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Sirius used to touch Harry all the time. Hugs, kisses, tickling, throwing him in the air, stroking his soft little face while he fell asleep.

“He’s made you such a softie,” James chuckled one night as Sirius slipped his hand through Harry’s cot bars to smooth the baby’s hair while he slept.

“Oh, says you,” scoffed Sirius, “Lily says you cried when he started crawling,”

“I’m his Dad. It’s my job to cry at everything he does,”

“He’s so beautiful though, isn’t he?” Sirius breathed. This tiny, tubby human made of James and Lily. All black hair and gums, pudgy hands and warm tummy, kicking legs and mini toes. Sirius loved his godson’s fingers and toes; how brittle and perfectly-formed they were. Most of all he loved Harry’s little pink mouth, especially when the baby smiled. When Harry was happy he’d wave his arms and beam at them all proudly, like he was amazed to be alive.

Harry’s amazed to be alive now, too. He should have died at least three times since he was that jolly baby, and Sirius can’t bear to touch him anymore. Twelve years in prison does that to you. Makes you forget what it’s like to hug another person, even to brush fingers or bump elbows with somebody. Makes you wheel round ready for attack when you’re touched unexpectedly. Makes you irrationally wary of contact in case you break yourself or someone else. Sirius has spent so long trapped in his head trapped in his cell that he’s unsure about how to exist as a physical being. Yes, he can walk and talk, eat, drink, laugh and play piano, but none of that matters if he can’t embrace his friends or his godson when they need him. He’s missed out on almost all Harry’s life. He didn’t dance with the toddler standing on his shoes, he didn’t play-fight with the little boy, he didn’t crush the first-year into a hug before he jumped on the Hogwarts Express for the first time. If Sirius had done all those things he’d be able to give Harry hugs and kisses and hair-ruffles now, instead of the awkward handshakes and pats on the backs that Sirius uncomfortably offers. Handshakes? Harry’s fifteen years old, his parents are dead and he’s been to hell and back multiple times. He needs to be loved and held, not be given stiff handshakes! But Sirius can’t do it, he just can’t. He’d do anything for that boy but he can’t bring himself to put an arm around Harry’s shoulders.

Molly Weasley can’t keep her hands off him, of course. She’s constantly patting Harry’s cheek and kissing his forehead and hurling her arms around his narrow body, usually accompanied by a faceful of tears. Her theatrics drive Sirius mad, and if he’s honest what drives him madder is how easy it is for her to touch Harry and give him the love he’s been starved of, and that Sirius is starving him of still. Damn Molly Weasley.

The dog helps. Sometimes Sirius transforms into his canine form simply because it means he feels less physically awkward around people, his godson especially. People act differently around Sirius when he’s the dog even if they’ve just been talking to him as the man. Moony fondles his ears, Hermione will stroke Crookshanks’ back with one hand and Sirius’ fur with the other, and all of the Weasley boys like to chase around after him. Even Mad-Eye will give Sirius a pat on the head sometimes. (Molly, naturally, hates Sirius’ dog form). Being the dog means that Sirius can jump up at Harry, put his paws on Harry’s shoulders and nuzzle his face. Harry laughs and ruffles Sirius’ fur or scratches his muzzle. Occasionally Sirius will sit down in front of Harry and hold up his paw and, absently, Harry takes it in his hand. Finally he can hold his godson’s hand like he used to.

Sirius sleeps terribly and sometimes, lying awake at night, he considers turning into the dog, trotting down to Harry’s bedroom and pushing the door open with his nose, and curling up to sleep on the floor beside the bed. Harry would know he was there to keep him safe, and Sirius would know that he was protecting Harry and keeping him close. But Ron’s sharing the room too and Sirius doesn’t want him there. Molly would find out somehow and Sirius would never hear the end of it. Besides, a teenage boy doesn’t want his godfather asleep on his floor at night. So Sirius rolls over on his side in his own bed and stares at the wall, thinking of the twelve years he spent sleeping on his hard prison bunk, and how being back in the plush four-poster in his childhood bedroom is hardly less uncomfortable.

Turning into a dog so he can touch his fifteen-year-old godson is pathetic. Sirius knows this. It’s ridiculous. Not to mention weird. But at the moment it’s all Sirius can manage. At the moment, it’s all Sirius can take.