudiced and positively mean to Hermione and other students. But it wasn’t all bad.

Draco Malfoy attempts to attack Dumbledore under Lord Voldemort's instruction.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Here we take an in-depth look at Draco’s character and argue that, although he was undoubtedly a bit of a git, he was certainly not evil.

Family influence

It’s clear that Draco was hugely shaped by his parents, particularly his father. He even started a great number of sentences with the phrase ‘My father…’

Unfortunately, Lucius Malfoy happened to have some pretty awful views about the world, which inevitably rubbed off onto his son. Lucius believed that half-blood and Muggle-born wizards were inferior to pure-bloods, something he no doubt drilled into Draco.

Think how invincible Lucius must have seemed to Draco; a rich and influential man, with great connections such as the Minister for Magic himself. If he said ‘Mudbloods’ weren’t worthy, then perhaps it might be true.

Lucius could be pretty awful to Draco. Sure, Draco wanted for nothing but you could tell from the ‘Malfoy Manor’ chapter in Deathly Hallows that Lucius was sometimes guilty of putting pressure on his son. A real shame, because at heart you got the sense that all Draco wanted to do was make his father proud of him.

Lucius smiles at Draco and presses his nape affectionately in order to persuade Draco to identify Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

His rivalry with Harry…

It’s easy to forget that at one point Draco actually wanted to be friends with Harry Potter. Draco’s family had wondered if the reason Harry had survived the Killing Curse all those years ago in Godric’s Hollow was perhaps because he was also a powerful Dark wizard.

Harry rebuffed his slightly aggressive offer of friendship, choosing two people Draco would never befriend instead: the poor-but-happy Ron Weasley, and the Muggle-born Hermione Granger.

Their rivalry was set from this moment on, but it was made worse by Draco’s parents’ efforts to openly encourage it. When Harry became the youngest Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team in a century, Lucius bought the whole Slytherin team new brooms in return for Draco being made Seeker, too. It’s as if, whatever Harry did, Lucius hoped that Draco could do better.

Draco Crabbe and Zabini
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

His true character…

We started to understand Draco’s true character when he was tasked with killing Dumbledore. The boy who usually carried himself with such bravado began to unravel, and he never quite managed to perform his mission.

After all, it may have been advertised to Draco as a ‘great honour’, but on closer inspection it looked very much like punishment for his father’s failures – even his mother, Narcissa, could see that. He could hardly have said no to the Dark Lord, and it could have been a chance to shine in his father’s eyes. But despite the careful façade of nonchalance, Draco was afraid.

He started looking unwell, even paler than normal; clearly he wasn’t sleeping. Harry overheard him crying in the bathroom when it all got too much for him. You couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for Draco by this point – he was in too deep and there was nothing that he could do. Then, when it came to the murder itself, he couldn’t do it. This told us a lot about young Draco Malfoy.

Draco and Narcissa face each other
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

He chose to try to save Harry…

When Harry, Hermione and Ron were caught by Snatchers and taken to Malfoy Manor, the Malfoys were exhilarated beyond belief. Their chance to impress Voldemort again had come.

But, thanks to a Stinging Hex from Hermione, Harry’s face was near-unrecognisable, and Draco was called to identify him. This seemed like a golden opportunity for Draco to finally get his revenge once and for all on the person he had bickered with for years – but instead, he hesitated. This wasn’t getting one over on his rival; it was leading him to his death.

He could have been afraid of being wrong, but it also seemed like he didn’t want any part in what could happen next – he couldn’t seem to bring himself to even look at Harry properly. Considering their bitter rivalry over the years, this was a major moment for Draco and his morals. Who would have ever thought that Draco Malfoy would save Harry Potter from Lord Voldemort?

An emotional Draco looking in the mirror
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

He was essentially a good person with a terrible personality…

So Draco wasn’t the nicest person we’ve ever come across, let’s be honest: he was narrow-minded and could be a bit of an idiot, spiteful and... well, we could go on. But when it came to Draco, Harry sometimes behaved in a similar way. They brought out the worst in each other.

But Draco never truly joined the Death Eaters. Despite years of moulding from his father, there was just something else inside him that didn’t want that life. Draco did a lot of terrible things to Harry during their time at school, and the way he spoke to Hermione was downright shocking. His path to redemption was meandering and trying, but along the way, much like his Head of House, Draco learnt from his mistakes.