Title: The Wizarding World Hunger Games
Warnings: Nothing (in this chapter)
- This story will probably never be finished; I am just stating this up front so no one gets upset.
Also, this hasn't been beta-ed...like, at all.
All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of TrueLoveFan. TrueLoveFan is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
It was the sound of her own scream that Alexandra Russo from her fitful sleep. She sat up in her bed and ran her hand through her sweat drenched hair. The summer heat was brutal in all of the outlying districts. She turned her head and made sure that she hadn't woken Max. He had not gone to sleep into the early hours of the morning, terrified that his name would be drawn in the reaping. Alex had heard Justin try in vain to calm their younger brother.
"It's only your second year, Max; your name is only in there twice. They are not going to pick you." Justin had said and Alex started to recite every spell she could remember in her mind, trying to block out Justin's words. Justin's name was in that awful glass bowl forty-two times and Alex's name was only in there twenty-nine times. Her overprotective elder brother always took the hit when he could, but Alex did not always tell him. His chances were of ending up in the arena were simply too high for his sister's liking. She tried to even their odds now that she was old enough to barter. The only time that she told Justin about their needs was when one of the Peacekeepers tried to make an exchange not for her odds, but sex instead. She never told Justin about that part, though; he would do something drastic and stupid.
Max, on the other hand, had his name in the reaping twice the standard two times, as his fourteen years dictated because Alex and Justin had done what was necessary. When food ran low and they were desperate, when clothes and shoes became outgrown way too fast, Justin and Alex bartered with the Peacekeepers. They would give them whatever they needed for adding their names to the reaping pools additional times. Max did not know because she and Justin had long ago decided that he would never know of their sacrifice. He didn't need that on his conscious. Every man and woman in District 09 between the ages of twelve and eighteen with younger sibling did exactly what Alex and Justin did, anyway; it was just the way the Wizarding world worked these days.
If Alex woke Max know that he was soundly asleep, he would spend all morning bitching at her and she had things she needed to do. She slid her legs out from under her scratchy thin yellow colored sheet. She made sure to place her feet on the second floorboard next to the middle of her lumpy bed and stood slowly, making sure that ancient springs in her mattress did not squeak. Alex tugged on her sleep wrinkled clothes and then she stepped carefully to steep three boards forward. After that, the middle Russo moved quickly out of their shared bedroom, taking note of Justin's empty and neatly put together bed. God, he was so anal, it was irritating! She stopped just beyond the opening range of the door and listened carefully for any sign that Theresa was awake. Nothing. She did not expect any trouble from Theresa, but Alex preferred not to have to deal with the woman who used to be their mother if she did not have to do so.
The middle child of three only opened the door as much as she needed to so she could slip out, closing and locking it behind her. The Peacekeepers didn't take closed doors as a no anymore, if they ever had. With Theresa so…whatever it was that she qualified as and Max so young, they could not chance a hostile home invasion while she and Justin were away. She'd had to barter two squirrels and a deer for the lock and two copies of its key. Alex kept hers in the waistband of her underwear. No one could steal it from her easily with it hidden so close to her person. She didn't know where Justin kept his and he didn't know where she hid hers, for safety reasons.
Once the door was closed, Alex moved to the edge of her porch and looked around her quickly establishing her surroundings. The miners would be passing their little cabin of a home in just a few seconds providing her the perfect cover. Once the crowd of frustrated, weary men, passed just a few steps beyond her porch steps, she cut through their group running straight to the supposed magic barrier. Past experience had taught her that the barrier magic was weak in District 09. The council members did not care enough the most outlaying districts to reinforce their barriers; they are only worried about Districts 1 through 9 and everyone knew it. Most people in District 09 were too used to the oppression of the Wizard's Council and those who were not were too intimidated be the Peacekeepers to be brave enough to test the magic. The middle Russo child was, however, brave enough when at the tender age of ten she'd gone into the forbidden zone with her father and her brother. Now, years later, Alex was an old hat at finding and slipping through the weakest point in the barrier.
By the time that the miners were walking past her neighbor's home, Alex was beyond the limits of her District and headed full speed for the comforting land that lay beyond it. The forest was one of the very few places that the brunette felt truly comfortable. They all had to be so very comfortable with the District. If anyone even said a word in opposition to the way the council ran things they disappeared. Anything that would place the rule of the Council in a negative light was bad for anyone's health. The land beyond the fence, however, was the only place that Alex Russo could truly be herself. If she could she would stay underneath the canopy of heat dried leaves; that was not possible and she had learned that long ago.
She knelt down near the base of an unassuming, old, tree about a quarter mile into the forest. Alex rested her right hand, her fingers pointed right, upon the rough bark, closed her eyes, and whispered the familiar spell. The bark underneath the middle of her park began to separate from the tree. It became round and smooth under her palm. Alex wrapped her fingers around it and pulled her wand from the tree. As soon as the stick was in her right hand, the only Russo daughter placed her left hand a few centimeters above it and cast a disguising charm, making her bright colored wand look like a simple twig in her grasp.
"Alex, Alex, wake up." The ten-year-old's eyes opened immediately to see her elder's brother's face beside her bed. He removed his hands from her shoulders as soon as he was sure she would not go back to sleep. The truth was that she had not slept more than an hour all night; the excitement rushing through her veins kept her wide awake. Her daddy was finally going to teach her how to use magic without setting off the magic barrier! She sat straight up in her bed, throwing her sheet off her legs, and rushing from her bed and out of the room, stepping carefully to not rouse her six year old younger brother in the process.
Justin followed behind her, much less excited then she was. He had been using magic with their Dad's supervision for a whole year already; this was old hat to him. He walked over to the door and slipped his boots on without a word and his little sister mimicked his actions. He removed his coat from the tall rack piled with six of them and then he took hers down as well since she was too short to reach it on her own. He let her try herself once and she pulled the whole thing down. He slipped his arms inside of the warm material and quickly buttoned all of the buttons. It was bitterly cold out in the forest and Justin didn't want to get sick.
Alex fought valiantly against the evil buttons of her coat, but they defeated her yet again and she turned to her face Justin and huffed indignantly. Justin looked down at her. "What do you say?" He asked gently.
"Please, help me do my buttons." She asked, sticking out her bottom lip in a pout for good measure. Justin nodded, accepting her words as sincere, and he did her buttons easily. Alex frowned down at the coat. She would defeat the evil thing one day!
Jerry came down the stairs and smiled at them. He slipped on his boots and coat as well. "Morning, princess. Are you ready for this?" Alex nodded eagerly. "You remember what you promised me?"
"I have to do exactly," She put the same amount of emphasis on it that he did when he first said the words. "what you tell me and stay close to you and Justin. No running off." Jerry nodded opened the door, letting the weak morning light into the small kitchen. Alex crowds the doorway, watching the miners coming down the street. She has always been curious about the mines themselves, but she knows better to go investigating. She is a little girl and the mines are dangerous!
Her father clasped her hand tight. "When the miners pass our door, we are going to run to the barrier. Don't hesitate. Got it, Alex?"
"Yeah." Justin said, "got it, Alex?" He mocked causing his younger sister to stick out her tongue at him. The morning trips into the woods were his alone time with his father; just the two of them, father and son. He didn't want to share this with Alex. She was the little princess, though; she got whatever she wanted and she wanted to go with them so here she was. Jerry shot him a 'be nice to your sister' look and Justin lowered his eyes. One day with them, Alex already ruined their time together.
The Miners moved in front of their house and the three Russo's ran through toward the boundary. Jerry held his hand out to the barrier, feeling weakness in it with his magic. Once he found it, he led his son and daughter through the hole. The three of them ran into the woods. Once, he determined that they were safe and no one had followed or seen them, Jerry turned to Justin.
"You can go on ahead. I'm going to teach Alex the basics and we'll catch up to you." Justin nodded once, a sign of his unhappiness that his sister recognized, before he walked off further into the woods. His little sister watched him go, frowning a little, and then turned her attention to her father. He knelt beside the base of the closest tree and Alex joined him.
"First thing's first: your wand."
"I don't have a wand, Daddy." The ten-year-old replied.
"When each of you was born, I ordered a wand for each of you. I told the Wizards' Council when we relocated here that they were lost in the move; I lied."
"Why?" She asked, much as any young child is known to do.
"Because I knew that making all of us move back to the Wizarding World was just the start. I had to protect us." He placed his hand on the bark of the tree and whispered a quick soft spell. Alex watched as the wood underneath his hand, smoothed and rounded, turning this part of the tree into his wand. He grabbed his wand, pulling the last little strips of bark holding the stick to the trunk broke away, and stood once more. "Now, you try it, Alex."
The ten-year-old mimicked her father's actions and words. The wand formed under her hand and giddiness overtook her. It had been so long since she'd used her magic that the rush of it felt really good. She didn't understand why the Wizards' Council required them to stay in the Wizarding World and yet disallowed the use of magic; it did not make any sense! Of course, she was in no position to question the council and anyone who did so, did it at extreme peril. With her wand wrapped securely in her fingers, Alex stood once more brushing off the knees of her jeans.
"Very good, princess, very good."
"Thanks, daddy." The little girl said, grinning proudly in the morning light. She held her bright one up to her eyes, examining the length stick closely. It was so pretty! The little ball on the end made it extra special in her mind; she touched it reverently. "It's my wand. Mine."
"Yes, it is and you have to make sure to take care of it, Alex."
"Of course!" She said. "Of course!"
"There are no replacements anymore. That's the only one you are ever going to get." She nodded quickly. She wanted to use it, cast with it; she was done with the boring stuff. She wanted to play! Jerry took her wand from her little hands to force her to focus on his words. "You cannot take your wand home. You cannot say a word to anyone, but myself and Justin and even then only when no one else is near, about any of this. You've got to hide your wand like I did; camouflaged in something deep and unsuspecting after every trip out here. Do you understand, Alex?"
"Yes." She replied indignantly, putting her hands on her hips. She was ten, not stupid! "My wand has to stay in the forest, I can't talk anyone else about it, and I have to hide my wand in this tree every time I finish with."
"No," Jerry said. "Not this tree, not every time. It's too dangerous to keep it in the same place. You've got to keep moving and keep track of it."
Alex rolled her eyes and sighed, "Can we go find Justin now? I want to show him my wand."
"You've got to stop hiding your wand in the same place, Al."
"If I did, Justin, how would you ever find me in this big old forest?"
"You know what Dad said." Justin countered, ignoring Alex's sarcasm and his sister rolled her eyes.
"He also told us not to go into the forest alone and yet you came here, again, without me."
"Yeah, well," Justin started. "That was before."
"Exactly." Alex responded, turning away from her tree to face her older brother.
"Do we have to have this argument every day?" The taller man asked as he stepped closer to her.
"Oh, you know you would miss bickering with me." She said with a grin. He grinned back at her and Alex took off running into her beloved forest. Her disguised wand still held tightly in her right hand. Justin followed close behind his only sister, tripping over rocks and roots that Alex practically danced over. He pretended not to hear her laughter ahead of him. It wasn't until they reached the edge of the forest and came upon their familiar clearing that they stopped running. The empty field was their safe place to cast spells unafraid of prosecution. Alex fell down into the tall grass, gasping for breath, and Justin lay beside her. The two siblings are silent for a few peaceful moments.
"So, what are you going to magic into existence today?" Justin stared up at the bright blue sky above them and tried to see shapes with the fluffy clouds. It was such an odd image given what was to come in a few hours.
Alex considered her options for a few seconds before she answered, "I'm thinking...a deer maybe."
"A deer?" Justin repeated outraged. "Today of all days? Have you gone completely mad? There are Peacekeepers crawling all over the district today!"
"I know," Alex's tone was her very familiar 'duh Justin' tone. "Peacekeepers pay really well." As a matter of fact, she had sold several magic-ed animals to the Council's enforcers over the years.
"Not on reaping day, they don't." Her brother responded. "Selling to them today will guarantee that you hang for treason, Alex. It will be the icing of the icing on the cake; the Council would just love that."
"You worry too much." Alex commented, but she knew that her older brother was right. Trying to sell a deer today would be utter suicide. In the end, Alex conjured up three already dead squirrels; she didn't have the stomach to kill things herself. She strung them together with long blades of grass so they would be easier for her to carry on the return trip. Justin used to own wand to magic up five heads of lettuce as well. They stayed in the calm clearing for a few minutes before standing once more. The two of them returned the way they had come. When they reached Alex's hiding place, the seventeen-year-old girl knelt down, muttered the spell once more and let the tree's bark hide her wand within its depths. The siblings slip under through the magic barrier and race toward to the trader's market place. The reaping hour was fast approaching and they still needed to get ready so they would have to trade and get home quickly.
Alex went right while her brother headed left. She fought through the throngs of people milling about the makeshift marketplace until she reached the corner where Mabel, the butcher, always set up her booth. It was the best place to hide from any Peacekeepers trying to get here up the ladder of power by arresting people just trying to make a living. None of them had dared into enter in about a year, but one could never know with the men in white.
"Hey, little miss Alex. What are you doing here so close to the reaping? Shouldn't you be home getting all dolled up?" Mabel asked as the seventeen-year-old stepped up to her booth. The two of them had a co-dependent relationship; Alex 'shot' some meats that the older woman had the resources and contacts to sell and then she paid Alex a more then fair price for her animals.
"And miss my daily meeting with you, are you kidding me? Never." The younger girl said with a grin. She was well aware that the sixty-something-year-old woman worked in the marketplace because she was lonely. Alex spent any extra time she could afford to spare talking with her.
"You need to get your priorities straight, my dear. Now, what have you got for me today?" Alex removed the strung together squirrels from inside of the well-worn shoulder bag. It was one of the only items she had left from the human realm. She could still remember removing her snacks from it into her locker while chatting with Harper. Nowadays, she carried bloody animal carcasses inside it.
"I have three squirrels today."
"Three? Alex, how do you manage these feats? You have such amazing luck."
"What can I say? The animals just like our yard, I guess."
"And that makes you my best supplier, my dear!" Mabel laughed, her breathing descending into a coughing fit. Alex placed the squirrels down upon the rough, splintering wood while the other woman regained her breath. Tired hands speckled with dried blood picked up and examined them with her well-trained eye. The butcher set them down once again and turned her gaze to the seventeen-year-old, "I'll give you our standard rate for these."
"Done." Alex interrupted, opening her bag in preparation for the money that Mabel was about to give her. She had planned to browse the marketplace after she unloaded her squirrels to the butcher, but oversleeping had killed that plan. She would just have to return after the reaping to get their essentials. Mabel reached into what she called a cash drawer and pulled out the correct number of bills and handing them to the younger girl. Alex quickly stuffed the money into one of the bag's secret compartments.
"Thanks, Mabel. I'd love to stay and chat, but I do have to go get ready."
"Wait!" The butcher exclaimed halting Alex's footsteps very effectively. The elder woman walked around the booth and came to a stop in front of the wizard. Mabel raised shaky hands to the left breast of her dirty tan dress and pushed in the sharp metal paperclip holding her beloved Mockingjay pin to her chest. "For luck." She said by way of explanation as she pressed the piece of jewelry into Alex's hand.
"I can't take this, Mabel; it means too much to you." The only Russo daughter said, trying to give her friend back her most precious possession. The Mockingjay pin was the most difficult story for the butcher to share.
"You must! You must take it, Alexandra!"
"What about you? What about your son? It's all you have left of him. Reminders are important."
"I insist you take it and I don't want to hear another word about it." She snatched it from Alex's hand and dropped the pin into the wizard's bag. "Now get gone. I'll see you again after the reaping."
The seventeen-year-old nodded and vanished into the crowd. She stopped just inside the doorway to meet up with Justin. Her older brother was standing there impatiently waiting for her, eyeing the Peacekeepers standing just outside the marketplace suspiciously. "Sorry." She said, holding open her bag so that he could drop his earnings in as well. "Got to chatting."
"Chatting? Today? Honestly, Alex, sometimes wonder where your head is."
"Just sometimes?" Alex repeated, throwing him a grin. Bickering with her older brother was a happy reminder of days long ago lost. They walked out of the marketplace as calmly as anyone could manage on reaping day. Once they were clear out of the line of sight of the Peacekeepers the two ran toward the dilapidated shack they were forced to call home.
Max met them at the door when they arrived. "Where have you two been?"
"We were at the marketplace." Alex answered kicking her shoes at the wall beside the door before walking toward their shared bedroom. Now that she didn't have to keep quiet to avoid waking anyone, she stepped anywhere making the floorboards squeak and creak under her weight, but she paid them no mind. There was no time for the bath she'd planned. She would just have to make the dirty look work for her. She removed her best dress from the closet. It had seen all four of her pervious reaping days and with each one that passed the dress, much like the young woman who wore it, was faded and frayed at the seams. She shook her head to clear it bringing her focus toward the simple task of getting ready. The dress slipped on easily; the waist did not fit her as well as it once had and the hem, that just barely reached her ankles last year, came only three quarters of the way down her calfs.
"Need me to zip you up?" Alex's eyes darted to Justin's reflection in the mirror. She nodded and he stepped up behind her. He pulled the zipper skyward slowly. When the final teeth were clenched at the neckline, Justin's thumb made a small sweep against her skin the width of the zipper. His gaze met hers in the looking glass. "You look beautiful, Al."
"You say that every year."
"Because it is true every year." Justin insisted. The happy mood did not last long. "We'll be alright." He said. "You just have to believe it."
"It's a hard concept to believe, Justin." She countered. "Our names are in those bowls so many times."
"It's not going to be us, Alex, just as it hasn't been us any other year." He grasped her all of her that he could and freed in from the top of her dress before he fanned it out across her shoulders. "We will be fine."
"How do you know that?" She whispered, feeling weirdly calm in the moment. Justin rested his hands upon her forearms and avoided the question.
"Right, well, I'll leave you to get ready. I'm going to make sure Max did his tie right." Alex said turning to face the unoccupied doorway dislodging her older brother's hands from her arms. She didn't dare to turn back to look at Justin. She was too close to falling apart if she looked at him, the tears would certainly start falling.
The seventeen-year-old was surprised to see Theresa standing on the bottom step of the rickety staircase, but Alex didn't show it. She chose instead to stand in front of her younger brother. He looked pretty decent, all things considered. She was right to be concerned about his tie, however. The fabric was knotted up at his throat. "Ties are just pure evil." Max grumbled.
She chuckled kneeling in front of him, her fingers daftly undoing the tangle. Justin joined them in the main room, his own tie resting undone around his neck. Once she finished securing Max's, Alex stood up and did Justin's tie. "You boys are totally helpless at this." She said as she tightened Justin's tie just a little too tightly. He pulled at the knot until it loosened some. She smoothed down the sides of her dress unconsciously. "Spin around, you two, let me see." Her index finger made a small twirling motion as she spoke. The boys obeyed, turning in identical small circles. "Well, I guess that will do well enough." Both of them mimicked her hand motion and Alex spun around slowly.
"You look presentable enough, I suppose." Max replied in jest. Alex stuck her tongue out at him and Justin chuckled. She huffed, slipped her boots on again, and picked her bag off the dirty floor. She turned it upside down onto the only table in their house; all the money she and Justin made that day came tumbling out. The pin landed atop the haul.
"What's that?" Max asked, reaching for it. Alex grabbed the pin before he could touch it. Mabel had given her that pin for luck and the only Russo daughter figured she could use as much luck as she could manage on reaping day.
"Never mind that now. We've got to get this stuff safely stashed away. Can you handle that, Max?" Alex asked, pinning the Mockingjay to her dress absently. The thirteen-year-old scooped up the money and rushed off.
"Where are you going?" Her voice was scratchy from disuse and lacking in emotions. Both Alex and Justin turned and faced their mother, shocked. Theresa hadn't said a word in over six months.
"The reaping, Mom." Justin said as he walked over and led her off the staircase and into a rocking chair in the rear left corner of the room. "Would you like to come with us?"
"Justin!" Alex exclaimed. "We don't have time to play babysitter."
"She's our mother, Alex." The oldest Russo child countered. She rolled her eyes.
"Since when?" She scoffed. Before the two of them could get into a full blow argument, Max reentered the room. The two of them let the topic drop by a mutual unconscious agreement not to let their brother witness them fight.
Justin sighed, "We'll see you after the reaping, Mom." Theresa nodded, but Justin didn't think she actually heard him. He rejoined his siblings by the door.
"Bye, Mom." Max said half-heartedly as he pulled the door open and held it for his older brother and sister. Alex didn't say anything to Theresa as she left the house. There was nothing the seventeen-year-old needed to say to the woman that Alex felt abandon them a long time ago. Justin locked the door behind the trio.
Time was escaping them forcing the Russo children to run to the reaping. Alex realized that was quite ironic considering that what they really wanted to do was run far away. They had considered running away and living in the woods many times. She and Justin could do it; the forest was practically their second home. Max, on the other hand, he was just a kid. District 09, while a horrible place to live compared to the human realm, was a better place for him to grow up in then the woods. Justin would insist they had to take their mother with them. Dragging her along would just slow them down. Speed and distance was necessary when breaking the Council's rules. Escaping into the forest would never work for them.
The three of them slowed to a walk when they reached the steadily moving check-in lines. Alex was ushered into the girls' line while her brothers moved through the boys' line single file. She was so busy keeping the two boys in her eye line that she was unaware when her feet reached the desk. It wasn't until the woman bitched at her, "Next!" that Alex snapped to attention. The woman held out her hand moving ever so slightly up and down in mid-air. The teen placed her left hand on top of the proffered one. The woman pricked Alex's finger and squeezed a drop of blood onto the check-in log. She was corralled into her place among the other teen females of District 09.
Justin's frantic waving from the other side of the Peacekeeper imposed divide caught her attention and she waved back just to make him stop. Max stood a few lines ahead of their older brother looking nervous as hell, but he would not feel better until the reaping was over. There was a loud feedback screech though the speakers wired around the arena drawing everyone's attention to the stage.
Mr. Stuffleby was familiar to all Districts 09 residents because he was their Capitol representative. He stepped up to the podium carrying the microphone with him. "Welcome, welcome. Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor." There was a second of awkward silence where the gargoyle waited, as he always did, for applause that would never come. He tried to cover it with a strained smile, but Alex couldn't really tell because his face always looked like that. "Now before we begin, we have a very special film, brought to you all the way from the Capitol."
Everyone turned their head toward the giant screen on the right side of the stage. They aired this film at every reaping. Alex could recite every word of the stupid thing as could all other member of the Wizard World, yet none of them could look away. It was like watching a fire burn; it was horrible, but captivating at the same time.
"War, widows, orphans, a motherless child; this was the uprising that rocked our land. Nine districts rebelled against the government that protected, loved, and fed them. Brother turned on brother until nothing remained." She couldn't resist turning to look at Justin when this section was finished. The Council liked to pretend they knew what the uprising was like; they didn't. Quite frankly, she did not know what the Council thought would happen.
At first it didn't seem like anything at all. All supernatural creatures and magical beings were recalled to the Wizarding World for, and she remembered the words verbatim, "a change that will rock all that you." Wizards who lost their powers thanks to the family competition were also invited. Jerry Russo and his three kids had no choice but to obey the summons and enter the world through their portal. The Wizards' Council announced that they were eliminating the family Wizarding competition altogether and reinstating powers to every wizard who lost them as a result of the competition. A cheer of happiness rose through the masses, the Russo's voices included. Looking back, Alex remembers feeling a little suspicious, but unwilling to question the good will of the Wizards' Council. It wasn't until after the powers were redistributed that the other shoe dropped. They would be required to remain in the Wizarding World indefinitely. Jerry managed to petition the Wizards' Council to let Theresa join them. For a short while, everything was calm; then it all fell apart. The supernatural beings began to bite at the bit, not like the restriction of being allowed into only one realm. Young children began to feel lost, so used to the human realm. Even Alex Russo, who used to love spending time in the Wizarding World, was unhappy. She missed Harper, she missed fashion week, and normal television; she missed the human realm and she was not the only one. It was for his family that Jerry Russo had to do something. Eventually, a small rebellious group rose up and with that rising became a movement. Jerry was not the loudest voice among them, but he was the proudest.
"And then came the peace, hard fought, and sorely won. A people rose up from the ashes and a new era was born. But freedom has a cost and the traitors were defeated. We swore, as a nation, that we would never know this treason again."
Of all things that Alex remembers what is most clear to her is that last day. It seemed like any other day. She was in the living room of their new home trying to focus on designing a new dress, but she couldn't. The restriction imposed on all magic use made her itchy and hyper. Focusing was impossible. Justin was upstairs, presumably studying his magic books despite their outlawed status. He had become such a "rebel" since they were forced to relocate. Theresa was in the kitchen reorganizing the dishes yet again. She kept reorganizing the kitchen and Max was coming down the stairs when they heard it, the distinctive boom. It shook their house and broke a few windows; if she hadn't heard the boom she would have assumed they had just experience an earthquake. In that moment, the girl lost all of her energy. She couldn't move or even say a word. Instead, it was Max, who steeped out onto their porch to investigate the occurrence, but Alex didn't need to see what happened to know. The war was over. The rebels had lost. Their father was gone. That was the last time Alexandra Russo cried.
"So it was decreed that each year the twelve districts of the Wizarding World would offer up, in tribute, one young man and woman to fight to the death in a pageant of honor, courage, and sacrifice. The lone victor, bathed in riches, would serve as a reminder of our generosity and forgiveness. This is how we remember our past; this is how we safeguard our future."
Such pretty words: honor, courage, sacrifice, generosity, and forgiveness, for such a horrible spectacle; she and Justin had stood in the crowd, separated, divided, for each of the reaping. They had been forced to watch as 18 children walked into that arena and one blood splattered victors walked out each year. The intervening events were best left forgotten if they wanted to remain sane.
"Now, the time has come for us to select one courageous young man and woman for the honor," Honor? Who the hell were they kidding? Alex scoffed causing the girl standing next to her jump and glare. The brunette glared right back at her. Because seriously, what was her problem? The girl looked away quickly. "of representing District 09 in the fifth annual Hunger Games; as usual, ladies first."
The gargoyle walked over to the big glass bowl on the left side of the stage. He reached within its depths and selected a piece of paper. He returned to his podium, the deadly card held out in front of him. Every girl in the audience froze, hoping that it was not their names read through the loud speakers. He unfolded the trifold slip of paper and the entire district held in its breath.
The girls around her stepped away, crowding into the girls on their other side. They didn't want to be mistaken for her and she didn't blame them. She didn't even want to be her. A magic spotlight shown directly upon her attracting the attention of the Peacekeepers nearby and they walked over to escort her to the stage, she didn't need any escort. She took a deep breath, held her head high, looked straightforward and walked up to the stage. The stairs made no noise as she stepped upon them and she kind of wished that they would just to break the silence. She turned to face the audience when she stopped on the left side of the podium.
"Now for our male tribute…" Stuffleby said heading toward the identical glass blow on the opposite half of the stage. Alex held her breath, crossing her index and middle fingers on both hands behind her back. This was Justin's final reaping and Max was too young, no matter what the Council dictated. Please, not them. Not them. Their Capitol representative moved back to his podium. The three sections of the paper slip unfolded easily. Alex leaned slightly right, trying to see the name written on it, before Stuffleby declared it, but she couldn't make it out. The gargoyle opened his mouth to doom someone else, however before he could say anything, someone was shouting from the audience. All the attention was drawn from the stage as people looked around them for the person who dared to interrupt the reaping.
"I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!" Alex's eyes shot straight to her older brother. He pushed his way out from the crowd and into the aisle, paying no mind to the Peacekeepers as he made his way his way up and onto the stage.
"Well," Said the gargoyle. "It looks like District 09 has its very first volunteer." He grabbed his microphone from its holder in the podium and moved to stand beside the elder Russo. Stuffleby smiled as wide as he could manage and Alex wondered if it looked fake from Justin's position as well. "What's your name, son?"
"Justin, sir." Always so goddamned polite, the seventeen-year-old was irrationally angered by that fact, but she kept her passive look plastered on her face. "Justin Russo."
Their representative turned ever so slightly toward the girl on the other half of the stage. "Russo?" He repeated, inquiry embedded in his tone, directing the word to Justin. "Any relation to our female tribute?"
"She's my sister, sir."
"Our district 09 tributes: Alexandra and Justin Russo." He made a wild flourish with his hands gesturing toward them. Clearly, he was expecting applause and he did not get it. Instead, the remaining teenagers free of the Hunger Games and even some of the adults watching from the back, raised their hands in an act of solidarity. It had never been done before when every year for the past four two teenagers walked off to sure death. What had inspired this show of support? Was it Justin's self-sacrificing? If so, he didn't deserve it. He was idiot; a suicidal idiot and as soon as she got the chance she would let him on exactly what she thought of his heroism.
The two teenagers on stage turn to each other as they had witnessed eight others do in the past four years. They meet each other just two beyond Stuffleby's position on the right side of the elevated platform. Alex hoped that no one noticed how badly her hand shook as she reached for Justin's own. Her brother volunteering to be a tribute had thrown her off her game. The warmth and sturdiness of his grip helped her regain her focus once again. The siblings were rushed off the stage into the Justice Hall by Stuffleby as soon as their handshake was completed.
No one Alex knew had ever been in the Justice Hall; not that she knew any peacekeepers or Capitol government officials personally. The only other people to ever enter this off-limits building were tributes, who had never returned to District 09, and their family members, too heartbroken by their loss to discuss the architecture of the building that stood like a monument of oppression to all the people in their district. Now, that she had a chance to see it for herself, she did not look. She was too distracted by everything else to even care what anything looked like.
Stuffleby broke away from them without a word, leaving the two siblings to follow the Peacekeepers to their separate holding rooms. She didn't really see the point of separating her and Justin. Their family was the only people coming to see them and they shared the same family! Why wouldn't they put them in the same room? Unless…of course, they were trying to keep them from formulating and executing a plan of escape, which they would have done had they been put the same room. Perhaps the Council was smarter then she'd always given them credit for.
Alex paced the length of the room over and over again, driving herself mad with questions and worries as she waited for her family to arrive. Why had Justin volunteered? It was his final reaping; he would have been scot-free! What were they going to do now? The Hunger Games were brutal, bloody, things. At least when Alex was standing on the stage alone, she didn't know the name or face of the man she might have to kill or by killed by. The chances of two individuals from the same district facing each other in their final moments were unlikely. It was, however, a possibility. Her brother might have to kill her. She might have to kill him. Oh god, she was going to be sick. Just when she was going to attempt escaping out the window, regardless of whatever consequences might come, the door knob turned and her younger brother rushed in. He wrapped his arms tight around her waist, the seventeen-year-old couldn't remember the last time that he had hugged anyone, and squeezed tight. She had to unwrap his arms one by one and took a step back to prevent him from clinging to her once more.
His tear tracks were dried on his cheeks but still visible and it broke her heart. They had all lost their father, by extension their mother, and now he was going to lose his brother or his sister. Hell, who was she kidding? District 09 hadn't a winner during any of the other four Hunger Games. Max was most likely going to lose both his siblings. "Max." His eyes were focused on something outside the window behind her. She knelt down and forced him to meet her eyes. "Max, listen to me. This is important, okay? You know where the money is kept. That won't last long though so you'll have to head into the woods. Do you remember what we taught you? About how to conjure up food to eat and sell? About where to do that and how to get there?"
"Don't take anything for the Peacekeepers, okay? Nothing is worth putting your name in more times. Ration all money and food. Buy only what you absolutely need: food for you and Dragon. No frivolous purchases."
"What about Mom?" Max asked tilting his back to indicate their mother leaning against the now closed door. Alex hadn't seen or heard her enter, but that didn't mean much; the woman was practically a ghost. She stood up and brushed off the parts of her dress that touched the floor.
"Food for mom too." She added, a bit hesitantly.
Max nodded and wrapped his arms around his only sister once more. "Just try to win, Alex; try to come back. Please." She laid her forearms against her brother's back and held him against him. She was not known for her sentimentality, but this could be the last time she would ever see her younger brother. The three of them, Justin, Max, and Alex had become their own family unit in the aftermath of their father's death. Justin became the father and Alex the mother both of them fighting to give Max as normal a life as they could manage it. So many memories flooded her mind as she hugged him; helping Max with his homework, cooking dinner for her brothers, and many, many other things. She would not give into the urge to cry; tears would not make any of this better.
"I will, Max, I will try." He nodded and pulled away from her. The youngest Russo bent over pretending to tie his shoe, just in case they were being monitored, and slipped Alex's wand into her boot. She wanted to thank him, ask him how he managed to get it, or if he got Justin's as well but she could not. He indicated their mother, prone and silent as ever, as Max stepped even further back. Alex did have to say something to Theresa. She had earned that courtesy for giving birth to her. Keeping a good distance between them, Alex stood strong in front of the woman who had hurt them all without even trying.
"Do you know what's going on?"
The woman nodded, her eyes had the same glassy look always. "You and Justin are this year's tribute."
"That means it's just going to be you and Max for a while."
Theresa nodded in response and that irritated the hell out of the brunette. This was serious and she acted like it didn't matter at all. Her oldest children were headed off to participate in a bloodbath and she did not even care. Alex closed the gap between them, grasped her mother's forearms and shook her.
"You need to snap out of it!" She shouted. "You are going to be all that Max has anymore. Justin and I aren't going to be there to do your job as parent for you anymore. You've wallowed long enough. Do you hear me? I know losing Dad hurt you, very deeply; it hurt us too, you know! I sympathized with that, I understood it, that's why I stepped into and filled your shoes, but now you've got to take them back. You've got to be Max's mother again!" With no change in her mother at all, Alex released her and walked over to the window unwilling to watch as her little brother left her life for what was probably the last time. She didn't move from that position until the Peacekeepers came to fetch her for the magic train ride to the Capitol.
A/N: Hope you liked it!