Story Summary: The Friends of Narnia gather together during the summer holiday, and discover that the Professor has been hiding a secret about Narnia. Set two years before the train accident.

A/N: Criticism and suggestions are highly appreciated. This fic is uncharted territory for me.

"Digory! They're here!" Aunt Polly's voice could be heard through the door before it was suddenly flung open. Aunt Polly, who was not their aunt at all but close enough, was a tall, thin woman in her early seventies. Despite her very ordinary appearance, her eyes gave away the sharp wit and blazing spirit that her friends knew well. Four teenagers stood on her doorstep: Lucy and Edmund Pevensie, their cousin Eustace Scrubb, and their close friend Jill Pole. Aunt Polly clapped in delight seeing them there, and after trying to hug all four at once, ushered them inside, saying, "My dears! Don't stand out here all day. Come in, come in!" The two boys carried in the bags while Polly, with the girls on either side of her, led the way to the parlor. The girls giggled as Polly continued to bellow for Digory while asking them a million questions about their trip without letting them answer a single one.

"Good lord, woman, I'm coming," came the answer, and then the Professor appeared. He looked as wizened and alarming as ever, and he shook hands with each of the boys and allowed Lucy and Jill to each give him a kiss on the cheek. Everyone was talking at once, as dear friends do after a long separation. Finally, Polly put an end to the chatter by ordering the gentlemen to sit, and then the girls helped her bring in all of the tea things and the piles of sandwiches that she had prepared. When everyone was sitting (which was a little cramped since the house wasn't quite big enough for all of them, but cozy nonetheless) and had a cup in one hand and a plate in the other, the Professor asked, "How was your trip here?"

"Just awful," answered Eustace through his sandwich, while at the same time Lucy said, "Very well, Professor." Lucy looked at him disapprovingly, and Eustace smiled sheepishly behind his teacup. But Edmund laughed loudly at them both, and explained that while the train ride itself was fine, the two women who had shared their car were very rude, and spoke in loud, screeching voices the entire time.

"It's so wonderful to have the four of you here," said Aunt Polly. "It's a pity it couldn't be all of us, however."

"Peter sends his love," said Lucy. "He wished desperately to come, but his job offer for the summer was just too good to give up."

"Yes, we can't all be geniuses like Edmund," Eustace added. Edmund was starting university in the fall, on a full scholarship. Peter, who was the oldest, was nearly finished his schooling, but had to work every holiday to save up enough money to pay for the next term. Edmund blushed furiously as Polly made a big fuss about the scholarship, and gave Eustace a sharp poke with his elbow for bringing it up in the first place. Suddenly, Polly's face turned serious and said, "And Susan? How is she?" Edmund stiffened, but Lucy rushed to answer, "She's fine, really. She's finished school now and . . ." Her voice trailed off.

"And she has about eight or nine boys now, which fills up her time," finished Jill. She caught sight of Lucy's embarrassment, and said, "It's the truth, isn't it, Lucy? Aunt Polly, she's sillier than ever."

Aunt Polly sighed. "Well, there isn't much we can do, is there?"

"Come now," said the Professor, "let's not dwell on the unpleasant." The conversation was steered away from those who were missing, and instead they went on for hours discussing their families, and the Professor's writing, and Polly's travels, when finally, at last, they started reminiscing about Narnia and their adventures there together. The party lasted well into the night until Polly insisted that they all unpack and go to bed.

The next day dawned sunny and beautiful. After a huge breakfast, everyone went to sit outside in Aunt Polly's small backyard. Edmund had brought his fencing gear, and he and Eustace sparred together on the lawn as the ladies watched and chatted. "Now that it's just us girls," said Polly, "you two can tell me: do either of you have any suitors?" Lucy choked for a moment, but Jill burst out laughing. "Aunt Polly! Honestly, suitors? You are living in the Stone Age!"

"I am not," she protested, trying to be indignant, but unable to contain her own laughter. The Professor, who was sitting at a small table a few feet away, looked up from his writing at the sound. Polly caught sight of him and, trying to look very cross, said to him, "Digory, do put away those boring old books and papers and come sit with us. The kids are here on holiday, after all."

"This is my holiday too, if you remember," he replied. "I did not come to stay to be bothered by you, but to relax and finish my work." However, he gathered up his things in his arms and went back into the house to put them away.

"Aunt Polly," said Jill, "you shouldn't be so hard on him."

"Jill, dear," answered Polly, "when you have been friends as long as Digory and I have, you realize that there is nothing you can say that will stop that." She winked at Jill as the two boys came over for a breather. Eustace flung himself on the ground, panting heavily. "I'm terribly out of practice," he breathed.

Edmund grinned, leaning on the back of Polly's chair. "You can't be out of practice if you never started practicing in the first place." The others laughed, and Lucy went inside the house to get cold drinks for the two. But a moment later, she banged through the door, crying, "Edmund, Polly, come quickly! The Professor!" In an instant, Eustace and Edmund were up, and with the others following, Lucy led them into the hallway. The Professor was on the floor, his papers and books in a mess around him. "Goodness, what happened?" asked Polly.

"I tripped is all," he said. "No need for a fuss." Eustace and Edmund took the Professor by the arms and helped him to his feet. But when the Professor stood, he winced with pain, struggling to keep weight off of his left foot.

"Take him to the parlor, if you could, boys," Polly said. "Lucy, be a dear and run down to Doctor Markley's, he lives four houses down, and see if he's in—" The Professor began to protest as the boys struggled to take him into the next room, but Polly shooed Lucy out and followed them down the hallway. Jill was left alone, and so began to clean up the Professor's things from the floor.

"Polly, you are making too much of this, now leave me be," he argued as the boys lowered him into a chair. "Don't be a fool, Digory," was her reply, and they were busy gathering pillows to prop him up and blankets and compresses. A few minutes later Lucy arrived with the doctor. After a careful examination, the doctor pronounced that the Professor's ankle was not broken but was strained, and that he needed to stay off of it for at least three or four days. Polly, who looked obviously relieved, thanked the doctor profusely and walked him to the door. "You wanted time to sit and work," said Lucy. "At least you got your wish."

"It is very good luck, anyway," said Eustace. He flopped down on a couch and looked around. "Where is Jill?"

"I'll find her," said Edmund. He went back down the hallway and saw Jill sitting on the floor, exactly where they had found the Professor, engrossed in reading. She took no notice of him until he walked right up next to her and said, "There you are." Jill started at his voice. "Sorry about that. What are you doing?"

Jill grabbed Edmund's hand and pulled him down to the floor next to her. "Here, Edmund, read this." She thrust the papers she was holding into his hand. The light was very low in the hallway, so Edmund had to peer closely to see the words. He recognized the Professor's bold script right away. "It looks like the Professor's notes," he said, looking at her in confusion.

"Just read it," she whispered. So Edmund read from the top:

office and went to see the piece. Stanton said it was brought in by a trader, but did not have a name. The piece was made of iron, measuring about 45 centimeters wide and 100 centimeters high. The edges were rimmed in silver plating, hammered into patterns of circles. No other markings were on the shield. Stanton had speculated that it was possibly Norse, perhaps eleventh century, but I told him that it looked like a clever fake.

I must consult my notes, but the circular pattern of the shield is reminiscent of the weaponry of Galma, which Edmund had described to me. The shield is certainly not Narnian, as there is no Lion anywhere in the decoration. It is difficult to tell, however, whether the shield was made before the White Witch's reign, or after—

Edmund looked sharply up at Jill. "What is this?"

"There are pages of it," answered Jill excitedly. "The Professor has notes on all sorts of things: coins, swords, manuscripts . . . all of which connect in some way to Narnia."

Edmund leafed through the other pages. "How could this be? The notes show that these things were found by collectors, curators, merchants—how could these people have anything from Narnia?"

"There's this, too." Jill began reading from the paper she held. " 'I spoke with Mr. Davies the next day in more detail about the map. He said that it had been his grandfather's, who had acquired it sometime while in the Navy. The writing is difficult to read, but the shape and position of the islands are the same as those of the Lone Islands. Inquiring further, I learned that the writing was in fact that of Mr. Davies' grandfather. The final purchase price was agreed upon at 85 pounds.' Then there's a note in the margin: 'Possible visit circa 1840'." Edmund's face was stricken, but Jill went eagerly on, "Don't you see, Ed? The Professor's been collecting information on items that are here, in our world, but come from the other. And it seems that he's found not just items—"

"But people as well," Edmund finished.