Not-So-Bad Faith: In Defense Of The Malfoys
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Not-So-Bad Faith: In Defense Of The Malfoys

An in-depth examination of the unfairly maligned wizarding family

Not-So-Bad Faith: In Defense Of The Malfoys

“There is nothing I wouldn’t do anymore!” Spoken by anyone else in the Harry Potter series, these words would be praised as a determined pledge by someone who wants to protect her family at all costs. As it is, the love implied by this quote is often glossed over, as is its speaker. Like her husband and son, Narcissa Malfoy receives an unfairly harsh judgment from the fans of Harry Potter, who reduce each member of the Malfoy family to a stereotype of evil without redeeming qualities. The Malfoys should not be seen in black-and-white; they are complicated people who value their family above all else, and though each would do anything for their family, the love the three possess for one another is often overlooked and unfairly belittled.

When Draco Malfoy meets Harry Potter, Draco’s first reaction is to discuss his family. His parents, he says, are helping him to shop; he says that his father is buying his school books, that his mother is looking at wands, and that he plans to bully his father into getting him a racing broom even though first years aren’t allowed to have them. Within one speech, the reader learns that Draco is proud enough of his family to talk about them before even introducing himself and that Draco has a good enough relationship with his father at age eleven to persuade him to break the rules of the school at which Lucius is a Governor in order to please him. Draco has recently turned eleven and will be leaving home for an extended period for presumably the first time in his life, and just like the Weasleys, who are commonly lauded as prime examples of parenting within the Potter universe, Lucius and Narcissa have escorted their son to Diagon Alley and are closely overseeing the purchase of his supplies. When meeting someone who will be joining him at the school Draco is clearly so excited to be attending, Draco does not react the way most children would, by introducing himself and trying to make friends with Harry. Instead, he goes on to brag about his parents. He also brags about his Quidditch skills, stating: “‘Father says it’s a crime if I’m not picked to play for my House.’” Draco is so proud of his family that he cannot keep himself from discussing them, particularly his father.

Lucius Malfoy, who is at this point a Hogwarts Governor, has acquired an undeservedly harsh reputation as a parent among Potter fans. Though he holds an important position at the school, considerable influence within the Ministry of Magic and on Minister Fudge himself, and an exorbitant amount of wealth, he doesn’t take the historically aristocratic route of passing his parental duties to a servant and remaining distant from his son. Draco adores his father. In half a page of dialogue during Draco and Harry’s initial meeting, Draco mentions Lucius three times. The two are close enough that Draco’s ego has been inflated by his father’s pride in his Quidditch skill and that Draco thinks he could persuade Lucius to break the rules of the school he helps to run in order to allow his son to smuggle in an illegal racing broom. This level of certainty that a father would both allow his son to break his school’s rules and help him do it can only stem from a close and loving relationship.

The relationship between Lucius and Draco is also a highly protective one.

Nearly every time something goes wrong for Draco, he assures whoever will listen that his father will hear about the injustice and that Lucius will not tolerate it. Lucius’s first line of dialogue in the series is, “‘Touch nothing, Draco.” At this moment, Draco is surrounded by countless dark objects in Borgin and Burkes, and one false move could lead to injury or death. Lucius’s first action in the series is to protect his son. In Prisoner of Azkaban, when Buckbeak the hippogriff injures Draco after Draco provokes him, Lucius pushes legislation through the Ministry to have the offending hippogriff executed.

Even though Draco is at fault and the creature in question had no malicious intent, Lucius is protective enough of his son to spite both Buckbeak and Hagrid, who teaches the class, by taking governmental measures to avenge the harm that has come to his son. In Half-Blood Prince, after Lucius has been imprisoned in Azkaban, Draco realizes Harry has been eavesdropping on a conversation with his friends. His first reaction is not to be angry with Harry for listening but to bind him with magic and step on and break his nose. “‘That’s from my father,’” Draco says. Draco blames Harry for his father’s imprisonment, and just as Lucius has always been willing to rush to Draco’s aid, Draco is quick to avenge wrongs against his father.

Draco is also quick to spring to the defense of his mother when Harry insults her. In Goblet of Fire, Draco insults Molly Weasley, and in retaliation, Harry insults Narcissa, asking whether she always looks as though she is smelling something foul or only when she is near Draco. Draco snaps at Harry for daring to speak ill of Narcissa, and it is for this that he draws his wand on Harry and attempts to attack him before he himself is jinxed by Barty Crouch, Jr., impersonating Mad-Eye Moody and turned into a ferret. In Half-Blood Prince, when Harry taunts Narcissa, telling her, “‘They might be able to find you a double cell in Azkaban with your loser of a husband,’” Draco moves instantly for Harry and tells him, “‘Don’t you dare talk to my mother like that, Potter.’” Instead of pursuing the fight that he and Harry have already begun, Draco seeks to strike Harry now only in Narcissa’s defense.

Narcissa is criticized by Potter fans for loving Draco despite his faults while the willingness of women such as Molly and Lily to love their children unconditionally is praised, and she is also often maligned for Lucius’s actions by readers who judge her morality based on his work for Voldemort. To judge Narcissa based on the actions of her husband and son is to reduce her to a non-entity incapable of her own agency and personality independent of them. Narcissa is not a Death Eater; she has not participated in the fighting. She is willing to fight in defense of her family, but if that is considered evil, Molly Weasley would be labeled evil for killing Bellatrix and Percy Weasley would be considered evil for seeking to avenge his brother Fred’s death by attacking Augustus Rookwood, among the countless other characters willing to resort to violence in order to protect those they love. In every scene in which she speaks in the series, Narcissa defends at least one member of her family

Narcissa’s willingness to protect her son at any cost is one of her most visible qualities throughout the series. In the first book, she sends Draco sweets frequently via owl post. The first time she is given dialogue, in Half-Blood Prince, it’s to deny her sister Bellatrix’s insistences that they turn back and abandon Narcissa’s pursuit of aid from Severus Snape in protecting Draco, who has just been tasked with killing Albus Dumbledore. Though she has been forbidden to discuss the plan by Voldemort himself, she is willing to disobey the man who has killed people for less for even the smallest chance that someone can help her son. She suspects Voldemort has assigned him to kill Dumbledore in vengeance after the mission Lucius led to the Department of Mysteries failed; she thinks Voldemort wants Draco to die trying, and she pleads until Snape agrees to make an Unbreakable Vow to help Draco and kill Dumbledore if he cannot. Later, in Madam Malkin’s shop, Draco and Harry bicker, and Harry and Ron draw their wands on Draco, who has insulted Hermione’s blood status. In the first line of dialogue she speaks to Harry in the series, Narcissa orders: “‘Put those [wands] away. […] If you attack my son again, I shall ensure that it is the last thing you ever do.” In a move that will do nothing but bring judgment upon her, Narcissa threatens “The Boy Who Lived,” who is lauded as a hero and loved by much of the Wizarding World, particularly after Minister Fudge agreed that Harry had not fabricated Voldemort’s return. Narcissa is willing to make enemies and draw negative attention, even when her family is already under the Ministry’s scrutiny due to Lucius’s conviction as a Death Eater and subsequent imprisonment, as it is for the sake of her son. Perhaps the most memorable of Narcissa’s actions on behalf of Draco is her decision to lie to Voldemort when asked whether Harry has been killed at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Narcissa tells Voldemort that Harry is dead when he is not, and Harry reasons that this is because Narcissa knows that she will be allowed to enter Hogwarts and search out her son with Voldemort’s victorious army and that she no longer cares whether Voldemort wins. Ensuring that Draco has survived is all the motivation she needs to lie to the most powerful dark wizard of all time, who is more than capable of using Legilimency to read her thoughts if he doubts her sincerity, and the moment Harry assures her that Draco is safe, Narcissa makes her choice. She betrays Voldemort and, by telling Voldemort that Harry is dead and allowing Harry the chance to fight, brings about Voldemort’s downfall and the saving of the Wizarding World.

Narcissa is determined to defend someone else just as strongly as her son: her husband. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she tells Bellatrix that there is nothing she would not do, now that Lucius has been taken from her and sentenced to Azkaban and Draco has been endangered. Bellatrix attempts to blame Lucius for the loss of the prophecy in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, but she only gets out three words before Narcissa cuts her off angrily. “‘If Lucius hadn’t—’ [Bellatrix began.] ‘Don’t you dare—don’t you dare blame my husband!’ said Narcissa, in a low and deadly voice.” Bellatrix has already killed one family member, the sisters’ cousin Sirius, for fighting on what she considers the wrong side, and he did not openly defy her. Narcissa is willing to stand up to her murderous sister in Lucius’s defense despite whatever consequences may befall her. Later, when Harry insults Lucius in the robe shop, Narcissa threatens Harry’s safety for the second time. When Draco attempts to fight Harry for his words, Narcissa stops him. “‘It’s all right, Draco,’ [she says,] restraining him […]. ‘I expect Potter will be reunited with dear Sirius before I am reunited with Lucius.’” Again, Narcissa threatens the life of someone who holds the support of the majority of their society for no gain other than the satisfaction of spiting someone who has wronged someone she loves.

Though they don’t appear in many scenes together, Narcissa and Lucius have one of the most solid and loving relationships of any established couple within the Harry Potter series. They never argue in what the reader sees of them; they are always on the same page. In the scene in which Harry and his friends have been captured and brought to Malfoy Manor, Lucius and Narcissa work together to identify and deal with the prisoners. In the opening scene of Deathly Hallows, the Malfoy family has been terrorized by Voldemort, who has seized their home as his base of operations and who regularly abuses them through magic and violence when he feels they have made a mistake. Voldemort seeks to belittle Lucius by taking his wand and rendering him defenseless. “Malfoy glanced sideways at his wife. She was staring straight ahead, quite as pale as he was, […] but beneath the table her slim fingers closed briefly on his wrist. At her touch, Malfoy put his hand into his robes, withdrew a wand and passed it along to Voldemort.” In this moment, Lucius looks to Narcissa for assurance, and it is not until she encourages him with her touch that he consents to allow Voldemort to take his wand. He respects her opinion enough to turn to her in a moment of pure terror and intimidation by Voldemort, and she is quick to reassure him even when she has been attempting to stay out of the discussion altogether up to this point. Narcissa spent the duration of Lucius’s prison sentence defending him in Half-Blood Prince, and she continues to stand with him upon his release. During the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry spots “Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy running through the crowd, not even attempting to fight, screaming for their son.” By this point, both Lucius and Narcissa are wandless; Lucius has surrendered his wand to Voldemort and Narcissa has given hers to Draco, and without them, the two have no way to defend themselves from anyone, despite the fact that they are now the enemies of both sides, as the Order of the Phoenix views them only as Voldemort’s supporters and Voldemort views them as traitors. Their love for one another and for their son keeps them together and searching until their family is whole again, and at the last moment the readers see Lucius and Narcissa in the series, they are seated in the Great Hall with Draco, huddled together and thankful that they have all survived.

Lucius, Narcissa, and Draco Malfoy are often painted with a dark brush. They are viewed simply as villains and reduced to stereotypes of apathetic aristocrats when this could not be farther from the truth. Above all else—above loyalty to any cause or leader—the Malfoys love one another. Draco is willing to fight for the honor of his parents, who both love him unconditionally. Lucius and Narcissa have a relationship built on mutual respect and a love that has endured prison and two wars. The members of the Malfoy family deserve to be acknowledged as complex characters driven by, at the root, love for family and willingness to do anything to protect those they hold dear.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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