Author's Note: First, I'm sorry it took so long to update! I've been really, really, really busy with exams and family and the like, have been since basically December (crazy, right?) but I promise this isn't an abandoned effort! Thank you all for reading and for all the kind reviews. It means the world. Also, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter - they don't belong to me. But you probably figured that out, right? The only thing I own is the attempt I've made to smush them together. On that note, yes, I have taken a few liberties in figuring out how ceremonial and procedural events will happen in this universe. So if it doesn't strictly match up to The Hunger Games process, I'm sorry. Just know that I tried. And please don't burn me at the stake. Much love and thank you again. Now enjoy.
Bonus note: this is a little filler chapter to tide you over. School ends for me in two weeks and I'll be having a lot of extra time to work until then. Finding out their outfits, the ceremony, and a conversation afterward will follow in a full, hopefully long chapter when I have time to focus on things not pertaining to gas laws. In the meantime, make of this what you will.
Glisten was...a bit of an understatement. Harry didn't just glisten by the time Ginny, Luna, Cho, and Firenze were done with him. He shone - though, this was just a casual look. Enough to take him into the Ministry and take care of him for this first night before he got into the actual Training Center and situated to be presented to all of Panem in one of the most iconic moments of the entire Tournament - the formal introduction of the tributes. However, that didn't matter. In spite of this, his prep team still went to great lengths to paint extravagant patterns on his skin with the gold substance in the jar, swirls that started on the edges of his eyes and extended into flames the further out they went on his cheek and temples. On this arms, they did something similar, though with his shirt on the most anyone could see of that pattern was the few inches down to his elbow that were left uncovered by the black shirt Ginny had selected for him. The paint burned slightly when applied and Ginny assured him that it was just setting - it wasn't permanent, but it would last the rest of the night so that they didn't have to redo it when dressing him for his and Malfoy's formal introduction to all of Panem. By the time they were done with him, he gave the impression of having the fashionable tattoos that were so popular in the Ministry without having to actually get it done and when he looked in the mirror, he thought that he was hardly recognizable. He still had his glasses on and that probably helped with finding the Harry Potter from District 12 in the man in the mirror, but Ginny told him they'd fix his eyes when they arrived at the Training Center. So soon enough he'd lose even that.
"It's nothing having to do at all with aesthetics," Ginny explained to him in response to the troubled look that came upon his features when she mentioned ridding him of his eyewear. "It's more for your protection than anything. What if you were to lose your glasses in the arena? What if they were broken? They're just a weakness right now, Harry. We need to be practical."
They met up with Malfoy and his stylists soon before their train arrived at the station in the Ministry outside of the Center. His fellow tribute had the same sort of markings on his own features and was dressed in the exact same attire that Harry was. The only difference was that instead of gold paint, Draco had more of a bronze or copper paint - an orange, like the heart of a flame more so than the edges like the gold highlighting Harry's features. They met one another's gaze with a bit of steely resolve; as though while in with their stylists both had come to the conclusion to hate one another as politely as possible. At least then it would be easier to be a team. So when Sirius came out of his compartment to join them and leaned down to whisper quietly into their ears, "Smile," they both obliged and when they pushed the train doors open to exit onto the platform and greet the public for the first time, Draco even put a supportive hand on the small of Harry's back.
It was chaos. Harry had never seen such a gathering of people before in his life, except for maybe at the Reaping, and even then there were far less people in District 12 than there were in this small part of the Ministry. And they were all so strange - with tattoos and weird styles, bright clothes and brighter hair, large heeled shoes and some with platforms, wide skirts and short pants, shirts that looked like patchwork was done to it on purpose despite it not needing it and elaborate designs on dresses that revealed far too much on whoever was wearing them. And they were all extending toward him, greeting him with his name and waving, wishing him luck. If it wasn't for Draco's steady hand and Sirius's way of parting crowds to walk past, it would have been easy for him to feel like he'd get lost in the sea of arms and voices. There were just so many people and each of them seemed delighted to see him - happy, like he was someone to be celebrated instead of a pig being sent off for slaughter. And wrong as that was, Harry had never felt that before. He wasn't quite sure how to react to it all.
They were within the walls of the Training Center soon enough, though, and as soon as they rounded a corner, taking them out of the sight of the public, Malfoy removed the hand that had been guiding him through the crowds. Again, the emptiness that had flooded him on the train came pouring back and he looked up with the same feeling of panic before regaining himself. He needed to stop that. He was in need of comfort; he was still scared, didn't quite know what was going on or how to handle it, and it didn't all seem quite real. But the last person he needed to seek solace in was Draco Malfoy. There was a very good chance that by the time this was all said and done, one or both of them would be dead. And though he had saved his life once before and established that connection in their lives, there was no need to try and salvage a friendship out of the wreckage that was his failure to do much other than stop the bleeding. Malfoy had healed on his own; Harry hadn't spoken to him since. There was no need to actually get as cozy as Sirius wanted them to appear. It was actually probably worse. It just gave the other teams more of an emotional advantage.
So when Draco caught his eye, a questioning look on his features at the small hitch in Harry's breathing, the young brunette made a purposeful move to his godfather's side, casting off Draco's offer at civility in favor of staying distant. It wouldn't do to get attached; he needed to remember that this wasn't just a two week vacation. It was a fight to the death and while he would need Draco's help, losing him shouldn't be something that would kill him. He needn't get attached like that - he had lost enough in his life. So he fell behind to walk beside his godfather, reaching out to grab his hand, seek some comfort. Sirius jumped slightly and looked over at Harry to see who had grabbed him and Harry could see his shoulders visibly relax as a lazy smile came onto his features as he took in the sight of his godson. "Almost didn't recognize you there, Harry," he said with a bit of a smirk. "Thought for a moment you might be Rita."
"I don't think she's that fond of you, Sirius," Harry replied coolly and he grinned at the sound of Sirius's laugh.
"I think you're right," Sirius mumbled quietly. "Somehow, I think I'll manage." Then he squeezed Harry's hand briefly before releasing it. And though Harry wished he'd hold on just a little longer, wished he'd sit down and hug him again, comfort him, he didn't ask why Sirius let go. He knew why. It was the same reason anyone would be doing anything for the next few weeks. Publicity. If it had been Draco's hand he'd grabbed, it would have been encouraged. He couldn't go around acting like he was closer to Sirius than his companion when his companion was supposed to be his best friend. Apparently even in private. Great. That was positively perfect.
But he didn't complain. He just took the dropped hand as easily as he could, keeping his head up as he walked with his mentor to an ornately decorated glass elevator that he knew from stories through the grapevine were supposed to take them up to their new living quarters where they'd then meet up with their stylists who would get them prepped for their formal introduction ceremony. Once that passed, they'd head back and in the morning, training started for their interviews. And after that it was the real deal. Weapons training. Survival skills. All the things that Harry just knew he was going to fail at. The first morning of official weapons training was also the day they would get their wands.
Everyone was guaranteed a wand. Unlike other weapons - knives and spears and other things that were left around purely for the purposes of hunting game (a competitor could be killed by Sectumsempra alone but knives and spears always helped with food and injuring opponents) - wands were the one weapon every competitor started the Tournament with. It was part of what made the beginning of the Tournament the most dangerous part. There was a thirty second period left so that competitors could run as far from their enemies as they could. No wands. No magic. No violence. But after that thirty seconds, it was a battlefield: whoever was near you was free game. Some tributes used this to their advantage - they ganged up on higher scoring tributes or took the time to start quick alliances. Some even used it as a suicide mission. But the smart ones, the ones that wanted to last through the first day...they got the Hell out of there. Quickly.
Of course by this point, wandwork was still a little rusty. None of them were used to using magic - it was illegal to use it outside of the Hunt and besides, no one was issued an official wand. After the Tournament was over, Harry knew the Ministry would take the wands and display them in a museum. Then at the beginning of the next year's Tournament, they would be snapped to make room for new 'artifacts' and only pictures of the past wands and videos of them being used in the Hunt would remain. Other than that, it'd be hard to prove they existed at all.
"You all right there, Potter?" Malfoy asked quietly when Harry entered the elevator and stepped up to stand beside him.
"Like it matters," Harry shot back and Malfoy just responded with a look that Harry couldn't quite read. Sirius just shushed them both, though, and went back to talking animatedly with Rita about something or another. A few seconds later, Ginny and a dark haired woman with elaborate eye make-up and deadly looking nails that Harry assumed was Draco's stylist stepped into the small compartment. Ginny gave him a small smile and reached out to give his hand a tight squeeze. Then the doors to the elevator slid closed and the small glass compartment shot up, carrying them up past floor after floor after floor. Harry could feel his throat tightening with each passing level. He felt like time was just zooming by - each ten seconds felt like one, each minute just a blink of an eye, and though he had slept since the Reaping, it felt like he hadn't had time to sit down again since he first woke up on that morning. He was exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally, and he felt entirely drained. And to make it worse life just wouldn't slow down and it felt like he was just speeding through the motions, speeding through the process, and pretty soon he would be out there on the field. He wished time would just...stop. Just for a few minutes. Just stop. Give him time to catch up to reality. But as the elevator slid to a slow stop, it occurred to him that apparently he wasn't going to get that wish granted to him. This wasn't his game. He didn't have the right to control time. Only the Gamemakers could do that. Well, and Prime Minister Riddle but honestly Harry didn't like to think much about him. No one did.
The doors opened to their floor and Harry scrambled for a moment looking for a hand to hold and settled on just finding the convenience of Ginny's again. She gave him a warm smile though to her credit she did cast a curious look at Draco, as though wondering why the act had been dropped. Harry just ignored this, though, and sought solace in the hand of someone he was comfortable calling a friend. For once, it felt like things finally made sense. This was someone who wouldn't turn away; this was someone who would give him some comfort. And it was nice. Really nice.
They stepped into the room together, still hand in hand, though their fingers weren't entwined and that seemed to be the one thing keeping Sirius from snatching Harry away from the young redhead he was now clinging to for dear life. Whatever. He was content with his stylist's smooth palm against his own, the warmth of it calming the rapid pace of his heart. It was the first thing in a long time that felt normal. And so long as Ginny didn't pull away, he would steal her warmth for a little while.
The room, though, was enough distraction that he didn't think anyone but Sirius really noticed the pair's clasped hands. It was beautiful. Harry had never seen a place so well-adorned before in his entire life, including Sirius's house in the Victor's Village back home and that was supposed to be the nicest place in District 12. Everything in the small flat they had just arrived in was just...clean. Clean and bright and orderly, like if a speck of dust dared to make an appearance, it would be terminated before it found a surface to stick to. And everything was so fancy; so up-to-date. The living space alone with an L-shaped couch, large-screen television, several armchairs, a beautiful glass coffee table, and bowls filled with snacks and fruit that would feed an entire District was enough to get Harry's jaw to drop slightly in awe. That didn't take into account the dining room, the panels adorning the walls with speakers to take orders, the spacious bedrooms each person was assigned, the bathrooms with bathtubs that looked more complicated to maneuver and fill with the panels on the walls than the average hunting snare. The entire thing was just...nice. The nicest living space he'd ever been in, that much was certain.
"Wow," came a small voice from the other side of the room and Harry turned to see Malfoy tracing over the edges of a metal panel on the wall with his fingers, staring at it with a mixture of anger and awe. It took Harry a moment to remember where Draco came from - the Seam, where he wasn't rewarded with food that came at his beck and call, where the luxury of a clean place to sit and relax was denied to him. Maybe Sirius's house wasn't as nice as the room they were in now, but in comparison to where Malfoy grew up, it was a paradise. He wondered how it all looked from his point of view; judging by the look on his face, probably nothing that could be taken in a positive light.
However, his voice seemed to snap everybody back to Earth and Sirius cleared his throat to catch everyone's attention. "Yes, well, it's all very pretty," he said and Harry couldn't help but note the same bitter tone in his voice that he'd come to find was usually in Malfoy's as his godfather looked around the room again, "but we'll have time to admire it later. For now, Harry, Draco, we have to get you two prepared for the opening ceremony. From what I understand, your stylists have something very special lined up for you guys..." Ginny squeezed Harry's hand lightly and like clockwork, Draco's eyes were drawn immediately to the pair of them. He could see his companion's jaw clench and knew then and there that style choices were probably not what he wanted to be thinking about right about then. Harry couldn't help but agree; he'd rather get some sleep. But Ginny's mischievous grin was enough to peak his interest so he just smiled back at her as Sirius added, "But no spoilers." Then he cast each young man a tight smile and said, "I'll be out for some last minute preparation as we're heading down to where your chariot will be waiting. And Merlin do I wish I was being sarcastic." He shook his head. "In the meantime - I'll leave you two in the capable hands of these lovely young ladies. And may the odds, blah, blah, blah. See you soon."