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Strange Magic

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Catelyn Stark sits on the plush, worn couch with her two daughters, legs drawn up underneath her, arms secured tightly around Arya and Sansa on either side of her as they sit in front of the crackling fire, flickering shadows being cast around the living room of their manor.

“Tell us a story mother, oh please,” Sansa begs, looking up at Catelyn with her big, doe eyes.

“A story, a story!” Arya shouts.

“Shush,” Catelyn gently soothes. “One story, and then it’s off to bed my little sprites.”

The girls both giggle and snuggle further into their mother’s side as she prepares to tell them one.

“Now, you both know a little about your ancestor, Celia Tully, don’t you?”

The girls both nod in time.

“They killed her because she was a witch!” Arya exclaims.

Catelyn smiles gently. “No, my darling, they only tried. If they had succeeded, we wouldn’t be here,” she says, bopping each of her daughters on their noses.

“They tried, but she escaped using her powers, and then she was banished!” Sansa chimes in.

“Correct, Sansa.” Arya feels a frown tug at her lips as Sansa beams back at their mother’s praise.

“You see, the people of her village were frightened. Frightened of the power within Celia, so they tried to keep themselves safe and get rid of that fear. When Celia escaped, unharmed, she was banished to the North, all alone in Winterfell with just her unborn child. She longed for her lover to come and join her, but he never did, for he too was scared of her powers.”

“But that’s not fair,” Arya interrupts. “She wouldn’t have hurt him.”

“I know sweetheart, but people can’t always help their fear. Especially when it’s something they know so little about.”

Arya’s frown deepens, but she lets her mother continue.

“The longer her lover stayed away, the more bitter she grew, until her love festered within her. Wishing to stop feeling such agony, Celia cast a spell upon herself so that she would never feel the ache of love again. But that bitterness never released its grip on her, and the spell changed itself. Turned itself into a curse.” Sansa lets out a gasp. “A curse that would harm any man who dared fall in love with a woman born of her line.”

“I’ll end the curse,” Sansa whispers dreamily. “I’ll fall in love with someone, and we’ll love each other so, so much that it will overcome any magic.”

“Don’t be dumb Sansa, there can’t be a curse” Arya says. She looks to her mother, “Daddy loves you, and he’s fine.”

Her mother kisses her gently on the head. “Exactly. Which is what makes it just a story. Now, off to bed, the both of you.”

The two sisters let out groans, linking hands in commiseration as they trudge up the stairs to their rooms.

--

4 years later

Their mother’s body has only been in the ground 10 hours when Arya makes her way to their greenhouse.

Her fingers trail along the plants that grow in their pots and along the walls, their leaves rustling like whispers in her ears. Catelyn had never used the greenhouse for anything other than her magic. Rosemary, basil, mint, belladonna; they all had to have a use for something, and she made sure her daughters knew those uses. But Arya’s father had loved to cook, something he passed down to his youngest daughter. So, they had spent time together learning about these plants too, only it was about the flavors they could bring to a dish; how to combine them to bring out the acidity of something, or the heat, or the sweetness. Arya had two views of the greenhouse. She could go to it in search of a potion ingredient or for the right herb to add to a stew she and her father were cooking up.

It’s the magic that brings her here now though. Her shoes are long-gone off of her feet, but she’s still in the clothes she’d worn to the funeral. Dirt litters the tiled floor of the greenhouse and clings to the material of the bottom of the white tights her Aunt Lysa had made her wear.

It’s dark out and she’s brought no light with her to the greenhouse, stealing here in secret. The only thing lighting her way is the small, pale sliver of moon peeking out from behind a cluster of clouds.

She’s taking a deep, calming breath, letting the sounds of nature outside of the greenhouse walls wash over her, when she hears the creaking of the door. Her sister’s slender frame peeks around the doorway.

Arya knows her eyes will be rimmed red, her cheeks flushed—they have been all day—but she’s fundamentally still the same Sansa. Shaken and upset, yes, but she seems so put-together compared to Arya, who feels as though she’s breaking from the inside out.

Sansa’s face scrunches up in confusion as she tries to make out Arya in the dark. “What are you doing out here,” she hisses.

Arya spares her a glance for a moment more before turning back toward the table, shutting her eyes. “Summoning a spell.”

She hears Sansa creep up beside her. “What spell?”

Arya’s eyes reopen. “Amas veritas.”

Sansa snorts, a pitiful thing after the day they’ve had. “Since when are you interested in finding your true love?”

“I’m not.”

She knows Sansa’s about to ask more questions, but she starts reciting the incantation. “He will hear my call a mile away. He will be able to whistle my favorite song. He can flip pancakes perfectly in the air. He’ll be kind and passionate. And his eyes will be so blue, they’ll make sapphires seem dull.”

When she’s done, Sansa carries on. “Well if you don’t want to find them, why would you summon the spell?”

“Because he doesn’t exist,” she says matter-of-factly. “And if my true love doesn’t exist then I can never fall in love with him and I’ll never die because of a stupid broken heart. Not like her.”

“That’s dumb,” Sansa responds. “I would never let something like what happened to mom stop me from falling in love, and she wouldn’t want you to either.”

Arya doesn’t have it in her to fight, so she leaves the greenhouse to go back to bed.

--

3 years after that

“Throw my bag down to me?”

“Are you serious Sansa? What if Aunt Lysa hears?”

Sansa snorts. “Let her. Then she’ll know I’m gone for good.”

“And you’ll leave me here? Just like that?”

Sansa stops her hurried movements, hesitates on the balcony. “You and I both know that the day I turn eighteen she’s out of here. Then she’ll expect me to take care of you—”

“I’m fifteen Sansa, for fuck’s—”

“I know. But you and I both know we can’t do it alone. Think of it this way: by leaving now, I’ve just guaranteed you three more years of a roof over your head and food in your stomach.”

Arya frowns, still unused to Sansa’s new attitude. The one that had come about with the first boyfriend and gradually grown more and more unlike the Sansa of her childhood as the boyfriends grew worse and worse.

“This is mom and dad’s house. Our house. She can’t kick me out, if anything she’ll leave.”

Sansa rolls her eyes. “You know what I mean.” Her name is yelled from down below. “I’m coming!” she shouts back before sending a beaming smile Arya’s way. “Make sure I don’t fall, will you?” Then she’s turning so quickly, preparing to scale down the trellis, and Arya’s hit by a sudden wave of anxiety because this is it. Her sister is leaving and who knows when she’ll see her again. The sister she’s had since birth, always there with her; the only one she had after their parents died—really the only one she’d had since their father died and their mother shrank more and more into herself. Her hand darts out of its own volition and wraps around Sansa’s arm.

“Are you sure about this?” Her eyes sting with unshed tears. “About him?”

“I’ve never been surer.” She must see the uncharacteristic glisten of Arya’s eyes because her face softens in a way it hasn’t in years. She’s turning back to look below again. “Harry, toss me your knife!”

In a second, a pocketknife is sailing upwards, quickly gripped in Sansa’s hand. Before Arya can blink, she’s slashing it across her palm, blood pooling. She looks to Arya, eyebrows raised as if in a challenge. Arya huffs before holding her own hand out. The cut isn’t deep and stings only a bit. It’s sticky and warm, the feeling intensified as Sansa clasps their cut hands together.

“My blood. Your blood. Stark blood. I’ll come back for you; I promise. I just…,” she trails off, unable to finish, but Arya hears the unspoken words. The ones that say ‘I need time to myself. To get away. To get out of this house.’

Arya nods, squeezes their hands together once more before letting hers drop to her side. Sansa sends her one last smile before turning away from her once more and making her way down the trellis.

--

And 9 years after that

Dear Sansa,

I don’t know if this letter will reach you. The last one I sent was to somewhere in Reno and your latest reply came from Houston. I guess it doesn’t really matter whether it reaches you or not.

Aunt Lysa just visited the other day. She used that voice she always used to pull when we were teenagers—you know, the one she does that says she’s just ‘so concerned about you’? Well anyway she did that as she went on about how lonely I must get in this old house and what the people in town must say about me and how she’s never been happier than when she moved away and stopped practicing. The way she’d said the word almost made me scream. Then she found her favorite topic of conversation—reminiscing on how she saved us—two troubled youths—from poverty and homelessness. I swear, she gets off to the sound of her own voice.

Anyway, she claims that some fresh air would do me some good—as if I don’t live surrounded by it—and that I should consider selling the house and meeting a nice man to settle down with.

I get told that a lot—I know it must seem ridiculous to you with all of the men you write about meeting in all of the cities you visit, but it’s almost suffocating to hear it. I get it from the neighbors and the grocer and random people in town. ‘You should meet my nephew, he’s so nice and handsome’ or, ‘Oh, did you hear about Mr. Johnson’s wife passing? Such a shame, though I’m sure he won’t stay on the market for long.’ It’s as though these people don’t know how a woman could possibly live without a husband.

I will admit—and I don’t like doing this, as you know—it does get lonely sometimes. The house is so big, it can seem consuming. Like I could live and die in this house and nobody would know. Maybe not even you.

I have strange dreams sometimes of an emptiness inside my heart—like a pit, waiting to be filled. I swear I can feel it calling out at night, a silent thumping against my chest, as if every beat is being pulled from me and echoing out into the air, waiting for an answer. Waiting to love and be loved. But you and I both know I could never let myself do that.

--

Dearest Arya,

I just have two words for you: Petyr Baelish.

--

“I’m just here for the night, don’t get too comfortable,” Sansa huffs, contradicting herself by snuggling down into Arya’s covers.

The sisters lay on their sides, cheeks pressed into the fluffy pillows littering Arya’s bed. They face each other, silence laying thick between them as they each study the other’s face. Sansa’s eyes close first.

After a moment, “Do you forgive her?”

Arya’s own quickly shutting eyes begin to blink rapidly. She’d thought Sansa was already asleep.

“Who?”

“You know who.”

Arya pretends to actually think on it before answering. “No.”

Sansa sighs, a weary thing. “It’s been so long Arya. Don’t you get tired of it? The anger, the bitterness?”

Arya’s lips quirk up into a twisted smile. “Sometimes I think it’s all I have.”

Sansa’s eyes finally open. “That’s silly.”

“Is it?”

“Mmm,” she hums in reply.

Arya’s free shoulder moves in a semblance of a shrug. “You have so much room in your heart Sansa. So much room for love. Sometimes,” she stops to lick her lips before continuing. “Sometimes I think that before we were born the gods said only one of us could have room for love. That I had to be stuck with whatever was left.”

Sansa smiles sadly. “You’re not making sense.” Arya just bites her lip. “I love easy, you’re right. But you,” Sansa lifts a hand up from where it’s splayed between them, reaches out softly to brush Arya’s hair back behind her ear, “you love hard. Maybe your heart’s just waiting for someone to come around who can love you just as hard right back.”

Arya rolls her eyes at her sister’s optimism. “And what about this Baelish guy huh? Does he love you hard?”

Sansa waggles her eyebrows. “In all the right ways.”

Arya mimes puking. “Gross, don’t ever say that again.” The air is punctuated by their giggles.

When they quiet down, “I think he loves me too hard.” Arya furrows her brow in question. “Sometimes I have to give him belladonna just to get a few hours of peace and quiet.” Sansa’s face is sheepish.

Arya shakes her head slowly. “You don’t drug someone you love Sansa.”

Arya doesn’t think she understands the worn smile Sansa wears before closing her eyes yet again. She drifts off soon after and when the sun comes streaming in through the curtains in the morning, the spot beside her is cold.

--

Arya misses Sansa’s first call. And her second, and her third. She’d been out in the yard, tending to her garden. Soft music was filling the air. Winterfell Manor sits at the edge of town, on a thousand acres, so the Starks had never had to worry about neighbors. When she finally steps back into the house, wiping the sweat off her brow, she sees the answering machine flashing angry red numbers at her. She frowns, knowing she never gets calls. She’s barely listened to the first message before the phone rings again. She doesn’t need to use her magic to know it’s her sister.

“Sansa, what’s wrong, where are you?”

“Can you come get me?”

--

Arya’s flight doesn’t get into the Atlanta Airport until 9 pm. By the time she pulls up to the address Sansa gave her—some scummy motel off I-75—it’s nearly 10. She bangs on the door with her left hand, the fingers on her right clenching and unclenching around the hem of the flannel she’d thrown on before heading to the airport.

When nobody answers, she hesitates for only a second before slowly twisting the knob. Finding it unlocked, she enters cautiously. She looks around, her eyes taking a minute to adjust to the lighting of the room, lit only by the TV playing softly in the background.

She frowns, anxiety bubbling up further than she thought possible when she doesn’t see Sansa anywhere. That’s when she hears a whimper, and her eyes immediately shift to the corner to see a dark shadow hunched down, fiery red hair cascading over it.

“Sansa,” she breathes out. She hurries forward, doesn’t even bother closing the door, and kneels down in front of her sister. She gently reaches forward, lifting Sansa’s face up. She can’t help the gasp that escapes her. There’s a dark bruise forming around her sister’s left eye, and dried blood crusting around her nose.

“Bet I’m a sight for sore eyes?” comes Sansa’s voice, raspy with disuse. She lets out a wince as she speaks.

“Where is he?” she fumes. “I’m going to kill him Sansa, I swear to the gods.”

That seems to sober Sansa up. “Arya, stop, we need to go okay? He’s gone, he left. I don’t know how long for, but we need to get out of here. Did you get a car, do you have a car for us?”

 “No, I took a taxi. It’s waiting around the corner still. Come on, get your things.”

Sansa grabs one measly bag and follows Arya out. “We’ve just, we’ve been on the road so long you know, and he hasn’t been sleeping much because we’ve been staying in his car a lot, so I thought, hey, let’s splurge a little and get a room tonight. Only he didn’t like the way the kid at the front desk was looking at me and I got worried he’d do something to get us kicked out, so I pulled him away. This was the thanks I got for making sure we’d have a room to sleep in tonight,” she scoffs. Arya bites the inside of her lip hard.

They make it as far as the parking lot before Sansa stops, clutching at her chest.

“Wait. My locket I can’t—it’s in his car, wait here.”

“Sansa,” Arya hisses after her, but she’s already hobbling toward a rusted car in the parking lot.

“It’s from Mom, Arya, I’m not leaving it with that asshole,” Sansa says, much too loudly.

Sansa wrenches the passenger door open, disappearing inside. Arya checks the time on her phone, hoping the cab driver will still be waiting around for them. There’s a chill in the air, wind biting sharply through her flannel. She frowns, knowing Sansa should have found the locket by now if it really was in the car. Her eyes dart around the parking lot, finding it still empty but for a few parked cars.

She makes her way to the car slowly, knows the goosebumps trailing along her skin aren’t just from the wind anymore. When she peeks into the open door of the car, her stomach drops past her knees and she lets out a sharp gasp. Her sister’s been yanked into the backseat, a man back there with her, arm clutched tightly around Sansa’s neck, hand over her mouth, and a gun pressed to her temple.

“You’re the sister I take it?” The man smiles, a foul, rodent-like thing. “How old are you? Can you drive?”

Arya nods, tongue thick in her mouth, too nervous to be affronted by the question.

“Good. Get in the front, start the car. I’ll give you directions. Try anything funny, and I’ll blow sweet Sansa’s brains out.”

Sansa lets out a whimper, tears beginning to flow freely down her cheeks. Arya’s brain runs through hundreds of possibilities, thinks back to all of the self-defense classes she’d taken. She could take this guy; she knows she can. He’s small, all bones. But a gun…there’s no way she can take a man with a gun, not when he has Sansa wrapped up in his arms like that. She’ll have to buy time, negotiate, whatever she can to get them out of this alive.

--

“You look just like your father you know.” It didn’t take Arya long to deduce the man was drunk. “Not like my sweet little rose here. Not like my Sansa.” The disgust on her face likely matches Arya’s own. He’d let her go, allowed her to cling to the door, but the gun still rests in his hand, alongside a bottle of liquor he drinks from occasionally.

Arya’s eyes dart between the road and the backseat every other second, then the floorboards, the passenger seat, anywhere up front whenever she can to see if she has anything to work with. It’s when the man—Baelish—begins looking out his window that she spots it.

Belladonna. She recognizes it easily, though she’s never used it before. Their mother had grown it in their greenhouse, and she and Ned had warned the girls to stay away from it. Whether Sansa had been stealing some from the house on her irregular visits home or growing it herself she doesn’t know.

“Hey asshole,” she begins. She sees him look over to her in the rearview mirror. “You said I look like my father. How would you know that? Did you know him or something?”

He scoffs. “Yes. Knew your mother too. We were to be married, but she ran off with him.”

Sansa’s head snaps in his direction. “What? You knew our mother?”

Drawn to Sansa’s voice, his eyes leave Arya. His hand reaches out, grabs a lock of Sansa’s hair. Arya takes a deep breath to try and calm herself. “My beautiful Catelyn. You look just like she did Sansa. So beautiful,” his voice is muffled as he buries his face in her neck.

‘Do something,’ she sees Sansa mouth.

“Baelish.” She snaps her fingers. “Baelish,” she repeats louder. “Give me that bottle, huh? You’re making me sick up here.”

His arm darts out over the front bench seat, half-full bottle dangling by Arya’s right arm. She snatches it quickly, takes a large gulp with a wince. It burns going down.

His attention immediately returns back to Sansa, allowing Arya the time she needs. When she shove the bottle back into his hand, her eyes meet Sansa’s questioning ones in the backseat.

They’re almost at his destination. Arya’s mind runs through all of those statistics they give on crime shows about not letting your kidnapper take you to a second location; wonders if it counts if you drove there. She can only hope she put enough in his drink that they can get away and call the police.

--

Arya put more than enough in his drink. Enough to kill him.

“Oh my God,” Sansa’s whispering frantically. “What did you do, Arya, what did you do?”

“Sansa, he literally just had his hands wrapped around your throat, shouldn’t you be a little relieved?”

“I didn’t want you to kill him,” she hisses out.

“Well, now he’s out of your life for good. And good riddance.”

“What do we tell the police?” Sansa’s now pacing around the car, wringing her hands. The carefree, wild Sansa she’d grown so familiar with is gone, replaced by the Sansa of their youth.

“Police? We don’t tell the police anything.”

“Oh, so what, we just leave his body here for people to find? They’ll know it was us, it’s not exactly hard detective work!”

“Well what do you want us to do Sansa? He’s dead, there’s no fixing that.”

Arya feels alarms going off in her head at the look suddenly spreading across Sansa’s face. “No.”

“You don’t even know what I was going to ask.”

“I do, and we’re not doing it. That’s dark magic Sansa, it has a price.”

“But you can do it?”

Arya shakes her head reluctantly. “No, I, I’m not strong enough to do that alone.”

“Then we’ll both do it. Together.”

Arya scoffs. “When was the last time you so much as turned a light on with your magic?”

Sansa’s face begins to turn beet red. “Shut up Arya. I have my reasons for not wanting to practice, just like you have your reasons for being a shut in.”

Arya glares at her.

Sansa’s face softens. “I’m rusty, I know. But we can do this.” She steps forward, reaching out to grasp Arya’s hand in her own. Arya knows their scars are aligned. Can feel it physically, on her skin, but also somewhere inside her, maybe her bones, maybe her heart, maybe even her spirit, who knows. “Please.”

Sansa’s voice is shaky, pleading. “Fine.” She nods her head tersely. “I’ll do it. But then we use a memory spell on him, so you’ll never have to see him again. Got it?”

Sansa’s head nods rapidly. “Yes of course. Thank you Arya, thank you so much.”

--

The trip back home is long, but Arya makes the whole drive herself, stopping at gas stations for shitty coffee and energy drinks to keep her going. And if she throws in a few air fresheners to keep in the trunk with Baelish’s body then it’s certainly not something the gas station attendant is questioning.

It’s dark by the time they arrive, kitchen light still on from when Arya had hurriedly rushed out just a day and a half ago. The slamming of car doors fills the silence that had only held the sound of crickets before they arrived, and Arya is once again grateful that Winterfell Manor has no nearby neighbors to question them as they struggle to lug a blanket roughly the shape of a body up the wooden porch steps.

They clear the kitchen table and lay him down. Arya notices again just how small the man is. “This is the dreamy Petyr Baelish, huh?” She snorts.

Sansa sends her a glare. “He has a way with words Arya, it’s…it’s hard not to be drawn in.”

Arya feels a pang in her chest. Thinks of all the grief it seems Sansa had silently suffered under this man. “I’m sorry, you’re right. I’m sure it was hard.”

Instead of answering, Sansa’s hand darts out and slaps the dead man across the face. A small smirk greets Arya’s wide eyes. “I’ve wanted to do that for a while.”

Arya begins gathering ingredients, has Sansa fetch their mother’s old spell book. Her heart clenches at the sight, as it does each time; at the well-worn pages, the soft fraying cover. She shakes her head, dives back into her task with gusto.

Sansa is surprisingly quiet the whole time, watching Arya work with rapt attention. Until the needle.

“Hold his eyelid open for me.”

“That’s going in his eye? His eye?”’

Arya rolls her own. “He’s dead, Sansa. It’s not like he’ll feel it.”

Sansa only winces when the needle is in, dropping his lid from her fingers the moment it does. They’re soon repeating the ancient words inscribed in the book. Arya can feel the spell twisting around them, the air thick with their magic. The nature of it is dark, she can tell from the way the words feels on her tongue, in the change in the air, but she can’t help but feel giddy. It’s been so long since she’s shared her magic with anyone; since she’s had someone repeating those words right alongside her.

Sansa’s looking toward her after a few minutes, confusion spread across her face. Arya frowns. It should have worked by now. Sansa leans forward then, mouth still moving but face now focused on Baelish’s own. Arya’s so distracted by her own thoughts, running through the possibilities of what they did wrong, that she doesn’t see those hands move until they’re wrapped around Sansa’s throat yet again.

A choked scream comes out, but if it’s hers or Sansa’s she couldn’t say. She’s rushing around the kitchen for something, anything, sees Baelish sitting up now, putting all of his arm strength into crushing Sansa’s windpipe.

A pan suddenly catches Arya’s attention, and it’s in her grip being swung before she knows it. One, two, three times, more than is needed because she’s still hitting even when Baelish’s body has dropped, Sansa released and gasping in the corner.

She drops the pan once she’s satisfied that he’s dead again and rushes toward her sister.

She runs a soothing hand up and down her arm, shushing her as she examines Sansa’s throat. There are tears in her sister’s eyes and she can feel some pricking at her own.

“Well,” she forces a chuckle, “we’re not trying that again. Guess he’ll have to stay dead.”

Sansa nods weakly.

“The back garden?”

Arya thinks for a moment before nodding. “By the gazebo. There’s room there. I’ll go get the shovels.”

She gives Sansa a moment to collect herself before meeting her again in the kitchen. Sansa’s eyes are burning holes in Baelish.

Arya thinks his body is decidedly lighter as they carry him this time around.

When they’re done shoveling in the last of the dirt, stomping down on it with their shoes, it begins to pour. A bad sign, and they both know it. She can see the way the rain mixes with Sansa’s tear, loud, choking sobs filling the air between them. She wraps her sister in a hug, let’s the rain wash over them for a few more minutes, before picking the shovels back up to leave by the back door and leading them both inside. An hour later they’re both under Arya’s sheets, hot tea in their hands as Sansa whispers where the last few years had taken her.

As Arya finally hears these stories from her sister—the real ones, not the ones that had filled her letter—something inside her makes a promise to never let a man harm her sister again.

--

“They’re still whispering about me around here, huh?”

Arya looks up from the potatoes she’s peeling to see Sansa standing in front of the back door, slipping her shoes off. It’s only been a day since the Incident, as they’re calling it, and Sansa had gone out to reacquaint herself with the town today.

Arya shrugs.

“They whisper about you too, you know.”

“What is it today? Witch who rides a broom at night, abducting small children? Witch who sells poisoned herbs at the local market? Or is it just lonely old shut-in today?”

Sansa frowns. “How long has this been going on?”

Arya sends her a deadpan look. “Our whole lives Sansa.”

“Well, we’ll just have to prove them wrong then won’t we?”

“And how do you expect we do that?”

“By making friends of course. Doesn’t Margaery Tyrell still live here? We were such good friends in school. I’m sure she could get people to stop gossiping about you if you’d only go speak to her.”

“Margaery was your friend Sansa, not mine. I don’t mind, truly. What they say makes no difference to me.”

“Well it can’t be good for you to be in this house all of the time anyway. Go out, make some friends anyway.”

“You’re truly starting to sound like Aunt Lysa, you know that?” Sansa looks put out. “Make yourself useful, wash your hands and mince some garlic for me.”

Dinner is stilted, the events of last night still on their mind. Still, they try, laughing loudly about the people still in town that they’d grown up with, Arya reluctantly sharing what had gone around the rumor mill about who, much to Sansa’s delight. For a moment, it almost seems as if it’s just another one of Sansa’s sporadic, nightly visits.

Until,

“Let’s make some drinks!” Sansa exclaims. “What do you have?” She’s jumping up to rummage around in Arya’s pantry, leaving Arya to only sigh from her seat at the kitchen table.

She hears Sansa scoff. “Wow, didn’t think you actually liked this stuff Arya.”

“What?”

Sansa turns around, a bottle in her hand. “I thought only Baelish could stomach this.”

Arya’s face falls, nearly knocking the table over in her rush to get up and over to Sansa. Sansa makes a sound of protest as Arya snatches the bottle from her hands and chucks it into the trash.

“What the hell Arya?!”

Arya’s breath is coming ragged, her mind swimming.

“Arya, you’re scaring me, what is it?”

She rounds on her sister. “I don’t drink shitty tequila Sansa.”

It takes a moment before the blood is draining from Sansa’s face and she’s crumpling to the floor. Arya bends down to meet her, both girls in a state of shock. A loud clanging sound makes them both jump, Sansa into a curled-up position, Arya to her feet, ready to face the threat.

Neither feels relief at the sight of Arya’s broom on the kitchen floor. “Company is coming,” Arya whispers. Sansa brings herself to her feet on shaky legs.

“No. No, this isn’t happening. Maybe someone gave you that bottle and you just forgot! Aunt Lysa was here recently, right? It could be hers.”

“No Sansa, it’s—”

“And the broom? That doesn’t mean company is coming, that’s so dumb, it’s a fucking broom, it just fell okay? Brooms fall,” she says frantically.

“Sansa.” Her sister’s eyes snap to hers. “We need to go check.”

Sansa’s jaw clenches but she follows Arya outside anyway. She lets out a gasp at the sight of the rose bush growing over Baelish’s grave while Arya stands stock still.

“He’s dead and he’s still messing with me,” she laughs out.

Arya grabs her hedge trimmers and gets to work, Sansa watching blankly beside her.

“Guess my powers weren’t enough.”

“They were enough, he came back Sansa.” Arya wipes at the sweat forming on her brow.

“But he came back wrong.”

“He was already wrong. Help me load these into the wheelbarrow. Watch out for thorns.”

It’s late by the time they finish on the bush, every last branch and petal out of sight, the earth still soft where they’d buried a body the night before. Arya’s wheeling them away when she hears Sansa scream. She drops the handles, running over to see what happened.

“His sh-shoes Arya.” At her words, the black shoes that had been sticking out of the dirt start curling back in, disappearing. “What if he’s not dead? What if he comes back and we can’t, we can’t get rid of him?”

“Let’s go inside Sansa, we’ll look into it tomorrow, I promise.” She tries to manage a confident smile, but it wavers. “We’ll get rid of him, even if we have to call the damn Ghostbusters.”

--

The visitor they’d been promised, unfortunately, isn’t a group of scientists looking to exterminate a vengeful demon, but a detective.

When Arya opens the door to an incessant knock, sleep still heavy in her eyes, she’s met with a tall, broad frame. Her eyes flicker first to the badge in his hand before they reach the thick mop of black hair on his head and the obnoxious sunglasses perched on his nose.

“Can I help you?” she asks, more attitude in her tone than she means to have but it’s seven-thirty in the morning damnit and she’s more than aware that she’s wearing fuzzy pajama pants.

“You tell me.” His voice is gruff, sounds tired itself. “Is your sister around?” Arya meets him with silence, squinting at his badge, pretending to examine it closely. “I’m working on a case, m’am. A couple of young women that were found near the Appalachian Trail this past summer and—” the man stops abruptly. “I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. Is your sister around to speak or what?”

Arya glares at him but says anyway, “Let me go get her.”

She walks to the living room, feigning a calmness she knows she isn’t really feeling. Sansa’s curled up on the couch, a book in hand, having been unable to sleep last night. “Sansa,” she hisses, looking behind her quickly for a looming figure. Her sister’s bloodshot eyes flicker to her. “There’s a detective here to speak to you.” Those eyes widen.

She gets up and takes a steadying breath, moving to pass by Arya, but Arya’s hand grabs onto her arm to stop her.

“Something’s…off about him?”

“Off? Off how? Like…dead, off?” Sansa gulps.

“What? No, not dead. I just…when I was speaking to him it felt like—like I couldn’t lie to him?” She trails off in a question.

Sansa quirks a brow, bringing a hand up to Arya’s forehead. “Are you feeling alright?”

Arya swats the hand away. “Yes. Just go. Tell him, tell him Baelish hit you. Choked you, tell him he choked you, so you left him and haven’t seen him since, got it?”

Sansa’s halfway through the doorway when she turns back to Arya. “Is he cute?”

Arya’s cheeks redden. “In a law-abiding kind of way.”

“Nice.”

It’s thirty minutes later when Arya’s done getting dressed, eaten some toast, and is making her way to her greenhouse. Only to be met by the sight of the detective poking around her plants. She’s surprised he’s already finished up with Sansa, hopes that that her sister managed to convince him of her story.

“Looking for something in particular?” He visibly startles, his hearing clearly not up to par. Or maybe Arya’s just that good at sneaking around.

“Miss Stark.”

She walks down the small steps and into the greenhouse. “You know my name, what’s yours?”

“Detective Waters,” he grunts out.

“Do you have a first name?” she finds herself teasing.

He hesitates a moment, a phantom smirk on his lips. “Gendry.”

She can feel the smile that forms on her face as she repeats it back, a matching one forming on his own. It’s uncharacteristic, she knows, but something about this man is itching at her. Makes her want to remove those sunglasses and see his eyes; to learn his secrets.

She shakes herself out of it right as his own smile drops, a letter being held up between them. “Is that my,” she falters, “is that my letter to Sansa?”

He taps it against his other hand. “Yes.”

She feels her stomach drop below her, masks it with anger. “Why do you have that? That’s a personal letter. Isn’t it a felony to go through someone else’s mail?” His hands are starting to come up in a placating manner, letter taunting her from his hand still, when his eyes dart behind her. Or, she assumes they do because he still has those dumb sunglasses on.

“Miss Stark. Do you have anymore information you’d like to share?” Arya turns to see Sansa standing behind her.

Sansa shakes her head. “Like I said Officer—”

“Detective.”

“Right, Detective. Like I said, he attacked me and I left. That was days ago, so I really couldn’t tell you where he is now.”

Detective Waters is nodding slowly, his jaw clenched. “And the plates on your car?”

Sansa’s placid smile falters. “Excuse me?”

“The car parked in your yard. Are those not Mr. Baelish’s plates?”

Arya feels an icy chill run through her. They’ve been caught, this is it, Sansa was right, they should have gone to the police immediately, why did she think they could get away with burying a body in the yard, how fucking cliché could it get, that’s where murderers who get caught bury bodies and—

Suddenly the words are tumbling out against her will, forcing past her lips that she just tries to clamp shut, a stream of consciousness that she did not approve of. “We stole his car.”

One of the detective’s eyebrows shoots up past his sunglasses.

“Sansa called me asking me to come get her and I flew down—you can check, I’m sure you already have—I flew down to Atlanta the other day—but I had no idea it was because he hit her and we were so scared and didn’t want to wait at the airport incase he looked for her there so we took the car.” She’s breathless by the end of it. Sansa’s looking at her like she grew another head and she closes her eyes to hide the wince that her face pulls into.

“But you don’t know where Mr. Baelish is?”

Arya’s eyes open, shock likely registering in them. He isn’t asking for more details about the car, thank the gods.

“No sir,” Sansa answers.

He’s pulling something out of his folder then, letter in his hand forgotten by all but Arya, and shoving pictures out toward him. “We found the women with burn marks on their arms. Brands almost.”

The sisters looking to each other with similar looks of nausea painting their faces. They know this mark too well; the one Baelish had been trying to burn into Sansa right before he dropped dead. Luckily Detective Waters takes their reactions to be natural ones to such images, as he hastily puts the images away.

“If you know anything, anything at all that can help us get Mr. Baelish into custody, you have my number.”

Arya’s about to say they don’t when Sansa agrees, offering to show him out of the house.

“I’ll have to have the car impounded of course. It’s technically evidence,” she hears his voice grow fainter as Sansa leads him out.

They’d had their visitor alright, and Arya can only see him complicating things more.

--

It’s a crisp Tuesday afternoon and Arya is setting up her booth at the farmer’s market. She sets up various jars of herbs, some for cooking others for their medicinal properties.

The townsfolk tend to stay away from her, as they had all of her life, except when she’s conducting business. Then they’re clamoring for information on what she has that could help alleviate the pain in their knees or what herb would go best with their eggplant lasagna. So, despite her less than stellar social life—and she liked it that way, honest—twice a week when she sets up at the farmer’s market the people of their little town will act like she’s one of them. Accept her almost.

Still, it’s no surprise when she hears them whispering about her and her sister to Detective Waters as he makes his way around each booth. She hears the word witch more than once, but the detective’s face shows that he finds it humorous. She’d decided when she was young to not let the word hurt her. It’s what she is, why should she be ashamed of that? No, it’s the other words—shut-in, temperamental, odd—that bother her; the ones that speak of a happy family that broke in just a few short years, leaving behind two wild daughters.

She’s just finished selling some items to Mrs. Kavinsky when he pops up beside her.

“You help out a lot of people around here, don’t you?”

She scowls at him. “You know, if you had questions about me, you could just ask me.”

“Is that so?” His mouth quirks up and Arya finds herself wondering if his eyes shine when he smiles.

“Yes,” she bites out, harsher than intended, sending a few children near her booth scurrying away, no doubt off to cry to their mothers.

“Then how about I stop by your house tomorrow? Does the morning work for you or do you sell elsewhere?”

Her brows knit together. “No, I work from home most days. Tomorrow,” she clears her throat, “tomorrow’s fine.”

“It’s a date then.” He walks away before she has time to knock herself out of a stunned silence.

--

“We have to scare him off, clearly he knows something.”

She sighs, “Sansa, we can’t interfere with magic, not again.”

“Excuse me, were you not the one completely fine with killing a guy in the first place?”

She knows Sansa’s right, knows that she told herself she’d protect her sister but, “He seems like a good guy. I don’t want anyone else getting hurt.”

“The only ones that will get hurt will be us if we don’t do something. Do you want to go to prison Arya, because I sure don’t?”

“Don’t be stupid, we aren’t going to prison. We’ll fix this, we’ll…”

“How?”

Arya’s eyes drop to the ground, her mind empty of solutions. Sansa’s hand lands lightly on her shoulder and squeezes. “Let me handle this Arya, okay? This is my mess. Trust me to fix it.”

Arya finds herself reluctantly nodding, turning back to the stove and the pancake ready to be flipped.

Sansa takes over—a determined gleam in her eyes that Arya is afraid to question—while she lets in Detective Waters. He asks her to show him around the greenhouse and Arya’s heart is in her throat, her mind telling her to calm down as they enter.

He’s poking around at the plants, Arya trying to distract him with personal questions, when he stops right where she’d been hoping he wouldn’t.

“Belladonna?” He looks to her, those sunglasses still covering up any emotions his eyes might show. “It’s poisonous, isn’t it?”

She nods casually, acts unaffected. “Sometimes. It has medicinal properties. We don’t sell too much of it though.”

His fingers leave the plant. “The people of this town had an awful lot to say about you. And your sister.”

“Did they?”

He nods. “Seem to think you’re some kind of witch.”

“You caught me,” she splays her hands in front of him. “I’m a big old witch. I have a concealer that works wonders for all of the warts on my face.”

His laugh twists at her stomach. “So many people here are convinced of it, how did something as ridiculous as they happen? Some even claim you dance naked every night and howl at the moon.”

“That’s werewolves actually.”

“Ah, so a witch and a werewolf then. They can’t seem to make up their minds.”

“Stop by at night sometime and see for yourself.” She means it jokingly, not realizing the implications until she sees the blush spread across his face and feels her own beginning to form. She clears her throat, looking around the greenhouse, anywhere but at him. “Magic isn’t just spells and potions you know?”

“No?” He sounds amused.

She shakes her head, a soft smile forming on her face. “The power in witchcraft…it’s not just some innate thing. You give it power by believing in it.” She hears him scoff. “What? You think that’s funny.”

“A little,” he grins.

She fixes him with a stare, sees him begin to squirm. “What about that pretty little badge of yours? The one you flashed at me the other day?”

“What about it?”

“Well, it only has power because people believe it does. I wouldn’t have opened my door for you otherwise.”

“Are you saying they’re the same thing?”

“Maybe. Maybe not.” She turns back toward the stairs. “Breakfast is probably done.”

“Miss Stark,” he says, stopping her. “I have to ask…”

She rolls her eyes as she turns toward him, knowing where this is going. “So ask.”

“Are you hiding Petyr Baelish in this house?”

“Absolutely not,” she answers, no hesitation.

“Did you or your sister kill Petyr Baelish?”

“No.” She chances a smirk once she sees his face relax. “We both did. A few times actually.”

A scowl forms on his face as he prepares to say something when they both hear footsteps heading toward them.

“The pancakes are done!” Sansa exclaims, a bright grin on her face that has Arya stepping around her warily.

The three of them step out into the yard where Sansa’s laid out the food on a table, cutlery and drinks neatly organized in front of each seat.

Arya takes the seat Sansa pulls out for her before she herself rushes to sit down at Arya’s left side, leaving Detective Waters across from Arya.

“These pancakes look…good,” he says, sounding less than enthusiastic. Looking down at the stack, Arya sees what he means. There’s a marked difference between the ones she made and the ones Sansa made when she took over. Arya tries to hide her snort, unsuccessfully.

“What’s wrong with my pancakes?” Sansa asks.

“It’s all about the flipping technique.” Arya’s barely able to keep herself from cracking at the solemnity in his tone. “The way you flip a pancake can make or break it. Literally.”

Arya starts to pile her plate, ready to eat the pancakes no matter what they look like. She reaches for the syrup, her hand brushing Detective Waters’ as he goes for it at the same time. “Sorry,” they both mutter.

When Arya’s tried her first bite, she notices Sansa’s silence. Looking up, she finds her sister sending a shrewd stare at the detective. This can’t be good.

“Detective Waters?”

“Hmm?” he mumbles out around his fork.

“Why don’t you take your sunglasses off, we’re under the trees after all?” Sansa always had this way about her voice when she asked people to do things for her; a tone that people seemed unable to resist, so long as they were simple tasks. Arya would find herself doing more favors for Sansa than she knew she was willing to do; men would fall over themselves just to get her a glass of water. Arya had always been suspicious of it, thinking maybe Sansa’s powers spilled over into her personal life on accident sometimes. But the way she asks Detective Waters to take off his sunglasses, that serene smile on her face, the suggestive tone; it’s no accident.

She finds herself staring at Sansa in question as the detective complies, drawn to his face as Sansa sucks in a breath.

He looks nice without them. She’d known he was an attractive man before but seeing his eyes, as deep as the sea, staring back at her, she feels as though the breath has been sucked from her. They contrast nicely with his tanned skin and dark hair, shining back at her.

“You’re eyes are such a lovely shade of blue Detective,” Sansa coos, snapping her out of her staring. Because his eyes are blue. Strikingly blue. Suddenly, Arya feels like her pancakes are going to make a reappearance.

He swallows, mumbles out a thanks before reaching for his glass of orange juice.

“Wait!” Sansa shrieks, making them jump. She snatches the glass from his hand, quickly dumping it out in the grass. She makes an apologetic face at him before saying, “Sorry, thought I saw a fly in it.”

Detective Waters looks down, frowning at the glass. “That’s not a fly.” He’s reaching down, picking something up out of the now-wet grass.

Sansa’s face stills, surprise registering on it.

“It’s a ring,” he says, holding up the large object in the air so they both can see. Arya feels like she’s going to be sick for the second time as she looks at the distinctly male ring.

Detective Waters looks between the two, anger flashing across his features. “I don’t know what you two are playing at, but you had better get a lawyer.”

The two sisters are quiet as the detective storms off toward the front yard. A breeze whips past them, ruffling the napkins on the table. Arya notices the syrup dissolving into the fluffy pancakes still left on her plate.

“Did you see his eyes?” Sansa asks.

“Yeah, thanks for that,” she scoffs. Before Sansa can say another word she’s on her feet, stalking back to the kitchen. Sansa is hot on her heels, the door left wide open as Arya paces around the kitchen.

“Look, this is bad Arya I know, but if I just stick to my story we’ll be fine. They won’t find the body, there’s no way he could know. We’ll be more careful I just need more sleep; I’m not sleeping well in this house you know, what with all of the memories but I’ll—”

Arya’s shoulders feel full of tension, the last few days of fatigue and anxiety weighing down on her. “You, you, you. It’s always about you Sansa, fuck!”

“Excuse me?”

“Ever since we were kids it’s always been about you, always Sansa this and Sansa that. ‘Look at what Sansa’s done, aren’t we so proud of her Ned.’” Her tone is vicious, she knows.

“Are you kidding me?” she laughs. “Dad adored you. Mom was so proud to have you, her perfect little witch.”

“Oh please, mom wished she had another perfect daughter. And then, she goes and dies and the rest of my life I’ve had to deal with your messes. Your recklessness as a teenager, Aunt Lysa freaking out over you going off with all of these shitty guys. And I thought, ‘Hey, Sansa’s acting out, she’ll grow out of it’ but you fucking didn’t, and now I have to deal with the consequences!”

Sansa’s lip starts to tremble, and Arya finds herself averting her eyes in irritation. “Fuck you Arya. You don’t know how hard things have been for me since mom and dad died.”

“Newsflash Sansa, I had to live through that too. Did you ever once think that I was struggling? Or were you just all too eager to leave me in this fucking house with Aunt Lysa?”

“I wanted a normal life, Arya! It’s not my fault you never left this damn house.”

“You think I don’t want to be normal?” Her voice cracks on the last word. They’re both breathing hard from shouting, faces red. The silence between them grows, too much for Arya to handle. She grabs her wallet off the kitchen island, heading for the front door.

“Where are you going?” Sansa calls out.

“Into town.” She leaves it at that, letting the door slam loudly behind her.

--

She’s knocking a second time on the motel door, breath erratic from running here, drops of sweat matting down the hair near her forehead.

She’s about to convince herself that this is a terrible idea—and really, it is—to turn around and head back home and apologize to Sansa for all of the nasty things she said, when the door opens, Gendry Waters on the other side.

He sighs. “Can I help you Miss Stark?”

“It was his ring,” his eyes widen. “Baelish’s.”

He grinds his teeth. “I suggest you get a lawyer Miss Stark.”

“I don’t want to.” She’s already pushing past him, easily making her way inside the small room. “And don’t call me Miss Stark, it’s fucking weird. My name is Arya.”

“Arya,” he repeats slowly, exacting a shiver from her that she tries to hide.

He’s moving about the room, stops when he finds a tape recorder, opening it up to flip it over. She eyes his bed, hastily made.

“Is that my letter?” She nods toward a piece of paper laying on top of the threadbare comforter. It looks worn, like it’s been folded and refolded hundreds of times.

“Take a seat, Arya.” She does as he says, perching herself on the edge.

He presses a button on the recorder. “This is Detective Gendry Waters, testimony of witness #7, Arya Stark. Date is October 24th, time precisely 4 pm.” He clears his throat, eyes moving back up to meet hers. “Miss Stark, where is Petyr Baelish?”

“In the spirit world,” she answers honestly, her chest pounding in relief at finally saying the words to this man.

“Dead?”

“No. He’s haunting us.” He seems to think on that for a minute, so she asks her own question. “What evidence did my letter give you?” She picks it up from where it lays behind her, traces her fingers over the fold marks.

He ignores her. “Did you or your sister kill Petyr Baelish?”

She narrows her eyes at him. “Sansa didn’t kill anyone.”

“Did you?” She says nothing. At her silence, “Did you, Arya?”

She stands up then, crowding into his space. “And if I did? What would you do? Send me to jail?”

“He has to be held accountable Arya,” he says, voice pleading.

“Well, he’s certainly been punished, let’s leave it at that.”

He runs a large hand over his face before stopping the tape and taking it out. “You need to get a lawyer.” He holds up a hand to stop the protest ready to leave her mouth. “You’re obviously in some kind of trouble. Trust me, I’ll do whatever I can do help you.”

She take a step even closer, her jaw clenched both breathing heavily despite just standing there. “And why would you do that? You don’t know me.”

His eyes are searching her own grey ones, like something in him is seeking her out. They flicker briefly to the letter still clutched in her hand, reaching out for it with his own.

“I feel like I do.” The paper makes a crinkling noise as he lightly pulls it from her grasp. “And I want to know more, if you’ll let me.”

His face is moving towards hers slowly, cautiously, but before he can so much as close his eyes, she’s on the tips of her toes, meeting his lips with her own. The little space that she had left between them disappears as his broad, rough hand goes to her waist, the other cupping her cheek with a softness that surprises her. Her right hand finds a place on his chest, fisting his shirt, while her left yanks roughly on his hair, pulling a grunt from him.

He begins to move them back, lips leaving hers for but a second before they reattach. The back of her knees hit the bed and suddenly she’s laying down on it. He hovers above her, chest heaving as heavily as her own. Her hands grip onto his belt, using it to pull him down on top of her. The heavy weight of him on her body has her heart singing.

They part, Arya for a breath and Gendry to move his lips down to her neck. She feels a thrill run through her at the prospect before she catches sight of his face. His lips are a deep red, no doubt from where she’d nipped at them, his hair a messier tangle than the usual state she’s seen it in. And his eyes, those bright blue, sparkling eyes, are looking down at her so warmly. Her hand darts out between them, stopping him from getting any closer.

“Your eyes really are blue.”

He smiles nervously. “Yeah.”

His weight on her suddenly feels suffocating.

“I need to go.”

“What?” His brow is furrowed, confusion written all across his face.

“I need to go, get off me. Now!” She shouts when he moves too slowly for her.

He scrambles up and she rushes to her feet, smoothing her clothes out. It takes everything in her to not look at him before bolting out the door.

--

Arya hurries home, mind occupying itself with ways to apologize to Sansa in order to stop the part of her still reeling from Gendry’s lips on hers; from analyzing everything she’d learned about him.

She knows she and Sansa had both said awful things. Not necessarily things they didn’t mean though. Arya had always felt like their mother preferred Sansa. That she wished Arya was less loud, less brash; more refined like her sister. It had always left Arya feeling a little jealous of Sansa. And Sansa’s change in personality after their mom’s death hadn’t made that feeling go away; the way she had so easily made friends, attracted the attention of boys. How she lived life almost as carelessly as Arya did when they had both of their parents. Arya, conversely, had thrown herself into her witchcraft, practicing as much as she could get away with while Aunt Lysa was living with them.

Though it’s only been a few days, having Sansa here with her again, in such a high-stress situation, had caused all of those feelings to bubble up again, out of the neatly closed box she tries to keep them locked in.

Still, she knows she had no right throwing the manipulative relationships Sansa’s been in in her face.

She’s practicing what she wants to say under her breath as she walks up the path to the front door when she hears a scream from one of the rooms upstairs. She darts up the last step and throws the door open, immediately taking off for the stairs that lead to Sansa’s bedroom. 

When she enters she stops short, horrified by what she sees. Sansa is on the bed, skin glistening with sweat as she writhes in agony. The spirit of Baelish is struggling to climb out of her, each of his movements pulling a scream from Sansa.

Arya hears a loud thud on the landing, feels a body come up behind her. She turns and sees Gendry, face as white as a sheet as he stares at the scene in shock.

By the time she turns back, Sansa has quieted, just emitting gasping sounds. Arya inches to her bedside as the spirit of Baelish stands on the other, starting to stalk around the room. She tracks his movements as she herself moves toward Sansa, grabbing onto her sister’s clammy hand when she makes it there.

Baelish is eyeing Gendry, who’s standing still, circling him like a snake. He makes a tutting noise. “You did a naughty thing, girls,” he bites out at them.

Sansa is blinking wearily, hand squeezing Arya’s as much as she can.

Baelish’s movements are lightning quick as his hand strikes out, plunging itself into Gendry’s chest. Arya thinks she yells out his name as he falls to the ground.

Baelish pulls back, a grunt of pain leaving his lips as he clutches his smoking hand. His spirit dissipates a moment later and, after checking that Sansa is still conscious, Arya runs over to where Gendry is, bent over on the ground.

He’s clutching at his chest but looks relatively unharmed.

“What,” he chokes out. “What the hell was that? Was that Baelish?”

Arya looks over at Sansa, propped up in bed on shaky elbows. She sends Arya a weak smile.

“Yes. I killed him a few days ago and now his spirit is haunting us and…” she takes a breath, wills away the prickling sensation at her eyes, “I’ll tell you where his body is, I’ll tell you everything I—”

“Arya! Calm down,” he says. She can hear her own worryingly quick breathes, focuses on Gendry’s hand that had at some point found a place on her back, rubbing soothing circles onto it. “I came here to bring him in, not you.” When her breathing has calmed he takes his hand off of her. She’s still visibly shaken, finds herself surprised at how calm he looks now as he stares at her in thought. “A thousand.”

“What?” she asks, not sure if she heard right.

“That’s how many times I read your letter. That’s why I came here.” He looks so tired now, like that first day she had seen him. “It shouldn’t be though.”

She licks her lips, wills her heart to say this. “I sent for you.” His eyes tell her to continue. “I cast a spell, when I was a kid.” She looks over at Sansa, sees her encouraging smile. “A true love spell.” A chuckle escapes her, though she doesn’t really find the situation humorous. “I asked for my true love to have all of the qualities in someone that couldn’t possibly exist. Or so I thought. You do exist.” His expression is one of bewilderment, mouth open slightly in shock. She smiles sadly. “It’s not real though. You can’t stay here.”

“I know you’re right,” he starts slowly. “I don’t know how, but…” He makes to stand up. Arya scrambles to her own feet to offer him a hand. He takes it, hesitates in letting it go, thumb rubbing a brief circle over her knuckle. “Curses only have power if you believe in them,” he smiles softly, “and I sure don’t.”

His hand drops hers, leaving the phantom feeling of it behind with her. He nods toward Sansa and begins walking out of the room. She’s watching him go when he stops and turns. “I think I wished for you too.”

Sansa lets out a choked sound behind her, no doubt having listened to their conversation with bated breath. He flashes one last smile Arya’s way before walking out and toward the staircase. She stands in the same spot until she hears the door close downstairs and a truck pull away. Sighing she turns back and walks toward Sansa.

“Do you need anything? Water?” Only the Sansa from just a few minutes ago, tired but smiling softly, is gone. Instead that smile is replaced by a cruel smirk, eyes glinting.

“Looks like it’s just you and me sis,” she says, voice not unlike Sansa’s. Before Arya knows it she’s lunging at Arya with a scream. Arya’s quicker this time though, yanking the lamp off the bedside table and bringing it down on Sansa’s head in a place she knows won’t kill her or give her brain damage, but will definitely have her out for enough time for Arya to work her magic.

When Sansa’s form is on the ground, unmoving, she hefts her up, starting the slow trek out of the room and down the stairs.

“Just a banishing spell,” she mutters to herself, grimacing under Sansa’s weight. “You can do this, it’s simple. You just need a little--” Sansa’s head bumps into the wall, “Shit, sorry,” she repositions her, “just a little extra power.”

Once she’s found some old measuring tape to tie together Sansa’s arms and legs, she starts looking for something that’s been gathering dust since it was last delivered months ago: the phonebook.

--

 Her words go something like this, “Hi [name of woman who she likely hasn’t spoken to in years, if ever] it’s Arya. Yes, Arya Stark. Look, so it’s no secret I’m a witch, right?” A pause.  “Okay, no need to sound so shocked, I know you knew. Anyway, Sansa just got out of a really shitty relationship and the guy kind of dropped dead and is now haunting her? Anyway, I could really use your help.” Another pause. “No, not with the body, that’s been taken care of. I just need help with a little spell.”

Luckily (or, unluckily, really) they all understand the whole dirtbag ex situation and offer to come over to help.

--

“Can you get rid of the toads Daenerys? Great! Brea, start lighting candles please.”

“What can I do?” A prim voice questions.

“Jeyne.” Arya can’t keep the surprise out of her tone, despite having already heard the girl agree to come over the phone. “Thank you for coming.”

“Yes, well,” she sniffs, “Sansa and I were best friends at one time.”

“Right. Well I’m sure she’d be so grateful you’re here. How about you stir the potion? There are spoons right over there.”

The girl nods, stealing a quick look toward her still unconscious sister slumped to the ground on the wooden floor.

Shireen Baratheon is the last one inside. She stops in the doorway, leaning over with her hands on her knees. “Sorry,” she pants out, “I’m late.” Takes in a gulp of air before straightening up. “I called my stepmom before coming over to see if she had any advice—she practices,” she explains once she’s seen everyone’s confused looks, “then she started talking my ear off about the vitality potion she’s been working on.” She shudders. “It was gross.”

Arya wipes the surprise off her face at Shireen’s reveal about her stepmom. “You’re not late, thank you for coming.” She turns her attention to everyone in the room. “Alright, everyone grab your brooms and form a circle around Sansa.”

They all do as she says, bustling to grab their brooms. When they’re all in a circle, “Remember what we’re supposed to say?” They all nod. “Alright then, let’s get rid of this bastard.”

They all begin chanting, the Latin rolling off of some tongues more easily than others, until they’re all in sync, the manor filling with their voices. Sansa begins squirming on the ground in front of them, her back arching up as much as it can while she’s bound. She looks to be in pain, her face splitting into a grimace.

“Keep going,” Arya calls out, dropping down and crawling toward Sansa. She’s just about reached her when Sansa lunges, yanking at the thin bindings on her wrist, knees thudding painfully against the floor. Arya scrambles back behind the line of women, all of them dropping their brooms until Sansa’s trapped in a circle. She snarls at them, the sound inhuman. Her eyes meet Arya’s and she drops to the floor again, squirming. Arya crawls right up to the edge, as close to the broom as she can get.

She lays down until she’s mirroring Sansa, their eyes seeking each other’s out.

“Just let him take me, let me go, please,” she pleads, tears running down her cheeks.

“No,” Arya calls back, “No you need to stay here with me Sansa. You left before, it’s time for you to stay now, okay?” Her own eyes are watering, tears falling freely as she watches her sister scream out yet again. “I’m sorry,” she chokes out, “I’m sorry about what I said earlier. I love you, okay? And I understand, I understand why you left. But please, please don’t leave me again Sansa, I can’t be here by myself again, not anymore.” Arya knows she’s full on sobbing now. She can feel the eyes of everyone on her as they wait to see what will happen.

Sansa’s eyes begin to slip closed as she loses consciousness again and Arya quickly sits up, wiping hastily at her face. She looks around at everyone in the room, a finger pressed to her lips as she motions them all back into a tight, circular formation. She looks at Bella, motions toward the counter behind her until the woman catches on and hands her the bottle.

As quietly as she can, she moves a broom out of the circle, leaving them exposed to Baelish. It takes another half hour at least for Sansa to wake, all of them hovering around nervously. Arya’s staring right into her sister’s eyes, sees the demonic glint behind them that belongs to that man.

“Hey Baelish. Wakey wakey,” she taunts, waving the open bottle toward him. “You thirsty?”

Sansa’s head cocks to the side, her tongue slipping out to wet her lips. She scrambles toward Arya on the ground, but, quick as can be the bottle rolls out of Arya’s hand away from the circle, replaced by a knife. Her other hand is yanking Sansa’s out from under her, the blade flashing in the air as it cuts into skin. Her sister, or Baelish, or whoever, lets out a grunt of pain as Arya cuts into her own hand, shoving the two together with enough force that they tumble into the circle, hands still clasped.

Her eyes are shut painfully tight as a blinding white light surrounds them, but she sees memories moving behind her eyelids. Playing with Sansa as a little girl; snuggling up with their mother in front of a fire; dinners with both of their parents, when laughter still filled the house; at their mother’s funeral, Sansa’s hand reaching out to grab Arya’s as they lowered their mother’s casket into the ground; Arya’s first day of high school, when Sansa told off a group of younger girls bullying Arya; when Arya finally turned 18 and Sansa came back—the massive fight they’d had, leaving Arya in tears and Sansa leaving again, not to visit again for another year and a half. The memories are happy and sad and painful but they’re hers—hers and Sansa’s. All of the beautiful and ugly moments that bind them together; all that they’ve been through together. Arya’s heart feels as light as the one that shines around them with her sister’s hand clasped in hers.

It stops in an instant, the noise and the memories and the shining. When she opens her eyes, she’s greeted by Sansa’s own eyes—her eyes, not the twisted ones Baelish had worn in her body.

“Sansa?” She croaks out.

Her sister nods her head forcefully, laughter spilling past her lips. The sound affects everyone, cheering going up around them as the room fills with a cacophony of laughter and sobs. Ash is falling all around Arya and Sansa, settling onto the floor.

She smiles at Sansa. “One more thing,” she announces to the group.

They all grab their brooms, Sansa joining in, sweeping every speck off the floor and out into the night air, all the way to Petyr Baelish’s grave. Pia and Talea follow behind, carrying the cauldron between them. As the potion seeps into the ground, a hissing sound emitting from it as it burns through the grass, she and Sansa wear matching expressions of relief.

She looks up at the moon shining down on them, her and all of these women, laughter and joyous yells ringing out into the night, and feels a little less alone than before.

--

The fire burns for nine long days, all of the nearby flower’s dead by the time the last bit of smoke has cleared from the air.

She’s standing among the now ruinous garden as she reads a letter.

Dear Miss Stark,

Investigations into the search for Mr. Petyr Baelish have concluded. Positive identification was made with the ashes located near Mr. Baelish’s Maryland residence located near the site where the victims’ bodies were found. Cause of death was ruled accidental.

Sincerely,

Det. Gendry Waters

She’s staring at the spot where Petyr Baelish’s body formerly laid. There’s nothing left behind to imply that’s where it was besides the scorch marks that will fade, but she doesn’t think she can ever forget. She hears footsteps behind her, followed by the warmth of Sansa as she rests her chin on Arya’s shoulder.

“What are you going to do?” she asks.

Arya sighs. “What would you do Sansa?”

She can practically hear the grin on Sansa’s face.

“What wouldn’t I do if the right guy came along?”

Arya chuckles, jumping slightly when she hears a clatter on their back porch. Her racing heart calms down when she sees a broom has just fallen over.

“I think we have company,” comes Sansa’s sly voice, right as she skips away back into the house.

Arya stares after her in confusion before turning to her right when she sees movement in her peripheral vision. Coming around the corner of the house is Gendry, black hair ruffled by the wind, hands in his jean pockets, sunglasses nowhere in sight.

His smile is timid but becomes more confident as her own lips curve up into one. She makes no movements, stays standing where she is among her dead hydrangeas.

“Hey,” he says when he reaches her, grin threatening to split his face in two.

“Hey,” she breathes out.

He hesitates, swallowing hard before his lips part. “I don’t love you.”

She can’t help the guffaw that bursts from her, her hand immediately darting up to clamp over her mouth. That seems to have helped his nerves, as Gendry smiles sheepishly before continuing with more confidence in his voice.

“I don’t love you, yet. But I think I could, if we got to know each other. And what I feel for you—what I’ve felt from being around you and from your letter—that’s real, I know it is.” He reaches out for her hand at her side, lacing his fingers between his own. “I’d love to get to know the real you, magic and all, if you’d like the same.”

She steels herself before looking into those eyes. They truly are bright enough to make sapphires pale in comparison, she thinks.

Arya has baggage, that’s true. Her parents died when she was young, her mother’s death left a terrible impression on her about love and what it means, and she’s spent the last few years in her house living alone. Part of her has managed to convince herself she no longer needs the company—that it will only serve to hurt her. But her heart has begun to say differently. It feels like it’s grown in size these past few weeks, opening itself up, ready to accept love of all kinds—from her sister, her newfound friends. From this man, if she’ll let herself.

It wasn’t so long ago that she told Sansa she didn’t think she was able to love; that there wasn’t any room for it within her. She knows now how very wrong she was.

And maybe love will ruin her. Maybe it will leave her sad and angry and confused. But she can’t help but think back to her parents; to the love they shared and the love they shared with their daughters, and she aches for that. To finally let herself accept it from someone.  

Her lips quirk into a crooked smile, her heart beating a frantic rhythm as she makes her decision.

“I’d like that.”