The whole stage shook. Fearing it would cave in on top of them, Kevin threw himself to the floor and covered his head with his hands. “Get down!” he ordered the others, and they fell to the ground beside him, but as soon as the shaking stopped, Kevin was up on his feet again, looking around in a panic. “Brian and AJ are still out there!” he told whoever would listen. “Someone needs to go get them!”
But before any of their bodyguards could climb back up onto the stage, AJ and Brian jumped down through the hole in its center to the platform below.
“Oh, thank God!” was Kevin’s first reaction, as he rushed over to pull his cousin into a hug. Holding Brian by the shoulders, he looked him up and down. “Are you alright?”
“Just a little shaky,” said Brian, with a nervous laugh. He rubbed the back of his neck. “I think I mighta got some whiplash from all that spinnin’ around.”
“So you weren’t doing it on purpose?” asked Nick. Howie was already shaking his head before Brian could. They all knew Brian hadn’t made himself spin that way, just as they knew that fan hadn’t sprouted wings and taken flight. As for AJ and the flying surfboard…
Kevin rounded on AJ. “You wanna explain what the hell happened out there?”
AJ shook his head. “I have no idea what that was. Someone was messing with us, man.”
Kevin narrowed his eyes at AJ, fixing him with a piercing stare. If there was one thing he hated, it was when people played dumb. “Someone? You mean someone who can make people fly? Someone who can make things fly? Someone like… you?”
He never took his eyes off AJ, but he could sense the others staring, too, waiting to see how AJ would respond. When AJ offered no explanation, Kevin was outraged. “Who the hell are you?!” he shouted, sending flecks of spit flying into AJ’s face. “What are you?”
AJ fidgeted with his hands, refusing to look him in the eye. “I… I’m…” he stammered.
“SPIT IT OUT, AJ!”
“He’s a wizard.”
There was silence beneath the stage. In shock, everyone looked around for the source of the unfamiliar voice. Standing in the center of the lowered platform was a skinny boy, no older than Nick, with untidy black hair and brilliant green eyes that were magnified by round glasses.
“He’s a what?” gasped Kevin.
“A wizard, dawg,” said AJ, finding his voice at last. “And a fuckin’ good one, too… though maybe not as good as him.” He jerked a thumb casually toward the black-haired boy.
Kevin’s eyes darted between them. There were so many questions he wanted to ask, but the words got lost on the way to his mouth, and all he said instead was, “Who is he?”
AJ chuckled. “He’s Harry Potter… aren’t you?”
The boy smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, I am.”
“I knew it!” shouted AJ triumphantly. “I saw your scar.”
Kevin noticed the boy raise his hand self-consciously to a spot on his forehead. When he lowered it again, Kevin could just make out a thin, jagged scar that was shaped like a lightning bolt. It was definitely a remarkable feature. But what it meant, what any of this meant, Kevin had no idea. He was still trying to wrap his head around what AJ had said. A wizard?! Surely, such a thing didn’t exist in the real world. But then, what else could explain what he’d witnessed in the arena that night?
More questions exploded inside Kevin’s head like fireworks, and he couldn’t decide which to ask first. Howie saved him the trouble by asking, “What happened to the girl? The one in the air?”
“She’s fine. She’s having her memory modified as we speak,” said the boy called Harry Potter. “Don’t worry, she won’t remember a thing.” Turning to speak directly to AJ, he added in a low voice, “I sent a Patronus to my supervisor at the Ministry. He’s ordered a team of Aurors to try and track down the Death Eaters who did this, but I doubt they’ll have much luck, since they Disapparated as soon as the Dark Mark was cast.”
“So it really was You-Know-Who’s old buddies behind this?” asked AJ. “What, they don’t have anything better to do now that their leader’s gone?”
“Exactly,” said Harry at once. Kevin was having a much harder time following the conversation, and Brian, Howie, and Nick looked just as confused. “Muggle-baiting was their favorite hobby before Voldemort came back, so now that he’s gone for good, it makes sense that they’ve taken it up again. There’ve been several other incidents in Britain recently, and the Ministry heard a rumor that they might turn up here tonight. That’s why we came.”
“And here I thought you were just a closet BSB fan all along,” laughed AJ. “Just kidding. Yeah, I heard about the threat; someone sent me an owl to warn me.”
“So that’s what was in that letter!” Nick exploded, thrusting his finger at AJ. “An owl delivers a warning that someone might try to attack us and our fans at our own show, and you don’t think you should tell us?! Not cool, dude. Not cool.”
AJ snorted. “Like you would have believed me. You would have thought I was trying to one-up your little hand-in-warm-water trick – which, by the way, there’s a spell for. Urina relashio!” He waved what Kevin realized was a magic wand around in the air and pointed it at Nick. Almost immediately, a wet spot saturated the crotch of Nick’s pants.
Clenching his thighs together, Nick looked down at himself in horror, then back up at AJ. “What the fuck, dude?!”
“Heh, sorry, bro, couldn’t help messin’ with you a little.” AJ snickered. “Here, I’ll take care of it.” He flicked his wand casually at Nick a second time and muttered, “Scourgify!” Kevin watched in amazement as soap bubbles foamed up out of the wet stain on Nick’s pants, which quickly began to dry. In a matter of seconds, it was impossible to tell Nick had ever wet himself.
“Whoa!” shouted Brian, pointing at Nick’s crotch in disbelief. “So you can just go around making folks pee their pants with that thing?”
AJ laughed, spinning the wand between his fingers like a baton. “Oh, I can do a hell of a lot more than that, my friend.”
He started to raise the wand again, but Harry stepped into his path. “Hey, watch it with the showing off,” Kevin heard Harry warn him in an undertone. “Statute of Secrecy, remember? It’s bad enough they had to see you do magic, but we don’t want them blowing our cover before the Obliviators come to modify their memories.”
Kevin felt himself frowning deeply, as the meaning of this warning slowly sunk in. Before he could stop himself, he asked in a loud voice, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ‘MODIFY OUR MEMORIES’?”
His words seemed to echo through the cavernous underbelly of the stage. A stunned silence followed, as everyone turned to stare.
Oh, lovely, thought Harry, realizing his mistake in allowing himself to be overheard. In a matter of minutes, all of the Muggles would forget what he’d said, as well as what they’d seen, but until then, it made for a rather awkward situation.
The wizard popstar, AJ, turned to his bushy-browed bandmate, his expression apologetic. “Kevin…”
“You mean make us forget what really happened here tonight, don’t you?” Kevin accused, glaring at AJ. “Whatever this was, whatever you are, you want to keep it a secret, like you’ve always kept it from us!”
“It’s not like that, bro,” AJ pleaded. “If I could’ve told you, I would have, but…” Then he paused, trailing off, and turned to look at Harry. “But… the families of Muggle-borns are exempt from the Statute, aren’t they? I mean, those Muggles who raised you… they knew you were a wizard, didn’t they?”
Harry raised his eyebrows, remembering how hard the Dursleys had tried to deny it, how they’d sworn to put a stop to it, to “stamp it out of him,” as Uncle Vernon once put it. “Yes, but-”
“But what? These guys-” AJ made a sweeping gesture that included all four Backstreet Boys. “-are my family. My brothers. Maybe not by blood, but what does that matter?”
What does blood matter? Harry had posed this same question in response to the Wizarding obsession with “pure” blood. He had witnessed his friends being persecuted for not being pure: Hermione, for being Muggle-born; Hagrid, for being half-giant; Lupin, for being a werewolf. Harry, who’d grown up hating the Muggle relatives who had raised him, understood how very little blood mattered. Aunt Petunia and Dudley may have been his blood, but they weren’t his family. He’d found his true family at Hogwarts.
With that in mind, it didn’t take Harry long to consider AJ’s question. “You’re right,” he admitted. “It doesn’t.”
“They have a right to know,” AJ added.
“Of course,” said Harry, “if that’s what you want.”
AJ nodded. “I think it’s time.”
“What about the others?” Harry gestured to the crowd of people who had gathered around them – security guards and back-up dancers, stylists and stagehands. Did he mean to break the Statute for all of them?
AJ shook his head just a fraction of a centimeter, enough for Harry to get the message even without Legilimency. No, the message said. Not all of them.
Harry understood. “I’ll let the Obliviators know,” he replied, and went back up top, where Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were helping the Ministry officials round up all the panicked Muggles to have their memories modified. “Someone needs to go and fetch all of the crew from underneath the stage,” Harry told Hermione. “They’re all to have their memories wiped… except for the Backstreet Boys.”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “You mean they knew all along? They knew he was one of us?”
Harry’s only reply was, “They know now.”
It was eerily quiet in the Backstreet Boys’ dressing room. All of their roadies, their dancers, and their bodyguards had been escorted to another part of the venue, so the authorities could “take their statements.” Kevin now understood this to mean “erase their memories.” The idea sickened him, but he knew better than to say so out loud. His own memory had been spared, and for that, he was grateful.
He didn’t want to push his luck, but there was so much more on his mind, so many things he wanted to say, so many questions to which he wanted answers. He thought he might burst if he didn’t break the silence soon. Finally, he said, “So what’s the deal, AJ? You decided to let us keep our memories of tonight – thanks, by the way – but would you mind filling us in on what the hell happened here?”
From the way Nick, Brian, and Howie all nodded, he could tell they’d been wanting to ask the same thing.
AJ surveyed them through his half-lowered sunglasses. “Yeah, I guess it’s time,” he said, “for me to tell you what I should have told you guys six years ago. Sit down, alright? I’m gonna tell you everything.”