Chapter 13 Starting School

"Ready for the first day?" Corbin asked, straightening up from tying Harry's shoes.

Harry just looked at him silently.

"I know it might seem scary, but there's nothing to be scared of. You'll be learning all sorts of things." Corbin did another spell, shrinking Gawain, Harry's stuffed diricawl. "Gawain will be in your pocket to be sure you aren't lonely, but I think you'll have a friend by mid-morning. And before you know it, I'll be there to pick you up for lunch."

Harry put Gawain carefully into his pocket as he took Corbin's hand.

"You're awfully very young to be taking care of a four year old."

"Oh, well," Corbin flushed and looked at Harry who was staring around the room, his grip tight on Corbin's hand. He squared his jaw and looked back at the teacher. "I'm almost 20. The secretary didn't say that would make a difference to Harry's enrollment."

"Oh, no, no, it doesn't." Mrs. Frizzle said hurriedly.

"Good." Corbin nodded, "Fine. Then…I…"

"School gets out at 12:00."

"I'll be back then to pick him up." Corbin said quickly.

"Harry, why don't you go play with the blocks with the other children until the bell rings?" Mrs. Frizzle suggested.

Harry didn't move.

"Harry," Corbin crouched down, "It's all right, remember what we talked about this morning, right?"

Harry nodded.

"Cassius and I love you very much. I'll see you when school's out." Corbin hugged him tightly. He stood and watched Harry slowly go over to the blocks, looking back over his shoulder then touching the pocket where Gawain was for reassurance. "We adopted him just over two months ago, this is the first time we've been separated."

"You're welcome to stay for a while," Mrs. Frizzle smiled kindly. "I find the first day is tough for the parents too."

"I'd like that." Corbin felt relieved. Harry was happy to see that Corbin wasn't leaving and would check on him frequently. After an hour, when Harry and the rest of the class was off to Music class, Corbin told Harry that he would see him at noon when school was out.

Corbin spent the morning straightening up the house. Well, the cleaning had only taken an hour, then he spent the rest of the time re-alphabetizing the books in the library by title (Cassius never remembered the authors' names). He Apparated to the school at 11:45 and paced in the hallway near the office restlessly until a woman who looked a little younger than his mother came over to him.

"First day, dear?"

"Yes. I didn't want to be late."

"What level is your child?"

"Pre-school." Corbin answered.

"My youngest son, Ron, is in that class. You…are you Harry Potter's guardian?" Corbin only had a chance to nod before the woman continued talking. "We were very excited when we heard he'd be at our school. Molly Weasley," The woman held her hand out.

"Corbin Hill," he shook her hand. "Are you married to Arthur Weasley?"

"Yes, I am." Molly answered with a smile.

"I know him, from the Ministry. I was in the Auror training program." Corbin glanced at the clock, it was just a minute before the bell would ring. He'd told himself he would be at Harry's classroom door when the bell rang. "It was nice to meet you," he said hurriedly to Molly, he didn't wait for her response, walking quickly to Harry's room. He looked inside the room just as the bell rang. He quickly stepped inside, as the children were dismissed. Harry had been watching the door and Corbin saw relief in the green eyes as Harry smiled and ran towards him. The other children had run out the door to their waiting parents, their voices floating down the hallway.

"Hello," Corbin greeted Mrs. Frizzle as he swung Harry up into his arms. "Hello you."

Harry nodded, his hand grasped around a piece of paper.

"What's this?"

"We drew a picture of our family after you left." Mrs. Frizzle answered. "Harry did a lovely drawing."

"Could I see?" Harry held it out wordlessly, laying his head on Corbin's shoulder. Corbin took it and looked at the three figures on the page. He recognized the small figure with the messy black scribble of hair as Harry, another looping scribble of black topped the head of a taller figure and Corbin guessed that was him. The third figure was the tallest and had green eyes like Harry and pale yellow hair. "It's very nice. You're quite a good artist. Would you like some crayons to have at home?" Corbin smiled as Harry nodded. "I can't believe we don't already have them."

Corbin adjusted Harry in his arms as Harry wound his arms tighter around his neck and rested his chin on his shoulder.

"He missed you very much after you left. It took him a while before he would speak to the other children, he isn't as verbal as they are, but he seemed to relax. As it got close to the end of the day, he was anxious to see you." She said softly. Corbin nodded. With a smile, she continued in a cheerful voice, "I'll see you tomorrow, Harry."

"Bye, Mrs. Frizzle," Corbin said

"Bye," Harry echoed with a wave.

"We'll go get crayons and then home for lunch. Cassius said he'd come home to join us."

Harry nodded, his chin digging into Corbin's shoulder.

"See you tomorrow, Harry," A red-haired boy shouted from the line for the floo. He was standing with Molly Weasley who waved.

"That Won." Harry said, waving at the boy. "Why's they?"

"They are standing there because they're going to use the Floo Network to travel."

"We's go do?"

"Well," Corbin had been going to side-along apparate home after going to the store since their floo was warded. "No, we weren't going to floo. But we could if we went to get Cassius. We can only floo home from certain places. Do you want to do that?"

Harry nodded.

"All right."

"Corbin, hello!" Jack called out as they got off the lift. Harry was wide-eyed, watching the interoffice papers fly in and out of the lift doors before they shut. "And this must be Harry."

"Yes. Harry, this is, uh, Mr. Bartleby." Corbin wasn't sure how formal he should be.

"Hu'o," Harry said, bobbing his head, one hand tightly gripping Corbin's shirt, the other the picture.

"How was your first day of school? I went to that school myself when I was your age."

"Mafizzee?" Harry asked. Corbin was about to open his mouth to interpret when Jack answered.

"Yes, I did have Mrs. Frizzle. I like her very much."

"Me too," Harry declared stoutly.

"Maya, do you know if Cassius is here?"

"He's at his desk." The receptionist replied. "Would you like me to page him?"

"Yes, please." Corbin sat down and Harry showed Jack the picture after Jack asked about it. Harry was still holding tight to Corbin but was nodding in answer to Jack's questions, his whole attention focused on Jack. Corbin's chest felt tight, thinking about how lonely Harry must have been at the Dursleys. Jack was seriously discussing crayons with Harry when Cassius walked into the lobby.

"Hello," Corbin said, "We've come to see if you'll floo home with us. And Harry drew a picture at school."

"It's very good," Jack added, with a grin and a wink aimed at Harry.

Cassius had reached them by that time and held a hand out for the picture. Harry gave it to him.

Cassius stared down at the picture, "Who are these handsome people?"

Harry giggled, "That us!"

"I didn't realize I was quite so tall." Cassius grinned. "I need to finish one thing, then we can go. Come back to my desk and you can wait there." He started back towards his desk. Corbin stood, which was a bit difficult with Harry still clinging to him.

"Come have lunch with me next week sometime, both of you." Jack said, with a wave at Harry.

"That sounds good, I'll owl you." Corbin answered.

"Bye!" Harry waved.

"Harry, do you want to add to your picture while Cassius works?" Corbin asked.

Harry nodded as Corbin got the box of crayons out of the bag. Harry had chosen the smallest box on the shelf, but Corbin had put that back and grabbed the biggest one instead, it had taken him two hands to carry it. Harry started filling in more of the background and Corbin started to recognize their yard, with the two yew trees and the pond. Harry worked quietly while Cassius scribbled on a scroll, occasionally checking in the open book in front of him. Corbin looked across at the desk that had been his; it was cleared of everything. Jack had packed his things up for him soon after they'd gotten Harry. Moody had told him that they would keep his scores so he could complete the program later, but Corbin wasn't certain he would ever become an Auror now.

"Maybe I should put that on my wall." Cassius said, looking over at Harry's picture.

"I was thinking we'd put it on the refrigerator."

"Then maybe Harry could draw another one for me? He certainly seems to have enough crayons."

"Gots bigst box. Mamageot money!"

"It was a lot of money?" Cassius asked and Harry nodded vigorously.

"I only had sickles, it wasn't that much." Corbin said quickly, knowing he and Cassius has just talked that morning about their need to stay on a budget. "Anyway, this box has a sharpening charm on the crayons, I thought that was important."

"Very important." Cassius agreed, "Harry will be able to draw lots of pictures then."

Harry nodded again and Corbin couldn't help smiling, he was pleased to see Harry relaxed and happy. It was such a contrast from the boy they had seen at the Dursleys.

"All right, I'm done." Cassius stood, straightening his desk. Harry and Corbin quickly put the crayons back into the bag. Cassius reached down and picked Harry up from Corbin's lap, swinging him around before settling him against his side. "Let's floo, shall we?"

Harry giggled again and wound too thin arms around Cassius's neck.

Harry had barely sat down at the table for lunch before he was sharing all about his day. Corbin was having a hard time understanding it all, but the smile on Harry's face told him all he needed to know.

Harry paused, his sandwich frozen on the way to his mouth. He frowned. "'on mum skoo ep. You?"

"Yes, I can help at the school like Ron's mum," Corbin said, refilling Harry's glass of milk, "Would you like that?"

Harry nodded happily.

"He's so thin. I knew he was, but Christ, he's so small compared to the other boys in his class," Corbin sat down on the sofa next to Cassius. It was a cool evening and Cassius had made a fire which was spreading gentle heat through the cozy room. It was five minutes past eight and they had tucked Harry into bed. He'd been unsure how to respond the first few nights when Corbin had picked a book to read to him but now it seemed like they'd been doing it for years, not just a few months. "And the teacher said today he isn't at the same verbal level as the other children."

"Didn't we already know that? Healer Prewitt said he wasn't."

"I know…I just…" Corbin gestured vaguely before running both hands through his hair.

"It's not something he can catch up on in only a few months, Cory."

"I know." Corbin sighed.

"When does he go in for the check-up? I want to go too."

"Monday next." Corbin twisted his hands together. "He's gained weight, don't you think?"

"He still looks half-starved." Cassius answered, adding quickly as he saw Corbin frown, "I'm sure he has though, you've been following the Healer's orders."

"It's important to follow them." Corbin answered defensively.

"I know it is," Cassius answered calmly, reaching out and hauling Corbin up against his side.

"You've got an early day tomorrow," Corbin said, after watching the fire for a long moment.

"So do you," Cassius ran his hand up and down Corbin's arm, feeling the tension in it. "This is nice though."

"Yeah." Corbin agreed, his arm coming around Cassius's chest. Cassius waited. They'd agreed not to ask each other 'what's wrong', but something was bothering Corbin and had been since the day before.

"You going to the pub with Owen and Stevens Friday night?"

"I don't know. It's only Monday."

"I know, I just…I want to plan something for Harry and me to do if you go, that's all."

"Let me know what you plan and I'll decide which one I like more." Cassius knew it was the wrong thing to say instantly.

"It's not like whatever a four year old finds exciting will compare to drinking at the pub." Corbin snapped, muttering under his breath, "Christ."

Cassius looked over at Corbin who was staring at the fire, his cheeks turning pink. He reached over and tilted Corbin's face up to look at him. "I'll be here. Harry and I can play with his dragons. And then we can make out on the couch after he goes to bed."

Blue eyes blinked at him for a moment, "Owen will be mad at you for not wanting to go out."

"I'd rather be here," Cassius kissed Corbin firmly, now the problem was finally revealed, "With you, and Harry. I like you best." He kissed him again and again, seven times – it was their way of saying I love you – until the blue eyes were clear and sparkling. "Besides, I don't get to shove my hand down your trousers at the pub."

"What says I'll let you shove your hand down my trousers here?"

"Previous experience." Cassius grinned. "In fact, I have reason to believe that if I get you in bed right now that you'll let me rub up against you until I come."

"Such romance." Corbin said dryly, but his mouth was tipping upwards.

"I'll make sure you come too." Cassius whispered, his lips touching the corner of his favorite smile in the world.