Matthew had arrived in London just under an hour ago.
Now, he stood in a shop on the north side of Diagon Alley, undergoing an interview.
It was a less formal and less serious interview, but it held great importance for Matthew, so he maintained a serious demeanor.
Seated on the sofa across from him was a thin man, slightly balding, with remnants of brown hair.
He wore a light blue robe that appeared a bit dusty.
Matthew only knew the man’s last name, “Shafik,” and that he was the manager of Lihen Bookstore, the largest bookstore in Diagon Alley.
“Name?” Shafik glanced wearily at the boy before him and asked.
“Matthew Wickfield,” Matthew quickly replied.
“Gender… oh, you’re male,” Shafik muttered. “And your age?”
“I will be thirteen years old in just over two months,” Matthew replied.
“You’re quite young,” Shafik scrutinized Matthew. “I have doubts about whether you’ll be able to move the bookcases…”
“I have a letter of introduction from Professor Rosier,” Matthew calmly retrieved a thick parchment envelope from his pocket.
On the back of the envelope was a heraldic shield, with the capital letter “H” surrounded by four animals: a lion, eagle, badger, and snake.
Every Hogwarts student who didn’t have a place to spend their summer vacation (usually Muggle-born students) received a letter of introduction from the Headmistress.
This ensured they could find a job in Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley during the break.
Faced with the letter, the manager of Lihen Bookstore didn’t dare to be dismissive.
He swiftly took the letter, carefully opened it, and began to read.
One minute later…
“Are you actually the top-ranked student in your year?” Shafik looked up, his expression surprised.
“Yes!” Matthew nodded without hesitation.
“After studying, you should try to make more friends,” Shafik advised earnestly, putting down the Hogwarts letter.
Generally, only children who were more withdrawn or lacked friends would choose to work in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade during the summer vacation.
Students of Muggle origin preferred spending time at their friends’ homes, and most wizarding families were happy to host them.
Matthew didn’t explain anything, simply nodding and saying, “Okay, I understand. Thank you!”
“Then, Mr. Wickfield, you’re hired!” Shafik picked up a quill, took out a piece of parchment, and began scribbling while muttering, “The recruitment period starts now and lasts until August 31st… During this period, Lihen Bookstore will cover all food and accommodation expenses… Additionally, you’ll be responsible for some miscellaneous tasks… You’ll receive a weekly wage of 2 galleons and 9 sickles…”
“Two galleons?” Matthew frowned involuntarily.
He wasn’t a naive child who knew nothing of the world.
He knew that adult wizards in the wizarding world earned a minimum weekly salary of more than ten galleons.
And here was amiable Mr. Shafik, paying less than a quarter of the minimum weekly wage!
Indeed, exploiting child labor seemed to be a “fine tradition” passed down by the British Empire for hundreds of years, and the wizarding world was no exception.
Clearly, Matthew couldn’t accept such a salary.
He cleared his throat and spoke seriously, “Mr. Shafik, I believe I’m worth a higher wage.”
These words caught the Lihen Bookstore manager off guard.
Over the years, he had hired many Hogwarts students for summer jobs at the bookstore.
This was the first time he had encountered such a “greedy little” fellow, and Matthew was only a first-year student.
If it weren’t for Professor Rosier’s letter of recommendation on his desk, he might have become angry and driven this audacious youngster away from his store.
“Mr. Wickfield,” he said patiently, “you’re quite young, and 2 galleons and 8 sickles is already a generous wage… other bookstores wouldn’t dream of paying more.”
“I’ll settle for a fair wage,” Matthew calmly interjected, cutting off Mr. Shafik.
“Huh?” Shafik was stunned, his surprise now more evident. “Are you not joking with me?”
Matthew simply shrugged and remained silent.
“Well… then I’ll test you,” the Lihen Bookstore manager retrieved an account book from a drawer and asked slowly, “A copy of ‘Magic Potion and Potion’ is priced at 2 galleons, 6 sickles, and 11 knuts… ‘Magic Theory’ is priced at 3 galleons, 16 sickles, and 22 knuts… and a copy of ‘Prophecy Cannot Prophetic: Protect Yourself from Fright’ is priced at 5 galleons, 3 sickles, and 6 knuts… What is the total?”
Matthew almost instantly replied, “The total is 10 galleons, 25 sickles, and 39 knuts, which is equivalent to 11 galleons, 9 sickles, and 10 knuts.”
“So fast? Don’t make up numbers to deceive me!” Mr. Shafik eyed Matthew skeptically, then took out a discarded piece of manuscript paper. As he recorded, he used his finger to calculate.
After two or three minutes…
“Oh, Merlin’s beard!” Mr. Shafik looked up, his expression even more bewildered. “My child, how did you figure that out?”
“Did you forget, sir? I’m the top-ranked student in my year,” Matthew calmly responded.
As he had expected, wizards generally needed better math skills, and the peculiar exchange rate of galleons, sickles, and knuts made it challenging for them to remember.
“Oh, my memory fails me,” the Lihen Bookstore manager chuckled. “Very well then, Mr. Wickfield, I will double your salary. However, every evening, you’ll have to help me with the bookkeeping for the day.”
“Bookkeeping can be tiresome…” Matthew appeared a little hesitant.
“Or…” Mr. Shafik clenched his teeth, contemplating for a long while before finally saying, “Shall I double it again?”
This quadrupled Matthew’s salary to 10 galleons and 2 sickles per week, slightly higher than the minimum salary for an adult wizard.
Matthew wasn’t overly greedy, so he nodded and said, “Okay, let’s go with that, sir.”
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