"Reggie!" I cried, running through the halls. "Reggie? Reggie, where are you?" I skidded to a halt outside the open door to the study. Poking my head in, I saw the hunched, wizened figure of the old house elf Kreacher, who was trying to clean with a dirty old rag.

"Kreacher," I said affectionately. "Have you seen Regulus about?"

The house elf turned and grinned toothily up at me. "Master Regulus is hiding in his closet, Mistress Narcissa."

"Thank you," I said, then hurried away. I paused, rushed back to the study and told Kreacher, "Mother needs you downstairs. She says guests will be arriving at any moment."

"Will do, Mistress," he called as I dashed away again.

I sprinted up the stairs to the top floor, where three doors faced me. I pushed open the one on the left and walked inside.

Regulus' room looked like any other small boys': bright colors, toys strewn about everywhere, clothes hanging about-including off the chandelier. The only thing that seemed out of place was the large plaque placed proudly where all could see. "TOURJOURS PUR," it announced in big, bold letter. "ALWAYS PURE," is what it translated to. It was the Black family motto. Even as small children we were taught that purebloods, especially Blacks, were the best. There was only a little time to be a kid. After that, we had to face reality.

I pulled the door to the closet open and stared down at my cousin. Putting my hands on my hips, I asked, "What are you doing Reggie? Don't you know the party's about to start?"

Regulus was curled into a ball, and when he spoke, he refused to look at me. "I'm not going," he mumbled to his knees.

I pursed my lips. "Of course you are, Regulus, it's your brother's eleventh birthday! It's a big deal and you know that."

"I know that," he repeated, still not meeting my eyes. "I just don't think Sirius wants me there."

"Of course he wants you there!" I burst. "He wants all of us there. We're his family and it's a big day." I tugged on his arm in an attempt to make Regulus stand, but he didn't budge.

Finally lifting his head, Regulus looked me straight in the eye. I was struck by how old he looked. Nine-year-olds shouldn't look so old.

"Sirius hates me. He hates our family. He hates me, he hates Mom and Dad, he hates your parents, he hates Bella, and he hates you too!"

I flinched, as if his words had slapped me in the face. My lip trembled, and without thinking, I whipped Regulus' best dress robes off their hanger and onto his face.

"Get dressed," I snapped, stalking out of his room and slamming the door behind me.

I descended the stairs, heading to my own room, intent on getting ready for Sirius' party. I reached the landing just as Bella emerged from her room. She was scowling and scratching at her navy dress robes. She smirked when she saw me.

"Regulus yelled at you," she observed. "Regulus never yells. What did you do?"

"Nothing," I growled, and I slammed my door too.

I paced my room, muttering angrily to myself. I threw things around: I punched a pillow. Nothing helped.

The thing was, Regulus was right. Sirius had become more withdrawn over the years. The only person he willingly talked to was Andromeda. I don't know what happened, but whatever it was, it divided us. I didn't like it. I missed how we used to be.

I shook my head. Reminiscing was stupid. What was past was past, and there was nothing to do about it. I threw my dress robes over my head and breezed downstairs.

The huge dining hall was decorated in such a way that you wouldn't know it was a birthday party for an eleven-year-old boy. Instead, it looked like a ballroom, complete with chandeliers, a dance floor, and tall vases filled to the brim with fancy flowers. I spotted Bella lurking in the corner, and when I heard footsteps behind me, I turned to see Regulus sulking through the doorway.

I wondered where Sirius and 'Dromeda were. It wasn't unlike them to disappear by themselves, but I thought Mother or Aunt Walburga would have made sure they were here by this point.

It was then I heard murmuring growing ever louder. It took me a second to realize that the voices were issuing from behind the wall. An instant later, my sister and my cousin were spilling out of a hidden panel next to the doorframe.

Andromeda straightened and brushed herself off. Her emerald robes had sparkles all over it and was glittering prettily in the candlelight. Sirius looked as uncomfortable in his robes as Bellatrix did, although I wasn't sure that Sirius would be pleased by the comparison. I felt out of place in my hot pink robes. Like I was too bright, like I was too much to handle.

It took Sirius a moment to realize that other people were in the room. For a wild second, I thought Regulus might've been mistaken. But he noticed us, and his look of pure loathing was enough to tell me that Reg was, indeed, correct.

Sirius opened his mouth, probably to begin insulting us, when our parents walked in.

It always astounded me when I realized how good our parents all looked. They weren't exactly young, but you couldn't tell by looking at them. They were all tall, fair, slender, dark-haired, and heavy-lidded. They honestly looked like stretched out-and two male-versions of Bella. But what elevated them from nice looking to beautiful was their confidence. They held themselves regally, like they were above everyone else. It was truly awe-inspiring.

Aunt Walburga and Uncle Orion stood behind Sirius, each with a hand upon his shoulder. "Children," my aunt announced. "It is Sirius' eleventh birthday. As you know, it is a very important day. The party will consist of the most prominent pureblood families, so you are all required to be on your best behavior," she said, glaring pointedly at the boy she had firmly in her vice-like grip.

The grandfather clock chimed two, and Mother clapped her hands.

"Places, everyone!" she cried.

We all hurried to our positions just as the first CRACKS! Rang through the halls.

The party had begun.