Harry blinks at the portly man in front of him. Brave-Alice is speaking, but the man doesn't seem to really be listening. His lime-green bowler hat gleams fluorescently in the low light, even as he restricts them with a few words. Brave-Alice restrains a few choice words, but soon the man is gone and Harry stows his things away.
He takes a moment to look over the gifts that Ron and Hermione had sent him for his birthday, alongside the food that Mrs. Weasley had sent and Hagrid's dangerous book. Bakura's gift of a proper deck rests comfortingly in one of his oversized pockets.
Each persona takes interest in different gifts—brave-Alice is attracted to Hagrid's violent book, still bound with a belt. Bright-Aladdin enjoys Ron and Hermione's gifts, and boy-who-won't-cry-wolf looks at the food Mrs. Weasley had sent and his stomach growls lowly.
Soon, though, he-they are tired out, and he-they lie back in the bed, feeling the odd softness that he-they are so unused to. It makes it difficult to fall asleep, though a doze falls over them almost immediately.
The next days are a mixture of freedom and being caged. Brave-Alice chafes at not being allowed to leave Diagon Alley, and wonders when anyone will explain anything. Harry just enjoys the magic of the Alley, and even wanders off down Knockturn Alley once or twice. After the third attempted kidnapping, Harry starts to realize that brave-Alice and bright-Aladdin won't be able to help him in that dark place, as they are too bright, and both boy-who-won't-cry-wolf and scared-Harry are non-combatants.
As Harry starts fashioning the mannerisms of what he thinks may be the last of his masks—though he may be wrong—his-their Mark flares with white-hot rage. When Harry slips into the new role, he is surprised how easily the chilly rage and hate come to him, how the sly mannerisms come to him-them like breathing. Brave-Alice grumbles, but scared-Harry ignores the persona.
And for a time, it is quiet.
When Arthur Weasley tells Harry of the fact that Sirius Black is out to kill him, Harry just wonders why. Because Voldemort has a reason, at least. This new man? What is his reason?
But everyone's fear and worry is too much and nags at his head, and he acquiesces to the patriarch's desires, even as brave-Alice growls in the back of his head and he can feel sly-cold-hating-snake smirk coldly beside the decidedly Gryffindor persona, and brave-Alice almost hisses at the other.
And so they board the train, prepared for a quiet trip to Hogwarts. Harry thinks they should have expected what happens.
Dementors spread their chill like mint invades a garden, persistent and unrelenting. A scream rings in Harry's ears, high and piercing. They are all being pushed around, none quite sure who should be playing 'Harry', and then everything goes black and scared-Harry stares at the others from his corner.
He is scared. But what is new about that?
Hermione is worried, Harry knows. But she also stinks of exhaustion and places-that-aren't or places-they-haven't-been. It makes him tilt his head, even as brave-Alice speaks so confidently to her.
She does some things that are unwise, and soon brave-Alice is fuming, but bright-Aladdin steps forward in the other's absence, and they all seem almost confused at how calm and easy going he is all-of-a-sudden, because brave-Alice isn't easy-going but sharp and intent.
But no one says anything, and soon Hermione is so caught up in the mountains of homework she has that she can't do more than give passing glances at Harry.
Her cat, Crookshanks, is quiet and calm and clever, and Harry is oddly reminded of A Cat of Ill Omen, just like Hedwig almost reminds him of An Owl of Luck. He feels a tug of a smile at his lips as he watches the tabby push into Hermione's face, refusing to let the exhausted girl study any further.
It is oddly sweet, Harry thinks.
When Harry finds out that the murderer, Sirius Black, is the reason they were placed with the Dursleys, brave-Alice hisses and sly-cold-hating-snake bristles. When Harry finds out that Sirius Black is his godfather, brave-Alice is silent, but sly-cold-hating-snake explodes viciously, raging and killing-intent.
In the push that follows, scared-Harry ends up speaking to a worried Ron and Hermione, until sly-cold-hating-snake steps forward and turns their sadness into fury.
"I'll kill him," sly-cold-hating-snake hisses, and Ron and Hermione take a step back. "When he finds me, I'll kill him!"
And that, for a time, is the end of that.
The end of the year flies by so quickly that scared-Harry has difficulty understanding it.
There is Sirius Black, the once-murderer-but-not, and Professor Lupin, who taught him to defend himself against Dementors but is a werewolf, and there is Ron's rat, Scabbers, who turns out to be the rea-murderer, Peter Pettigrew.
Then there is Snape and Ron and Hermione and Dementors and fear and terror and hate, and by the next day Harry is struggling to keep back sly-cold-hating-snake but is losing the will to do so. If he loses that last piece of his family, he doesn't know what will happen.
Vaguely, he notes that bright-Aladdin looks worn around the edges, but dismisses it even as scared-Harry retreats into the dark recesses of his-their mind.
And then Hermione drags them back through time, and suddenly things-that-aren't and places-they-haven't-been make sense and the time-magic woven around them makes him itch.
Dodging a werewolf, saving a hippogriff, and fighting off what must be hundreds of Dementors is hard, and brave-Alice is winded once it is done, even as sly-cold-hating-snake growls as he thinks of the rat, Wormtail.
It is all so very thoroughly exhausting.
The train ride back to London, back to the Dursleys, is far more wrenching than it has been any other year. Because now he has a godfather, and the knowledge that his-their once-escape is now nonviable because the Minister is so very dense and buries-his-head-in-the-sand grates and hurts.
When they finally arrive, Harry is slow to unload from the train, despite the pain he knows it will bring if he is even the slightest bit late. Ron and Hermione are worried, so worried, and even as Ron is tugged off to the side by his Mark-match, Hermione hugs Harry.
"If you ever need anything," she says carefully. "I'll be there Harry."
"Thank you," he-they say, and Hermione looks into his eyes cautiously.
"I mean it," she says, and then she is gone, following her parents into Muggle London.
Harry wants to linger, but he knows that much longer and not even an excuse from bright-Aladdin will prevent any cries and pain tonight.
He has to go, and it hurts.
And then he remembers that he has a convict-godfather, as much as that hurts. And maybe, just maybe, sly-cold-hateful-snake can hold that over his Uncle's head.
For once, he thinks that he may have a pain-free summer.
It is an odd thought.