I Lived Like Draco Malfoy for a Week, and Here’s What Happened
I am – and I don’t know how else to say this without sounding awful – basically a nice person. Not necessarily a “good” person; that’s different – charity work, listening to people when they talk, that sort of thing. But I’m “nice” – so nice that someone once used the word as an insult while they were breaking up with me, and this week, my college-aged intern asked if I could please grade her a bit harder on her final report because it looked “too nice” if I gave her the top grade available.
While I’ve had my heart warmed during a past MuggleNet experiment by trying to live more like Albus Dumbledore, I figured that this week, it was time for a different kind of life intervention. I wanted to challenge myself to grow a mean streak. If I’d been at school with Draco Malfoy, I’m the kid he would’ve forced to punch themselves in the face. With my own fist. Every day. So he’s exactly the person I want to learn from (please don’t think too hard about this).
Behaving like Draco Malfoy for a week could be a high-stakes and potentially destructive way to inject a bit more Mean Girls into my Pollyanna life, but to be honest, I’m a freelance writer, and a girl’s got to keep herself in candy and coffee for 1 a.m. frenzied typing sessions somehow, so let’s do this.
There are a couple of reasons Draco’s life advice can be difficult to tease out from the books (I can’t believe I’m doing this). First of all, where Albus Dumbledore says things like, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” Malfoy says things like, “Longbottom, if brains were gold, you’d be poorer than Weasley, and that’s saying something.” He’s not exactly the wizarding world’s answer to Eckhart Tolle.
What’s more, he remains a fairly opaque character for the entirety of the Harry Potter series, which I’ve always thought was a shame. We see and hear an awful lot of him – because he never shuts up (already got that one down!) – but you usually don’t get a sense for what his real motivations are.
But with the help of Harry’s Book 6 obsession with Draco and J.K. Rowling’s revelations about Malfoy’s upbringing and future life on Pottermore, I have compiled a life bible for how my life on the Draco Malfoy Diet will look (yes, I am actually doing this. This is real).
How to Be More Like Draco Malfoy in Ten Easy Steps: A Suicide Mission
1. ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE FUELED ON JEALOUSY FOR SEVEN YEARS RATHER THAN TRYING TO MAKE YOUR OWN WAY.
When dishing on Malfoy’s backstory on Pottermore, J.K. Rowling confirmed what most of us had always suspected: that after that famous meeting in Book 1, where Malfoy offers his hand to shake like an 11-year-old Austen character, and Harry basically instructs Malfoy to bite him, Malfoy spends his entire school career in a state of furious jealousy.
I decide I’m going to need a nemesis to make this work. I have two already, but neither of them live near me, and also, neither of them know we’re nemeses, so that’s quite a complicated situation. Instead, I decide to introduce myself to more attractive and successful people than me (there are quite a lot of them, which makes me have Malfoy-like feelings of envy already) at my shared office space and then attempt to get one of them to fail to shake hands with me. All of them insist on taking my proffered hand and seem gratified by the attention.
This makes me think about how easy it would’ve been for Harry to just shake Draco’s damn hand and then talk about him behind his back in secret, like the rest of us, do. Like, how hard is it to pretend to like someone, rather than creating an enemy who – further down the track – will try to kill you in a bathroom? Screw you, Potter!
I feel like I am pretty on board with Draco already.
2. TELL PEOPLE YOUR FATHER WILL HEAR ABOUT THIS.
I pick a time when this feels least awkward (i.e., not when I’m in a meeting with my boss). Instead, I tell a friend who’s giving unwanted critiques of my personal life that my father will hear about this.
Her: “Wouldn’t that mean you have to, like, call him? And talk to him?”
Her: “When did you last even call him?”
Her: “You know he’d agree with me anyway.”
This is not the time or place to try and resolve any of these issues.
In unrelated news: This experiment confirmed something I always suspected about Draco: that his father probably didn’t, and also didn’t want to, hear about all the things that Draco claimed he’d be telling him about. Malfoy seems, deep down, to be about as insecure as teenage boys come, and I bet he secretly tried to pretend he had his father’s ear a lot more than he actually did.
Or something. This is uncomfortable. Next lesson.
3. HAVE SUPREME SELF-CONFIDENCE IN YOUR OWN ABILITIES, EVEN WHERE IT IS UNWARRANTED.
Draco basically buys his way onto the Quidditch team. He doesn’t seem to suffer any concerns that perhaps he just wasn’t good enough. I feel like this is something I can actually learn from. I’ve never had confidence in my own abilities, except for my abilities to fall over anything in a room that isn’t tied down (and sometimes things that are).
The next time I’m in a meeting and a new project gets pitched, I confidently say I can do it. Not that I want to do it, that I can. The person assigning the task squints at me a bit and asks me if I’m sure because it involves doing math around finances. I confidently say it’ll be no problem.
Later, my colleague asks me, in passing, what 6 times 15 equals.
“I’m not sure,” I whisper.
4. ASSUME YOU GET TO OPERATE BY SPECIAL RICH PEOPLE RULES.
I just got my tax bill, and it is a doozy. Then I remember I’m living like Draco this week. I’m pretty sure Draco doesn’t believe in taxes; in fact, his family’s probably created a complex system to avoid them. “I’m too rich for taxes,” I tell my tax bill. It feels pretty good.*
* Dear the New Zealand tax system: Of course I’m going to pay my taxes. I just can’t this week because I’m being Draco Malfoy for a week, and he thinks he’s too good for taxes. It’s difficult to explain here. Call me.
5. WHEN YOU FAIL AT SOMETHING, ASSUME YOU WERE TOO GOOD FOR IT ANYWAY.
As though the universe were conspiring to assist me with writing this article, I received the biggest professional disappointment this week that I’ve ever had. It was seriously crushing and a little disappointing. At first, my plan went along the lines of: “Die. Then go live in Spain. Become a bus conductor.”
After I realized that the bus conductor thing wasn’t going to work because I don’t speak any Spanish, it occurred to me that the mature, adult thing to do would be coming to terms with just not being good enough and learning to suffer failure better.
Then I realized that this was the week of living like Draco Malfoy. And that this disappointment was the equivalent of being refused the handshake, losing at Quidditch, and getting the House cup taken off you, all rolled into one.
So I decided, then and there, that the people who rejected me were idiots, and I was too good for them. In the long term, it’s probably not a great coping strategy. But five days after the worst failure I’ve ever had, I feel AMAZING.
6. DEVELOP A MORE ARROGANT INTERNAL MONOLOGUE.
Okay, I’m cheating here; this should technically be an external monologue (i.e., saying mean things to people all day long). But in the books, it sort of comes across as bullying, and I’m only living like Malfoy for a week – this isn’t a personality transplant.
So I challenge myself to think rude things about people, largely with little success because I still feel guilty doing it.
And the one time I finally pull off a snarky comment in my head convincingly, I immediately worry I’ve said it out loud, clap my hand over my mouth, and start muttering “Sorry” under my breath. I probably look less arrogant, more deranged.
I have a new respect for Draco Malfoy. The mean life is hard freakin’ work.
7. DRESS INAPPROPRIATELY FORMALLY AT ALL TIMES.
I’m a writer who works for a charity, so this is a bit of a shock to the system. I wear a collared shirt everywhere, so my colleagues keep thinking I’m sneaking off to job interviews, and when I go for my morning coffee, the barista smirks and asks if I’m still out from the night before. No one thinks I’d just dress like this for fun.
Why is it so hard to believe that I’d dress nicely? Ugh, Muggles. They’re the worst.
But I can’t afford the dry-cleaning bill, so here endeth that experiment.
8. DEFEND YOUR PARENTS’ BELIEFS AT ALL TIMES, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT QUITE SURE WHETHER THEY’RE STILL RIGHT.
I’m not justifying Draco’s behavior here, but honestly, I can kind of see how that whole mess with the Death Eaters happened. These are some of the beliefs that my mother had that, even though I completely don’t agree with them, and she’s been dead for 12 years, so I can’t get in trouble, I still cleave to with obsessive habit:
- Always wear lipstick when you leave the house.
- Never go out with wet hair.
- No eating at bus stops.
Yes, they’re weird. Especially the last one. Who knows why bus stops? But in light of this, the weird tattoo/Voldemort/masks-inheritance of crazy Draco gets from his parents kind of makes sense.
9. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW YOU BLINDLY, NO MATTER WHAT.
If Draco’s motivations can seem tricky to figure out at times, Crabbe and Goyle’s are even tougher. Draco is mean to them, doesn’t seem to like them for their unique and special qualities, and draws them into his weird extracurricular activities all the time. I think about the people I’ve surrounded myself with and the worst things I’ve asked them to do – mainly around eating vegan food and going to long dance performances in which they had little interest – and conclude there are definitely limits to what you can get away with. My boyfriend will watch a Danish political drama with subtitles and eat chickpeas for me. I feel like he’d draw the line at joining a terror group, pretending to be a Dementor, or spending the whole year standing in a corridor in disguise when I refused to tell him why he was doing it.
I’m not sure if this means I have true friends or if I need better ones. Draco: Please advise?
10. DON’T ACTUALLY DO THE WORST THING YOU CAN THINK OF.
The one thing that gives us hope for Draco’s redemption is that he’s not actually a killer. He can’t kill Dumbledore. It’s an important moment in his journey and I think, the moment he starts rethinking some things and begins the process of redeeming himself.
This is obviously a powerful moment, and I’m struggling to work out how to replicate it in my life when the perfect opportunity prevents itself. I’ve just written someone an email telling them a few home truths, and right before I hit send, the Internet goes down. In that split second between doing something awful and not, I rethink, hit the delete button, and know that this is the first step on the path to being, some day, a truly good person.
Things I didn’t try:
- Hugging Voldemort.
- Racism. The world already has that covered this week.
- Fixing a cupboard, because I am no good at tools. Neither was Draco, really.
CONCLUSIONS: Living like Draco Malfoy is actually pretty exhausting and stressful. No wonder he was rude. If he’d just buggered off for an illicit gap year when he was 16, it might’ve solved a few problems.
As for me? I’m going back to keeping my mean comments to myself and paying my taxes like a chump. I’m destined to always be that girl who gets tricked into punching herself in the face.
It’s sort of a relief, really.