Draco Malfoy was doomed from the start to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Death Eater. The problem was, he didn’t realize that wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps was probably not the best idea he’d ever had…at least, not until Voldemort assigned him the task of killing Albus Dumbledore, beloved headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and leader of the Order of the Phoenix, a group dedicated to stopping Voldemort. Not being the brightest crayon in the box, Draco didn’t realize that Voldemort was more than likely setting him up to be killed, either by Dumbledore himself or one of his minions. But because Draco wasn’t a total idiot, he did eventually figure out that if he didn’t succeed in his task but managed to escape and report back to Voldemort, that Voldemort himself would probably kill him, in the most painful and humiliating way possible (not necessarily in that order). That’s why Harry found him in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom being comforted by Myrtle while he cried over the sink, desperate to find a way to complete his task even though he clearly didn’t want to do it, because he feared for his own safety and the safety of his parents if he failed.
Draco eventually realized that he did not want to emulate his father, but felt trapped in the life he’d been born into and had no idea how to get himself out of it. The opportunity came, of course, at the Battle of Hogwarts, when Voldemort was defeated and for the first time in his life he had the chance to be who and what he wanted to be and not what someone else wanted him to be, assuming he could figure out just what that was. He also had the problem of being on the losing side of the battle and having to face the Wizengamot on charges of being a Death Eater and hope someone offered him leniency, otherwise he’d wind up in the cell next to his father’s for a very long time. Luckily for him, Harry came forward and testified on his behalf, trading on his fame and status as the Chosen One to help a friend in need.
Yes, a friend. I read in a fan fiction story one time an internal assessment Draco did of his and Harry’s relationship, where he’d come to the realization that Harry was his best friend—he knew all Draco’s secrets, all his faults, all his imperfections, as well as he knew his own, and was still unwilling to write off Draco as a lost cause, even as his friends tried to convince him to do just that because they couldn’t see past the vicious Death Eater to the lost little boy trapped inside Draco’s body. Harry knew that if the circumstances had been different, Draco could have been a close friend of theirs. Maybe they would never have that close of a relationship, but hopefully their children would.