“They don’t want us to play the Yule Ball this year,” Myron Wagtail (lead singer) told the band.
It wasn’t quite a surprise, but it was a blow; The Weird Sisters had been part of the Hogwarts Yule Ball for not quite two decades, ever since they played their first gig as sixth-year students. They moved from the opening band into the headlining space, and then moved out of it, getting pushed further and further down the lineup until they were the band playing as everybody went home.
Donaghan Tremlett (bass) shrugged and continued to poke at his iPhone, no doubt texting his wife about their grotty sprog or some nonsense. “Getting a bit old for it, eh?”
“Well, we’ve got to book ourselves another gig,” Myron said, “because the band needs money.”
“I still think we should try to book the Fringe,” Gideon Crumb (bagpipes) piped up, but Myron had stopped paying attention to Gideon long ago, fecking squib, only in the band because bagpipe players were extraordinarily hard to come by. And Kirley McCormack (lead guitar, songwriter) had insisted on bagpipes, because of his vision.
Well, Kirley wasn’t even there anymore. He’d left the band a decade earlier, with a new vision. He worked for the Ministry now, doing cultural initiatives. His voice came over the radio every Saturday. He had a house and a husband and fecking corgis and never invited Myron over.
I have been a fan of Chris Guillebeau’s work for years. I took his Empire Building Kit course when I was starting my first ventures into entrepreneurship, and continued my education with his book The $100 Startup.
Chris’s newest book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose To Your Life, released last week. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy, and as soon as I finished reading the book I asked Chris if he’d be willing to answer two questions about his book for Billfold readers.
Nicole: I really liked that you were realistic about how much the various quests you profiled cost to complete, and that you offered low-cost or free alternative suggestions to readers who might want to do something like “walk across the United States” but not want to quit their jobs or not have the available funds. If people are worried about the monetary cost—or opportunity cost—of going on a quest, what advice do you have to help them in their decision-making?
Chris: Make no mistake: a quest should involve some kind of cost. If you believe in something and want to pursue it, it will inevitably involve some degree of tradeoff with something else. And that’s okay! It’s not a quest without cost, and it shouldn’t necessarily be easy.
During our last Billfold Book Club session, it was proposed that we choose a fiction book this time and discuss how the characters handle money.
I am all for this.
My first suggestion was, of course, Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, because oh-my-goodness does that book deal with a bunch of characters who don’t know how to handle money, and then y’all upped me by suggesting the BBC Bleak House miniseries, which has the advantage of featuring Gillian Anderson and Charles Dance (aka Tywin Lannister) in lead roles and also has the advantage of not being an occasionally interminable Dickens novel. (For every mention of a megalosaurus marching down the streets of London, Dickens has to throw in an interminable passage, just to keep us off our toes.)
So I am 100% all for watching a miniseries.
Mike Dang suggested Emily Gould’s Friendship, which features the description “As Bev and Amy are dragged, kicking and screaming, into real adulthood, they have to face the possibility that growing up might mean growing apart.” (This is no fresh-outta-college story; they’re in their 30s.)
I am also 100% ready to read Friendship.
But I’m turning the remainder of the suggestions over to you: what work of fiction would you like to discuss?
Hermione sat calmly in front of the Ministry interviewer. Her legs were firmly hooked at the ankles and her hands were perfectly folded, one on top of the other.
“Actually,” she said, “I was hoping I could start my own department.”
Her interviewer was not so perfectly folded. He visibly goggled and his glasses slipped down his nose, but he pushed them right back up again as if it had never happened. She was Hermione Granger, after all. What else had he expected her to say?
“All right, we can discuss that,” he said carefully, knowing that he had been assigned to recruit Ms. Granger, recent graduate and smartest witch of her year, to the Ministry no matter what. “What type of department would you like to start?”
“The Ministry’s Elvish Rights Department,” Hermione said.
“M.E.R.D.” the interviewer replied, writing it down with quivering fingers.
“No, don’t pronounce it the French way,” Hermione said quickly.
It was strange how they hadn’t known it until after his death, and then how quickly it spread, the whispers traveling like creeper vine up into the dormitories: Dumbledore. Is. Gay.
“I mean, was gay,” Lavender said. “But it’s not like he dated anyone so it doesn’t matter.”
Parvati snorted. “Dumbledore wouldn’t date,” she said.
Fay sat on her bed, hugging her knees. Hermione looked up from her book. “They shouldn’t talk that way,” she said, and Fay nodded, and said nothing.
Ten years later, it was Padma next to her on the bed, reading a book. Padma read much more than Fay did; she’d go through a book a night, sometimes, neatly moving the finished volumes to their stacks by the door, to be taken back to the library. Fay held a book, sometimes, but mostly what she liked was to sit next to Padma in their bed, their ankles touching under the sheets, until she was ready to fall asleep.
Fay and Padma live together in an apartment near the Ministry. Both of them work there; Fay as an auror, and Padma in the research department. The Ministry is in fact where they found each other, both of them turning up at an event designed to welcome LGBT members, Fay feeling a little embarrassed to see Padma there and then wondering why she felt that way.
Teddy Lupin turns his ginger hair black and pulls his apron and rubber-soled shoes out of his expandable wallet. He swaps his shoes before he boards the Tube, but keeps the apron under his arm.
Four days a week, from 6 a.m. to noon, Teddy serves coffee. His grandmother is delighted that he wakes up as early as she does; she has no idea that when he says he’s going out running, he actually means that he’s running an espresso machine.
Teddy is exhausted. Some days it takes all his effort just to change his hair. However, it’s worth it, not only because the occasional wizards who pass through the coffee shop never recognize him, but also because every tourist who comes into the place asks him if he knows how much he looks like Benedict Cumberbatch.
Stan Shunpike’s mum always told him that when he grew up, he could be anything he wanted.
When he was a very young wizard, he went to the library with the other young wizards who weren’t old enough for Hogwarts yet, and the librarians handed around paper and asked everyone to draw pictures of what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“I want to be the Minister of Magic,” Stan said. He drew a picture of himself grown up: a big circle of a face with a huge smile.
“Of course you will,” his mum said. “Anyone can grow up to be Minister of Magic these days.”
Stan went to Hogwarts, where tuition was free, and muddled along with his set of hand-me-down robes, secondhand supplies, and a used wand. At first, he didn’t notice the difference between himself and his classmates—yes, their robes weren’t stained, and yes, they had pocket money for chocolate frogs—but he didn’t realize that his cast-iron cauldron was frustrated at having to endure another generation of badly-cast spells, and he had no idea that his used wand was actively fighting against him.
If he had thought to mention to one of his professors that holding his wand felt like putting two magnets together the wrong way, he might have gotten help. But even at eleven years old, young Stan was already mastering the art of politics—which is to say, diplomacy and misdirection.
“I don’t eat chocolate frogs ‘cause I’ve got allergies,” he said proudly.
“You ate your chocolate cake just fine,” his classmate protested.
“It’s the frog bit I’m allergic to,” Stan said.
The best thing about going to Hogwarts was that her mother could no longer worry at her to stop slouching.
“You are so beautiful,” Parvati could hear, the over-emphasis disproving its own words. “Why are you hiding your own beauty?”
The truth was Parvati didn’t care. She was never into shoes, or dresses, or cosmetics. She loved the Gryffindor uniform because she didn’t have to make choices about all of that anymore. She could get up, plait her hair, and be ready to go.
When Dean Thomas whispered that Parvati was one of the best-looking girls in her year, Parvati glared at him and slouched harder. She went off to Hogsmeade with the Beauxbatons student later that night because he hadn’t said that to her; he’d actually said something that was interesting. Parvati found him to be less interesting as the night went on, so she checked off “dating” from her list of curiosities and stopped worrying about brushing her hair.
Later her mother would ask “but aren’t you meeting any nice boys?” and Parvati would reply “I’m learning advanced defensive fighting skills so I can be in a wizard army, I don’t have time to meet boys.”
Because of this, Parvati was spared the crush of weddings that all seemed to take place immediately after the Second Wizarding War. Hermione and Ron, Neville and Hannah, Harry and Ginny—that boy could lead an army, maybe, but he was a right git—her classmates paired off and she and Padma were left standing alone.
Then Padma immediately got hired by the Ministry, and Parvati was left alone. Her mother and father both began asking “don’t you want to get a job?”
The answer was no, but Parvati knew that wasn’t a good answer.
Angelina is going to be with her father until he dies.
She got the owl while her family was in the Patagonia Desert watching the Quidditch World Cup. She got several owls, and sent a few in return, stepping outside of the arena and flicking away a beetle that kept trying to crawl onto the letter she was writing.
Of course she would be there. She’d apparate immediately. And she would stay.
When Angelina’s father first became ill, she felt that uncomfortable pull of responsibilities: her children, her husband, the business she and George shared, her father.
All right, let the business go, George and Ron can manage it for a while. So: her children, her husband, her father.