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Chapter 1: The Things He Knew
Disclamer: Everything you recognize is J.K. Rowling's.
Growing up as the only child, a Pureblood heir, was far from easy. All his life, there have been precious few decisions he has made on his own. His life has been decided for him.
He knows at the age of six that he will be a Slytherin when he goes to Hogwarts in five years, because this is what is expected of him. To be anything else would bring dishonor not only onto him but his family.
He knows at the age of ten that he will have to marry a respectable Pureblood woman of his parents’ choosing, someone who would advance his family closer to the top of the complicated pyramid of Pureblood society, someone who would be demure and quiet and polite.
He knows at the age of eleven that he will always be loyal to Slytherin House, because without them he is nothing.
He knows at the age of twelve that he will never be a leader and that he is forever destined to be a follower, as he struggles with his work, watching the others fly past him.
He knows at the age of thirteen that this will be all right with him, as long as he has someone to follow and to protect him.
He knows at the age of sixteen two things from a letter from his normally detached parents.
One, that he will marry Eleanora Nott. Eleanora is like him: a follower, not a leader; the one that stands in the shadows as her best friend shines triumphantly, the beauty of Slytherin House. They are suited for each other, him and Eleanora: they understand each other, even if love is not present just yet.
Two, that he will join in the fight to protect the purity of blood. It is the conversation spoken nightly in the common room now, one that he and his roommate listen into, but always on the edge, never speaking, only listening. Lucius Malfoy is the answer to the second of his parents’ demands. It is when he is struggling on his Defense essay in the common room, long after most have gone to sleep.
“I see you every night, listening as we talk about the future,” he starts off. “Tell me this - do you believe in keeping the blood of the Wizarding world clean?”
He sees an opportunity and he takes it. “Of course.”
“Would you fight for it?” Lucius wants to know, and in this moment, he understands several things. In this moment, there is a choice. He can say no and live in safe anonymity, but bring shame to his family name compared to the brave actions of those like Lucius and Evan Rosier and Antonin Dolohov. Or he can agree, say yes, protect what he knows to be true and right, and have a chance to finally be the hero.
There never really was a choice.
“To the death,” he replies, and as he goes to follow Lucius, he starts to roll up his essay, but is stopped.
“Don’t,” Lucius says, and he doesn’t. “You won’t need it soon, if you know what I mean.”
He puts the essay down.
He follows Lucius down the hall towards an abandoned classroom, full of his fellow Slytherins: he recognizes Antonin Dolohov and Evan Rosier and Rodolphus Lestrange and Regulus Black and even Callum Goyle, his roommate, and as the door closes behind him and they begin to speak, he knows that this is it.
His new life will now begin.
Two weeks before they graduate, he asks for Eleanora’s hand in marriage. After her father agrees, he proposes to her. She accepts, of course, and wears the silver diamond and emerald ring on her finger happily enough.
Of course, Narcissa Black has been wearing one of her own - with diamonds so large they border on obscene - for over a month now, Lucius having already proposed. Still, she displays the correct amount of pleasure at her friend’s future.
There are plans made for the wedding, far away. This is how the Pureblood life works. One finds a wife, courts her for a year or two, and then proposes, which leads into a long, stretching engagement of at least a year and a half, before you are married and are expected to produce offspring. The two push thoughts of marriage away - it is not something that seventh years are supposed to think about.
They graduate: him and Eleanora and Callum and Narcissa. It is unremarkable.
He is not one of the chosen ones: not one of those who join the Dark Lord immediately after school, not like Lucius and Evan.
But he never has been.
Instead he works hard, does what he is asks, and listens closely.
He knows at nineteen that he is accepted. When he finally becomes as a Death Eater - the words, even now, make him shake a little - his family could not be more proud. Finally, he is bringing honor to the family name. Eleanora smiles and him and kisses him gently on the cheek. She is proud of him, she says, and is glad that she will be marrying him.
He knows at the age of nineteen and a half that he loves Eleanora, as she walks down the aisle and her hand is placed in his and they say their vows.
He knows at the age of twenty-one what true love really is as he holds his son in his arms, Eleanora lying there, exhausted. He holds his boy in his arms and looks at him and makes a promise that his son will never be forced to fight for what is right - no, he will do it for him.
He knows at the age of twenty-two that if he wants to survive, he must - for the moment, at least - let go of the ideals he has held to so tightly, at least to the public, as the Purebloods frantically try to find out what happened, what happened. All he knows is that the Dark Lord is gone, and they say a halfblood boy has defeated him. All he knows is that he prays that his son will never, ever have to know this turmoil.
He knows at the age of thirty-five that it is starting again. And once again, the realization hits him: he has pledged his life. Once you are in, there is no way out.
He knows at the age of forty that he will never be pardoned for his crimes. He is guilty, he knows this; he will go to Azkaban. He is not like Malfoy. He will not squirm out of it, trying to weasel his way out.
He sits, calmly, in the Ministry outside of the courtroom, guarded closely. He does not attempt to talk, does not scowl or whimper - no, he sits there and accepts it.
While he sits, he thinks. Of everything.
He thinks of Lucius Malfoy: the man who led him into this. He does not blame him. He could have made a choice, after all - he could have lived as an outcast.
He thinks of the people he killed, too many to count, and the many more that he tortured. They were of impure blood, or Muggles - and he made their lives hell. He would be sent to hell, he was certain of it.
So be it.
He thinks of Eleanora. Eleanora - his beautiful, smart wife. Sometime, as the years melted into one another, he fell in love with her. He fell in love with her and she fell in love with him and it was everything it was supposed to be. Now he was losing her.
He thinks of his son. His son. He regrets that his son had begun to follow the same path as he himself had. But he is safe now. The war is over. They have lost. But perhaps - perhaps it is a victory, if his son can be safe and grow up and marry and have children. Life will go on. He only hopes that his child will not think too poorly of him.
In the end, if he could go back in time, would he change anything? If - if he had not spoken to Lucius that day, would he have been able to marry Eleanora? Would his son be born? Would Darian Joyce and Alison Fitzgerald, ordinary Muggles and Mudbloods, be dead along with the others - the many others whom he has forgotten the names of?
What if, what if, what if?
Life is not like one of those choose-your-own adventure books he found once in the home of a Muggle he killed. There is no simple answer, no obvious “If I had done that, this would be different”.
He has sinned. All he can do now is pray that his son will be redeemed. Do not let the son bear the sins of the father. It is not too late, not like it is for him.
Murder is murder, he knows, and he has murdered. He has murdered and tortured over and over again.
The last thought he has before he is ushered into the courtroom is of a boy, not his own. It is of the very person who could be, in many ways, seen to have brought him here today. And not his dead master - no, Harry Potter.
But her bears no venom towards him. Instead, he closes his eyes and nods his head. Bravo, Harry Potter, he thinks, for being stronger than I ever could.
For true bravery lies in the person who stands for what they believe is right. That was all he ever did. But true chivalry lies in the man who can conceed his rightful defeat.
“Gregory Goyle, Sr.,” a man calls from inside, and Gregory stands up straight, walks into the courtroom, and answers, “Guilty.”
AN: Written in response to MajiKat's Sympathy for the Devil challenge. I had a lot of fun thinking about this, even though I was a bit nervous at first about writing Goyle Sr.
This is my first attempt at fanfiction ever *holds breath* so any feedback at all is warmly welcomed. No, really. Please feel free to leave a review. ;D And thank you for reading!