In Order of the Phoenix, Lucius Malfoy “falls from grace” and ends up on Voldemort's bad side.

What exactly did he do to anger Voldemort?

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    This is not a dupe of scifi.stackexchange.com/q/90798/4918 "Why did Voldemort take the wand of one of his most loyal servants?" . The answers to that question mention that the Dark Lord no longer trusted Lucius Malfoy, but didn't explain why. Please reopen this question. – b_jonas Dec 31 '15 at 10:33
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    By this point Lucius had fallen out of grace, due to his destroying the diary, failing to get the prophecy as well as getting captured at the end of Order of the Phoenix, thus being publicly branded as a DE and criminal (whereas the Malfoy family status was one of his greatest assets to Voldemort) - from accepted answer, this seems to cover why lucius fell from grace – Himarm Dec 31 '15 at 15:56
  • all of the answers here have just added quotes to the above answer – Himarm Dec 31 '15 at 16:02

Voldemort blamed Lucius for the failure at the Ministry

Death Eaters led by Lucius Malfoy attack in order to capture the sphere, which is a recording of a prophecy concerning Harry and Lord Voldemort, which is revealed to be the object Voldemort has been trying to obtain for the whole year, the Dark Lord believing that there was something he missed when he first heard the prophecy. [...] Voldemort escapes just as Cornelius Fudge appears, finally faced with first-hand evidence that Voldemort has truly returned.
- source

Lucius lead the mission for the prophecy at the end of Order of the Phoenix. When that mission failed, Voldemort's return was exposed to the magical world. Voldemort had wanted his return to remain secret, so as to have less opposition. The Dark Lord blamed Lucius for the mission's failure. Lucius was imprisoned in Azkaban and, even after he is free, was treated as a disgrace and a failure by Voldemort and the other Death Eaters.

In summary, Lucius is on Voldemort's bad side because:

  • he failed to obtain the prophecy for Voldemort
  • he exposed the secret of Voldemort's return
  • he got himself (and other Death Eaters) captured

Bonus: Another thing that probably angered Voldemort was that Lucius got rid of Tom Riddle's Diary, something Voldemort had entrusted to him to keep safe, in Chamber of Secrets.

Lucius plants Tom Riddle's diary in Ginny Weasley's potions cauldron while she is shopping for school supplies at Flourish & Blotts, in a plot to use her to reopen the Chamber of Secrets, which would lead to attacks on Muggle-born students. Lucius knows the diary is cleverly enchanted, but is not aware that it is a horcrux containing a part of Voldemort's soul. Lucius intends to use the opening of the Chamber of Secrets by Ginny to discredit her father, Arthur Weasley, and Dumbledore.
- source

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  • "Lucius gave Riddle's Diary ... to a young Ginny Weasley." Do we already have a question on why he chose to do that, since he apparently wasn't acting on Voldemort's instructions? – Kevin Dec 31 '15 at 6:04
  • @Kevin Arthur Weasley was sending Ministry raids around to Lucius’s house, so Lucius wants (1) to offload items he shouldn’t be found to have, such as Voldemort’s old diary, and (2) to discredit Arthur by framing his daughter for anti-Muggleborn attacks, thus relieving the heat on him. – alexwlchan Dec 31 '15 at 11:23
  • Thanks, that explained what I missed while binge-watching the movies for the first time. – Derek Jan 1 '16 at 0:11

Lucius was pretty rubbish at being a loyal Death Eater. Losing the prophecy was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but he’d been building up to it for a while:

  1. He renounced Voldemort at the end of the First War.

    When the war ended, Lucius pretended he’d been under the Imperius Curse, and renounced any affiliation with Voldemort. This kept him out of prison and allowed him to remain a part of high society, but this doesn’t go down too well with Voldemort:

    “Lucius, my slippery friend,” he whispered, halting before him. “I am told that you have not renounced the old ways, though to the world you present a respectable face. You are still ready to take the lead in a spot of Muggle-torture, I believe? Yet you never tried to find me, Lucius… . Your exploits at the Quidditch World Cup were fun, I daresay… but might not your energies have been better directed toward finding and aiding your master?”

    “My Lord, I was constantly on the alert,” came Lucius Malfoy’s voice swiftly from beneath the hood. “Had there been any sign from you, any whisper of your whereabouts, I would have been at your side immediately, nothing could have prevented me —”

    “And yet you ran from my Mark, when a faithful Death Eater sent it into the sky last summer?” said Voldemort lazily, and Mr. Malfoy stopped talking abruptly. “Yes, I know all about that, Lucius…. You have disappointed me…. I expect more faithful service in the future.

    Goblet of Fire, chapter 33 (The Death Eaters)

    Praise is given to those who were faithful to the cause – the Lestranges, who faced Azkaban rather than renounce Voldemort – even if people like Malfoy and Snape were more useful post-rebirth because of their status in society.

  2. He lost one of Voldemort’s horcruxes, and for purely selfish reasons.

    In Chamber of Secrets, Arthur Weasley is conducting raids on known Death Eater properties… including Lucius Malfoy. We see Malfoy trying to get rid of some illicit items in Borgin & Burkes. When he throws away the diary, he has two selfish motives:

    • Get rid of an item that ties him to Voldemort, and would seriously strain his claim of being under the Imperius curse
    • Frame Arthur’s daughter for attacks on Muggle-borns, thereby discrediting Arthur at the Ministry and ending the raids.

    Voldemort is pretty annoyed when he learnt that Lucius had lost it, as we learn from Dumbledore:

    “Perhaps, at the point of death, he might be aware of his loss… but he was not aware, for instance, that the diary had been destroyed until he forced the truth out of Lucius Malfoy. When Voldemort discovered that the diary had been mutilated and robbed of all its powers, I am told that his anger was terrible to behold.

    Half-Blood Prince, chapter 23 (Horcruxes)

    It probably doesn’t help that Lucius was also expelled as a Governor of Hogwarts. I’m sure Voldemort would have liked a Death Eater among those ranks – but alas, ‘twas not to be.

    (Voldemort would never say so, but he was probably also worried at the risk that somebody – Dumbledore – might work out the secret of his horcruxes from the diary.)

  3. Lucius didn’t just lose the prophecy at the Ministry – it was a complete disaster.

    He was sent to retrieve the prophecy from the Department of Mysteries, by luring Harry there under false pretences. Harry would get the prophecy from the shelves, then Lucius would slip a bag over his head and bring Harry and prophecy to Voldemort.

    Let’s review how that went:

    • The prophecy was destroyed before anybody else could hear it.
    • Lucius and his team of Death Eaters got beaten up by a pack of teenagers – a group which, by the way, includes Muggle-borns and blood traitors.
    • The ensuing fight got some of his most loyal Death Eaters captured (including Lucius), exposed Voldemort’s return to the Minister himself, and failed to injure Harry Potter.

    Snape later described this operation as a “fiasco”. It’s hard to imagine how it could have gone much worse – no wonder Voldemort was annoyed.

And coming in as an honourable mention:

  1. Lucius failed to get Harry expelled in Order of the Phoenix.

    The whole point of Lucius renouncing Voldemort and remaining in high society is his ability to influence important people at the Ministry. He utterly fails to do so.

    At the start of Order of the Phoenix, Harry is on trial for his Patronus. If he were expelled, he’d be wandless and cast out from society. Easy pickings for Voldemort, surely? It’s strongly implied that Lucius tries to pay off Fudge to convict Harry – they’re seen together before the trial in the film, and there’s the “clinking of […] a full pocket of gold” in the book.

    And yet Harry gets off scot-free.

    Why exactly does Lucius bother with these connections?

(Honourable mention because it’s only implied that Lucius tried to pay off Fudge, and it’s not clear if this is under direct orders from Voldemort.)

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  • I probably would have accepted this answer if I'd seen it first. Thanks for the recap! – Derek Jan 1 '16 at 0:32

Lucius fell from the Dark Lord's grace because he gave the diary Horcrux of the Dark Lord to Ginny Weasley.

Professor Dumbledore tells in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince chapter 23, based on information from his spies, that this is the reason why Lucius fell from the grace.

‘Does Voldemort know when a Horcrux is destroyed, sir? Can he feel it?’ Harry asked, ignoring the portraits.

‘[…] … but he was not aware, for instance, that the diary had been destroyed until he forced the truth out of Lucius Malfoy. When Voldemort discovered that the diary had been mutilated and robbed of all its powers, I am told that his anger was terrible to behold.

‘But I thought he meant Lucius Malfoy to smuggle it into Hogwarts?’

‘Yes he did, years ago, when he was sure he would be able to create more Horcruxes, but still Lucius was supposed to wait for Voldemort's say-so, and he never received it, for Voldemort vanished shortly after giving him the diary. No doubt he thought that Lucius would not dare do anything with the Horcrux other than guard it carefully, but he was counting too much upon Lucius's fear of a master who had been gone for years and whom Lucius believed dead. Of course, Lucius did not know what the diary really was. I understand that Voldemort had told him the diary would cause the Chamber of Secrets to reopen, because it was cleverly enchanted. Had Lucius known he held a portion of his master's soul in his hands he would undoubtedly have treated it with more reverence – but instead he went ahead and carried out the old plan for his own ends: by planting the diary upon Arthur Weasley's daughter, he hoped to discredit Arthur, have me thrown out of Hogwarts and get rid of a highly incriminating object in one stroke. Ah, poor Lucius … what with Voldemort's fury about the fact that he threw away the Horcrux for his own gain, and the fiasco at the Ministry last year, I would not be surprised if he is secretly glad to be safe in Azkaban at the moment.’

Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter had reconstructed the event in Chamber of Secrets chapter 18, before the Dark Lord hears about it.

Mr Malfoy went even paler than usual, but his eyes were still slits of fury.

‘So – have you stopped the attacks yet?’ he sneered. ‘Have you caught the culprit?’

‘We have,’ said Dumbledore, with a smile.

‘Well?’ said Mr Malfoy sharply. ‘Who is it?’

‘The same person as last time, Lucius,’ said Dumbledore. ‘But this time, Lord Voldemort was acting through somebody else. By means of this diary.’

He held up the small black book with the large hole through the centre, watching Mr Malfoy closely. Harry, however, was watching Dobby.

The elf was doing something very odd. His great eyes fixed meaningfully on Harry, he kept pointing at the diary, then at Mr Malfoy, and then hitting himself hard on the head with his fist.

‘I see …’ said Mr Malfoy slowly to Dumbledore.


And still, behind his back, Dobby was pointing, first to the diary, then to Lucius Malfoy, then punching himself in the head.

And Harry suddenly understood. He nodded at Dobby, and Dobby backed into a corner, now twisting his ears in punishment.

‘Don't you want to know how Ginny got hold of that Diary, Mr Malfoy?’ said Harry.

Lucius Malfoy rounded on him.

‘How should I know how the stupid little girl got hold of it?’ he said.

‘Because you gave it to her,’ said Harry. ‘In Flourish and Blotts. You picked up her old Transfiguration book, and slipped the diary inside it, didn't you?’

He saw Mr Malfoy's white hands clench and unclench.

‘Prove it,’ he hissed.

‘Oh, no one will be able to do that,’ said Dumbledore, smiling at Harry. ‘Not now Riddle has vanished from the book. On the other hand, I would advise you, Lucius, not to go giving out any more of Lord Voldemort's old school things. If any more of them find into innocent hands, I think Arthur Weasley, for one, will make sure they are traced back to you …’

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