"So what did you think of ten-pin bowling dear boy?"
"No broomsticks," Alan told him, sullenly voicing his disapproval of any kind of sport less exciting than quidditch. Apparently when Alan heard the word 'sport' he expected broomsticks and bludgers—not something nearly so quiet as what occurred playing a game of ten-pin bowling.
"Perhaps he'll grow into it," Albus suggested, looking to Minerva.
"I wouldn't count on it, "she replied. Minerva had never understood Albus' love of ten-pin bowling anymore than her son. Like he, she felt that sports should be more riveting than rolling a ball at some pins. In a sport like that, there was little room for loud cheering or any kind of enthusiastic spirit—meaning it didn't really count as a sport at all.
Albus heaved a long-suffering sigh. "I can see you've managed to corrupt him after all. Here I thought the boy like to have fun."
"Oh, I assure you he has more interest in having 'fun' than I care for. I don't know where he's picked it up from, but he's developed a less than endearing taste for practical jokes."
Albus' eyes twinkled in amusement and he could not help but cast a quick glance downward at his son as the boy quickly smothered a smile. Obviously Misters Potter and Black had been teaching him well.
Minerva did not notice, however, and instead waited resolutely for Albus to respond. Obviously she thought Albus, not her House's most outrageous troublemakers, was behind Alan's behavior.
"Perhaps, he hasn't 'picked them up' from anywhere. Aberforth and I were always fond of a good practical joke as children."
Now as well, Minerva thought sourly, thinking of the last time she's sent Potter and Black to the Headmaster's office to be dealt with. That had been a complete disaster as far as she was concerned, and a mistake she was not likely to repeat anytime in the near future.
All in good fun, indeed.
"These jokes are very sophisticated, Albus."
"Well, Alan is very bright," Albus responded, smiling and picking the boy up. "Aren't you?"
"Just like you, Da."
For a moment, Albus' face froze, the wide smile he wore fixed solidly in place. Within seconds, however, the smile faded and was replaced by a look so frightened that it was hard to believe the great wizard was even capable of it.
"You must never call me that again."
"Why not?" Alan asked, confused by both Albus' words and his harsh tone of voice. He'd never heard his father speak that way before, least of all to him.
"Because it's dangerous!"
"No arguments, Alan. Never again. Am I understood?"
"Yes," he answered, tears brimming in his hazel eyes. "I won't do it again. I promise."
Minerva uttered a small sound of comfort and took Alan from Albus' arms, holding him close and kissing the top of his head. Though obviously trying not to, the five-year-old sobbed quietly off and on throughout the walk back to the house. Minerva simply held him close as they walked in silence, thinking intermittently about how big (and consequently heavy) Alan had gotten and what she could say to her son when they returned to Albus' summer home to ease the hurt.
"I don't understand, Mum. Why can't I call him Da sometimes? No one but Muggles were there."
"He worries a lot. He's afraid someone will find out."
"Doesn't he love me?"
"Of course he does!" Minerva exclaimed. "We both do. You know that, love."
"Then why is he so afraid of anyone finding out he's my Da?"
"Remember when you found out Albus was your father?" Minerva asked, wiping tears away from her son's flushed cheeks.
"Yes," he responded, hiccuping slightly.
"Remember the dangerous people we told you about and how they couldn't find out about who your Da was?"
"Yes, but there were only Muggles!"
"That was how it appeared but how do you know that's actually true?"
"They dressed like Muggles," Alan pointed out.
"How are we dressed right now, wee one?"
"Like Muggles," he replied with the annoyed air of one stating the obvious.
"And if we, a family of witches and wizards, can dress as Muggles, then what about other witches and wizards?"
"They can dress as Muggles too," Alan concluded. "Oh."
"He was just worried, love."
"He made me feel bad."
"I know," said Minerva, hugging the boy. "He didn't mean to."
"You upset him!"
"Better upset than dead. A few tears are worth his life to me. I'm sure you can agree with that."
"Of course I can," Minerva spat. "But that doesn't mean you can be unreasonable. You can apologize to him and still remain firm."
"I was protecting him! I did nothing wrong."
"This isn't about you being right or wrong! That has nothing to do with anything. No one's doubting that you were protecting him. This is about explaining to him why you did what you did!"
"These sorts of things happen in life. He will be better for it."
Minerva sighed and pinned him with her gaze. "He feels like you don't love him, Albus. Is that what you really want?"
"That's absurd!" Albus objected. "I love him a great deal. That's why I work so hard to protect him."
"You know that and I know that, but your son has started to wonder because of how you treated him. If you expect him to know then you had better tell him. He's only a child, very intelligent of course, but that doesn't mean that he can grasp the gravity of the situation—as easy as it is to forget that sometimes."
It was one of the few times Minerva had ever seen words fail Albus Dumbledore. He was so brilliant, charismatic and verbose that once upon a time she would never have thought such an occurrence possible. Yet now that the greying wizard had a son, such things occurred more frequently. It seemed that he could never be quite certain of how to achieve his intentions in the complex and emotionally tumultuous situation he found himself in in regard to his son. Failure of words were the least of his problems.
And with that, she left him standing silently in the hall, just beyond earshot of his son's bedroom.