Harry gets a nasty little wake-up call from some Gnomes.
Chapter 7 - Of Gnomes and Weddings
Harry stared at the point in the mist where Bane had vanished. Is this how people will see me from now on? He thought. As nothing but an evil creature?
"Not to interrupt your reverie, Master," Gnarl grumbled, "But we really should get going. Forget about that pony and concentrate on the task at hand." Harry shook his head to clear the cobwebs from his mind, and then noticed with morbid amusement that one of his Minions had placed the head of the dead Acromantula on its own head. "Your Minions will automatically take anything useful, or not so useful, they find on the field and use it as weapons and armour, making your horde stronger. I remember when I was a Minion out on the field, ah, the things I put on my head."
Harry nodded, then turned back to the path just in time to notice a small creature stumble across the path. "Ah, gnomes, sire!" Unlike the gnomes he had encountered at the Burrow, these gnomes more resembled the story-like vision, with a scraggly beard, tiny clothes, and even a pointy hat. It was so small, though, that Harry was sure that it was no bigger than his own booted foot.
"The gnomes have had a blood feud with the Overlord for centuries, sire. You must eliminate them like they deserve!"
Harry was appalled by Gnarl's suggestion. "Eliminate them? Gnarl, those gnomes couldn't possibly be any threat to me. Even a gnome twice that size could only give me a small bite on the finger." He watched the gnome hop up and down in excitement while the Minions eyed it hungrily.
"Don't be deceived, Master, they're more vicious than they look and too smart for their own good. Not to mention they breed faster than bugs, and are significantly less cuddly. What I wouldn't give for a can of Gnome-B-Gone." Harry sighed exasperatedly as the gnome started running down the path. "Quickly, follow it! You'll change your mind soon enough."
"Highly doubtful, Gnarl," but Harry ran after the gnome anyway, seeing as he was headed that direction in the first place. Before long, Harry found himself in a small clearing where the fog had dissipated to the point where it was possible to see for quite a distance. Here, Harry saw the small gnome jump into an equally small hole, before popping its head out again to stare curiously at Harry. Harry chuckled, moving closer to the gnome hole as a couple more popped up with the first gnome to gaze at Harry.
"Be careful, Sire. Gnomes can be crafty."
"Nonsense, Gnarl." Harry squatted down to get a closer look at the gnomes in front of him. As he stared at them, and they stared at him, Harry could only think of how silly Gnarl was being. These little beings couldn't possibly hurt me, even if they tried. He reached down to pick up the gnome closest to him, intent on examining it more closely.
That was about the time that all hell broke loose – figuratively of course.
With a vicious growl, the three gnomes jumped faster than Harry could track, headbutting him with such force that he fell backwards. The gnomes jumped up and down on his dazed form, his ego hurt more than his body. Harry's minions swept the gnomes off of his body, allowing him to get back up just in time to see a veritable swarm of the miniature fiends make their way out of the hole.
"I did warn you, Master," Gnarl said. Harry could almost hear the smug look on his face. He wasn't worried, though; there may have been a lot of the gnomes, but he could tell that they were no threat to him and his Minions. They were a nuisance at worst, and Harry was really more than ready to walk by them and leave them be. That was, until Harry noticed out of the corner of his eye that some of the gnomes were on fire. Before he could make sense of this, one of the flaming gnomes jumped onto Harry, clinging to his armour for dear life, seconds before the thing exploded on him, actually managing to hurt him, and causing him to fall on his back for the second time in as many minutes.
By now, Harry was rather frustrated with the entire predicament, which was just too silly to seem plausible. He was getting beaten up by a bunch of creatures no bigger than his own foot, and it had to stop. Harry commanded his Minions to intercept the horde of gnomes that was bouncing its way toward their Overlord, and they jumped to their task with eager cries of joy and malice. Grunting, Harry pushed himself back up to his feet, and watched as his Minions made quick work of the group of gnomes, yielding a rich harvest of brown Lifeforce that Harry's gauntlet absorbed. The Minions also looted the corpses, finding a rather large amount of gold on them, and even wearing their tiny hats as souvenirs of their battle.
"Ah, well done, Master!" Gnarl crooned in Harry's ear. "With this much Lifeforce, we should be able to start work on making your Dark Tower more presentable to a person of such esteemed Evil as yourself."
Harry bristled at Gnarl's words. "I told you before, Gnarl, I'm not Evil. Keep it up and you'll be without a Master soon enough." As he finished speaking, he coughed rather violently.
"It seems you took some damage during that last fight, Master." Gnarl seemed keen on ignoring Harry's last sentence. "Look around and see if there are any boxes nearby. Boxes tend to hold interesting things in them, like health potions, or weapons for your Minions. There's nothing Minions like more than breaking things. Apart from killing things, of course."
Noticing a conveniently placed pile of boxes in the corner of the clearing, Harry sent his Minions to open them, which they did – albeit more violently than Harry would've imagined. True to Gnarl's word, the boxes yielded a few swords that the stronger Minions happily exchanged for their clubs, and a red-coloured potion that was quickly brought to Harry. He downed the potion in a hurry, eager for his pain to be relieved. It reminded him of a pepper-up potion, but without the unpleasant side-effect of looking like your head was on fire. "Gnarl, why are there boxes out here in the middle of nowhere?"
"I don't know, Sire, I assume they were placed here by the natives. Regardless, it's back to the path! We need to find those Reds.
Meanwhile, the mood at the Burrow was rather solemn. Ron sat in the den, throwing a Quaffle up and down, unsure of what to do with himself, Mrs. Weasley was fretting over Harry's whereabouts while planning for the upcoming wedding, and Hermione was upstairs in Ginny's room, trying not to cry at the thought of what could be happening to her best friend. Sitting with her was Ginny, who seemed to be the calmest person in the house.
"It's going to be fine, Hermione. Harry has been through worse things before."
Hermione agreed with Ginny on the inside, but part of her could not help but worry about him. "I know, Ginny, but what if he's in over his head this time? He has this wonderful knack for getting in trouble, in case you hadn't noticed."
"And he gets out of trouble every time," Ginny said. "He's the Boy-Who-Lived, the Chosen One. He's practically invincible."
Hermione glared at Ginny. "How can you be so careless, Ginny? You know better than anyone that Harry is just as prone to death as anyone else. For someone who dated Harry for more than a month, you don't seem all too phased by the fact that he might be in serious trouble!"
At this, Ginny had the decency to look flustered, but she pushed forward. "I just know that he's fine, Hermione. "
Hermione sighed. "You're right, Ginny, I know he's alright too. But he's been my best friend for six years now. I can't help but worry about him."
Ginny let out a dazzling smile. "You're absolutely right, Hermione. And when he gets back here, I plan to bring him into my room and show him just how grateful I am that he's alive."
Looking puzzled, Hermione asked, "But didn't he break up with you at Dumbledore's funeral?"
"He did, but that doesn't mean I can't try to snog him until he comes back to his senses." Ginny laughed lightheartedly as Hermione gave a half-hearted chuckle, trying to suppress the queer feeling that rose up within her – something that had been happening a lot for the last two months whenever Harry found his way into her thoughts. "C'mon, let's go back downstairs, I'm sure that Mum has more work for us to do."
Hermione groaned as Ginny giggled, running out the door of her room, and they plunged once more into the insanity of wedding preparations.
Well, my dear readers, there you have it. And once again, I have a request for you all. After a certain point in the story, I was debating making the fic almost interactive at certain points, allowing you to decide some of the more significant decisions Harry will end up making as he becomes more Evil. For example, whether he chooses to kill or enslave a leader, etc. I would of course have final decision, but it might be a fun exercise to attempt. Anyway, please review, I'm desperate for some love from my fans, and I'll see you next time.