How Wizards Do Money: Dean Thomas

When he flipped the coin, he knew how it would land.

Dean Thomas didn’t know a lot of things, but he did know that. It was a simple spell.

He tried not to do spells, most of the time, except when it didn’t count. Accio socks and the rest of it. Accio didn’t sound quite right in an American accent, but there must be American wizards somewhere saying it, because the spell worked every time.

Dean did not want to find those American wizards. Like his father, he had rejected the wizarding world. Unlike his father, it had not yet caught back up to him. He had moved an ocean away, changed his name, started a new life, tried not to think about patterns echoing over generations.

When Dean arrived in America, he realized that nobody was going to hire a black man with no work experience and only a high school education. Even leaving out the fact that Dean didn’t complete his Hogwarts degree — which, to be fair, was not completely his fault since they kicked all Muggle-born wizards out of school and, thanks to his absent father, Dean couldn’t prove that he wasn’t who he was — he knew he was vastly behind on what he needed to make a go of his new life.

So Dean picked a school that looked as little like Hogwarts as possible. Towering ugly gray dormitories. Flat buildings with tiny rectangular windows jammed below the flat roofs. A little bit of lumpy paint at the corner of everything. In his college essay, he wrote about what it was like to be in a gang. To know that you might have to kill people. To make the choice to leave that life behind.

Dean knew what people would think, when they read that essay — they’d never guess that the gang was led by a white kid in glasses, for a start — but he also knew they’d probably think that about him anyway. American racism astonished him. So much about America astonished him. He quickly figured out that he didn’t want to be an immigrant in this country, so before he filled out his college applications he transfigured himself a passport and a name and an accent that he borrowed mostly from television.

But he couldn’t transfigure any money, and he knew that his college education was going to cost him far more than he ever could pay. The solution to this problem seemed to be to go into debt. His classmates appeared to take this as a matter of course, and so Dean followed close behind, signing papers with small print he didn’t understand and taking the advice of everyone who said he would pay it off eventually.

Dean liked college because it was structured and because it helped him forget. All he had to do was show up, fill out the bubbles on the thin strip of paper, and go back to his dorm. He liked studying because the information was all new to him and because it was all a part of his new identity. He was Wes now, the quiet student whose eyes lit up at the idea that matter could neither be created nor destroyed, the young man who had an aunt — pronounce it like the insect — in St. Paul and who had never been chased by bounty hunters.

After college, Dean owed $150,000 to the university and another $12,000 to various credit card companies. No problem. Time to get a job and start paying it back, right?

Turns out it didn’t quite work that way. Or it could, if Dean could find work, which he couldn’t.

So he decided to go back to school and get a degree that would for sure help him get a real job. There’d be more debt, but he’d get paid more, too. Lawyers made a lot of money. He started signing more papers, taking more tests, adding more debt to the name that wasn’t his.

Nine months later, when Dean ended up in the middle of a forest with a dead body and a coin, somehow part of a gang of students once again — students who used words instead of magic to get their way — he wondered for a moment how he ended up in the exact place he had tried to leave behind.

And then he thought of his father.

And then he thought of the coin, so it would come down tails.

Previously: Ginny Potter

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