Harry woke in the late morning, his dreams had been strange and confusing to say the least. He dreamed of people that seemed vaguely familiar, that he felt like he should have remembered, but the dreams changed so quickly from one to the other that he had no idea what was going on.
He made his way out of the tent, packing up quickly. If he was lucky he could leave before anyone noticed him. His stomach growled, but it would have to wait. He had another long day ahead of him and he needed to find his way into London.
As he made his way out of the forest, he realised quickly that he was not the only one that decided to camp out in the woods. He had stumbled upon a camp ground last night but must have been too tired to notice.
As he looked around he realized that there were quite a few families around him, even some children running around and playing together.
There was also a man sitting outside his tent in front of a campfire cooking breakfast. Harry felt his stomach grumble again as he smelled the bacon and eggs cooking.
The man must have heard him walking by because he stood up and waved. “Hello there, good morning.”
Harry stopped and waved back, picking up on the man’s American accent, “good morning.”
“Great day for camping isn’t it?” The man asked with a friendly smile.
“…Yes, I just have to go to-” Harry started to say.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I must be keeping you from your family. They must be wondering where you are,” the man interrupted.
“No…” Harry answered. The last thing his family would be doing now was looking for him. His stomach chose that time to grumble again.
“My name is Ben, Ben Parker,” the man introduced himself as he looked at the boy in front of him, getting a bad feeling about the boy’s circumstances.
It looked like the boy was starving, probably had slept in his clothes the previous night, and was covered in dirt and a few twigs.
“I’m Harry Potter, pleasure to meet you,” Harry replied.
“Well Harry, I was just about to have breakfast. Would you care to join me?” Ben asked. “I seemed to have made more food than I had intended.”
“No, that’s okay,” Harry replied, even though he was starving. “I was going to eat later in the afternoon.”
“Please I insist,” Ben replied. “Besides, you’re doing me a favour, otherwise I’ll have to throw out the rest.”
Harry thought about Ben’s offer. It did smell good, and it wouldn’t slow him down too much. “Well… if you don’t mind,” Harry said tentatively.
“Great,” Ben smiled as he placed some bacon and eggs on a plate for Harry.
“Thank you,” Harry said as he took the plate and sat down.
It seemed a little strange to him that someone else would just offer up their food to him, but maybe he was telling the truth, and he really did cook too much food?
As Harry started to eat he looked over at the man sitting beside him.He was American, that much was clear from his accent. He had brown hair and blue eyes, and looked to be in his late thirties, possibly early forties.
“So Harry,” Ben started. “How long have you been camping out?”
“It was just since yesterday,” Harry answered.
“How many more days are you going to be camping?” Ben asked carefully.
“I’m going to be starting boarding school soon,” Harry answered. “So I think this will probably be my last night.”
“Boarding school? That sounds exciting. Would I have heard of it?” Ben asked.
There was something about Harry that Ben couldn’t shake. He seemed like a good kid but something felt off.
“No, probably not,” Harry answered. “The school is really old though. My family has been going there forever.”
“What about you?” Harry said changing the subject. “It doesn’t sound like you’re from around here.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Ben smiled. “I’m from America, New York to be exact.”
“What are you doing all the way out here?” Harry asked curiously.
“Well, I’m an army man, or at least I used to be,” Ben answered. “Honourably discharged about ten years ago, but when I was in the army I was stationed here for a few years. I promised myself that when I left the army I would see the rest of the country. I spent a little time in France and Italy, visited a few museums, Stonehenge, the White Cliffs of Dover too.”
“That sounds exciting,” Harry said wistfully. “I’ve always wanted to see the world.”
“Well, there’s plenty of time for that,” Ben replied. “I’m sure that when you finish school you’ll be able to go wherever you like.”
“That’s true,” Harry realized. He had planned to get away from his family once he graduated, but he hadn’t really given it much thought beyond that. Why not see more of the world?
“So what are your plans for today Harry?” Ben asked.
“I have to go into London,” Harry answered.
“Well, in that case I want you to take this,” Ben said as he reached into his wallet, and pulled out 200 pounds.
“What?” Harry asked in surprise. “You don’t have to do that, I’ll be fine on my own,” he said as he pushed the money back to Ben. He was not used to getting help and didn’t really know how to respond to it now.
“Look Harry, cards on the table, I think you’re a good kid but something isn’t right, you’re in some kind of trouble. You don’t have to tell me what it is,” Ben added when he saw Harry was about to protest.
“One day, a long time ago, someone helped me when I really needed it, when no one else would even give me the time of day.
I offered to pay him back when I got the money, but he told me to pay it forward. He said that the next time I met someone that needed help, to give it to them instead,” Ben explained.
“Why would you help me though?” Harry asked, confused. “You don’t know anything about me. Why do you think I even deserve it?”
“I don’t,” Ben replied. “And to be honest with you, I’m not sure that I deserved it either. I was just some snot nosed kid that got dealt a bad hand.”
Harry knew that he should take the money, he could definitely use it, but none of this made any sense to him. Why would anyone give up their hard earned money to someone else, and for nothing in return?
All his life the people around him had always just taken what they wanted, no one had ever given him anything before. He was told that he didn’t deserve the things he had, that someone else, usually Glory deserved it instead of him.
“I think you made a mistake. There is someone else that you should give this to instead of me.” Harry said as he pushed the money back to Ben.
Ben laughed at Harry’s response, confusing the boy further. “Harry, I haven’t spent all this time looking for just one person to help,” Ben explained. “I’ve done this for lots of people. you are not the first and definitely won’t be the last.
I like to think that what that man started, rippled out into the world, and that I wasn’t the only person he helped.”
Harry wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Could there really be lots of people like Ben in the world?
“Why help though? What do you get out of it?” Harry finally asked.
“If you’re asking me if I got rich, then the answer is no,” Ben explained. “I’ve actually lived a very normal life, none of the people I’ve helped have ever come back and rewarded me, not that I would want them to either.
It’s more than that. Life isn’t just about wealth, influence, and power. There has to be more.”
“What else is there?” Harry asked.
“There’s compassion, understanding, and kindness to start with, and when you put that out into the world it has a way of coming back to you.”
Harry was about to disagree with him, he certainly hadn’t received anything like that before today.
“I know you don’t understand yet, and that’s ok,” Ben explained. “Just know that you are worthy of receiving help, everyone is.
Please take the money, and if you can, help the next person that you meet, and I promise you that you will understand.”
“Thank you,” Harry said as Ben handed him the money.
He had never met anyone like Ben before, but the things he said, the way he spoke. He so badly wanted to believe it, for it to be true.
Harry took one last look at Ben before turning and leaving the camp ground.
It was a couple of hours later that Harry found himself in London, near a bus stop.
He used some of the money that Ben gave him to buy a bus ticket that would stop near the Leaky Cauldron.
He hoped that there would be enough money to stay until the start of Hogwarts but he supposed that he could also camp out again and come back a day or so before the train to Hogwarts.
Harry stepped off the bus at his stop and made the short walk to the Leaky Cauldron.
Harry stood outside, staring at the entrance for a moment, then took a deep breath and stepped inside.
As he looked around the bar he could see that there were a few witches and wizards sitting at tables, and a few having drinks at the bar.
It was nowhere near full, but it was also the middle of the afternoon.
Harry walked up to the bartender. “I would like a room until the start of Hogwarts, how much will that cost?”
“That’ll be 2 gallons a night, meals are 3 sickles extra, but lunch and dinner comes with a butter beer,” the bartender explained.
Harry mentally counted out how many galleons he would need. It was just the start of August, and Hogwarts started on September 1st.
That was twenty nights, added to that meal as well. He didn’t know how much food he had in his trunk, but it wouldn’t be enough to last the whole month.
If he was lucky he could stretch it for at most ten days.
He would have to figure out something for the rest of the month.
“I’ll stay for the night then.” Harry said. He was way too tired today to find somewhere else to stay.
“Alright then,” I’ll show you to your room. “The name is Tom by the way, I’m the owner.”
“Nice to meet you,” Harry replied.
As they were about to walk up the stairs Harry noticed a copy of the Daily Prophet sitting on the bar. “Do you mind if I borrow this?” Harry asked.
“Sure, have at it,” Tom said agreeably. “I just finished reading it myself.”
“Thank you,” Harry said as he picked up the paper. Maybe if he was lucky he could find a job to make up the rest of the galleons he needed.
Harry sat down on his bed after Tom had left. The bed was against the wall and there was a window that looked out over the town. On the right there was a small desk and chair.
Overall the room looked old, but clean.
Harry still had a few hours before dinner so he decided to take a look at Daily Prophet.
The headline was about the latest defeat of the Chudley Cannons.
‘It must be a slow news day,’ Harry mused.
The Cannons were universally acknowledged as the worst team in the league, and another loss to add to the streak was nothing special.
Further down the page there was an advertisement for the new Nimbus. When he was younger he had dreamed about getting one, but when he had asked for one the dream died a quick death.
On the next page was the politics section, which Harry quickly skipped over as he looked for the wanted section.
He knew it was a long shot to find someone willing to hire a kid that hadn’t even started his first year of Hogwarts but he was desperate.
As he flipped the page something caught his eye. He didn’t know why but there was something oddly familiar, so he began to read.
Team of American Wizards attempt to open Merlin’s Treasure Vault
An American team of wizards attempted to solve Merlin’s cypher and gain access to the famed vault of Merlin, long thought to contain treasure, ancient spell tombs, and possibly even Merlin’s personal journals.
The ministry has obviously claimed the contents of the vault as culturally and historically significant to the people of Britain, however they have established a reward for solving Merlin’s Cypher.
It was originally the sum of $10,000 galleon, which even now is a considerable sum, but it has also been accruing interest at a rate of 4% in Gringotts for the past 100 years, turning into a veritable fortune of over 500,000 galleons.
The American team claimed to have found a codex of Merlin’s within a hidden tomb in Syria that gave clues to solve the cypher. With it, they were able to solve the first cypher, something that has never been done before.
Unfortunately, the second cypher was far more complex than the last, and just like every other person to attempt to solve the cypher it ultimately ended in failure.
However, this attempt was a significant step forward and the first major breakthrough of the last several hundred years.
It has reignited interest in Merlin’s vault, and a whole new group of treasure hunters has taken up the challenge.
Minster Fudge applauded the efforts of the American wizards and welcomed anyone else willing to attempt to solve the cypher.
Harry looked at the newspaper with a frown. There was something very familiar about this, it itched at the back of his mind, somehow he knew it was important, but he didn’t know why.
Harry put the newspaper down, and lay down on the bed, deciding to get some rest before dinner.
It was nice to sleep in an actual bed after the forest the previous night, before he knew it his eyes were closed and he was asleep.
Harry woke up with a start, he had the same strange dreams, just like the previous night, thankfully the headache that came afterwards was nowhere near as severe as the first one.
There were more people and places that he had never seen before, he wished that he could make sense of what was going on.
Harry felt his stomach grumble, interrupting his train of thought.
He made his way downstairs to the bar, sitting at the table.
Tom made his way over. “We’re serving minced pie with a side of mixed vegetables for dinner.”
“That sounds good,” Harry said.
“Coming right up,” Tom smiled.
“Wait Tom, do you know anything about Merlin’s vault?” Harry asked.
“I see you read the article, exciting stuff eh?”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed.
“Those Yank wizards, first ones to try in almost ten years. You know I lost 10 galleons on them? Bet one of the regulars the yanks would actually do it. I still haven’t heard the end of it.”
“Why was it so long since someone last tried?” Harry asked.
“Well, it’s not exactly 10 years,” Tom clarified. “The rules say anyone can try, a lot of school kids give it a shot when they hear the story. The yanks were just the last ones that anyone believed had a chance.”
“So anyone can just try?” Harry asked.
“Yeah, you just have to get in line with everyone else,” Tom explained.
“Where is the vault?” Harry asked.
“Ha!” Tom laughed. “I did the same thing when I was your age, obviously didn’t have anyluck, but still quite the day. You can either take the night bus or muggle bus to the British museum, it’s in the magical section, you can’t miss it.”
“So what do you plan to do with the galleons?” Tom asked.
“I don’t know,” Harry said truthfully. He hadn’t really thought about the galleons, his mind had just been on the vault, something was pushing him towards it.
“How did Merlin’s vault end up in the museum? It sounds like the vault existed before the museum was built,” Harry asked curiously.
“It did, if I remember right, the vault was found in a cave inside Ashdown forest. They moved it to the British Museum some time back,” Tom explained.
“Good luck kid, I hope you have better luck with the vault than I did. I’ll be off to get your dinner.” Tom said, making his way to the kitchen.
Harry sat in silence as he thought about what Tom had said. Something was compelling him to go to the vault, something he couldn’t understand. He didn’t know what he would find there but he knew it was something he had to do.
He barely noticed when Tom set down his food in front of him. Could this be related to the strange dreams he was having?