Chapter 27: Revolution in plans

Jack woke up smiling. Thanks to Merlin, he wasn't getting kicked out of Hogwarts. Jack wanted to hug him again, but last time, his savior got awkward after the hug. What could he do? A hug was his instinctual reaction to feeling happy. Since he had to ease up on hugs, he had all this pent-up joy inside him that wanted to spill out. He got ready quickly, told his friends he'd see them downstairs, and ran out to the back of the castle where the greenhouses were.

He kicked off his shoes, and his steps crunched on the frost-covered grass. Today was probably the coldest day of the season so far. He wondered if there was a difference between the frost he created and the natural frost on the ground right now, so he plopped down to sit cross-legged and experimented. It looked the same, its magic felt the same. It was fun to compare them, but it wasn't enough. He wanted to do something bigger.

He looked up at the cloudy sky and got an idea. It was definitely cold enough today. He dug his hands into the cold ground and focused on the Earth's power. He willed the clouds to listen to him, and soon, they became a different shade of gray and a light flurry fell around him. He waited until it intensified and let go. Now that he started it, the snow would continue on its own.

"I did it!"

He ran in circles with his arms spread out, watching the snow follow him around. As an experiment, he put his hand palm up and tried to make the snowflakes swirl in a small circle. Soon, it looked like a tiny tornado contained within his hand.

Fascinated with the idea, he let it grow until it enveloped his whole person. Now it was a human-sized tornado with Jack at the center. He lost control over it and it dispersed.

"Cool!" he exclaimed. Maybe one day he could grow it larger.

Snow started sticking to the ground and all surfaces received a white dusting. He ran up to a stone balustrade and scooped up some powder. He couldn't make a snowball out of it though, it was too dry and fell through his fingers. It didn't matter. He hopped on top of the balustrade and kicked the white dusting off to the rhythm of a made-up tune he whistled.

He stopped when he felt a familiar pull. His sister sent him a signal asking where he was. He responded with his location. Yes! They could play in the snow together.

After a minute, she showed up at the door and ran up to him.

"Elsa, it's cold enough. It worked."

"You did it?" She put her hand out to catch a few snowflakes.

"Yeah!" He grabbed her hands and pulled her along. "Let's play!"

She smiled and looked like she wanted to join him but then pulled him back. "Jack, Transfiguration is about to start. We have to go. We'll come back later."

His smile fell. Classes? He had to attend classes?

"But it's snowing," he tried to appeal to the Winter Spirit inside her.

"I know," she looked just as bummed as he felt. "You can do it again later, right? Come on. We don't want to be late."

She pulled him indoors and he reluctantly gave in. He hung his head and shuffled after her. They walked inside the classroom just as McGonagall got there. They sat down and she stared intently at them. Her eyes lingered on him a lot more than on Elsa. She looked infuriated. What was her problem? He wasn't late.

She leaned down and whispered in his ear intensely, "Where are your shoes!"

Jack gasped and looked down. Yup. His toes were happily free. "Oops. Can I go get them?"

Next to him, Elsa put her face in her hands and shook her head. "Seriously, Jack?" she whispered in disbelief. "You forgot?"

McGonagall's lips were very tight as she mulled it over. "Where did you leave them?"

Jack swallowed and said in a small voice. "Outside."

She looked out the window at the snowstorm beating against the glass and looked absolutely outraged. Instead of answering, she grabbed his arm and led him out of the classroom.

"I must take care of an urgent matter," she said to the class in a very controlled tone. "Class, read chapter five in the meantime,"

Once out in the corridor, she closed the door and dragged Jack further away. "I cannot believe that I have to say this, but why on Merlin's beard did you leave your shoes outside? Was that before or after it started snowing?"

Jack didn't know what else to do so he just nodded.

"The amount of trouble I have with you," she murmured with closed eyes.

"I'm… I'm sorry," he said quietly. He didn't get why she always made such a big deal out of it.

"Where? Where did you leave them?"

He led her to the spot and proudly overlooked the white powder that covered every surface. He did that. He was a proper Winter Spirit now.

"Please, tell me you know where you left them," McGonagall sounded desperate.

Jack walked into the snow and it crunched under his feet very satisfyingly.

"My snow," he said to himself.

She ran after him. "I didn't mean for you to go there barefoot."

"Cold doesn't bother me, Professor. You really shouldn't worry."

He looked around, hoping that his shoes would be noticeable under the snow, but the ground was white and even. He could try to lift the snow off the ground. He'd never tried to control this much snow at a time and wasn't sure if he had enough power for it. He looked back at McGonagall. Should he do it in front of her? Maybe it would work even better if he tried to use a wand.

She must have interpreted his look for a plea for help because she pulled out her wand.

"Accio shoes," she said firmly.

Three shoes flew out of the snow and landed in front of him. Two were his, and one looked like a girl's shoe. He picked them all up but was a bit disappointed that he didn't get to try the snow trick. He was pulled by the hood of his robe as McGonagall dragged him inside.

"Don't just stand here like this! You'll get frostbite."

"A frostbite?"

She said it like it was a bad thing but it sounded fun. Frost didn't have teeth, but maybe he could make teeth out of frost. Who would he want to bite with frost teeth?

"It's when your toes freeze and have to be cut off!" she said sharply.

Once they were inside, she brushed the snow off and fussed over him.

"Professor," he said, trying to stop her, "I'm serious. Cold doesn't bother me."

She yanked the shoes out of his hands and waved her wand at each with a spell that dried them off. Then, she shoved his two in his hands and threw the spare one on the floor in anger.

"Thank you," he said quietly and stuffed on the loafers. The warming spell was still working, uncomfortably so.

She didn't say anything else to him but straightened her posture and walked back to her classroom where she resumed the lesson as if nothing had happened. So he left his shoes in the snow. Why was it such a big deal? Unless she was mad at him because of that rodent incident. She hadn't given him his detention yet. He was dreading it.

During the practical part of the class, he was the last student who had a matchstick on his table. He looked over to Elsa's shiny needle and a button with jealousy.

"It's not so easy indoors," she whispered to him. "We need to be closer to Earth to channel it. So instead, use the castle."

"Fine. I'll try it your way."

Jack had to admit that she was right. The castle was like a sponge. Magic was imbued in the stone walls, even in its air, and it felt as if it was alive. He closed his eyes and cleared his mind.

The noises of the classroom faded into the background. He opened himself up to feel everything around him and sensed the magic of each individual person in the room. He felt his sister, whose magic was just like his, he felt other students and McGonagall, and one source of magic very different from the others. Merlin always felt like that. Jack didn't know why he felt so different but he suspected that his friend had secrets of his own. It wasn't his business.

Then, he probed further and felt the magical objects on the shelves.

And then he felt an unmoving source, grounded, grand, and everlasting. Very powerful magic rested within these walls. He struggled to tap into it. It wasn't as easy as channeling the Earth. It resisted him and touched him back, probing his magic, checking who dared to disturb its slumber. Whatever the castle magic felt in him though, it must have been satisfactory because the uneasy feeling of being examined eased up and he was allowed to interact with the power.

His wand became warm and he knew that it was time. He opened his eyes and focused on the match in front of him.

"Acufors," he said confidently.

The match transformed. He picked it up and poked the sharp end with his finger. It was a real needle. He did it. He really did it.

Someone put a pebble on his table. McGonagall was right in front of him. Was she watching him the whole time?

"The spell is Fibufors," she said calmly. "Same wand movement. Try it."

Did she really expect him to do the button spell? He'd been so depressed in this class lately that he tuned out when she taught the others how to do this.

Elsa put her hand on his. "If I can do it, so can you."

He wasn't confident about this spell at all, but he didn't want to disappoint her. But also, he didn't want to be the weaker twin anymore. He closed his eyes again and tried to clear his mind of all doubts. He reached out to the castle's magic, and this time, it welcomed him and lent its power without a protest. He opened his eyes and focused on the pebble while picturing a button in his mind.

"Fibufors."

The spell worked. A shiny black button sat in front of him. His button.

"You did it," Elsa exclaimed and hugged him. "I knew you could do it."

McGonagall cleared her throat, and he hesitantly looked up at her. She nodded in approval but her face remained that of a strict teacher. "I'm glad you improved your attitude, Jack. This doesn't change the fact that you have detention. Come to me after this class, and I'll explain it to you."

"Yes, Professor."

She turned to walk away but then stopped. "What changed your mind about transfiguration magic?"

"My friend, Merlin, helped me understand that you wouldn't force me to do something that was against my religion, even for school exams."

"Your what?" She blinked a few times. "What religion is that?"

"The Old Religion."

"I've never heard of it."

"So?"

He tried to maintain an innocent look on his face, even though he was doing a victory dance inside. Merlin was right. Playing the religion card was the way out. It was perfect.

"We'll talk about this later," she said. "You'll serve your detention this weekend with Professor Sprout. She needs help in the greenhouses."

"Thank you."

As soon as she turned around, Jack grinned cheekily. He loved spending his time in the greenhouses. This detention thing wasn't so bad after all.

Elsa leaned to him and whispered in his ear, "What's going on?"

"I'll tell you later."

"Why not now?"

Was she mad at him now? she whispered fiercely. He had a feeling that she did not like that she was hearing of his plan only now. He'd only found out about it. It wasn't like he was hiding it from her.

》《

Elsa glared at Jack the entire rest of the class. He was holding back something big and enjoyed how much curiosity ate at her. By the end of the lesson, they were both caught up with the other students and could perform all the spells.

During lunchtime, he invited Elsa to sit with his friends. Luna tagged along as well. They all sat at the Gryffindor table and Jack dug into his food.

"I'll let Merlin explain," he said with a full mouth.

Merlin looked at Elsa and Luna, understandably confused. "What am I explaining?"

"The thing with the Old Religion," Jack said between bites. "Elsa wants to know."

"Oh, yes. You should know. So, Jack said he was in trouble with McGonagall because she didn't agree with his belief that animals shouldn't be used in transfigurations. He was afraid that he was doomed to fail the class. You're with me so far?"

Elsa nodded. Colin leaned forward attentively. Luna picked on some food with her hands.

"So, I asked him some more questions about what else he believed in," Merlin continued, "and decided to help him. To make the teachers respect his beliefs we need to make them official. If he calls his beliefs a religion, they will have no choice but to take it seriously."

Elsa put her hand up, interrupting. "Wait, that's what you meant by Old Religion? Are you telling me, you're making up a religion just so you can avoid doing a spell? That's too much, Jack. Even for you."

"But it's not made up!" Jack said. "Tell her, Merlin."

"I practice Old Religion."

Elsa stared at Merlin in surprise, and he smiled at her kindly. There was something very strange about this boy. "You're adopting Merlin's religion just to get through one class?"

"Here's the thing, Elsa," Merlin butted in. "He's not changing any of his beliefs. Old Religion is the belief in the power of nature. Ancient Druids believed that nature deserved to be revered and protected, that all life was precious. That is what Jack believes as well." Jack nodded repeatedly to confirm and Merlin continued, "Jack has been practicing the values of Old Religion in its purest form, equivalent to the Druids' ideology, without knowing that he was. I am ready to back him up and take his stance regarding Transfiguration."

"And Potions," Jack added.

Merlin paused and shrugged. "We'll talk to McGonagall, and we'll probably have to talk to the Headmaster. Snape will be harder to handle but we can try. I don't know what the specific laws are, but I think that the school is required to accommodate our religious beliefs. I am confident that we will succeed in this. Now, the question is, what about you, Elsa?"

Elsa's eyes grew wide. "Me? You want me to practice your religion?"

"It's up to you. If you have no problems transfiguring animals, feel free to continue doing what you're doing. But if you want to join your brother, I think he would like that. I will gladly share what I know with whoever wants to learn."

"Will you guys have, like, masses and stuff?" Colin interrupted them. "I've never heard of this religion. I have soooo many questions."

"No, no masses. If we wanted to be very traditional, there are rituals and sacred places where Old Religion is at its strongest, where you can feel it in the air." He turned back to Elsa. "It's not a religion in the meaning of what people usually think when they hear the word. It's… I guess, in modern times it's seen as an old pagan belief. That doesn't make it any less true.

"There were times when all magic practiced in these lands was Old Religion magic. Times have changed. The way magic is used has changed. I'm one of the last people who practice the old ways and make the effort to maintain the balance. Does this sound like something you want to learn, Elsa?"

Elsa kept sneaking glances between Jack and Merlin. Her brother was nodding at her eagerly. "I suppose, I see where you're coming from and how we fit into it. But at the same time, I don't want to miss out on learning transfiguration spells."

"Elsa, think about it," Jack said. "Just how useful is it going to be to transform a rat into a teacup? Can you think of practical use for this? You won't be missing out all that much."

"It would come in useful in a room full of rats," Colin offered.

"Here's where I'm concerned," Elsa said, tapping a finger to her chin. "These spells are small and maybe not so useful, but the future spells will be more complex. We need to learn the easy ones before we can get to the difficult magic. You saw how McGonagall can transform into a cat. Can you imagine if we could do something like that? We won't be able to learn it if we never transfigure animals."

"You want to be a cat?"

"It doesn't have to be a cat."

"You could turn yourself into a hugger. You'd be so cute."

"Argh. I don't want to be a hugger, Jack!"

"What's a hugger?" Merlin asked.

"I'll show you later," Jack answered with a wink.

Elsa crossed her arms over her chest and stared at him angrily. "Do you remember how we planned to stay low, to not draw attention to ourselves?"

Jack shrugged. "I think it's too late for that. We stand out no matter how hard we try."

"You're really doing this?"

"Yes."

"You really believe in this so strongly that you will go through all the trouble with the school and will even drag your friend through the same thing?"

"Yes. And… you?"

Elsa crossed her arms and bit her lip. She always thought religions were for humans who needed an explanation for magic. What was her brother thinking?

Jack sighed, looking disappointed. "I don't want you to feel like I'm forcing you into it. I want you to want it for yourself."

"You can think about it," Merlin said. "It's not a one-time offer."

"I don't know about you, Elsa," Colin spoke up, "but I am sold. Can I join too?"

"I would like to learn too," Luna said in a soft voice.

Elsa pouted and looked at them all. Now, that wasn't fair. She didn't want to be the only one left out of this. "What exactly are you planning to teach us?"

Merlin smiled. "If you've got the talent for it, I can teach you real magic."


A/N: Exiting! Are you ready for real magic? lol

Just stopping by to check in with you. How are you enjoying the story? Talk to me. I see that you're reading but it's awfully quiet.

I have a good chunk of chapters prepped for you already but as NaNoWriMo is drawing close, I'm shifting my focus there now. I'm determined to finish Book 2 this time. It's about time. But I need to prep.

It's hard to believe that I've been writing this series for almost three years now. It's been an incredible journey and I've got the best readers (that's you!). I'm very thankful for this lovely community.