This date is going to be much longer than I expected.

Draco doesn't believe in living in the moment, apparently. He's too introspective, so his thoughts meander. And, of course, I lost control about fifty chapters ago.

Previously: ["Now that I think about it, I can see shoes just aren't the right course for you. That's all right. Everyone is different." / "What aren't you telling me?" / And the sneaky smirk just grows.]


Draco takes one step onto the wood without shoes and understands Harry's smirk immediately. Socks and slick wood make for a slippery combination. He glowers at Harry, who only grins in return as Draco sulks back up the steps.

Draco glares at the shoes as though they have personally offended him. They don't react.

Not that he particularly expects them to, but he never really knows what to expect around Muggle things, and he's found it's best just to expect everything, so as not to be unpleasantly surprised.

"I won't," Draco says, voice firm and absolute.

Harry just looks at him, and Draco can see it all in his eyes; if you don't, we can't bowl. If you don't, we'll just have to go home. If you don't, I'll be disappointed.

Draco sighs. The tip of his wand pokes out of his sleeve and he mutters several cleaning and purifying charms.

He glances up at Harry, notes there is no relenting in his face, and reluctantly puts on the shoes. Harry grins broadly.

The grin, instead of irking Draco further, actually relaxes him a little. Draco has been studying the intricate nuances of expression for as long as he can remember. He knows precisely how to decode and present nonverbal communication cues. And this, Harry's grin, is not a I win grin. It's not an I knew you would do what I wanted in the end grin. It's not arrogant or entitled or presumptuous. It's a simple, I'm happy because of what you've just done sort of grin. Harry is genuinely pleased by something as small as Draco agreeing to put on rental shoes. It's astounding. And somewhat adorable.

Did I really just think that?

Draco takes a deep breath, marshals his thoughts back into orderly lines, and spends another moment hoping that he isn't this distracted at work. It could easily get problematic.

"Would you like me to go first?" Harry asks, and this time the smirk dancing across his lips is a bit cheeky. Draco merely nods with a small twist of the corner of his lips.

"The objective is to knock down the pins," Harry informs him, gesturing to the white things at the opposite end of the wooden boards. "That's a lane," he says, gesturing to the thinner sections of wood, bordered by two ditches. "Those are gutters." He points to the ditches. "You don't want to land in those." He smiles, almost a laugh. "Any questions?"

"Not at the moment, no." Draco is too busy trying to calculate. He was decent at mathematics, because it was necessary for Arithmancy, but he'd never attempted to apply it to something like this.

Harry picks up his ball, counts boards with the toes of his right foot, and faces away from Draco. He curls his elbow, propping the weight of the ball on his hip. His wrist curls up, cupping the ball.

He takes a deep breath, and he is a beautiful picture of coiled intensity just ready to spring. And then he launches. His first step is perfectly timed with a push off from his hip . The ball is propelled forward and then gravity grabs hold and it falls in an arc, Harry's shoulder the pivot of the pendulum. His steps are quick, the first two shorter, the last two a lengthened stride. His left foot lands right at the beginning of the lane, knee bent deeply. His right foot lands behind him, extended to the left, crossing the right leg.

The ball lands on the boards almost gently, but the angle of it is all wrong — it's headed straight at the gutter. But Harry doesn't seem upset. In fact, he seems rather pleased, which momentarily baffles Draco.

But then something catches and the ball's trajectory curls, coming back toward the centre of the lane. It hits the centre pin almost dead-on and the pins explode in all directions, eventually leaving only two standing — one on the far right, and one almost on the left exterior, but with space for another outside it. Harry turns back, scowling.

"Why are you scowling? That was fantastic. How did it do that? What made it turn around like that? How did you know?"

And Draco has basically lost all concern for his usual impassive demeanour, because… Because it's Harry. Because he truly doesn't believe that Harry will use his emotions against him. And that realisation is a little bit terrifying, because he's never felt that way before. He has never trusted anyone with his emotions in their entirety. Most of the time he keeps them locked away from even himself.

But something about Harry is different. Something about Harry makes Draco want to feel, makes him feel like maybe he's actually missing something by locking his emotions away.

Something about Harry makes Draco feel like caring might actually be worth it.

And that is utterly terrifying and sort of exhilarating all at once.

Harry takes one look at the curiosity on Draco's face and he laughs, a deep chuckle. "You're cute when you're confused."

And Draco ducks his head, cursing the pale skin that colours so easily. He marvels a bit at how easily the words roll off Harry's lips. Draco has never been like that. He contemplates every word, obviously, but it's even more than that. If he contemplates a potential compliment, it is based on how he needs the person to feel about him, not about themselves. Harry, it is clear, says the words because he believes them to be true and for him, that is reason enough.

There are times that Draco believes he will never completely understand the way Harry's brain works, because it is so entirely different, so entirely foreign. Where Draco's mind is crisp and linear and complex, convolutedly patterned, Harry's is layer upon layer upon layer, at first glance entirely simple, but upon second look, there is incredible depth below the surface.

It is fascinating, baffling, and completely unexpected. Because Draco thought, once upon a time, that he understood Harry — though he was Potter, then. Thought he had him all figured out: the Gryffindor, classic Gryffindor, brave to the point of stupidity with his heart out on his sleeve. Fiercely loyal. Pretended to hate the fame, but deep down he enjoyed the attention because he was a Gryffindor, always craving the limelight, doing anything to get it.

Now he knows that isn't quite true. Harry truly loathes his fame, but will use it if he has to. And he was the sort who wore his heart blatantly on his sleeve, but he could be taught not to. Fiercely loyal was a flawless definition — but it almost didn't matter, because as protective as he was of those who mattered to him, he also believed that every life had value, that everyone deserved saving, whether they were one he cared about or not. He would risk his life for someone he'd never met because he had a complete misconception of what his life was worth. Because he believed that every life had value but didn't seem to remember that his own did, too.

He was stupid and brave and stubborn and caring and so much more.

Draco watches Harry line up — this time on the right side of the lane — and wonders how on Earth he didn't realise sooner that he was falling for the man.

Harry nicks the pin on the left side of the lane on its left edge, kicking it out to the right, where it only just misses the other remaining pin. He makes a noise of disappointment, but then he turns around and grins. "Your turn!" His voice contains far too much cheer. Behind him, the pins are resetting themselves, which Draco wants to ask about but figures he'll have time for later, as he should probably pay attention to Harry's explanation on what the hell he's supposed to be doing.

"— and your wrist should curl up around the ball, see, like this, and that's what gives it that curve like that, because of the way it spins, and there's some business with oil patterns but I won't go into that. You'll want to start somewhere around… let's try thirty to begin, and that's counting from the right side, where the first dot is five, see. And you'll want to hit somewhere between the second and third arrows, also counting from the right, and—"

Draco is cataloguing all of this and hoping like mad that he's not about to make a complete fool of himself.

He picks up the ball. Lines up on the board Harry tells him to. Bends his elbow, holds the ball with his wrist. Steps, first with his right foot. The ball swings — slips out of his grip, and goes flying behind him, thunking into the tiny wall by the steps, right next to where Harry is now laughing so hard he's gasping for breath.

"Your… face!" he manages. And Draco scowls.