He takes Al out for ice cream in a Muggle park. It’s not unusual for them to spend time together during the summer. James and Lily are always with their friends, while Al – quieter, less overtly popular than his siblings – spends most of his time at home, barring the odd week at Malfoy Manor, because his friendship with Scorpius still earns scowls and the occasional comment from his mother. Still, though, there’s something different about today. Perhaps it’s just him, but the air between them feels charged.
It’s time. He’s going to do it.
He can’t put a finger on exactly what told him that Al’s gay. Perhaps it’s just a case of knowing his kid – he’s closest to Al out of all of them – or maybe it’s the way he slyly deflects every time girls come up in conversation (and they come up plenty; James is a minefield of exploits that Harry – too caught up in fighting Voldemort at that age – hadn’t quite realised you could get up to in a boarding school). Whatever it was, Al hasn’t actually told him for sure yet. Which is fine. He doesn’t want Al to feel pressured into anything – there’s enough pressure put on his kids as it is; he doesn’t want to add to it if he can – but he wants him to feel like he can come out if he wants to.
Which means telling him, which is proving far harder than he thought it would be. The words keep getting caught in his throat. He keeps trying to find new ways to reword it, but he knows there’s no point. It’s two words. Two. It should be easy. It’s not.
They meander down a path to the lake and Harry decides that enough is enough. It’s time. He comes to a halt under a tree by the water and takes a deep breath – this is stupid, he killed a bloody Dark Lord, this should be nothing; he’d rather take on Voldemort again – and Al looks up from his vanilla cone with an expectant look. He’s smarter than a lot of people give him credit for, and he’s probably realised that his father hasn’t brought him here to stare mindlessly at ducks.
Something loosens in his chest and the words come out. He comes out.
He’s treated to the sight of his son’s eyes going impossibly wide. His fingers loosen on his ice cream cone and it slips just enough to smear ice cream over his nose before he catches it, and Harry pre-empts the inevitable by pulling a tissue out of his pocket and hands it over. (Tissues are an invaluable prop when you’re a father of three.)
He gives Al a moment, turning back to the ducks while his words sink in and his son wipes his face, and pretends that he’s utterly fascinated by mallards while his heart pounds and his palms sweat. He’s terrified, but he knows he can’t show it. Something to do with parenting – standing still and calm when your world is hanging by a thread – and setting a good example for your kids. And since the whole reason he’s doing this is so Al knows he doesn’t have to worry about it when he decides it’s time…yeah. Mallards. He’s not scared, he’s just really, really interested in ducks. Honest.
Maybe he should have brought some bread along. A couple of them are starting to swim over, quacking demandingly, and it would have given him something to do. He licks at his ice cream instead and waits.
Al’s the first person he’s told. His one and only boyfriend had been unwilling to come out, and Harry hadn’t exactly been keen on the idea either. Then they’d broken up and Harry had ended up with Ginny just like the whole world had apparently expected (he’d been the last to know, of course) and it hadn’t really mattered. He knew. He was fine with it. The rest of the world didn’t need to know or care and he still feels that way even now. He doesn’t want his sexuality splashed all over the Daily Prophet or Witch Weekly and he especially doesn’t want the scrutiny that would come with it. At this point he suspects that coming out publicly would hurt more of his friends and family than it would help.
Except for Al. He sighs as quietly as he possibly can. He’s got to remember: he’s doing this for Al.
“What about Mum?” Al asks quietly.
“I love your mother very much,” he replies. It’s true, after all. “She’s the one I married and we’re happy together. But that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes fancy blokes.”
He sneaks a look at his son. Al seems to have developed a duck-watching habit as well, but there’s a tiny crease between his eyebrows that means he’s thinking. He hasn’t run screaming or flipped out, though, so that’s a plus. He’s just…frowning at ducks, his ice cream beginning to melt over his fingers.
“How do you…” Al coughs. “Was there ever? I mean, did you ever date a man? Or was it just Mum?”
“Once,” Harry says. “After Voldemort, but before I got back with your Mum. He’s married now, though.”
Al goes a funny shade of greenish-white. “Mr Malfoy?” he asks, though it comes out more as a squeak.
Harry snorts, and then tries to pretend that he hasn’t by licking at his ice cream. “No,” he says. Hell no, he thinks, but since he’s got his suspicions about Al and Scorpius (who, despite all odds, is a great kid) he won’t say it like that. He’ll leave any and all hysteria over that bombshell to Ginny.
“Right,” Al says. “Um. Good. I mean, er –“ He clears his throat again. “That would be weird.”
Harry snickers and reaches out to ruffle Al’s hair. It doesn’t make any sort of difference to the style – poor kid’s a Potter through and through – but he still ducks out of the touch. He leans into Harry’s side afterwards, though, and Harry drapes his arm around his shoulders, holding him close as they admire the ducks in silence.