Excerpt fromPart One of Casket Anthem, a multi-chapter Hunger Games AU:
The Reaping recaps play on a constant, grating loop during
the short train ride to the Capitol. Draco watches them—studies them—and feels a sudden spike of unease at the sight of his
own pale face reflected back at him through the jewel-toned pixels of the
He ignores it.
He focuses instead on cataloguing the strengths and comparative
weaknesses of the other tributes—because he’s observant, and he’s methodical,
and he knows that these are the
versions of the competition that he needs to understand; not the
Capitol-polished prototypes that will be unveiled later at the tribute parade.
He fast-forwards through the District One commentary and
pauses at Two.
The girl, he notices, is young—short
and plump and raven-haired, with a sharp grin and a nasally voice. She doesn’t
look athletic. Her district partner is her polar opposite—imposingly tall and
broad-shouldered, with an unkempt mop of golden-blond hair and an off-putting
air of smarmy, exaggerated arrogance. Draco thinks that the girl will likely
turn out to be the more viable threat—there’s something unbearably hard about her demeanor, something that
gives him the impression she won’t hesitate to do what’s necessary to survive
once they’re in the arena.
He fast-forwards again, skipping over Three and arbitrarily
stopping when he gets to Four.
The girl is…unimpressive, all gleaming blonde hair and
sparkling white teeth and an adorable smattering of freckles spread out across
the bridge of her upturned nose; Draco cannot fathom why she had been chosen to
volunteer, not when her smile has twice as much sugar as it does spice—she’ll
get sponsors for being pretty, he supposes, but he doubts that she’ll make it
out of the bloodbath with her throat intact.
The boy, though—
He’s dark-skinned and intense and tall, and he crosses the auditorium with predatory elegance; he has
high cheekbones and an enigmatic upwards curve to his lips, as if he’s miles
ahead of everyone else and in on a joke whose punchline has yet to even be written.
He looks mysterious, sly, and the
proprietary hand he places on the lower back of his district partner as they
exit the stage together is worrisome—there’s a story there, Draco thinks
shrewdly, a reason for the two of
them to volunteer as a single entity like that.
He rewinds to the District Three recap.
The tributes from Three aren’t volunteers—still, the boy struts
down the aisle with his chin up and his posture defiant, like he’s refusing
outright to be anything but brave in the face of what he has to know is a death
sentence; his gaze is fierce and almost wildly
stubborn when he finally deigns to look into the Capitol camera. The bottom
half of a medium-sized tattoo peeks out from the short sleeve of his t-shirt,
on the inside of his left bicep—it’s all thick, jagged black lines,
aggressively illustrated, and Draco thinks it might be some kind of bird, wings
spread out as it soars in mid-flight.
He sneers and turns his attention to the girl.
She appears to be around his age, fine-boned and small and
slender, with caramel skin and an exotic tilt to her eyes, a mass of unruly
dark hair tied up and curling down the delicate slope of her back. Her
expression when she hears her name called isn’t difficult to read—placid,
thoughtful acceptance, steady and resolute. Not even the barest hint of fear,
Draco realizes, freezing the footage and cocking his head to the side; and he
wonders at that, he has to, because if she isn’t afraid, she’s either a
phenomenal actor—a phenomenal liar,
more like—or she’s got a secret weapon—a secret talent—that’s giving her confidence.