This was thoroughly mocked in the Potter Puppet Pals episode "Draco Puppet", where Harry responds to the numerous fan requests to introduce a Puppet Pal Draco. Having established that he's doing this, Harry spends the rest of the video in Sarcasm Mode as he introduces us to our new puppet friend:
Another slightly subtle example on Draco Malfoy's at times almost saintly status in fanon is this: In the canon, i.e. in the books, Harry always calls him and thinks of him as "Malfoy". Harry almost always thinks of teachers and authority figures (which Malfoy can't exactly be categorized as) using their last names, and the same goes for other people he disdains or feel aloof towards.note Rubeus Hagrid is the sole exception to this, but everyone refers to him by his last name, and he becomes a Professor in Prisoner of Azkaban. However, fans - especially the ones that like Malfoy - usually refer to him as "Draco", while they don't refer to, say, Dumbledore as "Albus" quite as often. Needless to say, there's a reason this trope isn't called "Malfoy in Leather Pants".
It amuses me. It honestly amuses me. People have been waxing lyrical [in letters] about Draco Malfoy, and I think that's the only time when it stopped amusing me and started almost worrying me. I'm trying to clearly distinguish between Tom Felton, who is a good looking young boy, and Draco, who, whatever he looks like, is not a nice man. Itís a romantic, but unhealthy, and unfortunately all too common delusion of ó delusion, there you go ó of girls, and you [nods to Melissa] will know this, that they are going to change someone. And that persists through many women's lives, till their death bed, and it is uncomfortable and unhealthy and it actually worried me a little bit, to see young girls swearing undying devotion to this really imperfect character, because there must be an element in there, that "I'd be the one who [changes him]." I mean, I understand the psychology of it, but it is pretty unhealthy. So, a couple of times I have written back, possibly quite sharply, saying [Laughter], "You want to rethink your priorities here."
The Draco in Leather Pants phenomenon is, in fact, so widespread in the fandom that you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who actually hates Draco. As an example, on Harry Potter confession blogs, chances are you will find more than one confession painting Draco as a "misunderstood" woobie. It's even reached the comments on his profile on Pottermore!
Interestingly played with in the fic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality — Draco is a genuinely likable boy who just happened to be raised by Darth Vader. Harry interacts with him rather differently in his first meeting and instead of the immediate politically charged rivalry, we get a less immediate yet still politically charged kind of alliance. And then later on, when he's an occasional viewpoint character with a fairly sympathetic perspective, you keep running into the fact that he believes Dumbledore to be entirely evil. When his views change and he can finally come out and tell someone about that they think "his father will skin him alive and turn him into trousers."
Draco gets a fairly interesting variation on this in The Prayer Warriors. Draco is a "secret Christian" at Hogwarts, gets baptized and joins the heroes, and objects to the plan to have Ebony sleep with Harry to get his key, but joins the Prayer Warriors' crusade to exterminate nonbelievers, wants to kill Dumbledore merely for allowing gay sex, and in a later installment, threatens to kill people who don't go along with one of his plans to kill Wawa, the Titan of Water. In short, he's out of character, but interestingly enough, proves to be an even worse person than in canon despite (or perhaps because) of the author's attempts to make him seem more heroic.
Actually Justified in Another Life, as the story is an AU in which Voldemort wanted to use baby Draco in a dark ritual, his parents refused and were killed for it, and Draco is sent to live with his White Sheep relatives, such that he doesn't grow up indoctrinated into pureblood supremacy. Unfortunately, this results in him being severely out-of-character practically as a necessity.
This can be somewhat justified if one takes into account the films. In the first movie alone, Draco smoothly introduces himself to Harry in front of all the first years whereas in the books, he condescendingly chats with Harry in private, only changes his tune when he finds out who Harry is, only confronts him when alone or when Draco feels protected, and gets scared away by the threat of rats. When Harry and Draco are fighting over the Remembrall, movie!Draco is suave and cool, barely considering Harry a threat while in the books, Draco immediately panics when Harry follows him into the air where Harry can see him as the sort who hides behind those stronger than him and runs away. Even physically, Tom Felton started off as a cute kid and became a handsome teen but Draco, while never described as unattractive, was also never described as good looking.
It's also worth noting that the movies skip over or omit ALOT of Draco's antagonistic activities. This leads to him seeming not quite as bad as he simply has less screen time and is less often seen acting as a bully than he is in the books, and his relation with Harry also therefore seems less antagonistic. For example in Goblet of Fire, the "Potter Stinks" pins are turned into a 30 second visual bit with no impact on the plot, and never really tied to Draco himself. In the book it's a year-long harassment campaign Draco is heading against Harry, and their frequency an indicator of how the school feels about Harry's performance in the tournament.
Rowling finally gave Draco a profile on Pottermore, where she admits she does consider him to be somewhat more than a cowardly bully, especially by Half-Blood Prince. Among other things, she notes that he's a talented Occlumens due to his skill at suppressing his own emotions, and he does eventually learn his lesson when he realizes thatDumbledore, Snape, and Harry were most kind to him. He probably never becomes a very good person, but he manages to let go of his old prejudices, and eventually brings up his son far better than his father did him. Not an unlikeable character, but not exactly the sex god antihero.
J. K. Rowling has spoken out against people who dare to suggest that Voldemort isn't as horrible as she insists he is. Significant parts of Book 6 are meant as Take Thats against those people. For example, he lived in an orphanage, all right (just like Little Orphan Annie), but the most horrible thing in said orphanage was... himself. He used his magic to bully other kids and was feared both by them and by the staff. It's clear that he was never a good guy.
Averted, even inverted, with Draco's dad, Lucius, whose fans tend to appreciate him for the aristocratic, pimp cane accessorized bastard that he is without giving him the "Awww, he's really just a sexy Woobie!" treatment. In fact, Lucius provides an easy way for fanfic writers to portray Draco sympathetically. After all, if Lucius is an Abusive Parent, then Draco has a nice Freudian Excuse. And your story has a built-in villain, too! Ironically, in the canon, the fact that Lucius cares about his wife and son seems to be his only redeeming quality. Also, Lucius had no capacity to influence Draco's becoming a Death Eater one way or another, seeing as he was in Azkaban for the sixth book, which was when that happened. Lucius is hardly Dad of the Year, but neither is he the abusive monster who exists to torture Draco.
You can, however, find, that people who give Lucius this treatment, perhaps influenced by him being a Long-Haired Pretty Boy in this movies. He can become a handy Freudian Excuse for evil!Woobie!Draco, but if you claim that Draco isn't a villain at all, why shouldn't Lucius be awesome and sexy as well?
The "feminist fangirls" who refer to Bellatrix as a "role model" because she almost kills a young girl and then mocks her very pissed off Mama Bear upon both that and the death of one of her sons. And then they bash said mother for killing their Bella. Never mind that Bellatrix is a Yandere who only has eyes for a man who doesn't give a damn for her, or that she's openly said that if she had kids she'd sacrifice them to Voldemort, or that she was among the Death Eaters that tortured Neville Longbottom's parents into insanity — she's a "super great feminist" for bashing motherhood. Unfortunate Implications, much?
Finally, if a Peggy Sue is involved (either Bellatrix herself or another character), she may be steered away from the person she becomes in canon. Where it goes from there varies as much as the fanfictions written about her—Anti-Hero, Anti-Villain, Mary Sue, Author Avatar...
Salazar Slytherin had a dream that one day, an adequately racist and motivated student would find the secret underground chamber he built to house a deadly basilisk and use it to mass-murder his Muggle-born classmates. And some fans would have you believe that's just dandy. (This one has actually been done well in some cases — Slytherin lived at least a thousand years before the series takes place and conceivably could have been the victim of an in-universe Historical Villain Upgrade.) It helps that the series implies that he wasn't always a "twisted old loony". In fact, according to the Sorting Hat, he and Godric Gryffindor had once been the best of friends.
A good example of making him sympathetic without contradicting canon can be found here.
While at the same time throwing not only Draco but Snape into the leather pants (not to mention what happens to Hermione) all in the first three chapters.
Another (comedy) one had the falling out be over Blood Pudding. After a thousand years it got twisted into Blood Purity. Turns out Salazar was a Jolly Fat man that ate way too much.
Severus Snape gets put in leather pantsnote And has his shirt removed◊ a lot by fangirls. There are the ones who want to know him carnally, and then there's the fans who have blamed Lily for Snape calling her "Mudblood", or even tried to justify it and deny its connections to real-world racism. Oh, and they also bash Lily for "not being a good friend" (aka, refusing to become Snape's Extreme DoormatLove Martyr) to the guy who called her a racist epithet. Anything we could say about the Snape-dom can be summed up here.
There's also a tendency to portray his nastiness as an act to maintain cover or due to manipulation by Dumbledore, which is only at most partially true. There are a lot of changes people make to him in fanon that don't line up with the original works even to extreme degrees. Some that even portray James as the full reason he switched and not Lily, that he loved her but he only either said that to protect her or out of misplaced rage.
His parents' poor treatment of him is blamed a lot too, despite only being mentioned in passing.
Like Draco, at least part of his popularity can probably be attributed to his depiction in the films, done by the talented, suave and fairly handsome Alan Rickman.
The Marauders get this a lot. Many fans try to rationalize their repeated bullying of Snape. Never mind the fact that from the stories we hear it seemed that they always outnumbered him and that James and Sirius started it. Sirius even tried to murder Snape once using Remus' werewolf form.
Scabior the Snatcher has one tiny role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but was portrayed by the attractive actor Nick Moran in the film. The number of women wishing they could trade places with Hermione and have their hair sniffed by him is growing.
In Russian fandom, he is considered to be so good-looking that he's normally referred to as Sexy Eater.
Also, Petunia Dursley. Yes, the JerkassResentful Guardian and Stepford Smiler that abused Harry ever since he went to live with her family, is sometimes shown as a poor victim "bullied" and "insulted" by her "stupid and snobbish" sister Lily, thus she "can't help" but hate Harry and blame him for "Lily's sins".
In the case of the Dursleys, both Rowling and the fandom agrees that Vernon is the least sympathetic of the three. Rowling never gives him a Freudian Excuse and fanfics often portray him as pure evil. However, while the fans seem to consider Petunia the most sympathetic Dursley, Rowling seems to consider that to be Dudley, feeling that his actions were the result of bad parenting. Prior to the end of the series, fans guessed that Petunia would eventually apologize to Harry, but, to the surprise of many, it was Dudley who apologized while Petunia only got an implied Ignored Epiphany. Dumbledore himself considered Dudley pitiful and called out his parents for raising him the way they did - as a selfish, entitled bully that thought he could get away with anything until he was a teenager.
Barty Crouch, Jr. due to being played by David Tennant in the movie and having a Tragic VillainBack Story in the book. Sometimes he gets paired with characters nearly twenty years younger than him, like Hermione or Luna.
Fenrir Greyback, a cannibalistic werewolf whose modus operandi is to maul and infect children with lycanthropy in canon, is often portrayed as a big protective dog who's only looking out for the best interests of his clan/mate (often Hermione).
Marietta Edgecombe gets a bit of this as well. Admittedly, we don't know that much about her, but some fans like to imagine her as a tragic heroine who is torn between loyalty to her family and the DA, and that her punishment is completely unfair. But the fact remains that she also sold out Cho, her best friend, just because her mother might be fired otherwise. Furthermore, she's shown to not want to be in the DA from the start, only there because Cho practically dragged her to the first meeting. However, in the interest of fairness, Marietta's resistance to joining the group is generally considered one of the points in her favor; while some fans go overboard in defending her, it's generally agreed that given the very real risk involved in joining the DA, it was immoral to force an unwilling participant to sign a magical contract—especially without her even being aware of the contract's existence.
The Death Eaters in general, despite being Magic Nazis, are sometimes considered Well Intentioned Extremists who were simply trying to unify the wizarding world to fight off the inevitable invasion when Muggles discover them. Except there's nothing whatsoever in the books to suggest that a war would be inevitable even with discovery. In fact, it all but says the war with Voldemort would have gone a lot better if they had just gotten Muggles to help. Plus the DE doesn't actually seem to care about any hypothetical war with the Muggles, except maybe for the one they plan to start and how they want to win it.
The entire concept of "Blood Status" gets heavily romanticized by fanfic writers into being more in line with Victorian Social Status instead of outright racism like it is in the books. Hilariously (or sadly) enough, this could simultaneously be considered applying this trope to the institution of Victoriansocialstatusitself.
In general, a surprising number of Fanfic writers seem to interpret pure-bloodedness as a sign of magical superiority, usually as an excuse to reveal that Character X (usually Hermione) was a pureblood all along and promptly give them a power boost. This kinda goes against the whole "it's complete nonsense made up by racist aristocrats" message that runs through discussions of it in the books. Rowling herself dissuaded this, noting that (bar inherited traits such as Parseltongue, which applies no matter your blood status) purebloods are, if anything, often weaker than their Muggle-born counterparts due to being severely inbred.
Horrifyingly enough, a small but vocal part of the Tumblr fandom (presumably a subgroup of Bellatrix's "feminist" fangirls) will gladly minimize DOLORES UMBRIDGE'S crimes, claiming that the only reason she's more hated than Voldemort is because she's a woman in power. Fortunately, seeing as the fandom, the characters and the author universally despise Umbridge, there are entire essays in response to these fans, explaining in detail exactly why people hate Umbridge more than Voldemort; not because of her gender, but because she's an amalgamation of all the worst authority figures you'll ever meet in your life, and a much more realistic villain than Voldemort will ever be. (Also, Joffrey Baratheon and Shou Tucker are both at least as hated as Umbridge, and they're both dudes. Hell, so are Jar Jar Binks and Scrappy-Doo - the latter being the Trope Namer for a whole trope about hated characters - and they're not even villains.)
I'm the fool woman who thought that your teachers were incompetent and that's why you're repeating the first year for the third time. Instead they're saints for not having beaten you to death for being too stupid to live years ago.