The glint of silver drew every eye in the dormitory as automatically as a magnet attracts a needle.
The young occupants of Dormitory Six crowded around Gene Collins, some murmuring, some gazing in wide-eyed amazement, some glancing over their shoulders edgily. If a prefect happened to stroll into their room at that very moment, it would have looked as though the seven boys were up to some mischief—which, to some extent, they actually were. The problem was no one was exactly sure what kind of mischief they were dealing with.
"Will you look at that," said Fletcher Ashford in hushed tones.
"That," said Christopher Hurst loudly over Ashford, "is the wickedest thing I have ever seen."
Several boys shushed him, looking frantically at the doorway.
"Never would have thought Pevensie had it in him," said Lionel Lawley, running his eyes over the item with a schoolboy hunger.
"Had what in him, exactly?" said David Walter sharply. He was, among the boys of Dormitory Six, the closest person to Edmund Pevensie, and he looked almost upset.
The object in question was a wicked looking dagger, which Gene Collins gingerly held by the handle. It was a thing of beauty—liquid silver tapering to an elegant point, elusively enticing, and yet it seemed almost primeval, rough—almost cruel—to the English boys' softer, sheltered eyes. It glinted in the light, looking as beautiful and dangerous as every well-made dagger should, the handle twisted and coiled in strange designs. A soft hum of faint, seductive menace seemed to emanate from the shining blade, and more than one boy put a vague hand out to touch the point.
"Don't," said Gene Collins nervously, flapping their hands away. "Don't, I say." The poor lad was biting his lip, his eyes continually darting from the doorway to the dagger. Beads of sweat dripped into his eyelashes.
"Where'd you find it, Gene?"
Another quick flicker between the object in his hands and the door, another nervous gnaw of the lips, and Gene gulped out, "Un—under his pillow. My Maths book has been missing, and I was just pulling things out here and there, you know, looking for it, and I found—I found the knife under his pillow…" Gene's voice petered out, and he looked at the boys fearfully.
"Do shut the door," Fletcher said suddenly. "Anyone could walk in on us." They all stared at each other, and finally, with a long-suffering sigh, Dean Barton stood up and took the door by the handle, stuck his head out and took stock of the corridor, and shut the door firmly. The decisive click that resounded around the room seemed to echo in every boy's head long after Dean took his place once more in the huddle around the dagger.
"Where is Edmund, anyway?" Dean asked, looking around.
"Stayed after the game to talk to his brother, but you know how long those talks of theirs usually last," said Lionel, a little meanly. David opened his mouth to defend his friend, but Christopher cut him off.
"That's true," he said. "It's strange, but Edmund's been talking an awful lot to his brother lately. He's changed."
"We've all come back from being shipped off to places in the middle of nowhere, Hurst," said Fletcher. "Of course Pevensie's changed."
"But he seems to have changed even more than most people have," persisted Christopher. "He's an entirely different person. It's almost as if he's been replaced."
"Isn't as mean as he used to be," said Dean, nodding.
"Look here," said David, "I agree with all you're saying, he was a nasty little liar once, but he isn't anymore, and I don't believe it's fair of you to speak so behind his back."
David was taller than most of the boys in the dormitory, with a commanding, persuasive voice that made even the soppiest things sound impressive, and an even more commanding presence. The dagger, however, seemed to diminish his shine, gleaming in the midst of all those young, eager eyes.
"We can't not talk about him," said Fletcher authoritatively, turning respectful eyes upon the dagger still trembling in Gene's grasp. "Not with this knife here in our dormitory, anyway. It's a real one, isn't blunt, look at it—who knows what Pevensie could do with it if he wanted to?"
His words opened up a whole vista of frightening possibilities.
"He might secretly cut all our hair off," squeaked Gene, whose imagination was not his strongest suit. The knife wobbled dangerously in his hand.
"Could gut us in our sleep," said Lionel with relish.
"Please," David broke in, "you've all shared this room with Edmund for the past year, you know he would never do such a thing—"
"He's changed," insisted Christopher.
"Tell me," said David, "tell me exactly how he's changed."
The silence was punctuated only by Gene's rapid, wheezy breathing.
"Well," said Christopher uncertainly, "he used to… er…"
"Used to bully the younger boys," supplied Dean helpfully.
"And now he…?" said David, fixing his gaze upon Christopher.
Christopher mumbled his answer. "Doesn't anymore."
"So the fact that he's changed doesn't jolly well mean he's going to gut us in our sleep," said David triumphantly.
"But see here, David," said Lionel, "it still doesn't explain why he had the dagger under his pillow in the first place." He turned to the only person who had kept silent throughout the entire exchange. "What do you think, Phillip?"
Phillip Clapp sat in silence, his hands in thoughtful fists over his knees. "I don't believe Edmund Pevensie would gut us in our sleep," he finally said in a pleasant voice, and that was all they could get out of him.
"But," said Lionel in frustration, "the dagger must mean he's hiding something—"
"Who's hiding something?"
In perfect synchronization, the seven boys turned towards the source of the voice guiltily, looking like criminals caught in the middle of a particularly crooked segment of a crime they were committing. Edmund Pevensie had managed to open the door without being noticed, and he stood framed in the doorway, all flushed cheeks and tousled curls. He smiled so cheerfully that even Lionel felt a flutter of shame in his stomach.
"What's the matter with all of you?" Edmund said, with the faint trace of a grin in his voice. The boys looked at one another, unsure of what to do, but before anyone could initiate some sort of action, David rose, plucked the dagger from Gene's pudgy hands, and strode over to Edmund.
"Found this under your pillow," he said succinctly. "I told them you weren't attempting to gut them in their sleep, but they wouldn't believe me, the idiots."
"Where… who found this?" Edmund's voice sounded a little strange.
A pause, and then all fingers simultaneously pointed at Gene.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" he wailed. "I was looking for my book and—"
"It's all right," said Edmund hurriedly. "Really, it is."
"So," said Fletcher in a voice that was entirely too casual, "what was the knife doing under your pillow, anyway?"
Every boy in the room, even David, held his breath as they awaited the answer. Edmund gazed at the silver weapon in his hands, his face impassive. Finally, he looked up and broke into such a hearty peal of laughter, Gene Collins jumped in surprise.
"Have you all gone and made a fuss about nothing! It's my father's birthday next week and Peter and I have saved up for this knife for ages; it only arrived in the mail yesterday and Peter wanted to keep it in his room to be absolutely sure it was safe, only I told him I'd keep it under my pillow, nowhere safer—I was wrong, I suppose." He shrugged, and then laughed again, laughed so sincerely that the other boys laughed along, though they mostly did it out of relief.
"Anyway," he continued, "I'd better go put it in my trunk so it really will be safe this time." He whistled as he approached his trunk, and this sign of normalcy must have come as a great relief to Christopher Hurst, who said eagerly,
"Ah, so that's why you've been spending so much time with your brother lately!"
Edmund stopped whistling, though he didn't turn away from his trunk. "Yes, I suppose so," he murmured. "Though I think I'll make it a habit to talk to Peter more often—I'd forgotten how nice it was."
As the boys of Dormitory Six mulled over this puzzling pronouncement, Edmund carefully wrapped his dagger in the thickest of his socks and buried it at the very bottom of his trunk. He'd have to extricate his spare from the boot he never used and hide it more carefully—if that one was found, Edmund really didn't know what he would do.
A/N: Eh, I'm not really sure how I feel about this one, and I'm absolutely certain I botched up some of those British-isms (if anyone spots anything wrong, I'd love it if you pointed it out!). Reviews are always appreciated, however. :)