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Black of feather, plucked bare

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Jon’s cloak weighs more than heavy enough on his shoulders, but he only remembers to miss the heat it provides after it is gone. Even so, Edd needs it more than he does now, having spent half a day already without the warmth of his own, what with the incident with the dogs. They agree not to speak on it, and Jon offers silently, since he is already taking his supper with his dour companion on snow-dusted stumps at the outskirts of Craster’s Keep. It isn’t any trouble. Any honorable brother of the Night’s Watch would do the same. He is already laying it over the smaller man’s shoulders when he realizes that Edd was only expecting him to hand it to him.

“Is this the bit where the septon tells us to look upon each other and say the words?” Edd asks, so inscrutably that Jon can't actually tell if he's joking. That is where the trouble always begins with Edd. He laughs anyway, to be safe.

“I wouldn’t know. Northern weddings don’t have septons.”

“How the fuck do you lot get married with no septon?”

“We say our vows before the heart tree. You need no priest to lay witness to the union if the Old Gods themselves are watching. The father of the groom officiates, and the father of the bride gives her away. They give their names and beg the blessing of the Gods. The officiant asks the bride,” Jon falters, scraping the back of his mind for any memories of weddings. He had not been invited to many. “He asks, ‘do you take this man?’ And then she responds, ‘I take this man.’ If she does. Take him, that is.”

Edd nods thoughtfully. “‘I take this man.’ Nice and short. And that’s it then?”

“More or less.”

“Shame it isn’t as long the ceremonies in the Sept are, or I'd have a fine excuse to sit here and get good and warm in this nice dry cloak of yours – thank you, by the way – for hours while you recite all the steps. Alas, there is shit to be shoveled yet, and I don’t expect Grenn is up to the task all on his own. It really is very erudite work.”

Edd shrugs the cloak off his shoulders and folds it loosely, offering it back to Jon. He doesn’t take it.

“It’s bad luck,” Jon tells him slowly. He feels drowsy, drunk on potentiality and admittedly a gracious helping of Craster’s mead. His tongue lays heavy against his teeth. “Bad luck to return the cloak, I mean. Brings ill portents to the wedded couple.” He swallows.

Edd raises a brow, and Jon’s cheeks burn.

“The Old Bear’s out for your blood already, Snow. You think his displeasure is worth the blessing of the Gods?” He reaches out with the black bundle again, shaking it for emphasis. “Best take it.”

Jon licks his lips. “Yeah.”

So he takes the cloak, and Edd gets back to his feet and his shoveling, and equilibrium is restored to the ground they walk on. Or it nearly is, until Jon takes to his feet as well and immediately stumbles over something half-covered by the snow.

A sapling emerges from the frozen earth at his feet, small white branches coming up to his ankle. A single, resilient leaf remains amidst the snow, five-pointed and colored a deep, blood red. A weirwood.

Jon resolves never to open his mouth to speak again. He is sure Craster would have no qualms about cutting out his tongue, if it comes to that.