Hearts and Flowers
Characters: Tybalt, Serenus, Celestra, Ethelenda, and a whole tribe of gypsies Summary: Tybalt has a very special Valentine's Day surprise for Serenus
Tybalt hummed to himself as he stood in front of the dresser mirror and tied his hair back in a neat ponytail. He was dressed in loose, colorful slacks and a matching vest in shades of blue over a white shirt with full sleeves and open-toed sandals, traditional gypsy attire he'd not worn in quite a while. On the bed, he'd laid out a similar outfit in vibrant green, one that his mum had helped him put together for Serenus. He hoped that Serenus would enjoy his little surprise for Valentine's day; it wasn't exactly traditional, but Serenus seemed to enjoy experiences that were out of the ordinary, and the plans for this evening would certainly apply.
He'd urged Serenus to take a long, relaxing bath while he dealt with the twins, who had been fed and bathed and sent for a sleepover party with Nanny Stella at Monkshood Cottage. Now all that he needed was his husband, and they could begin their own Valentine's Day celebration.
Serenus emerged from the bathroom wearing only a towel wrapped around his waist since Tybalt had sent him off to bathe without letting him pick out anything to wear beforehand; he'd used some bath oil of Severus' making, and he was nice and relaxed after his hot bath, a rare sensual indulgence. "Here I am," he said, smiling as he padded across the floor to Tybalt. He paused to look Tybalt up and down, and he whistled appreciatively. "Don't you look festive! I take it we're going somewhere different for dinner."
Tybalt returned Serenus' appreciative gaze, his eyes darkening with desire as he took in the sight of Serenus' flushed, bare skin. Reaching out, he pulled Serenus against him, bending his head to nuzzle Serenus' cheek. "Oh, yes... something special that I hope you'll enjoy. A Gypsy celebration. Think you're up for it?"
Serenus returned the nuzzling with a quiet, happy little purr, and he wound his arms around Tybalt's waist, not caring that his towel slipped a little. "I'm up for a lot of things," he said archly. "Some of which we don't need to leave this room to enjoy."
"Oh, really?" Tybalt felt a bit breathless, and part of him wanted to throw over his plans in favor of simply staying home and shagging, but he was looking forward to seeing Serenus' reaction to his surprise. He kissed Serenus, a gentle brush of lips, then pulled back with a bit of regret. "As incredibly tempting as it is to take you up on that, we can't be more than fashionably late." His smile turned wicked, and he grasped Serenus' towel, stripping it away and then pointing to the bed. "If you put that on, I promise I'll take it off of you later and give you whatever it is you would enjoy most, all right?"
"I'll hold you to that," Serenus replied as he sashayed over to the bed, putting on a little show for Tybalt's benefit. He examined the outfit curiously, but he held his questions in check until after he'd dressed, donning the garments swiftly. Once he was dressed, he turned back to Tybalt and stretched out his arms by his sides and turned around slowly. "Well?" he asked, raising a questioning eyebrow. "How do I look?"
"Fantastic... the most handsome man in the world," Tybalt replied, his voice deep and husky, and he moved to wrap his arms around Serenus again. "In or out of clothes. A man I'm proud to call my own."
Serenus' smiled widened, and he embraced Tybalt in return, pleased by the compliment. "I'm proud to be yours," he replied, tightening his arms around Tybalt and pressing close. "I'm proud to call you mine as well."
Tybalt stole another kiss, wanting to taste Serenus' gorgeous smile. When he lifted his head again, he moved a hand to caress Serenus' cheek. "I have a gift for you before we go, if you'd like it. It's not something you can hold in your hand, but it's something I want to give you."
Serenus leaned into the caress, regarding Tybalt questioningly. "We've already ruled out a thorough shagging until later, so I've no idea what you could give me. What is it?"
"Time." Tybalt leaned forward to kiss Serenus' nose affectionately. "Don't get me wrong, I know you love the boys, but you do so much for them, for me, and for the whole Snape clan that you don't get enough time for you. So I talked to Nanny Stella, and her very close friend and colleague Deb just happens to be available for hire, and I've paid a retainer to get us first refusal. I know when we talked about it some time ago, you didn't want a live-in nanny, but this doesn't have to be that way if you would prefer not. She could take the boys for a few hours every day to give you some time for your alchemy or simply to indulge yourself, or if you've changed your mind about live-in, she could do that, too. It's completely up to you, love, and whatever you're comfortable with. But if we do have another child, you might find it very handy to have a competent nanny on hand. Especially since you've already had twins once, and there's no guarantee that another pregnancy wouldn't give the same results."
Serenus wasn't certain whether to melt or to wrestle Tybalt to the floor, but since Tybalt said they had somewhere to be, he settled for kissing Tybalt with heartfelt affection and gratitude. "That's brilliant, caro," he murmured against Tybalt's lips, letting his hands stray down to grope Tybalt's arse. "Thank you so much. I love having our family close, but you're right, it's a full time job on top of working at the shop, and I don't want to take advantage of the uncles too much, especially Gaius and Regulus. Having a nanny would be wonderful, even if we don't have another set of twins, and I'm not at all against having live-in help at this point."
"Excellent!" Tybalt returned the kiss with equal emotion, pleased that Serenus liked his gift, and wriggled playfully against Serenus' wandering hands. "I'm so glad you like the idea! I just had the feeling when Stella mentioned that her friend was looking for a new position that it was something you might want. You're a fantastic father, but you deserve to have some adult time, too. We can work out the details and meet Deb tomorrow, if that suits you; but for now, we are expected, so if you're ready to go..."
"I am, yes," Serenus replied, brushing a light kiss against Tybalt's lips before releasing him and stepping back reluctantly. As much as he'd love to remain home and in bed, he was curious about Tybalt's surprise, especially since it involved such interesting garb. "Where are we going?"
Tybalt smiled mysteriously. "Oh, someplace," he said, taking Serenus' hand and reaching into a pocket of his loose pants to pull out a coin. He triggered the Portkey, and their bedroom disappeared, and they were suddenly standing in the middle of a small clearing. The sky was just showing the last streaks of sunset through the bare branches of the trees, and the scents of the forest were all around them, along with the sounds of cheerful music played on drums and violins. "Welcome to Aquitaine, love... land of my father, the place where my parents met."
Serenus looked around, taking in the view with wide, curious eyes, and he chuckled. "After all these years, you're finally taking me to your home," he noted, squeezing Tybalt's hand. "It's lovely."
Tybalt returned the squeeze, then pointed toward a circle of brilliantly colored wagons standing a short distance away, the flames of a large bonfire flickering amidst them. "It's not home, exactly, not without Celestra and Mum and the others here. Most Gypsies aren't nomads, but this band is, and this is the first time they've traveled back to this area since you and I have been together. I wanted you to see them here, in this way, because of my father... ah, but more of that in a few moments. Come on... Mum and Celestra are waiting for us, and they are most anxious to introduce you to the others."
Serenus' curiosity was growing by leaps and bounds, but he didn't bother asking questions; he had a feeling he'd find out everything he wanted to know in due time, and so he followed Tybalt to the wagons, looking around for his in-laws' familiar faces.
Tybalt led Serenus toward the wagons, slipping between two of them and entering the circle. There were at least fifty or sixty people of all ages gathered around, laughing and talking but they all fell silent as they noticed the newcomers among them. Most of the people were dark haired and golden skinned, but there was a smattering of paler faces and lighter hair among them, and even one younger woman who was blonde to the point of almost being silver. There was curiosity on most faces, and welcome on many as they recognized Tybalt, but Ethelenda and Celestra beamed at them both, hurrying toward them from the front of one of the wagons.
"Serenus! It's so good to see you again," Ethelenda said, moving to wrap her arms around Serenus in a tight hug. "Welcome to the family."
Serenus returned the embrace, smiling warmly at her. "Hello, Ethelenda, it's good to see you too," he replied. "I don't suppose you'll tell me what this is about? Tybalt is being secretive."
"Is he? The naughty boy!" Ethelenda glanced at Tybalt, raising a brow. "We'll see about that."
"Indeed we will," Celestra said, coming up beside her daughter. Ethelenda stepped back so that Celestra could claim her own hug from Serenus, then Celestra reached under her shawl and produced what appeared to be a bottle wrapped in a colorful handkerchief. Around the neck of the bottle was Serenus' necklace, his spouse-price Ethelenda had given him.
Tybalt smiled, turning to look at Serenus and holding out his hand. "Since my father is no longer alive, I am the senior male of my line, so it falls to me to ask you, Serenus Snape, if you will be bound to me by Gypsy rites, here at the place where my parents were wed to each other? Will you, in the presence of my people, accept the dowry my mother offers and agree to be my spouse?"
Serenus stared at Tybalt, stunned into silence for a moment, his eyes growing wide as Tybalt's proposal sank in. This was the last thing he'd expected, given how long they had been together and the fact that they'd already had one wedding, but even though Serenus had accepted the necklace, they had never solemnized their union according to the traditions of Tybalt's people - an oversight Serenus was happy to correct.
"Yes," he said once he'd recovered from the shock enough to speak, and a wide smile curved his lips. "Yes, I will. Gladly."
A cheer went up from the people around, who had all been listening to the exchange. Tybalt laughed and caught Serenus to him, hugging him tightly, then kissing him with joy and passion. His heart was full of happiness; it didn't matter that they had been married already, or that they'd been together for quite some time with children to show for it. He was proud that Serenus was his, and it made him giddy to show Serenus to the people who had helped raise him, and to know that Serenus was willing to marry him all over again.
"All right, you two, let's finish this up before you devour each other right here," Celestra said tartly, shaking the bottle so that the coins jingled.
Chuckling, Serenus drew back from the enthusiastic kiss with reluctance, and he turned to Celestra with a sparkle in his dark eyes. "I suggest you do," he said, grinning playfully. "You're on borrowed time already, and the countdown is on."
"No doubt, especially since I can tell from that gleam that you've a mind to have more things swell than just my grandson's ego." Celestra winked at Serenus, then removed the necklace from the bottle. "Bend down here, and let me put this on you, then, and you will be married to Tybalt by Gypsy law."
With the sort of soppy smile that would have had Severus retching, Serenus gave Tybalt a loving look before stepping closer to Celestra and bending low enough that she could loop the necklace around his neck. "I'm happy to have my life and my heart entwined with Tybalt's in every way possible," he said.
"And your body, too, no doubt." Celestra lifted the necklace over Serenus' head, then patted his cheek and smiled at him. "I can't blame you, and I know his mother wouldn't either. He's much like his father, and that's the only man I've ever known who could tame my wild Ethelenda." Leaning forward, she kissed Serenus' cheek. "Welcome, grandson. You are now part of the Romani, and you have all the earth as your home."
Tybalt wrapped an arm around Serenus' waist. "And that home is with me, forever," he said. "And now, we dance... and eat, and sing, and then... well, we'll be alone, finally. And I have plans for you."
Sliding his arms around Tybalt's neck, Serenus craned up to kiss him, lightly but lingering. "Whatever they are, I approve them already," he murmured, smiling besottedly up at Tybalt. "Thank you, caro. This was very special, and I'm happy to be married by your traditions as well as mine."
"Thank you for doing it," Tybalt replied, unable to take his eyes away from Serenus, from the happiness on his gorgeous face. Nothing in the world mattered to him as much as Serenus. "I am so lucky to have you, my darling." The crowd around the fire began clapping and chanting "Dance! Dance! Dance!", making Tybalt chuckle again. "Shall we? Our public demands our presence."
"Yes, let's," Serenus replied, unable to stop smiling even though he knew he must look foolish and soppy. He released Tybalt, but only so he could clasp Tybalt's hand. "Lead on! I'll do my best to keep up."
"You'll do fine!" Tybalt pulled Serenus closer to the fire, where the ground was packed hard and flat, and lead him into a lively dance that made Serenus' necklace jingle. Celestra was opening the bottle of firewhiskey that tradition demanded be shared around. Others joined them, calling out congratulations to the couple, and Tybalt mentioned the names of those who danced around them. "Not that I expect you to remember this big lot, but I'll make sure you know who's who."
After several dances, Ethelenda called a halt, announcing that the food was ready. The aroma of succulent meat had been wafting to them from the other side of the fire, and Tybalt's stomach rumbled loudly, making the people closest to them snicker.
"Eat well, you'll need your strength!" an older man told them with a wicked smile.
"That we will," Tybalt agreed, leading Serenus around the bonfire. Several tables were set up on the other side, laden with all manner of food, while a separate table with only two chairs was just beyond them, giving a small bit of privacy. It was toward that table Tybalt headed, gesturing Serenus into one seat while he took the other.
"One more bit of custom to do," he said, pointing to a loaf of bread and a small dish of salt which sat before them. The other Gypsies stood around watching as Tybalt handed the dish of salt to Serenus. "You hold this, and I take a piece of the bread..." he suited actions to the words, tearing off a piece of the bread and dipping it into the salt, then placing it against Serenus' lips. "This is to insure a harmonious future. You eat the bread, then I take the salt and you do the same for me."
"All right." Serenus ate the bread as instructed, and then he tore off a piece of the bread while Tybalt took back the salt. Dipping the bread into the salt, he offered it to Tybalt in return with an affectionate smile. "To our harmonious future," he said.
"Always." Tybalt accepted the bread, chewing it up with a completely absorbed expression, his eyes never leaving Serenus'.
"Now we can eat," Ethelenda said, approaching them with a smile. She held a goblet in her hands, and offered it to Serenus. "I'm certain you're thirsty after all that salt. Try this. It's very soothing."
Serenus accepted the goblet with a grateful smile. "Thank you," he said, taking a sip. It was soothing and quite refreshing as well, and he took a deeper swallow. "It's very good!"
"I'm glad you like it," Ethelenda replied.
"Hey, what about me?" Tybalt asked, giving a pout that was belied by the humor in his eyes. "Now you've got a dark-haired son, so I'm the red-headed stepchild?"
"Of course not!" Celestra approached the table, holding another goblet, and she offered that one to Tybalt. "I'm simply not as fast as your mother, young man. You must grant a bit of understanding to these tired old bones."
Tybalt laughed outright, but he reached out to take the goblet. "You're not old, Celestra... but thank you. You've both been splendid, and we appreciate it."
"Indeed we do," Serenus agreed after he finished his drink. "This has been wonderful, and I'm honored to be part of the family."
"We are honored to have you," Celestra replied, giving Serenus a broad smile. "You brought us much honor, having twin sons as well."
"Absolutely." Ethelenda smiled at Serenus as well. "I know you desire more children. I have no doubt you will get what you want."
"None at all," Celestra agreed.
"Oh?" Tybalt looked between his two female relatives. "Should I be worried, or suspicious?"
"Neither!" Celestra said, waving a hand. "Just do what you men do and everything will be fine."
Serenus also looked back and forth between them, his eyebrows climbing. "Gaius mentioned he'd seen you knitting something, but he wouldn't tell me what color it was. I don't suppose you'd care to elaborate on what you know and how you know it."
Celestra peered at Serenus closely, then glanced at Ethelenda. "Up to you, mum," the younger woman said, giving Serenus and Tybalt a sidelong glance.
"Hmphf." Celestra sounded like nothing in the world so much as Severus when he was in a "you would ask that" moment, but then she shrugged. "Very well, if you wish to know. I'm certain Tybalt has told you I can see things, although non-Gypsies seem to be skeptical. It's a gift some Romani have, passed down from generation to generation, although it, like magic, occasionally skips here and there." She gave Tybalt a long-suffering look. "You aren't pregnant yet, but you will be soon. And yes, I know what you will have, if you'd like to know. Sometimes it's nice to be forewarned on these things."
Tybalt took Serenus' hand a squeezed it. "Up to you, love," he said. "You're doing all the hard work, but if Celestra says you'll get pregnant, it's money in the bank."
Serenus twined his fingers with Tybalt's and smiled up at him. "Yes, I've learned to trust her insights," he replied. He debated whether he wanted to know more or not; on the one hand, surprises were nice, but on the other, if they knew ahead of time, they could plan appropriately, and they hadn't waited to find out what the twins were. "Yes, I'd like to know," he said at last, and then he laughed and pretended to quiver. "I just hope you aren't about to tell me to expect triplets!"
"Not this time, no," Celestra said, and gave them both an evil smile. "You're going to have a girl. And I don't have to have anything more than eyes in my head to know that you lot of males are going to be her devoted slaves within five seconds after her birth."
"No doubt!" Serenus beamed, pleased by the news. He really didn't have a strong preference either way; as long as the baby was healthy, he would be happy no matter what gender it was, but having a daughter would be a new and different experience that he looked forward to eagerly. Releasing Tybalt's hand, he flung his arms around Tybalt and embraced him tightly. "Did you hear that? We're going to have a baby girl!"
"Yes!" Tybalt held Serenus close, very pleased by the news. A son would have been fine, too, and he loved his boys with his whole heart, but a little girl... he had to admit to having a soft spot for the thought of a baby daughter. "She'll be wonderful, too, just like her Papa and her brothers."
Tybalt kissed Serenus softly, tenderly, then pulled back to look into his eyes. "Well, I suppose I'll have to redouble my efforts to get you pregnant. Not that the practice was wasted; it just means she'll be extra specially good, right?"
"At the rate we're going, she'll be perfect," Serenus replied, grinning. A thought suddenly occurred to him, and he glanced over at Celestra and Ethelenda with half curiosity and half suspicion. "I don't suppose you happened to do anything to help your prediction come true that much more quickly, did you?"
Celestra's smile was serene. "Now why would we have to do anything like that?" she asked, spreading her hands in a gesture of innocence. "You handsome young bucks managed to get twin boys all on your own, didn't you? I'm sure you don't need help from a poor old Gypsy woman to make one tiny little girl."
"Mother!" Ethelenda was laughing and shaking her head. "Don't worry, Serenus; even if she did sneak something to you, it wouldn't change the outcome."
"I'm not worried about changing the outcome," he replied, shaking his head with amusement. "I just feel like I ought to wear a sign: 'Warning: irradiated with fertility magic'. Between the blue pot, the fertility wreath you gave us, and whatever Celestra has done, it might not be safe to get too close to me if you don't want to end up fertile yourself!"
"No worries there for either of us," Ethelenda replied, then wrapped an arm around her mother's shoulders. "Tybalt, on the other hand, or anyone else in the house... well, that's something you'll have to learn for yourself." She grinned unrepentantly. "Come on, mum, let's leave the lovebirds alone for a bit. I think they've got quite enough to occupy them."
Tybalt's eyes were wide. "Wait! Mum, you can't say something like that and just walk away!"
"Of course I can, darling," Ethelenda said, waving a hand. "Now go on you two and enjoy yourselves. A Gypsy wedding feast is a grand time." With that, she and Celestra turned and faded into the crowd.
"Oh, my." Tybalt's voice was faint, and he swallowed hard. "Er... they must have just been twitting us."
"Of course they were," Serenus said, grinning wickedly, and he glanced up at Tybalt with faux-innocence. "So would you like to bottom tonight?" he asked sweetly. "Although it occurs to me that she said 'you'll be pregnant soon' without specifically identifying me. Perhaps we ought to warn Gaius and Regulus as well... or perhaps not."
Tybalt replayed the conversation in his mind, and realized that it was possible that his treacherous female relatives had been speaking of a collective "you" rather than Serenus exclusively. "I...." He stopped, thinking about it, then looking at Serenus with a rather sheepish smile. "I suppose I should have asked, but... well. I suppose being pregnant wouldn't be so bad, really. I mean you did it with twins, right? I just... well. I don't know. You looked gorgeous when you were pregnant. I think I might just look ridiculous. But if that's what it is, so be it. I just hope you'll forgive me if I'm a big baby about it!"
Serenus laughed and hugged Tybalt tightly. "Don't worry about it, caro. I was only teasing you. I don't mind being the child-bearer in our relationship, but if you want to be entirely certain you don't end up discovering the highs and lows of pregnancy by accident, perhaps you ought to talk to Severus about making you a dose of that contraceptive potion he makes."
Tybalt held Serenus close, rubbing his hands along Serenus' back. "You're so good to me, my love. But perhaps you're right. I'll talk to Severus, just to be sure. If you really wanted me to have a child for you, I'd do it happily, once I got used to the idea. But we wouldn't want both of us pregnant at the same time! That might be a bit much for even your somewhat unusual family!"
"No doubt!" Serenus pressed closer and relaxed in Tybalt's embrace, smiling in contentment. "I don't feel any particular need for you to carry a child for me," he said, his tone thoughtful as he considered the idea. "Our children are our children, no matter who carries them, and I really don't mind doing it now that I've been through the experience once and have let go of my hang-ups about it." His expression turned mischievous as he added, "So should we warn Gaius and Regulus on the off-chance Ethelenda wasn't teasing?"
Tybalt laughed, pleased and also a bit relieved that Serenus didn't mind having the babies. He'd make sure he did his part, though, taking care of Serenus like the precious treasure he was. "I'll remember that they're our children next time Etienne wrecks your flower bed and I come home for you to tell me what my son did," he said, tongue firmly in cheek. His own smile was wicked as he contemplated the question about the other males in the house. "Oh, no, I think we should let nature take its course, if that's the way it goes. Although I suppose, given Gaius' preferences, that means the Snape brothers would all the the child-bearers. And if I thought I would be a baby about being pregnant, you can only imagine the way Gaius would react!"
"Dear Merlin, they would need a nanny before the child was even born!" Serenus chuckled and shook his head. "Yes, from what Gaius says, I think it's safe to say Regulus is the only one who isn't in any danger, although he might consider having to nurse Gaius through pregnancy a danger in and of itself." He paused, and then amended, "Well, he's safe unless they decide to share, although that doesn't sound likely."
"Their choice," Tybalt replied. "Well, let's keep our mouths shut anyway, and see what happens." He leered at Serenus, his voice dropping to a husky drawl. "Besides, I'm far more interested in contributing to making your belly swell than in what your baby brother's reaction might be. So tell me, Mr. Snape, do you have any preferences for how we spend our wedding night? We could have a wagon here, or return home, or even spend the night under the stars if you'd like. I want to make your fantasies come true, no matter what they are. Just speak a wish and I will do everything in my power to grant it."
Serenus considered the question for a moment before giving Tybalt a questioning look. "The wagon can be sound-proofed, right? I wouldn't mind staying here for the night, but I don't want to broadcast our activities to the entire camp." He smiled sheepishly. "Well, not that they couldn't guess, but they don't need aural proof."
"Oh, yes, they can be soundproofed," Tybalt chuckled, cradling Serenus' cheek in his palm. "And I agree, I'd rather have your cries of ecstasy for my ears alone. Well, then, since that's settled, shall we go get some food to fortify ourselves? If I know my mother and her friends, they've outdone themselves with Romani delicacies, some of which are quite delicious. Not to mention having aphrodisiac properties. Gypsies play hard and love hard, so it's not a bad thing to help stoke the fires."
"As if we need any assistance in that area," Serenus replied fondly, turning his head to kiss Tybalt's palm. "But yes, feed me now and love me later. I want to be thoroughly fortified for our second honeymoon."
"Your wish is my command," Tybalt said, giving Serenus a look of adoration. He pushed back his chair and rose, offering Serenus his hand. "Come along, then, and we'll eat until we've sated one appetite, then retire to sate another. No one will mind if we retire early. I think they'd be disappointed if we didn't!"
Clasping Tybalt's hand, Serenus stood as well and followed Tybalt back to rejoin the others. "I don't doubt it," he replied. "Sometimes I can't decide which side of the family is worse in terms of well-meaning nosiness: yours or mine."
"Both," Tybalt said, giving a sigh that held more of amusement than anything else. "But at least we know they care about us, right? I suppose, in the end, that's all that really matters - loving and know that we are loved in return, whether by family or friends or each other. Everything else is just window dressing."
"Indeed it is," Serenus agreed, sliding his arm around Tybalt's waist and glancing up at him with a wicked smile. "But one thing is certain: by the time I get through with you tonight, you're going to know you're very well loved indeed."
Tybalt returned the smile. "I'm looking forward to it, and to showing you in return. Make sure you keep your wand handy, love... we might need more than one soundproofing spell!"