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The Other World by SiriuslyCrack

Format: Novella
Chapters: 8
Word Count: 16,380
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language

Genres: General, Humor, Romance
Characters: Lupin, Sirius, Lily, James, OC
Pairings: James/Lily

First Published: 05/24/2007
Last Chapter: 05/15/2008
Last Updated: 05/15/2008

Brilliant banner by Emz. Thanks muchly!
How would you feel if you were thrown into a world that's the complete opposite of yours? A world where people have nothing in common with you? A world where nothing is easy and smooth? A world...where you are considered to be non-existant? This is the story of four teens who have the misfortune of experiencing how it feels to be merely be an object of fiction. This is their story as they adjust to live in The Other World.

Chapter 1: Prologue - The Photograph
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A/N. Bonjour, my readers. I am glad you are reading this. The plot for this story had been revolving in my head since last year but I started writing it in early March and, finally, here is the first chapter. I truly hope that you all enjoy this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. And please don't forget to review and let me know what you think. Thanks! *hugs*

Prologue - The Photograph

It was the summer after his sixth year and Harry Potter had already returned to the Burrow with all his belongings. Forever. He was never going back to the Dursleys. It had been a couple of days since he arrived and to be quite frank, had been bored stiff with all the wedding preparations going on. Not that he wasn’t interested; it was just that he liked to be on his own. So, currently, he was in his room rummaging through the one out of three cartons that surrounded him. The words ‘Possessions of Sirius Black’ stood out on al the three cartons in big bold letters.

So far, Harry had extracted some notes between the Marauders (they were exceedingly funny), a journal of sorts which only contained the strangest, yet the most funniest of pranks and a few albums of the Marauders and Lily. There were some pictures which contained people who Harry did not recognize and assumed they were probably their other friends or maybe relatives. Some other random stuff in the cartons included Sirius’s old boots, a rusting key, a couple of books on Transfiguration, a ridiculous drawing of a messy haired boy on a broom who kept singing ‘I love Evans’ every five seconds and a muggle photograph.

Harry paused. A muggle photograph? As far as he knew, his godfather did not have any muggle friends. But then again, how much did Harry know about Sirius’ personal life anyway? Harry peered at the photo in awe. There were five people in the picture. In the middle was Remus Lupin. Merlin, he looks young, Harry thought, staring at his former Professor. On Remus’ left were Lily and James (Harry stared at them for a while) and on his right were Sirius and a girl whom he had never seen before. Harry wouldn’t have dwelled on it much longer but there was something about this picture that captivated him…drew him in. He noticed how all five teenagers had their arms around each other and wide happy grins on their faces. Although it wasn’t a moving picture, Harry could tell that these five were very close to each other.

But who was that other girl in the picture? The girl who has Sirius’ and Remus’ arms wrapped around her shoulder? Surely, if the Marauders were so close to her, they would have at least mentioned her to Harry. He traced his eyes along the photograph again and made a mental note to ask Remus about it.

However, Remus didn’t show up for two days and during that time, Harry spent his time discussing horcruxes with Ron and Hermione or else dreaming wistfully about Ginny. But through all this, that picture never left his mind and when Remus Lupin finally dropped in for a visit; Harry was the first to greet him. Remus had been surprised when Harry practically dragged him to the room he and Ron were sharing.

“What seems to be the matter, Harry?” he asked as Harry looked wildly around the room. “Is there something you want to ask me?”

Harry found the picture lying underneath his pillow and looked up at his former Professor with a nod. The difference between the man sitting before him and the Remus Lupin in the picture was stunning! And Harry couldn’t help but feel sorry for Remus. Life had been hard on him.

Shaking these thoughts out of his head, Harry walked forward and handed him the photograph. He watched with interest a variety of emotions flashed across Remus Lupin’s face – shock, dismay and wistfulness. He stared transfixed at the picture for a while before speaking.

“Where did you get this?” Remus asked in a hoarse voice, his eyes still lowered to the photograph in his hand.

“It was lying among Sirius’ other possessions,” Harry replied quietly. “When was it taken, Remus? And why isn’t it a moving photograph?”

Remus looked up and Harry was surprised to see such pain and sorrow in the older man’s eyes. He stepped forward and put an awkward hand on Remus’ shoulder. “What is it, Remus? Who is this girl?” he asked. Now Harry was more curious to know this than ever since Remus was being so mysterious about it.

“This girl, Harry…is Salma Shekh,” replied Remus finally, looking fondly at the other girl in the picture. “She was - is - a muggle. That’s why this isn’t a moving photograph, because it was taken by a muggle camera.” Harry watched as Remus closed his eyes and opened them again, but this time, with a little smile on his face. “I remember when this was taken,” he told Harry. “James and Lily were finally going out and Sirius suggested that we throw a party to the whole city.” Remus laughed at this. “Of course, his idea was rejected but Salma wanted to capture this moment forever, so we had her sister snap this picture for us.”

Harry nodded slowly, not knowing what else to say. “You five seem like best friends,” observed Harry. He was going to ask why Peter Pettigrew wasn’t in there but stopped himself, because he was actually glad he wasn’t.

“We certainly were,” Remus answered. “But we five had different destinies to fulfill and thus, we got separated.” He looked sad but Harry suddenly found himself getting annoyed. If they were such close friends with this muggle girl, who somehow seemed special to Harry, then why hadn’t Remus or even Sirius mentioned her to him? What was so special and yet secretive about her?

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Harry voice wasn’t loud but it wasn’t quiet anymore. “And all this time I thought that the Marauders were the best of friends and my mum never had any close friends!”

Remus opened his mouth to say something but he was interrupted by a sharp voice. “You have no right to speak to Professor Lupin like that, Harry!” Startled, both men looked up. Hermione Granger was standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips, glaring Harry’s way. Remus looked worried while Harry frowned.

“How long have you been standing there, Hermione?” he asked.

“Long enough,” she replied, walking inside and plonking down on Ron’s bed. “They asked me to come up and check on you both since you practically dragged Professor Lupin upstairs,” she said.

“Please, Hermione, I am not your Professor anymore,” Remus said.

“Sorry, Remus,” smiled Hermione. Then, looked at them and spoke, “So, what’s this about a muggle photograph and a girl?”

Harry shook his head and stared at Remus with pursed lips. The older man sighed. “Really, this isn’t worth wasting your time. It’s a long story,” he said. It was obvious that he was lying and Harry’s frown deepened.

“Remus, I have the right to know about my parents’ life!” he exclaimed. “You can’t hide this from me forever. Someone or the other will tell me.” This time, Hermione wisely kept quiet and observed Remus Lupin closely.

“No one knows,” muttered Remus. “No one has ever known about Salma. James, Sirius, Lily and I didn’t tell anyone. Not even Dumbledore and Peter.”

“But why?” Harry and Hermione asked in unison. They both looked at each other and Harry nodded his go-ahead. Hermione cleared her throat. “Prof- Remus, it’s okay if you don’t want to tell me but it’s not fair to Harry,” she said gently. “Please don’t keep him in the dark. He has a right to know.”

Remus looked at her and then at Harry and closed his eyes, letting out a defeated sigh. “Okay,” he said, earning a smile from both Harry and Hermione. “You will never believe me anyway.”

“Try us!” Harry and Hermione had wide grins on their faces as they said this.

Remus laughed slightly and began his tale. He was taking a journey through time and knew it would be hard to remember those long-suppressed memories again. But he had to tell Harry. Hermione was right. You can never keep a Potter in the dark.

Chapter 2: The Mysterious Book
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A/N. Thanks to those who reviewed the first chapter. Incase anyone doesn't know, I love reviews :D
I hope you all like this chapter as well.

The Mysterious Book


I would really appreciate it if you could come to the Room of Requirement in about fifteen minutes. If you decide not to…then you won’t ever get your precious diary back.

Your obsessive lover,
James Potter.

Lily Evans crumpled the letter in her hand angrily. Hurriedly she checked her trunk for her diary and when she didn’t find it, she swore under her breathe and stomped down to the Common Room. She was going to kill James Potter this time. The insensitive git!

* * *

The boy in question was currently pacing to and fro in the Room of Requirement. James Potter’s face showed nothing but anxiety as he paced worriedly. His friends, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew sat watching him. Finally, Remus rolled his eyes and spoke.

“Relax, James, she’ll be here anytime.”

James nodded absentmindedly and looked around the room. It was decorated with heart-shaped balloons and pink confetti which constantly kept falling on their heads before disappearing completely. Sirius had said that girl loved this kind of cheesy stuff and so James had agreed to go with his idea.

The main was very simple. All they had to do was, decorate this room and send a really romantic letter to Lily Evans so that she would be tempted to come here. And then, James could ask her out…again! However, James was hopeless romantic, so Sirius had volunteered to write the letter. Unfortunately, nobody (not even Remus) had thought to read what Sirius had written before sending it to Lily.

But Remus instantly knew that something was wrong when the redhead came charging into the Room of Requirement and started shouting at James.

“You conceited, arrogant, insensitive jerk!” she screamed into his face.

“Evans, what -?” James said, completely clueless as to why she was having a go at him. He was pretty sure he hadn’t done anything wrong this time.

“How dare you steal my diary?” Her hair was standing on end and her and ears had become red in her anger. She thrust the letter into James’ hand.

“What are you talking about, Evans?” James asked, looking stumped. He looked down at the parchment in his hands and straightened it. As his eyes skimmed over the contents of the letter, James’ frown deepened. Finally, he whirled around and glared at a calm-looking Sirius.

“Padfoot!” he said angrily. “Can you explain this to me?”

“Sure,” Sirius said calmly and Remus wanted to strangle him then and there. How could he be so stupid as to get Lily angry on such an important day? He was however held back by Peter, who had been sensible enough not to say anything during all this.

Sirius was speaking again, ignoring the glares that James and Remus were sending him. “Prongs, Evans wouldn’t have come if she didn’t believe that we had one of her possessions,” he explained. He turned to Lily. “Would you have obliged if Jamsie here had written you a romantic love letter?”

“Not on my life,” Lily announced. She was still angry at the Marauders for stealing her diary and didn’t bother herself much by wondering why they wanted her here. “Just give me back my diary!”

Ignoring her last statement, Sirius said, “See? I told you. You should thank me instead of being angry.”

James and Peter seemed satisfied by this but Remus frowned. If he knew Sirius well, this was just another joke for him but then, you never knew what was going on in Sirius Black’s head. His mind worked in strange ways.

“By the way, Evans, your diary is safely lying under your pillow,” Sirius said with a grin. “I never stole it, just hid it.” Lily seemed surprised at this but the scowl never left her face. They had wasted her precious time in which she could have happily finished her Charms homework.

“What did you lot want with me, anyway?” she asked curiously. No harm in asking one more question before making a memorable exit.

“Go ahead, Prongs,” Peter said and Remus and Sirius nodded vigorously. This was James’ chance and no one noticed the room grow slightly dark.

“Er, Evans, will you – what the hell?!” James exclaimed suddenly. The room had gone completely dark and it was slowly starting to whirl round and round, increasing its speed every second. Lily screamed, Sirius yelled out and Peter landed on the floor with a thump. Only James and Remus managed to keep their balance but everyone was feeling very dizzy when the room finally stopped going round and round.

“What happened?” Peter mumbled, getting to his feet. He squinted in the darkness but couldn’t figure where exactly his friends were.

“What’s going on?” Sirius was next.

“I don’t understand…wha -?” Lily’s voice floated through the blanket of pitch black.

“Calm down, everyone,” Remus said. This had never happened before since the Marauders spent so much of their time in this room. “Let’s all look for the door. Once we find it, there will be enough light for all of us to get out of here.”

“Good idea,” came James’ voice. “Always the logical one, aren’t you?”

“Shh,” Sirius suddenly said. “Do you hear that?” He looked around although he couldn’t see anything except pitch black.

They all strained their ears trying to catch any kind of sound or noise but heard nil. “Sirius, you are wasting our time,” Remus said exasperatedly, thinking this was one of his jokes.

“No, seriously, look. Merlin, look at this!” Sirius shouted out. Everyone immediately saw what he was talking about. A tiny glimmer of light shone in the middle of the Room of Requirement and it was growing bigger and bigger every second.

“Oh my!” Lily said, shielding her eyes as a flash of bright light filled the room. And when she opened them again, she almost fell over in shock.

Right there, in front of them was a giant glowing book, open in the middle. It was balanced in a vertical position and it was blank. Lily glanced around at the Marauders, who were squinting at the giant book with their mouths wide open.

“Wow!” Sirius muttered, walking closer to the book. He extended his hand to touch it.

“Don’t,” Remus called out but Sirius ignored him and thrust his hand forward.

“Hey,” he said, staring confusedly at his hand which had passed right through the book. Before he could make any witty comment about it, there was a flash of light and Sirius disappeared.

Remus had no time to ponder whether he was sucked inside the book or had just turned invisible because James immediately charged after Sirius without a second thought.

“James!” Remus shouted, running after him in panic. “Don’t go!” He felt someone following him but didn’t turn to see if it was Lily or Peter. He put a hand on James shoulder, trying to stop him, and at the exact same moment, James thrust his hand in the book too. Both of them, along with the person behind them, disappeared in a flash of light.

Just as the remaining person made to follow the others, there was another bright explosion of light and the book disappeared. A moment later, a very confused and scared Peter Pettigrew stood in the middle of the Room of Requirement with pink confetti falling on his head.

Chapter 3: Salma Shekh
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A/N. Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last two chapters. All the reviews made me positively happy and encouraged me to write more. So, thanks again.

Salma Shekh

James, Sirius, Remus and Lily were thrown through the huge book and the dizziness was getting to them. James thought they would eventually come out of the other side of the book, Sirius figured this was probably some joke a stupid Slytherin had played on them and was already plotting revenge, Remus panicked thinking that they were possibly traveling through time and Lily was scared that they were all going to die.

Then, suddenly, just as James had predicted, all four of them were pushed out of the whirlwind.

“Ow!” James and Sirius groaned as they fell on top of each other.

“Merlin,” Remus said, picking himself up and helping Lily to get to her feet. He looked around them with wide eyes. “Where are we?”

“What do you mean ‘where are we’?” Sirius said, pushing James off him and trying to stand up. “We are still at Hog- Oh!” He, too, looked around in surprise. The sun was shining bright over their heads. James seemed awed while Lily was looking behind them frantically. They were standing at the edge of some sort of a long bridge constructed over a river. “Where’s the book?” she cried out in alarm. This caught the boys’ attention and they turned around. Indeed, the huge book wasn’t there anymore, just a blackened cement wall.

“Whoa,” said Sirius. “We went through a book and came out of a wall.”

Remus turned to look at Sirius and James angrily. “I told you not to touch that book,” he scolded. “You both never listen to me.”

“Hey, relax, Remus. I was just curious. I didn’t know we would be thrown out of Hogwarts for merely touching a book,” soothed Sirius while James nodded.

“I followed Padfoot because I thought he was in danger or something,” he explained. Remus sighed and finally turned to face Lily, who was gawping confusedly at something over their shoulders.

“And you, Lily?” Remus asked catching her attention. “What made you follow us like a silly girl?”

All three boys turned to look at her as she sheepishly muttered, “I didn’t want to get left behind.”

Remus’ mouth dropped open and Sirius let out a laugh. “Well, Prongs, you have got an adventurer on your hands. Be careful,” he said. James grinned and blew Lily a kiss. She glared at him.

“Well, we better ask someone the way to Hogwarts,” James said, ignoring Lily’s death glare.

“Don’t be silly, Potter,” the redhead said. “Can’t you see we are in muggle London?” She looked up annoyed when Remus nudged her. “What?”

“I don’t think we are in London, Lily,” he said, pointing towards the bridge on which the strange looking things with wheels were passing. They had never seen these types of vehicles before.

“What are those?” Sirius’ tone was awed as he pointed to a couple of black and green colored three-wheeled vehicles. He walked forward and the other three followed. They were finally out of the shadow of the wall and were being noticed. People shot them weird looks as they passed by. A little girl, who was crossing the road with the mother, even shouted out to them. “Mummy, mummy. Angrez!” One look at the boys and Lily and the woman hurried her child away from them.

“What did I do?” James asked after he had witnessed the incident.

“Maybe she got scared by the messiness of your hair…or maybe it’s your crooked ugly nose,” Sirius offered, highly confused himself.

“Or maybe,” Remus intervened. “She thought we were crazy people all dressed up in robes. They are muggles, after all.” Lily nodded and looked over the high stone railing at the river below as they walked. It was a complete slum area at one side of the shore.

“Remus, this isn’t good,” she whispered to the boy walking beside her. “I have a bad feeling about all this.”

“Me too,” Remus whispered back, trying very hard to ignore the stares people were sending the four of them.

They had almost reached the middle of the bridge when James and Sirius abruptly stopped. “Now, what do we do?” James asked.

“Yeah, we’ll have to wait for the night to send an owl to the Ministry,” Sirius said and looked below at the calm river. It was dirty brown color and Sirius stuck out his tongue disgustedly. Hot air blew his hair into his eyes and he noticed how hot this place was. Perhaps they were in some place near to the equator.

“Well, we could…er-,” Remus looked around, totally lost as to what they should do. Then he spotted a girl standing some distance away from them. “We could start by asking that girl where we exactly are.”

He confidently walked up to the girl and the others followed him. The girl in question had her back to them and was hunched up over the stone railing with both of her hands holding her head. Since they couldn’t see her eyes, Remus had no idea whether she was staring at the river below or had fallen asleep while standing.

“What is she wearing?” Remus heard Sirius whisper to James.

“Seems to be like a uniform of some sort,” was James’ reply before Lily shh-ed them.

Indeed, the girl was wearing a dark blue colored pinafore over a white shirt and black shoes exactly like the ones Lily was wearing right now. Hoping against hope that she, too, wouldn’t run away from them, Remus cleared his throat and spoke, “Excuse me, Miss.”

The girl jumped a little before whirling around angrily to face them. However, her anger faded after she had a good look at the four of them. Now, she merely looked amused.

“Er,” Remus said, slightly taken-aback.

Kuch bologe kya?” The girl asked. Remus’ eyes narrowed in confusion and he turned to look at his friends. The boys seemed completely non-plussed but Lily’s mouth was hanging open in shock. Remus sent her a quizzical look.

“That’s Indian!” she burst out. “The language, I mean.”

“What?!” Three male voices exclaimed in unison.

“Yes, I am sure. This girl is an Indian,” Lily said excitedly. “We are in India!”

“You mean ‘red Indian’?” Sirius asked stupidly. Everybody ignored him.

“Now wait. How do you know this, Lily?” Remus asked, glancing quickly at the girl. She looked ready to burst out laughing at any time.

“Well, I took language classes last summer and Indian was one of them,” explained Lily.

Remus raised his eye-brows. That didn’t make sense at all. “You mean to tell me that we got thrown here, in India, all the way from Hogwarts?” His tone was highly disbelieving.

“It’s a possibility,” Lily shrugged. She turned to the girl and cleared her throat. “Kya hum Bharat mein hain?” she asked clearly, praying she hadn’t messed it up.

Instead of answering Lily’s question, the girl burst out laughing. Her laugher was contagious and soon, James and Sirius started grinning too. They had to admit what Lily had said seemed very funny indeed. Lily, however, looked affronted that someone was laughing at her language skills. She opened her mouth to try again but this time, the girl spoke. She had stopped laughing but the amused grin never left her face.

“Great joke, guys,” she announced. “Who sent you?”

“Nobody sent us,” Sirius said, stepping forwards. “We landed here by accident.” Lily seemed relieved that the girl spoke English and that she wouldn’t have to translate everything. She nodded her agreement with Sirius.

The girl raised her eye-brows at Sirius. She looked around at James, Remus and Lily. “You seem very familiar. Do I know you?” she asked, her eyes narrowing in thought.

“Well, you must have heard of me,” Sirius said, going into his bragging mode. “I am Sirius Black.”

The girl snorted. “Yeah, and pigs can fly,” she said.

“What? That’s my name!” Sirius scowled.

“He is right,” James said, speaking for the first time. “I am James Potter, that’s Remus Lupin and this redhead here is Lily Evans.”

The girl stared at the four of them, her expression skeptical. “Good for you,” she finally said. “But the joke’s over for me.” She turned around and began to walk away.

“Wait!” Lily cried desperately. This girl was their only hope if everyone was going to behave like this with them. “Please, we aren’t lying,” she said and her eyes filled with tears.

The girl turned back around and looked at Lily. Her eyes softened but she didn’t smile at them. “Alright, suppose I believe you,” she began testily. “But if you truly are the Marauders and Lily, then what are you doing in India?”

Lily looked triumphant. Wiping her tears away, she said, “See? I was right about where we are.”

“Forget that bit,” Sirius said, looking at the girl with the same suspicious expression that Remus and James had on their faces. “How do you know we call ourselves the Marauders?” he asked.

She rolled her eyes. “Each and every Harry Potter fan knows that,” she answered. “And so do you, don’t you? You obviously did a lot of work planning this prank. Hair color, Harry Potter merchandise…But you know what? It’s not going to work on me.”

“Harry Potter?” James asked, knitting his brows together. “Who’s he?”

“Must be your son or something,” Sirius suggested. “We must be in the future then.”

Remus opened his mouth to speak. It was time he took the matter into his own hands. “Listen, miss, we have no idea what you are talking about but we know who we are. All we are asking from you is a little faith,” he said directly, looking into the girl’s eyes. “Please believe us.” He paused and waited for her to say something.

She bit her lip and remained silent for a long while. Her eyes flickered over to each of them one by one and Remus could almost see the wheels turning inside her head. Eventually, she nodded her head. “Salma Shekh,” she smiled, sticking out her hand.

Remus let out a breathe he didn’t know he had been holding and grinned. He took her hand and shook it. The others followed suit, looking relieved. When it was Sirius’ turn, he asked, “What does ‘Selma Shake’ mean?”

The girl laughed. “That’s my name. Salma Shekh.”

Chapter 4: Harsh Reality
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This is Salma's bike, incase you all were wondering what it looked like :)

Harsh Reality

“Woah, you have been to India?” said Harry, amazed. “I have heard about that country. Witch hunting was granted there back in the…” Harry paused, looking sheepish. He had never paid attention to his History of Magic classes. “Many years ago,” he finished lamely.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Harry,” she muttered before turning back to Remus Lupin. “So, Salma is an Indian. Interesting. What happened then, Remus?”

“Well, we bombarded her with questions,” Remus replied going back into his memories. “Where exactly are we? Why do people stare at us weird? Who is Harry Potter? How did she know we are the Marauders? And so on. But she refused to say anything. Apparently, she had her own little rules for us.”

“Not here, not in public!” hissed Salma when the Marauders and Lily piled question upon question on her. “I know a place where it would be safe to talk.”

“Are we going to your house?” Lily asked excitedly. She had always wondered how Indian houses were.

“Er, no,” answered Salma. Remus could tell that she was still doubtful of their identity and he couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out why. Why would they lie if they were in trouble? Well, at least she knew they were decent people…or at least they thought she knew.

“So where are we going?” asked James.

“Follow me,” ordered Salma, turning around and walking to where another one of those strange vehicles stood. This one was a two-wheeler and shiny black in color. Remus thought it resembled the structure of Sirius’ bike.

“Whoa. Is this yours?” asked Sirius when Salma settled down on it and inserted her key into the ignition. She nodded which made Sirius more surprised. “You know how to drive this thing?”

“Yeah,” she replied casually, pulling out sunglasses from her pocket and putting them on. “Now, wait here. I’ll be back.” Saying this, she zoomed away.

“Have you ever seen a girl drive a bike?” Sirius said in awe.

“My neighbor’s daughter drives a car,” Lily told him.

“That’s different.” Sirius turned to look at Lily. “Hey, Evans, I don’t know much about muggle bikes but have you ever seen the kind of bike that Salma drives?” he asked curiously.

Lily frowned and shook her head. “That’s strange. I haven’t.”

“What’s that strange?” James cut in, puzzled.

“Am I the only one here who feels that this girl probably left us standing here and is already laughing at us from somewhere safe?” Remus piped up before Lily could answer James.

“I don’t think she is that kind of a girl,” said Lily immediately.

“And how would you know?”

“Because here she comes.” True enough, Salma had returned with one of those black and green three-wheelers trailing behind her.

As soon as she came to a stop by them, she looked at the boys and jerked her head. “Get on in the rickshaw.

“Rickshaw?” repeated Remus.

Salma shook her head and smiled slightly. “I am sorry, I forgot.” Indicating the big black vehicle behind her, she said, “This is called an Auto-rickshaw. These are used to transport people from one place to another. Short distance, of course. And, unlike a car, they don’t have doors,” she finished, stating the obvious.

“Right,” nodded Sirius and promptly got on the back seat of the Auto-rickshaw and settled himself comfortably. He looked like they were going to have the best time of their life. James and Remus followed suit. Unlike Sirius, they looked nervous and worried.

Salma laughed. “Relax guys. It isn’t going to blow up or something,” she assured them. She had a quick word with the driver in her language and handed him some Indian currency. “Right, get going!”

“Wait, what about Lily?” James called.

“She will be coming with me,” came the reply.

“Well, that was decent of her,” said Sirius, once they were cruising towards the opposite end of the bridge. “We are able to sit comfortably without being squashed.”

“I wouldn’t have minded if Lily sat on my lap,” uttered James and Sirius snorted.

A moment later, Salma sped up beside them, driving parallel with the rickshaw. Lily was sitting behind her and was positively beaming. Sirius stared at her jealously for a while before turning his head the other way.

Since the man sitting in front of them was a slow-driver, the boys could enjoy the view. Hot air played across they faces and whipped their hair in their eyes. India seemed to be a very interesting country. Everywhere they turned, they saw shops and offices and people hurrying by, either on their feet or on their vehicles.

“Galloping gargoyles!” exclaimed Sirius suddenly when a huge white cow crossed the road in front of them. “Am I seeing things?” he asked.

“Nope,” James and Remus stated, they too were staring in awe at the cow until they had passed by her. A little ahead of them, they saw a whole herd of cows on one side of the road. Some of them sitting calmly on the road and a couple standing, swishing their tails and chewing constantly. James, Sirius and Remus’ mouths dropped open.

“Do they usually allow cows to roam freely in the city in India?” Sirius asked in amazement.

“It seems like they do,” replied Remus, regaining his voice. He glanced at the girls, who had still managed to drive beside them despite such traffic. Lily’s expression was the same as the boys’ but Salma looked unconcerned as they drove past the family of cows. She was obviously used to all this.

They also saw barking dogs and fat goats during the time until they reached their destination but they didn’t shock them much anymore. It seemed like a free-living country with domestic animals roaming around, bumpy roads and rubbish heaps here and there.

“Don’t you have dustbins in your houses?” Remus asked Salma after they had climbed out of the rickshaw and Salma had parked her bike.

“We do, but the poor people, living in huts on the side of road, don’t,” responded Salma, leading them into a huge park which was almost deserted. “Besides, they would prefer to throw their waste somewhere near rather than walk all the way to throw them into the large government bins. They aren’t found at every street corner, you know.”

“But that’s gross!” James declared, wrinkling his nose in a rather cute way.

“They are putting their feet into their own mouths,” Lily stated. “Don’t they know that dumping waste on the roads or near their houses spreads and diseases and pollution?”

“These are not much educated people,” explained Salma calmly. “Awareness is being spread among them, though. It’s bound to be in the 5-year plans.” She tripped on a pebble and James caught her arm. “Thanks.”

They were standing on the part of the park where there were neither chairs nor benches. Salma looked around and when she was satisfied that nobody unwanted was there, she turned back and motioned to the Marauders and Lily to sit down. They all settled down on the grass comfortably except for Sirius.

“On the ground? Are you mad?” he said incredulously. “I am not sitting on that dirt!”

“Well then, what do you want me to do? Conjure comfy chairs for you out of thin air?” asked Salma sarcastically.

“Can you do that?” Sirius asked in surprise.

“No. Now sit down,” she ordered. Sirius glared at her and reluctantly sat down besides Remus, who looked amused.

“Alright,” Salma said, looking at each one of them in turn. “Now tell me who you four really are.”

“We told you,” Sirius said, getting annoyed. “I am Sirius, this is James –”

“Cut the crap, okay?” Salma said loudly, cutting him off. “Do you think I really believe that shit? I brought you here because maybe you truly need some help. But I can’t do anything unless you lot give me your true identity!”

“Gee, this girl sure has got something against us,” Sirius muttered to James and Remus with a frown. Salma glared at him.

“And just why won’t you believe we are telling the truth?” Lily asked her. She was loosing her patience, too. If they didn’t get back to Hogwarts soon, they would miss more than two classes.

“Because the Marauders and Lily Evans don’t exist!” exploded Salma, all of a sudden, breathing hard to calm herself down. She was getting irritated herself.

A tensed silence followed this outburst in which the boys and Lily stared at Salma with disbelief written all over their faces.

“I guess that proves it, then,” Sirius said, breaking the silence.

“Proves what?”

“That you are crazy!” he cried. “If we don’t exist, then how come we are sitting here? Huh, tell me that!” He stood up in his anger.

“That’s exactly what I would like to know!” stated Salma, her voice rising. She stood up, too, ignoring the fact that she was almost three to four inches shorter than Sirius. “That if you truly are the Marauders and Lily, then what are you doing here, out of the book?”

“What,” shouted Sirius raising his hands and waving them in front of her face, “are you talking about, woman?! We don’t live in a book! We -”

“Hold it!” Remus said loudly, coming to stand between Sirius and Salma. “Don’t fight, Sirius.”

“She started it!”

“Sirius,” Remus warned, motioning for his friend to calm down. “Why don’t we sit down and talk?”

Glaring at each other, Sirius and Salma sat back down at Remus’ request. “Right. Now tell us about this book you mentioned and why exactly do you think we don’t exist,” demanded Remus calmly.

Salma narrowed her eyes but nodded. “There’s a series of books based on the life of a boy called Harry Potter,” she began. “He is a wizard but he doesn’t know he is one until he gets a letter from a magical school known as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

“Hey, that’s our school,” James piped up. “We all go there.”

“So you say,” muttered Salma. “Anyway, to make long story short, this guy, Harry, is closely related to four people.”

“And they are…?”

Salma raised her eye-brows at them significantly. Remus gaped at her. “You mean…us?” he asked and she nodded.

Lily shook her head, puzzled. “No, but wait. I don’t get this. Is the author of these books a witch or wizard?” she questioned.

“No. Magic isn’t real. It’s fictional,” said Salma flatly.

“How would you know? All muggles think like that,” Sirius said darkly. “And you are muggle.”

“Yes, I am a muggle. I don’t do magic,” agreed Salma. “But trust me when I say there aren’t any witches or wizards here. Magic doesn’t exist. It’s fictional.”

“Stop saying that!” James and Sirius exclaimed at the same time.

“You mean to tell us…” Remus said uncomfortably. “That we are the characters of that book?”

Salma pursed her lips. “Well, if you truly are the Marauders and Lily, then yes.” Lily looked alarmed at this new piece of information while James and Sirius just stared.

“I don’t believe this,” muttered Sirius.

“Yeah, what proof do you have?” asked James, trying to look right through the girl sitting in front of them.

“The Harry Potter books are enough proof,” replied Salma.

“Show us,” said Lily instantly. At that moment, a fly buzzed past James’ ear and he jerked sideways, colliding into Lily. “Watch it, Potter,” she snapped.

“I didn’t do it on purpose, Evans,” James defended himself. “But if you go out with me, I’ll consider saying sorry for bumping into you.”

“Shut up, Potter! Is that all you can think about in a grave situation like this?” scolded Lily.

“That’s enough, both of you,” Remus intervened before they started one of their rows again where Lily always ended up storming away in anger. They both immediately clamped their mouth shut while Sirius rolled his eyes.

“You know,” said Salma abruptly. She had been observing them closely as James and Lilt argued. “Besides acting like them, your appearance also matches that of Remus, Sirius, James and Lily.” She paused and just looked at them uneasily before leaning forward and tugging at Lily’s hair. It seemed pretty real. “You truly are them, aren’t you?” she finally said.

“That’s what we have been trying to tell you for the past half an hour,” Sirius pointed out.

“I am sorry but it’s just so…unbelievable,” confessed Salma. Now it was her turn to stare at them in awe. “To see your favourite characters from a book come alive isn’t a thing that happens to everyone every other day.”

“We are really flattered that you consider us your favourite but please, Sirius already told you. We don’t live in a book,” James managed to say as calmly as he could. The ‘you-don’t-exist’ and ‘you-are-just-fictional’ was getting on his nerves now.

Choosing not to comment on what James said, Salma turned to look at Lily. “It’s your turn. Tell me how you got here from Hogwarts.”

“Do you want to hear the short version or should I tell you from the part where Potter sent me a letter saying he had stolen my diary?” asked Lily, sending a quick glare James and Sirius’ way.

“I didn’t send you that stupid letter. It was Sirius!”

Salma snorted. “I don’t care, whatever. Just fill me in.”

“Okay. Well, we were all in the Room of Requirement…I suppose you know about that too?” Lily asked. It seemed like this girl knew a lot about them…and Hogwarts.

“Yeah, I do. It gets you anything you need.”

“Right. So, we were all talking when suddenly the room went dark and started to whirl around,” Lily said, her eyes glazing over a little as she remembered what had happened. “Before we knew what exactly was going on, this huge glowing book appeared in front of us.” Lily paused and looked at Sirius at this point. “Sirius put his hand in it and disappeared in a flash of light. Without thinking, Remus, Potter and I followed suit…and here we are,” she finished.

“You forgot to tell her Peter was there with us as well,” James pointed out.

“Peter! Peter Pettigrew?” Salma said sharply.

“Oh, so you know him too? I bet you even know what color underwear we wear,” said Sirius in a bitter voice.

“No, I don’t,” Salma snapped, looking disgusted. “I already told you – it’s all in Harry Potter.” She fell silent and thought for a while, a huge frown on her face.

Finally, she looked at them and declared, “I think there’s been a huge mix-up.”

“What kind of a mix-up?” asked Remus, not getting where this was going. “I thought you said you believed us.”

“I do, now,” she nodded. “I don’t know how to say this…it might come as a shock.”

“Just say it,” cried Lily. They were just beating around the bush. A quick glance at the boys told her that they felt as uneasy as she did.

“Okay.” Salma cleared her throat uncomfortably and began. “I have already told you that the characters with your names exist in this fictional series of Harry Potter.” They all nodded at this. “And you say you all were thrown here from this huge glowing book.” The four of them nodded again. “Well, I think you were thrown out of the story book itself.”

“I beg your pardon?” Remus asked, looking aghast.

Lily looked mortified. “Wh-what?” she stammered.

“But this doesn’t make any sense,” James and Sirius said at the same time. They had been doing this a lot lately. Sirius motioned for James to continue. “This means that we…”

“Don’t exist? Yeah,” finished Salma, looking sympathetic.

Lily was crying now. Salma was probably telling the truth. Her earlier behaviour about not believing who they were and her knowing almost everything about them justified it. But hearing that they were just some characters of a book was so horrifying, so shocking.

“But that’s not fair,” she sobbed into her hands. “I feel so alive…and real.”

James, Remus and even Sirius looked at her sadly, not knowing what to say. They were just as shocked and devastated as Lily was.

“I am sorry,” whispered Salma quietly. She put a soothing hand on Lily’s knee. She didn’t how it was possible that these four people landed here but now she knew that they were telling the truth.

They all sat in the park for a long while, letting their shock subside, each lost in their own thoughts, unable to say anything, unable to think straight.

Then, suddenly, Salma jumped to her feet. “Look at the time!” she cried in alarm, staring at her wrist watch. “Mum’s going to be worried sick. Main mari!

The Marauders and Lily looked up at her. “Well bye, then,” Lily said morosely. She had stopped crying but her eyes were still red. “Thanks for all your help.” The boys nodded silently at her.

“What? Aren’t you coming with me?” Salma raised her eye-brows at them.

“You…you want us to come?” Remus asked, looking surprised.

“Of course! Do you think I was going to leave you guys here with nowhere else to go?”

“Er, yeah,” muttered James.

Salma broke into a grin. “Well then, you have a lot to learn about me,” she said, offering her hand to Remus, who was sitting nearest to where she stood. He smiled and took her hand, pulling himself up.

“Thank you,” Lily said to Salma gratefully as they all exited the park together. They didn’t know what lay ahead of them or what would happen next, but they truly knew for sure now that Salma would always stick by them. And one day, maybe they would finally overcome the harsh reality of their lives.

Chapter 5: Harry Who?
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Harry Who?

It took them fifteen minutes to reach Salma’s house which was situated in between a variety of buildings. The place looked very old and they couldn’t see the main road from there but Salma’s building seemed neat enough.

“Is this where you live?” Lily asked, looking around the surrounding in awe.

“Yup,” smiled Salma. She opened a side-gate in the building and parked her bike.

This time, Sirius couldn’t resist and finally blurted out, “I have never seen this kind of a bike before. Where did you get it?”

Remus and James, who had been staring at a little store that sold colourful sweets and chips while trying very hard to ignore the stares of the children in the street, turned to look at Salma too when Sirius asked that.

“It’s not exactly a bike,” replied Salma, ushering them inside her building. It had a weird name starting with R, which they couldn’t pronounce, and ended with ‘Complex’. “It’s a scooterette. Honda Activa.”

“It looks awesome,” praised James and Sirius nodded vigorously.

“Why haven’t I seen it before?” Lily muttered to herself as they ascended the stairs. “Maybe it’s just an Indian model.”

“Maybe,” Salma said. “But it has been very popular since 2005 or something.”

The Marauders thought 2005 was another type of bike but Salma told them that she had meant ‘year 2005’. At that revelation, they all did a double-take.

“2005? What year is this?” Remus asked sharply.

“2006,” came the reply.

Remus stared. “Why didn’t you tell us before?”

“Does it seem important in this situation?” retorted Salma. “Besides, it’s obvious. The first Harry Potter book was published in the late 90’s. Ah, here we are.” They didn’t argue with her. She was probably right. After the shock they had gotten a while ago, nothing could surprise them now.

They waited patiently after Salma rang the doorbell and a moment later, the door to her apartment opened to reveal a beautiful woman, who seemed to be in her late thirties of early forties. She had a short, plump figure and a rosy complexion.

Currently, her face did nothing to enhance her beauty…because it was contorted into an angry expression which was directed right at Salma. The woman didn’t seem to notice the Marauders and Lily.

“Kahan thi tum? You are late!” she scolded Salma.

“Mum!” Salma hissed in embarrassment and pointed to her guests. Salma’s mother immediately sobered up as she looked the boys and Lily up and down. She smiled kindly at them and sent Salma a questioning look.

“Later,” Salma said quietly into her ear. “You guys, come on in. Make yourselves at home.” Silently, the Marauders and Lily obliged. They found themselves in a medium sized room with a huge table at one side and adjacent to it stood two steel cupboards. As Salma talked quietly with her mother, the four Gryffindors observed the room they were in. It was an odd little room with peeling white paint and various books strewn here and there. There was also a sort of calendar hanging on a small hook but it was in a different language and even Lily couldn’t understand it. She wondered how many languages Salma’s family knew.

The huge wooden table was a complete mess. It disgusted Lily to see hundreds of books piled on top of it along with a compass box which seemed to have toppled over because its contents were everywhere. The table also held a few old newspapers, a pile of clothes and an empty water bottle, which looked like it had not been moved from its place for quite some time. Yet, including all this mess, the room looked pretty clean. Lily could see not one speck of dirt or cobwebs. They could easily deduce that Salma’s family was a decent one.

“I presume the table belongs to you?” James asked when Salma came over. She grinned and nodded. “Impressive.” The others, even Lily, laughed at this.

“What did you tell your mother? What did she say?” Lily asked, sobering up quickly.

Salma shook her head. “I haven’t told her anything yet. My dad will be home in an hour or so and then, I’ll talk to all of them together,” she responded, and shrugged when Remus asked her how many members did she have in her family. “Well, there’s my dad, my mum, my grandma and my stupid sister.”

“Stupid sister?” Sirius snorted. “That sounds promising.”

“Oh, you’ll see,” Salma said darkly, telling them that right now her sister was at her friend’s house.

“Right.” Trying not to look at Salma weirdly, Sirius looked down and rubbed his palms together. “So, care to tell us more about this fictionalHarry Potter? I am really curious to know how we are connected to him.” Remus could hear the bitterness in his voice but Sirius hid it well, because Salma made no indication that she noticed his sarcasm.

Actually, she looked a little awkward. “I don’t think I should tell you that,” she muttered, looking down, her expression guilty. The four friends looked at each other, puzzled.

“Why the hell not?” asked Sirius, his voice rising slightly.

“Because it will spoil your future,” came the small reply.

“What future are you talking about, Salma?” Lily asked gently, while Sirius shouted angrily, “What are you talking about? You already told us quite bluntly that we are not real. That we don’t exist.”

James nodded. “Yeah, and it kind of screams that we are not destined to have a future.”

Salma stared at the four of them, her anger rising as Sirius and James continued to fume. “Well, I am sorry but it’s not my fault you landed out of your bloody book!” Her voice was hard and loud and Lily winced visibly when she registered what Salma had said. Tears stung her eyes and she gulped hard to fight the lump down her throat. “I…I am sorry,” apologized Salma, when she realized what she had said had sounded very rude. “Oh, I am really sorry.” She leaned forward and hugged Lily. “I promise I will never say such a thing again.”

Lily nodded and smiled a watery smile. “But that doesn’t mean you won’t tell us about Harry Potter, who might very well be Potter’s son.” She glanced at James, who grinned.

“That doesn’t mean anything,” Salma corrected. “I will only tell you what you need to know. Now, come on, I’ll show you everything on the internet.” She turned around and bounded into a smaller room which was separated by the room they were standing in with a thin curtain.

“What’s an internet?” Remus asked, following her along with the others, who were just as confused.

“But I want to know everything!” protested Sirius, ignoring the bit about ‘internet’. “Who knows if we are even going back into the story book. What if we have to stay here for the rest of our lives?”

“Sirius, don’t say that,” Lily said, scowling slightly. “That’s not going to happen. Well, at least, I think it’s not.” She looked highly unconvinced but that effectively shut Sirius up. He merely nodded.

Salma settled down in front of an odd box like object and motioned for the four of them to kneel around her since there were no other chairs available in the small room. She pressed a couple of buttons and the box like object suddenly came alive. Salma grinned at their expressions. “This is a computer,” she answered before anyone could question her. “It’s highly advanced and can do everything that humans can do.”

“Honestly?” Sirius asked, impressed, poking the computer to see if his hand passed through or not. It didn’t. So, it was pretty solid. “Where’s its brain?” he asked, watching as weird things began to appear on the computer screen.

Salma laughed and pointed to another rectangular box, situated beside the computer screen. “That’s the CPU, the brain of the computer. This whole thing, along with this typing machine and this black mouse-like object is called a computer. Separately, they are termed as – monitor,” she jerked her thumb towards the square screen. “CPU, keyboard,” she pointed to the apparatus with loads on buttons. “And the mouse,” she finished, putting her right hand on the mouse and dragging it from side to side.

“Look! That tiny arrow moves along with it,” James exclaimed, awed.

“Yes, that’s how it works,” nodded Salma. And before they could ask any more questions, she said, “This isn’t important right now. I’ll show you how this thing works later. Let’s see what we can find about Harry Potter.”

“How are you going to find Harry Potter in this thing…er, computer?” Remus asked curiously. His knees were hurting him from kneeling since more than five minutes. He wished they had more chairs to sit on. But then again, it wouldn’t help much since it was such a small room. It only held the computer and a couple of wardrobes with vertical mirrors. Five chairs certainly wouldn’t fit in there.

“Via internet,” Salma replied absently absentmindedly, punching some buttons on the keyboard and after a moment, a beautiful picture of a setting sun appeared on the screen.

“What’s an internet?” Remus asked again, resting his elbow on the armrest of Salma’s chair. She explained to them that internet was a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks using standardized communication protocols.

“Whoa!” Sirius muttered, looking at Salma as if she had grown four more hands. “Could you shorten that down, please? I didn’t understand a thing.” James nodded his agreement but Lily and Remus remained quiet. It was a hard concept to digest. James and Sirius were purebloods. They didn’t even know about television.

“Basically, you just have to understand that internet knows everything. The world at the tip of your fingers,” she winked, smiling at their impressed faces. The four Gryffindors couldn’t believe the world had progressed so much since their time. They had never even thought that something like a computer could even be invented. “Okay, so I will type Harry Potter and we will see what information we get. He’s pretty famous.”

Salma punched a few more keys on the keyboard and waited. They were all staring intently at the monitor when suddenly she let out a surprised cry. She was staring at the screen in shock. “What? What happened?” James asked, sitting up straight.

“Wha…where?” Salma stuttered, seeming to be at a loss for words. She typed ‘Harry Potter books’ in the search bar. The page remained blank. Panicking, she quickly typed ‘Harry Potter wallpapers’ in there. But still, it remained blank. “Alright, Draco Malfoy should be here,” she muttered, more to herself and typed the name. The Malfoy named seemed familiar to the four Gryffindors but now was not the time to mention that. Salma was getting more and more panicked and frustrated. “One last time. Let’s try the harrypotterfanfiction site.”

She pressed ‘enter’. A second later, they were all staring at the same words on the otherwise blank screen – ‘Your search did not match any documents.’

Dun da da daaaaaaa! Guess what that means :D

Chapter 6: The Other World
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The Other World

Your search did not match any documents.

The Marauders and Lily looked confusedly at the computer screen and turned to glance at Salma, who seemed like she was having a bitter epiphany. She put her hand to her mouth and let out a strangled cry. “Oh. My. God,” she said slowly, her eyes wide like saucers. “This can’t be happening. That’s…impossible!” She was talking to herself. Sirius made a weird face at James.

“What’s impossible, your highness?” he asked sarcastically.

“It’s not here… they are gone,” muttered Salma dazedly, turning to look at him.

“Okay, you are freaking us out,” Sirius said slowly, looking closely at Salma. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see Remus and Lily exchange glances with each other.

“Exactly,” James piped up. “Who’s gone? What are you talking about? Enlighten us, will you?” He watched as Salma looked them with the same dazed expression for a while before giving herself a visible shake.

“You are not going believe this,” she said finally.

“Believe what?” questioned Remus. He couldn’t take the suspense anymore. “Just tell us, please.”

“It’s gone,” she repeated again, her voice oddly awed and it cracked as she spoke. “Harry Potter. It’s vanished. It doesn’t exist!”

“What?” Lily said, making no sense out of Salma’s words. “What do you mean? We already know that it doesn’t exist. Your words…it’s fictional, remember?” She raised her eye-brows.

“No, no, I mean the books don’t exist,” the other girl ground out, her frown deepening.

“WHAT?!” The Marauders and Lily literally shrieked.

“You mean you lied to us?” James accused, standing up and glaring at Salma. “You made us believe that we are from a book called Harry Potter…which doesn’t exist!”

Salma blinked and pursed her lips. “No, you silly idiot! Don’t you understand?” she said, looking around at them all in hopeless despair. All of them looked confused. She sighed and continued. “James, you are supposed to be Harry’s father in the book and Sirius, his godfather. Don’t you see it now? You became real. You came out of the book! Thus, Harry wasn’t born and if he wasn’t born, there’s no Harry Potter series. It existed before,” she stared at them and steeled herself to say what she was going to say next, “but now, there’s no Harry Potter. Nobody knows who or what he is.”

It seemed as if someone had punched Lily in the stomach. She couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t stand. This was too much to take in one day. She felt her world spinning and the room was getting more and more blurry as the seconds passed. A low gasp escaped her mouth as her chest heaved and she suddenly fainted.

“Merlin, Lily!” James cried, his hand shooting out and catching Lily by her waist as she collapsed. “Oh my God, I never thought life could get so bad,” he muttered, carrying Lily’s limp body out of the small room and into the bigger room they had first been in. He set her down on a mattress near the window and settled down beside her for support.

Sirius, Remus and Salma followed him out and Salma glanced sideways at the two standing boys. Both looked shocked, to say the least. But they were doing better than Lily. They were strong and had taken the blow very well. “I am sorry,” she whispered again. It seemed that she had been giving them a lot of bad news since she had met them.

They just stared at her, either because they didn’t know what to say or else their mouths had gone dry and were in no condition to say anything. Salma herself was shocked by today’s events. First, her day at school goes bad, and then she meets her favourite story book characters who claim to be real and now…this! She was surprised that the Marauders hadn’t fainted as well. Nothing could be more shocking and depressing than knowing that you don’t exist and the only means of going back to where you lived had been destroyed.

They all jumped when the door bell rang and Salma hurried to open the door. It must be her father, Remus figured, because Mrs. Shekh came running from another room as well. Remus was right. It was Salma’s father. He was a tall, well-built man with handsome features and scarce hair on his head. His eyes were sharp as he surveyed the scene before him.

“Hello,” he said and his voice was deep and clear. “Who are you?”

Remus opened his mouth to reply when Salma interrupted. “They are friends, dad. Come in and I’ll tell you everything,” she replied.

Mr. Shekh stayed still and followed his wife’s gaze over to Lily, who was still unconscious. They both exchanged glances. “What happened to that girl? Is she alright?” he asked, walking forward but Salma caught his arm.

“Daddy, please. Let’s go to your room. Sab batati hoon,” she whispered quickly and Sirius wondered what she had said in the end as she dragged her parents out of the room and through a little passage way to another room.

The Marauders exchanged significant glances, knowing very well what was going on behind the closed door of Salma’s parents’ room. Remus sighed and sat down heavily in front of James and Lily, and Sirius followed suit. The dark haired boy would have been very amused seeing James and Lily together like this had this situation not been so grave. He just stared at Lily worriedly.

“How are we going to get back now?” Sirius softly asked the question that had been on everyone’s mind.

“Where, Sirius? Back into the book?” James said bitterly. His face was twisted in a tight expression as he stroked Lily’s hair gently. His friends could tell that he was trying hard to fight the lump in his throat. Seeing his friends like this and thinking about the situation they had landed into, Sirius’ eyes stung and he looked away.

“Prongs, please, don’t speak like that,” Remus implored weakly. He felt like all the energy had drained out of him and he felt exhausted and weak. His shoulders were hunched as he spoke and this was the first time that his knowledge had failed him. He had no idea what to do now and was certain that Lily would fair no well either when she woke up.

The three boys remained silent, each trying very hard not to look at the others, until Lily groaned and her eyes fluttered open. She seemed a little uneasy, being in close proximity to James but didn’t move away and James figured she needed his warmth. Lily did not say a word; she just lowered her eyes and started sobbing.

“I suppose our only chance of going back is gone,” she hiccupped, trying to wipe her tears away but they kept pouring anew.

James patted her back and Remus reached forward and held her hand to comfort her. “Lily…” he said, forcing her to look at him. “We will go back.”

“How do you know for sure?” squeaked Lily, through her tears.

“We will find a way,” James answered for Remus and for the first time in her life, Lily smiled weakly at James. He looked at her in mild surprise and smiled back reassuringly.

Observing the exchange between his friends, Sirius felt oddly like a black cloud in a clear sky. Was he the only one who was actually not willing to find a way back? Did his friends truly wished to go back into that fictional book? Did they not want to exist anymore? Sure, Sirius was sad not to go back to Hogwarts and be able to do magic again but being away from his family and from his dark past was worth it. He could happily live here for the rest of his life if it meant that he wouldn’t be related to the Blacks anymore.

James had been watching him and seemed to sense what Sirius was thinking. “Padfoot,” he said, biting his lip. “I hope you are not thinking what I think you are thinking.”

Remus and Lily looked at Sirius as well. Remus at once understood what was going on but Lily remained non-plussed. “What?” she asked, drying her face with her palms and looking between Sirius, James and Remus. She noticed James and Remus exchange significant glances.

Sirius saw that exchange as well and spoke. “No,” he said simply.

“No,” repeated James, puzzled by Sirius’ short answer. “No what?”

Sirius looked down and played with his thumbs. “I mean I won’t be disappointed if we don’t find a way,” he said, almost inaudibly. The others had to strain their ears to hear him and Lily gasped when she did.

“What are you talking about, Sirius?” she asked. “Don’t you want to go back? Like ours, your parents will be waiting for you as well. Wouldn’t you miss them?”

James closed his eyes and groaned inwardly. Lily, what have you done? he thought, pursing his lips and looking at Sirius to gauge his expression. He knew, for a fact, that Sirius always got worked up when anyone mentioned his parents. But this time, no anger or hurt flashed on his face. Remus cast James a confused look as Sirius shook his head at Lily’s questions.

“I would never miss them.”

Lily looked surprised. She opened her mouth to ask him why he would say such a thing when James squeezed her shoulder harder than necessary. She turned to glare at him but he just shook his head frantically at her. “Don’t,” he mouthed pleadingly and Lily frowned but wisely kept quiet after that.

Everyone was lost in their own thoughts. It was rare for them, especially the boys, to sit and ponder over something since, usually, they had their hands full with studies, pranks and trying to hide the reality of who the Marauders really were from the whole school. The image of them that they maintained was far more easy and charming than what they truly were from inside. It was more complicated than that but nobody knew that. And the Marauders didn’t want them to know. It was an unspoken pact between them that their secrets would never ever go out of their own circle. The boys kept their secrets folded neatly inside some deep corner of their heart where they were still young and immature and where they knew for certain that nobody could reach except themselves.

Lily put a hand to her head as it suddenly started spinning again. She had had too much to think, too much to digest for a day. Three major shocks in one day was not something that Lily was used to. She subtly tried to glance at James. He had a frown on his forehead, just like Remus, and he had never looked more mature to Lily. She suddenly wondered why she had never noticed how good looking he was.

Lily looked away, deciding that she had a crazed second where she actually thought that Potter was good looking. That might be true but Lily Evans never thought good things like this about James Potter. This time, her gaze landed on Sirius. The only Marauder who would forever remain a mystery to her. Lily remembered how she had a crush on him in her first and second year. But that was before he started being a prat and the best friend of Potter.

Lily had always wondered why he had been so sad and that was what drew her to him. She eventually realized that it was all an act to charm girls. But was that actually true? Would Sirius go to such lengths to charm girls and then claim that his fan club annoyed him? No, there had to be more. And this fact had been confirmed just ten minutes ago. There was something that the Marauders were hiding about Sirius and although Lily didn’t want to be nosy, she intended to find that out.

Her gaze finally switched to Remus. Remus Lupin, the boy who appeared logical and sophisticated of them all; the boy who always took the positive approach and was the ideal prefect of Gryffindor. Lily frowned. That was all she knew about him. They spent lot of their time studying together but Lily never tried to find out anything about Remus’ past or his childhood. Even though she knew he was strong, he always appeared tired and fragile to Lily and she had always wondered if he had some really horrible disease that he didn’t want anybody to know.

She didn’t know how close she had come to knowing what Remus was.

Meanwhile, as Lily was trying to figure the Marauders out, Sirius was trying to decide the right path. He couldn’t imagine how he could live without Hogwarts but then, he figured it would be worth it if he stayed in this world, away from all the darkness that had consumed the magical world presently. Sirius felt like a coward for thinking like that; but he couldn’t help it. It felt good to think that he was real now while his manic parents remained non-existent, which was exactly why Lily’s questions didn’t flip him out.

“What if they won’t let us stay here?” Lily suddenly asked, breaking into everyone’s thoughts. Sirius jumped ever so slightly.

Trying to drown the panic that had risen inside of him at Lily’s question, Remus said, “We don’t have anywhere else to go.” He sighed “Maybe we could sleep on the streets or something.”

Lily looked shocked. “Remus!” she cried, a pained look on her face. “Don’t say things like that!”

“Yeah, please don’t,” came Salma’s voice as she walked into the room and sat down beside them. “How are you, Lily?”

Lily waved her hand as if it wasn’t important. “I am fine, but tell us what happened? Is everything okay? Do we have to sleep on the streets?”

“Relax. They are discussing the matter and will be here any moment,” responded Salma lightly.

“What did you tell them?” Sirius asked curiously.

“At first, I tried to lie. I said you were my internet friends and came over to meet me.”


“They didn’t believe me, so I told them the truth,” shrugged Salma.


“They didn’t believe that either,” Salma told them dryly. “Apparently, they haven’t heard of Harry Potter as well.”

Lily sighed. “That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, should it?” she said bitterly.

They remained quiet for a while, waiting for Salma’s parents to come out but when they didn’t, James spoke, “I guess we should just break our wands now. No use in keeping wooden sticks with us, right?” he said casually, although they could make out the edge in his tone.

“Yeah, we aren’t going back now. Our one chance is gone,” agreed Sirius. He pulled out his wand from his robes and said the stunning spell. Nothing happened, as expected. “And we can’t even do magic. It’s no use.”

Lily bit her lip and when she saw Salma doing the same thing, she released it immediately. “Maybe it’s no use now. But if we do find a way back, we’ll regret it if we broke our wands,” she explained wisely to James and Sirius, who looked a little doubtful. However, they obeyed her and put their wands away.

“Just remember that if there’s a way in, there’s a way out as well,” Salma said and everyone looked at her gratefully. She smiled at them. “For now, just forget that you are characters from a book. I know it hurts to know that. Just think that this is a parallel universe. Think…you came here from a parallel universe and nobody knows that you exist because you have a life in that other universe…”

The Marauders and Lily tried to imagine it that way and surprisingly, they felt good. “We aren’t fictional,” James said finally. “We are just from a different universe where everything is different and less advanced than this place.”

Sirius, Remus and Lily nodded in dazed agreement, their expression showed that they could see and feel something that they hadn’t before. They felt whole again, thanks to Salma. “This is just another adventure of ours. In…the other world.” Suddenly feeling very light and happy, the five of them smiled at each other. “Thanks, Salma.”

Just then, they heard the sound of a door open and they all sat up straight. “It’s them, isn’t it?” whispered Lily nervously. Their hearts were pounding against their ribcage as the footsteps in the passage came nearer and nearer...

A/N. Someone requested me in a review to translate Salma's language for everyone to understand. I can't do that in the running chapter, so here it goes. Sab batati hoon means "I'll tell you everything."

From the previous chapters...
Kuch bologe kya? means "Are you going to say something?"
Kya hum Bharat mein hain? translates as "Are we in India?"
Kahan thi tum? is translated in English as "Where were you?"

I hope that clears all the doubts :) Please don't forget to review.

Chapter 7: A Place To Live
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A/N. I am not sure about London's currency but as far as I know (and thanks to Jackie for the help) it's pounds. So if there's any mistake in that area, please bear with me. Thank you.

A Place To Live

“What happened? What happened, then?” Hermione asked frantically when Remus paused, remembering their anxiety that day. The bushy haired girl had been so absorbed in the story, that one little break drove her beyond anxiety.

Meanwhile, Harry was unusually quiet. No doubt wondering whether he was a mere fictional character or lived in a parallel universe. Unlike Hermione, who was either trying to ignore that fact or else was really good at hiding her shock, Harry felt stunned at the revelation that anything could be possible. However, Salma was right. Thinking that they were in a parallel universe helped ease down the pain.

Forcing a smile on his thin face, Harry repeated Hermione’s question, because he, too, was curious to know what happened then. Remus looked at the two teenagers and continued his story.

“It’s them, isn’t it?” whispered Lily nervously.

Nobody answered her. They watched as the loud footsteps grew closer and a second later, Salma’s parents and an old woman, who they assumed to be her grandmother, entered the room. All of them looked cautious and determined at the same time, as if they didn’t believe anything but didn’t want to break their daughter’s heart. Salma’s father spoke first.

“So, you are the charac -” He stopped when Salma glared at him. “I mean, Salma’s friends.”

The boys and Lily nodded. “We really are sorry for the trouble, sir,” Remus began. “But Salma is right. We don’t have anywhere to go.”

“Because we are from a parallel universe and don’t know anyone here,” added Sirius while Remus rolled his eyes at him.

Mr. Shekh hesitated and then nodded. “Yes, you four can stay with us,” he said. “Salma has told us everything and although it’s hard to believe, we trust our daughter.” He looked pointedly at Salma with an expression that said ‘this better not be a lie, or else…’

“Thank you so much, sir,” Lily said, smiling gratefully at Salma’s family. “Salma is telling the truth. It’s the only possible explanation as to why we are here. We promise that we won’t cause any trouble.” She looked at James and Sirius and narrowed her eyes. They jumped and nodded as well.

Mrs. Shekh whispered something to her husband and he looked back at them. “Good, good. But there are a few rules in this house that are to be obeyed.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon talking with Salma’s family, getting to know them and trying to remember and learn their ways. They had a late lunch, during which Lily observed the four of them. She couldn’t help but notice how different they were from each other. Salma’s mother was a kind and gullible woman and Lily already liked her. Her name was Farida and she was little weak on the English language. She asked the boys and Lily to call her Aunt, instead of Mrs. Shekh.

Salma’s father, on the other hand, was smart, quick-tongued and firm in his ways. He sternly told them all to behave in his house and obey whatever his wife said. No smoking, no drinking…

“Not even fire-whiskey?” Sirius blurted out, without thinking.

Mr. Shekh frowned in confusion. He had no idea what a fire-whiskey was. But he shook his head. “No. Nothing that is even close enough to whiskey,” he said.

“What about our clothes, Mr. Shekh?” Remus asked. “We can’t roam around in robes everywhere and we don’t know how much time we are going to stay here.”

“I don’t have…I’ll ask for a loan from my boss, then we can go shopping tonight after I am back from work,” replied Mr. Shekh. He looked slightly disturbed and Lily could very well understand how it would feel. She would have been surprised and disturbed as well if her daughter brought home four strangers without any money.

“We understand, sir,” said Remus politely, looking guilty. He didn’t like to be dependant on others. “I -”

“Hey, what’s this?” Sirius said, cutting him off. Everybody looked at him curiously.

“What?” asked James.

“Hear the jingling sound?” Sirius said excited, shaking his robes vigorously. And sure enough, they could hear the jingling sounds, which could only mean one thing. “It’s money!” he exclaimed, digging his hands into the insides of his robes and extracting a handful of bills and pennies.

“Oh Merlin!” muttered Lily, staring at the pounds with awe.

“Where did you get them, Sirius?” Remus asked, touching the bills to see if they were truly real or not. When he found nothing wrong with them, he looked back up at Sirius, who shrugged.

“I swear I don’t know where they came from,” he said. “They were just there.”

“How can they be just there?” asked Remus, not believing his friend. It was not the first time Sirius had played a joke on them. “Did you steal them from your parents’ vault before –”

“Moony!” hissed Sirius, cutting off his werewolf friend who immediately fell silent realizing his slip up. “I did no such thing. Why don’t you check your own pockets?”

Salma’s family glanced at each other, thoroughly confused and not knowing what to say. While James and Lily obediently plunged their hands into their own robes, Remus looked skeptical. “I know I don’t have -” Poor boy was cut off again by Lily’s exclamation of surprise. “Now what is it, Lily?” he asked exasperated.

“Look!” she said, extracting bills from within her pockets at the same time James did.

“Wow,” murmured James, awed. He knew he didn’t have muggle money in his pocket. “Where do they come from?”

“Are we supposed to follow this?” intervened Mr. Shekh in a constricted voice as if he didn’t know what to feel – unsure or happy.

“Remus,” cried Salma, excitedly, following the pattern. “Do it. Check your robes!”

This time, Remus didn’t hesitate. He did as he was told and sure enough, within a minute of thorough searching, he pulled out the bills and coins from his robes. “But I didn’t put them there!” he stated, shocked.

“Neither did we,” Sirius told him, putting the money on the table before them all. “Let’s not waste time wondering where we got it, let’s just count it and see how much we all got.”

All four of them set about counting their possessions while Salma and her family watched them. Since it was muggle money, Mr. Shekh helped James and Sirius in counting theirs. Eventually, it turned out that all four of them had equal amount of money – an approximate value of fifty pounds.

“Not much,” sighed Lily sadly. “But it’s better than nothing.” Of course, she was grateful.

“Are you mad?” said Mr. Shekh, he was laughing now. “Indian currency is the Rupee. One pound is equal is eighty rupees! Imagine that.” He paused, looking up at the ceiling in deep thought, as if doing some kind of a calculation in his head. “That means, each of you have four thousand rupees right now. Add them up and we have a total of sixteen thousand rupees!”

“Woah,” said Salma while the others beamed at each other. This was turning out to be not that bad of a day for the Marauders and Lily.

“We are rich!” cried Sirius happily and everybody laughed. Indeed, they were rich. Now, Mr. Shekh wouldn’t have to take a loan from his boss. He left after a while, a smile on his face. Having Salma’s friends stay with them wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

Chapter 8: Witness to an Unspoken Grief
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A/N. This chapter has been beta-ed by JLHufflepuff. Thanks so much, Jessi. Also, thanks to GubraithianFire who helped me with the beginning of the chapter. To my readers, sorry for the delay. There's nothing I can say that can make up for my carelessness. So just scroll down and read the chapter. Please do not forget to read and review *huggles to all*

Unspoken Grief

A week passed since that eventful day when the Marauders and Lily met Salma Shekh. True to his word, Mr. Shekh had taken them shopping, and, not surprisingly, they had spent almost all of their money on clothes and a few accessories. Lily had tried very hard to save her money, but after Salma explained to her that everything was more expensive these days, she backed down with a sigh.

The next few days had been pretty unforgettable for the boys and Lily. They went exploring. After school, Salma took them to various malls and theatres and other places which always left them awed. It seemed to Lily like the four of them were standing quite still while the world zoomed past them. She voiced her thoughts to the others, one night, when they were all sitting in the living room, chatting, after Salma’s family had turned in.

“The world has grown so much since our time,” stated Lily. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Salma look up from her book.

“I agree,” nodded Remus, checking out his jeans which Salma had bought for him a week before. “I mean, look at all these pockets. There are at least five to six here!”

Sirius laughed and piped up. “That’s nothing. Have you seen my black colored trousers? It contains eight pockets with strange round metal hooks,” he told Remus, who raised his eye-brows in amusement. Sirius continued, “There are six in front and two at the back, by the hips. Really amusing. Dunno how boys these days wear them.”

“It’s fashion, Sirius,” Salma spoke up.

“Sure, but if we wear such things at Hogwarts, people’ll laugh at us,” James told her. “Our reputation will be in ruins.”

Salma rolled her eyes and continued her reading. Lily shook her head at the boys. “I am not just talking about clothes…but forget it, you won’t understand,” she said, pursing her lips in irritation.

“So, what exactly are you reading, Salma?” Sirius asked, leaning closer to the other girl and peering into her book. It was as thick as the length of his thumb.

“Physics,” she replied. “We are going to have a test tomorrow. And I don’t know anything.”

“Are you serious?” Lily asked, looking baffled. She could never remember a time when they had test and Lily hadn’t already summarized the whole chapter.

Salma grinned at her. “Relax. I’ll just cheat.”

James whistled while Lily could only stare at her. “You shouldn’t cheat, Salma,” Remus said. “That’s…” (pause) “…cheating.”

James and Sirius glanced at each other, trying to stifle their laughter while Salma rolled her eyes. “Really, Remus. It’s all set. Don’t worry about me,” she said assuringly. “Besides, it’s just a small test. I don’t cheat in big exams.”

Neither Remus, nor Lily, looked convinced but they wisely kept quiet. What Salma did, was her own problem. They had been together for almost a week but there were many things about Salma that they didn’t know. And even though they got along pretty well, they were not the bestest of friends with Salma.

“It’s late. We better turn in,” she announced, flipping her book onto her table, getting up and stretching. Her night gown fell just below her knees and Lily noticed, for the first time, how frayed and old it looked. Salma said good night to them and left after switching off the lights.

Lily couldn’t sleep that night. Sure, she had found it hard to sleep in Salma’s house from the beginning, since she had to sleep with the boys and she was not at all comfortable with that. But then, there weren’t many rooms in this house to spare. Salma didn’t even have a room to herself; she slept with her grandmother and sister. No privacy at all! But Lily had no right to judge Salma’s family. They were not that rich.

Lily turned her to look at the three boys. All of them were sleeping soundly. How could they sleep anywhere other than their own dorm at Hogwarts and their house?

“Boys are weird,” she muttered to herself.

For the past week, Lily had been struggling to sleep peacefully. Sleep usually came to her, even if pretty late in the night, but tonight, it was different. She was feeling groggy but she just couldn’t close her eyes.

James was sleeping nearest to her (while Lily slept on the small mattress, the boys only had a thin sheet to cushion the hard ground) and looking at him, Lily’s mind wandered back to the day when she and the three Marauders had been transported into this world. Was it destiny? Was it written in their destiny to come here and meet Salma? Lily wasn’t sure she believed in destiny but it could be true…

“Come on, just let me sleep!” she ground out in frustration, shaking her head to get rid of the disturbing thoughts.

After five minutes of staring blankly at the ceiling, sleep came to her. But, unfortunately, for Lily, who was still in a half-conscious state, an unfamiliar sound woke her up. What exactly is that sound? she wondered, groggily, peering curiously through the darkness. The boys were still sleeping; James and Sirius snoring lightly. Lily closed her eyes and concentrated hard on whatever she was hearing.

It sounded like a moaning sound, as if someone was crying. It was very low and Lily presumed it was probably coming from somewhere below. Perhaps it a child crying… Her eyes began to feel heavy again and she fell asleep.

The next night, the same sound woke her up again. She didn’t get it. Who would be crying at this time of night? It really irritated her because whenever she tried to fall asleep, that crying sound would start.

This went of for days. Once, Lily even stood up and, putting her laziness aside, glanced out of the window, fully intending to shout at whoever that was disturbing her already fitful sleep. But the streets were bare. She couldn’t see a soul outside. And the thing that surprised her most was that when she stuck her head out of the window, the sound of crying became dull.

“What the hell,” she said to herself, frowning, as she turned back glance around the room. A reluctant thought came to mind that this sound was coming from within the house itself. Determined to investigate, she crossed the room, aiming to head towards the kitchen, but suddenly stopped in her tracks. The sound was coming from the ‘computer room.’ Heart pounding against her chest, Lily retraced back a couple of steps and tip-toed towards the small room. It had no door but the curtains were drawn.

Did she dare pull open the curtains and see who it was? She didn’t know what to do. Someone was crying in this room, really hard, Lily felt a twinge in her heart. She so badly wanted to peek inside. Was it Salma? Or was it her sister of Mrs. Shekh? It was impossible to tell. Lily put a hand to her mouth when the sound became more gut-wrenching. It was low, but in the silence of the night, it suddenly seemed deafening to Lily, who turned tail and went back to where she slept.

The next morning, at breakfast, she observed all four of the females in the Shekh family. She didn’t think it was Salma’s grandmother who she heard crying, so she focused her attention on Salma, her sister and their mother. Surprisingly, they seemed normal…almost happy.


Salma’s voice brought her back to the earth. Lily jumped and quickly asked, “What?”

Everyone was eyeing her oddly. “What’s the matter, Lils?” asked James. Had Lily not been so occupied with her thoughts, she would surely have reprimanded James for referring to her as Lils instead of Evans.

“No-nothing,” she answered, as casually as she could, pushing toast around in her plate.

Salma’s dad spoke up from behind the newspaper, “Is there some problem? Do you want anything?”

Lily shook her head. “No, Mr. Shekh. I am quite good.” She smiled at everyone reassuringly. They resumed their breakfast but Lily knew Remus was unconvinced by her answer. He kept throwing her worried glances.

“What’s your problem, Lily?” he asked, catching the first opportunity he could lay his hands on. “You have been acting strangely.”

“Have I?” Lily asked, reluctant to tell him just yet. She bit her lip.

“Yes. Since this morning. And you have slight bags under your eyes,” Remus replied, worriedly. “Are you sleeping alright? Because, if it’s those two snoring, we can just snuff some cotton into their mouth.”

Lily giggled. “Thanks, Remus. But I am fine,” she said firmly. Remus dropped the matter, but Lily wasn’t one of those people who quit easily.

That night, she lay awake, waiting for whomever it was who cried in the computer room. Since nobody slept in that small, almost suffocative, room, it was but obvious that someone went there every night. And for that, they would have to pass the room where Lily slept, along with the guys.

Einee, meenie, mina, mo, Lily kept thinking in her head so that she would not fall asleep. She had been awake for over two hours and no sign of anyone sneaking in. The voice of James Potter muttering something in his sleep made her giggle. She raised her head slightly to look at him from above the pillows that separated the boys from Lily. Her sudden, totally un-Lily-like idea of tickling James in the ear, was instantly forgotten when she heard low foot-steps coming from the kitchen.

There was low bumping noise and somebody hissed in pain. “Ow!”

Lily put her hand to her mouth, stifling her gasp in shock at hearing the familiar deep voice of Salma Shekh. Lily quickly put her head on her pillow and pretended to sleep as Salma passed. It was when she heard the curtains (of the other room) closing, that Lily sat up and looked around in disbelief.

Lily couldn’t comprehend the fact that it was Salma who cried every night. She did not sleep the whole night, wondering what it could be that bothered the Indian girl enough to shed tears regularly. Did she have a secret? Was someone bullying her at school? No, that seemed impossible; Salma was a strong and intimidating girl. No one would dare bully.

“Then, what is it?” she thought to herself, without realizing that she had spoken out loud.

“What is what, Evans?”

Lily looked up at James’ voice. All three boys were staring at her. She vaguely remembered that they had already had breakfast and Salma had left for school. Lily felt hungry again. She bit her lip, debating whether to tell the boys or not. Finally, she decided she should. They all were in this together and maybe they could help Salma in some way.

“What is it that’s upsetting Salma,” replied Lily softly, fiddling nervously with her thumbs.

“What do you mean?” asked Sirius, sharing confused looks with Remus and James.

“I…uh…heard her crying last night.” And she told them everything, word after word spilling from her mouth like water. “…and I can’t help wondering what it is that’s bothering her.”

“Maybe she’s being bullied,” suggested James, after the shock had subsided.

“Ruled out,” said Lily, shaking her head. “Do you seriously believe anyone could bully Salma Shekh?”

James sighed and sank back. Lily was right. It was probably something really bad that was getting at Salma. It was hard to imagine the girl cry. She was always laughing and making sarcastic jokes.

“Why don’t we ask her ourselves?” Sirius piped up, his tone uncharacteristically grave. “She’s sure to tell us.”

“No, Sirius, she won’t. She doesn’t strike me as the type of girl who shares her problems with others,” stated Remus, pursing his lips in thought. “If she hasn’t told her parents, it’s only obvious she won’t tell us.”

Lily agreed with him. “Besides, we don’t want her to think we are prying in her business. It’s just that she has done so much for us that I want to help her too.”

“We understand, Evans,” said James, and Lily smiled lightly at him.

“Call me Lily.”

James looked surprised and Sirius broke into a wide grin. “Now that’s what I am talking about,” he beamed. Lily blushed, and then turned serious.

“So what do we do now?” she asked them in general, her expression anxious.

“Let’s just play along and see where it takes us. If nothing works, we could always catch her red-handed,” declared Sirius and the others couldn’t help nodding.