I don't own The Hunger Games.

"Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it's contained."

I was eleven when I first saw Katniss on television.

She hadn't been the one who was reaped. It had been her sister, who was one year older than me but looked like she was much younger, with her braided yellow hair and scared expression and blouse and skirt too big for her. But Katniss had rushed forward to take her place, screaming "I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!" as everyone in District Twelve looked at her, silent, not moving. In my years of watching the Games, I can't remember anyone from Twelve winning; my parents were still kids when Haymitch won, and no one really talks about the victor before him. If she had the nerve to replace her sister, it must be because she was stronger, faster, smarter. Maybe she knew she could win, but her sister couldn't.

I thought she was brave.

Next time I saw her, it was the tribute parade. I had wanted to be on the balcony with Grandpa, but instead I ended up watching television in my bedroom because I had a stomach upset from last night's dinner party. They blamed it on the bad shellfish and Grandpa dismissed the chef, which is weird because I didn't eat any of the shrimps and no one else got sick. Anyway, the parade was beautiful. The pair from One were stunning and the pair from Two looked fierce.

But Katniss and Peeta? They were epic. Imagine, they were on fire but showed no sign of getting burned!

I remember clapping and cheering and taking the flowers from my vase and hurling them at the TV screen, even if they couldn't get them.

The next couple of days, I looked at the betting odds and begged Mama to let me bet on Katniss. She never let me. She said, "Katniss only has attention now because she volunteered and her dress caught up in flames, but what other skills could she have? Nothing. Twelve hasn't had a victor since Haymitch. More likely the winner will be one of the pair from Two."

"But don't you get more money if you bet on a long shot and it wins?" I asked.

"If it wins. But she probably won't."

I wanted her to win, just to prove Mama wrong.

Then the scores were posted. The boy from Two, Cato, got a score of 10; his district partner, Clove, nine. Almost everyone else from the other districts did worse, but I was a bit surprised that the little black girl from Eleven got a seven. Then there was Katniss with-

"Eleven! Mama, she got eleven! Look!"

Mama glanced at the screen and gasped. "That's impossible."

"No, it's not! Her score's higher than everyone else. This means she could win, right?"

She paused for a while. "Maybe. But I still think it won't be her."

"Why not?"

"The others are bigger and stronger. I can't imagine what she did to get a score so high. And besides, she doesn't seem very likable."

Likable? How could she not be likable? I had wanted to bet on her since the reaping, and she got so many roses at the parade, and all my friends at school were talking about her. And when the interviews rolled around, they were talking about Peeta, too.

I had been lucky to watch it live. So while my friends were glued to their TVs, I was right there in the front row watching Caesar Flickerman as he interviewed Peeta about the girl he loved back home.

"So here's what you do," suggested Caesar. You win, you go home. She can't turn you down then, eh?"

"I don't think it's going to work out," said Peeta. Winning...won't help in my case."

Wait, what? How could anyone turn down a victor? If a guy was brave and strong enough to get out of the arena alive - not to mention rich from winning - wouldn't he be a great catch?

Apparently, I wasn't the only one who was shocked. Caesar asked, "Why ever not?"


Peeta turned red. Everyone, including me, sat there in silence, waiting.

"...she came here with me."

And everyone went wild.

So Peeta was in love with Katniss, huh? I wasn't expecting that; maybe, she didn't know it either. And the timing was bad. One or both of them could die tomorrow and their love story would go nowhere. But looking at what she did at the reaping, how she got that 11, how lovely her dress looked tonight...

...I didn't blame him. Not one bit.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let the 74th Hunger Games begin-and may the odds be ever in your favor!"

Time used to stop in the Capitol when the Games were on. Except for those who really, really had to work, like Grandpa, people either shut themselves up in their houses to watch or gathered around with their friends for viewing parties. We kids looked forward to Games season because teachers would put lessons on hold to let us watch in school. They said it was required viewing. We never asked why, for we enjoyed it too much.

We cheered at explosions, sighed with relief when our favorites narrowly escaped danger, and shuddered when someone's death was too disgusting. When the camera zoomed in on the dead body of the District One girl - I'm not sure if her name was Shimmer or Glitter - one of my classmates threw up. I was a little sick, too, because it was swollen up from all the stings. But mostly, I was happy Katniss got away. She couldn't get down from the tree, so she'd sawed off that branch and dropped the nest of tracker jackers on them. Boom. Smart idea, that one.

More than a few of us sobbed when Katniss sang to the District 11 girl before she died.

Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm

I thought of the little sister she volunteered for, though she didn't look like the District 11 girl. Did Katniss sing her to sleep back when she was a baby?

I was still pondering that when my friends squealed about Katniss finding Peeta again.

The final eight became the final six became the final three.

Back when it was still the final six, the rules were changed so that there could be two victors from each district. That split our class into two groups. The majority wanted Katniss and Peeta to win, but there was a small, loud group who preferred Cato and Clove. You know that saying where the minority is always wrong in the beginning? Well, in this case, the minority remained wrong all throughout.

Cato was devoured by those wolf things; I think he and the District One girl had the goriest deaths of the 74th Games. It took a long time for his cannon to go off. When it did, Katniss and Peeta were the only ones left standing, but there was no winner announcement. That confused everyone.

"Why isn't anything happening?"

Then Claudius Templesmith spoke again. The rule change had been rescinded, so like every other year, there should be only one victor.

That outraged some people.

"But...but that can't be fair!"

"Either Katniss will have to kill Peeta, or Peeta will have to kill Katniss...oh no, I don't want to watch!"

"They can't be together anymore, unless..."


We all stared at the TV. I was jolted; one of the other girls had eaten those berries they were holding, and she had died. Were they really planning to-

"Stop! Stop! Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present the victors of the 74th Hunger Games-Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark! I give you the tributes of District Twelve!"

The entire classroom erupted into cheers and whoops. When the teacher came in, she tried to shush us, but to no avail.

Katniss had won! She and Peeta were going home together, and she could see her little sister again. And perhaps most importantly, I had proven my mother wrong. We could have had so much money if we had just bet on her from the start! Sure, we already had more than most people, but still, I imagined the new shoes...the new dress...the lunch I could treat my friends to on my birthday, like a real adult and not a kid who asked Mama and Grandpa for everything...

Hello again, Hunger Games fandom. I missed you.

This was supposed to be a oneshot, but I decided to split into three parts. You're looking at the first.