Minister Fudge, Madam Bones, and Rita Skeeter stood, just at the edge of the barrier, staring intently at the boy.
A team of ten Aurors, behind them, but facing the crowd of hundreds of witches and wizards. All of them were staring intently as the boy worked.
Just like before, the boy moved the sapphires to the center of the vault door, one by one and alternating between red and blue.
“Does anyone know who the boy is?” Amelia asked.
“Maybe,” Rita said as she thought about it for a moment. “I didn’t speak to him, but he was standing behind a family of redheads, they may know.”
“Where are they?” Fudge demanded.
“Over there,” Rita said as she pointed them out. “They were the ones that tried before him.”
“Aurors bring them here,” Fudge ordered.
“Hello sir,” the father greeted from behind the Auror’s.
“Please identify yourself,” Madam Bones ordered.
“Arthur Weasley, I work in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office, and this is my family.” Arthur explained.
“Alright Aurors let him through,” Fudge ordered.
“That boy, he was standing behind you in line. Did any of you talk to him? Do you know who he is?” Fudge asked, taking charge.
“I don’t,” Arthur admitted. “But my children did briefly. Children please, tell the minister everything you know. This is very important.”
The second youngest Ron, stepped forward. “Yeah, I talked to him a bit, seemed like a good bloke. He said his name was Harry.”
“Did he say a last name?” Amelia Bones asked.
“No,” Ron said, shaking his head. “He didn’t really say much else, figured he was just nervous. Do you think he could do it though?” He asked excitedly.
Almost in answer to his question there was another flash of light.
The boy, Harry had amassed all the sapphires together, and just like before the sapphires were replaced with a large diamond.
“Do you know what the pattern is? Why did he arrange the gems the way he did?” Rita asked.
The redhead Ron, was pretty quick with the first cypher and Rita hoped he could offer some more insight into what was going on.
“Not really,” Ron admitted. “I know the first cypher is fire because of what the Americans figured out. This next one must relate to it somehow.”
Rita nodded, agreeing with the boy. “The child, Harry, understood what the cypher was, I could tell just by watching him. If anyone can figure this out, it will probably be him.”
“A first name isn’t much to go on though,” Amelia Bones added. “We need to find out as much as we can about him, this is now a matter of national security.”
“Wait, he said one more thing,” Ron remembered. “He said he was starting Hogwarts this year.”
“…Starting Hogwarts?” Fudge said astounded. “He was able to do all this with no formal instruction?”
“That’s actually an enormous benefit for us,” Amelia realized. “The Hogwarts book of record will have his full name, we can call Dumbledore and find out who he is.”
Fudge’s thoughts soured as he realized the implications of involving Dumbledore.
He wasn’t just the headmaster of Hogwarts, but also the Supreme Mugwump, a skilled politician that knew how to get every drop of political capital out of any situation. At the very least, he would insist on coming to the museum himself.
Bringing in Dumbledore was a double-edged sword, however.
He would most definitely take some of the credit for how the situation was handled thus far, but also if things went pear-shaped he would also be made to bear some of the responsibility as well.
At this point though, they needed information desperately. There were too many questions, too many unknowns.
The ministry needed a clear response to what was happening. He needed to be seen doing something instead of just standing here, watching as a child took all the glory for himself.
“Alright call Dumbledore, he’s likely going to demand to come here in person,” Fudge instructed. “Make sure it’s only him, the last thing we want is the full Wizengamot here as well.”
“How am I supposed to do that?” Amelia asked.
“Remind him that this is a potentially dangerous situation that could escalate quickly.”
“The ministry’s priority will be to resolve the situation, and will not be providing security of any kind to any single individual, only the wizarding population as a whole.”
“As you say minister,” Amelia said as she made her way to the fireplace.
Fudge inwardly grinned. If Dumbledore was dumb enough to bring anyone else to the museum, just the idea of them being in danger would cost him a lot of political capital.
Rita never took her eyes off of Harry. ‘It was 158 sapphires this time, and so far 54 emeralds and counting.’
A few moments later the headmaster of Hogwarts appeared, thankfully with no one else.
“Dumbledore,” Fudge demanded. “We need to know the last name of that boy, we believe he will start Hogwarts this year.”
“Simply astounding,” Albus said, ignoring Fudge for the moment. “I never thought that the cypher would be solved, not in my lifetime at least.”
“Dumbledore, we have the real possibility of a riot on our hands. I need to know the name of that boy,” Fudge repeated.
“Yes, of course, quite right,” Dumbledore agreed. “What information do you have about him?” He asked as he opened the Hogwarts book of record.
“Only that he is starting Hogwarts this year and his first name is Harry,” Fudge answered.
Dumbledore’s eyes snapped up, not even looking at the book anymore. “Did you say Harry?” He asked in surprise.
“Yes, one of the children spoke to him. He said that was his name,” Fudge repeated impatiently. “Now who is it?”
“There is only one boy named Harry enrolled in Hogwarts this year. Harry Potter, the brother of the-girl-who-lived Gloria Potter,” Dumbledore finally answered.
“Harry… Potter,” Fudge repeated, now just as shocked as Dumbledore.
Rita grinned inwardly. This story kept getting better and better with each passing moment. This was the kind of story that reporters would kill for, and she was the only one in the entire world that was seeing it happen.
Rita was interrupted from her thoughts when she saw Madam Bones actually running towards them.
“Minister Fudge, Supreme Mugwump, we have a major problem,” Amelia shouted.
“What is it now?” Fudge asked, afraid of what could possibly be next.
“I just received an update. We are detecting numerous port keys and apparitions into London.”
“The Aurors are at their absolute limit, if we don’t do something soon they won’t be able to keep control of the crowd,” Amelia reported.
“I’m going to order all port keys into the United Kingdom to be revoked,” Fudge said decisively.
“That won’t stop the apparitions,” Amelia reminded him. “They will just portkey to France or Ireland and then apparate from there.”
“I will speak to the ICW, and to be on the safe side we will make sure portkeys to France, Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands are revoked as well.”
“That’s still a lot of wizards and witches that can potentially apparate here,” Amelia added.
“Look,” Rita interrupted all of them, pointing at Harry.
As one they all looked to the vault, Harry had stopped working, a moment later they heard the unmistakable gong, followed by the deafening cheer of the crowd.
Harry had solved another cypher.
“158 sapphires, 118 emeralds. That’s the third cipher. Harry solved it. Even if he stopped now… he earned himself a place in the history books,” Rita said in awe.
A new cypher appeared, this time it seemed less complex, but Rita noticed there was an unequal amount of sapphires this time, 3 blue and 4 red this time.
“Miss Skeeter, there is someone on the floo for you, they say it’s urgent,” one of the Auror’s said.
“Who is it?” Rita demanded. The last thing she wanted was to miss the next cypher.
“It’s Barnabus Cuffe,” the Auror’s replied.
Rita sighed, she couldn’t ignore the editor, at least if she wanted to keep her job.
She briskly walked over to the fireplace. “What is it Mr. Cuffe?”
“Rita, good you’re near the vault, I’ve been on the floo with the Wizarding Wireless Network since this whole thing kicked off.”
“The ministry won’t let anyone else into the museum, no matter what favors they call in,” Cuffe laughed.
“Old man Lazenby is desperate, willing to pay a lot of money just to get this broadcast. He wants to send in the equipment and have you and Bozo broadcast for him. This could be the biggest payday of your career, 7,000 galleons for one night of work.”
“You just have to give live updates on what’s happening, and a summary of what’s happened so far.”
“7,000 Galleons?” Rita asked in shock. That was almost as much money as she made in a year.
Then a thought entered her mind, “and how much would I get if I got you an exclusive interview with the child?” Rita asked.
“If you can do that,” Cuffe said, “I’ll match what Lazenby is willing to pay you.”
“You know it’s worth a lot more than that,” Rita smiled. “This isn’t just a play-by-play WWN broadcast, this is an In Depth interview with the person who’s going to solve Merlin’s Cypher. It’s international news, no one is going to wait for their local newspaper to reprint this.”
Cuffe’s expression was unreadable, after a long moment he said, “final offer, 5% of the gross profit, take it or leave it.”
“Deal,” Rita said with a predatory smile. “Send me the equipment, I’ll work out the rest of the details with Fudge.”
Rita quickly rushed back to the front. Looking at the vault to see Harry’s progress.
The large Diamond had replaced the red and blue sapphires, and Harry was placing the emeralds.
The gong sounded again, Harry had solved another cypher. If it was even possible, the crowd was cheering even louder than before.
The Auror’s at this point had given up all pretence of controlling the crowd and formed up into a wall to protect the Minster.
“Minister Fudge, I have a proposal for you,” Rita offered.
“Unless it has something to do with containing the crown inside and outside the museum, it will have to wait,” Fudge said impatiently.
“That’s exactly what I had in mind,” Rita smiled.
“Alright, you have my attention Ms. Skeeter,” Fudge answered, turning away from the next cypher Harry was working on.
“Give me permission to broadcast what’s happening on the WWN,” Rita asked.
“How does that help resolve the situation?” Fudge demanded. “It seems to me it’s only going to line your own pockets.”
“Everyone in the wizarding world is practically starved for news on what’s happening. That’s why so many witches and wizards are flooding into Britain. The WWN will broadcast this worldwide. They won’t need to come here to find out what’s going on, they just need to be near a wireless,” Rita explained.
Fudge wasn’t a fool, he knew what was going on, and this could be a boon to him if he played this just right.If he could control the narrative he could ride the wave of support to landslide victory in the next election.
“Alright, but I have some conditions,” Fudge finally replied.
“The ministry, and my leadership specifically during this event will be highlighted and praised in your broadcast. You will encourage any foreign witches and wizards to leave the UK immediately for their safety. And finally, you will write an article for me at a time of my choosing that will also portray me in a positive light.”
Rita was surprised by how astute Fudge showed himself to be. He really was a political animal. He knew what was going on, and was positioning himself to come out of this as a hero as well.
“Agreed, but I have a condition as well. You guarantee I am the first one to interview Harry Potter,” Rita demanded.
“I think we have an agreement Ms. Skeeter,” Fudge smiled.
“Bozo, take this. You’re going to record me for a special WWN Broadcast,” Rita ordered.
“Witches and Wizards in the UK and around the world my name is Rita Skeeter and I am broadcasting to you live from inside the British Museum.”
As many of you have heard by now, there is a rumor that there is a child inside the museum that has solved the next cypher for Merlin’s vault.
I am here to confirm that this is no rumor. We have identified the child as Harry Potter, soon to be first-year student of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
He has already solved four of the cyphers and is currently working on the second to last cypher now.
The Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge is also here and implores the wizarding public to return to their homes.
This broadcast will continue live until its conclusion. The primary concern of the ministry is the safety of its subjects.
Minister Fudge personally authorized this broadcast to keep you, the wizarding public up to date on what is happening inside the museum.
Cornelius turned away from Rita as she summarized the cyphers that Harry had solved so far.
“Minister,” Amelia said as she returned. “The floo network has been shut down in a 25 km radius around the museum and we have revoked all international port keys into Britain.”
“What is Rita Skeeter doing?” She asked.
“It’s alright, I’ve allowed it. With any luck, some witches and wizards will go home to find out what’s happening on the WWN. That should take some pressure off the Aurors.” Fudge explained.
Amelia blinked. ‘That was surprisingly well thought out by the minister,’ she mused. ‘But then again, if there was one thing Fudge had always been very good at, it was knowing what the people were thinking, and how to capitalize on it.’
They both turned back to watch Harry and the broadcast.
“… and that brings us to the cypher that Harry Potter is working on now.”
“There are 14 blue sapphires and 14 red ones.”
“If this follows what Harry has done on the previous three cyphers, he will move all of them to the center and they will then coalesce into another large diamond.”
“That is when it gets really tricky, Harry will then select the number of emeralds that will orbit the diamond.”
“He will need to know the exact number to use. If the cypher detects, even for a moment that he is guessing the number it will count it as a fail.”
Dumbledore returned just then, “the ICW has agreed, they will revoke the international portkeys, but they have a demand as well.”
“An emergency session of ICW has been called and they are demanding periodic updates of Mr. Potter’s progress.”
“We are ahead of you on that,” Fudge smiled. “As you can see Ms. Skeeter is broadcasting live on the WWN now.”
Dumbledore remained calm, but inwardly he was annoyed that Fudge had outmaneuvered him.
The ICW wanted the information first so they could determine when, and what information they made available to the public.
Now that would be impossible, even if he could stop the broadcast now, it would be he and ICW that would take the blame and bad publicity.
They both turned to look as Rita spoke excitedly.
“Harry Potter has completed the cypher. He has placed 14 emeralds around the central diamond.”
“We are just waiting now for confirmation.”
The seconds ticked by as everyone watched with bated breath before finally they all heard the gong confirming the cypher had been solved.
Over the roar of approval from the crowd Rita shouted “He’s done it! He’s done it!”
“There is now only one cypher remaining. I can see it now. It’s considerably larger than the previous ones.”
“There are… 180 sapphires,” Rita said taking a few minutes to count them out.
Harry is moving them to the center of the vault. I will keep you posted as the story develops.
This was when the realization hit Albus Dumbledore. There was no denying it anymore, Harry Potter was going to solve Merlin’s cypher.
Against all odds, an eleven-year-old boy was unraveling a mystery that had stood for more than a thousand years. This added a complication to his long-term plans he could frankly do without.
He had spent almost a decade building up the story of the-girl-who-lived amongst the wizarding public, but despite his best efforts they only considered the girl famous within the shores of Britain. Every time that he had attempted to introduce her on the world stage had been a disaster.
The amount of favors he had to call in just to bury the stories of her abhorrent behavior in the international press was infuriating. Her parents always claimed to be working on her behavior, but she just got worse over time, not better.
James and Lily were more akin to her enablers than her parents, far more concerned with being rich and famous than addressing the obvious issues of their daughter.
Gloria Potter was supposed to fulfill the prophecy and bring about his vision for the future of the wizarding world, but now in one fell swoop her own brother of all people was well on his way to make her nothing more than a footnote.
Could he have any influence over Harry Potter when he was inside the walls of Hogwarts? Could he be used to build up Gloria Potter into what he needed her to be? Was there a simple way to remove him from the board?
It would all have been so much simpler if the rest of the Potter family had died in the attack, leaving Glory an orphan.
After all, orphans were far more starved for attention and eager to please.
But alas, they had survived, and his plans had to be altered accordingly.
Perhaps another opportunity would present itself.
After all, the trauma of losing one’s parents could be just the catalyst Gloria Potter needed to become what he required.