The Forgotten One
An invisible bell tinkled as Professor Su Li stepped into Flourish and Blotts. The smell of books flowed over her: new books, fresh off press. Old books, slightly musty, in glass cases.
Su Li loved books. Once, she had visited her publisher and watched in awe as the typesetter waved her wand over the parchment Su had carefully penned, then flicked its point first towards the sorts in the letter-case, then at the waiting frame. In moments, Su's words had been perfectly transferred into their mirror-image, inked, and prepared for the printing process.
She had often wondered whether any of the wizards at the publishing house realized that they were using Muggle technology, even if they had sped up the process with spells and enchantments. She didn't even need to wonder if they realized that this Muggle miracle had been invented in China—first with wood blocks in the sixth century, and then with movable type by Bi Sheng in 1041. The Chinese had done it—hundreds of years before Gutenberg.
No, of course they didn't know. Su had learned that British wizards cared little for Muggle inventions. They cared even less about the Chinese, unless, like Cho, they had been born in Scotland. A powerful word came to Su's mind: xenophobes.
Feeling self-conscious, Su headed straight for the "language" section, as she always did. There they were. All in a line. Furthark and Furthork: The Subtleties of Runic Magic, by Su Li. Székely-Hungarian Rovás Made Simple, Su Li. The Power of Ancient Aramaic, Su Li. Cirth: Tolkein's Accidental Magic Alphabet. Unlocking the Power of Language: Magic for a New Age. Old Occitan and Spellcrafting. An Introduction to Chinese Magic. The Forgotten Power of Ancient Greek Prayers and Chants. Su Li. Su Li. Su Li. Su Li. Su Li.
Was it vanity that compelled her to look for her own works whenever she entered a bookstore? No, she decided, it was because she needed tangible proof that she actually existed.
In the textbook section were more of her books—books that already had multiple editions. These were her meticulous revisions of Bathsheda Babbling's coursebooks. In the years since she'd taken over Professor Babbling's position at Hogwarts, Su had gradually revised the five-year curriculum. There had been much to amend, much to add. As wonderful a professor as Bathsheda had been, she had never ventured out of the wizarding world. Her education had been . . . stunted.
As Su approached the textbook aisle to make certain that enough copies had been ordered for the new school year, a familiar figure arrested her step. The woman was unmistakeable: unkempt brown hair—now streaked with a bit of gray—tumbled from a careless french-twist. Behind a pair of reading-glasses, Hermione Granger's brown eyes were intently focused on one of Su's books. Su felt a smile growing on her face as she stepped forward.
"Hello," she said, extending a hand.
"Oh," responded Hermione, reluctantly looking up, "Am I in your way?" She didn't move to shake Su's hand, and there was no flicker of recognition as she stepped back. Su wasn't going to let her erstwhile schoolmate escape so easily.
"Well, what do you think?" Su asked. Hermione had always been a smart woman. Her opinion had value.
"Of this? Hm . . ." she pondered, holding the book out skeptically, "My daughter is enrolling in Ancient Runes this year. I wanted to examine the new books." She tilted her head slightly and frowned. "I do hope this Su Li person hasn't butchered them."
A wave of anger flowed over Su, and she snatched the book out of Hermione's hand. Uncharacteristically aggressive of you, a voice inside her head chided. But then again, Hermione had only one book to her name. Su had fifteen. How dare she?
"I can assure you that 'this Su Li' did not butcher any books. 'This Su Li,'" she snapped, "is standing right in front of you."
"Oh, pardon me." Hermione stepped back again.
"'This Su Li' is in fact your daughter's future professor."
"Well, Professor Li, of that I was unaware. Perhaps I should warn Rose away from your class. You seem to have a worse temper than Severus Snape."
"That's unfair, Hermione," Su said, starting to feel a bit contrite. "And please don't tell Rose to drop Ancient Runes. It's a beautiful subject, and under-appreciated. I hear Rose is an exceptional student," she conceded.
Praise of her daughter seemed to soften Hermione, and she nodded. Then, something seemed to strike her.
"You called me Hermione. Why did you call me by my first name?" she asked, again tilting her head the way she always had when she was thinking something over. "Are we acquainted?"
"Are we acquainted? Hermione, we went to school together. I should think we'd be on a first-name basis."
"Huh. You must have been a few years behind me?"
"I was in your year. Ravenclaw."
"Strange. I don't remember . . ." Hermione trailed off.
"We were in Ancient Runes together for four years. Until you ran off with Harry Potter."
Hermione stiffened at that, and Su felt a little guilty. She knew that Hermione Granger and Harry Potter had been plagued by the libel of yellow journalists for many years.
Finally, Su said the one thing that she was certain would make her classmate remember her. "In Ancient Runes, I got better marks than you did. Every single year."
A light went on in Hermione Granger's eyes. Now, she remembered. "So . . . " she began, then hesitated, "Su. Would you like to catch up at the Leaky Cauldron?"
DISCLAIMER: The Harry Potter universe and all canon characters belong to J.K. Rowling, not me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Reviews—and especially constructive criticism—are warmly welcomed.