Vincent’s was always busy these days, but today, on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, the main room was especially filled as people flocked to pubs in order to celebrate before the fireworks display the Weasley twins had promised everyone would light up the sky. Patrons of Vincent’s had been assured that they’d be able to see it from the outside, but Greg was betting that the pub would be empty for an hour or two while patrons went outside, and then came back in to continue to drain his stores of Firewhisky, Butterbeer, and gin.
Because they all knew, if there was one thing Greg did well, it was gin.
(The drink of the week this week was, of course, the Binns Bramble, and was, unsurprisingly, more popular than the old boring professor who used to lecture on and on—)
At the bar, Greg poured yet more alcohol into a glass for one of the twins—don’t ask him which one, he’s never been able to figure it out—and collected the cash as Fred? George? took the glass from him with a broad smile and waltzed over to the table where the entire clan was collected, the youngest “Call me Ginny” Weasley sitting with Luna, laughing with the Golden Trio and (this always manages to shock him just a little) Draco, Zabini, and Longbottom, who met Greg’s eyes and motioned for him to join them.
Greg shook his head, smiling a little, and motioning to the bar in a what-can-you-do gesture. He had a pub to mind, after all.
As he filled another glass of Butterbeer, Greg looked back up at his table of friends, just in time to see Draco throw back his head and laugh.
Greg was always surprised when he saw how Draco had changed. Hell, they’d all changed—but he supposed he saw it the most in Draco, who, even though he’d thought they’d been close back when they were younger, he’d never seen laugh the way he did in Potter’s presence. Of course, love did that to you. But he was. Proud of Draco. There was a part of him that, looking at the table where Draco was grinning at something one of the twins said, warmed when he saw how happy his friend was now.
(He would not think about the other person missing from the room.)
Draco looked over and rolled his eyes when he caught Greg still watching their group. Pushing Youngest Weasley out of the way, Draco stalked to the bar, where he leaned on his elbows over the countertop to talk to Greg over the noise.
“Join us,” he demanded.
Same old Draco.
Greg shook his head. “I’ve got a bar to attend,” he explained, apologetic.
But Draco, for all his faults, had known him for a long time. Long enough that he gave Greg a shrewd look, pointedly looked at Tory, who was behind the bar with him, and then at Sal, who was currently taking a break.
“You know he would want you to join in on the festivities,” Draco said. “And anyway, this place will be fine without you for five minutes.”
Greg picked up a rag and wiped up a spill from one of his regulars, who’d just sloshed his beer.
“Goyle,” Draco tried one last time. “You didn’t join in last year. You deserve to celebrate, too.”
Greg looked at him for a minute, and then grunted. “Fine. Five minutes. But I’m not joining for the rest.”
Draco grinned smugly, and then called to Tory that Greg was taking five, before dragging Greg to say hi to everyone.
Things were not always like this.
When Vincent’s first opened, the public was skeptical. It was only a few months after the war, and though Greg had never outright taken the Dark Mark, he was known enough as a Death Eater that for a long time hardly anyone came through the door of the pub. Even so, Greg kept the place open, in the hopes that people would start to forget him.
He was, after all, only a small fish, and no one had really cared about his trial, not even his parents.
He knew that should have made him fairly sad, but that was the reality. And it’s not like he didn’t have any customers. There would always be drunks needing to get drunk. Some of them really liked talking to their bartenders, and so while he didn’t have a lot of friends for a long time, he had customers and he had Vincent’s and he wasn’t happy. But he was managing.
That of course changed when Tory walked into the pub.
Known to most as Astoria Greengrass, she’d strode in and announced that she needed a job, that Greg owed her—he had no clue what for, but he wouldn’t be surprised if he did—and she would be working here from now on. She’d also be moving into his flat.
Tory was a good person to have on hand at Vincent’s because she instinctively knew how to run a bar. Or at least, she was openly sociable, and though she was technically a Pureblood, she’d been virtually outcast and hanging out with different circles for much longer than he had.
“Hey boss,” she said, coming up to him and resting her elbows on the bar.
He looked up, made a kind of grunting noise at her, and continued his inventory list.
“I think we need something catchy,” she said.
“What’d you mean?” he asked, looking back over.
“Well, you know, there are so many boring pubs,” she started to say.
He raised his eyebrows.
“Not that this particular pub is boring,” she backtracked, “but we need some…pizzazz.”
She even did jazz hands at the end.
“Pizzazz,” he deadpanned.
She nodded, completely serious. “Pizzazz.”
He looked around, at his regulars and the few other customers who would step foot in Vincent’s. He supposed they did need something. A bit of pizzazz.
“I was thinking,” she said slowly, not wanting to overstep her bounds, “that maybe we could make it friendly to magical creatures? The ones who can pay, obviously, because we’re not about to take Leprechaun gold, but make it clearer that everyone’s welcome?”
He thought about it a minute. Thought about all the pubs out there that might have been effected by the laws, the werewolves that were always hesitantly welcomed, if they were ever welcomed. The goblins that were given the side-eye. Centaurs who were told there wasn’t enough space at this particular establishment. The small fry like him who will always be looked at with mistrust.
He thought about what You Know Who Had stood for.
“Why stop at magical creatures?” he said out loud, still thinking it over.
Tory gave him a suspicious look. “You don’t mean bringing in Muggles, do you?”
He shrugged. “Why not?”
Tory looked at him like he’d lost his mind.
“I mean”—he started running his hand through his hair nervously. He still wasn’t used to giving ideas—“What if we could find a charm or something that allowed Muggles to drink here without finding out that the other people in here weren’t also Muggles?”
Tory continued to gawk at him. “That’s brilliant,” she said at last, astonished.
“Yeah? You think I should do it?”
She rolled her eyes, kissed him on the cheek, and started to move away from the bar to continue what she was doing earlier.
“You might want to call Granger, though,” she called over her shoulder. “A Squib and an idiot are going to need a bit more help than just a couple books.”
He grinned at her as she walked away, then found parchment and paper (ignoring how surreal it was that he was writing Granger for help), and sent the owl off.
A few days later, Granger was helping him to put up the necessary charms so that if Muggles did enter, they would not see anything amiss with the pub. They would still need to test it, but Granger said she could help with that as well, and the day after that, she brought in an unsuspecting older man—Granger later explained he was her father—and introduced him to a goblin, at whom he didn’t even blink. Granger later explained that he’d merely seen what he expected to see: a drunk sitting at the bar. It got even better when she explained that even if a Muggle overheard someone talking about their world, they would simply not be able to discern the words being said, and it would be like the sound was lost in the crowd.
Dumbfounded, Greg merely blinked at her for a couple minutes.
Then she showed him how to work a computer.
(And took him to buy one.)
Despite his insistence that she had done more than he could repay, she went on to show him how to list the pub on the Muggle map, as well as helped set up a Facebook (why would I want to put my face in a book, Granger? Wouldn’t that be painful?), a Yelp page, and a website.
A week later, he had his first Muggle patrons and he was calling Granger Hermione.
When Greg had first started out, it had just been him and a big empty room that he’d named Vincent’s.
A year and a half later, it was an up-and-coming pub on the border of the Muggle world and the wizarding world, and Greg had never been prouder.
“Greg, you in there?” Tory’s voice called through the door.
Greg groaned. Sometimes living with someone again meant he never got a second extra in the shower.
Quickly turning off the water, he wrapped a towel around his waist and opened the door to see Tory, who was now staring at him.
“What?” he asked, when she stared a little longer than necessary at a couple of the burn marks on his side.
“Will you—” She paused a second. “Will you come with me to St. Mungo’s for my checkup?”
“Checkup?” he grunted out, his hand coming up to rub lightly at the burn scar on his shoulder. Her eyes followed the movement for a second.
“Yeah, for the gender modification magic they performed a while back. They just have to make sure everything…works.” She gave a small laugh, swinging her arms a bit.
His eyebrows wrinkled together as he processed everything she just said.
(“You were a boy?” he almost asked, confused.
Not that it would matter. She’d always dressed in girly things, and thinking back he probably should have known but it had simply never mattered, just like when she couldn’t ride the training broom they all rode on and it hadn’t mattered, and it certainly didn’t matter now. She’d always be Tory, light and happy and beautif—)
He said, “Ugh, sure?”
Tory grinned, laughing. “Amazing,” she said, and disappeared around the corner, letting him know he had twenty minutes.
Huh, he thought, as he turned back into the bathroom and caught his reflection in the mirror.
His hands drifted up to the worst of the burns, on the edge of his shoulder, where it had attacked a part of the sweater he’d lost in that room, along with his best friend. His chest was littered with fairly small patches around that area, where bits of the fire had begun to lick at his skin, but the worst was the shoulder. He quickly looked away from it, grabbed the poultice that St. Mungo’s had given him for the scar tissue, and massaged it in, trying to ignore the way the webbing of scars felt under his fingertips.
Then he threw on a t-shirt, some jeans, and went to find Tory so they could go.
In the waiting room in Mungo’s, Tory explained how, after learning she was a Squib, her parents hadn’t exactly cared that she wanted to go through with the gender modification—it had already been enough that she was a Squib, nothing else seemed to matter. After the trials, she’d decided that it’d be better to strike out on her own anyway, away from the stigma that purebloods had accrued after the war and away from all the ideology that her parents had bought into. (They deny it now, but she remembers when the war first started and they barred her from the house, when they decided having a Squib in the family would stain their reputation, when it would make them look tainted in the eyes of the Dark Lord). That’s why, when she’d stumbled upon Vincent’s, she demanded the job and a place to live.
“The checkup, like I said,” she told him, while they continued to wait for one of the Healers to call her in, “is just to make sure everything’s working. Other than that, I’m a perfectly healthy, non-magical girl.”
She grinned at him, smacking him on the arm.
“You didn’t know did you?” she asked. “God you’re thick Greg. We grew up together!”
He shrugs. “You’ve always just been Tory to me.”
She looks at his face, as if assessing whether he meant it. And when she saw he did, her laugh was bright and made his face heat.
“What am I going to do with you Greg?”
It was another busy Saturday night at Vincent’s, Tory working the bar with him as Dustin, their newest recruit, attempted to balance glasses and successfully pour drinks. He was still learning, but Greg had faith he’d be okay. He was a hell of a lot smarter than Greg was, anyway. Tory had taken over the books when she first came in, thank Salazar, because Greg had been struggling with them before she’d come along. Dustin was a quick learner, actually reminding him a bit of Granger as his eyes lit up and he started listing all the things he’d learned about various new drink combinations that (about half the time) were hits with the regulars. (Though they’d all remember when old Mr. Denebro started floating away from his bar stool and got stuck up on the ceiling for an hour or two).
Vincent’s was busy as it always was these days, especially on the weekends, as regular Muggle bankers laughed with goblins without knowing they were goblins (he’d have to remember to let Granger know just how well her spell worked) and a Quidditch team laughed uproariously in the corner.
And then he spotted a flash of familiar red hair amongst the team.
“Goyle!” she called through the crowd, and began making her way to the bar.
“Weasley,” he said pleasantly. “What can I get you?”
She snorted, her face already flushed from alcohol. “Pleeease, there’s no need to be so formal. Call me Ginny.”
He grinned at her, and said, “Well, Ginny, what can I get you?”
“One of your famous Brambles for me, and one Butterbeer for Luna.”
He looked back towards the Quidditch team, and sure enough, there was Luna, perched on one of the chairs. She waved dreamily to him.
“Coming right up,” he said, already pouring the gin flavor of the week into a glass.
“So, Goyle.” Ginny leaned on the bar. “What’ve you been up to?”
“Not much, you know, running this place,” he said, placing the Bramble in front of her and grabbing a mug for the Butterbeer. “The usual.”
“Uh-huh,” she said, already looking back at Luna. She grabbed the two drinks from him, exchanging them with the money owed. “Come join us when things’ve slowed down a bit in here, it’s been a while.”
He nodded. (Even to this day, he’s not sure why he agreed. Perhaps in the spirit of moving past the war. Or perhaps just because he’d always found Lovegood a little strange but she was always kind, and Weasley wasn’t half bad.)
So when Vincent’s had quieted down, he found himself joining Weasley and Lovegood (“Seriously Goyle, it’s okay, call us Ginny and Luna, we’re not in school anymore,” Weasley said, to which he responded that she’d probably have to call him Greg then, and that’d just be weird, and she laughed and turned to Luna. “Who knew Goyle was funny?”), sipping his own Butterbeer while Tory showed Dustin a couple tricks at the bar.
Lovegood looked at him a moment, always the type to catch things others missed. “You have Wrackspurts in your hair,” she said, moving to pluck something from the general area around him. “There, all better.”
“You must be thinking about someone,” she continued, settling against Ginny, and Greg’s eyebrows rose when Ginny wrapped an arm around her and grinned into the side of her head. When had that happened?
He grunted, thinking perhaps she was right.
But they didn’t need to know that.
They sat and talked for a little while. They didn’t bring up the Wrackspurts again, thank Merlin, but he found out they’d been dating since the Battle. Ginny had recently signed on with the Harpies. He told them about how Tory helped him figure out to have a Muggle-friendly environment, and that Hermione helped him set up the charms (“Oh, so she’s Hermione but I’m still Weasley?”). And it was nice. He’d never really talked with Lovegood and Weasley before, never really gotten to know them. He found he liked Lovegood’s oddness, even though on her way out she told him to watch out for Wrackspurts.
He still didn’t understand what that meant.
When they had left, Lovegood with that one last parting comment, Tory had looked over. He’d shrugged at her, not understanding what was going on. She’d rolled her eyes, chuckled, and under her breath muttered, “Thick, as always.”
Some days, he likes to think Vince would have been proud of him, would have liked the pub. Other days he knows Vince never grew up enough to appreciate it. But he likes to think that if Vince had survived—had changed as Greg knew he’d changed—then maybe Vince would have liked what Greg and Tory created. Maybe he would have been proud of Vincent’s, too.
He woke up screaming, the fire still licking at his skin, feeling over-warm in the constricting sheets.
“Greg, Greg, it’s okay, you’re okay, you’re not in the fire anymore.”
Tory, it was Tory leaning over him, not the fire, it’s not the fire towering over everything, consuming everything. Vince was already gone, he was not falling into the fire, Greg had already failed him.
He didn’t realize he’d started crying until he felt Tory’s oversized t-shirt soak beneath his cheek. He hadn’t realized she was holding him, either.
Her fingers tangled into his hair as she ran one hand up and down his back in a slow, soothing rub.
“You’re okay, you’re safe,” she repeated.
He leaned into her, knowing that even though she was physically so much smaller, she was so much stronger than he could ever be.
An hour later, Tory realized he’d fallen asleep but when she tried to leave he just wound his arms tighter around her waist, muttering something about staying. She’d sighed fondly, and slowly moved them into a more comfortable position.
When they woke up the next morning, they were still curled around each other.
(“Tory, is that my shirt?”
“God you’re thick, Greg.”)
The day Draco walked into Vincent’s was a shock for everyone, but more to Greg than anyone else. Tory had just raised an eyebrow, even as Greg had frozen to the spot.
He hadn’t come alone.
Potter, from behind Draco, grinned broadly at him, and Granger lead the three in. And then the biggest shock of all—Weasley, the Weasley, stepped past the threshold, saw Greg, and waved cheerfully.
“Tory,” he muttered, waving his hand at her as if she wasn’t directly next to him.
“You’re not dreaming,” she whispered back, right as the four newcomers got to the bar.
Since Gerg had not recovered from his shock, Tory took over, quickly asking them what they wanted to drink, and offering the specials of the week. He was grateful she was there at all, because even as she served them all beers and they moved to sit down, he still hadn’t processed the fact that the Golden Trio and Draco were in his pub.
Draco, whom he hadn’t seen since the Battle of Hogwarts, nearly three years ago.
(You’d think, after becoming friends of a sort with Hermione, and having now spent more than a few nights drinking with Ginny, Luna, and then Neville, that Greg would be used to surprises. He wasn’t.)
He’d heard that Draco and Potter had become, well, not just a thing, rather a particularly big thing. He was extremely happy for his friend, though more often than not he had dismissed it as pointless gossip. Now, though, he was hard-pressed to deny what was right in front of him.
“Goyle,” Potter said, pulling him from his thoughts (and really, what was with Gryffindors leaning on his bar?). “This place is seriously amazing. Hermione is thoroughly impressed and Ginny’s been telling Ron that you serve the best gin in all of Britain.”
Greg, to say the least, was speechless. How was he supposed to respond to that?
“I guess,” he finally managed, shrugging.
“A man of few words, our Gregory,” Tony said, coming up behind him.
Potter laughed at that. “And you must be—”
“Astoria Greengrass, at your service, oh Great Savior,” she said, mock saluting.
He chuckled some more at that.
“Well,” he said after a while of them not knowing what to say to one another. “I would like to try this famous Bramble—”
Greg was already making the drink. “On the house,” he grunted out.
Potter’s face fell. “Goyle, I can’t—"
“No.” He rolled his eyes, and then glanced at Draco. “Just this once. For making him smile.”
Potter’s face broke into a grin.
He paid for every drink after that first, always giving Dustin and Tory a generous tip if they served him. And at Vincent’s, he was never Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived. He was just Potter.
He and Draco became regulars after that. They never missed a Saturday night.
He grunted back at her.
They were doing their routine grocery shop, which started at the Muggle farmer’s market every Sunday morning, ending at the nearest Tesco. It was an unusually sunny day, and Tory was wearing a sundress, even though it had caused her to ask for his jacket when the wind started to blow. It dwarfed her, but she looked absolutely delighted, and began to swing her arms happily as they walked.
“Greg,” she said impatiently.
“Huh?” He grunted out again, finally turning to look at her. She shook her head at him.
“You sure you’re okay with me wearing your jacket?” she asked, eyeing his bare arms.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” he asked, confused.
A small blush lit up her cheeks, and his eyebrows knitted further together. She saw them furrowing and laughed, coming up and smoothing them out.
“You’re going to get wrinkles that way,” she giggled.
“So?” She was standing so close, he could see the flecks of gold in her green eyes.
“Fine,” she laughed, moving away. “Let your face freeze like that then.”
He shrugged off the encounter, moving to the next stall to look at the different breads.
He stared into the mirror, studying the burn scars. They’d faded, though not as much as he would have liked. It’s not as if they marred anything particularly beautiful about him—he had never been particularly handsome, he knew that. Draco had always been the one with the looks in the group; Vince and Greg were always just the muscle. But even so, the scars twisted something in him. They were a reminder of everything he’d lost to the fire. Even if he’d lost so much more than a tiny patch of skin.
His fingers found the knots, massaging the oils into them, and then he turned and realized he’d left the door open. And there was Tory, in the doorway, her eyes on the scar tissue.
“May I?” she asked tentatively.
He gave a small nod.
She reached out, letting her fingers breeze against the scars, before helping him massage the oil into the hard-to-reach places on his back.
Her body warmed his back as her fingers drifted through the mess of scar tissue. For a moment, he couldn’t breathe.
When she stepped away, he whispered, “Thank you.”
“No problem,” she said quietly back, a small smile on her face.
He didn’t know what he’d do without her.
(He still doesn’t.)
For a while, he woke up with nightmares almost every night.
They started to get better after Tory woke him up that first night.
The night she’d stayed.
And then continued to stay.
They eventually decided it was easier, if one of them woke to nightmares every night, to just share a bed, since they both slept better that way.
(Lovegood continued to mutter about Wrackspurts.)
The night of the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, Greg looked at the group sitting in the corner, laughing together. He’d joined them for a little while, but then he’d returned behind the bar, where he felt more comfortable today.
After the twins’ fireworks display, and after all the patrons had finally shuffled off, Tory told Greg that she and Dustin had everything covered. And handed him a bouquet of flowers. He knew they probably had meaning to them, but he wouldn’t be able to tell you even if he could identify all of them.
He gave her a watery smile, and then walked the short distance to the outside of the building. He placed the flowers on the bench right outside the pub, like he did every year. After all, there wasn’t a grave he could take them to, and he never was brave enough to go back to the Room of Requirement.
“Hey Vince,” he whispered, his voice wobbling just a little, in a very un-Greg-like fashion. He swallowed, and tried again. “Hey, Vince. How’s it going? I’m pretty good. You’ve probably noticed by now that the pub’s pretty popular. I’m not sure you’d have liked it, a bit too complicated I think at first but…it’s worked out nicely.”
He didn’t think about how Vince would have hated that Muggles could interact with wizards in the pub (every night but tonight, because he’d discovered after the first big year at Vincent’s that it got a little too messy on the anniversary for everyone to add Muggles to the mix). He still liked to think Vince would have grown out of his prejudices, the same way that Greg himself had.
(He’d never been a religious man. Still, he liked to think his friend was watching the Earth, somehow, and wasn’t lonely or misunderstood wherever he was. That he could see his friends remembering him but living on in his memory.)
Greg, a man of few words, let the rest of the night fall in silent vigil. He spent the remaining hours until dawn mourning the loss of his friend, his best friend. Possibly the closest thing he’d come to having a family when he was younger. He knew Draco had always loved them, deep down. But Vince had always treated him like the brother he never had.
When the dawn came, he left the flowers on the bench. He didn’t see how they grew and curled around it. (He knew that they would. They did every year.) He went home, and curled around Tory in bed. And fell asleep.
And then Tory was landing on his back, his arms coming up to catch her legs even as she wrapped them around him.
“Hiya,” she giggled, kissing his cheek. And then before he could say anything she’d grabbed his glass from the bar top and raised it over both their heads.
“A toast!” she called out, and everyone in the pub stopped and turned towards where she was perched on Greg’s back. “To daft idiots everywhere, to drunkards and birthday boys. To Goyle!”
“To Goyle!” they all echoed, even if they didn’t know him.
They all threw back their drinks (and then promptly accosted Dustin for new ones).
“Happy birthday,” she murmured to him, before jumping off his back and getting back to work.
He got back to serving drinks, trying to hide his smile.
(He failed spectacularly.)
Three years after seeing them in the pub that first time, Greg received a letter from Draco. Greg blinked down at it for a couple minutes, before grinning broadly and calling out to Tory to let her know they’d be going to a wedding.
The ceremony was beautiful, Potter smiling at Draco the entire time. They got into a bit of an argument when Draco forced Potter onto the dance floor even after the first dance had ended. They argued quite a lot; it seemed to be their thing as a couple, because Greg had never seen them not arguing. Greg still wasn’t sure how this had become a thing—he’d heard the story of them somehow becoming friends during the eighth year he hadn’t attended (he hadn’t been able to imagine Hogwarts without Vince) before they’d gone on that first date, but he still had a hard time believing it. Even now, watching them dance together, he couldn’t quite believe the two enemies had gotten this far.
Tory suddenly bounced up to him and grabbed his hand, pulling him up.
“C’mon we’re dancing,” she told him, pulling him onto the dance floor alongside all the other couples joining Potter and Draco.
He let her lead—he’d always let her lead, he had two left feet and she knew this—and eventually they ended up straying from the waltz to just swaying together, her head on his shoulder.
He’d already told her she looked beautiful tonight. Her dark hair piled on top of her head with curls escaping, a deep green dress swaying around her, her face glowing with happiness. He thought she always looked beautiful, though. Even when she first woke up in the morning, especially when she first woke up in the morning, and was incredibly grumpy and making grabby hands for the coffee.
Shit Vince. I think I’m in love.
A week later, and he still hadn’t done anything about it.
Mostly because he didn’t want to mess up what they already had, so he let it lie. He didn’t bury the feelings—he wasn’t good at that like Draco had been, at keeping the mask up—but he figured he’d gone this long probably in love, and just realizing it didn’t make too much of a difference. After all, he’d been living with her for the last several years and she hadn’t noticed him acting strange, so it must be fine.
Tory had, of course, noticed that Greg was acting strange around her, and thought she had an idea of what was going on, and was slowly getting sick of waiting for him to make a move. He learned this a week after the wedding, when he’d been acting stranger and stranger, and Tory, when there was some down time at Vincent’s, had caught him glancing at her. She muttered something about him being incredibly thick, walked over, and pressed her lips to his.
He was a little shocked. After all, he thought she hadn’t noticed.
But then he grinned at her.
She told Dustin they were putting him in charge of the bar (which sent him into a small panic because seriously they were putting him in charge of the bar on a Friday?!) and disappeared upstairs to their flat.
(Dustin had not been pleased they left him there right as the rush began to filter in.)
(Okay, he’d been a little pleased.
They’d been dancing around each other too long, in his opinion.
Still. As Ginny walked into the bar, saw him working alone, and started to help along with Luna, who she dragged into it with her but who was more than happy to give customers, perhaps not what they’d ordered, but a drink they were generally pleased with, he was glad for the help.)