Gallant got Sorted into Gryffindor, of course. Goofus watched from the line of other first-years, thinking that of course Gallant was in Gryffindor. Though Gallant was unfailingly polite, and while people said a lot of nice things about Gryffindors, it was rare they got described as polite.
Goofus sat on the stool for his own Sorting. The Hat went down over his eyes. Not Hufflepuff, he thought, miserably. Please not Hufflepuff. Hufflepuff takes them all! Goofus knew he was thoughtless and careless, because people never stopped telling him he was. Gallant was about the only person who seemed to see anything good in him at all. In Hufflepuff, he knew, people would be understanding. In Hufflepuff, they’d be encouraging. That sounded even worse than scorn, in its own way.
“...better be SLYTHERIN, then,” the Hat said, and Goofus sprang up from the stool, elated at not Hufflepuff, only to notice the glares of everyone from Gallant’s table. Oh, of course; Slytherins and Gryffindors weren’t supposed to be friends. He met Gallant’s eyes from across the room -- would Gallant hate him now? Gallant gave him a sad smile. An understanding smile.
It made Goofus want to burn down the Great Hall.
He took his seat with his new House, not wanting to look at anyone at all.
Goofus and Gallant had known each other for most of their lives; they were second cousins, which was not surprising given that practically all the Purebloods were cousins to some degree or another. Since they were the same age, they got sent off to play with each other while the grownups discussed boring grownup stuff. The first time they got left unsupervised, they were five years old. Gallant sat quietly and looked at the book his parents had given him; Goofus wanted to explore. “Come on,” Goofus said, the moment he realized they were unobserved. “I know where Dad stores his broom.”
Gallant climbed to his feet, wide-eyed, and tagged along after Goofus to the shed where the brooms were kept. “Which one do you want?” Goofus asked, remembering for once to be generous.
Gallant peered in, curiously. “I like the one with blue stars on the handle.”
Goofus handed him that one and grabbed the sleeker model, the one that looked fast, and slung one leg over.
“Wait,” Gallant said. “What are you doing?”
“Going for a ride,” Goofus said. “Aren’t you coming?”
“No!” Gallant said, dropping the broom like it was burning his hands. “I’m not allowed! I thought we were just going to look at the brooms!”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Goofus asked, perplexed. He kicked off from the ground. The broom shot straight up into the air, out of control; he glimpsed Gallant running somewhere as it began to spin, dizzyingly, and he clutched his arms around it, hanging on for dear life.
Gallant, of course, had run to tattle. Well, get help, he insisted, tearfully, as the grownups picked through the wreckage and patched up Goofus’s injuries. Everyone was furious, and -- maybe unfairly -- they were furious at Gallant as well, for not coming to get them right away.
So Goofus was a little surprised as they were eating their toast and beans, later, at a table away from everyone else (since they were being punished) when Gallant grinned at him. “Aren’t you mad at me like everyone else?” Goofus asked.
“No,” Gallant said. “No one noticed, but I apparated myself to the adults when I was trying to get help. I did magic, real magic, for the first time! Now I know for sure I’m a wizard and not a squib!”
Goofus squinted at him. “You’d never done magic before?”
Gallant shook his head. “But I did today!”
“Well.” Goofus finished his toast. “Congratulations, then.” He was still a little hungry. “Come on. I saw the house-elf baking a cake earlier.”
Gallant froze. “But we have to ask for permission, first!” he said.
“Of course we don’t,” Goofus said. “No one’s looking.”
“I know -- we’ll ask the elf for permission,” Goofus said, and Gallant let Goofus pull him down to the kitchen.
Goofus’s trunk was in his new dorm room. So were his dorm mates. Several were distant cousins; others were kids he didn’t know well at all. He didn’t like any of them as much as he liked Gallant.
The prefect, Draco Malfoy, stopped in to check on them. “Everyone getting along? Introducing yourselves like good little firsties?”
“Yes, sir,” said the Montague kid.
“Getting along very well, of course, sir,” said the Rowle kid.
“Are we really supposed to call you sir?” Goofus said. “Because you’re just another student, aren’t you? Even if you are a prefect. And a Malfoy.”
“Two points from Slytherin,” Draco said, “for being generally an idiot. Rowle, Montague, keep an eye on this one.”
Goofus sighed and wondered if the Hufflepuffs all energetically tolerating him would have really been the worst thing in the world.
The summer they were ten, Goofus and Gallant spent a whole lot of time over at Gallant’s house, because their mothers were working on some large fundraiser for St. Mungo’s together.
“Perfect,” Goofus said, when he realized. “They’ll be far too busy to keep us from doing what we want.”
“But I want to help,” Gallant said. “St. Mungo’s is important, and organizing a fundraiser is a lot of work!”
In fact, the main thing their mothers wanted was for them to stay out of trouble. But when Gallant presented himself (and the reluctant Goofus) as volunteers, their mothers exchanged looks and then decided that they should address a large stack of envelopes that would go out later by owl.
Gallant started writing diligently. He had very nice handwriting, much better than Goofus’s. Goofus wrote a couple of envelopes but quickly got bored with the task and went digging through Gallant’s mother’s desk until he found a self-writing quill in a drawer. He dictated a couple of envelopes, but it really seemed like it ought to be possible to assign the quill to check the list they were working from and write the envelopes without Goofus’s intervention at all, and in fact if he could get another quill or two going, maybe he could talk Gallant into leaving this utterly stultifying task and doing something, anything else. It could be something utterly safe and dull, if he could just get Gallant out of the house...
When Gallant’s mother came in, Gallant and Goofus were trying to re-capture the quill pens that were now energetically writing addresses across the ceiling, floor, walls, and furniture. Gallant was mostly trying to hold them in a drawer while Goofus ran around the room grabbing them, but every time he'd try to thrust a handful of quills into the drawer, more escaped.
Gallant’s mother sent them outside, after that. So that was something.
“I always get you in trouble,” Goofus said.
“It’s okay,” Gallant said. “You’re a lot more interesting than most of my other cousins.” He reflected for a moment. “Well, other than Fred and George Weasley. They’re not so bad. I hardly see them anymore now that they’re at school, though.”
“What House are they in?”
“Gryffindor.” Gallant said, reverently. “Like my parents. That's where I want to be Sorted, too.”
“You have to be brave to be in Gryffindor,” Goofus said.
“Yeah,” Gallant said, looking troubled. “Do you think I’m not brave enough?”
“Maybe, but I know how we can find out for sure!” Goofus said. “We can do something really scary and see if you're brave enough to see it through. Let’s go see how high our brooms can go!”
As first years, Goofus and Gallant were on the sidelines of most of the real excitement that happened at Hogwarts that year. They loathed Professor Umbridge but took comfort in what everyone told them -- there was a curse on the position, and she wouldn’t be back next year. They saw Fred and George Weasley make their escape and tiptoed around the swamp they’d created, and tried to steer clear of the Inquisitorial Squad. Even Goofus, a Slytherin, got himself in trouble with them more than a few times. They were shocked when Dumbledore fled the school and rumors flew about a group that called itself Dumbledore’s Army, but neither had been in it. And when Voldemort re-appeared for real, validating everything Harry Potter had been saying all year long, they were horrified but it seemed a little bit distant. They were only eleven, after all.
Second year, Goofus felt like he more or less had his feet under him. It helped that Draco went missing for long periods so he wasn’t lounging around Slytherin House, criticizing every last little thing Goofus did. It also helped that they had a real professor for Defence Against Dark Arts, Professor Snape. Not that Professor Snape liked Goofus -- teachers never liked Goofus -- but at least he was learning things now in Defence. The night the Death Eaters broke in, he was snug in his own dormitory. He realized later that his Prefects had all made very certain that the younger Slytherins were in well before curfew that night, and someone -- not Draco -- had checked on the second-year dorms repeatedly just to make absolutely certain no one had gone out. Until the news came ripping through the dorm, that Professor Snape had killed the Headmaster and taken Draco with him when he’d run away from the school.
Goofus sat with his housemates during Headmaster Dumbledore’s funeral. He could see Gallant from where he sat, over with the other Gryffindors. Gallant’s face was pale, and he looked as lost and confused as Goofus felt.
Afterward, Goofus saw Gallant go up to each professor and tell them that he was so terribly sorry for their loss. Goofus wanted to say something, but when he went up to Professor McGonagall, all that came out was, “Do you know what time the train leaves?” Her lips tightened, which made him even more nervous. “I can’t wait to get home,” he said.
“Are you even allowed to talk to me?”
Goofus had run into Gallant in Diagon Alley while they were buying their books. “Since when have I ever worried about what I’m allowed to do?” Goofus said.
“Since…” Gallant glanced around, nervous. “You know what I mean.”
“Look,” Goofus said. “I don’t care if our moms had a fight. My mom’s an idiot, anyway.”
“You should use more respectful language,” Gallant said. “I mean, she’s your mother.”
“Whatever,” Goofus said. “So did you get the letter about Muggle Studies?”
Goofus had signed up for Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, and Muggle Studies. He’d picked Creatures because he liked animals and Divination and Muggle Studies because they both sounded easy. He’d gotten an owl in early August saying that Muggle Studies had been changed to a required course for everyone and and also it now conflicted with Divination. He'd been enrolled automatically in Arithmancy, instead. Arithmancy sounded like the hardest elective ever, but his mom had made him stay in it anyway.
Gallant had signed up for Muggle Studies because he wanted to learn more about muggles. He looked a little crestfallen, and also nervous. “Yes. I'm still in Runes and Arithmancy, though.”
“Good,” said Goofus. “You can let me copy off your homework.”
“Of course you will. You’re a Gryffindor who’d signed up for Muggle Studies because you wanted to learn about muggles; my mom quit talking to your mom because she thinks she’s the wrong sort of person to be seen with right now. Your whole family is under suspicion. If we meet to do our Arithmancy homework, I get the homework answers and you get to be seen with a Slytherin from an unimpeachable family. We both win.”
There was a long, awkward silence and then Gallant nodded. “Yeah. You’re right. Okay.”
Everything about Hogwarts was different.
Even Slytherin House was different. The Slytherins all walked with swaggers, and for the first time in his life Goofus wasn’t constantly getting into trouble. They had Amycus Carrow teaching Dark Arts class -- no “Defence” any more -- and he openly favored the Slytherins. So did Alecto Carrow, the Muggle Studies professor. Professor Flitwick didn’t, but he rarely took points and never sent anyone to Detention; Professor McGonagall looked at them with loathing every time they came into her classroom, but rarely disciplined Slytherins for misbehaving.
Meanwhile, students in other houses were disappearing. All the muggleborns, first of all. There were loads of pureblood students who didn’t come back on the Hogwarts Express on the first of September, only to turn up, terrified and disoriented, when they got hauled in by the Snatchers. Luna disappeared over the holidays. Then Gryffindors started disappearing -- Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan, Lavender Brown -- and students argued in fierce whispers about whether they had been taken away to be used as hostages, or for some sort of horrible punishment, or if they’d run away somehow. Somewhere.
Goofus and Gallant met twice a week to work on Arithmancy. Goofus found Arithmancy tedious and miserable, but he did like listening to Gallant explain it, and he liked the way Gallant smiled when Goofus actually did some of his own homework, so he started putting in at least a little bit of effort.
“Professor Vector is terrified of Slytherins,” Goofus said. “She’ll probably give me good marks no matter how badly I do on the exams.”
“You’re probably right,” Gallant said. “But then you won’t learn anything. You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t work.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Goofus said. “Say ‘you’re only cheating yourself’ again. You’re very persuasive.”
“You’re only cheating yourself,” Gallant said again, earnestly.
Goofus grinned at him, wondering how many times he could get Gallant to repeat that line again.
When they were seven and bored at a family party with too many grownups, Goofus and Gallant and some of the other kids decided to play hide-and-seek. They were at the home of some elderly man who was Goofus’s great-uncle or maybe some sort of distant cousin, he didn’t much care: elderly, boring, huge house.
Gallant didn’t object when hide-and-seek was suggested, but as they went to the drawing room where the seeker was going to count, he said, “after we’ve played hide-and-seek for a while, maybe we can play another game?” half under his breath, like he felt bad for complaining even if he was doing it in the politest way possible.
“Don’t you like hide-and-seek?” Goofus said. He loved it, because it was an excuse to snoop in parts of someone’s house he’d never see ordinarily.
“I always get found right away,” Gallant said. “And I can never find anyone else, when it’s my turn.”
“Hide with me,” Goofus said. “I never get found.”
So Gallant followed Goofus. “Are we allowed…” he started to ask as they slipped into a room Goofus had never noticed before, then through a hallway and another door. They found themselves in a room with plush green carpet and dark leather chairs. It looked the way Goofus had always imagined the Slytherin common room would look, only more grown-up. He found them a spot to hide inside a cupboard and they waited a good long time before Goofus started to wonder if they had hidden too well. You wanted them to be able to find you eventually. Maybe the other kids had only suggested hide-and-seek as a way to get rid of both Goofus and Gallant.
Goofus was just about to suggest they go back out when his great-uncle came in with two men Goofus didn’t recognize. They made themselves comfortable in the chairs and poured themselves firewhiskey. Gallant shifted uncomfortably and Goofus gripped his arm, hoping he didn’t give them away. Eavesdropping on grownups when they didn’t know you were there was quite a bit more entertaining than hide-and-seek anyway. The worst thing about a party with too many grownups was the way they shooed you away if they wanted to talk about anything even remotely interesting.
The conversation was about the Dark Lord, and it took a few minutes for Goofus to realize that they meant You-Know-Who. Also, that they missed him. They were nostalgic for the war. Nostalgic for the Dark Arts. Nostalgic for murdering muggles for sport.
They were also talking about Harry Potter. Goofus’s great-uncle believed that in order to have defeated the Dark Lord, Harry Potter must be a tremendously powerful Dark Wizard himself. The other men scoffed at this. They had sons at Hogwarts; their boys had met Potter, tested him, and concluded he was a muggle-lover and utterly mediocre.
That was when Gallant -- horrifyingly -- sneezed.
The three men leapt to their feet and drew their wands, and Goofus’s uncle threw open the cabinet. They laughed with relief when they saw the two boys frozen inside, pulled them out, and pushed them to the floor.
“This was your idea, no doubt,” his uncle said to Goofus.
“No, sir,” Gallant said, his eyes squeezed shut. “It was both of our idea. Don’t blame Goofus.”
“Well, if it was both your idea, then you can both take the punishment,” one of the other men drawled, but in the end he didn’t punish either of them, exactly. He Obliviated and Confunded Gallant, and sent him wandering back out into the hallway, leaving Goofus alone with the men. Goofus braced himself, wondering what, exactly, they were going to do to him.
"My boy,” his uncle said, when the three men were alone with Goofus, “you shouldn't have even been able to come in here were you not destined for Slytherin House. You are from an excellent family and I trust you'll be one of us in due time. Now run along, keep this to yourself, and should you have the urge to spy in the future, spy on muggle-lovers and mudbloods and bring the information to us.”
The men all laughed and one of them added, “Nice work bringing along a future Gryffindor willing to take the blame!”
Goofus went outside into the sunlight, trying to sort out what he’d heard. He’d never particularly liked his great-uncle but the thought that the man would talk nostalgically about murdering muggles… did his parents know? had they murdered muggles for sport? if they had, how had they avoided going to Azkaban with the other Death Eaters? And what did he mean, "one of us in due time"? Did he just mean that Goofus would probably be Sorted into Slytherin, or was he saying that Goofus was going to grow up and turn into someone who'd think murdering muggles was hilarious?
Gallant could probably figure out a way to ask these questions without making anyone angry, but Goofus had no idea. He decided to try to forget that this had ever happened, and never mention it to anyone again.
“I think the students who’ve been disappearing are hidden somewhere at the school,” Goofus said.
Gallant looked up from his Arithmancy textbook, his eyes wide. “What makes you say that?”
“No one’s ever seen any of them leave. And you can’t apparate or disapparate inside Hogwarts. And it’s a big school.”
Gallant thought about it, then lowered his eyes. “I really don’t know.”
“Come on,” Goofus said. “You can tell me what you think. Where do you think they’ve been going?”
“Why do you want to know?” Gallant said. “Are you going to tell your housemates? It’s not as if any Slytherins have disappeared.”
Now Goofus lowered his eyes. He stared down at the parchment roll that was supposed to be ten inches about Arithmantic formulations, and doodled a picture of an owl, instead. “I’m not a very good Slytherin, you know,” he said, finally.
“What makes you say that?”
“I hate the Carrows,” Goofus said.
“So do I!” Gallant said. “And I’m not a very good Gryffindor, because I’m also terrified of the Carrows. Last week I used a skiving snackbox to get out of Dark Arts class.”
“Really?” Goofus said. “You used a skiving snackbox to get out of a class?”
“They were going to make us try to do the Cruciatus curse,” Gallant said. “On people.” He stared down at his feet. “If I were a better Gryffindor I’d have gone and refused. But I was scared, so I just didn’t go.”
"Next time you could just pretend to do it but not actually try,” Goofus said. “That’s what I did.”
Gallant’s voice got very quiet. “It’s hard for me to disobey adults,” he said. “I mean -- I’m also afraid of what they’ll do to me. But mostly, it just feels so rude. I hate being rude. I hate it when adults are angry at me. I just want them to tell me to be helpful and kind because then I can be cheerful and obedient. This is awful.”
Goofus chewed on his lower lip. “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” he said.
Gallant’s head snapped up. “I knew you wouldn’t understand,” he said. He wasn’t even angry -- just sad.
Goofus clenched his fists, furious that he’d said the wrong thing again. “Here’s the real reason I’m a terrible Slytherin,” he said. “I hate the Dark Lord. I hate what he’s made Hogwarts into. I hate Headmaster Snape. I hate everything about this.”
Gallant caught his breath, and then leaned across the table and kissed Goofus.
Goofus gripped the front of Gallant’s robe, afraid he’d change his mind, afraid he’d go away, and kissed him back. Gallant smelled like walnuts and jasmine tea and there was a little hitch of surprise in his breath when Goofus first kissed him back.
Gallant pulled back, finally, and Goofus was afraid that he was going to start saying that they had to stop, they’d get in trouble, but instead he took a deep breath, looked into Goofus’s eyes and said, “do you want to find somewhere we can sit without a table between us?”
“Thank you, Miss Parkinson,” said Professor McGonagall, still inside the Great Hall. “You will leave the Hall first with Mr. Filch. If the rest of your House could follow.”
Goofus had already ducked out, as soon as he’d heard that you could only stay to fight if you were of age, like somehow being seventeen made you a real person who might have opinions and a wand and useful things you could contribute, and he watched from a side corridor as most of the rest of his House trailed behind Filch and Pansy. The Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw prefects followed with the younger students; then the Gryffindors, and the person he was watching for.
“Gallant. Over here.”
Gallant glanced and hesitated just long enough for Goofus to grab his hand and pull him into the side corridor without anyone noticing.
“But they told us we had to leave,” Gallant whispered.
“I’ve never done what I’m told, why would I start now? There’s a fight. I want to be part of it.”
Gallant stared at him, troubled. “You’re a Slytherin. And your family…”
“I’m not my family.”
“So which side are you going to fight on?”
“I’m going to fight on your side, Gallant.”
“But they said we aren’t allowed to fight,” Gallant whispered, swallowing hard.
“Are you afraid to fight?” Goofus asked. “I mean...I’m not saying it’s bad if you are. But are you following the rules because you want to or because it feels like you have to?”
“I want to fight,” Gallant said. “You know that graffiti someone wrote earlier in the year, ‘Dumbledore’s Army is Still Recruiting,’ I tried to find out how to join but no one would tell me because I was just thirteen.” He took a deep breath. “But we are not babies. And I want to fight for Harry Potter and Dumbledore’s Army and against You-Know-Who and the Death Eaters.”
“So be bad, for once,” Goofus said. “Be bad with me. And I’ll be good -- I mean, I’ll be on the side of the Gryffindors, with you.”
Gallant kissed him hard, and then they made their way back toward the Great Hall, to face the Death Eaters together.