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Stripping the Years Away

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Harry leaned against the copper railing at the bar, sipping his Guinness as he surveyed the crowd. All of the Weasley men, save Arthur, were there, red hair standing out even in the dim light. The old Hogwarts crowd, too: Dean, Seamus, Neville; even Colin, sans camera for once. A few other folk Harry vaguely recognised from school. The rest, he assumed, were from Ron's department at the Ministry."

Every man in the place was staring at the two women on stage, and really, he couldn’t blame them. Even he could admit they presented a beautiful image—two naked, voluptuous women, writhing against each other under a shower of magically warmed water, a double-headed dildo larger than any he’d tried barely visible between them. His eyes scanned the crowd again. Yes, they were all staring at them. Save one.

Charlie Weasley was staring at him.

Harry nodded his head, tilting his half-empty pint toward the man in acknowledgement. He raised the glass and took a long swallow, willing the fluttering in his stomach to subside. Twenty-five years old, yet Charlie still made him feel like he was fifteen, realizing he liked boys better than girls. For the thousandth time he wished Charlie did too.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

Harry jumped, so lost in his thoughts he hadn’t noticed Charlie sidling up next to him. The voice in his ear had startled him; the breath on his neck caused the fluttering in his stomach to shift lower.

“Huh?” he asked, mentally groaning at his lack of verbal acuity.

Charlie merely grinned at him before he turned to the bartender. Harry concentrated on finding the bottom of his pint, wishing he could think of something to say that wouldn’t make him feel quite so stupid.

“So!” Charlie deftly swapped the empty glass in Harry's hand for a full one. “Do you think our little Ron is enjoying himself on his last night of freedom?”

Harry looked at the stage and wasn’t surprised to see that Ron had been pulled under the shower with the strippers. His shirt was off, and he was obviously enjoying having his hair washed. Harry glanced back at Charlie, a little surprised to see the other man looking at him and not his younger brother. “I think Hermione’d have kittens if she ever found out about this.”

Charlie chuckled, causing Harry to shiver slightly. He hadn’t realized that they were standing so close that he could hear Charlie over the music.

“Want to know a secret?” Charlie leaned in to whisper in Harry’s ear again. “Ginny told me they were taking Hermione out to a place like this.”

Harry’s laughter died in his throat when he turned his head to respond and found his nose brushing Charlie’s. He'd never been this close to the other man: close enough to smell the firewhiskey on Charlie's breath; close enough to notice that Charlie's eyes were really nothing like Ron's. Ron's were light brown. Charlie's eyes were greener. Not as green as his own, certainly, but there were definite green specks floating among the hazel. And there was a small scar next to the right eye. Without thinking, Harry reached up and lightly touched the scar.

“Dragon?”

Charlie smiled. “No, frying pan.” Harry pulled his hand away with a start. “Believe it or not, Percy has a mean temper on him when he’s pushed too much.”

Harry smiled as he took a few steps back. Charlie knew he was gay, the whole bloody wizarding world did, thanks to Rita Skeeter, but Harry still didn’t want to give him the wrong idea. And he was sure that’s how Charlie would take it.

“Gin probably took the girls to Wandz.” Harry felt the blush as it rose up from his neck. Not exactly what he wanted to do—drop the local male strip club into conversation.

Charlie’s smile just got brighter. “Yeah, that’s where I told her to go.” At Harry’s shocked expression, he chuckled again. “They do have the best dancers, don’t they? And let’s face it, Ginny’d have more fun in here than in Wandz.”

A loud roar went up from the floor, causing them both to turn, and saving Harry from stammering out whatever inane answer he would have come up with. Seamus had joined Ron and the two dancers onstage, and was attempting to wash the brunette’s hair. Harry and Charlie were silent as they watched, although Harry imagined he could feel Charlie’s eyes on him.

“Harry?”

Harry didn’t look away from the stage. “Yeah?”

“Ron mentioned that you and Oliver broke up a few months ago.” Harry whipped his head around, and met Charlie’s intense gaze with wide eyes. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to upset you.”

“No!” He shook his head. “It was for the best, really.”

Charlie removed Harry’s untouched pint from his grasp and set it next his tumbler on the bar. “If you ask me—and let’s pretend you did—it was Oliver’s loss.”

Harry’s eyes grew wider. The fluttering in his stomach came back even stronger. “Charlie, I—“

A calloused finger on his lips stopped the oncoming words.

“Ten years is a long time to wait, don’t you think?” Charlie’s finger tapped Harry’s full bottom lip. “I had to watch you, watching me. Had to worry all about you through the war. Hear about your relationships from my little brother.”

Charlie dragged his finger down, causing Harry to pout slightly. Charlie’s eyes darkened, the hazel completely overpowering the green. Taking a chance, Harry flicked his tongue out, gently licking the finger resting there. The intake of breath was audible even over the din of the club.

“Harry?”

Harry grasped Charlie’s finger and pulled it down to chest level. “Yeah?”

Charlie leaned in, and placed a soft kiss on Harry’s lips. “I’m not waiting anymore,” he whispered as he pulled away.

Harry smiled. “That’s good. I’m not going to be an idiot anymore.” He pressed his mouth against Charlie’s, lightly at first, until he felt Charlie open against him. His tongue swept in, licking away the taste of firewhiskey until he imagined it was just Charlie he tasted. They broke apart much too soon, breathing rapidly as they looked at each other.

“Think my little brother will notice if I steal his best man away?”

Harry twisted to look at the stage again. “Well, seeing as his face is buried in that blonde’s cleavage, I’d say no.”

Charlie laughed as he pulled Harry to face him. “Good. Let’s go out the back, so no one gets in our way.”

Harry grinned at that. “Somehow, I don’t think that’ll happen again. C’mon.” He threw some galleons on the bar before Charlie pulled him toward the exit.

Neither of them noticed Ron's attention had been diverted from the evening's 'entertainment' as he climbed off the stage. Nor did they catch his quiet "It’s about damn time," as they left the club together.