Harry has a problem he thinks might actually manage to permanently kill his teenage self, if he knew.
Which, obviously, is really saying something.
You wouldn’t think it. Right now, Harry’s outside on a beautiful day in Boston, Massachusetts, one of the few breezy days of spring before the air melts into summer humidity. The sky is achingly blue, the air is cool on his bare arms, and he’s full of picnic fare. Ron is wiping little Rosie’s face as she squirms impatiently, eager to run off and get back to digging for bugs. Nova is ignoring that Rosie is otherwise occupied and half her age and chatting to her about the secrets of the Make Way For Ducklings statue; Harry’s not clear on how much of her chatter is factual or how much she even believes is factual, but he reckons with parents like hers, she couldn’t be any other way.
And Draco Malfoy’s there, too.
He’s sprawled on his front along the quilt Luna brought along for their picnic, taking up too much of it and marking a bunch of papers up with red ink, staining his hands. The papers are resting on the little floral knapsack belonging to Nova; when they met up earlier, he had it slung over his shoulder. It’s like watching performance art, watching Malfoy, Luna, and Nova interact — Hermione often wonders aloud how they get out of the house in the morning. As they approached them in the Public Garden that day, Luna was far behind, talking seriously to the ducks on the pond in overalls and a rainbow jumper, and Nova was zipping along the path on a scooter, ribbons streaming off the handles. Malfoy was doing a stupid sort of half-jog behind her, refusing to actually run, the little knapsack bouncing on his blazer wrapped shoulder, looking every bit the sort of professor that set impressionable students off daydreaming about secret affairs instead of thinking about the Salem trials or the expulsion of wizards from Harvard and founding of the wizarding university.
Harry fancies him horribly.
After hurriedly comparing notes, everyone who got the owl concluded not one of them had 1) any idea Luna was pregnant and 2) any clue at all she was in any sort of position to be having a baby by Draco Malfoy. Because that’s what it said — “Luna Lovegood and Draco Malfoy announce the birth of their daughter.”
Luna had been in the States for about a year. The last anyone heard, she was in Montana, looking for fossils belonging to magical creatures. For most of their 20s, she’d been like that, disappearing for months at a time to different places, on the hunt for things none of them were convinced existed, then just popping into somebody’s floo asking if they’d like to go have a drink or a meal or a look at some museum exhibit, as if she’d been in England all along.
Nobody’d known where Malfoy was for years.
Getting Luna up the duff in Montana, apparently, of all the fucking things.
Ginny got nominated to send Luna a “congratulations, but what the bloody fuck” owl, to which Luna responded, several weeks later, in her usual rambling style, I was just so busy I never got around to telling anyone! Draco insisted on the announcements, aren’t they lovely? Oh, we’re not together though. We were for a bit in Salem but not anymore. We’re very happy to have Nova though. I think it was quite fantastic to give birth, I feel so connected to her and to the earth, you know, and now Draco and I have got a bond forever, it’s really a type of magic. Draco wants to settle down for a bit in Boston, he’s at Alse Young. They’ve a need for magical creatures professors so I might be able to teach as well. So I’ll be in one place for a while, I don’t know how I’ll manage but I hope you all can meet Nova soon! She’s got a wonderful aura, I know all babies do but it’s so lovely to be around.
Enclosed was a photo of a very pointy baby with huge eyes and not even the slightest hint of hair, curling her fist at the camera. Harry privately thought she looked like a Martian.
Over the next four years, Luna flitted in and out of their lives as usual, never really around long enough for Harry to fully adjust to the idea that she had some kind of family with Malfoy. She turned up in the UK several times, but Nova only came with her twice — once when she was about six months old, and again when she was nearing two.
The first time, Malfoy came along, and Harry learned three things: 1) Malfoy studied and taught history, specializing in muggle-wizard relations, particularly the formation and evolution of the Statute of Secrecy, 2) he fluttered around his child like an angry bird, fussing over her carrier and checking her temperature and taking her unceremoniously from other people’s arms at the slightest sign of fussing, and 3) somewhere in the past ten years he’d got kind of dishy.
By then Harry knew what “bisexual” meant and that he was it, and did Malfoy have legs. But it felt kind of pervy, somehow, checking out the father of Luna’s baby, even if they weren’t together, and — Jesus, it was Malfoy. If anyone knew they’d never stop laughing at him. And of all the people Malfoy spoke to over the visit, awkward and anxious, Harry got the least interaction. He’d received a letter of apology a few weeks before the visit, as had everybody else, all of them long and thoughtful, and even aside from the fact of Malfoy’s legs (and his hands, and his mouth, and his eyes), Harry was…interested, but Malfoy still didn’t say much in person.
The second time Luna and Nova stopped by the U.K., Malfoy couldn’t come — he was nearing the completion of his dissertation — but he was constantly ringing Luna on her mobile, asking her if she’d remembered to give an apparently underweight Nova this or that potion and then listening on the other end as Nova said incomprehensible things into the phone like “Where Oge?” and “balloon man” and giggled hysterically. At this point, Hermione was pregnant, and she and Ron kept getting all teary around Nova and politely pretending to take Luna’s pregnancy advice seriously. Harry began to wonder if all of his friends were going to have babies before he even found someone he wanted to seriously date.
On Harry’s 30th birthday he quit the aurors, because he hated it, and it made him miserable, and he was swallowed up by the feeling he’d had a chance, at 18, to do something different, and he’d fallen right back in to losing years of his life to other people. He didn’t speak to anyone or go anywhere. He didn’t find another job he liked. So a year later, when Hermione got the offer to do a year’s residency at Alse Young, the magical university at which Malfoy and Luna worked, she and Ron and Rosie dragged Harry with them.
Which meant they spent a lot of time with Luna and Malfoy and Nova.
Which meant Harry found out the reason for their odd family arrangement was Malfoy coming up to Luna, devastated at the thought of hurting her, to say he thought he was gay, and her responding, “Oh, Draco, that’s lovely for you. I have good news as well! I’m pregnant!”
Malfoy was gay, and single, and handsome, and always combing through history books and old documents you couldn’t take out of the university library to figure out where and how things went wrong between wizards and muggles. Where and how things went wrong inside of him. He loved Luna dearly as a friend, and he loved and cared for Nova with such gentle, steady intensity, biking around the Common like a muggle with her strapped in a baby seat behind him. He never seemed to date, always incredibly busy and devoted to his weird little family, but he seemed to consider Harry, Ron, and Hermione worth his time. He gradually relaxed and blossomed in front of them into someone funny and smart and weird, and soft and sweet around Rosie, too.
Harry didn’t have a chance.
The problem is Malfoy knows, and he has feelings for Harry as well, and they’re not doing anything about it.
Harry is not a patient person.
He watches as Malfoy scratches away at the papers in front of him. They’re entering May, so he’s marking up finals, frowning thoughtfully more than scoffing, which seems like good news for his students, though he’s still scribbling away in the margins. He has a bit of red ink on his cheek.
Harry’s trying. He’s watched his friends become more patient than he ever imagined they could as they settled into parenting. If Hermione could do it — if Malfoy could do it — Harry can…try. And if there’s anyone he’d do it for…
He looks at the line between Malfoy’s eyebrows as he reads and thinks about that same line appearing during their first real, long conversation, as Harry described how much he hated the aurors. Nova was with Luna at the Gardner, preferring to wander a strange old woman’s art collection than climb around the Children’s Museum, where she claimed there were too many people. Malfoy rearranged himself on the couch, tucking his legs beneath him — he could never sit in one position for very long — and said, “Fuck law enforcement.”
Harry stared at him, and he said, “Not because I’m some villain, Potter. I deserve to deal with my past choices. I deserved to be tried. I probably deserved more than I got — thanks to you.” He stared at Harry with that line between his thin brows. “But the system’s been corrupt since far before we were born, and you never struck me as the type to work within it. You break the rules, Potter. It’s always…”
“It’s always what?”
High spots of color bloomed on Draco’s cheeks. Harry still remembers it; he catalogues every one of Draco’s blushes, every flustered moment. “It’s just always been that way. You’re not a law enforcer, you’re — a good enforcer.” Fiercely, he tacked on, “Don’t laugh, that was incoherent, I know.”
Harry doesn’t know why it shouldn’t have occurred to him that enforcing the law wasn’t exactly his thing. After fifth year, after everything…he should have known this about himself. How had Malfoy known this about him?
In the present, Hermione’s looking right at Harry, and he knows she’s caught him mooning over Malfoy. He looks away, off at the people in the swan boats around the pond, then decides he should make it look like he had something he was thinking about other than Malfoy, Malfoy, Malfoy, and he blurts, “Haven’t they learned enough by now that you shouldn’t have to mark them up so much?”
He didn’t even know Nova was so close to him, but suddenly a sticky finger slams up against his lips. “Ssh,” she says, her other hand pressing to Harry’s shoulder for balance. “We don’t talk to Daddy when he’s marking,” she explains seriously, her breath hot on Harry’s cheek as she leans forward to “whisper.” Everyone’s eyes — Ron’s, Luna’s, and Rosie’s joining Hermione’s — are on him now. “He might get confused.”
Nova’s hair is wispy and fine, nearly white in the sun, and if you don’t look closely it’s like she hasn’t got any eyebrows at all, they’re so light. She’s like a mad genius, and Harry has no doubt that with her parents, she’ll be one — is one, even. Harry thought surely Luna dressed her, with all her patched up, mismatched outfits, but apparently they let her dress herself. Today, she’s in wellies despite the sunshine and a sundress with colors and patterns that hurt Harry’s eyes.
Ron bursts out laughing at Nova’s words.
Malfoy looks up from his papers and tries to scowl, but there’s a smile fighting through. He can’t look at Nova and scowl like that. He told Harry that, late at night nearly a month ago, over wine on the porch at Malfoy and Luna’s flat. “I never want her to think about my anger the way I think about my Father’s,” he said. “Of course I get angry, but we always talk about it after. Always.” Harry thought about the door of his cupboard slamming on his little fingers and thought he understood.
That same night Harry touched Malfoy’s hands and told him he thought he loved him.
Nova, Harry has learned, is very aware of what she perceives as people laughing at her. She rounds on Ron. “It’s not funny to be confused, Weasley,” she says.
Hearing “Weasley” come out of her mouth like that sets Harry off laughing, too; he can’t help it. It’s uncanny, her pointy nose, her raised eyebrow, even with her big Lovegood eyes.
“Oh, stop, she doesn’t know why you’re laughing,” says Hermione. “Don’t listen to them, Nova.”
“Oh, darling, no one’s laughing at you,” says Malfoy, reaching out his hand for Nova. She looks at him warily. “They’re laughing at me.”
“Laughing at someone’s not nice,” says Nova, crossing her arms. “Don’t laugh at my Daddy.”
“No, laughing can be not very nice, but they’re only being silly with us,” Malfoy says gently. “I’m not sad.”
“Sometimes we laugh at your Daddy, too, remember,” says Luna, sweeping Nova into her arms and kissing her face. “Because he’s so silly.”
“Yeah, I just think your Dad’s silly, Nova,” says Ron, smirking.
Malfoy rolls his eyes.
“Oh, Rosie, don’t, you don’t know where it’s been!” Hermione frets suddenly, and she scrambles up. Everyone flinches to attention instantly, but Rosie’s only wandered a few feet, attempting to pat a fearless squirrel on the head. Rosie’s always coming home with her pockets filled with dirt and all manner of creepy crawly things that Hermione tells her need to stay “in their house, outside, they like it there.” She loves animals. Harry’s been thinking of asking if he could get her a puppy for Christmas, when they’re back in England.
Back in England. Like they’re supposed to be in just a few months.
When Hermione and Ron have gone off to rescue Rosie from the no doubt bloodthirsty squirrel, Malfoy turns to Harry and says, “It’s a conversation, Potter.”
Nova is settled in Luna’s lap, and Malfoy, after a quick assessing glance in their direction, looks up at Harry earnestly. “My comments,” he says. He gestures to a column of red on someone’s work. “I’m not berating them, even correcting them a lot of the time. I’m giving them my thoughts. Suggestions on further reading, further consideration. Not all of them are going to be historians, but not all of the future historians know they’re going to be historians yet, either, do you know what I mean? And they won’t know, if no one takes their work seriously, or takes the subject seriously with them.”
“Right,” says Harry. “Yeah, that makes sense.”
“Does it?” Malfoy says, his mouth flicking up at the corner as he looks back down at his work. “Or do you want me to stop talking?”
“It makes sense,” says Harry. “I never want you to stop talking.”
Harry thinks about getting up and running off into the pond until they can’t see the top of his head anymore.
He’s not actually sure how deep it is.
Nor is he really sure if he’s done anything wrong. He doesn’t know what the lines are here, because the only thing Harry can conceive of is “yes” or “no,” “stop” or “go.” He doesn’t understand someone telling him “I know,” telling him “My feelings for you are…strong,” but wanting to go very slow. So slow Harry hasn’t even gotten to put his mouth anywhere near Malfoy’s, even briefly, even though his eyes are always flicking there, longing. So slow that when Malfoy places a hand lightly, carefully on his arm or his shoulder or the small of his back, a sharp thrill runs through Harry like he’s been swept into somebody’s arms and kissed.
Malfoy looks startled at first, but then he settles into a smirk and a flick of an eyebrow. “I can’t say anyone’s ever said that to me,” he says. He might look very cool and collected about it everywhere else, but there are high spots of color on his cheeks, like there were when he told Harry he was “a good enforcer.”
“Well,” says Harry stupidly.
Malfoy reaches out and squeezes Harry’s wrist, so quickly he hardly believes it happened.
Harry sighs. It’s even more embarrassing. He sounds like a lovesick teenager.
Malfoy’s eyes flick to him again, then back to his papers, the spots of color on his face brighter, a soft smile playing at his mouth.
“Can Nova and I go to the playground?” Harry says. He doesn’t think he can look at Malfoy any longer. His chest hurts. “Give you lot a break.”
Nova jumps up from Luna’s lap. “Oh, please, please!” she says, bouncing from foot to foot.
“That would be lovely,” says Luna, and she lies back on the blanket right away, stretching out her arms.
The smallest bit of anxiety flits across Malfoy’s face. Harry has learned he’s much more nervous over Nova than Luna, and this is the only thing they ever fight about. Luna things independence is the most important thing for her. Malfoy thinks it’s important, but he also thinks the world is dangerous, and he wants every opportunity to show her she has someone who won’t ever leave or betray her.
Malfoy’s father died three years ago. He never met his grandchild.
“Yes,” Malfoy says finally. “That would be lovely.”
The trust that lives in those words makes Harry feel like there’s a balloon blowing up in his chest.
The moment they get to the crosswalk between the Garden and the Common, Nova grabs Harry’s hand, still chattering away like it’s just the natural thing to do, holding onto him like that. “Ages ago when I was only two like Rosie is I fell in the Frog Pond you know.” This is not the first time Harry has been regaled with this story. “A big girl fell on top of me and I couldn’t get up out of the water and my face was down so I couldn’t get any air to breathe. You’ve never seen Daddy so mad in his whole life.” Harry’s not sure he’s never seen Malfoy “so mad,” but with the way he loves Nova, maybe she’s right. “When he pulled me up and I could breathe again he cried in front of everybody. Daddy cries a lot.” The little walking man lights up, and Nova tugs Harry along the crosswalk, skipping. “Mummy said when Daddy was little people said ‘no crying’ to him and made him not cry so he does it all the time now. It’s a good thing I cry all the time and Mummy and Daddy let me, I don’t want to cry so much when I’m big. Duck boat!” She waves furiously at one of the gaudy tourist vehicles, come to a stop at the light. Tourists wave and quack at her.
Harry wants to laugh, but there’s a deep sadness pulling at his gut. “Your Daddy loves you,” he says. He squeezes her hand.
“Yeah, we love each other,” she says breezily. “I love you, too, Harry, I like your scar head.”
“My scar head?” says Harry, but Nova’s already moved on, skipping ahead of him and wondering aloud if any friends from preschool will be at the playground.
He realizes she said she loved him.
“I love you, too, Nova,” he says, a bit choked up, as they walk along the Frog Pond, not yet filled with water for the season, to get to the playground.
“Yeah, I know,” Nova says, like it’s nothing. “I’ll race you!”
She takes off.
This child is so loved she assumes it’s there, lives with it quietly alongside her like another limb. Harry couldn’t have imagined a life like this as a child.
He’s filled with such intense feeling for Malfoy — and Luna, too — that he almost stumbles.
It isn’t long before Ron, Hermione, and Rosie join them at the playground. As Nova shows Rosie her cartwheels and tries to get her to do it, too, Ron hovering and suggesting that maybe Rose is a bit small for gymnastics, Hermione sits with Harry on a bench and says, “Malfoy driving you mad?”
Harry sighs. “He’s…” He shrugs. “He wants to take it slow. We’re taking it very slow.”
“He’s Nova’s dad, and…that’s very important to him, more than anything.”
“I know.” Hermione pauses. She smiles at him. “It’s driving you mad.”
“Yeah,” says Harry, dropping his head in his hands.
Hermione rubs his back. “I know that when you make a decision, that’s that, it’s made,” she says. “I don’t think Malfoy’s like that.”
“Clearly not,” says Harry, still not looking up. Nova’s okay with Ron.
“It doesn’t mean he doesn’t want what you want,” says Hermione. “Just that he’s careful.”
“Careful never got me anywhere,” Harry grumbles.
“Well, it’s getting you somewhere now,” says Hermione. “He let you bring Nova over here on your own. I could count on one hand the people he’d allow to do that. I’m not even sure he’d let us do it.”
It used to be weird, when Hermione would say “us” and she’d mean she and Ron and not Harry. Harry’s adjusted. There’s still the “us” that’s the three of them. It is, apparently, possible to adjust to things over time. The things that are happening right now aren’t the only things that will ever happen.
It’s still hard to believe that.
“Mummy, Daddy, I’m showing Rosie my tricks!” Nova bellows, and Harry jumps under Hermione’s hand.
Hermione laughs. Malfoy and Luna are approaching from the Frog Pond, Malfoy carrying Nova’s little knapsack again, the blanket from their spot in the Garden rolled up under Luna’s arm.
“Lovely,” says Luna as they walk through the arched entryway to the playground, Nova barreling toward them.
Absently, Malfoy says, “Indoor voice, darling.” Harry notices with a little thrill that his eyes are on Harry and Hermione at the bench.
Nova stops in her tracks before she reaches them and raises her eyebrow, again in an absolutely uncanny impression of her father. “I think I’ll use my outdoor voice outdoors,” she says. “Thank you.”
Startling, Malfoy stares at her, then bursts out laughing. “Touché,” he says.
“That’s you told, Malfoy,” says Harry.
“I can’t make a single mistake,” says Malfoy, watching as Nova drags Luna along to show her a trick on the slide. “She always notices. Not in a cruel way, mind, she’s just always got to know what’s going on, so if you don’t make sense she’s got to catalogue it.”
“Rosie’s getting that way a bit,” says Hermione fondly. She looks from Harry to Malfoy, then says, “I suppose I should go see if Ron’s surviving.”
She knows he’s surviving. Ron’s been the most instinctive parent out of the two of them, often soothing Hermione while she pores over parenting books. Hermione squeezes Harry’s shoulder and wanders off.
Malfoy sits down next to Harry on the bench. He sits close enough that his thigh brushes Harry’s, and Harry can smell coffee on his breath. He know he’s mad about Malfoy because it isn’t a pleasant smell, really, would bother him coming from someone else, but it makes his limbs feel a bit weak now, because it means Malfoy’s real, human body is so close. “Managed not to lose my daughter then?” says Malfoy.
“Yeah,” says Harry. “She told me she loved me because she liked my scar head.”
He expects Malfoy to laugh, to deny ever having referred to him as “scarhead” in front of Nova. But he doesn’t. Harry looks over and sees a strange, stricken look on Malfoy’s face. “She said she loved you?” says Malfoy, quiet.
“Oh,” says Harry. He looks away, scratching his head absently. “Yeah.” And because he’s stupid, he adds weakly, “Beat you to it.” It’s supposed to be joking, but he’s not sure he pulled the tone off.
Malfoy makes a small, inscrutable noise. “You think so?”
Harry looks up. Malfoy’s staring at him, head cocked slightly, eyes soft. He’s so close, so real. So…Malfoy, someone Harry’s teenage self would punch in the face — but the thought of that now makes Harry’s stomach turn with nausea.
“Well,” says Harry, not entirely sure of the question. “I — yeah.”
“Oh,” says Malfoy. He reaches for Harry’s hand and slides his long fingers in between Harry’s own. Harry’s heart is pounding, just at this. “What do you suppose I meant by having all those lunches with you this month? Meeting up with you after work? Letting you go off across the street with my kid?”
“I…” Harry looks at their joined hands. “Well, you said you wanted it…slow.”
“I did,” says Malfoy. “I said I wanted it. Slow, but I wanted it.”
“Oh,” says Harry. “I mean, yeah. I know.”
Rosie and Nova shriek in the distance, and they look over to watch Ron chasing them all around the jungle gym. Malfoy smiles softly. Harry says, “I know Nova’s the most important thing to you, and I know you have feelings for me and you want something with me, but you want it to be slow. So I’ll go slow. I’ll go as slow as you want. It’s just — I’ve wasted my whole life til now. Voldemort and the aurors and — I didn’t really want any of it. I thought I did, maybe, but I didn’t. And I’m afraid. Of — not doing what I want. There isn’t…I’ve never had…time.”
Malfoy raises his eyebrow just like Nova did before. “V-Voldemort and the aurors…helping people like you did doesn’t seem like a ‘waste’ of a life.”
“Maybe not a life,” says Harry. “But…mine.”
“Mm,” says Malfoy. He squeezes Harry’s hand. “Harry, you’re thirty-two, and you’re alive.”
It’s the first time Malfoy’s called him Harry.
Draco’s called him Harry.
“Didn’t really…expect that,” Harry admits.
“I didn’t, either,” says Malfoy — Draco. “About me, I mean. But what I mean is — you’re not running out of time anymore. There’s so much time. It can be yours now.”
“I want…” says Harry. He stops himself before he can say the horribly embarrassing thing he’s thinking — I want you to be mine now. You can’t have people. And Draco’s not going anywhere. He’s pretty sure. He swallows.
Draco is looking at Harry’s face like it’s a puzzle. His gaze falls to Harry’s mouth, and Harry thinks his heart might jump out of his chest. “Me, too,” says Draco, and he leans forward to press his own mouth to Harry’s, warm and dry under the May sunshine.
Harry blinks when Draco pulls just a little bit away from him. “Oh,” says Harry. “Good.”
“I told you I did,” says Draco.
“I know,” says Harry, dazed. “I just…”
“You’re in a hurry,” says Draco. “But you don’t have to be.” He leans forward for another kiss, his mouth opening just a bit this time, and Harry grips his hands, feels like he’s soaring. “You don’t have to hurry anymore,” he insists.
Harry wants to. He wants to dive into Draco, take him apart. Kiss every part of him he can reach. He’s never known much about getting what he wants. If he stops he’s afraid he’ll overthink it, that he won’t know what to do if he isn’t flying on desperate instinct. He wants to ask what they’ll do if Harry’s supposed to go back to England soon, how they could tell Nova about this thing between them, how it would change Draco’s little family.
But he’s thirty-two, and he’s alive, and Draco’s alive, too, and so are Ron and Hermione and Rosie. So are the friends and family back in England, and so are the people he’s gotten to know here.
Thirty-two is so many more years than his parents got.
“Okay,” Harry says breathlessly into Draco’s mouth, and Draco laughs.
“Okay?” Draco says.
“Okay,” Harry confirms, pressing one last kiss to one of Draco’s ridiculous cheekbones. Harry wants to devour him. But he won’t. He’ll make it last.
Nova runs up not long after that, apparently oblivious to anything that’s happened between them on this bench. She crawls into Draco’s lap and curls up there, declaring she’s tired and Rosie’s too little to play right and she wants to eat spaghetti for dinner, and Draco swoops her up in his arms and looks into her eyes like he’s never loved somebody so much. Harry doesn’t feel jealous. He feels warm to the tip of his toes. Draco says, “Maybe Harry will make us spaghetti. He hasn’t been working today, has he?”
“Hmm,” says Harry. “Maybe.”
He can picture a future in which he makes dinner for Draco and Nova and Luna all the time. In which he shares their house, and a bed with Draco, and picks lovely Nova up from school and brings her to the park.
For now, he’ll get on the subway and follow them home, with Ron and Hermione and Rosie there, too, and he’ll make them all spaghetti.