AN: Thank you elecktrum for the wonderfully helpful beta!
After a comment on how the attic looked like a war zone, Peter had been banished up there to clean it up. After a comment on how stupid Peter was to comment on it, Edmund had been banished up there to help his brother clean it up, too.
The day was horrible for cleaning the attic. The dust was dancing and the sun was gleaming through the small window and making the whole room as warm as an oven. Both boys were sweating and cursing their big mouths.
"Look at us, the mighty kings of Narnia sweaty and dirty because their mother ordered them to clean the attic!" Edmund exclaimed while trying to reach the top of the bookshelf. While Edmund had grown tall again, Peter was still taller than he was.
"Some help would be nice," Edmund said. Peter looked up from the box he was sorting out. He smiled at his brother's predicament.
"Can't reach it, little brother?" he asked with a smirk. Edmund scowled.
"Do you think I would have asked you if I could reach it myself?" he said sarcastically.
Peter came over and managed to bring down the box in question. They both peered into the box to see what it contained and found it filled with photographs. While they were very curious to look at them all, they still had enough sense to know that if they sat down and did that now, before they were finished, they would not finish cleaning the attic today. So they decided to save the box for last as they really didn't want to have to spend another day up here in the room hot like an oven.
Peter and Edmund spent another two hours going through all the useless clutter their parents had stored. There was a box filled with broken radios. There were many boxes of toys and baby clothes for each of the four Pevensie children. They spent a lot of time untangling Christmas lights. They went through every box and threw out all the broken things, all the garbage. They re-marked the boxes and organized them all. Finally after the attic was in some sort of order, the boys sat down to look through the photographs.
One picture was of their parents on their wedding day. Another was when Peter was born. The next was of Peter looking at his mother's pregnant belly. Then there was a picture of when Susan was born, then Edmund and then Lucy.
Peter spent some time looking at the first picture ever taken of the four of them together. He looked at their happy faces and he couldn't help but smile. Lucy was just an infant but she was so happy. Edmund was still small and he was looking at Lucy like she was something very strange. He looked at his own young and cheerful face. He was only five years old but he was so proud of his siblings. Susan was sitting next to Edmund while looking at Lucy. She was so pleased that she had gotten a little sister.
They went through all the pictures, from Peter's first day of school to Lucy's.
"Why are the pictures up here and not put into albums?" Peter asked.
"I don't know," Edmund answered. "Must be one of Mum's faults, really good at taking pictures, but not so good at putting them into albums."
"I mean, look at this. It's the picture mum took before we left for the Professor's house." Peter gave Edmund the picture.
"Isn't this the one she has framed on her night stand?" he asked back. Peter looked at it again and agreed that indeed it was.
Their mother was very fond of taking pictures. She had taken one at each significant event in all her children's lives.
They spent an hour looking at the pictures. They laughed and remembered. After laughing at a particular funny story his brother told, Peter looked up and saw Edmund frozen in place. He was looking at a picture, his jaw locked and arms strained with a pained expression on his face.
Peter looked over his brother's shoulder to see which photograph it was that had Edmund in such a state.
Peter sighed. He was able to guess which picture it was without seeing it. Only one picture could have generated such a reaction.
The picture showed the four of them. It had been taken a couple of years ago. Peter was eighteen, Susan seventeen, Edmund fifteen and Lucy was fourteen. The picture had been taken by their mother. She had insisted on taking it, even though none of the siblings was in the mood.
'If a stranger looked at the photo he would see four happy siblings,' Peter thought. But he knew better. So did Edmund. It was the memories of the time when the picture was taken that had Edmund in such a state.
Peter gently took the picture out of Edmund's fingers. He sat down next to the younger boy and just hugged him. He knew that he couldn't do anything else for him right now. Edmund relaxed into his older brother's arms and tried to calm down.
Peter picked up the offending picture and looked at it. It showed the four of them. They were smiling, but not really. They were all sporting what he liked to call their 'court' smile. This was the smile they used on people they didn't like, diplomats from Calormen or one of his sister's suitors. Smiles that didn't reach their eyes. A stranger would see four happy people, he saw four upset and angry people. If he looked closely he could see Edmund's clenched jaw, Susan's hands balled up in fists, and Lucy's eyes that were a little too bright and his own white knuckles.
Then Edmund voiced what he was thinking: "Anyone looking at this would think that we were all happy and getting along. You can't really see that we are upset, can you?"
"No, but we can," Peter answered.
Edmund sighed. "It brings up bad memories. It makes me just so angry to even think about it."
Peter understood his brother very well. He felt the same; he just didn't get angry. He got upset. When you have a brother that gets so angry, so fast, you had to be the calmer one. Edmund might get furious, but it quickly went away, he never managed to be enraged long.
Edmund used to joke that he might be the one that got livid the most, but it must be really bad if Peter got angry. When Peter got infuriated then it meant that he couldn't keep it in and then it must be really bad. It was scary when Peter got angry.
"I just can't believe that she can do this to us," Edmund continued. He was of course talking about Susan. It had all started a couple of days before the picture had been taken.
It was the first time she said it out loud. They had noticed that she didn't participate in their talks anymore. She would leave the room when ever Narnia would come up. She spent more time with her giggling girlfriends and less time with them. They knew that something was wrong, but they didn't want to bring it up. If they started fighting then they would see her even less, and none of them wanted that.
But one night, when Susan was on her way out, they were gathered in the girls' room and Lucy started to talk about Narnia before Susan left. And she laughed. Susan laughed and Edmund's temper, which had been on an edge for a long time, snapped.
"What ever is the matter Susan?" he asked in a deadly calm voice, the voice he reserved for people he did not like.
"I can't believe that you are still talking about Narnia," she answered. "You need to grow up!"
"Grow up? What has growing up to do with Narnia?" Peter asked incredulously. She looked at him with pitying eyes.
"Seriously, Peter! You are eighteen years old, aren't you a little old for our childhood game?"
Lucy looked at her with confused eyes. "What do you mean 'game'?" she asked her sister.
"Lucy dear, you really are too old to keep playing at this. Shouldn't you all stop pretending? It was a wonderful game, but now the war is over and we are adults," Susan said in an all too cheery voice.
Lucy jumped up from the bed and went over to stand before her. "Susan, how can you say such a thing? Don't you remember being a queen?"
Susan laughed that fake laugh that women use even though they don't think the story is funny at all.
"Yes I remember that we pretended to be kings and queens. But really it was a game. Have you ever heard of a country having four monarchs?" She turned to look at herself in the mirror.
"Yes," Edmund said, still in his measured voice, "Narnia!"
If you didn't know Narnia's youngest king, you wouldn't have known that he was very angry. Ed never shouted when he was furious. No, when Edmund got infuriated he talked in deadly calm and measured voice. And right then, he was beyond angry.
"Yes, in our fairytale world there were four monarchs, because we were four," Susan responded in a condescending voice.
"Then how do you explain how different I am, then?" he asked her. "Do you remember how beastly I used to be?"
"Of course, dear, the nice fresh air and being away from that horrible school of yours did wonders on you," she said while re- applying her lipstick.
Edmund was so shocked by her answer that he couldn't say anything before she sailed out the door.
After that fight there were more. Edmund and Susan could hardly be in the same room before they started fighting again. Peter and Lucy were just as hurt and angry by her words as Edmund, but Edmund couldn't let it lie. He and Susan had always been close, and the two of them had always been the best at debating. Edmund just couldn't believe that Susan had forgotten. He tried to cajole some royal behaviour out of her whenever he saw her.
Peter knew that what hurt Edmund the most was the comment on his transformation. Since Narnia was so much a part of whom Edmund had become. He couldn't understand why she couldn't see that he was living proof how Narnia had changed their lives. .
The fight that occurred before the picture had been taken had been big and awful. Words had been spoken that couldn't be taken back.
Edmund had said that if she couldn't pull herself together and stop this nonsense then he wouldn't talk to her anymore. Susan said that she was fine; she had much more fun with her friends anyway. Edmund had responded with a sarcastic comment on how her air-headed girl friends must be very stimulating company. At that, Susan had gotten livid and shouted at him that they were never going back anyway, why should she spend all her time pining for it?
That was the end of it. The fight had occurred before their trip to their Uncle Charlie's annual family party. When they got out of the car, the fight had picked up again. Peter and Lucy had desperately tried to make the two feuding siblings make peace. Their meddling had been taken rather bad from both parts. Edmund was mad because his siblings weren't backing him up. Susan didn't want to listen to anybody, most of all her deluded siblings.
The picture had been taken by their mother. She had insisted on taking it even though all of them were angry and upset.
It was the last time Susan ever mentioned Narnia. It was the last time Edmund had properly talked to Susan.
Now, two years later and they very rarely saw or talked to Susan. She had really left them, and she was a sore subject. Edmund was still angry at her for her betrayal.
Peter was just sad. He was sad that his sister had lost faith. That she didn't have enough strength to believe anymore.
The sun was going down and the shadows were getting long. In an attic in Finchley, two brothers sat in the declining light looking at a picture. It gave them no joy, only sadness, to look at the photograph.
The picture showed four people, a young man with blond hair and blue eyes. Beside him stood his brother who was his opposite in looks, he had dark hair and brown eyes. In the front sat two girls, the oldest was dark- haired and blue- eyed and her sister had blonde hair and brown eyes. All of them seemed happy. But it was a gap between them all. None of them was touching. If you looked closely, you can see a tension: A locked jaw, balled fists, white knuckles and too bright eyes. A family divided.