"Do not pity the dead...Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love."
- Albus Dumbledore
The house looked just the same. It was still cold, and unfriendly, and crumbling. But stepping through the front door now felt totally different. At first I thought perhaps it was me, maybe I'd miraculously changed in the Arena. But then I realised that it was the emptiness. The house was empty in a way it never had been before; a good way. Instead of the abandoned atmosphere that told me someone should be here and wasn't, constantly reminding me of how little my parents actually cared, the house simply felt vacant. It told me that they were definitely gone, and that brought me unimaginable comfort.
They'd offered me a house in Victor's Village and looked shocked when I'd turned them down. I don't think a new Victor had ever turned down one of the nice, solid, safe houses. They sat in little clusters around manicured woodlands and safely within a compound fence, to keep out the wild things- animals and people alike.
The thought of moving into one of them had made me shudder. I'd walked through the village before and hated the way everything looked too perfect. Children were running around laughing and women stood in their doorways watching their neighbours pass with a keen eye. It couldn't be further from the desolate, wild world that I had grown up in. There would have been no privacy in the Village, no space, no silence. Nowhere for Clove and I to hide away from the prying eyes of our town, the eyes that always felt so judgemental and pitying at the same time. There would be no escape for us there. And I desperately wanted to pretend that with my return nothing of my parents had ever existed. There had not been years of loneliness, pain, and neglect. There had not been fear. There had not been blood pooling across the kitchen floor as I held the knife over his body.
When I walked into the bedroom that my parents used to share I felt nothing. It was the first time in over 10 years that I had walked into this room, and there was no sign that they'd ever existed. The faded blue quilt folded on the bed didn't remind me of them. There were no pictures on the dresser or personal objects scattered around. My father had barely lived here before I had killed him two years ago. He'd stormed in, occasionally eaten in the kitchen, shouted a bit, sometimes struck out at me if I got in the way, and then stormed out again leaving the house in deathly silence. I still didn't know where he used to go to. In contrast my mother had practically lived in this room. Yet there was nothing in the greying walls or the weak sunlight filtering through the window to reveal that she had spent almost all of the 17 years of my life in this room, sitting in the dark and crying. I knew she cried.
I stared at the bed and tried to imagine this room as mine now. There was no point Clove and I continuing to both sleep in the only other bedroom of our house, a pokey little room we'd both shared since she was a baby. This room was perfectly adequate. It was mine now, not my parents.
"En?" I turned from the bed and saw her standing in the doorway, looking at me hesitantly. She'd seemed almost nervous of me since I'd returned. I'd barely gotten the chance to talk to her since my train had rolled into the station three days ago and since then I'd been staying in the Justice Building as the town celebrated my victory. This was the first night that I had escaped from them all and I'd come home. I wondered what it was that made her nervous of me. Knowing Clove and her bloodthirstiness I doubted it was what she'd seen me do during the Games. She would have loved every kill I made. Maybe I looked different? There was a new force, tugging me down. It had nothing to do with the teenagers, children practically, that I had killed. It came from the conversation I had had with President Snow on the night of my victory party. It came from the threat against the nine year old standing in front of me now, the threat he had whispered in my ear like a caress but which had made my skin feel like ice.
I lifted my eyes and gave her a reassuring smile. I was fine. "Yeah, Clo?"
She walked into the room, looking around her as if she was worried mines were about to go off. It suddenly struck me that this may well be the first time she had ever walked into our parents' room. Perhaps even the first time she had seen daylight peeking through the open curtains. She swallowed as her eyes roamed the plainness of the room and I knew she was feeling the same twinge of anger and hurt that I had had only moments ago. Then her eyes rested on me and I saw her shoulders relax slightly. "I'm glad you're home," she said.
I reached out an arm and she shuffled over to me, pressing into my side. We looked at the bed in silence for a moment. Without even realising it my fingers were playing absently with the tendrils of her pony tail. Normally she would never have let me do something so affectionate, and I wouldn't have been the sort to do it, but if she noticed she didn't stop me. "I'm glad I'm home too," I replied truthfully. Home had nothing to do with the house.
I couldn't sleep. There was a crack in the curtains that no matter how I adjusted them always seemed to let moonlight into the room. It lit up the grey walls more brilliantly than I would have thought possible. The bed was cold and too big. I shifted restlessly a million times but no matter how I lay I was always cold. I hated being cold. I curled up on my side, just as I had in the Arena, and tried to imagine warm sunlight on my skin. Even though this was nowhere near the icy temperatures of my frozen Arena it still felt completely debilitating. I shivered and stared at the grey walls and tried not to think about the cold and the memories that came with it.
At one point I must have drifted into a fitful sleep because I found myself looking at Raziel, the boy from District 12 who had saved me from a blizzard, and then the Career pack, and who I then had left to be tortured to death by Allure and Luxor, the tributes from District 1. I felt no guilt about his death, I didn't feel guilt about any of them, but his eyes inspired an inexplicable sadness in me. I had never understood why he had saved me and by the time that I realised it wasn't a trick it had been too late to ask him. He sat in the room now, sitting on the dusty floorboards, and watching me. I stared back at him, wondering if he would answer me if I asked the question now. Something about his pale, almost translucent skin told me he wouldn't. I was dreaming, and dreams for me were never about pleasure or absolution. Soon enough the blood began to seep through the white shirt he wore and my dream turned into the nightmare I had been expecting. It was strange that in waking blood never frightened me. In fact it invoked the opposite reaction. I loved blood, and pain, and killing. But when I closed my eyes my mind seemed to want to remind me of what it should feel like. In my dreams the sight of someone bleeding slowly to death gave me the pain and fear that it would have if I hadn't been wrong. Maybe my unconscious mind was a better person than my conscious one.
"I'm sorry," I whispered out to him, but he just stared back at me with accusing eyes as the blood continued to flow, dripping onto the floor around him with a rhythmic drip, drip, drip that echoed too loudly in the silent house.
I was started awake by movement behind me and I flew into a sitting potion, all my muscles tensed and ready to defend myself. Clove stared at me with huge eyes in the darkness, frozen by the side of the bed. My heartbeat slowed at the sight of her and I felt my shoulders relax, dropping back onto the pillow. "You startled me," I murmured. She shrugged an apology and continued with her mission of climbing into the bed. I could have stopped her, told her to go back to her own, but the second she wriggled under the covers next to me warmth flooded through my body again. It was so familiar to have her warm little body pressed against mine. I found her hand in the tangle of sheets and gave it a quick, grateful squeeze. She could no doubt feel how cold I was, my body still shivering, but she didn't complain as she tucked herself into my side. I could feel her warm breath fluttering against the skin of my shoulder. She'd already closed her eyes, without saying a single word, and after a few moments I closed mine too, enveloping myself in the darkness.
It was Lupa's black eyes that greeted me this time, the tribute from District 4 who I had feared more than anyone else in the Arena. She didn't gaze at me with silent reproach like Raziel had, but glared viciously as she clawed at me, trying to roll me off her. We snarled and hissed at each other as we fought for our lives and unlike in reality she won. She pinned me beneath her and I lookup up into her dark eyes. There was a cold smirk playing around her lips as she tilted her head to the side, surveying me. "Still as weak as ever," she snarled, but when she spoke it was with my mother's voice. I screamed in frustration and tried to strike out at her, forgetting in my anger all the skills I had learnt through more than 5 years of training. She met my strike with a block and gripped my wrist hard, digging her fingernails into the skin till I saw blood trickling down my arm from her fingers like some twisted bracelet. "You'll never be strong enough," she taunted again and twisted my arm back until I heard a sharp snap and felt searing pain rip through my body. I cried out and kicked out at her desperately, the powerlessness of my dream hurting more than my snapping bones.
Suddenly there was a weight on my chest and I clearly felt hands pressing into my shoulders, even though both Lupa's were gripped to my wrists. I shook my head in confusion and suddenly she released me. I yelped and rolled over, trying to pin her beneath me, my hands searching the ground next to me for a rock to smash against her head. My hands pressed against her throat.
"Ena stop! It's me!" I blinked and realised that Clove was looking up at me, her eyes wide and her hands scrabbling at her throat where my own hands were clawed around her neck. As if her skin burned, my hands flew away from her and I threw myself off her smaller body, rolling onto the other side of the bed. I ran a shaking hand over my eyes as my heart thudded painfully in my chest.
"Clove! I'm sorry, are you alright?" I asked breathlessly, feeling awful. She didn't answer me at first and I sat up in panic, looking across at her. Sensing my eyes on her she nodded silently and sat up too, pushing the sheets off her. If I hadn't known her so well I'd have thought she wasn't at all phased by the fact that I just tried to kill her. But I knew that my hands around her throat would have reminded her of our father, and that her silence and stony expression were just her way of defending herself. Sometimes I didn't know which she was more scared of, her fears or showing that she had them.
She turned to face me. 'You alright, Ena?" she asked seriously, turning the question back on me. She tilted her head to the side, her dark hair falling over one shoulder, and studied me quizzically. Her lack of response to my attack just made me feel guiltier and I nodded dismissively, pulling on my own mask of strength. We were as bad as each other but we were never going to change. I pulled myself from the tangled blankets and slid off the bed, standing awkwardly next to it.
"Do you want something to eat?" I asked, ignoring what had just happened. "Breakfast?"
I followed her eyes as she glanced at the window and saw with surprise that dusky light was streaming into the room. Clove struggled out of the sheets too and sat cross legged in the middle of the bed. "You do know it's evening right?" she asked.
I blinked in confusion at the window. Never in my life had I slept the entire day. Oddly I didn't feel at all rested. My body still ached as if I hadn't slept in days and my mind was taking far too long to process things. Eventually I looked back at Clove who was watching me intently. "I'll make some dinner then," I muttered, running a hand through my hair and finding two days worth of knots and tangles.
After a pause Clove shrugged, her intent expression gone. "Okay," she said simply, clambering off the bed. She managed to get her foot tangled in the sheets and landed on the floor with a loud thump. No matter how fast and skilled she was sometimes she still had that colt-like clumsiness that only preteens seemed to muster.
As she clambered back to her feet and headed towards the door I called out to her. She paused and looked back at me, a flicker of something like hope on her face. I looked down at the faded, blue quilt. "You shouldn't come into my bed. You're not a kid anymore, you need to sleep on your own."
She kept her eyes on me for a minute and then turned and walked from the room without saying anything. I continued to stare at the quilt, knowing that it had to be done, but not at all looking forward to endless nights of shivering alone.
A/N: Hello all. This is the sequel to what was previously known as Blood, Snow and Steel. It has since been renamed Snow. If you have not read the first part and would like to, it can be found here: /s/8536016/1/
Like the first part, this will have 20-something chapters and will be reliably updated, as it has already been finished.
Welcome all new readers and welcome back all those from Part 1.
I really appreciate reviews as they help me improve not only the story but my writing in whole, so I'd love you if you could leave a review for me at the end of chapters.
I hope you enjoy the story that is to come.