This is the last one!
Many thanks to Aimee (The Original Hufflepuff) for setting the challenge - I have really enjoyed writing this story. This chapter uses two prompts - the same ones as chapter 7, though I've changed one slightly.
Please read the author's note at the end...
XII. Christmas 1999 – Victory/All Is Well
George is showing Victoire the Christmas tree. Fleur glances across from where she is talking to Penelope and Hermione and smiles. Bill is watching his brother and his daughter, half-smiling, a faraway look in his eyes. Neither of them makes any move to get up. Molly has noticed this before. Both of them trust George implicitly with Victoire. If one of the others was holding her, either Bill or Fleur would be hovering close, trying to pretend that they weren't. If it was Ron holding her, one of them would be six inches away, with no attempt at pretence at all. (Even after three months as an uncle, Ron still holds the baby as if she were a Quaffle he had saved by accident.)
But George is different. Perhaps it is because Bill and Fleur recognise, as do Molly and Arthur, that Victoire's birth has done more to heal George than anything else in the year and a half since his twin died. George has even been allowed to babysit – albeit for only forty-five minutes – which is more than Molly herself has yet been permitted.
Bill unwinds himself from his chair and strolls over to where George is explaining the different colours of the tree decorations to his niece.
"She doesn't understand a word you're saying, you do know that, don't you?" he asks George laughingly.
George turns eyes of mock horror on his eldest brother. "Of course she does! Why are you in such a hurry to think your own daughter is stupid?"
"I don't think she's stupid, I just think she's a baby," Bill protests.
George lifts Victoire up to his face and half whispers to her. "Your daddy thinks you're stupid, but we know better, don't we Vic?" He catches Bill's eye, and grins. "Oops, sorry. I'm not supposed to call her that, am I?"
Bill grins too (as much as he can, when half his face won't move properly because of the scars.) "Oh, I don't care. Just don't let Fleur hear you, or you will be in trouble."
Molly blinks back tears as she watches her sons and her granddaughter. George's grin is pure – George – the old George, before Fred died. And there is a spark of Fred in his eyes too. The same spark is in Bill's eyes as he takes his daughter from George and holds her close. Fred is a part of all of them, and always will be. That is their victory. They will miss Fred always – George more than any of them – and there will still be hard days when his loss will seem unbearable. At every Christmas, every wedding or birthday, at the birth of each one of the nieces and nephews who will never know their Uncle Fred, they will miss him. But he is still a part of them, a part of their family, a part of the world he died to save for the children he would never meet.
And Molly understands for the first time why Bill and Fleur chose their daughter's name. She had not understood before. She has even privately thought that it was heartless of Bill to call his daughter "Victory" when the victory cost his brother's life. (She has not said this to Bill of course, but she suspects he knows anyway.) Now she understands. The victory is that the world goes on, that they go on, living and laughing and loving each other. As Fred would want. As Fred would have done himself, if he had still been with them. Bill's eyes meet his mother's over the top of his daughter's head, and he smiles at her. They understand each other now.
All is well.
Arthur comes over and puts his arm around his wife. "We've done a good job," he whispers, his gaze also on Bill, George and Victoire.
Molly knows what he means, and rests her head on his shoulder, looking round at her family. At Percy, laughing at a joke Ron has told. At Charlie, Harry and Ginny discussing the weekend's Quidditch match. At Fleur, Penelope and Hermione giggling like schoolgirls as Fleur tries unsuccessfully to work a spell to straighten Hermione's hair. At Bill, George and the baby by the Christmas tree.
"We have," she agrees. "They're going to be alright. All of them."
All is well.
"I love you, Molly Prewett," murmurs Arthur, pulling her to her feet and over to the door, where Charlie has hung a huge bunch of mistletoe.
"I love you too, Arthur Weasley," Molly whispers, as his arms go round her and he kisses her.
Charlie and George wolf-whistle.
The others applaud.
Molly and Arthur don't notice.
All is well.
A/N: Sorry if you were expecting this chapter to be the first Christmas after Fred's death (1998). There are three reasons why I chose not to do that one. The first is that I've covered that Christmas pretty extensively in my other (ongoing) fic "Birthdays". (And in response to a question - yes, this is the same universe as "Birthdays". I have this annoyingly obsessive thing about my fics having to agree with each other.) The second reason is that I wanted to end the story with an element of hope, which I felt would be unrealistic so soon after the family lost Fred. The third is that using Victoire's name for the "Victory" prompt, was irresistable, if slightly predictable!
If you hadn't gathered, Penelope is Penelope Clearwater, Percy's girlfriend from CoS, who ends up with Percy in my universe. And Arthur calls Molly "Molly Prewett" because she is still the girl he fell in love with, all those years ago...
A Happy New Year to all of you!