“So let me get this straight,” said Kevin, once Harry had finished talking. “This guy, Voldemort-” He was interrupted by a squeak from Harry’s friend Ron. “Sorry… I mean, You-Know-Who?”
“Voldemort,” Harry repeated firmly, glaring at his friend. “There’s no reason to fear him or his name anymore. Voldemort’s dead.”
“Yeah, so, anyway… this Voldemort guy, he tried to kill you as a baby? Because of some prophecy?” Watching his cousin’s caterpillar eyebrows wriggle on his forehead, Brian suppressed a smirk. It was so like Kevin to want to go over every detail of the story Harry had just told, just to make sure he’d understood it correctly.
“And his curse backfired, so he disappeared… but then he came back?”
“People thought he had died, but he was never really gone. See, he was afraid of death, so he split his soul into seven pieces and hid them inside different objects, called Horcruxes. As long as part of his soul was alive inside a Horcrux, he couldn’t be killed. The curse that rebounded only killed his body, not his soul, so for thirteen years, he existed as a bodiless soul. He could possess other creatures, temporarily, and try to get them to do his bidding, but he couldn’t be restored to full power without his body.”
“So that’s where his servant comes in? The one who used to be a rat?”
Harry nodded again. “Wormtail. He nursed Voldemort back to health and performed the spell that restored his body.”
“Using your blood.”
Another nod. “My blood, which contained the magical protection my mother’s sacrifice gave me.”
“So when Voldemort tried to kill you again, it still didn’t work.”
“Right. All he ended up doing was killing another bit of his own soul, which had existed inside me ever since the night he killed my parents. Turns out, I was one of the Horcruxes all along.”
“Seriously freaky,” said Nick.
“So then,” Kevin continued, “after you destroyed all of the Horcruxes, you were able to kill Voldemort.”
“Killed the same way he lost his body the first time,” Ron interjected with a gleeful grin. “His own Killing Curse rebounded when he tried to take out Harry.”
“And this all happened a year ago?”
Last May… Brian had undergone heart surgery last May. And, all of a sudden, the memory came back to him. The strangely-dressed people he’d seen on the streets of Orlando. The news reports of rampant owl sightings he’d watched from his hospital room in Rochester. Suddenly, it all seemed to make sense. “Kevin!” he cried. “Those people we saw, the day you drove me to the airport before my surgery… those people in cloaks!”
Kevin’s brow furrowed again, casting shadows over his eyes. Then Brian saw his eyes light up. “Oh yeah!” he said, pointing at Brian and nodding vigorously. “I remember… one of them even hugged me!”
“Sounds like wizards,” agreed Ron.
“Sounds like Dedalus Diggle,” muttered Harry under his breath. Brian supposed this was an inside joke, since the name meant nothing to him.
“He even said something about ‘You-Know-Who’ being gone at last,” Kevin went on. “It meant nothing to me at the time, but now I understand what he was celebrating.”
“Our whole world was celebrating that day,” said the bushy brown-haired girl. “Imagine how the Muggles felt at the end of World War II, after Hitler fell. Voldemort was our Hitler.”
“Who’s Hitler?” asked Ron, his long nose crinkling in confusion.
“Who’s Hitler?” Nick repeated incredulously, his blue eyes widening. “Even I know that!”
“Forgive Ron; he’s a pureblood who refused to take Muggle Studies. He doesn’t know anything about Muggle culture or history,” said the girl snippily, rolling her eyes. “I, on the other hand, am Muggle-born and attended the finest Muggle schools until I was eleven, at which point I started my wizarding education at Hogwarts… but I still took Muggle Studies! Hermione Granger,” she added as an afterthought, extending her hand to Nick.
She spoke so fast that it was difficult for Brian to catch everything she’d said, but when he saw Nick shaking her hand, he took the last part to be her name. A full round of introductions followed, and Brian learned that the other two girls were named Ginny and Luna.
“I quite enjoyed your show,” said the blonde, Luna, looking around at each of the five Backstreet Boys before her big, blue eyes locked on AJ. “I’ve never been to a real concert before. Being a part of that big crowd made me feel almost cool.”
Brian couldn’t help but notice the way AJ was looking back at her, his eyes moving up and down her body. Uh-oh, he thought.
“Well, thanks,” said AJ, smiling at her, “but what on earth would make you think you aren’t cool to begin with? Only a cool chick would wear a necklace like that. Did you make it yourself?”
“Why, yes, I did,” replied Luna, fingering her long chain of what appeared to be wine corks, which bounced against the Backstreet Boys’ faces on her oversized t-shirt. She beamed at AJ. “I could make you one, too, if you’d like.”
“I’d love that,” he said, nodding.
Kevin cleared his throat loudly. “Excuse me. Not to interrupt this little love fest, but can we get back to business here? I still want to know who did this and why.”
“Yeah, me too,” Brian agreed, massaging his neck, which was still sore. He felt sick just thinking about what it had been like to lose control of his own body, to feel himself spinning on his wire without making it happen, as if he were a puppet, being manipulated by invisible hands. It was unlike anything he had ever experienced before. Although he’d always had a fear of heights, he had never been more terrified, not even before his heart surgery. He wanted to make sure it would never happen again.
“I can tell you who did it. Those people in cloaks and hoods who were out there casting curses… they were Death Eaters. Followers of Voldemort,” Harry explained.
“Think of them like Hitler’s Nazis,” interjected AJ, borrowing Hermione’s analogy.
“As far as why they did it,” Harry continued, “I don’t know. Boredom, maybe. They used to bait Muggles like this back in the days before Voldemort regained his body and rose back to power. A similar incident took place at the Quidditch World Cup in ’94.”
“Quidditch World Cup?” asked Brian, struggling to keep up with the conversation. “What’s that, some kind of sporting event?”
“Exactly,” said Harry. “The Death Eaters tortured a Muggle family there, just for the fun of it. But less than a year later, Voldemort was back.”
“But he couldn’t come back this time,” Nick argued. “I mean, you said he’s dead, right?”
“Right,” Harry agreed, but the troubled expression on his face told Brian he wasn’t taking this lightly. He, too, wanted answers. Looking at AJ, Harry suddenly asked, “You said you got a letter? A warning?”
“What exactly did it say? Do you still have it?”
He nodded again. “It’s on our tour bus.”
“Mind if I take a look?” Harry asked.
“No problem. Follow me.”
Kevin cleared his throat. “Um, AJ?” he said, as AJ started to lead Harry and the others backstage. “We were just attacked out there. Shouldn’t we wait for security to take us to the bus?”
AJ looked around at Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Luna. “We’ve got five full-grown wizards and witches with us – six, if you count me. Don’t worry, bro. We’re good.”
Kevin didn’t argue, but Brian could tell by the look on his face that he still felt uneasy. Privately, he agreed with his cousin, but he felt he had no choice but to follow the others as they walked through the backstage area and went out a side exit to the parking bay where their tour bus sat, seemingly untouched. Brian massaged his sore neck again as he and the others climbed aboard.
On the Backstreet Boys’ tour bus, AJ retrieved the letter from his bunk and handed it to Harry without a word. Unfolding the piece of parchment, Harry frowned as he studied the letter. It was short and direct, yet deliberately vague.
I am writing to warn you of a plot to terrorize you and your bandmates and/or fans at your concert tomorrow evening in London. It would be most wise to cancel the concert, but I suspect you won’t follow my suggestion. Therefore, I implore you to stay on high alert if, in fact, you should choose to proceed with the show. However, do nothing to draw unwanted attention to yourself.
I wish you no harm and hope only for your continued survival.
There was no signature. Harry didn’t recognize the flowery handwriting, but the emerald green ink made him suspicious. Green was the color of Slytherin House, of which Voldemort and every other Dark wizard schooled at Hogwarts had been a member. It was also the color of the Killing Curse. When he closed his eyes, he could still see the green jet of light colliding with the red flash of his disarming spell. He could feel his wand trembling in his fingers as he struggled to hold on. He could hear Voldemort’s high, cold laugh rising above the laughter of his followers as they mocked Harry, believing him foolish and weak, still a boy, unwilling to kill.
He opened his eyes and looked up. AJ and the others were staring at him, waiting for him to say something. Harry cleared his throat self-consciously. “Do you have any idea who sent this?” he asked, holding up the letter.
AJ shook his head. “No idea. I figured it was from a fan – who’s also a witch, obviously.”
“And a former Death Eater, I suspect,” said Harry.
“Really?” AJ raised his eyebrows. “Do you know who sent it?”
“No,” said Harry, his head full of possibilities. “But I reckon I can find out.”