Harry wakes in the Netherworld, and Gnarl enlightens him.
As Harry regained consciousness, the first think he noticed was pain. Aching pain all over his body. While this was troubling – pain was, after all, not a pleasurable experience – it did give Harry a certain measure of reassurance. Dead people didn't feel pain, after all; that particular torture was reserved for those still among the living.
Satisfied he was alive, Harry also wanted to make sure that he was more than just a head. He took a breath, and his chest hurt like hell as a result. At least I still have a torso, thought Harry. Next he tried moving his right thumb. Yup, pain there too. Same with his left. Harry continued this painful inventory of his body until he was convinced he was completely whole. In pain, certainly, but he was still in one piece.
However, this also brought up the question of where exactly Harry was. He felt soft cushioning under his body, which he thought was surprising considering he had been in an alleyway before... whatever happened, had happened. It was also quite wark, as if he was sleeping near a fireplace, although quite a bit hotter. Actually, a more appropriate simile would be that it felt as if he were sleeping near a furnace. He tried opening his eyes, but closed them immediately. The light attacked his neglected retinas, causing another spasm of pain to shoot through his body, and he moaned in agony.
After Harry's nerves settled down, he noticed a plethora of sounds that had previously ignored. Understandable, considering the pain he was in, but now he could distinctly hear the mutterings and scurrying of small creatures. Suddenly, Harry began to panic. What if he had been captured by Death Eaters and was now deep within the lair of Voldemort himself? If this was the case, he could honestly say he was screwed. With the mild adrenaline rush that resulted from this frightening revelation, Harry pushed himself up into a sitting position and forced himself to open his eyes, able to push the pain aside for the moment. What he saw was definitely not what he had expected.
Rather than a dungeon cell, Harry found himself inside a very ornate bedroom. It appeared to be carved straight out of stone and rather devoid of decoration, as well as crumbling away in certain parts; despite the state of disrepair, Harry could tell this room was originally quite beautiful. The only part of the room not carved straight from the rock was where he had been laying, a rather nice-looking bed, blood-red in colour, but also moth-eaten from neglect. Nothing could prepare Harry for what he saw when he looked down past the bed, though.
Standing no less than five feet away from him were a half a dozen of the strangest creatures he had ever seen. As they crowded towards Harry with the occasional utterance of "Mastah?" or "Oooh!" he thought that in the magical world, the closest comparison he could make was that they looked like the result of breeding between house-elves and goblins. They were about 3 feet tall, brown, and skinny. The majority of them wore nothing but ratty loincloths, but a few also had leather chestplates. Upon closer inspection, he noticed they all sported scars all over their bodies, or had parts missing – one of the creatures was missing an ear, another an eye, one was even missing an entire hand – so they were obviously not creatures of peace.
Needless to say, these tiny creatures freaked Harry out.
Before he could make any effort to escape from the ugly goblin/elf creatures, another one of them pushed through the crowd and neared Harry, who pushed himself further back onto the bed. He had to give up his escape attempt, however, when another flash of pain passed through his exhausted limbs.
"Calm yourself, Master, I am not here to hurt you. My name is Gnarl, minion master and devoted servant of darkness." The creature, Gnarl, bowed his head slightly in Harry's direction, who took the opportunity to look it over more carefully. Like the other creatures, Gnarl looked like the love child of a goblin and a house-elf who had had one too many Butterbeers at a party. Unlike them, however, this creature was gray, and significantly older, if the excessive wrinkles and white hair was anything to go by. He was fully clothed and was holding on to some sort of staff with a lantern on the end.
Harry was still unable to really move, but he was still unsure of the creature's intentions. This gray thing had called him "Master," but he also said he was a devoted servant of darkness. If Harry knew anything, it was that anything related to evil and darkness usually wanted him dead. Not to mention that, while the creatures were creepy, they didn't strike him as particularly dark. Therefore, he was understandably confused. "You seem a bit short to be evil." The brown creatures behind the gray one laughed raucously at Harry's jibe.
The "Gnarl," or whatever it was, took the insult in stride however, and continued onward. "True, Master, I may not look very evil, but trust me when I say I come from advising a long line of Evil people, most of them you have probably heard of. We minions have always been at the side of the most Evil of evildoers through the course of history, to whom we refer as the Overlords!"
Of course, this sent another rush of fear through Harry. Obviously, if these "minions" or whatever they were served Evil and evildoers, that must mean they worked for Voldemort! He was the only evil person Harry knew of, and you didn't get much more evil than Voldemort. "So, what then? Are you just holding me until Voldemort can come here and finish me off himself?"
The gray minion narrowed its eyes at Harry, as if he was missing something very obvious. Luckily for Harry, Gnarl decided to point the obvious in an obvious manner. "I should have thought it clear already, Master. The new Overlord we serve, our new Master...
Meanwhile, Luna and Hermione had just Apparated to Little Whinging and were now in the process of examining the obsidian-like stone that stood for no apparent reason in the corner of the small playground near the explosion.
So far, they hadn't gotten anything out of it.
After she discerned that the rock was indeed of magical origin, Hermione had tried every spell she knew on the rock to force it to reveal its secrets. But no matter what she did, the stone refused to yield. She had even resorted to Muggle methods at one point, (In other words, kicked it really hard) but still the rock defied her. Luna wasn't being much of a help either. For the most part she just sat on a nearby fence, occasionally shouting encouragement when Hermione had a tantrum and beat the rock with her hands, but other than that, she sipped on a Butterbeer and watched Hermione's antics.
After thirty minutes of spells, enchantments, kicks, and the sporadic swear word, Luna slid off the fence and walked up to the sweaty, panting Hermione. "I'm sorry, Hermione, it seems as though the rock doesn't like you very much. Maybe if you asked it nicely, it'll do something?"
Hermione scoffed at the idea. "Really, Luna? You think that asking a rock to tell me what happened to Harry will work? Alright, fine then, I'll try it." Hermione stomped up to the impertinent rock, then shouted, "HEY! MR. ROCK! SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, BUT I WAS WONDERING PERHAPS IF YOU COULD TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY?"
The stone remained silent.
"That was a very good effort," commented Luna. "But I really don't think that'll work. It is a rock, after all, not a living organism." Still in her dreamy voice, she added, "You should be able to tell when I'm being facetious or not, Hermione, we've only known each other for two years. Besides, I think your outburst has scarred those children," pointing to a couple of young boys fleeing in terror from the screaming brunette.
Hermione's right eye began twitching uncontrollably, and Luna patted her on the back. "Perhaps we should call it a day, Hermione? I doubt the interrogation of your rock will yield any more evidence for now." Hermione hung her head, sighed, then nodded in resignation. The two of them stood up, Luna dusting off her nightclothes, and made their way back to the designated Apparition spot. Just before they twisted back to Luna's house, Luna glanced back to make sure the pyramid-like artefact was still in place near the rock, and then they were gone.
Well, there it is folks. I think this chapter is a little longer than the last, but still short. Anyway, as always, reviews are appreciated. I also would love to hear any Omakes you guys can come up with. If they're good, I'll add them on. It's win-win, anyway, you get a little literary credit, and my word count goes up. Butterbeers all around!