This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoat Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Harry rolled his eyes as Hermione snorted inelegantly, swirling around in the desk chair to face him.
"Really, Harry. Internet dating?"
Harry's eyes flashed defensively. It was easy for Hermione to look down on his attempts at finding a partner; she had Ron. His two best friends had been together for five years – they'd spent a few years after the war dating other people – and they were to be married in three months. It wasn't that Harry wasn't thrilled for them; he was. He was excited to stand in as Ron's best man, excited to see two wonderful people start a new chapter in their lives. He just wanted the same thing.
"Don't say it like that," Harry chastised. "You know it's hard for me to meet people like a normal bloke would. The last time I went to singles night at the local pub I was mobbed by slavering women."
"Most men would have been happy to have a dozen good-looking witches hanging off their arm, Harry," Hermione said with a barely suppressed grin.
"No doubt," Harry said sourly. "It wasn't my arm I was worried about, at any rate. One of them actually slipped a hand down my trousers!"
Hermione's smile grew at Harry's indignant expression.
"And it's a bit hard to attract a fit-looking wizard when you're knee-deep in witches, I suppose," she said with a laugh.
"Too right, Hermione," Harry said, shaking his head with mock exasperation. "Too bloody right. Now, did you come to help me write this ad or just to be a nuisance?"
Hermione turned her attention back to the computer screen in front of her. Harry's ad was far from polished, but then again, so was Harry.
"So let me get this straight, if you will," she said, giggling madly at her pun. Harry rolled his eyes. "You hope to find a serious partner from an ad on a Web site?"
Harry nodded. Hermione noted his earnest expression and sighed in resignation. If Harry was going to have an internet dating ad, then Hermione would make sure it was the very best it could be. By the time the two were finished, they had crafted an ad that clearly spelled out what Harry was looking for in a partner, keeping the language and tone casual and easy, just like Harry.
"Are you sure you don't want to add candlelight dinners and long walks on the beach?" Hermione asked, waggling her brows suggestively at Harry.
Harry tried to look stern, but a grin broke through. He threw a pillow from a nearby chair at Hermione.
"Oh, sod off," he said fondly. "This is a good idea. Besides, you know how much I hate sandy feet."
"Listen to this one, Draco! He's perfect for you," Blaise said with mock delight, scrolling down to read one of the hundreds of ads posted to the online dating site Draco had joined the week before.
"Looking for a wizard to share quiet, candlelight dinners, long walks on the beach and relaxing vacations. Picture me as tall, dark and handsome like Harry Potter. You should be fit and attractive as well. I prefer relationships to one-offs, but either is welcome."
Draco made a face, groaning as he lowered his head to the desk. Perhaps Blaise had been right when he told Draco that only wankers posted to these online services. His shoulders tightened, but he blew out a breath and forced himself to relax. They couldn't all be losers. After all, he had posted to the service, hadn't he?
"I am agog at your hilarity, Blaise," he said dryly.
"No? This one, then. He wants someone who will 'allow me to dominate you in every sense of the word'," Blaise said, looking at Draco with a grin.
Draco's eyes narrowed and he reached out and pulled his laptop away from Blaise, who raised his hands in defense and adopted an innocent look.
His heart sank as he continued to scroll through the brief list of new posts. Pansy had opened the online dating service last year, apparently drawing inspiration from an infomercial she had seen on a Muggle television channel, of all things. After months of wheedling, Draco had finally given in and agreed to start an account. As Pansy had so helpfully pointed out, he was striking out on the face-to-face front, so he might as well try something new. At least with online dating he could find someone who might actually be interested in him rather than his fortune or his notoriety.
"Wait, go back," Blaise said, his voice suddenly serious. He had shifted his chair over so he could watch the screen as Draco scrolled through the entries.
"Must Love Quidditch," Blaise read. "That one could be something, yeah? Open it up so we can see more."
Draco rolled his eyes but complied, opening the post titled "Must Love Quidditch" with a sigh. His straight-as-an-arrow friend was having much more fun evaluating Draco's potential internet suitors than Draco thought the situation warranted.
Must Love Quidditch
I am an avid fan and amateur player; you'll be a fit bloke who enjoys the same. An interest in traveling, fine food and wines and gardening a must as well. I love to cook; you should either share my passion for the hobby or appreciate eating gourmet meals. My work schedule allows me ample time to indulge in my interests; yours should too. I am looking for a steady relationship; respond only if you are as well. I enjoy spending quiet time at home or with the company of friends; you should be someone who shies away from the club scene as well. #13279
Draco read through the post twice, resisting the urge to tick off the compatible interests on his fingers. This bloke sounded nearly perfect to him, and he figured Blaise felt the same way, since the other man hadn't spoken up yet.
The post wasn't signed, nor did it have contact information appended aside from an identification number. Draco knew what that meant, since his own post was similarly devoid of personal information. Pansy only allowed high-profile clients to be anonymous on the site, and only after she had verified the person's identity and need for secrecy herself. After the verification process, the client was randomly assigned a number and a generic e-mail address. Even if Draco wanted to, he wouldn't be able to wrest the mystery man's identity from Pansy; she swore an Unbreakable Vow with each of these special clients, ensuring their privacy.
Blaise watched Draco's face as his longtime friend scrutinized the post. He knew Draco's love life had been a mess for ages. He had a long string of failed relationships behind him. Men either wanted to date him for his money – either to have him support them or support various business ventures they wanted to pursue – or because they enjoyed the status of dating such a notorious and well-known man. Draco was loved and hated by the press at the same time; his every move was splashed across the pages of wizarding publications for all to see. Blaise wrinkled his nose in distaste. He hated the publicity seekers even more than the money grubbers, since they paraded Draco out in public so they could be photographed on his arm. Draco hated the press and he hated going out; though he'd never admit it, he was a homebody at heart.
"Well?" Blaise asked, impatient with Draco's unreadable silence.
"He sounds too good to be true – probably has the looks of a troll," Draco said with a weak laugh. He hadn't even admitted to himself how much he wanted this internet dating venture to pan out; now that he had found someone remotely interesting, his courage was faltering.
"Your Malfoy mask is slipping, Draco," Blaise said with a grin. "You're falling all over yourself to contact him. I can tell. Go on, then. Do it."
Draco hesitated, but clicked on the identification number. He keyed in his username and password, giving the site permission to contact the mystery man with Draco's own post. It wouldn't give his personal information, since his was also a high-profile membership, but it would give the man his e-mail address as well as a copy of his own ad.
Draco swallowed as the message flew into the ether; the ball was in mystery man's court now.
Harry jumped up after reading his e-mail, hurrying to the fireplace and throwing in a pinch of Floo dust.
"Ron and Hermione's," he said clearly, sticking his head into the green flames.
Hermione heard the Floo roar to life just as she was putting the finishing touches on dinner. As she was finishing plating the takeaway, at any rate, which in a way could be considered making dinner, she reasoned. She grabbed a dish towel to wipe a stray bit of curry from her hands and walked into the sitting room.
"Harry? Are you coming through? I've just finished dinner," she said.
"I was wondering if you and Ron would mind bringing it here instead," Harry asked sheepishly. "I've just had a brilliant response to my ad, and I want you to help me respond."
Computers and other electronic devices did not respond well to magic, which meant taking them through a Floo ride or Apparating with them could cause the devices to short out. Harry's laptop had wards around it to shield it from the ambient magic in his home, but those protections wouldn't hold up to the forces of magical transportation.
"Of course. We'll be through in a minute," Hermione said with an indulgent smile. "I'll just pack up dinner. Open some wine, will you?"
Harry nodded and withdrew his head from the fire as Hermione headed back to the kitchen to return the takeaway to its original containers. She shook her head with a good-natured grimace at the irony of it.
Ron insisted they eat before tackling Harry's e-mail response, reasoning they would all think a good sight better if they weren't hungry. Harry merely picked at his curry with disinterest, his mind clearly on the anonymous bloke whose post had sounded so perfect. His name and other personal details hadn't been included, and Harry was slightly apprehensive about what that meant. He wasn't sure he wanted to date a high-profile man; he garnered enough attention on his own. What if the man was a professional Quidditch player or something? It would be impossible to stay out of the public eye and date someone like that.
When dinner was over, Harry cleared away the plates and brought his laptop out to the kitchen table. Ron slumped in his chair slightly, not quite disinterested, but clearly uncomfortable with the idea of being involved in Harry's love life. Hermione's eyes lit up as she pulled the computer closer to her, reading the automated response to Harry's ad.
To: MustLoveQuidditch[at]MagicalDatingOnline .uk
Sunday, May 11, 2008 6:37 p.m.
Re: Interest in your post
Dear User #13279,
User #11837 has expressed interest in your post. Please review #11837's post and contact the user directly at his or her e-mail address, IntrospectiveIntellectual[at]MagicalDatingOnline .uk.
Seeking a partner who enjoys solitude and is comfortable with silence and introspection. Discretion is expected and will be given in return. I am fit and expect my partner to be as well. My interests include travel, Quidditch, intellectual pursuits and gourmet food and drink. I enjoy witty banter and intelligent conversation; my partner must be able to respond in kind. I am financially self-sufficient and require the same of my partner. Must like children. #11837
We at Magical Dating Online wish you the best in your search for love.
Thank you for your patronage, and remember, true love is only a click away.
The Magical Dating Online Web team
Hermione sat back with a thoughtful look. The writer sounded a bit pretentious, but his interests – and requirements for privacy and solitude – matched Harry's nicely. The bit about children, though, gave her pause.
"Do you think this wizard has children, then?" she asked Harry, who was hovering nearby waiting for her reaction.
"Maybe. He might just have nieces and nephews who are around a lot, or maybe he's interested in adopting a child down the road," Harry said. He had thought a lot about that requirement; in fact, he had very nearly included a similar one in his own post. He thought it would be strange, however, since he didn't have a child, so he left it off, figuring that there would be plenty of time in the getting-to-know-you process with any prospective partner for his desire to have a family to come up.
"Are you alright with that, mate?" Ron piped up, his gaze questioning.
Harry thought for a minute and nodded.
"I want a family, Ron. I've wanted one for as long as I can remember. Being bent doesn't change that, you know. Just because I'm gay doesn't mean I wouldn't be a good father," he said, looking Ron in the eye.
Ron colored, embarrassed that his words had been so misconstrued.
"That wasn't what I meant at all, Harry! You'd be a brilliant father. I just meant would you be alright with raising someone else's child," Ron said quickly.
Harry shot Ron a lopsided grin.
"I'm not exactly likely to have one of my own, Ron, being that the thought of sleeping with a woman is revolting," Harry said with a grimace, smiling apologetically at Hermione. "My only other option is to adopt or find a partner who already has a child."
Ron nodded and Hermione stood to pull Harry into a light embrace. He bent to rest his head on her shoulder and she pressed a kiss into his rumpled hair.
"We're putting the cart before the horse," she said, all business, as she released Harry. "We have to make Harry's response witty and intelligent enough to keep this guy interested. We can worry about Harry's reproductive future later. Say, after they've had their first date."
Hermione hesitated, worrying her lower lip with her teeth as though debating something with herself. As Harry cocked his head as a silent question, she gave him a small smile.
"Those aren't your only options, you know. For having children, I mean," she said, slightly uncomfortable.
Harry's face lit up in a big smile. He loved his friends, especially when they looked out for him like this.
"Oh, I know. I can hire a surrogate and have her carry my child. It's not that important to me, to be honest. What would it matter whether or not the child was mine biologically?"
Ron opened his mouth to speak, but Hermione shushed him with a stern look. She settled back into the chair nearest the computer and looked expectantly over at Harry, her fingers poised over the keyboard.
"Shall we get started, then?"
Draco had put off checking his online dating e-mail account all morning. He knew if the mystery man had responded, he'd spend the day obsessing about how to answer the e-mail. If he hadn't responded, then he'd spend the day obsessing over why he hadn't answered yet. His schedule was too full for that sort of nonsense, so he'd avoided it altogether.
Blaise gave a cursory rap against Draco's office door with his knuckles before entering. He sprawled inelegantly on a chair in front of Draco's desk, arching an eyebrow.
"So, boss, any news?"
Draco looked at him sternly. Blaise's beautifully tailored clothes made his current pose even more indolent.
"You know I hate it when you call me that. And sit up, or you'll ruin your suit," Draco drawled. "I finished the negotiations on the Traylor land deal; the contract should already be on your desk for your review. We also closed on that empty warehouse near Diagon Alley, the one Theo wants to turn in to a club. I'll need you to run through the legalities of that so we have all of our bases covered before we go before the Diagon Alley Chamber of Commerce."
Blaise smiled. He had been working for Draco in of his stable of in-house corporate lawyers for six years, so he knew Draco always put business before pleasure. He also knew his friend well enough to see that Draco was nervous and stalling. Blaise straightened out of his slouch, adopting a more professional posture and crossing his legs.
"The Traylor contract is solid. The land is already zoned for residential development, so it will be a snap to get the permits we need. It's truly a genius idea, building a gated and warded wizarding community. The lots will sell like caldron cakes," Blaise said.
"The Diagon Alley warehouse isn't as cut and dried," he continued. "The zoning there is less clear, and I have the junior counsel looking into precedent. We'll need to know how other clubs and pubs are zoned and which permits we'll need before we try to go before the board. I'll have that report on your desk within the week."
Blaise uncrossed his legs and leaned forward in his chair, continuing to look Draco in the eye.
"Now stop stalling and check the blasted e-mail account. I'm dying over here," he said with a grin.
Draco turned slightly in his chair and called up his e-mail. There were several messages from others responding to his post, but Draco skimmed over those seeking out the one he was looking for. Triumphant, he motioned Blaise behind the desk so the two men could read it together.
To: IntrospectiveIntellectual[at]MagicalDatingOnline .uk
From: MustLoveQuidditch[at]MagicalDatingOnline .uk
Sunday, May 11, 2008 10:13 p.m.
Re: Let's get to know one another
I must admit I was surprised when I read your post. I was pessimistic that I'd ever find anyone I might truly get on with through this rather unconventional medium, but it sounds like our interests and requirements, at least superficially, match very well.
I gather from your identification number that you, too, are a high-profile client. I generally shy away from dating men who are in the spotlight, as I find its glare harsh at the best of times. I have enough trouble staying away from the media on my own— having a well-known partner would only exacerbate the problem.
Your post promises discretion, and you say you enjoy your privacy. I'm taking you at your word on that, as I hope you'll take me on mine. While I do enjoy a degree of fame it is not something I actively seek; as such, I spend much of my time at home, surrounded by family and friends, rather than out surrounded by the public.
I hope you won't be offended by my reluctance to disclose my name and other identifying details. While I trust your discretion, I would prefer to get to know each other over email before we divulge that information or meet in person. As I'm sure you understand, it can be hard to truly get to know a person who is well-known for one reason or another. You've likely had problems because of it yourself. I'd like you to get to know the real me before finding out who I am, and I am looking forward to getting to know you as well.
I find myself uncomfortable with using the assigned identification numbers in our correspondence, as it makes this all so impersonal. I'd prefer it if we were to use nicknames. I'll divulge my first bit of information about my personal life as mine.
"It wouldn't be a bad thing to take this slow, like he says, Draco," Blaise said after reading the email. He smirked at the signature – a Gryffindor?
Draco picked up on the clue instantly as well, chuckling softly. The man might have been a Gryffindor when he was at Hogwarts – and Draco had no way of knowing whether that was 10 months ago or 10 years ago – but he clearly took a Slytherin approach to things. He found himself even more intrigued with the mystery man after reading his response, and he approved of the man's suggestion to simply exchange emails for the time being wholeheartedly.
He would have asked for Blaise's help writing a response, but his secretary poked her head in the door before he could ask.
"Mr. Malfoy, you have a meeting at Gringott's in half an hour. You'll need to leave now in order to make it. The Goblins have instituted some new security measures and it is taking a little longer than usual to get into the bank," she said.
Draco sighed and pushed back from his desk. His response would have to wait. He walked toward the door, stopping to grab his briefcase and cloak from his secretary.
"Thank you, Madge," he said, bowing to her slightly. She grinned. She was 80 if she was a day, but Draco always flirted and joked with her. He turned to Blaise and nodded. "Blaise."
Blaise tipped an imaginary hat at Draco as the other man left the office, whistling softly to himself as he made his way toward the office's apparition point. Blaise shook his head fondly, watching him walk away. Draco was already on the road to smitten, that much was clear. He just hoped things worked out.