Never Too Late

JKR owns all. Thanks to my beta excessivelyperky

Chapter 30 – Seaside

Albus was once again woken in the middle of the night to a thump and a small cry. Going to investigate, he found that Harry had fallen out of bed. He picked him up and soothed him, checking for any injuries. Luckily, Harry had fallen on the soft rug at the side of the bed, and so was unhurt. He was not quite awake and Albus gently tucked him back into bed, kissing him on the forehead before extinguishing the lights once again.

The next day was bright and clear. Since Minerva, ever organised, had packed the children's bags the night before, they were ready to go after breakfast. They used an old hat which Dumbledore had changed into a portkey, and were soon transported to the cheery living room of a small white cottage on the northwest shore of Ireland. Although Minerva had explained as well as she could how the portkey worked, the children were both a little shaken and required some calming words and comfort before curiosity took over and they looked around their new surroundings.

Although the cottage was small, it was very pretty with wooden floors and plush rugs. The wooden beams on the ceiling gave it a cosy feeling as well as the soft cheery lights. The kitchen was a Muggle one with an Aga stove.

"Albus, do you know how to use that?" Minerva asked, looking uncertain.

"Indeed I do," he smiled, "Although I do occasionally, help things along, shall we say."

"I'm sure you do," McGonagall said with a wry smile, "Far be it for the great Albus Dumbledore to do without magic for a day or two".

His eyes twinkled merrily at the teasing, "I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Minerva."

Harry gasped at the view out the large window in the living room. "Look Albus and 'Nerva! Lots of water, and sand!"

"That's the beach, Harry. It's lovely and clean, isn't it? Why don't we unpack and then we can go and build some sandcastles." Dumbledore showed the children to the smallest of the three rooms. It had two small beds with a small chest of drawers between them and a small wardrobe. He helped them put their things away, which did not take long.

Returning to the main room he saw Professor McGonagall, who had also quickly unpacked, getting the buckets, spades and towels ready.

They had dressed the boys in Muggle clothing. Albus had even opted for grey trousers and a white shirt. Minerva had vetoed most of his gaudier Muggle attire in the packing process. She herself opted for a long but light summery skirt and blouse.

"Well, what a fine family of non magic folk we are," Albus chuckled, "Let's go and see the sea."

Albus was fortunate enough to own a small private beach beside the house, and he used charms to shield it from Muggle view in case the children used any accidental magic. He preferred it to the option of using memory charms, or worse, reporting it to the Ministry so they could use them.

Neither Harry nor Severus appeared to have been on a beach before and walked a little unsteadily on the lumpy sand, made uneven by the crashing waves. Minerva and Albus removed the children's shoes and took their hands, encouraging them to paddle in the water. They were soon splashing each other before running away laughing.

When they tired of the water, the boys were dried with the towels and the buckets and spades were produced.

"Now, my boys, let me show you how to make a sandcastle," Dumbledore said. He started to dig up sand with the spade, putting it into the bucket.

"You need to use wet sand for this," he explained. "Otherwise it will just fall apart and will not stay up."

He smoothed the excess sand off the now full bucket and quickly turned it over, gently sliding the bucket off. Although the bucket had appeared an ordinary one, it was not so. It changed the sand to make it more like a castle with turrets and small imprints of windows and doors. The children stared at it, wide eyed.

"Can we do it?" Severus asked with excitement.

"Of course," smiled Albus. He and Minerva watched the children fill the buckets and only offered help when it seemed necessary, when it was time to turn the buckets.

"Ogwarts," squealed Severus, clapping his hands.

"Look Seberus. Two Ogwartses," Harry laughed and so did the adults.

Albus waved his wand and small flags appeared in the turrets and small dragons flew around the castles. They boys tried to catch them, but as they were only small cloudy images, they could not.

"Really, Albus, I know the Muggles can't see us but surely you should be careful with this magic. What if the boys mention it when we go into the village?"

"Don't worry, Minerva. Remember they are almost three years old. Adults expect them to have vivid imaginations".

"That's true," said Minerva, "I just don't want this holiday to end with Fudge finding out about all this".

"My dear, I think you are crediting that unfortunate man with a level of intelligence he simply does not possess." His twinkle had returned in full force to his blue eyes and McGonagall laughed, relaxing when Albus patted her arm gently.

"Do not worry. I will try not to be too exuberant," Dumbledore said earnestly, looking more than a chastised schoolboy rather than the Headmaster.

"Now that I would like to see," laughed Minerva. They turned again to watch the children who had created several more castles. The bucket made them all look different and they found it incredibly entertaining.

At lunch time, Sparkle, Dumbledore's loyal house elf, appeared with a rug and picnic lunch for them and delighted in the praise and thanks she received from them.

In the afternoon they took the children to the Muggle part of the beach where there was a playground for children.

The evening was a little cooler and they returned to the cottage where they had dinner. Albus did an expert job of lighting a fire without magic, using turf which sat in a copper bucket on the hearth.

"We use that for sandcastles?" Severus asked.

"No, my dear child," Albus laughed, "It is not the right type of bucket. Yours are special buckets."

"I like the beach," said Harry, "we staying here?"

"Yes, child," Dumbledore smiled, delighted that the children were happy, "we are staying here for the rest of the week. That is six more days from today".

"Yay!" the children shouted and ran around laughing until they fell down on the soft rug, a little dizzy.

"Now, I think it is time for some warm milk and then off to bed for you two," said McGonagall.

"No!" they both whined.

"Yes, children," Dumbledore's voice was gentle but firm, "You must get lots of sleep or you will be too tired to play tomorrow. You don't want me to put you down for an afternoon nap now, do you?"

"Abus, we're too big for naps," said Severus with such a look of indignation that Dumbledore had to suppress his laughter. He was sharply reminded of the adult Professor Snape giving him just such a look when he made him rest.

"Well then you know what you have to do," said McGonagall as Sparkle appeared with the small cups.

The combination of fresh sea air and warm milk made the children drowsy and they each sat on Dumbledore's lap for a story while the other was washed and changed for bed by Minerva. The two small boys were soon being carried to bed by the adults.

"Well, I don't know about you, Albus, but I am exhausted," declared McGonagall, "It has been a wonderful day but a long one".

"Indeed," agreed the Headmaster, "I am so happy we are able to give the boys a few days of play and peace in the fresh air. I hope they will remember some of it when we re-age them."

"I'm sure some of the memories will remain even if they are only flashes," said Minerva softly, "James Barnes assured us that what we have done can only help them to heal as they will remember that we love and care for them."

"As always, my dear, you put my mind at rest," said Albus, "I have been foolish not to share more of my thoughts and feelings with you, such a wonderful friend you are".

"Now now, don't be so sentimental," McGonagall, though her bright eyes and red cheeks belied her brisk tone. She smiled at the Headmaster before going into her room.

The small family spent an idyllic week by the sea. They walked on the beach and into the local village to see the small craft shops and to buy ice cream. They played every day on the beach and Harry and Severus collected sea shells and brightly coloured pebbles. They loved to hold the shells to their ears and listen to the sea sounds they heard.

Being Ireland, of course, there were one or two rainy days when they sat inside and played simple board games and Exploding Snap which was a favourite of everyone's.

Most surprisingly, Albus and Minerva were able to go out to the local pub on one evening and hear traditional music while the Healers came to look after the children and enjoy the small cottage and beach. Dumbledore was delighted to come back and find that both children had slept peacefully.

"You must be doing something right," Jeffrey joked, earning a mock glare from the Headmaster.

All too soon the time came to return to the castle. The summer was drawing to a close with only two weeks before the students were due to return. The Healers advised Dumbledore and McGonagall that it would be best to re-age the small wizards sooner, rather than later, to give them time to get used to being adult and teenager again in quite different circumstances. They carefully planned the way in which each child would receive the antidote, allowing time for very important conversations between each boy and Dumbledore. There were many things which needed to be said in order to heal old wounds and allay any fears Harry or Severus undoubtedly would have.

"We have three more days of our little ones," Albus sighed, "We had some difficult times this summer but they were strongly outweighed by wonderful times."

They were sitting in his office on the evening of their return from the cottage.

"Yes," said Minerva dabbing her eyes with a tartan handkerchief, "Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday we de-aged them."

"Yes, I know they are happy now but I fear that when they are re-aged their troubles will return tenfold. Perhaps I made the wrong decision."

"You did not. I am sure of that," said Minerva firmly, "Those boys will know we are here for them without condition."

"Yes they will," said Dumbledore "I am determined to make up for my mistakes as best I can."

"That is all any of us can do," said James Barnes gently, "Remember we are here to help you all. You have only to ask."

They both thanked him and prepared for the last days with little Harry and Severus.

TBC

A/N Sorry it took such a long time for me to post. Life got in the way and stole my muse. Don't worry I am on track to finish this story. Just bear with me. Thanks for your patience, R