It was nothing like Mycroft expected. The school was a conversion of a family home, relatively small, honeysuckle growing over the pale yellow door in an arch, rose beds lining the cobbled path up to it. The house itself was white, with several windows covered by white lace curtains facing out of the front over an expanse of fields, where about fifty children stood around, some chatting, others playing, and the older ones sitting on the grass studying together, laughing and listening to music. The grass seemed to go behind the house, reaching onto meadows of wild flowers. Mycroft stared at it. It was so different to his old school, with it's imposing red brick building, stern teachers and three perfectly mown rugby pitches. Harry got out of the car first, slamming the door behind her.
"Come on, Mycroft!" She snapped, almost the first words she's said to him since he arrived.
"I'm coming" he said quietly, slightly overwhelmed. Harry went off quickly to join her friends, two boys and another girl.
"Don't you mind her," Lizzie said softly, putting a hand on his shoulder and guiding him towards the yellow door. As they went inside, he was taken aback with the simple, homey decoration. The children had obviously painted the walls themselves, the paint was uneven. A wall behind the front desk was covered floor to ceiling with signatures. It seemed that every teenager and child to have passed through the school had signed the wall. At the top, the words 'Bayhill's Best' were painted in red bubble writing. Mycroft frowned. If it was for the best, how come everyone was represented? He was used to the rugby captains and head boys to be displayed proudly in gold, and everyone else quickly forgotten. He sighed. They wouldn't even notice he was gone. The receptionist sitting at the front desk beamed at him.
"Hello, you must be Mycroft Holmes, welcome to Bayhill!" She shook his hand. “You have an appointment with the head of school in a few minutes.”
"You'll be okay now?" Lizzie asked, perfectly happy to stay as long as he needed her.
"Yes. I'll be fine.”
"Okay. I'll be here at ten past four to pick you up. Have fun, and don't be afraid to ask anyone anything, okay?"
"Yes. I'll be fine. Thank you"
"Bye then. Thanks Jane." Lizzie went back out the door and Mycroft sat down on a plush chair. He looked around. The foyer was small, the white walls making it seem larger. A staircase curved up to the second floor, and two corridors led off to unknown rooms. He could see kids mucking about in the front and back of the school, and although they were all over eleven, a lot of them were running around, laughing and joking. They all wore their own clothes, and looked relaxed and happy, a rainbow of individuals.
"Mycroft?" Came a male voice from the top of the stairs "do you want to come on up?"
"Yes" he said politely, beginning to climb up the curved staircase. He reached the top and the man shook his hand, smiling widely.
"Hi, I'm Pete, and I'm the headmaster here at Bayhill. Come inside." He led him into a small room with oak beams stretching across the ceiling. “Take a seat.”
“Thank you” Mycroft said politely, sitting down in one of the comfy chairs opposite the large desk.
"So, I hear you're a bit of a shining star academically" he said, throwing a foam ball into a small net attached to the wall.
"I suppose. I was three years above my year group at my old school."
"Wow! Well, we don't have year groups here, we're sorted into ability. We've placed you in a high ability grouping, so quite a few of them will be a bit older than you, but you'll find that you share some interests with them. You certainly aren’t the youngest in that group either. I'm sure you'll be fine.”
“Okay” Mycroft’s mouth was bone dry.
"We were sorry to hear that you come from a rather difficult situation" Pete changed the subject.
"I guess." He squirmed a little before suppressing the movement.
"We want you to feel safe here, Mycroft. Let us know that second if you feel uncomfortable, and we'll sort it out. You're in Jacob's class, he'll look after you. He's one of the best teachers we've ever had. I think you'll like him." He grinned mischievously, running a hand through his greying brown hair. Mycroft smiled weakly back. "Have a good day, Mycroft."
"Bye" he got up and walked down the stairs. A tall man with curly hair and small glasses was waiting for him.
"Hey, I'm Jacob, you must be Mycroft Holmes, the Watson's new lad?"
"Yes." Mycroft wasn't sure how he felt about being identified as the foster family's new kid.
"Come with me, I'll show you your new classroom." Mycroft followed the man over to the left of the stairs, down the corridor. He was exhausted already. The walls were covered in children's work: essays, presentations, artwork, everything. Off both sides of the corridors there were several rooms with various numbers of kids of varying ages. Jacob led Mycroft to the end of the corridor and went into the room on their right. It was light and airy, occupied by eight teenagers. "Good morning everyone, this is Mycroft, he'll be joining us."
"Hey!" A little chorus of voices said.
"Hi" Mycroft croaked. He was nervous. He was never nervous.
"So, we can get on with the day now folks! Tom and Jamie, can you look after Mycroft for me, show him how we do things here?"
"Okay, will do Jacob" a skinny boy in jeans and a dark t-shirt said, pushing his slightly long hair out of his eyes. "Hey, I'm Tom."
"I'm Jamie" said a shorter boy with red hair and freckles.