Watching Umbridge quarrel with Snape over exactly how long it takes to brew an adequate draught of Veritaserum while Draco fingers the smudgy length of Potter's wand is admittedly, not as exciting an event as he would have hoped when he had been ordered by the woman to round up Potter and his cronies for an interrogation in her office.
When he first heard of the commotion of the colorless Garroting Gas wafting about Umbridge's corridor intermingled with the poorly veiled lies of Weasley's attempts to use Peeves' tendency for wreaking havoc as a diversion to direct Umbridge to the Transfiguration department, he had been anticipating a confrontation between Umbridge and Potter and eagerly followed her up to her office in time to watch her wrench a sooty Harry Potter out of her fireplace and slam him against her desk. The punishment he would receive, Draco was certain, would be much worse than whatever threats Filch could even dream of inflicting onto the students after a day's work of cleaning adolescent messes, and the idea of Potter's face as Umbridge snapped his broomstick or his wand or even his face seemed all too alluring.
Now, however, he's rather bored, busy sliding his thumb idly over the hilt of Potter's wand while Potter alternates between glaring at the boy who's manhandling his property and staring in horror at Umbridge and Snape's altercation. Even the sight of Longbottom's purpling face in the grip of Crabbe's beefy forearm brings him little satisfaction and he sighs heavily from the corner while he pockets Potter's wand and folds his arms together.
Snape grazes by Draco as he's hotly dismissed by Umbridge and slides from the room, leaving Umbridge to her own muttering. He's not altogether impressed by the woman, as her appearance implies that she was born in a swamp amid sisters of toads and her attitude is vindictive and pointless at best even when compared to some of the less than admirable things his father did in his search for power and reputation, not to mention that her teaching style is ludicrous at best, but he can't deny as she whips out her wand and poises it over Potter's body and thinks of the numerous regulatory decrees she's created that she's certainly been entrusted with a vast amount of power from the Ministry, a gift that Draco's never failed to value.
"I am left with no alternative," Umbridge says grimly, her face swollen to a cantankerous shade of angry red that does little to complement the obnoxious hue of pink of her cardigan. "This is more than a matter of school discipline… This is an issue of Ministry security…"
Draco exchanges a look with Warrington, who looks just as bemused at Umbridge's muttering, and watches as Umbridge begins seesawing back and forth on her feet and her wheezy breathing increases in volume as if highly troubled. It's an odd sight to behold as more and more, Draco sees the resemblance the woman bears to a bloated toad swathed in wooly bits of cotton candy, and the urge to laugh at her edgy tension is quickly quelled when she points her wand directly at Potter's chest and begins speaking once more.
"You are forcing me, Potter… I do not want to. But sometimes circumstances justify the use… I am sure the Minister will understand that I had no choice."
For a moment, Draco once more entertains the idea of Umbridge personally destroying Potter's wand and leaving the splintered pieces behind or perhaps even cursing him with a hex that would make bubbling boils appear on his cheeks for weeks on end, an action surely banned at Hogwarts for its ridicule alone. The pustules, no matter how grotesque they might be sitting on Potter's facial features as perhaps delightfully permanent residents, paint a gleeful image in Draco's mind that causes a smile to tug on his lips.
"The Cruciatus Curse ought to loosen your tongue."
Draco's grin evaporates. The shock, present not only on the faces of Potter's fellow Gryffindor accomplices, but also on those of their captors, has Draco turning his expression on Umbridge as if waiting for her to let loose a sweet little giggle or break out into a restless pace back and forth across her office until she would come forth with another idea. Behind him, a fluffy kitten makes a noise on a piece of shiny china.
"No! Professor Umbridge—it's illegal! The Minister wouldn't want you to break the law, Professor Umbridge!"
Granger's warning and moral reminder seems to do little in convincing Umbridge that her actions are prohibited, not mention a little extreme. The ideas of boils seem almost silly now in comparison to torture, and Draco can't help but believe that Umbridge leapt straight to the Cruciatus Curs and skipped over several nasty spells that would have been fairly successful in causing Potter to give up the reason he had so rebelliously sneaked into her study and been much less inhumane in administering. Her chosen option hangs heavily in the air and causes all students, even the struggling Weaselette who was valiantly attempting to stomp and kick away all restraints holding her back a moment ago, to fall still.
Umbridge takes a deep breath after she finishes her monologue of ranting at Potter as she explains that she was the one to send dementors to Little Whinging and seems to mentally prepare herself for the repercussions of casting such a curse, but the ethical dilemma does not seem to linger for very long in her mind as a moment later, she points her wand directly at Potter's forehead and cries, "Crucio!"
On paper, the word is not nearly as menacing as it looks right now, forever scarring Draco's brain like an interminable nightmare he knows his brain is doomed to play on loop. Even with the harsh cr sound and the hiss of the second c, like a skull cracked on a sidewalk or the shell of a walnut shattered into irreparable fragments, it does a poor job at best of conveying the severity of the curse.
The Cruciatus Curse, or Crucio, an Unforgiveable Curse, to torment, to torture, to cause the victim to suffer prolonged, intolerable pain, says Draco's textbook, but the words feel meek when Draco's mind supplies them for him. The word torture suddenly seems like the curse's feeble younger brother, capable of delivering not much more than a few agonizing tickles at someone's kneecaps, and the thought that Draco's aunt, his father, maybe even his mother have delighted in reducing another witch or wizard to this inexplicably horrifying seizure of pain makes Draco's ribcage seem constricted in rusty chains and a sudden crashing of fear that this terror exists in his very house, his very family.
In front of him, Potter is screaming, twitching, writhing on the floor he collapsed onto as if every cell and nerve fiber on his body has been dipped in scalding water, set aflame, marred with paper cuts and stabs even as no blood comes forth and no bruises make themselves present. Draco feels very much like he's watching a boy turn mad, his glasses knocked askew on his nose and his fingers curling into fists until his knuckles turn a ghostly shade of white, the sound of his roars of agony setting every one of Draco's hairs on a prickly end.
The sight of Potter reduced to a quivering, sobbing mess as Umbridge, only spurred on by the boy's pain, flicks her wand at his stomach, his forehead, his legs, has Draco's stomach churning, and it's not until his fingers find cool purchase on the wall behind him that he realizes that he's pressed against the door and trying desperately to focus his eyes on something other than the tortured boy on the floor, the Boy-Who-Lived no longer seeming invincible at all, his eyes falling on Granger's tear-stained cheeks and Goyle's mortified face and finding no mollification in any of their expressions. He stares at the ceiling and the posh velvet armchair perched in the corner in hopes of being distracted from the ball of thrashing limbs in front of him, but the sounds of Potter's screams only seem to ring in his ears when he looks away and focuses his attention elsewhere, the rolling of his stomach starting to squeeze up his throat as the idea of heaving directly on the carpet suddenly seems to be less of a worry and more of a possibility.
Draco feels wrong, incredibly wrong for once in his life, the sight of Potter's writhing form enough to make him want to shout and scream as well, if not louder. Wrong for what side he's supporting, wrong for yearning for the boy's downfall, wrong for tripping Potter in the hallway and teasing him about his nonexistent family that his own father helped Voldemort to murder. He thinks of the dark magic locked in the manor he was so enamored with in his youth, how he begged his father to teach him the tricks of dark wizardry, how the glorified tales of Voldemort's power seemed like splendid encounters of a war fought for the right reasons, and how now, all of it seems spiteful and bloodthirsty and so very terrifying as Draco looks down at Potter convulsing on the floor in excruciating pain and thinks of all of the people ever tortured just like this in this war.
He realizes a moment later that Crabbe and Goyle are staring at him like he's the one to be concerned about instead of the screaming boy on the floor, and that's when Draco realizes that his face has been contorted into one of utter fear without his permission and that his fingers are trembling by his sides, that his cheeks are probably pallid and his hands are white as snow. He looks at Umbridge's face, twisted into one of hunger and greed, and he knows he has to do something, because all he wanted was to see Potter be humiliated and sent down to his dormitory wearing nothing but his underpants, not this, never this—
He reaches blindly in his robes until his fingers collide with a wand, a foreign wand, Potter's wand, and he whips it out, ready to yell at the repugnant witch and scream at her to stop, surely this is not what breaking into Umbridge's fireplace is worth, and he feels torn between yelling at Umbridge and yelling at Potter to never be so stupid again, but then he's drawing his wand ready to aim a curse or a Stinging Hex or a jinx that will startle the woman out of her trance, but before he can leap into action and do something Gryffindor-like for once in his cowardly life as the fear and horror roars in his stomach and pleads for relief, Granger gets there first.
"NO! Stop it!" She shrieks, tears slipping past her lips, and the scream is enough to cause Umbridge to look up and lower her wand until Potter's form quells and the shakes subside into feeble twitches before his entire body stills, looking tattered and beaten without a single mark on his flesh to prove so. Draco looks at him, his ears still vibrating with the sound of Potter's unbridled screams and brain etched with the unforgettable image of Potter's face, torn and twisted with cries of agony because whatever he was doing in Umbridge's office with his head in the fire was apparently worth all the pain, Draco being stuck between thinking stupid, stupid Gryffindor and wishing he had the same drive of loyalty within him or better yet, that there would be someone out there willing and brave enough to be tortured into madness to keep Draco's secrets safe and his survival sure for him.
Granger is yelling at Umbridge now, telling her things about Dumbledore's secret weapons Draco is tuning out as he looks at Potter's motionless form and wishes he could kneel beside him and tell him I'm sorry, which is stupid, because he didn't cast any curses and Malfoys, as a general rule, don't apologize, but yet here he is, heart clenching with something awful that he knows is the thrum of guilt and remorse and fear because he knows that this is only the beginning of everything and the sides have already been divided.
For a moment, Potter's eyes meet his, and he thinks desperately I'm sorry because he can't say it out loud and hopes Potter understands.
But before he sees any sign of recognition or a nod of clemency on Potter's face pardoning Draco from the throb in his head right now that seems to be drilling through his very temples, he's being lugged to his feet by Umbridge's stubby fist and dragged out the door with Granger in tow, and a moment later Millicent Bulstrode marches up to him and manhandles Draco into her grip to tell him that he looks like he's going to be sick on the carpet.
He wrenches himself out of her grip, takes a rattling breath, and tells her that he's perfectly fine.