I don't own Narnia or the Pevensies. I might go back and edit this later.
When Edmund falls asleep on the train to boarding school, his siblings' murmurs his drowsy lullaby, he dreams the throbbing of the steam engine is the heartbeat of a gryphon. As the compartment rattles about him, jostling his limp body against Peter's, he feels instead the smooth swoop of sudden flight, the sting of the wind on his face, the leap of his heart as he leaves the ground behind him to conquer the skies. He sails the sea of the air on borrowed wings and watches everything grow tiny below, until he can see it all in one gaze, until he loses sight of the tracks miles below, until Susan, seated across the aisle, comments softly to Lucy that he looks so peaceful. But it isn't really what she means, not exactly; she just can't find the right word.
Peter wakes him when they reach the station, and he is embarrassed to realize he's been leaning on his uncomplaining brother the whole trip, but he is having a hard time reining in his mind from wherever it has flown and so his apologies tangle on his tongue. They say goodbye to their sisters. Susan hugs him and gives him a look that says watch out for Peter and of course he will; after all, what's a brother for? Lucy kisses his cheek and he remembers that when next they are called, it will be the two of them, alone; his stomach twists uncomfortably but he straightens out and picks up his bag and steps off behind Peter, up towards the coaches that will take them up to the Academy. They turn and wave as the train chugs out again behind them to carry the girls to St. Finbar's.
During lessons, Edmund gazes out the window, and his eyes launch his heart into the air. From a distance, he watches his brother struggle to define himself in a world that couldn't care less what he claims he once was; Edmund wishes he could rescue him, but Peter's lost crown weighs him down and Edmund's imaginary wings cannot lift both his brother and the High King. And so, as he did before, he circles patiently above, waiting to be needed.
When he falls asleep in Peter's dorm room late at night, he dreams his brother's stifled sobs of frustration are wingbeats.
The other girls don't understand Lucy or her wildness; they point and whisper when she isn't looking and pretend they've said nothing when she is. Perhaps it is the absence of fear in her eyes that scares them; every time she catches them gossiping, she just stares at them with that bright blue gaze and a little something inside them cowers. When she lets herself get soaked out in the rain, laughing and catching the drops on her tongue, the other girls mutter that she has no sense of propriety. (Of course, this is partly true; Lucy does not have much of a sense of English propriety because she learned propriety from Narnia and thinks that Narnian propriety ought to do in England too.) And when she climbs down from the tops of the trees with leaves in her tangled hair, they joke in envy and misunderstanding that she belongs in a zoo with a mane like that, and they frown when she hears them and does nothing but smile with her teeth showing.
When the boys from Hendon House sneak over on the weekends for sport, Lucy always finds herself joining them, because she can run just as fast and spit just as far and laugh just as loud, and unlike the other girls, they don't find anything wrong with that. She is one of them, as far as they are concerned. She mediates their fights and helps their little band find the most fun places on her campus, the places they could never find without an inside guide. The other girls are too young to flirt in earnest, but at the perfect age to cluster together in pretend fear and indignity as the boys tease them and try to pull their hair; Lucy always knows when to stop this game, though, and the younger girls love her for it. The boys respect her, the little ones adore her; she does not care what the others think. The cage of their norms cannot hold her, and she breaks free of the school doors each afternoon to sing and dance and daydream on the lawn outside, regardless of what they might say.
Lucy remains gay and golden-haired, even in a world that finds it odd and inappropriate. When she runs by the older girls, her feet flying fleetly alongside the boys' as they race each other, she always waves to Susan, but her sister only presses her lips together in a false smile. Sometimes she feels guilty about not visiting more often but she has a feeling Susan is embarrassed by her, and she doesn't want to make things bad for her.
The other girls don't understand Lucy, but Lucy doesn't understand Susan. She supposes that like herself, Susan doesn't need to be understood, just left alone. She figures that Susan will come and talk to her when the time is right.
out of countenance
Peter would like to think that he has handled this well, as a Knight and a King ought to. He would like to think that he has never questioned Aslan's judgment, never doubted the Lion's decision to send him away for good this time, never felt anything even remotely resembling resentment or regret about the whole thing. He would like to think that he is coping perfectly well at boarding school, that he doesn't really need Edmund to spend the night in his room and talk, that he isn't feeling completely out of place and out of character, that he has come to grips with the idea that he will never return. He would like to think he's got it all sorted and has moved on. Unfortunately, and as his younger brother often reminds him, Peter cannot lie for beans. Not even to himself.
When he sits, poring over geography studies that seem foreign and pointless, his mind drifts to a certain Mouse, and a missing tail. He imagines how much the severance must have hurt, and wonders if it feels the same as this does now, like a part of him is missing, and then he laughs meanly at himself because that's idiotic – of course it would, that's what happened. As his pen-tip traces a river across a series of borders, he remembers Reepicheep's pained words as his paws clutched at the stump: a tail is the honor and glory of a mouse. And he thinks idly that here, one face in a sea of scratchy school uniforms, he too has been ripped apart from the things that once made him something special. When this thought, though, always comes an echo of the Lion's voice, a gentle rebuke sounding in his memories: Perhaps you think too much of your honor. And he cringes.
Peter is off-balance; his grip is faltering; he wishes desperately to recover his kingdom and his pride, but he knows his injured feelings are inappropriate so he swallows them and stuffs them away and tries to hide them, even from Edmund, though he knows his brother knows. Edmund is to him a little like Lucy's cordial was to the Mouse – he fixes what he can, but he can't replace what's been cut off entirely. And so Peter trudges on, naked of pride and honor, and is graded in class and sometimes fails, and stands up to bullies and sometimes loses, and creeps back into his cold metal bed at night and cries like the stupid little child to which he's been reduced. He would like to pretend he's adjusting. But at night, when dreams turn him into a king again, he still imagines returning, not for the sake of his dignity, but for the love of his people.
It's been several months now since they've talked about it, she and Lucy; her sister is always running loose with the little ones, though she's technically so much older than them, and Susan never finds the time to seek her out when she's alone. Even if they had, though, she's not really sure what she would say. It's not an easy adjustment, wedging herself back into boarding school; in Narnia, people (and not-people) tended to assume one another capable and intelligent until proven otherwise, but Susan finds that the expectation in England for women is mediocrity. They don't call it that, of course, they call it society – the dances and the scripted conversations they learn in their etiquette class at St. Finbar's – but Susan sees nothing special in painting a pretty face onto an empty head when everyone else is doing the same thing. She knows they would tell her that the point isn't to be special; the point is to find a man, but being rather older than she looks, she isn't so sure any man is worth this.
No, Susan is smarter than they give her credit for, and it's terribly difficult to cope, especially knowing that she will never go back Home – but while Peter never truly believes in that never, Susan does, and so with a great deal of effort, she shifts her mind-gaze off of Narnia and instead looks down the path of her inevitable English lifetime. She does not want to waste whatever life she is given. She doesn't try too hard, but eventually she finds herself able to chat about hat styles and teachers' personal lives and only get a little bored, and as she gets a little older, she can even tolerate going to the dances. The intelligence and wit with which she used to dazzle her suitors in Narnia rot in a corner of her brain; she doesn't need them here. The men speak to her as if she is stupid. She learns to tolerate them anyway, learns to hold her tongue, learns to let them dance with her and sometimes even kiss her.
Before she realizes it, she is genuinely interested in the lipstick, in the new nylons, in the party invitations. She fancies that she is growing up like a proper English girl and Lucy wonders when she forgot she is still a Narnian woman. For lack of better company, Susan molds herself into the people around her, and it isn't until a telegram-arrow pierces her heart that she remembers something she thought was a dream, a fantasy of her sister and a charging bear and the dwarf who shot it.
It is only then, with the notice scrunched in her manicured hand, that she realizes what a dumb animal she has become.