by Allison Hambrick

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“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” featured the most tragic iteration of Draco. Harry was oblivious to Draco’s turmoil, blinded by his hatred and suspicion. Meanwhile, Draco tried to hide his emotional turmoil over being forced to be something he wasn’t — evil.

His early attempts to take Dumbledore’s life were indirect, showing his distaste for getting his hands dirty. According to J. K. Rowling herself, Draco became skilled at occlumency, the cloaking of thoughts, as a means of suppressing his emotions. This comes to a head in a scene in both the book and the movie where Harry stumbles upon Draco crying to Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom. Instead of offering sympathy and compassion, Harry attacks Draco, nearly killing him.

It is in that singular moment that the roles reversed — though Malfoy attempted to curse Harry as well. Harry allowed his bias to get in the way of a possible friendship.

Both as a young girl and an adult, I felt empathy for Draco when he cried. He was not some evil little prick. He was a misunderstood boy with an insurmountable amount of expectations placed on him. Draco desperately wanted to be anyone other than himself. Who hasn’t felt that way?

Draco proved himself not to be the monster Harry thought when faced with the opportunity to kill Professor Dumbledore. He could not bring himself to do it, so Professor Snape performed arguably his most selfless act and committed the murder. Draco remained on the side of the Death Eaters for the remainder of the conflict, but his allegiance did not extend as far as his parents’.

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When faced with the opportunity to identify a disguised Harry to his family in the final book, Draco hesitates to do so — his first and only act of defiance in the series. Harry is identified nonetheless, though this does not diminish the significance of Draco’s decision.

Later in the novel, he is seen fighting Harry to protect Voldemort’s Horcrux. But it’s worth noting that he ordered his friends not to kill Harry during the fight as he claimed that it was so the Dark Lord could finish him. His close friend Vincent Crabbe did not listen to him, and his attempt to kill Harry lead to his own death, distressing Malfoy and revealing that he did actually care about his friends.

Even so, he kept up the pretense of being a Death Eater, going so far as to beg a Death Eater to show he was on his side. Harry saved Draco by stunning the disbelieving Death Eater, though Ron’s response was to punch Draco and curse at him. Ron reacted as eloquently as ever, which exhibits the other side of the pressure that Draco was under. Everyone on Dumbledore’s side knew he was the son of notorious Death Eaters and blood purists, so no one expected him to be any different. Everyone on Voldemort’s side, on the other hand, knew of his father’s failures and his own failure to kill Dumbledore.

With that taken into account, Draco’s frenzied antics during the Battle of Hogwarts make more sense. In the same way he was thrust into his life as a Death Eater, Draco finds himself in the middle of the battle with no side to be on. Being a scared 17-year-old, he takes the easy way out and stands with his mother and father — not an admirable decision but inherently relatable. Perhaps the most interesting development is that Narcissa made the decision to protect Harry upon learning from him that her son was still alive, making him indirectly the reason that Harry succeeded in defeating Lord Voldemort.

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Later in life, Draco married and had a son, Scorpius, who he raised to be kind and tolerant. He has a more civil relationship with his former classmates, eventually admitting to Harry that he never shared the trademark Malfoy thirst for power and that he envied Harry’s close friendships in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

When his wife passed away, he was understanding of his son’s desire to rely on his friends instead of him, showing selflessness he did not possess in his formative years. His son would later become close friends with the children of his former rivals and pave the way for his reconciliation with Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione.

Draco Malfoy was an underappreciated character in his own time. Audiences saw him as nothing more than a bully at first. As his layers were peeled back, we were introduced to a sensitive guy in an insensitive world. Hiding his emotions became Draco’s specialty out of necessity, and the audience hated and loved him for it. His occlumency worked on the audience as well, which made the payoffs of his character development greater. Draco is a prime example of transitioning an antagonist to an antihero.