OOTP, Harry/Draco, the Damnation of Slytherin, and the right of fans to be upset.
Originally posted June 25, 2003:
I have to say something. it is not exactly pretty, but i have to get it off my chest, and i firmly believe that true fans have just as much right to be upset or critical about something they love than anybody else who never loved it to begin with. this mostly concerns h/d and ootp and especially draco, but i just had to say that as a disclaimer, because there is much bitterness contained within.
I don't understand why people are even bothering to say "H/D is dead dead dead." I don't understand why people are even bothering to say, "No, it isn't, look at all this textual evidence to the contrary!"
I hate to break it to you, all of you, but: H/D was NEVER CANON. NEVER.
What is everybody ON about?
If there was ever any any any remote smidgen of possibility that Harry and Draco were going to get together in a romantic sense in either Book 5, Book 6, or Book 7 of Harry Potter
, then it's patently clear given Rowling's calculated effort to portray Draco Malfoy as a sniveling, conscientiously mean git in Order of the Phoenix
, that she has changed her mind. Harry wants nothing better than to be permanently rid of the Malfoys. On whatever subconscious level Malfoy is obsessed with him in canon, it is clearly NOT intended to be seen as sexual. Rowling has gone out of her way to imbue every other major character with development and growth except
Malfoy. With Draco she has gone to great lengths to impress upon us that he is meant to be a bully--nothing more or less standard.
There was never any way on earth that H/D was ever going to happen in canon. H/D in that respect has ALWAYS been dead. ALWAYS.
So why is everybody making a point of coming down on one side or the other? "Yes, it's dead!" or "No it's not, it's still alive and well!" What are you trying to prove? Because as much as any of us might want
it to, H/D is NEVER going to be canon. H/D is NEVER going to be sanctioned by J.K. Rowling. At the rate she's going with her characterizations she'd be more likely to approve Harry/Snape.
I don't understand why the fact that Malfoy is staying consistently cardboard and consistently git-like should be suddenly some earth-shattering thing that has arrived to crush the hopes of H/D shippers everywhere. Because Malfoy hasn't changed
. He's still the Malfoy all of you fell in love with. He is still the Draco who all of YOU transformed into some larger-than-life fandom badass with leather pants and a sexy-but-sweet interior. He is still the Draco all of us believed in and the Draco that we all hoped would be expanded and changed and brought forth into growth and maturity. So he hasn't been. So the fuck what?
Allow me to clarify: I'm hurt that he wasn't. I'm disappointed and frustrated by it--not only by Rowling's treatment of Malfoy but by her total and seemingly pointless exclusion of any and all Slytherin students from any chance of growth and development. I'm disappointed that she has gone out of her way (and this is arguable given that she can still contradict this impression, but I think it unlikely) to say over and over again to us, "Malfoy is nobody, he's an afterthought, he really is this shallow and petty and cruel. See? Redemption is for sissies. Take that, fans of Malfoy."
hurt by it because I feel like, with every time in which she's gone out of her way to show Malfoy as mean and cruel and static, she's written off an entire group of children, the Slytherins, and thumbed her nose in the face of everybody who believed in those children and had hopes that they could become something better. Yes, she portrays Snape as one of those children who came to his senses, but only after
he left Slytherin house, and she portrays Phineas Black as sympathetic and wise, but never once do we see something similar in any of the Slytherin children--never once are we given any indication that any of them are anything more than a bunch of shallow pureblooded bullies with hearts of dross.
And it pisses me off. Surely, you can say, Rowling is preparing some sort of bait-and-switch where Harry discovers the Slytherins aren't as bad as he thinks--but this is NUMBER FIVE. For FIVE books now we've had NOTHING to favor the Slytherins, nothing to indicate any kind of growth or change among any of their ranks. If Rowling can backtrack and endow Ginny with a personality OUT OF THE PURE BLUE then how hard would it have been to give even one of the Slytherins a personality other than "arrogant bullying git" in any one of these first five books?
I used to laugh at shadowomega
because she once famously said that you have to love a school that has a house for innately evil children. I used to laugh at it because it was comical
. But that was two books ago. And if Rowling wants to believe that an entire houseful of kids has nothing redeeming about them whatsoever, fine. Let her. If she wants to continually portray the main Slytherin leader as a clever, intelligent, supremely shallow and determinedly mean school bully who abuses his prefect powers and crumples up into a cowardly ball the moment Harry attacks him, then fine. Let her. And it that's how J.K.R. feels about Draco Malfoy then fine. Let her.
I love Harry Potter. I love Hogwarts, and above all in OOTP the thing I loved the most was the character development, the attention and humanity she gave to every one of her characters--every one of them except Malfoy and the Slytherins. I want
Malfoy to have growth. I want him to be real, and dammit, if he's determined to be evil then I want him to be a source of more than petty threats--I want him to be more than an annoying pest Harry can't get rid of. I want him to be someone that changes
Harry, someone that Harry changes and shapes despite himself. I want him to be dynamic. I want him to be unforgettable. I want him to be what I
want him to be.
I love him. I've loved him ever since he first drawled his arrogant little greeting to Harry in the robe shop. I loved him when he didn't show up for his first duel with Harry. I loved him when he said with relish, "I hope it's Granger." I loved him when his knees were knocking together with Harry's. I loved him when he taunted Ron about being poor, and when he made Hermione cry for being the little racist snot that he is. I loved him when he bragged about having written "Weasley is our King." I loved him when his fingers were scrabbling futilely against the top of Harry's hand for the Snitch. I loved him when his eyes lit up at the thought of using his new power to get one up on Umbridge, and I loved him when he could only offer "because I don't like you, Potter" as he took points away from all of them. I loved him when he was mouthing "Remedial Potions?" in incredulous glee over his shoulder at Harry, and I loved him when he was full of wounded pride and rage about what Harry had done to Lucius. I loved him when the glass shattered and I loved him when Harry stuffed him into the overhead bin and left him there to ooze, and I have loved him for every single nasty repulsive smarmy thing he has ever done. I always have loved him, and I will love him even if the last thing he sees is Harry's wand throwing the killing curse at him. I will love him even if he cuts Ron's throat and laughs while doing it. I will love him until he has no potential left. I will love him even if he is permanently left behind and stays no more than a permanent afterthought in Harry's mind and in the mind of J.K. Rowling.
I will love him because I love him, and I will love him no matter how evil he becomes, no matter how cardboard he stays. I love canon
Draco. I loved him well before fandom, well before fan fiction, well before I had ever even heard of Harry/Draco slash. I love him for the potential I see in him, and for what he already is. And as mad as I am about the fact that he shows no signs of living up to that potential or becoming a fully realized character, I will still love him.
Others would argue with me there, they'd argue with me that he already is
a fully realized character--he's a fully realized bully. Think about it. He goes out of his way to be mean to people. As a friend said, "he really works at it." And he shows classic Slytherin ambition in the meanwhile. He could quite possibly be on his way to becoming the best-written cardboard bully we've ever seen.
And if that's the way JKR wants it, that's the way I'll take it, and I'll keep loving Draco because I always have and I couldn't possibly stop now no matter how evil she paints him as becoming.
But--and this is really the important part of my post, I just needed to bemoan the Damnation of Slytherin House first because it's really been bothering/frustrating/irritating/bumming me-- I write fan fiction. I can, in my fan fiction, make Malfoy utterly anything I want him to be. J.K. Rowling may be the technical authority on how Malfoy really is
and how he should
behave, but I think that her word is no more nor less final than any great writer who has had their work expounded on later by another good writer. It happens all the time. And just because we write fan fiction and we're operating technically under the radar of the law, it doesn't mean that the things we want for the characters aren't valid. It doesn't mean that if we
see the potential for redemption in Draco Malfoy that it's not there. It's there because we see it; it's there because we write about it; it's there because we believe in it and want it.
I think that people are reeling because now that Book 5 has upended so many things, Harry/Draco slash feels more
subversive than ever before. But who cares? So it's subversive? ALL fan fiction is subversive, and if you're worrying that Harry/Draco is really dead now that Malfoy has spent all of Book 5 being an intolerable git and Harry has spent all of Book 5 unable to stand him, why aren't you worrying that ALL of our fan fiction is dead? Malfoy's Redemption, in regards to canon as it currently stands, is just as subversive an idea as H/D slash. So is Harry/Ginny. Draco/Ginny. Ron/Fleur. Harry/Cho. So is Reformed!Lucius or UnwillingVictim!Narcissa. So is Alive-And-Well!Sirius. So is Dead!Hagrid. SupremelyWise!Dumbledore. Loyal!Percy.
So are a whole HELL of a lot of things, but we're not going to stop writing them because we have just as MUCH right as the next fan to make of canon whatever we wish to make of it, to write about it and transform characters as much as we want to. We have *always* had that right as fan fic writers and readers. We have *always* had that right as fans of the story, to believe in and love and admire the characters we wish to, and hope for the outcome we wanted.
Why is everybody going out of their way to say "H/D is dead!" Why is nobody doing this for any of the other completely impossible canon ships? What is the sudden pressure for Harry/Draco to be the ship that has to "overcome" canon developments and prove that it can weather the storm of OOTP?
As much as I respect Ivy's post about how H/D is NOT dead, and agree with a lot of her conclusions about Draco, I think the very fact that she and Tara and others have had to say "look, H/D isn't dead, see?" supports the wrong ideas about fan fic and about the H/D ship in general.
As much as I hoped
for good things for Malfoy in canon, I've given up hoping good things for him in the future. I will still read and continue to love the books even if succeeding ones confuse and disturb and frustrate me as much as Book 5 did, but I am no longer placing any kind of faith in J.K. Rowling to do him or any of the Slytherin students justice. Maybe she'll surprise me but I doubt it.
But I was never
holding my breath for H/D slash in canon. I fail to see how ANYthing that happens in canon can affect the Harry/Draco ship, because I remain firmly convinced that if you are a skilled enough writer you can keep anyone
in character and give them a story that allows them to do absolutely anything you desire. We should always strive to be as canonical as possible with our fan fiction--but we are, each of us, entitled to draw our own conclusions about who canon characters really are. If I want to create a world wherein Harry/Draco is the only inevitable conclusion, then I'm going to do it, I'm going to be able
to do it, regardless of what J.K. Rowling writes from here on out.
That is what fan fiction is all about. That is our right as fans--to take what we're given and love it, and in loving it, not always to like the choices the authors make, but to remedy it in our own minds, as much as fan fiction will allow us to do.
When discussing the role of fan fic relative to canon, I always, eternally, come back to the words that Alan Jay Lerner wrote regarding My Fair Lady
. As any musical fan knows, My Fair Lady
is one of the world's most beloved musicals, based on the play Pygmalion
by George Bernard Shaw. Shaw wrote a very dismal conclusion to Pygmalion
in which Eliza Doolittle leaves Professor Henry Higgins. The ending was so unpopular with the play's audiences that he later wrote a long, equally dismal publication in which he explains his ending. He explains what happens to Eliza, that she marries the simpering Freddy and goes to work in a flower shop and occasionally visits the bachelor Higgins.
In his preface to the revised edition of Pygmalion
that appeared shortly after My Fair Lady
, which ends, not as Shaw wrote it, but with Eliza returning to Henry Higgins, Alan Jay Lerner wrote the following:
I have omitted the sequel because in it Shaw explains how Eliza ends not with Higgins but with Freddy and--Shaw and Heaven forgive me!--I am not certain he is right.
That, to me, is what fan fiction is. It is the right of a fan to do just what Alan Jay Lerner did, to feel just as he and Frederick Leowe felt--and to give the world something equally, perhaps even surpassingly, beautiful as a result.
And if the evidence we see in Order of the Phoenix is truly how Rowling sees Draco Malfoy and his relationship to Harry Potter, then I will continue to write Harry/Draco slash, because--Rowling and Heaven forgive me--
I am certain that she is wrong.