Mary's blue eyes opened reluctantly as the morning sun filtered through the castle window. She rubbed them with the back of her hand and sunk deeper into the cosy covers of her four-poster bed. As she did so a loud sob echoed through the room.

Mary contemplated simply ignoring it and going back to sleep, but her conscience poked at her until she had sat up in bed to investigate the source of such a miserable sound.

A girl with long red hair was sitting on the large stone windowsill, her arms wrapped round her knees, her face screwed up as large tears leaked out of her tightly shut eyes. Mary leapt out of bed to her friend's side.

The stone floor was cold on her bare feet as she stood next to the red-headed girl, a hand on her shoulder.

'Lily! What's up?'

Lily opened her startlingly green eyes to look into Mary's blue ones, but seemed unable to talk. Her face crumpled again and she sunk into her friend's arms with a wail. Mary spotted an open letter sitting on the window at Lily's feet.

'Oh my goodness, is it your parents? Is something wrong?'

Lily emerged from Mary's bear hug with a stifled hiccough, and handed her the letter. Lily's parents were muggles - that is, non-magical folk - so did not use quills or parchment. The letter, written on printing paper in biro - looked odd to Mary, who grew up in a thoroughly magical home.

She scanned through the neat writing; Lily's father had been given a raise and was planning to take them to the South of France over the summer, her mother had started to write a cook book, and her sister Petunia was going on the school skiing trip in the first week of the summer holidays.

All in all Mary could see nothing particularly tragic in the Evans household, and Mary wondered briefly whether Lily's sudden breakdown could be due to homesickness. However, Lily having spent the past four and a half years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry without collapsing, Mary suspected it may be slightly more serious.

By now Lily had taken a series of deep, steadying breaths, and was able to sit upright without Mary's support. Mary stood staring at her with the letter in her hand. She shrugged.

'They all sound fine to me, what on earth are you getting so worked up about?'

'Petunia's g-going skiing while I'm s-supposed to be visiting th-them.' Lily hiccoughed.

'I'm sure you'll see her over the rest of the summer.' Mary comforted, slightly at a loss for why this would be so upsetting. Mary herself would be quite happy if her brothers and sisters gave her some quiet time during the holidays. Lily looked at her friend miserably.

'She's gone on a school trip every holiday since Christmas.'

'Why? What did you do at Christmas?'

Lily sagged against the wall, looking out over the dew covered grounds of Hogwarts.

'I gave her a Remembrall, and I thought she liked it, but now I think back she only said it was interesting.'

'Oh come on she can't seriously be mad at you for giving her a Remembrall can she?'

Lily wiped her eyes again.

'Maybe she thought I was rubbing it in. You know, that I can do magic.'

Mary thought back to how worried Lily had been about Petunia in her first year. Petunia had been so jealous of Lily being able to do magic, that she had actually written to the headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore, asking if she could attend the school. Of course, being a muggle, that would be impossible, and even though it was in no way Lily's fault, Petunia refused to talk to her for a good few months.

'But I thought she was over that, I mean you guys have been getting on alright for the past few years.'

'More or less.'

They both stared out the window in silence. Hagrid the gamekeeper had just come out of the Forbidden Forest, and was ambling back to his cabin with what looked like an entire tail's worth of unicorn hair.

'Well you know what I think?' cried Mary, clapping her hands together, suddenly business-like. 'Petunia is just too busy eating sour grapes to appreciate the fact that she doesn't have to sit through old Professor Binn's Histor of Magic lessons.'

Lily giggled reluctantly, and swung her legs off the window sill. Mary smiled at her.

'Forget about her Lils, she can't hide from you all summer. If you don't want to face a whole week alone with your parents you can come and stay with me for a bit.'

'Thanks Mary.' Lily's eyes had dried up and she had stopped hiccoughing.

'Breakfast!' Mary announced enthusiastically. Lily laughed, all sadness gone from her face, the sun through the castle window reflecting on her long dark red hair.

'Mary you goon you slept through breskfast!'

'That would explain where you got your morning post.' Mary grinned, starting to dress. 'Was there anything for me?' she asked Lily who was putting the letter in her bedside table. Lily shook her head.

'No-'

The door crashed open and two girls toppled inside. One of them had very tanned skin with cornrows in her hair. The other had curly blond hair that circled her face like a mane, and big brown eyes. The latter was carrying a ginger kitten.

'Afternoon Mary, you finally up?' she said, grinning.

'Rose's cat was traumatising Ginger again.' The second girl complained. She scratched the orange kitten behind the ears.

Rose was the fifth member of their dormitory. She was a bit of a loner, and had an old black cat named Spider who enjoyed chasing the other animals in Gryffindor tower.

The two girls now leaning against Mary's four poster bed, Cornelia Sharp and Olivia Jacobs, were, apart from Lily Evans, Mary's best friends. Cornelia beamed at Mary.

'You ready too thrash Slytherin in the final on Saturday?'

'They won't know what's hit them.' Mary grinned back. Cornelia and Mary were both Chasers in the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

'Looking forward to seeing Potter play?' Olivia asked Lily slyly. Lily wrinkled up her button nose.

'Why would I want to watch him fly? I'll be keeping my eyes on you two.' she added proudly looking from Mary to Cornelia.

'You know he fancies you.' Cornelia grinned. Lily frowned.

'Anyway why would you look at Potter when Sirius Black's nearby?' Olivia queried.

'And why would you look at Black when Remus Lupin's never far?' Mary quipped. They laughed, Lily raised her eyebrows, but couldn't help but repress a grin.

'That leaves you with Pettigrew.' finished Olivia, patting Cornelia on the shoulder while Mary leant against the wall clutching her sides. Cornelia stopped laughing and gaped indignantly.

'What? I-'

She was cut off by the door opening, and the fifth member of their dorm walked in. Rose had waist-length black hair and such pale skin that in their first year a rumour flew round that her father was a vampire, but no body had been brave enough to ask her about it. Anyone who started a conversation about her parentage received a quelling look from her black eyes. She turned her cold stare on them now, and the giggling subsided.

'Good morning,' she said in a surprisingly girly voice. The other residents of the dorm were used to her chilling appearance, and knew that she really just wanted to be left alone.

'Morning Rose!' Mary said cheerfully, bouncing over to where Rose stood and scratching the black cat Spider behind the ears.

'Shall we go down to lunch?' Lily asked. The girls agreed loudly and left Rose standing in the middle of the room.

They descended the girls staircase talking noisily and walked into the full common room. Gryffindors were sitting in the comfy armchairs around the fireplace doing homework or chatting to each other.

Molly Weasley, a plump 7th year girl with ginger hair, was playing the flute, and the music drifted over the student's heads.

By the window James Potter and Sirius Black were playing wizard chess. Remus Lupin was sitting on the windowsill just as Lily had been, only his eyes were dry and weary as he looked over his friends' homework. A silver prefect badge glinted on the chest of his robes as he crossed out a sentence with a quill. Peter Pettigrew was egging on Sirius' queen, who was battling one of James' pawns.

As the girls walked in their direction, Sirius nudged James who looked around. Spotting Lily he grinned handsomely and ran a hand through his hair, making it even messier.

'Alright Evans?'

Lily glanced at him and raised an eyebrow haughtily. Black grinned over Mary's shoulder, leaning back on the two hind legs of his chair. Mary watched Lupin as they walked past, but he was too absorbed in what he was doing to notice her.

She said hi timidly but he didn't seem to hear, so she hurried to catch up with Lily. As they climbed out of the portrait hole Lily snorted with disdain.

'Potter thinks he's so cool. I'm surprised his broom can leave the ground with his big head on it.'

'He is good looking though.' Mary added with a rueful grin at her red-headed friend.

Olivia and Cornelia came clambering out of the portrait hole behind them. Cornelia looked thoughtful, Olivia was grinning broadly.

'Did you see Black smile at me?' she asked, her eyes gleaming. 'Do you think he likes me? Should I ask him to come to Hogsmeade next weekend?'

'You could,' answered Cornelia, who seemed to have surfaced from her reverie.

'OWLs start next week though.' Lily said worriedly.

'We deserve a break from revision,' Mary supplied. 'We can work the rest of today and this week, then take a day off Saturday.'

'She's a clever wee lass.' Olivia said in a hearty Scottish accent, ruffling Mary's mousy brown hair so that her fringe fell in front of her eyes.

The four girls stopped off at the Library to do some pre-lunch revision. Lily left them and joined her friend Severus Snape from Slytherin house. He had lank greasy hair and a long hooked nose.

'I don't know what she sees in him.' Olivia said darkly.

'Well they're childhood friends, aren't they?' whispered Cornelia. 'Didn't he tell her she was a witch?' The other two nodded silently. They watched Madam Pince skulking behind a bookcase, and lowered their voices.

'He's up to his ears in the Dark Arts though. I'd stay away from him if I was her.' breathed Mary on pretence of reading the Standard Book of Spells Grade Five.

'Never mind that,' hissed Olivia 'Why does he like her so much? She's muggle born!'

'I dunno,' yawned Cornelia, leaning back in her chair and stretching. 'But I need Lily back over here so she can explain this third law of Potions thingy to me. I don't remember covering this at all.' She flicked through the pages of Advanced Potion Making.

'Lia you idiot,' Olivia hissed, grabbing the text book. 'This is NEWT level potions, we don't need to know it!' Cornelia groaned and threw the dog-eared copy into the middle of the table.

'I give up, let's go have lunch.'

They walked into the Great Hall with Snape trudging along behind them.

'I dunno why he doesn't just ask her to marry him and get it over with.' Olivia muttered so only Mary and Cornelia could hear.

They sat down at the Gryffindor house table at the far end of the hall (Snape of course sitting at Slytherin) and helped themselves to roast chicken and Yorkshire pudding. As Mary took her first bite, Potter and Black slid into the seats opposite them, accompanied by Lupin who was engrossed in a text book.

'Nothing like a good Sunday Roast, eh Evans?' Mary heard Potter say. Lupin was paying her no attention, so she turned to Olivia in the attempt to look like she was involved in a deep discussion.

'Nothing at all, Potter.' Lily replied icily.

'Hearing your tone you'd think you didn't want us here.' said Black, sounding offended.

'Glad you cottoned on so quickly,' Lily shot back, pouring gravy on her potatoes.

'Well, I didn't come to talk to you anyway.' replied Potter in a tone that was obviously meant to sound light and care-free.

He turned to Mary and Cornelia, the light from the sunny enchanted ceiling reflecting on his glasses for a moment.

'Ready for the big match on Saturday?' Mary turned her head to the mischievous pair, and saw that Black was watching Cornelia with his dark eyes, and she seemed temporarily unable to speak.

'I'm surprised they're not shatting themselves.' said Mary.

'Smith's making us practise all of Friday evening.'

'What?' Cornelia cried, seemingly forgetting her loss of speech in favour of loud indignance. 'He didn't tell us that!'

'We've got our OWLs in a week!' said Lily.

'It IS the final.' said Potter, shrugging.

'Our OWLs are more important than some stupid Quidditch game.' scoffed Lily.

Potter, Cornelia and Mary rounded on her.

'What??' Mary asked in a high-pitched voice.

'This is a final match of the season, of the whole year! The winning house gets the Quidditch house cup!' Potter explained slowly.

'Our OWL results could dictate our future' Lily stared around at them all, then turned desperately to Lupin, her fellow prefect. 'Remus, tell them.'

Lupin, upon hearing his name, raised his head out of the book which was propped against the water jug.

'Huh?'

'Oh, forget it!' Lily said exasperatedly.

'Speaking of next weekend,' Potter messed his hair up as he spoke, 'There's another Hogsmeade trip.'

'So?' Lily asked, although Mary suspected that she already knew where he was going.

'So wana come with me?'

'Not for all the sweets in Honeydukes.'

'Oh, come on Evans,' Potter pleaded desperately, 'Come on, go out with me.'

'Wow you're so romantic I've gone week at the knees.' Lily replied sarcastically.

During this entire exchange Black had been watching Cornelia with his dark eyes. She appeared to be absorbed in her runner beans but Mary could tell she was aware of Black's gaze because her ears had gone slightly pink.

Black suddenly looked around, and following his eyeline, she saw Argus Filch limping up the aisle between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables.

Filch was only about 10 years older than them, but his being a squib caused him to hate the students of Hogwarts, and he was waging a constant battle against them. He was currently carrying a mishapen bag, his newborn kitten that he had christened "Mrs Norris" was mewing on his shoulder.

'Potter!' he screeched as he limped nearer. Potter and Black looked at him in utter contempt.

'What?' asked Potter.

'Detention for Saturday!' Filch cried gleefully, his jowls a-quiver.

'What?' Potter yelped. 'Why?'

'For leaving this bag of dungbombs in my office.'

'That isn't mine.' said Potter defiantly.

'It says property of James Potter on the label.' Filch replied, showing them.

'Why would he leave a bag of dungbombs in your office with his name on it?' Black asked furiously. 'Do you really think he's that stupid?'

'That's not for me to decide.' Filch replied with an evil grin. 'Dungbombs are banned at this school and you,' he said, turning back to Potter 'will serve the punishment.' James gave him a sour look.

'My office 10am sharp.' With that Filch turned on his heel and loped back up the aisle, several students glaring at his retreating back.

'That foul-' Potter seemed to be struggling to find words rude enough. Black glared over at the Slytherin table, where Severus Snape was smirking.

'I bet it was Snivellus.' He growled.

'That greesey little toss-pot.' Potter snarled.

'Hey!' cried Lily angrily. 'Watch your mouth!'

'Sorry Evans..' Potter started to apologize, but Lily left the table with a swish of her cloak. Potter grumbled under his breath, also getting to his feet.

'Come on Padfoot.' Black got to his feet, dragging Lupin up by the neck of his robes. Lupin opened his mouth in protest, but closed it again meekly when he saw Potter's expression, and Mary watched the three of them walk out of the Great Hall.