Author's Note: Written for the prompt "Redemption," for the livejournal community tamingthemuse.
Some mistakes can never be forgiven.
Whether in Narnia or in England, Edmund will always feel the stain of blood on his hands. He betrayed his sister, his siblings, and himself. And for his sins, the Lion was laid out on a table and slain in his place.
No amount of regret can make up for that.
And so, Edmund will spend the rest of his life earning redemption. He protects Lucy always. He counsels the High King, and takes care of all the unimportant transactions that he's so good at, leaving his brother free to lead. He tries to find Susan a match that will make her happy, just as much as it will please the kingdom. And he tries to forget the White Witch's whisper in his ear.
At night, he still dreams of her. He wakes with the taste of Turkish Delight on his lips, and the still air rings with the echo of her voice.
Winter still comes to Narnia, and the cold fills him with terror. It is the perfect winter of a magical land, where snow falls soft in the night and the sun rises the next day to sparkle on a crystalline landscape. The snow is light and wet, ideal for snowmen and sledding and snowball forts. It will melt away before it can become dull and mud-streaked, and Christmas will always follow on time.
But Edward remembers the scream of the wind, and snow which will never melt. His dreams are the dull white of a land that has forgotten its colors. Every night, he struggles on through colorless drifts that have frozen hard. He crunches down through the icy surface and the snow swallows him. Each step is a struggle, as his muscles strain against the weight of exhaustion. He isn't strong enough to go on, but he's earned this, and there is no escape. There is only the runner of the sleigh shushing ever on, and the twin tracks through the snow. He runs, and the sting of tears on his face is only a symptom of the cold.
By day, he knows they've forgive him. Lucy is a warm golden thing, as incapable of resentment as are the sunbeams. She loves him fiercely and sometimes, for a moment, she can make him forget what he's done. Then the moment shatters, as fragile as his witch's iced beauty. He doesn't deserve this, shouldn't be forgiven, and the sunshine is only for her. For her sake, he endures and takes her hand. He smiles though he's broken inside, and is relieved when she smiles back.
Susan is easier. She is the cool shadow of a quiet stream, and her brightness is easier to bear. She is the silence of the forest, and he can pad along after her without words. His own thoughts stay locked in his head. He thinks he can feel her grief in these moments. He doesn't know its source, this longing inside of her, but somehow he understands it. His own guilt settles down inside of him, and with Susan, he does not feel alone. She too carries a secret. The knowledge makes his own shame easier to bear.
Peter is his penance. The High King has forgiven him, but Edmund can see in his eyes that he has not forgotten. He serves his king faithfully and knows that his labors are accepted as payment for his sins. They understand each other. Edmund has a debt to pay. He understands that it is one he can never pay off in full, even if his brother does not. And so he works, and tries not to think of the feel of ice on his lips.