“Pati.” I incanted and my shirt glowed.
§You’ve already cast it four times, before this!§ Balthazar hissed as the glow faded. §I’m certain it’s done.§
“Pati.” I went for a sixth time. The shirt glowed again.
§Oh for goodness sake.§ Balthzar groaned.
“Pati.” I cast once more, before addressing Balthazar. “The fight against Selmy taught me something of extreme value.”
§And what would that be?§ Balthazar replied sarcastically.
“I need to be prepared.” I said. “His sword would not have done any damage if my shirt was affected by the Unbreakable Charm.”
§Yes, yes, I understand that. But why did you have to cast it seven times on every article of clothing you possess?§ Balthazar asked patiently.
“…Seven is a powerful number possessing magical properties?” I said uncertainly, before shrugging. “Hermione always said so. It couldn’t hurt to cast it that many times on each piece. I don’t see what the huge deal is, anyway. If seven applications increase the effectiveness, then I win. If it doesn’t, well at least I know it doesn’t work and never have to do it again. I can’t really go wrong, here.”
I grabbed the shirt and tried to rip it apart with my increased strength. I conjured a lumpy mannequin, dressed it in my clothes, before conjuring a handful of sharpened stones to chuck at it.
I threw the stones with all of my strength, and they hit the mannequin, making loud thuds and smacks on impact. They embedded deep in its head, and hands— but bounced off all of the articles of clothing.
I repeated this test a few more times for good measure, before nodding in satisfaction and putting my clothes back on, feeling a chill after standing naked for too long. A wave of my wand, and the conjurations lost their cohesion, disintegrating into nothingness.
“Tempus.” I muttered and held my wand aloft. Brightly colored numbers and letters appeared and arranged themselves in a form I could understand.
“Hm.” I said and cancelled the spell, before taking a seat on the bed. In a few hours, we would all head out to King’s Landing, via the Kingsroad, a path which stretched from the Wall to Dorne. I stretched and languished for a while, before getting back up, strapping Erebus to my side and walking out.
I made my way to the stables. Already the sound of metal striking metal was heard as the blacksmith began his work for the day. Servants hurried from building to building, off to clean and cook and whatever else they tended to do.
A loud snort caught my attention— Geryon noticed my presence. I smiled and greeted the horse, who seemed to be munching on a mouthful of hay.
“We’re finally going to be leaving here, Geryon.” I said, patting his head lightly. “In a few hours, we’ll be taking the Kingsroad to King’s Landing.”
Geryon nodded in understanding and went back to eating as I saw Hodor pass by, the giant of a man smiling slightly and nodding in greeting. I nodded back and said nothing, instead thinking of my situation once more.
Was I making the right choices in trusting the Stark family?
I swore vows to Lord Stark, and that was a serious thing. It wasn’t a drunken promise to be easily forgotten in the four winds. I promised I would be loyal to him and guard his life. Granted, I made sure not to swear to give up my life for his— because it’s a stupid thing to vow, I’d rather simply save us both.
Still, a vow had meaning to me. Without vows I wouldn’t be any better than a criminal.
I nodded to myself. In the weeks I’d been here, I had seen Lord Stark interact with the many guards, cooks, and servants at Winterfell. I hadn’t seen him mistreat them, not once.
Sure, they seemed a little wary around him, but he had the look of a hard man— and he was their boss, to boot. You don’t joke around with the big guns upstairs, not unless you earn their friendship.
Like I have.
When I had become better friends with Jon and not, say, Robb, Lord Stark became intrigued by me. That’s not to say we became best friends, or anything, but I think his opinion of me heightened from that moment.
Not many people befriended bastards in these lands. After reading about the Blackfyre rebellions, and listening to the mutterings of the folk living here, I learned that bastards were considered to be trash, only trying to usurp their fathers’ seats of power.
Obviously as a modern thinking being, I knew that it had nothing to do with bastardry, but more to do with greed and the environments people grew up under.
Jon was a nice guy who was depressed a lot of the time— and with good reason; he has no mother figure, his father is scared to treat him like a son because of his wife. His brothers and sisters do acknowledge him somewhat, but they don’t really understand his plight, either.
Would he betray the Starks?
Because he loved his father and his siblings.
Simple as that.
That’s why I stayed friends with him. I would even go as far as to say Jon was a close friend of mine, now.
Lord Stark’s opinion of me changed once more when I healed his son’s life with magic. At first he had wanted to throttle me for hurting his son, but when he saw the boy’s healed legs which were still able to function normally, he quickly changed his tune.
Add to that, the fact that I aided him in his quest to get justice for his boy only cemented the man’s opinion of me. He even started to let me call him Ned— rather, Lord Ned.
I shook my head slightly.
Was I getting too attached to this family?
§So what if you’re getting attached?§ Balthazar cut through my thoughts. §We’re all alone, out here. We need friends. We need someone we can go to when there’s trouble. We can’t be on our own, forever.§
Balthazar was right, as always.
§But, if we find a way home…§ I hissed back weakly. §Won’t we just be wasting our time? I don’t want to have to choose between my new friends and my old ones.§
§We’ll make that decision when we come to it— if we ever come to it.§ Balthazar said placating. §That’s no excuse to stay on our own. At the very least, a task like this would take years upon years. Are you supposed to go live the rest of your days in the woods?§
§True.§ I replied.
§And besides, you could do a whole lot worse than the Starks.§ Balthazar said. §For a pack of uncivilized dogs with no bathrooms, the Starks seem like they’re the best of the lot.§
I nodded, agreeing with that statement.
Whenever I doubted my choice to join up with the Starks, all I had to do was look at what the Lannister family had done to Bran. Hell, their demeanor in general. The Cunt Queen, who was probably still moaning under the Maester’s care— that came out wrong— was the best example of how the Southerners acted.
It’s rather simple.
The day I first saw her, she stepped out of her carriage, looking outright disgusted with anything and everything. She treated her servants like they were things— hell; she even ignored her two younger children.
Where the Starks were kind and polite, she was cruel and dismissive.
And this was the Queen of all the Seven Kingdoms— so all the Southern Ladies would emulate her behavior to some degree. That’s how these things worked.
“Harry.” I heard Jon’s voice drag me out of my deep thought. “You here?”
I blinked and saw him pop out of the side.
“Yo.” I said by way of greeting. Jon gave me a queer look but shook his head smiling at my strangeness. “You’re up early.”
“I couldn’t sleep.” Jon admitted. “I stayed all night guarding Bran.”
I winced. “A whole night with the Lady Catelyn?”
“Oh gods, no.” Jon said quickly. “Lord Stark convinced her to retire with him.”
“You can call him your father, Jon.” I said kindly.
Jon gave a nod but didn’t acknowledge the statement any other way.
“Always the stoic, aren’t you?” I shook my head in exasperation. “How is Bran doing?”
“He’s fine.” Jon said, smiling. “Better than fine. It was as if the Old Gods came and gave him his legs back.”
So Bran hadn’t told him anything.
“It was nothing like I’d ever seen.” Jon admitted. “I saw his wounds. I had thought…”
He trailed off.
“Keep a secret?” I asked lightly. Jon gave me a look, and nodded warily.
“I healed him.” I stated simply. “I told Lord and Lady Stark to keep it a secret from everyone, to pretend that Maester Luwin found a way to fix him.”
A moment passed. And then—
“Wh— You?” Jon said incredulously. “How?”
“Have you ever wondered how I’m so fast?” I replied to his question with a question of my own.
“What does that have to do with anything?” Jon asked, a little irritation and impatience in his tone.
“Just answer the question.” I said.
“I—” Jon took a breath. “Well, yes. I have. You’ve shown me your true speed, and it was far beyond anything I had ever seen. I had just assumed…”
He said nothing after.
“Assumed what?” I prodded.
“It might sound farfetched…” Jon trailed off.
“I do enjoy the farfetched.” I smiled and pushed the issue. “Tell me.”
“Well.” He looked a little embarrassed. “I’d thought you came right out of the Age of Heroes; a legendary descendant of theirs, maybe.”
I was quiet for a short while.
“It’s a fair guess. I can see why you would think that.” I said, and meant it.
Why wouldn’t he think I was straight out of the Age of Heroes? I had the strength of five men, speed the likes of which no one has seen on this earth, and a weird scaled arm wrapped in a tale of magic and revenge.
“I wouldn’t really be able to confirm it to you either way, as all records of my ancestry are gone— have been gone for as long as I can remember.” I replied with a half-truth. “But I can tell you that I have learned how to use magic.”
“Magic?” Jon said incredulously. “Impossible. Magic is gone from these—”
The stable filled with a pale blue light as Jon watched the electricity in palm of my hand, arcing from finger to finger.
“—Lands.” Jon finished and gaped for a short moment.
“What…” Jon looked at it, and then at me. “How?”
The Lightning receded back into my body and I lowered my hands. “Long, hard work, Jon.”
“And you… Used this magic to heal Bran?” Jon asked.
I nodded. “Bran, Maester Luwin, and the Lord and Lady Stark know. No one else.”
“Well; no one else but you, now.” I said, my lips quirking in an odd smile.
Jon looked a little perturbed, as well as confused, by the revelation as he tried to wrap his head around it. I didn’t blame him. If I were a Muggle and someone told me such things I would have laughed in their face and told them to go visit an asylum.
“When Old Nan spoke of magic, the tales were always gruesome, and horrifying.” Jon said, looking at me strangely. “The users of such arts, craven men who wish for power to the exclusion of all else.”
“Hm.” I said, having seen Old Nan walking around the stronghold a few times. “She’s a superstitious old woman who doesn’t know any better. Do I look like an evil and craven man to you?”
“No.” Jon replied, smiling a little. “I would have mistaken you for a great big pile of fur, what with that unruly mop hair.”
“Look who’s talking.” I shot back. “You look like a girl, with yours.”
We shared a short laugh, before Jon came back to his senses.
“I almost forgot.” He said sheepishly. “Bran said he wanted to see you.”
I nodded, before pulling a pile of hay and putting it next to Geryon. “I’ll be back, okay?”
The horse gave me a nod and a nudge, as if to say, “Get out of here.”
I followed Jon around, staring at the people milling about as he led me to Bran’s chambers. There were fewer guards patrolling, now. I supposed since the entire ordeal was over, there would be no need for any further guard.
The two men stationed at Bran’s door gave us a nod, and moved aside to grant us entry.
Inside, Bran sat on the bed, looking extremely bored as he ran his hands along his direwolf, Summer’s, fur. Ghost was also here, currently flicking Summer in the face with his tail in some attempt to irritate his sibling.
“Bran.” Jon smiled before bopping Ghost on the head. Ghost responded by jumping off the bed and circling his master, tail wagging happily.
“Morning, Bran.” I said. “Jon said you wanted to speak to me?”
The boy’s expression turned serious, as he took his hand off of Summer, who whined in protest. He paid it no mind.
“You saw it, too, didn’t you?” Bran asked softly as I sat by the bed. “I could feel you with me, in my dreams.”
“Yes.” I said. “I linked my magic with yours for a few short moments.”
Jon shifted at the revelation but kept quiet.
“My magic.” Bran closed his eyes. “Your magic. It’s hard to believe.”
“You’re still young.” I said. “I’m sure you’ll grow into your gifts.”
“I feel stronger than I ever have, before.” Bran admitted. “Your doing?”
“Yes.” I confirmed. “I didn’t consider the possibility of it. I was simply trying to get your legs working again.”
“Unintentional, then.” Bran murmured. “But welcome, nonetheless.”
“We have to talk about what you and I saw.” I said.
Bran nodded. “I want to believe it’s a nightmare conjured up from Old Nan’s tales, but you saw it, as well. You know it’s coming south.”
“What’s coming south?” Jon asked.
A few moments passed, so he repeated himself.
“The Others.” I said quietly as Bran nodded. “We saw the Others surrounded by an army of the dead. Where else could they be, aside from north of the Wall?”
“The Others?” Jon blurted. “Impossible. Those are just Old Nan’s—” He stopped himself and looked at me.
A few more seconds passed as Jon deflated.
“Just your Old Nan’s tales of magic and heroes.” I finished for him. “I’m actual proof of their validity. The Others are coming. When? I don’t know. How? I don’t know. But, they’re coming.”
“We should— The Night’s Watch must know.” Jon said strongly.
“You think they’ll believe the word of three children?” I asked, scoffing. “You know better.”
“But— Uncle Benjen?” Bran asked, also distraught over the matter. “He’s in danger.”
“Benjen?” I repeated. “Oh, I think I saw him at the feast, I believe. He’s in the Night’s Watch?”
“Aye.” Jon said. “He’s the First Ranger.”
I processed this information.
“I don’t know what to tell you.” I said, wracking my brain to find a solution. “He cannot abandon the Wall, or they’ll kill him for desertion— not that I believe he would ever desert. You Starks are honorable to a fault.”
“I’ll send him a raven.” Bran said petulantly. “It can’t hurt to tell him.”
He might have magic, but he was still a boy. A scared boy who didn’t want his family to die.
So I nodded and said what he wanted to hear. “At the very least, he’ll resolve himself to stay alive for as long as he can. Do it.”
“And us?” Jon said. “We should head to the Wall, as well.”
“It’s not a smart move.” I said.
“You and Bran said the Others are coming.” Jon said. “I will not sit idly by and wait.”
“But we won’t be sitting idly by.” I retorted. “Sure, you and I can prove to be a great help to the Night’s Watch; but we’re only two men. The dead have an army out there. I’ve seen it. Bran has seen it. You think a few hundred men of the Night’s Watch can avert this invasion?”
Jon kept quiet as I pushed on. “A few hundred men who are mostly comprised of thieves, murderers and rapists who wouldn’t hesitate to leave if they had the chance?”
“No, Jon.” I said slowly. “We’re going to gather men, and then we’ll go to the Wall to show these ice shits how things are done.”
They tried to control me with their magic, in the void. I would rip them to shreds for the attempt— the fact that I was likely saving millions of lives in the process was just a bonus to me.
“You’re right.” Jon admitted, still looking angry and confused. “I don’t like it. I don’t like it a bit. But I understand.”
“It’s a hard choice to make.” I said. “It will take time; a very long time.”
“What will?” Eddard Stark said as he came into the room.
“Father!” Bran and Jon said in surprise.
Eddard smiled as he patted Jon on the shoulder and ruffled Bran’s hair.
“How are you feeling, Bran?” Lord Stark asked.
“I’m fine, Father.” Bran seemed a little exasperated, but I could tell he was happy to see his father. “Better than ever.”
“Good.” Ned said, nodding. “That’s good.”
Then he turned to me. “Harry.”
“Lord Ned.” I greeted back. “We have to tell you something.”
And so we told him everything. It took a while to bring him around to the idea, but a few displays of electricity and my own proclamation that Bran had some form of magical power within him finally got him to believe us— if a little reluctantly.
“I see…” Lord Stark said heavily. “Harry is right, Bran. If we send a missive to the Wall speaking of the… Of the Others, it will be dismissed immediately. They would simply say I have taken leave of my senses. Even I have trouble believing in it.”
“And, while you would make a fine man of the Night’s Watch, Jon…” Lord Stark said. “I believe we can do more good by rallying the North and attempting to get the other Kingdoms’ allegiances— however difficult it may be.”
“Our work is cut out for us.” I said grimly.
“Aye.” Lord Stark agreed. “Tywin Lannister will not take kindly to Cersei’s punishment, for one.”
“But, she had me thrown out of the tower!” Bran argued, showing his naiveté, which was expected. He was only a boy of seven years.
“I know.” Lord Stark said patiently. “But, part of becoming a man is accepting some hard truths, my son.”
Bran nodded, still angry.
“Lord Lannister will only see this as a slight on his House’s honor.” Ned said patiently. “To him, we are the source of it, and I’m afraid Tywin Lannister is a man who does not forget slights to his family.”
“Father?” Bran asked, sounding a little concerned, concern which turned to fear, but Ned did not say anything.
“In any case.” Lord Stark said wearily, changing the subject. “This news only makes it all the more imperative I assume my role as Hand of the King.”
“What am I to do, Father?” Jon asked, feeling a little lost.
“Help me.” He smiled at his son. “Keep your sisters safe when we go to King’s Landing. Become the great man I know you can be.”
Jon looked down, overwhelmed by his father’s kind words.
Eddard turned to me.
“I’m not quite sure what more I could ask of you, Harry.” He said. “You’ve helped Bran get better, and you’ve been helping Jon with his training. You’ve also aided my efforts in finding the culprit of the crime against Bran, and seen to it that they’ve received justice. In the few short weeks you’ve been here, you’ve done more for me than most of the Lords I know.”
“It was nothing.” I said.
“You underestimate the gravity of your decisions.” Lord Stark said. “You have made an enemy of the Lannisters. You could have refused to enter a trial by combat, and I would have fought against Ser Barristan— a fight I’m not sure I could win.”
“But, you defeated Ser Arthur Dayne, father?” Bran asked, confusion heavy in his tone.
Lord Stark shifted uncomfortably, before speaking once more. “Nothing is certain in a duel to the death. Ser Barristan is an accomplished swordsman, arguably the best in the Kingdom— or, he would have been, before Harry had defeated him in combat.”
“Regardless.” Ned pushed on. “You could have refused. The fact that you accepted and sealed Cersei’s fate is not something she’ll soon forget, if ever. When she goes to Casterly Rock, she’ll have her father’s ear. Doubtless, you would be made into Tywin’s enemy.”
“It’s always the same, wherever I go. The strong always prey on the weak.” I shook my head. “The Lannisters sound like nothing more than scum with enough gold and political clout to absolve them of their crimes.”
Just like the Malfoys.
“They can believe I’m their enemy all they like. If they make any move against me, then their lives are forfeit.” I said calmly. “I’d take their castle, or simply destroy the whole thing.”
I could just sneak in the place and unleash a Fiendfyre. Or I could wait for a storm and grab hold of the accumulated energy of the clouds and direct it all to the castle. Or, I could disillusion myself and stealthily kill everyone there.
The third option seemed to be the best out of all. That way, I could avoid killing the blameless. I’d killed before. Hundreds of Death Eaters during the battle at Azkaban. They had all fallen to my Lightning Dragonslayer Magic, or the hundreds of serpents I had summoned.
But, those were Death Eaters; the scum of the scum. “Pureblood” wizards and witches who believed themselves to be superior to their fellows, as well as those without magic. They believed only they had the right to use it.
I taught them who the real master was— tearing through their chests, frying them living with my electricity, and breaking their bones, one man and woman at a time.
But, I still didn’t wish to kill children. I didn’t want to kill innocent men and women, either.
A stray thought entered my mind: “Would you punish the Lannister banner men for simply following the orders of their lord?”
I had no answer.
“You care too much for these humans.” Erebus thought to me.
“And you care too little.” I thought back vehemently. “Don’t think I forget what you are, Devil Centurion Erebus. You are the progenitor of Dementors. You are Darkness and Despair incarnate. And I’ve beaten you. Not the other way around. Got it?”
“Hmph!” Erebus said. “Your time here has softened you up, Master.“
“Maybe that’s a good thing, you know.” I thought. “Better to do good while minimizing the bad. Better to care than not, or I would be just like him.”
“Perhaps.” And the Devil Arm thought nothing further.
“A jest, surely?” Lord Stark cut through my thoughts. He was staring at me.
“Destroying it is probably not the viable option, you’re right.” I admitted. “It has a good, defensible position; I suppose it would be a waste to reduce it to a pile of rubble.”
“You are saying you can destroy an entire castle.” Jon said incredulously. “You have… magic, yes. But an entire castle?”
“Yes.” I said, seeing no point in hiding it. “Three dragons did the same to the castle Harrenhal. I don’t see any reason I can’t do the same. The point is, their considerations are not important to me, Lord Stark.”
The man nodded, not really knowing what to say to me— at least, I assumed he didn’t.
“In any case.” Ned said, addressing Jon and I. “We march for King’s Landing within the hour. You’d best say your goodbyes, boys.”
“Is that why you came, Father?” Bran asked; face slowly changing into one of sadness.
“Aye.” He sat next to the boy and kissed him on the forehead, before holding him close. “You can visit us in King’s Landing, when you ‘recover’ from your injuries. So you’d best stay in your bed, and get better.”
“Yes, Father.” Bran said, sounding a little embarrassed at the close contact.
Eddard broke the hug and made to leave.
“I will see you two shortly.” He said, and exited.
New allies, new enemies, and a slowly approaching cataclysm.
Where have I heard that one before?