How Wizards Do Money: Stan Shunpike
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.
So Stan grew up never playing Quidditch—”sport’s for duffers, anyway”—never going to Hogsmeade—”wouldn’t set foot there”—and never sneaking in an enormous bag of Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans to share in the moments before lights-out. And, because he had nothing to share, he felt as if he couldn’t accept any candy beans of his own, when someone else passed the bag around.
Stan learned too late that being too proud to accept his classmates’ gifts of sweets and friendship meant that, by his fourth year, he was essentially friendless. He was also falling behind in classes, since he still couldn’t get his wand to work. He began to shift from misdirection to lies.
“I’m going on Christmas holidays to Australia,” he would say, or “I did the essay but my scroll must have magicked itself away; I think someone put a spell on it.”
There are a lot of things that Hogwarts does well, but identifying students in need of help isn’t one of them. Like many schools, there are a few golden children who absorb all the attention, but the Sorting Hat didn’t sort Stan into that category. Instead, Stan got sorted into Slytherin, which surprised everyone who knew the smiling eleven-year-old boy, but didn’t surprise anyone who grew to know the spotty, resentful teenager. Of course someone like Stan Shunpike would be in Slytherin. He tells all of those stories and expects people to believe him.
The story Stan still believed was that he would grow up to become the Minister of Magic. He hadn’t figured out how he would get there, but he knew that if he tried hard he could do anything he wanted. And he was trying.
When he got a sprinkling of Trolls in his OWLs, his dad said “never you mind, plenty of politicians don’t have two thoughts to rub together and look where they are!” His one friend, who didn’t really feel like a friend, said “good on you” and suggested they skip class, and soon enough Stan decided it wasn’t even worth going to school at all.
“I’m going to make my own way,” Stan told his parents. “It’s time for me to start my career.”
“I always said you could do anything you set your mind to,” his mum said, hugging him close.
As far as careers go, working on the Knight Bus wasn’t a big start, but it was a start, and it made Stan feel ahead of his peers for once. He finally had pocket money, and he bought candy, and toys, and butterbeer, and a Quidditch broom. He got promoted to Conductor, and got his own place. He was an adult now, and he relished every bit of his independence.
And, for a while, he kept telling people he was going to go into politics and become the Minister of Magic. First it felt true, and then it became a lie. Stan still couldn’t stop telling lies, because the lies were his dreams.
After the Second Wizarding War, and after Stan’s Imperius Curse was lifted, he felt like something else had been lifted as well. His wand had been permanently damaged, so he went to Ollivander’s and, for the first time in his life, got a new one. It was hard to lie to people with your very own wand in your front pocket, the dragon heartstring thrumming against your own heart. He started to smile more often. He took his Quidditch broom out to a beginner’s league and started to make friends. He saw a young witch board his bus every night, and one day she asked him if he wouldn’t like to have a pint sometime, since they were always both out so late.
A few months later, when they were learning everything there was to know about each other, she asked: “What was your childhood dream?”
“Well,” Stan said, “I used to want to be the Minister of Magic.”
Previously: The Weird Sisters