Draco Malfoy is often viewed as one of the villains in the Harry Potter series- he’s called a bully, a bad guy, a Death Eater… But I see things differently. I entirely believe that Draco Malfoy is a hero in the series.
Let’s look at the facts. At the start of the books, he’s 11. I know a lot of people already have a counter-argument ready: “But Harry was 11 at the start and he joined the right side!” Here’s the thing, though- who you are at the start of a book isn’t what matters. Who you are in the end and the choices you make along the way and how you grow… that’s what matters. I don’t know anyone who is the same person now as they were at age 11. So yeah, at 11 years old, Draco was a spoiled brat who bullied and picked on his peers and believed everything his parents told him, no questions asked. But is that really surprising behavior from an 11 year old? Can we truly judge a character based on who he was in the beginning, when the point of a series like this is the journey and growth of the characters? Can we judge Neville on who he was at the start? Or Ron? Or Hermione? All of these characters grew and changed and matured, so it’s wrong to leave Draco boxed in as the same person at 18 that he was at 11, because that just isn’t the case.
Let’s move on to when he’s older, when he’s given the task to kill Dumbledore and join the Death Eaters. Ron once made the point that Harry didn’t have to worry about his family- his family couldn’t be used against him, because his parents are dead. When reading that scene, your first reaction is probably anger and betrayal at Ron for being so tactless. But there is truth to his words. Harry didn’t have to face the difficulties of his parents and family being used against him. Draco, on the other hand, was faced with that very difficult decision. Voldemort said he could kill Dumbledore and join the Death Eaters, or he could watch his parents die. He, himself, could die. Can you honestly tell me that would be an easy choice? Can you honestly tell me that there’s necessarily a right choice? What matters is that Draco didn’t follow through. He didn’t murder. He couldn’t murder, and that speaks so much for his character and the choices he ultimately made.
So then Draco became a Death Eater. He was living with the constant presence of Voldemort in his house. The most terrifying man alive was always there, watching him, torturing people, killing people. And yet. When Harry is captured, Draco does not give up his identity. When Harry makes his escape, Draco lets him get away with his wand. I know many people will be ready to argue that Harry fought Draco for his wand, or that maybe Draco truly didn’t recognize Harry. But I don’t believe that’s the case. Draco grew up with Harry. He knew him like the back of his hand. A swollen face wouldn’t change that. Draco is also an exceptionally skilled wizard. There is no way he could have been disarmed if he didn’t want to be. These were choices Draco made that helped Harry win the war in the end. He wanted Harry to win. But he couldn’t find a way out or another way to help. He didn’t want to help, honestly. Not directly. Not like a Gryffindor would, running straight into the action. He didn’t want to fight in the war, because he’s a Slytherin. Self-preservation is one of his strongest instincts. He did what he had to do to stay alive. And, in the end, that meant quietly helping Harry.
Draco began to think for himself as he grew older. He realized that perhaps his parents weren’t always right. He learned that his parents made some poor decisions and got them in dangerous situations. He grew and matured- he went on a hero’s quest. Harry and Draco are more similar than you think. They were both shaped by the war, forced to make difficult decisions, forced to learn and grow. Harry approached it like a Gryffindor- face on, disregarding all danger. Draco approached it like a Slytherin- carefully and thoughtfully and secretly, doing everything in his power to keep his family safe. And he succeeded. He lived, and so did his family, and so did Harry- and if that’s not a hero, then I don’t know what is.
And in the end, it was love that saved Harry. It was Narcissa’s love for Draco that caused her to lie to Voldemort and allow Harry the chance to gain the upper hand. Draco played a direct, crucial role in Harry’s survival and ending Voldemort once and for all.
Draco could easily be defined as an anti-hero, or a redemptive tale. He spent much of his time later in the novels making up for his past actions and choices, and it was his redemptive actions that directly helped Harry win the war. Draco Malfoy is not the 11 year old bully he started off as. He is a young man who had to make some difficult choices, fought his way to safety, did everything he could to protect his loved ones, and recognized and atoned for his mistakes. Draco Malfoy is my hero.