The elder Malfoy worked as one of Voldemort's Death Eaters not once, but twice. Worse yet, he forced his son to join him. This relationship is a dark not-so-secret nod to the cyclical nature of children repeating their parents' mistakes.
However, when the time came to murder Hogwarts' headmaster, he couldn't do it. Dumbledore saw into the young wizard. Though he came from a despicable family, he didn't want to be that type of person and didn't have it in him to commit murder.
As if you aren't already seeing him in a different light, check this out. There exists a deleted scene from Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows Part II involving Malfoy. It casts him in a much more positive light.
It occurs at the end of the movie during the battle of Hogwarts. He and his family ultimately switch allegiances from Voldemort. But this deleted scene shows Draco doing it earlier and in much more heroic fashion.
He rushes away from the Death Eaters, loudly denouncing them. He also helps Harry in the fight against Voldemort. He does this by running right in front of the Dark Lord and throwing his wand to Harry.
Seeing all this, it's hard not to feel sorry for Malfoy (especially since his best moment was cut from the film). Yeah, he was an a**hole, but there were extenuating circumstances and he made the right decision in the end. It's interesting to think of what this story would look like through his eyes.
As if summoned by a magic wand, J.K. Rowling herself showed up to shed light on this question. Turns out, it would have been a story of a young, spoiled brat making a lot of bad decisions but ultimately learning from their mistakes. Hell, I'd watch that.
It's a shame that scene was cut. It would have been nice to see Draco Malfoy fully redeem all his past deeds. That would have made the ending even happier, as opposed to some gloomy theories floating out there.