Jon Snow had always been a strange boy. Hauntingly handsome for a Northern lad (though most gave credit to his unknown mother.) and yet a quiet soul whose Gray eyes seemed to gently hold your gaze or send a knife through your soul, depending on who you were to him.
Catelyn Stark would always private despair that it was Jon who would first start crawling while his half-brother followed suit 3 months later. And it was Jon who would start walking with the encouragement of the kitchen maids and staff a month after while Robb followed behind a month later.
Ned Stark had been so proud of both his sons while Catelyn had only looked upon toddler Jon with hate and suspicion born of the tales of bastards and their black deeds from the Septons and Septas.
But yes, Jon was a strange child. While Robb fussed and cried for attention, Jon was silent and attentive, letting out only a small whine of discomfort if he had soiled himself or was hungry. It was noted how much attention Jon gave to his red haired sibling, crawling towards his brother and entwining their little hands together whenever he cried and lady Catelyn or a maid wasn't nearby or always bringing toys closer to him while Jon silently watched Robb play happily. It was no shock to the castle staff this that whenever Jon crawled or walked away to do something, Robb was at his heels or when Catelyn tried to seperate Robb from Jon's crib, her son would cry bloody murder.
"Inseperable they are." One of the kitchen maids gossiped. "Love's his brother that one, no matter the case of his birth. Milady Catelyn don't like it one bit though."
Indeed, the lady did not. Not that she could do much about it without getting into a cold argument with the Lord of Winterfell, her husband.
Years passed and while Catelyn did keep an eye on Jon, she was soon busy with the birth of her first daughter, Sansa as well as the rest of the Stark brood. And so it was the rest of Winterfells occupants who would be the one to take note of the Stark bastards differences.
Maester was the first to see for himself how special Jon was. Indeed while Robb soon lost interest in the Maester's talk of history should it not contain heroes or action filled battles of epic proportions, Jon would silently listen to Luwin's tales and occasionally ask questions here and there. For the most part though, he seemed to take in, understand and remember all that Luwin would say. Afterwards, Jon politely asked to have an extra hour of study with the Maester, much to his delight, where Luwin would move on to other subjects such as the names of the great Houses of the realm, their tales and history as well as things like mathematics, politics of Essos and the writing and speaking of Low and High valyrian, something Jon took to knowing, speaking and writing quite easily.
Jon had a sharp mind, Luwin concluded. And should he have no future in Winterfell, he had no doubt the citadel could prove a home for such a sharp mind.
Jon also took to swordplay and physical exercise with quiet ease seen only with those born with talent. He mastered the basic defence and offensive stances quicker that Robb did and was soon swinging his sword like fluidly with both grace and peerless aggression on the training yards, following Rodrick Cassell, Winterfells master-at-arms, strict instructions to the letter and doing them perfectly. When their 3 hours of training was up, Jon would stay back, asking permission in his quiet voice to run drills and train with the guards. Rodrick mostly agreed.
"Your son has another master-at-arms in Jon, Lord Stark, should young Lord Robb wish to keep his half-brother around Winterfell. He takes to the blade with ease and seems to be proficient using any weapon I've given him from Mace, bow, Spear and even Warhammer. The lad is a natural." He said, proud of having and training such a dedicated student.
Ned Stark was also pleased. Robb was himself showing proficiency in the blade not far behind Jon, though the Lance was where he shined thanks to all the tales of tourneys Catelyn told their son. But Jon could use his new skills to rise high in the Night's Watch, a future that would no doubt see him safe for the rest of his life and keep the secret of his birth unknown...
Jon, Robb and the rest of their siblings, Sansa, Arya, Bran and later on little Rickon, continued to grow and prosper behind Winterfells walls. While Sansa was more of her mother made small in her disdain of Jon (though more in her ignoring him than anything else) his siblings adored him. Jon particularly took a shine to Arya and the young girl to him, seeing as unlike the rest of her family Arya was a Stark through and through, inheriting the stark looks of dark brown hair and grey eyes, happily following Jon around as soon as she could crawl and walk and happily falling asleep on his chest while he told her stories.
Catelyn had near had a heart attack and had tried to dissuade her young daughter from being anywhere near Jon. Catelyn had to consede defeat however when Arya had cried all of Winterfell to near insanity when her mother wouldn't let her go to Jon.
Jon for his part had coldly walked into the knitting room Catelyn, Sansa and Septa Mordane had been in, gently brought his young sister into his arms, wiped her tears, comforted her and walked out again. Catelyn had been on a war path, moving to rush off after him, only to find her path blocked by her husband.
"Leave him be, Cat." He said.
Jon had the victory of the day.
As he grew, Many could not help but whisper of how, well, beautiful and handsome Jon actually was, with grey eyes and dark curls that reached his shoulders and his impressive figure. Women around Winterfell who saw him as he entered the 16th year of his life were either jealous of his looks, wanted to sleep with him or both. It amused Jon how protective Arya became of him when any woman, lowborn or whore, approached him. She near growled like a true wolf at them.
His body was a big bone of contention of the guardsmen of Winterfell. Jon exercised and drilled under Rodrick Cassell daily then before bed every night without fail. Though he would never be a giant muscled monster like Tywin Lannisters attack Dog, Gregor Clegane, Jon was remarkably, if not inhumanly, strong and with the muscles, strength and body to show for it. Robb at least was sure of it, always feeling the heavy weight of Jon's blows to his sword when they trained.
What really started people talking in the north was the tale of Jon's first confrontation. By the time, Winterfell had received a new addition in Theon Greyjoy, a hostage taken from his Father, Balon Greyjoy, after the Ironborn's failed rebellion. He was half and half to how he treated him, in Jon's opinion, one day lording himself over Jon, making bastard jokes (that by the calm and dismissive look Jon gave him, he didn't care about one whit.) Or trying to break the ice between them and get him to take up whoring with him.
While Arya seemed ready to throw a bucket of boiling water over the Greyjoy heirs head, Jon was not amused.
"It's a pathetic day when an sad excuse for a Lords son, and a hostage at that, has to soothe their ego trying to torment someone." Jon had said once after another round of Theon's insults in the training yard and in front of the guards no less. Silence had reigned at his words, even some of the guardsmen who had been chuckling and laughing went quiet as Jon finally fixed turned to look up from sit-ups, giving Theon a look of pure hate and disgust that was nowhere in his face but seemed charged in his quiet voice and his eyes, Theon feeling as if he was before a large pack of hungry Direwolves, eager for his flesh, ready to tear him to pieces.
His words however, sent a real chill down his spine and Theon could not tell if it was real or his imagination. "I'll say this once Greyjoy. Open your mouth one more time to begin your insults and I will break your jaw in two, snap your spine and leave you in the cold snow to die. You are in the North, not those Islands you cherish so. And here...winter always comes for those who deserve it."
Jon had walked away without a glance backwards, Arya at his heels grinning while Robb just looked at Theon with Disappointment.
It was true what many said. Jon had an Aura to him. A presence that seemed to grip you when he spoke. Some would swear it was as if the old Gods or Winter kings of old spoke. Not that many in his family ever noticed. Maybe Arya did but she would never say anything much about, it being something normal to her with how much time she spent around him. And Jon would just roll his shoulders and change the subject whenever it was brought up.
Another major occurrence for Jon was when Arya had actually gotten lost in the Wolfswood when Robb had secretly taken her (upon her blackmail that she would tell their Lord father if he didn't) and Theon Hunting to show off to Jon how good he'd become. Unfortunately, while they had snagged a great stag, they had lost Arya in the process and after an hour of searching had rushed back to Winterfell to get help.
To say Lord Stark had been both worried and furious would been an understatement. Every man in Winterfell and the guards had set out to find her. Jon hadn't even looked worried.
"Arya is fine." Jon had said as they walked among the forest, shouting out for Arya.
"How do you know Jon?!?! She could be anywhere by now! She could be hurt! She could...." Robb groaned in worry, his words filled with guilt and horror.
He suddenly stopped as his half-brother put a gentle hand on his shoulder and he suddenly felt warm, renewed, filled with hope. It was the first time Robb would ever understand what people had meant by Jon's "Aura" as his brother spoke to him, his grey eyes warm and comforting like their fathers when they were afraid.
"I know she is fine because she is a Stark. One of us. And secondly...." Jon closed his eyes, faced turned slightly upwards as if listening for something before his eyes opened suddenly and Robb almost swore he saw a hint of violet in them before they disappeared. "I know where she is. She is not alone. She is protected."
The two boys hadn't noticed Lord Stark, Theon and Rodrick Cassell walk up to them silently as they spoke. Jon, however, didn't seem startled. "Follow me." He simply said. And they did, not wanting or waiting to question how as long as Jon led them to Arya.
It wasn't 10 minutes later that they found themselves near a small cave nestled deep in the woods.
"Arya? Arya, it's me, Jon." He called out, a reply coming out immediately, much to their relief.
"Jon? Jon!!" Within moments there was the sound of running on hard rock within the cave and soon a dark haired blur rushed right into Jon's waiting arms. "Jon! Father! Robb! You came." She said happily, clinging to her brother's warm hug.
"And what of us? What are we, trees?" Rodrick Cassell asked good naturedly as the men and guards laughed in relief at the young ladies safe retrieval and Arya smiled. "I'm glad you're here too." She said as Ned took her gently from Jon to hug her fiercely, glad his youngest daughter was alright.
"How did you find the cave anyway?" Robb asked. Arya shrugged. "Well, I didn't see you walk on when we were looking for the stag. I called out but you had already left me behind, so I just kept on walking and then...she found me and led me here."
Everyone looked confused yet curious. "She?" Theon asked for them all yet Jon, who had been staring into the dark cave entrance the whole time silently pointed and everyone's eyes followed.
Out of the Cave came a large, fearsome beast. Her fur was black as night and her eyes a red blaze that looked to everyone gaze. Robb gasped at the Direwolf that seemed to be the size of a large pony. What seemed to increase her size was sight of her heavily pregnant underbelly. It was a she wolf no doubt and would take them as a threat if it meant protecting the lives in her womb. It was snarling in warning, causing everyone to back up in fear, though Arya didn't seem afraid.
Everyone had moved back, except Jon. Jon had simply waited as the wolf approached and it suddenly stopped a few feet away from Jon, looking directly into his eyes. It suddenly gave a slight whine and soft bark as it approached him.
"Jon...!!!?" Ned Stark had begin to shout, fear for his blood deep in his voice yet Jon simply held up a hand to stop any approach and let the She wolf come to him. In eagerly sniffed about him and his clothes before happily licking the side of his face, causing Jon to laugh and bury his face in her soft, dark fur.
"I'll name you Nyxia. Black as the night but with a heart full of love. Defender of the North." Jon said gently as the newly named Nyxia seemed to approve.
Everyone else except Arya, who was smiling happily, could only gape in shock at the scene. Their confusion could not outmatch the Lord of Winterfells however.
"Lyanna, you have an incredible son it seems..."
For months after, Jon and Nyxia were the talk of the North. Servant grapevine and communication was a thing that would even make Varys the Lord of Whispers jealous and they had not failed. By the third day, most of the Northern lords were sending Ravens to confirm reports and some even promising to visit to see the Direwolf themselves once Ned had confirmed reports.
Jon had Nyxia sleep in his own room, bringing her meat and milk he bought with his own allowance coin, even though Ned had offered to give him the funds to feed the Direwolf. Nyxia was also quite selective in who she allowed near her and Jon. While Nyxia treated Arya like her own wolf pup (usually easily picking her up by her clothes whenever she was forced into sewing lesson and carrying her to her Jon's room and insisting on licking her clean like a pup, Septa mordane and Sansa too scared to stop the Direwolf.) the rest of the Starks had known to keep clear. (Though whenever she saw Lady Stark carrying Little Rickon, it seemed she wished to take up the young boy like Arya, much to Catelyn Starks fear.)
"It is not natural Ned! It could hurt our children. Maim them..." She had pleaded with her husband one night. Ned had shrugged.
"And what would you have me do? Have it killed?" He asked, watching as his wife nodded eagerly.
"Yes! It's a wolf for Seven's sake. Tell the Bastard to put it down and...." Catelyn trailed off, seeing the look of barely restrained anger and frustration.
"Need I remind you, lady wife, that the Direwolf is the sigil of our house. What you have just said would be seen as treason to my very ancestors. And I do not think I will have to remind you how many I have told you not to call Jon that name?" He asked, a bit of anger leaking into his voice.
"I...I understand my lord." She said, albeit a bit stiffly.
"Good." Ned nodded curtly, standing up and moving his solar, thinking it would be a good time to go see how Jon and Nyxia were doing. He stopped by Jon's room, only to see he wasn't in.
"His gone down to the crypts father."
Ned turned and found Arya at his back. He ruffled her hair playfully. "And how would my little wolf know this, hmm?" Arya smiled, though batted his hands away playfully. "He said he wanted to see something down there and also to pay respects to Aunty Lyanna."
Ned frowned slightly at that and sighed. Jon always seemed so close to the truth, though luckily he had never been able to put two and two together thank the Gods, despite the strange and amazing things that always seemed to happen around him.
He sent Arya on her way to supper and made his own way to the crypts. He walked down the aged and dust covered steps and down an old hallway, each small and sealed spot in the wall the testing place of Stark kings, Queens, Lords and Ladies of old. He finally found what he was looking for.
Jon stood with his back turned to him, his gaze solely on the statute of Lyanna he had had commissioned all those years ago after the rebellion, Nyxia a large, silent shadow at his side. Gods! How he missed his sister. Hopefully, by the time Jon could be told of the truth, he would be an older and tempered man of the Night's Watch, his skills serving the black brotherhood of the wall and away from danger...
"Something wrong, Lord Stark?" Jon said, his voice barely raised. Ned sighed. He could barely remember the last time Jon had ever raised his voice to get his point across, even to men his senior in both age and station. He was a leader, born and bred from the two lines he would only know of when the time was right.
"No. I'm just thinking how she would have loved to meet you, your aunt...."
Jon let out a sigh himself before turning to face him. Grey eyes met in a clash as Jon spoke.
"When you say Aunt, Lord Uncle, I think you mean my mother."
Ned could only look back at him as the shock of the truth rolled over him.