I'm so sorry I didn't publish this sooner. I've been utterly busy with university, I just took my last bachelor level exam ever (if I get it, *hoping*) so now I have time to correct this and publish. Since it's been a few months, I wrote you a short summary of what happened before so you don't have to read the previous chapter to get on with the story. I have a paper to give next week and some other stuff to take care of, but I should be able to publish Chapter 5 by the end of next week.
Harry has been found by the Starks alongside the direwolves pups. After staying with them for a few weeks, he left to try to find wizards, but not before leaving Ned Stark with a way to call him in case of an emergency. He called when Bran fell, and Harry healed him, making friends with Tyrion Lannister and revealing Jon's Snow true parentage to Catelyn Stark. The King, because of an argument with Cersei and because he was drunk, made Harry Lord of Harrenhall, and Jon, who has been made a Stark, has become a Knight of Harrenhall and sworn himself to Harry. On the road back to King's Landing Harry left the main party with Tyrion and Jon and has been repairing Harrenhall with magic, keeping an illusion around it so no one will notice and people will think the fortress is being built back up during the span of a year.
"He has come back to my sight," said the voice in the dark. Leaf raised his eyebrow and looked at the Last Greenseer. They had all felt it, the arrival of the One That Will Come, and the Greenseer had seen him, too, in the great rock the humans called Winterfell. And then North, too, but so quickly, and East, then North again, then South.
"He is South, near the place where the Gods Still See."
There was only one such place South, where most of the Weirwoods had been torn down, Leaf remembered. The God's Eye, the island where all the trees had faces. Leaf had seen it, so long, long, long ago, when he was very little and there were many many greenfolk like him.
"He is on the path."
"How is he on the path if he goes in the wrong direction?" Leaf asked, not understanding.
"A path is not always straight, it can have detours, go around and back again, it is no matter. He is on the path."
"And the boy?"
"He will hear and come, when the time is right."
"When will that be?" Leaf asked, excitedly.
"When the time is right," was the answer.
The next days, after giving some last minute orders and finishing to strengthen the walls (he had put a ward that would stop any human from going over the wall, one way or the other; it meant that you couldn't stupidly fall off – well, Night could, and had, but he had spells to slow his fall down, so no harm done anyway – and no invader could simply climb the wall. Ravens could still fly in and out, and arrows if needed, but no human), Harry doubled the guards at the doors, and prepared for the arrival of new recruits. He had made some of the older guards training instructors; they would make sure the recruits were trained properly. The Maester had also started teaching reading and writing to the children, and to anyone who wanted to come to the classes when they had some time. Ser Albert had his orders to employ more servants to serve the future teachers and the children, and to find people who would look after the children who lived full time at the castle. He had said it would not be too hard to do.
Harry had also decided to lower the taxes progressively. His lands were some of the richest in the Seven Kingdom, a mix of good land, good weather and good situation, but Lady Whent had raised the taxes a great deal to pay for the few repairs she made. Harry knew that low taxes made for happy people, and happy people did not steal or kill each other to eat.
They went back to the Inn that night and slept in their small beds.
"I really miss the thing you call a shower," Jon said in the morning.
Harry had put one in his chambers, along with a bathtub the size of a pool, and Jon had enjoyed it a great deal.
"Well, you can use it again the next time we go to Harrenhall." Harry answered with a smile. He also would have liked a shower, but he would have to make do. He wasn't about to apparate there just for a shower…. No, he decided, he would feel extremely foolish if something went bad because he had wanted a shower.
"I feel bad about Arya and Bran, I have not thought of them in a week," Jon said suddenly.
"Well, we were quite busy. And your father would never have agreed to let us take them with us while we were travelling with Tyrion."
"He would have asked for us to bring guards, and Stark men are not as stupid as Lannister's."
Harry grinned. Jon and Tyrion had become true friends in the past weeks, but they still kept a friendly version of the Stark/Lannister feud.
"I hope my men are good, too. You did good with them, you know?"
When he was not watching Harry do his thing Jon had spent his time with the men, training with them and learning their names and their habits. He had quickly gained their respect and Harry was very pleased. Jon would make an excellent Lord Commander of Harrenhall. Harry had not created the post yet, he would wait until the "repairs" were officially finished and he could go live at Harrenhall.
"Thank you. Still, I think you have gained their respect, with your magic. They might even keep respecting you after they see you fight," Jon finished with a grin.
"You've spent too much time with Tyrion, he has rubbed off on you."
"Since I couldn't spend my week learning magic, I learned sneaky remarks."
"I call it wit," Tyrion said, entering.
"You're the only one." Harry answered.
"You're the one to talk. Anyway, I was in the hall, a messenger has arrived, the King will be here in an hour.
"I already hate the court, and I've not even been there yet."
"You won't be saying that when half the young ladies of the court bat their eyelashes at you." Tyrion answered.
"Me? Why me? Why not Jon? Jon is taller."
To Harry's dismay, even though he was a year younger (well, in appearance, but Harry was 24 and so Jon was actually 8 years younger than him) Jon was already taller and broader of chest than Harry would ever be. Especially since Harry didn't get older.
"You are Lord of Harrenhall. It's a bit dreary, or at least everyone thinks it is, but that does not matter much. Since you are young and you don't have close family, everyone will think you are malleable. You're nice, good looking, and would obviously not hurt a fly if you could help it. And since you're alone, if you marry and die, your wife' House will inherit everything."
"Well, I'm not going to marry anyone."
"What? Ever? Even if you fall in love?" Tyrion asked. They had never really spoken about girls before, but he had assumed Harry would want to marry, if not soon.
"In my world, we… uh… how do you say that…" Harry blushed again. "I really hope you don't judge me, but I would understand if you do, you've been raised that way. In my world, we don't think that a man has to marry a woman."
"You mean like you told me that being a bastard doesn't matter at all?" Jon asked.
Harry blushed again.
"Well, no. I mean, yes, the fact that your parents are married doesn't matter. But that's not what I mean. We don't think that… uh… a woman should necessarily go with a man or a man should necessarily go with a woman." Harry finished, and his face was now as red as a tomato.
Tyrion suddenly laughed.
"You mean that a man can marry another man?" he asked.
"Well, yes, and a woman can marry another woman, if they wish to. It's not uncommon at all."
"But…" sputtered Jon, blushing now "how do they have children?"
Tyrion was now laughing so much wine was coming out of his nose.
"They adopt orphans, most of the time, or one of them makes a baby with someone else, and they raise it as their own. I knew a couple of men who had two children, with two different women, and raised them as heirs together, one was heir of one, the other heir to the other father."
"So…" Jon started, "you like… men?"
- "Yes. Do you… hate me now?" Harry asked, suddenly afraid. Jon was his best friend here, and he didn't want to loose him for anything.
"I… don't know. I've been raised to think it wrong, but I don't think you're wrong, I think you're a wonderful person, and from what I've heard of your world, it seams like a great place. I… No, Harry, I don't hate you."
Tyrion had become serious again.
"Great. I don't hate you either, Harry, for the record. I am the greatest whoremonger in the Seven Kingdoms, I have seen a lot worse than two men together."
Harry grinned at them, happy again now, even though the King and his suite were arriving. His friends knew about him and weren't disgusted! He had feared that he would have to keep this secret forever, since he had appeared in a world where such things were never spoken of. But here he was, with friends that really knew and accepted him.
Tyrion paid for the rooms, because, as he said, he didn't see why his Lord Father should benefit from Harry's wealth. Harry let him because it might look strange if he was the one paying. You never knew who was watching you. With the Lords and Ladies arriving, the Inn would be quite cramped and reserved for highest Lords. Harry had decided to sleep in his tent. Jon would probably sleep with Bran, because it would seem very strange if he slept with Harry in what appeared like a tiny tent. The fact that it was much bigger on the inside would seem quite peculiar for anyone who didn't know of Harry's powers.
They met the King at the doors, as was proper courtesy. Lord Stark was happy to see Harry and Jon, and Jaime Lannister greeted Tyrion warmly. Harry dined with the Starks, Arya talking of what she had seen on the road, this flower, that ruin, this strange road. When Bran asked them how their week had been, Jon and Harry answered that they had been quite bored. Lord Stark sent them an amused look that said that he had guessed they hadn't really stayed there, but he didn't ask. Harry was grateful, he didn't want to lie to him, but he couldn't very well tell the truth in a room full of ears who reported to who knew whom.
The King's journey had been peaceful, apparently, and Sansa spoke of her graceful prince who had taken her on walks in the forest. Sansa and Arya had also ridden two days with the Queen and Myrcella and Tommen inside the Royal Carriage. Sansa had loved it, Arya had to be glared at not to say what she thought of time spent that way, but all in all, it was a nice dinner. A few meters from them the King drank a lot and had an argument with his Queen, but for once they didn't have to pay much attention to it.
After dinner Lord Stark invited Harry and Jon to speak with him in the room he had taken. They both agreed and only then explained what they had done for the past week. Lord Stark said he would like to see Harrenhall and would try to take some time to go there. Harry offered to transport him and they agreed to do it once they were at the Red Keep.
The last two weeks of travel were spent as the first three, except that this time Harry spent much more time apparating to his lands and discovering them. He stayed mostly away from Harrenhall and invisible, with Jon, Ghost and Night by his side. He visited the villages, the farms, the small towns. Harry noted the problems he would have to work out when he officially took his seat. Although she had raised the taxes higher than would have been healthy for the population, Lady Whent had done other things right. She had placed good knights in her holdfasts, and had men at arms patrol the villages and the markets to protect the people. Harry had seen too many children begging in his towns than he cared for, and thieves too. He decided he would address that first. It would not be easy. These children were starving and, with the end of summer close by, they would most definitely die. Offering them shelter in the castle and three meals a day would be an offer to good to pass off, of course, but he needed to find the food to feed them. As soon as he arrived in King's Landing, he decided, he would employ people to create better farming tools and methods. The wooden instruments they used were as inefficient as you could get, and he was sure he had heard somewhere that you could farm more efficiently if you changed the crops grown in one area each year. There must have been studies on that somewhere, even in this backwards land.
Finally, one day, the road started to be livelier, with merchants and travellers coming and going, and the next day they arrived at Kings Landing.
Harry's first thought, as he rode on his stallion beside Jon, Bran and Arya, was that it reeked. The smell of urine, fecal matter, and rotting meat seamed everywhere in the street. The people seemed happy enough to greet them, but half of them looked like they were starving.
"It's a beautiful city," Jon said in a strained voice.
Harry laughed at him and winked, making the scents disappear from around the Stark children for a while – except Sansa, since she was riding with prince Joffrey again.
"Thank you, Harry," Jon said, breathing a lot better.
"Can you do that with my ears, too?" Arya asked, still frowning.
It was a horrible shamble of noise, true.
"Sorry, I wouldn't want someone to notice, and they might if you don't hear them as they shout a meter from you."
"It's alright, Harry, thank you anyway," Bran said. "Right, Arya?"
Arya grinned at Harry and nodded.
"So, where are you going to stay?" Arya asked to Harry. "Father said Bran, Sansa and I will stay in the Tower of the Hand. He said Jon would have to stay with you because he will be a Knight of Harrenhall someday, and sworn to you."
"The King sent letters to the Red Keep when he made me Lord of Harrenhall and told me to come to court. I will have to swear my oath in front of the Iron Throne to make it completely official. Afterwards I assume I will have to stay for a little while. Tyrion mentioned that the King will probably organize a tourney for Lord Stark, if he does I will stay here until then. I think I have to pay some kind of tribute to the King, and depending on the size of the tribute, I get some kind of room or another."
Harry smirked. Tyrion had told him the amount of money each Lord paid, and Harry had decided to make his first stand and pay just a bit more than Tywin Lannister did. It was something like ten thousand dragons per moon, but that was nothing to Harry. And if it could fund the Crown, he was all for it. After all, it would be Lord Stark spending the money. Tyrion said the Crown was grossly in debt. Harry's ten thousand would not help much, but it would make a stand, at least
Harry had gone to Harrenhall the week before and requested to have ten guards sent to wait for him in Kings Landing. He had told them to act as though this was the first time they saw him. When he arrived they were waiting in the Red Keep's Courtyard. Harry was wearing his new colors, green and black, and Night was at his side, so it wasn't shocking that they would recognize him. Tyrion had told him to seek out someone named Littlefinger, or Lord Baelish, who was Master of Coins, but since Lord Stark had to go to a Small Council Meeting, he guessed that he would have to wait. He was led to his rooms by his men. He had been placed into small rooms, much too cramped for him and his men, even for Jon and him alone. Harry went there anyway and asked a servant to tell him when Lord Baelish was available for a meeting. He also gave a dragon to each of his men except two and told them to go to the city and do whatever they wanted. Two of them would have to be back in four hours to replace the two he had kept.
Once that was done and the guards stood at his door, he asked for some food and wine and waited with Jon for Lord Baelish.
An hour later the servant came back to bring him to the Master of Coins.
Lord Baelish was a small man, clever and sly, and far from trustworthy, to Harry's humble opinion, and from what Tyrion had told him.
"My Lord of Harrenhall," the man intoned.
"Lord Baelish," Harry answered, politely but without any false courtesy. He wasn't here to lick any shoes.
"Please, have a seat. Ah, and you must be Jon Stark. Please, sit. You wished to speak with me?"
"Yes," Harry answered after Jon had greeted the man. "I have heard that I must speak with you if I wish to change my accommodations within the Red Keep."
"Yes, it is true. However, you must know that, although technically a free guest, to obtain a room bigger than you have you will have to… ah, make a show of courtesy, you understand."
"I do. I think ten thousand dragons a moon should cover it. What do you think, Jon?"
As Littlefinger's wine suddenly was on the floor instead of in his glass, where it had been just a second ago, Harry guessed that the man must agree the sum had enough… courtesy.
"Well, of course, ten thousand dragons would mean a lot to the treasury. But…"
Harry interrupted him by standing up.
"Perfect, then." He went to the door and opened it. Outside stood his two guards with a chest each. They carried the first one together, then the second one, then bowed and left with a "My Lords.".
Harry opened the chests with a polite smile.
"I would greatly appreciate a change of room, as the… ah, decoration of the one I have been assigned does not agree with me."
"Yes, Lord Potter, of course," Littlefinger said, his voice suddenly sweet as honey. "If you need anything else, do think of me."
"I will, thank you," Harry answered. "I will expect to have my rooms for as long as I stay… courteous, of course."
The Master of coins nodded.
"Yes, of course."
"Well, then, I think I will visit the Tower of the Hand now. Feel free to send a servant there to seek me out and show me to my chambers as soon as you are able."
Harry and Jon nodded to Littlefinger and left.
They were still laughing when they knocked on Ned's door.
"I'm bus… ah, Harry, Jon, enter, have a seat. Maybe the two of you can find a way to make Arya and Sansa stop fighting."
"Oh, I know a way," Harry said. When Ned sent him a hopeful look, he answered with a grin. "You have to send Arya to the Wall and Sansa to Sunspear."
Lord Stark sighed and sat with them.
"Actually, Father, Harry and me wanted to talk to you about Arya. " Jon said. Ned looked at them both.
"What is it?"
"A few weeks ago, on the road, we found Arya practicing sword fight with her friend Micah," Harry explained. "If Lannister men had found out, the boy would probably be dead. We convinced her to stop, but not for long. Lord Stark, I know that Arya cannot become a knight. But would it be so bad if she knew how to protect herself? If Ellia Martell had known how to fight, maybe she would still be alive, and her children too."
"A woman would never be able to overpower a man in a sword fight," Lord Stark said, but he didn't seem quite convinced himself.
"Oh, and have you never seen a smaller, thinner man beat a much bigger one?" Harry asked. "Maybe not at traditional sword fight, no, but there are other ways of fighting. In the East, I heard, they do not use long swords, but other weapons, and these can be taught to men and women both."
"Father, Arya will never be like Sansa, liking dolls and dresses and songs of love, just as Sansa hates the things Arya loves. I believe one of the biggest reasons Arya and Sansa fight so much is because Arya thinks she will never belong as her sister does, and at the same time hates that Sansa gets to do what she likes while she doesn't. Arya will learn fighting. But she will either learn with sticks fighting against a butcher's son, or with your blessing and learning how to truly defend herself." Jon finished with passion and kindness both.
"I… I think you're right," Lord Stark said finally. "Harry, you did not say it, but I heard it all the same. Maybe if she had learned to fight my sister might be alive too. Yes, I will find a teacher for Arya."
"By the way, will there truly be a tourney?" he asked then.
Lord Stark groaned, which was fairly uncharacteristic of him.
"Yes, damn Robert. Yes, there will be a tourney."
"Lord Stark, if I may, you seem a little tense… do you want me to bring you to Winterfell? I will come back here immediately and fetch you if any trouble should arise."
Ned looked at Harry, and then nodded with a smile.
"Yes. I will ask my guards not to disturb me for any reason, and the we shall go, if it suits you."
"Yes, no problem."
Lord Stark spoke to the captain of his guard then Harry grabbed his arm.
"It is not a pleasant sensation, and you might feel a bit sick for a minute after our arrival."
Ned Stark nodded with all the strength of the North on his features, as though he expected to be suddenly beaten up.
They appeared in Harry's room, which Lady Stark had promised to leave empty so that he could appear at any time. Lord Stark lost his footing but he was back up again much more quickly than Harry had ever seen for someone's first side along apparition.
"I will turn us invisible, Lord Stark, since it would seem quite strange if anyone were to see us."
Ned nodded and they excited the room. Harry placed a silencing spell around them too.
"We will still leave traces in the snow, so we must try to stay indoor. That or we could say Winterfell is haunted."
Lord Stark laughed, and Harry saw that he appeared much better now that he was back where he belonged.
They found Lady Stark in her bedroom, writing a letter. Harry spelled the guards asleep and knocked.
The Lady opened the door and looked startled at the sight of the sleeping guards and empty hallway. Harry extended his silencing spell to her so that she could hear them.
"My Lady, it is me, Harry Potter, accompanied by your Lord husband."
She jumped when she heard his voice, but was almost instantly calm again.
"When shall I come for you, Lord Stark?" Harry asked.
"If no one comes for me, in three hours. I cannot stay the night, sadly."
"Very well. My Lady, if you will invite us in, I will drop the invisibility spell and go."
She nodded and let them in, although she couldn't see them. Harry looked around to check that no one could see them and dropped his spell.
"My Lord, it is very good to see you again. You too, Harry, of course."
"Thank you, Lady Catlyn," Harry said, "But I don't want to intrude. Lord Stark, I will be here in three hours."
And Harry apparated back to the room he had just left.
"Package dropped," he commented drily.
An hour later someone knocked on the door. Harry went to open.
"Lord Potter, this servant says she has been sent by Lord Baelish to bring you to your chambers."
"I still have things to discuss with Lord Stark tonight. Jon, do you mind going there?"
"No problem. Let's go," Jon said to the servant. The room they were in was linked to other rooms, so it was not so very strange that Lord Stark was not there currently, but the more the door stayed open, the more it could be discovered that he was not there at all.
Harry was left alone for some time but Arya, Bran and Sansa came in a few minutes after Jon had left. Lord Stark had ordered the door barred to any but his children.
"Harry, where is Father? Jory said he was here?" Arya asked, looking around.
"I brought him to Winterfell for some time. Your Father was very tense and needed to relax. I will bring him back if anyone needs him."
"Oh…" Sansa said. "Will you bring us to Winterfell too?"
"Well, I will if you want, but not tonight. And I can't bring the three of you at the same time. Two is my limit, even with small people like you."
"You're not much taller than Sansa" Arya accused.
"Don't insult Harry, he is offering us a service that nobody else can offer," Sansa chastised.
"Don't tell me what to do!"
"Someone has to! You're…"
Harry winked at Bran and silenced them both with a spell. They could still speak, but no sound came out.
"Now, girls," Harry said. "I will release you from my spell after you have listened to what I have to say. You don't need to agree," he added at Arya's defiant look. "You just need to listen until the end."
After some time both girls nodded.
"You two are very different. You like different things, think differently, see things differently. That's the truth. But that doesn't mean that one of you is good, and one of you is bad. Difference is not a bad thing. If everyone was exactly the same, everything would be boring. Sansa, imagine for a second. You love to make yourself beautiful, to eat good things, see beautiful things and hear beautiful songs. That is what is expected of a Lady, it is true. But imagine that what was expected of a Lady was to be able to use a bow, ride horses and fight. Could you change yourself so that you would become what is expected?"
For once, Sansa thought about it. After a little while, she shook her head.
"No. And you would feel bad, because you would not be allowed to do what you like, and you hate riding and are not good at it. And then, imagine that your sister was great at fighting, with a bow and on a horse, too, and loved it. And she would tell you all the time to be better at it, and why don't you want to ride today, and come on, you need to practice fighting. How would you feel, then?"
Sansa was now looking at Arya, tears in her eyes.
"Arya. You are a woman in a world of men. I believe that women should have exactly the same rights as men, but for now that is not possible. In this world, everything you do is scrutinized, searched for weaknesses. Hating being a Lady is a weakness, Arya. It doesn't mean that you have to stop being yourself; it only means that you have to learn to put a mask on. I do not believe that you will ever grow to love being at court, or sowing or sing songs of love. But I do think that you can find things to like here. I heard somewhere that your Father has agreed to give you ah… needle lessons."
Arya's eyes widened, and she understood what he had meant.
"So, you are different, but you are who you are. Sansa, you should not try to change your sister. Arya, you may not like the things Sansa likes, but it doesn't give you a right to insult them or her. Okay, I'm going to release the spell, now."
The two girls stayed silent for a moment, then Sansa cleared her throat.
"Arya, I'm sorry, I hadn't realized that it was like that for you. I understand that you don't like the things I like, and I will try to be nicer."
"I don't like the things you do and I think they're stupid, but I won't say it."
Sansa laughed gently, for this was probably the best apology she would ever get from her sister.
"Very well. Now, Arya, you've not heard what I told you from me, okay?"
When Arya nodded vigorously, Harry smiled.
"I have to wait here for a while, and I have nothing to do." Harry complained.
"Sorry, Harry, Septa Mordane said we have to unpack our things into our rooms," Bran said.
Harry grinned at them.
"Well, if you want, I can unpack for you and then we might play a game?"
The three children nodded and went to Sansa's room first.
- "You should hide needle before we come to your room," Harry whispered to Arya's ear while Sansa and Bran entered the elder's room.
Arya nodded and ran to her own room.
Harry made a show of moving his arms around, directing the clothes and objects to settle themselves on the shelves and in the pantry. It took him only a few minutes in each room, and they were done, all clothing perfectly clean now, perfectly tidy and completely crumple-free.
They played hide and seek until Jon came back, then he played with them.
After Harry had found Jon and as they were looking for the other three, Harry asked.
"So, how are our rooms?"
"Bigger than your tent," Jon answered.
"The inside or the outside?"
"The inside. They don't compare to… the other ones, but they're great. Lord Baelish has also kindly provided two servants.
"That man is… Bran, I see your feet."
Bran giggled and came out from behind his curtain.
After sometime Harry heard the bells of the Sept and apparated back to Winterfell, invisible again, to the hallway. He knocked on the door.
"Yes," he heard Catlyn's voice. She opened and, finding only an empty hallway, she gestured in.
Harry entered, waited until she had closed the door and was visible again.
"It is time to go back, My Love," Lord Stark said.
"Sansa, Arya and Bran send their hello. They asked if I could bring them here, I said it would have to wait for tomorrow."
"Yes, bring them tomorrow, Robb will be happy to see them. I'm afraid Rickon might not understand, and talk about it."
"Very well. Shall we, then, Lord Stark?"
Ned nodded and they left with a pop. They appeared in the room Harry had just left.
"How is Mother, Father?" Bran asked immediately.
"Very well. She misses you three very much. She awaits you tomorrow."
The three nodded vigorously.
"Harry, I must thank you, but I fear if I start I will never stop. Where are you and Jon staying?"
"Oh, we have apartments, Jon has seen them," Harry answered. "We shall retire, then, Lord Stark."
"Harry, call me Eddard, please. You're a true friend, and I fear I have precious few in this city.
"Very well, then, Eddard," Harry answered. He bowed and left, followed by Jon, their guards behind them.
"This place is a labyrinth. How do you remember where to go?"
"I paid attention when I followed the servant."
"It's really good I have you, I would get lost at every turn. I could never find my way in this maze."
They arrived fifteen minutes later, and Harry agreed with Jon that this was much better. There were five main rooms, including one for the guards where they could sleep and store their belongings. One was a big parlor with a table and seats to entertain, another was a study, and there were two big bedrooms, plus three smaller rooms for servants to sleep in.
The two servants Lord Baelish had probably paid in advance were waiting inside.
"Ah, yes. What are your names?"
"I am Lara, My Lord," the blonde said.
"And I am Sally, My Lord", said the brunette.
"Well, Lara, Sally, you can work for me, but if you do, you will have to sign something. It is an oath I ask out of all my servants. If you agree, I will double your wagers."
"Of course, My Lord," they both said. Harry smiled and went to fetch the paper he had made the day before. It was linked to the one in Harrenhall, and once signed the blood would appear on the one in Harrenhall too. This one could be destroyed, it would not change anything. What mattered was that the two serving girls agreed to the oath.
"The oath you sign says I swear to serve Harry Potter loyally until I tell him otherwise in person and never share his secrets with one who doesn't know them. You must sign in blood. Do you agree to this?"
The girls looked at each other, then nodded. Harry took out his knife and gave it to the blonde.
"Prick your finger and press in under the letters."
The girl obeyed, then the other one.
"Perfect, then. How much money did you earn a moon?"
"Five silver stags, My Lord."
"Well, now it's ten each. Oh, by the way, everything said in this room is my secret." Harry gave them the money and ordered them to bring some food.
"Why did you take them?" Jon asked. "They are obviously working for Baelish."
"Yes. I would pay a lot of money to see his face when his two little spies report absolutely nothing. He will wonder what I must have paid them to turn their loyalty, they will wonder why they can't speak, but since that's obviously one of my secrets…"
"Oh, yes, since they signed the oath. That's why you said that what is said here is your secret."
"Yes. The oath doesn't say anything about your secrets, so you still must be careful."
After that Harry placed wards so that nobody from the outside could hear anything happening in the inside. Then he expanded the guard's room so that they would be more confortable. The two serving girls could not speak of it, and neither could the guards, so Harry could do whatever he wanted in his rooms.
The feast that night was bigger than anything Harry had ever seen. There was noise everywhere, people shouting across the tables. The seating was supposedly planed, alternating men and women, so Harry was seated between two women he did not know.
"So, you are the new Lord of Harrenhall," said the one on his left. She was old, but had a sharpness in her voice that reminded Harry of a Professor McGonagall who would have gone to Slytherin.
"Yes, My Lady, please, call me Harry. I'm afraid I don't have the pleasure of knowing your name."
"I am Lady Olenna Tyrell. You have met my idiotic son, I believe."
Harry, had, in fact, just met the Lord Tyrell on his way there.
"I do not know him as well as you do, so I will have to refer to your judgment until I can create one for myself." Harry answered with a polite smile. "But certainly, it is a pleasure to meet you."
"So, I hear Robert made you Lord on a drunken whim."
Harry liked the woman more and more.
"To be accurate, I would say it was more of a case of trying to annoy her Grace."
The woman looked at him, assessing.
"You do not seem particularly frazzled by the fact."
"Well, it is the truth, there is no sense in getting worked up about it. I had certainly not thought of becoming a Lord, but it happened, and I will try to make the best of it."
"The best of it? Spending your money on rooms in the Red Keep?"
"News do travel fast, don't they? I'm always quite fascinated by such occurrences. But, come, my Lady," Harry said more seriously, "you certainly must know that to be taken seriously a man has to respect the, ah… proper courtesies, I believe Lord Baelish called it."
The lady laughed, clearly amused.
"So, what do you mean to do with your new Lordship, Harry?"
"Well, if I must do one thing, it is improve the living of my people. "
Lady Olenna's eyes sharpened, scrutinizing him.
"You know, I strangely do believe that it is what you want."
"A fool would answer that it must surely be the goal of most Lords. As I try to always be as foolish as possible, I shall stick with that."
The woman smiled again.
"So, have you met my granddaughter, Marjory?" the Lady asked, gesturing to the woman on Harry's right. Harry turned and realized that she had probably been listening to the whole conversation. He smiled at her pleasantly.
"My Lady, if you share half the wit of your grandmother, it is an honor to meet you."
She blushed prettily, but Harry had been trained to fight death eaters who used occlumency to hide their real feelings. He tried to never use legillimency, and he wasn't really good at it anyway, but he always caught the general mood of a person. This flower might appear pretty and mindless, but she was far from it.
"My Lord, it is I who is honored. Did you know that the King will host a tourney in the Honor of the Lord Hand?"
"Oh, yes, I have heard," Harry answered. He gave her a pleasant smile. "I'm sure Lord Stark is very pleased."
On his left, Lady Olenna gave a little laugh, that said that she knew as well as he did that Ned Stark hated the idea of the tourney.
"I will certainly be there. Do you intend to participate?"
Harry had frankly not even thought of it. He smiled.
"I'm afraid I would sooner loose both my arms than win, even if I fought with a sword against an unarmed squire. And since I do like my arms where they are, I shall not. I hope I'm not disappointing you."
"There are not many men who would undermine themselves thus," the Lady Olenna pointed. "It is either very foolish, if it is true, or it is very clever, if it isn't."
"I did say I try to be as foolish as I can," Harry answered pleasantly. "But you might consider that some men can protect themselves quite well without the use of a sword. Since I see no need to compensate for any…ah… lacking on my part, I don't have to get the biggest sword."
Lady Olenna laughed again. Lady Marjory had a very good control over her features, but the slight brightness in her eyes indicated the laughter she repressed, and meant she had understood his jape immediately.
"So, Lord Harry, have you been to your land yet?" Lady Marjory asked.
"I'm sure you know the answer as well as anyone in the Red Keep, My Lady. I intend to go after the tourney, and meet my people then."
"Oh, and have you planned anything yet to 'improve the quality of your people's lives'?" Lady Olenna asked, quoting him.
"I have sent some orders, yes. But changes have to be made softly. I am a new Lord, with a new name, a new House, even. I wouldn't like to scare my own people off so soon."
"And do you intend to make repairs to Harrenhall?" Lady Olenna asked. Harry noticed that the conversations around him had slowed, and he understood that everyone was waiting for his answer.
"Please, My Lady, you have to let a man keep a few secrets, else you will loose all interest in me and I will be forever deprived of your company."
"I would not inflict such sorrow to such a polite young man," the old woman answered.
"Oh, I'm quite certain a Lady such as you most definitely would, if my conversation were to loose its interest. So as not to fall into utter desolation, I shall endeavor to keep myself entertaining. Therefore, to keep the intriguing mystery of my life, please, tell me of yours. Is Highgarden as beautiful as the songs depict?"
"It is quite beautiful, My Lord," Margery answered. "Perhaps you might visit, one day. We have beautiful gardens and magnificent flowers that only grow there."
"My maternal aunt had a beautiful garden, too," Harry answered.
"Oh, do you have fond memories of it?" Marjory asked.
"I'm afraid I hated the place. Not so much the flowers as the woman who owned it, however. I'm sure I would love the gardens of your home, since I find your company charming."
"How old are you, Harry?" Lady Olenna asked after a moment of silence.
"Seven and ten."
"It must be hard, so young, and no family to help you and counsel you."
"And none to embarrass me or hurt me either," Harry answered. "And I personally think being young offers me a different point of view over my affairs, a changeable mind."
"Changeable is not quite a quality. A man that can be swayed easily may never stay on a course long enough to finish anything." Lady Olenna answered.
"It depends on what can sway him. Better a man that never finishes anything than a man who only finishes bad things. I believe counsel must be heard, even if it is not pleasant, but not followed blindly either."
"You are certainly a very interesting young man, Harry. I had prepared myself to be seated near some upstart fool who would either brag all night about his new riches or be too shy to share a word with me. "
"I trust I am being a nice middle ground between the two," Harry answered, winking at the old lady shamelessly. She laughed again.
"So, I hear that you have taken with you the Stark bastard."
"Jon and I have become good friends, and I asked him if he would come with me to be a Knight of Harrenhall, yes."
"So you intend for him to be your squire?"
"My squire? Why would I ever need a squire? I am no knight myself. I must remind you, My Lady, that I have not been raised to be a Lord and command men. Jon has been taught alongside his brother Robb, who will be Lord of Winterfell and Protector or the North one day. I intend to make Jon a kind of… Commander of Harrenhall, I think the title will be. Or something of the sort."
"You would leave your men under the control of another?" the Lady appeared a bit dismayed by that.
"My Lady, I would rather not take control of something I have no idea how to control. Jon is my friend, and I shall trust him until the day he announces that he wants to quit my service. He is a bit young now, certainly, and so I will wait to name him Commander. But not too long."
The next day Harry presented himself in front of the king. He wore black breaches, an emerald leather coat and a long green cape with his sigil on it. His hair was still a bit too short for a Lord, but not by much. All in all, he looked fine. For the occasion Night was at his side as he walked from the gates of the Great Hall to the Iron Throne. Lords and Ladies watched him pass in silence. For once Night was calm, Harry had made sure he understood that this wasn't a day to do stupid things. The wolf seemed more magical every day, and Harry was thinking that Night was becoming his familiar. He didn't mind it, and it meant they would share the same lifespan, so it would mean that Night would be immortal, or at least would not die of age. Harry was quite happy with having an eternal companion, even if it was not a human. And the more magical, the cleverer the wolf got, and that was very useful. Harry knew that it was possible they would eventually share a mind bond. For now, however, he had to promise a whole mutton to the wolf for him to behave.
Harry knelt in front of the King and Night sat on his rear.
"Harry Potter, first of your name, I, Robert Baratheon, King of the Andals, the Roynar and the First Men, make you Lord of Harrenhall and all the lands attached. May you rule fairly in front of gods and men," The King said, for once not quite drunk.
Harry got up and took his sword out of its sheath.
"I, Harry Potter, first of my name, pledge in front of gods and men to serve my King loyally as Lord of Harrenhall."
Harry sheathed his blade again, walked to the king and kissed his ring.
"So mote it be." The King said, and the ceremony was over, Harry now officially a Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. The people in the Hall clapped and Harry bowed and joined the crowd. He spoke to people whose names he forgot almost instantly, even though he really was trying. He talked to Tyrion for a while, and Eddard too. After a while he went to get some fresh air on one of the balconies. He had decided not to hide his smoking habit anymore, since it didn't matter much, and he could always say it was an herb found on Skagos or something. A few minutes after lighting his cigarette, he noticed someone creeping up on him. He turned and greeted the man with a smile.
"Lord Varys," he said pleasantly.
"I am no Lord, Lord Potter."
"Is that so? Well, we all have to accept courtesies, I believe. Did you wish to talk with me?"
"I was curious to meet the new Lord of Harrenhall. If I may ask, what is this thing?"
"This is a cigarette. It is made of a plant named tobacco, and you inhale the smoke."
"I have never seen the like, and I have traveled a bit in my youth. Where does it come from?"
"It is of my own making, I'm afraid. I could provide you with some, if you so desire. It is quite relaxing, but I fear that once you start, it is rather hard to stop."
"Then I shall refrain from starting." They stayed silent for a few minutes, then Varys spoke again. "You are a mystery, Lord Potter, and I dislike mysteries. They tend to lead to surprises, and surprises to trouble."
"Ah, yes, now we see our true colors. Tyrion has spoken to me about you, but he didn't seem quite sure to whom your loyalty lay."
Instead of answering directly, Varys changed the subject.
"I have heard of your conversation with the Queen of Thorns."
"The queen of Thorns?" Harry asked.
"The Lady Olenna Tyrell." Varys explained.
"Ah, yes. Which part did you like?"
"I wondered about your words on… improving your people's lives? Would you tell we what it entails?"
"Oh, that?" Harry wondered if he should tell the truth or not. But for all his deceit and spies everywhere, he didn't think Varys a bad guy, exactly. In his mind, if the man was as powerful as Tyrion had said, he could have done much worse than keep the peace for so long. "I would start by not letting my people starve. In the long term, educate all men and women to at least be able to read and write, so that they may be able to improve their own lifestyles."
Varys looked at him, obviously wondering if he was telling the truth.
"Well, I must go back, a pleasure to meet you, My Lord."
"And you as well, Lord Varys."
Harry's stay in the Red Keep wasn't as boring as he had thought it would be. He talked a lot with Tyrion, stayed with Jon whenever he was not training, had fun with Bran and Arya, and even with Sansa sometimes too. Now he was waiting in his apartments with Jon for a man named Ellyro Coretti, who the Maester had found to be one of the teachers. The man came from Braavos, and had come with his Westerosi wife and their children to search for work as a teacher in Kings Landing. Sadly, as the economy wasn't quite what it had been, most people forwent such things as teaching their children letters to concentrate on other things. Lords taught their children such things, of course, but they all had a Maester to do it and preferred not to find someone else.
Harry's guards introduced the man into the room. His skin was not as pale as most westerosi, but he wore usual clothes. He was around thirty, but his eyes seemed older.
"My Lord," the man said, bowing.
"Ellyro Coretti, welcome. Please, take a seat." Harry said, gesturing to a chair at his table.
"Thank you, My Lord."
As a servant poured the man a drink, Harry gestured.
"This is Jon Stark, my friend. Jon, Ellyro Coretti. And I am Harry Potter. So, Mister Coretti, has my Maester explained to you what job it is that I need you for?"
"No, My Lord. Usually, I work for people who do not benefit from the service of a Maester and wish to educate their children, but…"
"But I do have a Maester, and no children. Yes, that is true. First, I would like to know about you, then I will tell you about the particulars of the work."
"Well, My Lord, I have studied in Old Town to become a Maester until I was 22. At that age I married my wife and left the citadel, since it requires its Maesters not to take wife or father children. I have since taught to children of people living in the city."
"I see. What is your preferred subject to teach?"
The question was a bit strange, since most people had only one teacher for every subject. But the man just looked a bit at Harry and answered.
"I enjoy teaching to young children, My Lord. I believe that the first things you learn will follow you for your whole life. So I think teaching to read and write is what I like most. I enjoy learning about history too, and am quite knowledgeable in the area."
"Very well. Since my Maester recommended you, I am already assured of your knowledge. You must understand that the post I offer you is very different from you usual work. I will understand if you are displeased by the idea."
The man's look was questioning. Harry continued.
"I wish to open a school, for all the children in my Lands. It will not be reserved to boys, or to certain people. There will most certainly be bastards, sons and daughters of prostitutes, and probably also former beggars and thieves." Harry watched the man. He was attentive, but didn't look dismayed by the idea, mostly intrigued. "You would have classes of twenty to fifty children, depending on how many students I get. You would only teach one subject, in your case reading and writing to the youngest children, if it pleases you. My final idea is to have all my people at least able to read and write. There will be more teachers than just you, of course. For the first few years your schedule will most definitely change often, as more children come to the school and more teachers are employed. However, if your teaching is acceptable, you will have a job for as long as you wish to work at my school."
"I have never heard of such an endeavor, My Lord, but I would be honored to be part of it. However, I have a wife and family, and I need to think of them…"
"All the teachers I will employ will be offered housing. Since you have a family, you can have apartments in the castle or a house built. Your wife and children will be welcome there also, of course. Your children may enter the school if it is your wish, or not, as you want. A servant will be provided to you, as well as an aide for teaching. As for payment, what is your usual salary for teaching to children?"
"I am generally paid a stag for each hour of teaching, My Lord."
"Well, I will pay you a dragon a moon." To the man's shocked face, Harry added. "You will be teaching to a lot more children. So, do you accept the post?"
"Yes, My Lord."
"Perfect. Ah, also, I will request a signed oath of you. Your wife and children over the age of six will have to sign it too. It simply says that you must not betray my secrets and you must serve me loyally until you decide to stop and tell me so."
"Yes, My Lord."
"Perfect. You will have to make the journey to Harrenhall on your own, I'm afraid I need stay in King's Landing a few more weeks. You can sign the oath upon your arrival. Harrenhall is under repairs at this time, so the school will not open officially until next year." The man appeared stressed by that, and Harry understood the look. "Do not worry, you shall be paid as if the school was in session. You shall prepare your classes; think on what you need to teach the children. Feel free to talk to my Castellan, Ser Albert, he will fulfill all your needs. Oh, and for the journey, here," Harry said, giving the man a bag of coins. "Pay for a good escort of sellswords, I have not had time to secure the roads of my domain yet."
The man bowed again and left.
"You've not said anything," Harry noted, turning to Jon.
"I didn't have anything to say, the man seemed to know his subject and you what you wanted. So, are you happy?"
"Well, that's one teacher. He will work great to unload the Maester's shoulders and teach the children for now, but I will need a lot more. If Albert is right, I should have over 2000 by pupils this time next year. And with winter approaching, I will probably have a lot more very soon. So, assuming a teacher teaches to fifty children, I have to get 40 teachers. And that would be if they worked all the time. I have to get at least three times that number." Harry paused. "Jon, I've just thought of something."
"What about the children under the age of six? I can't have them at my school, but there are orphans, and beggars, and such."
"Well, yes, but if you can't have them at school, what can you do?"
"I can fund an orphanage. The money is not a problem, and the kids would be all right, then. And once they turn six, they come to my school."
Harry met three other teachers, in his time in Kings Landing. He also made a good friend of Margery Tyrell. Once she opened up a bit she was almost as witty as Tyrion. But she saw the world in a different light, she was hopeful, she had been happy. Harry discussed his idea of an orphanage with her, and she helped him plan for it. Apparently, she loved children and had done a lot or charity work in Highgarden.
One day a servant came with a message from Lady Olenna asking him for tea in the afternoon. He went, wondering what the woman wanted.
"My Lady," Harry greeted, bowing with a smile.
"Harry, sit," she answered, smiling too. "I need to speak with you."
"You seem to like the company of my granddaughter."
For a second, Harry didn't see. Then he blinked, and he understood, and blushed.
"Certainly, a Tyrell would not marry me, My Lady. I have no illusion on it."
The old woman stared at him for a moment.
"You do not seem quite aware that, after the seven Great Houses, you posses the biggest and richest land in the Seven Kingdoms, Harry. The Lady Whent was an idiot, but you are not and I am certain you will prosper, if you haven't already."
"There are Lords with no Lady wife that are much nobler than me."
"Harry, I want my granddaughter to be happy. I do not believe marrying that fool Edmure Tully, twice her age, or little prince Tommen, half her age, would make her so. I have met you, spoken to you, spied on you, learned all I can about you, which is maybe not as much as I would like, and decided that you would make Margery happy."
"She does not love me."
"She likes you as a friend, and I know marriages that have started much worse than that."
Harry erected a silencing spell, just to make sure.
"My Lady, I must speak truly, because these matters are important and long lasting. I do not like the company of women."
The woman looked at him, apparently surprised but not shocked.
"Well, at least that explains why you didn't blink twice when she uncovered her breast on purpose two days ago."
"I wish for Margery to find love and happiness with a loving husband, because she is my friend. As I will very obviously not marry for love, here is what I say. Margery is sixteen. I imagine that your willingness to marry her to me now has to do with her father's pushing, and you worrying she might not find a husband if she does not hurry to do so. Maybe you had planned to marry her to Joffrey, but that road seems barred. So, I promise you to marry her if, at twenty, she has not found another husband. I will do so, even if she is pregnant with a gigolo's bastard. She is my friend, and I would rather she not be my wife. But I would also prefer it if she didn't do an awful marriage because she feels she has no other choice."
The old Lady looked at Harry for a long time, wondering at him.
"I believe you will honor your word, Harry. I cannot say how much this is worth for me. I will tell her father what you have said, with some editing. I will also tell Margery, of course."
"As I said, she is a friend. So, My Lady, how have you been?"
Jon had wanted to compete in the Hand's Tourney, but as his father hated it, he had finally declined to do so. They went and Harry placed bets against Tyrion, which was fun, especially since he couldn't really lose money. He lost most of the bets, but Tyrion told him afterwards that apparently winning when you know your adversary is not loosing is not much fun. And finally, after three other new teachers had been sent to Harrenhall, Harry and Jon departed the capital. Harry left each of the Starks with a way to reach him if they were ever in trouble and promised to come from time to time to bring them back and forth to Winterfell.
Hope you liked this chapter! If I don't get buried (no, not under homework, I mean literally, because I might die from concentrating too much for my paper and get buried, or cremated, but that's another problem altogether XP) I'll see you guys next week for Chapter 5.
As always, if you saw mistakes in spelling, expressions that weren't quite right, something like that, please say so. English isn't my first language, and I'm always looking forward to improving my skills ^^
And if you just want to leave a review just to say how great an author I am, I also understand XD