A/N: Characters and situations are not mine. They belong to C.S. Lewis's estate. I am simply happy to play here. This is pre-Golden Age, taking place after Lucy's and Edmund's first trips to Narnia. It aims for bookverse, bridging the gap between "My Soul Can Reach" and "Damascus Road," but could probably fit into the movieverse.

Something About the Eyes

Professor Digory Kirke stood in front of the old wardrobe, puffing his pipe musingly. His housekeeper would have frowned terrifically if she could see him (she believed pipes should be reserved for the study and the Sunday afternoons in the back garden), but fortunately, Mrs. MacCready rarely bothered with this part of the house. The wardrobe did not appear any different from the various others about the house. Digory's reflection in the mirrored doors studied him just as thoughtfully as he studied it.

If he were to open it, well, who knew what might happen?

Very likely nothing. This wasn't his time, Digory thought. His time was long past. The older two Pevensie children had come to his study full of practicality and concern (the sad effect of wartime, no doubt), but they had the air about them of those teetering on the edge of an adventure without knowing it. How long had it been since he had seen it? Digory had been fond of Richard Pevensie since the man was a shade-too-clever philosophy student and Digory was a middle-aged veteran of the war that was meant to end this nonsense for good. The young man Digory remembered had possessed a trace of that air about his eyes, not quite magic, perhaps, but they were eyes destined to travel far and see much. Richard, like so many others who had sat in that and subsequent classrooms, was fulfilling that promise now in a more devastating way than Digory had hoped, but his children - they were something else entirely. The youngest even more than her elders - when she had looked up from her supper to answer his questions, Digory had glimpsed the shine even through the tears. There was a girl who had looked beyond this world!

The other one, though, that little boy made him uneasy. Mrs. MacCready had referred to Edmund Pevensie as a little rapscallion when she'd shooed him out of the kitchen the other day, and she had only a slightly higher opinion of his siblings (the housekeeper was even less fond of children than she was of pipes), but even she would no doubt question the professor's sanity if she knew Digory's thoughts.

Something clattered to the floor behind him, and Digory turned. The object of his most recent thoughts started back warily. A handful of jacks lay scattered on the floor around his feet. Speak of the devil, and he shall appear. Digory had always thought it a rather horrible phrase to use so casually, particularly in reference to another human being.

"'Scuse me," said Edmund Pevensie. His face was a little flushed, and he didn't look at all like he desired to ask pardon of anyone, whatever his words might indicate. He bent to pick up his game, eyes still on the Professor.

"Nothing to excuse!" said Digory aloud. "Jacks are meant to be tossed after all. It's a shame to keep them shut up in pockets for too long."

Edmund looked at him suspiciously. "Are you sure you're a grown up?" he asked. After saying it, he glanced over his shoulder as if expecting one of his older siblings to appear in the corridor to scold him (which Digory admitted would not be an uncommon occurrence), and then turned back with his chin stuck out challengingly. Those eyes, so like his younger sister's in some respects, hinted at mysterious knowledge, but they were closed and secretive, unwilling to reveal what they had seen.

Digory smiled through his discomfort. "Well, now," he said. "That's a very good question. I try not to be, you see. I don't always succeed. You know, I haven't played a game of jacks in far too long."

The young eyes were momentarily lightened by surprise. "Everyone tells me I ought to grow up," said Edmund, with less resentment in his tone than Digory had become accustomed to hearing from him. "I thought that was the best thing about being grown up. No one telling you what to do."

"An unfortunate misconception," said Digory. "You'd be surprised how many people I have telling me what to do." He looked at his pipe and then at the door with exaggerated guilt.

Edmund actually smiled. It was a secretive smile. "Soon - when I'm older no one is going to tell me what to do," he declared. It was the sort of thing said by very young boys, but something in his tone wasn't that of any other young boy.

"Edmund! Where are you hiding?" A call from one of the corridors somewhere below turned both of their heads towards the door. The eldest Pevensie sounded quite frustrated.

"Peter," Edmund muttered. The boy glanced back at Digory - or perhaps behind him. The challenge about the jaw hardened a little, and the expression in the eyes closed up again. "Someday," he said before turning to respond to his brother's summons. For a moment the pale, young face reminded Digory of one older and crueler.

He couldn't place it.