September 1, 1962
The bright scarlet of the Hogwarts Express seemed to gleam even more brilliantly than usual in the hazy, early-autumn air. Indistinct, blurred figures darted frantically across the platform, scrambling to leap onto the train or stow away their luggage.
Danielle kept a light hand on her youngest daughter's arm as she steered her towards a quieter, smoke-free corner where Tom and Will were already standing. From this distance, they could pass for brothers—both tall, pale, and dark-haired—but as Danielle and Eleanor drew closer their differences became more pronounced: Will was slighter than his father was, now, and the small but noticeable streak of grey in Tom's hair could no longer be ignored.
"Has Cathy run off again?" Danielle asked with a slight grimace, seeing that her other daughter had disappeared.
Will nodded, his slim hands absent-mindedly playing with the brand-new Prefect badge shining on his Ravenclaw robes; he had predictably already changed into his school uniform. "She's talking to Jasper Hornby," he said quietly, glancing over at a spot some feet away where Cathy, her hair tied up in an elegant bun, was speaking enthusiastically with a white-haired boy who was gazing down at her keenly.
Danielle heard Tom give his customary sigh of exasperation, as familiar to her now as her own voice. "Catherine," he instructed, his word cutting easily through the air. "The train leaves in five minutes." It was not a statement, but an order.
Even from her vantage point, Danielle could see Cathy roll her eyes. She said something under her breath to Jasper, who laughed before melting into the crowd. Cathy grudgingly walked over to them, her expression sullen. "We were just talking," she said, her grey eyes slightly narrowed. "He's coming back for an extra year, and since we're both in Slytherin—"
Will muttered something that sounded like "How convenient." Cathy immediately rounded on him, hands on her hips.
"Just because you would rather spend time with your precious books doesn't mean we all do—"
Danielle quickly stepped in before the argument could break out into a full-scale war. "You'll have to listen to your brother from now on," she teased gently. "He is a Prefect, after all."
"Lovely," Cathy huffed. "Eleanor will probably be one too and I'll be the odd one out."
"No, I don't want to be a Prefect!" Eleanor, who had been silent during the entire exchange, burst out. She shrugged out from under Danielle's arm and stared at them with the wide-eyed terror only first-years could achieve.
Danielle frowned at Cathy, who took this as her cue to leave and muttered, "Bye, Mother, Father." She hugged Danielle and smiled reluctantly at Tom, still seemingly annoyed at him for interrupting her conversation, before disappearing onto the train, presumably to find Jasper.
Danielle was about to comfort Eleanor when seven more figures appeared out of the mist, having just run through the barrier. Alyssa and Alphard were hand-in-hand as usual, Cepheus and Eridanus trailing behind them. Dylan had a protective arm around Felicity's shoulder, who was speaking earnestly to Pippa.
"All set?" Alyssa asked happily, gazing around at her two sons, one in Ravenclaw robes and the other in Hufflepuff robes. "I'm so relieved we'll get the manor to ourselves again," she muttered to Danielle, who laughed.
"Be careful what you wish for, Mum," Cepheus said darkly. He clapped Will on the shoulder, grinning widely at his best friend. "Ready, mate?"
Will nodded and turned to Tom, who instructed him to read as many books in the Prefects' common room as he could, before bidding Tom goodbye and allowing Danielle to kiss him on the cheek. She had to stretch up to hug him; he had eclipsed her in height years ago. "Take care of your sisters, all right?" she whispered in his ear, and he nodded, his face serious as ever. Cepheus gave them all a friendly wave before the two Ravenclaws hurried off to the train.
"Go after your cousin so he doesn't land himself into detention before the term even starts, won't you?" Dylan asked Pippa. Felicity elbowed him in the ribs, but she was smiling.
"Of course," Pippa said dryly. "The entire purpose of my life is to make sure Ceph doesn't get into trouble. It's not as if he doesn't have a twin or anything." She was in her robes as well, the crimson Gryffindor crest matching perfectly with her auburn hair. "Come on, Eri." She grabbed Eridanus and forcibly dragged him away, whose protests fell on deaf ears. Danielle was sure she was muttering jinxes under her breath as she walked away, certain that the boy she was following was not going to be Cepheus.
"On the way here Ceph got distracted by a Muggle girl," Alyssa muttered, but she sounded more resigned than disapproving. "She was pretty, I'll give her that, but he needn't act as if his heart is broken every time a girl spurns his advances."
Danielle raised her eyebrows. "Did the girl's name happen to be Sylvia, by any chance?"
"How did you know?" Alyssa demanded.
"Er, lucky guess." Danielle fought to hide her smile. "Just give it a few more years, Lyssa."
"He'll be fine," Alphard chimed in, rubbing his wife's back comfortingly. "Will and Pippa'll straighten him out."
"Yes, but Will's always off in his own world and Pippa is hardly more well-behaved than Ceph…" Alyssa groaned.
While they playfully argued about the twins, and Dylan reassured Felicity that Pippa wouldn't try out again for the Quidditch team for the fourth year in a row, Danielle felt a hand tugging at her arm. She glanced down to see that Eleanor was looking more frightened than ever, her skin holding a slight tinge of green. "Mum, I'm scared," she whispered.
"I know it can be a bit daunting at first, but you'll love it," Danielle told her. "Don't worry about what House you'll be in. They're all equally important."
"But Gryffindors and Slytherins hate each other! What if I'm bullied for being in one of those Houses?" Eleanor's voice was rising in anxiety. Out of the corner of her eye, Danielle saw Alphard ready to join in with a witty comment, but she deflected it first.
"They won't. Your father was briefly Minister for Magic, you know." Danielle said wryly. "Anyway, just look at your siblings. Will inherited Dad's brains and Cathy inherited Dad's looks."
Eleanor didn't look convinced. "But what have I inherited?"
"My propensity for trouble," she answered dryly. "Good luck."
Tom smirked. Unfortunately, this still wasn't enough for Eleanor. "What if I start crying and everyone makes fun of me?" she asked, scuffing her shoes and staring down at the ground.
Tom shook his head, looking almost affectionate. "You are stronger than that," he said, and Eleanor's eyes lit up; it was rare that Tom gave compliments.
The train whistle blew loudly, and the last remaining students were jumping up onto it. After hugging the adults, Eleanor finally made to leave, but just as she turned around Danielle caught her by the wrist, saying softly, "I can assure you that you'll have the best time of your life at Hogwarts. But that's not to say it won't be difficult." She hesitated before continuing, "There were times there when I thought that I wouldn't be able to go on."
Eleanor looked astonished. "But did it work out for you, Mum?"
Danielle's hand automatically reached up to her throat, where she sometimes imagined her Time-Turner still rested. She met Tom's eyes, their gazes suspended over the short distance that separated them. "Yes," said Danielle, and for a moment it was as if two decades hadn't passed, and she was a teenage girl again staring at him for the first time. "I think it did."
So…what can I possibly say? It's been four years since I started writing this, and I never imagined it would grow into what it did. And here you go: the ending of Tom and Danielle's story. I've known from the beginning that a lot of people wouldn't be happy with this ending, but it's what I've always envisioned for this story and these characters.
From an early stage, I wanted the epilogue to have certain parallels with the Deathly Hallows epilogue: both take place a number of years later, when the protagonists are in turn seeing their children off at King's Cross. Harry has two sons and a daughter; Tom has two daughters and a son. I like to think that Tom and Danielle's lives, at this point, are fairly uneventful and happy. Danielle is still Head of the Department of Mysteries and very well-praised in the Ministry. Tom does not work at the Ministry, but he does travel very often during the year researching Dark Magic and specializes in ancient artifacts. I would imagine Danielle accompanies him on these trips as often as she can. :)
However, I wouldn't say that he suddenly became "Father of the Year" or anything like that. Obviously, Tom has some deep-rooted issues that have probably not magically disappeared, even twenty years later, and I tried to make that clear in the slightly cool, distant way that his children treat him and he them. But he still is a father to them, much more than his own father was, and he cares for each of his children in his own way. That is another story for another time.
By the way, one of my reviewers was kind enough to add in pages for my characters on the Harry Potter Fanon Wiki, so you can head over there to find out some extra information that wasn't included in the actual stories, like Patronuses, Boggarts, Cathy and Eleanor's middle names, birthdays, Houses, etc. (Before anyone asks, yes, Catherine was named after Cathy in Wuthering Heights and Eleanor was named after Nora!)
BUT. Even though Tom and Danielle's story is over, I don't think I'm quite ready to leave this world or these characters just yet, and I've hesitantly written the first chapter of a sequel of sorts that takes place in 1965, with the protagonist an eighteen-year-old Will. (Some very perceptive people have noticed that the prophecies in Chapter 35 are about him, which will be the main plot of this next story). Tom and Danielle should appear quite often, but again the story won't revolve around them. I know a lot of you won't be interested in this, and that's fine. I'm just throwing it out there—the title is Realm of Ashes—and I'll post the first chapter in the next five days, as usual. (Don't expect it to have regular updates, though!)
And lastly…I can't express how much you guys mean to me. Thank you so, so much for all your kind words and support throughout the years (and for reading these massive fics!) and I'm not exaggerating when I say I probably wouldn't have finished this without you. Even to those of you who just alerted/favourited and never reviewed, and those who only reviewed when they had something negative to say, thank you. I've read every single review that has ever been left on all of these stories, and I truly love you all. I might go back and add extra scenes in the future (I've already started!)
Again, I thank you with my entire being, and I hope you've grown as attached to Tom and Danielle as I have. :)