A/N:Love to my beta, Visitkarte.
And yourselves, my dear readers.
Also Anguis, whose wonderful fiction encouraged me to look at Goyle in a whole new light.
There are a number of Easter Egg type references to other stories in the series. I ended up liking Galten/Antigone a lot.
Also, this fic has an element of disdain for women with which I do not, obviously, agree.
Historical note: The 'heavy stomach' bit actually happened. The future Louis XVI, on being told not to gorge on his wedding night, as was his custom, refused on the grounds that he's sleep better on a full stomach.
Gregory Goyle was not what most people would have called smart. With good reason, because the extent of his book learning hardly covered the most basic spells. He was crude of speech, slow to reaction and, unpardonably in Pureblood circle, without that dry and cutting wit at which the Malfoys excelled.
He was, perhaps, not bright, but Goyle was far from stupid in matters which concerned his own hide. Draco Malfoy, for all his wit, could have learned much from Goyle on the subject of marital silence, for example.
"Ginny? Are you all right?"
"Fine, Greg, fine. Where's Roger?"
"Dunno. Aunty Olive is s'posed to come and get him soon." ( Olive Crabbe, having lost her only child, found some small relief in pretending that Greg's son was her own dear Vincent's.)
After the funeral, Ginny had come home and silently handed Nipsy her cloak. Then she'd retired to her room, still silent. Greg had let an hour go by and when she hadn't emerged, he'd girded himself and bravely approached, a wizarding St. George approaching a wifely dragon.
Ginny said nothing. Greg came behind her chair and quietly pressed his massive, ham colored hands onto either side of her neck and squeezed rhythmically. Ginny relaxed and smiled slightly, letting her head drop a bit. Encouraged, Greg continued for a minute, admiring his wife's hair.
"Are you all right?"
"I will be."
"Are you all right now, though?"
She said nothing. Greg went around to the front and lifted her, easily as a child, and carried her to their big four poster bed. She made no protest. Crawling in beside her, he gently cradled her little form with his big one. They lay in silence together, the only sound the twin beating of their hearts.
It had not always been so easy for them. The wedding night, for example, was, to put it mildly, an unqualified nightmare of epic proportions. Some of it was the usual tensions, the very young age of the couple, and external pressures relating to the intense, burning hatred of the bride toward nearly everyone she knew.
In many ways, and for all their excesses, Hermione had been lucky to end up with the Lestranges. Murdering sadists though they were, in their own bizarre way they genuinely cared for and about her, and tried very hard to give her some kind of family to cleave to. She in turn realized, after a time, being a practical girl, that rebellion brought suffering and yet brooked nothing in the way of results; cooperation brought gentleness and much needed approval.
The McNairs could not have been more different. Their child had died years earlier in some sort of 'accident'. Walden McNair had little love for Arthur Weasley, and the main reason he agreed to take the girl at all was the debt collectors pounding the doors of the ancestral home.
As a result, neither had ever made the slightest effort to have anything resembling a relationship with the girl. Acantha, especially, resented the imposition of this stranger into their lives. Her views on the girl were straightforward: she would obey or be punished.
For her part, Ginny had as much love for the McNairs as they did for her. She came from a long line of intelligent, opinionated and fiery women; she would not play the simpering Pureblood fool for anyone. As a result, she spent a lot of time in Acantha's bedroom, bent over the chaise longue. The sole complementary thing that could be said of Acantha's parenting was that she had too much good sense to trust her husband to chastise the girl.
To make matter worse, they pushed aggressively the idea that Ginny should be grateful to them for having arranged her such a splendid match. The fact that the bride had inherited an emnity for the groom from her brother and former love was immaterial under the weight of such a fine dowry, enough to pay the creditors with some left over.
For Goyle's part, he was less than enthused. He wanted badly to marry Millicent Bulstrode, to whom he'd been promised since the age of three. His tastes ran to large women and he considered the Rubesnesque Millie, with her cloud of gleaming brown hair and ample, pillow like body, to be a very acceptable choice as far as those things went. But Millie was destined to marry far away, to further the Dark Lord's plans in Europe, and Goyle would marry the scrawny, red haired blood traitor. He was neither willing or unwilling, when it came down to it; women, his Da told him sagely, are women. As long as this one would obey, bear his children and not talk too much, it would be fine.
Galvin Goyle was in many ways an unpleasant man. Lacking the elegant madness of Rudolphus or the clever political instincts which Lucius possessed in spades, he had none the less a kind of brutal genius when it came to doing certain things. He was, in fact, a very good friend of Fenrir Greyback, who privately thought dear Galvie would have made a fine werewolf.
He had passed this on to both his sons. Strangely, it lived quite comfortably beside the great love and respect Galvin had had for his dear sainted Mam, which the boys also inherited. Which didn't make women as good as men, not by a long shot; don't get the idea that the Goyles held with such new fangled and foolish notions. No, it meant only that a woman who knew her place, whose blood was pure and whose mind was filled with proper thoughts, could expect to be well treated.
So when the unwilling Ginny was deposited, clad in an ill fitting nightgown, into the marital bed, her husband was quite prepared to do his duty by her. Her bony form gave him little pleasure, but he'd already found a way around that; he'd ordered the elves to load her food with butter and cream, and planned to forbid her strenuous exertion. That, at least, ought to make a start.
Walden McNair had casually mentioned to Goyle sr. that the girl had been punished by his wife a week or so before the wedding. Hastening to reassure Galvin that the girl would not be a discipline problem, he neglected to mention his wife prided herself on 'making sure the little brat felt it', as Acantha McNair was wont to put it. He made something of a tactical error when he made the remark over brandies; he assumed that possession was nine tenths of the law when it came to human flesh.
Greg approached his whey faced bride, who was utterly rigid. Minding what his godfather had told him, he slid under the sheet and began to awkwardly fondle her thigh.
Ginny hissed. His fingers had brushed a particularly sore place. She tried to disguise it as a cough, but her faith that his stupidity would hold was unrewarded. Goyle swung his great ox-like head toward her and looked her in the eye.
"From where your Mam whacked you? Your Da told mine." He was trying to be kind, to reassure her he understood exactly. Being whacked was no fun. He'd never had a sister but assumed that any corporal punishment given to a girl would needs must reflect their weak, easily bruised bodies and gentle little hearts. Maybe a dozen sound swats on the bum, followed by a mild scolding. That seemed just right, enough to teach a lesson but not enough to frighten or seriously harm.
It seemed strange to him, though, that it should still hurt this much a week later. The only other girl he knew was his sister in law, and she certainly wouldn't take on after a few little whacks and a shaken finger. Goyle reached over and flipped his wife on her stomach. Ignoring her gasp, he reached down and hauled up the skirt of her nightdress, curious to see what had been done. So it was doubly shocking when the cumbersome fabric was out of the way.
His wife was a mass of stripes from bum almost to knees, deep railroad tracks of blue and green where the welts had started to fade. Whoever had done them had been either damnably clumsy or horrifically cruel, because a set of parallel welts crossed the whole, dreadfully bright against the cream colored gown.
"Acantha." After two years of the McNair's brutality, Ginny was habituated to it. She also had her assumptions, and chief among them was that her new family would be no kinder or more careful than her 'parents' had been.
"Bloody hell." Goyle jumped up and quickly donned his robe. Without a word to his wife, he galloped down the hall and banged on his older brother's door. "Oi, Tiggy! I need help!"
His sister in law came to the door, also in her nightclothes. "What is it, Greg? Is she refusing you?" Antigone looked both sour and grimly joyful—she hated the McNairs with a burning passion due to some mysterious slight years earlier, and she yearned for the chance to tell their ward, haughty little miss she was sure to be, exactly where to go with her airs and graces.
Having been abandoned by his own mother at age seven, Tiggy was the main female figure in Greg's life and, to him, precisely what a woman ought to be. He followed happily behind her broad, nightdress clad bulk as she stalked down the hall, prepared to give the spoilt brat a good talking to. Tiggy would fix the problem; everything would be all right. Flinging the door open, she registered the site on the bed at once and her mood changed.
"What happened, precious?"
She sat beside the supine and thoroughly embarrassed Ginny and began to stroke her hair. Greg stood shyly, ignorant of what to do, until Antigone said sharply "Salve, Greg, and something to help her feel better."
She meant a potion. Goyle, of course, didn't pick up on that. He fetched the salve and ordered a tray of candies from the kitchens because sweets always helped when he was unhappy. By this time Antigone had alerted her husband, who in turn found Galvin and alerted him to the problem.
Walden McNair, who'd been contemplating the bank draft he'd received earlier in the day by way of a dowry, was startled and displeased when his study was suddenly awash with Goyles, both father and sons, all armed and looking for a fight.
McNair slowly rose. "Perhaps you gentlemen would care to explain what caused this unprecedented…visit?"
The McNairs had been operating under their own set of assumptions. Chiefly they regarded the whole venture as a moneymaking scheme, and assumed that Goyle sr. understood that. After all, for the Goyles, it was a baby making scheme, was it not? The girl ought to be splendidly fertile; surely delivering her intact and semi-willing to the marital bed would be enough?
" We want to talk to you about how you were with Ginevra, you and Madam McNair."
"Who are you to ask?"
"Ginevra is my wife." Greg was too angry to frame a more eloquent response, and he had a sense McNair wouldn't have listened even if he had.
McNair gave Greg a distinctly nasty smile. "Yes, Gregory, she's your wife now, but until this morning she was my ward. And how my wife disciplined the girl is no concern of yours."
"Well, you see, McNair, we would beg to differ.' This from Galten, who was cheerfully anticipating a spot of revenge on the father of his hated schoolmate, dead in very mysterious circumstances. It's certain possible that a person attempting to cast a shaving spell on himself could misaim and sustain a serious, even fatal, cut; it seemed much less likely to Galten ( who was one of the aurors who had handled the case, after all), that Wetherell McNair had chosen to shave with a spell that so closely mimicked the effects of repeated sectumsempras to the face. And groin.
Or, for that matter, that a wizard whose mother swore he was left handed should be found clutching his wand in his stiffening right hand. There were reports McNair the younger had been involved in some very shady money making ventures…
" It would seem you saw fit to severely mistreat the girl, McNair. Considering the Dark Lord's orders on the subject, this would seem…quite the unkindest cut, would it not?" By far the smartest in his family, Galten was well pleased by this bon mot. His Da and brother looked slightly vague, puzzling why the heir apparent should make such a remark.
McNair stiffened. "Look here, you half bright bastards, if you think you can bully me, you ruddy well have another thing coming! My wife gave the girl what she deserved, and if you have any brains, you'll do the same,"
This time Galvin spoke. " Oh, sure, someone is for it, McNair. Not the girl, though. Not her." A short and brutal confrontation followed, one that began with hexes and ended with fists. Acantha was nowhere to be seen; at the first sign of trouble she quietly flooed to her sister's place near Aberdeen.
With a final, shattering kick to the ribs, the Goyles departed. Galvin and Galten went to the billard room for a brandy but Greg, strangely eager to see his new wife, chose to retire. He walked in on a sight that might have been erotic to a more imaginative man. His wife, draped half naked over her sister-in-law's lap while the large woman smeared a thick coat of salve on the welts. Fat as they were, Tiggy's hands were soft and gentle, and she kept up a stream of comforting murmurs and sighs as she massaged the cooling salve on the welts, which felt hot to the touch even now. Poor baby, what that McNair bitch must have put her through…
" All right, then, sweet, back to bed. Greg, I want you to let her alone until she's healed, understood? I better not find out you were pushing her before she'd ready. Goodnight, you two." She departed in a cloud of neroli cologne and muttered imprecations, not least of which involved all the things she would to Acantha McNair if given half a chance.
They were alone. Ginny rolled to her new husband. "Thank you." Though her distaste did not fade entirely, nor the memory of Slytherin indignaties against her House, this marked the first link in the chain. The least she could do, after Goyle's family was so kind, was to be polite back.
He shrugged. "'S'okay. I mean, you're my wife. Want some?" He indicated the tray of marzipan and candied fruits. When she hesitated, Greg took hold of a marzipan piece shaped like a little troll and simply popped it in her mouth. Startled, she chewed reflexively.
"Isn't it good? Nipsy makes the best sweets. Tomorrow I'll take you to meet her."
"I'd like that."
"Da wouldn't let me eat my fill at supper. Said something about not having a heavy stomach. I tried to tell him I sleep best on when I'm full but—What's funny? " Greg felt wary. Was she making fun?
Ginny grinned. " I don't think he was worried about sleeping."
Greg blinked. "Oh, you mean---yeah, I guess not. Tiggy said we can't. Not 'til you feel better."
Ginny laughed. "What did you do to Walden?"
Greg raised an eyebrow. "Who says we did anything?" For a Goyle ( with the exception of Galten, mostly) this passed as great wit. His wife lay back and gave a dreamy little sigh. "I hope you hurt him."
Greg stopped smiling. "Isn't he like your Da, though?" Antigone's parents had taken in one of the orphans, a girl called Iolanthe, and they took pains to treat her as a family member.
"I watched that bastard kill both my brothers. I hope he and that cow burn in Hell for what they did." Her voice never wavered, never changed. Her face was smooth and calm.
Greg wasn't good at emotions. He gave her more marzipan, instead.
Sixteen years later, they lay in the same bed, watching a shaft of watery sunlight hanging limply on the French door. Ginny had calmed down, he thought.
"I'm sorry I couldn't go today."
"It's fine, Greg. In a way I felt better, actually. I know she's dead."
Greg had no problem with Bellatrix ( whose husband was his supervisor, actually) but he knew Ginny hated the woman almost as much as she hated the McNairs. He used the ball of his thumb to lightly trace the bridge of her nose. From the corridor, Custard the Kneazle wandered in. Her squinchy little face was grave. Jumping up on the bed, she began to knead, looking worried. The humans, useless creatures, were clearly trying to make up their minds without her. Poor stupid things.
"She'll deliver any day now."
"Uh-huh. I promised Draco one for Hermione's birthday."
Ginny chuckled weakly. "He's not good with animals."
"No. But she had a Kn—anyway. Are you better?"
Ginny went to stand, smoothing her robes. Greg's hand lashed out and lightly caught her wrist. "Don't. Stay here."
"Someone has to greet Aunt Olive and see Roger off."
Greg nodded. True. "Then you'll come back?"
Ginny giggled despite herself. "Greg, dinner is in an hour."
Her husband smiled, showing his perfect teeth, his best feature by far. "We'll be busy by then."
"You sleep best on a full stomach, remember?"
" It can wait."
There's many kinds of food, after all.