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Learning to Fall by idreamofdraco
Written for Keeperofthemoon0/noeycat07 in the DG Forum's Summer 2018 Fic Exchange. Winner of the Best Response to the Prompt and Best Supporting Characters awards. Thanks so much to keyflight790 for beta-ing the first half of this story!
the beast awoken by idreamofdraco
This story is complete. There will be nine chapters total, each of which will be posted every other week-ish. Reviews appreciated!
chapter one: the beast awoken
There were few things more aggravating to Draco than when Pansy directed her hyena cackle at him. Normally he found her laughter endearing. It was the perfect background music to someone else’s humiliation.
Draco preferred his humiliation to be conducted in silence. Better yet—ignored. A good friend would not walk into Draco’s bedroom, stop in her tracks, and then point and laugh at him as if confronted with the funniest thing she’d ever seen in her life.
“This is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!” Pansy said in between obnoxious guffaws.
A good friend would have pretended not to notice the fledgling wings protruding from Draco’s shoulder blades and wished him a happy birthday instead.
Draco rushed up to her to pull her into the room and shut the door behind her. “Quiet! My parents will hear you!”
Pansy snorted. “What, all the way from the other side of the manor? Doubtful.”
Draco crossed his arms and wished other appendages—the new ones fluttering weakly at his back—could be as easily controlled. “If I’d known you’d react like this, I wouldn’t have asked you to come.”
With a roll of her eyes, Pansy said, “You should have known better. So why did you ask me to come?”
Tension restricted Draco’s lungs, making his heart pound erratically and his chest feel tight and full at the same time. He was on the verge of panic, his breathing too short, anxiety skyrocketing. Without thinking, he began to pace, his hands running through his hair over and over again, making even more of a mess of it than it had already been. Here he was at eight in the morning, shirtless but still wearing pajama bottoms, still not ready for the day even though his mother would be up to his room any minute to take him to breakfast at his favorite restaurant.
He paced faster, his breath sawing out of him in harsh heaves.
A hand on his shoulder made him jump and spin around, the wings flailing in an ungainly fashion with the movement, but it was just Pansy. Of course it was. He’d forgotten she was there for a moment.
Her brow furrowed and her lips turned down in a frown. “I’m guessing this—” She waved her hand, gesturing at his back, at the wings. “—wasn’t an attempt to take after your namesake, then?”
“No! I woke up like this!”
She grabbed both of his arms, pulling them down to his sides so he’d leave his hair alone, and then she turned him around to get a better look at Draco’s new feature.
Draco shut his eyes and concentrated on breathing. His spine tingled and a shiver wracked his frame when Pansy’s warm hands touched the base of the wings, right where they attached to his back.
Keeping his eyes closed, he said, “I don’t usually have dreams, not even during everything last year. But last night I dreamed I was dying. There was fire everywhere, and I was burning up in it. I could feel my skin baking and peeling off me. My body was aching as if someone had bludgeoned me with, well, a Bludger. Somehow I knew there was a beast lurking in the flames, and I tried to run away before it found me, but I couldn’t because all my peeled skin had fallen to my feet and melted, gluing me to the ground.”
He took a deep breath, and with it, the tension left his body. “When I woke up, my back ached. I took off my shirt because it was so hot, and there they were.”
As he told his tale, the wings—of their own accord—had folded up against his back, stilling for the first time since he’d awoken.
Pansy stroked them gently, and Draco shuddered, partially in revulsion and partially with pleasure. It was an odd sensation, like touching the inside of his belly button: somewhat ticklish and way too sensitive.
Before he could duck away from her to make her stop, his bedroom door swung open. Draco stared in horror as his mother glanced from him to the wings to Pansy in puzzlement, and then around again as she tried to decipher what she was seeing.
The moment realization hit… she screamed.
Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy sat on the parlor sofa with twin expressions of disgust as Draco recounted his morning so far. Their already fair faces had paled further, giving them a sickly pallor. While Narcissa could not stop staring just above Draco, where the folded wings loomed over his shoulders and head, Lucius coldly averted his gaze, his lips pressed tightly together.
Pansy occupied the armchair closest to the window, but Draco stood in front of the fireplace, the center of attention. He’d tried sitting in the other armchair (and the settee and the ottoman), but the tip of the wings nearly touched the ground, and Draco couldn’t find a dignified way to sit without crushing them underneath him or against the back of the furniture. That was a problem he would have to solve when he was alone.
He gulped at the thought of learning to live like this. Was he already accepting his fate?
Narcissa cleared her throat. “I—I don’t understand. If you didn’t do this to yourself, how did this happen?”
Draco had been asking himself that question all morning, and the fact that his mother didn’t have an answer for him sent a wave of simmering anger through him. He clenched his hands into fists, his fingernails biting into his palms.
“Lucius?” Narcissa said in entreaty.
Draco’s father had not looked at him once since they’d convened in the parlor, and he shook his head now, silent and displeased, his hands grasping the top of his cane so tightly, his knuckles had turned blindingly white.
His mother’s eyes were shiny as if on the verge of tears. “Have you been cursed?”
Draco shook his head. “I don’t see how. I’ve hardly left the manor since….”
Since the Ministry released his family from custody two days after the Battle of Hogwarts.
His heart raced as he remembered that he was supposed to report before the Wizengamot next week for his trial. He couldn’t go like this! He couldn’t go to court looking like a monster. They’d convict him and throw him in Azkaban before he could ever speak a word in his own defence.
“What should we do?” Narcissa was practically pleading now, Draco’s panic expressed in her voice.
“Draco and I will search the library, see if we can find some answers,” Pansy said.
Narcissa nodded slowly. “Yes. Yes, that’s a good idea. Should I contact our Healer?”
“No!” Lucius and Draco said at the same time.
Lucius stood and glared down at his wife. “Are you out of your mind? No one must know about this. And for Salazar’s sake, put some clothes on, boy!”
Pinpricks in Draco’s palm alerted him to his tightening fists as his father swept out of the room, never once looking at Draco. His wings opened and closed in agitation, the membranes—skin—whatever—brushing against his bare back, the backs of his arms, causing goosebumps to rise all over him.
Narcissa’s gaze narrowed at her husband’s back as he departed, her panic waylaid by irritation for just a moment. The moment was enough to calm her down, and she straightened her back, suddenly composed.
“Thank you, Pansy dear. Draco, why don’t you get dressed—the best you can—and I’ll bring breakfast up to the library for you. I’ll—I suppose I’ll make some discreet inquiries where I can.”
Draco and Pansy filed out of the parlor, and as they ascended the stairs to Draco’s room to find something suitable to wear (or to ruin in order to make wearable), a dull throb in Draco’s hand made him unclench his fists.
Blood oozed out of four pin-pricks in his palm. Almost as if his skin had been punctured by teeth.
After two hours in the library, Draco was in a foul mood.
This was the worst birthday in the history of birthdays. Not only had he woken up in a mutated body, but his father wasn’t talking to him, he hadn’t gone out for his birthday breakfast, and no one, neither Pansy nor his parents, had even bothered to wish him a happy birthday, let alone give him a gift.
Somehow Draco had survived the last two years to see his eighteenth birthday, but instead of celebrating all that his family had salvaged from the war, he was trapped in the dusty library searching for answers when he didn’t even understand the question.
His eyes scanned the pages in front of him, looking for keywords like “wings” and “dreams” and “fire,” but his mind kept wandering.
The heat of the fire from his dream the previous night still feverishly rushed through his veins. He could still sense the eyes of the beast lurking in the blaze staring at him, even though it wasn’t possible. Or was it? Had he pulled the beast out of the dream? The panic after waking coursed through him as urgency now, but it wasn’t an urgency to find an answer to the situation. There was something else he had to do. Something that called to him in his dream that continued to call to him outside of slumber.
He wished he knew what the beast’s eyes looked like. If he could picture it, he could also stop it.
No, that didn’t make any sense. It had just been a dream. There hadn’t been a beast at all, and there certainly wasn’t one in the Malfoy library. The only living souls in the room were Pansy and Draco. That thought had the desired effect of dousing the flame under Draco’s skin. At least a little.
He stared at the words on the page, trying to make sense of them, but he was too upset to concentrate.
Shoving the book closed, he said, “Forget it, Pansy. This is a lost cause.”
Pansy looked up from her own book, her eyes glazed with exhaustion. She stood up, the book falling to the ground. “Is it really?”
“Yes!” Draco clutched at his hair. “We’ve been reading for hours, and we haven’t found anything yet. I can’t do this anymore.”
“Hmm,” Pansy hummed as she approached Draco’s table. “So you’re saying you didn’t find a spell to hide or remove the wings?”
“Of course I didn’t! Why would you—”
Draco’s eyes widened as he realized a literal weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He stood up from the stool they’d found to accommodate the wings and twisted his arms to grapple awkwardly behind him.
Pansy ran her hand along Draco’s back, shoulder blade to shoulder blade.
The wings were gone.
“You didn’t notice?” they both said at the same time. “No!”
“If you didn’t get rid of them, and I didn’t get rid of them, then where did they go?” asked Pansy.
Draco shrugged just to luxuriate in the free range of motion. Without the wings, his whole body felt lighter. Strange how he hadn’t noticed their heaviness until they were gone.
They still didn’t have any answers, which was just as well. Maybe this had been a fluke, some random freak accident of magic.
Maybe Draco had tried to pull the beast out of his dream, and the beast had manifested as himself.
Pansy withdrew her wand and waved it through the air, sending all of their books flying back into their correct places on the shelves. “Now that that’s over, you can treat me to lunch.”
“Treat you? But it’s my birthday!”
“Oh was that today?”
“You know I don’t joke about my birthday.”
“What a child you are,” Pansy said while she smiled in affection. She tugged on the robe Draco had thrown over himself (wearing it backwards with the opening behind him to make room for the wings). “Get dressed, and I will treat you to lunch. You’ve had quite the ordeal today, haven’t you?”
“Well now you’re just mocking me,” Draco said with a pout.
Rolling his eyes, Draco left her in the library and made his way back to his room. However, the easiness that had descended upon him at the wings’ disappearance didn’t last. He knew, just as he’d known about the beast lurking within the flames of his dream, that he hadn’t seen the last of his new appendages.
He clenched his fists, the cuts he’d cleaned up earlier stinging in his grasp.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.