- No Beta
- Alternate Universe
By all accounts, Catelyn should have been happy about these turns of events. But she was not.
By falling in love as he had, Jon Snow had assured that no banners would ever be raised for him or his sons, as the northmen all held a strong distrust and dislike of wildlings.
And yet, as she watched Ned’s bastard smile sweetly at the red-haired wildling girl, she found herself gritting her teeth.
Ever since the boy had fallen in love and had begun to argue with his father to be allowed to court and wed Ygritte, Catelyn found herself disliking the sight of Ygritte.
Certainly she had been displeased before this at the presence of the small group of wildlings in Winterfell-though not within the North itself, as Catelyn was equally concerned as her husband was that the wildlings were so frightened that many were beginning to come down and beg for the protection of the Starks-but she had worried about the influence such a course group would have on her children. Especially on Arya. Arya was already too wild, unable to reconcile herself to the fact that Westeros would shun and ridicule her desire to wield a sword and be a knight.
She had known soon after meeting Ygritte, a girl as brash as she was rough, that would have a negative effect on Arya and her dreams of a life Westeros would never allow her to have.
Neither of her daughters understood that Brave Danny Flint was more than just a sad song, that it was also a warning, but she did. That was what happened to women in Westeros who tried to take up a sword and ride freely alongside men.
She feared her Arya suffering such a fate or the cruelties of a husband who could not accept his wife’s wild ways.
And so, she had striven to ensure her children did not interact much with the wildings who were currently seeking sanctuary in Winterfell and had been for the past several months.
But she had not spared a thought towards Jon Snow. Ned’s bastard was not her responsibility and, considering the fact her husband was just as wary as she was of having their children be around their guests, she had thought he would see to the boy.
Judging by the sight of the boy and Ygritte and his proclamations of love, her lord husband had not done so. It was ridiculous. The boy was only four and ten! And the girl was a full three years older than him, as near as anyone could reckon.
He was far too young to fall in love and wed. Ned had not yet given in and his bastard respected his father too much to proceed without his approval. It was a small comfort. It was also not enough. Darkly, Catelyn wondered if Ygritte would truly accept that Jon desired his father’s approval first and not demand he wed her in the way of her people.
It would not be the first time the girl had proclaimed her disgust of “kneeler” customs. She was also certain this was a game to Ygritte.
She teased and laughed at Jon more than she spoke to him kindly. Catelyn had never seen her look upon the bastard tenderly and yet Ygritte encouraged his affection and seemed to approve of his courtship of her. The wildling clearly wanted Jon as much as Jon wanted her, but Catelyn worried Ygritte only wanted him for the security she thought he could provide, sharing none of the same fondness and regard he had for her. She also doubted Ygritte’s loyalty-if Jon bored her, would the girl leave? Did Ygritte understand what marriage in Westeros entailed? They were both far too young to consider such a step.
It was not her place to interfere, she told herself. She was not his mother. He had a mother, whoever she was, and this unnamed woman was someone her husband loved dearly. He loved this woman enough to give her son a place in his halls, besides his trueborn children.
By doing so, Ned had announced to the Realm and the boy himself that his father’s side was where the boy belonged. That he had a claim to Winterfell, in the eyes of his father.
He was a threat to her children, especially so to Robb who loved his half-brother dearly and would grant him the same honors his father did. But what would happen when the boy’s mild jealousy turned to envy and bitterness, as Daemon Blackfrye’s had?
But by cleaving himself to a girl with no noble blood or ties in Westeros, who belonged to a people hated by the North, the bastard lost any support among the people of Westeros that he might have found otherwise. If ever Robb’s lords thought that Robb was lessened by her blood, they were unlikely to turn to the Stark bastard who had wed the oldest enemy of the North.
They would not look to Jon Snow as a preferred alternative to Robb. Not once he cleaved himself to a wildling.
She should be relieved by this. She knew that. While it did not fully remove him as a threat like the Night’s Watch would have, it was still acceptable. If there had to be a match for Jon Snow, better this girl than some daughter of Ned’s bannermen.
Yet Catelyn wanted nothing more than to march down there and usher Jon Snow away from Ygritte. She wanted to find him a daughter of a bannerman who would respect him and care for him.
It was not her place to do so, she told herself sharply, as she had done numerous times since becoming aware of this… romance.
She had always maintained her distance from Ned’s son-the son she had not given him. He was a threat and an insult. His presence in Winterfell told Westeros how much her husband respected her and their union.
It did not help that Ned was so protective of the boy. He never let him leave Winterfell, guarding his bastard son fiercely. He was uneasy every time the boy was not within a distance Ned could easily traverse. It had gotten better as the boy aged but not by much. He hid everything about the boy’s origins from her. The bastard and his mother kept Ned from ever fully letting Catelyn into his heart, no matter how much he had come to love her.
Furthermore, she had no place in the boy’s life, except as Lady Stark, his father’s true and noble wife; this was something she had ensured as much as Ned had when he had brought his bastard to Winterfell.
If Ned had given him a home elsewhere, under the care of a good and loyal bannerman, the Manderlys or the Umbers perhaps, and seen to his care and upbringing at a respectful distance, Catelyn could have allowed herself to be kind towards him. She would not have spoken a word against Jon Snow, perhaps even sending him a gift or two alongside her husband. But Ned had brought him here, to their home, and so Catelyn could not be kind to this child of Ned’s. Not when the risk was so great.
Yet, even with all of that, even with all the hurt and pain his very presence had caused her, she found she could not let this go. She wanted to protect Jon Snow from the heartbreak she was sure he would find here, and these sudden protective feelings left her in turmoil.
She turned from the window and sight of Jon and his wildling love, angry once more at Ned. But she had to let that go. It would do her no good to be angry at her lord husband. And she could not stop this romance, no matter how much she longed to.
“He thinks he loves her,” she said softly to the empty room. “I cannot stop him. I am not his mother. He is not my son.”
But at this moment, she wished he was.