Rita watched with bated breath as Harry worked, you could have heard a pin drop in the silence.
She glanced over her shoulder at the crowd behind her, watching along with the same anticipation she felt.
Everyone knew something important was going to happen today. This was a story they would tell over and over again for the rest of their lives. Where were you when Harry Potter solved Merlin’s cypher?
Rita gave an update on the WWN.
“Harry has just completed the first part of the final cypher, just like the others the central diamond has replaced the sapphires.”
“Now comes the tricky part, he has to add the correct amount of emeralds to the cypher.”
“We still don’t understand the greater meaning behind each cypher, or how Harry knows how many emeralds to add.”
“No one I have interviewed has been able to provide a credible theory.”
“Fortunately, all of that will be covered in the special edition of the Daily Prophet that will print tomorrow where I will have an exclusive interview with Harry Potter.”
Rita watched, one by one as Harry added up the emeralds.
She counted them out as he added them. In the silence everyone could hear her, and it was not long before the rest of the crowd joined her.
“81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90,”
Rita stopped counting as she saw Harry put his hand down, and a hush fell over the crowd.
“This is it!” Rita shouted into the now completely silent room, both for the crowd with her in the museum, and likely the hundreds of thousands watching all over the world.
There was no gong this time, but each of the cyphers flashed on the vault door one by one.
They then heard a rumbling, followed by a series of metallic thuds.
The door to the vault slowly creaked open.
“HE’S DONE IT!!” Rita screamed in excitement, shortly followed by the jubilant reaction of the crowd.
The crowd clapped and cheered for what seemed like forever, before finally dying down as the vault door finally creaked all the way open.
“I can see inside,” Rita announced. “There is a large book sitting on a pedestal. It could be the fabled journal of Merlin himself, a full account of his entire life and what he has learned.”
“I also see what looks to be a broadsword with intricate runes carved into the blade. It has a striking resemblance to the historical accounts of the fabled Excalibur.”
“There is also a chest in the vault, it’s closed so we can only guess what it contains.”
“There is also a large bookcase I can make out, I can’t see any of the titles but it looks like the vault must have also preserved them somehow.”
Harry Potter is making his way towards us now… wait!!
The barrier is still in place. He is still stuck on the other side of the barrier!
“I’m not sure what this means.”
Harry looked at the barrier in confusion, he was so sure this was it. Was there something else to do? He turned to face the vault again, something was calling to him from inside.
He slowly stepped forward, crossing the threshold of the vault when he felt something land in his robes. He reached inside and pulled it out. His back was to the crowd so they couldn’t see what he was holding.
It was a wand, and an ancient one at that, nothing like the one his parents had given him. It practically thrummed with power in his hand.
With it came a feeling of completeness, like something had been missing all his life and it was just now that he realized what it was.
He looked at it for the first time. The pommel was a clear and rounded crystal. The handle fit perfectly into his hand and was made of black obsidian. It shone with an almost glass like finish. From there the dark oak wood it was made from extended out, making the full length 10 inches.
In short, it was practically a work of art that very few wand makers in the world today could match.
In that moment Harry felt it, there was a flash of magic that enveloped him and disappeared just as quickly.
Harry quickly hid the wand in his robes again and turned around. Somehow he knew the barrier would not stop him from leaving this time.
The moment he crossed the threshold of the vault the total silence that he was accustomed to was replaced by a thunderous crowd.
He was momentarily shocked, so much that he didn’t realize Minister Fudge had come forward, introducing himself and vigorously shook his hand congratulating him. It was only after the flash of a camera that it brought him out of his daze.
“Marvelous, simply marvelous Harry!” Fudge beamed. “That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed!”
Madam Bones followed shortly, “Very well done Mr. Potter.”
“umm… Thanks,” Harry replied, momentarily put off by the name he associated with his ‘father,’ and also not used to all the compliments he was receiving.
“Congratulations as well, I’m sure that your family are very proud of you,” Dumbledore said.
Harry recognized the man immediately. He had been to Potter manor often enough due to all the work he did with his parents and sister. He was never allowed to meet him though, often being sent to his room as soon as guests arrived.
Every now and then he kept his bedroom door open just a crack and heard them speaking.
It was usually about Glory, how they were preparing her to meet some important diplomat or head of state. It was one of the few times he could remember that his parents actually attempted to reign Glory in.
“Thank you, Headmaster Dumbledore,” Harry replied.
“We must find sometime to discuss your recent achievement Harry,” The headmaster added in a grandfatherly tone.
“Yes, that would be nice,” Harry replied stiffly. He wasn’t really sure how to react around people that were friends with his parents.
“Hello Harry, my name is Rita Skeeter. I’m with the Daily Prophet, congratulations. Do you have anything you would like to say to witches and wizards listening at home?” Rita asked.
“At home?” Harry asked in confusion.
“Yes,” Rita smiled. “This is being broadcast worldwide through the WWN.”
“… worldwide?” Harry asked in shock.
“Yes,” Rita confirmed. “There are more people listening to this broadcast than any other event in wizarding history.”
Harry was saved from answering as a team of security goblins came through the doors abruptly.
“What is the meaning of this?” Fudge demanded as the Aurors formed ranks between the minister and the goblins.
The Goblins said nothing, and as the seconds ticked by, everyone could feel the tension rising as they wondered what would happen next. Was this the start of another Goblin Rebellion?
Finally, when it looked like the Aurors were about to pull their wands, the door opened again and a very old Goblin stepped through, followed by two other security goblins.
“I am Gringott the 3rd, chairman of Gringotts bank,” the old Goblin declared. “I am here for the one who solved Merlin’s cypher.”
“What are your intentions towards him?” Amelia Bones demanded.
“I am here to fulfill my contract,” Gringott answered.
“What are the terms of your contract?” Fudge asked.
“I am here to give this key to the one that solved Merlin’s cypher,” Gringott explained as held out a plain-looking iron key.
Bones and Fudge looked to each other, trying to decide who would represent them.
There were armed Goblins within the museum, which would normally make it a matter for the head of Magical Law Enforcement. But Gringott was not only the chairman but also a head of state.
“That’s me,” Harry replied, stepping forward before the others could stop him.
“You? A child?” Gringott asked in surprise. “I have no time for games boy.”
“I can confirm that this is Harry Potter, and we are all witnesses to him opening the vault,” Rita said, both for the goblins and everyone else listening from the WWN.
“… Very well child, but be warned. If you are not who you say you are, the consequences will be your own,” Gringott warned as he held out the vault key.
Harry looked at the key, now very aware that every eye in the room was now on him. He didn’t want to be in the spotlight, he never wanted to.
He was far more comfortable just being someone in the background, but that was not a choice he had at the moment.
Harry took a deep breath and stepped forward, taking the key out of the outstretched hand of the chairman.
Nothing happened, there was no flash of light or wave of magic like with the vault. There was just a plain-looking iron key in the palm of his hand.
“Inconceivable,” Gringott said in surprise. “A child of all things,” he said, shaking his head. “… Congratulations then, human,” he said as he turned around. His security goblins fell instep around him as he left.
The wizard and witches gave them a wide berth as they left, wary of the spears they carried.
Harry looked between the key in his hands, the crowd in front of him, and the retreating forms of the goblins. He wondered if they would just let him leave as well.
“Mr. Potter,” Amelia Bones interrupted his thoughts. “We have quite a few questions for you. Would you be comfortable doing that now?”
“I… Do I have to do this here, in front of everyone?” Harry asked.
“No, if you prefer we can have the discussion inside the Ministry, we can also inform your parents if you’d like and they can meet us there,” Amelia offered kindly.
“No, I will talk to them afterwards.” Harry said immediately. The last thing he wanted to do was see his ‘family.’ Knowing them, they would take the vault key from him and force him to give the credit to Glory somehow.
Amelia paused, she had expected that Harry would want to share the news with his family right away. “… I see, well if you come with me we can take you to the Ministry.”
“We can floo directly to my office,” Fudge declared. “There are some documents that we need to review about the vault.”
As a group they made their way to the floo, and before they left Fudge addressed the crowd.
“Ladies and gentlemen, there are some things relating to Merlin’s Vault that we need to discuss with Mr. Potter so we will leave for the Ministry.”
“The museum is closed for the day, so please make your way to the nearest exit calmly. The Aurors stationed inside and outside the museum will remain behind to ensure everyone’s safety,” he said as the group exited through the fireplace.
Harry arrived in the Minister’s office and looked around. There was an ornate desk and chair in the center of the room with a large window behind it.
A large bookshelf dominated one wall, and the adjacent one had the fireplace they came through. Above it, the mantle and wall were adorned with pictures of what Harry assumed were various heads of state and celebrities.
There were also two comfortable looking sofas in front of the desk, with a coffee table separating them.
“Please have a seat Harry,” Cornelius said, gesturing to the sofas.
Harry gratefully sat down and watched as the Minister, Amelia Bones, Rita Skeeter, Albus Dumbledore and the photographer sat around him.
“I hope you don’t mind, but we’ve included Rita Skeeter in this discussion as well. She was in the museum with you when all of this began,” Fudge explained.
“No, that’s fine,” Harry said nervously as he stared at all the surrounding adults. He hoped he wasn’t in trouble.
“She would like to write an article about you and how you were able to solve Merlin’s Cypher,” Fudge explained. “How do you feel about that?” He asked carefully.
Cornelius’s political instincts were telling him that something wasn’t quite right about Harry’s situation and he knew to tread carefully.
“Is that really necessary?” Harry asked. “I was hoping to get some rest, it’s been a very long day.”
“Quite right Harry, my boy,” Dumbledore agreed. “It’s been a long day already, perhaps it would be better if I take you home and we tell your parents about your marvelous achievement.”
This immediately set Harry on edge as he tried to think of a reason to avoid returning to Potter Manor.
“Actually Headmaster Dumbledore,” Rita interrupted. “I think it would be much better if Mr. Potter did the interview now, rather than later. This is the biggest news since… well ever, to be honest. People will be champing at the bit with all kinds of questions for you Harry.”
“The Daily Prophet is prepared to publish a special edition newspaper as early as tomorrow. We can answer those questions in the newspaper, otherwise you will be inundated with owl posts until you address it publicly.”
Harry thought for a moment. He certainly didn’t want to go back to Potter Manor, and he also didn’t like the idea of being harassed by a large number of post owls.
“Alright, I guess we can do an interview,” Harry agreed, to the annoyance of Dumbledore.
“Good,” Fudge agreed. “Now then, we can discuss what solving Merlin’s Cypher means for you Harry,” he said as he went to the bookcase and pulled out an old book.
“This book has been passed down from Minister to Minister for the past 100 years,” he said as he opened the book.
“The Ministry has claimed the contents of the vault as part of British common heritage, so unfortunately you don’t get to keep the contents of the vault Harry,” Fudge explained. “But as the chairman Gringott mentioned there is now a vault in your name.”
“Harry, we can arrange for your parents to manage the vault until you become of age,” Dumbledore stated. “I’m sure they’ll do a fine job of it. Just until you are old enough to manage it yourself.”
Fudge inwardly smiled at Dumbledore’s blunder. He noticed the way Harry acted when the Potter family was so much as mentioned around him. There was something there, something he could work with.
Harry Potter was going to become a powerful and influential figure in the wizarding world, it was all but guaranteed as soon as he solved the cypher.
Getting him onside now would be an enormous boost to his plans, and he had just the thing for it.
“Actually Albus, the rules are not quite clear on this,” Fudge said. “The one to solve the cypher is the owner of the vault.” That is the rule, exactly as it is written.
My predecessor may have assumed it would be an adult that solved the cypher because it does not specify what to do in the case of a minor. Added to that, when this was written there were no age restrictions in place either.
The current laws on the books state that to be the owner of a Gringotts vault you must be a legal adult.
“Well, there you have it,” Dumbledore replied. “Harry is not a legal adult therefore his parents must be put in charge of the vault.”
“That is one interpretation,” Fudge conceded.
“However, the other way we can interpret this is that when the rules were written, no age restriction was in place, effectively grandfathering it in.”
“The way I see it, there are two options for you, Harry.”
As Albus pointed out you can allow your parents to manage your finances until you are of legal age, that will align with the current laws.
“The other way we can interpret this is that by virtue of you having the vault in the first place you are in effect an adult, and that was the original intent of the author. As you are the one affected by this, I leave the decision to you.”
“What would it mean legally if I’m an adult?” Harry asked.
“You would be responsible for your own wellbeing, and have every right, privilege, and responsibility that entails,” Fudge answered.
“This also means that if you commit a crime, you will also be treated as an adult in the eyes of the law.” Amelia warned.
Harry knew it was a risk, but there was no other choice, really. If his ‘family’ got a hold of him, or through him the vault he didn’t know what they would do, just that it would be very bad for him.
“Come now Harry, be reasonable. This is far too much responsibility for someone your age,” Dumbledore tried to convince him. “You should enjoy your childhood, these are adult matters.”
“He solved the cypher, when no one else in the world could,” Fudge rebutted. “The greatest minds in the world, including you, failed. I think that gives him the right to make the choice for himself.”
“I want to be emancipated,” Harry said firmly.
“Then it’s settled,” Fudge smiled. “Harry Potter, you are now a legal adult as witnessed by the Minister of Magic, Supreme Mugwump, and Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” Fudge declared.
“Now, I think it’s time you explain how you did it. How did you solve the cypher?” Fudge asked.
Harry took a breath, collecting himself as he thought about what to reveal.
“Yesterday I read the newspaper, about the attempts the Americans made, and how they solved the first cypher. The answer was fire as we know, but the second cypher was far more complex than the first.
When I read the description of the second cypher in the Prophet, it gave me an idea. It was just a guess. I didn’t expect it to really work, I just thought it was worth a try.
I thought about what fire represented. What would Merlin have associated with fire with, and it made sense.
“Destruction,” Amelia guessed.
“Yes, I thought about that as well,” Harry agreed. “But Merlin was a powerful wizard, he didn’t need fire to destroy anything, we could even argue fire was the least destructive of his abilities.”
“Life,” Rita said. “Fire is born after all.”
“Yes, that also makes,” Harry agreed. “Fire represents a lot of things, but in the beginning it meant one thing. Power.
“With fire you can cook food, survive winter, it gives you power over everyone that hasn’t mastered it.”
“How did that help you solve the next cypher?” Rita asked.
“It was the key to understanding what I was seeing in the next cypher,” Harry explained. “They both were a representation of power.”
“So what was the next cypher, what did it mean?” Amelia asked, drawn into the explanation.
“Do any of you know what an atom is?” Harry asked, seemingly going off topic.
At the blank looks of everyone present Harry explained. “An atom is in essence the smallest possible quantity that can exist of anything. It is also what everything in the universe is made of. Each cypher represents an atom when they are solved.”
The sapphires represent things called protons and neutrons, when they are grouped together they form the nucleus or heart of the atom. That’s why the sapphires turned into a large diamond.
“The emeralds represent the electrons. They can move around the nucleus. When you look at it all together, it is the representation of a single atom of iron.” Harry explained.
“Why have we never seen anything like this before?” Fudge wondered.
“Atoms are so small that we can’t see them with our eyes, muggles developed something called a microscope that allows them to see them. Think of it like a pair of glasses but thousands of times more powerful.”
The adults nodded, following along with Harry’s explanation.
“Iron was the next representation of power in the world. It was used to make cooking implements, better tools, and weapons.”
“Fascinating,” Dumbledore said. “These atoms, you mentioned, how long have the muggles known about them?”
“I learned about them in a muggle science book,” Harry answered. “They’ve known about them since the 1700s.”
“So it seems Merlin knew of these atoms well before the muggles even knew of them,” Dumbledore mused. “I wonder why he never shared this discovery?”
“Atoms themselves contain an incredible amount of power as well, he may have thought we were not ready to know about them yet,” Harry explained.
“If they are as small as you say, how powerful could they be?” Fudge asked.
“The muggles could create something called an atomic bomb. It split an atom and released all the energy at once. The effects were so terrible even now they are afraid of what will happen if they set another one off.” Harry explained.
The room fell silent as the adults thought of the implications.
“Rita, when you write your article you will write nothing about turning these atoms into weapons,” Fudge ordered.
Even Dumbledore found himself nodding along with what Fudge was saying, he even vowed to himself to exclude it from any meeting with the ICW as well.
“The third element was gold,” Harry continued. “It was the next representation of power. This allowed us to trade, develop currency, and amass wealth.”
Fudge nodded along with Harry’s explanation. Most of it went over his head.
He understood why these atoms were important when Harry explained it, but he knew he would not have understood it on his own.
“The fourth element was when things changed again. It wasn’t what represented power in the past anymore. It was what represented power in the present.
It’s something the muggles call lithium. They use it to store electrical energy and the mass production of goods like heat resistant glass.
We also use it as the main element of certain potions like the calming potion and the drought of peace.
The next element is called silicon, as far as i know it’s used by the muggles, not us.” Harry explained. They use it to make electronics, circuit boards, even to store the energy produced by the sun.
The last element is when things change again. It is likely the representation of power for the future, something called Thorium.
I don’t know exactly what its use is, but based on the density of the atom it stores a large amount of energy,” Harry finished his explanation.
“What do you think it all means?” Rita asked. “Why would Merlin use power as the key to solving his cypher?”
“I don’t know,” Harry replied honestly. “I can only guess, maybe the vault contains something that wizard kind weren’t ready for in Merlin’s time, or maybe we hadn’t matured enough to use safely.”
“Perhaps Harry,” Fudge agreed. “Maybe when the Unspeakables examine the library, they will find more answers.”
“If that’s everything, I would like to go now,” Harry said. “It’s been a long day and I would really like to get some rest.”
“Of course my boy,” Albus said. “I was going to speak to your parents, anyway. I will escort you back.”
“Thank you for the offer Headmaster Dumbledore,” Harry replied. “But I will make my own arrangements,” Harry replied.
Now that he was a legal adult Harry wasn’t at the mercy of the adults anymore. He didn’t have to do what he was told anymore.
“I will also be off,” Amelia Bones said. “There are still quite a few international visitors in Britain and we are still on high alert,” Amelia said as she left through the floo.
“Well, there you have it Albus, there are quite a few things I have to do myself, and Harry should have no problem finding his way home.” Cornelius said as he noticed Albus was about to make another attempt to persuade Harry. “Feel free to use my Floo,”
Albus looked between Cornelius and Harry. He realized now that he had somehow miscalculated. Harry should have been more than willing to go home and tell his parents of his achievements.
“Very well, I shall look forward to speaking with you at another time,” Albus said as he accepted the dismissal and left through the floo.
Rita made similar excuses, leaving to write what she knew would likely be the most important story of her life.
“Harry,” Cornelius said as he turned to speak with Harry now that they were alone. “From now on, for better or for worse you are a public figure. People will look upon you to set an example and they will also watch for you to fail, and they can be very harsh in that judgment,” he advised.
“There will be many people that will come to you offering to help, telling you they know what’s best for you. Please be careful. You wield a lot of power and influence now, and there will be those that try to use you for their own gains.”
The way the Minister spoke to him momentarily surprised Harry, it was not like his family did. He treated him like an equal. He didn’t make his decisions for him. “Thank you, Minister.”
“You’re welcome Harry,” Cornelius smiled, “and please take this,” he said, handing him his cloak. “You’re quite possibly the most famous wizard in the world now. This should make it a little more difficult for your fans to find you.”
“Fans?” Harry asked in surprise as he started to think through the implications of what he had done.