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I'm just going to guess he had little idea at the start of the series, I mean you don't really entrust such information to an eleven year old. That said he must have noted that some people acted funny around his father. I'm going to say that once he knew about Death Eaters he would have connected the dots, but the wizarding youth don't seem to know much. Also, even if he did know about Death Eaters, he may not have thought his father had been one. The other possibility is that Draco knew his father was a Death Eater but didn't know really know what that meant.

He probably knew by The Goblet of Fire. That said he might not even have known when they were torturing Muggles. I mean his father would have expressed his hatred towards Muggles before then, so it's not altogether unlikely Draco didn't think much of it.

I can't imagine Lucius sitting Draco down and saying, "It's time you know that, not long before you were born, I was a Death Eater." I mean it's not the sort of thing you can just tell someone especially if you had no reason to. Is it possible he figured it out himself or someone else tipped him off? Maybe Moody (or really Crouch Jr., I guess)?

  • Considering there's a tattoo on Lucius that's a dead giveaway, it's entirely plausible that Draco saw the tattoo at an early age and knew his father was a Death Eater. – user31178 Feb 18 '15 at 6:49
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    I don't think Draco would have ever seen the tattoo. Upper class family have far less personal relation ships with each other, I just don't think Draco would ever have seen his fathers bare arms. I know it's seems a little odd, but the upper class act formal even with family. – Corvid Feb 18 '15 at 6:56
  • I don't think he would have really kept it a secret. I think Draco even would have know something already at the age of eleven. – Don_Biglia Feb 18 '15 at 7:43
  • and risk Draco saying something to someone he shouldn't? – Corvid Feb 18 '15 at 7:53
  • Or tell him and make sure he tells no one. I'm sure Lucius would have managed to keep Draco quiet.And as far as we know from the books, Lucius being a death eater is a "public secret". (Literally translated from Dutch, don't know if it's something similar in English. It just means everyone knows, but nobody speaks about it) – Don_Biglia Feb 18 '15 at 8:51
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No canon info, as far as I'm aware. I'm inclined to believe it was one of those things that Draco just slowly came to understand. After all, Lucius was definitely accused of being a Death Eater, and (at least by the time Draco is attending Hogwarts) he's comfortable spouting his classist and racist opinions in the open.

Draco, by the age of eleven, feels comfortable discussing with Harry (a boy he's just met) how he doesn't think they should let in Muggle-borns and by the second book he's shouting Mudblood in view of witnesses. From this we can gather than Lucius was giving these opinions freely at home. It just so happened that these opinions lined up with Voldemort's.

Consider his dealing with the Chamber Of Secrets. He admits to Draco that it was opened before, but doesn't tell him details for fear of looking suspicious, nor does he tell Draco about his involvement. If this was his general attitude it's quite likely that he neither officially confirmed nor denied to Draco his Death Eater past, at least until the later books. A smirk, a wink perhaps, nothing more.

Of note - in the fourth book Draco's awfully calm about the attack. He knows they're after Muggles and doesn't seem the slightest bit scared. This seems to point to two explanations - he knew his Dad was behind it, or he was so secure in his knowledge of Death Eater attacks and his own pure-blood status, that he knew he wasn't getting hurt. Both indicate to me at least a passing knowledge of his Dad's probable connections to the group.

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    Possibly he didn’t tell Draco more details about the Chamber of Secrets because he didn’t know more. Unless I’m misremembering, there is no canon evidence that Voldemort ever told any of his friends at Hogwarts (or later, his Death Eaters) much about the Chamber. He certainly didn’t have any first-hand knowledge, ’cause he wasn’t even born yet at the time. He also doesn’t know what the diary he gives Ginny is, just that it was Voldemort’s and therefore clearly dangerous, particularly to ‘non-believers’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 11 '15 at 23:38
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    @JanusBahsJacquet According to Dumbledore Lucius knew it would open the COS. "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 masters 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 Weasleys daughter, he hoped to discredit Arthur and get rid of a highly incriminating magical object in one stroke." – DavidS Sep 14 '15 at 8:37
  • Ah, good catch. So he did know at least in part that Riddle was responsible for opening the Chamber the first time around, yes, and that the diary was somehow or other responsible for opening it the second time around as well. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 14 '15 at 8:41
2

Probably before the first book

The evidence on Pottermore1 generally indicates that Draco was raised in an environment steeped, not only in hatred of Muggle-borns and Muggles, but outright admiration of Lord Voldemort:

Draco was raised in an atmosphere of regret that the Dark Lord had not succeeded in taking command of the wizarding community, although he was prudently reminded that such sentiments ought not to be expressed outside the small circle of their family and close friends, or 'Daddy might get in trouble.'

Draco was even aware that Lucius suspected Harry's defeat of Voldemort as being due to his own powerful Dark Magic, and that Lucius hoped that Harry might serve as a rallying point for a revived Death Eater movement:

Draco realised, correctly, that the wild hopes of the ex-Deater Eaters—that Harry was another, and better, Voldemort—are completely unfounded, and their mutual enmity is ensured from that point.

If Lucius is sharing with his son his hope that Harry will be the next Voldemort, and that he personally can serve by the new Dark Lord's side, it seems both unlikely and pointless that he would have neglected to mention his previous time in the service of Voldemort.

Thus Draco probably knew that his father had served Voldemort long before the first book, as the sort of thing that one gradually comes to know with age.

1: Credit to Slytherincess for preserving evidence of the old Pottermore.

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Yes, although voicing those kinds of opinions, even in such a blasé, bluntly offensive way, is different from actively and openly declaring allegiance to a terrorist group.

That being said, with certain people, Malfoy's dad probably let his guard down; but he had to maintain an appearance to keep people believing he was a good guy and to maintain his influence at the Ministry, no?

This might not have been so difficult as it seems; the Ministry itself can be pretty corrupt, as we see in the earlier books and some of the later ones as well.

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Draco supports the Dark Lord in first year.

It’s not clear exactly how much Draco knew about his father being a Death Eater and when he learned this, but it seems he knew to support the Dark Lord from his first year. When he met Harry on the Hogwarts Express, he warns him that if he’s not careful he’ll go the same way as his parents, who the Dark Lord killed, and that his parents didn’t know what was good for them.

“Draco Malfoy didn’t go red, but a pink tinge appeared in his pale cheeks.

‘I’d be careful if I were you, Potter,’ he said slowly. ‘Unless you’re a bit politer you’ll go the same way as your parents. They didn’t know what was good for them, either. You hang around with riff-raff like the Weasleys and that Hagrid and it’ll rub off on you.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 6 (The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters)

It was common knowledge in the wizarding world that the Potters were killed by the Dark Lord, so Draco already seems to know to count the Dark Lord on the same side as him by then. Most others are terrified at the mention of the Dark Lord, but Draco is likely implying that Harry could be killed in the same way as his parents, who (as the wizarding world knew) opposed the Dark Lord and were killed for that. That’d be an odd thing for a boy who doesn’t see the Dark Lord as on his side to say, since he’d then consider him “too scary to mention”.

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A deleted scene implied he knew by second year.

Though it never appeared in the books, so may not actually be accurate to the final versions, at one point J.K. Rowling was considering putting a scene where Draco and Theodore Nott, both the sons of Death Eaters, discuss Dumbledore, Harry, and theories the Death Eaters had on how Harry survived. That implies they likely know their fathers were Death Eaters since they knew what the Death Eaters’ stories on Harry’s survival were. J.K. Rowling considered putting this scene in Chamber of Secrets, implying that (at least at one point), Draco would’ve known his father was a Death Eater by second year.

Malfoy & Nott (Chamber of Secrets/Goblet of Fire)

I liked this scene so much I tried to use it twice; unfortunately, it didn't work in either place so I finally laid it to rest in one of the cardboard boxes where I keep all my old drafts, notes, electricity bills and chewing gum wrappers.

As in the case of Dean Thomas, I know much more about Theodore Nott than has ever appeared in the books. Raised by a very elderly widower and Death Eater father, Theodore is a clever loner who does not feel the need to join gangs, including Malfoy's.

However, in this scene Theodore's father (the same Nott who was badly injured in the closing chapters of 'Order of the Phoenix') goes to visit Lucius Malfoy to discuss Voldemort-related business and we see Draco and Theodore alone in the garden having a talk of their own. I really liked the scene, firstly because it showed the Malfoys' home, and the difference between the place where Draco has grown up and number four, Privet Drive; then because we rarely see Draco talking to anybody he considers a real equal, and he is forced to see Theodore as such, because Theodore is just as pure-blooded as he is, and somewhat cleverer. Together these two Death Eaters' sons discuss Dumbledore's regime at Hogwarts and Harry Potter, with all sorts of stories that the Death Eaters tell about how this baby boy survived the Dark Lord's attack.
- Malfoy & Nott (Chamber of Secrets/Goblet of Fire), Extra Stuff (J.K. Rowling’s website)

It’s unclear if Draco was still intended to know about his father’s connection with the Death Eaters by second year after this scene wasn’t put in, but at one point, he was to be shown as knowing in second year. It’s possible that may have remained the intended truth even after the scene wasn’t added in the final book.

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