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Strangers in a Car

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“Fuck fuck fuckity fucking fuck.”

Harry woke up and blinked his eyes at the sight of a large male hand twisting the knob on his car’s temperature gauge to red and hitting the on/off button in a futile attempt to turn the car's heater on. 

Harry sat up in the backseat and yawned, his breath steaming in the freezing air. "Heater’s broken. That's not doing anything."

The man screamed and the car swerved into the shoulder for a second, the car frame rattling on the warning grooves on the ground for a moment before he swerved back into the lane. "Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, kid! I didn't know you were back there!"

Harry stared blearily at what he could see of  the man. Mostly just unruly dark hair from his angle in the backseat and a glimpse of a stubble from the rearview mirror. "Well, I didn't expect you to steal my car, so I guess we're even." 

"Huh, I guess so.” The stranger’s hands flexed on the steering wheel and Harry pondered for a second on how tiny the wheel looked under those fingers. “I was in a hurry and just chose a car old enough that I could hotwire it. I would have returned it before morning though, so…no hard feelings?" 

He reached up through the front seats and poked the man's elbow which was quickly retracted from the middle armrest. Blindly digging in the popped open cubby, Harry pulled out his glasses where they were buried under gas station napkins and candy trash (he blamed Ron for the trash) and put them on. 

The first thing he noticed, even in the dim light of passing headlights, was how earnest the man’s grey eyes were. Like a big puppy. He huffed. “What’s your name?”

Those grey eyes twinkled merrily at the implied forgiveness. “Sirius Black. Layabout, provocateur, and, most recently, carjacker. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Harry.”

“I suppose I didn’t have time to do anything with my hair. I apologize for offending my guest’s tender sensibilities.”

Harry sighed to hide the smile trying to pull the corners of his mouth up--it would have been the first time he’d smiled in a week and he refused to let it be from mockery about his name of all things. “You’re not seriously, making fun of my name are you? And I’m not your guest, I’m your kidnapping victim.”

The sputtering that followed reminded him of the twins trying to save face after someone (usually Ginny) ratted them out to their mother after their latest prank. Harry’s smile withered on his face. 

He shook his head and ran his hands through his hair, the strands somehow colder than his fingers. Quickly, because he didn’t want to be uncovered for long, he bundled up the blankets that he had cocooned around himself in the backseat and tossed it into the front. He stretched a leg into the shotgun seat and levered himself from the back into his pile of blankets on the seat, using Sirius’s shoulder to balance himself.

“Woah. You’re limber, aren’t you?”

Harry wrapped himself back into the blankets before nodding. “I did gymnastics as a kid.” Now that he was closer, he could see that Sirius’s beard was not just untrimmed, but positively wild. Which was not enough to distract from the heavy bags under his eyes.

“So...couple questions,” Sirius said. “Why are you not concerned about a stranger stealing your car? Not that I’m not glad you didn’t strangle me with your gymnast thighs from the backseat, but I would have thought you’d be a little bit more concerned.”

Harry shrugged. “Not the worst thing that’s happened this week.”

“Okayyy,” Sirius drawled after waiting a second for more of an answer. “Second question, why are you sleeping in a car with no heat in the dead of winter?”

He slumped into his seat. “Friend’s funeral. I didn’t want to impose on the family so...” Harry shrugged. “My car is fine. It’s only for a couple weeks. You don’t look so hot either, you know.” He could tell Sirius was side-eying him, but he refused to look over.

“First of all, ouch. That hurts me deep inside. Second of all, want me to share all my woes first?”

“First?” Harry asked. “Why would we ‘share our woes’ at all? We don’t even know each other.”

Sirius waved a hand around dramatically, just barely missing hitting the rearview mirror in his excitement. “Exactly! We’re like two strangers on a train.”

Harry stared doubtfully at the other man before sighing. “Didn’t people die in that movie?”

“I like to think it ended with the two strangers becoming excellent friends and living long lives with each other. Actually…” Sirius was slowing down as he turned into an unfamiliar city block. “I have a better idea.”

“I have a feeling that none of your ideas are any good at all, let alone better.”

Sirius barked out a laugh. “I’ve been told that before! When I tell...well, if my friend could have heard you say that, he never would have let me live it down.” 

Looking out his window, Harry realized that they were stopping in front an IHOP. “Pancakes is your good idea?”

Sirius scratched at his chin. “Well, hot coffee was my idea, but I didn’t know any other places open so late. I’ve been stuck indoors for...too long.” He got out and Harry stared after him. Coffee sounded nice (hot sounded even nicer) but he could already hear Hermione’s lecture about following a strange man-- a carjacker-- anywhere at all. 

Harry’s door opened and Sirius bent down, offering Harry a hand. “So...how about it? We order all the pancakes we can eat, we share all our deepest darkest secrets, then I return you to your original parking space and we never have to talk again.”

He may still be half asleep, Harry thought. But those grey eyes were too convincing. He put his hand in Sirius’s and the warmth brought feeling back into his chilled fingers. “You’re paying.”

Sirius squeezed Harry’s hand. “If you asked, I’d buy this IHOP for you right now.”