Margaery is barely nine, young and giddy and in love with the flowers that grow around her home. She doesn’t understand many things, but they call her attention anyway. Grandmother says that’s good, she says that curiosity leads to knowledge and knowing will get you one step ahead of everyone else but ladies should always be subtle. Curiosity is to be kept hidden under pretty eyes and sharp tongues are to be masked behind soft smiles. She calls Margaery a rose and, like roses, she must keep her thorns under pretty little petals.
Her father never sees her thorns. When he goes to her to tell her she’ll go to a magical land made of snow to meet her prince charming, he never notices the glint in her eyes. She knows, even at such a young age, the truth behind those words. Her father wants power, he wants influence and the North is big and vast and powerful. The heir is about her age and such an alliance would value much, would made them gain what her father craves.
But Margaery is not bothered by the sweet lies and, when she smiles at her father, it’s truthful and genuine. Because the thirst for power is carried through blood and, after all, she’s Olenna’s granddaughter.
Her father talks about Robb Stark and tells her how important is for him to like her. She doesn’t need reminders, the desire is now deep in her heart. She is to leave towards Winterfell in half a year and she’s to be fostered with the Stark until she’s a woman flowered. Of course, she’s supposed to make Robb fall in love with her before that.
The journey starts a year late, but Margaery doesn’t mind. She has her mind set in something, time cannot stop her.
She meets Sansa almost two years later. She’s about to be eleven and their party has reached Winterfell. The north is hard, and grey and white and blue. It’s only snow and cold, winter roses and frozen lakes. It shines with beauty by morning and seems the land of magical creatures by night; but compared to Highgarden and the Reach it’s monotonous and dull.
She misses the vivid colour of the roses and the sweet scent she felt every morning. She misses the birds singing at the rise of dawn and the green fields that extended for miles and miles. This land is not home and this land is not hers. Yet.
Margaery smiles to it all, like a lady should, and brushes the nostalgic feeling off her mind. When she reaches Winterfell she’s poised and controlled; delicate and kind. She greets Lord Stark with the required curtesy, a smile and a courteous nod. She blushes at the mention of her eldest son and looks at the boy with a coy expression.
He’s handsome, she thinks. Red hair and blue eyes and a soft smile that has Margaery’s smile growing with sincerity. He greets her with a kiss to the back of her hand and she knows he thinks she’s pretty. The fact pleases her but she doesn’t let the confidence show. Not yet.
And then she turns and she finds herself liking this family a little bit more because Sansa Stark is standing before her and Sansa Stark is beautiful, she’s breathtaking, she’s the epitome of innocence. She has Robb’s hair and Robb’s eyes but in her feminine face they look so much beautiful. She’s a rose, like the roses that grew at Highgarden, and so eager to meet Margaery, so anxious to be best friends, that Margaery finds her to be endearing immediately.
The more Margaery gets to know her, the more Sansa grows in her heart. She’s sweet and kind and honest. Everything she does is soft and everything she says is courteous. Sansa is a soft rain, the soft rain that feeds the flowers and cleans the landscape. A soft rain that means life and beauty and so sincere Margaery’s heart aches. She must protect this precious flower with her delicate petals and her love of the sun, because hurricanes tear such fragile things apart within minutes and almost without meaning to. And nothing hurts more than unexpected pain, Margaery has been told.
So she stops being ahead just for her. Now she’s a step ahead because otherwise her precious new sister could suffer the fall. It would so sad to see her fall off her castle of clouds and it would be heartless, as a sister, to not protect her. Because they’ll be sisters someday and as far as Margaery is concerned they are sisters already.
They kiss for the first time a year after Margaery’s arrival.
They are just playing like they always do in Margaery’s room. They share their secrets and they talk and they laugh like they always do. But suddenly the moment feels odd and there’s this question nudging her mind, clawing through her throat and Margaery rests her chin on her hands and smiling asks: “Have you ever been kissed?”
The question seems to change the air and Sansa blushes and looks away. She shakes her head and puts her hands on her cheeks, as if trying to feel the blood coloring her skin. The gesture is adorable and Margaery laughs, the sound floating in the room like the sound of bells made of crystal. “You haven’t?,” she insists. Sansa clears her throat and clearly says no.
“Kiss me, then,” Margaery says and the color on Sansa’s skin grows like blooming roses. Margaery nods at her bewildered expression but doesn’t insist. It won’t count if she does.
She partly expects Sansa to turn away. To giggle and blush a little bit more and take it as a joke. But then she leans in and they are kissing like it’s the most natural thing to do. It’s sweet and innocent and soft, this kiss, like everything Sansa does. It’s just a game, harmless. So they do it again.
And again and again and again.
The day Margaery turns thirteen is the day she realizes things may be going the wrong way.
She’s been in Winterfell long enough to know her way around the castle and she’s been in the North long enough to appreciate its beauty. The Starks are a good family, an honorable family, and she finds it as bothersome as she finds it useful and… cute. But she had a very specific target and her attention has drifted away.
Robb likes her alright, Margaery knows. He thinks she’s beautiful and he thinks she’s a true lady. He smiles at her and kisses her hand and acts like the prince charming her father promised he would be. She knows that, when the time comes, a marriage pact could be sealed and the name of Lady of Winterfell is at her reach. She knows her purpose, her father’s purpose, could be fulfilled in a very short time.
And it terrifies her to know that she’s not pleased about it at all. She’s not pleased with Robb’s attention and she’s not pleased with the impending promise of a wedding. She’s not craving to be his lady and she’s not craving to win his heart. Love was not supposed to be an important thing and is love what leaves her uneasy.
She’s falling in love. She’s falling in love with the North and the thirst of power still holds her heart. She’s falling in love with Winterfell and, the most important part, the most frightening part is she’s falling in love with a Stark.
But she’s falling in love with the wrong one.
The morning she discovers she has flowered, Margaery loses her grasp on herself. She’s not formal and courteous and delicate. She’s unfocused and nervous and uneasy. She understands why: the blood staining her sheets is either her ticket home or the push to a marriage pact.
She wants none.
She doesn’t try to take the sheets off the bed and burn them before anybody sees, how would she explain that? She just stares at the stain with her arms crossed above her chest. She just stays in silence and does nothing.
And she hates herself for it.
By the time the door opens to reveal her maid, she has willed herself to sit on a chair. At least she’s not standing beside her bed like there’s a monster sleeping in it. Now she’s sitting beside it, looking at the door, and holding her hands on her lap.
They ask her if she’s okay, she nods. They ask her if she wants a bath, she nods. They ask her if she feels any pain, she nods. The words are stuck on her throat and the only possible answer, it seems, it’s to nod.
They give her the bath, they give her the talk about women and growing and the wonderful time in life she has reached. She trembles with every word because she knows the truth and sees behind the words and she knows all of this. She’s not stupid, she understands this with a clarity that has been in her mind ever since she learned how to let her curiosity thrive and be hidden at the same time.
She’s getting married or she’s going home. Those are her two options. She wants none.
They leave her alone once they see she won’t respond. The silence in her room comforts her and the fact that she’s alone allows her to breathe. She’ll just have to wait. Her father communicated his desire for a betrothal between House Tyrell and House Stark a long time ago, it’s Lord Stark’s choice now.
She’s expecting peace for the rest of the day, she’s expecting silence, but when a soft knock calls at her door, she’s on her feet with something like longing in her heart. When she opens the door and sees Sansa standing there, the longing turns to fire and the smiles comes unbidden to her face.
Margaery pulls her into the room immediately.
“They say you are feeling unwell,” Sansa says, worried and a little bit nervous and looking so beautiful Margaery smiles as a reflex.
“Just a little. I knew how it would be, my grandmother told me what I should’ve expected a long time ago.” Sansa blinks and presses her lips together. Margaery knows the gesture and guides her to the bed so they sit together. “What’s troubling you?”
“Oh, nothing is troubling me. It doesn’t bother me at all. It doesn’t.” She’s such a bad liar, she’s always been. Too pure, too precious, Margaery fears the day this word of lies will try to swallow her.
“Are you sure?” but Margaery hasn’t properly finished her question when Sansa is already speaking again.
“You’ll marry Robb.”
Silence falls in the room after that. Heavy and final and fatal. Margaery gulps and Sansa stares at her and they just look at each other, fervent eyes looking for a sign, any kind of sign.
Margaery gulps again and clears her throat. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” They stay silent for just a second more and then Sansa hugs her. “Why aren’t you happy?” She says right next to her ear and Margaery blinks. Why isn’t she happy?
Because I’m marrying the wrong Stark
But then Sansa says the obvious thing, the thing Margaery should’ve realized if she wasn’t being so negative and suddenly the whole image changes. The worried glint in Sansa’s eyes turns to hope and her pressed lips is longing. The silence feels like relief and finality looks like future.
“You are staying here with me.”
A suddenly a marriage with Robb it’s a lifelong bond with Sansa. A bond no one could deny or try to take away from her. She would be her sister in front of everyone’s eyes, and forever her lover in her heart.
Sansa pulls away to look at her and, again, she’s the one to initiate the kiss, much like their first. And it tastes like hope and it tastes like love. Now her grasp on herself is stronger than ever.
Margaery is sixteen, young and cunning and in love. She hides her true feelings with her hand on her husband’s arms and her eyes following all his moves. She keeps her passion for the safety of closed doors and an image of sisterly affection for the world. She’s smarter than Loras and luckier too; because between ladies a great deal of things are allowed. A kiss on the cheek, walking with entwined arms, looking into each other's eyes and sharing secrets in whispered breaths. Spending a great deal of time together, sleeping in each other’s bed when the Lord is away, exchanging stares in the middle of supper and crying when one of them goes away.
Because it doesn’t matter how smart Margaery is, she can’t keep the world from sending Sansa away to be wed. And it doesn’t matter how strong the world is, Hornwood is less than a week away and a week of travelling seems like such a small price when it comes to spending time with her precious flower.