Author's Note: I am a horrible person for neglecting Just After Midnight and Rules of the Game. I'm really sorry, but life is just really crazy right now. Gearing up for the AP exams and the regular ones, tech week just around the corner, my cousin just had a baby and my grandfather is really awfully sick. I'm behind in everything and I just can't focus long enough on plot lines and happy stuff to write anotheer chapter. I'm a good way into the next chapter of Rules, though, and that will be posted soon, I swear. Midnight's also due for an update very very soon. I feel absolutely awful, you guys, but I just can't control it right now. I'm so sorry, and I hate it when people say that real life is getting in the way of fanfic when I'm reading, but I just hope you guys understand and know that I really am trying as hard as I can. I'm so, so, so sorry.

I wrote this because I just read an amazing story about the Black family, who I've always been fascinated by. It's called A Keen Observer by DeepDownSlytherin, and if you want a completed, epic tale that's the one for you.

Again, I'm very sorry. I hope this is a poor little replacement to tide you over for a bit. Not a long story, maybe two chapters, maybe just one. More if the inspiration hits, just because we all know how the Black family is doomed and doomed is just really the only sort of writing I can do right now.

If anyone feels like sending some good vibes towards my pop-pop, that would really mean a lot to me. Thank you, and I will try to update Rules ASAP!

I remember, sometimes, back to when I thought that family was stronger than anything, I remember how inseperable we used to be. We were more than family, then, we were blood—tied together forever by something that could never change. Blood in the family meant something more than it did to other families—it meant something more to me. The Black children were a very tight knit bunch, that's what people used to say. At Hogwarts, I got plenty of ribbing for it, until Bella hexed the boy into the infirmary. We were closer than any family I knew, not just me and Sirius, but Bella and Cissy and Andy too. I thought we would always be together, because blood is always there.

I guess I was just stupid, that way.

I suppose the reason that we grew to be so close was just because our parents seemed so far. I was lucky if I saw my father once a week, and the only time I saw Mother was when we were in trouble. When Sirius was Sorted into Gryffindor, Mother started to have a weekly tea with me, to make sure I was turning out all right, but nothing substantial ever happened. I was too quiet to turn out like Sirius. I was too scared. And so she never had much to correct, never had much to say, and part of me wished I could be brave like Sirius just so she would notice me.

But then he would come home and there would be those terrible screaming matches and the times when Mother lost her temper so completely she would just start throwing things at him. Once, when the fighting stopped, I peeked out of my room and I saw Sirius walking up the stairs. He'd cut his forehead on something Mother had thrown, and he reached up to touch his forehead and his fingers came away smeared with blood. Like an exclamation point, or an accusation.

And I knew I would never be brave enough to earn that sort of blood.

Before Bella went to Hogwarts, we used to spend all our free time at Uncle Cygnus' estate. He was as distant as my father, so that even hearing his name brings to mind nothing more than his study door. Aunt Druella spent a lot of her time traveling the continent, or visiting with her family. Mother always used to sneer at Aunt Druella behind her back.

"Nasty, common family, the Rosiers," she'd sniff. "That's the reason poor Cygnus hasn't any boys. Diluted the bloodline." She always took great pride that Sirius and I were completely of Black stock. Totally pure. I think it was the only thing that Sirius was ever able to do right—turn out a boy with impeccable bloodlines.

I never minded that our cousins were girls, not really. Bella was as good as any boy, when we were younger, and the only one who was terribly girlish was Narcissa. Besides, I had frequent contact with the Rosier boys. The twins, Cornelius and Claudius, were in my year. Two small, sly, untrustworthy boys whose idea of humor was to push a first year down the stairs. I much prefered my girl cousins to that sort of brutishness.

I liked Narcissa least, originally, since she was a year older than me and the most prissy, but once Bella and Andy and Sirius were off at Hogwarts we grew closer. We were the youngest ones, and we were always determined to surpass those above us. I think that the year alone with Narcissa, plotting and planning ways to move above our respective siblings, was what cemented my house. Before, I'm sure that whatever nobility and bravery Sirius possessed must have rubbed off a little on me. But then the sly, scheming part of me thrived under Narcissa's careful tutelage, and when she went off to Hogwarts the next year and left me utterly alone, I nursed it eagerly.

It was almost as if our parents had conspired together that the Black family should have a monopoly on Hogwarts to rival the Weasleys. Bella was the oldest, of course, and we all followed her like stepping stones. When I entered Hogwarts, Narcissa was in second year, Sirius in third, Andy in fourth, and Bella ruling supreme from her status as Slytherin prefect in the fifth. At family functions and the required social gatherings, our parents would always enter together—Uncle Cygnus and Father each taking one of Mother's arms, Aunt Druella bringing up the rear and us children in between. Sirius always took Andromeda's arm, I took Narcissa, and Bella stood too proud and tall to even need an escort. When she was married and she started to be escorted by Rodolphus, I always thought it looked strange to have Bella be the one meekly led around. Bella was never meek. After a few balls, Roddy realized that and they often entered together, but not touching in any way—a deference to the egos on both sides.

At Hogwarts, we were like royalty. We were the end of an era, my cousins and I—we were the end of the pureblood philosophy, of the unrestrained snobbery and the unlimited power. I grew up as the second in line to be heir in a family that went back to the Middle Ages. You could find mentions of Nigellus' and Blacks' almost back to the Romans. While I lacked confidence about many things, I never lacked confidence that this world was my world and that I deserved every thing it had to offer me. At Hogwarts, though, with Dumbledore as headmaster, things were changing. Purebloods were decreasing in importance. For the first few years, I was treated like a little prince, which I thought I deserved. Then, in my fourth year, Patrick Smart, a brutish mudblood, pushed me down a flight of stairs. I woke up in the infirmary with my head bandaged and Sirius waiting by my bedside.

This was three weeks before Christmas break, before the last fight my mother would ever have with him, before he left. I was a little surprised—Sirius normally avoided me in school. I was happy—I thought it meant everything would be okay.

"Sirius," I said, and I sat up and gingerly touched my head. "What happened?"

Sirius sighed, ran his fingers through his hair. "Smart pushed you down the main stairwell. Madame says you've got a nasty bump on your head."

I rubbed at the spot. "I believe it." I paused. "Why did he push me?"

Sirius looked uncomfortable. "Said you called him a mudblood."

I frowned. "I don't talk to him. He's a seventh year, and a Hufflepuff—why would I even say two words to him?"

"He said you muttered it at him and that's why he pushed you."

"Utter rubbish. I've never said more than two words to the bastard."

Sirius ran a hand down his face and nodded. "Yeah, I know, Reggie." I remember I was so happy, because he hadn't called me anything but Regulus in months.

"Besides," I said, buoyed by his use of the nickname. "So what if I did? Wouldn't be anything false about it, would it?"

Sirius's face twisted a little. "You gotta be careful, Reg. Times are changing, you know?"

I tried for the arrogant Black look, which must have looked ridiculous with that bandage on my head and the infirmary issue pyjamas I was wearing. "That won't ever change. He's a mudblood, Sirius. Mother and Father say that soon, our Lord will be getting rid off his kind—"

Suddenly he slapped me harder than I'd ever been slapped before and he grabbed me and shook me. Then he stopped and he looked at me and he just—he looked so angry and upset and it all just poured from his mouth.

"Listen, Regulus. Listen to me. You—you're getting caught up in all this heavy stuff, and you're just fourteen. You're fourteen, you don't know what any of this stuff means! Just—come on, Reggie. Come on. You can still get out of this. You and me, together, like old times, yeah? Just—you and me. Forget Mother and Father, and their Lord, and just—just be with me." His eyes were pleading with me and I could tell he was about to cry. "It'll just be you and me then, Reg. Just you and me."

I wanted so badly to say yes. I still want to say yes, now, thinking back. But I reached up and I touched my stinging cheek and I felt my lip—it had been split in the fall and Sirius' slap had reopened it. I pulled my hand away and there was blood on it, and I thought about blood. I thought about me and Sirius, yes, but then I thought of the generations of Blacks that had come before me, all the noble and honorable blood that ran through my veins. I thought of my parents, who had passed this blood along, and of Bella and Cissy, who defended that blood.

I thought of the mudbloods and their tainted blood. I thought of how they were trying to pollute us, pollute me, how they were trying to take everything away from me and my family, trying to rob me of the importance of my blood. I thought of Bella's arm, after she had received the Mark that summer, I thought of the little drops of blood that slid away. And I thought of Sirius, I thought of Sirius coming up the stairs with blood on his hands and his head and I thought about what made up blood.

And I shook my head. That's all I did, I shook my head, and the hope of Sirius's face slammed shut, like a door and I wished I could take it back, that I could make it right, but the door was shut and it wouldn't ever open.

He stood up, nodded at me stiffly. "Goodbye, Regulus." He put his hand on my head for a second, then he nodded again and walked away.

Those were the last words he said to me.

Cissy came after that—she was the fifth year Slytherin prefect, like Bella and Andy before her, and she sat by my bed and brought me a compress for my head and held my hand when I cried in front of her. That was another thing—the two of us ended up in the middle of arguments all the time, because this was the period when the Family found out about Andy's mudblood boyfriend, a boy by the name of Tonks. So there would be times when Mother and Sirius were going at it and I would try to get away to Uncle Cygnus' estate and just encounter Bella yelling and screaming and Andy. Narcissa and I were the bystanders, the ones who loved too much and cared too much and had no way to go. Cissy found her refuge in Lucius and her betrothal. I couldn't find anything to make me feel better, so Bella found something for me.

So here we are, all of us. The Black children, only all grown up. Sometimes, I think of us, of what we have become. Of Bellatrix Lestrange, one of the most feared Death Eaters in the Dark Lord's service. Of Narcissa Malfoy, known in rumors as Lucius Malfoy's ice queen. Of Andromeda Tonks, the blood traitor, the deserter.

Of Sirius Black. My brother. My blood. But these words—they mean so many things that I don't know what they mean.

For a time, I thought I could always go to Sirius. I went along with everything, because I knew that if I ever needed to, Sirius would come and get me. Sirius would save me, because we were blood. But then a different kind of blood got in the way.

My first mission was with Bella and two other Death Eaters. My initiation, really, but Bella treated it as nothing but a mission, even though we both knew that afterwards she would report in to the Dark Lord and tell him whether or not I passed.

We were given the address of a small family. Jacob and Helen Norrell. Married for a little over a year, the wife was pregnant and the husband worked in the Department of Mysteries. I didn't even know what we were sent there to obtain, but Bella lead the way, as she always did. She dispatched the other two Death Eaters as guards from the woods, so it was just me and her entering the house. For a moment, before we entered the house, it felt like one of Bella's make believe adventures.

But then, very suddenly, it wasn't.

Bella took the woman—she screamed and screamed and I couldn't watch what Bella did to her. I shut my eyes, and when I felt the blood spray my face, I was shocked. I assumed that the Killing Curse was the method of choice for most Death Eaters, and I was right—but Bella was not most Death Eaters. She looked at me, and I was paralyzed. She smiled and came over.

"Come on, Reggie, she's just a mudblood. Come on, Norrell gave us the information—all you have to do is kill him."

All you have to do is kill him. It suddenly struck me that I had never killed anything before. Not even a spider. I raised my wand and tried to speak, but my throat was too dry. I licked my lips, and I tasted blood that was not my own and I nearly vomited.

"Your first kill?" she said sympathetically, and I nodded. Norrell was bound and gagged on the floor, and his eyes were pleading with me. Gray eyes. Like Sirius.

"Here—give me the wand. It'll look better if you knife him." She handed me a wickedly sharp dagger and smiled. "Just slit him along the throat."

I was frozen. All I could look at were his eyes, his scared, frightened eyes. They were pleading with me, saying please no, please no, please no. I didn't know how to refuse them.

Bella's hand suddenly closed over mine. "We'll do it together, Reggie, all right?" she said. "But only this once."

And before I could tell her no, before I could tell her about Sirius' eyes, my hand and hers dragged the dagger across his throat.

He died, needless to say, in a gush of blood that covered both our hands. She probably would have insisted on another cut, but then we heard the signal from Rabastan and Rodolphus from the woods. She grabbed my hand and pulled me away, and as we darted to the nearest safe, undetectable Apparation point, I stared at our hands, and I knew then I could never run to Sirius. Sirius was gone, now, my one way out was no way at all.

Because though Sirius and I may be blood, there's another sort of blood holding me and Bella together. And I don't know if that's the sort of blood I can ever escape.