The Department of Mysteries: Poor Little Rich Boy

by Bob Sindeldecker and Esther Kleinig

NOTE FROM BOB: Esther has done a brilliant job here and has been kind enough to ask for my input. I have added a little, but it is all hers. I am very happy to have her as a guest columnist and I hope you will also read her related article, Back To The Prophecy, as well as the second part of this article, to be posted soon.

“‘Rotten ter the core, the whole family, everyone knows that. No Malfoy’s worth listening ter. Bad blood, that’s what it is.'”
– Hagrid, CoS

Hopefully you won’t take offense, Hagrid, but I don’t know if we can quite trust you on that one. After all, you did say that no witch or wizard turned bad that wasn’t in Slytherin when you knew of Sirius Black’s conviction of mass murder…

So, here is my psychological profile of the kid we love to hate: Draco Malfoy. Funnily enough, I love reading about Draco. I wouldn’t tread on waters JKR has condemned by actually liking him… but I’m always interested to know what makes people tick, and Draco intrigues me. And I’m always wondering if that nasty character has any hope for redemption… *sigh* Beware that my knowledge of psychology is limited (I’ve only had two years in high school, none of the big stuff), but I’ll do my best.

Draco and Lucius

Before we begin, note that Draco always refers to Lucius as “Father” – never “Dad.” This immediately suggests a lack of affection, and a very formal and clinical relationship. But that’s not much to go on – plenty of you probably do the same thing yet love your parents. JKR does seem to indicate a detached relationship though. If you’ve seen Nurse Betty, you might wonder along with me if he’ll ever cry out “Daddy” in desperation… but I digress.

Our first impression of Lucius is that he is strict with his only son; he doesn’t trust Draco to behave himself – understandably so, as we can’t really expect Lucius to be lovely when Draco is so very obnoxious. Lucius is no Petunia Dursley, but he has not been shown to give Draco any affection or approval. He gets agitated with Draco’s consistent, repetitive complaints (you’d think Draco would have the sense to be better company with a father like that, but he seems too cocky and arrogant), and seems to think splashing money around will be a more than adequate way of satisfying his son. Lucius promises his son a racing broom; Draco whines about not being on the house team, so Lucius buys him onto it.

But if Draco is awful, we have to blame Lucius at least partially. Draco has inherited more than looks and a drawling voice. Lucius’ encounter with Harry and the gang at the Quidditch World Cup shows where Draco has learned how to treat people like Hermione and Ron – the pureblood prejudice and wealth superiority are things he’s picked up from his father. (Draco’s behavior towards Harry, though, is a bit different – see Draco and Harry).

They tolerate each other though. After all, Lucius and Draco need each other. Draco probably never had a chance to go to Durmstrang – how could Lucius get involved in the politics of Hogwarts if Draco didn’t attend there? And Lucius had to be able to interfere, of course, with Dumbledore and Harry around. Also, as we saw in the Buckbeak episode, having Draco at Hogwarts affords Lucius the opportunity to establish his power (just in case anyone was in doubt). That seems like something he’d want to enforce. It’s less likely that Lucius did that to make his son happy. As I said, this isn’t a Petunia-Dudley relationship.

Draco wants to enforce it too, because his father’s power is also important to him. Draco brags about his father’s power, claiming “I always thought Father might be the one who got rid of Dumbledore,” and telling Ron that “Father’s always associated with the top people at the Ministry.” Having a powerful father is like having a really good broomstick – you show it off, you brag about it and you make the most of it… but you’d never abuse it. It’s not the sense of love you’d usually think for a family member. Think of what Draco gets out of it, though: power at Hogwarts, endless wealth, respect from Slytherins (would Crabbe and Goyle otherwise be his cronies?)…

One thing Draco doesn’t get from his father, though, is trust. Lucius has been involved in three plots at Hogwarts, and Draco only had a role in the more minor plot – the Buckbeak incident. His role in that event was somewhat crucial, I guess, seeing as the plot revolved around the fact that Draco had been “seriously” injured. But consider the Chamber of Secrets, and how little Draco was involved:

  • Lucius slipped the diary in Ginny’s cauldron – Draco might have been able to do that.
  • Lucius won’t tell Draco who the heir of Slytherin is (or who it was last time), even though Draco wants to help. When “Crabbe” and “Goyle” talk to him about it, Draco isn’t too happy being left out.

Okay, all things considered – especially in hindsight, having reached the end of the book and knowing that Tom Riddle was possessing Ginny – it’s fair enough that Lucius didn’t tell Draco about it. It would indeed have looked suspicious for Draco to know too much, or for him to know that Ginny and Harry were the targets (we all know he has trouble keeping his mouth shut – he at the very least has to hint that he knows something), or for Draco to have been caught being involved, or even for him to linger near Ginny in order to pass the diary on. The whole point was that it would look as though Ginny alone released the Basilisk on the Muggleborns, as said at the end of the book. Draco is very untrustworthy, but the point is this: it must have been hard on Draco not to be trusted. Don’t start sobbing for him; we know he’s no victim. But it’s no wonder Draco acted so petulant.

Then consider the plot to get Harry to the Department of Mysteries in OotP. You can bet Draco’s told Lucius that he’s in the Inquisitorial Squad and is in a prime position to covertly assist Harry out of Hogwarts by distracting Umbridge. But Draco appears to know nothing of the plan – otherwise we could assume that the Inquisitorial Squad would not be holding Harry and friends captive in Umbridge’s office, as much as they would want to. Doesn’t Lucius trust Draco with anything? Even though Voldemort & Company couldn’t be sure when Harry would next fall asleep, you would think Lucius would tell Draco to be on the alert for it happening. You’d also think that with Draco in such a prime position, Lucius could give him one of those mirrors for times like these. Draco would be the perfect weapon – he’s certainly got the desire to help.

I very highly doubt that the escape of Harry’s friends was due to the Inquisitorial Squad letting up, a deliberate act, or that Luna’s suggestion of using Thestrals was an evil plot to get Harry into the hands of the Death Eaters. (Well, the latter is just a hope because Luna is my favorite character, being the most like me, but seeing as she’s a Ravenclaw, I think she was just clever with this suggestion.) It seems like the whole plan relied on Harry’s love of heroics and attachment to Sirius, not on any one person at Hogwarts. It also heavily depended on Harry’s ability to leave Hogwarts, which became hindered by Umbridge. Someone really ought to have subtly assisted. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Draco feels that if only he’d been involved, his father wouldn’t be in prison… (see Draco in the Wizarding War for more). He’s probably desperate to prove himself to his father, although I haven’t found any evidence to support this.

So the relationship between the two Malfoys, and the fact that Lucius rarely treats Draco as a person, suggest to me that Lucius doesn’t really want a son, only everything that comes with it – an heir, a Mini-Me, a weapon, a chance to have power… and for another insight, I’ll try to get another Draco theory I have coming through soon. Overall, it is not a very good father-son relationship.

Draco and Narcissa

My first instinct is to say that Narcissa spoils Draco. But upon closer examination, I don’t think that’s necessarily right. As with Lucius, Narcissa is “Mother”, not “Mum/Mom”. And where Lucius doesn’t give in to Draco as easily as Petunia gives in to Dudley, Narcissa doesn’t even play the role of present-bestower. Perhaps she, like Lucius, thinks parental affection is beneath her – Draco may have had the magical equivalent of a wet-nurse and then a nanny. Or maybe her husband prefers to have complete control of the finances – that seems to fit the profile.

Malfoy’s eagle owl was always bringing him packages of sweets from home, which he opened gloatingly at the Slytherin table.

This hardly seems a task for Lucius, but who says it’s necessarily Narcissa’s doing? One possibility is that Narcissa *does* do all this: that Draco is a typical mama’s boy, that Narcissa showers Draco with affection and that she really didn’t want Draco to go to school so far away. This Narcissa would probably have chosen Draco’s dress robes to make him look as attractive as she deems him (pity it didn’t work), and this Narcissa would have had that look on her face at the Quidditch World Cup (“like she’s got dung under her nose”) because of the presence of the Weasleys, Hermione and Harry (although the book never says that she even looks at them, whereas Lucius narrows his eyes while looking at them).

The other possibility is that she is a distant mother – posh, superior, and uninvolved in anything to do with her son and household other than bossing others around. (Think Catharina in “Girl With a Pearl Earring”.) She keeps the image of a good mother by coming to Diagon Alley (PS) and the Quidditch World Cup, choosing dress robes that will make Draco look as upper-class as she deems him (or maybe Lucius chose them so he’d look like a Death Eater – except the “evil” look came out religious: “made him look like a vicar”), and ordering House-Elves* or other servants to make and send the sweets that go to Draco at Hogwarts. This Narcissa looks “like she’s got dung under her nose” full-time, because she basically thinks she’s wonderful and everyone else is inferior.

(*Yes, Dear Reader, we know Lucius raged that Harry, “cost me my House-Elf!” in CoS. But that didn’t mean Dobby was his only House-Elf.)

I really wish we knew more. It’s hard to tell which one fits with the following GoF scene:

“‘You know your mother, Malfoy?’ said Harry – both he and Hermione had grabbed the back of Ron’s robes to stop him launching himself at Malfoy –‘That expression she’s got, like she’s got dung under her nose? Has she always looked like that, or was it just because you were with her?’

Malfoy’s pale face went slightly pink. ‘Don’t you dare insult my mother, Potter.’

‘Keep your fat mouth shut, then,’ said Harry, turning away.”

(Draco shoots a spell that grazes Harry’s face. “Moody” then turns him into a ferret – hehehe.)

Is this an automatic mother-defense response? It’s hard to tell when Harry’s never insulted Lucius either. Ron certainly gets furious when Draco insults Molly, but he lunges into a physical attack mode. Draco, by comparison, takes a different approach, becoming silently embarrassed (his eyes usually turn to slits when he is furious, his cheeks turn pink for embarrassment) and then using magic to attack, only when Harry has turned away. Why?

  • This could just be the difference between Gryffindors and Slytherins – Gryffindors bravely run toward battle like lions, whereas Slytherins wait for the advantage before striking swiftly like snakes.
  • The difference could be that Draco loves his mother less, but stands up for her for family honor – it’s the principle of Harry insulting his mother, rather than actually taking offense.
  • The difference could be that Harry has touched a nerve, referring to Narcissa’s opinion of Draco – perhaps Narcissa really doesn’t like Draco, or perhaps she didn’t want to be at the Quidditch World Cup with them.

I’d say it’s most likely a combination of the last two – Narcissa is not a lovely, affectionate mother; Draco is sensitive about that, in which case his attack of Harry is probably a retaliation for upsetting him, as well as a defense of family honor. Draco’s remark is not related to his appearance of embarrassment – it could be to cover it up. His comment that his mother “didn’t like the idea of [him] going to school so far away” may have been to quash any rumors that the family is less than perfect, or that his mother doesn’t simply adore him. On the other hand, Draco could be embarrassed because someone dared to insult his powerful, wealthy family – and Draco did sit between his parents at the Quidditch World Cup, which he might not have done if Narcissa was really that unpleasant.

Draco and His Friends

Okay, okay… this section is just an excuse to write about Draco and Pansy, so let’s briefly cover the others first: Crabbe and Goyle. Well, basically, they’re completely thick thugs who appear to have been trained to laugh stupidly at Draco’s jokes and insults. They’ve probably known each other their whole lives with the whole Death Eater-fathers thing. They know that Draco is the biggest and most powerful bully in the playground. For Draco, though, Crabbe and Goyle are just the biggest – literally – bullies. Until he’s learned enough magic to defend himself, he needs thugs to protect him.

Check this PS scene out:

“‘No Crabbe and Goyle up here to save your neck, Malfoy,’ Harry called.The same thought seemed to have struck Malfoy.

‘Catch it if you can, then!'”

(see Draco the Person for more on fear)

Draco is very rarely shown to be scared. The few incidents when he is, Crabbe and Goyle can’t protect him, and his father’s power can’t either. He insults their stupidity – one of the best lines from the CoS movie is this: “I didn’t know you could read” 🙂 – and they seem to be too stupid to care. They provide the illusion of friends, physical protection, and assistance. JKR has said on her website that she wrote an interaction between Draco and another Slytherin, Theodore Nott, who provides an interesting contrast to Crabbe and Goyle as not only a pureblood Slytherin, but also Draco’s intellectual equal/superior. So seeing as Theo’s available but his friendship isn’t being utilized, it seems Draco would want to pick a group of friends where he is obviously the superior.

Okay, on to Draco and Pansy. Analysis suggests that Pansy is interested in Draco, but this does not necessarily translate into Draco feeling anything for Pansy (this is also how I feel about Ron liking Hermione, but I digress).

When Draco creates the POTTER STINKS badges in GoF, Harry notes that “Pansy Parkinson and her gang of Slytherin girls… were laughing harder than anyone.” Pansy is said to be “clutching” Draco’s arm at the Yule Ball, whereas most other students are “accompanied by…”. That she went to the Yule Ball with him is also significant – Draco didn’t leave his pick until the last minute and risk ending up with Millicent Bulstrode. No, either he or Pansy took the initiative in ensuring the best partner (well, the best as a Slytherin) – most likely Pansy asked Draco, but Draco doesn’t dislike her and didn’t ask anyone else first.

Pansy isn’t a groupie in PoA though. Here’s the telltale sign:

“‘How is it, Draco?’ simpered Pansy Parkinson. ‘Does it hurt much?’‘Yeah,’ said Malfoy, putting on a brave sort of grimace. But Harry saw him wink at Crabbe and Goyle when Pansy had looked away.”

It doesn’t sound like Pansy was in on the joke to me. She was sure let in on the jokes in GoF though; this scene is in relation to the Witch Weekly article about Hermione:

“Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle were standing in a huddle outside the classroom door with Pansy Parkinson’s gang of Slytherin girls. All of them were looking at something Harry couldn’t see and sniggering heartily.”

This alone doesn’t give us much – after all, it would have to be a girl who’d get Witch Weekly, but notice that the Slytherin girls can’t enjoy it on their own – they must share it with Malfoy’s gang. And so Malfoy’s gang expands…

“A short distance away, Draco Malfoy, followed by a small gang of cronies including Crabbe, Goyle and Pansy Parkinson, was pushing some timid-looking second-years out of the way so that he and his friends could get a coach to themselves.”

The gang is still described as “small,” yet Pansy is present. She appears to have successfully wormed her way in by the beginning of OotP.

So, there’s a chance for development anyway. I would have thought it would become more obvious in OotP, but I thought the same about Hermione and Ron, so I don’t know what we’ll see. Also, we are unlikely to find out about the relationships of Slytherins – they would find it rather easier to keep it under wraps than Harry and friends have found it. Draco and Pansy may *already* be an item. If they are, then it is to JKR’s credit that she is able to plant such subtle clues to indicate a relationship that we might never hear about. I don’t know if many authors have that level of subtlety – well done, Jo!!

Draco’s Magical Ability

I’ve found two indications that Draco is not as bad at magic as we might think. Let’s look at PS first:

“[Snape] swept around in his long black cloak, criticizing almost everyone except Malfoy, whom he seemed to like.”

Well, it’s not hard to guess why Snape “seems to like” Draco – Lucius Malfoy, of course. On second thought, though… Lucius probably respects that Snape was a double agent as far as the Slytherin instinct goes, and assumes that Snape respects his claims of being under the Imperius curse. And it is known around the school that Snape loves the Dark Arts, etc. This verges into Snape’s loyalties and role a little, which I’m not able to discuss, but if Snape is given Dumbledore’s permission to be biased towards Draco and the Slytherins and against Harry and the Gryffindors for appearance’s sake, then his liking for Draco is quite easy to explain, especially when you consider that “Snape liked hardly any of his students” (according to Hagrid… but as I pointed out in the intro, can we believe him?).

But, as Harry and Ron have been told that Snape favors his own house, you’d think Snape would refrain from criticizing more Slytherins than just Draco Malfoy. Then comes the further complication of the accompanying sentence:

“He was just telling everyone to look at the perfect way Malfoy had stewed his horned slugs when clouds of acid green smoke…” (due to Neville, etc.)

Oh, if it weren’t for PS!! All the other books indicate that Snape deliberately lets Draco skate by (either to ensure Draco remains a lousy wizard or to favor him), but this actually suggests that Draco was doing well at Potions. Seeing as Snape doesn’t stoop so far as to criticize something that’s perfect (he always finds something else to scold Hermione for), I don’t really think he’d praise something that wasn’t perfect. On the other hand, he hasn’t been mentioned to praise Draco since then (that I’ve found), so maybe it’s because first-year Potions is fairly basic and Draco could perfect it that first lesson. But he certainly doesn’t seem to be a bad wizard at that stage.

The other indication that Draco has a good head for magic is in PoA, during the lesson with the Blast-Ended Skrewts:

“‘I mean, what do they do?’ asked Malfoy. ‘What is the point of them?'”And:

“‘Well, I can certainly see why we’re trying to keep them alive,’ said Malfoy sarcastically. ‘Who wouldn’t want pets that can burn, sting and bite all at once?’

‘Just because they’re not very pretty, it doesn’t mean they’re not useful,’ Hermione snapped.”

And later:

“‘You know perfectly well I only said that to shut Malfoy up,’ said Hermione. ‘As a matter of fact I think he’s right. The best thing to do would be to stamp on the lot of them before they start attacking us all.'”

Obviously Draco has the sense (and the rudeness) to ask why the Skrewts are becoming a project. And it actually is a sensible question, even along the lines of Hermione’s thoughts. Hagrid’s not the savage Draco likes to make him out to be in Rita Skeeter’s articles and to Umbridge, but he’s not exactly the best Care of Magical Creatures teacher. That, I suppose, doesn’t say a lot about Draco’s magical abilities.

But saying that Hermione beat Draco in every exam isn’t saying a lot, considering Hermione’s skill and love of studying. Draco is never shown to be anything like Neville, but Harry is sometimes said to have satisfaction when Draco is also corrected by a teacher, which shows he’ll never be as good as Hermione. The other teachers would never let Draco skate by, so apart from not being able to tell how good he really is in Potions, I think we can safely say that he’s a fairly satisfactory wizard – probably better than Ron and maybe equal to Harry. He doesn’t have the dedication to learn Dark Arts outside class like Tom Riddle and Snape did, and he isn’t joining the DA any time soon either, but he’ll also make sure that he doesn’t let down the image of the superior pureblood.

His Potions OWL mark is going to be interesting, though, isn’t it? I hope there’s a way we can find out – I really want them both in the NEWT Potions class. Ooh, how disturbing their conversations are going to be!! I look forward to the tension.

END OF PART IPart II – with Draco And Harry, Draco the Person and Draco in the Wizarding War – will be coming soon.