"Mummy, what's that on your arm?"
Hermione paused in the story that she was reading to her daughter, and followed her eyes down to her left forearm. Usually, the etching that had come of Bellatrix Lestrange's torture wasn't visable, but today was one of the hottest days on record for July, and Hermione had had to forgo her usual dressing gown and settle for a tank top instead. It was too hot for anything else.
Rose just looked at it, not noticing the widening of her mother's eyes or the horror in them. "Mud ... blood," she read, still a little shaky in her reading but gaining confidence everyday. "What does that mean, Mummy? Is it a tattoo, like Uncle Charlie has? Or a scar like Uncle Harry's? Mummy?" Little Rose tugged on her mother's pyjama top, wanting answers.
"It's ... nothing, Rosie," Hermione said, struggling to keep her mind from going back to that night in Malfoy Manor, when Bellatrix had placed her wand against her forearm, carving out the letters individually as red-hot pain seared through her, worse than the Cruciatus, all the while Bellatrix was taunting her, enjoying her victim's pain, revelling in the game she was playing; Hermione screaming so loudly her lungs were burning, crying until there was no more tears left to cry ...
"Tell me, Mummy. I'm a big girl now. I can handle it," Rose says, with all the self-assurance Hermione herself had at aged six and a half.
Hermione closed the book she had been reading to her daughter - Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump - and set it on her beside table, next to her nightlight that was glowing steadily. Rose was like Ron was at her age - she couldn't sleep without a little bit of light. Hermione decided that Rose should at least know a little bit of how she got that awful scar. Not the whole story - she was much, much too young for that - but Hermione didn't believe in lying to her daughter. She was just, of course, going to tell her a modified version of the events that occurred that night. Rose would learn the true horrors of that night when she was older, hopefully much, much older than the innocent six-year-old that she was today. Having had all the innocence taken away from her, Hermione's whole being was dedicated to preserving as much of her children's innocence for as long as humanly possible.
Rose smiled at her Mum, as Hermione grabbed her daughter's hands and held them, reminding herself that they were gone, it was over, and there was nothing to be afraid of in this world.
"Well, Rosie, when I was leaving Hogwarts, there was a very, very bad man that was hurting people -"
"Voldemort," Rose said, and Hermione's eyes widened.
"Who told you that?" She asked, her voice coming out sharp. Rose shrank back a little bit, her eyes frightened.
"Daddy," she whispered, and Hermione hugged her daughter, to comfort her and tell her that she didn't mean to be so snippy. "He said he was a 'bloody bastard'."
"Rose Weasley! Don't say that word! It's a very, very bad word, and I'm going to kill your Daddy, but yes, Voldemort," Hermione continued, and Rose giggled softly. Her Mum had said so many times that she was going to kill Daddy that Rose knew that was just her Mum's way of saying she was going to hit him upside the head. "He was a very bad man, Rose. He didn't like a lot of the people in the world. He believed that only people of pure magical families should go to Hogwarts. He didn't like magical people who had Muggle parents."
"Like Grandpa and Grandma Granger? They're Muggles, aren't they, Mummy?" Rose said, and Hermione nodded.
"Yes. He didn't like me, because I had Muggle parents," Hermione continued, and Rose gasped. She couldn't imagine anyone not liking her Mum. "People like me are called 'muggleborns', but the bad, swear word for them is 'mudbloods' - and you are not allowed to us that word," Hermione said, looking at Rose who nodded, eager for the story to continue.
"Anyway. So, Voldemort decided that these people should be known as mudbloods. So, one day, we were taken to a big house where a woman stamped this into my skin, so everyone knew I was a muggleborn. Like I said, Rose, he was a very bad man."
Rose was silent for a few moments while her brain processed this story. "Did it hurt, Mummy?" she asked quietly, her fingers lightly tracing the word carved into her mother's skin.
"Yes," Hermione answered, just as quietly as she was asked.
Rose's fingers still on her Mum's arm. "Does it still hurt?"
"No," Hermione said, her voice firm. Rose's fingers resumed their tracing of the word. "It is like Uncle Harry's scar on his head. It doesn't hurt anymore. It's just there, and always will be there. But I like it there."
Rose's eyes widened in childlike horror. "You like that they done this to you?"
"No, I don't like that they done this to me," Hermione said. "But I like having it there to remind me that we fought to be free, and that we fought Voldemort and won."
"I won't let anything like that happen to you again, Mummy." Rose said, suddenly throwing her arms around her mother. "I'll be there to protect you, I promise."
Hermione hugged her daughter, trying not to let Rose see the tears streaming down her cheeks at her daugher's admission. "Try and get some sleep, Rosie."
Hermione wiped her eyes as she tucked her daughter in, kissing her gently on the forehead. She found herself tracing the scar of her arm as she wandered back downstairs to her husband, who was sitting in front of the television, watching the news that was saying the heatwave would last the rest of the week.
"Everything okay?" Ron asked, seeing his wife's absent expression and tearstained face, and immediately made room for her on the sofa.
Hermione sat down, leaning against Ron instinctively and sighing as his arm came around her shoulders comfortingly. "Did Hugo go down okay?" Ron nodded. She could see that he wanted to know why she was like this, and Hermione wanted to tell him. "Rose saw the scar Bellatrix gave me. She wanted to know how I got it."
Ron tangled his right fingers in her left and brought her arm up his lips, kissing the word that lay there. He knew what awful memories talk of that night brought back to her. "What did you tell her?" he asked, rubbing his fingers over her knuckles comfortingly, knowing Hermione wouldn't tell her the entire, true story.
"I told her that I had to go get stamped, to say I was muggleborn. It's a stretch of the truth."
"It's not far from it," Ron agreed. "Wouldn't have put it past ol' Mouldyshorts."
Hermione sat up, her tears dry and remembering something from earlier in the night. She raised a hand and whacked Ron deftly up the side of the head.
"Bloody hell!" he yelled, and Hermione smacked his arm to tell him to be quiet. "What the bloody hell was that for?" he said quietly, as to not wake the kids.
"You told Rose about Voldemort?"
Ron winced. "No, I mentioned him in passing. She wanted to know who he was. I told her he was a very bad man."
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "No, you told her he was a 'bloody bastard'."
"I do love it when you swear," Ron said, a smirk appearing on his face. "But that was between Rosie and I. She wasn't supposed to tell you that!"
"Ah, but she did," Hermione said, triumphant. She covered her mouth with a hand as she let out a wide yawn. "Let's go to bed. I'm shattered," she said, and Ron nodded, turning off the TV with a flick of his wand.
"Yeah. Hugo was a nightmare. He wanted about five different stories. You can do Hugo tomorrow night. At least Rose only likes one story. I'm beginning to think that by the time he's her age, he'll need an entire bloody novel to go to sleep," Ron said as he followed his wife up the stairs, admiring her bum as he went. How she managed to give birth to two children and still have the arse of a seventeen-year-old was beyond him.
Hermione shot bolt upright, her husband not too far behind her, at her daughter's yell. It was frightened and upset and had every maternal instinct of Hermione's on edge, begging for her to go to her daughter, to see what was wrong and to ease her pain. Hermione tugged back the bedsheets and ran out of the room and into Rose's room, and from the sounds of footfalls on the hardwood floor behind her, she could tell Ron was hot on on her heels.
"What's wrong, Rosie?" she asked, her voice shaking as she took in her daughter, sitting her her bed with tear tracks down her cheeks and looking nothing short of absolutely distraught.
"I had a bad dream, Mummy. That the bad man Voldemort came back to take you away because he didn't like you or Grandpa and Grandma and because he didn't like you he didn't like me either and he took us all away from you and Daddy and even Hugo and I kept screaming for you but you never came and it was so scary Mummy!" she said, all in one breath, launching herself into her Mum's arms, needing the safety and security of her mother. Hermione kissed the top of her head, hugging her daughter tightly. Over the top of Rose head, she saw Ron sit down on Rose's bed, stroking his daughter's hair comfortingly.
"I shouldn't have told you that story so close to bedtime," Hermione said, keeping a tight hold on Rose. "C'mon. You can sleep with Daddy and me tonight." She saw her daughter's eyes light up. Rose had a slight problem with sleeping on her own - she had always preferred sleeping in her parents' bed, and it was only now that she was growing out of it. "Just for tonight, though," Hermione added.
Rose's eyes dulled a little bit, but she nodded and turned to her Daddy, who scooped her up easily in a hug. She wanted to be carried, and knew she was too heavy for her Mum to carry her anymore. "It's okay, love," he said, as she burrowed herself into him, still crying and sniffling slightly.
Hermione lead the family back to her and Ron's bedroom, checking in on Hugo on the way, who had slept soundly through the entire thing. He was like Ron when he slept; although it was a hard time getting him to fall asleep, once he was asleep he slept like a log.
Hermione slowly got into bed, Rose settling herself in the middle of her parents. She hugged her mother's arm, resting her head on her upper arm, but had her father's hand clutched tightly in her own, so Ron's left arm was across Rose's body and pressed up against Hermione's left.
There was a few moments of silence, the only sounds being the soft breathing of the three.
"Is the bad man Voldemort ever going to come back?" Rose whispered into the dark, her voice quiet and tinged with fear.
"No, he is never, ever going to come back," Ron replied, his voice firm and full of authority.
Rose smiled. Even if he did come back, she thought as she drifted back off to sleep, nestled protectively between her two parents, my Mummy and Daddy will always be there to protect me.