'So, Willow Avaric,' she said, sitting poised and professional whilst he sank back comfortably. 'I remember the trouble it took to find you, drove Principal Paradam out of his mind. Everybody's so relieved that you're here.'
A derisive snort escaped his throat, and she looked at him curiously. 'You don't think so?'
'It's - well, it's nothing,' he assured her, placing the cake to the side as he took a sip of the cocoa. It sent a warm trail down his throat and into the pit of his stomach, thawing him to the core and making his skin turn to gooseflesh.
'You don't believe that you being here is beneficial?' she asked, Will avoided the question by drinking eagerly. 'I know of the events of the past month,' she added, sounding calm and considerate, 'I can imagine how it would be...unappealing. Still, you're here, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it's just from a sense of obligation.'
'I suppose...' said Will, thinking carefully, 'I can't go back to the life I had, knowing that this life is open to me. Everything else would seem...dull in comparison.'
'Yes,' she said, pouring a cup of cocoa for herself, 'I can easily imagine a life in Vincula as rather dull -,'
'What?' Will eyes widened, his throat closing fearfully - she knew!
She glanced up at him, taking her eyes from her pouring action. 'There is no shame, Will, I don't think any less of you, and neither would anybody else if you dared to tell them.'
'How do you...'
'As I've said, I am your Elemental advisor, I should at least know what to base my counsel upon.' She relaxed back against the sofa, her thin, wrinkled hands clasping the cup carefully to her chest. She smiled at him reassuringly, 'rest assured, nobody knows of this factor of your past other than Principal Paradam and Lady Anala. We mutually agreed it was a private matter.' Will's shoulders gradually lost their tension, and he sighed with a sense of relief. 'Still...' she continued, 'it does interest me that you do not want anybody to know. It was, after all, a decision out of your control.'
'I'm not sure if I'm worried exactly,' he said, 'I just - I know how some of the students are treated because of where they came from, or who they are. Somebody born into a poor family doesn't choose to be, but just the same, I can see them being made fun of...' it didn't surprise him that his first mental image was of the Twins.
'I see. Willow, have you ever talked to anybody thoroughly about those events? Somebody other than Principal Paradam?'
'I - err, no, but...' he pressed his lips together anxiously. 'Mrs Hogston, it's not that I'm hiding anything, but isn't this irrelevant? Aren't you meant to teach me about my element, about Avaric, and my...my family? This seems like more of a counselling session.'
Her eyebrows knotted together inquisitively, 'you were expecting something different?'
'I suppose. Something a little more...' he glanced at the flower patterned furniture and sugary pastry at his side, '...intense.'
She chortled softly behind closed lips, carefully placing her cup and saucer on the seat beside her. 'You like to be called Will, don't you?' she asked, her voice elegant and pronounced. He nodded. 'You see, I wouldn't have known that. The reason for such a relaxed setting is that intensity simply isn't necessary yet. I've known the other Elementals at least a year longer than you. I am at a level with them in that I can help them in the way most beneficial, because I know their personalities, their strengths, their limits. With you, it is different. This is our first meeting, I simply do not know enough about you to assist you properly.'
'Oh,' said Will, feeling embarrassed.
'You know that one of the most basic secrets to controlling magick is through the control of emotions, don't you? How am I supposed to know what you are feeling if I don't know you well enough? It's all linked, Will. If you truly wish to learn the history of your entire family right now, on a Saturday morning, then I suppose I must oblige. However, there will be questions that you should pursue the answer of by yourself, and there are skills that I will teach you in your Elemental Study class, along with the others.'
'What is it?'
He clenched his fists on his thighs, tightly gripping his trouser material. 'I just want to know...is - is there any way that I could not - I mean...' He didn't want to admit it, he didn't want to tell anybody of his fears, or be thought of as a coward.
'Is there any way to avoid this? Is that what you're asking me, Will?'