Chapter Sixteen

Stayin' Alive

"Can we take a quick breather?"


"Fine. Can we at least slow down a little bit?"

"I didn't ask you to come with me, Lil."

"You didn't have to," she huffed as she tried to convince her legs to keep moving. "But we still have practice here shortly. And not all of us are built up as some top secret super spy."

Rolling my eyes, I slowed down to a walk, which she gratefully matched. "I'm not some top secret super spy from one of your muggle movies, and I definitely don't need a body guard everywhere I go now."

"Please." She swept some strands of hair out of her face before she placed her hands on her head, trying to get her breathing under control. "I'm hardly what you'd call a body guard. I'm not really the type."

"No, but you are the brightest witch of our age."

"Yes, and I'm also your best friend who's the only one stupid enough to go on these million mile runs with you."

"Well that's why we're in tip-top shape out on that field." I grinned as I began to get my own breathing under control. We walked in silence for a few moments, enjoying the slight, cool breeze.

"It's hard to believe Halloween is just around the corner." I laughed, happy that she, unlike the rest of our friends, could still hold just a normal, everyday conversation with me that wasn't filled with drama and dread for the future.

"Knowing you, that means we need to start planning our costumes so they're perfected in plenty of time."

"But of course! So. Do we want to do a group of us two or should we finally give in and join the four idiots' group?"

"I can't believe you're even considering the second choice as a viable option this year."

"What can I say? I don't hate them as much as I used to."

"Oh Lily Flower, your darling James is going to be absolutely thrilled when he learns of the good news!"

She cast a glare in my direction. "Never mind, forget I even brought it up. We'll be our usual dynamic duo."

"Good. Because we have a five-year streak. Let's make it six, shall we?"

"You know…it's hard to believe after this year, we have one left and then we're done. And then everything changes." Her tone sounded sad, but she had a small smile on her face. Lily had always been one to look ahead to the future, so it wasn't surprising she was already worrying about the end of this chapter of our lives.

"Hey, it's way too early to start getting nostalgic about our school days, considering we're still in school." I bumped her with my hip playfully. "Besides. Even when school ends, some of the people you've met here you'll be stuck with for life. Including me, and of course the four idiots. Especially James."

"Oh Merlin. You know what, you're right. Let's not waste any time thinking about a lifetime of being tormented by James Potter. Back to Halloween. What should our theme be this year?"

"Anything fun lately in the Muggle world?"

"There's plenty," she said with a mischievous grin as we neared the practice fields, where the rest of the team was starting to gather.

"You're not human, Brochevska," Ian said when we joined them. "And apparently you've lost any and all sense you had, Evans, joining her on her insane pre-workout workouts."

"It's good for the soul, Ian."

"Well Evans if that's so, I don't want a good soul."

"Aaaaaaalright team!" an unexpected voice boomed, causing all of us to jump, startled.

"What in the hell…" Sirius muttered, coming to a stop beside me. "Did you…?"

"No, I didn't," I replied, just as dumbfounded as Professor Slughorn waddled over to stand before the team.

"Professor," Lily said in a sweet voice, not bothering to hide the surprise she and everyone else was feeling, "what are you doing here?"

"Well my dear, I am the stand-in official adult for this interesting game you young people play, therefore it is my duty to stand watch over your matches as well as your practices."

"No offense, sir, but you don't know the slightest thing about this sport," Maria said, stating what we all were thinking.

"Which is precisely why I'm here! I'm going to learn this game, so next time we're at one of your little matches I can look more professional for you lot. So carry on, don't mind me. I'm just here to observe, not take over." He gave everyone a nice, warm smile before he configured somebody's bag into a chair and plopped down, facing the field.

Everyone turned to face me with identical expressions, making it almost impossible not to laugh. "Well, you heard the professor! We've only got so much time out here, so let's not waste it. Our next game is in a little over a week, and while we won our last one, it wasn't easy. And don't any of you think for a second there weren't scouts for the other teams we'll be facing there, watching to see what it was the newbies were bringing to the table." Some nods and agreements were uttered as they seemed to be feeding off my words.

"So we need to step our game up, meaning practices are going to be more intense, and faster paced. We need above and beyond 100% from every single person on this team. Because I don't know about you, but now that I've had a taste of what victory feels like, I don't want defeat tainting it."

"You know us Brochevska," Rowland said as he rose to his feet, "we'll fight to the end."

"That's exactly what I wanted to hear." I grinned, then gestured toward the goal. "Alright, let's get this started! Warm-ups first, but I want triple the effort and triple the sweat coming from you. Let's go!"

As they all took off and did as I'd instructed, I turned to Slughorn before I went to join them. "Thank you for coming Professor, but you really didn't have to, especially if you have more important things you need to be doing."

"Oh I know my dear. But this game intrigues me, and I love the idea of more teamwork inspired activities outside of Quidditch making their way in this school."

"Well, we're always happy to have you here. If you have any questions about anything, just ask."

"You do well with them, Miss Brochevska," he said as I turned to join my team. "Leading seems to be in your nature."

"Thank you sir, but I only stepped up because they asked me to. I wouldn't be where I am without any of them."

"Spoken like a true leader. You'll accomplish great things in life, Miss Brochevska."

"We'll have to wait and see about that." I gave him a small smile and ran over to join my team.

"I had doubts that you'd actually show up."

"Oh shove off, Hanneken. I always show up to rehearsals."

"We just weren't sure, considering you seemed totally against our new recruit." Khriste shrugged sheepishly.

"You guys should know me better than that. Of course I'll put my feelings aside, especially if it means we'll be better as a group."

"Aha! So you do think I'm a wonderful addition to your little family!" I rolled my eyes as Rider entered the room, confident and cocky as ever. Only instead of making my blood boil like he usually did, shivers went down my spine. I'd known the man was a threat all along, but now that threat had magnified, and I didn't like the game we were currently stuck in, with me knowing information that I wasn't sure he did or didn't already have.

"I never once said you were wonderful or that you'd ever be a part of my family."

"Give it time, princess. I'll grow on you." I ignored the wink he gave me and turned to look at any- and everybody else in the room but him.

"So…" Adrian ventured into the awkward silence that followed, "are we just going to stand here or are we actually going to rehearse?"

"Got a hot date, pretty boy?" Rider asked as he shifted through some song sheets the group had laid out.

"No, but I can think of a million other things I'd rather be doing than watching you two fight."

"We're not fighting. I promised I'd be on my best behavior."

"I never made such a promise," he said over me as he pulled one sheet free of the rest and handed it to Adrian. "Here, maybe some warm-ups will make drummer man happy."

Adrian took it from him without a word, looked it over, and then handed it to Brecc as he made his way to his drum set. "Yeah, I can dig this," Brecc grinned as he handed it to me and Khriste.

"You've got to be kidding me," I muttered just as Adrian and Brecc started to do their thing. And, like the overdramatic showman he was, Rider didn't fail to miss his cue.

Spinning around on his heels, he began to strut across the room in time with the beat as he began to sing, "Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk, I'm a woman's man: no time to talk.

"Music loud and women warm, I've been kicked around since I was born.

"And now it's all right. It's okay. And you may look the other way. We can try to understand the New York Times' effect on man." He'd made his way over into the small group of females who had showed up, wanting to join our group, no doubt charming them all with his smile, smooth moves, and captivating voice. I glanced over at Khriste who had her music-magic going and saw she was just as drawn in as the others were. So I guess it really wasn't a surprise when they all joined in with him,

"Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother, you're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.

"Feel the city breakin' and everybody shakin', and we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.

"Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive. Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' aliiiiiiive."

He continued, this time on his own, obviously flourishing in the spotlight of attention he was receiving. While granted, it was a fun song choice and hard not to enjoy, I just couldn't relax, despite the good time everyone else seemed to be having. "Well now, I get low and I get high, and if I can't get either, I really try.

"Got the wings of heaven on my shoes. I'm a dancin' man and I just can't lose.

"You know it's all right. It's okay. I'll live to see another day. We can try to understand the New York Times' effect on man.

This time his little make-shift choir not only lent Rider their voices, but their dance moves as well as they all seemed to be taking part in what seemed like a mini disco party. It was almost enough to make me laugh at how ridiculous it was, but I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of knowing that I actually liked his performance. "Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother, you're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.

"Feel the city breakin' and everybody shakin', and we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.

"Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive. Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' aliiiiiiive.

"Life goin' nowhere. Somebody help me. Somebody help me, yeah.

"Life goin' nowhere. Somebody help me, yeah. Stayin' alive.

"Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother, you're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.

"Feel the city breakin' and everybody shakin', and we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.

"Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive. Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' aliiiiiiive.

"Life goin' nowhere. Somebody help me. Somebody help me, yeah.

"Life goin' nowhere. Somebody help me, yeah. I'm stayin' aliiiiiiive."

"Well Fitzherbert, we definitely can't deny you know how to get a party started!" Khriste exclaimed as she and everyone else applauded with enthusiasm. He smiled coyly and bowed to the room, obviously pleased with himself.

"What'd you think, Brochevska?" Brecc asked. "I didn't hear your voice, which means you were critiquing. So share."

"I wasn't critiquing, just observing."

"Care to explain with the rest of us?"

I crossed my arms over my chest as Rider smirked at me, waiting for me to answer Brecc's question. He knew as well as I did that the band loved him, and there was nothing at this point that I could do to change that. So the question was, did I relent and try and be nice to him like they so wanted me to? Or did I keep playing the bitchy antagonist role that I'd been in since he inserted himself here?

"I was just thinking we already know what Fitzherbert offers and brings to the table. And it was nice of him to get everybody's creative juices flowing and to liven up the room a bit. But what today's rehearsal is really about is this brave little group over here," I gestured to the small mix of boys and girls waiting to try out. "And I think it's time we got started and quit making the sit and wait with their nerves."

The others seemed to take it and nodded their agreement. While Khriste and Adrian went to organize the group of newcomers and Brecc tuned his guitar, Rider decided to lean against the wall beside me.

"It wouldn't kill you to actually give me a compliment you know. Besides," he shrugged nonchalantly, "I thought you could probably relate to the song, all circumstances considered." I chose to ignore the taunt, despite how it poked at my nerves and my current insecurities.

"It actually just might kill me, so I'd rather not take my chances." I could see him smile out of the corner of my eye.

"C'mon Brochevska, all I want is to be fully accepted into your lively group here. The rest of welcomed me with wide-open arms. Why can't you?"

"Because they don't know you like I do."

"Oh but little princess you've hardly even scratched the surface," he whispered as he tucked a loose strand of my hair behind my ear.

I jerked away from him and growled under my breath, "If your sole purpose of being here is to antagonize me, you can leave now with a job well done. I'd say you've done enough for tonight."

"Believe me," he said with a hearty laugh, "I'll never tire of antagonizing you."