This comment by Slytherincess got me thinking a bit philosophically (hey, I’ve got six hours to kill in an airport—it happens).
There are several characters in the Harry Potter series that are fairly unilaterally portrayed as being quite vicious, malevolent, cruel, or just plain evil (*cough* Umbridge *cough*). Some of these include:
- the Dursleys
- Draco Malfoy
- Lucius Malfoy
- Voldemort (duh)
Some of these never change and end up every bit as evil as they began; others are, over the course of the series, portrayed in somewhat mollified ways, particularly towards the very end: Draco (discussed in the comments that sparked this question) and Dudley both end up in not-quite-evil-just-a-bit-of-a-prat territory, for example, and we all know (hopefully) how Snape’s portrayal changes.
But are there any characters who start out being portrayed as a real ‘bad guy’,1 and end up firmly in the ‘good guys’ camp, being completely redeemed?
The only three I can think of are Snape, Sirius, and Kreacher. Of these,
- Snape is not truly redeemed—despite his actual allegiance and loyalty to Dumbledore, and despite working to save the world from Voldemort, he remains an anti-hero, a bully, and not a very nice person; he is never portrayed as an actual good person except briefly in the Pensieve flashbacks where we see him alone with Lily
- Sirius ends up being portrayed as almost a saint (through Harry’s eyes at least—not quite so much from others’ viewpoints); but he was never actually portrayed as evil to begin with. He was described secondhand as someone who everyone knew was evil; but he is never described ‘on-stage’ as being or doing anything evil (except perhaps breaking Ron’s leg), just sometimes misguided
- Kreacher is probably the best example I can think of, but being the house elf of a Dark family (with all the limitations that brings with it), he is almost exonerated of his initial wicked ways by his extreme conditioning (one might even call it brainwashing—imagine being cooped up with that horrid old painting for years and years!) to be like that2
So are there any characters whose initial portrayal paints them as thoroughly, unconditionally wicked, but whose later/final portrayal show them as thoroughly good?
1 By which I mean properly mean and evil; not just like Hermione who in the beginning is portrayed none too kindly as an annoying know-it-all. She’s never portrayed as having an actual evil bone in her body (except perhaps a little bit with Rita Skeeter).
2 Only almost, though: Dobby had much the same background, but he was never conditioned and affected to the same extent.