Guest blogger AnnieLogic provides a nice counterbalance to my much less favorable review of Draco’s first encounter with Harry Potter…
Draco holds a distinction: he is the first notable character to attempt to befriend Harry, while being unaware of the celebrity beside him. In fact, Draco tries to make small talk with Harry, while the latter is wearing scruffy hand-me-down Muggle clothes and a very obvious patch-up job on his broken glasses. Draco does not appear to snub Harry from the initial outset for the sake of appearances.
Yet Draco’s conduct and manner of address – notably in regards to his parents and how he intends to get his own way – remind Harry strongly of his cousin. These memories of Dudley, complete with a conglomerate of negative feelings associated with them, mean that Harry may be projecting onto an unfamiliar person. It provides wriggle room for a misunderstanding early on.
Due to feeling increasingly stupid about his lack of knowledge concerning the Wizarding World, Harry becomes uncomfortable at Draco’s enthusiastic talk of Quidditch and Hogwarts’ Houses. Even Hagrid (who, unlike Draco, knew how much in the dark the Dursley’s had condemned Harry to be) exclaimed later:
“Blimey, Harry, I keep forgettin’ how little yeh know — not knowin’ about Quidditch!”
Later the reader sees further that students place Hogwarts Houses – as well as the much-loved Wizarding sport, Quidditch – at the forefront of their minds, so Draco’s choice of a conversational subject was seemingly friendly and no different than that of other future students, or indeed adults.
The downward spiral continues as Draco talks disdainfully of Hagrid. Understandably, and compassionately, Harry is defensive of his first wizarding friend – who showed him kindness, generosity and acceptance. This trait of Draco’s – to belittle and taunt those he believes to be his inferiors – is exhibited in various topics throughout the first year: topics concerning family, social status, intellect and skill, wealth and provisions:
“I do feel so sorry,” said Draco Malfoy, one Potions class, “for all those people who have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas because they’re not wanted at home.”
“Would you mind moving out of the way?” came Malfoy’s cold drawl from behind them. “Are you trying to earn some extra money, Weasley? Hoping to be gamekeeper yourself when you leave Hogwarts, I suppose — that hut of Hagrid’s must seem like a palace compared to what your family’s used to.”
“See, there’s Potter, who’s got no parents, then there’s the Weasleys, who’ve got no money — you should be on the team, Longbottom, you’ve got no brains.”
“Longbottom, if brains were gold you’d be poorer than Weasley, and that’s saying something.”
When Harry replies shortly to Draco’s enquiry about his parents, and Draco responds “Oh sorry” (a fairly standard, civil way to reply to a complete stranger), Harry seems to take unnecessary offence, thinking Draco doesn’t sound sorry at all. However, the notion is swiftly dispelled when Draco adds, “But they were our kind, weren’t they?” as if to imply non-magical folk are of scant enough worth to mourn their loss.
Perhaps Draco could have enquired as to what happened, or where and with whom does Harry now live. However, in some circles this would probably be considered extremely intrusive questions to ask a stranger – particularly if the stranger turned abrupt, which would be a warning sign not to delve further into private matters. Re-enforcing this, the reader later observes Molly on the platform scolding the insensitivity of her children – first Ginny, for wanting go look at Harry as if he were a specimen in a zoo; secondly, Fred and George for proposing to ask Harry questions about the fateful circumstances under which he lost his parents.
Draco goes on to express an intolerant view of Muggleborns. Introduced here is another of Draco’s traits: being a constant mouthpiece for his parent’s views, particularly parroting and using the name of his father, Lucius Malfoy, and its weighty lineage.
In Tales of Beedle the Bard, the notes reveal Lucius Malfoy strove to get that very book, which contains Muggle-friendly teachings, banned from the Hogwarts curriculum. This fact allows the reader an insight into how tight a rein Lucius exerted on what Draco was exposed to in his first eleven years. It doesn’t justify or excuse the character, it does however give an idea of how Draco’s personality and morals were strictly influenced and moulded – showing why he chooses to ally and associate with those of desirable profile (in his opinion), who are subservient to his wishes, or who possess suitable beliefs.
The set up for Draco alienating and developing a rivalry with Harry, is repeated when Draco insults and tries to trump Ron, and a newly developed bond, despite it being a retaliation to a veiled snigger at his name.
Throughout the story, in a developing pattern of animosity, Draco slowly descends from snotty spoiled child further into the bully and antagonist role.
AnnieLogic authors the LiveJournal custos noctis.