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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.

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