By Jelsemium/ Jill Weber
For Jedi-won ;-)
I suggest you read part one first. :-)
Now Hermione was in her element… the Library. The Gryffindors plus Luna had descended on the Restricted Section like the Ride of the Valkyries. Any objections Madam Pince might have harbored died quickly at Professor McGonagall’s severe expression.
“Here!” Hermione said with grim satisfaction. “The Stealers of Children… they favor orphans, especially orphans with no siblings. They go by many names, and are one of the few creatures who are dangerous to name, as their name will draw their attention to you.”
“Their name being?” Ginny asked.
“Starts with ‘T’,” Luna said, not at all dreamily. “Second letter is ‘R’.”
“Ends in ‘ow,’” Neville added.
“Don’t say it,” Luna added. “We don’t want them to know that we’re on to them. Call them Hop-gobblers, or Grey People of the Forest,”
“Or Moss Men,” Neville added.
“How can we defeat them?” Ginny asked.
“We can’t, Miss Granger,” Prof. McGonagall said. “They are far too powerful for us to fight them.”
“Then we have to trick them,” Ron said. “Suggestions?”
“Tam Lin,” Hermione said. “Burd Janet was said to have rescued him from Faery by grabbing him and holding on to him while he went through a series of frightening transformations.”
Much to her surprise, Luna nodded in agreement. “The rescue will have to be in three stages… First, get him from the Hop-Gobblers.”
“Second, survive the transformations?” Ginny asked.
“What’s the last step?” Neville asked.
“Escape the Hoppers ourselves,” Ron said dryly.
“That might be a bit tricky,” Luna said mildly.
“According to folk-lore,” Hermione said worriedly. “Once we have Harry, the Hop-Gobblers should have to leave us alone.”
“Much as it pains me to admit it, Miss Granger,” Prof. McGonagall said. “You can’t believe everything you read.”
“Wait,” Ginny said. “Isn’t the first step finding Harry?”
“We will need to wait at the crossroads,” Prof. McGonagall said gravely. “A procession of riders will pass, Harry will be among them. One of us will have to grab him from his steed and hold on to him while he transforms.”
“Us?” Hermione asked in astonishment.
“Us,” Prof. McGonagall said firmly. “I know better than to try to leave any of you behind.”
“Yes, professor,” the students murmured.
“We still have to determine exactly where the crossroads will be,” Neville said. “According to these books, this won’t be an intersection between two regular roads. One of the roads will be a fairy road… Meaning, it will only appear on Hallowe’en.”
“Like I said,” Ginny put in. “Step one is finding Harry.”
“There has to be a hint in here, somewhere,” Hermione said, gesturing at the book stacks. “All we have to do is find the right page.”
“This could take a while,” Ron said.
They couldn’t spend all day in the library, much as they wanted to. There was the very real possibility that someone at Hogwarts could inform the Hop-Gobblers that their deception had been discovered. They still didn’t know who had betrayed Harry to the Hop-Gobblers to begin with.
The story that was Harry had fallen victim to an unknown curse. No one was surprised when his friends started spending all their spare time in the library. The Slytherins had a field day with the situation.
“So, how’s Potty doing today?” Draco Malfoy jeered as the red-eyed Gryffindors filed into Potions.
Ron snarled at him.
“Five points from Gryffindor for discourtesy,” sneered Snape.
Those weren’t the only points that Gryffindor lost during that class. Thirty more points disappeared when Neville’s headache potion gave Snape a migraine.
Late in October, Ron gave up on the library and decided to try another possible source of information, their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.
“Professor Firenze? Can I talk to you after class?” Ron asked.
The blond centaur gave Ron a curious look. “Certainly,” he said.
After class, Hermione went on to the library, and Ron came straight to the point. “Do you know anything about the Grey People of the Forest?”
“Taker of Foals,” sapphire eyes narrowed. “This is beyond you, Ronald Weasley. I suggest you leave them alone, lest you attract their attention.”
“They have Harry.”
Prof. Firenze’s eyes widened. “This is the ‘curse’ that Harry Potter has suffered under since September?”
“Yeah, only he’s not suffering here. It was a stock that collapsed at Hermione’s birthday party. It turned back into bark and leaves.”
“Yes,” Ron cocked his head. “Why?”
“Those twigs may be the key to finding Potter,” Prof. Firenze said. “Do you know how to make a dowsing rod?”
“I will if you teach me,” Ron replied.
“Then meet me here after dinner,” Prof. Firenze said.
“This dowsing rod will lead us to the Fairy Path,” Ron told the others.
“Great,” Ginny said. “Now we need to find the human path that will intersect with it.”
“I have an idea,” Neville said. “If Firenze knew about the Crossroads, then maybe Hagrid will, too.”
“There’s not much that happens in the forest that Hagrid doesn’t know about,” Hermione agreed.
“Well, what are we waiting for?”
Ginny and Luna were the next to have Care of Magical Creatures. After class, they volunteered to help Hagrid clean up after the Great Spotted Beeblebrox.
“Sorry abou’ the smell,” Hagrid said apologetically. “He got a little over-excited at the sight of … of…”
“All those fifth-year appetizers?” Ginny asked dryly. She rubbed at the sucker marks on her arms.
“Erm, well, so… what can I do ter repay yeh?” Hagrid’s rather clumsy attempt to change the subject fit right into Ginny’s plan.
“Where are the Crossroads in the forest?” Ginny asked.
“The… I dunno what yer talkin’ abou’,” Hagrid said uneasily.
“The Crossroads in the forest where the fairy path will intersect with a mortal path so the Hop-Gobblers can process to their altar and sacrifice to their deities,” Luna said grimly.
Luna’s uncharacteristic behavior shocked Hagrid into blurting – “Yeh don’ want ter get involved with them sort!” He wrung his oversized hands. “They’re dangerous! Yeh don’ know…”
“They’ve got Harry,” Ginny said flatly.
“I’ll draw yeh a map,” Hagrid finished.