For as long as he can remember, Harry Potter has dreamed.
Not the same dream, over and over again, but the same lifetimes. He grows up and a blonde haired child grows parallel to him, perpetually running and always smiling.
(Sometimes he gets glimpses of loneliness, empty bedrooms and a yawning distance between himself and his agemates on a playground-- but that’s hardly unfamiliar, blending with his waking days. Easy enough to brush those times to the side in favor of the earth-fire hues and verdant, endless forests)
The city-- village-- is always the same. It’s beautiful and breathtaking. Trees surround it and the buildings aren’t quite tall enough to match. It’s full of familiar faces, most still as small as he is, but he sees them and thinks: precious.
When he wakes, he stares at the dark ceiling of his cupboard and feels a sadness so deep and aching in his chest he has no name for it. Harry has never been so free to run wherever he wants to go, has only been outside a few precious times in his life, and thinks of the clear blue skies and green trees with thoughts that begin with I want and inevitably end with him clenching his small fists in the threadbare blanket he curls up with.
Black hair and black eyes and Harry isn’t educated enough to know any sort of stigma that goes along with that combination of dark features; he is a small boy only ever greeted by laughing eyes and happy smiles and has no words for the feeling that builds up behind his ribs.
He sees red and white fans and knows, for the first time, the love of a mother and father. More than that, a clan, full of aunts and uncles and cousins.
Black hair and black eyes and red-white fans, all around; he has a skin-deep knowing that (their presence means) he is safe and so, so loved.
The phantom sensation of two fingers brushing against his forehead lingers for days.
Sometimes he has pink hair and his mom brushes it lovingly.
His father reads him stories by a hearth fire.
Harry reads everything he can get his hands on and meets a girl who makes him forget all of it-- makes him want to be bold and fearless.
They lay on the soft grass of a sun-drenched hill, wind carrying softly past them and the stretching meadows. Blonde and pink tresses tangle as they talk and talk and talk for hours and fold fingers and flowers together and laugh without worry.
Harry is boy and freak to Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon and Dudley, never ‘Harry’. He knows, objectively, that it’s his name. It’s what they call him when he goes to school, the only place he ever thinks about his own name.
Probably he’d turn just as readily to Sasuke, or Naruto, or Sakura.
Nobody ever calls him by dream-names, though, or talks about their own. He doesn’t dare ask why.
He isn’t aware, for the longest time, that his dreams are abnormal. How could he be? The very first rule in the Dursley household is don’t ask questions. Every scrap of knowledge he picks up is painstakingly gained.
As a result, when he finally-- finally-- gets to go to school, he absorbs everything like a sponge. He learns with time how to walk the line between ‘bad enough to be an embarrassment and earn a beating’ and ‘good enough to out-do Dudley and earn a beating’ with regards to his grades. It doesn’t take long with the proper motivation.
Still, Harry learns.
His tests and assignments don’t reflect the knowledge he sucks in so greedily, of course, but what has that got to do with anything? The relief of being able to understand things-- understand, even when he doesn’t ask questions, because Harry knows better to try despite when all the other children do because breaking Rule Number One means pain, hunger, darkness-- overshadows everything else.
(There’s always been a dichotomy between the rules for Harry and the rules for Dudley, always, and Harry knows this to be the way of the world: other children like Dudley, by virtue of not being freaks, can ask all the questions they want.)
(Harry has never managed to isolate the traits that differentiate him from Dudley and the other children, but it never stops him from trying. He’ll stick to every rule, be good, and maybe one day he’ll be set free from them).
Harry Potter lives three days asleep for every one day awake, for all that they’re definitely dreams and gone when he opens his eyes. It’s never long enough, and the days are disjoint. He’ll be running through the streets and laughing wildly, or at a library surrounded by books, or yet again stumbling after his older brother in tree-ringed training grounds.
The dreams vary in season and month, sometimes not matching up at all. Sometimes he sees entire days of memories, adventures that stretch several sunsets and he sees all of them in a row in one night, waking with a summarized recollection.
His memories work fine, though. While the dreams span out into years he hasn’t yet lived through, the ones he has follow him into the waking world with perfect detail.
He’s six and just read his first book in his head.
He remembers turning six and blowing out candles on a white cake, pink-cheeked and merry, brimming with excitement.
He remembers turning six and fire tickling past his lips, an inferno launching from his fingers and skating across the lake, hissing with steam where it brushed past the water. He cheers with pride and accomplishment, his whole family whooping and clapping.
It was the day he turned six that the Sandaime Hokage first treated him to Ichiraku Ramen, after he tried and failed to drag his jiji there by the sleeve. The old man had followed at a sedate pace, as calm as could be, smiling over his pipe as he asked about everything Harry’d done or seen or found interesting that month.
Sometimes, the dreams jump ahead.
Harry is seven and has to run from Dudley and his friends on the playground.
Hardwood floors and the smell of barbecue, rolling around with Akamaru, who’d gotten huge since Harry’d last saw him, Kiba’s laughter loud in the background. Behind them, a contented sigh and potato chips crunching merrily--
Feathers, surprisingly sturdy under his hands, wind rushing past and the entire world spread out beneath him. It stretched out as far as the eye could see, horizon to horizon, with Garuda radiating smug pride, uncontested prince of the skies--
Lee was a monster. No, really. Each hit made her stifle a grunt and threatened to push her back and each came on the heels of another, stupidly fast. His speed was ridiculous, generating concussive force by sheer acceleration. She took them and was hard pressed to get a move in, finally creating her own opening by punching the ground and breaking it, lunging in fast with her fist cocked back--
The older black-haired, red-white-fan boy is his brother. The word sits odd on his tongue, new and confusing when he first learns it.
At the same time, it’s like the universe righting itself. Itachi is his brother and that’s a fundamental fact of life, one of the world’s only truths.
As Naruto, he doesn’t have siblings. Nor as Sakura.
As Sakura, parents more than make up for the lack, spoiling her as an only child. Ino serves as playmate and confidant.
When he’s Naruto, he has Iruka, several days a week. Before that he has the Hokage, for whole hours sometimes. Time blurs until all of his precious people are fought for and won, found-family clenched tight in his desperate fingers.
Orphan is another word, one that tastes familiar when he learns it, sinking into his skin and making the world make more sense.
Harry Potter is an orphan and half his dreams mirror that.
The school he sees in his dreams is much different than the one Harry himself goes to.
Harry goes to class during the day and enjoys the freedom from his cupboard and the things he learns from the teacher. He looks at the homework Dudley turns in and is proud when the work Harry’s done comes back with perfect marks.
(His own homework is purposefully lesser, done after Dudley’s, and Harry is getting better at gauging how many problems to get wrong to maintain the constant difference.)
At night he dreams of a different school. Men and women in flak jackets teach him about a power called chakra and how to harness it.
(Harry learns this, too.)
Most of the dreams stay dreams.
Harry knows they’re only okay so long as no one knows about them. He can’t let on that he has them. Doing the things that Sakura, Naruto, Sasuke and the other-- dream-- children can do would be a dead give away. None of the other normal, non-freak (Dudley) children, could do those things.
So it’s not okay to try the things he learns from them in the waking world.
It’s not okay at all.
(Behind a school building one day, when no one is watching, he picks up a leaf and remembers what he learned the night before. His hand trembles as he presses it to his forehead.)
(His breath stops when it stays.)
Sometimes the dreams follow him into reality.
The times are rare. Few and far between.
He remembers each of them with painstaking clarity.
Accidentally climbing the roof had terrified him. He tells himself later that the wind must have caught him, or something normal, because he didn’t weave any handsigns. He was being good.
But after some time-- and the time stretched onwards, for hours, because who would notice him missing?-- his breathing evened out and he forgot about the punishment surely awaiting him.
The fear ebbed away and was replaced by something else as he took in the sight of the setting sun on the far-off horizon, warm-hued colors painting the buildings until they resembled a different city, the village of his dreams. Being up high was of no concern just then, as the wind picked up and it felt like coming home.
(When it ruffled his hair, he just let his eyes fall closed to enjoy it.)
(There was no explaining away the ghostly hand he felt on his shoulder.
He didn’t turn around to dispel the illusion.)