Cloaked entirely in the white of pure dreamers, the boy in the bed of red roses dreamt of a world of possibilities under the watchful eyes of his demons...
"C'mon! Put some more on!"
"Ouch! Okay, Dudley! There!"
Seven year old Dudley and eight year old Piers stood back and grinned maliciously at Harry, who only looked resigned to his fate. With a snicker, Dudley went to the doorway, throwing the tube of lipstick he'd been holding right at Harry's feet. Piers followed suit with a pallet of eye shadow.
"MUMMY!" he bellowed, "THE FREAK GOT INTO YOUR MAKEUP!"
Almost immediately, there came the sound of hurried footsteps, and then aunt Petunia was standing in the doorway, looking furious. Dudley scurried out of her way, only to hide behind her skirt when she was further in the room.
"You freak," she began, "You know better than to-"
And here, she stopped herself. Harry could only wonder what was going on in her head, but if he'd been able to look, he'd know that in that moment, as aunt Petunia looked into his eyes, she could only see her dearly departed sister.
She saw bright green eyes- Lily's eyes- and messy hair- dark still, the black of her nephew's resembling (just barely) the dark red of hers in the dim lighting- sloppily pulled back with one of her overly large hairclips (she'd never liked them, and had only kept them because they were from her great grandmother) and just barely covering his forehead. She saw bright red lipstick smeared liberally around her nephew's lips, and glittery purple eyeshadow spread all around his eyes as well as his cheeks, which were also covered with doodles drawn in eyeliner. She saw a petite frame drowning in a gaudy, frilly yellow dress, with much too big sparkly red heels peeking out.
She saw Lily, when she was four and Petunia was six, and they'd both decided to play with mummy's makeup, and she'd said they looked absolutely beautiful (even though Petunia knew they probably looked atrocious).
As Lily surfaced, Petunia's heart began to hurt.
"...go and get cleaned up, boy," she said at last. "We're having company tomorrow, and I need to go shopping."
And it wasn’t a complete lie, not really, but when the freak was dressed like that, she could only see Lily in him, and she selfishly wanted to see her sweet baby sister again as much as she could. Surely there was nothing wrong with that, right?
Harry stumbled out of her room and to the bathroom, while Dudley and Piers shot each other confused looks.
The devil caressed the dreamer's face lovingly and kissed his cheek, but still he did not wake. But he had grown to expect it.
The next day, Petunia dragged Harry out with her to the British Heart Foundation (the Home & Fashions branch) and led him towards the women's clothing section. This was normal- expected- but then she led him through and down to the section for young girls, and Harry found himself at a loss.
Petunia began picking out seemingly random dresses, skirts, and blouses, stopping to stare at him appraisingly before shaking her head and then swapping one dress for another. Finally, she seemed satisfied, and thrust the pile of girls' clothing into his arms, then went over to the hosiery rack. She grabbed two pairs of stockings and then stared down at his feet. She seemed to consider something for a moment before she grabbed a pair of inexpensive grey loafers that looked like they might fit him.
She went to the cashier, and Harry dutifully placed the pile of clothes on the counter. The lady didn’t say anything, and Petunia was thankful for that. It wasn’t like she'd decided to force her nephew to cross-dress so she could see her dead sister again, nope. That was silly and ridiculous and completely absurd, haha.
A soft lullaby contrasted against the pitter patter of rain, as two red-robed figures made their way towards a large mansion.
"James, why are you humming that now of all times?"
"Sorry Sirius, but...I just can't believe he's so close!"
"Lils is gonna be over the moon..."
On the way back to Number 4 (not 'home', never 'home') Petunia looked back at Harry through the front mirror, her lips pursed as she drove with a white-knuckled grip.
"As soon as we get back, you're tossing out all of your clothes. From now on, you're only allowed to wear what we just bought."
Her nephew didn’t ask why- he'd learned not to long ago- and only nodded his head obediently.
"Yes aunt Petunia."
And the rest of the ride was silent.
Harry helped aunt Petunia carry in the bags of clothes, and was then sent to his room upstairs to throw out his clothes ('his' being 'what used to be Dudley's'). By the time he'd come back inside after throwing everything into the bin outside, aunt Petunia was already hanging up the girls' clothes inside his closet. She grabbed a dress that had yet to be placed on a hanger and threw it at him without even looking.
"Change into that, and add the other clothes to the bin, also."
"Yes, aunt Petunia."
James sang softly, mostly to himself, but in part to his son, wherever in this building he was.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy-oof!"
Sirius hit him just a bit too hard.
"James! Shut up- that's really creepy!"
"Yeesh, okay, fine!"
Somewhere further in, the devil continued the song for his dreamer, scheming all the while.
The dress was a pale blue with a large yellow star on the left side of the skirt, and pale pink polka dots. Harry didn’t understand why aunt Petunia was making him dress like this, but that was probably for the best. If he asked, she'd most likely hit him, and besides, even if they were girly, these were his clothes, and not just something he'd gotten from Dudley. Aunt Petunia bought them for him.
That last thought made him feel warm inside.
Harry took his old clothes and went outside, waving politely to Mrs. Figg as he put the well-worn garments into the bin. He went inside to start preparing lunch, but aunt Petunia stopped him as he was about to turn on the stove.
"Now, don't worry about that- you'll burn yourself if you try it now. I'll handle it."
So Harry retreated to his bedroom.
Aunt Petunia had been acting rather strange ever since Dudley tried to get him in trouble yesterday, and the poor boy couldn't make sense of it. But it looked like she might start treating him a little better, so he wouldn’t- couldn't- complain about that.
The room they found themselves in was lavishly decorated with all kinds of silks and lace, in varying shades of red and gold. It almost reminded them of the Gryffindor common room, except more elaborate. But the centerpiece of the room was the giant bed in which two figures slept (only two, even though the bed looked big enough to hold Prongs, Padfoot, Moony, Lily, Harry, and still have plenty of room for the entire staff population of Hogwarts).
Both aurors held their breath as they caught sight of a mop of messy black hair peeking out from the red covers.
They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and to a point, Petunia couldn't help but take it literally.
She had their father's eyes, though their mother swore that before he died, they were lighter. Though they all knew that things like hair and eye color darkened with age, sometimes, it was a small comfort to think that a bit of their father's soul had wound up inside her.
So Petunia saw Harry- saw Lily's eyes- and, maybe because she had no idea what he looked like before her sister's death, thought that Lily had gotten a bit of herself stuck in her child. Before, she'd only seen the magic- the wretched power that had stolen her sister from her, as well as earned their parents' favoritism- and had acted accordingly. It was a form of vengeance, she supposed. And then she saw Harry in that dress, and it was as if Lily- her sweet, tiny, little sister that she'd do anything for- had come back in those eyes.
And yes, it was selfish. It was absolutely ridiculous, and okay, she could admit she needed to just move on, and yet...
She’d never gotten to apologize- never got to tell Lily how much she meant to her.
She only wanted to see her sister again, to relive that moment of innocence over and over for as long as she could, even if it was at her nephew's expense.
Ultimately, the guilt drove her mad, is what those gossipy bitches down the street would say, and oh what a shame that would be.
His son was peacefully sleeping as James lifted him from the bed, even as Sirius warned him to be careful and check for wards. But James didn’t care. He was only concerned with keeping his son safe.
With a soft rustling of sheets, the other boy- dressed in black, looking suddenly very much like a dragon with his red eyes- slowly sat up. James could almost smell Sirius's alert.
"...Who are you?" The demon-boy asked tiredly, and continued before they could answer, "did you come here to take Harry away? Because if you did, then you'll have to take me with you, as well."
And even though every bit of auror training screamed at Sirius not to ask why, he couldn’t help himself this time, not when that child looked simultaneously innocent and sinister.
"And why is that?"
The boy smiled, then, and said, "Harry's dreams are powerful, and as long as he remains in those dreams, no one can use that power. And it's my job to make sure he stays there- for his own safety. So like I said, you have to take me with you."
When Vernon came home that night, Petunia risked confiding in him that their nephew was going to start crossdressing, and, in an even riskier move, explained her motives.
As she expected, he refused to put up with it, but in an unexpected move, took it as grounds for divorce. As she later found out, he'd been planning to divorce her for about a year now- her alleged 'insanity' over her sister’s death was just the final nail in the coffin.
But that was fine, really. She'd only cared about his status and non-magical lifestyle, the latter of which had ended as soon as Lily got herself blown up. If Vernon was gone, then she could have more freedom in raising Dudley and Harry (Lily, her mind replaced him with) however she chose, and no one would be able to judge her.
So she signed the divorce papers and didn’t put up any sort of fuss, and the whole process only took a few weeks.
The house was in her name, so she got to keep that. She got custody of both Harry and Dudley, and she got enough money to last her a couple months if she stretched it. Plenty of time to get a job of some sort.
And so, September 23rd of 1987 came upon them.
Sirius was at war with himself. He knew he had no choice but to take the red-eyed boy with him, but...something about him set him on edge.
Luckily James was there to decide for him.
"Alright. We'll take you with us, for my son's sake."
The strange boy rolled to the edge of the bed and swung his legs over the side. He moved so he was standing right beside James, eye-level to his elbows.
"C'mon Sirius. Lils probably has dinner on the table by now."
It started out as any other day. Harry got up and changed into a clean dress- a lilac one this time, with long white sleeves- and then went downstairs to help aunt Petunia with breakfast while Dudley slept in a little longer. Once breakfast was cooked, Harry would go upstairs to wake his cousin while aunt Petunia would dish the food out. Though Harry still got more food than he ever did when uncle Vernon was around, it was still a good deal less than what Dudley ate (because, according to aunt Petunia, girls were made fun of if they got fat- though Harry just figured out she was mistaking him for a girl again, and thus didn’t trust that answer).
After breakfast, Harry and Dudley would get themselves cleaned up, and then they'd grab their school bags. They'd each get a kiss on the cheek from aunt Petunia, and then they'd walk to school.
Once upon a time, such a walk would've consisted of Dudley trying to shove Harry into oncoming traffic, but since aunt Petunia was making him look like a girl now, and Dudley had learned from uncle Vernon that it wasn’t okay to hurt girls (and that was probably the only good thing he'd learned from the man), it was surprisingly tolerable.
As they exited the building, Sirius insisted that James take Harry and return to their house, while he would take the other boy and officially report the case as closed to Shacklebolt.
James eagerly agreed, and apparated with his son to the living room of the cottage he shared with Lily in Godric's Hollow.
"Lily!" He called out as he smelt her cooking, "Lily- come over here, quick!"
It was about this point that things began to seem strange.
The school gate rusted and crumbled as soon as Harry passed through it, and it was as if time had stopped. Dudley's mouth was stuck in the middle of a greeting to Piers.
He could still hear the wind, could still see the grey rainclouds in the distance, could still smell the approaching storm. But the people had mysteriously stopped moving, and the air had grown tense- taught like a bow string getting ready to snap.
And then, the illusion shattered, and there was just Harry, dressed in a white silk and chiffon nightgown, standing alone in a black void.
Lily, who'd been carrying a glass dish of chicken and potatoes, dropped it as her eyes caught sight of the familiar chubby face in her husband's arms. Her voice was disbelieving and at the same time hopeful. Had they finally gotten their baby boy back?
"H...Harry....he...he hasn’t aged a day..."
And indeed he hadn’t. He'd disappeared just before his seventh birthday, and had been gone five years. He should have looked older, but he didn’t. And maybe, had she been a lesser woman, Lily would think her husband had stupidly mistaken someone else's child for theirs and taken them, but James would never stoop that low, especially as an auror.
Stepping over the shards of glass and the ruined dinner, Lily took her son into her arms, and was suddenly reminded of all those mornings where she'd hold him like this and wake him up.
"Harry...sweetie...it's time to wake up now, love..."
In a small burst of light, a strange man appeared, dressed in grey. His beard was long and white, and his blue eyes seemed somehow both old and youthful.
"Come now, Harry. It is time to awaken. You have no need to make your family wait anymore."
Harry nodded, and saw a red-haired woman beaming down at him.
And then, there was light.
Even though it just slipped out, Lily noted how her son's eyes flickered. And then, they opened.
For the first time in five years, Harry was truly awake.