“Da,” Lily is twirling spaghetti around her fork daintily even though she’s already covered in red sauce.
“Yes love?” Harry looks at her fondly. Glad she is enjoying the different dishes they try to cook together. Pasta from scratch with a mushroom-tomato sauce today. The kitchen is covered in flower, the ten-year-old is covered in sauce, and both of them are going to be stuffed after this. The perfect Sunday evening.
“Why don’t you have a Luna?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” she slurps thoughtfully, “mum is going everywhere now to work but she’s always with Luna.”
Harry nods, “Luna is your mum’s wife. I don’t have a wife.”
“Do you work alone?”
“I don’t, I work with your uncle Ron, and sometimes with Scorpius’ da.”
“But you don’t kiss them.”
Harry laughs at that, he wouldn’t kiss Malfoy if he was paid for it and Ron hasn’t been that drunk in years. “No, I don’t kiss them.”
“Marius’ da got a girlfriend through Tinder,” she says, chewing and looking at him bashfully through her eyelashes. Damn child, too clever by far.
“Is that so?” Harry asks, prepared to give her the same please-don’t-set-me-up spiel he’s had to give Hermione, and Neville, and even, worst of all, Ginny.
“Yeah,” she pushes her plate away and eyes the tiramisu that’s waiting on the counter.
“We’ll clean up first,” Harry suggests, and the hopeful look in her eyes makes him give in. “What’s a tinder?”
It turns out that Tinder is a way to talk to people through your phone and Lily thinks he’ll be better off dating Muggles anyway. She’s not wrong, most dates he goes on in the Wizarding World end with a request for an autograph. When he tells Hermione about the account his daughter made him she laughs and launches into an explanation of the different apps that exist and their history in the Muggle world. He tries to resist but at night in bed he opens his phone and searches for different apps himself. He’s alright with his phone, it’s a new and fancy one even if he mostly uses it to contact the parents of his kids’ Muggle friends. The only other app he ends up downloading is Grindr. He hides it, on the second page of a folder with apps he never uses, so that Lily won’t find it. Debates for a long time whether he should set his Tinder profile to men and women and in the end just goes for it. He feels – light. Free, in a way. Like this could maybe work.
It took Lily a week to convince her dad to download Tinder, it takes Harry about an hour to get thoroughly tired of dating apps. After the fourth picture of a penis comes through he spends 45 minutes figuring out how to turn off the notifications for the apps. At least this way he won’t have to worry about his children seeing notifications for... And there’s the fifth.
He sighs and puts his phone away. It’s bedtime anyway.
A week later, when he’s waiting for their dinner to be done as Lily finishes her homework at the kitchen table, a message pops up on his Grindr. The photo is of a tall man in a tree pose, Harry recognizes it from the yoga lessons for pregnant people Ginny used to drag him to. It’s a little hard to see his face because of the light coming from behind, but Harry decides he likes the look of him.
‘Hey Andrew,’ the message reads and Harry remembers for the fortieth time that Lily and he had decided not to use his real name. It’s not rude and there’s no nudity so Harry feels cautiously optimistic about this man.
‘Hey Sam,’ he messages back, checking the profile. ‘Don’t talk to me if you’re stupid’ it reads and Harry actually snorts. No other information at all. Lily looks up and he makes a vague movement with his hand. She rolls her eyes and gets back to work.
‘I’m afraid I feel compelled to say that I’m extremely stupid.’
‘Ah,’ the man writes back, ‘that’s a shame.’
Harry bites his lip as the man continues typing. ‘Are you quite certain?’
‘Absolutely. I am positively soft in the head.’
‘What a pity. It seems I’ll have to put my very high standards aside. Just this once.’
‘Oh? How have I convinced you to give me a second chance?’
The oven dings and Harry doesn’t even look up, watching the message pop up. ‘I’m extremely horny.’
He cackles and sets his phone aside to take the roast out of the oven and tell Lily to clean up and wash her hands.
‘Is this where you sweeten the deal by telling me you’re flexible?’
‘You’d like that, wouldn’t you? You may be forgiven but you’re not at a stage where you can start demanding anything yet.’
Lily comes back and gives him the evil eye so Harry puts his phone away and serves dinner. They chat about her day and her homework and he helps her with her sums after they’ve finished cleaning up together. During her bath she asks about how his dating is going and Harry deflects by promising her some TV before bed.
Of course, she never forgets, and when he’s tucking her in after her bedtime story, she whispers: “Da?”
“If you want to date boys it’s alright.”
Harry swallows around something heavy in his throat and kisses her forehead again. “Thank you. You’re very sweet.” It’s not that he wouldn’t it’s just that he hasn’t and new things are supposed to be a little scary aren’t they?
In the living room, with a glass of whiskey, he opens the app up. Not allowed to make demands yet, is he? Harry feels his lips curl.
‘I’m going to have to disappoint you again,’ he writes. ‘I’m extremely demanding.’
‘Is that so?’ Comes back after a few minutes of Harry trying to distract himself from Sam by checking out what’s going on in other chats he’s having.
‘Absolutely.’ He thinks for just a second before adding: ‘I demand really great blowjobs.’
It feels stupidly like the bravest thing he’s ever done, and his fingers shake a little as he hits send. It’s not a lie, blowjobs are quite probably his favourite thing about sex. They’re also the only sex act he’s ever engaged in with another man, when Ginny and he had just gotten divorced. Almost, Merlin. Almost two years ago.
‘And what do you offer in return?’ Sam asks, and Harry grins. He has the feeling that Grindr isn’t supposed to be for long conversations but this man clearly didn’t mind Harry checking out to have dinner and put Lily to bed. Harry thinks on his answer for a second.
‘Witty banter. My gorgeous body. I’m told I follow instructions well.’
‘A useful skill for an obtuse individual such as yourself.’
Harry reads back in his log of conversations, he’s never enjoyed a conversation like this before. Possibly ever. He wants to meet this man.
‘Can I show you? Tomorrow night?’
He is already thinking of how to ask Ron to babysit on such short notice, when the notification comes. ‘I’m afraid I’m unavailable tomorrow, the day after?’
Harry thinks, that’s Thursday... ‘I have to work then, Friday?’
‘Friday. Meet me at 8.’ Sam sends him a location, somewhere in a residential neighbourhood in Poplar. His house probably.
‘Can’t wait,’ Harry types back, including a grinning emoji. He gets back an eye-rolling emoji and goes to bed still chuckling.
Over the next two days they exchange a few more messages, half of them about how much Harry is a vapid fool and Harry is in stiches every time. He goes to bed every night with a grin.
Friday morning he wakes up smiling and even sings in the shower. When he gets out he checks his phone only to find a message was left not ten minutes earlier. ‘I’m very sorry to cancel but I’ve had an issue at work and won’t be able to make it tonight. Would tomorrow night be possible?’
Harry is more disappointed then he’ll ever admit to himself, but at least Sam doesn’t seem to be blowing him off, otherwise he wouldn’t have suggested another day. Right?
‘I’m sorry to hear! Tomorrow I have to go see family. Sunday?’
It takes a while but the message from Sam that comes back has Harry sitting down on the edge of the bath, still only half-dressed. ‘I’m travelling for three weeks, leaving Sunday afternoon.’
Harry seriously considers blowing off Molly for the first time in twenty years, but he knows how sad it would make Lily and her. Time for some Gryffindor bravery.
‘Are you a mouth-breather?’
‘I made myself a promise, after the last time I encountered one. Are you a mouth-breather?’
‘I’m not. Do I want to know?’
Harry laughs, it’s a funny story now, much as it was an uncomfortable thirty minutes. ‘I learned a big lesson about letting people set you up for dates that day. I had to ask a friend to call me with a pretend emergency to get away.’ He attaches his phone number.
When he’s having breakfast, his phone buzzes, and when he turns it over to look, there’s a message from an unknown number. ‘For witty banter,’ is all it says, and Harry doesn’t stop grinning the rest of the morning.
‘So what was your work emergency?’ He texts Sam during his lunchbreak.
‘My yoga studio was broken into,’ Sam writes back almost immediately.
‘Shit, are you the owner or do you work there?’
‘I own the studio, but I also teach classes.’
Harry can’t help but huff out in his amusement, causing his secretary to give him a strange look. ‘I’ve known you all of four days and I already can’t imagine you telling people to relax and connect to their inner eyes.’
‘I don’t, I tell them to shut up and stop wobbling.’
Harry has to throw up a Muffliato to stop himself from disturbing everyone in his vicinity with his laughing. He knows Muffliato doesn’t stop people from seeing the soppy grin and tries to take deep breaths. When he’s calmed down a little he writes back, ‘I’m really sorry about the break-in. What happened?’
There’s a long pause before Sam starts typing again. ‘Broken window, they broke the cash register. It was empty but I’ll have to replace it. Overall just a mess and I really can’t afford to close for more than a day.’
‘That’s awful. I’m glad you get to open again soon and go travel.’
‘Dimwit, remember? How am I strange.’
‘You’ve never met me, were clearly looking forward to a shag, and seem genuinely concerned now about my wellbeing.’
‘You’re hilarious, a small business owner, and a long-term investment.’ Harry shoots back. He’s staring dopily at his phone before realizing Malfoy has been trying to get his attention for a while and shutting it in his drawer. He has a meeting to get to.