My eyes fluttered open as I took in my new, but temporary surroundings. The night before, I had taken the oaths required to serve a Lord in Westeros.
Well, most of them. The Lord Stark had been quite perturbed by my complete refusal to say one part of it— specifically the part which stated I would give my life for his if the situation called for it.
He eventually accepted it, after a bit of a heated debate between the two of us. I’ll admit that I used a few compulsions to get this done. Being subjected to the Imperius Curse in my Fourth Year at Hogwarts had taught me many tricks of the mind, though Lord Stark had quite the strong will to contend against.
Jon had given him the expected vow earlier, in private.
I guess I could’ve sworn to give my life to him; it wasn’t an issue of that, I liked the Starks well enough. Lord Eddard was a good man, and I would never let good men die if I could help it.
With that said, I didn’t want to die, either.
So, following my own vow, Lord Stark vowed something in return. He had said: “I vow that you shall always have a place in my home and at my table, and that I shall ask no service of you that might bring you dishonor.”
All things considered, it was a pretty good deal that would save up on a lot of room fares in the long run— not that I needed to save up on anything. Converting the contents of my pouch gained me millions of gold dragons. The wonders of magic never ceased to amaze me.
As for serving the Starks, I could just mooch off of them, and what did they want in return? They wanted loyalty, and they wanted me to fight for their causes— it just so happened that the Starks had causes very similar to mine.
Mine were just much more refined, that’s all. While Lord Eddard treated all of his subjects equally and with kindness, I knew there were likely dissenters to that sort of mindset; money grubbers who take bribes, those who terrorize the weak and helpless.
The brazen thieves in Torrhen’s Square were proof enough of this. The fact that they could openly operate like this spoke of the corruption within that city— and I was sure this applied to many others.
Lord Eddard upheld the status quo; things didn’t get worse, but they didn’t really get better, either.
I wanted to create a place where the low born could have opportunities. In the North, I respected the Starks at least, for living hard lives in comparison to the Lannisters, or Baratheons. From the fat ass King Robert to the dainty, self-absorbed cunt Queen.
Back to the main point at hand, Lord Stark’s vow basically got me a place in Winterfell, so I had to sleep in the guard quarters. Luckily I was allowed to find an empty room for myself— I had cited the excuse of my arm disturbing the others, and it was eaten up immediately.
Pretty much everyone knew of the state of my arm now.
Harry of the Blackscale they started calling me.
It was most likely meant to be disparaging, but I took it in stride, correcting people when they called me Harry; asking them to call me Blackscale instead. This obviously took the wind out of the sails of the petty movement.
A movement which was most likely perpetrated by that cunt Cersei after I absolutely humiliated her brother Jaime in that joke they all called a fight. Heh.
A smile came to my face as I got out of bed, freshened up a little and headed to the Great Hall at a leisurely pace. Today was the last day I would get to be at Winterfell, before marching with the King and his court to King’s Landing.
I wanted to enjoy a nice breakfast, do some training with Jon, commune with the heart tree in the Godswood, and generally stare at the beautiful scenery outside of the stronghold itself.
Only, it was not to be.
The atmosphere in the Great Hall was stifling, almost suffocating with its sheer heaviness. I had noticed that the servants were rushing faster than usual, with a sense of urgency I had attributed to the presence of the King.
As I approached the table Jon and Robb sat upon, I saw their food completely untouched. Their faces were marred with lines of worry, and their eyes wide with fear— but from what?
I stopped in front of their table.
“What’s wrong?” I asked hesitantly, seeing them look up at me slowly. “Did something happen?”
They didn’t answer for a long moment.
“Bran, he…” Robb said finally, hollowly. “He fell off one of the towers. They found him early in the morning— he’d been lying there all night. Maester Luwin doesn’t know if he’s going to survive.”
“Even if he does.” Robb swallowed hard. “His legs, they’re bent in— he can’t…”
“Where is he now.” I said evenly, the question sounding more like a statement.
Robb looked down again.
“In his room.” Jon answered in his place.
I nodded, and left the Great Hall to make my way to his room. I got lost, a little bit, as I wasn’t particularly good friends with the boy— he was much younger than me, after all. But, following the increased presence of guards to its source led me to the boy’s room.
I nodded at the guards, and they stepped aside to allow me entry.
Lady Catelyn was at Bran’s bedside, looking like she’d been crying as she kept stitching something together in worry. Lord Stark also sat there, his face grim and made of steel, though it was obvious he was struggling to hold all of his feelings in with his boy lying there in his bed, looking so weak.
Maester Luwin, on the other hand, was checking the boy at a rushed, but methodical pace, making sure his temperature was normal, making sure he kept breathing, and generally checking his vital signs.
The man looked tired and weary, having worked through most of the morning.
A few steps in, and they noticed my presence, all three looking at me.
“I came as soon as I heard.” I said simply, moving closer. “I want to help Bran.”
They didn’t answer, right away.
“Harry.” Eddard said, seemingly struggling to say the words. “I— I don’t believe you can…”
He went quiet.
Maester Luwin took over for him. “Are you proficient in the healing arts?” He asked me.
“I would not say I’m a great healer.” I started. “But I have been on the receiving end of many treatments for injuries. I’ve learned quite a bit.”
Both from that, and from Daphne.
They said nothing.
“All I ask is for the chance to help him.” I said, staring at the boy in question. His skin had lost most of its color, and his breathing was ragged and harsh.
Eddard gave me the most piercing gaze he could muster; a wintry look that promised eternal suffering to those who wronged him.
He nodded, and I moved forward, making sure to close the door and windows, before locking them and pulling out my wand.
“Do not fear.” I said slowly at their tensing. “I am ensuring no one sees what I’m about to do.”
“And what, exactly, are you about to do?” Eddard said dangerously, standing to his full height and glaring down on me.
I winced. “Maybe that sounded a little threatening, sorry. I’m going to try to heal him, Lord Stark.”
“How does locking the doors and shutting the windows heal my Bran?” Lady Catelyn spat out suspiciously, looking at my stick.
“Tell me, Lord and Lady Stark, Maester Luwin.” I said. “What ability did the Children of the Forest possess that the First Men didn’t?”
That question hung in the air for a moment.
“Surely you don’t mean—” Luwin said.
“Yes. That was the only part I left out from my life’s story. I possess a control over Magic itself.” I confirmed. “I will heal him— on one condition.”
“What is it?” Eddard asked, his countenance calm.
“You tell no one of what I’m capable of.” I answered simply. “No one can know. I don’t wish to be hunted down for this. You promise me your silence, and I’ll heal him, or at least try my hardest.”
Luwin looked dubious. Lord Stark had his eyes closed, considering my words heavily.
I turned to look at Lady Catelyn, who had spoken.
“Save my son.” She said, trying to hold back her tears. “But if you are lying…”
I nodded, and moved to the child, examining him more closely. He was almost completely naked, with a small sheet covering his crotch. There were bruises and cuts all over his body, though the bulk of his damage lay in his legs.
They were broken, twisted, the bruising inflated as his body tried to fight against the infection.
I waved my wand over his body and cast an inspection charm. A small light covered his body for a few seconds, before dying out.
“Just making sure I didn’t miss anything with my eyes. His legs have been twisted in such ways that no regular method of healing would fix them. I’m sure Maester Luwin knows this much.”
The man in question nodded.
“His spinal cord was cut.” I said heavily. “Even if his legs are fixed and his life is saved… I don’t know if he can walk after that. Unless… Maybe it’s possible.”
“Harry?” Maester Luwin got my attention.
“Maester.” I said. “Lord Stark. I want you to hold him down for me. Lady Stark, this will hurt Bran. Are you sure you wish to be here?”
“Yes.” She said with no hesitation. “I’m not leaving my boy’s side.”
If only you had that kind of love for Jon, I thought to myself as Lord Stark and Maester Luwin went on each side of the bed, placing their hands on Bran’s chest.
“Very well.” I said, and pointed my wand at one of his legs, before looking at the two men.
I nodded back, took a deep breath, and said “Brackium Emendo!”
Blue light exited from my wand connecting with Bran’s left leg. Immediately, the sound of snaps and clicks were heard as the boy’s bones rearranged themselves, untwisting and repairing themselves.
Bran screamed and thrashed, even in his deep unconscious sleep. He thrashed so hard that Lord Stark and Maester Luwin almost lost hold of him. Lady Catelyn was standing, looking tense and stricken at the sound of her boy’s screams.
She almost lunged at me for hurting her boy, until she saw the results.
And how could she not? His right leg was still twisted and broken, while his left looked almost pristine, with the exception of the bruising and cuts.
I sighed. That spell had taken a toll on me. I was not a good healer, relying more on my large pool of power to negate any lack of skill I possessed in the art.
I took another deep breath. Lord Stark and Maester Luwin looked astonished at my accomplishment, but put their hands on the boy’s chest again.
They nodded at me.
“Now for the other leg. Brackium Emendo!” Out the blue light came, once more, followed by the snaps of bone and the screams of the boy, then the stifled sob of Lady Catelyn.
I staggered back; feeling like I had fought against a dragon, but the results spoke for themselves. Bran’s legs had fully healed. I checked with my diagnostic charm once more, and nodded to myself.
His spinal cord was now reattached, but the lower end seemed to be “inactive”, for lack of better word. The diagnostic spell allowed me to see Bran’s nerve system, and, while it was very “active” above his waist, there was nothing to be seen below it.
There was only one thing I could do, now.
Hopefully it wouldn’t kill him.
I took another deep breath.
“There is one more thing I must do.” I said. “I must re-energize his spinal cord.”
“His spinal— ah yes, the fluid running from within his spine.” Maester Luwin said, before adopting a look of astonishment. “It can be returned to life?”
“I think so.” I said, before looking at Catelyn and Eddard. “Actually, I might be the only man capable of doing it. I’m not sure if it will work, but I have to try, or Bran will never walk again.”
“Will it hurt my boy?” Lady Catelyn asked.
“No, it won’t hurt Bran.” I said. “It will either heal, or it won’t.”
Again, no hesitation. “You have already healed his legs. You have earned my trust, Harry Potter.”
I smiled slightly, before adopting a serious expression, before requesting them to flip the boy so he’d be sleeping on his stomach. The two men obeyed, and I traced my hand along the boy’s spine, closing my eyes and concentrating.
A blue light and a small buzzing sound was seen and heard as my Lightning connected with the boy’s spinal column. I closed my eyes so I could see Bran’s bodily energy better.
“The cut was… here.” My fingers stopped right above the boy’s bottom, almost at the edge of his spinal column. “Anything below this is deadened in comparison to the rest.”
“There is still a chance. All it would take is a single spark to bring it all back to life.” I said, and injected my Lightning into that spot, flooding every inch of his nervous system with my power. Bran’s body tensed as he took in a deeper breath than usual, before relaxing as I withdrew my energy.
I backed off for a few moments, and waited for my own energy to be fully absorbed in his body.
“Is it done?” Lord Stark asked after a long silence.
“I must wait a short while before re-assessing his condition.” I said slowly. “I don’t wish to give you a false reading. My power circulates his body still, in an attempt to heal his legs’ ability to move.”
“Your power.” Lord Stark repeated.
“Yes.” I said. “It was why the warlock attempted to use my family to forge Erebus for him. Our smithing required the use of our special abilities. The name Darkbringer does not simply allude to the blade’s color. It is Darkness, itself.”
“Why did you not speak the truth?” Eddard said, but with no heat in his words— I had healed his son, after all. “The whole truth?”
I waited a few moments before speaking.
“The masses fear what they do not understand.” I said heavily. “The religion of the Seven would surely call for my death, simply because of what my abilities could mean to the foundations of that religion. The King, himself, hates magic—”
“Robert is…” Eddard started but I cut him off.
“No, Lord Stark.” I said, harshly. “You saw how he reacted. He saw my arm and his first response was to vilify the practice of magic, itself. If the leader of all the Seven Kingdoms behaves in this manner, what does that say of all of his subjects?”
Another long silence passed.
“I apologize.” I said, looking down. “If you wish for me to leave your service, after this, then I will—”
“No, lad.” Lord Eddard said. “You are saving my son’s life, and ensuring his future. To turn you away after you’ve shown me kindness beyond measure is the most dishonorable thing a man can do.”
“Our arrangement stands.” Eddard said firmly, putting his hand on my shoulder and squeezing slightly.
I ducked my head in thanks. “Thank you, Lord Eddard.”
“Ned.” He corrected.
“Those who have earned my friendship may call me Ned.” Lord Stark explained, smiling.
“All right. Ned.” I smiled back, before turning to Bran once more, and extending my senses to the boy. No presence of my power remained. I cast the diagnostic charm, and smiled slightly.
“I think it worked.” I said, but spoke quickly before any could celebrate. “We won’t know for sure until he wakes up, but my diagnostic seems to show a complete recovery of his nervous system.”
“When will he wake?” Lady Catelyn said.
“I don’t know.” I said honestly. “His body is in a healing coma. I’ve helped the process along as much as I can, so all that’s left is for Bran to come back to us on his own. If we wake him prematurely, it might damage him in some way.”
“Harry is correct.” Maester Luwin, who had been looking at me in unabashed astonishment until now, agreed with my words. He looked down, ashamed. “Lord Stark. I apologize… If Harry here hadn’t helped…”
“Think nothing of it.” Ned said strongly. “I know Bran is as precious to you as he is to us. We have all helped to raise the boys— all the boys.”
Luwin nodded mutely, before giving me a deep bow of gratitude.
“Hey, come on, man.” I said, switching to my home world’s vernacular for a moment. “Don’t beat yourself up over this. I doubt a single person on this entire continent could have done as much as you did for Bran. The only reason I was able to do more was because of my magic.”
“Yes. Your magic.” Luwin looked up. “It makes sense now— why you would simply change the subject when I started speaking of the impossibility of magic’s existence.”
I chuckled. “That obvious?”
“I had simply thought it to be a young man’s yearning for a world of adventure and magic.” Luwin smiled slightly. “But to think you possess the same magics as the Children of the Forest…”
“Strange fate, isn’t it?” I smiled back, before turning to the Stark parents and nodding.
“I’ll come back later to check on Bran.” I said as I moved to the door. “If you need me, I’ll be in the Godswood.”
I waited until they nodded back, before leaving without another word. I moved through the stronghold, noting all of the sad and withdrawn faces, glad to know that they would change into happiness when they learned that Bran was going to be fine.
I went in the Godswood, and zoned in on the heart tree at the center, taking in its splendor and size as I approached the ancient tree.
There, I saw Robb, Arya, Jon, and Sansa, all quietly seated and praying. It was a sobering thing to see the wild girl Arya with a solemn gaze marring her usually happy features.
The children turned to look at me.
“Bran will be fine.” I said, and their faces lit up.
“Before you ask, he’s not awake, yet.” I said. “I’m not really sure when he will wake up, but I’m sure he’ll have quite the story for us— like why he was climbing the tower at night, in the first place.”
“Aye.” Robb said. “Bran has always been sure-footed.”
“What are you saying?” Sansa asked while Jon’s face darkened at the implications. Arya looked confused.
Robb and I shared looks.
“You think someone pushed him.” I said slowly.
“What!?” Arya said, finally catching on after I said it.
“Aye.” Robb nodded in certainty. “I have never seen Bran lose his balance and fall while climbing— even when he first started.”
“Yeah.” I agreed. “I’ve seen his escapades. Drove your mother crazy, he did, but he never fell. He never even got close to falling.”
“We have to find whoever did this!” Arya said.
“And do what?” Jon cut in with a scoff. “Bring them to justice? We need proof, and we won’t get proof until Bran wakes up. Only he knows what happened last night.”
“Maybe.” I said a little distractedly as an idea came to mind. “Then again, maybe not.”
A few moments passed as they all looked at me.
“Harry?” Jon caught my attention. “What are you thinking?”
“What about… Hm… ” I spoke aloud, before nodding.
“Harry?” Robb tried.
“I’m going to investigate the place he fell from.” I said after a few moments of silence, turning to leave the Godswood. I gave the heart tree one last look, before turning to leave.
“We’re coming with you.” Robb said as I heard the pitter patter of multiple footsteps. “All of us.”
I turned back to see them giving me a challenging gaze.
“No.” I refused them. “If it is as you say, then your presence will tip whoever did this off, and they’ll escape before any of us can figure anything out.”
“But—” Arya protested but I cut her off.
“Patience is a virtue.” My words were calm and measured, but that didn’t stop them from being cutting. My gaze softened. “Look. You guys don’t know the first thing about investigating a scene. You don’t know what to look for.”
“And, you do?” Sansa asked with a heated look in her eyes— this girl’s moods jumped from north to south. One day she’s infatuated with me, the next she’s angry.
“Yes.” I said harshly. “I won’t sugarcoat things for you like the fools who are afraid of offending your highborn sensibilities.”
Their eyes widened at the words. Jon looked a mix of impressed at my way of speaking and offended he’d been lumped together with his trueborn siblings.
“Not only are you likely to reveal your knowledge to the offender, but you’ll also ruin whatever investigation I have in mind.” I continued undaunted. “So, no. You won’t interfere. Is that understood?”
I didn’t wait for an answer, merely turning and leaving the Godswood to make my way to the tower from which Bran had fallen, muttering about idiot kids and them needing to be brought down a peg or five hundred.
§They’re just worried about their brother, you know.§ Balthazar said after a while.
I sighed. The snake was right, of course.
§I’ll apologize to them, later.§ I hissed in low tones as I pulled back into an isolated spot, away from prying eyes, before pulling out my wand. §But, they needed to hear that. I’m going to create a world in which everyone will be respected equally. I don’t care how many people I have to offend, or even beat into submission.§
I tapped my wand on top of my head. Cold trickles of magic trailed over my body, connecting together and shielding my presence as best as they could by making me invisible to the naked eye.
It would take an alert lookout with perfect to even detect the vibrations in the air that signal my presence— I doubted I would be seen. I exited the isolated spot, before making my way to the tower in question.
It was an old, abandoned structure, I noted as I moved past the spot where Bran had obviously fallen, judging from the blood on the ground. I entered the tower silently, and carefully, walking up the stairs without making a single sound.
“Homenum Revelio.” I whispered as I waved my wand.
Nothing. No one was here.
I relaxed a little, before making my way up the tower, still under the cover of invisibility.
§Ugh…§ Balthazar gave me the mental image of a retch.
§What is it?§ I hissed back, a sense of urgency in my reply.
§It reeks…§ Balthazar replied. §Further up.§
I nodded, moving further up. §I don’t smell anything. Wait…§ I sniffed at the air for a few moments, detecting a hint of… something.
Unmistakable, this was a man’s quickly drying sperm.
“Someone was having sex here.” I muttered to myself as I entered the room, where the smell seemed to be strongest. The room itself was covered in a heavy layer of dust, with the exception of one spot, where the dirt was cleared. “But who…?”
I knelt and examined the ground carefully, my eyes catching sight of something odd. Long strands of golden hair.
And, among the Lannister, only one had hair this long.
“The Cunt Queen did this?” I said to no one.