A/N: Well, here I am again. Funny, isn't it? I so desperately want to update my other stories, but my silly muses keep coming up with new things that are far shinier to entertain me with. Anyways, here's a second attempt at writing SLASH. No, this has nothing to do with "Afternoons in the Staff Room", though I probably will do a follow-up to it. (This prologue has been edited -- all mistakes corrected -- and is now reposted).

Disclaimer: I am not J.K. Rowling and do not legally own any of the characters or places associated with the "Harry Potter" universe. Obviously. If you needed me to tell you that, then I'm afraid you might be in need of some heavy medications. No harm is intended with this fic, of course.

Summary: The summer before Harry's seventh year he finally decides to let the mask shatter, and become who he was always meant to be...

Rating: R for adult content and situations.

Warnings: This is a SLASH fic... meaning that there is a pairing of the male/male variety. If it squicks you, leave. I'm not forcing you to read this. There are OOTP spoilers, but don't worry so much. Mentions of child abuse.

Shattering Masks


1996 had started off as a rather good year for the so-called "savior" of the wizarding world, Harry Potter. Harry had spent the Christmas and New Year's with his godfather, Sirius Black, and it was the first time Harry could remember feeling like he truly belonged to a family of some sort. Sure, the Weasleys were like a family to him, but it wasn't the same. Sirius needed Harry just as much as Harry needed Sirius.

The second half of the school year had been difficult for Harry. He ended up completely screwing himself over in Occlumency when he let his curiosity get the best of him and looked into Snape's pensieve. And with looking into the pensieve came another monumental event in Harry's life – the disillusionment of what he had believed his father to be.

Harry had been at Hogwart's for five years, and was constantly told at every turn how much like his father he was. Naturally Harry assumed that his father had been good-natured, though a bit mischievous, during his time at Hogwart's.

But Harry was wrong.

James Potter had been an arrogant, spoiled brat. A bully. Someone more like Draco Malfoy than Harry's own self-image. Harry had felt sick inside, fighting with all the conflicting feelings about his father, and about Snape. And then, of course, Snape had come in and caught Harry red-handed. Harry had been dismissed from Occlumency lessons, permanently, and had become the sole outlet for the wrath of Severus Snape (or so it seemed to Harry). Not that Harry really blamed the Potions Master.

Visions from the snake-faced bastard, also known as Lord Voldemort (or, if you were really cheeky and had a death wish, you could call him Tom Marvolo Riddle), had unfortunately continued. But the visions were not the worst part. No, the worst part was the way Voldemort had become aware of the link between himself and the Bloody Boy Who Wouldn't Die. And that's when Voldemort had used the link to his advantage.

The Dark Lord had drawn upon Harry's insecurities and fears to make him believe that his godfather, Sirius Black, had been taken and was being held captive by Death Eaters. Ever the Gryffindor, Harry had bravely rushed off into battle without thinking very far ahead.

And Harry's careless mistakes that night led to the death of the only family Harry had ever cared about. Sirius had not been taken by Death Eaters, but once he'd heard Harry had gone off to the Ministry of Magic on a rescue mission, he'd followed his godson there. Bellatrix Black-Lestrange had fired a curse at Sirius, consequently knocking him through the Veil Between Life and Death.

Harry watched helplessly as his godfather was killed.

It had been a turning point in Harry's life. He became angry, and then depressed. When he had returned to Privet Drive for the summer holidays... well, he hadn't protested to the beatings his uncle and cousin were rather fond of delivering to him. Normally Harry fought back... normally Harry cared that when school came around again he'd have to put on a concealing charm until he healed fully. But this year Harry didn't care. He knew he deserved every blow that reigned down upon him.

He had killed his godfather, after all.

Somehow, though, as the end of the summer came, Harry pulled himself out of his apathy and depression and let himself be consumed by righteous anger. He knew that he had to kill Voldemort, and as soon as it was possible. The prophecy stated that he was the only one who would be able to do it, and so Harry was determined to do whatever it took to prepare for the final battle.

And he told Dumbledore so the moment he reached the school. The Headmaster, who was not at all angry about the outburst Harry'd had at the end of the last school year, completely understood and said that he would arrange everything.

The first day of sixth year had been hell for Harry. He was still in pain from his summer beatings, and would much rather have been tucked safely away in his bed up in Gryffindor Tower. The day had also been excruciatingly long while Harry waited for the Headmaster to arrange for Harry's training.

After dinner that evening, Harry had been asked to come to the Headmaster's office. When he arrived there, he had not expected to find the Potions Master there. A wave of guilt washed over him, for all the things the man had endured at the hands of Harry's father and James' friends.

They stared at each other tensely for a moment before Harry offered his hand to the most feared teacher in all of Hogwart's. "I know a simple apology will never be enough, Professor Snape, but I am truly sorry for not only violating your privacy and trust, but for the rather childish, immature behavior of my father and his friends when they attended Hogwart's... no one deserves that, you know," Harry had said before he let his nerve falter.

Snape had eyed him carefully, and it had to have been the longest moment in Harry's entire life. Then, with only a bit of hesitation, the Potions Master gripped Harry's hand in his own and shook it, a sign of his understanding, acceptance, and of a truce between the two.

That was how the rather twinkly-eyed Headmaster had found his 'two favorite boys'.

After that, Snape had become his tutor in nearly everything. He helped Harry finally master Occlumency, along with Legilimency. Snape also taught him Defense, Dark Arts, and, surprisingly, muggle fighting techniques, such as martial arts and fencing.

It was a bright mid-March morning when Voldemort attacked in early 1997. No one had really been expecting an attack on the school... not this soon, at least.

Harry and Snape had been in the midst of a fencing match when the unmistakable searing pain in Harry's scar had flared up. Snape dropped his sword and clutched his left arm as the Dark Mark seared his flesh. Snape had been discovered as a traitor of the previous summer, and had subsequently been basically confined to Hogwart's for the entirety of the year.

Harry felt the determination, the anger, flooding through his veins. Suddenly struck by inspiration, he stalked over to Snape and grasped the man's left arm. He unceremoniously yanked up the sleeve and placed his hand over the Dark Mark. Chanting in Parseltongue, a strange glow enveloped Harry's hand and the place where he held Snape's arm. After a few moments, Harry lifted his hand, and the Dark Mark was gone.

Snape had stared at Harry, who had simply shrugged and said "I just suddenly knew" before turning and stalking out of their training room. Harry proceeded straight out of the school and met with the sight of the army of Death Eaters that had been assembled for the assault. And so, armed only with the Sword of Gryffindor (for Harry hadn't been thinking enough to grab his wand before he left the training room), Harry sought out Voldemort as the battle began around him.

He was vaguely aware that Dumbledore, the Order of the Phoenix, as well as a bunch of Aurors and older students, had spilled from the school and initiated combat with the Death Eaters. Harry quickly found Voldemort, and with a strength he previously didn't know he had, used Legilimency to send images of love and friendship to the Dark Lord. It confused Voldemort, which is exactly what Harry had wanted.

Harry strode forward and plunged the Sword of Gryffindor straight into the heart of Lord Voldemort while simultaneously casting a wandless Soul-Banishing spell he'd accidentally come across when reading one of Salazar Slytherin's journals (written in Parseltongue, of course).

It was over before anyone really knew what was happening. One minute Voldemort and the Death Eaters were attacking the school, the next minute Voldemort was dead at Harry's feet... and Harry was absolutely radiating with power.

It turned out that Harry was a much more powerful wizard than previously thought. Over the years, Voldemort had unknowingly been using a large part of Harry's powers for his own, thereby locking away portions of Harry's talent from Harry. Once Voldemort was killed, the dam that had been holding Harry's powers back had burst.

The battle ended quickly, with relatively few losses on the side of light. Harry was most regretful that Rubeus Hagrid, the gentle groundskeeper and Care of Magical Creatures professor at Hogwart's, had been killed. So had Percy Weasley, but apparently Percy had been under one of those lovely white masks and clothed in Death Eater's robes. And Harry knew for certain that Percy wasn't spying for Dumbledore.

The next few months before school let out for the holidays had been torturous for Harry. At first people were ecstatic that the Dark Lord was gone and they were free to live their lives. Then people started to become slightly afraid of him... after all, he had killed Voldemort, and that made him a very powerful wizard indeed.

Harry didn't dwell on it much, however, and soon enough the school year was over.

When Harry arrived back at his relatives for summer holidays, they had looked at him with sheer terror and horror visible on their faces. Even those stupid Muggles could tell the change of levels in his power aura. They were decent to him... for once. Not that he cared.

All Harry wanted was to try to start leading a normal life. Now that Voldemort was dead, there was no need to wander around the place wearing his ever-cheerful-and-annoyingly-optimistic Gryffindor mask.

A/N: Well, everyone tell Malachi "thank you" for the inspiration to this piece. Mal is my newest muse, and he's utterly obsessed with slash. Hopefully I'll have chapter 1 up sometime tomorrow. Please review, I really appreciate it.