AN: I probably should have left this one shot as it was, but when have I ever left well enough alone? This chapter has some macabre humor in it. Please remember Draco is a teenage boy. It's my experience they're always hungry. LOL

Chapter 2: The Rescue

Hermione could feel the flex of Draco's powerful muscles with each downward push of his wings. The air rushed over her body, her braided hair flying behind her like a kite's tail caught in a storm. The full moon had risen and was shining brilliantly, illuminating all below it. Hermione held on tightly to the spiked ridges that ran down the dragon's spine. She was desperately trying to think of a plan for when they got back to the manor.

It would have been helpful to have had a chance to talk strategy before Draco transformed, Hermione thought wryly. I suppose it will be up to me to figure it all out. How convenient for him.

Draco let out a snort of sulphur just then. Hermione jerked in surprise. It was almost as if he had heard her.

But that's nonsense, she assured herself. He's an animal now. There would be no way…..

Draco let out a small roar accompanied by a puff of fire.

Hermione eyed him cautiously.

Can you hear my thoughts?

Draco's answer was another snort, this time accompanied by a strange bleating sound. Hermione paused. She knew dragons were magical creatures and as such had many gifts, but she'd never heard telepathy being one of them. She couldn't help but be impressed.

She mentally tried to reach out with her mind to the beast. All she got at first were murky images. Primal, instinctive desires. The pleasure of flying. A growing sense of hunger. Hermione shivered….she didn't like picking up on that one. Draco let out a rumbling growl.

"Stop that," she kicked his sides with her boots. "You're just trying to scare me."

A gurgling chuckle was his response.

Prat, she thought.

Then she felt another emotion. This one was harder to place. An unrest. A deepening discontent.

What does it mean?

Hermione wished she was better at legilimency. It would definitely make things easier if she could understand the beast she was riding.

It suddenly dawned on her what she'd just thought. A brilliant blush bloomed across her cheeks. She was glad Draco couldn't see her face. But her relief was short-lived.

A squawk left the dragon's mouth. Hermione could have sworn Draco was laughing at her. Her cheeks got even redder. It would seem a dragon's mind operated on a different frequency than a wizard's, but still….she felt that it was somehow still Draco. A touch of his snarky, dry wit was there. She could imagine him rolling his eyes if he'd been in human form. Or worse, winking at her. She heard a raspy burbling and realized he had once again gathered her thoughts and was chuckling at her discomfiture.

Hermione looked straight ahead and refused to think of the dragon below her. For the rest of the ride, she focused her thoughts on the fight that was before them. She could sense once again the discontent she'd earlier felt when she tried to read Draco's mind, but this time it was stronger. It occurred to her that Draco had been following her thoughts. Whatever he'd picked up from her had affected his feelings. They were building. She now recognized it for what it was. It was enmity. Rage.

It was all so clear to her now. Draco was angry with Voldemort. He despised him. Hated him. He hoped his former master would be at the manor, for he longed to have a go at him. She saw blurry images of all the things Draco desired to do. She saw him blasting Voldemort with fire until he was nothing more than charred bits; of seeing Draco trample the Dark Lord's resurrected body until it was a jellied mass.

She sucked in a breath. Draco's lust for revenge was terrifying. He let out a roar after they'd flown over a hill and saw Malfoy Manor on the horizon, a dark citadel casting shadows in the moonlight.

"Steady now," she murmured as she leaned lower toward his back. "Don't announce us like that. We can use the element of surprise to our advantage."

She heard a growl, but thankfully Draco didn't roar again. Once they had crossed onto Malfoy property, he started circling, bringing them lower and lower to the earth. She realized he was aiming toward the glass roof of their conservatory.

Hermione had a moment of panic. You may have dragon armour, but I don't! I'll be cut to ribbons if you fly us through that!

She heard the beast beneath her let out a huff. As soon as he was close enough, he raised his tail, then gave it a powerful downward swipe. The roof crumbled, panes of glass falling everywhere. Draco let out a roar that shattered the nearby windows.

So much for the element of surprise, thought Hermione. Apparently, stealth was not the modus operandi of a dragon.

She watched, astonished, as a surge of fire left his mouth. Before them, a section of the manor burst into flames.

Draco was setting his childhood home ablaze?

Once they'd touched ground, Draco lowered himself for Hermione to slide off. And it was just in time, too.

From an opening in the wall, Death Eaters began to pour out. Hermione gripped her wand tightly. But Draco had other ideas. Using his tail, he pushed her behind him while at the same time projecting an image in her mind. Hermione saw an oeil de boeuf on the western side of the house. Unusually placed, it was barely a meter from the ground. She saw herself casting a hex on the small oval window and shimmying through it. Inside, she saw a staircase that led down to…..the basement. That must be where Harry and Ron were! Draco had given her a vision. She now knew what he wanted her to do. Scampering off, she went to free her friends while Draco made toast of the men who had come out to battle with him.

Once she had gotten inside, Hermione ran down the stairs to find a large wooden door that had been magically bolted. Using a counter-charm, she released the bolt and cautiously began to open it. A large male hand grabbed her from the other side. It was Ron.

"Oof! Get off…." she squealed, though Ron's arm muffled the sound of her voice. He quickly let go after seeing who it was.

"Sorry, 'Mione…..I thought you were Bellatrix," he explained shamefacedly. Then it came to him that his friend was free. "Hold on… were you able to escape?"

"No time for that now," she said hurriedly. "We've got to get out of here and go back to where Draco is."

"Draco? That murderous ferret? What's he got to do with this?"

Hermione shook her head. "You don't understand, and I don't have time for explanations. I'll tell you later. Harry?"

Her other friend had been kneeling on the ground, his back to the door the whole time. He turned around to the sound of his name. When he did, Hermione saw what he'd been doing. Lucius Malfoy lay on the floor in a crumpled heap. Harry's hands were red with the other man's blood.

"Hermione…..please. Help me," he begged. "We don't have our wands…..I….I can't get the bleeding to stop."

A small sound of sympathy left the witch. She went over and knelt by Harry. Using her wand, she began to stitch the wounds together. She'd never seen so many cuts before on a person.

"They look like they used him for target practice," she muttered.

"Wouldn't doubt it if they had," agreed Ron, who had joined them. "But why? That's what I don't understand."

Hermione cringed. She understood all too well. Lucius had paid the price for her escape. A tear trickled down her face.

Holding Lucius' head on her lap was Luna. "Will he live?" she asked.

"I hope so." Hermione prayed Draco wouldn't have to suffer the loss of his father. She didn't want to imagine his wrath if that were to happen. For the next several minutes she worked on the older wizard. When she was finally done, she felt spent, her magic having been temporarily used up in the many healing spells.

"Are you strong enough to leave?" Ron asked her.

Hermione nodded. "I think so."

Ron and Harry together gently lifted Lucius off the floor. Nearby, Luna helped Mr. Ollivander up from where he sat. No one knew what had happened to the goblin. Once outside the wards of the basement, they apparated outside where a gruesome scene awaited them. Draco must have become bored with merely roasting the snatchers and Death Eaters who had come out to fight him. To amuse himself and to satisfy his bloodlust, he'd bitten several of the heads off his victims and had used his tail as a bat to swat the charred and blackened heads all over the yard much like one would tennis balls. Hermione could only be thankful it was night so they wouldn't have a more graphic image planted in their minds. That said, she couldn't help but notice there were more heads than bodies. Apparently, he had also taken care of his hunger. He had just finished off Fenrir Greyback when he saw Hermione with the others. He let out a roar of welcome.

The group before him, with the exception of Hermione, froze in fear.

"Bloody hell," Ron breathed.

"I think it might have gotten Malfoy," Harry whispered. "I don't see him anywhere, 'Mione."

She looked at her two best friends, a smile on her face. "That is Draco, boys."

"Huh?" Ron looked completely gobsmacked. Lucius opened his eyes at Hermione's words.

"Son," he whispered.

Draco's dragon eyes zeroed in on the wizard who looked so strangely familiar. With his giant nostrils, he sniffed the air to get an identifying scent of the man. The comforting smell of kin met him at first, but then a strong aroma of the man's blood hit Draco full in the snout. He hissed, sparks of embers flying dangerously close to the group. Draco was angry again. That man belonged to him. And someone had hurt him. They would pay. His elongated eyes searched the ground. Then he heard a scream.

While everyone else's eyes had been riveted on Draco, Bellatrix had been watching from a hiding place behind the hedge. She had seen her chance and had quietly crept up from behind to grab Luna by the throat while accioing Hermione's wand from her back pocket.

"Thought you could best me?" she mocked the teens who had whirled around at the sound of Luna's cry. "Poor baby Potter. Yes, I can see who you are now. What a bad day you're having. First you get captured. Then you escape, only to be met by a dragon."

"Better a dragon than your master, witch," Ron growled. "You better run before you meet the same fate your friends did."

Bellatrix smiled, the sight of her ruined teeth making Ron want to gag. "Now there's a thought, however it came out of your blood traitor head," she said. "I think I will call my Master. Then we'll see if you still think a dragon is a better fate."

"No! Don't!" Ron shouted as he made a move to rush her.

"Ron! She'll kill you!" Hermione screamed.

Hermione's yell saved Ron's life. The dark had hidden her identity from Bellatrix, but the witch knew that scream. It had momentarily distracted her from avada'ing the redhead. "You! What have you done with my sister? How did you get her wand? Answer me, Filth, or this girl will pay for it!"

She gave Luna's throat a painful squeeze.

"Run…..Mione," Luna gasped.

Hermione looked up at Draco. Help us, she thought as hard as she could. Mentally projecting an image of Bellatrix in her mind, she thought, she is an enemy, a follower of Voldemort. She hurt me.

Already livid at Lucius' hurt condition, Hermione's thoughts pushed Draco over the edge. Rising on his hindquarters, he bellowed out his fury. With a speed that was surprising for one with his mass, he jumped forward and snapped Bellatrix in his jaws, giving her a hard shake as he did so. Luna fell back down to the ground while Bellatrix writhed in agony, caught cruelly in the dragon's jaws. Draco clamped down harder and harder; Bellatrix shrieked and wailed, impaled by the beast's razor-sharp teeth. Draco growled and gnashed his teeth. He transferred his hate of the dark lord to the witch in his clutches. Hermione winced at the sound of Bellatrix's bones snapping. A minute later, there was silence. Bellatrix hung like a limp rag doll. Draco snarled, whipping his head back and forth, aggravated that the nasty-tasting witch had escaped further suffering. Finally, he flung his aunt's lifeless body against the manor's stone wall where it splattered sickeningly. Rising once more on his hindquarters, he let out a blast of fire and incinerated her lifeless body.

"Blimey," whispered Ron. "Reckon she got told."

The dragon now turned his sights on the ones left. Kneeling, he lowered his body to the ground.

"Come on," ordered Hermione. "Everyone get on Draco. He'll fly us back to safety."

Once they had secured Lucius, the rest of the party found a place on the dragon's back. Draco lifted off and began his flight back to the warded castle.

You did well, Draco, Hermione thought as she gave him an encouraging pat on his back. She could feel a rumble beneath her. Draco was purring. A feeling of self-indulgent smugness entered her mind. She began to giggle. Even as a dragon, Draco preened.

"Say...we have time now. Why don't you tell us how this happened?" Ron asked Hermione while pointing at Draco.

"Yeah….and why he's helping us," Harry added.

So she did. While they flew, she told them all that had transpired; her torture, her rescue by Narcissa, the ring….her dreams….the prophecy. After she told them of how she'd summoned the beast within Draco, they all realized they'd quit moving. They'd been so caught up in conversation, they hadn't noticed Draco slowing down to land. They had made it back to the ruined castle.

Tumbling off his back, Harry and Ron watched as Hermione reached up to pat Draco's snout. His long lizard tongue came out to lick her hand and the ring that rested upon it.

"Ew, 'Mione," Ron said, his face scrunched up in revulsion, "that's just gross. Think of what's been in his mouth. Go wash your hand."

"Shush," she murmured, not bothering to turn around to address her friend. Speaking softly, she once more commanded Draco, "You did it. You saved them. You can turn back now."

This time, the ring shot out a spray of sparkling diamonds that hovered over Draco, forming a miniature version of his constellation.

She stepped back as soon as she saw the diamonds take on the shape of shimmering bubbles. Soon they began to pop. She watched, transfixed. It wasn't so much that the liquid from the bubbles changed Draco; rather, it was more like watching him peel. Layers and chunks of dragon began to dissolve from him until soon, all that was left was Draco. Minus his clothes.

"Mercy," Hermione gasped, then covered her eyes. Harry and Ron began to laugh.

"I agree 'Mione...he is scarier this way," chortled Ron. "Scrawny git, you're hurting my eyes looking at you."

Luna was kinder and wandlessly transfigured her jacket into a pair of trousers for the exposed teen.

"Here you go," she said as she tossed the garment to him. "Pity though, that it was dark when this happened."

"Luna!" Hermione turned around, shocked. Luna gave her a mild look.

"Oh. I see. You're going to pretend you didn't enjoy it."

Hermione turned back around, her face scarlet. Thankfully Draco now had something on.

"Help me get my father to my mother," he instructed Ron and Harry. To the others, he said, "Let's get inside. It's cold out here."

"As soon as we get your father settled, I'll ask your mother for some other clothes for you," Hermione offered.

Draco shook his head. "I need a potion for nausea first. Those snatchers aren't agreeing with me."

Hermione stopped dead in her tracks, her mouth gaped open.

"Oh, and I could use some mouthwash, too," Draco added. "Aunt Bella left the worst taste in my mouth."

Hermione couldn't help it. She started laughing.

Draco gave her a cheeky wink.

No appearance of Voldy this time. But it's for the best. Draco's blasting him with fire before he chowed down on him wouldn't have ended things. And besides...he would probably taste awful. That ghoulish body just looks so unappetizing, doesn't it? And Nagini as a garnish wouldn't help. LOL *blech*