Note: Dialogue from 1x01, "Winter Is Coming" in this chapter. Mix of TV and books.

Hermione's first order of priority was to get them off the street and out of the alley before they drew any attention - or at least, more attention than they had from their bright arrival or Teddy's rapidly cycling hair colours.

"Edward," snapped Hermione, using Teddy's birth name and a tone she rarely used. The teen snapped to attention and swung his head around to face her. "Focus. We can do this. Okay?"

"Yes, Aunt Hermione," he whispered, wringing his hands but he quickly shoved them down to clutch at the side of his jeans.

Hermione eyed him for a long moment, feeling like McGonagall, and then nodded once. "First; you're going to need to control your abilities. They don't have magic here - or at least, Ned never told me that they did."

Teddy scrunched up his face, wrinkling his nose, but quickly his anxiety-driven violet hued hair faded and darkened into his natural black - from Nymphadora's side of the family. His eyes, however, he kept a warm brown, almost amber-like, like Hermione's, but also in deference for his father's heritage.

Trying to ease into a less tense atmosphere, Hermione grinned and winked. "Much better."

Teddy grinned back.

"Second, clothing. We'll transfigure things to look like everyone else's," said Hermione. With a slight frown, she thought back to what Ned and Robert wore when she saw them at the Eyrie: solid coloured tunics, loose trousers, leather belts, and boots. Given that she was working with cotton flannel and jeans on Teddy, the material and construction maintained its integrity, leaving Teddy in some very clean and - with a few more personal tweaks and flairs that he had inherited from his mother - avant garde Westeroi styles.

"What about you, Aunt Hermione?" asked Teddy, running his hand down what used to be his flannel shirt and pulling a face at the slightly fuzzy quilted waistcoat over his long-sleeve t-shirt that morphed into a tan tunic.

Hermione's nose twitched as she thought of what she wanted to look like, an almost long-forgotten part of her from her childhood and the TriWizard Tournament peeking out. She ran her hands down over her shoulders and sides, all the way to her hips and let the magic slow non-verbally as it altered her comfortable and professional blazer and jean combo.

Feeling mischievous, Hermione twirled, showing off the long dress. "What do you think, Teddy? It suits me?"

The dress was long, sleeveless floor-length piece in dark navy blue with soft pleats from her waist down. There was a significant v-neck dip that went all the way to nearly her belly button, framed by ruffles that curled from the shoulders. Laid on top of the navy was a silver lace overlay, dots sparkling like stars in a night sky and providing some modesty for the v-front. The back had a similar dip and lace overlay.

"Whoa... Aunt Hermione…!" Teddy's eyes went wide and he breathed out, "You look beautiful!"

"Thank you, Teddy," she replied. "Now, let's see if we can find ourselves a room."

"But we don't have any money!" protested Teddy, nervously following her as they stepped out from the alley. The change in light from muted to the brightness of the cobblestone street, the sun shining down, unhindered from tall buildings on either side, made Teddy blink. "What currency do they even use here?"

"Gold and silver," replied Hermione smartly, weaving around a man slumped against some barrels, Teddy hot on her heels. They began moving northward, away from the piers and docks and the tightly packed buildings. "Which we don't have."

"So how are we getting a room then?" asked Teddy curiously as the street opened up, widening, and the buildings began to grow taller, stronger in structural design, and less shanty-like.

Hermione sighed, muttering something that sounded like I can't believe I'm going to paraphrase Ron here. She eyed the teenager. "Are you a wizard or not, Teddy Lupin?"

Teddy paused, his entire being stilling for a moment as Hermione continued to move through the crowd of people selling wares (like jewelry, swords, or exotic foods), shouting at those walking by; there were a few patrolling guards in gold cloaks that bowed their heads as they saw her, one even going so far to mutter, "My Lady."

Teddy then sprinted after her, eyes wide when they were finally walking side-by-side.

"Do you - that is to say - are we -?" he broke off, eyes darting this way and that as Hermione stopped in front of a nice looking building far from where they began.

"It's distasteful, but I don't fancy sleeping outside in King's Landing," she replied with a shrug, and then pushed open the door to the inn, Teddy trailing after her, his mouth pressed in a long, thin line.

The interior was well-maintained, if not a bit dark with the only light coming from a series of hanging sconces and the open, glass-free window near the back of the inn, which overlooked a very small garden. There were several benches at three long tables, and then a few smaller round tables dotted near the corners and edges of the room, particularly near a long bar. At the end of the bar, furthest from the door, was a crooked and narrow staircase.

"My Lady," greeted a low, masculine voice, and Teddy turned to see that Hermione had strode up to the barman, a winsome smile on her lips. The man looked captivated by her.

"Hello," his aunt-in-name greeted, fluttering her eyelashes. Teddy's mouth wanted to drop open in shock, but he controlled his initial response; it wouldn't do for him to lose control of his emotions and have his hair change colour!

While he regained control of his shock, he had missed much of the discussion between Hermione and the barkeep; what he didn't miss was her bringing her hand up to rest on the bar, cupping her chin as she leaned forward. It made the v-neck of her dress more noticeable and the man's eyes were drawn to the action.

Then - she moved her other hand across his vision, a nonverbal and wandless confundus hitting the man.

Blimey! thought Teddy. Aunt Hermione just Jedi mind-tricked the barman! That is so…!

Then, she was turning and beckoning the teen towards her. "Teddy, love - Nathen here owns this lovely inn and has a room for us to stay in. Isn't that kind of him?"

Teddy looked back and forth between Hermione and the slightly dazed Nathen - but he wasn't sure if it was because of the confundus charm, or Hermione's cleavage.

"There's no finer establishment outside the court in all of King's Landing for you and your son, my Lady," the barkeep, Nathen, beamed at them both.

Teddy turned to Hermione and mouthed, "Son?"

Hermione's smile was strained. "We'll bring up our luggage later, Nathen. Could we have our room key, please?"

"Of course, my Lady!" the man enthused, turning, and rummaging on his belt for the key ring. He handed over one copy of the room key to them. "Top of the stairs, turn left. Last door on the right. Has a lovely view over the garden and of the Maiden's Vault."

"Thank you," smiled Hermione, ushering Teddy quickly from the bar and up the creaky stairs. He waited as Hermione used alohomora on the door instead of the key, until she cast a silencing charm, and then exploded, "Did you - did you just use magic on a Muggle, Aunt Hermione?"

The room was small but held two beds, a fireplace, a small table with two chairs, and a wardrobe. The single window between the beds was open, the shutters pulled back.

Hermione sighed, picked a bed, and bounced on it a bit. She then fell back and let an arm flop over her eyes. "What else would you have me do, Teddy?"

"I- I don't know!" he replied, flailing his arms up. "But it's wrong, using magic on a Muggle! You could get in serious trouble with the Ministry! What would Uncle Harry do if he knew?"

"One," began Hermione, moving the arm a bit to look at the teen, "We're in another world. The Ministry doesn't exist here. Two, did you want to sleep outside in a foreign city where there are thieves, cutthroats, and other unsavoury characters? How were you planning on eating?"

"I-" Teddy snapped his mouth shut. He slowly trudged over to the other bed and sat on it. His arms hung between his legs. Then, he grumbled, "It doesn't seem right. We're stealing from an honest man."

"We'll find a way to pay him back," said Hermione, sitting up and staring hard at the teen. "I promise, we will. We might have to… procure things a bit unlawfully to begin, but between the two of us, we can figure out a way to make some honest money."

But there was an uncomfortable look on her face like Hermione wasn't entirely sure what they could do next in this strange, unfamiliar land.

Both slept poorly that night.

They decided on a divide and conquer strategy the following morning over breakfast with questionable sausage, runny eggs, and hard bread. Hermione was going to go wander and see what people spoke to her about, looking like a Lady, while Teddy was to use his abilities as a metamorphmagus to blend into various areas of King's Landing and see what help was needed to earn money.

"We'll avoid coming up from the river," said Hermione thoughtfully, her elbows on the table and her hands gripping a small mug but grimacing at the taste of their version of tea. "That's where we arrived, and we don't want to go looking there if someone recognized us."

Teddy nodded, gamely chewing on his hard bread. "I'll go in the opposite direction, towards that large circular dome."

"Then I'll go… relative to our current position, north, to the other side of the wall. We'll meet up at dusk by the Red Keep?"

A few more details were hashed out, and then, with one final parting word to the teenager ("Don't use your wand if you can help it."), Hermione was gone, believing that Teddy would be fine. After all, he had his wand, he knew how to create a messenger Patronus, and he had his abilities. What could possibly go wrong?

Three hours later…

Teddy gave a tiny chuckle as he backed up, eyes flicking from one of the burly, dirty men to the next as they slowly advanced on him. He was stuck in an alleyway near Baelor's Sept, between two grey-white walls that were the height of a man and a half, blocking him in with a thick gate at the end. "Eh… easy now, mates -"

"We're not your mates," the one on the left growled out, swapping his short dagger back and forth between his hands. Teddy dubbed him 'Dags'. "But since you seem to think we are - how 'bout you share those nice clothes of yours?"

"Oh, these?" asked Teddy, putting a hand on his chest, feeling the transfigured quilt. "These old things? Nah, you don't want these. 'Sides," he eyed the men, feeling brash as he spoke, "They won't fit you."

Dags growled, and then Teddy was being boxed in as the man advanced, his blade out.

"Aw, shit," muttered Teddy, ducking under a flying fist from the largest of the three, a barrel-chested man with a smudge of something on his cheek, and spinning on his heel to avoid another swing from the third man. Teddy called him 'Mugs' for his large, meaty hands. He eyed those he danced away.

Dags lunged again, and Teddy used his metamorphmagus abilities to elongate his legs - just a smidge - to push off and avoid the lunge with a giant leap. It, unfortunately, left him directly in the path of the second grungy man, with a gap tooth, who chuckled as Teddy - with his long legs - tripped right into him.

"Balls," muttered Teddy, but he took the momentum and allowed himself to barrel into the man's midsection in a rugby tackle, slamming him on the hard cobblestone. The gap-toothed man wheezed and gasped as the air was knocked out of him.

"Oi!" Dags shouted, face turning tomato red as he paused. His other friend, Mugs, frowned, slipping back a bit warily to watch the teen.

Teddy wiped some hair off his forehead. "Guys. Didn't anyone tell you that three on one odds isn't a fair fight? For you, that is?"

"Fair fight?" echoed Dags. "Boy, we just wanted your money purse. Now, I want your blood."

"That seems like a rather dramatic increase," commented Teddy, back to his normal size and body shape as he weaved back slightly. His back hit the gate behind him. He could see the nicely manicured garden beyond, but without using his wand or Apparating, Teddy only had two options: straight forward through the men, or over the gate or wall.

He eyed the spikes sticking out at the top of the gate and nixed that idea.

He then turned back and eyed Dags - the more dangerous opponent - and Mugs who was hanging back.

"Enough!" Dags growled, and then swiped out in a large arc the dagger. Teddy ducked and rolled forward, bringing his left palm out and letting a bit of wandless magic out toward Mugs. The breeze - a strong push - wobbled the man and he stumbled back in surprise.


Dags was spinning around and following Teddy who bounced to his feet and then listed left, then right and left again with each swipe Dags made toward his face.

There! thought Teddy, seeing an opening, and just like Uncle Harry taught him, Teddy let his fist fly and smacked the man in the jaw. His metamorphmagus abilities increased his muscle density for the moment of impact and Dags went reeling back, a tooth flying out as well.

"You utter piece of shite," Mugs snarled.

Teddy mocked the man by placing a hand on his chest. "Me?"

Mugs roared something unintelligible and raced the few meters towards Teddy. Teddy managed to dodge the first fist - but was unprepared for the second as it boxed him at the side of the head, sending him sprawling to the cobblestones near where he floored the first man, who was now groaning and rolling, recovering.

Teddy shook his head weakly, trying to blink past the shock of the hit. It was like being smacked with a bludger.

However, Mugs caught the back of his vest, hoisted him, and then threw him to the opposite side of the alleyway, where his back hit the wall.

Teddy groaned, sliding down the harsh brick.

He rolled to his knees, pushing up with his palms but a foot caught him in the ribs, sending him back to the ground. His breath escaped in a harsh gasp, and he curled, hoping to protect his side.

"Not so tough now, ain't ya?" Mugs taunted above him.

Teddy growled; he was the son of Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks - he was not to be beaten down! The next time the foot lashed out, Teddy grabbed it and twisted.

Mugs swore as he lost his balance and slammed into the ground near Teddy, who kicked the man's chin with his foot, swinging up and over to straddle and man's chest.

"Eat - slugs - Mugsy -" gritted out Teddy with each hit of his fist into the man's face. The first strike broke the man's nose; the second turned his head to the right, and the third turned it to the left. He was going for a fourth when he was yanked back.

He hit his tailbone hard, the shocking spiralling up his spine. Above him, the gap-toothed man leered.

Teddy backpedaled as much as he could; scraping his hands on the stone and cutting them open as he avoided the predatory stalk of the other man.

"Look, mate -" tried Teddy, swallowing thickly as the gap-toothed goon picked up Dags' discarded dagger.

"You thhould've run when you had the thhance, boy," the man slurred between his missing teeth.

Teddy's mouth pressed into a tight line. "I don't run."

The man's eyes glinted maliciously. "Too bad."

He raised the dagger to stab down, and Teddy braced himself to roll right or left, depending on the swing - but instead - a sword pierced the man's chest, cloth, blood and other bits spraying forward and all over his face.

Teddy froze and gagged.

The sword was removed with a squelching sound and Teddy traced the move to the two men who stood directly behind the goon as he, vacant-eyed, collapsed to his knees and then face forward, landing just shy of Teddy's boots.

One man was slightly taller - the blond with long, scraggly hair and a roundish face - while the shorter had close cropped brown hair and a neatly trimmed brown beard. They were in very expensive fabrics that were clean, and their armour - as they wore protection and mail of some kind - gleamed and was untarnished.

"Are you alright?" the shorter man asked, extending a hand to Teddy. His chest plate was bronze or gold in colour and had an inlay of a stag's head.

Teddy glanced at him for a moment and then clasped the wrist, allowing the man to heave him to his feet. "Yeah, thanks." He glanced down at the dead man. "I thought Toothy was about to get me there."

The blond at the man's side blinked. "Toothy?"

"Yeah," said Teddy, bringing his hand up to indicate his mouth. "You know - like - toothy…"

At the blank look the men were giving him, Teddy sighed and scuffed the toe of his boot on the stone. He fought the urge to shove his hands in his pockets - as he had none anyway - and cleared his throat. "Well. Thank you again. I appreciate the help."

A flash of amusement swept across the brunet's face. "While I enjoy rescuing strange, handsome men, and I'd usually say 'anytime'-" his blond companion scowled. "-the truth is I'd rather not see someone get hurt by these scum. Do you need an escort of my men back to the Keep?"

Teddy glanced behind the man to see several armed soldiers, all with the similar antler and stag combination on their armour. "Erm, no - I'm good -"

"Who are you then?" broke in the blond, his eyes narrowed.

Teddy blinked. "Teddy."

"Teddy what?" the blond continued.

"Peace, Loras," said the brunet, turning to his companion. "There's no need to be so harsh with our young new friend." He eyed Teddy speculatively and asked, "Do you know who we are?"

Teddy shook his head slowly, eyes sliding from one man to the next and feeling something like unease creeping up his spine.

The brunet grinned, his teeth very white against his slightly tanned skin. "I am Lord Renly Baratheon of Storm's End. My companion and truest friend here is Ser Loras Tyrell, the Lord Paramount's youngest son."

"Nice to meet you," said Teddy slowly. Was he supposed to bow? To kneel or something? Why the hell hadn't Binns ever covered something like this in his History lectures? It's not like the Goblin Rebellions didn't take place over the course of the medieval period in Britain's history.

Renly's mouth quirked into a smirk. "You have no idea what that means, do you?"

Taking a gamble, Teddy rocked back on his heels a bit and shook his head. "Nope."

"Where are you from then, friend?" asked Renly.

"Nowhere near here," replied Teddy, scratching his cheek. He glanced around. "Honestly, I'd never heard of Westeros before we even arrived."

Loras's eyes sharpened. "We?"

"Oh, yeah," Teddy floundered. "My um - my -" Fuck! What am I supposed to say? My totally-not-blood-related-to-me-Aunt and I?

Fate was luckily on Teddy's side.


The three men spun, and the guards withdrew their swords to point it at the woman in a blue dress as she walked very, very quickly towards them. Her amber eyes were on the shortest of the three men, and she nonchalantly pushed one of the guard's swords away from her as she passed them.

As soon as she was in front, she ran her hands down his arms, cupped his cheeks, and pressed a hand to his forehead. "Teddy, are you alright? Are you hurt?"

Teddy squirmed and his cheeks flushed red as he caught the dual smirks from Renly and Loras' faces behind Hermione's shoulders. He muttered, "Mm, I'm fine - can we just not?"

"Your face is covered in blood," replied Hermione darkly. "That is not fine!"

"It's not mine!" squawked Teddy, sliding from her grasp.

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, like that makes it any better."

"How did you even find me?"

"Did you think I'd let you wander around a strange city without being monitored at all?" countered Hermione, eyes narrowed. "You might be seventeen and considered an adult, young man, but while we're here, I am always going to watch out for you."

Loras stifled a snigger, but it made Hermione spin around to face the other two men. Her eyes dipped down to Loras's still bloody blade and her face softened, just a bit.

"Do I have you to thank for Teddy's continued safety?" she asked, glancing from the sword to the decorative roses on the man's armour. Her brow furrowed.

Loras sketched a bow, reaching forward and kissing the air above Hermione's hand. "Ser Loras Tyrell of Highgarden, my Lady."

Not to be undone, the other man stepped forward. "Lord Renly Baratheon. I am just pleased that we were here in time to save your son's life."

Something shuttered across Hermione's face - and Teddy inwardly winced. Was that the game that they were going to play here? Mother and son? He mentally sighed.

It could be worse, he realized; he could be stuck with his "cousins," James Sirius, Albus, and Lily, or even Fred. He shuddered.

"Baratheon?" echoed Hermione. "Are you related to a Robert Baratheon by any chance?"

Renly and Loras exchanged a quick look, and the guards behind them shifted, their armour clanking. There was something unreadable in Renly's face as he spoke. "Aye. He's my eldest brother. How are you acquainted with him?"

The two men shot Teddy a look now, both suspicious as they scanned him from head to toe, lingering on his dark hair. Taken aback, Teddy's mouth dropped open and he stared back at them, bewildered.

"I briefly saw him sparring once, at the Eyrie when I visited a friend of mine there," explained Hermione slowly, her own eyes narrowed. "Eddard Stark of Winterfell?"

Then all of Renly's tension bled away, and Loras let go of his sword's hilt. "Oh, Ned! My brother's other brother, in all but name! Gods be good, this must have been almost a score ago!"

"Just about I suppose," replied Hermione.

Renly offered his arm. "My Lady - ah, my apologies - what is your name?"

"Hermione Granger," answered Hermione, looping her arm with Renly's offered one. They slowly began walking, with Teddy and Loras trailing just behind.

"Ah, Lady Granger," nodded Renly, a smile on his face, "I'm afraid that my brother is not in King's Landing at the moment. In fact, you just missed him! He's going north to see his old friend."

Hermione's face scrunched up. "I'm sorry - but why would your brother be in King's Landing? Isn't he lord of his family seat?"

Renly shook his head. "Oh, no. My, you must have travelled far to not have heard the news!"

"News?" asked Teddy slowly, frowning.

Loras and Renly shared another shocked look. Loras spoke next, his tone incredulous. "Of Robert's Rebellion? The war against the Targaryens? Robert Baratheon becoming King of Westeros?"

The woman on Renly's arm froze, her face dramatically paling. "What?"

"Lady Granger!" Renly reached to hold on to her tightly. "Are you well? Ser Cuy - quick - send word to the Maesters at the Keep-!"

"No," Hermione reached out and gripped Renly's green tunic under his mail. Teddy darted forward to her side. "No, it's alright - I just - it's been so long - I didn't know -"

"Lady Granger," began Loras, frowning, "What was the last news you had of Westeros? Before you left?"

Hermione turned to stare at Loras, but it was rather blank. "Harrenhal. Rhaegar gave Lyanna the crown."

Renly's inhale was a hiss and Loras swore under his breath.

"My Lady Granger," said Renly, his voice low as he placed one hand on top of the other on hers, where it clutched his sleeve, "Where are you staying? As a friend of the Lord Paramount of the North, and a woman of standing, I cannot in good conscience have you stay at some - inn when there is room at the Red Keep. Please, you must stay with me in the Baratheon royal chambers."

"Whoa," said Teddy, drawing attention to him, "Royal chambers? What?"

Renly nodded. "Indeed. My brother is now King of the Seven Kingdoms, and I," he grinned, "Am the Master of Laws."

"Wicked," breathed Teddy.

"Now, please," directed Renly, as they continued walking, "Tell me about yourselves. How is that you know Lord Stark, Lady Granger?"

Still shaken by the news, neither Renly nor Loras missed with keen eyes as she touched the inner wrist that was nestled by Renly's arm, or the slightly fond smile that touched her lips.

"I… see," murmured Renly, glancing at Loras. His companion sent him a small, secretive smile, and both, at the same time, thought of the prickly rose growing from a stag's brow that they shared on their hips.

Loras cleared his throat. "And you, Lord Teddy?"

Teddy burst out laughing, shocking Loras. "Lord Teddy - ha! No, no, mate, it's Edward. My name, that is. But everyone calls me Ted or Teddy."

The blond man's eyes narrowed. "So 'Ted' is a nickname from Edward?" his eyes cut to Renly. "Like 'Ned' is for Eddard?"

Teddy shrugged. "I guess…"

Hermione shook her head, interjecting with her professor's voice. "No, Ser Loras is correct, Ted. When you have a limited number of names - and many that are similar, like here with Eddard and Edwyn - people often add a consonant for the first letter of these names to create the nicknames like yours. Hence, 'Ted' for Ed-ward. Or, in the case that Ser Loras is referring to, 'Ned' for Edd-ard."

Another look was shared between the two armoured men.

"Aye," said Renly, forcing a grin on his lips. "Now, Lady Granger, shall we? We have much to catch you and your son up on. Also, Teddy - you must tell me -"

Teddy perked up and turned his attention to Renly who offered him a very serious expression. "Yes?"

"Who designed your tunic…?"

Ned wondered how his life came to this - to this moment, as he sat in his chair on the dais in Winterfell's great hall; with Catelyn glaring at him from Queen Cersei's other side, three seats down. Next to him, Robert laughed loudly, pulled a buxom servant into his arms, and burrowed his face in the valley between her breasts.

Ned sighed, sloshing his ale around in his cup.

Of course, everyone else was having a good time, he groused, eyes flitting over to his eldest son, Robb, laughing with their ward Theon Greyjoy, Cley Cerwyn, and Daryn Hornwood. His eldest, with his mother's colouring of auburn hair and blue eyes, sniggered into his drink, eyes wide and as he and his friends watched the drama unfolding further down the table.

Ned's eyes followed and - if he wasn't in front of an entire audience, he would've let his head fall into his hands - he winced. Sansa, his eldest daughter, was making cow eyes at the Crown Prince, her loyal friend Jeyne Poole at her side. As Sansa flipped her long red hair over her shoulder, Ned realized that both were ignoring the danger: his youngest daughter, Arya, as she filled a spoon full of stew and -

"Fuck," he muttered under his breath, glad Robert couldn't hear him. However, Vaylon, behind him, did and sent a quizzical glance at his Lord, but at the loud shriek, he sighed.

Sansa froze, staring at her sister in horror as the stew slid down her front and plopped onto the table.

"Arya! You little heathen!" cried a shrill Sansa, tears in her eyes.

Robb, laughing loudly with his friends, glanced at the head table and schooled his face quickly, realizing that his parents were watching. Ned watched as he stood from an unspoken signal of Catelyn's, picked Arya up under her arms and said something which made Arya's face crumple.

The last of his brood, Bran, his brown-haired, grey-eyed, mousy, and book-oriented son, was behaving perfectly as he sat with the Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen, sitting with a straight back and excellent manners, which made him Catelyn's favourite.

But while those were his children with Catelyn Tully, his eyes sought out a mirror reflection of black hair and grey eyes on a solemn face half-hidden in the shadows at the back of the hall. That figure, a teen just a few months shy of his eldest, quickly rose to his feet and disappeared through the back door, out into Winterfell's courtyard.


Sometimes Ned would look at his four children, and Jon, and wonder what if.

What if - Brandon was still alive and he married Catelyn instead? Would they be his? Would he be happy with his wife? Would she be happy with him, knowing that he had relations with Barbrey Ryswell, with Ashara Dayne?

What if - he had refused to marry Catelyn, had spurned both Jon Arryn and Hoster Tully's deal for his army to fight the Targaryens, stating he was in love with someone else? Would they have won that battle of the Trident? Would they have won the war?

What if - he didn't listen to Hoster or Catelyn's demands over the years, demands that he needed another son beyond Robb to ensure the succession of the Stark line? As a precaution that what happened to his family ensured the line survived? After two girls following Robb, Ned had put his foot down, so it was quite the surprise to return from war with the Ironborn to realize Catelyn was pregnant again.

What if - he heard from Hermione after that last time they connected when they were eighteen? At the beginning of the end for him, in Harrenhal; and her torture for her? Did she even survive? The last he saw of her, the chandelier falling in the ballroom, glass, beads, and crystal going everywhere and Harry and Ron were escaping with Hermione's twitching body.

Once, Ned thought he heard something from their connection - voices -

"The funeral will be later today-"

"I-I can't - please don't make me go-"

And he panicked, withdrawing from that connection and the voices so quickly that something snapped and then he was racing south to Dorne and making promises to Lyanna and regretting what he had done, everything he had done and not done, and -

He never heard from Hermione again.

The first time he held Robb, he tried. He searched for the connection between them, but it was painful and jagged, like a frayed string. He wanted Hermione to see his son, the only child he would ever have, the product of a bargain struck. His soul mate could understand doing whatever was necessary for family in war, surely.

But there was no answering pull on the frayed string; just muted silence. And Ned feared the worst.

Catelyn tried, and in his grief, his redheaded daughter was born, a walking reminder of his weakness with her mother's looks and Southron airs and graces. She was antithetical to Hermione in all the ways that matter and Ned swore off his wife, the woman who wasn't his soul mate, who didn't understand why he brought Jon to Winterfell, who played favourites with her children, and created dissent amongst the servants with her distinctly non-Northern ways.

Even now, he felt her glare, and he shifted a bit in his seat. Gods, I need to get away from this.

With the King sufficiently distracted, and the Queen begging off the rest of the feast as her gold-clad brother escorted her to her royal rooms, Ned took the opportunity to flee.

He slipped from the room by sticking to the shadows, back to the wall until he reached a side door and he passed through it, ending up on the same flagstone patio where he once danced with Hermione. Just at the bottom of the steps, on the compacted dirt ground off to the side, was Jon, swinging a sword angrily at a bucket-head target.

The boy he claimed as his bastard son was panting heavily, sweat beaded along his hairline. He was unaware of his audience from three separate corners of the yard: from Ned, near the stairs; from a short man; and from a figure in black on a horse coming from the main gate.

As a stable boy appeared, the man in black hopped off his horse and called out, "Is he dead yet?"

Jon turned, surprise on his face. Then, a smile spread and he strode forward. "Uncle Benjen!"

Ned watched as the two embraced, laughing; his heart swelled at the sight of Jon surrounded by Starks - by family. This was what Catelyn couldn't understand; this was where Jon belonged.

"You've got bigger," Benjen was saying as they pulled back from the hug. "I rode all day - I didn't want to leave you alone with the Lannisters." He paused, looking down and then at his nephew. "Why aren't you at the feast?"

Jon hesitated and a flash of bitterness appeared but then his face was schooled. "Lady Stark thought it might insult the royal family to see a bastard in their midst."

Ned's heart clenched. Another topic he and his wife disagreed on - Jon's place within the family.

"Well, you're always welcome at the Wall. No bastard was ever refused a seat there."

Resolution firmed Jon's face and Ned's heart dropped somewhere near his stomach. "So take me with you when you go back!"

Benjen rocked back on his heels a bit, mouth open in surprise as he struggled to find something to say. "Jon-"

Yet, before Benjen could speak further, Ned strode down the steps, the sound of his boots loud in the silence of the courtyard.

Both turned, Benjen's long, tied-back hair swishing and Jon's face turning to surprise that his father might have overheard him.

"Ned," greeted Benjen, and then he was moving from Jon's side. Ned clutched at his brother in their hug, thumping him solidly on the back. As they drew apart, something in Benjen's eyes had Ned frowning.


Benjen shook his head, and with his arm around his older brother, turned back to face Jon, who stood shock still. "Father…"

In his wildest, most delirious moments, Ned would forget the truth of Jon's parentage, particularly when disciplining Jon and his other children, when Jon made that particular scowl (which was all Rhaegar) due to some injustice or whatnot, and think Gods, what would Hermione do? What would she say if she were your mother?

He'd immediately feel guilty for betraying the truth; of forgetting Lyanna. It was often enough that Jon rarely was disciplined - but luckily, the boy had a better head on his shoulders than Ned's rearing. He had his hands full with reigning in Arya, whom he saw as Lyanna reborn, and mixing his guilt, anger, and fear alongside longing, nostalgia, and pride.

"Jon," greeted Ned instead.

Benjen looked between the two, and said, "Well. I'm going inside where it's warm and find me some ale. We'll talk later, brother?"

Ned nodded, and then Benjen was gone - but there were still three in the yard.

"Father," said Jon, eyes wide. "Let me go to the Wall with Uncle Benjen. Please. You know I can't stay here. Let me find my purpose in this life."

Ned levelled a stare at the teen, who recognized the look and went mulishly silent. "You will always have a place here. Winterfell is your home."

Jon looked away and Ned sighed, knowing the root of the tension. "Not if you leave to go South."

"The Wall isn't what you think it is," tried Ned instead, imploring his sister's son to listen to him. "There is no honour or glory to be found there, Jon. Just the cold, Wildlings, and an empty expanse of ice that goes on forever."

"Lord Stark is quite right," inputted a new voice. "But that doesn't stop those from going, anyway. Some might even find the emptiness and cold welcoming."

From his corner under an arched passageway, Tyrion Lannister stepped into the flickering torch light.

Jon frowned. "What were you doing back there? Were you listening in?"

Tyrion rolled his eyes. "Hardly. I'm preparing for a night in the company of what my sweet sister calls 'northern savages.'" He had a flask in one hand, which he raised and drank from deeply, finally leaning against a post. "Personally, I've always wanted to see the Wall."

"Lord Tyrion," greeted Ned, his tone guarded.

"Lord Tyrion?" echoed Jon, glancing between his father and the shorter man. "The Queen's brother?"

Tyrion lifted the flask in salute. "My greatest accomplishment." His eyes flicked between the two Northerners. "And you - this must be your bastard, Lord Stark."

Jon bristled and Ned placed a calming hand on his shoulder.

"Oh, sorry -" although he didn't sound sorry at all. "Did I offend you?"

"Jon is my son," said Ned quietly.

Tyrion didn't blink. "But he is a bastard, is he not? From what I remember of Catelyn Tully, it appears that your boy here shares none of her colouring…" he turned to look at Jon, deliberately looking at him from top to bottom: at his black curls, his pale skin, his grey eyes, and his tall, thin body. "-Making you… the bastard. Let me give you some advice, bastard: never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you."

Ned's mouth tightened. True, but bluntly put.

Jon's ire spiked and Ned tightened his grip on his shoulder as the teen spat out, "What the hell do you know about being a bastard?"

Tyrion gave a bitter smile, rolling his back off the post. He began walking towards the doors of the hall, offering a parting piece of wisdom and insight over his shoulder as he did so: "All dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes."

"What a horrible man," muttered Jon. "Who asked him?"

"Lord Tyrion gives his opinions out freely," replied Ned quietly. "His words are uncouth and cruel, and yet they hold truth in them."

"Father?" asked a shocked Jon.

Ned sighed. "Come, Jon. Let us visit the Godswood. I could use some quiet."

"Aye, Father," said a subdued Jon, trailing after him.

Hermione… what do I do? thought Ned, glancing at Jon from the corner of his eye and frowning. I wish you were here...

Note: You should notice quite a few changes to canon going forward, including some interesting bits with the Stark family. :)