Peter had thought that the Blitz would have stopped them from going to school. He had expected that when Mother came she was coming to tell them that they would be staying home this year. It wasn't so. She had brought them new school clothes - the Macready had measured them for it, though they had paid her little mind - and was going to accompany them back to London to catch their trains, for it was Lucy's first year away from home.
There was little Peter could do with his mother, but she seemed to expect that. He tried to be as solemn and adult as he could around her. Once, shortly after she arrived at the Professor's big rambling house, she sent all the others up to bed and allowed Peter to stay down and drink hot chocolate as she and the Professor sipped their digestifs after dinner. "Poor Peter," she said to him, "having to be the man of the family. You've gotten so much older just in the few months I've been away."
He could not look her in the eye. He turned to the Professor, who smiled at him ironically.
When Peter was, at length, sent up to bed, the Professor slipped him a thimbleful of the brandy they'd been sipping. Peter tasted it, just enough to wet his lips, and immediately regretted having done so. It didn't taste like brandy. It tasted like responsibility. He was beginning to enjoy - fight, but enjoy - laying his burdens down.
Susan found it difficult to put on the scratchy school clothes she loathed so much. Before, she had found them irritating. Now, she could only compare them to her multitude of queenly dresses: the dress she had made from that aquamarine silk she'd bought in Tashbaan; the Galmanian linen frock that she had worn, like a talisman, whenever she had to send suitors away; her split-skirted riding clothes; the leather buskins that served her for boots when the summers became too hot to bear...
She pulled the scratchy woolen stockings up over her knees. She sweltered.
There were some things that became easier to accept as time went on: her height, her lesser strength, her childish voice and nonexistent bosom (that, at least, made archery much more pleasant). There were other things that became harder.
When she and Lucy boarded the train for school, a rather nasty girl named Ellie Greaves commented on pretty Susan's ugly sister.
Tears came to her eyes. A year ago, Susan would have replied cuttingly; she would have stomped away, leaving Ellie Greaves sorrier for having crossed her. In Narnia, Susan would not have responded at all, nor felt the need to respond. But now, between and betwixt, tears came to her eyes; all she could do was rush Lucy along to nicer people, hoping that she wouldn't do anything rash.
The nicest thing about having come back from Narnia, as far as Edmund was concerned, was that he knew so much more than any of the other boys in his year.
It wasn't that he wanted to show off, exactly, because he didn't. It was only that he had already done all the maths that they were going to do, and learned them well. Other subjects he was less strong on: the history of Cair Paravel and the Narnian-Calormene wars would hardly help him here, except for story-telling after lights out. But maths - maths was something that Edmund could do.
He spent the time that he would have otherwise been revising in a variety of ways. He was going to fence, he decided; he was not really old enough to do it seriously yet, but he saved his money and bought a child's foil, and he shadowboxed with himself in the corridors whenever the masters weren't around.
Then, too, he was going to become stronger. He sent away for a packet that promised to teach one how to build muscles, but it wasn't much use - all the exercises that it taught needed expensive equipment, and anyway they weren't intended for a ten-year-old. Instead he filled his trunk with his things and tried to pick it up. He did this every day. He was never able to entirely lift it, but he did get stronger.
Sometimes he compared himself to dear little Ram, Cor's son, only a toddler when they saw him last. Ram was determined to be a warrior, and Cor indulged him in it; Aravis was every bit as bad. They had made Ram a tiny sword and a tiny shield, blunted of course, and let him run around whacking at people's legs as much as he liked. He knew he wasn't anything compared to his da; yet little Ram kept trying, kept whacking, kept yelling tiny battle-cries, until he got bored of the exercise and went to hear a story or play with other toys.
So sometimes Edmund compared himself to Ram. It was not a comfortable comparison, but it was apt.
Lucy had no time for the little girls she knew, not for months and months.
She could not quite convince herself that she was not going to go back to Narnia at any second. It seemed so astoundingly unfair that she should be stuck here, with the babyish girls of Arniston House all crying for their mums, instead of there, where she had her own room and didn't cry unless it was really important.
The girl in the bed next to her was named Janie, though (Lucy thought) she really ought to have gone by Jane, as she was old enough to be away from home now and therefore oughtn't have that kind of nickname. Janie was one of the least teary of all the girls, but one night several weeks into term she broke down and threw a fit. She was a twin, it seemed, and her twin Johnny had been sent to a boys' school, and she couldn't stand to be away from him any more, and why wouldn't he just come here?
Matter-of-factly, before the dorm mother could come in and scold, Lucy slapped Janie across the face. "Stop that," she said, calm and collected. "Crying won't do you any good. Just breathe deeply until you don't have to cry anymore. You'll see Johnny at the hols."
Janie stopped and breathed deeply, and after that Lucy had a little more respect around Arniston House, even though she didn't care to make any friends.
What she hadn't said to Janie, though, was more important than what she had, and she thought about it every night thereafter: "Crying won't do you any good. You've left your people, and when you come back you'll be quite different, and Johnny won't be the same, or you won't be the same. You haven't got a choice. You might as well think of it as an adventure, because you haven't got a choice."
Arniston House is meant to be a House within a boarding school. I am modeling both the girls' and boys' schools from Fettes, a real boarding school in Scotland, although you shouldn't assume that they actually go to Fettes (for one thing, girls didn't attend there until the 1970s...)
Events of World War II are as accurate as I can make them. The Pevensie children were part of the second major evacuations from London (June 1940) and the Blitz began 7 September, which was probably right before they would have left for school ("the bombs began falling in earnest...").
I have slightly fudged Ram's age and the events of The Horse and his Boy. While C.S. Lewis' Narnian timeline says that A Horse and his Boy takes place in the same year that the Pevensies return to England, I have decided that it actually takes place ten years earlier, that is, in 1004 (five years after the Pevensies come to Narnia). This allows time for Cor and Aravis to marry, have a child, and that child to grow up a little, while still allowing the young Cor to think of the Pevensies as adults (remember how old people seemed, even if they were only a few years older than you, when you were that age?). I have no excuse except that growing up, I always assumed that A Horse and his Boy took place earlier than it does, and it's too ingrained in me to change now. Also, I really, really wanted Edmund to know Ram.