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Limited Perspective August 12, 2008

Posted by Me in Lucius Malfoy.

On one of the message boards I frequent, I recently found the following comment made in reference to Lucius Malfoy:

Lucius Malfoy is the worst kind of scumbag, one who hides behind an aristocratic background and money. He also has no qualms about murdering children. Definitely not the kind of guy I find admirable.

I did not respond to this post, because I suspected that as absolute as this poster’s opinions were, he’d not have listened to anything I had to say.  I imagine to this poster, people, fictional or real, can only be “good” or “bad”, with no allowance for anything in between.

But, as is true with people in real life, it’s not that simple.  Almost no one is all good or all bad; most of us are a mixture of both good and bad traits, though people can and do tend to lean to one side or another.

In the Harry Potter universe, JK Rowling considered anyone who was capable of love to be redeemable.  And this clearly includes Lucius, who displayed his love for his wife and son on more than one occasion.  And at the end, he is redeemed, and is not sentenced to Azkaban.

While Lucius could accurately described as a coward in some, but not all, ways, I believe that he was largely a product of his upbringing.  As far as being the “worst kind of scumbag” goes, I can think of at least four people in the Potter universe who are more deserving of the title: Voldemort himself, Bellatrix, Fenrir Greyback, and Delores Umbridge.  Your mileage may vary, of course, but I think most people would agree with me on this.

So far as “having no qualms about murdering children” goes,  we have to remember that the books were told from Harry’s point of view and this is what Harry believed of him.  In none of the seven books do we ever see Lucius actually murdering any child.  in the fifth book, he is guilty of threatening to do so, but this doesn’t mean he would have actually carried it through.   It’s quite possible he believed that threats would be sufficient to carry out his motives and secondly, he had to keep up the image of the gung-ho Death Eater in front of Bellatrix, lest she report to Voldemort that he was going soft.

As far as giving Ginny Weasley the diary in the second book goes, JK Rowling tells us in the sixth book that Dumbledore believed that Lucius didn’t know that the diary was a horcrux, thus had no idea how dangerous it was.   Rather, his aim was to embarrass Arthur Weasley by palming it off on Ginny, and had no idea it could kill her.

Thus, I find the original comment to be shortsighted at best.



1. lucretziathevagabond - September 21, 2008

Thank you for an excellent post.

I have read many comments since I’ve joined the HP community that talk about the characters as though they are static creatures; incapable of evolving or showing a shred of humanity because of an unpopular choice they’ve made. It’s true that JKR didn’t really flesh out Lucius’ character that much, so we don’t know how his thoughts and reasons for making the decisions he did originated (which makes him a perfect fan fiction character).

We have seen the main characters in HP make some rather dubious moral choices: Hermione keeping Skeeter in a jar, and sending Umbridge to the centaurs comes immediately to mind. Yes, she did it for what seemed like a good reason to her, but imprisoning someone for weeks in a jar because you don’t like what she’s writing still seems a little wrong. I identify strongly with Hermione, I’m not saying she is a “bad” character. I just think she, as well as other characters need to be seen in a more “adult light”-warts and all. Hermione is intelligent, loyal, brave and more than a little ruthless when she wants to be.

That being said, I’m really enjoying Hermione’s Choice. The idea of Hermione becoming a consort felt wrong to me at first, but I am coming around to the idea. After all, we all know and accept single parents as normal; why not in this vein as well? I like the pacing and look forward to seeing how you take it from here.

Presently, I am working on a fic called Last Exit to Eden, which has a different take on Marriage Law type fics. Writing a long story has tested my endurance in some ways; I admire the way you are able to stick with the story amid all the plot twists.

By the by, what boards or chat rooms do you frequent? I haven’t really found one that appeals to a more educated crowd since witchfics.org shut down. If you have any recommendations, I’d appreciate it.


P.S. Well done using the Biltmore as a Malfoy residence. I am a recent transplant to the area; now I can go visit it and view it in a new way.

2. Slytherin Dragoon - September 22, 2008

First of all, thanks for your post. Secondly, I’ve been following your story, Last Exit to Eden. It’s on my list of favorite stories on FFnet! I like stories that take a different perspective on the Marriage Law stories other than the usual “forced to marry someone she hates” scenario.

I get tired of people viewing characters as static and/or as all-good or all-bad, as well. To use Lucius as an example, there are those who firmly believe that he couldn’t really love Narcissa or Draco because he chose the wrong side of the war; that to be “bad” (rather than simply mistaken) is to be incapable of love or any altruistic human emotion whatsoever. These same people are quick to excuse less than virtuous behavior in the “good” guys, your example of Hermione being a very good one. I think part of the explanation for Hermione’s behavior that you outlined would be impetuousness, immaturity, and the like.

But I similarly ascribe extenuating circumstances for the choices Lucius made. I see very few characters in HP as not being redeemable, and even those few with caveats. Voldemort himself — but he likely could have turned out differently had he had a better childhood or if Dumbledore had gotten him psychiatric help when he first discovered him. Bellatrix might have been different with some psychiatric help herself. Fenrir Greyback and Delores Umbridge seem beyond redemption, but I’m sure there are mitigating circumstances in their backgrounds as well.

Lucius clearly does not fall into the same category as the characters mentioned above, however. For one thing, Rowling made it quite clear in several passages that Lucius is capable of love and friendship. He appears to be a good husband and father, and he did take Snape under his wing in friendship when Snape attended Hogwarts.

Rather, I prefer to see all characters to be complex, multifaceted people, rather than one-note, one-dimensional cartoon characters.

The key to good storytelling is not to present one’s characters in black and white terms, but rather, to show the many shades of grey that real human people are capable of.

You said, “Hermione is intelligent, loyal, brave and more than a little ruthless when she wants to be.” That shows to me that she could have been a success in any of the four houses, though I personally thinks she should have been a Ravenclaw.

Concerning the consort idea, I wanted to do something out of the box for this story. The wizarding world has a population crisis and also needs to improve the gene pool to reduce squib births, so a radical and practical solution was called for. I was partially inspired by China’s current lopsided sex ratio — I’d read that because of the one child per family law in place since the 1970s coupled with the traditional preference for boys, that by 2020 China will have a surplus of 30 million males who will have no chance to be married if China continues to allow only monogamous marriages. Clearly, it would be China’s best interests to allow women to have more than one husband (polyandry), which would also have the by-product of helping to reduce China’s population (several men sharing the limited reproductive capacities of one woman), as well as to rebalance the sex ratio more quickly.

I used the same logical, practical approach in my story with the consort idea. It was important to me that the consort idea be legally recognized by the ministry, rather than people simply engaging in affairs — I don’t think Hermione would have agreed to it if it had to be a clandestine thing!

Concerning forums and message boards, the message board the original quote in my post came from was not a Harry Potter forum. It was a Jim Burcher forum (the author who writes the Harry Dresden mystery series about a wizard detective). The comment about Lucius was a one-off in a thread not really about Lucius at all.

I’ve only posted at the Leaky Lounge, which isn’t really an entirely adult forum, unfortunately.

You said, “Writing a long story has tested my endurance in some ways; I admire the way you are able to stick with the story amid all the plot twists.”

Tell me about it! This is the longest fic I’ve ever written, and I’ve had trouble keeping up the momentum at several points. I’m now having the quandary of whether to end the story when Hermione gives birth, to continue the story onward at that point, or to jump the story ahead several years after the birth to where the baby enters Hogwarts.

It’s helped that I turned the story idea over in my head for several years before I ever began typing. I’ve also had the support of another fan-fiction author (who is a MUCH better writer than I am) who has encouraged me through regular emails where we bounce ideas off one another for our respective stories. I find that this is much more helpful to me than simply participating in a forum, as we’re giving one another one-on-one attention.

Feel free to comment here at any time or to email me if you wish.

PS: Asheville is a nice, small city, though I’ve not been up there in several years, as I live two hours south in the Upstate SC area.

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