The Northern Wolf, a Southern Doe
Betrothment of North and South
When Helaine Baratheon was born nine months into her marriage to The Usuper King Robert, Cersei Lannister despaired, for she was dark of hair. It didn't matter to Cersei that the girl had inherited her green eyes, or would grow into a great beauty to rival her mother, all she saw was the dark curls that she could have only gotten from her detestable husband. She was a precocious child, unnatural a small part of Cersei's mind would whisper in the face of the girl's too-intelligent eyes, a mockery of her own, too wilful and too observant for someone of her young age; even as an infant she had had a look in her eye that seemed to scream that she knew something you didn't. Cersei couldn't even stand to be in the same room as the child, and when Joffrey, gold of hair and green of eyes, was born a year later, she had an excuse not to; after all, this was her first-born son.
Princess Helaine grew up in the hands of wet nurses, with a mother who despised her and a distant father who would become known to slip and call his daughter Lyanna when he had indulged in too much wine (which, as the years went on, grew more and more common). She grew up surrounded by servants and knights who were absolutely charmed by the little fawn, who was humble and kind despite being a princess, unafraid of work and who could often be seen helping the kitchen staff or shadowing the training fields.
(And as Helaine Baratheon grew, so did the memories in her mind; the ones of another life in another world, of cruel relatives that looked like animals, of magic and mystery and adventure, of wars and lost families, memories of a wizard named Harry Potter.)
At five, intelligent and brave beyond her years, she managed to wrangle swords lessons from her uncle who, quite the Slytherin in that moment, went about manipulating her father into hiring a Brovossi 'dance instructor', and proved herself quite talented despite her petite structure. Six years old was her age when she walked in on her uncle and mother and discovered just how her younger siblings were conceived, finally knowing why the Queen hated her so much; Helaine hadn't been born of her forbidden romance with her twin brother, but of a single night where Cersei's moon tea failed to work.
She was a little over a year old when Joffrey was born, five when Myrcella (gold of hair, green of eyes) came into the world, and seven when baby Tommen (gold of hair, green of eyes) joined his siblings. She loved her siblings, no matter how different they looked from her, or who their parents actually were, or even how spoiled Joffrey was or how cruel he could be, and Myrcella and Tommen adored her right back. Joffrey, however, didn't seem to hold the capacity to love anything but causing others pain.
(Sometimes, she’d look at her brother, and see the young face of Tom Riddle staring back; just as handsome, just as mad, but without the charisma and intelligence that got Riddle to where he was. Instead, he was raised with a sense of entitlement, the knowledge that he was the Heir to the throne, and the comforted by the security that gave him.)
By thirteen Helaine had grown into a beauty to rival her mother, talented with a sword and an excellent rider, she was perspicacious and perceptive, with a quick mind and sure feet. It was at this age that she learned of her father's plans to join Houses Baratheon and Stark in marriage through Joffrey and the Stark's eldest daughter, and she was fourteen when she changed her father's mind; Baratheon and Stark would still be joined, but it wouldn't be Sansa who would be married, instead Helaine would be married to the Heir of Winterfell, Robb Stark.
Robb Stark, Heir of Winterfell and future Lord Stark, grinned playfully as his sword clashed against Jon's, his greater strength and height causing his dark-haired brother to stumble slightly, but despite being slighter than Robb, Jon was still a talented swordsman for his age and easily regained his footing and deflected the auburn haired Stark's next attack.
But, like every time before, after giving a good fight, Jon lost and the spar ended with Robb's sword at his neck and a faint feeling of disappointment, because Robb knew his brother was better than what he showed in their mock fights. He had seen his brother, younger by a few months, defeat Ser Jory in a spar, something Robb had never managed to do.
Not about to call his brother out on it however, not with an audience, he stepped back, shooting Jon a crooked grin, "Better luck next time, Snow."
Jon chuckled, picking his tourney sword up off the ground. "Perhaps, Stark."
"How about another round?"
"As you wish." Jon smirked, but they were interrupted by someone clearing their throat. The two boys turned to meet their father's gaze, watching as the older Stark approached them.
"Good fight, both of you." Lord Eddard Stark said easily, gray eyes studying their sweat-covered and dirty appearances, then flicking to his heir. "Robb, I need to speak with you."
Robb blinked, glancing at Jon, who shrugged, then back to their father. "Of course, father." He shot his brother an apologetic grin as he handed the dark-haired boy his blade and moved to follow his father into the castle
They walked in silence, and Robb couldn't help but feel nervous; what was this about? Had he done something wrong? They took a few more turns, approaching the Lord of Winterfell's study, and Robb was surprised to find his mother already waiting for them inside.
"Take a seat, Robb."
The auburn haired Stark did so, taking the chair next to his mother and across from his father, who had already seated himself behind his desk, fingering a sheet of parchment as he watched his eldest son with serious gray eyes.
"I received a letter from the King," Ned said finally, "He wishes to join our Houses in marriage."
Robb startled, blue eyes widening as he glanced between his mother and father. "Me?" He voice was faint when he spoke, face pale; as the Heir to House Stark Robb had known he'd have to get married eventually, but he had grown up with the belief that he would have some form of control over who he married, both his mother and father had wanted him to have a choice. He had built an image in his head, of a fierce Northern beauty, not a wilting Southern flower who wouldn’t be able to handle the harsh winters.
His father nodded, "The King wishes for a marriage between you and his eldest daughter, Princess Helaine."
Robb had heard of the Baratheon princess; it was said she was blossoming into a beautiful girl to rival her mother, with a kind heart and an intelligent mind. She was a little more than a year younger than him, and the daughter of his father's closest friend, but he had never met her. According to rumours, things he had overheard his mother whispering about with other Northern Ladies, the Queen couldn't stand her oldest child, even as she doted on her younger three.
"The Princess sent along a letter for you, Robb." His father interrupted his thoughts, and Robb glanced at the roll of parchment the Lord Stark was holding out for him to take.
Silently, Robb unrolled it, absently noting the graceful loops of her handwriting, and read it.
Heir Robb Stark,
I am Helaine Baratheon, daughter of King Robert I of House Baratheon and Queen Cersei of House Lannister, and, if you are to accept my father's proposal, your betrothed. I apologize for the suddenness of the request, but, to be bluntly honest, our marriage is much more preferable to the alternative. My father wishes to join our Houses through marriage, and he has spoken fondly of your lord father and his honourable intentions and actions, and I have heard that you inherited said honour, which is why I wish to be truthful. I fear that if he had gone along with his original plan, your younger sister would have suffered for it, for he had wished to marry my brother Prince Joffrey, to the young Lady Sansa.
My brother, for all I love him, is a very cruel person whose favoured pass time is causing others pain. He would not have cared for your sister as he should, and she would have been miserable until he bored of her, and his past actions have shown that his boring of your younger sister would mean her death. I have oft had to stop him from torturing the maids, and last year he killed Tommen's beloved cat while she was pregnant. I have since given my youngest brother a new cat, but I'm afraid that replacing her would not be possible should the same thing happen to your sister.
Your sister deserves better than a boy who would hurt her, as would any person, which is why I convinced my father to offer my hand instead. This does not mean that I am attempting to force you into a marriage, and I hope that you make your own choice in the matter, for if you choose not to accept I can try to talk my father into another pairing between either Myrcella or Tommen to another of your siblings. If you are in agreement, the King wishes for me to Foster at Winterfell until my six and tenth nameday, at that point we are to be wed.
Princess Helaine Baratheon
Daughter of Houses Baratheon and Lannister
Princess of the Seven Kingdoms
"What does it say, Robb?" His mother asked gently as her eldest looked up from his letter to stare at his parents, his blue eyes wide and faintly alarmed.
Robb bit his lip, "She, uh- Princess Helaine apologized for the sudden betrothal request. She said that the original plan was for Sansa to marry Prince Joffrey, but the Princess was worried for Sansa's safety should that happen." He muttered faintly, handing the letter off to his mother to read, then turning back to his father. "Apparently the Crown Prince enjoys torturing servants and kills pregnant cats for fun." His father's eyebrows rose in surprise and his mother made a faintly alarmed noise. "And hearing that I don't want to see Sansa marry Prince Joffrey either. She said that if I said no that she'd try to get her father to arrange something with either Princess Myrcella or Prince Tommen." That she had also made a rather dark joke was something he didn't say, rather he’d let his mother and father read it for themselves.
His father nodded, frowning in thought as he rubbed his chin, but his eyes were sharp.
"And what do you want to do, Robb?" His mother spoke, "I've heard quite a lot about the princess, but gossip can't always be trusted, but it seems kind of her to give you the choice between agreeing to a marriage." She glanced towards the Lord of Winterfell, "But would we truly be able to deny the King should Robb not agree?"
"I'll agree." Robb's declaration drew the attention of his parents back to him. He straightened his shoulders, and lifted his chin proudly. He was Heir of Winterfell, and it was his duty to provide the best future for his House and subjects; this was his duty. "I'll marry Princess Helaine."
Robb was a good son, a dutiful son, and he would do what was needed just like his father had done, and perhaps one day he would come to care for his future wife the way his father cared for his mother.
His mother and father smiled proudly.