The first of probably many HBP Draco posts--this is the Father Figures One
Where does a Draco-fangirl begin? I had these smug little fantasies, before reading, of what it would be like if JKR actually wrote a story that used Draco's character the way I saw him. Perhaps I'd put together a little Draco tutorial by us Canon!Draco fans so everybody sneering at us for years that he was completely unimportant to the plot could, you know, catch up with the characterization that was really there. Perhaps I could list all the most standard H/D clichés that appeared in the book in its own way, but it speaks for itself.:-)
There's so many ways to analyze the storyline with Draco in HBP, but I'm going to do have to do them one at a time in different posts. One thing I've come across I think is pointless is fandom again focusing on this idea of whether the person is good or bad, particularly when you're dealing with Slytherins. When you're already knee-deep in Voldemort's side you're never going to be Neville. Draco's choice at the end of HBP (and I think reducing that final scene to a simple loss of nerve or cowardice misses a big stated point of it-by the laws of this series I think killing Dumbledore would have been considered the cowardly act) doesn't alone sum up his character. It does tell us he's actually not simply this generation's Regulus Black-but then, signs point to Regulus Black not being that generation's Regulus Black either.
I am a sucker for stories about fathers and sons--I think I've written about Harry and Draco this way before, and this book was all about that. There was one aspect of Draco's character I was so happy to see validated in this book. Years ago I was talking to people on FAP who said that Draco "needed a good smack" to be put in line. This was pre-OotP, but even then that just struck me as wrong-headed. Draco gets smacked down in *every* book (except this one), either verbally (by the good guys or Lucius), physically (he's beaten up, hexed, slapped, transfigured, bounced) or just through failure (never catching the Snitch, never winning the cup, never besting the Trio). Smackdown (as opposed to just regular discipline) just seems to make him worse, I thought, and considered Snape a prime example of this. I have always loudly supported the idea that the Snape/Draco friendship was real and would ultimately be important to the plot (pats self on back), but here's one reason I thought so. Snape, to me, seemed the perfect teacher for Draco. He was demanding, but also made it clear that Draco could meet his demands. By praising Draco that first day in class he establishes himself as an authority who matters and validates his talent and so becomes his favorite teacher. So Draco does actually *work* in his class. I have never thought Snape could have any patience for someone he had to flatter dishonestly, and the thing is Snape didn't fawn all over Draco. Draco was basically behaved in his class, it seemed to me, subtly supporting Snape's bad behavior. The point there is that this was a kid where positive reinforcement actually was sometimes more effective than negative reinforcement (though since this is Snape we know he's not spoiling him).
In HBP Harry and Draco find themselves in rather parallel situations--both is supposed to kill someone. But one of many differences is the way both boys are expected to do. Harry is frustrated throughout OotP because he's being treated like a child. In HBP he's treated more like an adult and responds accordingly. He is now *more* obedient to Dumbledore, and names himself "Dumbledore's Man" because he feels he's got the autonomy to choose his loyalties now. One of the heaviest words of validation in the book come when Dumbledore and Harry are leaving the cave to return to Hogwarts. I don't have the quote in front of me but Harry says something like "Don't worry, sir," and Dumbledore replies something like, "I can't worry, Harry. I'm with you." That's an amazingly cool thing for a father figure to say to his son, and Dumbledore stresses that sort of thing throughout HBP. You can do this, he tells Harry, not putting pressure on him but reassuring him that he trusts him.
Draco is in the opposite situation. He's been given a job he wants to see as a personal quest to prove himself a man. In reality this is false. He's simply being used, as a child, to punish his father. He's *supposed* to fail. Voldemort wants him to fail, his mother knows he will fail, Snape knows he will fail, even Dumbledore knows it. Most of all, Draco knows it. When Harry overhears Draco and Snape arguing during the Slug Party, he's taken aback to hear Draco speaking to Snape rudely, someone whom he'd seemed to like before. Even Harry has cottoned on to the fact that Draco really likes Snape. But what Draco is saying to Snape is actually right on time if we're thinking father/son dynamics. Harry himself went through the same thing with Dumbledore last year. Draco openly states that he's trying to take Snape's place and outdo him, and Snape's insistence that he needs help makes him furious--he's seen as a child, and wants to prove otherwise. That's what sons do when they get to that age--they challenge the father for his place.
And how wonderful for us all that Draco openly declares Snape his role model here, btw? Harry has the right instinct in suggesting that Draco has "taken his father's place" as a DE. In fact, Harry has many of the right instincts about Malfoy throughout the book. He is correct in understanding that Draco wants to replace his father as a DE, he just gets the wrong father and the wrong DE. Malfoy's real father now is more of a cipher than the one in jail. A lot of us had hoped that Snape would become his father figure with Lucius in jail, and he really did it. That means Draco is now modeling himself on a better man, imo, one who, again imo, is absolutely still working for Dumbledore (though Draco as yet doesn't know that).
This is why Dumbledore's final conversations with Draco were so great for me. Dumbledore realizes what Draco is after, and it's not a Dark Mark. Harry can't believe the old man is sitting there praising Draco for his evil schemes like they were a particularly ambitious homework project, but Dumbledore realizes that's exactly what they are to Draco. He really needs validation for this. See, jumping back to the beginning of the book for a moment, there were two things early on that I thought were very optimistic signs for Draco. The first was his not getting into the Slug Club, an organization based on everything Draco's been taught to rely on in the past. I think we're told at one point that Lucius was a favorite of Slughorn's, in fact. Had Slughorn come to the school last year, Draco may have gotten into the club and been that much closer to his father's path. But instead, his father being a DE keeps him out of the speshul "best families" club, so Draco has to say, "What do I care if some teacher doesn't like me?" which for him is a very good thing.
Had OotP!Draco been dragged into that Slug party claiming to have been invited, he really would have been trying to crash, jealous and resentful that he was wrongly kept out and loudly putting the club down throughout the book. Instead he actually had no interest in being there, and doesn't even mind looking bad by claiming to be gate-crashing. He's learned that what's important about family isn't the name or the reputation, but the people in it. The second moment was a line from the Potions Class. Draco drops his grandfather's name (and what a name it is!) to Slughorn, hoping for treatment similar to Blaise's, and gets dismissed. Harry, satisfied, thinks that if Malfoy wanted to excel in Potions, he'd have to rely on his talent. Oh, how I loved that. Because that's exactly what Malfoy needs to do. He really desperately needed to explore his own talents, what he could and couldn't do, what he was and was not prepared to do, instead of insecurely holding on to the "who you know" fantasy. (This is, of course, also a nice twist on Harry's own reliance on Snape's talent in class.)
Which brings us back to that final scene with Dumbledore. Harry notices that, bizarrely iho, Draco seems to draw "comfort and courage" from Dumbledore's validation--well, of course. He's needs assurance that he isn't a complete failure in his plan in order to have the confidence to make another decision. His plan, btw, being the Disappearing Cabinet and not the attempts at murder, which were clumsy and panicked because, as D says, his heart wasn't in it. His heart *was* in the cabinet project, imo, because it was something he could live with (it puts the responsibility for hurting people onto the DEs, thus putting it a step away from himself, though really that's an empty difference) and something he, I think, saw as proving to himself that he was capable of doing something. He probably hoped this would be enough for Voldemort, something he could offer him instead of Dumbledore's murder. And his cabinet plan is *great.* It's a wonderful plan (in terms of cleverness, of course, not results) that would be just as fabulous if Hermione thought of it--in fact, it's the type of thing Hermione would think of. Draco listened to Montague's story (oh, how wonderful that came back in that way, that the human Montague had something to offer to his friends) and was the only one who realized the implications. He fixed the cabinet all by himself. He used that Hand of Glory. Even better, look at all the stuff he used from "the good side." In OotP I was nervous at Hermione saying she got the idea for the coins from the DEs, because I thought looking to those guys for ideas could signal something. HBP seemed to indicate that this was more about the fact that *everything* you do can come back at you and be used against you and everyone steals from everyone else--Snape learning this most of all with his curses. Not only was Sectusempra his, but the dangling one as well! Ha! Oh, and of course Draco was able to do Occlumency he'd learned from his Aunt to hide things from the Dark Lord!
Anyway, just as I was a little chilled about Hermione there I was warmed by Draco looking to the DA for hints. It was a bit like the Trio's Greatest Hits. He went to the Weasleys for the powder. He tricked the Trio with Polyjuice. He used the Room of Requirement. He used Hermione's coin idea (which, btw, was described as very advanced magic). Despite his clinging to the word Mudblood Draco pretty much admits there that Hermione is smart and clever, and he doesn't try to give credit for the coins to one of the DA Purebloods. (And I think Dumbledore's scolding him about the word will be important too-even if you're killing me, it's still important not to use that word.) As somebody who wasn't all that thrilled with the DA in OotP, I really liked the ghosts of it in HBP, with Luna and Neville the most loyal because it was the closest thing to friends they ever got (though was I the only one wanting to yell at them to fricken' be friends with each other??). But also I loved Malfoy sort of being a little DA follower, wanting and needing something like it for himself. He needed friends around him in HBP, just as Harry did. And for the first time he seemed to have friends around him, with Crabbe and Goyle getting more respect than ever.
This, I think, is the plan that Draco tries to hold on to to assure himself he *can* do something, he isn't helpless and useless, and that kind of confidence is important in this universe, I think. He surprised others, and himself, and that means nothing's certain. As I said elsewhere, so many H/D writers give Draco the "choose sides" scenario, and damn if JKR's doesn't actually give him more dignity than fans usually do. She doesn't have his mother make the decision, nor does she make the decision *purely* over squeamishness or self-protection. She lets him prove himself up to a point, test himself to see what he's capable of doing, lets him pull off some truly bad things. He sees his delusions about killing for glory are fake and realizes the only thing pushing him to kill is to protect the people he loves. Dumbledore stresses more than once that Draco hasn't crossed the line yet--and that this is because of Draco's own actions and character (he's showing who he is). When Draco demands "Why didn't you stop me?" Dumbledore stresses that he couldn't--he's not a child anymore.
Then there's the line right before Draco appears to lower his wand. Dumbledore offers him protection, and dominant opinion has always been that given that choice Draco would laugh in Dumbledore's face. Instead he just stares at him and says, slowly, "But I got this far, didn't I? They thought I'd die in the attempt, but I'm here...and you're in my power...I'm the one with the wand...You're at my mercy." Then Dumbledore says it's his mercy that matters now and Malfoy's wand drops a fraction. After that he's even less resolute than before about killing Dumbledore, and he speaks up only once more in the book to tell Dumbledore he didn't intentionally bring Fenrir into the school where his friends lived.
See, to me, what's important there is that those last lines of Draco's make it a choice. Perhaps a choice that was postponed, but his need to tell Dumbledore about the werewolf makes it seem like Draco's moved further to Dumbledore's side. His saying, slowly, that he succeeded where they thought he'd fail is what makes this important for him, imo. By making it clear to himself that he *could* kill Dumbledore in terms of being the one with the wand, having him at his mercy, is what makes it so important that he *chooses* not to act. Even if we suspect Draco couldn't cast AK even if he tried, or that he wouldn't have the power, he chooses not to try. He understands it's up to his choice at that moment. After the DEs appear he speaks up only once more, and that's to affirm Dumbledore's ideas about his character by telling him he didn't intentionally bring Fenrir into the school. He has to make a free choice of what's best, not decide which protector to run to.
What's great too is that, of course, Harry finally sees Draco as another boy. He's horrified at almost killing him, and still feels pangs of conscience later. He feels the beginning of pity for him at the end, and is able to believe he wouldn't have killed Dumbledore and respect it. But one of the most surprising moments of this, for me, is in that Apparating lesson when Harry actually says something to Malfoy that's not...exactly...an insult. It's when Malfoy is arguing with Crabbe (?!) and he says, "It's none of your business what I'm doing. Just keep your mouth shut and keep a look out." Harry, who's eavesdropping, spontaneously decides to open his mouth here--thus alerting Malfoy to his presence and to the fact that he might be listening to things--and give him advice he himself really only recently learned well, that when he asks *his* friends to keep lookout, he's learned it's better they know what's going on. It's one of several times in the book he acknowledges Crabbe and Goyle as actual friends of Malfoy's, but it's probably the only time he says something to him that isn't strictly insulting. It's...well...it's the type of thing Harry would say in an H/D fic, isn't it?
So basically, I think this book obviously set up for a conclusion between all these guys in Book VII, and that Draco is a character with a choice postponed. Will he be able to make the right choice without Dumbledore there to calm him down enough to do it, we don't know.