Rhaegar didn't win the Tourney of Harrenhal. It wasn't heartbreaking; it was all a welcome respite from the melancholy and horrors that came with living in the Mad King's castle. After all, the people already said that the jousting competition alone would be forever remembered in history as one of the best, in part thanks to his duel with Ser Arthur, his greatest friend.
But after all the cheering and fun, Rhaegar went back to being a prince, son to a tyrant. Aerys announced that he was betrothed to Cersei Lannister, and that was that. It wasn't as if Rhaegar could really object. He'd seen a pretty girl, Lyanna Stark, in the jousting arena, but he hadn't had a way to profess his interest, not without the honor of crowning the Queen of Love and Beauty. Even then, she was already promised to Robert Baratheon, and he hardly knew a thing about her, besides that she had lovely blue eyes.
His father died a few months after the tournament. It was clear to Rhaegar that Tywin had seized the opportunity presented before him and poisoned the former king, but it didn't matter. Everyone had been waiting for Aerys to die. Still, Rhaella, his poor, long-suffering mother cried. She said it was mostly tears of relief, though he knew a few were of sorrow. A small part of his own heart mourned the man he once looked up to. But Rhaegar had the Seven Kingdoms to think about now.
For once, it seemed as if there might be peace among the people of Westeros. Other marriages (some arranged, some not) tied the Great Houses together, and those under their collective rule went about life as usual. The Kingsguard (made up mostly of men who had protected him his whole life) served him well. He asked Ser Arthur to step down, so to speak, so he could become the Hand of the King, but Dayne, always the modest one, said he'd do better as a knight giving advice. He did just that, helping to select Jon Arryn to fill the position. Jon was a good man, respected by many. Rhaegar didn't know him well, and yet he felt confident in his decision.
His family was a...complicated matter. He'd hoped that, in a world without Aerys, his mother would have nothing but happy days. It was clear that a burden had been lifted off of her shoulders, allowing her to laugh and smile more. But once the laughter died down, she often was left with an empty expression on her face, as if she did not know how to feel. That confused and worried Viserys, who was too young to understand. Rhaegar invited Ser Bonifer Hasty, the man rumored to be Rhaella's old lover, to visit, but even he could not heal her heart. She died giving birth to Daenerys, a beautiful little girl. Partly to honor his mother's memory, Rhaegar tried to play with his younger siblings as much as he could, considering. He didn't want them raised by septas. Besides, the dragon needed to have three heads...
Cersei was a lioness, there was no mistaking that. Everything she wanted, she pursued relentlessly, with fire in her eyes and fangs bared. He respected her for that. At first, he thought she had only been so passionate during the bedding ceremony because she wished to be Queen, or because she felt a duty to her House. It was surprising, to say the least--surprising until she revealed how taken she was with him. She had nothing but admiration for him, save when he had one of his difficult days. That was when she forced him to get his mind out of the clouds and get back to work, which he was grateful for. Cersei also had a sharp, razor-bladed wit, good for strategy and for keeping secrets. Not that he had any, save those that were of royal importance. No, the secret was hers. Rhaegar had caught Cersei with her brother before, having seen them kissing when he took a walk through the halls. He wasn't really angry, or even disgusted. He told her as much, explaining that his own House kept their line through incest for centuries. Her response was a long apology, ended by her stroking him through his pants and leading him to bed. From then on, Ser Jaime hid an expression of hurt and embarrassment whenever he met the King's eyes, and Cersei enveloped Rhaegar in her golden beauty, eventually birthing four children: Rhaenys, Aegon, Joanne, and Maerys. She loved her children deeply, and was kind enough to nurse Daenerys alongside Rhaenys.
Rhaegar knew that he was lucky to come into his kingship like he did. But the prophecy still plagued him in his dreams. He had met with some priests of R'hllor, but they refused to divulge any information concerning the dragon's part in the coming darkness. The only hope he had came to him in the form of three dragon eggs, which had been brought to him from Essos.
He waited, the weight of the crown heavy on his brow.