Matthew rubs his burning eyes with despair. The book in front of him shows no sign of decoding itself anytime soon, and he is ready to call it quits for the day. With a loud sigh, he starts gathering his things when his eyes catch something that gives him pause.
Across from him, his head pillowed on his arms, Peter Pevensie is sleeping. Matthew snorts. He can’t cover up the glee at seeing the elder Pevensie in a less than favourable position. After all, the Pevensie brothers seem to work hard to maintain the untouchable air that surrounds them. And while Matthew hasn’t had trouble with them and finds them to be quite decent in manners and personality, he has never been able to resist a golden opportunity.
Stealing a glance to make sure no wardens are near, he reaches out to slam his hand down on Pevensie’s desk to hopefully startle the always perfectly composed boy. But before his hand can make contact, Pevensie wakes up in a quite forceful manner. Matthew jumps back in surprise as the blond boy shoots up in his seat and grips the desk. Pevensie’s gaze flits around the room wildly, as if in search of something. For a split second, their eyes meet and Matthew steps back at the intensity of Pevensie’s stare. His heart jumps in what Matthew is surprised to recognise as fear.
Then Pevensie bolts out of his seat and rushes into the hallway, abandoning all his things at the desk. Matthew stares after him and just barely manages to keep his mouth closed. What on earth?!
He quickly follows Pevensie out, just catching sight of him sprinting down towards the dorms. Crawford, clutching his bag strap with a white-knuckled grip, sends Matthew a bewildered look. “What’s gotten into Pevensie, Dalton?”
“Beats me,” Matthew mutters. Crawford purses his lips with a frown. A faint shout drifts down the hall, and Matthew squares his shoulders. “Sounds like we’re finally getting some excitement again, though.” And off he is, rushing after Pevensie, Crawford right behind him.
When they turn the corner, Matthew pauses at the scene in front of them. Thompson and his boys are blocking the hallway with their trademark smirks on their faces. Pevensie is standing in front of Thompson, his hands raised to push the other boy back. Behind him, Matthew spots the younger Pevensie brother holding his nose. Blood drips down his fingers. Next to Matthew, Crawford lets out a low whistle.
“No need to kick up a fuss, Pevensie,” Thompson says with glee. “Your little lap dog started it.”
Matthew watches Pevensie’s jaw clench. “I suggest you leave, Thompson.” His voice is cold with fury. Matthew doesn’t for a second doubt that Pevensie is holding back from wiping Thompson’s smug look away with his fist. “Before I decide spilt blood needs to be paid in kind.” The words aren’t yelled, but the promise in them rings out loud and clear. Pevensie’s shoulders are drawn together with tension. Anticipation hangs thickly in the air. It’s been a few weeks since a full-on brawl has occurred and even Crawford seems to be excited from the way he is fidgeting next to Matthew.
“We’re drawing a crowd,” Davis says quietly from Thompson’s left. Matthew flashes him a winning smile. He doesn’t particularly care for the bullies, though he’s thus far been safe from their attacks by what he assumes is some form of class solidarity. And even though fights are always exciting, he has a feeling this one would be much shorter than the row between the second-years last month.
Thompson rolls his eyes. “No need for theatrics, old chap,” he says and thumps his fist into Pevensie’s shoulder. Pevensie shrugs off Thompson’s hand with an icy glare. The gesture sets off something in Thompson and his brows furrow with anger. “You need to remember who runs this place.” The threat is almost low enough to escape Matthew’s notice. Having gotten the last word, the bullies leave with their heads held high. Without pause, Pevensie whirls around and guides his brother to the floor. The cold fury is replaced with concern and the tension in the air almost visibly dissipates.
“I’m fine,” Edmund Pevensie says with apparent resignation. Crawford tugs on Matthew’s sleeve and the two of them back away slowly before they can overstay their welcome. Neither Pevensie so much as acknowledges their departure. “It was a terrible punch, it’s not even broken, Pete.” Matthew decides not to think too hard on what the scrawny Pevensie boy would know of throwing punches.
“I hope to be there whenever Thompson gets the next one in,” is the last thing Matthew says as he leaves Crawford to pick up his discarded bag. Even if the fight is short, Matthew has no doubt that it will be quite a spectacle with the way the Pevensies hold themselves. As he passes by Pevensie’s desk again, he wonders if there is some truth to the rumours that the brothers feel when the other is in trouble. Pevensie’s awakening certainly feels too well-timed to be anything else.