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Stripped Bare

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“Take your clothes off!” Ron shouts a bit louder than he’d meant to, reaching for the bottom of his shirt and pulling it off in one swift motion that makes his hair stand on end. He figures it doesn’t quite matter what he looks like, not with the rain that's currently falling down upon them, making him look like a drowned kneazle anyway.

“What the bloody hell are you doing?” Harry asks, looking confused as Ron starts to undo the buttons on his corduroy trousers.

“I’m getting naked.”

Harry just blinks, droplets of water clinging to his glasses and making the fringe stick to his forehead. His toes wiggle in the sand and his fingers twitch in his pockets. He looks nervous.

“Why?” Harry asks, brushing the hair off his face and licking his lips. He eyes Ron with an intensity that makes Ron’s chest ache.

Sometimes when Harry looks at him, he feels more like himself than he does when he’s alone. It's as terrifying as is it powerful to see yourself reflected in someone else's eyes so clearly. Ron’s not sure he’s all the things Harry sees in him—bravery, loyalty, honour, someone worth risking everything for—but he wants to be.

“Why the fuck not?” Ron answers with a grin, pushing his trousers and pants down to his ankles and kicking them off, chunks of wet sand going flying in the process.

It should feel weird to be standing in front of Harry naked on the beach in the middle of a summer rainstorm, but instead it feels like for the first time in a long time—for the first time since the War ended nine months ago—he’s exactly where he’s meant to be.

“You’re naked,” Harry blurts out, pulling his glasses off and trying to dry them on his shirt. Of course his shirt is now covered in water, so all it does is smear the water making them even harder to see through. He gives up and pockets them with a shrug.

“Do you trust me?” Ron asks.

Harry doesn’t hesitate. “Of course.”

“Then take your fucking clothes off,” Ron laughs, delighting in the squeak of indignation Harry emits when Ron grabs the hem of Harry’s soft cotton shirt and yanks it over his head, tossing it on top of his own clothing, not caring in the least that the tide will be coming in soon and might wash away their clothes. They have more back at the cottage anyway. Clothes can be replaced, time not to so much. They’ve lost so much time already—thinking they’d be dead by now—Ron’s not sure he can bear to lose a minute more.

Harry looks like he’s fighting laughter and it makes something deep inside of Ron twist painfully. Harry’s fought so much, Ron doesn’t know why he’s still fighting his own happiness.

Ron wants to make Harry smile. Fuck, but Ron misses his smile. It’s been so long since Harry smiled like he meant it.

“Harry James Potter, if you don’t take off the rest of your clothes right this minute I’m going to take them off myself.”

Harry’s eyes widen. “Fuck, but you’re bossy.”

“Just do it!”

Harry grumbles but obliges and Ron tries to remember how to breathe as Harry’s capable hands work at the zipper on his jeans, popping them open before pushing them down to his ankles and tugging them off. Harry stands there in nothing but his pants, chest heaving and eyes bright—his body still a bit too thin, a smattering of dark hair on his chest and a thick trail of it below his belly button disappearing beneath his pants. Harry’s body looks battle worn and too old for eighteen, but fuck does Ron love him even more for it.

“All of it,” Ron says, voice barely above a whisper this time as he nods his head at Harry’s boxers, intimately familiar with Harry’s clothed cock and arse..

Harry swallows, biting the inside of his cheek, his eyes never leaving Ron’s face as he hooks his thumbs in the elastic of his pants and pushes them down.

Ron wants to say so many things. Wants to tell Harry he can stop running, stop fighting. Wants to tell Harry he’s beautiful. He’s safe. He’s loved.  That Ron knows Harry’s in love with him, too. That it's not a secret—at least not to Ron. That the things they do together aren’t the things friends do, but lovers.

Instead, all he says again is, “Do you trust me?”

This time Harry smiles and the weight of it takes Ron’s breath away. “Yes.”

“Good. That’s good,” Ron breathes and he reaches out to take Harry’s hand. Harry doesn’t resist, linking his fingers with Ron’s as they walk hand in hand into the ocean. It’s absolutely freezing and Harry shivers, tightening his hold on Ron and shooting him another amused smile.

“Why the fuck are we doing this?” Harry asks again once they’re waist deep, the soft waves crashing around their middles. “It’s fucking freezing.”

Ron turns to face him, their toes colliding beneath the water as he reaches out with his free hand to brush the hair off Harry’s forehead again. “Because we can. Because we’re teenagers and we’re safe and we’re free and we can do whatever the fuck we want, Harry.”

Ron bends his head down as he pulls Harry closer, pressing his lips against Harry’s. Harry’s eyes flutter shut and he lets out a strangled whimper. The water might be like ice, but Harry’s body radiates warmth and it feels so fucking good Ron’s head spins.

When Ron pulls out of the kiss Harry’s eyes are just fluttering open, his lips still puckered and his cheeks flushed. “I think I’m in love with you,” Harry whispers. “And I’m fucking terrified.”

“I know,” Ron murmurs against Harry’s lips, kissing him again, his arms wrapping around Harry’s back and cradling him close. “Me too.”

“I don’t wanna lose you.”

Ron pulls him tighter. “We don’t lose all the things we love.”

Harry nods. Ron knows he doesn’t believe him, yet . But he knows Harry wants to and that's enough for now.