How Wizards Do Money: Lee Jordan
It happens every year, but Lee is still surprised. He takes his children to Platform 9 3/4, he’s busy giving hugs and drying tears and taking back-to-school photos, and someone he doesn’t really know calls out to him: “Lee! I expected I’d be hearing you on the radio!”
It still happens. It shouldn’t happen—Lee hasn’t done a radio broadcast since 1998—but it always does.
Lee has the kind of job that is hard to explain to both wizards and Muggles. He hates explaining it, first because it takes so long and second because it is inevitably disappointing. He works in the Muggle Liaison office of the Ministry of Magic, which should be enough of an explanation, but then the wizards always follow up with “oh, so you disenchant Muggle objects,” especially the slightly-getting-older wizards who are bored in their own jobs and think hunting out and removing magical spells from books and toys sounds cool.
“No, that’s a different department,” Lee says, and does not bother to explain that the people who work in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office are bored with their jobs as well, all that travel and mucking around in bookshops and attics to find the one volume with a defensive spell cast on it that prevents anyone besides the owner from opening it. It’s usually smut, too. Teenage wizards (and even slightly-getting-older wizards) are unoriginal.
Lee’s job is to monitor unauthorized discussion of the wizarding world on Twitter, which inevitably involves explaining what social media is, if he’s talking to a wizard. If he’s talking to a Muggle, he says something about how he monitors “inappropriate behavior,” and then lets the Muggle define what that term means. Everyone is eager to tell him what should and shouldn’t be censored.
Lee’s job is occasionally interesting and occasionally mind-numbing, as most jobs go. The big problem is the overnight shift; the Ministry shares the burden of monitoring social media with other wizarding governments around the globe, but Lee still sleeps with a Reminderall next to his pillow to wake him if he gets an urgent message from a wizard in another country. He’s been promoted to head of his department, which means he’s responsible for both his own job and everyone else’s. People wake him up in the middle of the night to ask whether some Vine where a kid pretends to talk to a snake but accidentally stumbles out a few words of Parseltongue needs to be pulled. (It’s usually no, unless a group of wizard teens discover it and kick it over to Tumblr with commentary. Tumblr is ridiculously problematic. Luckily, most of the Muggles don’t realize that a good 10 percent of the kids who put “Third-year wizard!” in their Tumblr profiles are telling the truth.)
But no, Lee is not on the radio. Everyone expected him to be, simply because he was good at it in school. It’s hard to explain exactly why Lee didn’t follow that path; he was the kid who created his own radio station, after all, and he did all of those Quidditch matches. To say “there wasn’t any money in radio” sounded like he was denigrating something that he loved. He had the radio on non-stop during his commute to work, and his kids teased him about how much he loved Kirley McCormack’s interview program that aired on Saturday afternoons, but they also bought him a McCormack Hour T-shirt. So he couldn’t say it was about the money. Kirley McCormack was making plenty of money.
He could say that he wasn’t good enough, which he suspected but hadn’t ever tested, but that always prompted the “you never know unless you try!” response. And, lately, “you don’t have to be young to get into radio; it’s not a beauty contest, right?” These people who had not spoken to him in 15 years were suddenly telling him what career move he should make next, simply because they had seen him do this one specific thing as a child.
Lee sometimes caught himself doing the same thing, though, to his own children. His son was a natural singer, and loved to sing but also loved to read and play Quidditch and hang out with his friends online. Still, it was already decided: Geoffrey was “the singer,” and everyone in the house was already making jokes about how Geoff would be famous for his voice. The conversation wasn’t about how Geoffrey would earn money, because the beautiful fiction they were spreading was that in Geoffrey’s future, it wouldn’t matter. In Geoffrey’s future where he was the best singer in the world, he’d be given all of the money he needed. All he had to do was practice every night, sing the solo, keep working hard.
Lee did not know how to say to his children that the future would bring them careers they had never heard of, working on things that did not currently exist. He did not know what to say about following dreams when the things they were dreaming about were already in the past. The vision he and his wife shared about a grown-up Geoffrey standing on some stage somewhere put Geoff in contemporary clothing singing songs they knew, not in the fashions of the future singing melodies they could not yet anticipate.
He also did not know what to say about money, and how it was simultaneously more and less important than they could ever imagine. He did not know how to say that, in the end, he chose money, and he was still only making an average amount of it. He did not know how to say that he was successful when it was clear to everyone who looked at him that he wasn’t a radio host, he wasn’t a Quidditch announcer, he was behind a desk working at some job that nobody understood or cared about, and that children and parents alike both flinched, a little, at the idea that the future could hold a life as wonderful and mundane as his own.
It was easier to say “Good job, son. We’re going to hear you on the radio someday.”
Previously: Pansy Parkinson