There was a timid knock on the door.

"Come in," Snape grumbled.

He sat alone in his office. The poor lighting limited the visible colors of the potions surrounding him. He had just poured himself a cup of tea as he regretfully waited for his next class to begin in the silence.

He glanced up at the door when it remained still. With a flick of his wand, the door opened to on cover a student with a fist raised to knock again. The girl's face was shadowed by the torches behind her.

"Come in!" he boomed.

Stepping forward, Snape realized it was Hermione who oddly wore her buttoned sweater in place of her robe. Her hair was combed in even curls with the top layer pinned back.

"Professor, excuse me for taking some of your personal time, b-" she started as she shuffled to his desk.

"If you cared for my time, you wouldn't be wasting it, Granger." His lip curled when she slowly closed mouth, embarrassed.

"I came to see if I could borrow the book you spoke of last class. I hoped to review it for the O.W.L.s." She played with her fingers.

"Fine," he answered with narrowed eyes.

When he turned away to retrieve the book from his shelf, Hermione slid a vial from her bag and poured it into his tea. Seeing Snape turn back towards her, she dropped the vial back into her bag. Snape stepped to his desk with the book in his outreach hand. His dark eyes were stern and urging her to leave immediately. The book cover was tattered and pages were discolored and ragged.

"Thank you." She nodded as she grabbed the book. She knew the book was well cherished by the patches and the renewed spine.

Snape tapped a finger on his desk when she continued to gawk at the book. "Is there anything else you needed?"

"Um, yes, Professor," she said with a mousy tone before adding, "You can sit down."

"I do not need your permission, Granger." Snape proceeded to sit down. Snape produced a drop bottle from one of the desk drawers. He added a small dose to his cup of tea and placed the bottle inside his desk. Hermione froze. "I haven't all day. What else did you want?"

"Oh, yes. It's about O.W.L.s. and, well, the gathering this summer."

Snape continued to look at her sharply.

"Let me take a guess that you only care about 'the gathering this summer' now that you have that book." He looked at the fizzing in his cup.

"Oh, yes, well-" She fumbled at her foolishness.

"And I shall also wager that one of you has been stealing from my personal stores." His voice was threateningly calm forcing her to step back.

"I d-don't know what you mean," Hermione stuttered with hubris and correcting her folded posture.

"Just because you're not Potter does not mean I let down my guard. I am missing a vial from my stores and my tea bubbled when I poured in the antidote. You tried to use Veritaserum. You will tell me why!" He tossed the cup to her feet. Shattering near her toes, it revealing a murky foam that started to dissipate. Shocked, she dropped the book and began back towards the door, searching her mind for an excuse.

"Who do you think you are playing? If you were successful, did you think that I would suddenly forget your interrogation?" Casting a silencing spell, his wand whipped at the door making a thud. "And did you think it was wise to speak of those meetings here?"

"Harry questions your membership and loyalty, but... I don't. I wanted him to see that you are on our side," she confessed with her head down that hid the urgency in her voice.

"If Potter wanted the truth, shouldn't he be here instead of you?" he scowled.

"No, I wanted to ensure I wasn't wrong and," her voice began to crack, "ask something else that no one else can know."

Snape stormed around his desk to meet her, but she kept stepping backward. Intimidated by his fierce presence, she began to tear up.

Pinned against a bookcase, Snape chastised her, "You think you can still demand favors?"

Hermione crumpled to the ground sobbing. Her face was hidden behind her tamed hair. Snape hardly understood the words coming from her slumped body.

"I didn't ask for this. I just want a nice, easy life. Is that too much to ask for?" she mumbled and continued sobbing.

Snape winced with pain when she spoke her last word. His left wrist was burning. The sensation was superficial and then surged deep into his arm. He turned from her and reached for his desk to help him withstand the crippling pain. Hermione looked up and tried to regain some composure. Quickly rising with fists still clenched, she came towards his back. She raised her hand to reach him yet left it hovering over him.

Snape began to unbutton the left sleeve of his robe. He grabbed his arm in pain and saw Hermione close behind him.

"Get away!" he demanded. He moved to get behind his desk, but she stayed at his side.

"No, you're hurt. Let me see if I can help." She insisted as she leaned across the side of his desk.

Aggravated, he again told her to leave as he ripped the cuff of his blouse open. With his arm close to his chest, he looked at his wrist and traced the dark mark engraved there. The image writhed and disgusted him. Cutting through the head of the snake was a new mark that Snape recognized as the source of his pain. As the last word burned into his skin, the pain stopped. The jagged writing read, "I just want a nice easy life. Is that too much to ask for"? Emotions twisted in his chest as he met Hermione's worried eyes.

"What is it? What's wrong?" she replied, coming around his desk.

Snape was too stunned to resist when Hermione pulled down his arm for her to see. Her jaw clenched and a knot festered in her throat when she saw the mark. Her eyes traced it and she felt Snape try to pull away. She felt the raised skin from the words before he freed his arm.

The scar distracted her from fear of the dark mark. With pleading eyes, she reached again for his arm. The knot in his stomach tightened as he watched the recognition on her face. The tears came back as she rubbed her fingers back and forth against the scar. A soft smile came and she finally looked into Snape's dark eyes.

"When I spoke those words," she managed a weak chuckle, "I was referring to an unshakable feeling. The undeniable care for you. The Veritaserum was to ask you about those feelings. And this is proof that it was meant to be."

"Meant to be?" He found space to move away from her. "This condones nothing." He finished with his arm brandished in the air.

She advanced to him. "This is proof that I am your soulmate. We learned last year about these scars." Her voice was lighter and hopeful.

"The class also informed you that the scars are still a mystery. Each person can have multiple soulmates. Varying fonts have an unknown purpose, scars can't be seen by some, and some don't dissolve!" He regained his presence and rendered her silent.

When her lips parted, the voice was meek. "Yours isn't dissolved. Either you won't accept me or it isn't working."

"You think that I could accept you?" His voice was stern.

Defensive, she cried "Professor, I'm-"

"Precisely the problem," he added. Her face heated up as she remembered why her feelings were kept hidden. He calmly continued, "It's best you leave and forget this."

Snape leaned on his desk. His fingers were grinding hard enough into the wood that some nails began to bleed. His mind raced back to Lily and remembering when Potter first encountered Lily gave Potter his scar. Snape then thought of the bond they had later in life. Something he never shared.

He remembered the warm breeze as he calmly studied. The chanting and anger cut back to him when Potter taunted him. Worst of all, he remembered calling Lily a filthy Mudblood that day.

She reached a hand to his back. "Prof-," she caught herself and began again with firmness,

"Severus, you know I love you." Her voice was warm and strong.

He was snapped back to her. "You say that as if it will fix everything." His grip of the desk tightened.

Hermione gasped and grabbed her collarbone. Withdrawing from him, she unbuttoned the top buttons of her sweater and loosened her tie. Her silence made Snape turn to her and see she was unbuttoning the third button of her blouse. He rushed to her and grabbed her hand and pulled the sweater together to cover her chest.

"What do you think you are doing?" he grumbled.

Without a word, Hermione slid his right hand under the sweater to her collarbone. Snape could feel the ridges through the blouse. The tension in his hands weakened and Hermione bared the scar for him to read. As he read the words they dissolved and were no longer paler than her skin. The skin was smooth and the scar tanned.

"I am your soulmate just as you are mine. I accept that whether you do or not." She bore a modest smile.

"You shouldn't bear a scar. You're just a child." he returned with force.

"Harry said his father got his scar in his first year," she pleaded, " I'm-"

"I'm well aware of that fact!" he interjected, turning back to his desk.

His eyes were clamped tight as his thoughts whirled back to Lily.

He opened his mind to sense Hermione. Her hand hovered over his back as his anger arched it higher. She was frightened and wanted to help. She was kind, intelligent and gifted with magic. She, also, had proud and devoted parents. She too was called a filthy Mudblood. He couldn't deny her similarities to Lily.

His mind, wrung by anger and grief, would not be calmed. He remembered knowing how happy and loved Lily was. The great length she sacrificed for that love. He always coveted that, though its something he was sure he could never know. Love from anyone other than the Lily he held onto was unfathomable.

"Please, as crazy as this sounds could you try it? I started learning more of you at the end of last year. Ever since I couldn't shake this growing affection. And now I know it is love. Whatever is troubling you, please tell me." Her calm hand came to his left shoulder.

The touch shook him. There beneath the layers of cloth was his first scar. No one had ever seen the stark contrast between the dissolved, dark words and his pale skin.

"There was another," he quietly conceded. "To do anything is to turn my back on her," he spoke sharply.

"Well, I don't want to be someone's replacement, but you should also be able to be happy." Her hand came up to stroke his hair as she rounded the desk to see his face. He turned away from her. "Have you even attempted to let someone in?" she added.

The was a lingering silence. He remained facing away from her. She looked at the arch in his back, bloodied fingernails, and protruding veins of his hands. His reluctance was unwavering and disheartening. She slid her hand from his head. Receding towards the door, her arm was roughly grabbed as she was pulled back. Pressed against his display shelves, her wrists were gripped above her head and pinched between his hands and the wood. His lips were in a tight frenzy against hers. He could not contain his eagerness and curiosity. Kissing him back, melted his ferocity and he released her hands. Her fingers weaved through his hair and cupped his face. One of his hands went to hold her waist as the other rubbed her shoulder with his palm touching the warmth of her scar. He could sense his own starting to dissolve.

Sliding from her waist, his hand slipped and hit a bottle. The container threatened to topple as it teetered back and forth and the maroon fluid stirred. His eyes shot open to catch it. As he pulled away, she held the arm on her shoulder and traced it down to his wrist. Her fingers graced his scar that remained protruding. She quickly dropped his hand.

"You should be on your way." he breathed looking at the shelves.

"Um, yes. Class will soon begin." She combed her hair behind her ears and fixed her clothes. She turned towards the door.

"Wait," he called. Hermione eagerly whirled back.

"You forgot this." He grabbed the book from the floor and held it out for her.

She blushed and reached for the book. His other hand trapped hers on the book. He looked at her with the kindest eyes she ever saw him bear.

"I'll see you in class," he whispered.

The tenderness in his voice choked her throat and she only managed a nod before leaving his office.

Snape returned to his chair and released the silencing spell from the door. Looking at his wand, he saw his bloody nail beds and remembered his damaged desk. Once both were magically repaired, he slumped in his chair and studied his exposed arm.

The dark mark still stirred and the scar was obvious. She dropped his arm when she felt that the scar didn't dissolve. Snape wondered if he could ever accept her as a soulmate. His glance moved to the many buttons of his thick clothes. He thought of all the things he hid behind. His clothes, demeanor, and actions gave no welcome for affection from anyone. It was what he wanted and knew he deserved. He was still baffled that Hermione could have any interest in him.

He slowly buttoned his arm up and prepared his mind to face her in class.

Author's Note:

Prompts: Severus/Hermione

Hurt/Comfort (genre)

"You know I love you"/ "You keep saying that as if it will fix everything." (dialogue)

Stay tuned for the next chapter that will be a series of moments leading to their scars and what happens as war approaches.

Please give critiques in reviews or PMS.