By Lorie Damerell
Lucius is a competent wizard, and the Dark Lord knows it. It is true that he was once close to the Dark Lord as Ron tells Harry that “Dad reckons he was right in You Know Who’s inner circle.”5 Whilst this now may not be the case, it does not erase the fact that, magically, he can only be an asset to the campaign. With ranks full of liabilities, men such as Malfoy stand out. Markedly. Even Bellatrix Lestrange was not entirely to be trusted with the Dark Lord’s wishes in Order of the Phoenix, as she was so desperate to attack that it elicited the following from Lucius Malfoy: “DO NOT ATTACK! WE NEED THE PROPHECY!”6Rowling has stated that the seventh book will see the greatest effort yet from the Dark Lord and his legions,7 and it would make sense that he frees those competent Death Eaters to enable him to do this. Remember that Lucius would be nothing but an indebted asset at this stage. What more could an arch villain want? But the winning argument for Lucius’s freedom lies in the Dark Lord’s ultimate plans. Tom Riddle only thought of one place as home: Hogwarts.He is attracted to the school and its magic in an unhealthy fashion, and so it is more than probable that the final battle will be staged there, regardless whether Harry continues any of his education there or not. Even without Dumbledore, an assault on the school would be the ultimate challenge to the Dark Lord both for its fortifications and symbolic meaning. What better location for dramatic combat? In order to succeed he is going to need his finest minds, of which Lucius Malfoy certainly numbers. The Dark Lord has made mistakes; he is not quite stupid enough to leave Lucius and nefarious company to rot in Azkaban when they could be liberated and doing something useful.
However, whilst Lucius’s power would be useful, it is possible that drawing upon these talents it not what the Dark Lord has planned. Even if, on an agreeable journey to the cold north, the Dark Lord does succeed in releasing Lucius from Azkaban, it might only be to fulfill the threat Draco reported at the end of Half-Blood Prince: “He’ll kill my whole family!”8 If so, Lucius might not have too long left in the magical world before he is Avada Kedavra’d. Lucius’s death is hard to predict for his character is not so major that his end will impact greatly upon the plot (other than with regards to Draco) yet neither is his life whilst he remains in prison. However, there are certain elements of the story-line that indicate he is more likely to die than live, and not just due to the Dark Lord’s menacing promises.If Lucius died, Draco would learn how terrifying and merciless The Dark Lord truly is; he might gain impetus to alter his mentality. But there is something else. The Dark Lord rarely kills and when he does it is a notable matter. Sirus argues that his brother Regulus Black, who was of an ancient and noble family line, was not killed by the Dark Lord himself. If anyone ‘deserves’ to be executed by the Dark Lord, it is Lucius Malfoy. No one is more prestigious than he. He was an excellent Death Eater, was very prominent in most wizarding circles, “very well-connected,”9 and is as proficiently manipulative and power-hungry as the Dark Lord himself. Few other wizards are superior enough to Lucius to be in a position to kill him, proven when Lucius was able to threaten the entire body of Hogwarts’ governors to remove Dumbledore as Headmaster: “Several of them seemed to think that you had threatened to curse their families if they didn’t agree to suspend me in the first place.”10 It would be a task for the Dark Lord. Then, of course, Lucius could be killed by the State if the Ministry of Magic moves to the instigation of the use of capital punishment. He could, of course, be released from prison and then be caught in the cross-fire of battle. Nevertheless Lucius is very talented at getting himself out of sticky and awkward situations as he did when he was tried as a Death Eater previously11 and would be competent in removing himself from those that might endanger his life. He would not, however, be able to avoid a summons from his Master. One flick of a wand, and the eldest Malfoy would be a dead man.
Will Draco live or die? Because his role in the series is more prominent, this question is easier to answer. He is currently on the run, presumably with Snape, last seen fleeing Hogwarts having failed that which the Dark Lord asked him to do. Does this lack of obedience warrant death? The Dark Lord’s current plan seems to be to have only one Malfoy male in action (the pair together would be quite formidable) so if he were to release Lucius from prison, losing the weaker Malfoy would be of little consequence to The Dark Lord. The youngest of the Death Eaters, Draco’s recent actions have shown him ineffectual and a liability. Execution of the Malfoy heir would be an example to all as well as further punishment to his father. If this does not happen then Draco is in no danger of death until he enters battle. Guessing who might die in battle is never satisfactory for, unless hidden behind the front line, even the most adept wizard might be caught by a stray curse. Draco is not lacking ability wizard, but he is cowardly. His battle skills are yet unknown but as he was unable to kill despite risking the deaths of himself and his family actual combat might wreak further humiliation on the once dignified Malfoy name.
Draco, however, has a very high chance of not being killed.The reason? Because of the message that it would send. There are those readers that care little for Draco’s fate, some arguing that he deserves death for his errors. It is no secret that one of the reasons Harry Potter is an orphan is because Rowling suffered the loss of her mother six months after she started writing the Harry Potter series.12 Why on earth would she want to suggest that the poetic justice for a barely-mature wizard would be death? Similarly, does Draco really deserve to die? Yes, he is an arrogant little git; he is also a vindictive and cruel spoilt brat who has upset more than his fair share of Hogwarts students. He has executed at least one Unforgivable, the Imperius cast on Rosmerta, and tried to murder the former Headmaster on several occasions. But the quintessential source of knowledge and wisdom himself said, “Come over to the right side, Draco ... you are not a killer.” 13 Draco certainly deserves punishment, but he does not deserve to be killed.
Just as Harry has Ron and Hermione, who together form the Trio, and many other friends and admirers, Draco has his own very Slytherin form of companionship. Crabbe and Goyle might be stupid, brutish lackeys, but they are devoutly loyal towards Draco. Their motives may not matter—they have shown that they would do anything for him, including drinking the horrid Polyjuice Potion, donning girls’ clothes and acting as watch-out. It is not something many young men would do and yet they did it. And just as Harry has Ginny, Draco has Pansy. She may have sycophantically loved him since she ever set eyes upon him and cried tears for him in Harry Potter and thePrisoner of Azkaban, but Half-Blood Prince showed readers that they were more than just friends. Perhaps Draco’s task caused a rift between the two – however the reader never got a great deal of insight into Draco’s romantic life. Harry has made the choice to take a solitary path to continue into the next book even if Ron and Hermione will not let him do it alone, but Draco has been forced into going it alone. Failing a task of murder and dragged from the scene by his former Housemaster, Draco is not going to be with his friends for the next year at school should it even open. What will this mean for him? No father, distance from his mother, no girlfriend or thuggish bodyguards and the dry humor of Snape for company. It is a bleak future and probably one that he deserves.