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Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

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The babe was tiny in his arms. So small and fragile and looked so much like his mother the fear almost outweighed the relief. Relief that the boy had his mother's black hair and dark grey eyes and not his father's blond and purple.

Eddard Stark would forever remember his sister's dying words, begging for him to promise to protect her son from danger. Ned swore he would. He would do anything to protect his nephew from Robert Baratheon, who in turn, would do anything to kill the last surviving son of Rhaegar Targaryen.

With the babe in his arms he held his sister's hand long after her last breath left her body. The wet nurse, Aisley, given up on trying to take the babe from his uncle's arms explained the circumstances to Howland Reed. He mourned for the young Stark girl; she was a bright shining flame, she didn't deserve to be put out so early. His friend was mourning worse though and while Howland understood the need to keep Lyanna's son close, the babe needed to eat.

After much arguing Howland's persuasion won through, the babe was handed over to Aisley and not for one second did Ned's gaze leave them. After feeding he was returned to his uncle's arms where he fell into a blissful slumber, not knowing what the future would have in store for him.

Ned had promised to keep Jaehaerys Targaryen
safe and that was what he intended to do. He just had to get past his wife first.

 

Returning home had been surprisingly uneventful journey. Lyanna's body was already ahead of them, being transported back to their home, to Winterfell. She would be buried alongside their brother and father, in the crypts below Winterfell where she could rest forever.

A letter reached them a week into their journey, expressing the new King's outrage on the fact he was practically forced into having the deceased Targaryens buried in the King's Landing crypts. He would have been happy for their bodies to be thrown into the river and be done with them.

While Ned held no love nor loyalty for The Mad King he was saddened over the deaths of Elia Targaryen and her children. He shivered as he remembered what Gregor Glegane had done to them, a girl of 6 and a boy of lest than 2. He had glanced down at his sleeping nephew and subconsciously tightened his grip. Jaehaerys was their half-brother, if King Robert could not care about the fates of the Prince and Princess Ned could not imagine what he would to Jaehaerys if he learnt of him.

The letter also demanded Ned to return to King's Landing, to being Lyanna's body to be buried there in the sun and warmth; she belonged with Robert. How wrong he was. Ned refused, no matter how angry he made his friend, he would never bury his sister in the one place she had never wanted to be, not with the man she never wanted to be with.

Howland Reed left soon after that, returning to Greywater Watch as Lord Reed. Ned bid farewell to his friend and continued on home, only handing the babe over when he needed feeding.

 

Arriving at Winterfell on the other hand, now that was quite eventful.

Ned left Jaehaerys - and he really needed to come up with a better name for the babe; the name was far too Targaryen - with Aisley, sent the wet nurse towards the nursery and went to find his wife.

Catelyn Tully was a beautiful woman, there was no doubt about that, with her long auburn hair and blue eyes. She was truly a sight to behold and Ned should've been the happiest man to have such a beauty warming his bed. Only, he didn't love her. In truth, Ned didn't think he'd ever love her, marriages were built on alliances, not love. Some say most men grow to love their wives, Ned didn't think that was true.

Ned Stark had only ever bedded his wife their first night as man and wife. Between learning about his brother and father's deaths, Lyanna's "kidnapping", and Robert's Rebellion there hadn't been time for anything more. So when Catelyn Stark came practically running out of the great castle of Winterfell with a babe in her arms Ned was surprised. Their one time was apparently all that was needed to produce a healthy male heir. And so Robb Stark was finally introduced to his father.

And Ned knew what he had to do, even if it broke his wife's heart, even if she never trusted him again, he knew what he had to do. Their son was passed off to his wet nurse to be taken to the nursery so Ned and Catelyn could talk.

He watched Catelyn's face turn to one of despair as he told her of his bastard son. He told her his name was Jon Snow, named after his close friend and father figure Jon Arryn.

He wished he could tell, how he wished he could. He couldn't though. Catelyn would know in a heartbeat who the babe's father was. She would feel pity for him, no doubt come to love the boy as her own. Ned couldn't let that happen. The king would hear of it and come to investigate. He would find suspicion in how Catelyn Tully could love her husband's bastard. Robert Baratheon was more of a fighter than a thinker but even he would figure it out.

Ned had made a promise to his sister, Robert would never know of her newborn child. Never.

 

Jon Snow grew, looking more and more like his mother everyday, though if you paid attention you'd see the way his eyes flashed purple in the light, the shape of his jaw and the angle of his eyes that only a Targaryen could have. Robb grew too, a exact copy of his mother, all Tully red hair and blue eyes. They were the best of friends, despite Catelyn's meddling. Sansa was born a short few years after Robb, then Arya; who from the moment she could walk followed Jon wherever he went, something that angered Catelyn to no end. Brandon came next, followed lastly by little Rickon.

All six children were perfectly happy, loved by their father and adored by their mother. All except Jon. There was time, when he was very young, he would do anything to have Catelyn lay even the smallest amount of attention to him. Ned remembers a time when Robb and Jon were no more than 4 years old. They had been playing on top of a large cart filled with hay. Robb had leaned too far over the side and had fallen, but not before he grabbed a fistful of Jon's tunic, bringing him over side with him. Robb had landed on Jon, unharmed, save for a slight skinned knee.

Catelyn had seen the fall, a mother's instincts kicking in and before anyone could blink, had Jon Snow craddled to her chest, fussing over his broken arm. Though she soon realised who she was holding and had set him down as gently as her nature allowed her to. She had picked up her own son than, taking off to find him the maester.

It was kindest Catelyn ever was to the boy.

It was horrible, having the woman he had come to love treat his son cruelly. Some days Ned wondered if he should just tell her the truth about Jon Snow but then he remembers his promise to his sister. The risk was too great. He could not risk Robert finding out his son. And Jon Snow was his son.

Sometimes he wonders what would've become to them if, all those years ago, Lyanna had been the one to marry Rhaegar instead of Elia. If Jaehaerys Targaryen had been born instead of Rhaenys and Aegon. There was no doubt Lyanna would've been happy. It was wishful thinking however. Once, Lyanna Stark could've been with the man she loved. That time had long passed. Lyanna was dead. Rhaegar was dead. King Aerys and Queen Rhaella were dead. Poor Prince Aegon and the Beauty of the South Princess Rhaella were dead. The Targaryen line was finished.

Ned had made a promise once. Jon Snow would never know who he truly is. He had no reason to ever find out. He was Eddard Stark's son. That was all that truly mattered.