Mid-July 1941

The change had begun.

It did not happen overnight. Peter still had his own struggles and battles. There were days when he forgot himself and could be obnoxious. But never again was he to treat Edmund with the harshness and hostility that had been the mainstay of their communications since January. Edmund had his brother back, and that, Edmund thought, was worth more to him than even Narnia itself.

Peter did introduce Edmund to Mr Tharston, and whether it was due to the blessed goblet, medical treatment or Peter and Edmund's own prayers (or perhaps a mixture of all three) Mr Tharston, Peter reported, seemed to be showing a slight improvement. As June slipped into July and the end of term drew near, life itself seemed to explode with the euphoria of summer.

On the last day of school before term ended, Edmund happened to notice Mr Hopper strolling in the grounds, smoking his pipe. Wanting a word with his favourite teacher before he left, he scurried down from his dormitory and caught up to Mr Hopper by the fountain. The teacher, pleased to see the boy, greeted him with a smile.

"Edmund. What a pleasure to see you. Are you sure you have time for an old fuddy-duddy like me when you could be cavorting with your chums?"

Edmund chuckled. "Even old fuddy-duddies can be exciting company."

"You young rogue." Mr Hopper cuffed his ear affectionately. "It's nice to see your mood so much lighter, Edmund. I notice that it coincides with a marked change in your brother."

"Yes." Edmund hesitated, then continued, "that's partly why I came to see you. I wanted to thank you for…for being so understanding."

"Thanks are not needed, lad. I did only my duty."

"But you were so kind, so patient…you weren't even angry with me that time I got drunk. The other masters would have flayed me alive. Why were you…so different?"

Mr Hopper was silent for a long time. He seemed to be deep in thought.

"I too have a brother," he said finally, turning his gentle, crinkled smile onto Edmund. "A brother who is closer to me than any other. A brother with whom I have struggled and fought, shared anger and shared tears. In the past we have hated each other, but there has never, ever been a time when we have stopped loving one another."

"Can you love and hate someone at the same time?" Edmund wondered.

"Of course, lad. Have not you?"

"I suppose so."

"I know what it is to have troubles with a sibling, Edmund. Especially one to whom you are so violently attached. How could I be anything but understanding?"

Neither said anything more, but simply stood side by side by the fountain, gazing at the sun as, for that evening, it bade its farewell.