A/N: *cackles manically*
In the days following his invasion of her flat and his announcement of their souls being tethered to one another for all eternity, Hermione paced her flat nervously. She didn't imagine he was through with her. Far from it. Severus Snape was, after all, a man who'd spent nigh on two decades soldiering on and fighting the good fight to bring down the man who had killed the woman he loved. He was a man who, despite those efforts, managed to despise and routinely antagonise the son of that lost love simply because of the grudge he held against the man who'd – in his eyes – stolen her from him.
Severus Snape was a man more than capable of holding a grudge and, it would seem to Hermione, of festering in his anger and his hate, all the while plotting to exact revenge. She did not imagine that his declaration of their eternal bond would be met by no reprisals. For days, she paced, jumping at every car backfiring on the road outside her house, twitching at every shout from the muggles in her neighbourhood going about their lives, and tensing at every creak and groan of her old house amid the cold winter weather.
But he did not reappear.
Soon, the days blurred into weeks, and weeks into months, and Hermione Granger slowly stopped worrying that Severus Snape might seek to visit some terrible fate upon her – after all, it would not free him, so what would be the point? Often, she reminded herself that he must surely be simply biding his time, waiting for just the right moment when she finally let her guard down once more, so that he might pounce for her throat unimpeded. But soon nigh on a year had passed, almost to the day, since he invaded her home and revealed he was alive, and still she did not hear a peep from him.
Gardening one morning while on leave over the Christmas break from her Ministry position as an understudy to the Department of Magical Creatures office – beast department, Hermione had almost put her guilt out of her mind. And she was guilty; there could be no mistake about that. She had practiced, for months, the collection of healing charms she would perform on Harry in the event that the worst should happen. She had trained herself over and over again, reciting a litany in her head of all the healing spells in her repertoire until she felt certain she could write every spell in it's Latin spelling with her eyes closed; she could practice every wrist movement of the spells' motions in her sleep. She had so practiced it, so memorized it and so thoroughly ruminated upon it, that she imagined she would still be able to recite all fifty spells upon her deathbed over a century from now.
She didn't imagine, in that moment when she had dived to Snape's aid once Voldemort was gone, that her muscle memory and her cognitive pathways would have failed her. She might not actively remember casting that exact charm upon the man, but she had seen the evidence for herself that it was so. They were bound at the soul and there was no untethering such a bond. She had been so utterly prepared to do that for Harry; so certain that Harry Potter's life and Harry Potter's soul would be bought at the expense of her own eternity if necessary to protect the wizarding world from darkness and see the prophecy fulfilled, that it had become second nature.
She was guilty of tethering them. She was the culprit for binding them. She had tied his soul – for all eternity – to her own. And it was a terrible and rather deplorable thing – at least to her mind – that she didn't even remember doing it. He could still have died, of course. Some wounds were simply too dire to be able to heal, if even by magical tether of the spirit. One day they would both die, and they would either be ghosts together, or reincarnated together, or move into the next plane of existence together, but never separate. Never parted. The spell she had cast was the very foundation upon which soulmate tales and legends and myths and stories had been built. Forever more, the souls of Hermione Granger and Severus Snape would walk whatever plane of existence they chose, and forever more they would be drawn to seek out the other. It was a red thread of fate; a puzzle with two pieces, a connection that would endure throughout the ages for the rest of eternity. And Hermione didn't even remember casting it.
She had wanted to explain it to him; to tell him what she believed had happened and how she believed it had come to pass. She wanted to tell him that she was sorry she'd done it, and that she truly hadn't meant to rob him of oblivion or eternity like this. But he was nowhere to be found.
That wasn't entirely true. Hermione knew that had she wanted to badly enough, she could find him. Forever more, if she wanted to find him badly enough, she would be able to do so. There was a spell – a nifty little bit of magic that piggybacked off the Apparation charm that allowed the three vital rules of Apparation to bend. If she badly enough needed to seek Snape out, she could simply hold not a destination in her mind, but a thought of him and their tethered souls, and she would find herself in his presence.
It was, she believed, how he had located her in the first place. It was how he had breeched every protective ward and enchantment she had placed upon her home, for the magic recognised him as simply an extension of her. A piece of the greater whole. No ward he cast would keep her from him, no bit of magic would protect her from him, either. If he was so inclined as to invade her home again with a mind to torture her, none of her wards would keep him out.
She had avoided seeking him. It was easier this way. Their tethering didn't demand cohabitation, or cooperation. It would not force love upon them, or anything else so fanciful. All it would really do, was tie them together. Were she to experience enough pain, for example, he would suffer. The draining of her energy would begin to sap his strength and vice versa. Indeed, following his visit, Hermione had realised that she had taken so long to recover after the war not because of anything she had personally survived, but because of what he'd barely escaped. From the minute she'd tethered their souls, her strength had been pouring into him. It was what had kept him from death, and her own wounds had taken so long to heal and her strength had taken so long to return because he had been drawing upon it all throughout his recovery.
She believed, presently, that he must be well again, or frightfully close to being one hundred percent restored because she herself felt flushed with life and youth. It was how she'd found herself out in the garden despite the bleakness of a Cotswold winter. She had energy to burn, and it might as well be spent weeding the back garden, thank you very much.
Or so she thought.
"Well, well, well, finally let your guard down, eh, Mudblood?" a low, rough voice crooned from behind her and Hermione snatched for the wand she set down by the garden's edge, but it sailed from her grip quickly as she turned on her knees to face her intruders.
She knew them. Of course, she knew them. Their faces were still on all the Wanted posters. Looming over her and looking mighty pleased about it were none other than Fenrir Greyback, Antonin Dolohov and Francis Scabior. They were dirty and looked like they hadn't bathed in some time. They also looked terribly like they meant her harm.
Something proven when Dolohov shot her a cruel smirk before raising his wand and silently casting the Cruciatus curse before she had even a moment to register her disarmed and vulnerable state. She had dirt under her nails and grass stains on the knees of her yard-jeans, for Merlin's sake. Hermione mouth opened in a silent scream as her body began to writhe under the torture, her head cracking on the birdbath she recently installed before the structure toppled on top of her, all while she flailed and twitched upon the muddy ground, recalling another wand she'd writhed under and another scream that had torn her vocal chords to shreds.
She had only a moment to wonder if this might be her penance for what she robbed from Severus, before she blacked out from the pain.