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UnVeiled by Snapegirl
Chapter 25 : A Very Potter Vacation
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5

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A Very Potter Vacation

Day 1: Arrival

Ginny made sure all the food, and the boys' trunks were all packed, Severus had his drawing case and Mimic, and Alby had Bucky and his satchel of books. Harry had Ginny's and his trunks and a bag of kitchen utensils, spices, cauldrons and a case of potions and ingredients just in case someone got hurt or sick over the vacation. Each of the boys Flooed with a parent. Alby with Harry, and Ginny with Severus.

This was a witch's house they were renting for the week. It belonged to a Mrs. Edyth Brentwood, and it was called Driftwood House. It was on Smuggler's Alley, in Hope Cove, and had a colorful history of being home to more than one family of privateers and free traders, as the locals called the smugglers. Hope Cove was like Godric's Hollow, it had a Muggle side and a wizard side, and both people lived peacefully, though the Muggles were quite unaware of their wizard neighbors.

Once they had all stepped from the fireplace into a den that had rustic furnishings and a braided colorful rag rug on the floor in front of the hearth as well as portraits of the sea and sunset that moved on the big wall opposite the fireplace, Alby raced over to a large window on one side of the den that overlooked the lawn and in the distance you could see the ocean, with the waves crashing against the shore.

"The ocean! I can see the ocean!" Alby shrilled, bouncing up and down on his toes. Then he turned and made a beeline for the front door.

"Hold it, little boy!" Ginny called sternly.

Alby froze, when his mummy used that tone, she meant business.

Ginny came up to him and knelt down in front of him. "Albus Severus, I want you to listen very carefully to what I'm about to say. You are not to go anywhere outside of this house without asking me or daddy first. You are not to go anywhere past the lawn without me or daddy, especially not the ocean." She looked up at Harry. "Harry, you'd better set the Boundary Charms now."

"I was just going to do that," her husband replied. He knew better than to count on his son or even Severus obeying the rules all the time, thus the charms to keep them safe and on the property. He walked outside.

Ginny looked down at Alby again. "Am I understood, little boy?"

"Yes, Mummy," Alby said solemnly. "I'll be good. I don't want another spanking."

"You behave and you won't have to worry about one," his mother reassured him. "Now, why don't you and Sevvy go upstairs and find a room to sleep in?"

Alby nodded, then he asked, "Do I have to get my own room, Mummy? I . . . might be a'scared alone with just Bucky."

Ginny looked over at Severus. "Sev, do you mind if you share with Alby like at home? If you want your own space, Harry and I can always put a small bed in our room."

To his surprise, Severus heard himself say, "It's all right, Ginny. Alby can sleep with me. I don't really mind, I'm used to it." It was true. After so many weeks of sleeping with the little boy, Severus knew it would feel strange not having the kid in the room with him, even if Alby did wake him sometimes in the middle of the night. "Come on, Al. Let's see what rooms they have here."

"Sevvy, didja know that pirates lived here a long time ago?" Alby asked as they ran upstairs.

"Not pirates, smugglers," Severus corrected.

"What's a smuggler?"

"It's a person that sneaks items into a country illegally, so they don't have to pay customs taxes on them," Severus told his brother.

"Like what kinds of things?"

"Well, a long time ago, the British government had high taxes on stuff like wine and rum, so a lot of smugglers would sneak cases of liquor in and sell them to whoever met their price. At one time, firewhiskey was banned in the wizarding world here, so the smugglers brought that in, as well as some rare animals, like runespoor eggs and dragon eggs, and also some potion ingredients too, like nightmare hair and dragon's teeth. It could also have been amulets or jewelry. Sometimes it was expensive cloth, like silk or velvet. Whatever would fetch a good price on the black market."

"What's a black market?"

"It's a place where smugglers sold their illegal items and other people bought them. Mostly they were thieves and scoundrels or slippery merchants looking to make a quick Galleon."

"Oh. How do you know so much, Sevvy?"

"I read a lot."

"I wanna read too. So I can know everything like you."

Severus chuckled. "Al, I don't know everything. No one does."

"Well, you know more of everything than anybody I know," Albus said, hero-worship shining in his eyes. He pushed open a door and they entered a bedroom that had clearly been designed for a boy.

It was painted lovingly with an ocean scene right on the walls, magicked so that you could both see and hear the waves of the sea, and spot dolphins jumping, palm trees waving, and even seagulls wailing. There was even ships that sailed by every few minutes.

"This is awesome!" Alby cheered.

There were two bunk beds, and each of them was made up with a nautical theme, of a ship sailing at sunset. In addition to the beds there were chairs, a desk, and two chests of drawers, as well as a closet with a few games in it. There was a large window with billowing white curtains that looked sort of like a ship's sails.

"I like this room, Sevvy," Alby announced. "Don't you?"

"Yes, I do. Would you like to stay in here, or look at another room?"

"Here's good," Alby said, placing Bucky on the bottom bunk. "You can sleep up top, Sevvy. I'm a'scared to sleep up there by myself. What if I fell off?"

"Al, there's a wooden bar there to keep you from doing that," Severus pointed out. "But that's all right. I like sleeping on the top." Severus climbed the ladder and put Mimic on his bed.

"Sevvy, do you think Mummy will let us see the ocean soon?" asked Alby wistfully.

"Let's go ask her," his brother replied. He knew that Ginny would be busy unpacking everything in the kitchen and probably upstairs as well, but maybe Harry could be persuaded to take them down to the seashore.

Alby ran for the stairs, which were a spiral with a long twisty banister made of oak sanded to a smooth golden sheen. The banister was wide enough to sit on, and before Severus could stop him, Alby had climbed onto it and sat down, his rear resting comfortably upon the circular portion at the top.

"Al, what are you doing?" Severus hissed.

"I'm gonna slide down the banister. Teddy and Jamie do it all the time at their house. It's great fun!"

"If Teddy and Jamie decided to jump off the roof, would you?" Severus demanded.

Alby gave him a puzzled look. "'Course not! That would be dumb! You could break your arm. But sliding's cool, Sevvy!" With that, he pushed off, and began to slide swiftly down the staircase.

Severus watched as the mischievous imp slid all the way down and then hopped off and raced upstairs again. He didn't like to admit it, but it did look like fun.

"C'mon, Sevvy! You try! It doesn't hurt your bum, the wood's smooth so you can't get splinners stuck in it." Alby urged, grinning.

"You can't get what?"

"Splinners. The pointy little twigs from wood." Alby repeated. "One time Teddy got some in his bum from trying to slide down the stairs at school. Uncle Remus had to take 'em out with some metal thingies called twizzers. Teddy sure hollered a lot 'cause it hurt. Me an' Jamie watched it."

"You mean splinters," corrected Severus, finally understanding what his small brother was talking about. "And Remus took them out with a pair of tweezers. Poor Teddy! He must have been so embarrassed."

"What's that mean, Sevvy? Embarrassed?"

"It means you feel all ashamed and uncomfortable," Severus answered. "Did he know you were watching?"

"No. We were peeking out the door of Jamie's room, we wanted to know what was goin' on with Teddy. First Jamie thought his daddy was spanking Teddy, 'cause Teddy was over his knee and he was crying, but then we saw the . . .tweezers and heard Uncle Remus tell Teddy to stop moving and he'd have them all out quick. I'm glad I never had that happen to me."

Severus could only imagine what that must have been like, and it would have been ten times worse if poor Teddy had realized his little brother and Alby had seen it.

Alby hopped onto the banister again. "Sevvy, c'mon! You aren't . . . scared are you?"

Severus knew a challenge when he heard one, and he would be damned if his little brother thought him a coward. "No! What's there to be scared of?" he demanded, and he jumped up before Alby on the banister and shoved off.

He spiraled round and round down the entire length of the stairs, picking up speed as he did so, until he reached the end and jumped down. He landed with a small thump, and then moved out of the way before Alby could crash into him.

"See? Isn't it fun?" asked his brother, his green eyes sparkling.

Severus smiled back. "Yes. Let's do it again!" This time he led the way up the stairs for another round.

They slid down the banister several times, until Severus was starting to feel a bit dizzy and had lost count of how many times he'd run up and down the stairs. "Ready . . . set . . . go!" he called to Alby before starting what must have been his tenth . . . or was it twelfth . . . run.

He slid swiftly down, this time sliding on the side instead of straddling it like Alby liked to. But as he reached the bottom, a familiar figure stepped into the entryway.

Ginny gaped upon seeing Severus, normally an obedient child, sliding hell for leather down the banister.

Severus saw her at the same instant, but was unable to halt his slide and so landed nearly at her feet. "Uh . . . hi, Ginny!"

"Severus!" she exclaimed, but before she could say anything more, Alby came sliding down and almost knocked down Severus. "Albus! Great Merlin's ghost! What are you doing?"

"Having fun, Mummy," her son answered, grinning his irresistible grin that reminded her so much of Harry.

Fearing they were now in trouble, Severus swiftly apologized. "We're sorry, Ginny. It's just . . . we thought . . . are we in trouble?" He bit his lip nervously. Even though he was almost certain the Potters would not punish him like Tobias used to, Severus was still nervous. He hated getting yelled at and felt ashamed that Ginny had caught him behaving like a . . . little kid, even if he was one. He also didn't want to get in trouble the first day of his vacation.

Ginny, who had been prepared to scold, suddenly started laughing instead. All her anger vanished when she realized that Severus had actually been acting like a child . . . even if the action had been a little bit impulsive. "No, Sevvy. Although . . . you should be careful sliding down the banister. Once my brother Charlie did that at home and he went so fast he flew off and landed on the floor and chipped a tooth. And Fred and George . . . or maybe it was Ron, slid down once and tried to stop and they . . . err . . . banged their private parts on the end of the banister . . . Mum had to put cold packs on them and they just lay on the couch the rest of the day, groaning . . . so do watch yourselves, boys." Then she reached out and hugged them.

Severus melted into her embrace, finding her cautionary tale chilling. It almost made him never want to slide down the banister ever again. Alby didn't quite get everything she'd said, but decided he was bored with sliding and asked, "Mummy, can we go outside an' see the ocean?"

"I can't take you right this minute, Al, I'm busy putting everything away," his mother said. "Why don't you go outside and find your dad? He could take you."

"Okay!" Alby said, then he pulled away from his mother and ran for the front door. He opened it and jumped out onto the porch and looked around. When he spotted Harry, down by the dirt track leading to the seashore, putting up the last of the Boundary Wards, he ran pell mell towards Harry. "Daddy! Sevvy and I wanna see the ocean! Can you bring us? Please?"

Severus followed, at a more sedate pace, screaming like a banshee and running was for little kids.

Harry turned just in time to catch his small son in his arms. "Whoa, scamp! Why are you running as if your bum's on fire? Not in trouble with your mum, are you?"

"No, Daddy! I just wanna see the ocean." Alby said eagerly.

Harry supposed he couldn't blame the boy. "All right, but first we need to go inside and get into our swimming trunks and water wings and put on some sunscreen."

Severus came to a halt and nodded. "Or else we'll all burn like lobsters."

They all headed back to the house to change and put on sunscreen.

Alby was so excited he could hardly stand still for Harry to rub the sunscreen on, but wriggled and jiggled like a little eel. "It tickles, Daddy!" he giggled as Harry rubbed the magical cream down his back, bum, and thighs.

"Albus Severus, quit squirming," ordered his father, a tad exasperatedly. "You'd think I was rubbing you with sandpaper the way you're acting. Why couldn't you be more like Severus? He stayed still as a statue when I put the sunscreen on him."

Which was true. But then, Severus had more control over himself thanks to his memories, though at certain points, he too had wanted to wriggle, especially when Harry had rubbed the cream on the backs of his knees, ribs, and feet.

"Can't help it, Dad!" Alby shrieked, he burst out laughing. He was lying on his tummy on Harry's bed.

His son's laughter was infectious, and Harry found himself chuckling as he rubbed the last of the sunscreen on. "Okay, Mr. Eel, you're done." Harry gently pulled up Alby's trunks and gave the giggling child a mild tap on the bottom. "Up you get!"

Alby turned and jumped onto Harry, clinging like a small spider monkey. "Now can we go, Dad? Now?"

"Yes, Mr. Impatience, we sure can." He had applied sunscreen to himself with his wand. Normally he would have asked Ginny, but since she was busy, he decided to do it himself.

Alby chattered nonstop as they made their way down to the beach.

"Do you think we'll see a shark, Dad? How 'bout a pirate ship? Or a big fish? Are there crabs on this beach, Sevvy?"

Severus smirked. "I think so. Big ones that'll bite off your toes if you don't watch where you're going and step on them."

"Ahh! I don't wanna crab to eat my toes!" his brother yelped, drawing his feet up and wrapping his legs about Harry's middle.

"Then take a breath and quit talking, Al," Severus said slyly. Sometimes Alby's endless chatter gave him a headache.

"Sev, was that nice?" Harry scolded mildly.

"It got him to be quiet," Severus pointed out, not at all remorseful.

Alby hushed . . . for about ten seconds. Then he saw some gulls and wanted to know if he could feed them.

"Maybe later, Alby. We didn't bring food with us this time," Harry said. They passed through the Boundary Charms, Harry felt a slow tingle run down his spine and saw Severus shiver and knew he had felt the chill of the active spell also. Alby even flinched a little. But the wards permitted the children to pass because Harry was with them, carrying Alby and holding Severus' hand.

Finally they were on the sand and Harry set his son down and cast a water wings charm over him, so he could swim without drowning. The charm made lighter than air glowing fins come out of Alby's arms and the child whooped loudly.

"Sev, would you like them too? Or can you swim?" Harry asked the older child.

"I can swim, but . . . the tide might be too strong for me," Severus admitted.

Harry gave him water wings too.

Then he put a waterproofing charm on his glasses and another to fix them to his head so they wouldn't fall off.

There wasn't anyone around at this hour of the morning, and the surf was cool and refreshing. At first it almost felt cold, but after a few minutes, they all grew used to the water. Harry swam alongside Alby, showing the four-year-old how to paddle and kick. Alby seemed to take to the water like a fish, he didn't even mind when some of the salt water got in his mouth.

Severus was swimming a little ahead of his brother, enjoying the warm water, it was almost like a bath. The sea was still shallow here, enough so that if he needed to, he could stand or tread water, similar to the shallow end of a swimming pool. The sun dazzle on the water made him squint, but it felt good.

Until Alby screamed, "SHARK! Daddy-SHARK!"

And Severus felt something grab his ankle.

He immediately panicked and started trying to thrash around and free himself—the worst thing you could do in a shark attack. "Ahhh!" he yelled, trying to swim away . . . then he realized there was no pain, no blood in the water, and when he looked backwards, all he saw was his little brother, clutching his ankle and grinning like the devil himself.

"Fooled ya!" Alby chanted in a singsong voice. "Gotcha, Sevvy! Did I scare ya?"

Severus glared at him. "You little brat! Just wait, Albus Severus! I'm going to get you back good!" He pulled his ankle free just as a wave came and swamped him, making him get water up his nose. He started coughing hard.

Then Harry's arm was around him, holding him up and patting his back. "You all right, Sev? Easy, cough it out. Good boy!"

Severus hawked and spat the nasty seawater out of his mouth. "Yuck!" Now his nose and eyes burned from the salt water. "Harry, did you see what that brat did?" he grumbled.

"Yes, but he meant it as a joke, Sev. Don't pay him back too hard, okay?"

Severus growled, "I almost choked to death!"

"You all right?"

"My throat and eyes are burning." Severus muttered.

"All right, let's go back to the beach and relax." Harry said. He snagged Alby by his trunks and said, "Let's go and build a sandcastle, scamp.

"Yay! A sandcastle!" cheered the little boy. He began to paddle faster. "Sevvy, wasn't that funny? Did you really think I was a shark?"

"For about three seconds," Severus snorted. He was already planning on how to get his brother back.

They came out of the ocean, and Harry wiped Severus' face with a washcloth that had been dampened with some water from a water bottle and he gave the boy the bottle to drink from also. "How's that, better?"

Severus nodded grudgingly. He hated swallowing sea water, now his stomach felt gross. He eyed Alby, a wicked gleam in his eyes.

"Daddy, where can we build it?" asked Alby.

"Up here, halfway between the waterline and the dry sand, so the water doesn't wash it away." Harry said. He began to dig in the sand and started molding the wet sand into a wall.

"I wanna help!" his son cried, and knelt next to his father, copying him.

"I'll look for some shells," Severus called, and turned around, pretending to hunt for some small shells and rocks. He picked a few up, but that wasn't what he was really after.

After a few moments, when he was sure the other two were focused on the sandcastle, he came back, his pockets full of shells and his hands holding something else. Alby was kneeling in the damp sand, his little bottom sticking out.

Perfect, Severus thought. He crept up behind the younger boy and tossed a handful of shells down in front of him. "Here's the shells, Al . . . and a surprise!" Smirking, he grabbed the top of his brother's swimming trunks and stuffed a handful of wet gritty sand down them. Then he scampered away, snickering.

Alby jumped up and tried to run after him, yelling, "Daddy, Sevvy shoved sand down my pants!"

"Now we're even, brat!" yelled Severus.

Harry shook his head. "Don't come crying to me, you started it, Al." He went back to building the sandcastle.

Alby jumped up and down, trying to dislodge the sand. But it was having no effect, so he yanked his shorts down, exposing his bottom and began brushing frantically at his backside.

Harry looked up and cried, "Albus Severus, what are you doing?"

"I'm gettin' the sand off, Daddy! My bum's all scratchy," his son answered.

"Go wash yourself off in the water," Harry sighed. "And then pull up your shorts, for Godsake! You don't just bare yourself in front of people like that!"

"What people? There's nobody here but us," Alby said, running to the water and dunking his bottom into the foamy surf to rinse the sand off. He was totally unconcerned about exposing himself, as only an innocent child could be. Then he pulled up his shorts and charged after his brother. "I'm gonna get you, Sevvy!" He aimed a chunk of wet sand at the older boy, but it missed.

"You and what army, imp?" Severus taunted, running backwards on the sand.

The two chased each other through the surf, screaming ridiculous threats at each other, and hitting each other with clods of sand, then jumping into the water to wash the sand off.

Harry paused once or twice to look up and make sure the two were playing and not throttling each other, but they were both grinning and giggling, so he went back to putting towers on his sandcastle. He had just put some shells along the roof of the first tower when he heard Alby yell in response from a taunt from Severus, "Uh . . . I'm gonna summon a shark to eat your balls off, Sevvy!"

Harry nearly choked to death from not laughing. He knew the four year old probably didn't even know what he said, he was just repeating what he'd heard some adult say, but he also knew that Ginny would kill him if she ever heard that particular phrase come out of her baby's mouth. So he stood up and said, "Albus Severus, you watch your mouth, young man! Come here."

Alby came, sniffling a little. "What'd I say?"

"Telling your brother a shark is going to eat his balls off is not something you say in public," Harry scolded. "Your mum would wash out your mouth for that."

"No, Daddy! No soap!" his son bawled. He covered his mouth with his hands.

"Because you didn't know any better, I won't wash out your mouth. Now have a seat over here, you're in time out for two minutes. " Harry said, pointing to a spot nearby.

Alby slumped onto the sand, still crying a little. "No fair, Dad! Uncle Ron said it first!"

Harry frowned. "Looks like I'll be having a talk with your uncle sometime soon about minding his mouth," he muttered. Then he said, "That doesn't mean you repeat it, young man. Clear?"

Alby looked down at his feet, half-buried in the sand and whispered, "Yes, Dad. Stupid Uncle Ron!"

Severus came back up the beach and approached the sandcastle. Seeing Alby sulking and feeling bad for the little tyke, he said, "Harry, it's partly my fault. I shouldn't have been playing the insult game with him. He didn't know any better."

"I know, Sev, but now he does. You live and learn." Harry said. "Want to help me with the other side?" He indicated the mound of sand on the right hand side, which still hadn't been worked on.

"Sure!" Severus sat down and began to try and make the sand match the other side of the castle.

Alby pouted until Harry told him he could come and help too, then he scurried over and sat down in Harry's lap. "Show me how to do it, Daddy."

So Harry did, and soon the three wizards had a large castle built, with shells on the roof and seaweed for the "garden" and a bridge of rocks and shells and a sea moat.

"Now there's a castle!" Harry exclaimed.

"It looks wicked, Daddy! I wish we could show Mummy."

"Me too, but I forgot the camera back at the house. Oh, well. We can always go and bring her here to see it. Or build another one."

"Daddy, I'm hungry."

"You know, so am I. Your mum's probably finished unpacking by now, why don't we see if she has a snack or some lunch ready?" Harry suggested.

So they all trooped back to the beach house. On the porch was a bucket of water to rinse their feet off in and towels to dry themselves. Harry made sure both kids were dry before letting them into the house.

Ginny had a platter of chicken strips, cucumber salad, and crisps on the table waiting for them. "How was the beach?"

"It was great, Mummy! We swam and I tricked Sevvy and made him think a shark bit his leg an' then he shoved sand down my pants," Alby reported. Ginny rolled her eyes, the two sounded more like her brothers every day. "Then we helped Daddy build a wicked sandcastle. Can you come see it?"

"Eat first, then I'll come and see it." Ginny promised, sitting down next to him. She placed three chicken strips on her child's plate and a small amount of cucumbers and crisps as well.

Severus found that swimming and running along the beach worked up his appetite and he devoured his five strips, salad, and crips. Ginny had Oreos for a sweet and they munched them while walking back down the trail.

This time Ginny brought the camera and took a picture of the sandcastle while Severus wrote Harry, Alby, & Sev 2006 in the sand next to it.

So far this was turning out to be a good start to the vacation.

Day 2:

The exercise in the salty sea air appeared to have worn the two boys out, for they went to bed earlier than their usual 8:30 bedtime. They slept heavily, not waking until nearly nine thirty the next morning. After breakfast, which was blueberry pancakes, bacon, and pumpkin juice, Harry went into town to see about buying tickets to the wildlife preserve.

Ginny decided to keep the boys busy by going down to the beach with a bucket and some small mesh bags she had conjured to collect seashells.

"What can you do with the seashells, Mummy?" asked Alby.

"Well, you can do lots of things. You can collect different ones and put them in a jar to look at or you can make things with them."

"Like what?"

"Like necklaces or picture frames or keepsake boxes," she replied. She had her pink bathing suit on underneath a white lacy half top and jean shorts with pink flipflops. She had tied her hair up so it didn't blow in her eyes.

The boys were wearing T-shirts, sandals, and their swimming trunks, just in case they got hot and wanted to cool off in the water. All of them were wearing sunscreen, thanks to Severus, who remembered just in time to remind Ginny to put it on.

They skipped along the shoreline, only a few other tourists were out around ten thirty, sunbathing on blankets or sitting on chairs reading the newspaper or a novel. There were a few kids swimming, mostly older ones, or playing volleyball further down the beach.

Soon Ginny spotted a purple scallop shell half-buried in the sand and picked it up. "Here's a beautiful one! See if you can find any more like this, boys. Let's have a little contest. Whoever finds the biggest shell gets to pick out dinner tonight. Whoever finds the most shells gets to choose dessert. Whoever finds the most shells the fastest gets to pick out two stories to read tonight or tomorrow night or pick out breakfast."

"Are you playing too, Mummy?"

"No, the contest is for you two, but I'll still be collecting shells. When your bags are full, bring them to me and we'll put the shells in my bucket." She indicated the purple bucket in her hand, where she'd placed the purple shell. She looked at her watch. "You have half-an-hour to find shells. Ready, set, go!"

Alby and Severus tore off down the beach, their eyes peeled for shells. A lot of shells were near the waterline, though some managed to get thrown higher up on the sand dunes. Severus had to fight against the sudden instinct to help his small brother find shells. He made himself go off in the opposite direction from Alby, and soon he found a nice looking clamshell. He put it in his bag, and the hunt was on.

Alby skipped in and out of the water, picking up tiny shells and curled shells. Then he saw a spotted shell . . . and it was moving! He ran over to examine it and saw legs walking and gasped. "You're alive! Wicked! I gotta show Sevvy!" He gently picked up the shell and its inhabitant and placed it in the mesh bag. Then he picked up another clam shell and placed it beside the other six shells he'd found. Finally he straightened and looked about for Severus.

"Sevvy! Se-e-evv-e-e!" he shouted.

"Over here!" Severus waved further up the beach past where they had built the sandcastle the day before.

Alby started running towards him when suddenly some older kids blocked his way. " 'Scuse me." The child skidded to a stop. "I need to find my brudder."

There were three boys in front of him, all around the age of eleven. "Hey, kid. What you got in that bag?"

"Just some shells," Alby said, peering up at them from beneath his bangs.

One of the boys reached out and plucked the bag from him. "Huh. Looks like you got an ole hermit crab too. Where'd you find that 'un?"

"He was over there, walking," Alby pointed to the spot where the hermit crab had been. "Can I have my bag back?"

"In a minute." The older boy answered, examining the shells. He glanced back behind him and saw Ginny. "That foxy lady your mama?"

"Yes. Her name's Ginny. Can I have my bag back?"

The tallest boy turned and whistled appreciatively. "I sure wish my mama looked like that! Don't you, Sam?"

"Sam wishes he had a mama, period. Stead of his bossy older sister," snorted a boy with blond hair. "But she sure is fine." He stared at Ginny, his eyes wide.

"Aw, hush up, Jordan!" Sam ordered, flushing. "Here, kid." He gave Alby the bag back. "Your mama's a babe, y'know that?"

Alby took the bag back and clutched it to him. "Mummy's not a baby. She's a lady."

The three boys hooted and laughed.

"She sure is! A foxy lady!" they chorused.

"Go on, kid. Go show your hot mama the hermit crab," Sam told him, giving Alby a friendly slap on the back. "You got a dad, or are your parents divorced?"

"I got a dad. He's in town buying tickets." Alby answered. "His name's Harry."

"What's your name, kid?"

"Albus Potter, only you can call me Al."

Sam's mouth hung open. "Bloody hell! Y'mean . . . your dad's Harry Potter?"

"Uh huh."

"You shoulda known that, Sam. The kid here's the spit of his old man, 'cept for the glasses."

"Merlin, but old Potter sure can pick 'em!" sighed the tall boy, still gazing at Ginny.

"Hey, Al, think your dad will sign something for me? I have a newspaper article here," Sam dug into his back pocket and came up with a crumpled Daily Prophet with Harry's picture on it.

"Can you, like, introduce us?" asked the other two boys.

"Y'mean, you wanna meet my dad?" Alby asked, puzzled.

"Yeah! We sure do!"

"Okay. He's gonna come here soon as he's done. You wanna say hi to my mum?"

Immediately all three boys blushed and nodded.

They followed Alby as the little boy ran up to Ginny, waving his bag and grinning. "Mummy! Lookit! I found a hermit crab an' these are some big kids that want to meet Daddy."

"Oh, Alby, how neat!" Ginny exclaimed, examining the hermit crab. "We'll need to put him in a glass tank at home." Then she looked up and saw the three teenagers. "Hello, boys. I'm Ginny Potter."

"Pleased to meet you, ma'am. I'm Rob," said the tallest boy.

"Mrs. Potter, it's an honor. I'm Sam."

"My name's Jordan," said the blond boy.

They all shook hands with Ginny.

Severus looked down the beach to see Ginny and Alby surrounded by three boys. He wondered who they were, but wasn't curious enough to abandon his shell search. So far he had twelve medium shells, one of them a very large black oyster shell which was unopened. He knew oysters sometimes contained pearls, though it was a slim chance this one did. He found a pretty golden spiral shell, like a unicorn's horn, and added it to his collection. He had acquired a pretty abalone piece that sparkled blue, pink, and purple in the sunlight. He had many smaller shells, ones that looked like conch shells and others that resembled tiny clam shells. He had even picked up some small rocks that were rainbowed with striated bands of color.

Then he found a wicked looking rock, one that he thought was obsidian or something, smoothed by the waves, with an odd star-like design etched into it. The rock was almost as big as his palm, and the star shaped design was a teal color. Until, on closer examination, he saw that it wasn't just a design, but a fossil imprint. This, he thought, was going to be the focal point for the shell box he wanted to make. He tucked it into his bag and then started back over to where Ginny and Alby were talking to the three strange boys.

Just then Harry came walking down towards them, and the three boys looked as if they were going to fall down on their knees in the sand.

All hail the Messiah of the wizarding world! Severus thought with an amused snort. No matter how much Harry disliked the fact that he was famous, he couldn't seem to avoid running into hero-worshipping fans everywhere he went. Now one of the youngsters had pulled out a quill and was giving Harry what looked like a newspaper to sign. The other two were holding small postcards and Harry was scribbling on them.

Then they were thanking the savior of the wizarding world and walking back up the beach.

"Sevvy!" Alby cried upon seeing his brother. "Those big boys wanted Daddy's name on a piece of paper. An' lookit what I found! It's a hermit crab!"

The child proudly displayed his hermit crab.

"That's nice, Al. But you need a place to put him." Severus said. He looked up at Ginny. "Look at the wicked rock I found. It has a fossil in it." He showed her the black rock and she smiled.

"That is such a cool rock!"

"I'm going to use it for the lid of the box I want to make," Severus told her. He showed her and Harry the rest of the shells he'd collected.

"You've got an oyster here, Sev." Harry exclaimed, fingering the black shell. "Want me to open it? Maybe you'll get lucky and a pearl will be inside."

"Open it!" Alby cried.

Harry tapped the oyster with his wand and it opened.

Everyone peered inside.

"Yuck! It's all slimy!" Alby wrinkled his nose.

"Want to eat it, Al?" asked Severus. "Oysters are supposed to be good for you."

"Eeew!" his brother made a disgusted face.

Harry felt around inside the shell. "Hmm . . . there's something hard in here." He cupped some water in his hand and threw it on the oyster. When the silt and sticky stuff had been washed away, there sat . . . a pearl.

"A pearl!" Severus cried, amazed.

It was quite a large pearl, and it glistened with spray. It was a creamy pink color and big enough to be made into a ring.

"That's some pearl, Sev. What are you going to do with it?" asked Ginny.

"Can it be made into a ring?"

"Yes, once we take it to a jeweler," Ginny said. "Who's the ring for?"

"Lily," replied Severus. "For when we . . . err . . . start going steady." He started blushing, knowing full well that was years in the future. The box would be hers as well, though that he would give her sooner, maybe as a Christmas gift.

"Aww, Sevvy! How cute!" Ginny chuckled. "Let me keep the pearl for now, okay? I'll make sure nothing happens to it until you're ready to get it set." She picked up the pearl and put it in a small pouch for safekeeping.

"Looks like you all had fun." Harry remarked. "I got tickets for Wednesday for the sanctuary."

"Great! Now, let's see who had the most shells and the biggest shell and who gathered shells the quickest," Ginny said.

She examined both their mesh bags. "Looks like Sevvy got the most shells, so tonight you pick dessert. And Alby, your conch shell is bigger than Sevvy's oyster, so you get to pick dinner tonight . As far as who had the fastest time, I'd say that's tied, so you can both choose a story tonight."

Both boys looked very pleased with themselves, and then Severus wanted to know where he could get a box so he could start his project. Ginny said she would see what was in the house, or else go into town and buy one.

For dinner that night they had Alby's favorite, hamburgers, chips, and green bean casserole. Severus chose hot fudge sundaes for dessert, and they both picked out a story to read before bed. Alby chose Puss In Boots and Severus Kaa's Hunting from Kipling's The Jungle Books.


Day 3:

That afternoon, Ginny decided to treat herself to a pedicure and a manicure in Hope Cove. She had been with Alby and Severus all morning, working on their shell projects. She had found a pine wood box with a hinged lid for Severus to glue his shells to, and she helped him fix the rock to the lid with magic so it would never fall off. She told him when he was done putting on the shells, she would use a Strengthening Charm to fix the shells to the box so they wouldn't ever come off either. Alby, after he'd placed the hermit crab in a small terrarium Harry had made for it, he'd named the creature Squiggle, wanted to make a picture frame with his shells, while Ginny worked on a photo album.

Harry took them down to the beach again to swim and draw shapes in the sand for the surf to wash away, but after an hour the sun grew too hot and he took the back to Driftwood House for lunch. After lunch, he decided to relax on the porch with a book for an hour. About forty-five minutes into his novel, he heard Alby and Severus arguing. This was so unusual, that he halted his reading to listen to it.

"I don't wanna make no stupid potion, Sevvy!" Alby was yelling.

"Potions aren't stupid!" Severus snapped.

"Are too!"

"Are not! We could make a potion that tasted like strawberry limeade! Or even butterbeer."

"No! You go make potions with Daddy if you want. I wanna do something funner," Alby said stubbornly.

"Like what? Watch Squiggle sit and stare at the wall? Count the rocks in the garden?" Severus sneered, out of patience.

"No! I'm gonna . . . slide down the banister!" Alby declared.

"Oh, like you haven't done that ten hundred times!"

Harry cocked his head, trying to decide if he should go inside and break up their little quarrel. He heard the sound of Alby's feet climbing the stairs. Then he heard his youngest shout, "Three, two, one, here I come!"

The next sound he heard was a loud THUD!

Shit, that did not sound good! Harry thought as he sprang to his feet. He could hear Alby wailing through the door.

When he entered the foyer, he saw to his astonishment that both children were on the floor, and not only was Alby crying, so was Severus, because Alby had flown off the banister and landed on him, knocking him down. Only Severus was crying softly.

"Hey, what happened over here?" Harry asked, going and picking Alby up off of Severus. "Sev, are you hurt?"

"I . . . I hit my head," Severus whimpered, tears standing in his eyes. "Alby didn't wait for me to move before he slid down."

"Can you sit up? Are you dizzy?" Harry asked softly. He shifted the still crying Alby to his shoulder and then helped Severus to sit up. "Al, stop screeching. I can barely hear myself think. Are you hurt anywhere?"

Alby gulped and sniffled. "My knee hurts, Dad," his son said. Then he started to wail again. "I sat on Sevvy! I didn't mean to! Sevvy, m'sorry!"

"Albus, for the love of Merlin, stop crying!" Harry snapped, for Alby was yelling right in his ear. "Anyone would think you were dying, the way you're carrying on."

"But I . . . don't want Sevvy to go to the hosp'tal!" Alby sobbed.

"Alby, who ever said I was going to the hospital?" Severus asked, rubbing the back of his head. "I just bumped my head."

"Y'mean, you're not bad hurt?" his brother asked tearfully.

Before Severus could answer that, Harry drew his wand and performed a quick diagnostic on his ward. "You've got a small bump on your head, Sev, and some bruises, but you'll live." He waved his wand over the dark-haired waif and the bruises and bump were healed. "There! Next time, Alby, don't slide down the banister without looking first. As a matter of fact, I think you should stay off the banister before you seriously injure yourself or someone else next time." Then Harry examined his son's knee, it was scraped, and he mended it with another healing charm. "Now, why were you two fighting?"

"I was bored, Daddy, an' Sevvy said let's make a potion an' I didn't want to," Alby told his father.

"There's nothing to do," Severus sighed loudly and got up.

"Do you want to go flying?"

"No. We've done that already," answered his ward.

"I wish we could go to the wild animal sanc'try," Alby said.

"That's tomorrow, buddy. I couldn't get tickets any earlier. Let me think," Harry said, trying to come up with something to keep the two children occupied until Ginny came home. He recalled reading in a book titled 101 Things to Do on a Rainy Day, something about making a kite. "How about we make a kite to fly on the beach?"

"A kite? Do you know how to make one?" Severus asked.

"I have a book here that shows you how," replied Harry. "We can make it out of any sort of cloth or paper and put whatever we want on it. What do you think?"

"Let's do it!" Alby clapped his hands.

So they followed the instructions in Harry's book and created a kite from some transfigured sticks, an old drape they found in a closet, some scraps from one of Harry's old shirts, bits of colored foil, an old hair ribbon of Ginny's became the bows for the tail, and some heavy duty string. The kite had a dragon on one side and a silver snake on the other coming out of a cauldron. It was held together with magic and some glue here and there.

It was the coolest kite ever, at least according to Alby.

Then they took it down to the beach to fly it.

When Ginny arrived home, she found the house strangely silent. "Hello? Harry? Boys? Is anyone home?"

She walked through the den and looked out the window. She saw three figures on the sand, running, and behind them flew a magnificent kite.

"Harry, where did you get that kite?"

Harry turned upon hearing Ginny's voice. "Hello, Gin! You look wonderful!"

Ginny smiled and showed her husband her newly painted toes. "Do you like the color? It's called Coral Sunset."

"Love it." Harry started to jog backwards as the kite began to flutter.

"Mummy, look at our kite!"

"I see it, where did you find it?" Ginny asked, hugging Alby.

"We didn't find it, Ginny. We made it," Severus informed her, his eyes sparkling.

"You made it? That's simply . . . amazing, Sev!" she grinned. "How do you fly it?"

"I'll show you," Harry offered. "That way I can take a break. They've had me out here flying for over an hour!" Her husband panted.

"Poor baby," she teased. "I'll give you a massage tonight, love." Ginny purred.

"I'm going to hold you to that, Ginevra," Harry smirked, then he showed Ginny how to fly the kite.


Harry lay with his head in Ginny's lap on the porch swing and watched the sun sink into the sea. The sky had turned a gorgeous palate of colors—rose, orange, gold, violet, and a beautiful crimson. Harry gazed at it and smiled. He had a magnificent view, his wife to keep him company and snuggle with, two highly intelligent and mischievous children, and time to relax. Life was good, and this vacation even better.

"Aren't you glad we came here?" he asked Ginny.

"I am. It's been a lovely vacation so far. The weather's been great and I love the sand and the sun. Even the children have been pretty well behaved."

"And best of all, now we have some time alone," purred her husband.

"That too," Ginny murmured, and took a chocolate drop from the bag beside her and fed it to Harry. She adored her husband, and thanked Merlin everyday for making Harry love her and return to her after that fateful afternoon in the forest.

Harry sat up and drew her to him, his eyes now focused on his wife, and not the last rays of the setting sun, as they celebrated their private time in the age old way of lovers since the beginning of time.


Day 4:

The weather, which had been so cooperative all week, suddenly turned stormy that morning, and their trip to the wildlife sanctuary had to be postponed. Both Severus and Alby were upset, because the rain trapped them all inside, and they were grouchy. They moped about the house, not inclined to do anything but sulk.

Ginny was in a bad mood too, the sudden stormy weather had triggered a migraine and she was in pain, nauseous, and not inclined to have patience with two sulky children. She had taken a Headache Potion and gone upstairs to lie down, but no sooner had she done so, then she was interrupted by her son, whining, "Mum, I'm bored. Can you play a game with me?"

"Albus, I'm not feeling too well right now, go and ask your father or Sevvy." Ginny groaned. Her head felt like a hammer was splitting it open.

"Daddy told me not to bother him, he was reading. An' Sevvy was drawing an' called me a pest and said to go play by myself."

"Why don't you go play with Bucky?" Ginny suggested tiredly. "I need to rest."

"But Mummy . . ." her son whined aggravatingly.

"Alby, what are you doing in here?" Severus suddenly appeared in the doorway. "Your mum's sick, now leave her alone."

"Why? I just wanna talk to her."

"Al, come on. Let her rest." Severus went to grab his brother by the arm.

"No!" Alby snapped, stamping his foot. "I wanna stay here."

Ginny felt spikes shoot through her head at the loud voice her son was using. Groaning, she sat up and growled, "Albus Severus, you listen to your brother and go play. Now, young man!"

When her son gave her a mulish look, she reached out and swatted his bottom.

Alby burst into tears and Severus pulled him from the room, shutting the door.

Ginny felt her stomach do a flip and she just made it to the bathroom in time to throw up.

In the hallway, Alby was sniffling and rubbing his bum.

"You should have come with me before," Severus sighed, handing Alby a handkerchief. "Then you wouldn't have gotten smacked."

"Mummy's mean! She spanked me over nothin'!"

"Ginny's sick, and you were aggravating her by not listening," Severus pointed out. "Now stop being so dramatic."

"I'm bored, Sevvy. What can we do?" Alby asked, giving him a pitiful look.

Severus sighed. If it were up to him, he'd either read or take a nap. But Alby seemed loaded with an excess of energy today, and not inclined to do quiet things like he usually was. "Uh . . . I know! We'll play Hogwarts. I'll be the professor and you be the student. But first you need to get on board the Hogwarts Express."

"Neat!" Alby started making train noises.

"Shh! Your mum's sick, remember?" Severus hushed him. "So we have to play quietly."

Alby hushed, then he grabbed Severus about the waist and whispered, "Okay, Sevvy. Now I'm on the train, but where's the sweets? Daddy always said there was a trolley with sweets on it."

"We'll go to the pantry and get some," Severus said, and the "train" moved slowly down the stairs and into the kitchen.

He pulled open the door of the pantry and a light came on.

The two boys scanned the shelves. Severus took a bag of Cheez Crunchies and some peanut butter. But Alby wanted Oreos.

"Sevvy, the Oreos are all the way on top. How we gonna get them?"

"We get the stepstool," Severus answered and walked back into the kitchen where the small wooden stool was.

Meanwhile, Alby saw a bag of peppermint toads on a shelf just above his head, and started to climb up to get them. He didn't need to wait for Severus to get those. Just as he was reaching for the bag, the wall moved!

Alby bit back a yelp of fright as the entire pantry wall suddenly moved aside, revealing a cold and dark tunnel.


Severus, who was dragging the stepstool behind him, gasped when he saw his brother clinging to a shelf and the gaping black maw of a tunnel opening up into the pantry. "Merlin's bum! How did that happen?"

"I dunno. I was climbin' to get the peppermint toads an' it just moved," Alby said. "It's a secret way!"

Severus stepped up to the tunnel. It was cold and smelled musty. He cautiously put a foot into the dark space and suddenly a warm glow lit up the tunnel. Now he could see how the tunnel went down and down a long ways, the floor was dirt and the walls were shored up with wooden beams. "This must have been how they smuggled goods back and forth from the ships and hid them," Severus said, remembering the house's history. "Or maybe even people."

Alby hopped down from the shelf and walked over to stand by Severus. "Cool! What do you think's down there, Sevvy?"

"Probably nothing but empty boxes and stuff."

"Let's go see! Maybe there's some treasure down there." Alby suddenly ran a little ways down the tunnel.

"Albus Severus, get back here! You don't even know where this tunnel leads. Now come out of there!"

"Sevvy, it's like a mystery! Let's go 'sploring," Alby said, his green eyes shining eagerly.

Severus strode into the tunnel, his hands on his hips. "Al, remember the Forbidden Forest?"

"Yeah, but there's no centaurs here. It's just a tunnel."

"Al, this tunnel's old. We shouldn't be in it unless we know it's safe. Now let's go find Harry and he can come with us and see what's down there." Severus argued.

"Fine!" his brother rolled his eyes. He started to come back up to Severus.

Suddenly there was a strange groaning sound.

Severus whirled, only to see the wall of the pantry moving again. It was closing!

"Al, hurry!" he screamed.

Too late.

The wall slid closed with a snap, trapping them inside.

Frantic, Severus threw himself against the wall, the back end of which was covered in slabs of thick packed sod, and beat on it with his fists. "Open up! Open! Harry! Ginny! Help! Help! We're stuck!"

Alby also began screaming and pounding on the wall. "Mummy! Daddy! We're trapped! Help!"

But no one heard them screaming. The walls were thick and solid, having stood for centuries, and muffled the shrill cries of the children much as they had muffled the sound of crates scraping along the floor as the free traders hid them in the secret room from the revenue men. The tunnel echoed to their frightened yells, but in the upper part of the house all was silent.

A/N: So what did you think of the vacation so far? naturally, some disaster had to occur!


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