The Last Chapter, Apologies, Thankyous
Heya. I have a small (about 2500 word) last chapter here as a sort of going away present, because I thought I should at least reveal another Big Secret before properly saying goodbye to this fic.
To kind of repeat what I've written on my profile:
To anyone I've let down by not finishing Æternus Praestolatio, I'm really, truly sorry, and also pretty disappointed with myself. At the time, I kept putting off updating partly because I had what felt like a ton of homework (though now that I'm in my final year, I don't know what I was whining about) and also because truthfully, I was getting bored with the fic. Then the gap between updates got bigger and bigger, and eventually I couldn't remember the story with perfect accuracy as I once had.
Recently I read over the story again, and I was a bit surprised at the...shoddiness of the writing -- not so much the spelling or grammar, more the storytelling and approach to the scenes (though, when I think about it, isn't actually that surprising, seeing as when the majority of this was written I was 14...). To fix it up, it wouldn't be as easy as just handing the fic to a Beta and giving them puppy dog eyes; I'd have to give it a huge overhaul, which would take a lot of time for something I wouldn't particularly enjoy doing.
In some ways I'm very proud of this fic. It is so far the only novel-length story I've ever written (though hopefully not the only one I'll ever write) and I've learnt a hell of a lot from it. My only regret is that I doubt it will ever be finished. Though...if anyone wants to take it up and continue with it, they are absolutely welcome. Just email me and I'll send you my notes saying where I would have taken the story, and the secrets that have not yet been revealed. Think seriously if you want to take it up, though, because I've estimated that I'm only just over half way through.
I don't think this is the end for me and fanfiction -- I still love reading it, and I've still got fic ideas stewing in the back of my mind -- but in terms of Æternus... Well. It's been a fun ride, guys. Thanks for your unending support and positive reviews, and even the negative ones, because they made me laugh. When I started to get bored, it was your reviews (uh, not the negative ones) that made me go back to the computer and type. And not just reviewers: thank you to every single person who has ever clicked the link to my fic, even if it was to glance at the poem at the front and say, "My god, how pretentious." And to the people who thought it was a bit of alright.
Just...thank you, so much.
So see you round some time, yeah? Cheers.
"Tobias, time to wake up."
I groaned and stuffed my head under the pillow. "Later," I said, voice muffled. The bed was lumpy and familiar, and the faint smells of mildew and slow drip, drip of water were reminding me that I'd better get as much sleep as possible, because very soon I'd be doing more possibly life threatening missions for the Vipers.
Damn; that tone meant that there was something important Matthew wanted to talk about, likely related to the Death Eaters. I sighed — I never got enough sleep at Base — and lifted the pillow from my head to glare sleepily at…
I blinked, and for a moment felt quite disorientated, seeing someone my age when I'd expected him to be near ten years older. Then my newer memories caught up with my older ones — chamber dead cat Matthew Snake kidnap Decagon.
"Um," I said. "Hey, Matthew." So the Vipers had sent their best spy to gather information from the prophesied saviour. I wondered how this interrogation would go.
He smiled at me. "Did you have a nice rest?"
"Wonderful, thanks." I cast my gaze over the room and realised it was the same one I'd used in the old world. "Your décor is quite…original." That was an understatement. I'd first chosen this room because it had reminded me of a torture chamber; the pattern of stones on the wall seemed to have been made to resemble thousands of people screaming in terror. I was quite a morbid little boy back then, what with almost all the people I loved being killed and all.
It was probably used for prisoners now.
"Anyway, Tobias, I'd love to stay, but unfortunately there's some people who'd like to have a little chat with you. If you don't mind, of course."
Ah, so Matthew wasn't the interrogator after all, just the messenger boy. I shrugged. "Sure, bring them in." I wondered who it would be. Bellatrix, I was sure, would love to come and torture all my information out of me, but hopefully the other leaders of the Vipers would favour a more subtle approach. I wasn't interested in fighting at that moment; much more information could be gained through conversation and mind games.
And that was one of the big reasons I'd decided to get kidnapped here: information gathering. Of course, I'd expected Matthew to give me enough time to find the diary and kill the basilisk — had even hoped he would know something about it all, since he was certainly the best spy I'd ever met, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he'd already known both the owner of the diary and the location of the Chamber of Secrets. Which I now doubted he did, because if so then he surely would have realised the gravity of the situation and helped me out. I'd seen Matthew kill Death Eaters (and even Vipers, sometimes) in cold blood, but he didn't have it in him to do the same to children. Especially not when his sister was a potential victim.
He smiled apologetically at me, sincerity seemingly beaming from every pore. "Sorry, Tobias, but I've been asked to take you to them. Don't worry — it's not far, and I'll even take you on a little tour of the base on your way over."
Matthew's words might have seemed innocent, but I felt a chill just hearing them. He wanted to take me to that room, the one that killed and/or tortured you if you didn't tell the truth. My world's Viper's Poison had used it to weed out spies, Death Eaters and general mentally unhinged people around us (and there were far more of the latter than the former two). Would I let myself be led to such a room? Not bloody likely.
"Well, I'm still quite tired, so I'd rather not, if it's all the same to you." I yawned.
"Unfortunately, Tobias, it's not. I'd hate for my employers to be angry with me."
I grew tired of our fake sincerity. "Well, I'd hate to be tortured senseless in the Control Room. So sorry, but your employers will have to come here."
Matthew's smile grew flinty, and I mused that I must have truly surprised or annoyed him for his emotions to be shown so plainly. "Oh, mon ami, you seem to be under the impression that you have a choice. I'm so sorry to tell you this, but you really don't."
"Oh, I'd say I do." I examined my fingernails, and thought, Wolf. Now. I felt my animagus' assent, and the wolf's senses merged with mine, just in time to avoid a curse coming at my head. I couldn't help smirking at the man, and playfully dodged a trio of what seemed like obscenely slow spells. This close to him, I could hear Matthew's heart beating wildly it his chest, see the light hair on his right arm ripple as he waved his wand, smell the slight sweat on his forehead and something lighter, something individual to him that I recognised as the scent of magic. It was wonderful. I would have stayed that way forever, but for the wicked headaches and my weakness to extremely loud sounds or strong smells. The Matthew of my world had known those weaknesses and used them to his advantage in our practice matches. He'd not be so lucky this time.
I ducked a particularly nasty burn curse, and saw him reach into his coat pocket for what I was sure was a Blind Ball, another ingenious invention care of the Weasley twins that created a brief flash of blinding light for all but the one who set it off. It was a good idea; I couldn't dodge his attacks if I couldn't see them. Unfortunately for Matthew, I wasn't going to give him enough time to set it off.
Merging almost completely with wolf, nearly to the point of changing into my animagus form, I lunged at Matthew and hurled him into a wall before he'd even had time to think of reacting. "I don't need wand or weapons to be a danger, Matthew," I murmured into the man's ear, before striking his temple with enough force to knock him unconscious for a minute or two. Looking up at him, I saw his unreadable eyes cloud over; and then he went limp, sliding down the wall.
You can go back now, wolf, I said to the animagus, who sighed in relief and retreated to the back of my mind. I winced at the force of the headache and fought the urge to go and sleep for a few days. Instead, I crouched down next to Matthew and started rifling through his pockets, pulling out his wand, weapons and gadgets from the twins and acquiring them for myself, as mine had all been taken from me. In his left wristguard was my wand, which I gleefully snatched back.
"Sorry about that, Matthew," I said softly to the man who had, along with Snape, taught me everything I knew about lying and fighting and spying. If I hadn't merged with wolf then Matthew would have wiped the floor with me; he really was that good. I felt vaguely like I'd cheated, even though Matthew himself often augmented his movements with magic. I noticed he hadn't done so this time, though. I wondered why.
Matthew twitched involuntarily, and I stepped back, wand gripped tightly in my palm. His eyes flickered open, and he levered himself off the ground.
"Well," he said slowly, "I suppose I'll go and collect my employers." He left, his posture much more cautious than I'd yet seen him in this world. It seemed I'd gained his respect.
Not interested in fighting, hmm?
Shush. There are some battles that have to be fought.
Draco listened to Dumbledore telling the school that Professor Thatcher had temporarily left the school due to family issues and that Divination classes would be adjourned for the foreseeable future, and by the way, there had been an adverse magical reaction near the girls' bathroom on the second floor so that area would be cordoned off for the time being.
"You should eat, Draco, not mush your food into puddles of goo," Blaise said. "Just because I'm on a diet doesn't mean you have to be too. If you get any skinnier you'll weigh less than me, and that's not healthy for a boy your age."
"I'm not hungry," he muttered, looking over at the Gryffindor table and locking gazes with Potter, who looked as scared as Draco felt.
"What, have you been bitten by a Vampire or something? 'Draco Malfoy, Undead Monster'. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Well, if you stop eating, you won't be undead; you'll actually be dead. Maybe this not eating has stunted your growth or something. I remember when we had this bet over who'd be taller, you or Potter, but you must have stopped eating years ago because now he's miles ahead of—"
"I'M NOT HUNGRY!" Draco roared. Then he flushed an ugly red, seeing that everyone on the Slytherin table was staring at him, as were quite a few people from other houses. "See you guys in class," he muttered, before stalking away.
Blaise and Theo stared at each other. "…What the hell is his problem?" Blaise asked.
Theo's eyes narrowed. "I don't know exactly, but I'm certain it's something to do with Potter."
"Huh? Why do you think that?"
"Well, he's been glaring at him for the past ten minutes, —"
"—And now he's going over to talk to him."
Draco reached the Gryffindor table, glared at the twerps surrounding Potter, then leaned in and muttered, "Potter. You. Me. Library. Now."
Potter looked for a second as though he would argue, but then visibly thought about the situation (a novel event) and nodded. Draco could feel all eyes on them as they left the Great Hall together, nary a curse or insult in sight.
"Not the Library," Potter said when they were in the corridors. "Pince has banned me from it. But we can use The Room."
Then Draco remembered. He opened his mouth to argue, paused, and sighed. "The Room," he said glumly.
Matthew swore as he strode down the halls to his superiors. Could he have been any stupider? Thatcher was the Re-fucking-deemer, not some second-class amateur or Professor from Hogwarts. He came from another fucking world, knew things about the Vipers there was no fucking way he could have found out, was smart enough to steer the conversation away from himself whenever anyone brought it up, so Matthew knew fuck-all about his life back in his home world — and still Matthew had underestimated him. He'd become overconfident when he'd managed to bring the man down to base, had been elated at the thought of finally learning everything about him. But in a measly few seconds, Thatcher had managed to turn the tables so that he was in charge of everything, despite being kidnapped and up against an army of Vipers.
How had he moved so fast? It had been… inhuman. There was no doubt that he augmented his movements with magic, but Matthew could do that himself, and even then Thatcher would probably be faster than he. But… Stupid. He was underestimating him again. Since Thatcher came from a different world, he was not constrained by the limits of the place he had travelled to. There was no reason why he couldn't have some strange ability other than magic — or instead of magic, even if he carried a wand.
Thatcher was a challenge, and Matthew hated challenges. He'd worked hard so that everything came easily to him, from Potions to flying to Transfigurative Creations. He already had one thing he wasn't good at (may Occlumency forever rot in hell) and didn't want to add Figuring Out Tobias Thatcher to that list.
When he entered the control room, the Commanders were talking quietly amongst themselves. "He wouldn't come," Matthew said immediately. "Said to bring you to him."
"And you agreed with him?" Bellatrix exclaimed incredulously. "You're not supposed to be courteous to prisoners, Snake.
Matthew fought the urge to roll his eyes. The others had known what he meant as soon as he'd said it, but Bella had always been the stupid one. "You might think I'd already thought of that," he said mildly, "when I tried to beat him into some kind of submission, and he subsequently knocked me out. Look, can't you see the bruise? Ow." It didn't actually hurt, and he doubted there would be much of a bruise, but Bella was so much fun to tease.
"The Redeemer will obviously be more difficult to control than we first thought," Lucius said, Bellatrix glaring daggers at Matthew, "though he may still be sympathetic to our cause. He did know the hand signs, after all."
"I will talk to him," Jayden said softly, stepping forward. The other Commanders regarded him with alarm: Jayden wasn't the greatest conversationalist at the best of times, and so far as gaining the trust of Tobias Thatcher, he was most definitely not the best option.
Ecila stepped forward also, and a silent sigh was breathed; she was the calmness, most peaceful of the group and if anyone could stop Jayden it was his mother. "Lead the way, Matthew," she said kindly.
The walk back was uneventful, apart from Matthew bumping into the little metamorphmagus who seemed more nervous than usual — she gave a squeak and jumped back, and when she noticed Jayden her already pale face turned slightly green. She hurried away, muttering apologies and not looking anyone in the eye.
Matthew blinked — wasn't she the excitable, cheerful one who always knocked things over? Her exuberance had reminded him of Blaise. What happened to make her so frightened?
Then he saw Jayden, smiling in that disturbing way of his, and thought he might have an idea.
"We're here," he said to the others a minute later. "I'll introduce you, shall I?" He went in and saw Tobias resting on the bed, looking entirely too relaxed for someone who had just been kidnapped and thrown to the pit of Vipers. Was he asleep? But no, one eye cracked open, he yawned, and pulled himself into a seated position. "Hey, Matthew," he said, genuine warmth in his voice and Matthew decided that yes, travel between worlds had obviously driven the Redeemer completely insane. "The others here yet?"
He smiled in return — he would play Tobias' game until he had figured out the rules. "Of course, mon ami, I have brought two of my employers to your suite. Make sure you play nicely or I won't get my tour guide's bonus paycheck." Of course, it was also more fun this way. "Now, mister mysterious Tobias Thatcher, Redeemer of the World," here Thatcher flinched, "may I introduce to you my illustrious leaders, Commanders Ecila and Jayden."
He opened the door with a flourish, and noticed how Tobias' gaze immediately fastened on Jayden. Oh, and what an expression it was! Somewhere between incredulity and astonishment, shock and horror and plain confusion. He wished he had a camera with him so that he could frame that moment, take it away with him and show it at dinner parties when everyone was a bit tipsy, just to prove that Thatcher wasn't the all-knowing, in control god that everyone made him out to be.
"What the hell?" Tobias Thatcher exclaimed. "Neville?"
So, there you are, the Secret That Was Slightly Less Obvious Than "Snake", But Still Some People Figured It Out. Go you, if you did. Feel good.
And now, we have come to an end. Once again, if anyone is seriously interested in finishing this story, please contact me.
I'm sorry to let you guys down. I'm sorry to let myself down. But...eventually, I have to be honest with myself; I can't stay in denial all the time, and I was definitely in denial about finishing and saying goodbye to this fic. So, the biggest biggest BIGGEST thankyou...
p.s Oh, and here is my little timeline of events, in case anyone is interested. It was quite usefull with continuity, though I probably still got some times mixed up.
November 30th, 1997. Remus is tortured, and dies.
December 8th, 1997, Weasley home attacked. Harry 17
January 11th, 1998, Harry joins Viper's Poison. Harry 17
January 24th, 2005, Harry gets caught by Voldemort. Harry 24
July 31, 2005, Harry gets sucked into alternate universe. Harry 25 in Alternate universe the day is Augus 5th, Wednesday, so that's his new birthday.
Thursday, August 13th, Harry wakes up.
Saturday, August 15th, 1997, meeting of decagon.
Sunday, August 16th, 1997, Snape meets Harry/Tobias Thatcher, Albus meets Tobias.
Tuesday, August 18th, We meet Hermione. Harry gets animagus and wand back.
Saturday, August 22th , Tobias meets Remus/Sirius.
Tuesday, 25th, Meeting of Decagon is interrupted. Attack at ministry. Tobias saves Lily and Remus. Sees dad.
Monday 31st, Party for students (ball). Lunch welcoming feast, not dinner. Students meet Tobias. Then the ball, whereing filler events occur.
Tuesday, September 1st, School starts. Tobias acts crazy; students get scared. Ally Luna Ginny, Harry Ron and Hermione: both groups get on the case. Hermione writes to Tom Riddle.
Wednesday, September 2nd , Second day. Harry, Ron and Hermione talk about Tobias/Harry, and catch Allison, Ginny and Luna spying on them.
Time passes in Tobias' PoV.
Wednesday, September 23rd, Viper raid. James' PoV, Viper massacre of WWAM soldiers.