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Clarke's Third Law

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The first time she speaks to him, it's right at the beginning of Sixth Year. And then, it's less of a 'speaks to' and more of a 'knocks down some stairs'.

'Oh my god! Shit! Are you all right?'

Jane drops her things and dashes down after him. It's only a small staircase – eight steps in total – and by right there's no way someone like her should be able to knock down someone that much taller than her. Except she's carrying twelve books, a cauldron stuffed with the lunch she didn't get a chance to eat because she arrived too late, and a rather large telescope that took five owls to carry. This means she can't really see a damn thing and keeps hitting people unexpectedly. She really should have left the telescope at least in her dorm, but she doesn't want to waste any time in setting it up so she's planning to head straight up to the Astronomy Tower after lessons.

Or she was, before she nearly murdered someone. Now she's probably going to be late to Potions.

'Are you...?' she starts again, before her victim gets to his feet.

Now he's out from under the pile of robes she's realised who he is. Double shit. Of all the peoople to knock down the stairs, she would pick the practically-seven-foot-tall son of the Minister for Magic who just happens to be the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain.

Thor Odinson grins at her, suddenly, disarmingly, and like the sunshine. Jane feels a bit of a flutter in her stomach which she does her best to ignore.

'Trying to knock me out before the first Quidditch match?' he asks, still smiling, still holding her gaze.

'Um, I don't think I need to,' she babbles without any real instruction from her brain. 'Hufflepuff's Seeker has a ninety-five percent win-rate so best either of us can hope for is second. And your hit speed drops by five percent when your brother's playing, which the Slytherin captain noticed that last year so they'll use that against you. So it's actually beneficial to me to keep you in play because Ravenclaw wins three out of five we play against Slytherin.'

She shuts her mouth very suddenly. Stop talking, Jane, she reminds herself.

Thor's mouth has dropped slightly open but there's still the faint curve of a smile at the corners.

'I have to go,' she says. 'Shit, sorry, and sorry about the stairs thing, but I really have to go to Potions.' She hurries back up the stairs, flicking her wand to make all her books and possessions jump into her arms again.

She glances over her shoulder before she ducks into a corridor and finds him still standing there, still smiling slightly, still looking a bit stunned.

~*~

The second time she speaks to him is a few weeks later.

She's in the library, squinting at the tiny, near illegible words in a massive doorstop of a book on magical theory. She really needs a magnifying glass if she's honest with herself.

'Ah, Miss Foster.' She looks up to see Professor Sinistra and smiles hopefully. 'What on earth are you reading today?' Sinistra doesn't teach the astronomy that her Muggle father used to, but she understands Jane's love of the subject and is often encouraging of her extra-reading.

Jane shows her the cover of Advanced Magical Theory.

Sinistra gives a short smile. 'Still trying to reconcile the irreconcilable?' she asks.

'Well, you know, any sufficiently advanced technology...' says Jane.

'So you've been telling me for five years now,' says Sinistra. She hands the books she's carrying to Jane. 'The books I was talking about. Anne Galey – she was a Pure Blood who sought out her contemporary Muggle Astronomers such as your Galileo Galilei. Her perspective of Astronomy is something quite different from the typical.'

'Ooh, thank you!' says Jane, eagerly accepting the books and beginning to flip through them.

Sinistra leaves her to the quiet of her reading, with a gentle reminder to make sure she attends dinner. Jane agrees without listening. The near silence of the library is comforting, interrupted only by the faraway murmur of students at other tables. She easily tunes that out, focusing instead on the words – a real, true first-hand account of Galileo's work, but with a magical perspective.

SMACK.

She jumps out of her skin and nearly falls out of her chair.

There, at the end of a nearby row, is Thor Odinson surrounded by a pile of books he's just dropped. He catches sight of her furious gaze, goes slightly pink, and murmurs an apology. Madam Pince stalks up and tells him to quieten down – receiving a further embarrassed mutter in response.

'I thought Quidditch players were meant to be co-ordinated,' Jane says once Madam Pince disappears again, and to her relief it comes out teasing like she intended.

'Well now I know it's your fault!' he tells her with his charmingly perfect smile. 'This doesn't happen to me otherwise!'

Eager to make up for giving him a lecture – however brief – on Quidditch stats and why his team will lose, she jumps to her feet and starts helping him with the piles. It's an eclectic mix of books: everything from first year textbooks to seventh year additional reading. He catches her curious look and gives another slightly embarrassed grin.

'Got to so some re-shelving without magic,' he says.

She blinks.

'Detention,' he adds, which she'd already worked out.

'What did you do?' she asks.

He waves a hand dismissively. 'Started a fight. It's complicated. And my brother's a shit.'

Jane's never interacted with Loki Odinson beyond watching him at Quidditch, which hasn't done anything to disabuse her of his brother's statement. Loki's a sore loser and a predictably irrational player with a bit of a temper, which adds an interesting dimension to the stats.

'Well I better not help too much,' she says cheerfully, 'or you'll get another one.' With that, she dumps the books she's picked up on top of the pile in his arms. His mock 'oof', is accompanied by a wink as he heads back to work.

Grinning to herself, and wondering why, Jane hurries back to her books and buries herself in them.

Some time later, she's interrupted again by the scrape of a chair, and looks up to see Thor leaning forward and looking at her with another one of his infuriatingly attractive smiles.

'What?' she asks, tucking her hair behind her ears and shifting in her chair.

'“Any sufficiently advanced technology”...?' he asks.

She blinks at him.

'What you said to Sinistra,' he clarifies.

'I remember,' she says, raising an eyebrow at his cheek. 'Do you always listen in on other people's conversations?'

'Only when I'm bored out of my mind in detention,' he says. 'Did you know Flitwick has a massive crush on McGonagall? I mean, don't we all? But I overheard that one cleaning the first floor toilets.'

She stares.

'But I was curious...' Here he trails off and fidgets in his seat. 'Sorry, you don't have to answer, I really shouldn't have been-'

'Arthur C Clarke,' she interrupts. He straightens slightly and leans forward, still looking interested. This has to be one of the weirdest conversations she's had for a while. 'He's a Muggle writer,' she explains, slowly at first but warming to the subject quickly. 'He wrote science fiction – all about the technology of the future and what Muggles would do and all the planets they'd explore. And he wrote this thing that became known as Clarke's Third Law: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.'

Thor frowns slightly. 'So Muggle technology is... like magic?'

'Sort of, yeah,' she says. 'If you were to pluck some Muggle from a hundred years ago and show them your magic, they'd be amazed. But if you were to show them tech stuff that my parents have at home they'd think that was equally impressive. Maybe even more so.'

He nods thoughtfully. 'I visited Muggle London this summer,' he says. 'The photographs are still, you know?' Her lip twitches at the surprise in his voice and he notices, giving her a self-deprecating grin. 'But what I meant was, those screen things Muggles have – they all move and make sound, just like paintings! Like what your writer meant, right?'

She finds herself nodding eagerly. It's been a while since anyone listened to her about this.

'But that's part of what's been so strange, to me, about coming to Hogwarts. All the science and technology and stuff that I loved in school and here it's magic but nobody seems to care about the two meeting in the middle. Magic makes tech go haywire, says everyone. And Muggles can't know about us. But imagine what we could do if we could use both!'

Thor's staring at her like he doesn't know what to make of her and she finds herself blushing.

'So this is what you do when you're not counting Quidditch wins?' he says, with a low whistle. 'Try to merge magic and Muggle... science?'

He sounds... impressed, which she wouldn't have expected. When she talks about this sort of thing she normally gets slightly nervous looks as if she's suggesting something crazy. His gaze, however, is doing nothing to make her stop blushing.

'It's just, you know, magic is wonderful, but I'd love to be able to explain it properly,' she says. She glances down at the books on the table and absent-mindedly shuffles them around. 'Not many people study this sort of thing though.' She gestures to Advanced Magical Theory. 'This is probably one of the only books that even comes close and the library only has one mouldy old copy that's missing half its pages. Madam Pince says there used to be more of this, hundreds of years ago, but the Statute of Secrecy and everything that happened meant a lot of books and knowledge got destroyed.' She scowls downwards at her meagre book collection. 'Why would they do that?'

Next to her, Thor gives a vaguely apologetic shrug. 'Wizards can be very set in their ways,' he says. 'Even now. My father would lose his job if he were to suggest repealing the Statute, even were he to want to.'

Before Jane can accidentally insult his father (because the words that form in her brain are definitely going to be insulting), his stomach gives a loud rumble and she giggles.

He gives a mock grimace and gets to his feet. 'Dinner time, I think. You coming?'

Jane glances at her watch. 'Dinner ended, like, an hour ago,' she says.

Thor grimaces. 'I think I've got some sweets left over from the last trip to Honeydukes. It counts as a balanced meal if you make sure you get at least one vegetable Every Flavour Bean. Want to share?'

She snorts. 'Ick. Do you not know where the kitchens are?' she says incredulously. 'You've been here seven years.'

'Wait, you do?' Jane nods. 'Well I don't make a habit of skipping meals!' he says. 'Unlike some people, I can't sit in a library for an hour and somehow not notice that everyone else – except the desperately sad bloke in detention – has long-since gone for food.'

Laughing, Jane stuffs her books into her oversized bag and heads out of the library, Thor at her heels, to see what the House Elves can spare. As they eat he encourages her to talk more about her reading and her ideas. By the time she says goodbye and hurries back to the dorm she's pretty sure she's bored him out of his mind and said way too much, and that is the last she'll ever be talking to him.

The next day, in full view of everyone at breakfast, he marches up to the Ravenclaw table and presents her with a half-full bag of Every Flavour Beans. He's even tied a little ribbon around them.

'A thank you for saving me from certain death by starvation,' he says, with another wink. 'I finished all the vegetable flavoured ones last night. Probably.'

'Um, thanks,' she says, staring at him uselessly. She didn't expect this. 'If I end up eating bat bogeys because of you I am coming after you.'

He laughs like he actually finds her funny, and she could really get used to it.

'Hey! Odinson! You were the one who called early practice. You better not be late!' Thor glances over his shoulder to the caller. It's Wilson – Gryffindor Chaser, this year's Head Boy, and previously Jane's favourite Prefect because of that one time he didn't even put her in detention for starting a fight. It was a completely justified fight, and that arse she punched should not have been calling little kids 'Mudbloods', but not every Prefect would understand. That his friend – Rogers, who's now standing with him and waiting for Thor – was also involved in the fight probably helped her case somewhat, of course.

Thor gives Jane another quick smile before hurrying towards his friends. She finds herself staring after him, wondering how, in six years at Hogwarts, she'd hardly thought him worth noticing before now.

'Um,' says Darcy. 'Explain to me what just happened. And then explain to me why you did not tell me this was going to happen. And then introduce me to the rest of the guys in the Gryffindor Quidditch team because how the hell did they get all the hotties? Look who we're stuck with.'

'Lewis, nobody asked your opinion,' says Stark, leaning over. 'Foster, tell me you're only getting in there to get insider info on the team!'

'I'm not getting in anywhere,' she say, glaring at Stark. 'But I'm going to ask him to hit a Bludger at your head at the first opportunity, if you keep talking' she adds waspishly. Stark grins, unworried and unoffended. The unfortunate thing about Tony Stark is that once he decides he likes you, you're stuck with him forever.

~*~

Thor doesn't bring her sweets at breakfast again, but he does start to appear occasionally where he didn't before. He smiles at her when he sees her and comes over to chat and one time makes them both late for their next lesson (in his case he loses ten points from Gryffindor, which Tony Stark celebrates as a victory for Jane). Once or twice, when she's carrying heavy loads of books, he appears as if from nowhere in the corridor and offers to assist. Another time he wraps some lunch up and brings it to her in the library because she's forgotten to eat (again). He even lends her a scarf when she loses hers, but she has to give it back very quickly because red and gold are distinctive and obvious in the Ravenclaw common room and everyone already has enough ideas about what's going on.

Jane's not normally very good with figuring people out, but Thor is extremely uncomplicated in his gentle flirting and she doesn't even need Darcy over-interpreting his actions to figure it out.

She's just not quite sure what to do with him, if she's honest.

Darcy is pretty vocal on the subject. So is Stark, although Stark thinks she should be getting Gryffindor Quidditch team strategy from him. But Jane is adamant that boyfriends are more trouble than they're worth and in her experience they get bored of her extremely quickly, so even if she suspects she's kinda sort of maybe developing a tiny crush on him, she assures herself she's got it completely under control and it would be best to ignore it.

It would be, she thinks, much easier if he were a jerk. She could send on on his way, if he hadn't already got fed up of her. But he's not a jerk at all. He doesn't bother her when she's busy unless she actually wants him to, and no matter how much she rambles, he still listens with apparent fascination and offers his own input. His knowledge of magic is broader than hers from growing up with two parents who both went to Hogwarts and she finds herself enjoying his conversation a lot, even when they wander from magic and talk about families and friends and childhoods.

Then one day he sidles over to her in the library and invites himself to sit down.

She's doing actual homework this time and she glances up at him, prepared to send him on his way, wonderful as he is, but there's something in his face that makes her stop. His smile is just slightly too knowing and secretive.

'Remember we were talking about wizards destroying books and knowledge and how that sucks?' he opens with.

'Which time?'

He grins. 'Any of the times,' he says. 'And also that time how you were ranting about how stupid the restricted section was and how everyone should be able to read what they want.'

Jane coughs. 'It wasn't a rant, exactly,' she says.

'It was,' he says, eyes lighting up. 'It was amazing. I've never seen someone manage to be so angry and yet quiet enough to not get kicked out by Madam Pince. Even though she was watching you just looking for an excuse because you were criticising the rules.'

Jane fiddles with her books. She really would like to get her hands on some of the stuff in the restricted section. Maybe she should try and get a teaching job for a year or so when she finishes just so she can read without needing a damn permission slip.

'Anyway,' says Thor, 'my point is, meet me in the Charms classroom in twenty minutes.'

He leaves before she has a chance to object. She has homework and plenty of other things to do. She's hardly going to drop everything at his beck and call and he really shouldn't assume she will.

Twenty minutes later, she's in the Charms classroom, feeling slightly embarrassed with herself.

Thor sidles in as sneakily as it's possible for a six-foot-something who probably bench-presses Hippogriffs in his spare time to do (that is: not very sneakily). He's carrying a bag and looking pleased with himself.

'So as you know, my family is one of those old wizarding families that go back hundreds of years,' he says, apropos of nothing. 'And my mother does magical history research. And we have a library.'

At this, Jane's eyes widen. She's been wondering what he was talking about with books and now she's beginning to suspect she knows.

'Mum sent me a few things she thought you might like,' he says. Then he places the bag on one of the desks and reaches carefully into pick out the volume. 'This would most definitely go in the restricted section so, er, keep it in the bag,' he says. 'It's an account of some weird and incredibly disturbing magic experiments in the fourteenth century to understand the cause of magic. Don't read just before bed or after you've eaten. Not that you ever sleep or eat actual meals.' He pulls out a second. 'This one is less likely to get detention. It's by a Muggle-born witch who wanted to understand why she could do spells and her family couldn't. It's in Latin so... good luck? I'd bet money you could learn Latin in a couple of weeks if you put your mind to it though. There's a couple more that are similar, with varying levels of likely-to-be-restricted content, and we've also got a copy of that big ugly Magical Theory book that the Hogwarts library is missing pages from. Mum definitely wants that one back but you can keep the rest.'

Jane stares at him, slightly too afraid to move and risk waking up from whatever wonderful dream this is.

She tries to say thank you, really she does, but mostly she just opens and shuts her mouth a couple of times. When she does succeed in speaking, what comes out is: 'You told your mum about me?'

He blushes. It's a real, deep, pinkening of the cheeks that somehow looks adorable. 'I... might have mentioned...'

'Thank you!' she bursts out at last, putting him out of his misery when her brain finally kicks into gear. 'Oh my god, Thor, thank you so much!'

His smile in return is almost shy and he repacks the bag. 'I suppose I'd better let you get on with your homework,' he says, and offers her the bag. 'And try not to read them all at once.'

Then he leans down towards her. For a moment time stands still as she thinks he's going to kiss her. She's holding her breath, unable to move, and maybe it's a last second decision or maybe he always planned to, but he doesn't. Well, he gives her a brief kiss on the cheek and squeezes her hand, but that's it. Then he turns to go.

Jane, holding the bag, feels a sudden ridiculous rush of disappointment. He might be gorgeous and wonderful and genuinely interested in her but she doesn't have time for a boyfriend... and suddenly that sounds like the stupidest excuse in the world.

'Thor?' she calls.

As he turns back, she pretty much just launches herself at him, grabbing the neck of his robes to pull him down to her level and planting her lips on his rather messily. If she has any doubts at all, they vanish the exact second he wraps his arms around her and eagerly pulls her closer, very nearly lifting her off her feet.

They're interrupted, because of course they are, by Tony Stark.

'Er, Foster, I don't think he keeps the Gryffindor Quidditch plans behind his tonsils.'

'Stark, so help me god, I am going to kill you.' She pulls out her wand and threatens him vaguely with it.

'Given that my Charms lesson starts in fifteen minutes and I'm only here early to try an experiment involving autonomous desks and unfortunate Hufflepuffs, you should thank me for interrupting. It was either me or Flitwick. And I bet if he catches you kissing someone you get a talk about the Preventus Babiesus Charm.'

'If you think that's what it's called, you may be in for a few unfortunate surprises in the near future, Stark,' says Thor. He hasn't really let go of Jane, despite the interruption, and one of his hands is rubbing gentle circles on her lower back.

Stark grins as he starts to re-arrange the desks.

'Ugh, let's get out of here,' says Jane. She's seen the results of his 'experiments' far too often. She grabs the bag of books, and then takes Thor by his hand to lead him out of the classroom.

'The cupboard on the fifth floor is pretty comfortable and private, for a cupboard!' Stark yells after them.

One of the great things about learning magic, Jane decides as she and Thor sneak up to the fifth floor, still holding hands and giggling slightly as they go, is the peace of mind that a good 'Scourgify' can bring when taking Tony Stark's advice for suitably secluded places.

And as it turns out, it is comfortable for a cupboard, all things considered.