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What is the significance of Harry's weirdest dreams?

Dreams are rarely normal, but when you’re Harry Potter, they can be a nightmare.

Harry looking at the Marauders Map in his dormitory
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Although we – as readers – were able to follow Harry’s adventures closely, understanding his thoughts and actions, it was his dreams throughout the books that gave us a deeper understanding of what was going on in his head. He was, for example, often haunted by nightmares of the deaths in his life, from Cedric to recurring ones about his own parents, and sometimes his ‘dreams’ were not actually dreams at all, but his mind being infiltrated by Lord Voldemort.

Suffice to say, there was a lot going on up there. We’ve analysed some of Harry’s oddest ones – although we’ve left the Voldemort-influenced ‘dreams’ for another day.

‘A good one’ with a flying motorbike

Hagrid flying into Privet Drive with a baby Harry.
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

Right at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, even before Harry knew he was a wizard, the magic in his life had already started seeping into his subconscious. During one morning at the Dursleys, Harry awoke in his cupboard from a ‘good’ dream about a flying motorbike – one he felt like he’d had before. To be fair, he kind of had, except it had been real: a memory from when Hagrid first took him to the Dursleys as a baby, on Sirius Black’s enchanted motorbike. No wonder, when he told Vernon about the dream, his uncle’s reaction was more unreasonably outraged than usual – he must have been terrified there was magic on Harry’s mind...

Professor Quirrell’s talking turban

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

He was wearing Professor Quirrell’s turban, which kept talking to him, telling him he must transfer to Slytherin at once, because it was his destiny. Harry told the turban he didn’t want to be in Slytherin; it got heavier and heavier; he tried to pull it off but it tightened painfully – and there was Malfoy, laughing at him as he struggled with it – then Malfoy turned into the hook-nosed teacher, Snape, whose laugh became high and cold – there was a burst of green light and Harry woke, sweating and shaking.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

On Harry’s first night at Hogwarts, after being introduced to so many impossibly magical things in such a short space of time, he had a particularly weird dream. It connected quite a few important elements that shaped his first year: meeting Professor Quirrell, his rivalry with Draco Malfoy, his anxiety over the Sorting Hat, his uneasiness around Professor Snape, and a familiar ‘burst of green light’ – the latter of which would haunt Harry for a long, long time.

The events of his dream presented a distorted version of Harry’s reality, all fused together by his insecurities of the time. First, there was Professor Quirrell, who Harry didn’t really know yet, and particularly the involvement of his strange turban.

The Sorting Ceremony
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

In the dream, the turban took on the role of the Sorting Hat, who Harry had only just met the same day of his dream. The fact that his dream combined his fears of being sorted into Slytherin with Quirrell’s turban, which would eventually be revealed to be concealing Lord Voldemort, is quite interesting. The fact that Malfoy, his new school rival, was laughing at him, and then turned into Snape, who he had not yet met, was also rather telling. In his mind, Harry had merged the two main bullies in his life, even though he didn’t yet know it.

The inclusion of the flash of green light connected everything back to Lord Voldemort. In essence, this dream combined the typical schoolboy fears of not fitting in, worries about bullies and an over-arching dread of evil drawing near. (Okay, maybe that last one isn’t a typical schoolboy fear...)

The forest dream

The Forbbiden Forest at night.
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

He was walking through a forest, his Firebolt over his shoulder, following something silvery white. It was winding its way through the trees ahead, and he could only catch glimpses of it between the leaves. Anxious to catch up with it, he sped up, but as he moved faster, so did his quarry. Harry broke into a run and ahead, he heard hooves gathering speed. Now he was running flat out, and ahead he could hear galloping. Then he turned a corner into a clearing and –
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry’s third year was defined by Sirius Black and the Dementors – the latter of whom affected him badly. After going through some anti-Dementor lessons with Professor Lupin, Harry finally got to use the Patronus Charm on three Dementors who’d come to interrupt his Quidditch game. As it turned out, it was only Malfoy and his cronies playing a trick, but it was still the first time he had successfully cast his Patronus, even if he was too busy catching the Snitch to notice what form it took. That night, he dreamt of ‘following something silvery white’ and heard the sound of hooves...

Even though Harry did not know his Patronus was a stag yet, this dream was his first clue. The fact that Harry couldn’t catch up to his stag could mean a few things: the fact he had been struggling to cast the Patronus Charm, or maybe even the unconscious fretfulness of never knowing his father, who the stag could be representing. You never know.

The Grimmauld Place dream

Kreacher at Grimmauld Place from the Order of the Pheonix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry had a troubled night’s sleep. His parents wove in and out of his dreams, never speaking; Mrs Weasley sobbed over Kreacher’s dead body, watched by Ron and Hermione who were wearing crowns, and yet again Harry found himself walking down a corridor ending in a locked door.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Although the latter part of this dream was Voldemort invading Harry’s thoughts, the rest was based on his first night at Grimmauld Place, where Hermione and Ron were made Prefects and Harry witnessed poor Mrs Weasley’s Boggart, which took the shape of all of her loved ones – dead. After initially being jealous of Ron and Hermione’s elevated status (seen here as them wearing crowns), Harry’s jealousy was put into perspective when he saw the things that troubled Molly. The suspicious presence of Kreacher in the house also inhabited this dream. Harry was right to have this worrisome house-elf on his mind.

Cho and the Chocolate Frogs

Cho Chang in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry dreamed he was back in the DA room. Cho was accusing him of luring her there under false pretences; she said he had promised her a hundred and fifty Chocolate Frog Cards if she showed up. Harry protested ... Cho shouted, ‘Cedric gave me loads of Chocolate Frog Cards, look!’ And she pulled out fistfuls of Cards from inside her robes and threw them into the air. Then she turned into Hermione, who said, ‘You did promise her, you know, Harry ... I think you’d better give her something else instead ... how about your Firebolt?’ And Harry was protesting that he could not give Cho his Firebolt, because Umbridge had it, and anyway the whole thing was ridiculous, he’d only come to the DA room to put up some Christmas baubles shaped like Dobby’s head ...
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

When he wasn’t worried about Lord Voldemort, Harry was just a teenage boy at heart. During his relationship with Cho in Order of the Phoenix, the short-lived romance was overshadowed by her ex-boyfriend’s death. We can see those concerns in this dream, with the Chocolate Frog cards representing Harry’s worth vs Cedric’s worth – Harry was clearly worried he couldn’t live up to a dead man’s legacy. The other many troubles of Harry’s fifth year, such as Professor Umbridge always stifling him and his secret DA lessons, seemed to congeal into abstract disarray. Poor Dobby!

The Horcrux dream

Illustration of Salazar Slytherin's broken locket
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd.™ Warner Bros.

This mantra seemed to pulse through Harry’s mind as he fell asleep at night, and his dreams were thick with cups, lockets and mysterious objects that he could not quite reach, though Dumbledore helpfully offered Harry a rope ladder that turned to snakes the moment he began to climb ...
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

In Deathly Hallows, Harry’s hunt to track down Voldemort’s Horcruxes took over his entire life – and seeped into his subconscious as a result. This particular dream saw Albus Dumbledore offer Harry a ladder to the Horcruxes, which then turn into snakes; at this point in the story, Harry had lost trust for his deceased headmaster, due to finding out things about Dumbledore’s past that the old wizard never divulged. The ladder must represent the help Dumbledore tried to give Harry, and the snakes must represent the betrayal Harry felt at this point in the story. Clever.

Oh, and this one?

He dreamed that Neville and Professor Sprout were waltzing around the Room of Requirement while Professor McGonagall played the bagpipes. He watched them happily for a while, then decided to go and find the other members of the DA.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Okay, we have no idea about this one. Maybe sometimes dreams don't mean much.