Did Draco Deserve Redemption?
Growing up, you unconsciously emulate your parents. It’s in your behaviors, speech, and even mannerisms. Though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in some cases, it is less than pleasant. Enter Draco Malfoy. When Draco and Harry first meet, it is on the train to Hogwarts. We see a spoiled boy with a learned superiority complex. Draco introduces himself with his last name first, showcasing the learned habit from his father, Lucius. This places value on his surname, Malfoy. When Harry responds, Draco changes tactics; however: He goes so far as to insult Hagrid and the Weasleys, resulting in Harry denying his friendship.
Throughout the first book, we see this child throw his name around, boasting that his father will be informed of everything that is going on or that he feels slighted him somehow. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we begin to see more of his horrid behavior, namely calling Hermione a Mudblood. This is a term learned from his father and family. This behavior isn’t difficult to understand, given what we see of Lucius, including his attempt to harm Harry. During the next few books, we begin to see more of this taunting behavior. Draco purposefully approaches Buckbeak, getting Hagrid in trouble. He also hexes Hermione’s teeth, creates the “Potter Stinks” badges, and is generally a bully at Hogwarts.
However, things come to a head after the events of Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix, with Lucius failing in his task to acquire the prophecy and getting arrested at the Department of Mysteries. This places Draco in danger. As punishment for his father’s failures, Voldemort gives him his own task. Draco does not accept his assignment willingly but out of fear for his mother’s life. This, I believe, is where he starts his redemption.
During Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we see what all of this has done to Draco, in addition to the toll his task has taken. When faced with his challenge of letting Death Eaters into the school and murdering Albus Dumbledore, he fails, perhaps intentionally, several times, placing his family under further scrutiny. His actions show hesitation, maybe to warn Dumbledore somehow, to try and prevent the inevitable, to hold out as long as he can without calling attention to himself. We know that his family has been threatened, and his mother’s life is in danger. He has begun spiraling into this stressed-out, angry, depressed state. He is described as having lost weight, paler than usual, and with sunken and dark eyes. His failures and injuring unintended targets obviously cause more stress, even refusing Severus’ help. Things come to a head when he finally has Dumbledore cornered, and he offers Draco help. Draco seems conflicted before declining, angry, and defeated.
The night he lets the Death Eaters into the school is the night everything changes. He lowers his wand. Draco is exhausted, mentally and emotionally, and when offered solace, he refuses for his mother. We all know how it ends: The trio wins, Draco’s mother lies to Voldemort, and the Malfoys just want to find their son. Many people may think Draco is evil, a Death Eater, but this is a child the same as Harry, trying to make his father proud, the way he was taught.
When it counts, Draco does not kill Dumbledore. He does not kill or severely injure Harry during their fight in the bathroom, and we all know he knows some deadly curses. When the Snatchers bring Harry, Ron, and Hermione to Malfoy Manor, he is hesitant to identify them, explicitly stating, “I can’t be sure” (DH 458). He most certainly recognizes Ron and Hermione, the people he tormented the last six years – he must have. This is a child who grew up trained to fit into a role and become a proper Malfoy; he hesitates. Voldemort is in his home, and he understands what is at stake if Harry dies.
Draco witnesses his aunt torture a classmate, a professor murdered and fed to Nagini, and his professor stepping up to help him by taking an Unbreakable Vow. As children, we would do anything for our parents until we begin to learn for ourselves. This is what Draco begins to do, and that nod at the platform when he and Harry are seeing their children off is the result of his learning. While they almost certainly never became friends, there is a mutual understanding.
Draco Malfoy is the same age as the others fighting in a war, but because he was indoctrinated into the wrong side to appease his family, to believe himself superior, we judge him. We fight for our parents’ approval by following their opinions, rules, and sometimes career paths because it is what is expected of us. Draco is no different. He has more than earned his redemption, though he has his flaws, as we all do. We all say and do the wrong things sometimes, but we are human, and we figure it out eventually, just as he did.