*hands over the new chapter*
*waggles eyebrows and darts away*
"There must be some mistake," Hermione said when she'd recovered, blinking up at the man who was still breathing hard and glaring down at her.
"You think so?" Snape asked arching, that damnable eyebrow of his raising at her in challenge.
"I wouldn't have cast the Relligo Spiritus charm, sir," Hermione frowned at him. "I know I was casting a lot of spells on you in that shack and bargaining with the Grim Reaper for your life, but I'm sure I'd remember if I'd… um… tethered our souls for all eternity."
He snorted derisively and Hermione could see from the tight line of his shoulders and the stiff way he held himself – his fists clenched at his sides – that he was trying hard to refrain from strangling her.
She flinched back when he suddenly yanked his wand from his sleeve, the breath huffing from her lungs again as she hit the wall and found there was no escape. He curled his lip hatefully and glowered at her some more before flicking his wrist to cast.
"Relligo revelio," he hissed as Hermione squeezed her eyes closed, fearing he might hex her to death in punishment.
When she cracked one eye open to peek, waiting for pain that didn't come, she found him eyeing her hatefully, his hawkish features illuminated by the spell he'd cast. Hermione blinked, her eyes opening wide as she looked down at the small space separating them.
"Oh my," Hermione whispered, eyeing the magic linking them.
And there could be no denying they were linked. A midnight blue rope of magic dotted with glowing white and silver strands like the starry night's sky connected the two of them. She could see the bright white glow of her own soul illuminated within her body, and the same within his irreparably joined.
"Tethered," he spat, cancelling the spell when he realised that she was admiring the colours and the magic, rather than simply being horrified by this new state of being. "And since I certainly didn't cast that charm, Miss Granger, your guilt seems evident."
"But…" Hermione frowned. "I didn't… I'd have remembered if I… I mean, I was casting in a hurry, but surely I wouldn't have…"
She stopped speaking when she found the tip of his wand digging into her neck, forcing her back against the wall once more.
"Do not do either of us the disservice of feigning stupidity, Miss Granger," he threatened quietly, enunciating each word in that careful, dangerous way of his.
"I'm not," Hermione said, eyeing him in return. "I don't remember casting it, Professor. I cast a lot of spells that day to try and keep you alive. If I cast this one, too, then I'm sorry. But it seems I achieved my objective given that you're still among the living."
"You had no right!" he growled furiously.
"I did what any reasonable person would have done," Hermione argued. "You were wounded. You were dying. You couldn't articulate your apparent wish to do so, and so I acted to save your life. I won't apologise for that, S-Severus!"
His nostrils flared and his eyes narrowed hatefully at her use of his first name when she hadn't been given permission and his wand dug into her neck a little harder, making her wince.
"If you're not going to curse me, then I'd appreciate it if you would lower your wand, sir," Hermione said, batting the weapon away from her neck and squaring her shoulders. "Now, obviously this is a problem and needs to be dealt with. Shall we discuss it over tea?"
She slipped past him and down the hall of her flat, stomping into the kitchen and straight over to the kettle to fill it and put it on to boil. She didn't hear him follow her and she didn't look over her shoulder to check. She prepared a tea tray quickly, not knowing how he might take his tea in the slightest. When it was ready, she moved across the room and through the small arched doorway to retrieve a book on healing spells and soul magic where she didn't doubt she'd read about the spell he'd accused her of using.
"Alright, then," she said, and she thumbed through it on her return to the kitchen, intent on making tea and having a discussion about the mess she'd supposedly landed them in.
She stopped in her tracks to find the kitchen empty.
"Professor?" she asked, frowning and moving to peer down the hall in search of him.
He still stood where she'd left him, his wand still gripped, white-knuckled, in one hand while he leaned the other against the wall where he'd slammed her. He was breathing heavily, and Hermione frowned, wondering if he'd taxed his strength confronting her and shaking her. She didn't imagine that the scant three months since the end of the war had been enough for him to recover after the extensive injuries he'd sustained.
"Sir?" she asked, clutching the book to her chest like a shield so as not to lose her place while she frowned at him worriedly.
He didn't acknowledge her except to turn his head far enough to meet her eye.
Hermione squirmed under the heavy weight of his gaze, shifting from foot to foot and finding herself tingling all over, suddenly flushed with the urge to run for her life. He looked at her like he wanted to curse her into oblivion. He looked like he was thinking about trying it, even knowing that as long as their souls were tethered, it probably wouldn't do either of them any good. He looked like he wanted to wring her neck and like he wanted to charge down the hall and shake her all over again.
"Tea?" she offered weakly, unsure what to say in the face of such a look. "I have the book that details the charm and its effects… maybe we can figure out a way to remove it…"
He curled his lip back from his teeth hatefully, still leaning against the wall like he hadn't the strength to stand on his own. Even just looking at him, Hermione felt drained, realising how far truly exhausted he must be.
"There is no way to remove it, you fool," he said quietly, surprising her when he didn't sound angry or bitter. Indeed, he only sounded tired and strained, and like he pitied her. "In your idiocy and your brazen attempts to play the heroine, you have irreparably bound our spirits for all eternity, Hermione."
Hermione bit her lip, shocked to hear him use her first name, for perhaps the first time in her memory. Tears prickled at the corners of her eyes when she held his gaze and saw the truth of his words in his dark gaze. She knew he was right. She'd studied the spell intently when she'd stumbled across it while she was researching everything she could about healing magic after Ron had splinched. She'd spent months whilst on the run practicing the numerous spells to use on her friends in the event that the worst should happen. She knew there was no way to undo it.
"I didn't mean to," she whispered, her eyes filling.
His hand shook around his wand and he lowered his eyes from her, staring down at the weapon in his grip for a long moment like he was contemplating cursing her. Hermione flinched when he shoved off the wall and turned away from her, flinging open the door to her flat and stalking from her home, down the front steps and into her small front yard. He left the door open but didn't look back before twisting sharply and disapparating with a crack so loud it echoed all the way down her street.