When she first moved down south, it was everything that she had ever dreamed of.
The warmth of King’s Landing was incomparable to the cold of the north, and she reveled in the bustle of the city, in the bright colors, and the abundance of people.
She excelled at King’s Landing University too, earning the respect of her professors and admiration of her peers constantly.
But through it all, he was her main focus, the center of all her attention, her ultimate ideal.
Their fathers were close friends, and when she first came to the city, his family took her under their wing.
She immediately became enamored with him, began to dream about running her hands through his golden hair, staring into his green eyes.
She doesn’t recall exactly how they came to officially be in a relationship.
She thinks it was something that happened because everyone expected it too. Because she followed him around like a puppy, hung on to his every word, worshipped the ground he walked on.
He never asked her to be his girlfriend in so many words, but one day, she was, and that was the end of that.
Their fathers had both been delighted, his shouting his delight at their families being joined (finally), and hers quietly expressing his approval when he brought the whole family down south to visit her.
Her mother had been more cautious, asked her constantly throughout the visit if she was happy, ensured her that she could come home whenever she wanted to, that it wasn’t too late to transfer to Winterfell University.
She brushed off all of her mother’s concerns with laughs and the naïve optimism of a foolish girl.
His mother was a different story.
Cersei had always been an enigma to her, beautiful and aloof and silently dangerous.
She tried to imitate her at first, wanted nothing more than to be just like the golden woman, but eventually she saw past the beauty to the anger, past the aloofness to the bitterness.
Throughout the time that they dated, Cersei would do nothing more than smirk at her over her wine glass, and then call her insipid and stupid when she thought nobody could hear.
Eventually, Sansa learned to smile back, her expression full of the emptiness she felt.
In the beginning of the relationship, Joffrey had been the perfect boyfriend.
He held open the door for, took her to fancy restaurants, called her cute pet names.
But the more time they spent together, the more the mask began to slip.
He would get angry at her for forgetting things, ignore her in public, and threaten her when she spoke back to him.
She could feel it all escalating into something more, but still she stayed.
To this day she could not tell you why.
She gave herself fully to him, hoping that it would make things better, that she could make him change, but he only got worse.
He treated her like a doll, like a sex toy, and then spent the rest of the time ignoring and insulting her.
He would treat her more roughly, dragging her behind him whenever he deigned to take her out, gripping her arm so tightly it bruised.
If his family noticed anything, the bruises, her unhappiness, his anger, none of them said anything.
Robert continued to drink and laugh. Tommen and Mrycella continued to smile timidly at her, offer her empty pleasantries. Cersei continued to smirk at her over her wine glasses.
Joffrey continued to do as he pleased.
That year, Sansa asked her parents not to come down south and visit her.
Later, she would realize how much she had worried them, but at the time, they agreed not to visit, they respected her wishes.
Things carried on as they were.
She wishes that she could say that she found the strength to leave him, that in the end she recovered the piece of herself that she had lost in King’s Landing, but that is not what happened.
In the end, he gets bored of her.
He tires of her lack of response to his cruelty, of her acquiescence to everything he wants, and he casts her aside, finds somebody new, with a little more fire.
She shows no reaction, when he dumps her, cruelly in front of his entire family at dinner.
She simply gets up and goes to her room. She calls her parents and she tells them that she’s coming home and she hangs up before they can question her too much.
She turns out the lights and crawls into her bed.
She hates herself for crying.
Her move back North is abrupt and messy.
Her family tiptoes around her, babies her, constantly checks up on her.
They know something went horribly wrong, but she refuses to tell them what.
She knows that her father had called Robert as soon as she had hung up on them that day, that he’d angrily questioned his old friend about what had happened.
She doesn’t know what Robert told him.
But she knows it couldn’t have been the truth.
Their friendship never really recovers. Sansa can’t really bring herself to care.
Her parents insist that she doesn’t have to transfer to Winterfell University straight away.
She left KLU in the middle of the semester, with only two years left, and she had expected them to be furious at her for wasting their money.
Instead, they gently suggest that she take a year off, and begin school again later, when she’s feeling more herself.
In her first month back, she barely leaves her room.
Her siblings take turns bringing her food and trying to coax her out.
They all treat her with unfailing kindness. Even Arya.
But none of it seems to change anything.
Finally, it’s her own mind that drives her out of her self-imposed solitude. She feels herself becoming crazier the more time she spends staring at her ceiling.
Her family is shocked to silence the first time she leaves her room to join them for dinner.
But they quickly recover, and carry on their conversation as if everything were normal.
A few weeks after that, she begins to leave the house again.
Just to take short walks, stretch her legs, get herself used to the world again.
But it makes her parents happy beyond belief.
One night she hears them whispering about how much better she’s gotten.
She’s not so sure.
It’s on one of these walks that she meets Ramsey.
She knows from the moment she sets eyes on him that he’s just like Joffrey.
He tries to hide it, he has his mask just like Joffrey did, but this time she can tell.
She knows a monster hides behind the mask.
But that doesn’t stop her from becoming entangled with him.
She cannot explain why she did it, knowing what he was, but she does it anyway.
At first, he simply joins her on her walks, carefully maintaining his façade the entire time, behaving the perfect gentleman towards him. She introduces him to her family as a new friend and they’re delighted, he charms them all easily.
He knows that they're happy that she’s found a good Northman to get her mind off Joffrey.
She knows that she hasn’t.
One day, when she tires of the façade, she grabs him, kissing him roughly.
I know what you are. She whispers to him. Show me what you are.
Ramsey shows Sansa, and she feels pain like she’s never felt before.
But at least she feels something.
Unfortunately, she made one rather large error of judgment.
Ramsey is not like Joffrey.
He is worse.
Where Joffrey insulted her, Ramsey ruins her with his words, using them to destroy every inch of her that she still desperately held on to.
Where Joffrey left bruises, Ramsey left scars, criss-crossing all over her body, constantly reminding her of what she was, what she had allowed herself to become.
Joffrey would threaten, but Ramsey would act.
He did not make empty threats.
She truly becomes lost when she is with Ramsey, just an empty vessel for his abuse.
He explores the full depths of his sadism on her, often beating her to near unconsciousness before he would finally deem her ready to be taken by him.
Her family notices that something is wrong very quickly.
Later, when she is more herself, she is not surprised.
She does not do a good job of hiding the bruises, and the scars. She doesn’t care about hiding them the way she did when she was with Joffrey.
Her relationship with Ramsey comes to a swift end when her father discovers him choking her as he takes her roughly in her bedroom, having left work early with the express purpose of figuring out what was going on.
Her father calls the police.
Her family files a restraining order, and eventually, Ramsey goes to jail.
Her mother refuses to leave her side during all of this time, crying over her, cradling her in her arms, begging Sansa to let her help her.
Sansa wishes that she knew how.
After Ramsey, her family insists that she goes to therapy.
Almost a year has passed since Joffrey, but they make no mention of her going back to school anymore, they insist that they only want for her to get better.
The therapist doesn’t help her.
She tries to. She tells Sansa that she understands what she’s going through, that it’s not strange for victims of abuse to feel the way that she does, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Victims of abuse.
Sansa had never felt like a victim until that moment.
She begins to tune out what her therapist says in pure defiance, and eventually she refuses to go to therapy at all.
Her mother is distraught, her father is worried.
Sansa doesn’t care.
She begins to construct a façade of her own.
After watching Joffrey and Ramsey for so long, it’s quite easy for her.
Little by little, she’s able to convince her family that she’s getting better by herself, that she doesn’t really need therapy.
She forces herself to smile more often, she helps her mother around the house, asks her father about his day and reconnects with Jeyne, her old best friend from high school. She plays with her younger brothers and helps Arya with her college applications. She bakes a cake for Robb’s engagement party and makes nice with his fiancée Roslin.
She behaves like old Sansa.
And it takes time, but eventually her family believes that she’s better, and they begin to trust her more, to let her go out on her own again. They think that she’s old Sansa again.
So old Sansa continues to behave the way she should at home, and new Sansa takes advantage of the freedom.
In the day time she goes shopping with Jeyne and to the bakery with her mother, and then feigns exhaustion when she gets home. Her family thinks nothing of her retiring to her room to go to sleep early.
But at night time, she sneaks out to go to unsavory places.
Places old Sansa would never be caught dead at.
But new Sansa chugs straight whiskey, and mixes her vodka with her tequila, and laughs when people tell her not to. She buys little pills from people in dark alleys, and she fucks strange men in dirty bathrooms.
During the day, old Sansa is the best daughter in the world. At night, new Sansa is the worst.
It’s in one of these unsavory places that she meets the hound.
She has seen him before many times, heard of his reputation as someone not to be messed with, but never really paid him much attention.
But on this night, he saves her.
She’d accepted a drink from the first sleazy man who offered her one, as she always did but this time was different. It made her feel sluggish and things began to blur. She had been drugged.
The man is saying something to her, his slimy hands all over her, but she can’t understand any of his words.
And then the hound is there, yelling about something she doesn’t comprehend. Her last image before she passes out is the hound punching the man in the face.
When she wakes up later, it is still night time, which she is glad for, as it means old Sansa still has time to get home.
But she realizes that she is no longer in the seedy bar, and instead in a rundown apartment.
She looks around frantically, and easily finds the hound sitting on a chair across from the bed, watching her silently.
She thanks him for his kindness, and then she goes home quickly.
The next night, she returns to the bar and she seeks out the hound.
She can’t quite explain the relationship that they begin, she can’t quite define it.
She knows that he is somebody her parents would never approve of.
He is more than twice her age, horribly scarred, and almost definitely an alcoholic.
But Sansa knows that he’s different.
He’s not the monster that people see him as. He’s not like Joffrey or Ramsey.
He’s always gentle with her. He tells her that he would never hurt her, and she believes him.
He calls her his little bird and protects her fiercely, growling at any other man who would dare to look at her twice.
He doesn’t try to change her either.
They continue to go out together at night, and she matches him drink for drink. He pretends not to notice when she swaps cash for her little pills, and she finds that she doesn’t mind paying for them now, as she refuses to swap them for favors anymore.
Not now that she has Sandor.
Truly, he only has one flaw to her.
He reveals it one night after particularly passionate sex.
They were both blindingly drunk, but her mind was as clear as it always was, and to this day she remembers his words.
She remembers him declaring his love for her as he came, whispering how he would always protect her and take care of her. And love her.
At the time, she says nothing, but she grows still beneath him.
He seems to immediately notice his mistake.
He tells her that she doesn’t have to say it back, that he doesn’t care if she doesn’t love him, that they can still be together.
She doesn’t say anything during this time.
The next day, she tells her parents about him.
They forbid her from ever seeing him again.
She’s disgusted at herself for the relief she feels.
Finally, she goes back to school again, and graduates with the teaching degree that she started all those years ago.
Her parents are ecstatic when she informs them about her first job offer.
Sansa enjoys teaching, it’s easy, and never dull, and her second grade class make her come closer to feeling happiness than she has in a long time.
She teaches for two years before her family finally starts beginning to set her up on dates.
She’s convinced them all that she is truly better, that Sandor was a long forgotten lapse in judgment, that she was ready to move on with her life.
She didn’t expect that they would take it as an invitation to become her own personal dating service.
She dates Robb’s coworkers, and Arya’s friends, and her mother’s Pilates instructor.
None of them last past the first date.
Sansa treats them all nicely, smiles sweetly at them, and then never returns their calls.
Eventually, her family gives up.
It’s after this time that she meets Harry.
On the surface, Harry is the perfect partner, and unlike Joffrey and Ramsey, it’s not even an act. Not really.
Harry is attractive, and kind and funny and has a good job and treats her with respect.
Her family adores him.
Harry’s main issue is that he has several other girlfriends who he is also all those things too.
Sansa knows of course.
She’s known from the first time she hugged him after he’d returned to town form a business trip and she smelt another women’s perfume on him.
She just couldn’t really bring herself to care.
Harry isn’t mean or abusive or an alcoholic, but Sansa still doesn’t love or even care about him enough to be angry about him cheating on her.
He doesn’t really love her either though.
And she thinks that’s why she stays with him.
In the end, Arya sees him kissing another woman at a restaurant. She’s furious, full of righteous indignation for her sister; she practically attacks the poor man in public.
Sansa feigns surprise and upset when Arya tells her.
She breaks up with Harry because she knows it’s what her family expects of her.
She knows she shouldn’t be wishing that they could have just carried on in their loveless, empty relationship forever.
When Sansa first hears that Robb’s old friend Jon has returned to the north after being honorably discharged from the military, she doesn’t think much of it.
She had never been close to Jon when they were younger, not in the way that Robb and the rest of their siblings were, so he’s in town for weeks before she finally sees him.
By this time, she’d moved out into a small apartment of her own, her family finally trusting her after she’d maintained a steady job for almost 5 years.
But her parents still insist on her and all of her siblings coming home for family dinner every once in a while. It’s at one of these dinners that she sees Jon again.
He looks much like she remembers him, but she can tell that he is changed.
When he stands up to greet her, one leg drags slightly behind him, and winces and mutters something about a war injury.
But the biggest change is his eyes.
Although still the same deep grey as they always were, Jon’s eyes are empty.
There is darkness in them that wasn’t there before.
She had wondered why Jon had never been on Robb's list of potential suitors for her.
Now she knows.
Sansa can’t help but sneak glances at him throughout dinner. She can tell by the way her family treats him, that they know something is different; that they know something is wrong.
They treat him with the same careful kindness that they did her when she returned from King’s Landing.
After Jon leaves, she hears her parents whispering words like PTSD and therapy and she feels an inexplicable desire to help Jon avoid the endless empty torture that she’d had to go through with her therapist.
Jon gets a job at an old bookstore in winter town and Sansa finds herself going there more and more often.
They talk about everything and nothing, and Sansa buys more books in those few months that in the rest of her life. Eventually Jon invites her out for dinner. She surprises him by saying yes.
They have a nice quiet dinner in his small apartment. He talks to her about the war and she simply listens.
Later when she quietly leads him to his bed, he tries to apologize about his leg, that he can’t be more active with her.
She silences him with a kiss.
Sansa knows that Jon’s leg is his biggest insecurity, that he views it as his biggest scar.
But Sansa knows that scars can be both external and internal.
Sansa has both.
So does Jon.
She never says anything when he struggles with his leg, and he never says anything about the numerous marks on her body left by her past.
Neither says anything when they have to gently coax the other out of a nightmare, soothingly cradling them in their arms, telling them that everything is okay now.
Bit by bit, they build something that works for them.
When her family first realizes how much time she is spending with Jon, they are happy.
They think that it is only friendship that she and Jon share, and they encourage it.
They ask her to check up on him, and to try and convince him to go to therapy.
She smiles and nods and then never does it.
Sansa is used to lying to her family by now, can do it with ease.
Jon has a much harder time.
Eventually the guilt gets to him and he tells Robb.
And then he sits there silently as his old friend yells at him and berates him and accuses him of taking advantage of his little sister.
Robb tells their parents, and then Sansa is the one being lectured for taking advantage of Jon’s fragile state.
They’re both told how irresponsible of them it is to be together, that Jon needs mental help before it is healthy for him to be in a relationship, that he isn’t well.
Her parents finally start to realize that maybe she isn’t well either. That maybe she never was.
An intervention is staged, and Jon and Sansa both find themselves strong armed into therapy.
They sit through their sessions dutifully; they nod in all the right places and say all the right things.
Then they go home together, amidst her families protests, and Jon embraces her tightly like he never wants to let go.
He whispers how much he loves her into her hair, how he’s not going to let anybody take her away from him, and for the first time those words fill Sansa with something more than emptiness or dread.
She realizes for the first time, that she can’t let herself be taken away from him, that she wants to love Jon more than she’s wanted anything in a long time.
For the first time Sansa sees something other than darkness in her future.
She continues to let Jon hold her in his arms as she cries silent, confused tears.