The Big Picture
- Narcissa Malfoy, despite minimal screen time, is an integral and underrated character in the Harry Potter series, known for her fierce loyalty and devotion to her family.
- The Wizarding World website and unofficial fan sites provide additional information about Narcissa’s backstory, including her role in Voldemort’s network and her marriage to Lucius Malfoy.
- Narcissa’s character embodies the complex nature of family loyalties and showcases the lengths a mother will go to protect her son, playing a crucial role in the end of the Second Wizarding War.
Narcissa Malfoy is one of the most complex characters in the Harry Potter universe despite receiving minimal page and screen time. In the films, she is played by the iconic Helen McCrory, who sadly passed away in 2021. Most of what viewers and readers learn about Narcissa comes through what we know about the multitude of main characters she is directly related to. In the Harry Potter movies, these include Draco and Lucius Malfoy (Tom Felton and Jason Isaacs, respectively), Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), and Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). In the books, readers first meet Narcissa, albeit very briefly, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Moviegoers did not meet her until the franchise’s sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, in 2009. While her appearances in the series are brief both on screen and in text, Narcissa Malfoy is one of the most integral characters to Harry Potter‘s plot and one of the series’ most underrated.
Pottermore Helps Fill the Gaps in Narcissa Malfoy’s Story
Harry Potter creator J.K Rowling‘s official fan site, Wizarding World (formerly known as Pottermore), helps add some color to Narcissa Malfoy’s backstory. Unofficial fan sites help to fill in the rest. Narcissa Malfoy, née Black, is the youngest sister of Bellatrix Lestrange and Andromeda Tonks. She is from the ancient aristocratic House of Black, a prominent family of dark witches and wizards who value blood purity above all else. Narcissa is married to Lucius Malfoy, a prominent death eater she met at Hogwarts where they were both in Slytherin House. Together, they have one son, Draco Malfoy. After the First Wizarding War, the Malfoys avoid being sent to Azkaban for their crimes committed in service of The Dark Lord, Voldemort, by falsely claiming they had been under the Imperius Curse, which takes away one’s free will. In the Seconding Wizarding War, the Malfoys again are fervent supporters of Voldemort, even offering their manor as headquarters for the Death Eaters.
Per the Wizarding World website, “Narcissa was deeply embedded in Voldemort’s network, although she would have done anything, including betraying the Dark Lord himself, in order to protect her family.” The hallmark of Narcissa’s character is her fierce loyalty and devotion to her family, particularly Draco. Wizarding World lists her sole hobby as “Looking after her son Draco”. In her three most prominent scenes (only two of which make it into the films), she shows fans just how far she will go in service of the ones she loves, an admirable trait no matter which side of the battle versus good and evil she is on.
Narcissa Malfoy Embodies This Crucial Harry Potter Trope
While readers briefly encounter Narcissa Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the Quidditch World Cup, her first film scene comes in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Bellatrix finds Narcissa heading to the late Alan Rickman‘s Severus Snape‘s house to ask him an important favor, and Bellatrix tries to dissuade her, saying that Snape is not trustworthy. Narcissa makes it clear that her plan is not to be disrupted, drawing her wand out at her sister. Severus appeases Bellatrix’s anxieties somewhat, making his case as to why he is a loyal servant to Voldemort despite his position at Hogwarts, and Narcissa discloses what she has come to ask him. Draco, she explains, has been assigned by Voldemort the task of killing the great Albus Dumbledore, a clear punishment for Lucius failing to capture Harry Potter in the events of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Fearing that 16-year-old Draco will be unable to complete the task alive, she urges Snape to take on the mission in his place if Draco fails. They seal this promise with an unbreakable vow despite the risk it poses to both her and Snape.
The final, and arguably most important, major scene involving Narcissa comes at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the movie adaptations were split into two installments, and this scene takes place in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2). After Voldemort has cast “Avada Kedavra” on Harry in the Forbidden Forest, he has Narcissa check to confirm Harry is dead. When she realizes Harry is still alive, she asks him if Draco is alive and in Hogwarts. Harry silently nods, and Narcissa tells Voldemort that he is dead. Her willingness to lie to and betray Voldemort comes directly from her need to reunite with her son and ensure his safety. She knows that the only way she will be permitted to enter Hogwarts is as part of Voldemort’s conquering army, and she cannot be certain what would happen if she told Voldemort that Harry was, in fact, alive. By this point in the series, her loyalty lies entirely with her family and not at all with Voldemort or the Death Eaters, leaving the viewer unclear whether she ever truly felt loyalty to them at all but merely tolerated them to protect her family.
How Is Narcissa Malfoy’s Backstory Different in the Harry Potter Books?
While the above scenes are found in both the books and the movies, readers encounter an additional scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that doesn’t make it into the film. During a brief skirmish between the Golden Trio and Draco in Madam Malkin’s robe shop, Narcissa Malfoy strolls in, instructing Harry, Ron, and Hermione to put down their wands. She tells them, “If you attack my son again, I shall ensure it is the last thing you ever do.” When Harry retorts that she will soon be locked in Azkaban with her husband, Narcissa scathingly tells Draco, “I expect Potter will be reunited with dear Sirius before I am reunited with Lucius,” mercilessly twisting the knife in Harry’s grief for his recently deceased godfather. In this scene, Narcissa proves that she is no coward, and she is more than willing to stand up to even Harry Potter for the sake of her son. She again shows how ruthless she can be in defense of Draco, even threatening to kill Harry when Voldemort has made it clear no one but he is allowed to.
The Harry Potter Universe Isn’t Always as Black-and-White as Narcissa’s Hair
In a weird way, Narcissa Malfoy is kind of the unwilling hero of the entire Harry Potter series. If she told Voldemort that Harry was alive, he likely would have found some other way to kill him and save the Wizarding World, completely changing the story’s path for the worse. In her act of motherly love, Narcissa is the catalyst for the end of the Second Wizarding War and Voldemort’s true and final demise. Her character is a nuanced portrayal of family loyalties and the depths a mother will go to for her son, very similar to that of Lily Potter. She cannot be categorized as entirely good or evil and exists in the moral gray that many of the greatest characters do, skunk-colored hair and all.