A/N: This is a second fear for Edmund--I'm sorry he has so many! The dedication at the bottom is whole-hearted and heart-felt. I know how you feel...
Disclaimer: I do not own Narnia or the Pevensies. I just like to exploit their fears.
It was hard for Edmund to concentrate that day. Even with the thick windows closed and the fires in all three fireplaces blazing, the great hall of Cair Paravel was cold. Little eddies of wind whipped across the floor, their fingers wrapping around Edmund. He was shivering despite two layers of wool under three cloaks, several pairs of socks and gloves, and a fuzzy hat Lucy had knitted for him the previous year. Peter had laughed at him after he had struggled to pull his boots on over the thick socks and waddled into the throne room all bundled up. Edmund had shrugged. Better to be laughed at and warm than overly-formal and cold. (Besides, if the ambassador from Calormen, admittedly used to the hot, dry desert, could be more bundled with furs than even Edmund, Ed didn't see why only he should be laughed at by his sniggering High King.)
Edmund settled deeper into the furs that padded his throne and attempted to renew his interest in the speech of the ambassadress from the Lone Islands. The petite woman was halfway through her suit on behalf of the governor's son. While the son was perfectly content to marry the blacksmith's daughter who had been his sweetheart since they were children, the governor was desperate for his son to marry one of the Narnian Queens. Numerous proclamations and warnings had been issued by all four monarchs explaining the inability for there to be any royal marriages. They had long ago agreed—with the approval of their subjects—that four kings and queens were quite enough, thank you very much, and marriages that would only cause more kings and queens were not needed. Of course, the monarchs had a second, secret reason for staying unwed and that was they never knew when they might return, inadvertently, to England.
For the second time, Edmund pulled his attention back to the ambassadress. He could see Lucy burying her face in her cloak, hiding the laughter that was obvious in her bright, mischievous eyes. Peter was slowly losing interest, his eyes sliding in and out of focus, his fingers tracing circles on the arm of his throne. Luckily, Susan was paying polite attention and the ambassadress was riveted on her, seeing none of the other three monarchs' inattention. Edmund, who felt himself slipping toward a sleep that he jokingly thought of as probably hypothermia-induced—and yet there sat Peter, in naught but one layer of wool and his cloak!—couldn't bring himself to care.
By the time the ambassadress was finished and Susan had politely but firmly refused the marital offer, explaining yet again the Narnian monarchs' stiff ruling on the subject, by the time Peter had shaken himself back to attention and called the next suit forward, by the time Lucy had finally stopped laughing at the poor petite ambassadress and her impossible question, Edmund was asleep.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he should not be sleeping, because it was rude, and he was supposed to be listening to all these ambassadors he found so fascinating in summer but so boring in winter. He knew he should force himself awake, but he couldn't. That was too much like work, when sleep was so comfortable. He surrendered himself to dreaming…
It was cold…penetratingly cold. His bones were freezing, his teeth were chattering. He was shivering uncontrollably. He tried to rub his hands up and down his arms clad only in a thin sweater, but he couldn't find the energy. There were thick manacles fastened around his ankles, locking him in a terribly uncomfortable position, sitting awkwardly with his knees drawn up to his chest. The chains attached to the manacles led a short way away to where they were buried and frozen deep in the thick ice that made up the walls. Icicles hung threateningly from the ceiling, and when the castle above settled and refroze they would quiver and sometimes fall. He wondered if they would kill him if they struck him.
He resisted the urge to sob, to scream, to call out for his brother. Calling for Peter would do nothing, now that he had betrayed the only person who could protect him—who had sworn to protect him, because that is what big brothers do. Screaming would only bring the White Witch, with her cold sneer and her terrible wrath and her threatening wand that could turn him into nothing but a solid stone statue. And sobbing would only mean frozen tears, and an uncontrollable shaking beyond even the shivers. There was nothing he could do.
That was it. There was nothing he could do. He would sit here, in this tiny, godforsaken cell, waiting in terror for an icicle to strike, or the penetrating cold to freeze the last spark of warm life out of his body. He was meant to never see daytime again, never feel the warmth of the summer sun on his face, never hear the quiet drip of the spring rain, never smell the spring daffodils or the summer roses. He was meant to remain here, frozen in winter— dead, cold, barren winter— for all time.
He began to sob, dryly. He had no tears left to shed—they had all long since frozen on his cheeks. He began to scream, too, wondering if death was preferable, if the transformation to stone was as painful as sitting in the freezing cold another second. He heard footsteps in the hall outside his tiny cell, and shrank away from the icy door as it opened. He closed his eyes tightly, rocking back and forth, sobbing, unable to breathe, his chest taut with fear.
"Edmund?" The voice was not the cold, high, thin voice of the Witch. It was his sister, Lucy, and for a moment he felt her warmth as she knelt next to him. "Ed? Ed, please, it'll be alright." There was a panicked note in her voice, and he groaned between his sobs.
"Not you, Lu," he wailed. "How did she get you, too? Oh, no. Lucy, you have to get out of here!"
"Edmund, it's alright. You're safe." Another flash of heat, on his other side as Susan took his hand in hers.
"Oh, Susan, please. No. How can she—? I'll do anything she asks, if only she lets you go!"
"Ed," a calm voice called as if from far away. "Ed, I promise, everything is alright. You're not in the Witch's dungeon. You're safe in Cair Paravel. She's been gone for almost three years. Aslan defeated her, remember? He brought Spring. We're all safe, we're all here."
That voice wouldn't lie to him. That voice was the only voice he had longed to hear the many long nights he had spent in the Witch's dungeon. The only voice that he had longed to hear because it belonged to the only person who he wanted to say he was sorry to, the only person he knew would protect him no matter what he had done, or what he would do in the future. No matter what. Because that's what big brothers did…
Edmund struggled to break the dream's terrifying hold on him, fighting awake. He opened his eyes to the bright light of the great hall at Cair Paravel, hunched in the comforting bulk of his throne, surrounded by the worried faces of his family. Susan held his hand, Lucy stood close on his other side, leaning against him. Peter knelt before him, his hands on his brother's shoulders, fear in his eyes.
"Ed?" he asked quietly, "Are you alright, now?"
"I think so," Edmund whispered, his eyes filling with tears. He leaned forward and threw his arms around Peter's neck, squeezing his eyes closed against the flow of tears. Peter hugged him back, soothing in his silence and overwhelmingly warm presence.
"I knew you'd come," Edmund whispered. "All that time I was there, in that horrible place, and all the time I was with—her—I knew, somehow, you would find me, you and Susan and Lucy, and Aslan. I knew you'd forgive me. I knew."
"I know you knew," Peter said, pulling back and smiling into his little brother's dark, wise eyes, seeing the terror sliding away. "Besides, you know what I told you every day when we were little. I will always, always protect you. Because—
"—that's what big brothers do!" Edmund, Susan and Lucy joined Peter on the last line, smiling. He spread his hands helplessly.
"You know it better than I do," he said, grinning proudly. He sobered a moment later. "But it's true. I promise. I will always protect you."
Later, when Edmund was saying good night to Lucy before heading to his room for maybe a bit of light reading before bed, she swept him up in a huge hug.
"He means it, you know," she murmured. "We all have our own scars. Yours is winter. He can't erase it, he can never fully heal it—it's a scar, it'll always be there. But he can protect you from it. Just like he does for Susan and me." Edmund was silent for a while, holding his little sister tightly.
"Thank you, Lucy," he said finally. She released him, and climbed into bed, as he returned to his chambers.
He lay awake late that night, thinking about what Lucy had said, about scars. He was scarred, forever, with a deep-seated fear of the cold, of winter. He shuddered, wondering absently what his siblings' scars were. Then again, it didn't matter if he knew, only that Peter knew, and knew how to protect them from their scars. He smiled, listening to Peter's soft, even breathing from across the room they shared, and knew he was safe from winter, so long as his brother was there. He rolled over, and closed his eyes, drifting towards a peaceful sleep when a thought floated gently across his mind: Who protects Peter from his scars?
And some other part of his mind answered: We do, me and Susan and Lucy. Because even big brothers need protecting sometimes. And who better to do it than us?
For anyone else who finds themselves in need of protection from their personal scars… That's what family is for.