Battle Tactics


Story Summary:
Draco rebels. Lucius sets him straight. A war is coming, after all. Set after Draco’s fourth year at Hogwarts.

Chapter 01

Chapter Summary:
Draco rebels. Lucius sets him straight. A war is coming, after all. Set after Draco’s fourth year at Hogwarts.

Four o'clock. Time to visit Father's quarters. Time for ... no, stop that thought.

He licked his lips. He hated this feeling of constriction in his throat. He hated his tongue feeling like a dead piece of leather.

He was expected at exactly ten past four. A completely random time. Once, an Elf had reset all the clocks in the house, but hadn't touched his wristwatch. You couldn't blame the creature; he'd told him not to touch it, after all. Anyway, when he'd noticed there was a ten minute difference between the clocks and his watch, he'd nearly bolted. He ran to his father's study with no clue whether he was much too early or much too late - both crimes for which Father would make him come back later that evening. Since he had the whole night to heal after evening visits, the waiting alone was enough to make him sick with fear.

When Lucius didn't answer his knocking, he seriously considered running for it. But then he heard footsteps behind him. His father, still in his travelling cloak, was striding down the hall. He shot Draco a glance, looked at his watch and took out his wand. Draco's heart stopped. But Lucius only waved at the door. 'The Goyles have been disconnected from the Floo Network - again,' he sighed, handing Draco his cloak. 'I had to Apparate home. Get that to an Elf, will you, and have it make tea while you're at it.' Draco hurried away; he was so relieved he had trouble suppressing his tears. Part of him suspected that Lucius had noticed.

That had been a lucky escape, though. There was no knowing what father he would find behind that door this time. Would he be sitting behind his desk, working? Reading, in that leather armchair next to his bookshelves? That would be good - it meant there were other things on his mind than the possible misdemeanours of his son. But if he was standing, or worse yet, pacing... Merlin's balls! Why couldn't he stop thinking like that? For all he knew, they'd spend the whole afternoon discussing Quidditch.

Yeah, likely, that. The looks Father had been giving him at Sunday brunch! The signs could not have been less reassuring. The slight flaring of his nostrils. The sarcastic remarks. The way he'd been tapping his wand.

So Draco had checked every bit of his clothing. Trimmed his nails. Brushed his teeth. Checked his posture - straight, always straight...

He wanted his wand. Maybe that was the biggest torture of all. Knowing that his wand was there, locked away in the same room, while he walked in, defenceless...

Six minutes past four. Mother was starting to give him silent hints. Very well. He walked out of the sitting room and paused in front of the hallway mirror. He wore one of his plainer ensembles: a black blazer, black trousers and a grey jumper; still, this would probably do. He turned and started climbing the grand, rounded staircase. He felt strangely aware of his body: he could feel all the muscles in his arms, his legs and back. But things were good. He was strong; his body whole. He wasn't thinking about falling off the stairs, conveniently knocking himself out. He'd had too much experience falling down, anyway - he would walk over to the door, raise his hand and knock - like so...

The door flew open. 'Come in,' said Lucius. He sounded curt, clipped.

Draco did so, not saying anything. Lucius was staring at the grounds, his hands crossed behind his back. He didn't move at the sound of Draco's footsteps; not even as the door fell shut, blocking out all sound.

Still, that didn't have to mean anything, right? He might be thinking about some complicated chess problem. Or reciting a poem in his head. Or...

Oh, who was he kidding? The room didn't feel like it had last week. It looked the same, of course: a mahogany desk in front large high windows; a wall with portraits on the left and books upon books on the right side of the room. The two chairs were still there, next to the bookshelves, a small inlaid table between them, their legs sinking deep into the thick, red carpets. But there were no refreshments on the table, there was no music playing, and the portrait of his great-grandfather Marcellus had left its frame.

Merlin, what had he done?

He was so busy replaying every minute of the last three days in his head that he jumped when Lucius finally spoke. 'So,' he said. 'Tell me about your week.'

'I had a good week, Father,' Draco said. It had been a good week, as far as he could see. But Father was still not looking at him.

'What was good about it?'

Trick question. It was getting harder to form words now. 'I... enjoyed... being home again. Flying, and riding. Mother and I flood to Edinburgh for a day.' But none of that could have really upset him, could it? He'd hardly been home all week. Draco could only think of one thing that might have annoyed him. It was a risky thing to mention, but he had to know what he was up against.

'I...I beat you at chess.'

He saw his father's right hand twitch.

'Did that make you feel grand, Draco?'

Another trick question. 'I don't know...'

'Small then, Draco? Do you think I am but a little man?'

What? 'Please, Father, you know I don't.'

'I know very little.' His father finally turned around. 'I only know what I see...' He locked eyes with Draco. 'And, of course, hear.' His voice was like a blade, both cold and sharp. It was impossible not to squirm.

'Now, as for what I see...' His father slowly approached him and looked him up and down. 'Show me your hands.'

Draco did so. At the sight of his spotless fingernails, Father's lips curled. 'What I see is an impeccable young man.'

Despite everything, Draco felt a foolish surge of pride.

'So tell me...' Lucius paused for the briefest of moments. 'Why do I have to hear people maligning you?'

'I'm sorry?' Draco said, trying to sound indifferent.

Lucius tilted his head back. 'At last Friday's dinner at the Bullstrodes,' he said softly, 'I got the distinct impression that you, Vincent and Gregory had been found on the Hogwarts Express, unconscious and covered in hex marks.'

O shit. He thought Mother had taken care of that. But Father knew. Why did he always know?!

'Some of the guests seemed to find that rather amusing,' Father went on, acid dripping from his words. 'Especially since I was the very last to know.'

Draco looked down. 'I'm sorry,' he mumbled.

'That not quite good enough, is it?' Lucius snapped. He lifted Draco's chin. 'I suspect Potter was involved?'

Draco nodded.

'And you let him hex you into unconsciousness?'

There was no right answer to give. Draco knew how this was going to play out: his father was going to lecture him a bit longer before choosing the punishment that took his fancy, whether it was blunt force, hexes, or a combination of both; he would then be dismissed with a healing potion and the order to be presentable for dinner. Suddenly he wanted no part of it. If he was going to be hurt, he wanted it over with now.

'Does it matter?' he said coolly.

His father's eyes shot open. 'Excuse me?'

Draco took a step back. 'You're going to punish me anyway. Can't you at least spare me your speeches?'

One moment, they stared at each other. Then Father pulled out his wand and slashed at him, his spells hitting Draco in the knees, on his face and in the stomach. Draco lurched forward and sank to the floor. He cradled his midriff and gasped for breath as he heard his father snap: 'My speeches are for your benefit, son.' Lucius jerked him up by the collar. 'Lesson one: never challenge anyone before you're damn sure you can beat him!'

I should be afraid now, Draco thought vaguely, but that was not what he felt. Staring at his father's superior smirk, he felt supremely pissed off. Still wheezing, he blinked his tears away and wiped his face on his sleeve. 'That's easy ...for you... to say now,' he spluttered finally. 'If I had... my wand...'

Lucius eyes widened. 'Your wand?!' He lurched Draco sideways before dropping his collar, causing him to fall flat on his back. 'Are you suicidal, boy?'

Draco rolled sideways to duck oncoming blows, but none came. As he crawled to his knees, he saw his father standing in the middle of the room, a look of genuine surprise on his face. It gave him the heart to yell back. 'At least then I'd have a fair shot!'

Lucius laughed. 'What do think this is, the dueling club?' he strode over to Draco and yanked him up by his arm, causing a wave of nausea to surge through him. 'A fair shot? Do you really expect an opponent to care about that?'

'Get off me!' Draco jerked his arm free; he couldn't help it. It was not that he didn't feel afraid. But he wasn't afraid enough to forget that A: whatever Lucius had done to him in the past, he'd always recovered, and B: talking back was exhilarating. It was immensely gratifying to reply something other than "Yes, Father", for once.

Father paused. Then he backhanded Draco so hard he slammed against the floor for a second time. 'That was incredibly stupid,' Lucius hissed. 'Now get out. I'll see you after dinner.'

Draco's head rung, his face smarted, his stomach ached, he tasted blood and it felt like he'd dislocated something in his knee. Still he heard himself croak: 'No.'

Lucius whipped around. 'No?'

Draco wasn't less surprised when he heard himself answer: 'If you want... to punish me, you can do it... now.'

Lucius glared at him. Draco didn't mind. What he'd done was inexcusable, he knew - but it felt so right. He almost didn't care what happened now.

Lucius sighed and snapped his fingers.

'Get up!'

When Draco finally managed -it took him three tries- Lucius grabbed the back of his neck. 'You keep talking about punishment,' his growled. 'If I wanted to punish you I'd take away your broomstick. This is something else entirely.' He marched Draco towards the windows. One terrified second, Draco thought that Lucius was going to shove him through, but he only held Draco's face close to the glass. 'Look at yourself,' he hissed. 'You're in no position to make demands. When I'm done you might not be able to walk for a week! Is that what you want?'

Draco watched the blood dripping from his split lip and shook his head.

'I didn't think so. But that's exactly what will happen if you keep this nonsense up. Am I clear?'

Draco nodded. Lucius increased the pressure on his neck. 'What was that?'

Something about his father's tone made Draco's hair stand on end. It wasn't so much angry as... vicious. He swallowed. 'Yes, sir.'

'Good.' Lucius let go of him and took a few steps back. 'Now take off your jacket and give me your arm.'

Despite his dizziness, Draco whipped around. 'What? Why?'

'I think the reality of your situation has not sunk in yet,' Lucius said. 'Your arm, Draco.'

Draco looked once more to his father, but he couldn't read his face at all. Slowly he turned around, let the jacket slip from his shoulders and hung it over the back of the armchair facing the door. Afterwards, he felt cold, as if he'd just peeled off a layer of skin. He had to resist the urge to wrap his arms around his shoulders. Instead, he took a deep breath, walked to his father and held out his left arm.

Lucius pulled up the sleeve of his jumper, exposing his bare flesh. Draco could feel his heartbeat pulsing under his father's fingertips.

For a moment Lucius stared at his skin, almost wistfully. 'You'll wear the Mark soon,' he said softly.

Draco recoiled. 'I don't want to be a Death Eater!'

Lucius jerked his head. 'Of course not,' he said. 'You're brash, you're impulsive, you're in no way ready.' Then he sighed. 'But the Dark Lord has returned, and soon I shall have to present you.' Suddenly his expression hardened. 'How do you think he'd react to that little rebellion of yours?'

Before he could reply, Lucius grabbed Draco's wrist with his left hand and pulled out his wand with his right. The tip of the wand was searing hot.

'No,' Draco gasped as he saw the wand come closer to his arm. 'Don't! I didn't mean -' He tried to pull his arm free, but Lucius only tightened his grip.

'You never mean to do what you do, son,' he drawled. 'You never think, you never plan... he is just going to love that.' The stick made contact and Draco screamed. He shook and thrashed, but Lucius kept pushing the wand further down his arm, along the sinew. The smell of burnt flesh made Draco retch.

'Please, stop, stop!' he wailed, but Lucius only pushed harder.

'Sometimes you have no options, Draco,' he spat. 'No fair shot, no chance of help. You'll just have to stick it out.' Draco couldn't stand it any longer. He pulled and clawed at his father's arm, but stopped when Lucius held the wand tip near his eyeball. 'Don't struggle,' Lucius whispered. 'He'll want that.'

'Father...' Draco begged, but he could only wail once more as Lucius plunged the wand back into his arm and slid it further down towards his elbow. 'Bite down,' Lucius ordered. 'Draco, you know what to do. Steel yourself!'

And as insane as this was, Draco did know what to do - all these Sunday visits had taught him that much. He clenched his fists and his jaw and focused all his attention on his midriff, away from the onslaught. He couldn't help moaning and straining but managed not to scream. And then the pain stopped.

As soon as his father had let go of his wrist, Draco cradled his arm and collapsed onto the floor, sobbing. His whole body was shaking and convulsing and the fire was still ripping through his arm. He was only dimly aware of his father rummaging in the background, and startled when Lucius pulled him upright and put a carved glass filled with a thick, clear liquid to his lips. 'Here,' he said. 'Drink this.'

In spite of the heaving and choking, Draco managed to gulp most of the potion down. The fluid calmed his muscles, and dulled the pain in his arm to an aching throb. 'Thank you,' he hiccupped. He leant in to his father, who supported his back. They said nothing as Draco's sobs slowly quieted down.

'The Dark Lord is not a patient man,' Lucius whispered eventually. 'He likes pain, but he finds it more important that people submit to him.' Draco nodded, not really caring where Father was going with this. It felt so good to be held.

'Comply and be silent, and he'll quickly find somebody else to torment. It's the only thing that works,' Lucius went on. Draco nodded again. Merlin, he wanted to sleep! He wasn't prepared for the words that followed.

'We'll try this again.'

'No!' Draco blabbered. 'No no no no...' But his father stood up and took his wand out once more, the point already smoking. Draco crawled to his knees and stayed there, officially begging. 'I won't do it again, Dad, I swear, I'll be careful, I promise, I won't -'

'You promised me the same after the ferret incident,' Lucius said. His mouth twisted. 'And then you let yourself get ambushed on a train.' He grabbed Draco's shoulder and brought his face close to his.

'How often do I need to tell you? Mistakes like that will get you killed!'

The fear in his father's eyes gave Draco the courage to try once more. 'Daddy, please...'

Lucius pulled back. 'No, Draco! If you won't learn from your actions, you'll learn how to deal with the consequences.' He pulled Draco up. 'Now, stand firm,' he said. 'Breathe deeply. Concentrate.'

And strangely enough, Father's voice helped as the wand again burned through Draco's flesh. 'Don't look at it,' Lucius coaxed. 'Look at me. Good. Breathe.' And even though he couldn't see for tears and he could barely keep standing, Draco again managed not to screech in pain.

Lucius put away his wand and pulled him close. 'Well done,' he whispered. Then he helped Draco into the armchair facing his desk.

Draco's body was still contracting in horrible spastic shivers. He wanted nothing more than to curl up and forget everything, but he didn't dare leave his father out of sight. Out of the corner of his eye he saw him rummage in his desk before coming back once more. 'Take this,' he said. He held out another glass of potion, and -Draco was surprised to see this- a bar of Honeydukes' Almond and Honey flavoured chocolate.

'Thank you,' Draco stammered. He pocketed the chocolate before gulping the potion down as quickly as possible. It tasted slightly salty; he couldn't stop the tears leaking down his face.

Father turned again. 'I'll have an Elf bring a sleeping drought tonight,' he said. 'Make sure to drink it all.'

Draco nodded. He tried with all his might to calm down, to stop crying - Merlin knew if it might set Father off. But Lucius paid him no mind. He sat down at his desk and started sifting through some parchment. After a few minutes, he said: 'You're excused.'

Draco rose as fast as he could, grabbed his jacket and stumbled away. But before he could reach the door, he heard Lucius's voice again.


With a sick feeling in his stomach Draco turned. He saw his father's face, suddenly very tired. 'I want you to live, son. You do understand that, don't you?'

Draco shivered. 'Yes, Father.' Anything to get away from him for now.

Lucius nodded. 'Well then.' He was silent for a moment. 'You'd better go freshen up for dinner. We musn't keep your mother waiting.'