The Other World
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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.
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