"You are a disgrace to our family, Sirius! Regulus is a much better son than you are! Get out of my study immediately! And you are not to have dinner with all the family tonight!" – I heard our mother yell. After that there was banging of the door and stamping of Sirius feet. 30 seconds later the door of his bedroom on the second floor was closed with another bang.

I sight, leaning over the wall in the kitchen. Hell, how I hated that. Hearing people yelling made me ill, especially if this were members of my family. As if there were no other ways to come to an agreement. Unfortunately, almost all my family members seemed to think that you could only solve a problem by shouting.

It was more or less ok before Sirius was sorted into Gryffindor. Well, there was a bit of dissatisfaction in the family when Meda joined Ravenclaw. But nothing too serious. Ravenclaw was never particularly liked or favored. But some of our relatives had been in Ravenclaw. Not many, though. Gryffindor was another story.

I never saw my parents so angry before that evening when they received a letter from Bella saying my brother was sorted into Gryffindor. They sent him a Howler and had a serious talk with him at Christmas. Not that it had had any effect. He had made friends with James Potter. A pureblood, fortunately, but from a family that my parents called "mudblood lovers" and "disgrace to the wizarding world". Sirius was forbidden to visit him and talk about him at home. My parents made everything to prevent Sirius and Potter from communicating with each other during holidays. They didn't really succeed at that as far as I know. They would have forbidden this friendship if they could control Sirius outside Grimmauld Place.

After I was sorted into Slytherin (I never told anyone that I practically begged the Hat not to sort me in Ravenclaw – I had never been brave and I was afraid of my parents anger, still, I can't say I regret being a Slytherin) my mother never missed a chance to use it against Sirius or humiliate him by something similar to what she had said a couple of minutes ago. Sometimes he was upset by that, sometimes he was angry and sometimes he just laughed. Mostly angry, he us tells me. At least for the past two years. He has no respect to our parents since his second year – that's what he told me once. And so he is no longer upset by their words. Just angry that they are trying to force him to do things he considers wrong, to live his life for him. This was what he is saying. I am not sure that it is entirely true. Sometimes I cfn see tears in his eyes after these shouting matches. If I tryasking him questions, he does his best to hide them and laugh or simply shouts at me to go away. Which I always do.

What had he done now that Mother decided to leave him without Christmas dinner? She was angry at something when we came home from Hogwarts a couple of days ago. She never said anything before today.

Well, if I want to find out I have to go and ask him. And better before Mother tells me that he is punished and I am not to go to his room. I doubt that I would dare to disobey her. Or would I?

I knock at the door. As always in such situations I know nothing about his reaction. He might be laughing and saying that it's great he doesn't need to tolerate Bella and Cissy during dinner. Or he might be throwing furniture around the room. He might let me in. Or he might through curses at me. Literally. Our parents never regarded underage magic as bad. We use magic at home whenever we want to. Regarding Sirius' character, I'd say that they are making a serious mistake in allowing him doing magic. His friendship with Potter is no more or less dangerous than him doing magic at home.

"Who's there?" – at least he is not saying "go to hell" immediately.

"It's Regulus" – I answer trying to keep my tone as calm and neutral as possible. He might have guessed it's me after all. My parents are not in the habit of coming to him after assigning him a punishment. It's usually me. Or Meda when she is here.

"What do you want?" – it just seems so to me or his voice is really trembling a bit?

"Don't tell me that you suddenly became stupid. The house was shaking all over because of you and Mother shouting," - I reply angrily mostly because I am afraid that Mother will hear us talking and forbid me to communicate with Sirius. In this case I might never find out what they were quarreling about.

The lock in the door clicks. I am allowed to come in. Sirius is standing with his back to me, smoking. I blink. I had never seen my brother smoke. Mother would go berserk if she found out. It's a mudblood habit, firstly. It's not healthy, secondly. Especially at fifteen, thirdly.

"Smoking? I never knew," - I say ironically. I don't really know why. Maybe because he didn't let me in immediately.

"It's none of your business, Regulus" – he snaps. Well, I was asking for that, wasn't I?

I come closer to him: "What happened? Mother seems really angry."

He looks away but I notice that his eyes are slightly reddish. Then he tries to laugh. Not convincingly enough, I think.

"Just a stupid thing, honestly. Somehow she had found out I was dating Joan Clark", - he replies with a smile that doesn't reach his eyes. A rare thing with him. When my brother is smiling, his whole body is smiling as well. Not now.

"A mud… A muggleborn girl from my year in Ravenclaw?" – I ask.

"Yeah, that's her."

"You can't expect Mother to be happy about that," - I tell him, shrugging.

"Reggie! For God's sake! I am not going to marry her, now or ever. She is just nice and has a sense of humour! We like to spend time together. And even if I wanted to marry her, it's my life and my choice. It doesn't concern them," - he almost shouts.

"Don't shout, please," - I ask him quietly, flinching.

He closes his eyes and inhales "Sorry. It's not you who told them, is it?"

I shake my head: "You know how I hate all this shouting. And even if I didn't I had no idea that you were dating that girl".

"You could, actually, tell Mother that you relationship is not serious. It would have calmed her at least a bit," - I tell him after a pause.

He gives me a wistful smile that again doesn't reach his eyes: "I did something that angered her even more".

"What?" – I ask, not yet knowing whether to laugh or get angry.

"I told her that I was going to marry her when we finish Hogwarts," - he tells me, now smiling more sincerely and there is mischief in his eyes.

I blink: "Why, pray tell! Especially since it is a lie!"

"I don't know, to tell the truth. Just got angry and said that before I understood what I actually said," - he shrugs.

"No wonder she doesn't let you spend Christmas dinner with the whole family," – I comment dryly.

"As if I wanted to be there anyway," – he snaps.

"Than why are you so upset? – I inquire. – You got on Mother's nerves, which you seem to like doing as often as possible, and you are not spending Christmas in the company of Mother, Bella and others. What's the problem?"

He looks away, biting his lip: "Who told you I was upset? I am not."

"Yes, you are. I am not blind, Sirius", - I answer. It's not in my habit to drag things out of him or give him any real moral support when he needs it. He doesn't like that. And it's usually the other way round. I am the one who is afraid or upset. Not him. But today... I don't know. May be I insist because I really don't see the reason for him to so upset that he actually cried.

He lights another cigarette and sits on the bed. He doesn't answer me. And he doesn't order me to leave. That's new.

"Don't tell me that you are really in love with that Joan," – I say after a moment.

He laughs "No. Of course not. It's not that."

"Then what?"

"You don't think you are too persistent today?" - he asks me sharply.

"You don't think you are acting strangely today?" – I shoot back, settling on the bed.

He laughs again: "Point taken, I suppose."

Then he stops laughing abruptly and looks at me. And I can see pain in his eyes which is even more rare for him than a smile that doesn't come to his eyes: "Reggie… I don't really know why I am so upset. You are right that there is no reason for that…It's just… I don't know…"

He trails of and I finish for him: "It's just too much for one person to handle, that's what you mean?"

He stretches on the bed and closes his eyes: "You can put it that way, I suppose. I am just so tired of all of them. And there is no way out of here. Not yet at least. I'd leave if I could. If I had anywhere to go…"

I place a hand on his shoulder. I don't like seeing him in this mood. It's strange and even frightening. If he leaves I will be stuck with them all alone. And I will never be able to leave this place. I've never been brave or even rebellious. Sirius got it all and even too much of that.

I close my eyes as well and take a deep breath. "Well, - I make a brave attempt to smile. – Just two and a half years to go for you – and you are free to do whatever you please. If you start earning your leaving, of course. Before that however you'll have to put up with all of us and especially me."

He opens his eyes and smiles: "Well… You are not the worst of all this."

I roll up my eyes: "Thanks. That's very nice of you! Anyway. If you are so eager to get away from here you can always make your Joan pregnant and marry her in order not to shame your and her family more than you already did. That's an idea. Don't you think?"

With this words I get up from the bed, ready to run away. He frowns, then blinks, taking in my last words. Finally he sits on the bed and throws a cushion at me. It hits my shoulder and I run to the door. Just as I close it behind me, something heavy hits it from the other side of it. History of Magic, Year 5, by the sound of it.

"Merry Christmas, Sirius!" – I shout and start making my way to my bedroom to get ready for the family Christmas dinner. I can hear Sirius laugh. Very well. He is in good mood again and I will have to spend Christmas listening to Mother and Father telling other members of the Black family what a disgrace my brother is for the family! Great! Just great! I close the door to my room with a bang.