As they walked, Will noticed Mrs Hogston looking at him observingly, her expression a mixture of amusement and pensiveness.
'So,' said Will, breaking the silence, 'you're my Elemental...'
'Adviser, you could say,' she said, smiling, 'I wouldn't call myself an expert on the area, but I try my utmost best. I believe I've been of some help to the other children, I haven't heard them speak ill of me yet.'
They passed the quadrant at the north of the campus, the trimmed green grass overrun with snow, and turned right into the Main building. Up a high, winding staircase, they reached a plain wooden door, a plaque marking it as Mrs Hogston's office. However, when the inside was revealed, it was nothing as Will imagined. The office seemed to have been converted from a storage cupboard, it was void of any decoration, and the desk wedged in tightly with little room to pass either side. When sitting down at either side, there was little headroom between the low shelves. She walked in and gestured for Will to close the door behind him, giving them even less space between them.
Feeling confused and uncomfortable, Will moved to sit down at the hard, wooden chair, but Mrs Hogston soon stopped him. 'No need for that,' she explained. 'We aren't staying long.'
'What do you mean?'
She squeezed past him, and facing the door, pulled something from within her muff. Will craned his neck, and saw that it was a golden door handle that she pressed into the middle of the door. She reached up and turned it, not just down, but a full revolution, making the sound of unlocking cogs. Finally, she turned it so that the handle pointed upwards, and pushed it with all her strength. It compacted tightly like a spring, and the door swung open.
Will was no longer looking out into the hallway, but he stood mesmerised by the warm office which was dressed like the interior of a summer cottage. Mrs Hogston strode in, and he followed behind, awestruck. There were in fact, two extra rooms cordoned off by frosted glass screens, one a joint bedroom and bathroom to the right, the other a study straight ahead. The room he stood in resembled a living room more than anything. Although the ceiling was groin vaulted, and the windows at the east side, showing an ocean view, were old, the room had been designed with soft and bright furniture. There was a sofa suite at the centre of the room, thick-cushioned and decorated with multi-coloured daisies, a pattern matched on the short curtains. A coffee table rested between the two sofas, stocked with a china tea set and a cake tier fit to burst with pastries and biscuits, protected against by lace doilies.
'I see you approve of our meeting place,' smiled Mrs Hogston. She slipped off her shoes at the doormat before treading onto the clean, white carpet. Will quickly did the same, moving hesitantly towards the sofa before she motioned happily for him to sit. She then gestured to the coffee table. 'Help yourself. I'm very aware that this meeting causes you to miss breakfast.'
'I'm alright, Miss,' he said, irritated in the moment following when his stomach made a guttural growl of protest. Mrs Hogston just smiled, pouring him a cup of steaming, dark cocoa, and selecting a slice of lemon sponge off of the tier, handing it to him wrapped in a serviette. Balancing the cup on his thigh, the steam wafting at his chin, he took a bite to quell his stomach, savouring the rich lemon flavour and aware of the sugar frosting dusting his chin.