I posted this to Dorrie's LJ yesterday--It's gotten lost in threads though and I wanted to stick it somewhere I could access it easily. Any thoughts and response from any of you are always welcome.
You've already gotten essays on this and I'm feeling terribly embarrassed for not being around more last week, so here is my basic reason. Which, actually, and probably predictably, turned into a humongous essay anyway. I am sorry if this is not what you wanted. I meant to say "H/D=love+idealistic worldview!" and this is what came out instead.
To me, what H/D all comes down to is love, the sheer force and strength, faith and hope that is present in love, doing battle with everything else in the world--every circumstance of situation, every toil of war, every personal and societal prejudice and prejudice of background and fate-- that could possibly stand up against it. The more the odds are stacked, from that first non-handshake to "I'll have you" and beyond, the more the thing that H/D is at its core is vital. Because when you ship something like this you aren't shipping something that is easy, or superficial (the first mistaken assumption non-shippers make about our ship). You are shipping something that becomes more essential even as it's becoming more difficult. All of the things that make it so difficult for us to imagine H/D after OotP are the things that make it necessary that we should ship Harry/Draco even more after OotP, because to ship H/D requires getting to the core of prejudice and personal bias, and turning it into something approaching grace and understanding and compassion.
To really ship H/D, whether or not you ship an H/D that is redeemed or an H/D that is totally dysfunctional or an H/D that drags them both down to hell, you have to focus first on Harry. As Draco currently is in canon it requires no great leap of imagination to see him being totally in love with Harry--nobody denies that his obsession is fueled by a deeply personal, passionate hatred, and nothing is as arguably deeply conflicted and mutable as passionate hatred. To get Harry to see Draco, however, as something worth his time and interest and caring, requires getting to the core of prejudice in Harry. And as much as we adore him, there's a hell of a lot of conflict and prejudice there to work through. Harry needs to develop compassion for those he doesn't understand, and he needs to develop the understanding that everyone is worth caring about--even and especially someone who is making so much effort to get to him, time and again. It's impossible not to care a lot about someone who has hurt you. It's impossible not to *care* for someone you hate, because when you choose to hate someone, you're investing in a very strong emotion, and even when you've switched off your emotions, as Harry largely does to Draco in OotP, you can't always back down from your level of investment. Harry and Draco already have a huge investment in each other: Draco because of the fact he has dogged Harry's heels for 5 years, and sees Harry as responsible for his father's imprisonment; Harry, because of the fact that he still sees Malfoy as his peer rival and leader of a group of students who represent everything to which he is diametrically opposed.
Draco has never been as important to Harry as Harry has always been to Draco, but Draco also has never written Harry off the way Harry writes Draco off. For all the emphasis that is given in H/D fics of the way that writers have to "redeem" Draco, or give his character depth to make him seem more kind, compassionate, human, whatever, all of the real impetus on change has to be in Harry. It's Harry who couldn't give a damn about Draco, especially by the end of book 5. It's Harry who has no qualms hexing Draco unconscious and shoving him in a luggage bin to ooze. It's Harry who refuses to take Draco seriously--it's also Harry who repeatedly wields the power he has to humiliate Draco, time and again. It's very obvious that one thing we are to take away from the pensieve scene in OotP is that that scene could easily have been Draco's pov regarding the trio. Were we to see the books through Draco's eyes, Harry would come away looking like anything but a hero, just as his dad did in Snape's memory.
The argument can be made that Draco shares Harry's tendency towards violent actions and could show a ruthless, violent side if given the chance as well. (1) But frankly, we've never seen any sign in canon that Draco feels that level of hatred towards Harry. The most violent thing we've ever seen Draco do to Harry was shoot a curse at him over his left ear when his back was turned, and we all know what happened next. If there's anything Draco shows towards Harry in canon it's a tendency towards futile threats and a marked restraint towards actually acting on those threats, no matter how many times Harry actually gets the better of him. If anything, the end of OotP marks a change on Draco's part towards actually acting, himself, to avenge his father on Harry. GoF seemed to herald a similar threat on Draco's part, but where, "You'll be next, Mudblood!" is remarkably passive, where "I'll have you" is about the most basically active statement we've ever seen Draco make in canon. It's very significant that it's only *Harry* who can create this emotional investment in Draco. But for Harry Draco has never actually appeared to make a mark.
It is the point of view of a shipper that Draco not only deserves to win Quidditch once in a while, but deserves to make his mark on Harry. Harry is someone who has been scarred time and again, outwardly and internally, by his enemies. He has had skilled practice at never letting Draco get to him. But he also has never learned one of the most important secrets of life: that even his enemies can be worthy of love, that even his enemies can have something to teach him. Harry needs to learn that lesson, and who better to offer it to him than Draco--Draco who has been trying every day for 5 years to get under Harry's skin any way he can?
The question is, how can Draco make his mark on Harry when Harry refuses to see him as someone he should care about? That is really the thing every shipper has to deal with if they are writing H/D convincingly. Whether they do it by having Harry be stricken with obvious hormonal lust for Draco or whether they do it by working with slowly changing perceptions the one of the other, all shippers have to conquer Harry's indifference to Draco. It isn't easy, but once you have stripped away all the layers of hate and animosity and prejudice that Harry has built up against Draco, against the Malfoys, against Slytherin, you find that as boys go, Draco is about as perfect a match for Harry as you'll find in canon. He's sharp-witted, clever, really good at Quidditch, competitive like Harry, focused like Harry, extremely loyal to his family like Harry.
And there is one thing Draco can offer Harry which no one else can--perspective. God knows Harry desperately needs a shot of it, before his world becomes so black and white he can only wear two-toned suits. And Draco has it because Draco has never admired Harry, never looked at him without seeing a flaw. Harry tends to run from his own flaws, just as he would prefer to avoid things in general; he can never avoid, Draco, however--Draco is too upfront, too blunt, too in-his-face. Draco won't leave him alone, insists on confronting him, still tries to get under his skin any way he can. Yet whatever Draco hopes to provoke in Harry, it won't be hatred, because whatever hatred Harry once felt for him has long-since disappeared under the weight of the world.
What, then? There is an inevitable next step in this game, but it isn't for Harry to resort to beating Draco up whenever Draco goes too far--been there, tried that, it still didn't get Draco off his back. The only thing Harry has never actually done so far is to finally give Draco the full attention he deserves. What will happen when/if he finally does? What will Draco ultimately want from Harry? What will Draco have, if anything, to teach him or tell him? Will it ultimately make any difference? And will Harry, ultimately, care?
We can't know--but all of us know that for the dynamic between Draco and Harry in canon to feel finished, complete, resolved, whatever, that moment has to come.
The H/D shipper is someone who allows Harry to give that one moment of full attention to Draco. That is the essence of any H/D fic, whether the moment is expanded to turn into love, whether the moment comes as a result of, or precipitates, lots of soul-searching and changing perceptions, or whether that moment comes as a frenzy of passionate quidditch uniform-ripping sex. Shipping H/D does not have to be about whether you see Draco as a reformed angel of light or a leatherclad bad boy with a dark mark on his arm. Shipping H/D is about stripping prejudice and preconceptions away until you are left with a Harry who is willing to see Draco as Draco wants him to see him. It requires bringing Harry to the point that Harry can acknowledge Draco's right to be acknowledged, which is something Harry has never done since the day he decided that Draco reminded him of Dudley in first year.
Everything H/D is can be found in that moment, because it can be at the same time both the goal of an H/D fic and the germination of any H/D storyline. Most H/D stories focus on the dramatic shift where Harry and Draco are just themselves, devoid of all the prejudice that has built up their hatred over the years. Most H/D fics are about focusing directly on that moment, or about answering the questions I asked earlier, about figuring out the significance of that moment for them both, and about finding ways to expand the knowledge gained in that moment, or the emotional impact of it, into their lives as they move forward. In Aspen's Quicksilver, the whole story is the moment as it is happening; in Audrey's A Brief Interval, the moment is expanded over 2 surreal weeks. In nocturne_alley, although we never saw that moment happen "onscreen," as it were, we were witness to all the changes that took place after it.
They are all stories that leave us with the sense that after that moment nothing will ever be, or ever was, the same again. And that is why H/D is important to us--because we recognize that in that moment there is a shift, that something vital happens to them both. It is this desire to see that change, to witness it and see what comes of it and where it takes them both, that draws us to them. I think that it's also this desire that makes fics like Draco Veritas and Silvia's "And I Get By"(2) so beloved of H/D shippers, because they are fics that deal with that moment of truth, and that subsequent change--and even without overt slash, they are getting to the heart of what matters to most H/D shippers. For most of us it isn't about the hotness or the love-hate or the sexual tension or all the hints of subtexty attraction, though all those things are, certainly, very much part of the appeal--but rather just the inherent drama and beauty and intrigue of seeing the two of them reach a place where they can see each other just as they are.
And I think, deep down, whenever I see the two of them changed by that moment, whenever I see the two of them learning to understand one another, falling in love despite everything around them and within them that would get in the way or proclude that from happening, the moment changes me too, and reminds me of what is important--about how to forgive and understand and be compassionate, and how to find love in the most unlikeliest of places.
1. (Note: Discussion about this point here.)
2. Where are all Silvia's fics? rightthisway is no longer active, and Pure Magnetism is down. What a depressing trend.
Would just like to say welcome to everyone new on my friends list, as well as happy birthday to the ton of friends who had birthdays this week--Alex, Toby, Dave, John, Sister M, Callie, and everyone else! Massive hugs and love to you all. :)