I don't believe Draco Malfoy was ever a "bad" guy.
In fact, I think Draco is the most complex and sympathetic character in 'Harry Potter' -- and dare I say it, he may actually be my favorite character.
Draco spends the entire series trying to live up to his father's standards. In the films, Draco (Tom Felton) is not explored as thoroughly as he was in the books, but the pureblood wizard is used as a foil for Harry, to show him the darker side of the wizarding world. Yet Draco is never a threat so much as a tragic figure in the Potter franchise.
Being a 'Harry Potter' fan doesn't automatically mean you have to be a fan of Harry himself, a superstar who -- when the series begins -- hasn't done anything since he was an infant, arrives at Hogwarts and is automatically awarded favored status. Looking at the story objectively, can you blame Draco for hating Harry Potter? When Draco offers to show him around and befriend him, Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) rejects him.
As a Slytherin who'd probably been raised in the magical world and spent a lot of time anticipating his owl, learning all he could and immersing himself in wizarding, having someone like Harry Potter just show up and be rocketed to superstardom was rightfully annoying to Draco. He was jealous. And then to have that wizard reject him had to hurt.
But Draco has been rejected his whole life: by his father, who works to crush all of his weakness out of him. If anything, Draco is another, more direct, victim of Lucius Malfoy. In the films, Draco is more closely related to Judd Nelson's bully-with-a-soul character in the '80s classic 'The Breakfast Club' than to anything actually "evil." He strives to be powerful in any little way he can because he's so browbeaten at home.
Despite his father's cruelty, Draco very obviously suffers from a sort of Stockholm Syndrome in his desire to win his affections. This gives Draco's character more dimensions than just "evil" villain, showing him to have feelings and to grow as a character.
Last night, at the 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I' premiere on the red carpet, Felton, the actor portraying Draco, told Moviefone that he's happy with how complex his character turned out to be.
"I had no idea because in the first four movies he's really just a big bully," he said. "But yeah, he's in a very conflicted position. He's torn really between his parents and his heart, whether he wants to do right."
In fact, when push comes to shove and Draco is on the line to kill Dumbledore, he ultimately cannot do it and Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) has to step in. During the confrontation, he admits that he never wanted to kill Dumbledore but fears that if he doesn't, the Death Eaters will kill him. Draco is faced with an impossible choice.
Draco struggles because of out-and-out cowardice. He is a product of his horrible upbringing in which he's only heard what his racist parents taught him. As he grows up, he realizes that not everything they taught him was correct, and he starts to gain a morality of his own. Even when he becomes a Death Eater, he is quickly disillusioned with the lifestyle and he is afraid, knowing he is in over his head when it comes to his mission to help Voldemort.
The best example of this comes from Moaning Myrtle, to whom Draco confesses his feelings of trepidation in the haunted girl's bathroom.
Myrtle even says of Draco: "He's sensitive, people bully him, too, and he feels lonely and hasn't got anybody to talk to, and he's not afraid to show his feelings and cry!"
In the final parts of the series, Draco actually saves Harry and Hermione by convincing his former crony Crabbe not to curse them to death. He lies, saying Voldemort wants them alive, and also tries to avoid identifying them to his parents and other Death Eaters when they ask about the trio. In the end of the books, Draco turns out neutral -- he's not a friend of Harry's but neither is he a "villain" any more.
Draco was never a bad person, nor was he outright evil. Any well-written character has motivations and reasons for acting the way they do -- and Draco's were always made clear. If it is so easy for Potter fans to accept that Snape is actually a good guy in the end (and was all along) why can't they believe the same of Draco?
In fact, like Snape before him, Draco shows that a character does not have to like Harry Potter to be a " good" guy in the end.