Dedication: This chapter is dedicated to my parents, because my siblings already have a whole chapter dedicated to them, and I think that my parents did a great job raising me, considering they had a pretty crazy daughter to work with. So, thank you, Mom and Dad, for being the perfect combination of patient and stern with me. I love you both, even if we argue sometimes.
Author's Note: Now that I've finished my very first fanfiction, I wish to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to all my reviewers, especially those who reviewed regularly, because they inspired me to continue with this story, and provided me with invaluable feedback, and suggestions, and if anything about this fic is unsatisfactory, it is not their fault, but mine. I hope this finale lives up to your expectations.
By the way, I am aware that the name Dominique can function as both a boy's and a girl's name, but I am far more accustomed to it as the latter that in my mind's eye I can't see it being carried by a male, so I decided to make Bill's second child another daughter. (The name Dominique, of course, came from the Weasley family tree, which everyone has probably read by now, but if you haven't, you can find it on the Lexicon by typing in the "Weasley family". I'm still proud of myself, because I pictured Bill having three children in my head before JKR showed the tree, and I was right. Yes, I derive satisfaction from the stupidest things known to man, but how else would I keep my self-esteem up?) Anyway, it's just easier for me to picture Bill having two daughters, and one son in my head, for some reason. Now, that you've seen more of my psycho logic than you ever wanted to see, you can continue reading the last chapter, if you dare.
Epilogue: Deja vu —Three years later
It was six o'clock on Friday evening, and Bill had just begun to shampoo his hair in his customary after-work shower, while Fleur prepared supper downstairs in the kitchen, when three-week-old Dominique Apolline's wails pierced the air like an arrow in medieval warfare. Mentally grumbling about his second-born's decision to terminate her nap at this moment, he rinsed the soap out of his locks at lightning speed, then stepped out of the shower, toweled himself dry, and snatched his bathrobe off his hook on the bathroom door. Once he had tied it about himself, he hurried out of the bathroom, and across the hall into the nursery, which was next to three-year-old Victoire's room.
When he entered the nursery, he realized that his wife had arrived there first, and that she was changing a sodden Dominique into a dry diaper and nightshirt with her right hand, while she shook Victoire with her left. "Victoire Gabrielle, what in ze world were you thinking when you poured your beach bucket full of water all over your baby sister?" snapped Fleur.
In response, Dominique sobbed more voluminously than ever, because her mum's shrieking terrified her, and Victoire remained obstinately silent, her chin stuck out in a pose that Bill recognized as the one he employed whenever he was in the middle of an intense debate, and wished to indicate that he wasn't about to back down, or be intimidated. Witnessing it on someone else, even his daughter—no, especially her—was rather disconcerting.
"Answer me, or I'll spank you," snarled Fleur, as she affixed a fresh diaper around Dominique's bottom, and tossed the old one into the trash bin. This threat was mildly effective, because neither Bill nor his spouse had ever smacked their daughter before, but Victoire obviously sensed that this was an unpleasant prospect that she could live her whole life without experiencing.
"Teddy Lupin told me that if you pour water on somebody while they're asleep, they'll pee in their pants, Maman," replied Victoire, wrenching her arm out of her mum's clasp, and nimbly retreating from the irate Fleur. "I wanted to see if he was right. He wasn't. Dominique didn't pee. She just cried. Boring."
Seeing that his wife was about to explode at their older child, or possibly strangle her, either of which would probably traumatize poor, innocent Dominique forever, Bill suggested, "I'll deal with Victoire, and you can dress Dominique, and discover whether or not she'll go back to sleep now. I'll try to keep my voice down, although I'll make no promises."
"Very well, zen." Fleur offered a brusque nod of concession, as she commenced the battle of putting a new nightshirt upon their second daughter.
"Come with me," Bill ordered Victoire tersely, when his wife agreed to his proposal, pointing toward the hallway. "I want to talk with you."
"Don't wanna come with you, Daddy," protested Victoire, giving him a pout that was reminiscent of Fleur's.
"Tough luck," he observed dryly, resisting the urge to surrender to the pout that reminded him so much of his spouse's. Grabbing his daughter's elbow, he steered her out of the room, and toward the staircase, with her struggling against him the entire route. "In life, people don't always get what they want. For example, Dominique did not want to be drenched by a bucket of water from her older sister—"
"Hard to know for sure." Victoire shrugged, unabashed. "She can't talk."
Ignoring this interjection, Bill resumed, "Your mother didn't want to be interrupted in the midst of cooking supper for her family with her baby's wailing just because you upset her, and I really could have lived without being interrupted in the middle of my shower by the same event."
"Not my fault that it happened, Daddy," mumbled Victoire, as he released her, because they were far enough away from the nursery not to disrupt little Dominique. "It's Dominique's."
"Really?" Bill arched a skeptical eyebrow at his elder child, shocked by this statement. "Why is that?"
Victoire shot him a withering glance that was identical to her mum's. "If she hadn't been born, I wouldn't have poured water on her."
"Sorry, but you're going to have to be a bit more convincing than that." He shook his head at her, grateful that his scars concealed his wry amusement. More sternly, he went on, "Victoire, you are not to play anymore tricks like this upon your sister. Do you understand me?"
"I hate her. She'd deserve it if I did," growled Victoire, more than a trace of jealousy shading her tone.
"Still, you won't play anymore pranks on your little sister, regardless of how you feel about her. You're entitled to your own emotions, but you must learn to control them, or express them in socially acceptable fashions. For the record, soaking someone we don't like, especially when that person is younger than we are, is not considered socially acceptable, for some reason."
At this point, Victoire burst into tears. "I don't care about you!" she established defiantly. "And I don't care what you and Maman say!"
"Well, you've made the fact that you don't care about your mother and I apparent when you chose to disturb us by intentionally waking up your little sister," Bill responded, forcing his voice to remain level. If he was going to teach her a lesson in governing her emotions, he had to display that he had passed the course himself, and, besides, he didn't wish to bother Dominique, if she had been striving to return to dreamland. "You were selfish, and cruel to someone who is younger than you, and that is unacceptable. Go sit in the living room corner, and think about what you've done wrong."
"No time-out!" Victoire stamped her foot upon the floor, as if to punctuate her point. "I hate time-out!"
"That's why it's a punishment," he explained firmly, wondering why in the name of Merlin he felt like smiling when the situation was so serious.
Some trace of amusement must have revealed itself in his tone, for Victoire let out a battle cry worthy of the Amazons, as she launched her slender three-year-old body at him, and started punching his legs and chest, the only parts of him that she could reach, with her tiny fists. Although there was no real muscle behind her blows, they wounded him, somehow, and he snatched up her wrists, and gripped them tightly to get her attention.
"Listen to me, Victoire Gabrielle Weasley," he commanded in his most strict and unyielding manner. "Don't ever use violence to resolve your problems. Use words. Now, go sit in time-out, or else, I'll put you there until dinnertime."
Perhaps, Victoire detected the hint of steel in his voice or his eyes that she had never encountered before, for she cried, "You hate me, and so does Maman, but I don't care! I hate you two more than you hate me!"
Then, she fled downstairs, not affording Bill the chance to reply, even though he suspected that now was not the appropriate moment to soften his stance, so it was just as well that the temptation had vanished.
Sighing, Bill pivoted to head back into the shower, which he needed more than ever because it was a stark fact that raising a child made a man sweat, figuring that when he finished washing himself he would speak with his first-born, and explain to her that she was irreplaceable to him and Fleur, and that she would always be loved by them, and, therefore, she should try to open her heart to young Dominique. When he turned to return to their bathroom, he spotted his wife standing by the nursery door.
"Well, that was a blast in more ways than one," he complained to her, and she bestowed a slight smile upon him.
"You 'andled zat better zan I would 'ave," she informed him. "She learned why it is no fun to argue with you, anyhow."
"And why is it no fun to debate with me?" asked Bill, who was somewhat taken aback by this assessment, as Fleur was always perfectly willing to enter a verbal sparring match with him. Her willingness to engage in wars of wits was one of the nine million reasons that he loved her more than words could ever describe.
"Because you are so stubborn, you refuse to shout, which is 'alf ze fun of arguing with someone, and when you do feel ze need to give in, you always manage to accomplish it in such a manner that it seems as if you are right, but you are only conceding to ze other person, because you are more mature and generous," Fleur asserted.
"If it prevents her from behaving like this in the future, then I'm fine with that," chuckled Bill. "Still, I'm not looking forward to her teenage years, because if this is what she's like now, imagine what she'll be like once there are hormones raging inside her."
"You don't have to worry about zat," she reassured him. "After all, teenagers disagree with zeir same sex parent much more often zen zey argue with zeir opposite sex parent."
"That's surely not true," he disputed, "because I argued with my mother hundreds of times about chores, hair, dating, and style, but I only had one real argument with Dad."
"Well, zen zey argue with whoever is more combustible," allowed Fleur, "which would be me. I would 'ave lost my temper with 'er earlier, but you didn't."
"I didn't lose my temper simply because I could relate to Victoire," her husband admitted. "I guess you were too mature to feel envious of Gabrielle when she was born, but when Charlie was born, I was only two, and I was so jealous of him that I was greener than broccoli. I would have gone on hating him if my dad hadn't convinced me that people are allowed to love multiple beings at the same time, and that it can be a worthwhile experience to care for someone whom we love, rather than being the one that is cared for all the time." He paused, musing, and then confessed, "I'm still not entirely sure that I got over my first fear of being shunted aside, and that I didn't spend the rest of my life compensating for it. It might have been my fear of being inferior, and less worthy of love that drove me to get the grades I did, to become prefect, and Head Boy, and a Curse Breaker. It might have been my need for attention that made me want to be cool, and popular, and all that."
"Being ze oldest made you a caring and responsible person, too," Fleur reminded him, stroking his cheek. "Zat made you a good leader, which made you become popular, and led to you to be placed in positions of authority. It gave you ze raw materials to build yourself ze life that you wanted."
"Fair enough." He nodded. "Still, how much choice did I have? How much choice does anyone have?"
Fleur considered the question, and then reasoned, "I think zat life is like a massive game of cards. We are dealt a 'and of cards at ze outset, and we have to decide 'ow best to use zem to our advantage, even if all 'ands are not equal, and, sometimes, throughout ze game more cards are dealt, and we 'ave to integrate zem into our strategy as much as possible. In short, I think zat our environment gives us strengths and weakness, and we get to choose 'ow we will use zem. We are not slaves to fate, but we are not above it, either."
"That's a fine philosophical notion that I'll have to contemplate at greater length some other time. Well, don't worry about me, though, because I've always got a wild card stowed up my sleeve." Grinning, he kissed her, and then hurried off the complete his shower.
Ten minutes later, he descended the staircase, and walked into the living room, where Victoire was huddled in a ball in the far corner, sobbing into her arms, so that her whole slim frame quivered in sympathy. Biting his lip, because he did not enjoy causing his daughter to cry, he slid into the lounge chair opposite her, and pointed at the ground before him. "Come over to Daddy, Vic."
"No," Victoire sniffled, the arms she had wrapped about her head constricting her speech. "Don't wanna talk to you ever again, Daddy."
"Very well." Calmly, Bill scooped up that night's copy of the Evening Prophet from the coffee table, and started scanning the headlines. "However, you won't be permitted to get up until I know that you've learned your lesson, so you won't be able to go anywhere until you've spoken with me."
"I hate you," whimpered Victoire.
Although the words twisted like a knife inside Bill's heart, which was doubtlessly his child's objective, all he said was, "I'm not here to be your friend, but your father. The sooner you learn that, the happier you'll be."
For a long moment, in which a stifling quiet engulfed the room, Victoire chewed on her lower lip, tears trickling down her cheeks. Then, she shoved herself to her feet, and approached him, while he folded up his newspaper, and so he could regard her with his complete attention. "So, why did I put you in time-out?" he inquired.
"Because I'm bad," whispered Victoire.
"You aren't bad." Bill reached out, and tucked a stray strand of his daughter's hair behind her ear. "You're a good girl, who sometimes decides to be naughty. There's a difference. Tell what you did that was naughty this time."
"I was mean and selfish to pour water on Dominique, and disturb you and Maman," muttered Victoire, studying the carpet. "I won't do it again, I promise, Daddy."
"You'd better not." Bill smiled, but she did not notice, because she was examining every centimeter of the floor. "As even Uncle George invented a new prank every time he was put in time-out." He had ever told his daughter about Uncle Fred, or the war, or even about You-Know-Who, or why her Uncle Harry was gawked at when they went out in public, and now seemed like an inopportune moment to mention that Uncle George had an identical twin once named Fred, and that Fred had been killed in a battle on Victoire's birthday a year before she was born.
Maybe she heard a warning, rather than humor in his remark, for she asked, "Will you ever love me again, Daddy?"
"I'll always love you, no matter what you do, and I have always loved you, since your mother informed me that she was pregnant with you."
"Don't love me anymore." She shook her head in brisk negation. "Love Dominique now, not me."
Smiling, he picked her up, and settled her on his knee in one smooth motion. "I see. How silly of me. After all, a person can only love one other being at a time, it is a law of nature, just like gravity. That's why I stopped caring about your mother once you were born."
"You're making fun of me," glowered Victoire, refusing to soften, even when he pulled her closer to his chest.
"I'm not making fun of you," he answered quickly. "I understand how you're feeling." When she shot him a dubious glance, he added, "Remember, I was the oldest of many children, and I was a year younger than you are now when my brother Charlie was born. At first, I was envious of him, because I was positive that he had taken my place in my parents' hearts, and I didn't understand why in the world this was the case, since he was absolutely boring—he couldn't do anything, but sleep, drink Mum's milk, and poop. Essentially, I thought he was a waste of space."
"Just like Dominique is," noted Victoire, resting her head upon his chest now.
"Yes, like Dominique, except he was a boy. Anyway, I hated Charlie with a passion I usually reserved for turnips and broccoli until my dad, your grandpa, sat me down after I baptized the wall with a plateful of turnips that hearts have infinite room, and that our love for each other grows every time we learn to love somebody else, and he explained to me that it was my responsibility to care for Charlie, and I would be rewarded with Charlie's love. Well, I cared for him as bast I could, and I haven't regretted it for a moment. He became one of my best friends, someone I could confide in, rely upon, and who could make me laugh with his imitation of our mum, your grandma, and his Quidditch stunts. Vic, if I hadn't come to love him, and, later, the rest of my siblings, I would have been a different man—a lesser man. Without them, I wouldn't have learned how to be responsible, and I wouldn't have had nearly as much motivation to succeed, and my heart would have been seven sizes smaller."
"Does that mean that I'm supposed to try to love Dominique?" Victoire's eyes narrowed.
"The true lesson isn't what the teacher teaches, but what the student learns." Bill shrugged. "Make of my tale what you will, Vic, but, if you ask me, life is too short to go through it with a closed and hard heart that won't let anyone in, but you're the one who controls your life, not me. I just guide you for now."
As Fleur called them for supper, Victoire frowned, and then commented, "Tomorrow, I might play with Dominique for awhile. She likes when people shake her rattle for her."
"That's an excellent idea," Bill approved, as they entered the kitchen for dinner.