Title: Correspondence Course
Rating: PG-13, as future installments will contain swearing. They may or may not contain plot.
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Remus Lupin and Sirius Black get summer jobs as instructors for the Kwikspell Correspondence School of Magic.
Notes: Riffing off of J.D. Salinger's short story "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period" as well as the works of J.K. Rowling. No disrespect is intended. Or at least not very much.
Ultimately, it was my father’s fault that I spent a considerable portion of the eighteenth summer of my life impersonating a nun.
The financial system that operated in our household when I was a teenager, I had better explain, was both exceedingly simple and exceedingly bizarre. My father, who had once taught Potions at Beauxbatons, had thrown his whole career over after I was bitten by a werewolf at the age of six, and dedicated his life to certain experiments with aconite. Now and again he tried his hand at other ventures, such as growing vegetables and raising rabbits for the pot – but he couldn’t bring himself to pull up weeds with potentially interesting properties, and nobody could bring themselves to kill the rabbits, so all we got from his efforts were a few dandelion-filled salads and the occasional bit of income from a neighbor who wanted a pet bunny. My mother, who wrote books about magical ethics, was the only member of the family who could make any claim to being a regular breadwinner. When Dad wanted money, he asked her for it – which worked out well enough, as he was an absent-minded and unworldly soul who was perfectly happy wearing the same robes year in and year out, and the only reason why he ever wanted money was to pay me for helping him out in his backyard Potions laboratory. And then, if Mum wanted to do the shopping and hadn’t been able to twist her publisher’s arm into giving her an advance, she would borrow the money from me.
Once or twice I ventured to suggest that it might simplify this whole process if I gave Dad a hand without being paid, which I was, of course, perfectly happy to do. He refused to hear of it, claiming that I was entitled to a fair wage for my work, and in any case shuffling money around in circles was the general principle on which all economic systems were based, and somehow it created wealth. I did not understand this last point, but was content to let it pass, and this eccentric but happy state of affairs continued until the Easter holidays of my sixth year at school, when Dad suddenly woke up and noticed that I was lousy at Potions, and that my friend Sirius Black was very good at them.
“I was thinking that I might hire Sirius as my laboratory assistant for the summer,” he announced at dinner one night, blithely unconscious that this would upset our entire household economy. “The boy is very bright, and he has left his family; he will have to earn a living for himself. We ought to help him.”
My mother and I looked at each other in alarm. “That’s a lovely idea, René,” Mum said at last, in her most diplomatic voice, “but I don’t think we can afford it.”
“Nonsense, Celia,” said my father. “I would pay him the same as I pay Remus; it makes no difference.”
“But when you pay Remus, we can always borrow it back at the end of the month.”
“Then we will borrow from Sirius. It makes no difference.”
We endeavored to explain that the difference between hiring an employee and paying one’s son for the same work was that one could not, in fact, ask the employee for one’s money back at the end of the month; but as my father never really seemed to grasp this point, I made a mental note to look around for a surer form of employment that summer.
When I saw the advertisement in the back pages of the Prophet, it seemed like a godsend.
Have you ever thought you might have a flair for teaching? Would you like to make a little extra money, work at your own pace, and set your own hours? Do you enjoy helping others?
It took me only a moment to decide that the answer to all three of these questions was yes. I read on.
If so, you should consider becoming an instructor for the Kwikspell Correspondence School of Magic! We offer pleasant work in a flexible environment. You will teach as many or as few students as you care to take on through our All-New, Fail-Safe, Quick-Result, Easy-Learn “Conjuring by Correspondence” method! “Conjuring by Correspondence” is a unique, patented approach that gets guaranteed results! Enjoy the satisfaction of watching your students improve their performance in a matter of weeks!
We are looking for a few dynamic, personable individuals to join our team this summer. Applicants must be over seventeen and able to perform Charms, Transfiguration, and Defence Against the Dark Arts to N.E.W.T. standard.
We pay cash!
Inquiries should be directed to Roger “The Wiz” Harbottle, Seven Cleric Alley, London. Please send a letter of application describing your experience and qualifications for the position.
I considered my qualifications. I had turned seventeen in March, and while I wasn’t actually going to sit N.E.W.T.s until next year, the advertisement named three of my better subjects. I thought I was probably personable. Dynamic? I wasn’t so sure. But in any case, I was in dire need of money, and because of my condition, I also required a job where I could set my own hours and nobody would notice if I disappeared around the full moon. This one sounded perfect. Best of all, I rather liked the idea of teaching. I pictured myself offering a lifeline to some near-Squib who had almost given up hope of learning magic, or to a fellow-werewolf who had not been as lucky as I had been.
Fired up with idealistic fervor (and the promise of being paid cash), I began to compose a letter to my prospective employer.
24 April 1976
Dear Mr “Wiz”
Dear Roger “The Wiz” Harbottle,
I am writing in response to your advertisement in the employment section of the Daily Prophet. I hope that you will consider me for the position as Correspondence School Instructor. While I have no formal teaching experience, I am a patient and adaptable person who has experience dealing with a great variety of situations.
R. J. Lupin
“Who’re you writing to, Moony?” asked Sirius.
“Nobody. Part of the bourgeoisie. You wouldn’t be interested.”
Sirius, who had been disowned by his aristocratic parents over the Christmas holidays, was at present under the happy delusion that this made him working-class. He had taken to babbling about solidarity and reading Das Kapital in the evenings, in a facing-page translation as he was trying to teach himself German at the same time. For the past half-hour, he had been staring at the open volume of Marx without turning the page, trying manfully not to look as bored as he patently was.
“I’m applying for a job.”
“Capitalism is shite. You should join the revolution. What kind of a job?”
“Teaching for a correspondence course.”
“I bet I could do that. Let me see the advert.”
“I thought you were too busy joining the revolution.”
“I can’t very well unite the workers of the world if I haven’t been one first, can I?”
He had a point there, I had to admit. I handed him the paper.
“This bloke’s advertising in the Prophet, and he calls himself ‘The Wiz’? What kind of stupid nickname is that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe I should go around Hogwarts calling myself Sirius ‘The Student’ Black. To differentiate myself from all the other students.”
“Well, yes, I suppose it is a bit silly when you put it like that...”
“Or you could start calling yourself Remus ‘The Teenage Werewolf’ Lupin.”
“I think you should. I mean, nobody would think you really were a teenage werewolf, because nobody expects nicknames to state the obvious. It’s the perfect cover.”
“You’re already pushing it with ‘Moony.’ Are you going to apply for that job or aren’t you?”
“Sure I’m going to apply. Just let me finish the crossword first.”
“You’re doing it upside down.”
“I like a challenge.”
24 April 1976
Dear The Wiz,
I am a young wizard of good family who has renounced his upbringing and now wishes to join the proletariat. I read in your advertisement that you are looking for workers to exploit. Exploit me, please.
Sirius Alphard Black
“That’s the dumbest letter of application I’ve seen in my life.”
“It isn’t dumb, it’s just honest. I bet yours is full of bourgeois rot about ‘teaching is a noble profession’ and ‘helping people realize their fullest potential’. Isn’t it?”
“No,” I said, hiding my own letter with my hand.
I sighed and prepared to begin yet another draft of my letter.