Freddy Mercury: The Great Pretender.
Florida Georgia Line: Simple.
Imagine Dragons: I'm So Sorry
Chapter Nine: Amber Part II.
It was odd, this place. Haraella didn't know how she had come to be here, neither could she tell you how long she had been there, only that she was, somehow… Here? There? In a… Place, and she didn't know whether she was dreaming or not. Did it have to be either? Perhaps it was both. Dreams could be real, in a sense. And this felt real. That had to count for something, right? She was poignantly aware of her heartbeat hammering against her ribs, like a war drum thrumming. She could feel the sweat trickling down her back, making her tunic sticky, tight, restrictive. She felt the hot blow of breath seizing her chest, fast, in and out, jagged like a broken sword. She felt heavy and solid, muscles tense and joints locking, and there was a burning fire in left arm, as if it had been shoved right into the heart of a blazing furnace. Flicking her tongue across the back of her bottom teeth, she could still feel the fleshy mandrake leaf she had placed under her tongue a month past. Good. Yes. She felt very much real, but the world around her reeked of magic and dreams.
She knew this room. Of course she did. It was a bedchamber, her bedchamber, from Volantis. It was dusky, but decadently warm, lit by candles to bathe it in pleasant orange light. And when the sun set over Volantis, after a hard day's work meeting with the heads and councils of Volantis to make sure her decisions represented what the people, the real people, of Volantis wanted, the white-washed walls blazed golden, rich and bright. It smelled like cinnamon and crushed spices, clove and jasmine swaying from the smoking incense, making the air dense, hot, edgy. There wasn't much here, she had never been an avid decorator. She was used to being spartan, plain, but her bed, right in the middle of the room, was her only extravagance. It was a beast of a thing, intricately carved, canopied by thin silks and chiffon. Merlin, she adored that fuckin' bed, even if she never got much sleep in it. Sometimes, she would lay upon it, draw the canopy closed, and with the golden sun filtering through the red and gold silks, she would pretend she was in the belly of Vaenora, safe, encapsulated, warm. Some nights, that's all she did. Her balcony was open, curtains billowing, letting in the balmy night breeze that, she thought, carried whispers. Rest. Yes, she could do with some rest. She was so very tired.
Haraella stumbled towards the bed, almost drunkenly, but cautiously stopped when she heard a husky moan break from the depths of the closed canopy. The sheer material of the bed curtains hid the people upon it, but she could see their silhouettes, their shadows, undulating, lapping and, as another groan, deeper… Male twirled towards her, something hot and heavy lodged itself in her throat. Then anger struck home. Who the hell was fuckin' in her bed? Quite literally? Marching towards the bed with weighty feet, she reached out and grasped one of the curtains and very nearly ripped it down as she wrenched it to the side. It took her a moment to process what she was seeing.
It was like a Grecian tableau, a marble effigy of desire, the rape of Persephone rendered in flesh. There was a tangle of long, pale limbs, clasping, straining, tugging. Closer. Closer. Entwining. Rolling like the sea, when one ebbed the other flowed. And that was her, on the bed, her on her back, arching, head rolling, pressing into the pillows and sheets, gasping and groaning in a way the real her, the one seeing this, never had. The her-on-the-bed was flushed, trembling, curling, chest heaving as someone's head worked between her trembling thighs, fingers caught in locks of hair, a breathy plea escaping flushed lips. Haraella couldn't tell where one body started, whose hand was whose, and where they ended. And she couldn't bloody look away.
The male began to work his way up, back glistening, the candles painting his sweat to gold dust, muscles rippling as he languished upwards, kissing and licking from navel to throat achingly slow. Haraella still couldn't look away, even as the rolling hips wrenched more moans from the her-that-wasn't-her's straining throat. A nimble hand worked its way to her-but-not-her's neck, tilting chin up and towards her as he nuzzled in, gasping as his hips snapped tighter, faster, stronger, driving. For a moment, Haraella thought she recognized the scar, silver and thin, cutting across his middle knuckle. But then his head turned, just a fraction, to suck and nip at the her-that-definitely-wasn't-hers Adam apple, the low light spilled onto his face like ink and Haraella caught the metallic glint of his white hair, the lilac eyes tinted dusk by candlelight.
Haraella dropped the curtain back with a sharp intake of breath, lurching away, falling right onto her arse. She scrambled further, skidding, knees weak and buckling as she tried to find balance. She managed to find some purchase on the rug, and darted for the wall, where her door should have been. It was gone. Panicked, she began edging around the walls, hands running over smooth plaster, searching for the door. She remembered now. She remembered Tom. She remembered Sirius. She remembered everything.
"Let me out! You hear me! Let me out now! Dammit, give me Dumbledore! Bellatrix! I'll bloody take Dolohov! Just let me out now you foul bastards!"
The creaking of the bed warned her someone was moving, coming, even as she frantically beat at the wall, kicking and punching and slapping. Against her will, her head shot around, eyes wide, frozen like a deer caught in blinding headlights, watching helplessly as the canopy curtain was pulled back, the her-that-really-was-not-bloody-her gone, vanished from the bed, the man slipping through the opening, a sheet wrapped low on his hips, staring straight at her. Haraella turned right back to that wall and hit it with renewed vigour. If they wouldn't give her a bloody door, she would punch her way through if need be. Yet, her left arm was failing, faltering, the rot and death creeping up to shoulder joint now, and she could hardly gain the strength to lift the damned thing. The pounding of her fists mixed with the thrashing of her heart, which in turn mixed with the leisurely steps echoing out behind her, one by one, skulking closer. One by one, like candles going out, they stopped. First the steps, as she felt something pushing close to her back, then her fists, when that something hummed, cavernous, and her heart when she heard the voice she knew all too well.
"Isn't this what you want?"
She was going to kill them, these things playing games with her, taunting her, messing with her mind. All of them. She would burn them all. No one would ever remember their names once she was through with them. Carve their hearts out and force the fuckers to eat it raw. A long-fingered hand skimmed up her back, fingertips trailing, and all thoughts of violent retribution fled her. It was soft, gentle, like raindrops in reverse. It trailed the curve of her spine, swept over the slope of her shoulder blade, winding around her arm, strong but supple. Haraella panicked.
"Stop it! Let me out!"
The hand tugged, as zealous and contrarily gentle as the man himself, spinning her around to face the one thing she didn't want to see. Him. It really was him standing before her, not a trick of the light, a momentary lapse of sanity, but him, right there, baring only a loose silk sheet. He looked like a Greek god in the shadowy light, all Apollo singing to his Daphne. Haraella backed herself into the wall, clamped her eyes shut, like a toddler who thought if they couldn't see it, the it couldn't see them. Her respite didn't last long. He took a step closer, chest nearly touching chest, and her eyes snapped open in alarm. The man tilted his head, innocently, almost patronizingly, he was always caught between amiability and viciousness after all, and his bedraggled silver curls brushed the lax muscle of his shoulder.
"But isn't this what want? You've thought about it. I know you have. You thought about it from the first time you saw me, standing underneath the Essos sun."
No. No fucking way. Nope. Hell-fuckin' no. She was not doing this. This, no. Tom had been her fear, Sirius her guilt, but this? What she just saw? No. She unconditionally rejected to believe any of this, even a malformed half-forgotten remnant of it, lived within her. It couldn't. It didn't. This was just a game. The things eating her were showing her nightmares. Yes, nightmares. They had taken a familiar face, twisted it revoltingly, and left it here to unseat her, unsettle her, halt her. That was all. And they would pay for doing this-… This… This to his memory. Yet, Haraella remembered. She had been hurt, bleeding, half delirious from awaking on the tacky Volantis sands, stumbling through the market place, lost and thirsty, and then she had saw him. He had been tall, proud, even dressed in faded cottons and well-worn leathers. So proud, removed, but broken in such a subtle way, in the lines of his stern mouth, the hunch of his shoulders, the paranoid dart of his eyes. Broken like her. The sun had dipped him in glorious gold that could not hide the shadows underneath his eyes, could not stop the savagery of his face, could not lesson the keenness of his features, and Haraella, half dead on her feet, had seen him and thought-
"You thought me beautiful."
His voice was husky, but had that familiar bite to it, sharp and acidic. Like fresh lemonade, it quenched a thirst Haraella didn't know she had. But it was wrong, so wrong, and this was a game, conjured by devourers, pilfering through her thoughts, even now, reading her like a book, enchanting her insecurities and disbelief to life. She couldn't trust anything here, not this room, not the man in front of her, not herself, in truth. The hand on her bicep unhurriedly danced along the groove of her arm, up and over shoulder, fingertips gliding over collarbone, dipping down into the crudely stitched neck hem of her tunic. Haraella stumbled through her stout, fragmented rebuttal.
"That was before I knew who you were… And that's okay. I only thought you looked beautiful. You can think that about family… Can't you? Yes… Yes… That's normal… It is… It is… But that… That on the bed… No… Wrong… Stop it…"
His hand fell further into the collar of her tunic, the flimsy ties easily coming undone from deft fingers. All too soon, the front flap of her tunic was slipping open, and his fingers were back on her chest, slipping over the very top swell of her surging breast, underneath the thin material of her low shift, stopping momentarily over the pounding heart housed in tender flesh. No one had ever touched her like this before, not so softly and Haraella didn't know what to do. She knew what to do when hit, she hit back with twice the force. She knew what to do when she was grabbed and squeezed, she flipped and elbowed her way to freedom. She knew what to do when strangled, bitten, clawed, cut, she knew it all, but this… This was so terrifyingly new and fresh and… She knew she should move, run, smack his hand away in disgust or punch him, anything at all, but she doesn't. He is speaking in that soothing, raspy voice of his, and like a cobra, she is entranced by the man with a flute for a voice.
"But you want it. You've dreamt it when the nightmares haven't taken you. You wake up, flustered, hot, quivering in a cold empty bed, hand inching up shift, right to the ache that burns, fingers dancing across goose-pimpled flesh. But you don't know what to do, how to slake the burn, and you only ever make it worse, an inferno that leaves you cindering, hurting, throbbing… I can show you how to…"
If asked, Haraella couldn't tell you whether it was he or she who closed the distance. Yet, she felt it. His nose skimmed her cheek, dipping into her riotous hair, lips fluttering at the shell of her ear. Her breaths were coming reckless and brief now, as if her body didn't care for air no longer, not if she could have him exactly where he was. His hand delved deeper still, down the arc of her breast to settle in anticipation under its curve, leaving a path of heated flesh scorching in the wake of his touch. His other hand was not idle, it crested upon her breach covered thigh, slithering higher, achingly so, coiling around, between her clasped legs, slow, higher, closer.
"I don't… I don't…"
Was that her voice? So airy and hoarse? It didn't sound like her. She wasn't acting like herself. She didn't feel like herself, in at that moment. She felt like she had shed her skin, her bones and flesh, scales falling until she was just a tightly wound pocket of energy, alive, one giant nerve, free from restraint and control. Haraella hadn't even noticed her own hands moving, up and onto his arms, before the tingling in her fingers told her they were heading towards numbness. Her fingers clenched even harder and, for a split second, even with her blunt nails, she thought she may have cut him, marked him, left a trace of herself upon his skin and that really shouldn't sound as good as it did to her. She told herself to shove him away, just push, one push. End it. Cut herself free, re-wear her body and come back from the sky. She hadn't… This… Disgusting… Despicable… sickening… Wrong. So wrong.
"You do, you just pretend you don't. You don't have to pretend here. This isn't really me, is it? It's not wrong if it isn't really me. There's no right or wrong here. Just me and you."
Haraella Targaryen, saviour of the wizarding world, master of death, rider of dragons and bringer of fire… The greatest pretender. That was what she was, that was her true title. She pretended she wasn't scared. She pretended that everything, if she tried hard enough, would turn out alright in the end. She pretended that the world could become something great and true, if but given the chance. She pretended she was a half functional human being most days. She pretended she was bloody half sane. She pretended she couldn't see ghosts everywhere she looked. She pretended that she didn't pretend, because once you started to pretend for long enough, you convinced yourself. She faked and imitated and pretended.
And by Merlin, she was fuckin' good at it. People looked at her and they saw arrogance and pride instead of her fear, because if no one was going to believe her, if even she was indecisive of her decisions, every single one, at least she could pretend she believed in herself, even if she didn't. People looked at her and they saw someone who would never give in, a stubborn fool who just kept getting back up, a rock-headed, hot-tempered persistent fucker, even when, really, she just kept going because she wasn't sure what else to do, what really was right and wrong, and one day, the final blow would come and she really wouldn't be able to get back up again and, just a little bit, she wanted that day to come sooner rather than later, before people started to see what a great fuckin' pretender she was.
People looked at her and they thought she knew, oh, Haraella had a conscious, a moral compass, she had hope. They didn't see, day by day, that hope being chipped away, the black and white world of wrong and right bleaching itself to shades of grey that Haraella had no idea where she belonged, what she stood for, or what the hell she was doing most of the time in this grey-scale world of moral ambiguity. She was like a mindless dog chasing a car, she had no bloody idea what she would ever do if she actually caught it. Most days, she made it up as she went along. Haraella always had a plan? Don't make her laugh. Her life was nothing but snap decisions and failures.
Worst of all, she pretended she was okay, that dreams didn't haunt her, that she was as stable and balanced as the next person. She pretended she was good. Somewhere along the way, she had started to believe it too. Kill this Baratheon so her family could live? That seemed like a fair trade, something right. Take over Volantis to ensure security? What else? Transplant herself in a foreign constituency, rule over state, over people she had no idea about, no customs or cultural knowledge, and just hope for the best? Why not? Use her dragon to infuse fear in possible enemies? May as well! Once establishing a secure standing, invade and conquer a land she had never seen the shores of? Take back a throne that, perhaps, might not be a Targaryen's right anymore? Start a fuckin' war for a bloody chair? Yes, very sane decisions there, Haraella! Very fuckin' sane! All the while, pretending she had the moral high ground so maybe, just maybe, for once, she could live with herself? Oh, no one pretended as good as she.
Her numbing hands slipped free, warmth flooding back into her cramping fingers as the man eased them off his arms. His skin was clear, pale, unmarked. It infuriated her. Then they were moving, him holding her hands, slowly leading her forwards, his face still so close, towards the bed.
"Come to bed…"
What was one more pretence? After all the sins she had committed, the sins she will commit, what was one more on her long list? He was right, it wasn't really him, so why was it so wrong? Why was it wrong to be selfish, just this once? Why was it wrong to want to be touched? Loved? Alive? Why was it wrong to want to feel something other than pain? In abhorrent, repulsive truth, some part of this man, some part of this circumstance, some little seed of it, must have been in her mind for the creatures to invoke it out of her. It must have been. How else would they have done this? Why else wasn't she shoving him away and vomiting? Haraella knew it deep down, in the very back of her mind where she kept all the horrid little dreams and thoughts she obstinately pretended didn't exist, she had conjured herself, that some little bit of this, the want and need, had been there, inside of her. Why was it wrong to take advantage of that? And so, she acknowledged it, spoke his name, thought it, and made it real.
He pulled away an inch, twirled her, and the back of her knees met the bed. His hands interlocked with hers were the only thing keeping her standing. He smiled at her then, and there it was, the softness, the real Viserys. It was all devoted lips, yearning brightness and keen teeth. It was exactly what she wanted right then, all she wanted… And it was that smile and what he said next that brought her crashing back into herself with a breaking sort of realisation.
"I love you."
No. No he didn't. Not the real Viserys. No one loved her. Not this way. Why? Because she wasn't a good person. She was a vicious, wrathful, dogged fool. She got up when she should stay down. She pretended to be sure when she was scared. She faked being okay to keep on going. She took when she had no right. She fought and spat and bit… And she would continue to do so. Was it right for her to insert herself into Volantis? No. Yet, she did and she would do so again to keep Viserys, Aegon and Daenerys safe. Was it right for her to try and take back a throne her predecessors had lost through their own follies and failures? No. But the throne was the only sure means Haraella knew of that could guarantee long-term security for Viserys, Aegon and Daenerys. It was what they wanted, what they had fought for, for so long, and continued to fight for, no matter what she said or did, it was what they needed, and so Haraella would take and she wouldn't ask. Was it right for her to war with this Baratheon when he had, not personally, done her any harm? No. But he had caused harm to her aunt, cousin and uncle, he continued to do so with every sell-sword and mercenary and assassin caught in Volantenese walls. He had slain half her family, even if she had never met them, and that was a debt Haraella will collect on.
For them, Viserys, Aegon and Daenerys, she would damn herself. For them, she would set the world on fire and burn right along with it. For them, she would be the villain. She'll get up again and again until it's the other person who can't stand no longer. She'll take the throne through force if necessary. She'll take vengeance in her families name. She'll take a crown and kill a king and put her family on that damned seat if it was the last thing she did because she was not a good person. She was selfish, bloody, warmongering, violent and volatile. And she would do it all with a smile on her face because she had one redeeming quality left in the cesspool that was herself. There was one thing she never, not for one moment, had to pretend with. Her love for her family.
"No. No you don't."
Haraella said with a surety that surprised even her, tone placid and even as she pulled her hands free of his. She wasn't a good person, she was a broken thing, and Viserys, the real Viserys, would never want her. Not like this. And because that hurt, that realisation, it showed her just how fucked in the head she was. The fact that some little part of her, no matter how small, actually wanted anything like this shouted of the depths of her defectiveness. He was her uncle, her family, and here she was, nearly tempted into bed by a perverse apparition of her own trickery. These creatures were in her head, pulling forth her own inner workings, not theirs, ensnaring her by her own fears, hurts and desires, and that meant this Viserys, the idea of him wanting her in such a way, lived in her, somewhere, and she couldn't run from her own mind any longer.
For a heartbeat, for a turn of a clock, for one skip of a pebble on an immense lake, Haraella didn't have to pretend and she soaked it in and buried it deep. With one last steadying breath, she slid her mask back on, strapped it tightly, braced her hands on Viserys's chest, looked at that smile one last time, sure it would be the only time she would get to see such love aimed at her, and pushed. The room burst into sparkling light.
It was odd, this place. Haraella didn't know how she had come to be here, neither could she tell you how long she had been there, only that she was, somehow… Here? There? In a… Place, and she didn't know whether she was dreaming or not. Did it have to be either? Perhaps it was both. Dreams could be real, in a sense. And this felt real. That had to count for something, right? She was poignantly aware of her heartbeat hammering against her ribs, like a war drum thrumming. She could feel the sweat trickling down her back, making her tunic sticky, tight, restrictive. She felt the hot blow of breath seizing her chest, fast, in and out, jagged like a broken sword. She felt heavy and solid, muscles tense and joints locking, and her left arm felt totally asleep, almost none existent. Flicking her tongue across the back of her bottom teeth, she could still feel the fleshy mandrake leaf she had placed under her tongue a month past. Good. Yes. She felt very much real, but the world around her reeked of magic and dreams.
This time, it was harder to come around. Everything was tranquil, easy, a stretch of open road leading to a nowhere in particular. She was reclining on a coach of some sort, on an open veranda in Volantis's palace, the plush velvet easing the rattle of soreness from her bones and cocooning her weary muscles, the Volantenese sun lively and warming her cool skin. She felt like a python, lounging on a sun-rock, lazy and adrift without a care in the world. Something weighty and warm was cradled in her arms, resting upon her chest, and she found herself humming a little tune, sunny and breezy.
Glancing down, Haraella was met with a babe. He, yes, she was sure it was a he, even if she wasn't sure how she was sure he was, was slumbering peacefully upon her torso, as carefree as she felt. He was a precious thing, rounded, plump, bleached lashes resting on flushed cheeks. His hair was straight, more silver than her blinding white, and long for his age, which was barely a year old Haraella would guess. At the abrupt stop of her hummed song, a lullaby long lost by Haraella's memory, his little eye peeped open. Cheerful green clashed with jaded green. He had her eyes, and yet, none of their harshness. Haraella grinned and picked up the tune once more, settling back into the coach, pushing down any weariness or doubt or confusion. There was nothing before. Just this. This balcony, this babe, and this warm, soft heat.
"Ah, how is my Jaemerys this lovely morn?"
Haraella cracked an eye open, glancing to the veranda doors, spotting Aegon standing on the crux of the doorway, elegantly leaning on the wall with a prop of his crossed arms. He was taller now by an inch or two, likely dwarfing her if she stood next to him, and his shocking blue hair was gone. In its wake was a waterfall of liquid silver, straight and gleaming, darker than Viserys tinted locks, a whole shade separated from Haraella's snowy tresses… The same shade as the babes hair colour.
"Jaemerys? Like James?"
Aegon kicked away from the door, strolling towards her, lightly lifting her legs up so he could slip underneath before placing them over his lap. His thumb stayed at her bare ankle, idly stroking the sensitive skin. She felt too lazy to move, too warm and cosy. It was easy here. One, two, three. Simple. There was no need to complicate anything or everything. She could just breathe and exist and hold this babe who was apparently named after her parent.
"Of course. Don't you remember naming your own son?"
Haraella did sit up at this, her legs sliding off Aegon's lap, though she did not fully detach herself from either the coach or Aegon. Her son? She had a son? She squinted down at the babe nestled in her arms, saw his green eyes, Lily's lips, Daeron's dimples, the barer of James's name, and, somehow, it made sense. Yes. This was her son. Hers. For a moment, Haraella, perhaps, understood just a fraction of the reason Lily had thrown herself in front of her, a mystery that had partially eluded Haraella for all of her life. This was her son. The grin on Aegon's face reminded her of Sirius and something, a little worm, squiggled in her gut. Nevertheless, the easy wind swept the uncertainties away to thunder another day. How can she worry when it was so sunny? So easy? So… Simple?
"My son? He's mine?"
Aegon slid closer to her side, wrapping an arm around the back of the coach. He had to lean over her shoulder a bit to get a good look at the babe, making him hunch, but his smile never wavered, as he gently reached over with his free hand and rubbed the pad of his finger over the swell of the babes cheek. Jaemerys cooed back.
"Just as much as he is mine."
Aegon said with such an easy manner as he leant down further and kissed her cheek, still stroking and murmuring to the babe, and Haraella remembered a candle lit room, someone on a bed, being pushed against a wall… Wrong… But before she could grab it, the thought was gone, replaced by domestic simplicity. Instead, she glanced to the empty side of herself, frowning.
"Something's wrong. Something's missing."
Aegon's arm fell from the back of the coach, coming to a solid rest on her shoulders, his head lolling to rest his cheek against the crown of her hair. Panic began to set in, but he started humming the tune she had dropped, softly running his hand through her hair, over and over, delicately, tenderly, coaxingly, and Haraella let the tune wash over her, wash away her worries, the apprehensions, the ill sitting gut. There was no room for any of that here. She leant into him, eyes drifting shut. It was so easy to breathe here.
"Aye, they'll be here soon. You know how Viserys gets. When little Rhaella says she wants a toy ship, Viserys buys her a naval fleet. They're down at the courtyard, picking flowers for you."
Haraella found herself humming along to the tune.
On the back of her closed eyelids, she saw a little red-headed girl, with Viserys's grin and violet eyes. Her little dragon flame. Her eyes snapped open. Aegon pulled back, but his fingers kept up that hypnotic stroking. The panic wasn't so easy to shake off this time.
"Rhaella, your daughter? Viserys's daughter? You really don't remember, do you?"
No, she remembered nothing but this veranda, the sunshine, the comfort and effortlessness. With rising dread, Haraella wasn't sure she wanted to remember. Before, It was dark, and gloomy, and-… She remembered pain, and anguish, and struggle, so much struggle, and she didn't want to remember. She didn't want it. She shouldn't question, never question, because then it would all come back, and she wanted this. Just this. The sunshine. The babe at her chest. Family. Sunshine. Peace. That's all. She wanted it, and wanted it, and wanted it until it ran in rhythm to her heart, until it was in every thought, until it was all she was and ever would be. Still, her damned mouth ran off.
"I… This is our son and Rhaella is mine and Viserys's daughter? I-"
Aegon shushed her, pulling her close.
"It's alright. It's just the sun or something you ate. Stay a while and you'll remember."
But how could everything be alright if she forgot her own children? How could it be when she felt that darkness pressing in on her, surrounding her? Why did her arm feel dead? Why couldn't she remember? Why didn't she want to remember? That was wrong, wasn't it? Most people, Haraella thought, would want to know what was going on, why things were happening, why they were the way they were? Aegon pressed a kiss to her temple, soft, easy, and undeniably wrong. This was all wrong. Where was Daenerys? Vaenora? Viserys?
"Stay? No… No, I have to-… There's somewhere I need to be… I just…"
Carefully, Aegon took Jaemerys from her trembling arms, coming to a stand, rocking him back and forth. Haraella stumbled up, spinning, around and around, looking, searching. There was something she needed. Something she was supposed to be doing. But then she settled on Aegon again, standing in the sun, haloed by silver, humming to her son… Their son, and the want was back full force.
"Peace, family and love. There's only this here. No war. No blood. No pain. Just sun, family and simplicity. As easy as breathing. You don't have to fight for it here. You can simply have it. That is what you want, isn't it?"
That is what you want, isn't it?
And the spell was gone, cracked, desiccated. She remembered. Sirius had asked her the same. Viserys as well. Now Aegon. She was still bloody trapped. She was still dying.
"You're not real. My children-. Those things aren't real."
"Who's to say what is real and what isn't anymore? This can be real too, if you want it to be."
Haraella shook her head.
"That's not how the world works. I wish it was. I really wish it was. But, sadly, it isn't. Now, let me out."
Aegon took a step closer, close enough so she could see the babes face once more, but Haraella resolutely turned her head, refused to look. It wasn't real.
"But it can here. Just stay with me."
Pain, excruciating agony, ripped through her arm. Haraella's knee's buckled and she crashed to the floor, groaning, huddling. Straining, she pulled her arm away from her chest and saw nothing but devastation, her skin was blackened, split, seeping and dead. And it was spreading at an alarming rate, quicker than before, right up and over her chest, to her heart. She could feel it, sizzling her pathways, sucking and drying, mummifying her from the inside out. Soon, if she didn't end this, it would be too late to heal, too late to survive… Too late. In the peripherals of her vision, she saw Aegon extending his hand to her, palm up, fingers splayed invitingly. Tom had been her mocking fear, all spiteful and vengeful. Sirius had been her guilt, dusted in shades of sorrow and melancholy. Viserys had been her impulsivity, her veiled desires wearing a mask of pretty seduction. And Aegon? Aegon was her nucleus, her core, the most basic and fundamental things she wished she had, that she wanted, needed, and worked for. Peace. Family. Love. Just three. In Aegon's eyes, she saw what she wanted to become reflected back. He saw something good in her, something worth putting up with her shit for. She wished she was what Aegon thought she was. Aegon was her dream of a simple, peaceful future. She wanted to be the person he was so sure he had dreamed about. In Haraella's jaded world of cynics and politics, in a land of Snapes and Voldemorts, Aegon was like a breath of fresh air after months of drowning.
"That's it, just take my hand and it can all be yours. The pain will stop. The struggle will stop. You can have it all."
Haraella dragged herself to a slumped stand, still clutching at her arm, eyeing up the hand. Would it be so bad to die here, surround by sunshine, family and love? There were worse ways to go, Haraella intimately knew. Would it be so bad to die next to a person who still believed she was worthy? Aegon had dreamed of her, saw her life, and he had not turned away, ran, or shown an ounce of disdain like she thought he would. Haraella didn't know whether she half loved the big bastard for it, or if she cursed him for his own blind foolishness. Here, with Aegon, she knew it could be easy. Simple.
Yet, it was because of Aegon's belief in her, as misplaced as she might have thought it was, that stopped her from taking his hand. If he believed she could become better, that she was better, then perhaps she could fuckin' try. The real Aegon would be telling her Haraella Targaryen wouldn't lie down and take it. The real Aegon would be telling her not to give in. The real Aegon would be telling her to have some bloody hope, you pragmatist twat! Perhaps not in those words, he'd put it more flowery and poetic, but Haraella understood the sentiment. Tom had taught her not to give into her fear. Sirius told her to let go of the past. Viserys had shown her it was time to stop pretending. And Aegon? That little ray of sunshine had told to keep hoping and pushing for betterment. Of herself, of the future, of the world around her. Plus, she hadn't earned her happy ending yet, had she? She still needed to protect her family. She still needed to make her treatment of Aegon up to him. She still owed Daenerys a safe home. And, before she died, she was going to see Viserys carefree. She promised herself that much. Haraella grinned.
"Now where's the fun in that?"
Swiftly, with her waning strength, Haraella bolted to the side, towards the end of the veranda, by the railing of the balcony, and with a yell, she threw herself clean off the side. The sun shattered.
Haraella awoke like she had fallen from a great height, with a jump, a snarl and a healthy dose of adrenalin propelling through her body. The first thing she did was look straight to her left arm, only to find untarnished skin, if a bit on the blue side. Good. It meant her withered arm was only a mental manifestation of her body being exhausted of magic. Bad, because, well, she was being drained of her fuckin' magic. The second thing she did was notice the chaffing around her neck, around her wrists and feet. Thick iron collars were cuffed around her limbs, her wrists and ankles, around her throat. From them sprouted denser chains, sturdy ropes of black iron, pulling her arms taut beside her, spread like wings, pinning her feet to the spot, her neck one leading to a small podium just behind her, chaining her to the ground like a bloody dog. The room was the same as the first, small, circular, with many doors lining the walls, stinking of dirt and rot. Experimentally, she gave a tug to her chains, a foot step from a dark corner forced her to whip back to the front.
The man, if it was such a thing, was thin, nearly devastatingly so. Spindly, bald, his lips were stained blue, and his old robes were half eaten by moths. Perhaps he had been human once, a very, very, very long ago, but now? Now magic had malformed him, twisted him into something other. And it was this other that had been rooting around her mind, putting her through hell, consuming her.
"What do you want from me?"
He tilted his head to the side, gave her a sweeping glance, and licked his lips. His tongue was black and thin. Another voice, off to her right, piped up. Haraella's head darted to the side, only to see the exact same man, thing, as the one in front of her. Duplication? Illusion? Transfiguration? Unwittingly, she tugged on her chains again, but her arm stayed straight and true. Fuck. She didn't have her wand. The two, or one, man began to walk around her, circling.
"We're hungry. So very hungry. This land used to be full of magic and belief. Now it's dying and blind. When you slipped through the rift between your world and ours, you brought your magic with you, and in turn, our magic was reborn."
The other picked up from the one that had spoken, and their voice was exactly the same, and if hushed, if whispered, they would sound like the wind. A million voices in one. It was definitely them that had done this to her. Haraella gritted her teeth.
"Through you, we can feed from the magic in your world. Our magic grows with every second you are here."
Haraella rolled her neck and winced as the collar cut in tight. There was no way to wiggle out of the chains, her wand was gone, and if she kept this up, her magic would be too drained to do much more than conjure a bloody pebble.
"I'm a conduit. A lightning rod. You're using me like a crazy fuckin' straw."
This had never been about her, not personally. It wasn't even about her family. She was just the key to the great prize. This was about where she was from. She would be stupid if she didn't admit she had noticed the shift in this place. Magic was rare, scarce, almost unheard of in places. No one knew about America, England, Europe or Asia. But a different world? A whole other dimension? That was a lot to swallow.
"Why not just go to my world? If you want that magic so badly, why not go right for the source? Magic isn't rare where I am from, it's in our DNA, a part of us, we're born with it, it grows with us, infused. One tenth of the worlds population is magically inclined where I am from."
Not that she wanted them to. Far from it. Nonetheless, if she was going to stop them, she needed to know what their endgame was exactly. If this worlds magic was dying, nothing but a wasteland of wilting flowers, and they had still managed to magic what they had with only her magic to feed from, what would they be capable of if they had her worlds magic as a battery pack? Desolation. Nothing less.
"We are not born of that land. We could not stay."
Another one appears, now three, like vultures, were dancing around her.
"Your taking my magic so you can get to my world. With my magic, you can cross and stay, can't you?"
They stopped simultainoulsy, eerily in sync. Mockingly, they smiled and bowed their heads, hands clasped in front of their ragged robes.
"I can't let you do this. I won't let you hurt anyone."
One stepped up, reached for her face, but Haraella reared her head back as far as the chain allowed her to.
"There's nothing you can do. Your mother's love will not protect you here. Your father's spirit has led you into chains. You could have faded serenely in the illusion's we had given you. Instead, you fought and now you will die alone. Forgotten."
You have James's heart.
That was what Sirius had told her, wasn't it? And why was that important to remember here and now? What was James renowned for? Oh boy, it was risky. Beyond dangerous. It was foolish. Stupid. Reckless… Exactly up her alley. She had not made the potion, neither had she performed the six-day ritual, but she had the mandrake leaf, right there, hidden in the depths of her mouth, safe and sound under her tongue, and really, the potion was founded on that leaf alone, and the last dregs of her magic. In the old lore, skin-walkers were said to be able to shift since infancy, when the first signs of their magic presented itself. They, the wizarding world, had lost that knowledge, or perhaps, they had bogged it down with intricacies and tradition. Still, she was wandless, nearly depleted, and chained like an animal already. Worst case scenario, she became something half mutated, a crossbreed, trapped and cursed, or perhaps inside out. And if she was going to die, it would be free, chainless, or she'd die trying.
"Everybody always forgets."
Haraella rolled the mandrake leaf out from underneath her tongue, flicking it between her teeth.
Haraella smiled and the man saw what was between her fangs, the flash of green.
"James was my father too. I'm as much a Potter as a Targaryen or Evans, and you never back a Potter into a corner."
His hand shot out, grabbed her harshly by the jaw, growling with wide eyes, but it was too late. Haraella chewed and swallowed. The man howled, clawing at her face with sharp nails, cutting into her, but there was nothing he could do. With her last bit of magic, Haraella concentrated, forced it into her gut, balling it, condensing, pushing it tightly around and around. The man reached for her neck, went to snap it before it was too late, but it already was, it always was, and with one last prayer, Haraella let the swirling ball of magic inside blow.
Skin ripped and muscles burst, bones cracked and elongated, hair shredded, and blood boiled. The man was sent sailing back, the other two cowered, the room shook as the chains and collars shattered, the roof caved in and the back wall was blown completely out as limb and tail and claw erupted forth, as tooth and scale gleamed. And with one expansive breath, the room was engulfed by raging orange fire. The screams of the men were drowned out by the roar of a dragon.
NEXT CHAPTER: We are in Westeros!
VOTING: I've carefully read what everyone had to say, taken a lot on board, and hopefully come to a solution everyone will like. Most of you were right, it was mean of me to suddenly change the pairing half way through the story, when most had already invested in it. I'm sorry if I've upset anyone, it really wasn't my intention. And I do value what you guys have to say, I really do. All that being said, this fic is staying as a Viserys/Haraella/Aegon fic. Nothing is changing.
HOWEVER, I am going to be releasing a new fic for all those champions pulling for Jon Snow, called In The Ruins of Our Glory, which will be a Fem!Harry/Jon Snow fic. It will be quite different to this one, Fem!Harry isn't going to be Haraella, but she is a Targaryen. It will also be lighter then this fic, more family orientated. And the Martells play a HUGE role within it (The Martells are my favourite house). I'm in the process of writing up the prologue, and the first chapter should be published next week, Saturday/Sunday. For a little teaser, here is the summary:
In The Ruins of Our Glory.
Through Rhaegar's folly, a kingdom shattered, blood was spilled, and a legacy was burnt to ash. It's up to his children to create something beautiful in the ruins of the Targaryen's glory. When little Rhaenys Potter runs away with Norbert into the forbidden forest, Westeros will never be the same. Fem!Harry/Jon. Parental!Oberyn
I hope this makes up for the drama I caused, and I hope everyone is at least a little satisfied with the outcome lol.
Thank you all for the favourites, follows and reviews! I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and if you have the time, drop a review. Until next time, stay beautiful~AlwaysEatTheRude21