It was the day that doomed a nation.
With a bang like cannon blast, Harry landed on a thatch of grass near the edge of an ancient forest. He was already hunkered down, one palm flat against the moist earth beneath him, another clasped tightly around his wand. Immediately, he jerked his head upwards and sniffed the air, smelling the pungent odour of decomposing flesh. He wrinkled his nose as his eyes met the cause of the disturbance; a tuft of smoke rose from a mangled pile of corpses, heaved together and set alight.
He hadn't been expecting this. Were there people here, but only savages and barbarians? Now that it was confirmed this world was inhabited, he certainly hoped not. In any case, it wasn't a friendly welcoming feast.
Despite the fire, of course, he thought.
A scream rent him from his thoughts. Narrowing his eyes, Harry jumped upright and dashed into the tree-line, where he took cover behind a brazen trunk of black brier. He then followed the source of the commotion to a spot in the undergrowth, through which he could see the outline of a modest hamlet, burning in the mid-afternoon air. He grimaced as the outline of a young woman came into focus, one being roughly handled by four hulking attackers.
She was not naked, but given their best efforts, that would soon be on the table. Her rags barely covered a skinny figure, and her hair was unkempt and dirty. She bit sharply on one's finger, drawing blood, and kicked another between the legs, only to receive a punch from an armoured fist for her trouble.
Harry jolted up, but hesitated. Damn it, Hermione said if I interfere...
"Help!" the girl screamed, voice cracking as tears laced her words.
Fuck what Hermione said, Harry growled. He might not know these people or their motives, but he had no desire to care. Their intentions were clear enough and they had to be stopped. If he would be in the process of breaking a law, offending a powerful ruler or just sticking his nose in where it wasn't wanted, he would accept the price as necessary. He drew his wand, despite knowing the dangers of casting magic in a place such as this. The inter-dimensional rift would destabilise, so ideally he wouldn't need to do so.
But that looks unlikely, he thought distastefully, staring at the scene before him. Tommy boy, you can wait another ten minutes.
Without thinking, he silently ran to confront the attackers, killing two in quick succession with cutting curses. A third, the man grappling with the girl by now, did not notice, but the fourth did. He looked around in anger, then shock, as a jet of bludgeoning light hit him square in the face. By now Harry had the fourth man's attention, and he was plainly terrified. He had seen that last spell and now drew a dagger in fear, using the woman as a human shield.
"Y-you! What in Seven Hells are you?! Stay away from me!"
Harry smiled wickedly. "None of your concern, ser, but maybe you shouldn't pick on defenceless women. Diffindo!"
The would-be rapist's arm was cast off at the elbow, causing him to howl in agony as he clutched a bleeding stump. The arm holding the dagger at his victim's throat was Harry's target, and he was understandably pleased with his aim. His target had been in a position to kill, which was why Harry had dealt with him so severely.
Not that he also didn't deserve it.
Harry cast stupefy this time. If the man bled out, so be it. If not, he would be, ah, stunted for the rest of his life and that would be punishment enough. Unless the indigenous people had a cure for such ailments, but judging from their tools and primitive architecture, he very much doubted that was the case. These people clearly weren't past horse-drawn carts, let alone advanced to the reattachment of limbs with their medical research.
He grimaced at the ripple of purple arcane energy that briefly surged into existence, before flittering out again like a spark of electricity. Really, he shouldn't have done that. It was bad enough that he'd attacked four people without warning, no matter the situation. It was worse that he had resorted to using magic instead of something less dangerous, like the blade.
The woman did not seem to notice the momentary split in space-time. Her gaze was fixed on a spot close to her feet as she lay curled on the dirt, only broken by a sudden shift of her head in his direction.
"Look out!" she screamed.
Harry ducked on impulse and just felt a lick of steel pass above his head. He had already noticed, but was grateful for the shout nevertheless. With a twirl, he twisted to the side and slammed his fist into his attacker's chest, knocking the breath from his lungs. On his long journey, Harry had become quite proficient in Krav Maga, Aikido and Nunjitso, including training with various types of blade and other, blunt, weapons.
Now, he stood before a giant of a man, swathed in grey and shaped like stone. His face was unkempt and he had a matted mane of flaming hair. At least six feet and framed with bulging muscle, Harry was amazed this man had even felt his attack. He had been working out daily for over five years, but this enormous warrior seemed a thing of Celtic myth. In his hand was a huge double-sided axe, stained with blood and made from glistening steel.
The beast quickly regained his composure. "You, you craven runt," he spat. "It's for women with saggy tits to fight with sorcery, so it is. Show us you can fight like a man before dying a man."
Harry said nothing as he sheathed his wand and drew the sword that he had taken to keep slung across his shoulders. One never knew when old Tommy might pop up with a new Horcrux or a creature impervious to magic, so he was sure Gryffindor did not mind his sword actually having a purpose other than being ornamental once again. The rapist eyed the sparkling gems hungrily, licking his lips.
"That'll fetch some mighty fine dragons, t'will. I'll be a rich man soon."
"Rich with fear," Harry remarked, holding the sword double-handed. He held the hilt inches from his right shoulder and point aimed directly at his opponent, his arms bent comfortably and his legs ready to spring in any direction. It was a stance that gave him leverage for a quick strike or precise block, depending on which might be required.
The man attacked him, yelling louder than the hounds of hellfire and damnation themselves. Harry didn't bother to block the vicious blow, however. As he knew, speed was greater than strength when one had energy to burn. And Harry was no slouch when it came to defending against larger opponents; he had plenty of experience, many times with the odds stacked numerically against him, and he had never backed down even once. Whether in his training or when fighting Tom, he had defeated larger opponents aplenty. This man was nothing save an idle pretender, if he were honest. Thus, it was with a great anticlimax that he nimbly sidestepped, severed the man's Achilles tendon, sliced off his hand and drove the sword of Gryffindor through his heart, all in the space of several seconds.
Martial arts taught discipline, but in fighting itself one had to know the most basic and dangerous areas to strike. Pressure points, arteries, sensitive zones, they were all weapons that could be used in battle. Harry had lost his persona as the 'Golden Boy of Gryffindor' with the deaths of several of his closest friends years ago. He was twenty five now, filled with anger towards Voldemort, and more than prepared to kill evil where it came. Of course, there were limits; he would never cast the killing curse due to the sheer hatred required to make it work, and he would never torture a man or woman out of sheer vindictiveness. But in self defence? In situations where it was kill or be killed? No problem.
Harry wiped the sword free of blood and sheathed it. This time, he took a careful look around, ensuring there were no other surprises waiting in the form of would-be death. He approached the young woman and offered her a hand up. She looked at him with terrified eyes for a minute, but shakily accepted the proffered help.
Harry was still one for decorum and manners, even if he had lost his true innocence years ago. He smiled at her.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," he said. "I hope that you're alright, but I need to ask, whereabouts am I? Do you happen to have a map or could you give me directions?"
The woman shook her head once and fled as fast as her legs would carry her. Harry sighed as he watched her retreat. She had been through enough and casting another spell was simply not a good idea. He would have to think of something else. He didn't notice the trail of blood she left in her wake.
Harry found a crude road nearby, one which seemed to stretch both north and south as far as the eye could see. Noting that north would take him through at least a small section of the forest nearby, he decided on south. The chilling howls of wolves were not endearing.
He did pause momentarily to look for survivors from the village massacre, but found none. Judging from the fresh smoke, he guessed that the group he had attacked was only a small force, used to plundering larger targets. And if that girl was the only survivor but did not want his help, he wouldn't waste valuable time. He had more important issues to deal with, lest the world be completely destroyed.
Harry quickly drew his wand and tapped it thrice at the tip. He cleared his throat and held said tip to his mouth.
"Ron, Mione, I seem to be in some sort of medieval society this time – yes, there are actually people here. I haven't seen much, but the little I have hasn't been promising. I stopped a group of men from attacking a young woman, but at the expense of keeping the portal stabilised. It looks like it's just me until I realign the device on this end, but I have no idea how big this place is. If it's as big as the Sixth Realm we found, it could take me weeks. Hopefully it won't be so bad.
"In any case, this is obviously the Seventh, the one we've never seen before. My worry is that since I've come across a hamlet which has been destroyed, there must be larger cities scattered around either the immediate area or in the distance. This land could be... substantial. Stick to the plan and contact me in twelve hours."
Report saved, Harry cleared his mind and focussed on the Wizarding World, similarly to the principles of apparition. He focused his attention solely on Hermione and Ron, chose a happy memory of holding his godson for the first time, and cast the spell.
The stag appeared and disappeared in the breadth of a heartbeat; that was a clever little spell his genius Muggleborn friend had devised, one which, when cast, existed in the world for such a short period of time it would not affect the interdimensional magicks that had been discovered only four years ago.
Voldemort had moved his Horcrux from Nagini to something they had never found after realising the hunt was on; for that reason, his death was not final when Harry claimed the Elder Wand. He returned, resurrected by Death Eaters unknown, and announced his newest homecoming by storming the Ministry and killing Minister Shacklebolt, along with important department heads and most of the Wizengamot.
There was much to this story, including years of guerrilla warfare, but Harry thought it irrelevant by this stage. All that mattered was that Tom had somehow captured Saul Croaker, the head Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries. To the shock of a hugely diminished rebellion, Voldemort fled; using his own knowledge of dark magic and the wisdom of an Imperiused Croaker, he was able to determine that the Veil in the Department of Mysteries was none other than an interdimensional rift, one which could only be activated through the use of what they now called a rift-stone.
The Veil did kill, but only when not activated by one of these stones, as with Sirius. Harry didn't care who created the Veil or why, only that it existed and was an incredibly dangerous object. In fact, when they discovered what Voldemort had done Harry was seconds from destroying the rift himself; he was only stopped by Hermione's warning that such an action could tear a permanent hole in the fabric of the universe itself. Harry didn't understand the finer details; molecular, astrophysical and magical sciences were not his forte. He let Hermione handle the science and instead volunteered himself to travel in search of Voldemort, worried that the mad bastard might kill them all from the other side.
That kick-started a game of cat and mouse, one he determined to win. The Veil spat out its traveller in a random location, but in a reasonably close vicinity of its other-dimensional counterpart. This meant Harry had to search for the device to get home, along with any rift-stones that existed in this dimension. One, a dark red colour, would take him to the Wizarding World. He carried a spare just in case. The others, orange through violet on the optic spectrum, would bring him to a dimension they had already discovered. The seventh, violet, was for this world, but they had been unable to find any violet stone until several days ago. It seemed somebody had either lost or destroyed four of the six, with Voldemort stealing the final one for himself.
Almost four years of this chase and we finally have the final stone, Harry pondered. Just wait, Tom. Soon we'll have this world mapped and you'll have nowhere left to hide. I'm going to kill you for everything you've done.
Harry had watched many of his loved ones die over the past eight years, many falling to more cruel incantations than the quick release of the killing curse. His resolve had been hardened, his fervour would not wane; there was a madman to be put down, and he would strike the final blow. If he had to capture him until his friends at home could locate the final Horcrux, so be it. If Voldemort had the missing soul anchor here with him, Harry would find it.
He walked along the stony path that was laid out before him, ready to spring into a position of hiding if he spotted any travellers. There were none, however. He passed several farms that had been put to the torch, probably by the same band of outlaws he had encountered. There were no animals in their fields, with many either stolen or slaughtered. He would keep this pace until he found a town or city, he told himself. There was enough food in the pouch he kept on his belt to last for several weeks, but that was a worst-case scenario.
He tugged his cloak around his chest tightly. Wherever he was, it was bloody cold. It even snowed lightly for a few minutes, a splash of white against a grey background of cloud. He couldn't cast a self-warming charm, unfortunately.
The problem with magic was complex. Simply put, the Unspeakables had discovered wand magic was only feasible in their realm – in the Wizarding World. Casting a spell drew energy from the universe – it had something to do with atoms that did not exist in the five other dimensions they explored. So when one used magic through the rift, it drew energy from the Wizarding World, which caused tears similar to the one he had seen earlier. This destabilised the portal so that nobody could travel through until it was realigned, which required finding the rift on both sides and lining up the appropriate stones.
Harry didn't know what might happen if one attempted travel through a collapsing rift, but Hermione had told him it was nothing good, so they never attempted to find out. They had already lost Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan in finding out how dangerous it was casting magic 'abroad', as they called it. Both men had used Fiendfyre after spotting Voldemort, but the enormous amount of power required had collapsed in on them, crushing both and vaporising the entire reality. Hermione destroyed the stones for that reality afterwards, stating in no uncertain terms they could never try to go back.
This was the major advantage that Voldemort had. Somehow, he figured out a way to use magic but not put himself in danger. It was a huge pain in the ass to be on the back foot, a problem that needed to be solved before they could attack Snakeface directly in this realm.
In short, their problems were many and far-reaching. Harry needed to find the portal so that Hermione and Ron could join him, so that was top priority. Ideally, he was searching for areas with a strong magical residue, but nothing stuck out just yet. All he could see was farmland, rocky outcrops and long, winding trails into the wilderness east and west.
He was interrupted in his musing by a speck on the horizon, one that threw up a huge mound of dust. As he watched, this grew larger and larger, until he realised it was a company of men or women atop horses. He moved to hide, but found there was nothing to dive behind. Retreating would take too long and he would be seen, only then there would be a cause for suspicion.
With a sigh and nod, he readied himself for this confrontation. Hopefully there would be no bloodshed this time, but if these people were affiliated with the bandits he had killed...
He eyed the banner carefully. It was of a wolf on a white background. They soon surrounded him.
"You there, halt!"
Harry had not been moving, so he could only raise his hands in mock surrender. If worse came to worst, he could risk more magic to blind these people and then flee.
"What's your business walking on the Kingsroad alone?" the leader asked. He was a man with flowing dark hair and a beard to match, tall and muscular, with a huge greatsword upon his back.
Harry swallowed. "My village was attacked and destroyed by bandits. I was able to kill a few and escape, but now I've nowhere to go. It's a few miles that way." He pointed over his shoulder.
The man's eyes narrowed. "We've heard of these brigands and were riding to grant them the king's justice. They've been a thorn in our side for many a week. Am I to believe a single man dispatched the lot of them?"
"For what it's worth, I only encountered five," Harry admitted, trying to look embarrassed. "And I caught them by surprise. An enemy is vulnerable to even one opponent when you fight from the shadows."
"Trickery and cowardice," one man spat. He was young, perhaps still a teenager, but he looked full of menace. Harry narrowed his eyes in response, but was given no room to speak.
"Mind your tongue, Greyjoy," an even younger boy said. This one could be no older than fourteen, to Harry's shock. What the hell was this group doing with someone so young if they were hunting down bandits? He began to wildly reassess his initial impression of this land; perhaps it was commonplace for young boys to learn how to fight. He would have said the same thing for girls, but too many feudal societies had placed more stock in men as warriors, and he saw no women with this group.
"Both of you be silent," the lead man said firmly, drawing instant hush. "What is your name, man?"
"Of which house?"
Harry blinked. He knew many ancient cultures put stock in family power, and assumed this had something to do with his name. Did they mean surname? Bracing himself to run, he answered hesitantly:
"I have never heard the name," the man said, after thinking for a minute. "And if you were lowborn, you would have said. My impression is that you are either lying to me, or your house is one of little renown."
Damn it, that was a trick question! Harry realised. Nonetheless, he felt a bristle of anger at the man playing down his surname. He hadn't a hope of knowing the significance, but it still annoyed him. "I'm not lying, ser," he said.
"This is Lord Eddard Stark, Warden of the North," said an older rider with white whiskers. "You shall address him with proper courtesy, good man."
The words 'good man' were anything but. But Harry nodded and bowed respectfully. "My apologies, Lord Stark," he said, hoping that was enough. It was impolite to refer to a lord by his first name, and both 'Warden Stark' and 'Lord Warden' just sounded incorrect.
Lord Stark appeared satisfied. "Thank you. It's good you aren't bereft of manners, though I still doubt your story, I'm afraid. You will come with us, and show us these bandits you've slain. If you're found to be lying, I'll assume you're working in corroboration with the outlaws and deliver you the king's justice myself."
Harry's eyes were drawn to the sword on his back and he immediately understood what that would entail. It was a good thing he wasn't lying, not that he would have made an easy target under any circumstances. He nodded once.
"Of course, my lord. Shall I walk ahead and lead you there?"
The old man with whiskers didn't seem to like that question. He frowned, apparently wondering whether Harry was being sarcastic or genuine. In truth it was a little of both, but mostly the latter. Lord Stark brought forth an unused horse, explaining that several of his men had been killed already. Harry apologised, but the lord merely waved his hand and thanked him for the concern.
Harry knew a bit about riding, but he was still very uncomfortable as he hoisted himself into the saddle. He drew a few looks from the people around him, including Lord Stark, and snuck glances to see their posture. He readjusted himself, trying to make the change look as natural as possible. It must have worked, because Lord Stark seemed satisfied.
"Lead on, Harry Potter."
Harry was dreadfully embarrassed as he tried to steer his horse straight, until finally Lord Stark took pity on him and rode alongside, the rest of his men bringing up the rear.
"If you're being honest with me, you and I needs must have a one-to-one conversation after this," he said matter-of-factly.
Harry took a moment to ensure he understood exactly what the man was telling him, before nodding. His speech would take a while to become accustomed to. "Of course, my lord. We have much to discuss."
Finally, the village came back into view. Harry saw that most of the smoke had billowed, and the smell filled his nostrils with itchiness. It was choking, and he wrapped a black bandana around his nose and mouth. Hermione had given him one in case of poisonous fumes; they had encountered those in the third portal, and the fabric was enchanted to repel any hazardous gases. Lord Stark did not seem to have one, and he looked amused by the repellent cloth.
"A rider all in black is frightening for many," he said with humour, "but I fear that mask hides your face. The tales may not make note of who you are."
Harry gave a small smile through the would-be gasmask. "It's a good thing I'm not interested in being remembered in stories, my lord."
Lord Stark looked thoughtful as he dismounted. His gaze hardened as he came across the first of the bodies, and then sharpened into a look of sorrow and disgust as he encountered the smouldering pile that Harry had spotted earlier.
"Gods be damned," said one of the riders, while several swore harshly.
"I look forward to giving those who did this a taste of my blade," Greyjoy said.
"Ah, but I thought you preferred girls?" said the young teenager, who appeared remarkably undisturbed. His comment gained a few laughs, but the mood was much too sombre to break. "In any case, I believe those are your bandits over there."
Lord Stark had indeed found the men that Harry had killed, and beckoned for both Harry and the man with whiskers to approach and dismount. They did so.
"These are the men you killed?" he asked Harry gravely.
Harry nodded. "Yes. Several should bear wounds to the chest and neck from my sword. One is missing an arm. Another should have a crushed face, from the heel of my boot."
The third man, whose name was Ser Rodrik, confirmed the injuries. But he had a question for both his companions. "How do we know these were bandits and not men guarding the town, my lord? I hope our friend here speaks the truth, but I have a queer feeling. It feels as though these men have been cursed."
Harry nearly started. That was true, though not in the way Ser Rodrik was thinking. He did not have any desire to explain that, however. "There should be a young woman hiding somewhere," he said. "I don't know where she ran to, but I saved her from these men. She can confirm my story."
Lord Stark put the word out, advising his men to be cautious of any ambushes. After searching with the man for near an hour, the younger boy suddenly burst it, exclaiming: "we've found her, father, but you'd better come quickly!"
Harry and Lord Stark dashed to follow what transpired to be his son, called Robb. Some of the men had been vocally opposed to Harry searching with their lord alone, but when he relinquished his sword and the daggers he had hidden, they eased somewhat. Harry only did so because he had no desire to start a scuffle and he could always stun the men and reclaim them later if need be, though he was truthfully trying to avoid any situation where magic might be required.
Upon arriving at a half-collapsed cottage, he could see why Robb requested they hurry. The young woman was lying on the floor, cradling the charred body of a young man. She was bleeding profusely from a deep cut to her thigh.
Damn it! How did I miss that? She didn't even limp away earlier! Harry thought, disgusted with himself. He almost moved to heal her, but hesitated, remembering that was more Hermione's area. He could heal scrapes and bruises, but this wound looked like it needed a blood replenishing potion, disinfectant and a spell to close the wound that he didn't know. Ser Rodrik misread his move and shook his head gently.
"No, lad. No amount of bandaging can save her now," he said quietly.
Two of Lord Stark's men were holding her gently, trying to pry the corpse away, but she never let go even once. Eventually, he stooped down and relieved them, cradling her head.
"Tell me your name," he said softly.
She didn't answer him, or even look to him. Her eyes had found Harry.
"Thank... you..." she whispered, before passing.
There was a painful silence. Lord Stark eased her head onto the floor and ordered the two bodies be buried at once, along with the other victims of the attack. Then he decreed the bandits be burned and their ashes scattered.
Harry was silent as Lord Stark drew him to one side. Ser Rodrik, Robb and Greyjoy followed. He was disappointed in himself for not saving her life, but would not dwell on it much longer. She had refused his help, and it had taken a hundred men or more almost an hour to find her. He would have had no chance by himself. And as he thought earlier, he didn't know enough to heal a wound like that. It was more self-reassurance, he knew, from seeing an innocent life fade away before his eyes.
Another one, he thought bitterly.
"It appears I owe you an apology," Ser Rodrik said, shifting hesitantly. "I'm sorry for doubting your story."
"It's fine," Harry said, not unkindly. "I would have been just as suspicious if I were you."
"How could five men have caused so much damage?" Greyjoy asked bitterly. "There must be more hiding about."
"Enough, Theon," Ser Rodrik scolded. "Haven't you had your fill of bloodshed for the day? It's over. Move past it."
Lord Stark nodded and addressed Harry; "I think we should have that talk now."
Harry mirrored his expression and followed him, as the other men led the grave-digging and others began to re-saddle their horses. Lord Stark handed him back his weapons, which he equipped with a practiced flourish. He had taken down his mask after coming across the woman, but was tempted by the smoke to use it again. He refrained.
"First off, I would like to know who you really are," Lord Stark said, when they were out of eye and earshot.
Harry was confused, but his heart skipped a beat. "You heard my tale, Lord Stark. Why doubt me when it's been proven true?"
"Oh, I have no doubt you killed those men, nor that you saved that peasant woman's life," he said airily, "but House Potter? There is no such family. I am Warden of the North and know every family from Sunspear to The Wall. But tell me, where are you from?"
Harry blinked. He opened his mouth, but was interrupted.
"If you say Sunspear I will cut you down for lying to me outright. The men and women of Dorne are dark-skinned, and you have the complexion of a northerner."
"I wasn't going to," Harry said, thinking on the spot. "I told you, my home was-"
"Here? Then what was the name of that woman?"
"How many people were there in this village? How far south is Winterfell? How far north The Wall? Answer me!" he demanded, and Harry saw something steely enter his gaze.
With a sigh, he ran a hand through his hair. It was a good thing he no longer needed glasses, else he would have tipped them off right off the bat. Thank god for Hermione and her potions. His genius friend had saved his life many times in many different ways.
"I'll answer those questions if you answer one of mine. Why did you pretend to believe my story in the first place?"
Lord Stark did not miss a beat, and Harry had to admire the man's tenacity and strength of character. "This village had to be investigated and I didn't want you running off. Now tell me. Are you a spy, perchance? An assassin, mayhaps? Whom do you serve?"
"I serve all of mankind," Harry said, eliciting a blink. "Maybe you should have a seat."
"Maybe you should speak with great haste," Lord Stark warned, eying him cautiously and staying put.
The Imperius Curse would be so much handier in this situation, but I'd rather gain his trust without using magic. But at the rate this is going, what choice do I have? If magic of some sort doesn't exist here, he'll think I'm cracked when I tell him the truth. Or that I'm lying. And I don't know which of those would be worse. Both would end with a sword through my gut.
"Tell me what the word magic means to you," Harry ordered, satisfied by the look of surprise on Lord Stark's face. His guise of command had grown more effective and apparently the older man had not been expecting the conversation to change in this way.
"What does that-"
"Everything," Harry intoned, annunciating perfectly.
Lord Stark looked thoughtful, though more wary by half. "It is commonly believed to exist by the people throughout the world and the old gods do speak of skinchangers and Greensight, the ability to see the future and the past. There are many other forms believed real, but I have never witnessed any firsthand."
Harry nodded slowly, then nearly made the man fall over when he whipped his wand out and transfigured a rock into a stony chair. Not changing the material made the spell easiest to cast. Grimacing, Harry prepared for the flicker and was not disappointed when it crackled a second longer than before, then disappeared. A warning that he was overdoing it.
"What in the name of-"
"I am a magician," Harry declared. "A wizard, born of magic and able to manipulate the world through this device." He held up his wand. Even if the man took it away from him, he had a few spares in the expanded bag shrunken and stuffed in his shoe. "I was born this way and could not change it if I wanted, which I never would. I am not of this world."
"N-not of this world?" Lord Stark asked, eyes wide. He regained his composure and steely gaze. "Tell me what you mean, damn it! Else I'll have my men shoot you full of arrows."
Harry laughed, again surprising the lord. "Good luck with that. I could bat their arrows aside in the blink of an eye and kill every man jack of you without breaking a sweat. How do you think I cut my way through five armoured brigands? But I won't do either of those things. I want your help.
"I came to this land in search of a vicious tyrant who has fled justice in my home. He murdered many of my friends, including my family, and found a way to escape from our own world. To spare you one nasty headache, I'll avoid the details. In short, he is here because of magic, and it's through magic he'll be brought to justice. When that happens, I'll leave you in peace and never return."
Lord Stark took time to collect his thoughts. When he spoke, it was not filled with disbelief as Harry expected, but patience and even understanding. "That sounds a mighty tale, but most would not believe it. Answer me this question, why are you in the north in particular?"
"I don't know where the hell I am," Harry shrugged, throwing his arms wide. "The magic doesn't let me choose where I appear or when. All I know is I'm here, not where here is."
Lord Stark eyed him critically. "I feel you need to see a map. If your fugitive has escaped to this land, he could be anywhere. You might spend a lifetime searching."
Harry's heart sank. That was the last thing he wanted to hear. But still... "I did save your villages from suffering anymore. You would have gotten here too late. I killed the men responsible. Surely that counts for something."
"Ah, yes: why?"
"Why did you get involved? Did you think the man you seek was among them?"
Harry's temper flared, and it showed on his face. "I'm not a heartless bastard, Lord Stark. If I come across evil, I will destroy it."
Lord Stark seemed satisfied. "Good. You'll have to forgive me for not believing everything you say just yet. We needs must travel to Winterfell, a three day journey. On our way you'll tell me more about yourself, and I'll instruct you in the laws of our land and the customs you are expected to adhere to. We will also think of a more appropriate cover story for you to follow and until you know what to do, you may stay with mine kin."
"Why are you offering me so much?" Harry asked, shocked.
"Because I believe you are an agent of justice," the lord said smugly. "As am I. And you did save many more people suffering and helped put those who died to rest. There is a debt there and I would repay you. You have my word as a man of honour."
"And I accept," Harry said, wishing he knew Legillimency so he might read the man's intentions. But he trusted his resolve and desire to do good. If that was a lie, he wouldn't have come so far out of his way to save common villagers, nor would he have ordered their bodies buried honourably. "It seems I have a lot to learn about this land. But one thing I'll tell you now is that, when I can find the right time, two of my friends will be joining me here. And if I ever slip off alone, it's to use magic to speak with them. Please keep that between us. In fact, I'd ask you to give me an oath that swears you to secrecy."
"I swear it," Lord Stark said, nodding. "Although I would ask you leave to inform my wife and two eldest sons of your situation."
"Your sons are both here, aren't they?"
Lord Stark answered that they were.
"Then we can speak to them together. And I'd like to keep it that way until I'm able to meet other people you wish to tell. Most would think I'm nuts."
"I crave your pardon?"
"Huh? Oh, sorry, most would think me crazy, I mean."
"For the nonce, I'll tell Robb and Jon, by your leave," Lord Stark said. "You've met Robb, while Jon is at the rear of the column with Jory, the captain of my guards."
"Why is he there?" Harry frowned, thinking this man would keep his sons close in this type of situation.
"He chose to ride there willingly as he's a bastard."
Harry gaped. "I do have a lot to learn, don't I?"
Allow me to thank you for reading, first of all.
But on an important note, this story is in-progress. Twenty chapters consist of one 'part', which is the equivalent of one of the books in ASOIF's timeline. I nearly have part one finished and will update every week or two. Once it's completed, I'll work out a regular updating schedule. After part one is finished, however, I intend to finish my main story Double Jeopardy before moving to part two, which should take me into the new year by a little bit. Hopefully I'll have enough to keep you going until then.
Next, Harry is not the only POV character. Jaime, Tyrion, Arya, Robb, Varys and Cersei will all have at least one or two each. The trade-off is that Harry's chapters will be anywhere from 6000-10,000 words long, whereas everybody else will have 3000-4000 words. This keeps it nicely balanced. And Harry is still the main point of focus, so he'll appear in the vast majority of these other chapters.
Finally, Harry's history from DH to now will unravel as the story goes on. Don't expect an exposition dump. What you have in this chapter is the most I'll ever throw at you in one go. I'm only bringing this up because I know curious people may wonder in reviews what he's gone through, so I wanted to let you know in advance: it'll be explained overtime.