A week and a half had passed since I had agreed to ride for the Wall with Jon Snow after I had taken the King’s measure. It was a little strange, admittedly, that the King wasn’t here yet; but I figured moving a large force of men with many provisions— knowing full well that many of the travelers coming with are dead weight— would take a lot more time than, say, a single rider.
It would probably take another week or more, I reasoned.
I had established a bit of a routine.
In the mornings I would meet with Snow and spar against him, and his half-brother Robb if he was there. Most times it was Jon and I, trading blows at furious speeds as the master-at-arms, Ser Rodrik, watched. I could’ve defeated him just as easily as that ponce Greyjoy, if I really wanted to.
There was no sense in it, however, because I needed to learn skill.
Now, you may ask yourself: “But why, Harry, my personal hero? Why would you not use all of your amazing power?”
Well, my good friend, I’ll tell you. It is true, that if I channeled my Lightning, I could simply dodge any attack I wished since my speed was increased to inhuman levels. But, here’s a fundamental truth.
Fights— real fights— are never one on one.
I knew I was fast, that much was true. But imagine the following situation: I’ve been ambushed by a group of fifty men, my companions dead within the first ten seconds. All that’s left is my sorry ass fighting at least five men simultaneously in melee— with a supply of at least another thirty to forty to support them— while ten of their archers line up shots when they have the chance.
Now, I’m fast, but I’m not that fast. I could dodge all of the sword strikes and get turned into a pincushion, or I could dodge all the arrows and get chopped in half. Hell, it’s possible I could dodge everything and still make it, but that was a pipe dream at best.
Sure, at this juncture, you might say something to the effect of: “well, you have wide area effect spells that could help you,” and sure, you might actually be right! I’m sure my Lightning Dragon’s Roar or my Lightning Blades could mow entire waves of men down— the same would apply for Dark Stream. However, I am not exactly a limitless battery. My energy levels are directly related to how fresh I am, which is dependent on my hunger, fatigue and mental state.
Something else I’ve noticed is that my power is somehow stifled when it exits my body. I could still force my techniques to work, but their effect was reduced. My power used to be able to obliterate structures and tear through stone and metal with ease.
Now it just breaks things.
Still overwhelmingly powerful, but a reduction in power is a reduction in power, no matter what.
And I had to compensate for it, which is why I sparred with Jon the old fashioned way. I was leagues ahead of the boy in speed even without my Lightning, but he had a natural skill with swords, countering my attacks at the last moment and even successfully launching his own. Lo and behold, a few weeks of constant practice and I began to approach his level of skill. He could still handily beat me, but I made him work for it, now.
The sound of a scuffle beside me tore me from my thoughts and back into reality.
I turned to see what the commotion was about, and half-smiled at the sight. Speak of the devil.
Jon was roughhousing with his direwolf, Ghost. Supposedly still a pup, it was already as big as an adult wolf. Strangely enough, all of Ghost’s steps were dead silent, despite his large size and weight. At first, I had thought it was a direwolf thing, but Ghost’s siblings didn’t have this mysterious power.
Perhaps it was a magical ability inherent to the rare few of the species? Something worth noting, at the very least.
It was almost noon, and that’s when Jon and I would sit just outside of Winterfell and look at the woods in the distance; it was a truly magnificent backdrop— this world had so many beautiful sights when compared to my own. I would have to visit them all. Jon and I would share a lunch after the training, and sit in silence, watching the world around us.
Just giving each other some company.
Over the weeks, and after my promise to go with him to the Wall and to hire him if he found the Night’s Watch lacking, he opened up about himself a little bit.
Oh, he didn’t tell me about all of his woes and dreams for the future— not that I thought he had any dreams beside finding a place for himself in the world— but he did smile more easily. I learned more about him from the way he acted around me and around others.
With others, he was guarded, carefully choosing his words when speaking to them and maintaining a safe distance, with the exception of his siblings, who treated him like one of their own— especially the little girl, Arya.
I could tell she idolized him since he didn’t treat her like she was unimportant. Already, he had asked me a few questions, here and there. He wasn’t direct about it, but I could tell that he was sounding me out, and seeing if I really meant it when I offered him a place by my side.
To be fair, they were some damn good questions.
What was my plan, for example?
It was a question I couldn’t quite answer without revealing my magic. I actually considered the possibility of simply not trying to hide my power from anybody, but I would get armies of Seven-besotted zealots trying to kill me when word came out. This nation still lived in a sort-of medieval age, a time in which many witches and wizards were set on fire for simply existing.
An army of zealots could definitely kill me if given the chance.
I wasn’t going to give them any chances.
I had told Jon that, if he chose to join with me, I would tell him what my plan was— to travel the world in search of artifacts of magical power that might bring me home.
Who am I kidding?
I told him that because I was no longer sure what the plan was.
When I had arrived it was so clear cut; find possible artifact or magical ground, search it to see if there’s any possibility I could use the place’s power to go home. As the days rolled by, I realized that it was wishful thinking. This world had magic, yes, but it was unlike my world’s magic.
My home’s magic was structured. Arithmancy led to spell creation, but it takes a lot of heavy calculations and theory to begin conceiving a spell. Sure, the basic spells are easy to learn: Expelliarmus, Flipendo, that sort of thing.
I was talking about spells with extremely specific effects; for example, you could theoretically create a spell that would cook your meals for you. You would set it as a series of spells, each triggered by the end phase of the spell before it.
How would you go about accomplishing that? Arithmancy, of course.
Similarly, Ancient Runes allowed for wizards to enact powerful protections by simply carving into wood, bone or stone and injecting a little magic into it.
The same could also be said about Transfiguration, which took theory to a whole new level when the idea behind it so simple: change something to something else. How complex could that be?
Obviously very complex, considering the fact we had to write insanely long essays for each different attempt at Transfiguration.
On the other hand, this world’s magic had no structure that I could think of. Magic was believed to be real, yes, but there were only a small handful of practitioners spread out across the Earth. Book accounts had spoken of “shadow binders”, “warlocks”, and “red priests”, and all of the accounts say that magic is rooted in fire and blood, which was nothing like the magic I used.
Speaking of book accounts… That was another thing that changed up the routine. I’d made a passing friendship with the stronghold’s Maester, a man by the name of Luwin, no last name— apparently Maesters have to give up their family name to become part of the order.
He had seen me reading a book on the history of Westeros and began to talk about it all; after that, well he became late to his duties by over an hour. I saw him a few times after that, during which we exchanged pleasantries and spoke of various subjects, ranging from politics to philosophy— I ended up learning a lot from the man.
He wasn’t really an approachable man, at first, but all teachers have soft spots for students who actually want to learn what they have to teach, and so I went past the man’s barriers rather quickly.
Not that he kept me in close confidence and told me the secrets of Winterfell; we simply had chats every few days which turned into impromptu lessons about the various subjects on which he has knowledge.
When I’d broached the subject on magic, Luwin was quite the knowledgeable man, knowing many of the accounts in the books by heart— even if he only wanted to debunk them as superstitious nonsense.
Still, it made him an inadvertent, but invaluable source of information.
From him, I learned that the “red priests” are part of a religion which worships a deity by the name of R’hllor, known as the Lord of Light, the Red God, or the God of Flame and Shadow, whose ultimate goal is to destroy the Great Other, the supposed God of Darkness, Cold, Evil, Fear and Death.
In the void, those were who I had encountered.
The Great Other was surprised by my control over the Darkness and the Cold, while R’hllor believed I was his enemy when I brandished Erebus at him. This cemented the both of them as my enemies, I had realized as Luwin explained the impossibility of it all.
I usually made sure to change the subject by then, and the man was more than eager to explain how Lords and Kings interacted with the people. It had been as I expected. The Lords own all of the lands and peoples within, and can call them up to go to war at any time— with the small folk not allowed to say no, often having to leave their farms and pigs to wither and die.
The King, on the other hand, presides over all of the Lords as the highest authority in the Seven Kingdoms. What he says goes— on paper, of course. The reality was most likely similar to how the Wizarding world worked. If you had enough money and clout, you could do whatever you wanted.
When I raised this point, Maester Luwin only smiled and gave a nod of satisfaction.
“Too true.” He had said then. “Many with the wealth and power could simply bribe or threaten the judges, or families that had been slighted. It is not a perfect system, but the alternative is civil war.”
I had nodded and agreed, intending to use this information when formulating my plans.
I would be honest with myself. I came from an age where we had cars, phones, internet, massive food production, laundromats, plumbing, medicine, great feats of engineering, etc.
Well, I still had my magic, so I could still clean myself up with spells and the like. I could Vanish my own fecal matter. I could repair my current clothing indefinitely. That solved the cleanliness issue, and I doubted disease could ever ravage my body, what with the Lightning purifying any harmful thing that enters my body.
The problem I was dealing with was of a more sociopolitical nature.
Over the course of centuries we had established charters for human rights and equality, abolished slavery, and enacted systems in which the people— the small folk, here— were the ones who ruled.
Even after all I’ve done, all of the things I’ve seen and experienced, I still did not consider myself more important than the common person— stronger, for sure, but not fundamentally superior. Every one of these people, whether they were peasants or Lords, were equal to me.
If anything, I would work against the current system, but that wasn’t something I could do on my own. Hell, it probably wasn’t something I could do with help. Oftentimes, the people stayed in power while standing on the backs and bones of those considered inferior.
I could simply use the Imperius Curse on any possible obstacles and rule all of these Kingdoms, if I truly wished.
But the Imperius wasn’t foolproof. Anyone with a strong enough will could simply break through the curse. Worse yet, I doubted I cold hold it over more than two people. Having to contend with another’s will is easy, but suppose I had to force forty different people to do different things at the same time.
It wouldn’t work.
Jon yelped as he fell down with a loud thud, his direwolf pushing him around in amusement.
I sighed, and looked up at the sky. It was clear today, and a chill was in the air, soothing the heated debate within myself with its harsh, cold touch.
“Hey, Harry?” Jon said as he got up and approached me, a little unsure.
“Yeah?” I answered.
“Ah… Well.” Jon started, before taking a quick breath. “My father has requested I invite you over for dinner.”
“Uh.” I said eloquently. “Really?”
A nod was my response.
“But, what about Lady Catelyn?” I asked carefully; Jon had told me his step mother hated him for some reason— I could guess as to why. “Would she not disapprove of this?”
“She did.” Jon said. “But father insisted on it.”
I winced. Not attending would be like a slap to the face after he’d went through the trouble of convincing his wife to give her consent.
Jon, himself, looked a little nervous, but also happy. The whole situation screamed of a doting father making sure his son isn’t interacting with the wrong people. It was good to know that Eddard Stark didn’t mistreat Jon like many others did.
I heard the whispers of the workers at the inn and the servants at Winterfell. They would smile, and nod to his face, but behind his back, it was bastard this, bastard that, and ill-thought out jokes about his desire to join the Night’s Watch.
It was enough to put a bad taste in my mouth.
“Yes.” I answered finally. “I’ll go.”
His shoulders sagged in relief as Ghost trotted over to me, giving a pointed look to my covered up right arm, before lying at my feet. I patted his head absently as we continued to stare at the Wolfswood in the distance.
Seconds turned into minutes. Minutes turned into hours.
“We should probably head in for the dinner.” Jon said quietly.
“All right, you go on, I’ll catch up. It’s at the Great Hall, right?” I said, giving him a brief smile.
Jon nodded and left me to my devices.
“You know.” Erebus said as I stared out into the woods. “I don’t think we can go home.“
I nodded. “The thought occurred to me. But there’s still a chance, maybe the Wall, or the Isle of Faces—”
“I’ve spoken to the heart tree.” Erebus admitted to my surprise. “It’s somewhat sentient, and it’s been there for many centuries. The magic in the world is all but gone. You are the only man with great power, now. It said you have even more power than the Children.”
I absorbed that information. “So, what?” I said in agitation.
“Start over.” Erebus said. “We can become a part of this world.”
“How?” I said. “Where do I even begin?”
“You’ve established yourself as the son of a wealthy family.” Erebus said. “And the gold you have can sustain an entire squadron of men for generations. What do you want to do?”
I thought of Sirius, and Daphne. I stopped the Demon Emperor, but Voldemort was still alive in my world, meaning they were going to die, sooner or later.
The part that made it all the worse was that I could do nothing about it.
I wouldn’t be able to save them when the time came.
§Idiot. Sirius isn’t stupid, you saw how he handled those Demons.§ Balthazar chided. §Between him, Remus, and Dumbledore, they can finish it.§
That was a strong possibility.
§You could be right.§ I admitted. §Without the horcrux in my head, I’m sure the three of them can find the rest and destroy them, before going after Voldemort, himself.§
As strong as he was, he was certainly no match for a group of wizards on Sirius and Remus’ level.
“You have to let them go.” Erebus said. “We need to move forward.”
I closed my eyes for a long, long moment.
And then I stood up.
It was time to move on.
My friends and family were gone. Everything I knew and loved was gone. But I was still alive, in a whole new world, with new people and new experiences to have.
I walked back into the stronghold that is Winterfell, waving hello at the various people I’d come to know here. I made sure to stop by the stables and feed Geryon while saying hello to Hodor, before making my way past the smithy and the Sept, to the Great Hall.
It was a large, wide building, enclosed with grey stone and covered with banners. It had wide doors made of oak and iron, which had been left slightly open.
I went inside, the chilly air turning much warmer as I took a few steps in.
Jon was already waiting for me.
“Good, you’re here.” He said. “I came back to close the door cause I forgot to when I came in.”
He looked a little sheepish. Maybe a family member whined about being cold and he realized his mistake in the matter.
“They’re all there?” I asked and unintentionally gulped.
“Yes.” Jon confirmed, and led me through a few doors to the large dining room. The room had eight long rows of trestle tables, four to each side of the central aisle; they could fit hundreds into this place.
There was a raised platform, where everyone was currently seated. I half assumed that I would be made to sit on the bottom, since I was not a lord— but then, Jon would also have to be down there as well, since he was a bastard.
I took note of who was attending this dinner as I approached the table. The most animated one was Arya, who kept messing with Rickon and Bran, as well as an older girl.
I figured she was thirteen, judging by her height; she had thick, auburn hair, and blue eyes which were glaring at Arya. Next to them, Robb and Theon ate their meals while chatting away about one thing or the other— well, Theon was talking, and Robb was listening.
Even further from them, Maester Luwin sat, enjoying his meal in relative silence, sometimes broken when exchanging talk with the last two people, the Lord Eddard and most likely his wife, Lady Catelyn, who noticed our presence long before everyone else did.
The large hall quieted.
“Lord Stark.” Jon cut through the silence. “Lady Stark.”
“Jon.” Eddard said warmly as Catelyn gave a stiff nod.
How oddly formal from Jon, but I half expected it. Lady Stark would likely take offense if he called his father “father”.
“May I present to you, Harry Potter of Myr.” Jon said, gesturing at me.
I nodded my thanks to Jon, before giving them a short bow.
“A pleasure to meet you, Lady Stark and Lady Stark.” I smiled at the two ladies, before nodding in greeting to the rest of the children. The girl, Sansa, looked like she was about to swoon when I smiled at her. Oh god, not a crush from a little girl, that would be horrific.
“Lord Stark. It’s a pleasure to meet you again.” I approached the table.
“Likewise.” He said and gestured for us to sit. “Please, sit down.”
“Thank you.” I said and took the seat adjacent to that of Jon, near the other boys but still close enough to speak to Eddard and Catelyn. I had a feeling they would ask me many questions.
I greeted the Maester as I sat down. “Maester Luwin.”
“Harry.” He nodded.
“You know each other?” Eddard said in slight surprise.
“Ah, yes.” Luwin said with a slight smile. “I happened upon him reading a book of… History, was it?”
“Yes.” I confirmed and let him continue.
“We ended up discussing it in length, and I became late to my duties.” Luwin admitted a little embarrassed.
A flicker of recognition entered Eddard’s eyes. “Aye, you were. I had simply assumed there were matters of some importance that kept you.”
“Yes, well..” Luwin looked even more embarrassed, but Eddard smiled slightly.
“Not to worry, old friend.” He said. “These things happen.”
Luwin only nodded at that, before going back to his food.
“So, Harry.” Eddard turned his attention to me. “What brings you to Westeros?”
I noticed that Lady Catelyn was also looking at me as the man spoke.
“Well, Lord Stark, I’ve been traveling the world, looking for a place to settle down and make my mark. Westeros seemed like a fine place— the North has mostly been amazing, so far.”
“Mostly?” Lady Catelyn repeated curiously, and with a hint of disapproval.
“Yes, well.” I said, grimacing slightly. “A few brigands tried to steal from me, at Torrhen’s Square.”
“My Lady.” I added as an afterthought. “Apologies, I am still not accustomed to the rules of Westeros.”
“It’s quite all right.” Lord Stark said. “I trust you reported it to the relevant authorities?”
“I did not.” I said, and got queer looks in response.
“Why?” Jon asked next to me, and I noticed the other children were also looking at me.
“They looked like they were starving.” I said slowly. “They are not as lucky as I am to have received a fortune from my parents, and I do not enjoy causing any undue suffering to anybody. I beat their leader and let them go.”
“I see.” Eddard said, nodding. “That is very kind of you.”
“Thank you, Lord Stark.” I said as the servants came and served dinner. I had half expected pretentious foods like whole pigs with apples stuffed in their mouths or something equally ridiculous, but it turned out to be a wide array of meats, breads, and vegetables.
I helped myself to some venison, having taken a liking to the meat over my weeks of being in this world.
“Forgive me for asking, but I’m slightly curious.” Eddard said to me. “How old are you?”
I swallowed down my food, and said. “Fifteen.”
“Fifteen?” Catelyn said, looking incredulous. “Traveling, at your age? And your parents allowed this?”
“They were killed when I was a child.” I said a little frostily. “I left that place as soon as I could. All my good memories tainted by that event.”
“My apologies.” Catelyn said, having the decency to blush at her own misstep. She even looked stricken. “And my condolences.”
“It’s all right.” I said honestly.
“Is that why you’re here?” Arya asked while chewing on some food.
“Arya!” Catelyn scolded. “Do not speak with your mouth full.”
“Yes.” I answered the little girl. “That’s why I’m here. I’ve traveled here to start a new life.”
“You wish to form your own House, here?” Maester Luwin questioned.
I took a moment to answer that.
“Perhaps in the future.” I said thoughtfully, knowing everyone’s eyes were on me. “For now, I wish to make a name for myself. I can’t exactly acquire land if no one knows who I am. How would they know I was trustworthy, or honorable?”
“Too true.” Luwin agreed as Eddard nodded in approval. “But how do you intend to do this?”
“Well, I’ve only figured out how to gain notoriety, so far.” I said sheepishly. “I’m sure the important parties will know what sort of man I am after I become known to all. As for land… Well, I have the gold.”
“Hm.” Luwin said. “And the notoriety you seek?”
I smiled pleasantly. “I’m sure after defeating the strongest fighters of Westeros, my name will be known far and wide.”
There was a long silence.
“A bit arrogant, isn’t it?” Theon said dismissively. “You bested me in a spar. I will admit that much, but do you truly believe you can defeat anyone?”
I looked at him and said “Yes.”
Jon was quiet— I had shown him my true speed and strength, though he did not know it was my Lightning Dragonslayer Magic at work.
“I heard Ser Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, is coming to Winterfell with the King.” Theon continued. “Would you like to issue him a challenge, then?”
Jaime Lannister, I had heard tell of him among the servants and small folk in winter town. He was considered to be one of the best swordsmen in the entire Seven Kingdoms. Theon Greyjoy most likely thought I was going to back out in fear of this particular bit of knowledge.
“Is he, really?” I said, looking at the older teen.
“Oh, yes.” Theon said in a superior tone of voice; he probably thought he had me right where he wanted me.
“Then, yes, I’ll challenge him after he gets settled in.” I grinned ferociously. “It’s settled, then. Would you like to issue the challenge on my behalf, or should I do it, myself?”
Theon had no answer.
Jon and Robb watched the display with amusement, while the adults stared at me like I was crazy.
I supposed the following days were going to be interesting, indeed.
This was some damn good venison, though.