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The Burrow: Like Father, Like Son…Or Not?

An original editorial by Jaclyn Kacewich

Draco Malfoy was standing with his back to the door, his hands clutching either side of the sink, his white-blond head bowed. “Don’t,” crooned Moaning Myrtle’s voice from one of the cubicles. “Don’t…tell me what’s wrong…I can help you…”
“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.

-pg. 521, HBP

Unlike some of the girls that have always held a special place in their heart for a certain Slytherin bad boy, I could never quite bring myself to feel any kind of like or pity for such a nasty character. That was until I read Half-Blood Prince and the vulnerable Draco had to be consoled by Moaning Myrtle. When I first began reading book 6, my immense dislike for Malfoy actually grew as it was revealed that he had finally gone what seemed to be completely bad by becoming a Death Eater. It seemed that he is finally, truly, following in his father’s footsteps. But, caught in his pure moment of weakness in the bathroom, who can help but feel bad for him?! This got me thinking, especially when Draco was unable to kill Dumbledore, that perhaps Draco isn’t so evil after all. I mean, he is just a kid. It seems, more than anything, that Draco is simply a product of his awful parents; or more so, his father.

It’s hard to deny the theory that Draco cannot quite help his position when his father is one of Voldemort’s top supporters, and Narcissa comes from a long line of stuck up, Dark wizards. When leafing through the first few books, I stumbled upon Harry’s first meeting with Draco, inside Madam Malkin’s, while both getting fitted for robes. In that meeting alone, it can already be established that Draco is both horribly stuck up, and at the young age of 11, takes everything his father says to heart. When inquiring whether or not Harry plays Quidditch, Draco continues,

“Father says it’s a crime if I’m not picked to play for my house, and I must say, I agree. Know what house you’ll be in yet?”
“No,” said Harry, feeling more stupid by the minute.
“Well, no one really knows until they get there, do they, but I know I’ll be in Slytherin, all our family have been – imagine being in Hufflepuff, I think I’d leave, wouldn’t you?”

-pg. 77, SS

Draco is already displaying the fact that his ancestors all hail from Slytherin, which Harry soon discovers produced more Dark wizards than any other house (including Voldemort, himself). Draco goes on to ask Harry about his parents. Harry tells him his parents are dead and leaves it at that.

“Oh sorry,” said [Draco], not sounding sorry at all. “but they were our kind, werent’ they?”
“They were a witch and wizard, if that’s what you mean,” [replied Harry].
“I really don’t think they should let the others in, do you? They’re just not the same, they’ve never been brought up to know our ways. Some of them have never heard of Hogwarts until they got the letter, imagine. I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families…”

-pg. 78, SS

Now obviously, at such a young age, Draco most likely doesn’t even know any witch or wizard children from non-wizarding families, so this is all his father talking. Before he even begins school, Draco has been taught to value none other than pure-blood, wealthy wizarding families, and is excited at the prospect of joining Slytherin, the most foreboding Hogwarts House.

Just to drive home the nastiness that Draco initially acquires from his father, think about Harry and Draco’s more formal introduction on the first train ride to Hogwarts. Ron sniggers at Draco’s name, but Draco jumps at the opportunity and replies:

“Think my name’s funny, do you? No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford.”
-pg. 108, SS

It seems that at this point, all Draco knows is what his father has told him. “My father says this, my father says that”; this pattern goes on to continue throughout the series. Perhaps Rowling overdoes this to make it more obvious that Malfoy is simply a victim of his father. Is it possible that Malfoy wouldn’t act as awful as he does to people if he hadn’t been brought up in that household? I think that perhaps, subconsciously, he is not truly evil; his father just leads him to believe that there is glory to be found in this particular way of life.

As Harry and Draco prospectively enter their second year at Hogwarts, Harry accidentally finds himself in Borgin and Burkes. Here, he gets his first glimpse of Lucius Malfoy, and overhears him and Draco trying to sell some suspicious Dark artifacts before the Ministry can catch Lucius with them. Growing up in an environment where one has Dark artifacts lying around at their disposal may not be the healthiest of places to breed a respectable young wizard. It is obvious that Draco has been raised to respect and honor Dark wizards like Lord Voldemort and the power that he wields and can offer to others, and to have a certain respect for the power one can gain from a knowledge of the Dark Arts. Can one really blame the kid for being a constant brat?

It isn’t really until Goblet of Fire that we truly start to see that perhaps the Malfoy family presents a bigger threat than just being nasty, stuck up, pure-blood wizards. When Harry becomes the unfortunate witness to Lord Voldemort’s return, he sees for himself that Lucius Malfoy is indeed a loyal servant to the Dark Lord. This supports Harry’s longtime suspicion that the Malfoy family is evil.

Draco’s father has taken him too far into everything at this point. Draco is getting older and his father’s influence appears to have become more permanent. Draco confronts Harry, Hermione and Ron at the end of GOF and essentially tells them they have picked the wrong side to support, now that Voldemort has returned. I think that more than anything, this kid has just gotten picked up into the hype of things.

Draco has truly become enthralled with the Dark Arts at this point and he can think of no greater honor than to grow up and serve the Dark Lord. Sound familiar? It should, but therein lies the kink in my theory. At this point Draco has had all the influence from his father that he needs. The situation changes when Harry and the D.A. fight Voldemort and several of his Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries. This event lands Lucius in Azkaban, and Draco without a mentor. Here is the kink: if Lucius can no longer serve as a mentor, then perhaps a good friend of his, and a teacher of Draco’s, can serve as a surrogate. Thus, Severus Snape becomes Draco’s mentor.

Snape has always been there to watch over Draco while at school, much like a warped version of Harry and Dumbledore’s relationship. Draco may not always hold Snape in the highest regard, but it was Snape that Narcissa turned to when she realized her son’s life was in danger.

“…Severus…please…You are, you have always been, Draco’s favorite teacher…You are Lucius’ old friend…I beg you…You are the Dark Lord’s favorite, his most trusted advisor…Will you speak to him, persuade him – ?”
-pg. 33, HBP

At the young age of 16, Draco has been recruited by the Dark Lord to perform an important task.

Though it seems obvious that Voldemort knows that a 16 year old boy has no chance against Albus Dumbledore, and that Draco has only been recruited to pay for his father’s failure, Draco could not feel more honored. He thinks that this is his chance to prove himself as a loyal Dark servant. Or is it? After a while, Draco starts to crack under the pressure and the poor kid realizes he is seriously overwhelmed. It is probable that Draco is more scared than anything. He seems damned no matter what: if he tries to kill Dumbledore, Dumbledore will surely thwart his attempt and possibly harm Draco. After all, Dumbledore is considered to be a most powerful wizard, and in fact, the one wizard Voldemort himself is said to fear. But if Draco doesn’t kill Dumbledore, then Voldemort will surely kill him for his failure. Narcissa seems to realize this, which is why she begs for Snape’s help.

When it all comes down to it, what is Draco’s bigger fear? Dumbledore or Voldemort?

As we’ve watched him grow through the books, some of us coming to hate him, we’ve also seen how his father has turned him into a slimy, Dark Arts loving git. We’ve watched as Snape constantly backed him up and encouraged him to torture Harry and his friends. And we’ve seen him complain constantly about Dumbledore for six books. The complete lack of respect he holds for Dumbledore is obviously acquired from his father. It is clear that Draco, like most bullies in this world, is just a follower and a coward, willing to go along with what the people around him see fit.

Now I pose this question: Is it at all possible that either secretly or subconsciously, Draco actually feels safe at Hogwarts with Dumbledore? This would all make sense, because whether Draco was brought up to be a supporter of Voldemort or not, he was still brought up by another coward. No matter how intimidating Lucius ever pretended to be, in the end, he feared Voldemort just as much as anybody else.

Like his father, whether he respected Voldemort or not, Draco is still fearful of him and can only respect him for his power. Draco wouldn’t think twice about disrespecting Dumbledore, but deep down he knew he was provided sanctuary at Hogwarts. There, he had very little to worry about other than being a kid. When Draco finally confronts Dumbledore on top of the Astronomy Tower in HBP even Dumbledore notes that Draco is not a killer.

“You have been trying with increasing desperation, to kill me all year. Forgive me Draco, but they have been feeble attempts…So feeble, to be honest, that I wonder whether your heart has been really in it.”
-pg. 585, HBP

Draco goes on to explain the cursed necklace and poisoned mead, and that he set up the pair of vanishing cabinets for the Death Eaters to use to enter Hogwarts. Dumbledore praises him for his cleverness and then Malfoy “bizarrely seemed to draw courage and comfort from Dumbledore’s praise,” (pg. 587, HBP).

Malfoy seems happy to receive praise as a distraction from the task at hand. He goes on to stall by telling more stories of all that he had arranged that night. Dumbledore finally suggests that Draco would have killed him long ago, at this point, if he really meant to. Draco finally breaks down and admits that the Dark Lord will kill him if he doesn’t kill Dumbledore. He looks horrified and unsure of what to do. For the second time, we see Draco caught in a weak moment. We can’t help but feel bad for him once more.

Dumbledore offers a plan to hide him and his family from Voldemort. Draco seems like he might be interested in this plan, but changes heart when he finally hears the Death Eaters running up the stairs to his aid.

“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.

-pg. 592, HBP

This is the last we really see of his struggle as the Death Eaters charge upstairs and attempt to take charge of the situation. They all shout at him to do the deed quickly, but Draco continues to stand there, until Snape comes up to finish it for him. As Harry stared in shock at what had just happened, Snape took charge of the situation. Draco is now in Snape’s hands.

Without getting too far off the subject of Draco, and into Snape’s situation, I think that at this point Draco’s fate depends heavily on Snape’s. I believe that Dumbledore sacrificed himself to Snape so that Draco’s innocence would not be lost. Perhaps Draco will someday realize, and even possibly appreciate, this. Snape is obviously going to be a favorite of Voldemort’s now, whether Snape is working for the Dark side or the good. I believe Draco is so deep into the heart of Voldemort’s wrath that he will either understand he can’t handle it and he was never truly an evil agent, but just a coward; or he will die at the hands of Voldemort for his failure.

I’m not sure that this boy will ever truly redeem himself, as he may just be a tragic, lost character. Tragic because the people around him attempted to mold him to their likeness, and though he isn’t the most likeable character, he was never truly evil enough to handle what Lord Voldemort could offer him. Lost, because he is too far gone now to really ever fit in on either side.