Mind over Matter
Disclaimer: I don't own the Hunger Games or any of its related materials, as they all belong to Suzanne Collins.
A/N: Hey, everyone! In honor of my birthday, I've decided to update my long-running story and two post two new ones (which is where this one comes in).
This story in particular is completely AU and takes place at the theoretical Panem High. I'll explain it all as the story goes on, and I hope you enjoy it! :)
MIND OVER MATTER
"Be who you are and say what you feel,because those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter."
Katniss Everdeen stared through the twin lenses of her binoculars, grateful for the hastening sunrise that cast more illumination onto the object of her study. As if unaware of her watchful presence, a mockingbird shifted its gray-and-white wings, tweeting leisurely. Katniss was fascinated, and listened carefully to its call that almost sounded like laughter. It looked so peaceful, without a care in the world…
Suddenly, a beam of light filtered directly into Katniss's sightline. "Ugh," she groaned, squinting her eyes shut and trying not to make too much noise. Apparently she was unsuccessful, because when she looked back through her field glasses, the mockingbird was gone.
Katniss, now feeling the bitter sting of defeat, carefully lowered herself down to the ground from her perch. Bird watching was one of her favorite hobbies, and mockingbirds were one of her favorite avian species. Double disappointment. And on top of that, Katniss was due to start her sophomore year in less than two hours. Triple disappointment.
It wasn't that she disliked high school. Learning was fun, and it did give her the opportunity to join some interesting clubs… but deep down, Katniss knew that she'd rather be up in a tree, watching the birds, or hanging out with Gale.
She had been hoping to get in a few quiet moments before going to school, and at least she was successful at that. The morning wasn't a complete loss. And she did get relatively close to that mockingbird, before she frightened it…
All of this was on her mind as she exited the miniature forest in the Everdeen backyard and reentered her house. It wasn't yet 7:00, even though she'd been up for quite a while. Katniss was an early riser. Better to watch the birds that way, and the sunrise. Being one with nature made her feel more peaceful than anything in the material world possibly could.
When she went into her family's dining room, she saw her little sister Primrose poking meditatively at a bowl of Froot Loops. Prim, as she preferred to be called, was due to begin sixth grade in a couple hours, and had been anxiously looking forward to it since summer began. She looked up, beaming, as she saw Katniss.
"Morning, Katniss!" Prim enthused. Being a morning person ran in the Everdeen family, except with their mother. "See any pretty birds?"
Prim was well familiar with Katniss's hobby, and how she woke up so early every morning. "Yeah. A mockingbird." Katniss suddenly realized how hungry she was, and started fixing her breakfast in the adjoining kitchen: cottage cheese with basil on an English muffin. It didn't take too long to prepare, so she was soon back in the dining room with Prim.
"A mockingbird? Whoa! Aren't those your favorite?"
"I guess. I don't really have one favorite kind of bird. That would be really hard to choose, but I'd probably go with a mockingbird or a blue jay."
Prim giggled over a spoonful of colorful cereal. "Or a cross between the two! A... mockingjay!"
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," Katniss said fondly, reaching over and messing up Prim's light blonde hair.
"Okay, then a bluebird."
"But those already exist!" Then Katniss caught movement in her peripheral vision and turned her head, only to see their mother standing in the archway to the kitchen and looking faintly hung over. "Oh. Good morning, Mom."
"Yeah. Morning, Mom!" Prim chirped brightly. She was the single most optimistic person that Katniss had ever met… but then again, Katniss hadn't met too many people.
Mrs. Everdeen seemed to be her usual distant self. "Hello, girls," she said distractedly, going back into the kitchen. Ever since the girls' father had died eight years before in an accident, their mother had turned to "the bottle" for comfort. It had gotten her into trouble sometimes, like when she'd get her license suspended for drunk driving or would have to go to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, but she never listened to anyone who told her to stop. Not even Katniss or Prim. When she wasn't in trouble or drunk, though, their mother was a nice woman with a good job in pharmacy. And Katniss was determined to not let anyone know about her family's problems.
So she decided to change the subject. "Are you looking forward to starting middle school, Prim?"
"Am I ever!" gushed her sister, blue eyes lighting up with excitement. "But I'm a little nervous. It is a big change from elementary school."
"Don't be nervous," Katniss said through a mouthful of breakfast. "It's no big deal."
"Okay, if you're sure… Are you nervous about the new school year, Katniss?"
"Not really. I have a feeling that this is going to be a good one." Maybe she would actually make friends for once, and get people to notice her.
Prim's smile was encouraging, as if she were the older sister of the two. "That's the spirit!"
"Hey, Catnip. Ready to start a new year of bowing to the educational bureaucracy?"
"Hi, Gale." Katniss had made sure that Prim got on the school bus safely, and was now free to walk to school with Gale. They usually walked, since the high school was relatively close to both of their houses, and also because they shared a love of nature and being outside.
Gale was starting his senior year. Most people called him Katniss's friend—if not best friend— but she wasn't sure if that was accurate. They'd just known each other for a while and hung out every Sunday afternoon. If that made them friends, then they were. He was much more sociable than she was, though. It often seemed that Gale was friends with everyone in every clique, even the popular Finnick Odair. Those two were really close, probably because they shared a "bad boy" reputation and were on several sports teams together. Meanwhile, it didn't seem that any clique wanted Katniss around.
"Just think, Katniss. One more year for me, and then I'll be done with our beloved Panem High. I can't wait! No more of the oppressive institution masquerading under the pretense of teaching us, as if. It's all part of Principal Snow's greater plan for world domination. I'm sure of it."
Whenever Gale got really wordy and conspiracy-theorizing like that, it was a sign to Katniss that he'd been smoking marijuana, and a quick whiff in his direction only confirmed her suspicion. He always said that it helped him "relax", and although Katniss disapproved, she didn't want to interfere. Besides, high Gale was kind of funny.
"Hmm," she said noncommittally, adjusting her loose, plaid button-down shirt as they walked together. Anyone passing may have assumed they were siblings, due to the strange physical resemblance they shared. Katniss looked more like Gale than Primrose, even—what with the straight black hair, gray eyes, and olive skin. But Gale was about a foot taller and better looking.
"You may scoff, Everdeen, but you'll see one day. You and the rest of the world. My only consolation is that by this time next year, I'll be somewhere else. Living large!" Gale kept talking about anything and everything, and Katniss let him. She didn't mind being silent, in fact she preferred it.
And so they walked the rest of the way to school. When they got there, Gale was still fulminating about his stoned convictions: "—and I bet that Vice-Principal Coin has inappropriate intentions towards me. I've seen the way she looks at me every day in the hallway before first period. It's not like I can help the fact that I'm attractive."
"I don't know about that…" Katniss said, kind of amused and disturbed at the same time.
Panem High School loomed in front of them, looking as much like a prison as it did when they had last left it. But of course, it was busier than a prison from the outside. Buses were pulling up and students were pouring in from all sides. It wasn't the biggest school in the world, but it certainly seemed like it with all the kids swarming everywhere. Katniss took a deep breath and gritted her teeth, feigning confidence.
"But I know I'm onto something about that woman," Gale continued in the same lazy, contemplative tone. "Trust me."
"It's not that I don't trust you," Katniss half-lied. She didn't really trust anyone, minus Prim of course. She wasn't even sure if she and Gale qualified as "friends".
Gale shrugged. "Whatever. I'll see you later, OK?"
"OK." And so Katniss was left alone to go to her new homeroom. She pulled out her schedule to double-check, and then went towards room 303, groaning that she would have to climb three flights of stairs every morning just to get to homeroom. And her earliest class was on the first floor… She repressed a groan.
When she walked in, Katniss was greeted by the sight of her new homeroom proctor, Mr. Haymitch Abernathy. He taught History, and 303 wasn't his normal classroom. It seemed like a foreign language room, if anything, but Mr. Abernathy was nonetheless slumped in his seat at the teacher's desk, pouring liquid from a flask into his coffee cup.
Katniss must have looked at him for too long as she passed the front of the classroom, because he said in a sardonic groan, "Keep it moving, sweetheart."
She felt her cheeks darken, and hurried toward the desks as quickly as she could. Mr. Abernathy was a good History teacher and everything, if not a little offbeat, but she was nonetheless embarrassed.
So Katniss slid into the first empty seat along the wall that she saw. The desk pushed against it—the room was divided into pairs of desks—was also vacant, which she was grateful for. Katniss put her backpack down and tried to relax until the bell rang.
Just when it was about to ring, someone ran into the room and ducked into the seat next to hers. Katniss determined to keep her eyes forward and seem aloof from the situation, but she still caught a glimpse of the boy's short and wispy blond curls.
Then the bell did ring, and Mr. Abernathy leaned back in his seat to prop his feet on his desk. Announcements, courtesy of Principal Snow, began with his usual penchant for melodramatics: "And so begins a new school year at Panem High School. I'd like to extend a welcome to all of our freshmen and a welcome back to everyone returning for another year—"
And Katniss settled into her routine from the year before of tuning out the morning announcements. At one point, she stretched, and happened to catch something out of the corner of her eye…
The boy sitting in the next desk over was staring at her.
That caused her to somewhat involuntarily glance over to see it for herself, and suddenly she was face-to-face with Peeta Mellark, who smiled.
Katniss's breath hitched.
A/N: So, how did I do? It's my first time writing HG fanfiction, so I hope I did alright! :) Please review. Thanks!
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