Author's Note: This is an AU plot bunny that would not go away. Takes place during Sorcerer's (Philosopher's) Stone, between Halloween and Christmas break.
It was wrong. It was all wrong.
Goyle clumped as quietly as he could across the floor of the Slytherin dormitory, trying not to wake anyone, and sat down on his bed, breathing hard. He wasn't used to running. Usually all he had to do was snarl and everyone ELSE ran away from HIM. But that mirror… that reflection in the mirror…
Goyle had blundered into a room he thought was the library and instead turned out to be an abandoned classroom. It happened all the time to first years. Hogwarts geography had a way of changing when you least expected it, and it took a bit before you got a feel for how it moved. It was designed to keep witches and wizards who weren't supposed to be there out, one of the school's many defenses.
Frustrated, he had been about to turn and leave the classroom when something caught his eye. It was a giant, golden gilded mirror resting against the far corner. He took a few steps toward it, shoes whispering in the thick layer of dust. The mirror was glowing softly in the half-light, holding promises of secrets, consuming him in a deep, burning desire to know.
As he walked closer, the image seemed to ripple across the surface until finally, as he stood looking into the mirror properly, his reflection …changed. It had done so slowly, subtly, as if the mirror was trying to lessen the shock, but looking into a mirror and seeing not himself but a stranger reflected back at him had been terrifying all the same. Even more terrifying, he had a feeling that he knew who the stranger was.
Goyle slipped his meaty hand under the pillow of his bed and pulled out his well-worn copy of "Mysteries of the Wizarding World". Thumbing quickly through the pages, he stopped at a photograph. The picture had been taken at a celebration of some sort, the couple, one green eyed woman, one black haired man, had their arms wrapped around each other, smiling cheerfully at the camera. The caption read, "Last known photograph taken of Lily and James Potter".
Everyone in the entire wizarding world knew that story. They knew about how Lily and James Potter had been killed, about the curse that backfired, leaving the Dark Lord powerless and without a body. They knew about the disappearance of little Harry Potter, who, despite all the search efforts, had never been found.
Yet there were still rumors, even eleven years later. Someone had seen a little boy in Knightsbridge who looked just like… Someone was rescued by a powerful wizard who might be… Every little boy around that age whose heritage was even a little in question, who showed even a smidgen of extraordinary talent, was watched carefully, an eager hope shining in every witch or wizard's eyes whenever they looked upon that child.
Goyle was not one of those boys.
For as long as he could remember, he had always been considered "slow". It took him long, frustrating hours to master even the most basic spells. If he drew too deeply into the power within himself, the magic slipped away, as though he had an internal fail-safe system keeping him from his full potential. Concentrating harder simply made it worse.
His father might have accepted this if he had shown some talent in other areas, like Quiddich. But he was just as clumsy in movement as he was in magic, lumbering about as though his body were simply too big for him to manage. Everything about him, from his thick, dull voice to his large, dark eyes to his round, expressionless face suggested something…well, considerably less than average.
Goyle ran his fingers lightly over the photograph in the book, looking wistfully at the smiling faces. The Potters looked like nice people. James Potter didn't look like the sort of man who would yell at his son for being slow. Lily Potter didn't look like the type of woman who would run away and leave her son with a father who hates him. But, Goyle knew deep in his heart, the reason they wouldn't do any of those things is because they wouldn't have to. Everyone would love Harry Potter, because he would be the bravest, smartest, nicest, and most talented wizard ever. And that was something that Goyle could never be.
Draco burst into the dormitory, startling Goyle out of his thoughts. Goyle snapped the book closed and shoved it quickly under his pillow, hoping Draco hadn't seen it.
"What do you think you're doing?" Draco hissed.
Goyle stared at Draco for a minute, trying to figure out why he was so upset. "I got lost," he answered, hoping that answer would cover whatever he hadn't done.
Draco stared at him a moment in disbelief. "Of all the thick headed…" he snarled.
Crabbe wandered into the room and looked around. "Hey, this isn't the astronomy tower."
The astronomy tower? Oh, right. Draco had wanted to show them some curses.
Draco made a few infuriated looking mouth movements at Crabbe and stormed out to the common room, muttering darkly to himself.
Crabbe looked to Goyle for an explanation for Draco's behavior.
"I got lost," Goyle said.
"But we get lost all the time," Crabbe said.
"I think that's why he's mad," Goyle said.
Crabbe followed Draco out, his brow furrowed as he tried to puzzle out Goyle's statement.
Goyle looked down at the picture once more, and closed the book with a snap. He was taking the book back to the mirror, right now. He had to know.
Goyle pushed open the door to the classroom, praying that ancient hinges wouldn't creak. The mirror was still there, as enigmatic as ever. He approached it, trying to ignore the butterflies in his stomach. He waited in front of the glass, nervously shifting from foot to foot as the reflection changed. The boy staring back at him from the mirror was smaller, slighter, with unruly black hair and deep green eyes, and looked just as fidgety as he felt.
Goyle swallowed and opened the book to the photograph of the Potters. The boy looked almost exactly like James Potter, except for the eyes. They were green, like Lily's. The boy had something on his forehead… Goyle found himself reaching toward the boy to push his bangs out of the way, and withdrew his hand self consciously when the reflection did the same. Goyle ran his head upward across his forehead, and the boy lifted his bangs, revealing a lightning bolt-shaped scar. Goyle rubbed the spot on his own head, but felt nothing beneath his fingers but smooth skin.
"Back again, Goyle?" an amused voice said behind him. He whipped around to find Dumbledore sitting on the edge of a table behind him.
"That's… that's Harry Potter," Goyle said, pointing at the reflection in the mirror, too stunned with his revelation to wonder where the headmaster had come from.
Dumbledore's face took on a look of sympathy. "Yes… and no."
He rose to his feet. "You, like hundreds before you, have discovered the delights of the Mirror of Erised. Do you know what it does?"
Goyle shook his head. "It shows us the deepest, most desperate desires of our hearts," Dumbledore concluded.
Goyle felt his face getting hot. It was stupid thinking it was really him, and… and embarrassing, really, wanting to be someone else that badly and being caught at it.
Dumbledore smiled and asked gently, "What do you admire about Harry? What about his story has captivated you for all these years?"
Goyle stared at his feet. "That he's nice. He's smart. People like him."
"Is that so different from yourself?"
Goyle stammered, "Of course it is! The other houses don't like Slytherins, and I know Draco says they're just jealous. I always thought it was true, but now that I'm here at Hogwarts I don't know if I believe him anymore, because when I tried to help a Hufflepuff pick up her books after she fell down I got yelled at, just because I was a Slytherin. No one could possibly be jealous of me, because I don't get good marks, I don't! I have to work twice as hard as everyone else, and I can't talk to people even inside my house because I sound so big and stupid and everyone laughs."
Dumbledore said, "For someone who considers himself incapable of speech, that was remarkably eloquent."
Goyle shrugged. "I guess so."
He looked back at Harry's reflection in the mirror, studying it. Was there a little bit of him in there? "It's just what I think Harry should be like, isn't it? How I would be, if I were him, but it's not really him."
Dumbledore remained silent.
Goyle turned. "Can I ask you a question?"
"You just did. But you may ask me another."
"What do you think Harry would be like?"
"I believe that Harry would be more like you than you suppose." Dumbledore rose to his feet and escorted Goyle out of the classroom.
Goyle wandered through the halls, lost in thought. He reached the Great Hall and sat down at a table with a thump.
"Do you mind?" the girl next to him snapped. A Gryffindor, the smart one, Hermoine, that's it.
She was sitting across the table from one of the Weasleys, playing wizard's chess. Goyle deliberately rewarded her with his most clueless look. She rolled her eyes and turned her head back to the board, studying the pieces intently. A quick glance at the board told him that she was losing to the Weasley, badly. She made a little whuf of frustration and reached forward to resign her king.
"Queen to C5," Goyle said, before he even realized he had opened his mouth.
"Who asked you?" the Weasley snapped.
Hermoine's hand froze in the air as she studied the move. She then gently slid her queen to C5 and looked satisfied.
The Weasley studied the move and looked dumbfounded. "Hey, you're not as thick as you look, are you?"
He then realized he had insulted a boy twice as big as he. "Erm, I mean…"
Goyle looked at them for a long minute, watching Hermoine shrink into her robes and the Weasley's freckles become even more prominent as his face got paler.
"No, I guess I'm not," he finally answered, ending the uncomfortable silence.
"You sound surprised," Hermoine commented.
"I never really thought about it before," Goyle said quietly.
The two Gryffindors looked at each other, and came to a silent decision. "Ron Weasley, and this is Hermoine," the Gryffindor boy said.
"Just Goyle," he responded, shaking their hands.
"Hermoine…" a voice said from further along the table in a stage whisper.
Goyle looked past her to see the rest of the students in the Great Hall staring at them. Almost none of the stares were friendly. Embarrassed, he got up to leave.
"Where are you going?" Ron asked. He looked genuinely confused.
"You really don't mind?" Goyle asked, surprised.
"Of course not. If they all want to be great ninnies, let them," Hermoine said in a brisk, businesslike tone.
Goyle sat back down, craned his neck so he could see the Slytherin table over Ron's head, and gave them a huge wave accompanied by his dopiest grin. "Hi!"
The Slytherins hurriedly huddled together in a group and started whispering. He knew they would make trouble for him later. But right then, he didn't care.
The two Gryffindors looked as though they weren't quite sure whether he had been faking that last bit of stupidity or not, so he gave them a quick, conspiratorial grin to reassure them. They giggled.
"You have no idea how bizarre it is, to see you thinking," Ron said.
"Thinking?" Goyle repeated stupidly, with a slack jawed clueless look.
He looked so ridiculous that the three burst out laughing, recapturing the attention of everyone in the Hall.
"Every Flavor beans?" Ron asked between giggles, sliding the box toward him.
"Thanks. I'll play loser," Goyle said, taking a handful.
"Ugh. That'll be me," Hermoine said, resting her chin on top of her crossed arms and studying the board.
"You aren't that bad off. You could maybe still win if you…" Goyle started, reaching for the board.
"No, don't tell me!" Hermoine said, batting his hands away.
"She likes to lose on her own," Ron said mock seriously.
"Shut up," Hermoine said, shoving Ron's arm out of the way and taking a handful of beans.
"Are you two going to be here tomorrow?" Goyle asked.
"Yeah," Ron answered.
"And we won't chase you away, if that's what you were wondering," Hermoine said, moving a pawn.
"Thanks," Goyle responded, meaning it.
Ron looked at him curiously. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about Nicholas Flammel, would you?"
"No. Why? Is it for class or something?"
"Do you swear on your life not to tell? Because I will curse you," Hermoine said in dead earnest.
Goyle nodded. "I swear."
She kept staring him down. Goyle didn't flinch.
Finally, she nodded. "All right. It all started when Ron ran into Hagrid at Diagon Alley…"
Author's Note: You like? Let me know! I'll write more! You hate? Let me know! Saves me the trouble of writing more!