He watches her as she screams holding his hands clenched into fists. He never even feels the pain of his nails cutting into the palm of his hands, let alone the blood slowly dripping to the floor.
She's strong, he tells himself. If anyone can take this kind of abuse it'd be her. He's so busy trying to reassure himself he never even stops to think why he cares.
He tries to capture her gaze, to give her strength someway, to convince her to hold on. He knows Potter and Weasley are in the dungeon likely coming up with one of their insane plans that should never ever work but somehow always do. He knows he needs her to hold on for a bit longer, just long enough for the demented duo to magic something out of their arse and get her the bloody hell out of there.
He tries to tell her all of this with one pointed look, the same look he gave her earlier when he pretended not to recognize them. But her screams are so loud he knows he'll wake up years in the future from his nightmares still hearing her screams of agony echoing in his ears.
He hold his breath every time she opens her mouth to release hers, counting the seconds she's held under that blasted curse. He wishes he was brave enough to rip the wand out of his aunt's grip and curse the insane hag into the next dimension. But there's a reason he was sorted into Slytherin, and even though he wishes that for once in his entire life he has what it takes to be sorted into the house of stupidly brave morons, he doesn't. All he can do is watch and hope Potter and Weasley come up with something sooner rather then later.
When his insane aunt carves the word mudblood into the pale flesh of her arm. He feels it as if it was carved into his own.
His breath quickens when he realizes his aunt isn't going to let up, and will likely torture her into insanity. His fists unclench and before he knows it, without even thinking about it really, he's holding his wand in his hand, pointed at his aunt's back.
He meets Granger's eyes and any hesitation he might have had, any reluctance, vanishes when she doesn't even reacts to seeing him aim a wand at his aunt's back. He's losing her. He knows it. If he doesn't act now the girl he knows and loves to hate would be no more.
His eyes drift towards his parents. They don't see him taking his first steps into betrayal. His father is too busy thinking of all the glory capturing the Boy-Who-Lived will bring him, and his mother is far too worried about getting bloodstains on her carpet.
But is it really betrayal, he wonders. When he hasn't believed a single word out of their mouths since he was first bested by the same girl they were watching being tortured. The same girl they told him was beneath him, because of her blood.
How do they expect him to believe in something when the evidence that what they're saying are lies is sitting at the Gryffindor table, right in his line of sight, every bloody day?
His Slytherin side tries one last time to remind him of self-preservation but he ignores it in favor of the screaming girl being tortured on the floor of his childhood home.
He knows there's nothing that could deter him from his course now, not even Voldemort making a personal appearance - and Merlin if only saying that bloody name in his mind feels so good it would have to wonderful to say his name out loud.
Just as his resolves strengthens, and he opens his mouth to curse his insane aunt in the back, his grey eyes meets green ones, and he freezes.
Potter watches him from across the room, carefully hidden from everyone's view but his. He feels the scrutiny in the bright green eyes an he holds his breath for a second, wondering if this time he'll measure up.
He releases his breath when Potter nods grimly, acknowledging something he himself is still too frightened to realize. He sees Weasley come up behind Potter and how he immediately tries to run to the screaming girl's aid cementing again the notion in his mind that Gryffindor is the house of idiots.
Potter grabs the struggling boy and maneges to keep him from running into certain death which frankly surprised him. He thought Potter would have been right beside Weasley, jumping into something headfirst without assessing the danger. Clearly there was more to Potter then he previously thought. The person he had thought him to be couldn't think his way out of a paper bag without Granger there to guide him through it.
His eyes snap back to Granger when she stops screaming. For a frightful second, that seemed to last far longer then it should have, he thinks his aunt finally killed her. He feels a deep painful pressure on his chest that renders him unable to breathe. Then she gasps, and the pain leaves him making way for a relief so great, he feels like he could fly.
Now he just has to make sure she stays that way.
He lowers his wand and slowly steps forward until his feet are close enough to touch her arm. He winces again when his eyes trail the drop of blood that slowly falls from the word mudblood carved into her arm.
"Get out of the way, Draco, I'm not finished with the mudblood yet," his aunt hisses from behind him.
He turns his head in her direction slightly, giving her a small smirk. "Can't let you have all the fun, now can we?"
His aunt cackles madly. "Does itty bitty Draco wanna play?" she crows gleefully. "Punish her, Draco. Punish the filthy mudblood for thinking she's better then you."
Granger moans, obviously in pain when he crouches next to her and grabs her by her chin. He turns her face towards him softly but it's clear to see that even his careful movements hurt. "Look at me Granger," he whispers softly. "Not so smart now, eh?"
She whimpers softly and he knows it's because she thinks he's about to hurt her. It makes him sick to his stomach, but he understands why. The only time he ever did something that could be perceived as kindness was when he didn't tell his aunt and Greyback she was hiding behind the tapestry. But even then he turned right around and murdered her beloved headmaster.
Hermione Granger had no reason to believe he would never do anything to hurt her. What she did know was he tried to make her life a living hell by calling her mudblood and cursing her when he knew he could get away with it. And the fact that he stood next to his aunt and allowed her to torture her was probably a mark against him too.
"Look at me," he demands again when she closes her eyes. "Where is that vaunted Gryffindor courage," he taunts, cringing slightly when his aunt starts to giggle like the insane hag that she is. "Open your eyes. Now, Granger."
She opens them slowly and he cringes at the hate he sees there. "Tell me, Granger, how did you end up in this situation. I thought you were suppose to be the clever one. Didn't anyone ever tell you this is what happens to little girls who play war?"
He keeps taunting her but his mind is frantic with worry. What the bloody hell is keeping Potter? His aunt isn't going to stay satisfied with only taunting the girl, if boy wonder doesn't do anything soon he'll be expected to curse her.
"Did you really think a mudblood like you could stand against the might of the Dark Lord?"
He doesn't break eye-contact while he speaks and he startles when suddenly instead of hate lighting her brown eyes, he sees understanding and gratitude. It surprises him, though it really shouldn't. She is rather brilliant after all and he's often thought she would've been sorted into Slytherin without hesitation had she been a pureblood.
"Curse her, Draco!" his insane aunt hisses. "Curse her until she's as looney as the Longbottems, I'm sure they'd appreciate the company."
For a second Draco contemplates forgetting about Potter altogether and killing the evil bitch himself. He takes a deep breath and lets go of the thought, knowing it will only bring him more misery. He's not brave enough to do it. He knows this, and it kills him that Potter has something he lacks.
"Curse her, Draco," his aunt hisses impatiently. He knows he's expected to do as she says or face the consequences but he doesn't care. He will never curse her, even if it'll kill him in the end. The corner of his mouth twitches up into a wry smile when the thought hits him that it probably will.
"Draco?" his aunt questions forcefully.
His cold eyes soften when he sees Granger's eyes widen in panic. He captures her gaze without blinking doing his best to convey his intention to never hurt her. For a moment he frowns in confusion when Granger's goes from looking panicked to exasperated.
He doesn't understand what she means with that particular look, but he's amazed she can actually look anything but frightened. She really is brave to the core.
He ignores his aunt's impatient huff behind him and keeps his eyes on the girl he's prepared to throw away his beliefs for. So many times before he questioned himself for not telling his aunt and Greyback she was hiding behind the tapestry. So many nights he lay awake asking himself why she was worth risking his life for, but he never found an answer.
He finds it now. While he sees her half out of her mind from pain lying on the floor covered in scrapes, bruises, and her own blood. She is more than worth it.
They break eye-contact when Potter comes out wand blazing, yelling his usual Expelliarmus. Bloody idiot, should've gone with Avada-Kedavra. The wand he was clutching in his fist before is now in Potter's possession and he finds that he's glad for it.
It means he doesn't have to make a choice.
Being unarmed means he doesn't have to point his wand at his family to make sure Granger can get the bloody hell out of Death eater headquarters. And it also means he won't be forced to point his wand at Granger to stop her from leaving.
That's a good thing. It makes things easier.
He knows that he's going to have to make the choice sooner rather then later, but not today.
He ignores the voice inside his head that tells him he already made his choice, just like he ignores Granger's pleading eyes that implore him to take her hand and run with them.
The last thing he sees before they leave is Potter's subtle grateful nod, and the knife his aunt Bella throws after them.
He wonders if he'll see her again.
The thought that he won't, and the glinting knife that disappeared with her, nearly brings him to his knees.