Jon remembers his little sister as being pretty.
Lady Sansa, when she alights from horseback in the courtyard of the Red Keep, is not merely pretty. She is beautiful, as regal as any queen. Her kissed-by-fire hair is coiled around her head like the most intricate of weaves, lighter than the heavy styles Cersei Lannister favoured but more complex than anything Daenerys would deign to wear. The whirls of hair are highlighted by gold and amber slides, pretty little things that (perhaps accidentally, perhaps not) form a circlet of fiery gold in Sansa's curls when they catch the light, like a crown all of her own.
She's taller than most all of the women and many of the men who came to greet her, towering over Daenerys and, Jon thinks, perhaps taller even than Aegon. She's like her mother in her face, Tully hair and Tully eyes and sharp Tully features, but her bearing – the proud line of her shoulders and the even prouder way she holds her head high – it is all her father. She has, strangely, become a Stark of Winterfell while staying in the Eyrie and Riverrun.
She's wearing all her colours, too. The heavy furs around her shoulders are grey and white, Stark furs, to match her white wool cloak, emblazoned with the great grey direwolf of her house. Her heavy woollen dresses, travel-stained though they are, are obviously of high quality, the rich Tully river-blue split to reveal paler Arryn sky-blue. She comes to them here as Lady Regent of the North, the Vale, the Iron Islands and the Riverlands, holding all in trust until Rickon comes of age, and Jon has never seen her look so at ease.
Jon remembers his little sister as being pretty. Lady Sansa Stark, his cousin, Regent of all the lands above the Neck, is striking.
In audience with the small council, Jon expected Sansa to present letters and exchange pretty courtesies. Instead, she stands tall, hands clasped in front of her, and speaks easily about matters of state.
She was given time to refresh herself after her long journey, to change from her travel garments into something more fitting for the court of the Dragon Queen and her Princes. She arrives in storm-cloud grey, her hair loose down her back and a short half-cape of ermine draped over her left shoulder. When she shifts to curtsey to Daenerys, Jon sees that the cape covers the sling supporting her left arm, and wonders what happened. With her hair down, she is even more like the Lady Catelyn than before.
She begins by sharing her tale from the moment of her escape following Joffrey's death, detailing her flight to the Fingers, her aunt's marriage to Littlefinger, her journey to the Vale under a false identity. Jon sinks further and further into horror at the realisation of what Sansa endured, of what Littlefinger subjected her to even knowing as he did what had been done to her in King's Landing. Her voice falters as she comes to her false marriage to Harry the Heir, to his death and Lord Robert's, then to Littlefinger's death at her own hands. There was a rumour that she pushed him out the infamous Moon Door, but by her own admission, she cut his throat with the knife he gave her to defend herself.
She explains the plans she and her brother and their advisors have discussed. Bran has taken the black, the better to put his gifts to use against the Others, which means Rickon is Lord of Winterfell in his place. However, owing to the casualties of war, the Starks now stand to inherit Riverrun and the Eyrie as well, and the Iron Islands are theirs through the conquest of men under Sansa's command. Houses Tully, Arryn and Greyjoy are no more, as are many of their vassals, and Rickon stands to inherit all that was theirs.
The Riverlands are theirs, Sansa explains, because the now-deceased Lord Edmure was their uncle, and died without a direct heir – his wife, Lady Roslin Frey, was with child when she travelled to Casterly Rock, but there is no record of her or the child. The Vale is theirs not because of Sansa's sham-marriage to Harold Hardyng, but because Rickon is the only eligible male relative still living of the last Arryn in the Eyrie. The Iron Islands are theirs because Sansa herself ordered their capture, and besides (Sansa laughs as she says this) who else would want them?
Sansa, in her new-found cleverness, anticipated the Queen's displeasure at so much of her lands belonging to one family, and is quick to share the terms the Northerners offer. It has been suggested that the Iron Islands be assumed into the North. Rickon's first son will remain the Stark in Winterfell, but his second and third sons would become Lords Tully and Arryn and take to Riverrun and the Eyrie. One would be fostered in King's Landing with the Queen, one on Dragonstone with Prince Aegon, and his eldest daughter would be promised to the heir to the throne, all to guarantee the loyalty of House Stark to House Targaryen.
Daenerys seems well pleased by the terms offered, because so few of the great houses supported the Targaryens when first they arrived in the Seven Kingdoms and she trusts few who came to her banner when victory was assured, but Aegon questions if perhaps it might be suitable to bind the Houses Stark and Targaryen together sooner. Jon admires Sansa's polite refusal of the proposal Aegon never manages to word, almost laughs when she manages to avoid any mention of her own marriage and leaves Aegon flummoxed.
No agreement is made on the terms, because the Queen's Hand, the Lannister Imp, is notably absent, and Daenerys relies heavily on Tyrion's guidance. Sansa is dismissed, as are all of the council aside from Jon and Aegon, who must sit in audience with Dany for at least an hour every day to discuss the intrigues of state.
Aegon clearly admires Sansa, Jon notes, amused by his brother's rapture. Daenerys is fascinated by her, deeming her to be more interesting than many of the ladies at court. Jon is pleased by the changes he sees in Sansa, relieved that she outgrew her vanity and girlish silliness. All three agree that her terms need serious consideration, because even though the Starks were the first to rally to the Targaryen call (mostly, Jon knows, because of his shared blood between the two families) and are now renowned as the Targaryens' loyalist supporters alongside the Martells, Aegon's mother's family, it might be unwise to leave all the lands above the Neck governed by one lord for as long as Rickon might live.
Daenerys and Aegon refuse to acknowledge Jon's decision to remain as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, to forsake his right to the title of Prince and his right of succession. Dany doesn't understand it, can't fathom why he would rather spend the rest of his life guarding the Wall and fighting the Others than reigning with her as Prince of Summerhall.
For his part, Jon finds himself unable to explain it sufficiently. The call of winter is there, though, because dragon-lord though he may be, he's a Stark to his bones, and he misses the cold of the North, of home.
It helps that the cold seems to numb the dull pain in his back, in his stomach, the ghost of the agony he felt when the knives in the dark slid through his skin, and although he knows that it's probably in his head, he longs for that ease of movement. He has talked with the maester here, understands that the absence of pain comes from the proof that he overcame his enemies in the North and that he has a definite purpose there, but he doesn't care – he just knows that he feels healthier, more alive, up North, with frost and ice and Ghost and the snow for which he was named.
He knows Rhaegon will love it at the Wall, knows that his dragon is miserable in the dragon-pit, that she (Rhaegon is female in spirit, Jon thinks, although he knows that dragons are hermaphroditic) longs for freedom to roam, even as he and Ghost do.
And the Wall needs him. His brothers are at the Wall, Sam and Pyp and, perhaps most importantly, Bran are there. He knows that Bran needs him, that together the dragon-lord and the green man might be able to destroy the Others.
Besides, Bran told him all that happened after his false death, and Jon had been horrified by some of the things his little brother had deemed acceptable. Warging into Hodor, for example – Bran needs someone who isn't afraid to reprimand him, as so many of the brothers are, someone who knows him well enough to understand that it isn't malice that drives him but rather desperation to do, and with Robb and Arya gone and Sansa wrapped up in affairs of state, there is only Jon.
He considers all this as he walks the walls of the inner keep with Sansa late that afternoon, sharing with her his plans for the Watch and the Wall, his plans to build on Stannis' aborted effort to repopulate the Gift. He finds it a relief to discuss it with her, knowing as he does that she, too, is of the North, and understands the importance of the Wall in a way that no Southron noble ever will.
Later, he will realise that he never before would have considered discussing such things with Sansa, but with Bran at the Wall, Rickon fostered at Sunspear, Robb dead and Arya gone who-knows-where, Sansa is all he has left of his old family, and he relishes having her here to speak with. It's pleasant, too, to know that she understands Westerosi politics in a way that Dany and Aegon will not for many years, if ever, because she has lived their politics.
The day passes easily into night, and then there is the feast.
Sansa is given a place of honour befitting her rank on the dais. Jon is to her right, Ser Barristan Selmy to her left. She jests about being seated between the Lord Commanders of the Black and the White, some witty comment that Jon would never have expected to hear from his most proper sister (cousin), and Ser Barristan's laughter rings through the great hall.
When the time comes for dancing, Jon pleads lame – he did twist his knee only a few days before, after all, slipped on a patch of black ice while walking the Wall with Sam and Pyp before he and Rhaegon flew back south, and the relative heat here does cause the pain in his back to flare up – because he wants to see if his suspicions about Dany's attitude towards Sansa are right. However, he forgot to take Sansa's sling into account, and finally remembers to ask her how she acquired her injury.
He thinks at first that he may have offended her by laughing, because he supposed it was a jest when she told him she'd been shot, but then she glances furtively about and pulls aside the neck of her dark blue, nearly black, gown, to reveal the bandages wrapped around her shoulder. She smiles and admits that perhaps it was foolish of her to stand and shoot when both her height and her hair mark her as an easy target, but that her temper got the better of her when the Freys attempted to swarm Riverrun.
He is further disquieted when she admits that it makes it near impossible for her to carry a weapon at all, because her sling gets in the way of anything but a dagger. He never would have imagined Sansa willing, much less eager, to carry a weapon.
She throws back her head and laughs when he teases her, asking if she was play-acting as Arya, throwing herself into battle when she might have been better off staying behind closed doors in the keep when the Freys arrived.
She smiles and her tone is light when she replies that she has had quite enough of staying behind closed doors, but her Tully eyes are hard with Stark steel.
It is not until late into the night, when Daenerys inquires of Jon as to Tyrion's whereabouts, that he notices his friend's absence.
For all her Stark steel, there remains something delicate about Sansa, something fragile that was never there in any of the rest of the Starks, something that inspires a need to protect her. Perhaps, Jon thinks, it's the too-slender lines of her body, her too-wide eyes, the wistful melancholy that twists her smile when she thinks no one is looking at her, the softness that is so obvious in how she treats with the lesser nobles and the servants who approach her, but he knows that whatever it is, it could ruin Dany and Aegon if Sansa were ever to decide to stand against them.
All reports from Rickon's lands (Sansa's lands in reality) hold nothing but warmth towards Sansa, praise for everything from her bravery to her beauty.
Dany is nothing if not vain of her battle prowess and her looks, and Jon knows that there is always a chance that she may see Sansa as a challenger to her throne. He knows without doubt that the bannermen of both the Tullys and the Starks would gladly rise at her request (because Sansa would never presume to command), and that in vanquishing Littlefinger she earned the undying loyalty of all in the Vale. Even the Tyrells might ride under the direwolf, if it were Sansa asking them to, because they make no secret of their simmering animosity to the Queen and her House. The Lannister and the Baratheon bannermen (both under the command of Tyrion Lannister, in truth) might be split, because there are plenty who are uncomfortable with having a Targaryen on the Iron Throne once more despite Tyrion's oaths of allegiance.
Dragons and Unsullied and Martells though Daenerys and Aegon would have, even the Targaryen host might find the combined strength of the rest of the Seven Kingdoms overwhelming. Jon knows that Sansa would never break an oath of fealty such as the one she promised on Rickon's behalf moments after her arrival at the Red Keep, though, so it is really of no concern.
Either or, he and Rhaegon will keep the Wall. The Night's Watch take no part in the politics of the realm.
After five days, Tyrion's absence is particularly conspicuous. He emerges from the Tower of the Hand only for small council meetings, and scurries home immediately afterwards. Jon is due to leave with Sansa, to act as part of her escort as far as Winterfell before continuing on for the Wall, whenever she takes her leave from court. As Tyrion had expressed an interest in seeing the Wall again, in bringing the new master of the coin (an ally of Dany's from the east, a wickedly clever man by the name of Illyrio) north to see what the crown might offer the Watch, Jon wishes to seek out his friend, to discover if he wishes to come north when Jon and Sansa leave or if he would leave it till later in the year.
He is surprised, when he knocks three times, to find the Tower of the Hand empty but for Tyrion's servants. He is told that the Lord Hand left several hours previously, and is probably in the library in the inner keep.
Jon could have guessed as much, knowing as he does how Tyrion loves to read, but he is surprised to find that Tyrion ventured out at all.
He pauses when he steps into the library, which is a vast room that exists in a peculiar twilight even at noon, but which smells warm and old and wise. He listens for a moment, hearing the hushed echo of murmuring voices from somewhere in the south-western corner, and supposes that Tyrion may as well be there as anywhere else.
As he comes closer, he realises that he knows both voices. The low rumble of Tyrion's voice, gentle with concern, contrasts oddly with the soft pitch of Sansa's distress.
"Are you well, my lady? Truly well, I mean, not cheerful. You act so well for the court that one might never know the truth."
"I am well enough, my lord. Although… Lord Baelish was not so kind as you."
Tyrion's oath echoes loudly throughout the cavernous room, drawing several people who, presumably, thought he'd injured himself. Rather than the dwarf lying injured, however, they find him sitting at a table with Sansa, her hands clasped in his.
Jon is so surprised that he almost misses the flash of rage in Tyrion's eyes and the gentle sadness in the downward turn of Sansa's lips. He does notice the deep flush spreading across her pale throat and the speed with which both she and Tyrion disentangle their fingers.
He lingers long after the crowd has cleared and Sansa has taken her leave. Tyrion determinedly avoids his gaze.
From then on, Tyrion returns to court. To everyone's amazement, he seems almost perpetually in the company of Lady Sansa, and, by extension, the Queen, because Dany has become inordinately fond of Sansa since her arrival. The three are often to be found with their heads together, eyes flashing around the hall as they talk in murmurs. They laugh often, three pitches of amusement that unnerve those uncertain of their positions within the court. Jon and Aegon are more amazed than anyone, because although Daenerys has always relied on Tyrion's counsel, she's rarely sought him out for anything other than advice.
When Jon questions Sansa about it over lunch in his rooms later the following week, she grins wickedly and bites into a pear before telling him that there are many things she hears which are useful to both the Queen and the Hand.
Her shoulder is healed within three weeks of her arrival at King's Landing, and she spends her first day without a sling in the yard with Daenerys and two members of the Queensguard. Jon has never bothered to learn the first names of any but Ser Barristan, counting their houses as more important. There is a Martell, of course, and an Estermont, and a Lannister cousin that Tyrion vouched for. There is also a Royce and a lord from the Riverlands who only arrived a few days before Sansa, and about whom Jon knows nothing at all except that he's a Mallister. The as-yet unfilled space in Dany's Queensguard is reserved for the champion of the North, because she has been trying to maintain an equilibrium of sorts by taking her guards from across the Kingdoms as best she can.
Jon thinks the two in the yard are the Martell and the Lannister, because one is as dark as the other is fair, and neither is trying to hide their admiration of Dany and Sansa.
Dany cuts an impressive figure, he supposes, in her sandsilk trousers and her painted Dothraki vest. Sansa, of course, is the proper lady even now, although the sleeves of her brown roughspun gown reach only halfway to her elbow, and the skirts are much smaller if no shorter than she usually wears. She wears a heavy leather guard on her left wrist, and her bright hair is bound back in a braid twice as long as Dany's own.
They chat brightly as they fire arrow after arrow into targets that seem to move ever further down the yard, much to the amusement of the watching spectators.
Tyrion appears beside Jon on the balcony overlooking the yard, and for once he seems to have no acerbic comment. He says only that perhaps the ladies should be careful, else the wildlings will come and steal them for wives.
Jon laughs, though, because the idea of Sansa and Dany living amongst the wildlings is one of the funniest things he's ever heard.
As Tyrion and Sansa begin to take walks along the walls and in the gardens together, riding through the city together, dining together in the privacy of Tyrion's solar in the Tower of the Hand, sitting together at the feasts Dany and Aegon host at least twice a week, people begin to remember that they were, in fact, married.
Aegon raises the matter in jest during a council meeting, and Tyrion informs him that no, they were not married, that they are married. He goes on to remind them all that Sansa herself repeatedly referred to her marriage to Harold Hardyng as a sham, a farce, and points out that only Petyr Baelish ever petitioned the septons for an annulment. As neither Sansa nor Tyrion themselves approached the septons, their marriage still stands.
Silence greets his calm announcement, everyone present realising that between them, Sansa and Tyrion have claim to all of Dany's kingdom aside from the lands in the south – and everyone knows that the Tyrells are Tyrion's because he saved the beautiful Ser Loras from dragon-fire, the Stormlanders the same because it was he who begged the Queen to be merciful to Shireen, Stannis' daughter and the last Baratheon in the realm. It is a marriage that can't be allowed to stand, that shouldn't be allowed to stand, that-
Daenerys cuts across the mute panic that has engulfed her council and asks Tyrion if he and Sansa wish to now seek an annulment.
Tyrion grins, flashing them all the smirk for which he has achieved infamy, and bows his head slightly before assuring them that no, he and the Lady Sansa wish to take the time to actually consider their options before making a decision. After all, he tells them, the marriage was forced on both of them by his father and his sister, but that doesn't mean that he and Sansa might not have arrived at this point anyways.
He takes his leave then, but makes a quip about how only a truly foolish man would turn down the most beautiful woman in Westeros when he has a face like Tyrion's. Really, Jon thinks, the only thing to be done is laugh.
Word spreads quickly, especially when Sansa and Tyrion make no secret of their budding… Whatever it is. Jon is hesitant to term it a romance, because to him it looks more like a growing friendship, but he knows that the gossips are aghast at the idea of the fair Lady Sansa tying herself to the Imp of Casterly Rock.
Tyrion himself seems slightly perplexed when he admits to Jon that it was Sansa's idea to not annul the marriage immediately. He explains how things were between them before Joffrey's death, and seems to teeter on the brink of sharing something important with Jon before he tips his head back and drains his goblet. It's Sansa's business, Jon is told, and if he wants to know he should ask her.
Instead, he turns to Daenerys, thinking that perhaps her friendship with Sansa might have inspired a confidence between the two.
Dany seems stunned that he doesn't know, tells him that there are several different whispers along the same theme winding through court. Dany, though, had it from Sansa's own lips.
"How is it that you don't know? This Littlefinger took her to his bed against her will, and she cut his throat in retaliation."
It's enough to make Jon wish that Littlefinger still lived, just so he could have the pleasure of killing the craven himself. This new knowledge, along with the talk he had with Tyrion before speaking with Dany, helps him make sense of what he overheard that day in the library, and perhaps also why Sansa is so willing to try and build a marriage and a life with Tyrion.
He finally manages to speak with his sister-cousin on the matter four days later. By now, she has been at court for almost two months.
He acts as though he knows nothing of any of it, but she laughs at him and tells him that it is well that he intends to return to the Wall, for a liar so bad as him has no place at court. Tyrion, she says, told her everything, and she heard somewhere that Jon went to Dany after. When he asks how she can be so calm, so poised, if what Dany told him is true, she bows her head and is silent for a moment too long. He immediately feels guilty and reaches for her hand, to apologise, to offer comfort, but she looks up at him and something in her expression reminds him shockingly of the man they both called Father.
Her voice is even, her tone flat, as she explains that she can be calm and poised because in killing Littlefinger herself, she both passed down the sentence and saw it done. She has found justice, she tells him, and somehow, that is enough.
When she is gone, he wonders how any of them thought her anything but a true Stark.
Two weeks later, the small council gains a member and Sansa expresses her intent to remain at court. She is sitting to Tyrion's right while she says it, an elegant filigree ring of Lannister gold on her left hand.
Daenerys and Aegon had no choice but to offer her a place on the council, everyone knows, but what most don't know is that her value lies in more than her position as Rickon's Lady Regent. She has taken over the position once given the title of "master of the whisperers," the position once held by Varys the Eunuch, utilising the skills taught to her by Petyr Baelish to gather information for the Queen that might otherwise go unheard.
The terms offered by the Northerners are finally discussed in full. It is decided that it is unfeasible that so much of the kingdom should be under the banner of one family, even if Rickon's sons were to take the Tully and Arryn colours in years to come.
It goes unsaid, but there is also a fear that Rickon will father only daughters and all his lands will pass to Sansa and Tyrion's children, which would place Lannisters as lords of Winterfell, Riverrun, the Eyrie, and Casterly Rock, leaving only Storm's End, Highgarden and Sunspear free of the lion.
Daenerys may have unswerving trust in Tyrion, but she knows enough of his family history to worry about his heirs. Other arrangements will be made, although for now, the Queen decides that she trusts in Tyrion and Sansa's stewardship.
Her trust is proven well placed when, a week later, Sansa and Tyrion together root out a plot to overthrow Dany and Aegon and plunge the Kingdoms back into civil war. When Daenerys and Aegon shower them with praise in front of the court, Sansa ducks her head and blushes prettily while Tyrion comments mildly on the preference he would have towards raising his children in a peaceful environment.
It's not until they're gone, later that evening, that Jon realises Sansa's gown was deep crimson, not purple as he'd first thought.
While Dany and Aegon seem happy enough to accept Sansa and Tyrion's marriage, there are others who are less pleased.
Doran Martell and Willas Tyrell unite in bringing their concerns to court, concerns about the sheer power Sansa and Tyrion wield. Four of the seven great houses are theirs, one is the Queen's Hand and the other is the Lady of the Whisperers. Other, smaller houses also come out against the Lannister-Stark union, demanding that it be annulled, that the Lady Sansa be married to one the lords of the Riverlands or the Vale or somewhere, somewhere that will not result in her gaining yet more influence.
Sansa's fury is righteous and beautiful and utterly polite. Only the spots of red (crimson, Jon thinks) on her high cheekbones and the absolute rage flashing in her eyes betray any emotion as she leans forward slightly in her chair at the council table and calmly informs Doran Martell that Rickon will be coming home from Sunspear to be placed with Prince Aegon on Dragonstone, and then turns to Willas Tyrell and assures him that the engagement between his infant daughter and Rickon is quite definitely at an end.
Neither lord wishes to lose a chance to influence the future Warden of the North, and both make an effort to take the sting from their words as they press on with their crusade to dismantle Sansa's marriage to Tyrion.
Tyrion says nothing the entire time, keeps his fingers linked through Sansa's and sits back, observing the men standing before them. Jon can see the tension in his friend's free hand, though, in the way it curls tighter and tighter into a fist.
Daenerys and Aegon – Aegon in particular – are focusing on what Tyrell and Martell are saying. Jon hopes that Sansa and Tyrion are aware that Aegon has been searching for a way to dissolve their marriage since they announced their intention to remain married.
Aegon might be Jon's brother by blood, but Sansa is his sister by bond and history, and he will fight for her honour should Aegon dare to put it in question. The attempts made by the Dragon Prince to woo the Lady of the North have been the talk of the city, especially since Sansa began to use her wedded name. It is seen as improper for Aegon to still pursue her, although there have been whispers that perhaps she would be better off with the handsome prince who will one day be king than with the Imp who is likely only to become uglier.
Willas Tyrell rants on, pointing out that neither Sansa nor Tyrion wanted the marriage in the first place, that no permission had been sought from the head of Sansa's house (she is quick to point out that now, she is the head of House Stark, which meets with much disapproval from the lords present and a smile from Dany), that a marriage unconsummated after three years is barely a marriage at all-
Tyrion leans forward in his seat, taking Sansa's hand between both of his, and smiles wickedly at Lords Tyrell and Martell.
"And who are you to say that our marriage is unconsummated?"
The Lord of Casterly Rock and the Lady of Winterfell quickly earn a formidable reputation. Few now dare challenge them, if only for fear of offending the Queen by way of her closest friends, but there are whispers of discontent from many corners. Many feel that the marriage is still only a way of binding Winterfell and Casterly Rock together, as Tywin and Cersei Lannister planned when they arranged it, because Sansa remains in her rooms in the keep rather than moving to the Tower of the Hand with Tyrion.
However, as many as there are who choose to believe this, there are more who believe the building affection between the two is genuine. Jon has often come across them sitting in secluded parts of the keep, heads together and voices low as they discuss everything from the state of affairs on the Iron Islands and the whispers of malcontent being stirred up by the infamous Sand Snakes in Dorne to the scandalous rumours of the recently married Lord Karstark fathering a bastard child by Lord Mallister's second daughter and Dany's worries that Lord Edric Dayne will refuse to marry a lady not of Dornish blood.
It is safest to discuss anything to do with Dorne out of Aegon's hearing, because he is fiercely loyal to and protective of the Martells. Jon supposes the same could be said of him and the Starks, and realises that perhaps the Targaryens of old married brothers to sisters in order to prevent split loyalties.
That aside, he has no doubt that Sansa and Tyrion's regard for each other. He asked Sansa over supper one night why she and Tyrion decided to continue with the marriage in the first place.
"He was kind to me when no one else was, and he asks for nothing but what I would give willingly. I think that is as good a reason as any to continue a marriage, Jon."
And really, Jon thinks, when one considers everything Sansa's been through, what they've all been through, there really is no other reason necessary.
He takes his leave for the Wall soon after that, flying ahead of the host of volunteers he's gathered since arriving in King's Landing, promising to check on the progress of the builders at Winterfell on his way north and to send a raven back to give Sansa his opinion.
She only smiles and tells him to instead give Bran his impressions, because she'll hear quicker that way. Jon rolls his eyes, feeling slightly foolish for forgetting that Bran could speak with her through the heart-tree in the godswood, or the weirwood Tyrion apparently planted in the garden of the Tower of the Hand as soon as they took King's Landing and which has grown into a healthy sapling that already towers over him, and embraces her before kissing her forehead in farewell.
Tyrion, standing at Sansa's side, holds out his hand for Jon to shake, which he does gladly. Before Tyrion can pull away, though, Jon drops to his knee to put his face on a level with the dwarf's and gives him a severe warning. Should anything happen to Sansa, Jon tells him, he will know, and on Rhaegon's back he can be in King's Landing in three days. Tyrion's smile doesn't waver for even a second, and he assures Jon that he will treat Sansa like the prize she is.
Jon knows that Sansa will be safe with Tyrion, but he felt that the warning was necessary. He still regards her as his sister, and it is therefore his duty to protect her.
He takes his leave of Dany and Aegon in public, but still manages to warn Aegon not to interfere with Sansa's happiness. His brother acts stunned, hurt that Jon would think so low of him, but Jon knows Aegon well enough to sense the disgruntlement behind his tomfoolery. Dany promises to marry Aegon off as soon as she can, if only to ascertain the alliance between the Tyrells and the crown.
Margaery Tyrell might yet become queen to a fourth king.