Fine Dining It Isn't Characters: Regulus, Tybalt, Etienne, Serafino Summary: Regulus has another "interesting" experience in child-rearing.
"Daddy, I'm hungwy! What we haf for dinner?"
Tybalt looked down at Serafino, who was tugging urgently on his trousers and looking up with wide blue eyes. His free hand rubbed his stomach as though it hurt, and Tybalt clucked in sympathy, leaving the picture he had been hanging askew on its hook and bending to lift Serafino into his arms. "Are you now, little one? Well, Papa had to go to the shop, so we're on our own tonight. What do you want? Spaghetti?"
"No," Serafino shook his head and stuck out his lower lip.
"Oh, my, no spaghetti? This is very serious." Tybalt pretended to give the question intense thought as he carried Serafino into the parlor, where Etienne was lying on the floor, piecing together a puzzle. "Etienne, are you hungry, too? Do you know what you want for dinner?"
"Hungwy!" Etienne agreed. "Want fish-n-ships!"
Tybalt couldn't help but laugh at that, and he glanced over at Regulus, lifting a brow as his lips twitched in amusement. "Well, I'm no good with fish and chips, but I know someone who is. Fancy a walk to The Three Broomsticks for a meal? Or would you be too horrified at being seen with us in public?"
"I think perhaps I had better accompany you unless I wish to scrounge up dinner for myself," Regulus said, smiling slightly. "After slaving for long hours at the shop, I've no desire to cook, and I'd rather be served tonight, I think."
"That settles it, then," Tybalt replied, giving Serafino a smacking kiss on the cheek. "Fish-n-ships for you, too?"
"Yes!" Serafino nodded, obviously pleased by this solution. "Down, Daddy! Wanna get my shoes!"
"Sounds like a plan," Tybalt said, lowering Serafino to the floor and watching as the little boy darted off toward the foyer. Etienne bobbed to his feet and ran after his twin, obviously not wanting to be out done.
Turning his attention to Regulus, Tybalt shook his head with a smile. "I'll do my best to keep them subdued, or at least more subdued than they are at meals here. Shall we?"
"Yes, let's." Regulus followed Tybalt, his lips quirked with amusement. "How do you intend to subdue them? Rope?"
"Promises of ice cream ought to help with keeping them in line, at least for a bit." Crossing to the door, Tybalt stepped into his own shoes, then held out his hands to the twins. "Let's go, then. It's a short walk, and a nice evening, so that's better than taking the Floo, don't you think?"
"Yes!" Serafino hopped up and down in place, grabbing Tybalt's hand to urge him forward.
"No, want Weg'lus," Etienne said, the line forming between his brows that said that he wasn't about to be thwarted. He held out his hand to Regulus, his expression changing into a beguiling smile. "Please?"
No doubt many people of his acquaintance would be surprised to learn Regulus was susceptible to the wide-eyed pleas of a small child, but he found it difficult to resist agreeing when Etienne turned on the charm. It was gratifying that Etienne had taken to him, giving him confidence that he was likable and could deal with children despite his inexperience, and he understood a little of what Serenus and Tybalt had said about being the focus of a child's trust and affection.
Smiling, he clasped Etienne's hand. "Yes, I will walk with you," he said.
The matter of escorts settled, Tybalt led the way outside, then closed the door behind them and put up the wards. The sun was slanting down toward the west and a cool breeze was blowing from the mountains, and Tybalt smiled as they walked along. "I love this time of year," he said, waving his free hand toward the clouds, which were tinged with tones of purple and gold. "It's like relaxing after a long, hectic day, as everything slows down and prepares for a long sleep."
Regulus glanced around, noting the growing stillness as the shadows lengthened, and he gave a little shiver. "I have been apprehensive about being out after dark, since it was then that Bellatrix sent Andromeda to 'fetch' me." He glanced at Tybalt. "I am not apprehensive about it tonight, given I am in the presence of an Auror," he added. "I prefer not to go out alone, however."
Tybalt gave Regulus a sympathetic smile and nodded understandingly. "You're safe with me, I promise," he said quietly. "And hopefully you'll lose your apprehension as time goes on, because the evening is such a lovely time." He winked at Regulus, his eyes glinted with amusement. "Especially if you find that certain someone to spend them with."
Regulus rolled his eyes, amused that the subject of romance was coming up again. "You really are determined to pair me off with someone, aren't you," he said, shaking his head. "You're obsessed, the lot of you. I'm beginning to think it really is a conspiracy to drag innocent bachelors into the web of marital suffering."
"You're onto us," Tybalt laughed. "I suppose our dastardly scheme is foiled now!"
"It is indeed," Regulus said mock-sternly, wagging one finger at him. "I won't be fooled so easily."
They reached the pub, and he held the door open with one hand, still holding on tightly to Etienne's hand with the other; he had seen how easily the boys were distracted, and he didn't want Etienne to dart off and get into something he ought not get into. There were plenty of empty tables, and Regulus glanced around, looking for someplace suitable.
"Do you have a preference as to where we sit?" he asked. "It seems we have plenty of choices."
"I suggest a booth, so that we can corral the two of them against the wall and perhaps have some chance of keeping a hold on the situation." Tybalt glanced around, then pointed to one near the bar. "I think that will do. We can keep them penned while they still can see things."
"Yes! That one!" Serafino ran to the booth and practically dove onto the wooden seat, then sat up and banged on the table. "Hungwy! Where's the food?"
Regulus tried not to cringe and flashed an apologetic smile to a couple sitting at a nearby table; hopefully, there wouldn't be more outbursts, but at least if he and Tybalt kept them corralled as Tybalt suggested, it might help curtail any rambunctiousness.
Etienne yanked his hand free of Regulus' grasp and ran to the booth as well, joining his brother in banging on the table, and Regulus quickly slid in beside him and gave Tybalt an appealing look. He wasn't their parent or even a family member, and he didn't know what he could or should do in this situation.
"We must order the food first," he said. "Then it will arrive as soon as possible."
"Settle down, boys. Now," Tybalt said in a firm voice, one that he used only rarely, but because of it, the boys immediately took note, ceasing their banging and subsiding into their seats.
"There, it's just knowing how to say it," he added, giving a wink only Regulus could see. "Now that that's settled, how about some food? Parenting is hungry work!" He waved a hand at Rosmerta, who nodded and started toward them.
"I believe I will have fish and chips and a pint," Regulus said when Rosmerta looked to him for his order. Normally, he preferred wine, and he rarely ate such pedestrian fare as fish and chips, but he was learning to appreciate the simpler things in life. He wasn't in the mood for fine dining for once; he wanted the simple pleasure of something fried and greasy.
"Same for me, and the food for the boys, but with milk," Tybalt said, and Rosmerta nodded and headed back toward the bar. Tybalt reached into the pocket of his light jacket and pulled out two pieces of parchment and a handful of crayons, which he placed on the table between the boys. They crowed happily and set to work drawing, and Tybalt sat back with a sigh. "There, that ought to keep them busy long enough for the food to arrive. I hope!"
"You are very wise and very prepared," Regulus said, watching the boys doodle amorphous shapes that he couldn't possibly identify, and he hoped they didn't ask him to. "Where did you learn your parenting skills? Innate or trial and error?"
"I learned from the best - my Mum," Tybalt admitted. "And what Serenus learned from his Mum too, of course. Not that I ate out much as a child, but basically having something on hand to keep the little ones occupied when necessary is a good idea. Serenus transfigured my jacket to add the hidden pockets, and over the last couple of years, we've learned what to bring when we go places. When they were very small, it was blankets and diapers and such, then teething rings, and now it's crayons and small toys. Oh, and biscuits, too. You never know when they're going to get ravenously hungry, except all the time."
Regulus shook his head, his admiration for the parents of his acquaintance rising anew. "I cannot imagine how you remember to do all these things. There is so much to keep track of all the time, and things change with each new stage they enter."
Etienne held up his piece of parchment and showed it to Regulus proudly. "Look! See what I dwew?"
Studying the picture, Regulus tried to figure out what it was meant to be and gave up, but he smiled gamely. "Very nice," he said approvingly, as if it were on the level of Monet.
"You forget, we've been at this for a couple of years now, and you've been thrown into it cold," Tybalt replied. He smiled at the way Regulus admired Etienne's art work, obviously wanting to encourage Etienne's efforts. "But you have good instincts too, you know. The boys are quite taken with you, and they wouldn't be if they sensed you disliked them or wished them ill. Don't sell yourself short, all right?"
"Thank you." Regulus inclined his head in acknowledgment of the compliment. "I think of what my parents would do, and I do the opposite," he said dryly. He glanced at Etienne, who had resumed working on his masterpiece, and reached out to stroke the boy's hair. "I do like them. I have not spent much time around children, but I never felt any antipathy for children in general. It was simply not something I had occasion to experience. It is... messier than I prefer, but it isn't bad."
"High praise indeed," Tybalt said teasingly. "No, it's definitely not bad, although it has its moments of being less than stunningly good, too. But those moments are worth suffering through for the rest of it. Or as my Mum says, children are the price we must pay for the joys of having grandchildren. I don't know why she says that, though. I was a perfect little angel who never caused her a moment's anxiety." He chuckled. "Merlin, even I can't say that with a straight face!"
"I should hope not," Regulus retorted. "I've seen how you are with Etienne and Serafino, and I am inclined to agree with Serenus when he says you are an Auror who thinks he is six years old. If you are like that now, I can only imagine what you were like as a child."
Tybalt flushed. "I guess I never got over wanting brothers of my own, and now I can't resist being a child with my own boys. At least Serenus doesn't seem to mind. I'm grown up enough when he wants me to be."
"No doubt," Regulus replied with a snort. "From my perspective, you didn't miss much in not having a brother, but then, my family was not in any way typical."
Just then, Rosmerta returned with their food, serving smaller portions and milk to the boys and larger portions and beer to the adults, and Regulus breathed in the scent of the food, finding himself ravenous all of a sudden. But Etienne tugged at his sleeve, giving him a plaintive look, and he sighed, putting off diving into his own food in favor of cutting up Etienne's fish and chips into bite-sized portions.
"Another lesson of parenthood: you're number two," Tybalt said, catching Regulus' sigh and smiling. "It's definitely not a job for the selfish or inflexible; the child will end up suffering. One of the things people who don't have children sometimes don't seem to understand is that children are selfish inherently; they can't help but be, at least when they're small, because they haven't learned any differently. It takes time and effort to show them that what they want isn't always the most important thing to everyone, and at that point, they stop demanding and start giving you the wide eyed looks that melt you into doing what they want anyway."
"So I have noticed," Regulus said wryly as he finished cutting up Etienne's food. "As one who has been accustomed to doing things his own way and being the center of attention, it has been something of an adjustment. It is gratifying to know I have not been making an abysmal mess."
"Believe me, Etienne would let you know if you were." Tybalt finished cutting up Serafino's food and watched as the little boy dove into eating as though he hadn't had a meal in weeks. Smiling, Tybalt ruffled his hair, then reached for his pint, lifting it in a salute to Regulus. "You may not have the experience or the upbringing, but I believe you would make a fine parent, and I do not say that lightly or just to boost your ego. If I thought you were making a hash of it, I wouldn't let the boys be around you that much. I want to help you in any way I can, but trust me, I draw the line at traumatizing my children for anyone."
As if on cue, Etienne reached for his milk and knocked the glass over, and it seemed the ensuing flood of milk managed to flow directly into Regulus' lap. He did not screech and bolt to his feet in horror, although he wanted to; instead, he drew his wand and cleaned up the mess as swiftly as possible and used a hot air charm to dry his robes and steam out the wrinkles.
Etienne was staring at Regulus, wide-eyed and looking on the verge of tears. "I sowwy!" he exclaimed, and Regulus managed to smile despite the state of his robes.
"It's all right. It was an accident," he said, signaling Rosmerta that they needed her again. For all Tybalt's reassurance that he would make a good parent, Regulus didn't believe it. He simply didn't understand how anyone could willingly subject themselves to being in a state of perpetual mess - or dampness, he thought, glancing down at his robes, which would take a great deal of care to restore to their proper, pressed state. He wasn't angry, but his fastidious soul was recoiling in abject horror. He looked up at Tybalt. "You do not draw the line at traumatizing me, however," he said dryly as Etienne pressed against his side, as if seeking reassurance.
"You can always walk away," Tybalt said simply, smiling serenely. He saw how Regulus was holding himself in check from saying anything about his normally fastidious robes, and he shook his head in amusement. "You're a well dressed man, and you have a neat and orderly home, but do either your clothing or your flat fulfill you in any way, complete a part of your life that's missing or make you feel like a better person? You can take pride in your appearance, and I'm not faulting you for that or for wanting things to be as neat as possible, but in the long run, how would you prefer to be remembered when you die: by people who say 'oh, he always dressed nicely and kept a nice house' or people who say 'he knew how to enjoy life and experience it to the fullest'?"
"I fail to see why I can't live life and be tidy and dignified at the same time," Regulus replied. Etienne was still looking pitiful, and Serafino was starting to look worried on his twin's behalf, and Regulus slid his arm around Etienne to show there were no hard feelings. "Living doesn't necessarily mean you have to get dirty and unkempt."
"It does if you're around children," Tybalt chuckled, his eyes soft as he saw how Regulus comforted Etienne, and he slid his own arm around Serafino to keep him from fretting. "Severus, Remus, Serenus and I are no strangers to wearing more dinner than we get to eat, and even the elegant Gaius has been seen unkempt and disheveled and sporting porridge in his hair. And Severus has to be one of the most dignified people I've ever known, yet he doesn't hesitate to get grubby when the situation warrants." He grinned wickedly. "We ought to arrange for you to see that; it might change your own feeling about how much fun it is to let your hair down and muck about in the mud."
"Dear Merlin, no." Regulus shuddered and shook his head. "Please, leave some of my illusions intact. I'd like to think of Severus as I remember him, and seeing him covered in gunk might be too much for my sensibilities to bear."
Rosmerta arrived with another glass of milk, and Regulus handed it over; Etienne took it carefully in both hands, careful not to spill any this time, and Regulus breathed a sigh of relief when it was safely on the table.
"My, my, you are a cautious one, aren't you?" Tybalt teased. "No grime, no shattered illusions, no rumpled clothing, no mess of any sort... How do you have... um... well, never mind." Tybalt ruffled Serafino's hair, which earned him a bright, ketchup-tinged smile.
It was on the tip of Regulus' tongue to ask 'how do I have what?', but fortunately, he figured out what Tybalt meant before the words escaped him, and he chuckled. "Very neatly," he said, teasing. "No, that kind of mess is fine. I don't mind that so much."
"Well, thank Merlin for that, at least!" Shaking his head, Tybalt laughed softly. "I suddenly had this vision of you casting Scourgify about fifty times in the course of the act, and I don't know about other men, but that would sure kill my mood in a hurry. Although if you tell me you kick them out of bed just so you can straighten the sheets, I might have to kill you myself. As an act of mercy, you know, because that would be so, so wrong."
Regulus shot him an aggrieved look. "I am neat, not compulsive. There are limits to how far I will go to stay clean under certain circumstances."
"Perhaps you're not completely hopeless after all," Tybalt drawled. "So, there are things you consider worth getting messy and unkempt for, and so do I. I just find playing with my children and giving them and myself pleasure to be one of those things. It's as emotionally fulfilling as physical intimacy - perhaps more so, depending on who you're getting intimate with. It makes them happy, it makes me happy... consider it a joygasm, rather than the other kind."
"I will take your word for it," Regulus replied dryly. "So far, the joyousness has eluded me, which is entirely my own issue, I realize." He glanced at the boys, who were gobbling their food with messy pleasure. "My urge to keep things neat and orderly is too strong, I suppose."
"Ah, well... I suppose we can't convert everyone, boys. We won't give up yet though, will we? We'll just consider Uncle Regulus a work in progress." Tybalt picked up a napkin and wiped Serafino's cheeks. "Right?"
"Wight!" Serafino agreed, then turned a favored Regulus with a glowing smile. "Unca Weg'lus need work!"
"Uncle Regulus does need work," Regulus agreed, nodding to Serafino before applying a napkin to Etienne's cheeks in an attempt to wipe off the grease and flakes of fish and potato. "That is why Uncle Regulus is staying with you lot."
"Stay f'ever!" Etienne said, catching hold of Regulus' sleeve and looking up at him with the gaze of mute appeal he'd perfected. "Pwease?"
It was terribly maudlin of him, he knew, but Regulus couldn't help feeling his heart melt around the edges at that, and he smiled down at Etienne. "I cannot promise to stay forever, but I will stay with you for a long time. How is that?"
Etienne considered that, then nodded, apparently satisfied. "All wight," he agreed, then held up his arms. "Kiss, pwease!"
After one more fastidious swipe of Etienne's face, Regulus obligingly drew Etienne into his lap and kissed his cheek, feeling rather good about having earned Etienne's regard and being singled out for attention in this way; he had always assumed he wouldn't do very well with children, but other than not being entirely comfortable with the amount of mess involved, he found it wasn't so bad after all.
"Well it seems they're finished," Tybalt observed, finishing up his wiping of Serafino with a kiss to the little boy's nose, which made him giggle. "If you're done, shall we head back to Azoth House? I happen to know there is ice cream in the cold box. Chocolate ice cream, which is perfect for having just before bath and bed."
Not to mention wet and messy, Regulus thought, but he didn't say so aloud, not when the boys were cheering and obviously excited about the treat.
"I'm finished," he said. "By all means, let's go and have ice cream, and after your baths, chapter three of Frankenstein awaits."
The boys cheered louder, and laughing with amusement, Tybalt put the money for their meal on the table, then picked up Serafino and stepped out of the booth. "How about a race home?" he asked, settling Serafino on his shoulders and giving Regulus a challenging smile. "Last one home gets to bathe the boys all by himself?"
Regulus secured his hold on Etienne and slid out of the booth, and then he smiled the smile of a Slytherin about to spring a trap. "By all means," he purred.
And with that, he drew his wand, and he and Etienne Apparated away.
Tybalt couldn't help but laugh, and he looked up at Serafino with a rueful smile. "Looks like I've been out done, my lad. Ah, well, that's all right. How about you beg Uncle Regulus for two chapters tonight?"
"Okay!" Serafino said, and with that, Tybalt trotted out the door of the pub, waving at Rosmerta and thinking about what he could do to get Regulus back for being not only too neat, but too damned sneaky for his own good.