Thanks to everyone who's been kind enough to leave a review. You guys are great! I know it's been slow going, but the end is near. :)
Harry was extremely befuddled and uncomfortable. Time seemed to go by in leaps and jumps, then slow until he couldn't stand to lie still and wait for it to pass, while he was sweating and filled with aches and pains. So he tossed and turned, then slept a fevered sleep for a little while until confusing dreams woke him again. He couldn't quite remember how he got to the hospital wing, though he vaguely knew that Lupin had brought him there.
The first time he'd been made aware of where he was he'd had a nightmare. He was falling off his broomstick while Dementors waited for him to land, with wide open sucking mouths, rattling their breaths. His mother's screams accompanied his descent.
He'd woken with a shout, and Madam Pomfrey had been there in a flash. He remembered struggling to get away, while Pomfrey spoke quickly to him, explaining where he was and why. His sheets were tangled all around him. He'd fallen back to the pillows, panting, when he'd realised there were no Dementors there, just Madam Pomfrey and the Hospital Wing again, and that he was ill. He felt awful; his stomach churned, and told the patron that. When Madam Pomfrey had stepped away to get him some potions to take for it, he'd been sick all over his bedding. Though it was embarrassing enough, at least he didn't bring up much due to his empty stomach, and Madam Pomfrey had been soothing and professional, cleaning the mess with a few quick and practised charms.
She forced him to drink a potion, though he complained he didn't want it – afraid he might get sick again – but as soon as it hit his stomach a cool comfort spread through it, dismissing the queasiness and calming the ache. After another potion Harry had burrowed back in his pillow, exhausted, and Pomfrey had ordered him to rest. Harry had fully expected to have no problem with this advice.
Unfortunately his fever wouldn't leave him alone; and his hazy dreams and muddled thoughts kept waking him up or startling him back from the edge of sleep. He felt completely hypersensitive and wished his mind would leave him alone with its disturbing thoughts that made no sense. He wished it was morning already, so he could leave the murkiness of night behind.
However, he was in one of his fitful sleeps when the door to the dark hospital wing silently opened, and he never noticed the large, pink nose entering through the creak, followed by a heavy, scruffy head, which was watching and listening for a disturbance, for the nurse or for students who might be awake.
The big, black form entered the room, walking silently on his padded feet. His eyes were as fevered as those of the sleeping students' had been, but with intense, crazed obsession instead of illness. His every motion spoke of manic intent, and his ears were peaked with intense concentration. In a hasty grid, the dog started to move through the Wing like a shadow on a mission. He smelled every creak and corner, burrowed under beds and stuck his nose in bags, quickly but silently opened cupboards and closets with his nose and paws, hunted through the bathrooms… all the while sniffing for a scent, a trail, a hiding place, a lead to where he might look next. His eyes flashed with paranoia as they flickered to the doors, his hair was continually on end, aware that if someone walked through those he might be caught, and it would all be over. His search through the room was almost complete, and he was already thinking where he should go next, when one of the moving forms in the nearest bed caught his attention.
Freezing, he smelled the air to be sure. He'd been so particular to the scent he was after, that the one he caught on now had escaped his awareness. He shook himself, trying to clear the restless drive to 'keep moving, keep searching, keep going, don't stop, don't get caught before you find him.' It was hard to stop after so many months of only that, but he'd done it before, when he'd visited this very boy in Surrey, and when he'd crept to the top of the Quidditch stand to watch James' son play as seeker. He did it now, slowly padding over to the bed, his eyes riveted on the young boy's features.
Harry's face was matted with sweat, and his fringe stuck damply to his forehead. His eyes were moving rapidly behind his close lids, signifying that he was dreaming. He slept fitfully, his head turning on his pillow, his limbs moving under his blanket. He made the occasional low sound, like a restrained gasp, or a low moan. His dreams were not being kind to him.
The dog's driven features softened with tenderness. This boy was what it was all about. This was the person he wanted to protect and keep safe. This was the baby he used to hold in his arms; the little boy that used to crawl all over him and tug his tail. This was the child that made the good fight still worth fighting for.
Oh, he had personal grievances. He wanted his revenge. He wanted retribution.
But of all his old life had meant to him, all that was left was Harry. Harry, and Remus, whose scent was also strong in the castle, and who he didn't dare to come across until he'd had some tangibly proof of his own innocence. He'd pick that bone when he came across it. First, he had to sniff out the rat.
Another gasp brought his attention back to Harry. The boy's face was turned to him now, his blanket clenched in his fists, fingers tightening. His face was tense, and as he looked an expression of fear flitted across Harry's face. Bad nightmare.
Sirius knew all about those.
He couldn't help himself. He lowered his head and nudged his muzzle gently against his godson's hand, shifting it until Harry's palm was resting in his fur. He rubbed his nose against Harry's cheek and made comforting, gruff little noises.
Harry mumbled, shifted, and turned towards the offered comfort. His features settled and he sighed deeply.
Sirius took this to mean that the nightmare had passed. Whimsically, he remained a little longer, looking at Harry and allowing the boy's hand to rest on his broad head. How he wished he could stay here a while and keep Harry company while he were ill. How he wished things were different. He was supposed to be Harry's guardian, not an escaped convict on the run, trying to find and murder a man who he once called friend.
But this was the way things were, and all he could do to help now was to find the rat that dared to threaten Harry's life and rip him limb from limb, the way he had intended all those years ago, when things had gone so terribly wrong.
When he took a last look at Harry, the boy's eyes were open, and he was looking straight at him. Sirius froze in shock, wondering what Harry was thinking, and whether he would raise the alarm. Should he run for it? Should he change into himself and explain? Would Harry listen?
Yet as they stared at each other, Harry didn't make a move to shout in panic or to even question the large dog's appearance. His eyes were burning fever-bright, and Sirius doubted he was really awake or even focussing on him. Again the dog nuzzled Harry's hand, comforting him, and slowly Harry's eyes closed shut.
Sudden voices sounded just outside the door, and Sirius jumped clear of the bed, freezing in indecision for a moment until diving under Harry's bed. It was just in time as the doors to the hospital wing opened and allowed Madame Pomfrey to enter with three female students.
"She was coughing and sneezing all day," one of the girls piped up. "Looked awful, really."
"But she wouldn't come here, even though we tried to take her," another added.
"I'm fine, really!" The last called. "Achoo!"
"You are not fine, young lady," said Pomfrey sternly. "Now get into that bed before I make you. I'll get you your potions."
"Potions? I don't need any potions!" the girl pleaded. Pomfrey would have none of it and was already stepping into her office. "Honestly, I didn't pass out; I just … decided to take a nap. Standing up."
"Oh, is that what you call crashing to the floor like a great lump?"
"Katie, will you just get in the bed!"
"Wood'll never let me hear the end of it," the sick girl moaned. Loud coughing followed the statement. Then: "It's only three more hours until Quidditch practice begins…"
"Get. In. The. Bed." Her friend sounded dangerously close to the end of her rope.
The other said: "I'm going to kill Wood."
Squatting in his hiding place, Sirius listened to the girls bickering and to Pomfrey coercing the sick girl to take her medicine and stay in the bed. Before long, the new patient was snoring. Madame Pomfrey turned to the other two girls.
"Perhaps it would be prudent to have you take some Pepper-up potion, as well," she considered.
"Oh, Madame Pomfrey, no!"
"We're not sick! Honest!"
"Yes," said Pomfrey decidedly. "That would be best. Come with me now, Miss Johnston, Miss Spinnet."
"And no early Quidditch practice this morning. You're going to sleep in as long as you can."
The two girls shared a glance that did not show much hope at the possibility of this happening.
"You send Mr. Wood along to me if he'll be difficult," Madame Pomfrey frowned disapprovingly. "I have some things to say to him in any way."
The girls perked up as they followed Pomfrey into her office. Sirius wasted no second. As soon as the last heel disappeared in the office, he was mobile, slinking his way to the main doors. As he quickly scanned the hallway and found it empty, he looked back at the bed with Harry in it. The boy's eyes were still closed, but he was moving around like he was waking up again. With a last sad glance, the dog disappeared from the ward as if he'd never been there.
Harry was indeed waking up. He'd had strange, upsetting dreams. He'd dreamt about his parents and Voldemort, and the green light, and there'd been dementors during Quidditch and he'd been falling and falling. He'd also heard the hooves galloping through the forest again, but this time there's been the heavy fall of large, padded paws with it, and then he'd opened his eyes and seen the Grim, waiting for him by his bed, ready to take him away.
He heard a voice exclaim "Hey, Harry's here!" and he blearily opened his eyes to see who was there to find Alicia and Angelina standing at his bed. Both of them looked down on him with worried eyes, and, strangely, with smoke pouring from their ears.
"Is it time for practice?" Harry asked them, sounding doomed.
"No!" cried Alicia, shaking her head vehemently, even as Angelina put a hand on his forehead to feel his temperature. "I'm going to kill Wood!" she said through clenched teeth, which sounded awfully familiar.
"Girls, leave Mr. Potter to his rest," said Pomfrey as she moved up behind them. "You can come visit your team mates in the morning."
"Okay, Madam Pomfrey."
"Goodnight Harry, Madam Pomfrey."
"Feel better, Harry."
The girls disappeared from view, and Harry gazed around the hospital wing confusedly. He wasn't sure he understood what was going on. He felt so off kilter. He sat up, ready to get out of the bed, though he wasn't sure exactly where he wanted to go. Didn't he have to go to the Quidditch pitch?
"Potter, stay where you are!"
Harry turned his head, feeling dizzy doing so, to look at the blustering matron standing over his bed.
"There've been enough disturbances for one night," the woman said. "Back to sleep now."
Harry laid back down, surprised at how heavy his head felt. "I have bad dreams," he murmured, matter of fact. "I don't want to go to sleep anymore."
Madam Pomfrey looked down on him, her gaze softening. "I'll get you some Dreamless Sleep," she said. "You can have some now. I'll be right back."
Harry closed his eyes a moment and before he knew it she was back. He blinked up at her, wondering how she'd get so fast.
"Drink this, Potter," she coaxed him, offering him a glass. Harry drank it down with some difficulty, swallowing against the thickness of his throat. After he finished Pomfrey put the glass on his bedside table and straightened the bedclothes that were all askew on his bed.
Harry stared at her a moment, then thought he should tell her that "There was a Grim in the room."
Her head snapped up. "Don't be silly!" she said, shaken at this notion. "You're going to be fine! There's no Grim here."
"He was right there," said Harry plaintively, pointing a finger at the floor next to his bed.
"It was just a dream, dear," shushed Pomfrey, calmly again. "There are no Grims in my wing. I won't allow it."
"Oh, okay," mumbled Harry, though he wasn't convinced. Sleep was draping over him like a heavy blanket though, and before he knew it, he was under.