One of the most puzzling parts of the entire Harry Potter series, to me, was the lack of redemption arc for the Slytherin Prince– Harry’s archrival– Draco Malfoy.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I was as annoyed by him as everyone else at first. Hermione Granger perhaps puts it best when, in their third year, she calls him a “foul, loathsome, evil little cockroach”, before smacking him across the face. But like with any of Rowling’s characters, Draco Malfoy is neither good nor bad entirely. By the seventh book, we are pushed to question the motivations and backgrounds of each personality before passing judgement, leading us to one massive gray area between good and bad.
Draco is no exception. At first, he is simply a bully to the boy hero and protagonist after whom the series is named. However, with each book, he grows more complex. We see that his twisted beliefs have been fed to him since boyhood from his (equally twisted) parental unit. And while it takes Draco a ridiculous amount of time to realize his faults and summon the courage to stand against everything he has been taught, when it comes down to it, he pulls through in the end.
When the Golden Trio are captured and dragged to Malfoy Manor, Draco deliberately fails to identify Harry Potter to the Death Eaters, therefore indirectly saving his life. Harry later returns the favor in the Room of Requirement– it can be argued that from that point forward, Draco’s allegiance had changed. Though he fails to defend his convictions in the ways we, as readers, expect (Rowling has gotten us rather accustomed to the loud, brash bravery of the Gryffindors), his experience absolutely changed his prejudices enough that if Rowling really wanted to, she could have redeemed him.
What I also fail to understand is that many readers are willing to forgive Severus Snape for his vindictive bullying and misdeeds, based solely on the thought that he was in love with Harry’s dead mother. The fact that he had been unable to extinguish a flame from his adolescence well after he entered middle age is kind of pathetic– and yet so many jump at the chance to pardon him because Dumbledore trusted him. I’ll remind all those readers that Dumbledore showed kindness and trust to Draco before he is killed, as well– forgiveness is simply in his nature.
Snape chose to be a jerk well into adulthood, whereas Draco’s beliefs were a result of bad parenting and hot-headed teenage pride. Given the opportunity, I am certain that had he grown up learning tolerance and humility, we would not even be having this debate, because we’d be looking at “another Weasley, eh?”.