The next woman on my list is Narcissa Malfoy. Younger sister of Bellatrix Lestrange, wife of Lucius Malfoy and mother of Draco Malfoy. She is cunning, calculative, manipulative and one hell of a classy woman. She is often described as haughty and disdainful of others.
Her opinions regarding blood purity are similar to those of her sister. The Malfoy family, known for their cunning, slippery and opportunist nature, had similar views. She is in many ways similar to her sister, just not as crazy as her. But, unlike her sister, she has a few redeeming qualities that actually make the readers wonder as to whether she is completely bad or she has a grey personality.
One of the qualities which she has, which Bellatrix conspicuously lacks, is her ability to love. She loves her husband and simply adores her only son Draco. Bellatrix can’t love. Nor can she understand love. The only person she has ever loved is Lord Voldemort.
“You should be proud!” said Bellatrix ruthlessly. “If I had sons, I would be glad to give them up to the service of the Dark Lord!”
– Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince
Though she is inclined towards blood purity and at least initially supported Lord Voldemort’s regime, she never herself became a Death Eater. She brought up her son, Draco with similar values. Even though her values were similar to those of her sister, she was far more cunning and shrewd than her.
If Bellatrix was rigid, Narcissa was flexible. She had the ability to change her colours according to the situations. Just like her husband. When the first Wizarding War ended with the Dark Lord’s downfall, the Malfoy family secured their interest. Instead of staying loyal to their supposedly dead master, they supported the ministry and stayed out of Azkaban.
She is someone who always thinks of her family first. First and foremost a mother, wife, everything else can come later. In times of crisis, she always secured the interest of her family first.
Post Lucius Malfoy’s arrest in the Ministry Of Magic, the Dark Lord assigned the dangerous and seemingly impossible task of murdering Albus Dumbledore to Draco. Most thought of it as a great honour to be assigned such a difficult and prestigious task, including Draco himself. He was proud of it. But Narcissa realised that Lord Voldemort did not want Draco to succeed. In fact, he expected him to fail. The real reason was to punish Draco for his father’s mistakes.
Disregarding everything that her family held dear i.e. the Dark Lord’s trust and her family’s position in the inner circle, she approached Severus Snape for help. For her the only thing that mattered was her son’s safety. As Severus Snape rightly says,
“It so happens that I know of the plan,” he said in a low voice. “I am one of the few the Dark Lord has told. Nevertheless, had I not been in on the secret, Narcissa, you would have been guilty of great treachery to the Dark Lord.”
–Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince
By the time the events in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows start unfolding, it is clear that the Malfoy father and son duo has crumbled. The senior Malfoy has lost his arrogantly superior and disdainful attitude and the junior Malfoy has lost his entitled and cocky attitude. They both are completely lost. Lucius Malfoy is a broken man. And Draco Malfoy is like a frightened child.
Till then Narcissa has always remained in shadows. Her one glorious moment is when, half crazed with worry and anxiety, she approaches the only person she thinks she can trust, i.e. Severus Snape, at the beginning of Half- Blood Prince. We don’t see her much before that moment. She hardly makes an appearance throughout the books. No one knows the real Narcissa Malfoy.
For me at least, she was an insignificant character, someone who never mattered as far as the story was concerned. She never took the story forward. She always seemed to be a woman, a classy and rich lady, who had come from an influential family and had been married into an equally prominent family. A mother who adored her son, a wife, a home-maker who parroted her husband’s views. A typical mother, quite unlike Molly Weasley, but a mother nevertheless.
At the beginning of Deathly Hallows, with the Dark Lord encamped at her home, and her family fallen from the Dark Lord’s favour, she is the one who holds the fort. It is she who consoles Lucius when the Dark Lord asks him for his wand. The insult was loud and clear.
“No volunteers?” said Voldemort. “Let’s see . . . Lucius, I see no reason for you to have a wand anymore.” Lucius Malfoy looked up. His skin appeared yellowish and waxy in the firelight, and his eyes were sunken and shadowed. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse. “My Lord?” “Your wand, Lucius. I require your wand.” “I . . .”
Malfoy glanced sideways at his wife. She was staring straight ahead, quite as pale as he was, her long blonde hair hanging down her back, but beneath the table her slim fingers closed briefly on his wrist. At her touch, Malfoy put his hand into his robes, withdrew a wand, and passed it along to Voldemort, who held it up in front of his red eyes, examining it closely…
– Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows
Through out the book, whenever she appears, she does whatever she is expected to do. She does whatever it takes to keep her family alive. I doubt if she ever cared for the Dark Lord. During the time when Harry was held a captive at the Malfoy Manor, Draco was reluctant to recognize Harry and his friends. And Lucius was, in J.K.Rowling’s own words, avid. Narcissa was neither excited nor was she reluctant. She just wanted to be sure that it is indeed Harry Potter.
Next we see Narcissa is in the clearing of the Forbidden Forest where Aragog’s descendants used to live. Lucius Malfoy looks defeated and terrified and Narcissa, whose eyes were sunken and full of apprehension. She presumably watches as Lord Voldemort supposedly kills Harry.
When, both Harry and Lord Voldemort return to consciousness, she is the one who is forced to examine Harry. Here we all know of her epic betrayal. She had long since stopped caring for the Dark Lord’s victory, if she ever did, which I seriously doubt. When she felt Harry’s heart beating…she saw an opportunity. An opportunity to enter the castle and look for her beloved son. And she seized it. It also makes me think that she might have been an accomplished Occlumens. Because there is no way Voldemort did not try to read her mind.
So this was the last epic act that this seemingly insignificant character did. She has very little role in the books and even little screen presence in the movies. She is a multi layered character and no amount of words will ever do justice to her character.
Bellatrix is black and Molly Weasley is white. Narcissa is neither. If we look at her from a typical moral filter we will see flaws, an extremely manipulative, calculative, shrewd and cunning woman. But if we get off our moral high horse, and actually look at her with non judgemental eyes, what we see is a woman who was just trying to protect her family. Someone doing everything in her power to ensure that her family stays safe. To hell with the rest of the world!
(P.S.1-So this is it folks! This is the last post in the series Women In Harry Potter. There are many more women who inspire me and will continue to do so, but for the time being I am going to take a break. I might come back to this series later. But at least for for now, this is the last one. Please let me know what you guys think of these posts….)
(P.S.2– I know this is a really long post, but like I said before Narcissa Malfoy took up more words than I ever expected she would take.)